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POPPY

This mildly interesting peek into a historical setting reads like an elderly person's memoir.

This British import gives readers a look at one of the ways women served in World War I.

A few months into the start of the Great War, Poppy, a 15-year-old parlor maid for a well-to-do British family, gets an offer from an old schoolteacher: she will pay Poppy an allowance so Poppy can train and serve as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a sort of unpaid junior nursing squad. Poppy begins her VAD training just as her brother, Billy, and the two sons of the family for whom she worked, Freddie and Jasper, join the army—Billy in the ranks, the others as officers. Details of Poppy's training and work in a large army hospital in England unfurl in leisurely detail from Poppy's point of view, occasionally enlivened by letters from family and friends. Poppy is pleasant but unremarkable, and the story's plot centers around an improbable half-romance between Poppy and Freddie that carries little narrative tension, so the ending, clearly a setup for a sequel, provides limited satisfaction. Though the race of the characters is never mentioned, readers will presume from the setting that they're white. For all that Poppy is working with boys wounded in a notably horrific war, the tone is light, almost distressingly so.

This mildly interesting peek into a historical setting reads like an elderly person's memoir. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-496-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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LEGENDARY

From the Caraval series , Vol. 2

Dark, seductive, but over-the-top: Characters and book alike will enthrall those who choose to play.

Garber returns to the world of bestseller Caraval (2017), this time with the focus on younger, more daring sister Donatella.

Valenda, capital of the empire, is host to the second of Legend’s magical games in a single year, and while Scarlett doesn’t want to play again, blonde Tella is eager for a chance to prove herself. She is haunted by the memory of her death in the last game and by the cursed Deck of Destiny she used as a child which foretold her loveless future. Garber has changed many of the rules of her expanding world, which now appears to be infused with magic and evil Fates. Despite a weak plot and ultraviolet prose (“He tasted like exquisite nightmares and stolen dreams, like the wings of fallen angels, and bottles of fresh moonlight.”), this is a tour de force of imagination. Themes of love, betrayal, and the price of magic (and desire) swirl like Caraval’s enchantments, and Dante’s sensuous kisses will thrill readers as much as they do Tella. The convoluted machinations of the Prince of Hearts (one of the Fates), Legend, and even the empress serve as the impetus for Tella’s story and set up future volumes which promise to go bigger. With descriptions focusing primarily on clothing, characters’ ethnicities are often indeterminate.

Dark, seductive, but over-the-top: Characters and book alike will enthrall those who choose to play. (glossary) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-09531-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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SALT TO THE SEA

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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