Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Historical

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.
Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See
Doerr, Anthony
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is the story of two teenagers living during World War Two. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is blind, and lives with her father in France. Werner Pfennig lives in a coal mining town in Germany. As war draws near, Marie-Laure and her father move to the French coast to try to avoid the war while Werner is pressed into service in the German army. Both of the main characters learn to accept and cope with war in their own unique ways. They come of age through the war, and learn to navigate their war-torn world. This novel was recommended to me by my grandmother. I took her recommendation eagerly, as I love studying history. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author used different points of view to show many sides of one story. Each of the characters must learn to interpret their own experience whether that is Marie-Laure memorizing her way around her city or Werner in his military service. I found both of the main characters very relate-able, despite their story taking place decades ago. Marie-Laure has a never-ending curiosity and Werner is constantly questioning the morals he is presented by his society. These characteristics are things that I think many teenagers, of any era, can relate to. This has been one of my favorite reads this year, and I would highly recommend reading this novel.

Reviewer's Name: Hannah H.
Genres:
The Girl in the Tower
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Katherine Arden's The Girl In The Tower is just as good, if not better, than the first book, The Bear and The Nightingale. Filled with more Russian Fairy tales, atmospheric literary prose, rich and strong characters, and the same enchanting setting of Medieval Russia, this book picks up right where the first one left off. It follows the story of Vasya, now a grown up woman she, instead of conforming to the role woman in her day usually play, of marriage or life in a convent, chooses instead a life of adventure. Leaving her home and traveling the vast Russian Wilderness while dressed as a boy, she soon is called upon to defend the city of Moscow and finds the threat greater and more deadly than she imagined. While fighting this threat, only she can stop, she is also forced to protect her secret as she comes upon her brother and attracts the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow.

Part of what drew me to this book is the fairy tales, yes, but also the historical setting of Medieval Russia. Katherine Arden does a masterful job of weaving fantasy elements with real life historical details only a great historian would discover. Blurring the line between history, fantasy, and reality this book and, more importantly this series, is contemporary historical fantasy at its best. It is a sketch not only of real life in Medieval Russia, but also displays the power of story and demonstrates the importance of fairy tales and the lessons they can teach us.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Awards:
Though Heaven Fall
Westerson, Jeri
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you like castles, medieval stories and a bit of supernatural I recommend this you!
Set in the 13th century, this novel whisks you back in time. The misadventures of this "cripple" build up from a puddle to a daring rescuing of a wanted madman. While it may seem to drag out sometimes, its worth the wait.

Reviewer's Name: Johana P.
Genres:
The Stolen Marriage
Chamberlain, Diane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

About halfway through this book, I wanted to throttle the main character and give up on the book as I saw it heading in an utterly predictable direction. Tess makes so many bad decisions that it is hard to feel sorry for her being in such a miserable situation. It was also difficult to read the characters' attitudes about racially mixed couples in a time and place when it was not only socially unacceptable, but illegal. However, I'm glad I stuck with it, as about 2/3 of the way through it turned around and ended on a very unexpected note, which I enjoyed!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
Fall of Giants
Follett, Ken
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fall of Giants is a long but worthwhile book to read. I "read" this via audio-book and enjoyed the narration very much. Ken Follett never fails to write in a historically accurate method and this is no exception. The introduction to the characters takes a bit of time to get through, but it's worth it due to the intricate nature of their lives and how they will intersect later in the book and the following related novels. This book combines elements of politics, revolution, war, love, social injustices and reforms, and insight into daily lives of people living in WWI era Russia, England, Germany, Wales and America.

Reviewer's Name: Merry
Genres:
The Bear and the Nightingale
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A perfect winter read! A beautiful atmospheric retelling of the fairytale Jack Frost set in a wintry town on the edge of the Russian wilderness in Medieval Russia. Plus a strong independent female protagonist who risks everything to save her family from the evil forces all around her! What's not to love! Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale is a must read! This novel has it all mystery, magic, adventure, and love! With well developed characters and beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical writing that makes you almost feel the cold wind on your skin and see the snow flakes falling this book cannot be passed up! I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out, The Girl in The Tower!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Things They Carried
Tim O'Brien
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories, written by the protagonist (Tim O’Brien), of self reflection about his experiences during the Vietnam War. O’Brien itemizes a list of the things, both tangible and intangible, that members of his platoon have brought with them to war. The plot follows the fate of the Alpha Company members both during and after the war, as well as adding O’Brien’s personal comments on the events he transcribes.

This book humanizes war. It’s no longer one side versus another, but actual people with lives and stories beyond the war. I really enjoy the style O’Brien uses, inserting himself into the story gives the novel verisimilitude. This book is very unlike books I normally read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much it made me think.

Reviewer's Name: Emma
Book Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Hurston, Zora Neale
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book started off a bit slow and the vernacular was initially somewhat challenging to read, but once Janie meets Tea Cake the book explodes into a vivid account of life in the "muck." There were parts of the book that I couldn't put down. Hurston's prose is nothing short of voluptuous and the final paragraph was a triumph of the soul.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Pachinko
Lee, Min Jin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Read a story of family, loyalty, racial prejudice and the meaning of difference. Enjoy the individual triumphs and failures of several generations of one family and changes they experience as they live and learn. Find out about the old time gambling sport, pachinko and its effects on an extraordinary family. This is the kind of book that makes you miss your "friends" when you finish it.

Reviewer's Name: Parris
Genres:
A Column of Fire
Follett, Ken
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Travel back in time and walk the lanes and byways, sail the seas, or straddle a horse and visit with a gamut of folks from queens and kings of European powers to courtiers, to merchants and villagers, to pirates and tradesmen. Get to know the characters in the fight for religious tolerance and witness the blood that was shed for this privilege. The struggle between Catholic and Protestant worshippers becomes real with the unspeakable cruelty among humans who believe their beliefs trump the beliefs of others. Call it the devil. An arduous but enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Parris
Genres:
The Kite Runner
Hosseini, Khaled
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In an odd twist, I haven’t actually seen the movie this book was based on before I started reading it. Sure, I was aware The Kite Runner was a notable book, but I knew little about it other than the peripheral knowledge that comes from seeing an occasional movie trailer. About five years ago, I found this book for cheap at a bookstore and decided to pick it up on a whim. Now that I’ve finally read it, I’m glad I bought it those many years ago.
Unquestionably, it deserved the notoriety it received, as it is a well-written and engaging story.

I’ll admit that there is much I don’t know about the specifics of Afghanistan and Islam. This book certainly opened my eyes to a lot of things I had suspected, but could never confirm. First of all: men are awful. I’m a man myself, but I’m ashamed that so much of human misery is linked to the pride that distorts any of us into racists, sexists, and/or terrorists. While it was likely just a result of correctly depicting a patriarchal culture, The Kite Runner shines a harsh light on the hypocrisy of a fair number of men, most of whom only ascribe to these long-held “ideals” because it helps them maintain power and cover their insecurities.

The emotional heart of the story lies with the relationship between Amir and Hassan. By the end of the book, while I found the “twists” to be logical and almost predictable, they still elicited an emotional response from me. In fact, I almost would have thought this book to be a true story, were it not for the plot being just slightly too convenient at times. Sure, The Kite Runner made me mad that such thinking existed/still exists, but the fact that it caused me feel so strongly about it proves how effective its storytelling is.

A modern classic filled with timeless lessons, I give The Kite Runner 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Hand fan open against a pink background
See, Lisa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In the midst of desperately trying to find a historical fiction novel to read for my English class, I picked up Lisa See’s book and immediately fell in love. This book is told through the main character, Lily, as she recalls her past as an older woman. As a young girl, Lily was promised to her laotong, Snow Flower. To be a laotong in China means to be best friends, to be closer than sisters, and to never leave each other’s sides. As Lily grows up throughout the book, she recalls her stories of love and loss that shaped her entire life, most importantly in regards to Snow Flower. This book gives an important look into the lives of woman in early China, about the standards they were held to as far as their appearance goes, and the strict rules they had to follow just to live a "fulfilled" life. For anyone who is interested in learning more about the Chinese culture or simply reading a beautiful story of love and friendship, I highly recommend. (Not gonna lie, I cried at the end, this book is actually amazing).

Reviewer: Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
Awards:
Genres:
Under a Painted Sky
Lee, Stacey
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Under a Painted Sky was just okay for me. The book was probably very similar to being on the Oregon Trail - every once in a while something exciting would happen but for the most part, you're on the trail with a long stretch of boring ahead of you! That being said, I really do like the fact that Stacey Lee used a "historical" setting to present two strong, multicultural female characters. Annamae (African-American) and Samantha(Chinese) came into each others lives at a critical time and in the end, they realize that you can choose your family. Also being accepted for who you are was a central theme. But I felt Under a Painted Sky was a historical novel with not much history. The story takes place on the Oregon Trail, and we do hear of some of the hardships of traveling that the pioneers faced, but Stacey Lee only did one mention of Native Americans in the book. One sentence about the Cheyenne. It's hard to believe that on the trail, they didn't encounter any Native Americans. I think this book will be popular with teen girls. They will love the romance!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Awards:
The Help
Stockett, Kathryn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a novel that takes place in the early 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi where racism is strong. The story goes between the perspectives of three different women who are all going through differing struggles. Aibileen is a black maid working for a white family, one of many families she has worked for. She is trying to cope with the her 24-year-old son’s death. Minny is also a black maid and a good friend of Aibileen.
Minny is searching for yet another job because she can not keep her mouth shut and says whatever she wishes to her white boss. She also fails to protect herself from her husband, Leroy, who beats her often as a result of his drinking. Eugenia “Skeeter” (as everyone calls her) has just returned from college at the University of Mississippi. She longs to write for a newspaper company in New York City, but she is stuck on her parent’s cotton farm where her mother is constantly bugging her about finding a man. Skeeter applies for a job at Harper & Row but is declined the job. However, Elaine Stein, an editor from Harper & Row, offers some advice to Skeeter. Skeeter is left to find a job in Jackson. She finds a job for the local newspaper, writing for the housekeeping column. Skeeter has never had to housekeep in her whole life, though. Consequently, Skeeter goes to the aid of Aibileen, who is the maid of her close friend Elizabeth. Aibileen cautiously answers Skeeter’s questions hoping that her boss, Elizabeth, will not become angry with her. Meanwhile, Skeeter ponders day and night about a topic she could write about. Finally, Skeeter comes up with an idea. She requests Aibileen’s assistance in writing about the black maids, known as the help.
After much consideration and reluctance, Aibileen agrees. Aibileen, Skeeter, and Minny come together as a team to form the book that can change their lives forever. Together they create this book despite the many risks because of racism that they face.
I loved The Help and recommend to anyone who is searching for a funny and touching novel. The book also provides some information and background on the racism during the 1960's as the Civil Rights Movement unraveled. The book will keep you interested and wanting more. I felt I was constantly picking up the book and reading and was always rooting for the three main characters. I enjoyed receiving the story from the perspectives of Aibileen, Skeeter, and Minny. I felt that the whole story was intriguing. I found nothing dull and have no negative comments or complaints. The Help is a good quality story that will keep you delighted and engrossed.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Maya K.
Genres:
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Hosseini, Khaled
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Everyone should read A Thousand Splendid Suns at one point or another. This book is about Afghanistan over the past 50 years. It follows 2 women in Afghanistan and reveals the horrors of their lives. Though fiction, A Thousand Splendid Suns is by no means exaggerated or unrealistic. Some parts of this book are heart-wrenching, gruesome, and may make you cry, but other parts will undoubtedly warm your heart and put a smile on your face. This book is extraordinarily well-written and meaningful, and I strongly recommend it.

Reviewer Grade: 11

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

Although it was a little hard for me to get into this book, once I did I was hooked. This book is about Scout, a 7 year old girl who is dealing with the hardship of her father having to defend a black man of rape in the 1940's. Along the way, Scout and her brother Jem meet Dill and they spend their summers together. Dill wants to get Boo Radley to come out of his house, and in the end, he does. With this book is the message to put yourself into others shoes to see how they feel. A classic book, great for anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Alex
the Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas, Alexander
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas is a fantastic whirl-wind of unforgettable characters and interweaving story-lines that left me awestruck and yearning for an even deeper glimpse into this world of treachery, romance, adventure, and mystery. This book is as deceivingly witty as it is over-flowing charisma and has nestled its way to a special place in my heart as one of my favorite novels of all time.

The novel starts out with a scenic over-look of an Italian waterway in Marseilles as it carries along a lofty ship named Pharaon with one passenger in particular who is unlike any other named Edmond Dantès. A dashing young and honest man dawning with potential who has just returned with news that will change the course of his life, and the lives of many others, forever. He is falsely accused of traitorous activity and is sentenced to life on a prison located on an island off the coasts of Marseilles forcing him to leave behind his family, his friends, and the love of his life Mercédès. This marvelous tale unfolds within the walls of this prison and among its outer-walls as Dantès attempts to make a dashing escape with a kind mannered preacher. But, this is only the beginning of his tale. As the life of Dantès unfolds, so does the life of the many others who have been lucky enough to fall into his life.

This novel is truly unforgettable as it follows not only the life of Edmond Dantès, but also the lives of his lover, best friend, family, and even his partners from his shipping company. Filled to the brim with treacherous plots, revenge, heartache, mystery, and pirating; it also contains young love, faith that knows no bounds, and families filled with the knowledge that blood truly is thicker than water.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to fall in love with not only a menagerie of unforgettable characters, but to a reader who is looking to fall head-first into a world that they will find themselves cherishing forever.

Many blessings and happy reading : ),

Reviewer Grade Level 11.

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

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee may strike your perception as a seemingly uninteresting story. The book tells the tale of two young children in a sleepy Alabama town, and at face-value, the plot does not garner much intrigue. However, I was in the same situation when I was required to read this book in the spring of my freshman year at high school.
Indeed, while at first the story seemed boring, as I continued to carry on with reading, every turn of the page immersed me ever further into Lee’s timeless story.

As a reader, you share the emotions felt by Jem and Scout, two young siblings, as they learn the nuances of life in the prejudiced American South during the early 1900s. Not only was their community weakened by the economic collapse of the Great Depression, but also sickened by the bitter contempt felt among whites and blacks.

In the beginning of the novel, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jem innocently play games with their friend “Dill” and enjoy life in Maycomb with their father, Atticus. During this time, they have little to no apprehension of the racial tension hanging in their society, but when their father, Atticus Finch, who works as lawyer, openly chooses to defend an African American in court, trouble arises.

Jem and Scout undergo a number of personal developments during the course of the novel. While at first, they carry with them a genuine and child-like innocence, the court trial their father has taken on exposes them to the racist indignity felt by their fellow community members. Jem and Scout struggle to balance their conflict between the social norms of Maycomb and the morals their father has instilled in them. With the trial’s end, Jem and Scout are lead to discover the imperfections of their society, and the ways with which they are forced to deal with them. As the reader follows along, they not only watch Jem and Scout change, but they too themselves are shaped through Lee’s captivating story.

Overall, I enjoyed most aspects of the book. Although some scenes I felt were a bit plain and unprogressive, these minor flaws were overshadowed by the powerful themes Lee expresses through the story. If you haven’t already read To Kill a Mockingbird, I would certainly give the novel a try. If not for the genuine enjoyment of reading the story, try this novel to feel the powerful emotions stirred from Lee’s literary masterpiece.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ethan M

Pages