American Revolution Reading Challenge Wrap Up

Happy New Year, and thanks to everyone who participated in the American Revolution Reading Challenge in 2013.  Here are the last of the participant reviews.  If we’ve missed any reviews throughout the year, please feel free to link to them in the comments.

Before we shift to the reviews, we want to invite you all to participate in the 2014 challenge, which we’re doing a bit differently this year.  For all the details and to sign up, click here.

Under The Boardwalka8349-theturncoat reviewed The Turncoat by Donna Thorland:

A suspenseful thrill ride that takes place during the winter of 1777. A wonderful debut I couldn’t put down. I look forward to the next book in the Renegades of the Revolution series.

felicityThe Children’s War reviewed the movie Felicity, An American Girl:

There are lots of historical elements in Felicity besides being an engaging coming of age story.  The two sides, patriot and loyalist, are explained clearly in the context of the story so that young viewers will have no trouble understanding the events that led to the American Revolution.  And in keeping with the themes of freedom, independence, and responsibility, the practice of apprenticeship is also clearly presented.

friends of libertyThe Children’s War also reviewed Friends of Liberty by Bernice Gormley:

As a historical novel, there is lots of information about the political unrest in Boston, though I think it presupposes some knowledge of the time period.  I believe that Friends of Liberty would, however, be a good companion book to read while studying the events leading up the the American Revolution.

3d5fd-aprilmorningScrappy Cat reviewed April Morning by Howard Fast:

When a horseman comes through to let the town know that the British are on the march, Adam signs the muster book and joins the battle.  He must grow up literally overnight.  The book is very well written and I rate it 4 out of 5.

johnny tremainBooks and Movies reviewed Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes:

I remember reading this as a kid, and when I assigned it to Jonathan for literature this year, I knew I would read it, too. I wanted to revisit it, as well as show Jonathan that I didn’t just assign him books that I wouldn’t enjoy reading myself. Also, it fit into the War Through the Generations Challenge. Anyway, I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it as much as I remembered as a kid.

pox partyScrappy Cat also reviewed The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson:

I never knew before reading this book that slaves fought in the Revolutionary War in lieu of their masters; this was quite shocking to me.  I thought the book was well written and I rate it 4 out of 5.

chains Diary of an Eccentric reviewed Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson:

Anderson’s novel is geared toward middle-grade readers, but there is much for adults to admire as well.  The passages from relevant historical documents at the beginning of every chapter were informative and paved the way for further research.  Anderson doesn’t sugar-coat the cruelties of slavery and war, but she doesn’t go overboard with graphic descriptions either.

the declaration of independenceImpressions In Ink “reviewed” The Declaration of Independence & The Constitution of the United States:

To review the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States seems redundant; instead, this post will be on how I feel about an amendment that is often in the news. … People who dislike reading would be attracted to this tiny book. I make this assessment because browsing the book store or shopping on Amazon, a reader would be inclined to find a lengthier book on the subject of important American documents.We may not “agree” with what people say, but thank goodness for the founding fathers, important American documents (which include our “freedom of speech.”)

masqueradeAnnie’s Book Reviews reviewed Masquerade: The Life & Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier by Alfred F. Young:

Honestly, I was dreading reading this book. Not because of the premise, it sounded like a great story, but because there is a general perception that such non-fiction historical works can be rather dryly written, uninspiring and quite boring to read. I was very much surprised to find the complete opposite. This is a fantastically enjoyable book, Youngs enthusiasm for his subject and the details of the period are infectious, entertaining and inspiring.

winter of red snowJayne’s Books reviewed The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory:

I like how the author put enough facts into the book to make the reader intrigued to further research, if they are interested in such a thing, but also put enough fiction so that the reader can actually enjoy the story.  It also is fairly clean enough, with the exception of a few scenes in which there are some amputations, etc, but nothing too graphic, to parents not worry about the content of this particular series.

revolutionary mothersBookworm’s Dinner reviewed Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for American Independence by Carol Berkin:

Whether the women were involved in actually fighting, which they were or travelling along side their spouse, women of all races had numerous roles to satisfy.  Chapters detail the various roles women played in Colonial Society and during and after the war. There were those who were left home, others who followed, some were General’s wives, or loyalists in exile, Indian Women, African American Women and many women became spies or couriers.

forgotten patriotsBookworm’s Dinner also reviewed Forgotten Patriots: An Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War by Edwin G. Burrows:

This is a part of American History that missed the textbooks in school. It was a surprise to me. Perhaps if you live in the area of New York and New Jersey, you are aware of this unspeakable part of history.  Truly, it really has been forgotten. It took over one hundred years to dedicate a monument to these patriots.

Thanks to all the readers who made this challenge a success!

 

 

Review: NEW YORK by Edward Rutherfurd

new yorkCanadian Bookworm recently read and reviewed New York by Edward Rutherfurd for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013.  Here’s an excerpt:

The time covered here is 1664 to 2009 and characters include natives, Dutch, English, slaves, freemen, Irish, Italians, and Puerto Ricans. There are Quakers, Catholics, Anglicans, other Protestants, and Jews.

In the Revolutionary War period, we have a father and son on opposite sides of the struggle, and detail on the tax and representation issues that led to the war.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Review: THE CROSSING by Jim Murphy

the crossingBook Snob recently read and reviewed The Crossing by Jim Murphy for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013.  Here’s an excerpt:

The Crossing is an excellent historical retelling of the beginning of the American Revolution.  It is full of maps, pictures, and even gives a description of the famous painting on the cover by Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

If you want to know the true story of the beginning of the American Revolution told in eloquent, simplified text you need to check out The Crossing.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Review: THE LOYALIST’S WIFE by Elaine Cougler

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.inddUnabridged Chick recently read and reviewed The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013.  Here’s an excerpt:

The writing style is straightforward, although occasionally too simplistic for my tastes (I sometimes felt as if rather intense moments were breezed over now and then, to my disappointment; I would have loved to dig in and really sit with some of these deeply distressing times!).  The point-of-view switches every few chapters from Lucy to John, which I found a little maddening; while I appreciate what it does to build tension, it made me want to scream when the switch happened at a particularly tense moment or when I was really ‘in’ one particular character’s psyche.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Review: FORGE by Laurie Halse Anderson

Savvy Verse & Wit recently read and reviewed Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson for the American Revolution Reading Challenge in 2013.  Here’s an excerpt:

Forge has a dual meaning in that the army’s mettle, as well as Curzon and Isabel’s, are tested, and these characters must forge ahead and overcome the challenges they face.  In a literal sense, Curzon tries to create a counterfeit of himself and pass himself off as a free man to become a soldier, as well as a key’s likeness to turn the lock on freedom.

Read the full review.

 

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Review: WOODS RUNNER by Gary Paulsen

Books and Movies recently read and reviewed Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen for the American Revolution Reading Challenge in 2013.  Here’s a sample:

Paulsen knows how to write about boys for boys. His character was a real boy, placed in an impossible situation, who rose to the occasion and yet still retained his youth. I also enjoyed the short sections between chapters, in which Paulsen gives the reader a little information about the history and conditions of the time period.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Review: CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson

Savvy Verse & Wit and Scrappy Cat both posted reviews of the read-a-long book, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, for the American Revolution Reading Challenge in 2013.  Here’s an excerpt from Savvy Verse & Wit:

Anderson’s young adult novel deftly balances the cruelty of slavery with the sensibilities of young adults, ensuring that the abuse and cruelty is never more than young readers can handle. However, there are some instances that do become graphic, but it is essential to demonstrate the fates that faced a number of slaves, especially those who attempted or even thought about escaping their masters.

Read the full review.

Here’s an excerpt from Scrappy Cat:

I thought the book was well written and I probably would not have read it if it hadn’t been for the read-along, because I don’t usually read young adult books (which this book is).

Read the full review.

***This just in, a review from The Children’s War.  Here’s a snippet:

Isabel is a very strong willed girl and Mrs. Lockton knows it and is determined to break that will and so she is constantly trying to tighten the chains of slavery that bind Isabel.  Yet, it takes a while for the realization that Mrs. Lockton cannot chain her soul to really sink in to Isabel’s consciousness, even though all her actions had always already proven it to be true.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Final Week: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson Read-a-Long

Today is the end of our group read-a-long of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Please beware that the answers and questions could contain spoilers.

This week we read Chapters 37-the end, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.

If you’re interested in reading our thoughts on the first 10 chapters, go here.  For Chapters 11-24, go here.  For Chapters 25-36, click here.

We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.

Isabel refers to chains quite a few times throughout the novel, and in this section, she says that Mrs. Lockton could not chain her soul.  How true do you think that would be over time — had she stayed in the Lockton household?  In what ways do you think she has been or is still chained?

Serena:  I think that her soul is still free here, even though she’s had a hard time maintaining the hope of freedom.  But I feel that if she had stayed in the household, had not felt the power within herself to read Common Sense or to keep her rebellious spirit alive that she would have become chained in that house.  The house, particularly with Mrs. Lockton in charge, is a dark place that seems to oppress those that live there.  I do think that she’s still chained down by her status as a slave and because of her race, which at this time was a big hurdle to overcome.  She also is reined in by the brand on her face.

What did you think of Isabel’s recapturing her brand as her own, rather than as a burden on her — like how her father held his branding with pride as a part of who he was?

S:  I thought the brand was a chain holding her back for some time, until she decided to grab hold of it and consider it not a brand of insolence, but of her name.  I did think that perhaps she would have taken a hold of the “I” as a symbol of “independence.”  But I think taking it as a symbol of her own name is just as good.

Speaking of names, what did you think about Isabel’s new name, Isabel Gardener?

S:  I really liked the connection of her new name to her past and to her possible future — the planting of new roots after gaining her freedom.

In terms of Lady Seymour, she seemed to be sympathetic toward Isabel and her plight, but it also seems like she still thinks of her property.  Did you have any opinions on her continued views in spite of the war and her daughter-in-law’s treatment of Isabel?

S:  I think she’s probably someone who still thinks of these slaves as lower class than herself and her peers, but that she’s not so elevated as to think of slaves as animals that should be beaten into submission.  While she tells Isabel that she wanted to buy her for her own household, she doesn’t seem inclined to tell her one way or the other if she would have freed Isabel.  Lady Seymour is a conundrum, but I think her behaviors and perceptions would have been common enough at the time.

Finally, what are your final thoughts on Chains?

S:  I really enjoyed getting to know Isabel and her sister, and I’m hopeful that the next book will lead to the location of her sister, but I’m sure Isabel has more challenges to face, especially as the war continues and eventually winds down.  I’m quite impressed with Anderson’s handling of slavery, especially the abusive parts.

(Due to an insanely busy week, Anna and The Girl are a bit behind in their reading and will post their thoughts in the comments once they’ve finished.)

What did you think?  Feel free to pose your own questions in the comments as well!  Thanks for joining us!

Week 3: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson Read-a-Long

Today is week 3 of our group read-a-long of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Please beware that the answers and questions could contain spoilers.

This week we read Chapters 25-36, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.

If you’re interested in reading our thoughts on the first 10 chapters, go here.  For Chapters 11-24, go here.

We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.

Grandfather at the water pump tells Isabel that she must find her River Jordan.  What do you think he means by that and what are your thoughts on what will be Isabel’s River Jordan?

Serena:  My first thought was go to Lady Seymour.  She can help you out, but with the uncertainty surrounding New York, it’s hard to tell what her salvation will be given the Rebels are losing and the British are claiming they will set free any slaves that join their cause.  I also wonder about Curzon, perhaps he’s her River Jordan, and somehow his involvement will lead her to her sister and freedom.  Then of course, there is Lady Seymour.

Anna:  I’m not sure whether the grandfather had anything concrete in mind given the chaos in the city.  Maybe he meant that because of the chaos, each of the slaves has the opportunity to choose for her/himself what they will do right now.  I think Isabel’s River Jordan will have a lot to do with Curzon.

The Girl:  I think it means to find her freedom and her purpose in life.  I think her River Jordan will have something to do with Curzon and maybe Lady Seymour.

When the fire sweeps through Lady Seymour’s house, do you think Isabel’s actions to save her and her letters and portrait will be repaid later on with the promise of freedom?  Or do you think that Lady Seymour will end up being less influential in Isabel’s story?

S: I think that Lady Seymour as long as she’s alive will help Isabel in any way that she cane, but not so much out of obligation.  It seems that she genuinely feels for Isabel and her situation, and seems to like her.  I’m on the fence about Lady Seymour’s continued influence in the story, especially given her ailments and recent fever.  She’s had a lot to recover from, and it seems like Mrs. Lockton is preparing to ensure her death in any way she can.

A: There is such a striking contrast between how Isabel is treated by the Locktons and how she is treated by Lady Seymour.  I don’t know whether her illness will affect her ability to help Isabel, but I hope that her kindness has been shown for a reason.

TG: I think now that Lady Seymour is ill, she will have less of an influence on Isabel.

As we near the final section of the read-a-long, what are your impressions and how have they changed since the beginning?  Any theories about how it will end for Isabel?

S:  I’ve really enjoyed the dates to keep me apprised of historical timelines, and the historical notes at the beginning of each chapter.  I’ve really liked getting to know Isabel and her struggles, and I find her feisty and strong-willed, which is a great way to be if you’re going to help out the rebels.  Even though she’s waffled about where to stand in the battle between the British and Americans, it is clear that she’s not going to abandon those she knows and even cares for, even Curzon.  As for how it will end, I’m hoping for her reunion with Ruth.

A:  I’m impressed by this book so far.  I think Anderson does a great job setting the scene, and she doesn’t gloss over all of the horrors Isabel would have seen and experienced (except maybe for the sexual danger, as discussed in the first week of the read-along).  I have no idea how it’s going to end for Isabel, but I do hope there’s some closure for her regarding Ruth, if not in this book, then later in the series.

TG: I’m still really enjoying the book, but I’m not sure exactly where it’s going to go, and I don’t want to make predictions.  I just want to go with the flow.

What did you think?  Feel free to pose your own questions in the comments as well!

Review: THE TURNCOAT: RENEGADES OF THE REVOLUTION by Donna Thorland

Savvy Verse & Wit recently read and reviewed The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution by Donna Thorland for the American Revolution War Reading Challenge in 2013.  Here’s a sample:

Thorland weaves fact with fiction seamlessly in this historical novel about the American Revolution, and readers will see the strategy and battle scenes play out with gruesome consequences.  She captivates her readers through the building of strong and flawed characters whose lives are not only torn apart by war, but also the loyalty they feel to their families and countries even as they see hope in the enemy.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

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