10 Beloved Things about Ruta Sepetys’s “Between Shades of Gray”

“Between Shades of Gray”

by Ruta Sepetys

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: June 14, 1941, Stalin begins his deportation of people in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia who are deemed anti-Soviet. 15-year-old Lina is taken in the middle of the night with her family. Forced into labor camps with hundreds of others, her family must stay together to survive the harsh conditions of the Arctic circle and the brutalities of the NKVD officers.


10 Beloved Things about Ruta Sepetys’s “Between Shades of Gray”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Real Experiences

While the characters are fictional in “Between Shades of Gray” all the experiences were inspired by true events and situations that survivors experienced. Absolutely horrifying and touching!

2. Educational

Up until reading this book, I was totally ignorant on Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. “Between Shades of Gray” was an eye-opener for me about what happened and also how it was kept secret for so long.

3. Realistic

Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job of capturing the experiences of the survivors she interviewed to write “Between Shades of Gray.” Lina seemed so real, it felt like I was reading a diary.

4. Different Reactions

We all react to stress, terror, and death differently. Septeys captured these differences effortlessly. Some characters became complacent or even worked with the NKVD officers. Others became angry and would take out their frustration on other victims. Most did what they had to for survival while still trying to help their fellow prisoners.

5. Emotional

“Between Shades of Gray” is a powerful novel and so emotional. You will cry, you will smile, your heart will break and then be lifted up. This novel is absolutely beautiful!

6. The Writing

Ruta Sepetys kept the writing elegant and simple, there are no unnecessary words or sentences. Easy to read but effectively well-written.

7. Disturbing

While reading “Between Shades of Gray” was difficult due to the subject matter, Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job of allowing the reader to comprehend the trauma that the victims went through without actually traumatizing the reader. Yes, the novel is disturbing and unpleasant to read at times, but there are no detailed, bloody torture scenes.

8. Strength in Humanity

One of the strongest things about this novel, is not the stories of what the victims survived, but how they survived together. The victims coming together, stealing food and other items needed for each other. Carrying one another when one was too weak or injured. The NKVD soldiers who took risks trying to help, regardless of the consequences.

9. Capacity for Cruelty

Humans are capable of such cruelty and during Stalin’s reign, the NKVD soldiers committed some serious atrocities. Sepetys includes many examples of the needless death, suffering, humiliation, and pain the victims endured.

10. Love

Lina’s letter in the end, “My husband, Andrius…” made me sob. Love found even in the worst of times.

What are your favorite things about Ruta Sepetys’s “Between Shades of Gray”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

5 Fearless Things about Ellen Hopkins’s “Fallout”

“Fallout” Crank Book 3

by Ellen Hopkins

Nikki’s Rating: 5 out of 10

Summary: Hunter Seth Haskins, 19 years old and living in Reno, Nevada with his maternal grandparents; Autumn Rose Shepherd, 17 and living in San Antonio, Texas being raised by her paternal aunt and grandfather; Summer Lily Kenwood, 15 years old and in the foster care system in Bakersfield, California. Three children all touched by meth by no fault of their own but through their mother. Kristina Snow has left her children to be scattered along the west coast as she runs amock with the monster with no end in sight.


5 Fearless Things about Ellen Hopkins’s “Fallout”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Children of Addicts

Ellen Hopkins does an amazing job of providing a voice that is not heard very often. The children of the drug addicts. Stigmatized and ignored, the system has failed these children in so many ways. It was refreshing but difficult to read a book from their perspectives.

2. I Love You/I Hate You

One of the most important elements seen in Ellen Hopkins’s “Fallout” is the love-hate relationships all the children have with their parents who deeply wounded them in many ways. This is true in most, if not all, parent-child relationships in which the parent is the abuser or source of trauma for the child. The child’s life depends on the parent, especially the mother, and therefore the child loves the parent. And this is why no matter how much hurt a parent does to a child, the child still loves their parent, it is survival.

3. Biological Parents

Also captured in “Fallout” is the drive for a child to know a biological parent, even if the parent already abandoned/traumatized the child in the past, especially the mother. You will see this in not just foster children who may have some memories of the biological mother, but also in children who are adopted at birth and who have no conscious memory of her. As an adopted child, I can say this is absolutely true from my own experience.

4. Attachment

Finally, another concept that Ellen Hopkins explores in her novel “Fallout” is that of attachment issues experienced by children who have experienced trauma in childhood. Often having trust issues, these children may avoid getting close to anyone or simply sabotage relationships because they don’t believe they are good enough and deserve the other person’s love

5. Writing Style

Just like “Crank” and “Glass”, Ellen Hopkins’s wrote “Fallout” in free-verse poetry. Making the novel that more interesting and powerful.

What are your favorite things about Ellen Hopkins’s “Fallout”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

5 Gratifying things about Ellen Hopkins’s “Glass”

“Glass” Crank Book 2

by Ellen Hopkins

Nikki’s Rating: 5 out of 10

Summary: Kristina has gotten clean. Clean from the crank, glass, ice, crystal, meth. She did this for her son. But now that he is born and they no longer share the same body, the monster calls. Believing that she can control her usage, Kristina goes back to meth and things begin to spiral. But this time it is not just her, she may destroy her son’s life as well.


5 Gratifying Things about Ellen Hopkins’s “Glass”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Poetry

Ellen Hopkins’s has a unique writing style of her own in which she tells the story in free verse style poetry. Sometimes the structures of the poems will create shapes or other words. Also, some poems could be read not only left to right but also other directions. This allowed multiple thoughts and feelings to be expressed on a single page.

2. Rationalizations

The concepts that one can “control” the drug, that they will only “try a little”, or that they can be around it without using are all very common thoughts amongst addicts that have gotten clean. Hopkins really captures these thinking processes and also how easy it is for an addict to believe it and then get caught up in the drug again.

3. LGBTQ+

As like many other Ellen Hopkins novels, “Glass” includes side characters who identify as LGBTQ+.

4. User to Dealer

Another easy trap for addicts is going from simply a user to dealing drugs and then looking at an immensely longer prison sentence and this is beautifully illustrated in “Glass”.

5. Chaos

“Glass” clearly shows the chaos, damage, and pain that drugs cause on not just the addict but the addicts’ friends and family. Disturbing to read but so worth it.

What are your favorite things about Ellen Hopkins’s “Glass”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

10 Fantastical Things about Stephanie Garber’s “Finale”

“Finale” Caraval Book 3

by Stephanie Garber

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: They are all playing a very dangerous game and not even Legend knows the ending. The Fates, immortal beings with supernatural powers, have been released from the Deck of Destiny and are staging the way to take over Valedna. Sisters Scarlett and Tella are dragged further and further into the lives of the immortals as they realize that their mother’s disappearance is connected to the Deck of Destiny. But the girls are not just trying to save their lives but also their hearts. Scarlett finds herself torn between Julian, the boy she fell in love with, and Nicolas, her once betrothed. While Tella is being pursued by two powerful immortals, both who have already deceived her and broken her heart. Regardless, Scarlett and Tella must find a way to destroy the Fates once and for all or risk losing everything.


10 Fantastical Things About Stephanie Garber’s “Finale”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. The Magic

Stephanie Garber has an amazing, fantastical imagination and she lets it run wild in her Caraval series. Fantasy dresses and desserts, hidden places unlocked by blood, magical items that can teleport you or change appearance, places that time runs faster/slower. It is all just so magical!

2. Descriptions

“The intoxicating scents of honeycomb castles, cinnamon bark pies, carmelite clusters, and peach shine floated through Tell’s cracked window when she woke, filling the tiny apartment with sugar and dreams” (Finale p.21) That tantalizing sentence is a prime example of Stephanie Garber’s exceptional descriptives.

3. Twists and Turns

As with “Caraval” and “Legendary”, Stephanie Garber kept me on my toes throughout “FInale”! Anything could be an illusion or a dream. You would be constantly questioning characters motivations and you could never ever truly trust any of them.

4. Characters

Specifically, Scarlett and Tella are very lovable. Yes, Legend, Jacks, and Julian are all attractive, seductive, and irresitable but it is the female protagonists that really shine in the Caraval series. Both Scarlett and Tella are strong, loving, forgiving, sassy, independent and their own heroes while still making mistakes and being silly.

5. Storyline

Stephanie Garber created a magical land with a compelling story that I could not put down. All 3 books in the Caraval series had slightly different focuses but they all tied in seamlessly with each other and made for an fascinating story arc.

6. The Fates

Immortals with supernatural powers are nothing new but Stephanie Garber included an interesting element of having them trapped in a Deck of Destiny, a deck of cards in the Caraval universe that is similar to out Tarot. Also, when a Fate gives up their immortality for love and eventually dies, their magic creates a magical item.

7. Fantasy Dresses

Her Majesty’s Gown, a Fated object, a gown that changes according to the wearer’s mood (or the dresses), a magical dress that I wish I had! Every gown Stephanie Garber describes in the Caraval series I want. “Finale” even features a gown covered in real butterflies!

8. Romance

As always, I’m a sucker for romance and I appreciate that both Scarlett and Tella have found their loves.

9. Legend

By far one the most intriguing fictional characters I’ve come across. While it was a rollercoaster in “Legendary” trying to figure out if Dante was really Legend or not, in “Finale” it was a rollercoaster trying to determine if he was a deceptive, selfish scoundrel, or a lost soul in need of saving who actually deserved Tella’s love. Not gonna lie that regardless of all he has done, I’m a huge fan and so glad that he and Tella ended up together.

10. More???

While “Finale” was a very satisfying conclusion of Tella and Scarlett’s story, I still want more from Caraval! I would love to hear more about the Fates and their backstories, I want to know if Scarlett and Tella lived happily-ever-after, etc. While I have no idea if Stephanie Garber has any intentions of writing more about the Caraval characters, there is mention in “Finale” of Tella returning to the Vanished Market in the future. I hope we get to revisit the Caraval universe again very soon!

What are your favorite things about Stephanie Garber’s “Finale”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

9 Legendary Things About Stephanie Garber’s “Legendary”

In celebration and preparation of Stephanie Garber’s 3rd and final book in the Caraval series, Finale, I wanted to repost book reviews of Book 1: Caraval and Book 2: Legendary. If you have not read this series, you are seriously missing out!

“Legendary” Caraval Book 2

by Stephanie Garber

Nikki’s Rating: 9 out of 10

Summary: Scarlett and Tella find themselves in another game, this time to find out the true identity of the elusive and magical Legend. If Tella wins the game, she may lose Legend and possibly her heart forever; if she doesn’t win, she loses her life. But as always, the edges of reality and the magic of Caraval are beginning to blur together.


9 Legendary Things About Stephanie Garber’s “Legendary”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. That dress…

The mood-changing dress is still around. Super jealous!

2. Didn’t see that coming…

Never did it ever occur to me that Scarlett’s “betrothed” in Book 1 could be part of “the game.” Well played Garber, well played. 

3. Carnival Setting

As in the first book, I enjoy the more unusual setting of a carnival. Thankfully Garber leaves out the evil clowns. 

4. Another Game

I was a little concerned about “Legendary” featuring another “game” mostly because I didn’t want it to be too similar to Book 1. However, I was very surprised and happy to find that “Legendary” and “Caraval” have very different games, settings, players, and objectives.

5. Anticipation

Legendary” kept me on my toes as much as “Caraval” did! So many twists and turns, so many secrets and hidden doors behind hidden doors. 

6. Legend

As always, I’m a sucker for love and romance so I’m totally digging the Tella/Legend dynamic. And of course, I love the “tortured, misunderstood, moody” Byronic hero so Legend is an automatic favorite for me.

7. Overall Writing

Garber does it again with good pacing, an enchanting imagination, and great character development!

8. The Ending

Well, not exactly how I wanted things to end but all my favorite characters are still alive and mostly well so I’ll take it and call it a sorta happy ending. 

9. Finale

Thankfully there is a 3rd book: “Finale” Caraval Book 3 by Stephanie Garber!

What are your favorite things about Stephanie Garber’s “Legendary“?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

9 Candescent Things About Stephanie Garber’s “Caraval”

In celebration and preparation of Stephanie Garber’s 3rd and final book in the Caraval series, Finale, I wanted to repost book reviews of Book 1: Caraval and Book 2: Legendary. If you have not read this series, you are seriously missing out!

“Caraval” Caraval Book 1

by Stephanie Garber

Nikki’s Rating: 9 out of 10

Summary: In one last daring plan to escape their abusive father, sisters Scarlett and Tella whisk off to Caraval, a show run by the powerful and mysterious magician, Legend, in which the audience can partake in the adventures. But the game suddenly becomes very real when Scarlett discovers that Tella is missing and has been kidnapped by Legend himself. Unable to know who or what to trust, Scarlett races to find her sister before their monstrous father does. 


Candescent Things About Stephanie Garber’s “Caraval”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Carnival

I surprisingly enjoyed that the majority of the setting for this novel was a carnival. Typically I have stayed away from novels with carnival settings simply because I find carnivals creepy. It’s the clowns. Fuck clowns.

2. Game

Another huge thing that I loved about this novel is it mostly takes place in the “Caraval game.” So as the reader, I also didn’t know what was genuine or just part of “the game”. All characters introduced were more often lying about who they were, intentions/motivations were really hard to guess and universal laws didn’t necessarily apply during the game.

3. The Dress

Mood-changing dress?! Yes, please!!! Seriously, I want this so badly.

4. The Twists

This novel kept me on my toes! Seriously, there were so many twists that I did not see coming. I’m still reeling from Julian!

5. Imaginative

Stephanie Garber truly has an amazing imagination! The carnival, the game, the world, all the tiny little details. The smaller riddles throughout the story. The unique payments participants must give for different items/services in Caraval. The enchanting and magical items and/or services available in Caraval. So much fun!

6. Characters

While the characters in Caraval can be deceiving, I found most of them interesting and enjoyable. And always, kudos for having strong, independent females who end up saving each other instead of a man.

7. Writing

Stephanie Garber’s writing style is easy to follow and understand, she has good pacing and while including many twists, I never felt lost or confused. 

8. Happy-ish Ending

While not the Disney fairytale ending that I want every story to have, the ending was positive. Certain dead characters were revealed to be alive and well. The girls escape their abusive father and can live as they wish. Scarlett and Julian are together… sorta. I guess I can be content with this for now. 

9. Legendary 

There is a sequel! “Legendary” Caraval Book 2 by Stephanie Garber

What are your favorite things about Stephanie Garber’s “Caraval”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Book Reviews of 2018

Young Adult Books

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas:

Empire of Storms

Tower of Dawn

Kingdom of Ash

Caraval Series by Stephanie Garber:

Caraval

Legendary
Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi:

Shatter Me

Unravel Me

Ignite Me

Restore Me

Self-Help Books

Romance Novels

Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter:

Into the Dark

After Dark

The Darkest Torment

The Darkest Promise

Non-Fiction

Historical Fiction