Historical

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Author: 
Orczy, Baroness
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Ever since I saw the inimitable Richard E. Grant in the "The Scarlet Pimpernel" TV series, I have been enamored by these tales from Baroness Orczy. As the cliche goes though, the book is far superior to any adaptation I've seen thus far. After the French Revolution, the new government of France established the "Reign of Terror", where the citizens of France took out their anger and vengeance on any of the old aristocracy that they could find - whether they were guilty of oppressing the people, or not. Enter The Scarlet Pimpernel(!), an elusive daredevil, whose secret league of Englishmen risk their lives to save the aristocratic victims of the people of France. When the government of France charges their agent, Citizen Chauvelin, with discovering the identity of their mysterious enemy, he blackmails Lady Blakeney, a pinnacle of London society, into aiding him in his treacherous task. Who will she turn to, to help save her only brother - her insipidly foppish husband, Sir Percy Blakeney? He may be rich, and the leader of fashion in London's high society, but he's certainly not a "man of action" for something so perilous and vital. Lady Blakeney must face her inner struggles to try to find the hero who she admires so much, only to betray him. Meanwhile, the infamous guillotine awaits her next victims...

Published in 1905, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" established many of the hero tropes that are familiar today, such as having a secret identity, and using disguises and intelligence to outwit one's enemies. This is truly one of my favorite series. If you like this book, there are follow-up chapters, such as "I Will Repay", and "The Elusive Pimpernel", that are worth your attention as well!

Reviewer's Name: 
Chris W.

Book Review: The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage
Author: 
Crane, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

War is an ugly thing full of death and destruction. While most books written today bemoan this fact and complain that wars should never start in the first place, what do the individual soldiers handle a war that they didn’t even start? Set in the Civil War, The Red Badge of Courage is perhaps the best representation of the growth of a soldier from a deserter to a courageous fighter. Our intrinsic fear of death is what motivates so many of us to do the things we do to survive. Overcoming that fear and charging headlong into battle does take a measure of courage usually not present in most people.

Stephen Crane does a fantastic job weaving the story of a young man who has to learn what it truly means to earn the titular “red badge of courage.” His prose is almost poetic as he describes the landscapes, battles, and people who were forced to endure this historic war between brothers. There’s realism to the narrative that immerses the reader into the era and the battles that helped to define the war as a whole. In the end, though, this book could almost be set during any period and any war; the themes present within it are that timeless.

While it took me this long to finally sit down and go through this book, I’m glad I finally did. I had started it many years ago but lost interest for some reason. This time around, I was able to appreciate the story based solely on the strength of Crane’s writing. I know this book is usually assigned to elementary school students at some point, but if it has escaped your “read” list as it did for me, then I would urge you to pick it up and give it a read. It won’t take long, and it’s certainly worth the time spent reading it.

A timeless classic that deals with the human side of war, I give The Red Badge of Courage 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
Author: 
Zusak, Markus
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"The Book Thief", an intriguing story that focuses on a little girl living in Nazi Germany, is a delicate and emotional piece that will have you turning the pages until it is finished. This story is quick read, though surprising based on the 584 pages, and has you hooked on every word of every sentence of every paragraph. This novel is historical fiction, and is written by the perspective of death. Liesel Meminger, the main character of the story, is a foster child living in the excruciatingly difficult times of Nazi Germany. In the story, she faces so much, many of which happening before she meets her foster parents, only to have more head her way in the face of the war. This book is very raw and emotional, and really puts life as we know it into perspective. If you like historical fiction, real stories, and a happy ending, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: 
Siena G

Book Review: Dear Mrs. Bird

Book Review: Dear Mrs. Bird
Author: 
Pearce, A.J.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

This book was pretty good. It was an easy and fun read. Very formulaic chick lit. The only real problem I had with it is it seemed the author was trying too hard to make the dialog match with the time period. The slang was heavy handed and made me feel as if it had been made by Mad Libs. I would recommend this book if you are looking for something easy and fun to read that takes place in WWII.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities
Author: 
Dickens, Charles
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The opening lines say it all. I do enjoy Dickens, but this is by far, my favorite novel of his. This book follows the effects and far-reaching ramifications of the arrogant cruelty of the French aristocracy before their Revolution. A man is saved from an unfair imprisonment, but must regain himself through his devoted daughter and friends. They build a new life in England, where we get to know an array of complex characters – each with their own foibles and narratives. Meanwhile the fervor of the people of France veers towards the inevitable overthrow of the tyrannical aristocracy, and as often happens, the oppressed become the new oppressors. Destiny drives our main characters into the French turmoil where they find chaos, danger, and ultimately redemption.

Reviewer's Name: 
Chris W.

Book Review: Woods Runner

Woods Runner
Author: 
Paulsen, Gary
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

When Samuel is just thirteen, he is already grown up. He is a man of the forest who enjoys being deep in the wilderness rather than around other people. He is an expert hunter and his neighbors rely on him to bring them fresh meat. From his neighbors, he and his family hear that a war is starting.

One day, while he is out hunting, he sees smoke coming from the direction of his house. He runs back to find almost everyone in his village dead. The few who were not killed were taken prisoner. Among those few left alive are Samuel’s parents. Now he must use woodsman skills to track down his parents. Finding allies and avoiding the enemy are key in the survival of himself and his parents.

Even though this book takes place during the war, it focuses more about Samuel’s journey to find his parents. It skims the surface on some of what happened during the battles, but more on Samuel’s problems and how he survived. I really enjoyed how, at the end of each chapter, the book explained a little bit about something that was in the war, whether it was the type of guns they used, some of the different jobs people had, etc.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ben C.

Book Review: Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Author: 
Choldenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Al Capone Shines My Shoes is an incredible story, that follows up the Newbery Honor novel Al Capone Does My Shirts. In this book, Moose Flanagan's autistic sister is headed to a boarding for special needs students, due to one of the most notorious inmates in Alcatraz. Al Capone is more involved in this story
than the first and writes Moose a letter asking a favor. Choldenko does a great job of mixing real life criminals and fictional characters to make an amazing narrative to read. I enjoyed how this book was very surprising and stood out from the first book in the series. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a mysterious and exciting story to read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Miles

Book Review: Al Capone Does My Homework

Al Capone Does My Homework
Author: 
Choldenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Al Capone Does My Homework finishes off an amazing book series to read. This book is action packed and includes gambling, stolen belongings, and counterfeit money. Al Capone plays a surprising role in this story and saves someone's life. Moose's relationships with his friends are further developed in this novel, and his father is promoted which puts Moose's family in even more danger. This book is spectacular and filled with action. It is a very good closing to the series and gives all readers a different perspective of Al Capone.

Reviewer's Name: 
Miles

Book Review: Zebra Forest

Zebra Forest
Author: 
Gewirtz, Adina Rishe
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

The book Zebra Forest, by Adrina Gewirtz, tells a story of four lives that are held captive by their father and... the book is essentially just that. The plot is incredibly dull and basic, the characters have no real life to them, the book just seems ramble on and on, and here, everything that can be wrong with a book is present. The title doesn't even have any real importance in the book! I get how maybe a few people might like this book, but from a writing perspective, this book lacks in everything. The book tries so hard to address a somewhat difficult-to-cover topic but forgets that it's meant for older audiences and fails at both. Overall, I would only recommend this book only to the most desperate of readers, or a younger kid.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L.

Book Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter
Author: 
Morton, Kate
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

This story centers around an impassioned artist and his dreams, a mysterious murder, an enchanting English manor and all that went on their throughout its many years, a ghost that stands outside of time witness to it all, a vanished girl, an archivist and her discovery of a priceless artifacts, and how what went on there all those years ago effects who she is today.

In the past, the 1860’s to be exact, this story begins with a talented artist Edward Radcliffe and a group of artists that spend a summer at the house of his dreams Birchwood Manor. But shortly after arriving a mysterious murder is committed, a priceless artifact disappears and one of the women vanishes. A hundred years later in the present an archivist, named Elodie, finds a satchel which contains an unrelated photograph and a sketchbook that contains a drawing of Birchwood Manor. As she digs deeper into the mystery she is pulled into a story that has her questioning her past and who she truly is. This beautiful atmospheric mystery spans the length of time, and is told by the many voices and people all living within and around the Manor’s walls.

Before I go any further, first, let me say this. Kate Morton is the master of atmospheric beautiful Gothic mysteries and I am a big fan of hers and have loved every one of her past books. Her intricate and deeply rooted stories her beautiful prose, and her enchanting settings are the reasons why she is simply one of the best in her genre. That being said, this work, was a bit of a disappointment. While all the elements of what I love about Kate Morton’s books were there; an intricate story steeped in history, an old vast English manor with a secret or two to hide within its walls, old families with long pedigrees, a family mystery, an enchanting setting, this book fell short for me mainly because of its intricacy and complexity. I also believe the ending was a bit weak. I really wanted to love it, I just couldn’t.

Morton, I believe, really attempted to tell a challenging story, but simply had to many voices trying to tell it. While I like a good dual timeline novel, this one, with at least four voices and timelines was simply too much. There were times that, because of how she bounced around among the numerous timelines, when I got completely lost in which timeline I was following. This combined with how many characters and voices there were throughout the novel, made the story overall a whole lot less enjoyable. I’ll admit, this story took me a good while to get through and I do recommend, if reading this, keeping a list of who everyone is and which timeline goes where. It’s definitely a book you have to think through. That being said the story itself was beautiful and it makes me wonder, if it wouldn’t be better as an audio book where each of the voices are sounded out. Overall a 2.5-3 star read for me. However, if you are a Kate Morton fan and if you love atmospheric Gothic mysteries, I couldn’t count this one out, I would still give this one a go, just maybe as an audio book. Place your copy on hold today!

Thank you to Netgalley, Atria books, and Simon and Schuster for a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: 
Tawnie

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Historical