All Book Reviews by Genre: History

Killing the SS
O'Reilly, Bill, Dugard, Martin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard are known for writing some fantastic historical novels, and Killing the SS upholds that idea. It is the latest installment in O'Reilly and Dugard's Killing series. This novel tells the story of the global postwar hunt for Nazi war criminals and how they were brought to justice, or how they escaped altogether. The big four written about were Josef Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, who was the physician at Auschwitz and performed horrific medical experiments on the prisoners; Adolf Eichmann, charged with managing the mass deportation of millions of Jews to death camps; Martin Bormann, who was in charge of legislation and domestic matters regarding Nazi Germany; and Klaus Barbie, who was known as the Butcher of Lyon due to the fact that he personally tortured and killed thousands of Gestapo prisoners in Lyon, France. The book itself is a fantastic read, as it is suspenseful, engaging, and is the history buff's dream. I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves history, or anyone who is a fan of the Killing series.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
The Nazi Hunters
Bascomb, Neal
4 stars = Really Good

Adolf Eichmann, a notorious Nazi responsible for the deaths of millions of people during the holocaust, disappeared without a trace after the war ended. An Israeli group of spies, known as the Mossad, along with other key allies carefully locate and capture Eichmann in an attempt to bring him to a fair trial in front of the entire world. Several of the members of the mission survived concentration camps and nearly all of them had lost family there. Thus, they were determined to complete their mission, even if it lasted fifteen years and took them to the other side of the world. I highly recommend this non-fiction adventure to anyone interested in the holocaust or looking for great a spy thriller.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Irena's Children
Mazzeo, Tilar
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This book tells the true story of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved 2,500 children during the purging of Jewish people from Warsaw during World War II. This book details the trials and tribulations faced not only by Irena but the people and children of Warsaw. The underground network formed by Irena and her many friends allowed thousands of children to be placed with different families and continue living rather than being sent to German camps. I was truly awed by the courage described in this book and the measures taken by the people of Warsaw to save the lives of children who weren't even theirs or their friends. The horrors of World War II are indescribable but the necessity of remembering it is imperative, especially when stories like this are nearly unheard of

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K.
Hazelet's Journal
Hazelet, George Cheever
4 stars = Really Good

This review is really about a spread of books I found or was able to access through PPLD. After an enjoyable visit to Skagway, AK, I became interested in Klondike Gold Rush history. Through the PPLD catalog and an interlibrary loan I accessed: Hazelet's Journal by George Cheever Hazelet: If you enjoy history from original sources, this book will draw you in as the author writes honestly about a business failure that led him to seek gold in Alaska. The arduous travels searching for gold are documented both by journal and amazing photographs. It is a slow read for someone who enjoys more of a "story." Although Cheever fails in the gold rush, as well, the stage was set for eventual successes that were instrumental in Alaska frontier development.

Journey (fiction) by James Michener: A quick read that will be more enjoyable to the reader looking for a story within the historical background of the gold rush. Four Englishmen and an Irishman push their way across Canada to Dawson City, fulfilling the image of the phrase "Mad dogs and Englishmen."

Gold! The Klondike Adventure by Delia Ray: Young Adult book that provides an easy-to-read purview with photographs of the rush, perils, commercialism, and subculture that arose between Skagway and Dawson City. Prospectors and merchants alike sought riches on the Alaskan frontier within a very short timeframe: 1897-1900.

Klondike Fever by Pierre Berton: Subtitled The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush, this book provides an exhaustive and interesting read about the gold rush from many different angles. This book was accessed through an interlibrary loan. However, the book was so old it was not pleasant to read so I am hoping PPLD will purchase a new edition. It is a very good book!

Reviewer's Name: Rita
Apollo 8
Kluger, Jeffrey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

In August 1968, NASA made the bold decision to win a major battle in the Cold War by launching the first manned flight to the moon. President Kennedy's deadline of putting a man on the moon by 1970 was fast approaching, but Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were up to the challenge to make a huge advancement in order to meat the deadline. Apollo 8 tells the full story of the mission from Mission Control to the astronauts' homes, from the test labs to the launch pad. Apollo 8 also gives a summary of the Mercury, Gemini, and the other Apollo missions and talks about the science behind the mission in an easy to understand manner. From the coauthor of the bestselling book about Apollo 13, Apollo 8 is a thrilling yer informative tale and a great resource to have. I highly recommend this book for anyone in high school or older who is fascinated by the space program or is doing a project on anything related to NASA.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Darwin's First Theory
Wesson, Rob
4 stars = Really Good

Everyone knows the name Darwin. The name is synonymous with one of the most important theories ever generated by mankind. At this point in the world, the name is less a name and more a representation of something much greater. Yet, as Mr. Welson leads us to question in his book Darwin’s First Theory, how deeply do we truly know the man who changed the face of our understanding of earth forever?

Written by leading geologist Rob Welson, Darwin's first theory explores the beginning of Charles Darwin’s quest to find a theory of the earth, and explores how his early theories helped shape his future and most famous theory of evolution. By bringing us along through well-researched narration of Mr. Darwin’s first journey on the HMS Beagle, Mr. Welson brings us to a greater understanding of the man whose theory shaped modern biology around the world. Darwin’s First Theory is an informative read. To anyone interested in Darwin, and interested in a greater understanding of biology's most influential theory, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth D
Book Review: 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic
Brewster, Hugh
4 stars = Really Good

All Titanic lovers must read this. It is very straightforward and this book covered a lot of the questions I had. I recommend this book for ages 12+ because it’s a very serious book about a world-wide known tradegy and it covers sensitive topics that demand full respect. I thouroughly enjoyed reading it. It taught me more about this beautiful ship than I’ve ever known. 882.5 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic is worth reading! I rate it 4 stars because it was truly helpful and a great read.

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
The Invisible Wall
Bernstien, Harry
4 stars = Really Good

Harry is a small boy living in a war torn part of England. His street is divided by an invisible wall… a wall divided the Jews from the Christians.
There is an unspoken hatred of the other side, and any possible relationship between the two sides is crushed. But what happens when a Jew and a Christian fall in love? Harry’s elder sister begins to love a Christian boy, and is treated horribly for it. She is beaten by her drunken father and shamed by her family and friends. Harry is forced to choose between what he knows to be right and what he has been raised to accept is right.This book is nonfiction.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully written and I loved the author’s narration. Although, I felt like nothing good ever happened. It seemed like the author was just choosing the most terrible, most horrendous things and depicting that as the everyday life. Who knows? Maybe that’s how it actually was.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T
Hidden Like Anne Frank
Prins, Marcel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I really enjoyed this book. It is true stories of kids who survived the Holocaust. All of the stories have sadness in them and, all are incredible. I recommend this book to everyone who hasn’t read it yet. It is a great (and easy) read. If you looking for a good non-fiction book for school or just for fun, this is the book for you!

Reviewer grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler
Freedman, Russell
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Russell Freedman's book chronicling the White Rose Resistance Movement is a brief but enlightening overview of the resistance to the Nazi's in WWII that will sure to spark interest in history for teens and adults. Freeman's work is always well researched, well written and he includes many interesting historical photos as well as an index, notes and a great selected bibliography for further exploration. Spoiler alert to parents, readers will encounter gruesome facts about the execution of the movements members, so parent pre-reading is advised. For ages 12 - 18.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
The Great Escape
Brickhill, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The nonfiction book, The Great Escape, by Paul Brickhill informs the reader of life in a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp during World War II. Through many incidents, hundreds of POWs are collected and imprisoned in the camp Stag Luft III, but they eventually move to other camps. The book succeeds, as it feels like a fiction, adventure novel and doesn't bore you with facts.
It makes the reader feel as though they are with the prisoners and their captors, including Roger Bushell and the "Artful Dodger." Throughout the story of the prisoners, they make many attempts to escape, such as clipping through the prison wire and digging multiple tunnels. The POWs evasive tactics do eventually pay off, and the book describes how they escape and suffer through the horrible German torture methods for recaptured prisoners.
Overall, the book has been one of my favorite books, and I feel that people who like adventure will like The Great Escape.
Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
King Leopold's Ghost
Hochschild, Adam
4 stars = Really Good

Adam Hochschild brings to light an important part of history that is largely ignored in relations to the horrors of the colonization of Africa. Hochschild follows, in detail, the formation of the Belgium colony in the Congo. His descriptions and the information he puts forth draws the readers in and highlights the travesty that King Leopold let loose on this part of Africa and its people. The details that Hochschild puts into his book reveals hidden intrigues that keep the readers engaged. And the history that Hochschild relates to the development of this colony allows readers to see the bigger picture. This book addresses key topics, like racism and slavery, that develop readers understanding of this time and the need to prevent similar situations in the future.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: Lynzie M.
A Colony in a Nation
Hayes, Chris
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Chris Hayes, a journalist on MSNBC, wrote this book after his experience reporting in Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in 2014. In the book, he posits that we treat people of color in this country the same way that King George treated the colonists in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War: by enacting a police state that exploits the few for some sort of economic gain. We exist as two entities in this country: the Nation, which is concerned with upholding the law, and the Colony, in which we're more concerned with creating order.

This was a quick, excellent read. I'm usually not a fan of using personal anecdotes to make a point, but Hayes does that effectively here: most noticeably because he then will follow an anecdote with data to back up whatever it is he's saying. The anecdotes, though, make the book particularly interesting, especially because they are often presented as a "what if" thought experiment as to how Hayes' experience might have been different had he been a person of color. Part history lesson, part social justice treatise, A Colony in a Nation is a book that's not to be missed, particularly by those that are concerned with issues within the criminal justice system, and the egregious civil and human rights violations that are enacted upon citizens of color in the United States. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Toy figurines of Mayflower pilgrims and their boats
Vowell, Sarah
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book takes a look at the lives of the early Puritans that crossed over to make a better life for themselves in America. While that topic doesn't immediately scream, "Read me!" I was forced to read it for school, and I actually really enjoyed myself. The author, Sarah Vowell, has this dry sense of humor that makes her long explanations about the technicalities of the religion and of how society worked back then interesting while still informing you of the topic and the message she is trying to put across. I think whether I would recommend this book depends on who wants to read it. If you are someone who is looking for a non-fiction novel that gives a different perspective to what is generally taught in history classrooms, I say go for it. If not, you might still enjoy it simply because the author is hysterical, but that might not be the case if you are not interested in learning about the actual topic.

Reviewer: Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
The Things They Carried
O'Brien, Tim
4 stars = Really Good

In this book, Tim O’Brien gives a very blunt and realistic view
of the Vietnam War, not only including stories from when he served himself, but also explaining what happens to the soldiers when they finally do get to go home. I honestly would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to read it. While we love and respect our military for saving our country, I think it is very important to also learn about what actual happens out on the battlefield, about the little decisions that can change everything in the heat of battle, and most importantly the guilt that comes with killing your fellow man. My father served in the military for 25 years and to me this book is just so important, it tells stories of war that do not always have a happy ending, or stories that do not necessarily end with the good guys triumphing over all evil.

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
Boeselager, Philipp Leopold Antonius Hubertus, Freiherr von
3 stars = Pretty Good

I first gained awareness of “Operation Valkyrie” when the film starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie (2008), was first released. It makes logical sense to me that not all Germans involved in the war were Nazis, and not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s tactics. It is then the logical conclusion that some of them would attempt to assassinate the leader who had brought their country into a sweeping, global conflict. While this assassination attempt failed, I was still curious about the inner-workings of the plot and the people who would go so far as to try and kill Hitler.

My expectation of this book was for it to be an in-depth analysis of the many facets of the operation. From Hitler’s security concerns to the backgrounds of the lives of the individuals involved, I was expecting this book to be a non-fictional examination of the assassination that never succeeded. Instead, I was a little surprised to read the personal account of one of the conspirators of the assassination. The whole narrative was quite short (not even four and a half hours long), and left me wanting more. While this first-person account was entertaining, it wasn’t quite enough to satiate my desire for knowledge.

Because this book was only the translated account of Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, there were plenty of details about his life and the life of his brother, but not much else. I was hoping his story would be the structure on which a deeper narrative would develop, but it remained the pure and unadulterated memoir of this single individual. I can’t fault the book for being the simple story of a German who wasn’t going to stand around and let Hitler ruin his country, but if there were a historical “wrapping” added to it, I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the book.

A simple story about a failed assassination attempt, I give Valkyrie 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Spiegelman, Art
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Maus is a two-part graphic survival story of World War II in Auschwitz. It is a true story of Art Spiegelman's father, who was a Polish Jew and was put into Auschwitz, one of the biggest concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
The comic book style is an amazing way to learn history, as it enforces themes through images and tells a story rather than spitting facts, like some history books do. The author portrays different nationalities as different animals, which stands as an ongoing theme in the book: The Jews are the mice and the Nazis are the cats. This makes for an easy relation between the two (cats hunt mice). I am not a huge fan of learning history for the sake of learning history, but I adored this book. I found it intriguing on a very personal level, but also extremely informative. I strongly recommend Maus.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
A stone cross looking over the Irish countryside
Osborne-McKnight, Juilene
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I checked out "The Story We Carry in Our Bones: Irish History for Americans"
to do research on Irish culture for my novel. It was an extremely informative book that describes what life was like for ancient Irish people and I'd highly recommend it if you would like to learn more about this fascinating culture.
Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Book Review: Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation)
Hillenbrand, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Unbroken (teen version) is a well crafted biography written by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian and bombardier of World War II. Louie was mischievous and trouble-making as a young boy until his older brother, Pete, introduced him to running. As Pete urged Louie into the sport of running, Louie began to desert his old ways and commit himself to running. Louie soon was at the top of his school in running, setting new records and winning numerous races. Louie’s skill carried him all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the strongest point of his life, Louie hoped to travel to Tokyo for the following Olympic games. Unfortunately, terror came and his dreams were to be put on hold.
World War II struck, causing Louie to enter into the Army Air Forces as a bombardier. Louie and his team of airmen faced many near death experiences.
Although these were blood-curdling situations, none would compare to what Louie was soon to face. On a rescue mission in May of 1943, Louie’s plane crashed. The crash led to a terrifying and unfathomable journey on which Louie survived life on a raft and the wrath of Japanese guards of the POW camp he resided at. Louie went through incomprehensible pain from being beaten by his captors, having to perform forced labor, going through starvation, and constantly battling a sickness. He was also robbed of his self-esteem and was treated like he was worthless. Consequently, Louie’s story is breathtaking and intriguing. Unbroken provides insight on the torturous lives of POW during WWII and the determination and perseverance of many during WWII.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a WWII buff, history lover, or is in search of a thrilling and breathtaking story. I enjoyed it because I am interested in learning about World War II and I found the book to be moving.
Unbroken is fascinating and is not dull or boring. The book will leave you wanting more and you will find it hard to put it down. However, I found the beginning part to be a bit uninteresting and tedious, as it told about the planes and equipment for World War II. Once that part is over, though, the book is quite exhilarating. I would caution that younger children should not read the book, as there are some graphic and gruesome scenes of how the POWs were treated. I would suggest the book for teens between the ages of 13-16, since there is an adult version of the book for those older than these ages.
Unbroken is one of my favorite books, and anyone who is interested in history or is seeking an electrifying story should read it.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Maya K.
The Accidental Superpower : The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder
Zeihan, Peter
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I can’t remember when or why I added this book to my “to-read” list on
Overdrive, but I’m certainly glad I did. While it’s a little dated from a
2017 perspective, The Accidental Superpower is an incredibly insightful book
that helps to peel back the onion of global politics and economics to reveal
the underlying factors that are, and have been, shaping the world into what
it is today. As a bonus, after reading this book, I have a better
understanding of how countries and societies develop from a geographical and
economic standpoint and can use these insights to aid in the world-building
for a few of my upcoming novel series.

Right from the get-go, The Accidental Superpower opened my eyes to the
obvious: geography determines economy. Mountains separate areas almost as
well as oceans do, but the best economies are the ones that can move their
goods about in the fastest and most efficient ways. As luck would have it
when first colonizing the United States, the founding fathers had no idea
just how immensely fortunate they would be with the geography to their west.
Peter Zeihan expertly shows how other countries have geographic problems that
are keeping them from being nearly as united as the United States.

However, disaster is soon upon us. The demographic changes throughout the
world will soon impose strains on all economic systems. While the world will
continue to be in crisis due to its geographies influencing the economies of
its various nation states, the United States is the only one holding it all
together, mostly due to our generosity of offering “free trade” after the
end of World War II. If we pull that rug out from underneath the world, we in
the U.S. will likely survive, but at the cost of the global economy

A must-read for anyone who exists in this global economy, I give The
Accidental Superpower 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert