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Historical

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
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

Book Review: The Underground Railroad
Author: 
Whitehead, Colson
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Orphan Train

Orphan Train
Author: 
Kline, Christina Baker
Rating: 
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.

Book Review: Thornewicke

Thornewicke
Author: 
Bishop, Charity
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Blood Water Paint

Blood Water Paint
Author: 
McCullough, Joy
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Crossing Ebenezer Creek

Crossing Ebenezer Creek
Author: 
Bolden, Tonya
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice
Author: 
Austen, Jane
Rating: 
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.

Book Review: The Outcasts of Time

The Outcasts of Time
Author: 
Mortimer, Ian
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Sounder
Author: 
Armstrong, William H.
Rating: 
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

Book Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
Author: 
Voigt, Cynthia
Rating: 
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

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