Archive for the 'Historical Fiction' Category

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson

princess spy

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  293

RAC:  Yes

Margaretha lives on her father’s estate in Germany and knows she must choose a suitor to marry soon.  When a man named Claybrook comes and begins to woo her she thinks he might be the one, but then an injured man is brought to the healer’s cottage from England.  She is one of the few people around who knows English and she translates what he’s saying.  He followed a man named Claybrook from England in order to make him pay for murdering a young girl, but instead Claybrook’s men beat him and left him for dead in the street.  Margaretha is unsure who to believe, but decides to spy on Claybrook and learns he is plotting to murder her father and take over his estate.  Can she save her family and her family’s land without alerting the wrong people to the threat?  Does she know whom she can trust?  Is she equipped for such a venture?

This is a fun, fast paced adventure story in which Margaretha and her new companion from England try to save her family from a very miserable future in which they are pushed out of their own land by sheer force and violence.  There are many twists in the plot as Claybrook tends to be one step ahead of them at all times.  Many of the characters lack depth, but they do not need to be over developed since the plot rests mainly on Margaretha and her English gentleman.  Fans of other period stories like The Selection and The Queen of Someday will enjoy this title.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  343

RAC:  Yes

Verity is a young female British spy who is captured in France while on a mission simply for looking the wrong way when crossing the street.  The first half of the novel is Verity’s written confession about her incarceration, interrogation, and even torture by the Gestapo for information on the British.  Some of the things she says seem tedious or unimportant, but in the second half you hear from her best friend, Maddie, who is a female pilot working for Britain.  She was the pilot who flew Verity in on her mission, but her plane was hit and Verity had been forced to jump out with a parachute leaving both of them unaware of the other’s fate.  Maddie ended up crashing, but then found herself stranded in a land where if she were caught she would definitely be put in jail as well.  As Maddie’s story is told some of the facts Verity mentioned suddenly make sense.  All of this leads up to the shocking ending when the reader learns what happens to these two dedicated friends.

This title has received amazing reviews and for good reason.  The story is captivating, intriguing, mysterious, and unique.  Verity and Maddie’s friendship ends up reflecting just how important these relationships were during wartime.  The very beginning starts a little slow as the setting it set, but eventually this leads up to an exciting premise as these two unique voices tell their tales of female involvement in WWII.  Highly recommended.

Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

queen of someday

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  249

RAC:  Yes

Sophie has been summoned to Russia to meet with the Empress and her nephew, the heir to the throne.  Sophie’s mother has impressed upon Sophie how important it is for their family to secure a match with the prince because they have many debts and are in danger of losing their title and land.  Once Sophie arrives in Russia it becomes clear that the prince is very self involved and wants all attention on him at all times.  She begins to spend a lot of time with her Russian tutor, Sergei, and one of the prince’s men, Alexander.  Eventually, Sophie begins to have affection for Alexander and she knows how much trouble she would be in if anyone ever found out.  Meanwhile, she is informed that she must learn fluent Russian and convert to Greek Orthodox before she can marry the prince.  Can she turn her back on her family and marry the man she loves or must she marry a man she finds vile in order to save her family?

Loosely based on Catherine the Great, Ficklin makes no apologies for any historical inaccuracies.  The story is interesting in that very little is written in the young adult category for this era in historical fiction.  Due to the fact that it is based on true events, there are some twists to the story that may shock and dismay readers, but is essential in order to follow the arch of Catherine’s life.  The characters are interesting and written so that they are not easily confused.  Fans of series such as The Luxe or Cleopatra’s Daughter will enjoy this title.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin


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


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.


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