Tag Archives: survival

Book Review: My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith

Published May 2014 by Chicken House books.

20554182Goodreads Synopsis: Germany, 1941. 12-year-old Karl Engel is looking forward to joining the Hitler Youth, like all boys his age.

But when his father is killed, his rebellious older brother Stefan shows him things that leave his faith in the Führer shaken. Who is the real enemy? What is the meaning of the flower sewn inside his brother’s jacket? Karl soon finds out, as he becomes involved in a dangerous rebellion.

My Review: I really got into Historical YA Fiction last year, but this year I haven’t really gotten the chance to read that much! That’s a big reason why I was really excited to read My Brother’s Secret. I really wasn’t let down; it was a really enjoyable book, with lots of twists, and packed with emotion.

My Brother’s Secret reminded me a lot of The Book Thief: if you’re a fan of Markus Zuzak I definitely recommend this. It’s got similar themes of friendship, and rebellion, and is set in World War Two Germany. The story follows Karl Friedmann, a boy who is passionate about the Hitler Youth and serving his country. But after his father is killed in action, his thoughts about and pride in his country start to change, and he begins to discover that Germany has its rebels, and that he might be becoming one of them.

Right from the beginning I was really stuck into the story. I loved how the setting was described. Dan Smith’s writing is really likeable. I could almost feel like I was there, in Karl’s underground bomb shelter, riding across the fields with Karl’s best friend. The writing is really captivating and brought a lot of imagery.

The characters were all well developed. Karl’s personality changes a lot over the course of the story and I found it really interesting, to see him transition from being so passionate about Germany and the Fuhrer to committing rebellious acts. One character I would have liked to hear more about, though, definitely would be Karl’s brother. The story is centered around Karl’s discovery of his sibling’s rebel Edelweiss Pirates group, but for some reason I don’t think I saw… enough of him? The plot is mainly centered around Karl discovering the ‘other side’ of his village. I think I would’ve liked to hear how his brother joined the Edelweiss Pirates (The really interesting, real life group of rebels).

Overall, My Brother’s Secret was a really well written novel! I really loved Dan Smith’s writing. The plot was pretty unpredictable, and the last few chapters were so action-packed and shocking, I couldn’t put the book down. Karl was a really great main protagonist. I really loved how much he developed over the course of the plot. My Brother’s Secret really captures the impacts on German people in WW2. I’ll definitely be looking out for Dan Smith”s other title, My Friend the Enemy, now!

My Rating:


I received a copy of My Brother’s Secret from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.



Book Review: Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill

Published by Bodley Head, 31st January 2014.

18041951Goodreads Synopsis: Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together.

When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong . . . The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . .

Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on – of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?

My Review: I’ve never read a book by Jo Cotterill before, but I’ll definitely be reading more from her! Looking at the Stars was beautifully written, uplifting and hopeful and influenced by recent wars and disasters. Looking at the Stars is set in an un-named country and revolves around a controlling, violent group, making it really relevant to recent events. It’s eye-opening, memorable, and a beautiful read.

The story begins with Amina, a girl living in her tense home country as foreign soldiers ride in, to hopefully help everybody out of the situation. Right away, I clicked with Amina; I really felt for her and her family as she went through devastating events, and some hopeful ones.

She’s a really relatable character, held back from letting her imagination out because she’s not allowed to go to school because she’s a girl. The things she went through completely broke my heart! However, Amina’s the brave, memorable, inspiring character I was hoping for and more. She develops so much throughout the story, and I found myself wanting to read more books about her after I closed the book.

The story is so easy to get lost in. From the first page, with that first line that hooked me in, I couldn’t tear myself away! I  It’s gritty, sad and violent, not as I’d thought it would be, but it’s also a beautiful story of how hope can turn things around. Amina’s adventure is full of ups and downs as she loses people and finds friends. The story, especially in the last half, focuses largely around storytelling, and I really, really loved that. The imagery was so vivid and beautiful, especially in Amina’s fantastical stories! Jo’s writing is gorgeous.

Overall, Looking at the Stars was a moving read, full of heartbreak and friendship. It’s unpredictable; dark at some parts but really beautifully written. It focuses on current world topics that I don’t think I’ve ever read books about before- so I really recommend it! Amina and her sisters were so loveable, as were the rest of her family and the friends that they make along their journey. I can’t recommend Looking at the Stars enough; it’s definitely one of the most emotional, but the most eye-opening books I’ve read this year.

My Rating:


I received a copy of Looking at the Stars from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

If you’re interested about Looking at the Stars and want to read more about the book, the blog tour is continuing today over at Readaraptor! Make sure to check out the blog tour post, and the finale tomorrow. If you’d like to catch up on the blog tour, here’s the schedule! Clicking on the image will bring you to my post from the blog tour.

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