Future Reads: YA Historical Fiction

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This is my first future reads post!  I’m excited to look at upcoming books but also dreading how neverending my To-Be-Read pile looks.  The struggle is forever at this point.

In this post, I will be listing a few upcoming YA historical fiction books that have caught my eye.  Let’s dig in, shall we?

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Title: The Downstairs Girl

Author: Stacey Lee

What It’s About: By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender.

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.

Why I am Excited: I have been a fan of Stacy Lee’s writing for some time so I am ready for her next novel! I also like that it seems to be a story of quiet defiance and a search for identity and meaning.

Release Date: August 13, 2019

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Title: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan

Author: Sherry Thomas

What It’s About:  CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling–the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

Why I’m Excited:  I have always loved the story of Mulan.   Whether there is a magical guardian dragon or not, it doesn’t actually matter to me.  Her story of courage and determination has always inspired me.  I am happy to see that this new interpretation is by a Chinese-American author.  I’m also a fan of Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series so I’m excited to read this.

Release Date:  September 10, 2019.

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Title: The Fountains of Silence

Author: Ruta Sepetys

What It’s About:  Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Why I’m Excited: It’s another book by Ruta Sepetys, and I feel compelled to read it to see how she will tell this story.  I also don’t know much about the Spanish Civil War so I am interested to see what this book reveals about it.

Release Date: October 1, 2019.

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Title:  The Light in Hidden Places

Author: Sharon Cameron

What It’s About:  One knock at the door, and Stefania has a choice to make…

It is 1943, and for four years, sixteen-year-old Stefania has been working for the Diamant family in their grocery store in Przemsyl, Poland, singing her way into their lives and hearts. She has even made a promise to one of their sons, Izio — a betrothal they must keep secret since she is Catholic and the Diamants are Jewish.

But everything changes when the German army invades Przemsyl. The Diamants are forced into the ghetto, and Stefania is alone in an occupied city, the only one left to care for Helena, her six-year-old sister. And then comes the knock at the door. Izio’s brother Max has jumped from the train headed to a death camp. Stefania and Helena make the extraordinary decision to hide Max, and eventually twelve more Jews. Then they must wait, every day, for the next knock at the door, the one that will mean death. When the knock finally comes, it is two Nazi officers, requisitioning Stefania’s house for the German army.

With two Nazis below, thirteen hidden Jews above, and a little sister by her side, Stefania has one more excruciating choice to make.

Why I’m Excited:  This one is based on actual events and an actual person.  Like so many of the quiet heroes of war, we aren’t familiar with every single one.  I have been interested in reading WWII stories a lot this year so I’m looking forward to learning more about Stefania and Helena Podgorska.

 Release Date:  March 3, 2020.

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Title: The Silence of Bones

Author: June Hur

What It’s About:  1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.

Why I’m Excited:  This will be the first historical fiction book I read that takes place in Korea so that is a new experience I am chasing.  I also have to admit that the mystery at the center of this story has lured me in.

Release Date:  April 21st, 2020.

Finished Reading: Salt to the Sea

title salt to the sea

What It’s About:

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.


Finished Reading...Reboot


Salt to the Sea is a haunting piece of historical fiction and having now finished it, I hardly know what to say.  It is a deeply affecting story about courage, sacrifice, guilt and the horrors of war.

It’s a character-driven book with the story unfolding through the words of 4 unique characters.  All of their histories and experiences are different and they are all moving towards the same thing – the doomed ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff.  While the characters are fictional, the ship and its sinking are very real.  We are generally more familiar with the Titanic (made popular by the film) and maybe even the Lusitania, but the sheer number of lives lost on the Wilhelm Gustloff is a fact I struggle with because it is so high. It is so high and yet not discussed enough or widely known about.

The characters themselves are tragic and sometimes what they reveal, their inner thoughts and pasts are horrific and frightening.  The writing is compelling and lyrical.  Emilia’s voice, especially, feels that way.  Despite looking forward to seeing Joana Vilkas (the cousin of Lina from the novel, Between Shades of Gray) and discovering her side of the war, Emilia is the character that stands out.  I usually don’t enjoy alternating points-of-view in a book because sometimes it can really feel like filler, but it really didn’t feel that way with this book.  I could not put it down.

This novel will challenge readers because it is such a heartbreaking read that calls forth the ghosts of history.

Donut Rating 5

On a Theme: High School Manga Live-Action Adaptations

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This time around, this post will be focusing on live-action film adaptations of coming of age high school mangas.   These stories are nostalgic, drama-filled, sometimes cheesy, sometimes weird, and incredibly emotional.  My overall high-school experience was boring in comparison.  I won’t speak of it.

Our teen years are such a formative time and yes, emotions do run high because we’re finding out who we are, how we feel and where we want to go.   These stories show that in all its excruciating glory and I love that.  I honestly do.  From manga to film, it can only get better as you see those characters you love and identify with brought to life.

The following list includes ten manga books with their live-action adaptation counterpart.  The items on this list are by no means the only ones that exist.  There are plenty more, of course.  However, I tried to keep it short and interesting with these choices.


1. Orange

Orange (Orenji): art and story by Ichigo Takano

What It’s About:  On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one, Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny?

The manga series is complete and should be available in two complete edition volumes.  Originally, it was released as 6 volumes.

The film adaptation was released in 2015 and stars Tao Tsuchiya and Kento Yamazaki.  It is directed by Kojiro Hashimoto.


2. ao haru rideAo Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride): art and story by Io Sakisaka

What It’s About:  In high school, Futaba gets a second chance with her first love, Kou.

Futaba Yoshioka thought all boys were loud and obnoxious until she met Kou Tanaka in junior high. But as soon as she realized she really liked him, he had already moved away because of family issues. Now in high school, she meets Kou again, but is he still the same boy she fell in love with?

The manga series is still being released right now in North America.  There will be a total of 13 volumes in this series.

The film was released in 2014 and stars Tsubasa Honda and Masahiro Higashide.  It is directed by Takahiro Miki.


3. daytime shooting starDaytime Shooting Star (Hirunaka no Ryūsei): art and story by Mika Yamamori

What It’s About:  After arriving in Tokyo to live with her uncle, Suzume collapses in a nearby park when she remembers once seeing a shooting star during the day. A handsome stranger brings her to her new home and tells her they’ll meet again. Suzume starts her first day at her new high school sitting next to a boy who blushes furiously at her touch. And her homeroom teacher is none other than the handsome stranger!

The manga series just started being released in North America.  Volume 1 was released July 2nd, 2019.  There will be a total of 13 volumes in this series when it is complete.

The film was released in 2017 and stars Mei Nagano, Shohei Miura, and Alan Shirahama.  It is directed by Takehiko Shinjō.


4. kimi ni todokeKimi ni Todoke (From Me To You)art and story by Karuho Shiina

What It’s About:  Sawako Kuronuma is the perfect heroine…for a horror movie. With striking similarities to a haunting movie character–jet-black hair, sinister smile, and silent demeanor–she’s mistakenly called Sadako by those around her. But behind her scary façade is a very misunderstood teenager. Too shy to fit in, all she wants to do is make some friends. But when the most popular boy in class befriends her, she’s sure to make more than just that–she’s about to make some enemies too!

The manga series is complete and has a total of 30 volumes.

The film was released in 2010 and stars Haruma Miura and Mikako Tabe.  It is directed by Naoto Kumazawa.


5. strobe edgeStrobe Edge (Sutorobo Ejji): art and story by Io Sakisaka

What It’s About:  Having no experience in romance, the vibrant Ninako curiously explores the meaning of what “love” really is, and is surprised to feel a colorful range of emotions as she grows closer to the school heartthrob, the quiet yet gentle Ren, who also happens to be involved in a longtime relationship. With every intention of keeping her head held high, Ninako prepares to face the mental pain of this one-sided love that she had allowed to take root, facing a series of trials that would either contribute to her growth as a headstrong woman or break her as it did with other girls. However, is this really a one-sided love? Or had something been silently sown in the most hidden part of Ren’s heart?

The manga series is complete and has a total of 10 volumes.

The film was released in 2015 and stars Kasumi Arimura and Sota Fukushi.  It is directed by Ryūichi Hiroki.


6. we were thereWe Were There (Bokura Ga Ita):  art and story by Yuuki Obata

What It’s About:  Nanami Takahashi falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it’s first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died the year before.

Nanami starts high school with high hopes of making lots of friends. She develops a crush on the enigmatic Yano, but he may have too many secrets for her to handle.

The manga has been collected into 16 volumes and has been released in North America.

This series was adapted into 2 films, both were released in 2012.  The film stars Toma Ikuta and Yuriko Yoshitaka.  It was directed by Takahiro Miki.


7. your lie in aprilYour Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso): art and story by Naoshi Arakawa

What It’s About:  Kosei Arima was a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother died suddenly, changing his life forever. Driven by his pain to abandon piano, Kosei now lives in a monotonous, colorless world. Having resigned himself to a bland life, he is surprised when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style. Can she bring Kosei back to music, and back to life?

This manga has been collected into 11 volumes and has been released in North America.

The film came out in 2016 and stars Suzu Hirose and Kento Yamazaki.  It is directed by  Takehiko Shinjō.


8. my love storyMy Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!): art by Aruko and story by Kazune Kawahara

What It’s About:  Takeo Goda is a GIANT guy with a GIANT heart.

Too bad the girls don’t want him! (They want his good-looking best friend, Sunakawa.)

Used to being on the sidelines, Takeo simply stands tall and accepts his fate. But one day when he saves a girl named Yamato from a harasser on the train, his (love!) life suddenly takes an incredible turn!

Takeo can hardly believe it when he crosses paths with Yamato again, and he finds himself falling in love with her… But with handsome Sunakawa around, does Takeo even stand a chance?

The series is complete in 13 volumes and has been released in North America.

The film was released in 2015 and stars Ryohei Suzuki, Mei Nagano, and Kentaro Sakaguchi.  It is directed by Hayato Kawai.


9. Kids On the SlopeKids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon): art and story by Yuki Kodama

What It’s About:  The beginning of summer, 1966; because of his father’s job situation, 1st-year high school student Kaoru Nishimi moves by himself from Yokosuka to Sasebo in Kyushu to live with relatives. Until then, Kaoru was an honor roll student who tended to keep to himself, but meeting notorious “bad boy” Sentaro Kawabuchi starts to change him. Through his devil-may-care classmate, Kaoru learns how much fun it is to play jazz and finds the first person he can call a real friend.

The manga is complete in 9 volumes plus an extra story.  However, I do not believe it has been published in North America.  In my research, I found editions in French and Spanish. If you read in either of those two languages, you might be able to find a digital copy of the manga available for purchase.

The film came out in 2018 and stars Yuri Chinen, Taishi Nakagawa, and Nana Komatsu.  It is directed by Takahiro Miki.


10. Honey So SweetHoney So Sweet (Hanii):  story and art by Amu Meguro

What It’s About: Little did Nao Kogure realize back in middle school that when she left an umbrella and a box of bandages in the rain for injured delinquent Taiga Onise that she would meet him again in high school. Nao wants nothing to do with the gruff and frightening Taiga, but he suddenly presents her with a huge bouquet of flowers and asks her to date him—with marriage in mind! Is Taiga really so scary, or is he a sweetheart in disguise?

The manga is complete in 8 volumes and has been released in North America.

The film came out in 2018 and stars Sho Hirano and Yuna Taira.  It is directed by Koji Shintoku.

Currently Reading: Salt to the Sea

title salt to the sea

What it’s about: 

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.


currently-reading...reboot


I have devoured the two other books that Ruta Sepetys has written: Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy.  Both have been such good reads that I knew I had to pick this one up eventually.

Her books are usually character-driven and that’s something I always look for in the books I read.  There are alternating points of view in this one with Joana, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred.  If you have read Between Shades of Gray, you will recognize Joana as she is the cousin of Lina Vilkas.

Ruta Sepetys chooses to shed light on those events in history that are not well known or that are seldom talked about.  That is something that we as readers need.  In this book, she brings up two topics: the Wilhelm Gustloff ship and the disappearance of the Amber Room.  Both of which I knew nothing about before starting this book and now I want to know more.

I am partway through the book, and it has already broken my heart a few times.  Going to keep reading.  See you soon.