All Book Reviews by Genre: Historical

Between Shades of Gray
Sepetys, Ruta
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Taking place during WWII... Lina, a fifteen-year-old girl, lives a peaceful and normal life drawing and going to school but when the NKVD, better known as Soviet officers, force them to leave, adventure and chaos abduct Lina's normal lifestyle. Lina, her brother Jonas, and her mom Elena have to travel by train living with the bare minimum to survive off of. From Soviet officers forcing them to work to stealing food to survive, Lina has to find a way to outlast WWII and the capture of her family. Her main goal through all this; to find her dad. This dramatic adventure written by Ruta Sepetys will pull you off your seat.
Reviewer's Age: 15

Reviewer's Name: Aiden F
The Marvels
Selznick, Brian
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book begins on a ship at sea with a boy named Billy Marvel. He survives a terrible shipwreck and later finds work in a London theatre. There his family lives for generations as brilliant actors--some who are the best kind of people, some who are awful people. All of the family are actors and love the stage and spotlight until young Leontes Marvel. He hates acting, misses his cues, and can’t remember his lines. His parents are ashamed and banish him from the stage. He decides that his destiny lies somewhere else so he runs away.

A century later, Joseph Jervis, another runaway, finds a place to stay with an uncle in London. Grumpy Uncle Albert and his strange but beautiful house lure Joseph on a search for clues. He begins to think that he might be related to the Marvels and begins an incredible adventure to find out who he truly is.

I really enjoyed this book. During the mystery, I felt like I was right alongside Joseph as he found clues to his mysterious past. I am happy that I figured out the mystery before Joseph did. The story had a very sad ending, but overall stayed pretty bright. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes Brian Selznik’s other books, mysteries, or heartfelt books.

Reviewer's Name: Ben C
Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story
Newman, Lesléa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the story of Gittel. She is supposed to travel with her mother to America. At the last minute, her mother is unable to board the boat because of health concerns and so Gittel must travel alone. Read the story of tis young Jewish girl and her journey to America for a better life. Will she find mama’s cousin when she reaches America? Will her mother be able to join her in the new country? Read this beautifully illustrated picture book to find out. It’s loosely based on stories handed down in the author’s family.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Far Side of the World
O'Brian, Patrick
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Nautical historical fiction is a rare genre for me to read. The last one I read—and that most people would be able to recognize—was Moby-Dick , and that was probably 15 years ago. Needless to say, I found myself in brief possession of The Far Side of the World and decided to give it a read. Of course, this was mostly because of the movie of the same name released in 2003 that earned many Oscar nominations (only winning in two). While the plot of both is slightly different in a few key areas, I wasn’t disappointed with having read this book.

First, as a historical look into the realms of sailing and whaling at the time, The Far Side of the World does a fantastic job of informing and educating the reader without necessarily resorting to huge exposition dumps. Sure, a few moments were a little obvious that the author was trying to get information across as quickly as possible, but these were rare. Secondly, this book seemed to include an exhaustive amount of problems that you’d encounter when sailing the seas. This meant that each page of each chapter had something the crew was trying to overcome, even if this seemed like a distraction at most times.

While the main thrust and driver of the plot of The Far Side of the World was clear from the start, my one qualm with this book was its inability to transition from one thought to the next. It sure had a steady pace, like a ship cutting through calm waters. Sometimes, though, the different topics would come in a choppy way that made me double back and re-read a page to make sure I didn’t miss some crucial transition (which were rarely there). Perhaps this adds to the realism of the “things happen without expecting them” element of sailing. Far too often, I found myself trying to figure out why this minor sub-plot mattered before it changed to something else entirely.

A thorough and steady-paced nautical historical fiction, I give The Far Side of the World 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Outrun the Moon
Lee, Stacey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I tore through this book. Mercy is strong and inspirational, but also displays characteristics not normally seen in fictional characters. All of the girls seem ahead of their time and are well-rounded and friendly. Mercy does not have everything handed to her on a silver platter, and she must work for what she wants. This book is realistic, fits the time period, and is very interesting.

Reviewer's Name: Brenna D.
Genres:
Suite Francaise
Nemirovsky, Irene
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Suite Francaise is an interesting book detailing the experiences of multiple characters and what they face as they evacuate Paris and deal with the German occupation of France. I read this book for school but still found it very interesting. It was a bit slow at first with exposition of characters in almost every chapter. I did enjoy getting to see how different classes reacted to having to leave their homes and what they faced afterwards. Not only does Nemirovsky use multiple characters to show the difference in experience, but also her use of imagery and figurative language add to the essence of struggle. Overall, I enjoyed this book but wouldn't have chosen it myself.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Awards:
A Woman Is No Man
Rum, Etaf
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Definitely among my favorite books of the year. Beautifully written in alternating points of view, each woman's story is absolutely compelling, enraging, and heartbreaking. There was a passage toward the end of the novel where I found I actually was holding my breath.

This is the type of book that makes you understand the power of words and stories and how important they are, on so many levels - from Isra reading to escape her suffocating life, to Deya for whom books mean freedom and education and choice, to the reader who is ultimately changed by the experience of their story.

This book is going to stay with me for quite a while - definitely an author to keep on my radar!!!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird is a well thought out, very deep and well executed book. Although it contains some very strong language, I'd say this is a must read for any teenager. Set during the time of the depression, this book deals with many political issues such as racism while also managing to teach very important lessons along the way. The complicated sentence structure in the book, as well as the vocabulary serve to make it a very fun and chalenging read. In my opinion this book is truly one of the best written in history.

Reviewer's Name: Rohan G.
The Girl From Everywhere
Heilig, Heidi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In "The Girl From Everywhere," sixteen-year-old Nix and her father lead a crew of time travelers abroad their ship, the Temptation, in a quest to find a way to save Nix's late mother. I really enjoyed this book -- I was hooked from page one. I think what really pulls you in is the complexity of the time travel -- in this story, they use maps of places during specific time periods to reach where they want to go. It's such an interesting concept that I hadn't seen before this story. I also really liked the crew -- they were all very diverse with interesting backgrounds and personalities. If I had one complaint, it's that Nix's love interest, Kashmir, is sort of your typical YA love interest -- suave, charming, sometimes abrasive, a little arrogant. Maybe it's just because this is a really common archetype in YA, but I found his character a little irritating. Nevertheless, this is an incredible story that is definitely worth checking it.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Tombs
Schaumberg, Deborah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Tombs is a story told from the perspective of Avery Kohl a girl in New York 1882. I found this book was a very enjoyable read. It had a very interesting air of mystery. I also loved the feeling of being unsure about what she would do next. I first noticed this book by its cover and then I read the summary on the back and found it to be very interesting. I would definitely recommend this book to others looking for a interesting read. I would recommend this book for ages 13-15.

Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: Rob A.
The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Book Thief is a very well known book/movie and for good reason.
This story follows a young girl living in Nazi Germany who deals with her family hiding a Jewish man, the book burning's, and her own insatiable love for reading. The Book Thief gives an interesting perspective of World War II that we don't often see in historical novels with a story about a blind follower of the Nazi Regime but who also sympathizes with Jewish people. I really enjoyed this book as someone who loves WWII history and personal stories. I highly suggest this book to any reader, I think it is a very important story to read.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Genres:
To Kill A Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is an examination of racial tensions and living as someone who defies the social norms to do greater good. It follows a small family that consists of a father and his two children. The father, a lawyer, becomes the first white man in his time and area to defend a black man in court, alienating himself and his family from the rest of their society (because he did what was practically unspeakable in the town's eyes). A fascinating series of events ensue, in which the children grow up learning what it feels like to feel prejudice and can thus empathize with the struggle that colored people around them face. The father must sacrifice his social standing and endure hatred and threats because he chooses to defend the truth, rather than the race. All in all, I would recommend this book not only for its complex and very interesting plot, but also for its analysis of racism and human nature in regards to the greater good and a sense of humanity. Themes of empathy and sacrifice then escalate the plot to its famous and unexpected finale. It is worth the read even only for the father's speech in court towards the end of the book, where he makes his case in favor of a colored man. I would give this book five out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: Molly Q
The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book follows a young girl living in Nazi Germany, whose family harbors a Jew hiding out from the secret police. Facing prison time, shame, or even loss of life, the girl and her family must be immensely careful to remain neutral and non-proactive. Any anti-Nazi actions, which were quite subjective and meaningless actions, sometimes, could be used against people.

Not to mention, people were being oppressed based on physical appearance and mannerisms, alone. The Jewish man, though, educates the young girl and becomes her best friend. When he chooses to leave their family, due to not wanting to put them in danger and also being in increasing danger himself, the girl faces loss she has never known before. The plot escalates until Germany is liberated by the Allied powers, and the girl grows up to tell warning tales of Nazi-like power regimes and social inequality. This book is fantastic, especially because it has recurring themes of morality, power struggles, humanity, and love or sacrifice. The plot is fascinating with many historical attributes and the characters are so well depicted that the book reads like an old story. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a deep thought kind of books but also something with an entrancing story and an amazing writing style. I only give it four out of five stars because I personally struggle with conflict areas of war in books and more intense or dark themes. Otherwise, fantastic read!

Reviewer's Name: Molly Q
Genres:
Heidi
Spyri, Johanna
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It was very engaging. With young energetic Heidi and her best friend Klara, it pulls you in and engages with life lessons and memorable quotes. With grandmother and Heidi up on the mountainside, they share poetry, hymns, stories, and love. With Heidi's loveable attitude and glow of Christ everywhere, she tries to turn grandfather's grumpy attitude to a loving, caring grandpa. This book is worth reading and engaging for ALL ages.
Reviewer Grade: 9th

Reviewer's Name: Aiden F
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas, Alexandre
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing. The story follows the tale of Edmond Dantes and his quest for revenge against the three men responsible for his incarceration. It is a very simplistic concept, but upon reading the novel one will find a book filled with characters that live and breathe, action that is relentless, and many subplots threaded throughout the novel in intricate ways. The book, while extremely long, is entertaining all the way through. The ending is satisfying and ends the book well. I would recommend this book for anyone who is a fan on action novels, or revenge novels.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Book Thief is a novel set over the World War II period. It tells the story of a young orphan, named Liesel. She arrives to her new home with her foster parents, Hans Hubermann and Rosa Hubermann. As she lives there, her love for books begins to grow. Taking risky steps, she steals books from many others, even rescuing one from a pile of burning books of the Nazi bonfire.
As time passes by, Liesel and her family secretly shelter a Jewish boy from the father that had once saved the life of Liesel's father, Hans.

This book was well written and enjoyable to read. It took the perspective of two significant characters, Liesel and Death, which offers a standpoint that the reader could decipher themselves. In addition, with the inclusion of dry humor and insightful observations it would demonstrate a more impactful feeling towards the reader with the overall fate of the characters and the story. This is an important detail, that adds much more feeling that is captivating and interesting.

The Book Thief was a book that could not be predictable, nor fast paced.
Rather it was slow and every turn of direction the story had felt dangerous and worthwhile. It is important for the reader to understand it slowly, however is contradictory to the fact that it is highly captivating to want to see what will happen next. The Book Thief is personally a very well written book and is one of my favorites.

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Genres:
To Kill A Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book set in the early 1930s that describes the story of a family in the quiet town of Maycomb in Alabama. Currently suffering in the Great Depression, Scout Finch and her brother, Jem, live with Atticus, their widowed father. During the summer, Finch, Jem and their neighbor Dill explore their street to find an eerie house owned by a man named Mr. Nathan Radley. They learn that he has been living their for years with a brother, Arthur, and has never ventured outside.

The book took a simple setting and turned it into an exciting and intriguing plot line. It was unpredictable for the courses of events that took place, where it was never boring and was continuously captivating.

Personally, I enjoyed most about the creative plot line and course of events that happened in the book. It is an extremely unique book that is in an uncommon time setting, which creates a more enjoyable experience. This is one of the best books I have read.

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hugo, Victor
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Victor Hugo is one of those classic authors who I’ve hesitated reading because his stories tend to have a lot of details that don’t necessarily add to the plot. Sure, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is no Les Misérables , but Hugo’s style made this book perhaps a little longer than it should have been. Either way, now I know a lot more about the architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral. Despite all this, the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is timeless in many ways, not the least of which centers around its titular character.

While modern stories are vying to be inclusive and diverse, Victor Hugo managed to write a story in the 1800s that not only included a disabled individual but racially diverse characters (at least for France) as well. The fact that both are sympathetic protagonists helps cement Quasimodo and Esmerelda in my mind. They’re both persecuted in their own ways; ostracized from a society that wants homogeneity more than diversity. Sound familiar? Perhaps this is why this book maintains a timeless quality. Even with the slight twist in the ending, the harassment endured by these individuals doesn’t dampen their kind spirits.

For those who might be more familiar with the Disney version of this story, the movie adaptation is more along the lines of a kid-friendly (i.e., sanitized) version of the basic plot. There is quite a bit more violence and “romance” involved in this story—not to mention the obvious absence of talking gargoyles—which I felt made it a little more convoluted than it had to be. Still, Hugo’s way with words was mesmerizing throughout, even if I know that they’ve been through the filter of a translator. If Les Miserables is daunting to you, perhaps try warming up with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, first. You won’t be disappointed.

A timeless classic full of diverse characters and exciting action, I give The Hunchback of Notre Dame 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Orczy, Baronness Emmuska
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a wonderful book that incorporates the idealism of the French Revolution to create a unique setting. The historical adventure story is filled with a great blend of suspense, thrills, and romance. The developments included in the story are well-executed and the characters are all full of life. The overarching plot is also intriguing and will captivate the reader until the end of the book. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who like a bit a history.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Back in Society
Beaton, M.C.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Mildly entertaining, The "Poor Relations" Series isn't nearly as suspenseful, nor well-written as Marion Chesney's popular "Hamish MacBeth" Series, nor as interesting and comical as the feisty Agatha Raisin of the "The Agatha Raisin Series". With the exception of a few of the characters, such as the loathsome, ill-mannered Sir Philip and the interesting Lady Fortescue and Harriet, the former cook and now the Duchess of Rowcester, the heroine of this book, Lady Jane is a Lilly-livered character who although young, cannot stand up for herself in any situation. She is so unlike the sharp-tongued, independent, although vulnerable Agatha Raisin that her character is seems like a "doormat". Unlike the first book of this series "The Poor Relations", which heralded the strength of character, independence and backbone of each character, the plot of this book seems contrived and somewhat unbelievable, perhaps because no young woman in this day and age would be as weak as it's "heroine" Lady Jane. This book was written in '94, under the pseudonym of Marion Chesney, perhaps when M.C. Beaton's was developing her writing style. However, in this day of strong, independent women, the Cinderella story of being rescued by Prince Charming this hackneyed story seems boring and mundane.

The excellent writing of M.C. Beaton seems to be absent in this novel, and the "damsel's in distress" theme of "Back in Society" is dated and uninteresting!

Reviewer's Name: TD

Pages