The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron joins the ranks of a long line of stories like Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1998), My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith (2015), Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016), and Don’t Tell the Nazis by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (2017).  Such novels capture the youth experience during the era of World War II.  Cameron’s, though, is based on the true story of the remarkable heroism of the Podgórska sisters, Stefani and Helena, two Polish Catholics who defied the law and safe-guarded several Jews.  Of her brave but risky behavior, Stefani asks, “Who else isRead More →

At eighteen years old, Selah is the seneschal-elect of Potomac, which implies that she will soon be the steward of her province’s resources, as well as the person to oversee its courts, its militia, and its administration.  However, as a woman in the historical time in which the Anna Bright’s novel The Beholder is set, Selah will need a man by her side to help her rule, despite her keen mind and kind heart. As her fiancé, Selah has chosen Peter Janesley, who is brilliant at math and at sports.  However, this smart, earnest, and kind young man rejects the extended marriage proposal.  Given Selah’sRead More →

Fourteen-year-old Alyce Greenliefe is witch born and pursued by witch finders.  When her mother Ellen is executed in Fordham, Essex, in 1577 for practicing witchcraft, her dying desire is that Alyce should deliver a letter to John Dee at Bankside. On her journey to that destination, Alyce is caught and confined at Bedlam Royal Hospital, as a prisoner, not a patient.  When an unknown man and woman come to liberate her, Alyce escapes, but in running for her life, she nearly collapses from malnutrition and fatigue.  Eventually, she finds herself at Cripplegate on the northern edge of London’s shopping district.  Knowing it is wrong toRead More →

Although a work of fiction, A Promising Life by Emily Arnold McCully reads like nonfiction with its rich history of the early 1800s and its biographic-like details.  The novel tells the story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, born among explorers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition to Toussaint Charbonneau and Sakakawea.  Half French Canadian and half Shoshone, Baptiste is métis American, but he finds himself caught by social circumstances that don’t wholly accept him.  Called Pompey, or Pomp, which means “the promising one,” Baptiste is favored by William Clark, so when his parents leave him in Clark’s care and travel upriver from St. Louis to aRead More →

Resembling a collection of short stories with the clever and mischievous sixteen-year-old witch, Kendra Hilferty as a unifying character, Beheld by Alex Flinn does some serious genre-blending and blurring.  Part fairy tale, part historical fiction, part romance, and part mystery, Beheld—with its heroes, struggles, and allegories—reveals insight into what it means to be human while conveying its layered theme and multiple morals. The main plot thread features Kendra’s search for James Brandon, her beloved soulmate.  Four other stories run parallel to Kendra’s in that the characters also seek transformation through human relationships.  Ann Putnam’s story, which brought back memories of reading The Crucible by ArthurRead More →

What if poets, musicians, painters, and actors—who have art and talent in their blood—could use their craft to weave magic, much like the magic that scientists work with chemical reactions, cymatics, and other means to make the impossible suddenly appear possible?  This is only one of the questions that Destiny Soria explores in her debut book, Iron Cast.  Her plot and its conflicts make readers think more deeply to wonder why society is so eager to marginalize those who are different.  Although differences in socioeconomic circumstances, language, ethnicity, age, race, place, religion, exceptionality, gender, and health have potential to cause division, the world might be aRead More →

Adriana Mather’s How to Hang a Witch is about a girl who moves to Salem, Massachusetts from New York City with her stepmother and dad. One of their reasons for moving was because they wanted to make sure that her dad continued to get the care that he needed in order to stay healthy until he wakes up from his coma. When Samantha Mather moves to Salem, she realized because she is a descendant of Cotton Mather that her transition to Salem would not be that easy. After some research about her ancestors and the ancestors of the citizens she recognized some events that correlatedRead More →

From a book that begins with the line, “We were the only ones left alive,” a reader will typically expect a terrifying story, and My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith delivers.  Set in West Germany during the summer of 1941, Smith’s novel tells the tale of Karl Friedmann, a twelve-year-old boy, “trusted and reliable and ready to die for the Führer” (10).  Although Karl feels sympathy for his weaker comrades, he wants to make the world a better and stronger place, so he participates with vigor during physical education, which has been replaced with a Hitler Youth curriculum.  A lot transpires in Karl’s life toRead More →

Debut author Stacey Lee‘s Under a Painted Sky lyrically intertwines aspects of America’s Western expansion that are rarely, if ever, explored.  Into the very real world of the California Gold Rush, the pioneers’ homesteading journeys  along the Oregon Trail, and the lawlessness of the “Wild West“, Lee creates a powerfully moving story of friendship, race and gender politics, and above all, courage and faith.  It’s a treat to spend time with a writer who takes pains to research and then accurately represent, with beautiful, vivid prose, a world gone by and in so doing, make it vibrant, interesting, and resonant. 15 year old Chinese AmericanRead More →