The Book Thief: Book Review
Fantasy , Historical Fiction , Young Adult / October 16, 2016

Title: The Book Thief Author: Markus Zusak Published: 2005 Genre: Young Adult Lit, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Pages: 584 The Book Thief is Markus Zusak’s tale of a young girl living in Germany during World War II. Despite the fact that this book is classified as a young adult book, Zusak tackles adult themes involving ignorance and the senseless destruction of war. Zusak does not sugar-coat this tale, and it is definitely the sort of young adult book that should only be read by a truly mature reader (regardless of age). Oh, and did I mention that the book is narrated by Death? Liesel Meminger, the protagonist of the tale, is living with her foster family and develops an incredibly close bond with her foster father, Hans Hubermann. The tale revolves around Liesel’s life in a German town against the foreboding backdrop of the impending German defeat in WWII. With the looming danger of war always on the horizon, Liesel goes about her life in the town and develops a strong relationship (maybe even romantic?) with a young boy named Rudy. A Jewish man also comes to the Hubermann family for help, so the very real historical situation of a German family trying to hide…

The Settlers of Catan: Book Review
Historical Fiction / October 12, 2016

The Settlers of Catan is such an iconic board game that I did a classic double-take when I came across the novelized version in the bookstore.  Since the game is all about settlers building a life for themselves in a new land, the concept behind the board game should have been easy to translate into a historical fiction novel.  Unfortunately, reading The Setters of Catan novelization simply makes me wish that I was playing the board game instead. On the whole, Rebecca Gable’s writing is extremely detailed and steeped in a great deal of historical research.  The settlers in the story are part of a Norse type society and Gale provides explanations and descriptions about all aspects of their way of life.  Although the author’s thorough style is generally positive, it can become cumbersome and times and slows down the progression of the plot.  One major flaw in the novel is that, as far as I can tell, no character ever asks about trading “wood for sheep.”  Anyone who is a fan of the board game would have appreciated a nod to the most amusing inside joke among fans. Gale’s characters are interesting and range from all different levels of the social strata.  From slaves…

The Last American Vampire: Book Review
Comedy , Fantasy , Historical Fiction , Horror / October 12, 2016

The Last American Vampire is the second novel in a series by Seth Grahame-Smith that begins with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  The Last American Vampire features Abraham Lincoln’s mentor and comrade, Henry Sturges, from the previous novel and fills in the details of his life and undeath. Let me begin this review by making it clear that I loved Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (check out my review). Seth Grahame-Smith’s formatting of the novel is one of the major reasons that I could not stop reading The Last American Vampire.  Seth Grahame-Smith casts himself as Henry Sturges’ interviewer and cobbles together an account from direct “quotes” from Henry that tie together sections of Seth Grahame-Smith’s writing.  The doctored photos that “prove” Henry’s existence at various moments in history also add to the overall effect.  The result is an authentic feel that makes The Last American Vampire read like a genuine history rather than a fictional tale. Henry Sturges’ adventures range across time from early colonial America to the 1960’s but all of his struggles center around hunting down a rogue vampire who is bent on America’s destruction.  Henry battles Jack the Ripper, Rasputin (my personal favorite), and other “historical” vampires who I will not name in order to avoid spoilers.  He also…

The Empty Throne: Book Review
Historical Fiction / October 10, 2016

The Empty Throne is the eighth book in The Saxon Tales series by the king of historical fiction, Bernard Cornwell.  Fans of the series will be pleased to return to brutal, bloody, and beautiful Saxon England alongside of Uhtred of Bebbanburg. For any new readers, I must point out that it is highly advisable to begin the series with the first book, The Last Kingdom.  While it is possible to enjoy each book in The Saxon Tales as an adventure from start to finish, there are so many relationships and overarching developments over the life of the series that it is much better to start at the beginning. The majority of the story centers around Uhtred’s struggle to cement Aethelflaed’s control over Mercia.  Aethelflaed, as Uhtred’s lover and the daughter of King Alfred of Wessex, is the most powerful woman in Britain and Uhtred’s loyalty to her and her family pulls him into battles against both fellow Saxons and Norsemen.  The political maneuvering and intrigue involved in the struggle over Mercia’s throne leads to plenty of betrayal that is surprising and realistically calculating and unforgiving.  Additionally, Uhtred’s personal quest to heal himself from a wound suffered at the end of the last novel is equally as important as his part…

The Last Kingdom: Book Review
Historical Fiction / October 10, 2016

The Last Kingdom is the first novel in my favorite series, The Saxon Chronicles, by the renowned historical fiction author Bernard Cornwell.  I first read this novel one decade ago when it was a new release and since that time the series has spanned six additional novels with a seventh planned for later this year. The Last Kingdom takes place during the Viking conquest of most of what is today known as England.  At this point in history, most of the land that comprises England was home to four separate kingdoms: Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, and Wessex.  The Vikings easily overpowered these fragmented kingdoms until only Wessex (the titular last kingdom) remained. Bernard Cornwell’s tale opens with a young Saxon boy named Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Without spoiling too much, he is abducted by the Vikings during one of their raids and grows up under the care of Ragnar the Fearless, a great warlord.  As a side note, we really need to bring back epithet’s like “the Fearless” to add more awesome to our names.  Imagine meeting a new person with an epithet like “the Hammer” for the first time.  How is that not a great idea? Anyway, the rest of the novel revolves around Uthred’s training…