Reviews of Teen Books by Genre: Historical

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman
Jacques, Brian
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to finish this book. It was hovering around a 2 (Meh) when all of a sudden the author gave it a left turn and I found myself in a good old fashion treasure hunt story. Like the 'Gold Bug' by Poe, it's full of great and cryptic clues to unravel. Fantastic!! The author gives us a taste of the 'Flying Dutchman' legend and then joins us with a young boy and his dog who are traveling a strange road through life. There's three books in this series so if you like the adventure - enjoy.

Reviewer's Name: Bruce
Between Shades of Gray
Sepetys, Ruta
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: This is the one of best historical fiction books I've ever read. Most historical fictions get their facts wrong, but this book had accurate details and the writer manages to get a good story into it. I absolutely loved the plot and the different kind of character's. The only problem with it is after all that detail throughout the book, at the end it kind of just drops off a cliff. It had a unique ending, I just wish it had more explanation to it.

Reviewer's Name: Mikayla B.
Genres:
Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Two men, George and Lennie, wander aimlessly throughout the West Coast of the United States during the Great Depression, looking for any kind of job.
Lennie is a large, strong, migrant worker who, unfortunately, has a mental disability. Whereas George is a skinny, quick-witted man who cares for Lennie. Lennie’s mental disability and his uncontrollable strength causes the two of them to lose every job they get and get driven out of town. George does everything he can to keep Lennie out of trouble, partly because he promised Lennie’s Aunt and partly because he cares for Lennie; and Lennie tries to stay out of trouble, for their hopes of owning their own farms drives both of their motivations. Finally, they are able to find work on a small ranch in Soledad, California and actually make friends with many of the workers. Their dream of accumulating enough money to own a ranch is close, but Lennie’s disability could cause them to lose even this job.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Book Review: The Chosen
Potok, Chaim
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

During a softball game in Brooklyn, New York in 1944 between two different Jewish sects, Danny Saunders hits the ball and smacks the pitcher, Reuven Malter, right in the face knocking him out. Reuven is sent to the hospital, and when Danny comes to visit him to apologize Reuven rejects his apology. Partly because he was mad at Danny, and partly because they were of a different sect.

Eventually, Reuven forgives Danny and they develop one of the strongest friendships ever seen. Unfortunately, Danny’s and Reuven’s fathers develop a dislike towards one another, and Mr. Saunders forbids Danny from associating with Reuven. Their friendship grows distant, but after almost a year or two it seems like, Danny is allowed to speak to Reuven and they begin to repatch their friendship. During their friendship, Reuven sees a lot of Danny’s life and he finds out that Danny doesn’t want to be a Rabbi, but his father wishes him to. This book is a phenomenal classic and tells the story of how two friends from different, hostile backgrounds are able to have a friendship as strong as Lewis and Clark. I recommend this novel to those interested in Jewish background, but it is a book that everyone can take something from.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Book Review: My Brother Sam is Dead
Collier, James Lincoln
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When I started this book I could not understand why it had been banned. It seemed so innocuous. I only read it because it was in the free pile where I work. I looked it up and it was for violence, language, and an unpatriotic view of the Revolutionary War. Fair enough. It is violent and unpatriotic for sure, which is why I liked it. It's also a very good story and is about as accurate an account of the Revolutionary War era as can be reasonably expected from a work of fiction for young people.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A cultural classic, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
follows the story of a young woman named Hester, who is charged with adultery and punished in the Puritan town of Boston in 1642. The terminology and language used in this book is very old so it may be difficult for readers to interpret the plot or even the text, I know it was for me. The plot is somewhat dull, as it follows the life of Hester who has committed the sin of adultery with a man in the town, and when her husband, Roger Chillingworth, comes back for her, he is determined to find the man and seek revenge. After her punishment, Hester is banished and forced to live on the outskirts of town. With the aid of the minister Dimmesdale, Hester tries to live peacefully with her daughter, Pearl, but will Chillingsworth thwart their plans and get his revenge on the man whom Hester refuses to reveal? I read this book for my AP Lang class and the beginning was very confusing. This novel is very difficult to follow and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people other than those who enjoy old and classic works, but overall the plot is one of a kind and teaches morals that are very significant.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
My Lady Jane
Hand, Cynthia, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was just delightful.

My Lady Jane is a semi-historical semi-fantastical look at the life of Lady Jane Grey, cousin to King Edward VI, who was queen for 9 days and then swiftly deposed and subsequently beheaded by Mary I (aka Bloody Mary). The book looks at the events through the perspectives of Edward, Jane, and Jane's new husband, Gifford Dudley (call him G). The authors decided to rewrite history a bit to give some folks shapeshifting powers and to give our Lady Jane a happy ending. The result was a charming, whimsical read written in the sarcastic and snarky prose of today, and it was marvelous.

The book is even more impressive when you consider that it has three authors, but felt as though it could have been written by one person (I'm sure that each author wrote from a different character's perspective, but it was never jarring). The characters were well fleshed out, each perspective was funny and interesting, and I never felt myself racing through one character's chapter to get to a character I liked better (because I liked them all). I'm a big sucker for court intrigue, and there is obviously a lot of that here. The fantasy elements are pretty small, and honestly, the book could've sort of been done without them, but they do give the authors an out for some of the less historical aspects of the book (like Edward's survival, for example).

I gave the book four stars instead of five as, though I loved the tone for most of the book, by the end it was feeling a bit twee. The book was also a bit overlong. Overall though, this is a great read that I would recommend to people who like quirky, well-written books about strong women with a touch of fantasy. I hope these authors team up to write another alternate history, because I'd so be there. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Audacity
Crowder, Melanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is written in prose. This annoyed me for about 20% of the book. Then I got used to it and started enjoying it. It's a powerful true story about a brave woman who stood up for the rights of working women and children. Whenever I read stories about brave women, I ask myself if I would have had the moxie to do what they did. The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. This one I'm not sure about. It take real guts to stand up to bullies (in this case sweatshop owners and their thugs). I've never been good at that. She was so determined and stubborn, and she persevered! Amazing.

Bonus: I read this book over Labor Day weekend and didn't realize it until after I had finished.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Genres:
Traitor
Pausewang, Gudrun
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For my review I read the book Traitor by Gunrun Pausewang. Traitor was set in Nazi Germany and is in the perspective of a young girl who hides a Russian who at the time was an enemy of Germany. In the beginning this book was not my favorite, but it grew on me so I kept reading. The one thing I did not like about this book was the ending because it was really sad. I also liked the ending because it was new and most books have happy endings, but it was still really sad and I wish the book had not ended that way.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Awards:
Moon Over Manifest
Vanderpool, Clare
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book definitely deserves its Newbery Honor Award. It tells an intricate story about a girl moving to a small town called Manifest in a captivating way. At the end of every chapter, I was left wanting more. The author didn't tell you everything and you had to piece the clues together. I liked that there is a point of view of someone during WWI because usually books are set in WWII. I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction.
Reviewers Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Mikayla B.
Genres:
Upside Down in The Middle of Nowhere
Lamana, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It's late August, 2005, Armani Curtis can think nothing more about her tenth birthday, not even warnings of the storm can shake her, that is until she see's her parents shaken up. Suddenly, the party she has been waiting for, has to be cancelled, and Armani finds herself in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, stuck in the attic, and is floating around the whole city of New Orleans.
And just when it seems nothing could get worse, water and supplies are running out, her brother isn't able to breath, now her brother and father are stuck in the water somewhere, and she is stuck in the middle of nowhere without her mother. Now Armani needs to be responsible more than ever, and make the decision to stay put as her mother had told her or leave her mother behind and get on a bus to somewhere far away with her sisters and brother, without almost half her family.

I read this book because I wanted to understand what it would've felt like to be in Hurricane Katrina, the author also get's through to the reader's emotions, but also revisits a historic event that changed a lot of people's life.
Reviewer Age: 12

Reviewer's Name: Isabella P.
The Walking Drum
L'Amour, Louis
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour is the story of the twelfth
century adventurer Mathurin Kerbouchard and his journey to find and rescue his father who had been captured at sea. His journey takes him all across Europe and into the Muslim world, a world of culture and science that is much different than the squalid life of Europe. It is a lively story, full of exciting characters, vivid description of life in the Middle Ages, and daring exploits that climax at the infamous Valley of the Assassins. Throughout the book are many historical facts thrown in by Kerbouchard as he narrates his travels which I found interesting, but someone who is simply looking for an adventure book might find them tedious. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who loves history and travel, because it satisfied some of my own wanderlust with its vivid description of the splendors of an age long gone.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Grace O.
Prisoner B-3087
Gratz, Alan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I thought that this was a really good book. It is based on the life of a true Jewish person who lived through the Holocaust. It tells you about all of the horrible things that the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust. Even though there are some very bad things that happened during this time that this book tells you about, it is good to sometimes remind ourselves about this so that it never happens again. The main character goes through several concentration camps and manages to survive until the end of the war. The U.S soldiers eventually come into the last camp that the main character is in and rescues all of the Jews. This book shows how much stress and pain people are able to endure. Overall, this was a great book and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to know what the holocaust was like and who would just like to remind themselves of what happened to the Jews during world war two so that they can help ensure that it will never happen again.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kai K.
Genres:
The False Prince
Nielsen, Jennifer
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Sage, a quick-witted orphan, is to compete with three other children to become the impersonator of a prince, or die. This plan, devised by a nobleman, is made to prevent a civil war that is bound to tear the country apart.
This novel isn't amazing, but it's worth a read.
Most of the novel happened while Sage was training to become an adequate impersonator, which I expected, but it was a little boring at times.
The strongest quality of it was the main character, Sage. He had a lot of
personality- snarky and stubborn, but clever and heroic too. I enjoyed seeing him react to the different trials he had to face as well as the shrewd comebacks he would make.
The ending of the book was the best part. It was when an unexpected (but not
unwelcome) plot twist occurred and everything was tied together. Although I said it was the best part, it felt kind of rushed because so many things happened in such a short time.
I didn't really feel very strongly for this book. To me, it was a tiny bit bland until the last part. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but I definitely think it is worth a try.
Reviewer Grade: 8

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

Another amazing book! This #1 New York Bestselling novel is truly a piece of art; with a captivating plot and many lovable characters. Taken place back in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help, focuses on the story of a white southern woman named Skeeter whose life-long goal was to become a profound writer for the New York Times, however odds kept stacking against her. The first obstacle for Skeeter was that all of her pish-posh friends since childhood greatly looked down upon her ambitions and discouraged poor Skeeter for not wanting to marry and raise kids. The second obstacle was that the book she wished to complete, which would give her the opportunity to write for the New York Times, focused on the terrible conditions of the Help, a group of black women who worked as maids for the privileged white families of the Deep South. And the final obstacle, which was the biggest obstacle for Skeeter, was that segregation and racism was at an all-time-high in Jackson.
This would have an incredibly negative impact on her eagerness to aid in exposing the terrors inflicted on the black women by the white, meaning extreme courage, caution, and determination. Now all she needs is maids to tell her their stories. A stunning piece of work, an eye-opener, a book about
truth: The Help.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Logan H.
Genres:
The Dark Days Club
Goodman, Alison
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Lady Helen has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of her dead, treasonous mother. Because her mother did some shady stuff before she died, Helen has had to be the perfect demur lady, no small task for a quick witted woman in the Regency period. But as new information comes to light surrounding her mother's life and death, Lady Helen realizes that her mother had magical powers...that she passed along to her daughter. Soon, Lady Helen finds herself pulled into the dark underbelly of London as she works with the Dark Days Club to try to keep Londoners safe from a group of demons.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. There's a lot of world building, and Lady Helen is a very likable character who I think behaves in ways that make sense given the time period. There's a great build up to the reveal of the demons, and the mystery of Helen's mother and her powers unfolds very slowly and deliciously. The problem arises when the demons themselves are revealed. While I'll give Goodman points for originality with the demons and how they interact with humans, really, as villains go, they were pretty low-stakes and unfortunately kind of lame. I don't know, I mean, most of them follow rules and don't do anything bad, but they are hated by humans in the know just by virtue of the fact that they are human parasites, which really, isn't their fault. Things get a little more high stakes by the end, but I really couldn't make myself care. I actually put the book down for a week or so because I wasn't dying to know what happens, which is pretty rare for me.

I liked the setting, world-building, and the characters, and would maybe give the next book in the series a shot as the villains get a bit more villainous and less lame by the end. That and Goodman can write. She also clearly did her Regency homework. Overall though, for me this was just ok. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein
Hemphill, Stephanie
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Hideous Love is a verse novel about the life of Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the iconic Frankenstein. Mary Shelley ran away with her lover, Percy Shelley and traveled around Europe, getting inspiration from the scenic surroundings for her writing.
Mary Shelley had led a very interesting life full of tragedy and drama and with award-winning Stephanie Hemphill writing it, it'll be great, right?
Ha... no. All I got was disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Reading Hideous Love was a chore. I kept on thinking it would get better, but it didn't happen.
The poems were choppy and I feel like Stephanie Hemphill just tried to make her sentences as short as possible, put them in a pile, and called it poetry.
Horrible Love didn't even scratch the surface of the emotions Mary Shelley must have felt, I couldn't relate to her at all; it was hard not to skim through the poems. I can't help but think that Hemphill didn't even try putting any structure or effort in her novel. A few poems in Hideous Love were written fairly well, but that meager amount can't make up for all of the rest of those tedious and boring poems.The verse novel was mostly about Mary Shelley worrying about the faithfulness of her husband and her actual writing was just tacked on there like an afterthought.
I don't recommend this to anyone, and Hideous Love is possibly the worst book I have ever had the misfortune of reading. The Wikipedia article on Mary Shelley was more interesting and gave more information.
Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Miriam X
Egg & Spoon
Maguire, Gregory
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Elena is a peasant living in Miersk, a village in Russia. Ekaterina is a noble that was passing through Miersk on her way to a ball. Due to an unfortunate accident, Elena and Ekaterina switch places and need to set things right again.
I first took notice of Egg & Spoon because of the aesthetic of the cover. I was about to choose not to read it after seeing the summary, but then I saw that it was written by Gregory Maguire, so I decided against not reading it.
The writing style is truly beautiful, and I can't really find the right words to describe it, which is frustrating, to say the least. To me, the story is slightly reminiscent of having a (very long) conversation with someone; it kind of goes off into tangents, it gets unusually descriptive on small things that don't really matter, and it talks about a little bit about everything. I find that really enjoyable, but for some people, it can seem long and tedious. I had to really concentrate while reading it because I kept on admiring how amazing the writing was instead of actually processing what was happening.
The characters were incredible! Everyone had different and unique personalities and reacted to things differently. I found all of them quite charming in their own ways. They all just had so much character!
The humor had me dying of laughter and really lightened the mood of the whole story.
One thing I didn't like about the novel was its pacing. Everything happened too slowly, and I was always waiting for something to happen to push the story along; Egg & Spoon is definitely not for impatient people, especially since it has almost 500 pages. It was really hard to get through.
Egg & Spoon was based off of Russian folklore and really gave off a fairy tale vibe, which is always a plus.
Egg & Spoon is definitely not for everyone, but, in my opinion, it was phenomenal.
Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Miriam X
Shadow Spinner
Fletcher, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

“Shadow Spinner” is a book based on an old legend that some intellectuals say began in India, although evidence seems to point to a Persian book of fairy tales. The original story tells of a Sultan who, after finding his wife with another man, chooses to believe that all women are deceitful. As cruel revenge to womankind, he marries a new girl every night and then kills her when morning dawns. One night his latest new wife, Shahrazad, begs to tell her younger sister, Dunyazad, one last story before the Sultan executes her the next day. The Sultan agrees and finds he enjoys the tale, but he is dismayed when it is not finished by morning. So he lets Shahrazad live to finish the story the next night. But it turns out that she also has time to weave another new tale but does not complete it either. And so she is allowed to live yet again.This continues. But how long will Shahrazad be able to keep telling her life-saving stories? Here the author of “Shadow Spinner” decides to give the legend her own
twist. Enter young Marjan, a servant.
Marjan is a young servant girl who will probably never find a husband. Who would want to marry a girl with a crippled foot?. Marjan was not born this way. Her mother purposely dropped a heavy pot on Marjan’s foot so the Sultan would never choose her for a wife. Although her mother did this for her daughter’s protection, Marjan feels furious towards her mother. She is especially angry because, after maiming her daughter for life, her mother drank poison like a coward. Throughout the book we catch glimpses of what this hot rage has done to Marjan and how she carries this grudge with her always.
One day Marjan and her mistress, Auntie Chava, enter into the Sultan’s harem to sell jewelry to the women who live there. Because she is so skilled at telling stories to the children of the harem women, she is approached by Dunyazad, who tells Marjan that Shahrazad is desperate for more stories. She has told the stories in every book that the Sultan owns and told all the tales she’s heard. She begs Marjan to tell a new story. Marjan agrees, and Dunyazad leads her to Shahrazad where she is asked to retell the tale. But before it is over Shahrazad frowns and says that she does remembers telling that same story already. She asks Marjan to tell another. Marjan consents to the queen’s request,but story after story she tells is rejected. At last she tells one that is new to Shahrazad. Grateful for Marjan’s help, Shahrazad asks her to come live in the harem so that she can continue to help provide her with stories that can save all the young women's lives. Knowing she will be forbidden to depart, Marjan is upset to be leaving her beloved Auntie Chava forever. But she is honored to know that Shahrazad needs her help.
One morning some time later, after Marjan has already been living in the harem for a while, Shahrazad tells Marjan that the Sultan loved her story and Marjan is overjoyed to hear that the tale was one that the Sultan was familiar with already and loved very much. But she is dismayed when Shahrazad asks for the rest of the narrative so that she can tell it to the Sultan, who wants to hear it the next night. It is a matter of life and death. Marjan tells Shahrazad that she doesn’t know the rest; she only heard the beginning from a blind storyteller out in the marketplace one day. But Shahrazad must have the story or the displeased Sultan may kill her. And so Marjan is smuggled out of the harem in the mornings in search of the blind storyteller so that she can learn the rest of the tale. Every evening she sneaks back to the harem empty-handed.
Shahrazad tides the Sultan over with other tales but knows that she must soon have the ending rest of the storyteller’s story to placate the ruler. Over the course of her search, Marjan discovers the Sultan’s mother has plotted to make her son angry with Shahrazad so that he will kill her. She wants to make her own servant queen. But her most shocking, discovery is the fact that Shahrazad loves her husband despite what he’s done to the young women of his city. When Marjan asks Shahrazad how she can possibly love a man like the Sultan, Shahrazad states this profound truth: “There’s nothing wrong with loving someone. It’s hating - that’s what’s wrong.” It is then that Marjan finally realizes her hatred toward her own mother is wrong. She must learn to forgive her for what she has done. In the midst of all this, the search for the storyteller goes on. But the Sultan’s mother is trying harder than ever to catch Shahrazad, Dunyazad, and Marjan in doing something wrong. Eventually, all three of them, along with a kind, elderly woman and helpful old man, are going to be killed. Marjan thinks she knows how to change the Sultan’s mind, but will she really be able to save everyone she has come to love so dearly?
I found this book to be a gripping tale, and enjoyed the deep message of love and healing shown throughout. Shahrazad’s mission to help the Sultan mend from where he has been hurt by his treacherous first wife is admirable and Marjan’s personal struggles are relatable. How does one find it in their heart to love someone who has hurt them (mentally or physically)? A fun, well-written story, but one that makes you think - “Shadow Spinner” is a beautiful re-imagining of a classic legend.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cosette P.
Newt's Emerald
Nix, Garth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Garth Nix wrote a regency romance with a touch of fantasy back in the 90s, and it's finally been published! It's adorable. It falls somewhere in the middle of Jane Austen and Gail Carringer - it's closer to Austen than Carringer as the fantasy elements are pretty light. The main character is spunky and extremely likable, the love interest is perfectly serviceable, and the dialogue is punchy. Also, there's cross-dressing. A super fun read - 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:

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