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

Book Review: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Farewell to Manzanar is Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s personal, non-fiction account of life inside the Japanese internment camps that the US government put in place during World War ΙΙ. Although many Americans acknowledge the injustice that was done to Japanese Americans during the period that they were relocated to camps along the western interior of the US, less Americans understand the full truth of what life was like inside these war relocation camps. In Farewell to Manzanar, Wakatsuki tells the story of her family’s time in Manzanar, their assigned camp, as well as detailing the repercussions that this experience had on her family.

One of the most interesting parts about Wakatsuki’s story is that she puts a great deal of focus on her life pre and post war. She does not talk only about her family’s incarceration, but also of their home before the turmoil of the war. She laces the chapters with memories from before her time in Manzanar. Wakatsuki also taps into the memories of her family in chapters where she is not the narrator. This story is not simply one about war; it also talks about a young girl growing up and discovering her interests in a place far from her home.

-Mirabella S.

 

Farewell to Manzanar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

At the suggestion from a comment on this blog, I decided to read The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult. I had high expectations for the novel, as I read and thoroughly enjoyed My Sister’s Keeper. The novel did not disappoint.

The story follows Sage Singer, a baker who has shut herself away from the rest of the world. She goes to a grief group, but outside of that, she hides her face from the rest of the world. Even Adam, with whom she has a complicated relationship, may just be pitying her. And then she meets Josef Weber, a nonagenarian with a lingering German accent who has a mysterious request: For Sage to help Josef kill himself.

Why her? you may ask. They just met… Well, Sage’s family, except for Sage herself, is Jewish. And Josef… he swears he was an SS Officer.

What makes this novel touching is how the characters relate to one another. They each deal with their own internal struggle and it is incredible to watch them grow to trust one another, or to betray the other. I loved that the story was interrupted by an extensive account of a young girl’s experience in concentration camps, because it made the novel feel not only like a moral decision in the present day but relevant to how history proves to repeat itself.

This was one of the greatest stories I have read in a while. I strongly recommend this novel. It deserves a 10 out of 10.

– Leila S., 11th grade

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

Front Lines by Michael Grant

Image result for Front linesI don’t normally enjoy history. It’s my worst subject in school, and I can never focus on memorizing facts for tests. Before Front Lines, I have only enjoyed the Dear America series and The Only Thing To Fear by Caroline Richmond. Usually whenever I read one, it feels like I’m in school.

I picked Front Lines off the New Shelf at the Mission Viejo Library because I saw that it was a new Michael Grant book, and I completely freaked out. I didn’t even read the inside cover to see what the book was about until I got home. I originally thought that it was going to be something along the lines of his Gone series, which is still one of my favorite book series. Out of the books I checked out that day, I left this one until the end because I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to read a historical fiction novel.

Front Lines is about an alternate World War II. What if women could fight in the war? The book is told through the perspectives of Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. I think that this book really makes you wonder about how World War II could have been fought differently if women were fighting on the front lines. I’m hoping that a sequel comes out soon. Even though the book is over 500 pages, you still want to know what would happen next.

For people who have fallen in love with the Gone series, I encourage  you to read this book. It’s good for all teens.

-Rebecca V., 8th grade

Front Lines by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne

boyinthestripedpajamas_johnboyneTo Bruno, Out-With was not a good place. That was where his family moved, away from their perfect life in Berlin. It was all because of Father. Father soon got a pressed uniform and the title of Commandant, which Bruno’s grandmother despised. And then the Fury came to visit, and right after, they moved from Berlin to Out-With. Gretel, Bruno’s older sister who was a “Hopeless Case,” later said it wasn’t pronounced “Out-With” and the man people saluted wasn’t called the “Fury,” but Bruno knew he was correct nonetheless.

Bruno hated his new life at Out-With, being removed from his friends and confined to the general vicinity of the house. He had no friends here, since Gretel was too focused on her dolls and Lieutenant Kotler to pay Bruno any mind. Plus, the house was no longer a five-story structure like the house in Berlin had been. And soon, Mother and Father made Gretel and Bruno attend lessons under Herr Liszt, but they had to learn history, not art and poetry like Bruno wanted.

Bruno, however, began to learn other secrets about his new life, about Maria the maid, Pavel the server, about the people on the other side of the fence that he could see from his bedroom window. The people who all wore the same striped pajamas every day and who were never invited into his house, though the soldiers were somehow invited to the other side of the fence.

This novel was a poignant tale of the Holocaust. Told from the perspective of a naive nine-year-old, the whole situation was simplified to the greatest degree, which amplified the story in my opinion. This book has been on my “to-read” list for years now, and I am fortunate I finally got a chance to read it. In reality, it is a simple read, but the themes presented deal with the moral issues of the Holocaust and thus make this novel suitable to at least a middle school audience. That being said, as a junior in high school, I still found this book touching and would definitely recommend it.

– Leila S., 11th grade

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive