Title: Lovely War
Author: Julie Berry
Page Count: 480
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 5, 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Review: In the past I have enjoyed both books relating to Greek mythology and World War I/II. Never before have a read a book that combines both themes. It is an interesting concept, and I gave the book an extra half star in my rating for originality.
There were parts of the story I really enjoyed, however, there were also parts that I felt fell short of my expectations. This story is meant to be a sweeping romance, intertwining three sets of lovers, but I did not feel swept away by any of the couples. It is a very sweet story, and I greatly enjoyed the historical aspects. The two mortal lovers are struggling through a very dark point in history, World War I. This is a less common setting than the more commonly discussed World War II.
Trench warfare is truly heinous, and I think the author did a good job of depicting how wretched and traumatizing fighting in this war was. I was less of a fan of the insta-love that sprang up between the two mortal couples. I know that war has a tendency to heighten emotion, but the complete and utter devotion that the couples felt towards each other upon meeting was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.
I was not at all a fan of how the author incorporated the mythological aspect of the Greek gods into the story. To be honest, it didn’t really seem as well constructed as the rest of the story, and it did not really add much to the plot other than an introduction of the mortal characters. I think the story would have read equally well if this portion of the story had been eliminated entirely.
In the end, I can safely say that I liked the story but did not love it.
Title: Famous Assassinations
Author: Sarah Herman
Page Count: N/A
Publishing Date/Publisher: Nov. 9th, 2018
Review: There have been a great number of assassinations in human history, and Sarah Herman describes a good deal of them. She separated them by time period and job type (royalty, president, dictator, etc.), taking us from the Roman Empire to Bin Laden.
Each main assassination is broken down into victim, assassination, assassin, and aftermath (or some amalgamation of the sort), making it a relatively quick read, as well as being very organised.
Herman writes very academically, while still being easily read by the public, which is a rare skill. I highly recommend this to anyone at all curious about the history of assassinations.
Title: The Lady in the Cellar
Author: Sinclair McKay
Page Count: Unknown
Publishing Date/Publisher: 30 October/ White Lion Publishing
Review: I really enjoyed this book. Sinclair McKay has an amazing writing style, bringing the historical mystery to life and giving enough background information without it feeling like you’re being bogged down with too much information.
The mystery is so engaging and kept me guessing the whole time, which is not something I can say about too many mysteries these days. They tend to be predictable and the twists and turns aren’t actual twists and turns. This one had me at the edge of my seat, so definitely no complaints there.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good yet quick read.
Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Performer: Bahni Turpin
Length: 11 hr, 56 min
Series: Dread Nation, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 3, 2018 by HarperAudio
Review: This book is fantastic, and I loved every minute of it. Bahni Turpin did an excellent job reading it, and I have come to expect nothing less from her than a stellar performance.
Shortly before finishing this book, I browsed through some of the reviews posted on Goodreads and was surprised to find that there has actually been some controversy regarding this book. After reading through these criticisms, I strongly believe that many people misunderstand the difference between author opinion and writing a story that is true to the era in which it is taking place.
Many people took issue with the fact that people of color are spoken of negatively in this book and did not like the way they were portrayed. I saw words like “colorism” being thrown around because of the way the main character describes herself and other people of color, but it is important to remember that people of this time period had been indoctrinated with a very negative view of people of color. It is not surprising that many people of color internalized this negativity, and it deeply affected the way they viewed themselves and others. This is largely the reason that colorism exists, and I think this book was a powerful commentary on how damaging that type of rhetoric is.
It also confused me that so many people considered this an LGBT+ representative book. Some people consider Jane bisexual, but I think that this is a stretch. I think it can be argued that she is curious, but her strong attraction to men is made apparent throughout the book. I understand that sexuality can fall on a pretty broad and fluid scale, but it does not seem that she considers herself to be particularly attracted to women. It is also stated by reviewers that another central character, Katherine, is asexual, but I think this is also a stretch. She admits that she has not experienced attraction to anyone, however, considering her traumatic upbringing and the near constant barrage of sexual harassment she experiences on a daily basis, I do not find this to be especially surprising. My point in all of this is that this book should not be touted as LGBT+ literature. Perhaps this topic will be explored more deeply in the next book, in which case I may change my mind.
There are so many positive things to say about this book. It features strong female characters who are equally clever and badass. It is a truly original story and the character development is quite good in my opinion. The author even hit me with a twist at the end that I did not see coming at all. I feel good about the ending, and I am so excited for the next book in this series!
Title: End of Days, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Author: James Swanson
Page Count: 398
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013, William Morrow
Format: Printed, paperback
Review: ‘Does this guy only write about assassinations?’ my coworker asked when I told him about James L. Swanson’s books. And yes, yes he does. And he does it well. End of Days is a compelling read and had me on the edge of my seat despite knowing what happened. I grew up hearing about JFK’s assassination from my parents and later in documentaries but this is the first book I sought out to explain it. That’s probably because I loved Swanson’s book on Lincoln’s assassination (review for Manhunt), so I already knew his writing style and the level of research he puts into his work (which is a lot, by the way).
Much like his book on Lincoln, he wrote this full of historical facts but made it so it read like a novel. You don’t find yourself inundated with a bunch of dates and names; instead, he integrates it all into the narrative so smoothly.
I highly recommend this book, and one of the biggest pluses for me is that it doesn’t go into any of the conspiracy theories. He mentions some of them at the end, but only to acknowledge that they exist. I thought that was a good call on his part.
Title: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
Author: Brian Kilmeade
Page Count: 304
Publishing Date/Publisher: November 2015/Sentinel
Review: This was a very interesting book. I hadn’t heard about any naval battles the US took part in during its infancy, so I was surprised when I came across this book. Kilmeade goes into Jefferson’s struggles in keeping American ships from being taken over by pirates once the US lost the protection of the British Navy. No longer flying the British flag, the American ships were free game to the Tripoli pirates; no deal had been struck to pay the pirates off to assure ships could pass in safety.
No spoilers for the rest of it, you’ll have to read that for yourself.
I would have liked there to have been more discussion on Jefferson’s more problematic aspects in the beginning, but I understand that it probably wouldn’t have fit with the narrative flow very well. That, and given the author’s political stance, I don’t think he would have anyway.
I would still recommend it, that’s for sure. It was well written and engaging and I enjoyed reading it.
Title: Washington’s Spies
Author: Alexander Rose
Page Count: 402
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 2007/Bantam
Review: I don’t have too much to say about this book, to be honest. I enjoyed it and I also didn’t. It was interesting but also not. It lagged a little too much to recommend highly, but I don’t want to discourage people from reading it at the same time, if that makes sense.
It was informative, that’s for sure. I learned a lot about the use of spy rings during the Revolutionary War, which is something I hadn’t even thought before: it’s not like we go into detail about it in school. But reading about how they developed their codes for letters and the danger they put themselves under was interesting.
I’m not sure exactly what it is about this book that makes it interesting and not at the same time, but it is. It’s the Schrödinger’s cat of books. So I recommend it, but simultaneously don’t recommend it.