Salt to the Sea and Start Without Me

Salt to the Sea

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Winter, 1945.  Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies… and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. 

Yet not all promises can be kept. 

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II.  An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope. 

Morgan’s thoughts:

I loved this book.  Written at a level that is easily accessible for middle schoolers, it certainly does not skirt around the hardships faced by the many people whose lives were torn apart by WWII.  For this reason, this book is even more desirable as a teaching tool: it offers many valuable topics for discussion: war, pregnancy, prejudice, rape, and good and evil.  

I came across this book with the eighth grade student that I tutor – she selected it as our reading for this semester.  It provided us with exactly what we needed – it’s a gripping story and she, who is not necessarily a big reader, really enjoyed it.  And I did too!  It gave us much to talk about, both as a work of literature and as a partial history lesson.  We spent time researching the truthful elements of the story: the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and the mysterious disappearance of the amber room, and discussing the values of a narrative told four alternating points of view.

I would recommend this book to all fans of historical fiction, both young and old.  The writing is simple yet well done.  The story is fascinating and if you do not have to split it up into four months, as I did, you will finish it in less than a day.  

Interested in this book?  Buy it here on Amazon or find it at your local independent bookstore.

Start Without Me

Thank you to William Morrow Books for sending me a free copy of Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years.  Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews – all of whom have seen him at his worst – he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.  

Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class, and ambition.  Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge that she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night stand.

In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet.  Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.

Morgan’s thoughts:

Marissa and Adam’s lives totally suck.  And we are told this again and again and again.  This story had me wincing every single chapter.  This is one of the worst Thanksgivings of all time, purposefully putting all other Thanksgivings to shame.  At one point, Adam and Marissa literally shame Marissa’s husband and in-laws for thinking their lives are bad by telling them how much worse it can be.

This story is neither funny nor heart wrenching.  It is just bleak and I did not enjoy reading it.  If there is a redeemable quality to this book, it is that it is a lesson in empathy.  And the author is clearly pretty knowledgeable about music.

This review will be short because I don’t feel the need to expand much more on my negative thoughts; I’m putting this book behind me and happily moving on to HIDDENSEE by Gregory Maguire, also given to me in my box from William Morrow Books.

Interested in this book?  Buy it here on Amazon or at your local bookstore and then let’s discuss.

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