Blackout
Adult / July 1, 2017

All Clear #1. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Don’t go into Blackout thinking science fiction. Even though that’s technically the genre, since the time-travel short circuits out in the beginning, and the actual execution is historical novel. And…

Rose Under Fire
Young Adult / January 27, 2017

Code Name Verity #2. Author: Elizabeth Wein. Summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her? (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Rose Under Fire is closely based on historical accounts of the concentration camp, and it is a heart-wrenching, painful, beautiful account of human suffering and hope. Elizabeth Wein pulls no punches in her writing, and if anything this was almost harder than Code Name Verity. Content Review: Sexual Content: Prisoners are forced to strip naked in front of male + female guards to be examined and shower. Prisoner says she was arrested after being accused by her boss because she refused to sleep with him, and that after arrest he raped her. Language: 7 derogatory terms, 5 F-words, 5 d***, 2 bloody Violence: See Sexual Content above for some sexual violence. It should be noted there is enough violence that not all…

First to Ride
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 30, 2016

Author: Pers Crowell. Summary: “You shall choose for your king the one who comes riding upon the back of a Fleet One.” This is the strange message left by the leader Manos before he dies. Ride upon the back of a Fleet One, a wild horse? No one has ever done that — not the bravest of the cave dwellers, not the mightiest of the hunters. And among these men of long ago, no one believes it is possible to ride a horse — except the boy Vuldar. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: One mammoth is killed, one man is speared by a mammoth, a wild stallion is tamed, which involves rough, wild, bucking rides and him fighting ropes several times. No gory details for any of this.

Code Name Verity
Young Adult / August 20, 2016

Code Name Verity #1. Author: Elizabeth Wein. Summary: I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do. That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again. He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two. We are a sensational team.                          (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Two best friends, separated in war, each tell their halves of the story in journal-style. One, a female pilot; the other, a female spy. Neither of them know if they’ll ever see the other alive again. I wasn’t impressed when I started…

The War That Saved My Life
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 1, 2016

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Summary: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother? (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 1 bloody, 1 derogatory term Violence: Although it’s not very present in the book, Ada’s mother severely abused her. Ada flinches every time someone raises a hand near her for weeks. She’s afraid to go into an air-raid shelter because it reminds her of the cupboard she was locked in as punishment. World War I is happening, and there are air-raids….

The Green Glass Sea

Green Glass #1. Author: Ellen Klages. Summary: Dewey Kerrigan is tired of secrets, but she has learned to live with them. At eleven years old in 1943, she has accepted that much of her father’s life is classified, for he is at work on “The Gadget”, a project so secret the military base they live on officially doesn’t exist. Fascinated by science and mechanics, she has always been something of a loner. Suzie never wanted to be a loner. Isolated as she is on the military base, she tries to be friends with the “popular girls” equivalent, but their personalities just don’t mesh. She’s a little bit curious about ‘Screwy Dewey’, as the other girls call her, but she’s not going anywhere near her, lest the other girls reject her. Until the two girls are thrown together in a surprising turn of events… and meanwhile, almost unbeknownst to the children, their parents are changing history as they create the top secret Gadget. My Thoughts: Because Suzie and Dewey are isolated from the war in a remote research base, and know very little about their fathers work, the war does not form a major part of the story despite the time-period….

Elijah of Buxton
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 9, 2016

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis. Summary: Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He’s best known for having made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass, but that changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief and discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled–a life from which he’ll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home. My Thoughts: This is an excellent historical fiction in the juvenile section, and I should think older readers will also find it interesting. The child’s voice is consistent and believable, and because of the setting in a freed-men’s town, it manages to portray some of the treatment and horror of slaves without overwhelming the younger audience it is aimed at. Content Review: Sexual content: School-children misread a board that reads “familiarity breeds contempt” as saying “family breeding contest” which leads to some interesting speculation. Language: 1 d***, 1 derogatory term Violence: Man…

The White Witch
Adult / June 2, 2016

Author: Elizabeth Goudge. Summary: A lyrical, introspective tale set in 17th Century England, when Cavaliers struggle with Puritans for the king and throne. The story revolves around characters on both sides of the war. On the puritan side, we have a half-gypsy healer with hidden depths, Froniga the white witch. She struggles with her pride and her love for a Catholic. The local squire of her town, Richard, is also a Puritan; he fights his own cowardice and anger as he tries to discern where he really belongs. Froniga’s lover, Yomen, and a young nobleman friend of his, Francis, are both Catholic. The war will test bonds of friendship and love to the limit as it tears them apart, even as the fire purifies and builds them back up again. My Thoughts: It’s easy to tell that this is an older book from the very first page. Where agents and editors now tell authors to “hook readers in the first paragraph” and “keep the action moving”, The White Witch comes from a writing period in which readers were more patient, and appreciative of detail. Elizabeth Goudge takes her time starting, indulging in rich scenic descriptions and narrator-perspective backstory. Beautiful prose…

Anna and the Swallow Man
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Gavriel Savit. Summary: Anna Lania lives in Krakow in 1939, and she’s only seven years old. She doesn’t understand what’s happening, or why her father is gone. But she does understand that a little girl needs a father, so when the Swallow Man goes past she’s ready to follow him. The Swallow Man is an enigma, but he’s in danger, like her father, and he is a speaker of many languages – like her father. He may be reluctant to take on a little girl at first, but she’s a very intelligent child, and there’s nowhere else for her to go. Together, Anna and the Swallow Man will travel for leagues, slipping between the cracks and corners of war. My Thoughts: Anna and the Swallow Man opens in the perspective of a precocious seven-year old girl. Through the story, she will grow and mature, but right now she’s just a little kid lost in a world gone mad. There’s a lot of reading between the lines to be done, because of the view point, and even then it’s confusing in several places. The writing is beautiful, the characters and dynamic compelling. On the one hand we have the girl,…

The Book Thief
Young Adult / April 8, 2016

Author: Marcus Zusak. Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: One of the few books that can bring tears to my eyes. Zusak has a knack for unconventional prose that truly overturns the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  In this moving World War II story he focuses not on the allies, or the Jews, but on a common German family. They may hate Hitler, but there is nothing they can do, or will do – and yet the consequences of the war will hit them…