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YA Book Reviews by Amy


Historical Fiction Favorites: Part II

Historical fiction has probably been my favorite genre over the last couple of years. I love learning about the period and doing more research in my spare time to connect deeper with the novel I’m reading. Many historical novels take place in tumultuous times; I appreciate that these difficult situations cause our characters to grow stronger and more resilient during change, distress, and hardships.  

In my last historical fiction blog, I wanted to pick a large range of different time periods that did not focus on my two favorite periods that I read the most: Victorian Era/ Turn of the Century and World War II; I will be discussing these two time periods and give you several options to try out. Hopefully one or more of these books peak your interest! 

Either try out some mysterious Victorian reads or give cry-inducing World War II reads a chance. 


Victorian/ Turn of the Century: 

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee 

In the 1890’s American South, Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid during the day while secretly writing an advice column during her nights. When “Dear Miss Sweetie” becomes the talk of Atlanta, Jo must keep her identity a secret to keep from her upstairs neighbors, the owners of the paper, from finding that she has been secretly hiding in their basement as shelter. She learns secrets about the city’s elite and begins to learn about her own past. 

This book has been my favorite read of the year so far. Jo was a lovable strong character that I connected to right away. Her relationship with all the side characters was probably my favorite part of this story: Old Gin, the Bells (particularly Nathan), the Paynes— everyone she interacted with enhanced the plot and her character development. 

Available on Overdrive and in audiobook on Hoopla 


Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco 

Audrey Rose has been learning behind her father’s back about the new science of criminology with her uncle. Along with handsome student, Thomas, she learns about the gruesome events that are plaguing London: particularly the White Chapel murders done by the infamous Jack the Ripper. Audrey thinks that she might be close to finding the true identity of Jack the Ripper, but she may be closer than she likes, especially when it becomes clear her life may be in danger.  

A first book in the series, this book starts off with an exciting plot that explores one of the biggest who-done-its in history. You can continue with Hunting Prince Dracula, Escaping from Houdini, and Capturing the Devil. 

Available on Overdrive 


Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber 

A mysterious tale told through the eyes of Natalie and other mediums. When Natalie was little she witnessed her mother’s death and has been unable to speak. She begins to work in the acquisitions department at the Metropolitan Museum of art. There she notices a strange painting that seems to come to life. Lord Denbury may be haunting this painting in real life. Natalie must figure out who the young man is while he is trying to tame her heart.    

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray and has tone like Edgar Allen Poe, this supernatural Victorian tale is creepy with a paranormal romance. The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart is the sequel.  

Available on Overdrive and Hoopla 


Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson 

Sophia must live with her mysterious godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, after the death of her father. Events inside a lavish new home, things are becoming alarming when Sophia finds out about her guardian’s shadowy past; especially when the deaths of his previous wive’s are investigated.  

This historical fiction inspired by the fairy tale of “Bluebeard,” is very atmospheric and dark. I really enjoyed the little bit of romance that is mixed in too.   

Available as an audiobook on Overdrive 


World War II:  

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

An instant classic! This is a tale told through the eyes of Death during World War II in Germany. He follows the young life of orphan girl, Liesel, with her new foster family. Liesel dreams to learn how to read during this dangerous time and begins to learn from an unlikely friend: a Jewish man that her family hides in their basement. 

A beautiful and haunting book. You may have heard about this book, if you have not read it, give it a try. You may want to bring your box of tissues with you… just in case! 

Available on Overdrive and Hoopla 


Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby 

Frankie and her siblings are left at an orphanage after their father can no longer provide for them after the effects of the Great Depression. Frankie has to survive the strict rules that the nuns force upon them because it must be better than being out on the streets, but she would rather put up with an evil stepmom and live with their father if it was up to her. Watching over her is an entity that wants the best for Frankie.  

Set in the early 1940’s in America, it shows the way America was effected by World War II which is a different perspective than other books during this time. The duel storylines of the narrator and Frankie intertwine into a magical realistic historical fiction that is hard to put down. 

Available on Overdrive and audiobook on Hoopla 


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys  

From Lithuania, Lina is living a normal teenage life until one day the Soviet Union officers capture her and her family and force her to live in deplorable situations by working in a Serbian labor camp. Lina worries about the lives of her family after being separated from her father and feeling like she must take care of her mother and younger brother. 

This book was an emotional read for me. There is tough subject matter and graphic scenes, but in the end, add to this harrowing story. Ruta Septys is an amazing author that will make you feel more than just the words on the page. 

Available on Overdrive 


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys 

The largest maritime tragedy, the 1945 sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner, was in the process of transferring refugees to safety when it was hit by torpedoes by a Soviet submarine. Following four characters: a fanatic, power hungry, and delusional German Nazi, a Lithuanian girl who dreams of working in the medical profession, a Prussian con artist, and a young Polish girl with a secret. These characters are seeking safety while unknowingly they are heading toward disaster.    

Another Ruta Septys historical novel that is a powerful read. Septys makes you care about the fates of her characters; the tension between the readers’ want of the characters safety juxtaposed to the character’s journey toward disaster is suspenseful and stressful. Plus this book made me research more about the Wilhelm Gustloff 

Available on Overdrive 


Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.