Tag Archives: historical fiction

From Pickpocket to the Queen’s spy!

maidofsecretsTitle: Maid of Secrets
Author: Jennifer McGowan
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Who are the characters?
Meg is an accomplished thief who ends up in the court of Queen Elizabeth I as a spy.

Beatrice, Anna, Sophia and Jane are the other four Maids of Honor – the Queen’s secret society of spies and protectors.

3-sentence summary:
It is a time of unrest as Elizabeth takes the English throne. There are people at court who want to see Elizabeth fail and they launch devious plots and disturbances to make sure it happens. Meg must use all of her spying abilities to protect the crown while trusting no one, especially a dashing Spanish courtier.

Should I read this?
If you love spies, strong female characters, and history, this book is for you! Recommended for fans of the Gallagher Girls Series.

Regina raves on Wide Sargasso Sea

TWide Sargasso Seaitle: Wide Sargasso Sea

Author: Jean Rhys

Summary: Antoinette Cosway, known as Bertha Mason in the novel Jane Eyre, spends her childhood in the Caribbean during a socially tumultuous time. Antoinette is a white Creole meaning some of her ancestors were slaves but her appearance is different from her origins. Her mother is mentally unhealthy, her brother is mentally delayed, and her father is dead. Antoinette narrates the first half of the novel, and then the story shifts and a young English gentleman named Edward Rochester narrates after their marriage. The next half of the novel describes the ups and downs of Antoinette and Rochester’s marriage as well as the factors that led to Antoinette slowly losing her sanity.

Six Word Review: An interesting read with vivid imagery.

I started reading because: I liked Jane Eyre and was interested in getting to know Bertha’s character better.

I would give this book 10/10 stars because the motifs, themes, imagery, juxtapositions, and other literary devices are abundant.

I loved that Jean Rhys explored multiple character perspectives. The story is narrated by Antoinette, Rochester, and even briefly by a minor character. I hated that the description of the time at Thornfield was so brief. It makes sense because the author is demonstrating Antoinette’s mental instability, but it still would have been cool to know more about what that time was like for Antoinette.

If Antoinette was in a high school yearbook, she would be voted Most Likely To: Have A Hard Time Fitting In.

Anything else we should know? The movie adaptations are more overly romanticized and don’t provide an accurate portrayal of the author’s intent.

–Regina, 17, West Seattle


Teen Reviewed: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Author: Mark Twain
The setting for this story is the South during the 1840s. Huckleberry Finn is a young boy who has grown up mostly on his own in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, with only the occasional guidance of his alcoholic father to count on. As a result, he has turned into a self-educated boy who mostly lives by his own rules.
At the end of the prequel to this book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck is taken in by a widow who intends to civilize him. However this changes when his drunk father returns and kidnaps him. Huck runs away down the Mississippi River where he runs into Jim, a runaway slave who is also making his escape by way of the river. They embark on a journey together and have tons of hilarious, action-packed adventures on the way.
This book was assigned to me as a project for my English class. Usually, I absolutely detest reading books for school, but I was able to enjoy this book a lot. Its language is very different from your typical young adult novel, but this was not a barrier for me and I was still able to gain a lot from this book.
I fell in love with the characters very quickly. This book is funny, heartwarming, and introspective on a lot of political and humanitarian issues. Even though much of this was reflective of things specific to the post Civil-War time period, a lot of the main ideas can be applied to modern issues as well. I think that this is what has made it a timeless classic.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves adventures, laughter, or history and isn’t afraid to tackle some interesting language.

–Hannah, 16, Greenwood


Book Shorts: Belle Epoque

Belle Epoque_from_catalogTitle: Belle Epoque

Author: Elizabeth Ross

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon, a plain, impoverished girl in Belle Epoque Paris, is hired by Countess Dubern to make her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, look more beautiful by comparison but soon Maude is enmeshed in a tangle of love, friendship, and deception.

I started reading it because…I loved the picture of a rather plain girl on the cover and how it matched the book description I kept reading because… I’d never read anything about this time period in this place, and I liked the commentary on beauty vs. art within the storyline.

Gut Reaction: An unexpected thought-provoking hit with a realistic and flawed character.  I loved the passages in French.

If the main character were stuck on a deserted island, she would… shake a tree, fell a coconut, crack it open, save the shell to catch water and dew, and weave herself a shelter.  Then she’d sit on the beach, gaze at the sunset, and tell herself she was better off on the island than being married to the old butcher at home because at least this way she could appreciate beauty.

Six Word Review: Self-determinism trumps societal expectations and aesthetic.

This book reminded me of Midnight in Paris because… of Paris (!) and because both movie and book have themes underlying the storyline about who determines beauty (Belle Epoque) and what determines  the “Golden Age” (Midnight in Paris).  Strangely enough, in a way both works come to similar conclusions.

Websites of interest:

Teen Reviewed: In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of ButterfliesTitle:  In the Time of the Butterflies

Author: Julia Alvarez

Summary: In the Time of the Butterflies tells the story of the four Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic who fought to find love, protect their families, and take down the cruel dictator, Trujillo.

I started reading for a book group that I’m in.

In a yearbook, the main character(s) would be voted most likely to:  Bring down the dictatorship and become president.

This book reminded me of Night by Elie Wiesel because the characters in both books question their faith, and because the writing styles were very similar.

–Christina, Northeast Teen Adviser


Teen Review: The Chosen

The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok

Summary: The Chosen is a realistic fiction book set during the 1940s in Brooklyn. The main character, Reuven Malther, is Jewish, while another character in the story, Danny Saunders, is the successor to a Hasidic rabbi. Both of these boys, although they come from separate religious communities, love to play baseball, and on one fateful day, their respective teams meet up on the baseball diamond and the two boys are brought together in a moment that will change the lives of both kids. This book tells a story about friendship, trust, and hope, and highlights the power of connection between father and son, and the connection between friend and friend.

I kept reading this book because the writing style was so convincing and articulated well throughout the book. I could really picture myself in Reuven’s shoes, feeling what he was feeling, and thinking what he was thinking. The descriptions used in this book are superb, and the discussion about certail morals and obligations throughout the whole book was very fitting in context. This book made me think about the lifestyles of other people more than I used to, and I could not put this book down after I started. Even though there is not a lot of high-flying action going on in this book, there is something in the style of writing that captivates the reader and makes the reader want to continue to read and learn more about the lives of these two very convincing main characters.

Overall, if you want to read a very realistic book about friendship, you should definitely consider picking up this book and giving it a try. The viewpoint into the lives of two different boys, but in some ways very similar, is well done. Dialogue is often the hardest part to write exquisitely in a book, but Potok nails it in The Chosen. The dialogue between all the characters, main characters and supporting characters, is all very believable and adds to the overall experience of the book.

6-Word Recap: Two Boys, Different Religions, One Friendship.

–Matthew, Grade 11, Lake City Blogger


Teen Reviewed: A Great and Terrible Beauty

greatandterrA Great a Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray is told from the perspective of Gemma Doyle, and is set in 1895. Gemma is forced to leave India after the death of her mother to attend a private boarding school in London.

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