Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Historical

Lost
Davies, Jacqueline
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

In my opinion the book Lost was a terrible book. Lost is a book about emotions and feelings. Ug, I thought this would be about a lost dimension or something. Not a book about a girls work and love life. I felt this story dragging on forever, what felt like reading hours was only mere minutes. I read the back cover and it looked like a good book. Never judge a book by it’s cover, the story inside was so bad I wanted to slam the book down and say “That’s it!” Also, It was written like you were in the story, such as refences to you. Like “You are singing!” Unless you like playing along and doing what a book says at 10 at night, do NOT read this book.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Lucas L.
Cold Mountain
Frazier, Charles
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Charles Frasier’s novel Cold Mountain intrigued me from the beginning. It tells the story of Ada and Inman who both have suffered from their own tragedies and horrors from the beginning of the novel. Inman is scarred emotionally and physically from serving in the Civil War. Ada is left with the family farm after her father dies and having been raised sophisticated, she has no idea how to maintain it. However, each is able to overcome their trials and defy society’s expectations in pursuit of each other and their own dreams. The characters in this novel are both so relatable in the idea that we all experience horrible, sad things that we must learn to overcome and we also all face limitations and expectations from society that we must ignore in order to embark on our own journey in pursuit of our own American Dream. Although long and a bit tedious at points, this novel is definitely one of the best I’ve read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Tessa B.
Genres:
Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You know, I love Katherine Patterson. Bridge to Terabithia is my all-time favorite children's book. This book just didn't affect me the same way. Maybe it was the subject matter, I don't know. It was well written, just was missing the magic. But it's still worth a read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Salt to the Sea
Sepetys, Ruta
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. Another amazing historical novel by Ms. Sepetys. At first I wasn't sure about the short chapters that alternated by point of view, but by the end I didn't even notice. Beautiful writing, emotional story of a tragedy that I'm sure most people aren't even aware of. Good grief, I'm wrung out after reading this beautiful novel.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
Jackaby
Ritter, William
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Nice idea, not especially well executed, but serviceable nevertheless. Penniless but daring young Abigail Rook is stuck in New England when she meets an eccentric private detective named Jackaby. He specializes in supernatural deduction using an ability to see what other people can't -- faeries, monsters, etc. He is also in need of an assistant. When a very odd murder occurs, Jackaby and Abigail are on the case. Who is the murderer? Can our heroes stop the killer in time to save innocent lives? And will we ever learn what Jackaby's initials stand for? At best, it's a really laudable middle-grade supernatural mystery. Unfortunately, Jackaby himself falls rather flat. He seems to be a collection of quirks and mannerisms borrowed from more famous characters. Abigail is by no means and ideal character, but she is independent in a way that many female protagonists aren't. There are several appealing secondary characters -- one of whom is a ghost -- who were a bit more unusual, but on the whole, this book does not have the most intriguing cast, although it does try very hard. The plot itself is reasonably interesting, but suffers from the same malady as the characterizations: originality, or rather, lack thereof. Anyone who's familiar with folklore (or has read Harry Potter) has a good chance at guessing the identities of the murderer and other characters long before the big reveal. If you want a lightweight, easy-read fantasy-mystery with some fun characters and fairly witty dialogue, you'll probably like it, but for really intense murder mystery fans, look elsewhere.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Awards:
The Warhorse
Bolognese, Don
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

In my opinion, Warhorse wasn’t a very good or enjoyable book. The only reason I chose this book is because we were learning about the renaissance era, and I thought, “Maybe this will give me an edge on it.” I was very, very, VERY wrong. This book is about a boy named Lorenzo in the Renaissance era who is an amazing crafter and designs armor protection for a Duke. One day there is a war about to take place so Lorenzo decides to fight the war with the Duke. But, his mentor, Massimo, forbids Lorenzo to because of his father’s wishes. The young armor-smith obeys his master, but to help the army, he lends his horse, Scoppio, to the Duke. Then Lorenzo later goes and joins the Duke, and gets his horse captured! Sorry, can’t tell you anymore. In my opinion, this book was very confusing. To start off, at chapter about 15 it started to get really funky. So up until then you can read it strait-through, but then you need to start to re-read. Also this book was a very uplifting book about hope, but to me it was all about obstacles of war and perseverance. This book was very odd, I mean, how many books can you find about historical fiction on Renaissance war? That is one of the reasons I chose to read some of the odder books, to give you an inside look on the weirdest things. This is the worst book out of 14 that I have read, but a close second would have to be Wh3n. Sure it was action packed, but it was also very depressing. So don’t read that one either. But in all, the character is very un-relatable, that is why I found this book so bad, sure he had a lot of character development, but how many kids do you know that are armor smith designers? So on that note I’ll leave you off, Maybe you’ll like a hidden element I didn’t catch! So with that in mind, go read this book to find out for yourself!

Reviewer Grade:7

Reviewer's Name: Lucas L.
Book Review: The Notorious Pagan Jones
Berry, Nina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After a tragic accident she caused that led to the death of her father and sister, teenage Hollywood star Pagan Jones has a second chance at life when the mysterious Devin Jones shows up at Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and offers her a proposition: a part in an upcoming movie filming in Berlin in exchange for her freedom. While it seemed too good to be true, Pagan reluctantly agrees and is sent to Berlin. Pagan personifies the sassy movie star of the fifties, which makes her a fun protagonist--but she still has plenty of depth and flaws that make her interesting as well. Set in the simmering tensions of the Cold War, this thriller/mystery is fast moving and will satisfy the historical fiction buff as well as those who like a good mystery!

Reviewer's Name: Becca P.
Genres:
Book Review: Legacy Of Kings
Herman, Eleanor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For fans of Game of Thrones (although I have only watched the show, not read the books, so fair warning!). Told simultaneously through five different characters, Herman takes the real life figure of Alexander the Great and infuses the time period with magic and mythical figures. Twists and new revelations are around every corner and will keep the reader guessing until the end!

Reviewer's Name: Becca P.
Code Name Verity
Wein, Elizabeth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Actual rating is 3.5 stars

This book has an intriguing premise. A British young woman, apparently a spy (code name "Verity") being held captive in occupied France, tells the story of her espionage career and subsequent capture. In an attempt to avoid further torture and prolong death at the hands of her captors, she promises to reveal secret codes that are related to British intelligence. The first half of the book is written in first person as a journal of sorts addressing her captors. The style itself works fairly well, but the narrative voice is annoying -- I found the main character to be insufferably conceited, rather than brazen and confident (as she was probably intended to be). She was not likable, and thus I didn't care much about her fate. Until...

...the second half.

A new narrator takes over -- Verity's friend and pilot Maddie. She was the one flying the plane that brought Verity to France. She is less uppity, less conceited, and altogether more relatable and likable. She tells the other side of the girls' story -- her training as a pilot, her friendship with Verity, and what happens to her when Verity is captured. I found myself rooting for her all the way. She also managed to make Verity more likable, and as more is revealed, I discovered that I enjoyed them both. By the end of the book, I saw both of them as exceptionally brave characters to be respected and admired.

Although this book is fiction, there are many references to real-life WWII intelligence operations, and plenty of mechanical details concerning planes that are also interesting. The book improves significantly as it progresses -- if you don't like the first half, wait for the second. Anyone who is interested in history or espionage will probably like this. Additionally, it develops into a beautiful story of the power of friendship and sacrifice, but is never sappy. I probably wouldn't read it again, at least not for a while, but it is definitely worth trying.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Genres:
The Night Circus
Morgenstern, Erin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This novel is unique. It is a historical fantasy that is almost impressionistic in style and dreamlike in tone. It tells the story of two enchanters who occupy themselves by forcing their respective students into decades-long, painfully drawn-out, life-engulfing…duels? Competitions? Contests? Endurance tests? The rules are vague and the structure of the contest difficult to illustrate, describe, or understand, but the author is so skilled that the reader is drawn in completely, despite the lack of concrete concepts. The mysterious Night Circus of the title is merely the venue for the contest, but it is so compellingly depicted that it pulses with life – almost as if it is a character itself. The real stars are the competitors, however. Celia and Marco – two impossibly gorgeous, talented, and intelligent magicians whose magic is so beautiful and illusory in itself that the reader wishes that it were real, if only to experience the dream which the circus patrons are privileged to witness. The magicians are trapped in a constant battle for something they don’t understand, despite their being drawn to one another and entirely fascinated by the other’s whole being. They strive to win, and, eventually, strive to lose.

The plot is nonlinear, going back and forth in time with almost every chapter, but this is rarely a problem since the chapter headings give precise dates and the chapters focus almost exclusively on one set of characters at a time. The plot is filled to the brim with other fascinating side characters with enchanting plot lines of their own – some are likable, some despicable, all mysterious. The story is woven together intricately. No thread is complete until the final moment, and even then, some enigmatic strings are left hanging, just to give the reader something to think about.

The author does a wonderful job of simply describing – everything. While occasionally the detail is overwhelming and the plot only loosely defined, it makes for pleasurable reading nonetheless. The brief portions written in 2nd-person are spellbinding. Suspension of disbelief is required in enormous quantities, but if you have a good imagination, that should be no problem. Additionally, I found Celia and Marco to be rather boring and unrealistically perfect compared to other characters (the unlikely hero is much more compelling), but that’s part of the charm – the author merely portrays the facts, and the conclusions are left to the reader. If you can briefly relinquish your hold on reality, this book is absolutely magical.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Awards:
The Alienist
Carr, Caleb
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing. It spent weeks on the bestseller lists the year it was published, and is currently being turned into a television series. It takes place in 1896 and concerns fictional psychologist (or “alienist”) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler who works with his best friend John Moore, a crime reporter, to solve a series of brutal and perverted murders of New York City child prostitutes. They are joined by several other unconventional and intrepid characters who help them investigate the murders, eventually leading to an edge-of-your-seat climactic showdown worthy of any blockbuster thriller.
Our narrator, John Moore, is well-drawn and extremely likeable, providing insight into the personalities of more-difficult-to-access characters such as Laszlo as well as entertaining the reader with sarcastic asides and private commentary. His interactions with Laszlo are especially enjoyable – the two are polar opposites, yet have an enduring friendship that allows them to work together like Holmes and Watson. Dr. Laszlo Kreizler himself is dark, brooding, and intelligent, but moves beyond a stereotype and gains the reader’s sympathy, especially as his intriguing past – and relationships -- come to light. The other members of the team are generally likable as well, if rather underdeveloped. Their racial and religious political correctness seems somewhat manufactured considering the time period, but the strength of the plot and their own likability allows the reader to accept it as signs of the characters’ progressive viewpoints and accepting natures. Also, Theodore Roosevelt and other actual historical figures make cameos – it’s like a treat for history buffs.
Speaking of history, a main factor in the story is the concept of “psychological determinism,” a psychological theory that was new at the time but is now largely accepted, as well as forensic science, which was also mostly untested in 1896. The heroes in this story aren’t your typical Victorian detectives, using Holmesian deduction and raw logic to trace the killer. These investigators use psychology and forensics to catch a murderer who leaves no hard clues, making this mystery uncommonly scientific and engrossing. Additionally, the abundance of subplots -- romantic, criminal, historical, etc. -- create an atmospheric and fleshed-out world that serves its reader well.
I urge fans of psychological thrillers as well as traditional mysteries to read this book. However (as you may have guessed), the subject matter is dark, and there is more than one gory and detailed description of a dismembered body. Additionally, the nature of the investigation leads the investigators into some very unsavory locales. The imagery alone requires that I recommend this book for mature readers, probably ages 15 and up. If you don’t have a strong stomach, you may want to skip a few scenes. Otherwise, this is one mystery you won’t want to miss.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Awards:
A Lesson Before Dying
Gaines, Ernest J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Two characters. Grant and Jefferson. Playing the roles of God in Jesus in society, as saviors. Jefferson is on death row for killing a man. Grant is a man who would rather have nothing to do with the sinner, Jefferson. However, Grant is persuaded to help Jefferson. The two men develop a crazy relationship. Grant’s job is to help Jefferson find his humanity again, after Jefferson’s astonishing defense in trial that compared him to a swine who wouldn’t know better than to kill a man, for he is just that dumb. This book teaches so many lessons, but most important how to be a hero for others. Read this book for nothing else than to get to Jefferson’s tragic journal in the end, where you should be prepared with tears and tissues, for your heart will break for these characters.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Madison H.
One Crazy Summer
Williams-Garcia, Rita
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I honestly don’t have the words to describe how much I loved this book. It has won four national book awards and has left its mark on my heart. I really enjoyed how this book gave a new aspect on the life of other people in our world. This is a story that readers will look back on for years to come. The changes that these three girls go through are remarkable and their love for each other is touching. A phenomenal piece of work that will stick with children, teens, and anyone who appreciates a good story.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gerilyn M.
Heart of Darkness
Conrad, Joseph
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Actual Rating: 2.5
Heart of Darkness is a classic book by Joseph Conrad that is deep, heavy, and somewhat disturbing. I probably would have given this book more stars if it were not for the immense amounts of dialogue and a maddeningly complex storyline. I did find what the book was actually about interesting, however, trying to follow along with what was happening with all the detailing and talking practically made my brain come out my ears. So, in spite of the complexity, I will sum it up as best as I can. Here’s basically what happens: The book begins with the narrator (presumably an unnamed sailor), along with several others, listening to a man named Marlow tell a story on board the Nellie, a sailing vessel. Marlow tells them a story about when he was a young man working a job as an ivory transporter on the Congo. Through an ivory trading expedition, he develops an interest in a man named Kurtz, who seems to have a godlike power over the natives. Through talking to several others, he discovers three main things about the mysterious Kurtz: that he is in poor health, that he has tons of ivory, and, according to one source, that he may be trying to steal the manager’s job. Marlow and some of Kurtz’s acquaintances then take a boat to bring relief to the man, but are attacked by the natives. They later learn that the natives attacked them because they were worried that Kurtz would be taken away from them. I will not give away any more as it may ruin the story, but it is a somewhat tragic one. I would recommend this book to people who like books that are deep and thought provoking, and can comprehend complex plots and conversations.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Code Name Verity
Wein, Elizabeth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is about Verity, a spy imprisoned by the Nazis during WWII who agrees to write everything she knows down for them, just to buy time. I found the format very interesting in this book. Although it was slow and seemingly pointless at the beginning, the little details all come together in the end to complete the story. Even though the ending may appear predictable, it is pulled off in a surprising way. I liked the characters in this book; most of their personalities were well developed and there were some plot twists about them revealed later in the book.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Camille A.
Genres:
Clockwork Angel
Clare, Cassandra
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, is a pretty interesting novel. There are a lot of different scenarios taking place for the main character named Tessa, who is also trying to find out who she really is along with finding her brother, Nate. A majority of the book is taking place at the institute, which is a place where not so normal people are taken to. This book has many different fantasy-like aspects from demons, shadow hunters, downworlders, vampires, etc. I thought it was a pretty good book and super fun to read, though it's somewhat long for some.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Dominique R.
Awards:
The Breadwinner
Ellis, Deborah
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Breadwinner is an excellent story about a young girl named Parvana and her family living in the Afghanistan that was under rule of the Taliban, an extreme religious group, from 1996 to 2001. Parvana and her sisters and brother and mother and father used to live in a giant house before it got bombed and they had to move to war torn Kabul. They scraped by for a long time by living in a one room house and her father selling some of their old things and reading and writing for others (most people there can’t read or write) with Parvana’s help in the marketplace. When her father is kidnapped by the Taliban soldiers because he went to England for his education and supposedly has “foreign ideas”, the family has no one to work for money, as the Taliban forbid women to leave the house without a man. Their solution- cut Parvana’s hair and dress her in her dead older brother’s clothes so she can go out and work for money. The book goes on to describe her many adventures working in the marketplace and doing strange odd jobs such as digging up human bones and trying to sell cigarettes and gum at what she thinks is a soccer game but is really a gruesome event. I would definitely recommend this book to people who are interested in world conflict and fiction based on relatively recent events. Overall, a really good story.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Awards:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Avi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I honestly was not expecting this to be as good of a book as it was. I guess I was thinking it would be more like Treasure Island (which I didn’t like too much). It actually turned out to be a really good story about a twelve year old girl named Charlotte Doyle who has booked a voyage with two other families on the Seahawk ship to return home from her school in England to see her family. Charlotte then discovers that the two other families have mysteriously cancelled their trip, making her the only girl on the ship. She then has many adventures on the Seahawk with the shipmates and the cruel Captain Jaggery involving a silver dirk, storms at sea, muskets, round robins, watery coffee… and possibly murder. I highly recommend this book to anybody who likes historical fiction, books told in diary form, books about seafaring, or is just looking for a good book to read.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob U.
Belle Epoque
Ross, Elizabeth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Belle Epoque is the name given to late 19th-century Western Europe, especially France. It describes a time of social and technological innovation as well as a certain level of moral depravity. As you may have discovered, it is also the title of this book. Belle Epoque is about Maude Pichon, a poor girl from provincial Brittany who comes to Paris seeking adventure, glamour and opportunity. Through a series of financial misfortunes, she is forced to become a repoussoir, a beauty foil: a physically unattractive woman who is paid very well to accompany a rich woman in order to make the client look better by comparison. Maude leads a double life, spending her days accompanying wealthy young Isabelle at dances and operas, her nights spent visiting the bohemian music halls. This life takes a severe moral toll on Maude, even as she makes more and more money. Eventually, she is forced to choose between what is easy and what is right.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were appealing and generally well-developed, although there were occasional slight inconsistencies in character behavior. Costume details are lovely, and it is easy to connect with Maude's awe and astonishment at the way her wealthy clients live. Due to the nature of the main character's occupation, topics such as physical appearance and self-worth are frequently broached. As a result, anyone who has ever felt, ugly, unloved, or simply unable to measure up will understand what Maude and the other repoussoirs feel and, like Maude, will realize how awful the repoussoir trade really is. The writing style is easy and simple, and the author manages to tackle difficult subjects like the nature of beauty without it feeling too heavy-handed, and the book itself retains a generally pleasant, light feel throughout, despite the darkness of certain moments. My only real complaint is that the chapters are often very short, only two or three pages, and as a result, the plot sometimes feels episodic and choppy. Other than that, it was great. Ultimately, it communicates an uplifting message of inner beauty, positive self-worth, and the importance of pursuing your passions and being true to yourself. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy, quick read that still has substance and a very satisfying ending.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Caroline K.
Genres:
Book Review: Kira-Kira
Kadohata, Cynthia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was so beautifully written. It was sparse and clean, but so powerful. It made me cry. I highly recommend this quick read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn

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