All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

allthelightwecannotsee_anthonydoerrWhen I’m recommended a World War II book, my mind immediately thinks of shooting, and guns, and war. But this is not one of THOSE books. I could honestly say it impacted my perspective on life. Not to mention it won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Anthony Doerr’s historical fiction, All the Light We Cannot See follows the story of two individuals who could not be more different. Marie-Laure, a blind, French girl, and Werner, an orphan, German boy grow up separately. Living in Paris, Marie-Laure’s father helps her with her eyesight disability by creating a tangible model of her city. But when she is 12, Marie-Laure and her father escape Paris after it is taken over by the Nazis and flee to Saint-Malo and her uncle in France.

Werner, an extremely bright boy, grows up in a small mining town with his sister. They find a broken radio that he fixes and is soon recruited at an academy for Hitler Youth. He eventually is dispatched on the field to track radios operated by the resistance.

The book explores the hardships these children have to face as they grow up in a war zone, but with a light mood. The book beautifully explores the potential of humanity. The innocent, humbling characters find hope in places with no light to be seen. In this way, this story did not include all the cliches of war books.

From the first word to the very last, Doerr somehow painted a beautiful, poetic picture of their lives during this depressing time. Marie-Laure and Werner were children finding their own way in a corrupt world. Their motivating strength to survive was the main thing that inspired me live life and find light and hope, even in the darkest places. You may not be able to see the light, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there for you to discover.

-Megan A.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. IT can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Roseblood by A. G. Howard

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From this beloved author we were told how Lewis Carroll wrote the stories wrong: how Wonderland is actually not a child’s world, but one of twisted madness, Tim Burton like worlds, and hot guys who wear hats and vine like tattoos. Now, get to learn that we also have a beloved opera that has been written wrong.

Enter into a world based in France, where the school Rune Germain has transferred to has its own Phantom of the Opera. Rune’s life is complicated: she was almost killed by her grandma, nearly killed a boy by kissing him, and on top of all that, her voice was cursed, causing her to let out faint sounds every time she sings. Meanwhile, young Thorn lives with a man named Erik, who is the phantom of the opera and has mask covering the burnt portion of his face. Thorn must do what Erik says, even if it is wrong, for reasons kept secret. What happens when Rune and Thorn’s destined fates cross? A lot basically, and not all of it good.

I love A. G. Howard as an author, especially with her Splintered series. That was why, since I saw the book at the library, I immediately picked it up and started to read it. The cover and colored ink on the inside looked very similar. Although not the same madness like tone that the Splintered series was written in, the mystical feel suits a archaic opera like time. The plot twist is also very interesting.

However, the book disappointed me in various ways too. For example, A. G. Howard, like always, expects you to remember the mysterious boy that appears in the girl’s dreams, the one that only appeared for one sec in the beginning and was not memorable enough. Additionally, compared to the Splintered series, she tells the story really fast. This is also more of a preference, but I didn’t like the way she told the story. She told the story through both Rune and Thorn’s point of view, and while both are important to the story, I feel as though it muddles things up. However, that is more personal. All in all, it was still a very great story and I would recommend it to everyone who wants to read it cause of the author, supernatural elements, or the like.

-Megan V, 12th Grade

Roseblood by A. G. Howard is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr’s historical fiction All the Light We Cannot See brings out the tragedies and horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe. Set in France and Germany, Doerr writes about the stories of a young blind girl and orphan boy and how each adapts to survive during World War II.

Marie-Laure loses her eyesight at age six and eventually manages to learn how to cope with her disability. Her father looks after her as she attempts to memorize the streets of her home in Paris so that she can navigate the city independently. Six years later, when Germany invades France, she and her father seek help from an uncle to take refuge, where she spends the majority of the war hidden in the walled city of Saint Malo.

Werner grows up in an orphanage in Germany with his younger sister. They find a radio and fix it, only to be astounded by Werner’s talent with the device. This later grants him a schooling for the brutal Hitler Youth, and is assigned to use his intelligence with radios to track the resistance.

Doerr introduces two very opposite perspectives during the war and demonstrates both the beauty and brutality of living during such a frightening era. He constantly shows how such an obstacle such as blindness should urge one to keep fighting and overcome it. Likewise, he writes how a gift or talent can change one’s life into one of the most powerful groups in history.

On a scale of one through ten, this novel deserves an eight for its beautifully described picture it portrays of World War II. I would recommend this novel to those of 14 years or older for its maturity and historical content.

-Riley W.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Image result for the darkest hour caroline tung richmondI’m normally not a huge fan of historical fiction. Although, I am okay with reading a few alternate histories, but not constantly. Caroline Tung Richmond is also the author of The Only Thing To Fear, about the present day world under Hitler’s control. Even though this book isn’t an alternate history, it is still about World War II.

The year is 1943, in France, and Lucie Blaise is a part of Covert Ops, a group of female spies. They are willing to do anything to take down Hitler. After her older brother dies in combat, Lucie wants to avenge his death and try in any way possible to defeat Hitler. She didn’t want a boring desk job, and wanted to be an actual spy. Even with her training, she is unprepared for the real world. She almost gets caught, but luckily the Nazis barely buy her cover. Also, she didn’t remember her training exactly when she had her job to do, and she almost was fired because of it. I can’t describe what her job was, because it be too much of a spoiler.

This is a really interesting book about female spies in World War II. I felt that the scenes with Dorner could have been written differently, like maybe Lucie could have been starting to fall in love with Dorner, and the book would have been longer as a result. But nothing happened between them, there was no love story for Lucie, and I feel the book would have been more interesting if something did happen. After reading this book, I wondered if some of the events mentioned were true, and reading the Author’s Note explained it. The Operation Zerfall is fiction, but I was shocked to read that the Wunderwaffe program existed.

So if you’re into World War II, spies, or historical fiction, this book is for you! If you like this book, I strongly recommend reading Richmond’s other book, The Only Thing To Fear. This book isn’t mean for younger audiences.

-Rebecca V. 8th grade

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

ruinsoflace_irisanthonyThe Ruins of Lace is a historical fiction novel written by Iris Anthony that follows the journey of one particularly beautiful piece of lace through France. But wait! There is one catch: the possession of lace in France was forbidden. So how does the lace make its perilous journey all the way from Flanders to France, wreaking havoc on the lives of the people it encounters? The novel showcases seven unique characters, whose actions all influence each other.

The Ruins of Lace begins from the point of view of Katharina, who is a lowly lace maker in a convent. Hard labor has made her blind, and she fears what will happen when she can no longer weave her precious lace. Her sister wants to free her from her slavery, but it comes at a steep price she cannot afford. Then, the story is told from the point of view of an abused dog used to smuggle the lace that Katharina wove into France. A border guard, Denis, is supposed to prevent this, but proves he doesn’t have the heart to hurt the peasants who enter France. Then the story progresses into a new class, when the daughter of a viscount owes an unattainable amount of lace to the Count of Montreau, and can only hope to find it with the help of her cousin Alexandre Lefort. The puppet master of all these seemingly unconnected people is the Count of Montreau himself, who needs a spectacular piece of lace to appease the cardinal who, under instruction from the count’s father, will take away his title and inheritance.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because of the amazing character development that it had. In a novel, sometimes an author does not even adequately develop their protagonist. That is far from true in The Ruins of Lace, as Anthony is able to make the reader grow attached to every character, no matter how seemingly minor they may at first appear to be. Also, this book is a must read for people who not only enjoy a good adventure novel, but for people who enjoy puzzles. Each character influences the others in a profound way, regardless of whether they actually encounter each other. This gives the impression of the book being like a piece of Katharina’s lace; it is composed of many interwoven strands that come together to make a spectacular final artwork.

-Mirabella S.