Archive for the 'Historical Fiction' Category

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

housegirl

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  372

RAC:  Yes

Lina is a lawyer at a high profile firm in New York City.  She is assigned a bizarre slavery reparations case in which she is challenged to find a modern day descendant of a slave who can claim damages today.  She ends up coming across a story about a famous artist, Lu Anne Bell who was credited with wonderful paintings of the slaves on her plantation before her death in 1852.  Some recent criticism has come up in which experts are speculating the artist was actually the young slave girl, Josephine.  Can Lina prove that Josephine was the artist instead of Lu Anne?  Can she find a descendant of Josephine when there is no evidence of what happened to her after Lu Anne’s death?  Can she do it in time for the unimaginable deadline that her boss has set for her?

No one denies that many injustices occurred while slavery was still legal in the U.S., but this book reminds us that there are still many stories to tell.  Although, this is a fictional story it does remind us that each slave had a name and a story and people are interested in learning those.  The way the story is told pulls the reader in through old letters and documents.  It seems impossible to right the wrongs that occurred back then, but there are still truths that can overcome the lies that have pervaded history.  Fans of Sarah’s Key and Between Shades of Gray will enjoy this title as another book that sheds a different light on a big piece of history.

Out of the Pocket by B. E. Stanfel

out of the pocket

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  209

RAC Book:  Yes

Mercer is a high school senior in 2003 struggling with his father’s deployment in Iraq.  The entire book is written in journal entries for his English teacher as well as emails to his dad in Iraq.  Mercer is focused on football and the dream of getting a full ride scholarship to the University of Iowa.  He begins writing emails to a teenager in Iraq that his dad works with occasionally.  Through these emails, Mercer begins to see that his life is very different from that of a teenager in Iraq and he should be grateful for the life he has.  At the same time, it is very difficult for Mercer to not have his dad with him for his senior year and he believes his family is starting to drift apart with his dad’s absence.  As time passes, Mercer begins to question his loyalty to this war.    Can he be the man his father wants him to be while he’s away?  Can he take care of his family the way he thinks he should?  When will his dad return to him?

This new title is written by a former teacher of Dowling Catholic High School and we are pleased to have received some copies early after it’s release.  The story captures the many worries and thoughts that go through a typical teenager’s head during his or her senior year but adds in the extra burden of having a father deployed.  The book provides a lot of detailed information concerning the war.  Students who enjoy reading about soldiers will enjoy the book as it is easy to identify with Mercer.  Recommended for those teenage boys who often have trouble finding titles that appeal to them.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

The-Berlin-Boxing-Club-by-Robert-Sharenow-198x300

Genre;  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  400

RAC:  Yes

Karl is living in Berlin in 1934 and although he does not look Jewish or practice any Jewish beliefs he has ancestors who were Jewish and because of this connection has started getting bullied by the Hitler Youth.  After one particularly bad beating he had to go serve at his father’s art gallery opening and he meets Max Schmeling, the famous German boxer.  Max offers Karl free boxing lessons in exchange for a painting and Karl takes this promise seriously.  He begins working out on his own while Max travels overseas and it’s almost a year before he actually joins the Berlin Boxing Club with Max as his coach.  He begins fighting in some junior competitions and slowly the men from the boxing club begin to support him.  Karl is always careful never to reveal details from his personal life, however.  At home, he has been expelled from his school and evicted from his house because of his heritage.  His parents fight all the time and do not know what to do.  Things finally come to a head on Kristallnacht and Karl knows they need to get out.  Is he strong enough to stand up and fight for his family?  Who can he rely on for help?

Fans of Between Shades of Gray, Night, and Sarah’s Key will enjoy this title.  It is very serious and realistic in how Karl and his entire life begin to unravel during WWII.  You also see many periphery characters and how they react to their own changing environments, some for the better and some for worse.  Karl is a very honest young man and often admits he wishes he wasn’t Jewish so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the abuse and prejudice.  He doesn’t hate his old friends for joining Hitler Youth because he is too jealous.  He has no connection to his Jewish faith which means he has no conviction to fight for it.  He does not handle every situation heroically, but he does respond the best way he knows how at the time.  The boxing aspect provides a unique spin on things because boxing was big during this time in Germany and although trained people could ensure a fair fight, the outside world is not so simple.  Highly recommended.

The Agency: a spy in the house by Y.S. Lee

a spy in the house

Genre:  Mystery/Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  335

RAC:  Yes

This title was recently named to the Iowa High School Award Winners for 2013-2014.  The first in this series, Mary is rescued from a death sentence for stealing in 1853 by a woman who runs a special school for young girls.  After many years of schooling, Mary is taken into a special program designed to turn young women into spies.  Her first assignment is to be the paid companion of a wealthy teenage girl who is ungrateful for the company at best.  As Mary enters the house she is supposed to keep her ears open for information about the family business and whether or not they are really suffering from as many lost ships as they claim, but in the end she overhears much more than that.  She also meets another spy trying to dig up information on this family.  Will he be a threat or an ally?  Can Mary perfect her spying skills in order to become a permanent fixture in this alliance?

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this title because it is set in a unique time period while also including intrigue and mystery.  The story moves fairly quickly and the ending is exciting.  The final revelation of who is behind the lost ships is surprising, but also a bit confusing in the details for some young readers.  Mary’s background is touched on, but readers will look for more to be revealed in the future sequels.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Genre:  Romance/Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  549

RAC:  Yes

     Ismae was born with terrible scars on her back because her father is Death and her mother tried to have her killed before she was born.   Later, Ismae’s stepfather sells her into a terrible arranged marriage.  Once her new husband sees her scars he believes Ismae to be cursed and starts to beat her.  She is rescued and sent to a convent where everyone works for Death.  Ismae comes to find she has talents for working as an assassin whenever Death shows her the mark that someone should die.  She is sent on a mission to help a man named Gavriel to protect a young girl who has recently taken power over a big nation.  Ismae knows there is a traitor amongst the duchess’s advisors, but is not as prepared for the task as she thought she would be.  Can Ismae find the traitor who threatens to put an entire kingdom in jeopardy before it is overtaken by enemies?  Can she trust Gavriel as her convent believes or is he in fact hiding any secrets of his own?

     This book is getting a lot of attention because it is engaging right from the beginning.  Any reader naturally wants to know more about Ismae’s skills as well as who is betraying the young duchess.  The characters are all memorable, which is important in a book with so many characters any of which could be the traitor.   The ending is satisfying and readers will want to see more of this character to find out what she is capable of.  Fans of Graceling and Star Crossed will enjoy this title as well.

Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  358

RAC Book:  Yes

This sequel to the Bright Young Things novel picks up with Letty, Astrid, and Cordelia.  Cordelia is settling into her new life with her newly discovered brother, but still feels very responsible for their father’s death and is dying for a way to make herself useful.  When her brother, Charlie, decides to open a speakeasy he chooses her to run it.  Letty is still trying to get her singing career off the ground and is hopeful there might be a place for her in Cordelia’s club, but things do not turn out exactly as she planned.  Astrid is still partying and hoping Charlie will get serious about his proposal to her, but she finds her mother’s lack of support for her engagement confusing.

The setting is fun and flirty and of course several men wander through that will inevitably become important to these young women.  The women do grow and change, but the beginning is a bit slow and some readers might not make it to the end to see how the characters evolve.  The eventual paths these three take will make readers want to know more about them and what will eventually become of them, especially as the 20s come to an end.  A fun story set in a fun time that will intrigue romance and historical fiction readers.

Gordon Ryder’s Blues by Jeff Dee

Genre:  Historical fiction

# of Pages:  165

RAC Book:  No

Gordon Ryder is navigating his junior year in high school during the year 1969.  His father has recently moved out and his mother has responded by being extremely overprotective.  When he meets a confident, attractive hippie he decides to get to know her better.  Myra invites him to a walkout and then a rally and he thinks it’s a good idea to show his disapproval of the war, especially since his best friend lost a brother to it.  The book reads as an adventure story that primarily happens in one day, so many things are not resolved at the end of the night.  Will his parents reconcile?  How will his best friend cope with the loss of his brother?  Will he ever get together with Myra?

The setting of this story is unique and many students will identify with the ideas and beliefs of the time depicted.  The characters are interesting, but it’s difficult to get to know them when the entire story takes place in one day.  The relationships between Gordon’s parents, Gordon and his mother, and Gordon and his friends are all relatable to teens of any age.  The setting of the story will be enough to entice many readers to pick this one up.



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