“Between Shades of Gray”—A Book Review

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a hauntingly beautiful tale that shows a different side of the Holocaust.

Lina is a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl, whose world is thrown upside down the night Soviet officers march into her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father, Lina, her mother, and her young brother, are shoved into train cars like cattle, and shipped to a Siberian work camp.

Trying not to lose herself, Lina keeps what little of herself she has left (that hasn’t been stripped away by the work camp officers) by drawing. She has always loved art and makes drawings, leaving tiny clues within the pictures, secretly passing them along, hoping they will make it back to her father.

Life in the camps put Lina and her family through many trials, their character literally being stamped out of them under Soviet boots. You will find yourself rooting for Lina throughout the narrative, praying she will make it out of this ordeal with a strong since of self.

Between Shades of Gray is an astounding read, shedding light on a different side to the Holocaust than the one we are taught in history class, and helping to open our eyes to the fact that it wasn’t only the Jews who were prosecuted and thrown in concentration camps. This story reminds you how to hope.

I give this book five out of five stars.

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“Vampire Academy”—A Book RAVE *Movie Announced

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I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Vampire Academy series, by Richelle Mead! I absolutely cannot say enough good things about it. It is simply phenomenal and everything that Twilight isn’t. Great plots, strong characters, steamy romance that holds nothing back…need I say more? Yes? Okay, fine…here it goes.

In the wonderful world Richelle Mead has created, there are 3 different types of vampires:

 1)Strigoi – You’re typical evil “dead” vampires, who drain the blood of their victims and have no conscience. Sunlight kills them. They can turn any vampire or human into a Strigoi by draining the blood.

2) Moroi – Vampires who need blood to survive, but only take it from willing feeders, and never enough to kill. They make up the royal vampire families and have an elemental magic of earth, wind, fire, or water. Sunlight is uncomfortable and will physically drain them, but won’t immediately kill them. They tend to have tall, slim frames.

3) Dhampir – The result of a Moroi mating with either a human or another Dhampir. They do not need blood to survive, nor are they affected by the sunlight. They have no elemental powers, but are physically stronger than an average human. They tend to have a shorter, sturdier frame than Moroi vampires.

Strigoi are bad. They wish to either kill or turn others into one of them…especially Moroi vampires. Because the Moroi contain elemental magic, and many make up the royal court, Dhampirs are trained to be Guardians for the Moroi, following them around continuously, keeping vigilant to prevent harm from befalling them.

 

Logistics out of the way…the story:

Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir is a Moroi vampire and the last of the royal Dragomirs. Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway is a Dhampir and Lissa’s best friend since childhood. Rose takes it as her personal mission to keep Lissa safe at all costs—being that Lissa is the last heir in a royal family, there are many who wouldn’t mind seeing her dead. And just to paint you a picture of the awesome snark in this series, here is a quote from Rose on how the two became friends:

“Lissa and I had been friends ever since kindergarten, when our teacher had paired us up together for writing lessons. Forcing five-year-olds to spell Vasilisa Dragomir and Rosemarie Hathaway was beyond cruel, and we’d—or rather, I’d—responded appropriately. I’d chucked my book at out teacher and called her a fascist bastard. I hadn’t known what those words meant, but I’d known how to hit a moving target. Lissa and I had been inseparable ever since.”

Rose and Lissa had run away from St. Vladimir’s Academy and were finally caught and dragged back to the institution, whose sole purpose is to teach Moroi how to be functioning members of the vampire society, and Dhampirs how to be Guardians. Due to a near death accident, Lissa and Rose are linked, allowing Rose to sense Lissa’s feelings, hear her thoughts, and occasionally see the world through Lissa’s eyes. Again…an awesome bit of snark from when the girls were captured and returned to St. Vladimir’s and Rose argues to be Lissa’s Guardian after learning that a mysterious, giant, twenty-something Russian guy has been assigned the task instead:

Dimitri: “She might be wild and disrespectful, but if she has potential—”
Rose: “Wild and disrespectful? Who the hell are you anyway? Outsourced help?”
Kirova (Principle): “Guardian Belikov is the Princess’s guardian now, her sanctioned guardian.”
Rose: “You got cheap foreign labor to protect Lissa?”

And here is my perfect segue for the introduction of Dimitri Belikov –girls (and guys), here is your cue to start swooning.

Dimitri is a Guardian in his early twenties, who came over from Russia. He has not only been assigned the duty of being Lissa’s guardian, but has accepted the challenge of training Rose to someday be an official Guardian to Lissa as well. Just to get your blood pumping, here is a description of our sexy Russian beast: 6’7”, long brown hair (often pulled back into a low pony tail), a body roped with lean muscle, crazy awesome combat skills (not to mention a ridiculously high stamina; wink, wink) seductive brown eyes, has the heart of a gentle giant, wears a long cowboy duster, and can usually be found reading a paperback western novel in his free time.

Dimitri pushes Rose hard during their training sessions, refusing to let her slack off. He takes her snarky remarks and attitude with ease, letting them roll off of him, but is often caught staring at her as if she were a priceless French painting. But of course he would never allow himself to admit it. Dimitri quickly becomes fiercely protective over not only his charge, Lissa, but Rose as well. When Rose injures her ankle, Dimitri flies to her side at the nurse’s office (and of course, Rose dishes out a hearty serving of sarcasm):

Rose: The only thing better than imagining Dimitri carrying me in his arms was imagining him shirtless while carrying me in his arms.

Dimirti: “I’m glad you’re better,” he said. His mouth sounded like it was almost in my hair, just above my my ear. “When I saw you fall…”
Rose: “You thought, ‘Wow, she’s a loser.’”

But naturally, because of his position as Lissa’s Guardian, Dimitri cannot allow himself to fall for Rose, because a)It would be unethical as her instructor and b)If he cared more for Rose, Lissa’s safety could be compromised:

Dimitri: “No. If I let myself love you, I won’t throw myself in front of her. I’ll throw myself in front of you.”

Okay, peeps, if these little snippets aren’t enough to make you immediately pick up the nearest copy of Vampire Academy and devour it, your must have suffered head trauma of some kind. This entire series is a nonstop adrenaline rush…and just wait until you are introduced to the cocky, green-eyed, Moroi Royal, Adrian Ivoshkav!

Much to my delight, the series is being made into a movie! *insert happy dance* Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters is set to be release on February 14, 2014. I know what I’m doing next Valentine’s Day, for sure 😉 And they got an actual Russian actor to play the part of Dimitri…hopefully Danila Kozlovsky can live up to our expectations!