Book Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Book Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Prisoner of Night and Fog

 by Anne Blankman

Prisoner of Night and Fog

 Expected Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View at the Traffic light:



the story morning glory

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.


Historical novels tend to be hit-or-miss with me. The ones I enjoyed I tend to really love, but it often takes me too long to get into a novel full of historical details. I can happily say Prisoner of Night and Fog is one of the best historical books I’ve ever read. The glimpse into WWII pre-Nazi Germany was frightening and compelling.

First, let me say how much I love the time Blankman decided to set Prisoner of Night and Fog. It takes place in a Germany in which Hitler is rapidly gaining political power, but not quite there yet. His victory seems all but decided, but at this point, there’s still a lingering of a question mark, a few other groups of people who could take power if luck fell for them the right way. The reader really gets to follow Hitler through Gretchen’s eyes. It must be difficult to write a figure as historical and as hated as Hitler in a realistic way, but Blankman accomplishes it beautifully. It’s easy to see how Gretchen can be so charmed by Hitler himself, this man who has doted on her family for years and has provided constant support, until Gretchen slowly unravels the truth surrounding her father’s death.

 The addition of Gretchen’s brother was brilliant. Her brother is a textbook case of a psychopath(which, by the way, I feel the need to warn that this leads to some unpleasant things in the book). As Gretchen becomes afraid of Hitler, she begins to wonder if he is also a psychopath. But Gretchen’s brother and Hitler are not the same, and I loved the contrast Blankman set up. Yes, the Hitler Gretchen knows portrays many of the same signs as her brother. But there’s more subtlety in his character–he may not care, but he still feels loneliness, craves companionship, etc. Throughout Prisoner of Night and Fog, Gretchen continues to learn more about the man she thought she knew.

One of my favorite aspects of Prisoner of Night and Fog was the relationship between Gretchen and Daniel. Yes, at a point in the book it does become romantic, but even before that, I just love how they challenged each other to expand their perception of the world and country and what was truly going on. For most of the book, Daniel is the one giving Gretchen information, since he knows more due to his job as a reporter, but Gretchen definitely comes to be able to fend for herself. She does some stupid things and some fearless things, but her motive always tug at my heart–to figure out exactly how her dad died. Was he truly the Nazi martyr as she’s always been told? And the big push that Gretchen needs for that is to be introduced to Daniel.

The final thing that impressed me so much about Prisoner of Night and Fog was the level of historical detail. While Prisoner of Night and Fog is fiction, Blankman clearly worked within the parameters of history as closely as possible. Her author’s note at the end specified what was fact and what she added, and the attention to detail can be seen all the way through the novel. It never felt overwhelming, but it was clearly there. It felt like a story in Germany–the setting was so detailed and vivid. I’m such a character-driven reader that setting rarely matters too much to me, but this was just so impressive I could help but to notice.

It’s strange–when I think back on it, you would think Prisoner of Night and Fog would be a slow, character-driven story. While it’s definitely character driven, it never felt slow, even though the most important scenes were often the quiet ones–when Gretchen was talking to someone or simply observing. Despite this, though, I felt like I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what happened next.


I literally have nothing but praise to say for this debut historical novel. The attention to detail, the way the characters interact, and the story were so compelling I could not put this book down, even though it wasn’t an action-packed story. It completely captivated me and it is without a doubt one of my favorite historical novels I’ve ever read. 5/5 cupcakes.




On Full Fathom Five and Supporting Authors

On Full Fathom Five and Supporting Authors

full fathom five

I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but after seeing Dorothy Must Die jump onto the bestseller’s list, I found myself perusing twitter to see what people were saying about the book in relation to it coming from Full Fathom Five, James Frey’s packaging company.I blame the insomnia I had that kept me awake from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM this morning. I’m not going to get into explaining book packaging and Full Fathom Five because others have done that better, but for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here are some helpful links and posts others have created:

For the most part, people seem to agree on a few things when it comes to book packagers:

  • Book packaging, as an idea, is not ethically wrong(though plenty of people don’t like the idea behind book packaging and lose enthusiasm for those books, I have yet to see anyone who thinks it’s just an ethically wrong business practice). I find the concept of book packaging fascinating and hope to explore it more in a future post.
  • However, James Frey’s book packaging company is ethically wrong because of the terrible contracts that authors have to sign and their lousy earning( A little about the contract).
  • This leads to some people boycotting books coming from James Frey’s packaging company and the decision to not buy or  to read those books.

Now, personally, I’ve decided not to buy Full Fathom Five books. I hardly ever use the word “boycott”, but technically that’s what it is. If I’m going to give a book any sort of publicity or pay for a book, I’d rather do it with books that are NOT Full Fathom Five books. I understand why other people might not boycott, though. I don’t boycott every company I disagree with. For one, I don’t have the time to find every. single. company. that treats their employees unfairly, that use unfair labor practices, that donates to organizations I disagree with. If a company like that is brought to my attention, I’ll often choose an alternative if it’s available, but I don’t go around boycotting everything I could.

The reason I bring this up is because I totally understand why someone might not boycott Full Fathom Five. What you do with your free time and your money is really none of my business(provided it’s legal). I mean, I can do everything I can to bring unfair practices to other people’s attention and encourage them to seek alternatives, but in the end, it’s up to you and that’s completely fine. I’m not really into judging what other people want to do with their time and money. I don’t really like many of Wal-Mart’s policies but I still sometimes shop there if it’s convenient.

I wanted to talk about this though because when I was scrolling twitter on this topic, I kept seeing a theme pop up(it also pops up in some of the comments of the posts above) that goes something like this:

I don’t like Full Fathom Five’s policies, but I don’t think it’s fair to boycott because then you’re not supporting the author either.

Something about this argument just doesn’t sit right with me, and here’s why:

1. I already don’t support every author anyway. No one does.

As a group, I support authors . I want to BE an author someday, and I think authors are amazing! I know how powerful stories and books can be, and I am constantly in awe at how creative certain authors are. I support them.

But individually? I don’t support every author, at least not when we’re equating “supporting” with “reading or buying”. Because I will never buy every book in the world or read every book, not even every book that appeals to me. I have to be selective with what I read/buy because I am mortal and not a billionaire.

So because I have finite money and time, I have to pick which authors to support. In that case, I’d rather not buy/read books packaged by Full Fathom Five.

2. Would I really be supporting the author by buying the book?

To me, this argument is a little like saying “I dislike when companies don’t sell fair trade chocolate, but at least I’m helping them keep some kind of job, even if it’s not the fairest”. Buying Full Fathom Five books doesn’t really support the author as much as it tells James Frey that his terrible contracts and money-making ideas are working.

3. Books, in this situation, are not just books.

In general, I don’t really have a hard time separating an author’s personal life from a work of art. However, the climate surrounding a work of art is a different matter. Enjoying art is one thing, but I don’t want to do it at the exploitation of the creator, which is what I believe Full Fathom Five does.

In the End:

I think choosing whether to boycott something or not is a personal decision, so I definitely get it. Like I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of things I don’t boycott even when I disagree. I still shop at Wal-Mart sometimes. I still sometimes buy from companies who have terrible business practices. I’ve read Orson Scott Card’s books(well, just Ender’s Game).  You can’t boycott everything, and I totally get why someone might decide to not boycott Full Fathom Five books. It’s really up to you, but I did want to offer some thoughts on the idea that by boycotting in this particular case, you’re not supporting the actual author. And clearly, several of Full Fathom Five’s books, like I Am Number Four and Dorothy Must Die, are doing well. It’s not so much for me that I think my lack of reading these books is any sort of indicator to the company, but about how I personally feel and how much I want to support authors and the industry.


Book Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

Book Review: Great by Sara Benincasa


by Sara Benincasa


Expected Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen

Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review, and this is no way affects my opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View at the Traffic light:


the story morning glory


In Sara Benincasa’s contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, a teenage girl becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle, only to be implicated in a tragedy that shakes the summer community.

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta’s carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.

Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa’s darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.


I feel I should start this review by saying that Great absolutely worked for me, and I don’t expect it to work for many readers. Why? Well, as a Great Gatsby retelling, the characterization stays pretty close to the original. And if you don’t know what that means, basically 95% of the characters in Great are people you would want to punch in the face. If you like sympathetic or likable characters, Great is not the book for you. If you’re interested in a modern retelling with a stunning atmosphere, and a sense that something is going to go wrong any moment, well then, you might want to pick this book up.

As a retelling, Great stays pretty close to the original in terms of basic plot. I knew something awful was going to happen, but the entire time I was holding my breath, hoping I was wrong and that maybe Great could have a happier ending than it’s source material. Naomi provides an outsider perspective to the Hamtpon socialites she finds herself hanging with that summer. She meets Jacinta at the start and becomes friends. Jacinta is. . . Jay Gatsby, which made the gender flips quite interesting. Daisy becomes Delilah, and Naomi is the person they need to help them reconnect, which she does without even knowing.

Throughout the entire time of Great, you really get that Naomi is an outsider in this world that the other inhibit all the time, and you wonder what Jacinta’s hiding. Even knowing the original source material(though reading this reminded me I really need to brush up on my Gatsby knowledge), I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, wondering what it would be this time. It becomes evident early on that Teddy, Delilah’s boyfriend, isn’t going to let Jacinta off the hook so easily. He plays around with the truth until everyone suffers for it.

Much like the original story, there’s a whole discussion surrounding class, social privilege, and in this incarnation, gender and sexuality issues waiting to be explored. If I had a complaint with Great, it might be that the book didn’t dive into these issues nearly enough. I would have liked to see more consideration of the changes Benincasa made to the characters.

“We’re all snobs, honey,” She said. “I just say it’s how I was raised.”
“It’s not how I was raised,” I said.
“Sure,” Olivia said. “You’re here, at this fabulous party, with all these fabulous people, all of us looking fabulous in white, drinking the same wine and eating the same food, listening to the same hired band in the same backyard of the same mansion–and you’re different?” She laughed a nasty little laugh. “Sure you are.”

(Quote taken from Advanced Reader’s Copy and should be checked against final publication). The questions raised in this quote–Is Naomi a much a snob as the rest of them are? could have been explored more in the book, but I think, ultimately, in many ways it was. At the end of the book, we see everyone deal with a problem in different ways, and it’s clear Naomi’s reaction is the one most of us would have. The other characters in the book, used to skirting around rules and playing their privilege cards in their favor, have a different idea of how to deal with it.

And then there’s Jacinta, who is just endlessly fascinating. She builds a certain life, and all around her everyone tries to tear it down, and even though this is a retelling, I was on the edge of my seat wondering how she would react in the end. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say it was fitting considering her character–and not just as the Gatsby character, but the characteristics Benincasa gave her.


All in all, Great was a fitting modern retelling set in the Hamptons. Naomi’s outsider perspective was done really well–the entire time, she perches on a ledge being being an outsider and getting swept up in this world. But Jacinta as the Gatsby character was completely fascinating, and every time she was on the page I wondered what she was going to do next. Considering the changes Benincasa made, I did think Great missed an opportunity to explore some of that social commentary more, but it’s definitely there if you want to dig below the surface. 4/5 cupcakes.




Book Review: Split Second by Kasie West

Book Review: Split Second by Kasie West

Split Second

by Kasie West

Split Second

Original Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen

Obtained Via: Bought 
Format Read In: Hardback
View at the Traffic light:


the story morning glory

Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.


As always, there may be spoilers for the first book in this series. Actually, I promise there will be. No spoilers for Split Second!

Split Second picks up just days after where Pivot Point left off, and for that reason alone, I’d recommend re-reading just the last few chapters of Pivot Point to ease into this book. That’s what I did, and it helped me get my head back into this world of Norms and ParaNorms. I also needed a refresher on what exactly went down at the end of Pivot Point, and I was able to jump in straight away to Split Second. 

While there are remnants of Pivot Point’s conflict, Split Second introduced some new problems for Addie & Laila that had nothing to do with the first book. Some of these I loved, some of them weren’t as important to me, but I felt that Kasie West had really nailed the sequel thing down. I get annoyed sometimes when series carry conflict over to the next book just to drag the story into multiple parts. I never felt that way with Split Second in the slightest.

Of course, now the question is did I love Split Second as much as I love Pivot Point? Not quite, but it was still REALLY good and a worthy sequel. The addition of Laila’s point of view took me a few chapters to get into, but by the end I appreciated it since it allowed us to see inside the Paranormal compound while Addie’s out in our mundane world, visiting her dad. And after a few chapter, I got into the rhythm of the book well enough to differentiate between the two voices. Laila’s story became just as important to me as Addie’s in the end, which is not what I expected to happen. I wasn’t gaga for her budding relationship with Connor, but I still thought it was fitting to her character and sweet enough.

What I really loved, though, was seeing Addie explore the Norm world for the second time–only this time, it was real. The way West wrote this was so intriguing because a few details stay the same, but of course Addie doesn’t have the same experience she would have–it’s a few weeks later after Pivot Point, she’s not going to a high school, and so she gets to see a different side of the world than she did in her search in Pivot Point.

I remember how long it took Addie to grow on me in Pivot Point, but reading Split Second, I can’t fathom why. She’s a girl after my own heart in so many ways. One of my favorite scenes in Split Second is when Addie crawls under a table at a bookstore to read a graphic novel. And she “meets” Trevor for the first time really in that bookstore, which was just too perfect. Addie has grown as a character and at this point, I think she might be my favorite main character from all of Kasie West’s books.

The way the relationship between Addie and Trevor blooms in Split Second made me both laugh and put my heart through the wringer. Since Addie’s memories aren’t restored at the start of the book, they start off on even ground. In many ways, their relationship mirrors what they would have had in Pivot Point, but with slight differences. For one, Addie meets Stephanie before she really meets Trevor in Split Second, so they become friends first. That really makes all the difference, and it was refreshing to see a different take on the “mean” girl of the first book.

The only reason I didn’t quite love this one as much as Pivot Point was more with the villains of this book. Some of the plans seem awfully convoluted, and I’m not sure I understood every aspect of it on this read. I’m sure I’ll re-read this book in the future, so I suspect, much like Pivot Point, for my opinion to shoot up even higher.


A worthy conclusion of a story! It was reminiscent enough of Pivot Point and Addie’s choices in that book to make it so familiar, but new enough to be intriguing. Addie, Laila, Connor, & Trevor. . . I just love these characters and the world they inhabit. 4/5 cupcakes. 




The Sunday Wrap-Up{56}


My Week

 My week was strange. Monday night, I hurt my lower back. I’m not sure what I did too it–I either pulled or strained the muscle, I think, only I don’t know how. I suffered through work on Tuesday with the help of Tylenol, but took a sick day on Wednesday to rest it. I went back to work on Thursday, even though my back was still hurting, but sitting more than I normally do helped some. It was jut a really inconvenient week to get injured because it was super busy. Still dealing with that back issue, so I’m crossing my fingers it gets better soon, because I had so much OTHER stuff going on too! Highlights:

  • I applied for an apartment, since my current lease is up next month. They only had one one-bedroom left, so I’m crossing my fingers everything goes smoothly.
  • I went to a big hat party Friday night(okay, a Kentucky derby themed event, but I named it #bighatparty) for work. Also an event on Saturday for work.
  • I spent Friday night AFTER the big hat party with two of my roommates sitting in the living room and watching some so-bad-it’s-good movies(though it was like half watching/half laughing at my roommate’s clumsy corgi puppy).
  • I started applying for some jobs over the weekend(fingers crossed!).

I don’t know in the end how to define my week–it was definitely stressful at times(apartments, jobs, getting injured), BUT parts of the week were some of the best times I’ve had in awhile. Maybe a whirlwind of a week is a good description.

On Book Blog Bake

Monday I reviewed The Here and Now by Ann Brashares.
Tuesday I shared my top 10 unique books.
Wednesday I reviewed Cress by Marissa Meyers.
Thursday I shared 21 questions to ask yourself when you’re in a blogging slump.
Friday I reviewed I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.
Saturday I reviewed Open Road Summer by Emery Lord.


 The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco(4 stars)
The Fever by Megan Abott(2 stars)
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken(4 stars)
Vicious by V.E. Schwab (4 stars)



Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman
Abhorsen by Garth Nix


Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Favorite 5

Self-Promo and Marketing Materials that Work @ (Pub)lishing Crawl

Erin Bowman, author of Taken, talked about marketing materials that work for authors. So fascinating to see a discussion about marketing materials from the author’s side!

5 Ways to Make your Librarian Happy @ The Notebook Sisters

Obviously, be kind when you’re at the library. Everyone benefits from that.

Maintaining Individual Personality on a Group Blog @ Oh, the Books!

I think Kelley, Leanne, & Asti do an excellent job of maintaining their individual personalities on Oh, the Books! so I loved that they talked about it(and the color coding scheme is genius).

We Need More Female Friendships Like These 8 YA BFFs @ Bustle

I loved this article because it does highlight some excellent YA friendships, but also because the article doesn’t go for the most well-known YA to highlight this either(except The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). Seeing books like Code Name Verity & Open Road Summer on this list made me smile.