Sunday, October 27, 2019

Words on Fire and Allies

Nielsen, Jennifer A. Words on Fire
October 1st 2019 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Audra lives with her mother and father in a small Lithuanian village in 1893. Her father is a magician and travels a great deal in order to entertain. She would like to go with him, but her mother claims it is too dangerous, making her wonder what else her father is doing. She finds out that both parents are book smugglers, but too late... the Cossacks attack, arrest her parents, and burn down the home. Audra escapes with her father's knapsack and instructions to deliver a package to Milda in another town. With the help of Lukas, a boy she meets, she manages to evade the Cossacks and get to Milda. She stays for a while, and learns how important books written in Lithuanian are to her people, and why the Russians have banned them. Officer Rusakov is bound and determined to find Audra wherever she tries to go. She eventually is sent over the border to Prussia by Ben, who has been smuggling books for many years. She is supposed to stay, but she finds out from Lukas that Lithuanian books are being printed there and he needs help getting them back into Lithuania. There are many harrowing experiences involved in smuggling the books, but Audra realized how important the books are after she learns to read. There are some secrets about both her family and Lukas' revealed that make her situation more interesting... and dangerous. 
Strengths: There are enough books about WWII; let's have more about the troubles in the Baltic region! Nielsen writes a solid historical novel and has clearly done her research, and the focus on books and their importance is definitely a different story than is usually told. Audra's reactions to her plight are all reasonable, and it's interesting to watch her views change. Lukas' past is riveting, and Ben and Milda's commitment to the cause admirable. Even Officer Rusakov has some moments of growth.
Weaknesses: I love most of Nielsen's work (Resistance was awesome and very popular in my library), but I couldn't quite get into this one, which is odd. I have been looking for more books on the Baltic states, and this involves saving books, but like A Night Divided, this just didn't pull me in.
What I really think: I will probably purchase, but it will circulate about as much as Preuss' Heart of a Samurai, since it is a little known period and place in the world, and I am still struggling to get students to read historical fiction. 

Gratz. Alan. Allies
October 15th 2019 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I love Gratz's work; Prisoner B-3087 was brilliant, Code of Honor was riveting, and Grenade blew me away. I guess I just reached saturation point with WWII, and there's been a few things done about D-Day. This has three points of view, including a French Algerian girl, and that's interesting but also a little confusing. Like Refugee, the minute I got invested in one story, the book picked up the thread of another. I will definitely purchase this, but it will probably appeal to the really hard core WWII readers rather than the casual ones.

From Goodreads:
Alan Gratz, bestselling author of Refugee, weaves a stunning array of voices and stories into an epic tale of teamwork in the face of tyranny -- and how just one day can change the world.
June 6, 1944: The Nazis are terrorizing Europe, on their evil quest to conquer the world. The only way to stop them? The biggest, most top-secret operation ever, with the Allied nations coming together to storm German-occupied France.

Welcome to D-Day.

Dee, a young U.S. soldier, is on a boat racing toward the French coast. And Dee -- along with his brothers-in-arms -- is terrified. He feels the weight of World War II on his shoulders.

But Dee is not alone. Behind enemy lines in France, a girl named Samira works as a spy, trying to sabotage the German army. Meanwhile, paratrooper James leaps from his plane to join a daring midnight raid. And in the thick of battle, Henry, a medic, searches for lives to save.

In a breathtaking race against time, they all must fight to complete their high-stakes missions. But with betrayals and deadly risks at every turn, can the Allies do what it takes to win?

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