Tag Archives: historical fiction

Review! Mari’s Hope by Sandy Brehl

15 Nov

 

 

 

Mari’s Hope
By Sandy Brehl
Series: The Odin’s Promise Trilogy #3 (#1, #2)
Approx. 276 pages – ages 9+
Published by Crispin Books on May 29, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “In Mari’s Hope, set in occupied Norway in the final years of World War II, young teen Mari has become a valued helper to the village doctor, while continuing to play a role in her family’s efforts in the local resistance. As German war efforts begin to falter, the pressure increases to hold Norway firmly in their tight grip. But the freedom-loving Norwegians will do their best to thwart those plans.”

What I Thought- This was an absolutely amazing end to the Odin’s Promise Trilogy. While I am sad to see the series end, I will say that Brehl has crafted a wonderfully fulfilling ending, tying up all loose ends and satisfying the readers. The Norwegian setting is described in such a way that it feels as if you have always known just exactly what the land is like. Honestly, the book makes me want to visit Norway. I’m not kidding. The characters are all top-notch and fully-developed, making the story feel more like an actual memoir or biography of sorts than a fictional narrative. Brehl is definitely showing her prowess as a weaver of words, and I am excited to see what else she will cook up! The plot is slightly slow in places which is to be expected as several years are taking place within these pages. Although the plot slows down a bit here and there, everything that happens does contribute to the overall story in an important way and the reader is so caught up with imagery and character development the story is a pleasure to read. I really liked reading Mari’s letters, and think that they were a clever way to make the time-span of the book more efficient. This was an excellent historical fiction novel, showing readers about life in occupied Norway – an often neglected topic in fiction. I truly enjoyed reading this!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

3 Jan

wardensdaughterThe Warden’s Daughter
By Jerry Spinelli
352 pages – ages 9+
Will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 3rd, 2017

Synopsis- Cammie O’Reilly is in prison. But not serving a crime. You see, her father is the warden of the jail, and she lives in an apartment above it. It’s a good life, though. The one thing that she really doesn’t have is a mother. Yeah, her dad is a good father, but he just doesn’t have that motherly vibe. So that’s why Cammie decides to make Eloda, one of the trustees (prisoners with privileges) in charge of housekeeping, her mother. Cammie sets about trying to win her over. Except that Eloda wants nothing to do with her. After all, inmates should keep their distance from the warden’s daughter. But Cammie can be very persistent. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

What I Thought This was a really neat historical fiction novel. It’s set in 1959, with an introduction and epilogue set in 2017 from Cammie’s point-of-view. Mr. Spinelli has a way of writing that makes it seem like a close friend telling a story, with a whole lot of little details that remind you of life in its fullest. Things like getting how people would act in a situation to a point where the reader thinks, even sometimes reluctantly, “Yeah, I’d do that.” I think it’s really cool that in Mr. Spinelli’s Acknowledgements he points out that he actually knows a lady who was an actual warden’s daughter, and that gave Mr. Spinelli the idea to write this book. Cammie is a great character that you really route for as she is figuring out her problems and coming to terms with her mom’s death. The characters and relationships between them are fully developed.The reader really gets to know them. I especially liked the unusual prison setting and the twist that a warden’s daughter was seeking something she needed on an emotional level from an inmate. It’s a great hook for the story. Mr. Spinelli breathed life into both Cammie and Eloda and made the readers care for them. This is a really beautiful coming-of-age story.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Blog Tour! Bjorn’s Gift by Sandy Brehl

14 Sep

bjornBjorn’s Gift

Sequel to Odin’s Promise

By Sandy Brehl

272 pages – ages 8+

Will be published by Crispin Books on October 5th, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher-Set in Norway during World War II, Bjorn’s Gift continues the adventures of Mari, a young Norwegian girl who faces growing hardships and dangers in her small village in a western fjord.
German occupation troops and local Nazi supporters move closer to her family’s daily life, and her classmate Leif becomes active in the Norwegian Nazi youth party. Mari struggles to live up to her brother Bjorn’s faith in her, as she becomes more involved in risky resistance activities, trusting only her family and a few close friends.
Across Norway, oppressive laws are imposed in the months from Fall 1941 to early 1943, with dire local consequences. Difficult decisions force Mari to admit that many things in life are not easily sorted into good or bad, and she begins to wonder if Hitler will ever be defeated and . . . whether the occupation of Norway will ever end.

What I Thought- Odin’s Promise was a wonderful historical fiction novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was excited to see a sequel and was equally impressed with Brehl’s writing in this novel. Ms. Brehl’s way of writing down the events makes it very personal, and you can really feel the turmoil that Mari, the main character, is going through. The book is set during WWII in Norway. I really enjoy this because the Norwegian occupation is something glossed over in the history classes I have had so far. It is a part of history that I want to know more about. The imagery Brehl uses is amazing. She paints vivid images in sentences that really makes the reading experience enjoyable. The beautiful descriptions of Norway set against the ugliness of the political time is a striking contrast. This is a riveting historical fiction novel, and I think it really brings to light a different side of the German invasion of Norway. The book is completely appropriate for younger readers.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

author-brehl-copy-1 Sandy Brehl is a retired educator and active member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). When she’s not reading and writing, she enjoys gardening. She lives in the Milwaukee area and invites you to visit her website (www.SandyBrehl.com) to learn more about ODIN’S PROMISE and BJORN’S GIFT. Sign up for quarterly newsletters to stay informed about future releases (including MARI’S HOPE), and special events and offers.

Contacts:

Crispin Books, an imprint of Crickhollow

sandybrehl.com
Twitter: @SandyBrehl
Facebook.com
Email: Sandy@sandybrehl.com
Sandy shares a blog about middle grade historical novels with three other authors: TheStoriedPast.org
Also blogs about picture books at UnpackingPictureBookPower.com and @PBWorkshop on Twitter

Blog tour schedule:

September 1– Interview with Todd Burleson at GROG blog:

Groggorg.com

September 7- Review: Stephanie Lowden at golowd, a blog about teaching and books:

Golowd.com

September 11- Guest post Unleashing Readers

Unleashingreaders.com

September 14- (TODAY!!!)- Review by Erik at This Kid Reviews Books,

Thiskidreviewsbooks.com

September 19- Review, Suzanne Warr, at Tales from the Raven, for MMGM:

Suzannewarr.com

September 20- Olivia and Oscar- review of ODIN’S PROMISE at Kid Book Reviewer:

Kidbookreviewer.com

September 27- Olivia and Oscar- review of BJORN’S GIFT at Kid Book Reviewer:

Kidbookreviewer.com 

September 29- Alex Baugh review at The Children’s War

Thechildrenswar.blogspot.com

October 3- Jenni Enzor MMGM with review and interview:

Jennienzor.com

October 5- MomReadIt- Review by Rosemary

Momreadit.com

October 7- Trisha P at Mindjacked

Trishap00.com

October 11- Guest post Rochelle Melander

Writenowcoach.com

Review! Argos by Ralph Hardy

31 Aug

argosArgos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog

By Ralph Hardy

400 pages – ages 9+

Published by HarperCollins on May 31, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- “For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to Ithaka. After ten years beneath the walls of Troy, he begins the long journey back home. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He does whatever it takes to reunite with his family.

And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure whether they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master. Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s voyage—and what a voyage it is!

These tales bring hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king. This rousing story of devotion and determination is an original take on one of the most beloved myths of all time.”

What I Thought- This was a very unique idea for a retelling of the Odyssey – through the eyes of his faithful dog, who stayed on Ithaka. While at first, that may not sound like a great premise, it was turns out to be a very compelling story and an amazing read. I found it neat how the author told of the trials of Odysseus. Various animals visit the island and tell Argos of Odysseus’ travels. As the story goes on you become attached to Argos. Sadly you know he will die at the end. I did like is how the author handles it, thinking of a clever way to finish the book, as Argos does not witness his master’s revenge. It is a really good book, with a neat look into how a loyal dog would think. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Having said all the great stuff about the book, I think the writing is a bit difficult to catch the attention of the average middle grader – the book’s intended audience.  The story idea is excellent but the dense text makes it more appropriate for an older kid.

I give this book four out of five bookworms!fourbooks

Review! Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

24 May

cloudfishCloud and Wallfish

By Anne Nesbet

400 pages – ages 10+

Published by Candlewick Press on October 4, 2016

Synopsis- American Noah Keller was pretty taken-aback when both his parents picked him up after school in Virginia. Especially when they told him they were moving to East Germany for six months, East Berlin to be specific. Oh, and apparently Noah’s name isn’t really Noah Keller. He’s Jonah Brown, with a different birthday, a different hometown, and no idea what’s going on. Noah-Jonah and his family move to East Berlin, and soon he meets a highly-outspoken girl named Claudia. They become friends. But it may end up that this friendship draws a little too much attention in a society built on blending in and spying on itself…

What I Thought- This was a really good historical fiction book. It captures the feelings of living under constant oppression, while also trying to make it look like you are living in a normal situation. It was interesting, especially because Noah doesn’t really know what’s going on, just that something is going on (I won’t give it away). Ms. Nesbet’s writing style is very informative, and I like that at the end of each chapter, she tells a little more information about historic events mentioned in the chapter, and how they relate to the characters. They also seem to flow with the story pretty well, as well. I enjoyed the book very much.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

9 May

stayaliveTo Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party

By Skila Brown

304 pages – ages 12+

Will be published by Candlewick on October 11, 2016

Synopsis- It was 1846, and Mary Ann Graves was 19 when her father and her entire family decided to move west. Her 21-year-old sister (and her husband) were coming as well. They had to go from Illinois all the way to California. They would see most of the country as they traveled through the land. They met up with several other families when they were traveling, including the Reed family, and the Donner family. All they need to do is make it through the infamous Rocky Mountains before it snows…

What I Thought- This was a slightly disturbing book. It is a historical fiction of the infamous Donner Party, and for the most part it was telling the story of their journey westward. The novel-in-verse format is interesting, and makes it a rather fast read. It was odd reading the part where they started eating the dead flesh (which honestly, didn’t bother me – some consider it a valid survival technique (when there is nothing else, of course)) – it was the part where they started killing the weaker travelers for food that grossed me out a little, but it is part of history and needs to be told. That aside, the book was very good, and I enjoyed reading about the journey westward. Ms. Brown’s poems stir an emotional impact with the reader, while still telling of the lives of the families going west. I liked that she included an Epilogue, Author’s Note, and a list of the members of the Donner Party, with facts as to what happened afterward, during, and other such things. All-in-all, a very compelling read with solid writing and having it in verse makes the story even more surreal. I’d just recommend for a more mature kid-reader.

I give this book five out of five bookworms.fivebooks

Review! The Valley Forge Dog by Ruth G. Zavitsanos

21 Apr

valleyforgedogThe Valley Forge Dog

By Ruth G. Zavitsanos

Illustrated by Cathy Peluso

62 pages – ages 8+

Published by Wild Child Publishing on October 23, 2015

Synopsis- Clay is a dog at Valley Forge, with his boy, Will. Will’s pa is in the Continental Army, fighting under General George Washington. Together, they are living through one of the harshest winters at Valley Forge. With the sick soldiers, deserters, and no supplies, it all looks rather bleak. But when General Washington’s wife pays a visit to the camp, morale rises – that’s not all, though. An Austrian military man shows up to train the troops, and it looks like they might actually stand a chance against the British forces.

What I Thought- The story was good, and I liked how Ms. Zavitsanos connected it to the present day. Like Ms. Zavitsanos’ other books (learn about them on her website), the voice of the book is interesting because it is narrated by a dog, giving it a very unique perspective. The book is a historical fiction story and one, because of the story being told through the eyes of a dog, that will interest many kids who wouldn’t normally pick up an historical fiction book. The story captures the desolation that the soldiers felt at Valley Forge and gave the reader a glimpse of what they had to suffer through. At 62 pages, it is a quick read that just touches on the winter at Valley Forge, but makes a nice story out of it. There was a nice little touch when it talked about the Austrian’s dog that he brought, and how it was a snooty kind of dog – something that the narrator would notice, seeing as he is a dog. The book is realistic, and makes you feel empathy for the soldiers. Ms. Zavitsanos has a good writing style that keeps you reading.

I give this book four out of five bookworms.fourbooks

Review! Dark Enough to See the Stars by Cindy Noonan

3 Aug

darkstarsDark Enough to See the Stars

By Cindy Noonan

158 pages – Ages 9+

Published by Helping  Hands Press on June 3, 2014

Synopsis- Moses was a slave during the Pre-Civil War period in the United States. Moses is heart-broken. His mother was being sent further south to another plantation. Luckily, Moses and his mama had a plan. He would run while the train was pulling into the station. He would then head north towards Pennsylvania. He finds harbor with a reverend and his family in Harrisburg, and lives there for a bit, but when the Fugitive Slave Act becomes law, he and the other runaway-slave at the house must head for Canada. But even with various methods of transportation, the slave catchers are at their every turn. Will Moses make it?

What I Thought- This was an awesome Historical Fiction novel. It was incredibly realistic. Moses was an amazing character. He had a strong sense of purpose and will. I would be proud to know someone like Moses. This book taught you a lot about what it was like to be an escaping slave during this time period and the pain they experienced. I liked it when Moses stopped at Frederick Douglass’ print shop on the way to Canada. That was a cool part in the book. Ms. Noonan has written a heart-wrenching story. The only thing that I didn’t 100% like was the ending, because it was realistic, and sad (and I am a sucker for a happy ending – but the ending served the story well). I won’t tell you what happens. I love the historical fiction genre but I am also a history buff, so if the story doesn’t ring true, it won’t sit well with me. The writing was solid and I was totally engrossed in the story.  I would still completely recommend this book.

I give this amazing story five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! X: A Novel by Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz

12 Feb

xX: A Novel

By Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz (the daughter of Malcolm X)

384 pages – ages 15+
Published by Candlewick on January 6, 2015

Synopsis- Malcolm Little was 6 when his father “fell” onto the tracks and died. He was 12 when he was separated from his mother and siblings, and forced to live in a foster home. His family who always told him he could be anything he wants is gone. At 15, he left for Boston to find a new life, and he does. He gets going with the neighborhood kids, and becomes known as Red. He starts in on “reefer”. Then he catches a train to Harlem, and becomes known as Detroit Red (he was from Michigan). Now Malcolm is learning how to run the “numbers” as a hustler. He was doing pretty good, but soon enough, everything spins out of control.

What I Though- Wow. Just wow. This was an amazing fictionalized novel. I really didn’t know about Malcolm X before reading this book. This book covers his life from early childhood up to his early 20s. The writing is compelling. It really captures the feeling of the time period. I like how it shows the way the Malcolm saw things and how he handled them. While the book is definitely a young adult (cussing, and Malcolm drinks and does drugs (smokes marijuana), etc.), it is still a very well-done story, and is appropriate for a mature 13-14 year old, or just 15+ for reading level. I like the parts where it shows how Malcolm Little “turned into” Malcolm X. It was a very inspiring story about a person overcoming adversity. It was pretty cool that Ms. Shabazz is Malcolm X’s daughter, and she got information about the book by asking her father’s relatives and friends from the time “before the X”. Realizing the book is a work of fiction, it made me want to find out more about Mr. X and his life so I read some books suggested by my history and English teachers. While I found many of his adult teachings and views are controversial, I think any book like this one, that gets a kid to read more about the subject is great. The overall story in this book is one of a young man trying and failing over and over, but still pulling himself together in the end. Ms. Shabazz captures the story of a young Malcolm X in a riveting story. Bonus points for the cover art too!

I give “X: A Novel” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! Tommy Black and the Staff of Light by Jake Kerr

4 Feb

tommyblackTommy Black and the Staff of Light
By Jake Kerr
400 pages – ages 11+
Published by Currents & Tangents Press on November 3, 2014

Synopsis: 14-year-old Tommy Black was living a good life, until he and his guardian (his kind, but boring, grandfather) are attacked by shadows. Apparently his grandfather is a powerful magician that holds a powerful magic staff (who knew?). Whoever has held the staff is called an Archmage, and it is passed on through Tommy’s family. Tommy will be the next Archmage. All of this is quite a surprise to Tommy. Things get even more complicated when Tommy finds out that the magic is dying, and the Shadows (the evil monsters) want the Staff and they are willing to do anything to get it. Now Tommy isn’t sure if his grandfather is dead or alive and Tommy must join forces with a young granddaughter of a powerful Waymaster (a magician who commands a Waystation (which is a magical train station)). It helps that the young girl is an immensely powerful sorceress. It doesn’t help that she is a cynic. But will that be enough to stop the Shadows and find Tommy’s grandfather? And did I mention that Tommy has NO idea how to use the staff? All he can do is make light! Things are about to get very interesting.

What I Thought: I read a lot and I read a lot of magic stories. It is very cool when I come across something very different. This is an amazing book. I was really blown away by the story. Mr. Kerr has created a unique world of magic that can take place anywhere on Earth. It wasn’t until about half-way through the book that I realized that the book takes place right before World War II (one conversation is between 2 experienced magicians wondering if Hitler is some magician of the voice, or just a guy good at speaking (because he rallied so many people)) . Then I had an AH HA! moment. It isn’t that the setting isn’t described well – Mr. Kerr’s writing is top-notch (it’s just that all of the details clicked. Like I realized that the “theater” mentioned was an acting theater, not a movie theater.). The plot line is solid and the story totally entertaining. Tommy is a great character, and while the protagonist is 14, the book could easily be early Young Adult or late Middle Grade because of the length and reading level of the book. It’s the kind of story you can really get lost in.  Tommy has confidence and knowledge that he doesn’t know he has. You cheer him on throughout the book. There is no graphic violence in the book (people get attacked by magical creatures, a person dies, people get shot at, etc., but none of it is gory or graphic).

This book’s recipe:

a good-sized handful of magic,

2 boatloads of adventure and excitement,

1 cup of monsters, finely minced,

& 1 dash of history,

I can’t wait for Book 2! – Could you tell I REALLY liked this one? 😉

I give “Tommy Black and The Staff of Light” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

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