The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Image result for the darkest hour caroline tung richmondI’m normally not a huge fan of historical fiction. Although, I am okay with reading a few alternate histories, but not constantly. Caroline Tung Richmond is also the author of The Only Thing To Fear, about the present day world under Hitler’s control. Even though this book isn’t an alternate history, it is still about World War II.

The year is 1943, in France, and Lucie Blaise is a part of Covert Ops, a group of female spies. They are willing to do anything to take down Hitler. After her older brother dies in combat, Lucie wants to avenge his death and try in any way possible to defeat Hitler. She didn’t want a boring desk job, and wanted to be an actual spy. Even with her training, she is unprepared for the real world. She almost gets caught, but luckily the Nazis barely buy her cover. Also, she didn’t remember her training exactly when she had her job to do, and she almost was fired because of it. I can’t describe what her job was, because it be too much of a spoiler.

This is a really interesting book about female spies in World War II. I felt that the scenes with Dorner could have been written differently, like maybe Lucie could have been starting to fall in love with Dorner, and the book would have been longer as a result. But nothing happened between them, there was no love story for Lucie, and I feel the book would have been more interesting if something did happen. After reading this book, I wondered if some of the events mentioned were true, and reading the Author’s Note explained it. The Operation Zerfall is fiction, but I was shocked to read that the Wunderwaffe program existed.

So if you’re into World War II, spies, or historical fiction, this book is for you! If you like this book, I strongly recommend reading Richmond’s other book, The Only Thing To Fear. This book isn’t mean for younger audiences.

-Rebecca V. 8th grade

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until a bit after the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the War of the Pacific with Japan. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist. I do think the way it was written was appropriate, though, because it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids, while having to remember the things that happened.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II in the Pacific that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the war with the Japanese. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school and the war with the Japanese. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist, but it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids while at the same time remembering the things that happened, so I think that the way it was written was appropriate.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history and WWII.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida

picturebride_yoshikouchidaPicture Bride, a novel by Yoshiko Uchida, is the story of a teenage girl named Hana who is sent to America. She carries a picture of a man she has been arranged to marry but has yet to meet. Traveling an ocean away from her once noble Japanese family, Hana is promised that in America, she will live a life of comfort with her merchant husband, Taro Takeda. Hana is devastated when she finds not a successful merchant in San Francisco, but an impoverished shopkeeper who can barely provide for himself. However, despite her many trials, Hana and her husband learn to be happy in a marriage that seemed doomed to fail. San Francisco was not kind to Japanese immigrants in the mid-twentieth century, and Hana soon found herself faced with racism and hardships, all leading up to the one event that would change her life: the Japanese internment camps.

This novel has become one of my all time favorites, not only because of the wonderful writing style that Uchida uses, but because of his portrayal of Hana Takeda. Hana shows us rare insight into the mind of a young immigrant woman. Forced into a situation that she cannot control, Hana learns to adapt to a society that seems out to get her from the moment she sets foot on its shores. In her time period, women’s rights, especially those of an immigrant woman, were stifled. Hana was expected to be a homemaker and a mother. Graceful and dignified, Hana dares to quietly go against the norms of her culture and become an independent woman who struggles to adapt to a foreign nation and values.

-Mirabella S.

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

threemusketeers_alexandredumasThe Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, was written in 1844. Set in France in 1625, it takes place during the reign of Louis XIII, with Cardinal Richelieu as his advisor. D’Artagnan leaves his home in Gascony and goes to Paris to join the Musketeers. At an inn on the way, he gets into some trouble and has the “letter of recommendation” his father had written for him stolen. When he gets to Paris, D’Artagnan visits the captain of the Musketeers, but is not admitted due to the fact that he does not have the letter. As the story progresses, D’Artagnan meets the three musketeers that he is to be good friends with, and gets caught up in political intrigues, of which some he involves his friends.

I liked this book because I remembered learning about this part of history at school, so it was a bit more enjoyable because I knew the historical background of the political characters (like the King, Richelieu, Queen, etc.). I also enjoyed reading it because the characters had distinct personalities and were not flat, and they each had their own flaws. Although I did not remember the description of each main character and their lackeys that was near the beginning of the book, I realized their personalities as I read so it was nice to not have to continually refer to earlier parts of the book to remember which character was which.

-Aliya A.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Hoopla

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf

watchthatendsthenight_allanwolfBeautifully crafted, Wolf’s words hit close to home in this lyrical story of the Titanic. The wealthy. The refugee. The captain. The iceberg. The voices on the ship which went down. Allan Wolf, along with a writing team including Angela Dawe, Laural Merlington, and Natalie Ross, have created another view of the tragedy which occurred on April 15, 1912 aside from its Hollywood adaptation.

Starting with the iceberg, Wolf creates a feel of the circle of life, as well as the known aura of foreboding death.  However, the scene quickly switches to the maybe-naive, maybe-ignorant lives of the humans boarding the boat.  There is a father and two sons, a Lebanese refugee immigrant, the rich, the con-artist, the crew, and 2,228 others.  Throughout all of the introductions of the book, I thought of an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Daydreams”.  The subtle light strings with the hint of suspense in the undertone of the bass line imitated the tone of Wolf and his co-workers.  I really enjoyed this style of his writing, for he developed each character, fictional and not, as if it had a rich library of history books published.  However, as some writers would take several chapters to illustrate this, Wolf masterfully sculpted it into a few pages of lyrical prose.

The journey the reader takes across the 480 pages start and end with the iceberg itself.  Every few voices, the iceberg would appear, as if the reader needed a reminder of its unquestionable existence.  With it, I always would think of a leitmotif of Host’s “Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age—The Planets Suite”.  Its dark and brooding sound, especially as you reach the bridge, reminds me of the sad truth of death.  Wolf’s writing about the iceberg paints these notes into the reader’s mind.  And, as the distance between the ship and iceberg becomes narrower, I think of the Holst’s piece, growing louder and louder as if in an unheeded warning.  And, as his piece ends, the fate of the ship does as well.

The Watch That Ends the Night was one of the best books I have read in a while, and it was due to the amazing writing and imagery the authors weaved into it.  I would recommend this to any reader seventh grade and up.

-Maya S.

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

myladyjane_cynthiahandOnce upon a fantastical time, there was an alternate reality where a queen lived for nine days. Her life is described by the combined efforts of My Lady Jane authors:  Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.  There was once a time that all men were special, amazing creatures called E∂ians.  It was the ability to change into the form of an animal.  But, after some evolution of man, these abilities were hidden, and only sometimes found.  And, now in the 1530s, these E∂ians were either looked down upon or admired.

Lady Jane Grey, of the Tudor house, is to be married to a stranger.  And so is Gifford Dudley, son to the lord of the king.  The two are to produce an heir who will become the king of England. However, they are not fans of this arrangement.  There are rumors saying Gifford spends time with the ladies at night.  It is also said that the reason why Jane always has a book by her side is to hide her ugly face.  What sort of relationship is to develop if neither of them likes the other?  And, according to history, what does it matter, if the queen only has nine days to live?

At this point in the book when these most-talented authors rewrote history, the way it actually was, I was reminded of the song, “On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty.  Though the song title seems out of place in this context, the story is not dark.  However, the slipping into another reality is portrayed by the lyrics and is similar to the happenings in this novel.

This is one of the best books I have read in a while, and I rightfully give it a 10/10, for its originality, humor, and great character and plot development.  If you are looking for a funny, unique, fantastical and sweet novel, I would really recommend checking out My Lady Jane.

-Maya S., 9th Grade

My Lady Jane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive