It's 1945 and the Nazi army is crumbling.
Four teenagers are on the run from the advancing Soviet army. Tales of their brutality have preceded their arrival.
Each teenager is from a different country but their lives have all been shattered by the war.
Together, they travel across a frozen wasteland towards the only thing that gives them hope: a ship that is evacuating refugees away from the Soviets.
They are frostbitten, starving and terrified. Not only that, they are each carrying with them a dark secret.
As they near their destination, they come to realise that not everything is as it seems within their motley crew of survivors.
This is by far one of my favourite books that I've read in a long time. Based on a nautical disaster that I had never heard of, it is chalk-full of brutal scenes that will make you angry, sad and unable to put the book down.
It's a book about the absolute brutality of war and how it whittles people down to their very core. But it's also a book about how strongly people hold onto hope in the middle of Hell.
I highly recommend this book to ages 13 and up!
Things are gonna get rough.
Beck is the product of a loveless and brief encounter between his poor mother and an African sailor in Liverpool in the early 1900s.
After his mother dies Beck is sent to Canada to a group called The Catholic Brothers which is just as terrifying as it sounds.
Abused at the home, Beck is sent to work as a farmhand where he's treated like one of the animals.
Beck powers through, though, and what follows is a beautifully written tale of extreme hardship and true grit.
Eventually, Beck finds Grace, a woman that understands at least part of his hardships. With Grace Beck finds a glimmer of hope in what has been a cruel and heartless world.
I loved this book, even when it was hard to read sometimes. Peet creates a character that survives against all odds and projects volumes without barely saying a word.
There's been a lot of controversy about this being nominated for the Carnegie Award and the graphic description of abuse and sex. I get that, I wouldn't hand this to an 11 year old. It's for older teens in my opinion. Some have said it's just for adults and I disagree. If an older teen reads this they'll still be here in the morning and they'll be better off for reading it. An amazing tale that should not be missed.
You had me at Nazi motorcycle race to the death.
It's the 1950s and the Nazis have defeated the Allies in WWII. To celebrate, Hitler holds a deadly motorcycle race for teenagers that spans the newly minted Axis continents. The winner meets Hitler on live television at a grand ball held in Tokyo.
Yael is a survivor.
In the camps, she was an experiment for sadistic Nazi doctors. Injected with toxins, she was given an amazing ability, one that ultimately helps her blend in to Nazi society without getting caught.
Now, she must impersonate the best Nazi motorcycle rider in the land. Why? Because she needs to win the race across the continents. She needs to get to that ball in Tokyo, she needs to meet Adolf Hitler so she can assassinate him.
This book is pretty amazing. It has a strong female lead that kicks some serious butt. It has intrigue, danger, history and love all wrapped up into a pedal to the metal motorcycle race that combines threats and dangers worthy of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I loved it, I read it in a day. You will fall in love with Yael and you will be there with her on the back of her bike, rooting her on, picking the dust out of your teeth and watching a darn good story unfold.
I recommend this book to Year 8 and up!
1959 Virginia. The U.S. is locked into a fight between those that want black and white people to integrate, and those that want to keep them separate.
Caught in the middle of this is Sarah, her friends and her family. Being the first black students to enter the halls of Jefferson High, they have only the slightest idea as to what are about to endure.
It's clear they're not welcome, not by the teachers or the students. Even worse, the teachers look the other way when the meaner white students harass, threaten and attack the black students.
On the other side of the coin we have Linda, daughter of a staunch segregationist and nominee for Worst Father in America 1959. Linda writes scathing articles in the school newspaper about the dangers of integration and how it will destroy white culture.
However, when they're forced to work together for an assignment, both realise things about each other. First, that not everything is as plain as it seems on the outside. Second, the feelings Sarah and Linda start to have for each could have dangerous consequences.
It's a book that will make you angry and happy all at the same time. I recommend this book to Year 9 and up although some Year 8s will probably enjoy it as well.
I'm glad I knew virtually nothing about the Lusitania until I was an adult. If someone had told me about it when I was a kid, that knowledge, combined with being allowed to see "Jaws" at age 7 would have driven me on an insane quest to fill the oceans with concrete.
Turns out, even though I thought I knew a little about the Lusitania and its role in propelling the U.S. into WWI, I was wrong. I knew nothing about what had actually happened.
The Lusitania was the fastest ship of its day with the latest technology on board. After the Titanic disaster, it was also fitted with more than enough lifeboats.
On 1May, 1915 it set sail from New York to Liverpool, the passenger list was a who's who of actors, rich businessmen and socialites. Despite the festive atmosphere on board, tensions were high under the surface. The UK was embroiled in WWI, which would cost the lives of millions of Europeans. English ships were being sunk at an alarming rate by German submarines, who didn't seem to care if there were civilians on board or not. For the German captains, it was all about the tonnage, if they could prove to their superiors that they had sunk a certain amount of tonnage, they'd be up for medals and promotions.
The attitude of Germany at the time, according to Larson, was to engage in war without morals or rules, kill everything, cripple the enemy, and that's what they planned to do.
England wanted the U.S. to join the fight, President Woodrow Wilson wasn't interested despite the warmongers that seemed to inhabit his Cabinet at the time.
In light of the fact that German subs were sinking ships in an around England & Ireland at an alarming rate, the Lusitania still set off for Liverpool. This boggles my mind, many passengers had joked about being torpedoed in their diaries and letters home. My opinion is that they simply couldn't believe it would happen to them.
But in a stroke of absolute luck that Larson paints like a mystery/thriller, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk on 7th May as it passed Ireland. It was one of the biggest and fastest cruise liners in existence and it sunk in eighteen minutes, killing over 1,000 people.
I won't go into details because I can't possibly compete with Larson's depiction of the events, he is a master storyteller that could make the signing of a law on littering seem exciting.
The conspiracy still exists and Larson doesn't try to disprove it: Did the UK know about the danger to the Lusitania and ignore it in the hopes that the U.S. would rush to war? It's a frightening prospect, but not one that I'm willing to disprove.
What's fascinating about Dead Wake is that Larson provides both sides of the story, that of the Captain of the Lusitania and the passengers, and that of the submarine captain that sunk the ship, seemingly out of blind chance.
Even if you have no interest in WWI or tales of the sea, you will love Dead Wake, it's that good.
"Much nonsense has been written about the Knights Templar over the years," writes Jordan Mechner, creator of the awesome graphic novel, "Templar." He's right, there has been a lot of nonsense written about them. One of my favourites is that they stole un-published works of Shakespeare and hid them on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Then there's the myth that they were all arrested on a Friday the 13th, forever marking it as an unlucky day, a day that would spawn countless terrible campfire stories and movies. I'm looking at you, Jason Takes Manhattan.
There's no nonsense in Mechner's Templar. He uses actual speeches from the Templar's leaders, members and detractors. Mechner re-creates 14th century Paris as meticulously as he can. We see both sides of the human experience, the gold-lined palaces, the poor wretches living in their own filth and the people who are just trying their best to survive.
This is probably what I loved the most from this book, Mechner doesn't gloss over anything, but he doesn't exaggerate either. Don't get me wrong, the book gets pretty dark at times, especially when depicting the Siege of Acre and the resulting massacre of the prisoners.
The through-line of Templar follows Martin and his friends. Martin returns to Paris after a long excursion around Europe only to find out that the woman he loves hasn't waited around for him. While he finds solace at the bottom of several pints of ale, the king orders the mass-arrest of the Templars, taking their treasure in the process and hiding it in the city.
Forced into hiding for months on end, Martin and his friends eventually discover that their treasure is still in Paris. He then recruits people that are sympathetic to his cause, including his jilted ex-lover, to help rescue the treasure and return it to the remaining Templars that have escaped persecution.
Templar is a deep story filled with smaller yet still interesting side-stories as well as fast paced action, Indiana Jones style puzzles and a well thought out romantic thread.
At 480 pages, it's not a quick read, but that's fine because I didn't want it to end.