Review Copy: The Times that Try Men’s Souls

If you're into Revolutionary War era fiction, you might enjoy this look at the Culper spy ring. #spon | The Times that Try Men's Souls, Newbery and Beyond review

Note: I received a digital copy of The Times that Try Men’s Souls from the author for review consideration.

This historical fiction novel covers events surrounding the American Revolutionary War, specifically focusing on the Culper spy ring–a historical group that I sadly learned about through an episode of White Collar, rather than through any history book or class…  I wonder how I missed that?  Spy rings and history–that’s right up my alley!

Anyway, this book follows Abraham, the appointed leader of the Culper spies, and the struggles he faces as he and his friends face danger and death by the hands of British soldiers.  Abraham convinces his friend, Robert, to join him, but as the two friends begin to lose everything they care about, they start to wonder if their efforts are really worth it.

The problem I had with this book was not so much a problem with the book itself, as it was a problem with my own personal tastes.  When I picked it up (figuratively), I thought it would focus more closely on spy escapades and the danger and intrigue they faced.  Instead, I found descriptions of battles and several fist fights.  I really enjoyed Sophia’s story, as she carried on a relationship with a British officer in order to obtain information from him.  I found her story very touching, and it stood out, especially in this story, as women were mostly considered objects to be either protected or disregarded (I enjoyed Martha’s character as well, as another active female character in this time period).  My only other complaint is a few odd turns of phrase that made it difficult to stay immersed in the story–I spent a few minutes trying to decipher phrases like, “she instructed passively” or “his fingers folded at the joints.”

If you’re into stories about war which actually focus on the events of the war, you’ll probably enjoy The Times that Try Men’s Souls.  If you like Revolutionary War stuff (and who doesn’t?), this will definitely show you a different aspect of that well-known American war (at least, it was new to me).   Just be aware that, in terms of spy stuff, this book focuses more on the big picture, rather than on the spy exploits.  That’s not a bad thing; it’s just not my thing.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Book Review: Code Name Verity

Book Review: Code Name Verity | Newbery and Beyond

Bring out the Kleenexes–you’re going to need them.  This is such a powerful book.  I can’t say enough good things about it.

Basically, Code Name Verity is told in two sections, from two different viewpoints.  I can’t say too much for fear of spoilers (there were at least three major plot twists, the first couple of which I thought might happen, and the third which I TOTALLY DID NOT SEE COMING, YIKES WHERE ARE THE KLEENEXES!!!), but the plot follows the story of two friends who are working for the British government during World War II.  Maddie is a pilot, who works first for the WAAFT as a radio operator and then for the ATA, flying military personnel to undisclosed locations.  Her friend, code name “Verity,” is a dramatic Scotswoman who loves acting, dancing, and flirting, even during wartime, and is fluent in both German and French.

The book begins with “Verity” in Nazi captivity in a small village in France, where she has been tortured for information and then forced to write a memoir of her time during the war, in order to prod more useful information out of her.  Slowly, Maddie’s story is told through Verity’s writings, and she explains how the two friends ended up in France.  Again, I can’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but please, take my word for it: This book is worth your time.  If you’re interested in WWII, historical fiction, covert operations, or women doing amazing work, this book has it.  If you like stories of friendship (and not even a little romance), female protagonists, or crying your eyes out, this book is for you.  Basically, just read this book.

Warning: There is some strong language in this book.  I can’t say that my language would be pristine either if I were literally being tortured by Nazis, but please be aware that this book firmly in the YA/adult fiction camp and is not for children.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

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