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More riveting than Rosie

8 Jun

I stayed up a little later than I should have last night. I just had to finish Silver Stars by Michael Grant, the second in his Front Lines  series.

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Goodreads Summary: The summer of 1943, World War II. The Germans have been bloodied, but Germany is very far from beaten. The North African campaign was only the beginning of the long journey for Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of other Allies.

Now the American army is moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. Frangie, Rainy, and Rio now know firsthand what each of them is willing to do to save herself—and the consequences. With their heavy memories of combat, they will find this operation to be even tougher.

Frangie, Rainy, and Rio also know what is at stake. The women are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. In this war, endless blood has been spilled and millions of lives have been lost, but there could be so much more to gain.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. But they will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of World War II; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

I wrote about the first book, Front Linesback in May. I was riveted to the stories of these women, fighting in WW2.  Michael Grant manages to maintain the momentum of the story and my interest in the story of these three women. Sometimes the second book in a series can seem repetitive, or drag, but this one doesn’t. And, Grant’s characters are so well written, you can;t help but fall in love with them, warts and all.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until January 30, 2018 for book three, Purple Hearts, to find out how the war ends for Frangie, Rio and Rainy. Fortunately, Grant has written two digital novellas that accompany the series. Alas, my library doesn’t seem to have them…yet.

This week’s book talks 5/22-25

26 May

We began our Ancient China unit so, I pushed books with some connection to that topic.

I started the week with Grace Lin and ended with Faith Erin Hicks.

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Goodreads Summary: In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

 

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Author’s Website: The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

Newbery Honor author Grace Lin brings readers another enthralling fantasy featuring her marvelous full-color illustrations. Starry River of the Sky is filled with Chinese folklore, fascinating characters, and exciting new adventures.

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Goodreads Summary: Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide.

Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.

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Goodreads Summary: An unlikely friendship forms between Nameless City native Rat, and Kai, whose country has recently conquered her city.  The two of them must find common ground between their cultures and foil a sinister conspiracy.  Hicks has created a beautiful and intricate world inspired by Central Asia and the Silk Road in which the besieged inhabitants of an ancient city are desperate to learn the secrets of the perished civilization which carved the city out of living rock.

 

 

 

 

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Goodreads Summary:Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.

To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he’s stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?

Disappointed

23 Apr

With Jerry Spinelli’s name on the cover, I knew I would read The Warden’s Daughter. 

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Publisher’s Summary: Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s excercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.

It took me a while to get into the story. Cammie is a hard character to like, but I was willing to give her a chance. She grew on me bit I never really got to the point that I loved this book. Part of it was Cammie, part of it was that I wasn’t willing to suspend my disbelief and accept that Cammie would have free run of the prison. I did that just fine with All Rise For The Honorable Perry T. Cook but found it hard to do so here. Maybe it was pacing. The Warden’s Daughter felt a bit draggy.

Jerry Spinelli books usually delight me, but this one just left me disappointed.Lots of other people liked this more than I did and the book has received several starred reviews. Give it a try, and see what you think.

Clearing the bookshelves

25 Jan

I picked up more advanced readers copies of books than I’d planned. I thought I was being choosy, but I had to ship a lot home.  I actually shipped them to school and I will get to revisit them today. Because of this, I want to read all the library books I have checked out so I can start in on the ARCs.

Growing up where I did, The Oregon Trail and Westward expansion weren’t really part of my formal education. I knew about them tangentially, but only heard about the Donner Party when it was mentioned by Robin Williams in Patch Adams.

Skila Brown is back with a novel in verse about that tragic event.

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Publisher’s Summary:The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann’s is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.

Told in riveting, keenly observed poetry, a moving first-person narrative as experienced by a young survivor of the tragic Donner Party of 1846.
Brown effectively imagines what the journey might have been like and captures the emotions Mary Ann and the others on the journey might have experienced.  Although there is nothing inappropriate for younger readers, the book would be more appropriate for middle and high school aged readers.

Every breath

19 Jan

I read several books during the snow week we just had, and have written in the past about my Grandmother’s experience in a tuberculosis sanatorium.  Two books I read during my unexpected vacation got me thinking about her again.

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The first, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill,  by Megan Shepherd, was not what i was expecting. I thought it was going to be a war story. It is set during the Second World War, and might even be considered an allegory for it. But the real story focuses on the experiences of a young girl in an isolated hospital (which I suspect was a tuberculosis sanatorium) in the English countryside.

Publisher’s Summary:There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospitalthe mirrors that reflect the elegant rooms once home to a princess, now filled with sick children. Only Emmaline can see the creatures. It is her secret.

One morning, Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens and discovers something incredible: a white horse with a broken wing has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

The horse, named Foxfire, is hiding from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep him from finding her new friend, she must surround Foxfire with treasures of brilliant shades. But where can Emmaline find color in a world of gray?

The second made me weep. If you haven’t read When Breath Becomes Air  by Paul Kalanithi, you must. If you never read nonfiction, you must read this beautiful reflection by a man, a doctor, as he comes to the end of his life.

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Publisher’s Summary: At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Dark Days Make Me Happy

29 Dec

I love the gloom of a Pacific Northwest Winter. Grey skies just fill my soul with happiness. Don;t get me wrong. I enjoy some Winter sunshine, too, but I love the atmosphere of a grey sky: brooding and thoughtful. Perfect for staying at home.

While staying at home the last few days, I read The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman.

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Publisher’s Summary:London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

This wonderful  blend of Regency romance and dark fantasy was the  perfect read after Christmas. I lost myself in the familiar historical setting and enjoyed the fantastic twists Goodman included. She has created a complex fantasy world without being onerous.

I’m not sure how I missed this one. It was published in January and I have only just heard about it. My timing, however, seems to have served me well. The sequel, The Dark Days Pact,  is due for publication on January 31, 2017, so I don’t have to wait long to find out what happens to Lady Helen following the climactic events at the end of the first book.

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Coping with Portland’s Snowmageddon

16 Dec

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Yes, Portland was brought to its knees by two inches of snow. I will save the recounting of my 7.5 hour trip home until Tuesday’s Slice of Life post. Suffice it to say, I am reveling in two extra days of Winter Break, knitting the Cooped Up sweater

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while listening to And I Darken  by Kiersten White.

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Publisher’s Summary: No one expects a princess to be brutal.

And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This is a Dracula story my reading friends, with Vlad the Impaler reimagined as a young woman!  Lada is the ugly daughterr of Vlad Dracul. As characters and events appear in the boo, I have enjoyed looking at what really happened in history and White has done an excellent job taking the realities f history and using them to create this enthralling, dark tale.

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