Archive for the 'Historical Fiction' Category



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.

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  330

RAC:  Yes

The five Taylor sisters live with their mother in Spirit Vale where she works as a medium who speaks to dead people.  The older sisters, Mimi and Jane, have long doubted their mother’s clairvoyance abilities, but their younger sisters all seem to believe.  The twins even seem to have a special gift of their own.  When their fates all collide together on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, Jane becomes worried when her twin sisters show fear that something bad will befall the ship.  Can all of the sisters survive one of the world’s most famous disasters?

This story weaves true and false facts about the Titanic’s famous fall.  The introduction of the Taylor sisters adds a bit of intrigue as they explore the very popular trend of clairvoyance for the time.  Famous faces make appearances throughout the story and are fun for reader’s to identify.  The motivations of the five sisters are all clear and justified as they each try to find their own way in this world, but the ending is unexpected and not everyone makes it to New York.  Recommended to fans of historical fiction and the Titanic.

The Returning by Jean Sorrell

Genre:  Realistic/Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  245

RAC Book:  Yes

This heartwarming story follows a young girl named Sara, who never gives up hope that her father will return from WWII despite the six years since his disappearance.  She meets a young girl named Nathalie, who is a Jewish refugee, and the two of them become close friends.  Nathalie’s father is still missing as well.  When a new preacher comes to town named Emmett, the two of them begin to wonder if he is either Sara’s missing father or if his spirit was transferred into his body.  The man looks remarkably like him, but does suffer from some facial scars, which make it hard to prove.  Also, he has no memory of anything before Iwo Jima.  Sara and Nathalie find a book about soul transference and start to wonder if this is in fact her father.  Unfortunately, no one else wants to see the similarities between Emmett and Sara’s father and they begin to pressure her to let the situation drop and accept that her father is dead.  Can Sara give up on her father?  Will Emmett ever get his memory back?

This story is both historical and modern at the same time, which many readers will find refreshing.  A lot of people like to read about WWII era stories, but Sorrell has managed to put a new and unexpected twist on this time period with her introduction of soul transference.  She also does a nice job of developing all of the characters so that the reader can understand how each person feels in this difficult situation.  The friendship between the two girls is pure and complex, which makes their actions believable and understandable.  The story will draw in readers from the beginning and hold them until the end.