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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

A dramatic page-turner that captures the devastating toll of war and the impact of women's struggles and solidarity, through the lens of a little-known slice of history. In 1917, Russia is losing the war with Germany, soldiers are deserting in droves, and food shortages on the home front are pushing people to the brink of revolution. Seventeen-year-old Katya is politically conflicted, but she wants Russia to win the war. Working at a munitions factory seems like the most she can do to serve her country?until the government begins recruiting an all-female army battalion. Inspired, Katya enlists. Training with other brave women, she finds camaraderie and a deep sense of purpose. But when the women's battalion heads to the front, Katya has to confront the horrifying realities of war. Faced with heartbreak and disillusionment, she must reevaluate her commitment and decide where she stands.…

Open Fire

by Amber Lough

Overall Book Review:

Where to start with this book?  Do you start with the characters?  The setting?  The author herself?

First, I love that this is a book about little known female soldiers written by a solider.  There is this solidarity, this mutual respect that flows through the book.  The war isn’t glamourized or made to seem less realistic, but is handled with such care and such a focus on courage, dedication, and one’s ideals and morals that it seems less of a story about soldiers and more of a story about compassion and realism.

I instantly fell in love with Katya, the main character.  I’ve spent time in Russia myself and Katya is so uniquely Russian.  She has a love of country, a dedication to family even when she doesn’t understand their choices or actions, a unique bond with her friends, and an openness to ideas not her own that is so reminiscent of folks I met while there.  And yet Katya is so like many other girls to which we can relate.  A girl searching for her father’s approval.  A girl wanting to make a difference in her world.  A girl who grieves lost friends and family.

The setting of the book was well done.  I appreciated the attention to detail, but I also appreciated that the author didn’t spend a ton of time trying to describe the intricacies of Petrograd, now St. Petersburg.  I think detailed descriptions of the beauty of the architecture, etc. would have been a detractor from the main storyline. 

The book moves along at a good clip and I appreciated that chapters were prefaced with the date.  It made keeping things in the greater context much easier.  The language is simple and very few ethnic/cultural references are made that wouldn’t be understood without further research by the reader.  There was a little bit of awkwardness in the names of some of the ancillary characters in that both given and surname were used repeatedly within a couple paragraph span, but it was only a handful of times.

Overall, this is a great book.  And if you grab a copy, take the book jacket off so you don’t miss the beautiful foil cover design!

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Carolrhoda Lab


Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamations; 22 mild obscenities; 5 derogatory names; 1 scatological word; 2 anatomical terms.

Violence/Gore:  Rock thrown at solider; soldiers fire into crowd causing death; report of injuries from explosion; reports of death in battle; recall of work accident resulting in death; bedtime story where characters are buried alive, burned alive and massacred; man is beaten during hazing ritual; soldiers practice hand to hand combat with various injuries; woman is shot in arm during confrontation; two verbal threats; punch to face; 11 page graphic bloody battle; playful punch to arm; 6 page bloody battle with attempted rape during battle.

Sex/Nudity:  1 incidence of hand-holding; kiss to hand; men make crude reference; woman’s pants fall down exposing bare butt (funny); attempted rape.

Mature Subject Matter:

Political conflict; death; war; separation; infidelity; abandonment; rape; ethics.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Drinking of vodka and wine; smoking of cigarettes.

Overall Book Rating
Profanity/Language
Rating:
5
10
Violence/Gore
Rating:
6
10
Sex/Nudity
Rating:
6
10

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About the Reviewer

I am a full-time mom, full-time wife, and overtime reader. I have been an avid reader for as long as anyone can remember. It must run in the family because both my mother and grandmother are also voracious readers and often pass books back and forth. Almost any genre can spark my interest, but I often go in streaks, reading a bunch of books from one genre, then switching to another for a while and back again.