Soldier Dog was a bit of a departure from what I normally read, but it’s good to mix things up from time to time, isn’t it? It’s a middle grade historSoldier Dog was a bit of a departure from what I normally read, but it’s good to mix things up from time to time, isn’t it? It’s a middle grade historical fiction novel that takes place during the tail-end of World War I. Fourteen-year-old Stanley lives alone with his angry father after the death of his mother and the enlistment of his older brother. When their prize dog gets pregnant by a local mutt, Stanley’s father writes off the puppies before they’re even born. Stanley, though, loves dogs, and does whatever he can to make sure they’re born healthy. He picks one from the litter to be his own. His father has other ideas, though, and after Stanley’s dad pitilessly gets rid of all the puppies, including Stanley’s, Stanley has had enough. He decides to lie about his age and enlist in the army, to be sent to the front in France.
In the military, everybody seems to recognize how truly young and out of place Stanley is. Fortunately, he learns of a new unit that is training messenger dogs. I have to warn readers who are sensitive about animal death: this book includes dog death. However, the dogs are soldiers and it is treated the same as human death. It is World War I, after all. Being middle grade fiction, though, the death is necessary to the story and never gratuitous.
For being a World War I story, I felt like the war isn’t really at the heart of the book, but serves as a means of escape for the protagonist. While the story might make young readers curious about the war, I don’t think it will teach them a great deal about the major players or the reasons behind the conflict. I love that Angus includes real photographs of the actual messenger dogs and has a historical note and bibliography at the end, though.
Soldier Dog is a bit of a heart-wrencher, but it will have readers sympathizing with Stanley and hoping that he’ll finally get a dog he can keep. This could be a good readalike for fans of War Horse....more
The Truth of All Things is exactly the kind of book I always want to read, but so rarely find. This book has many of my personal interests: witches, NThe Truth of All Things is exactly the kind of book I always want to read, but so rarely find. This book has many of my personal interests: witches, New England history, nineteenth-century occultism, a spunky and intelligent special collections/historical society woman, and a countdown to catch a serial killer. Throw in a visit to the local opium den and another to the Danvers State Hospital, and I’m a very happy reader.
There is a lot going on in this book. Racism plays into the plot. Grey is half Native American, and has to continually work in the face of prejudice. There are also clues that point to a Native American being involved with the murders, as well as ties to the prejudices and tensions between the Puritans and the local tribes during the Salem Witch Trials. In the Salem transcripts, the devil is continually referenced as looking like an Indian. Grey has his own personal story of family tragedy, which combined with his exacting and scientific nature, makes him all the more intriguing. Shields’ love of Portland, Maine is also obvious. He revels in the details of the locals and is very successful at tying local history into the story.
I was pleasantly surprised by the characters, which are the real reason this book was such a great read for me. Archie Lean is compelling as the main investigator on the case, but can be overshadowed by Perceval Grey, a man whose demeanor and detective skills are bound to remind readers of Sherlock Holmes. However, for me, the historical society researcher Helen Prescott stole the show. She was witty and spunky, and worked her way into the investigation beautifully. I was very happy to find such a strong female character in a story that could have easily been dominated by the male investigators and the female murder victims. The characters interact with each other beautifully, adding levity to what could have been a book so dark that it would have dragged itself down. Instead, there is witty banter that eases tensions and makes the reader feel like an insider among friends.
The Truth of All Things was pitched to me as appealing to people who enjoyed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I think it is more similar to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. However, I enjoyed The Truth of All Things more than both of those books. It came across as somehow more intelligent, and with less pretension. Instead of meandering through meals and conversations, every page of this book supports and adds to the plot. The writing is tight, and is therefore easy to read without ever feeling like Shields has written down to his audience. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, as well, and I was not able to guess the answer to the mystery until the big reveal, which made the book all the more fun to read.
The ending leaves the way open for further adventures with Lean and Grey, and considering how successful Shields’ debut is, I am actually excited to see the development of a future series. The Truth of All Things is one of my favorite books of the year so far....more
This book is set in the late 15th to early 16th centuries, roughly the period of the Italian Renaissance and the early stages of the Spanish InquisitiThis book is set in the late 15th to early 16th centuries, roughly the period of the Italian Renaissance and the early stages of the Spanish Inquisition. While mainly about the development and protection of medical knowledge and midwife herbal remedies, the novel addresses such major historical events as the plague and the witch burnings that swept Europe. Also discussed are the Malleus Maleficarum and the advent of the printing press. This is a rather fast-paced read, covering nearly a century in a mere 240 pages.
At times, Wells' dramatic writing and historical subject matter reminded me of some of Anne Rice's non-horror novels. The whole book operates on a tenor of high drama and danger, which can make it a bit taxing at times. I understand that this is to make the reader aware of what women faced during that period, but I think it would have helped pacing if there were more parts of the story with a bit less tension. In fact, I think overall the book could have stood to have been a bit longer, in order to create more time between major plot points. I'm giving it two stars to indicate that I thought it was okay because I was incredulous that the main character could have done so much. I felt that she was given far too much importance in the history of medicine, and would have liked to have seen it spread throughout more characters, perhaps of more generations....more
As the daughter of a duke and duchess, Lady Alexandra has certain social obligations. Now, at the age of 17, she must participate in her first seasonAs the daughter of a duke and duchess, Lady Alexandra has certain social obligations. Now, at the age of 17, she must participate in her first season and endeavor to gain a husband. The problem is, Alex does not want a husband, and does not want to be a part of the season. Together with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, she experiences all that society has to offer. However, not all is right with the upper classes. The Earl of Blackmoor has met with a suspicious riding accident, and the young new Earl suspects foul play. Alex works to solve the mystery while also puzzling over her newfound feelings for her old family friend.
The Season is a light, fun read that transports the reader to Regency England. The dialog between Alex, her friends, and her brothers is lighthearted, playful and flows well. The romance that grows during the story develops organically, and makes the reader long for it to come to the inevitable conclusion. The villain was fairly obvious from the beginning, but there was one twist that I didn't see coming until it was finally revealed. All in all, a very enjoyable story, and one that fans of Jane Austen will appreciate....more