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All Book Reviews by Genre: Historical

To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing story with important underlying themes. I really enjoyed this book. I read To Kill a Mockingbird on my own and then in class, which only made me appreciate the book more. The book explores controversial issues such as prejudice, racism, what it means to be a woman/lady, and growing up, which are all still relevant in today’s society. However, this is not a book for people who enjoy eventful/plot driven stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a character-driven story (in my opinion). Harper Lee’s usage of symbolism, language and setting add to the enjoyment of the book. I could not recommend this book enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is a thought-provoking and classic book that everyone should read before they die.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
Book Review: The Underground Railroad
Whitehead, Colson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I listened to this book on audio, so I'm sure I missed bits and pieces. Cora's life as a slave in Georgia and through her journey on the underground railroad was fascinating. The depiction of the underground railroad as actually being an underground railroad was odd to me, but I'm sure there's some symbolism or other literary device that escapes me. Probably the most interesting part of this book was the section that took place in North Carolina. It was so indicative of the Third Reich that it was chilling. I found the ending to be abrupt, but still overall an interesting read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Orphan Train
Kline, Christina Baker
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Orphan Train," a touching novel featuring the life stories of orphans in the mid 1900's, explores the importance of friendship and the need for human belonging. This book is a novel that you will remember for awhile. It is also a quick read; a page turner leaving you completely satisfied. This novel is well-written and excitement awaits every chapter. Vivian Daly is orphaned at a young age and is sent away on the famous 'orphan train.' The book unfolds her story; but in between a new character is introduced. Molly Ayer, a girl who needs to do service hours to earn her reputation back, meets Vivian and they instantly connect. Both women tell their stories, and each are left well educated and have a new friend. "Orphan Train" emphasizes the innocence of children and how society's actions can impact the lives of those innocent children. This book is available in a young reader's format, "Orphan Train Girl", which is better adapted for a younger audience. "Orphan Train" does include a few inappropriate scenes; mostly sexually. If you love a historical novel, touching reads, and a tremendously good book, "Orphan Train" is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G.
Genres:
Thornewicke
Bishop, Charity
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Speculative fiction at its most fun and haunting in the Victorian period, with that little hint of Steampunk! Seventeen year old Evangeline is off to stay with her Aunt Henoria in the old house of Dragonspire, located in the northern wood and filled with things that like Evangeline herself...are not quite what they seem. Her life teeming with questions about these new mysteries, and her newfound powers, she tries to pry the questions out of her estranged aunt. And who are the Musgroves, why is the house so strange, and what is going on with the northern wood? This quick read is unique and comes from a local author, has the flair of Gothic Horror with a speculative fiction/steampunk twist in a Christian genre. Say that fast ten times. Basically, this is something fresh and new and I appreciate Ms. Bishop's humor and understanding of the Victorian era and what it takes to write good speculative fiction.

Reviewer's Name: C. Marie
Blood Water Paint
McCullough, Joy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Let me show you
what a woman can do."

Artemisia Gentileschi is a painter. But because she's a painter in Rome in the early 1600s, she cannot take credit for her work. All of the credit goes to her father, who is a painter himself, though not a good one. When her father solicits the help of fellow painter Agostino Tassi to develop Artemisia's perspective, she thinks that finally her work might get taken seriously. But after Tassi brutally rapes her, Artemisia must decide whether she wants her life to continue as close to "normal" as possible, or if she wants to speak her truth and risk her painting career or worse: death.

Unbeknownst to me until about halfway through the book, this story is actually based on a true one, which makes what is already a beautifully written gut-wrenching book all the more poignant. Artemisia is a woman unhappy with her unfair lot in life, and she uses her art to express that by depicting Biblical women (primarily Susana and Judith) realistically instead of through the male gaze. Judith and Susana's stories as told to Artemisia by her late mother are sprinkled throughout the book, and are the only parts not written in verse.

Blood Water Paint is so timely. It's primarily about a woman's ability to speak her truth, and as we live in the time of the #MeToo movement it all feels so horribly relevant. As terrible things are happening in the book, you can see them mirrored in today's society. But ultimately, even as it's depressing (and it is brutal), the book is empowering and inspirational, and Artemisia is the quintessential example of a strong female character - her strength in the face of insane adversity is even more affecting given that it's based on a real woman.

I can think of no better book to read for National Women's History Month (or really, at any time). I'd strongly recommend this to both teens and adults, and I won't be surprised should it garner several nominations and/or wins when book award season rolls back around. This is one that is not to be missed. 5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Dutton Books for Young Readers for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. Blood Water Paint is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Crossing Ebenezer Creek
Bolden, Tonya
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Living as a slave her whole life and with it many stories and scars, Mariah and some family and friends are finally saved when the Yankees come and take them along as they march towards the war. The slaves will be dropped off at a free state, but they must endure the troubles. Mariah meets Caleb, someone who assists the soldiers. He ends up falling in love with her, but is too afraid to become attached to someone due to experiences in the past. As Mariah tries to overcome troubles and thoughts, Caleb fights his internal struggle, both hoping for something more.
This book is based around a real event that happened during the civil war at Ebenezer Creek, and the author did a wonderful job illustrating and spreading a story not much have heard. I recommend this story to anyone who is into war history and romance.

Reviewer's Name: Mona H
Awards:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a 'meh' romance novel. While I may not be a big fan of the genre (which is why I personally find it excruciatingly boring), the book exceeds in describing how relationships were the main influence of wealth and power in Britain around the 1800s. Jane Austen also gives each character an 'okay' backstory. Other than that, the book struggles to keep the reader interested. The characters are bland, their relationships have a very poor development, and some of the well-developed side characters just leave without any sort of sentimental goodbye. The book just seems to be a monotonous lecture with all of the uneventful dialogue, and overall, the book just doesn’t seem to capture the reader. I would maybe recommend this to some hardcore fans of romance, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There’s a reason they had to call the movie, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
The Outcasts of Time
Mortimer, Ian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book follows the story of two brothers John and William in 1340’s Medieval England who are suffering from the Black Death. But as their end draws near, they are given a choice that changes the course of their lives forever. They are told that they have six days left to live, which they can either spend with their loved ones, or search for salvation and redemption for their lives across the centuries; spending each one of their remaining days 99 years after the last. So, each day takes places one century after the last. The brothers choose the latter and are launched into an adventure that spans centuries in the time frame of a few days.

Observers of the world across centuries, John and William hardly recognize the world around them each day they wake up, and as their journey for salvation progresses, questions the world around them in a way that has readers questioning humanities true motives. Rather than focusing on the good things and advancements the world has made through the centuries, the characters, especially John, ponder how these advancements have brought humanity farther and farther away from God. As the years and days progress, the novel asks the question what is true salvation really and examines the idea of what is good verses bad?

When I received an ARC of this book in the mail from the publisher at first, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it, but as I read the back, I became excited, because this book deals with a sci-fi like subject of time travel in a way I haven’t seen before. This book took me a while to get through and it also is a book that really makes you think. Warning! If you are looking for only a traditional time travel sci-fi book, this book is probably not for you however, if you like historical fiction this book is probably more for you. This book deals with time travel in a highly conceptual way. It is a time travel book written by a very noted historian and reads very much like a historical novel with all the historical details you would find in a history book. But it is also very philosophical as the main character questions the world and the ideas in it. As this quote from John shows when he is discussing, with the family he is staying with, the bad things done by others around them.

“I myself wish for nothing more than to spend the rest of my days engaged in good deeds,’ I say. But how can I tell what a good deed is in this day and age? What is “good” and “bad” if God’s law is constantly changing? How can we do good if the meaning of “good” and “bad” are dependent on who wins the war? How can a man go through this world in sure knowledge that he is doing the right and proper thing?”

This is just one of many philosophical musings that the author poses through the book that seek to answer difficult questions and these details really make the reader think and ponder the difficult answers to questions like, what is good verses bad. These details I think also give the book a conceptual quality that puts it above the norm and makes it more than just another sci-fi book about time travel.

Ian Mortimer is an excellent historian and the historical detail in this book are incredible! He weaves together history and time travel in a highly original and interesting way that makes readers both question the world and presents readers with a clear picture of England’s evolution from a small underdeveloped town to a large industrial country that leads the world in more ways than one. I highly recommend this book for readers of historical fiction or anyone who likes highly conceptual, philosophical books that question the world and everything in it. I give this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to the publisher Pegasus Books for an ARC of this book for review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Book Review: Sounder
Armstrong, William H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I've been on a children's book about dogs kick lately. I started with Shiloh, went to Where the Red Fern Grows, and ended with Sounder (I may read Old Yeller too). Sounder is the winner of the Newbery Medal, but it was the least powerful book out of the three. I almost feel like I may have read an abridged version of the book. The characters weren't well developed and there wasn't really a sense of desperation and overt class stratification that the book's summary promised. Overall, it was underwhelming. I'm being nice and giving it 3 stars instead of 2.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Book of Lost Things
Voigt, Cynthia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Max's parents have dashed off on an unexpected adventure and left their 12 year old son Max behind, alone...well, his grandmother is around to watch over him, but she is busy being a librarian. Max has to fend for himself and picks up a part time job as a solutioneer (sounds like engineer, but much more mysterious). His first task is to find a lost pet and this snowballs into many intricately involved adventures that will keep readers turning pages with anticipation to find out what this determined young man will do next. The Book of Lost Things, by Cynthia Voigt, is sure to please children 9 - 13 who enjoy a good mystery.

Reviewer's Name: Barb
White Chrysanthemum
Bracht, Mary Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This was a very difficult book to read, but it was so beautifully written. Dual timelines tell the story of sisters separated by war. You will learn Hana's story from 1943 in Korea when she is taken by Japanese soldiers to become a "comfort woman" in Manchuria (the details of which are haunting).

Hana's sacrifice allows her younger sister, Emi, to stay on their island home off the coast of South Korea, but she is also tormented by the effects of World War II and the Korean War. We meet Emi as an older woman in 2011, still trying to find out what happened to her sister. Both stories are compelling and heartbreaking, but showcase the strength of these women to survive. Highly recommended.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
The Remains of the Day
Ishiguro, Kazuo
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Alright, this book was even worse than Kazuo Ishiguro’s other book(Never Let Me Go). I didn’t know that that was possible, but it is. In this book, an old, traditional English butler takes a road trip along the English countryside. That is it. Oh, I forgot one thing: he does remember some of his dreadfully dull and pointless memories about his career. The main character (the butler) Mr. Stevens doesn’t even show character development by the end of the book. There is one thing that I liked about this book: that it finally got round to finishing.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Torrent
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Please, please, please read this book! You won’t regret it! It is the third and final book in the River of Time. Please read the books in order to avoid serious confusion. It is a mixed of different genars to time-travel to romance to adventure. You will not get bored with this book. It is one of the best books I have read ever!

Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Cascade
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you haven’t already PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! It is a great book to read!
It is the second book in the River of Time trilogy. Please read the books in order or you will have no clue what’s going on. It is a time-travel, historical fiction, adventure, and romance book. This book will keep you on your toes. It is one of the best books I have read this year!

Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Waterfall
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is an amazing book! It is a time-travel and historical fiction novel with adventure and mixed in. Also there is some romance (so boys might not like this book). It is the first book in the River of Time trilogy (please read the books in order). There’s not one slow part in this book however, there is a cliffhanger at the end. It is one of the best books I have read all year! Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Awards:
Heart of Darkness
Conrad, Joseph
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is the Heart of Darkness? Is it a metaphorical thing such as thoughts and mindsets, or is it a literal tangible place? Joseph Conrad’s novel follows the story of Marlow, an introspective sailor, who recounts his journey up the Congo River to five men who are on the same ship as Marlow:
the Director of Companies, who is also the captain and host, the Lawyer, the Accountant, Marlow, and the unnamed Narrator. What’s interesting is that the story is told from the point of view of the unnamed narrator who is conveying to the readers what marlow is telling him. Marlow explains in detail of his journey into the African Continent and his venture up the Congo River. He tells of acts of imperialism, acts of racism, and acts of evil commited within the region. The Heart of Darkness has gained much praise and criticism since its release, nevertheless it explores Conrad’s view of evil and darkness, but also leaves it up to the reader to make their own conclusion. I recommend this novel to readers who are seniors in high school or above because this novel is extremely difficult to read as Conrad’s style is very complex. To fully experience the novel, one must read it multiple times.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Cottingley Secret
Gaynor, Hazel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“ I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell...”

The Cottingley Secret is a story about fairies, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and an old bookshop in a Irish harbor town, what is not to love about this book.
This story is a modern retelling of the real historical legend of the Cottingley Fairies. After coming to live with her cousin Elsie Wright in Cottingley England, during the height of the first world war, Frances Griffiths and her cousin both claim to see real live fairies at the bottom of the garden. The cousins soon prove their claims by photographing the fairies in the garden. These real live photos soon catches the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wholeheartedly believes the girls and proceeds to publish several of these photos in a magazine. Soon after, the girls and the fairies became a national sensation and through the country into the grip of fairy fever. This marks the beginning of a time that would define their lives and have them keeping secrets until the day of their deaths.

Meanwhile in modern day Ireland, Olivia Cavanaugh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and soon discovers a manuscript that recounts the story of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. As she reads through the manuscript, written by Frances, she soon discovers she has more in common with her than she ever imagined.

Hazel Gaynor connects past and present in a way that is both modern and extremely touching. I really connected with Olivia in this book. As she, and the reader, reads through Frances and Elsie’s story, she finds strength to face her painful past and let go of a life that has always been planned out for her to pursue a life that connects her to the desires of her heart.

Filled with amazing literary prose, a beautiful atmospheric environment and strong characters, this story is historical literary fantasy at it’s best.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Book Review: How Few Remain
Turtledove, Harry
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

How Few Remain is a alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove. In his book, it depicts an alternate universe where the south wins the American Civil War, and the Confederate States of America is now its own independent country. What I enjoyed about this novel is the many different characters and how they view the other country. In every page you can just see the tension that will eventually snap between the two powers. People from the North and the South always spewing insults at each other. Each character that comes into play are very interesting and all seem like they have their own backstory. My favorite character in the story would be Abraham Lincoln. Just because you get to see what his life is like and how the country views the man who lost the civil war. The book is also just the first part of a series which goes through the period of World War I and World War II and how the North and South react to that. I believe there are two things that make this book standout, its characters, and its lore. For those two reasons alone I will have to recommend this book. Or the entire series, what ever is your cup of tea.

Reviewer's Name: Christopher K.
The Help
Stockett, Kathryn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help, she writes about African-American maids in Southern Mississippi during the 1960’s. Skeeter, one of the protagonists in the story, brings light to their circumstances by publishing a book about their experiences. Through her interviews, I began to love every single character for different reasons, even Hilly Holbrook. I thought it was a heart-warming story that I could not put down! It’s good for all ages to read as it lets you in to some history, comedy, and respectful romance. I was interested into reading this book because I’d seen the movie a dozen times and still am not tired of it. I heard that the book was better than the movie and I thought that was just not possible and needed to find out for myself. Inspite of my efforts to prove them wrong, they were right! The book is better than the movie as it goes more in to depth about Mini, Abbigail, Hilly, and Keeter and her relationship with her Mother. Out of all the books that I’ve read, this is definately in my top three and I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a exciting and witty story where justice is served for whats right. I also don’t think that watching the movie before the book ruins the story. As I read the book and Stockett was describing the characters, I pictured Emma Stone and the rest of the cast as if they were actually made for the book.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Micah L.
Genres:
The Jungle
Sinclair, Upton
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book I picked to read for a summer book report on a fiction American novel. The book was recommend to me by my mom who had read the book a few years earlier in a college catering class. The book describes the story of Jurgis who moved to America from Lithuania in search of a better life. The story goes on to discuss the flaws of the food and meatpacking industry and the poor working conditions. The struggles of the everyday American man are revealed along with the unsanitary process of meat packing. The book was unpredictable as Jurgis is faced with one problem after another not only within the food industry but with the constant life of struggling to keep himself and family alive with little to no money. The book was very depressing and may not be the first choice of those looking for a heroic or uplifting story. The story was never boring and there was never a time that something new wasn't being introduced into the book that added more to the story every second. The historical aspects found in the book are very accurate considering that one of Upton Sinclair's closet friends was Mother Jones who was a huge part in the labor movement during the 1900s. The book was also interesting in the fact of how much America has changed throughout the years and it what ways it is still the same and not much has been done. The book did help me throughout the rest of the year in both English and US history classes to understand the lives in which the everyday American lived. I found this book very interesting and fun, especially for a summer reading, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to take a trip into the 1900s.
Reviewer Grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Madison G.

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