Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Book Talks Using Voice Thread

For the fourth book review of the year, Honors 9 Students created “book talks”.  These book talks are located on, and we invite your comments and additions to our conversations about the great books we love.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, reviewed by Caleb Lawson

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


In 1922, F Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new-something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he his best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s-and his country’s-most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

Imagine yourself living the dream, fortune, fame, but missing the only thing you truly care about, true love. This is the feeling that millionaire Jay Gatsby has to live with. He has everything you could ever dream of: a huge mansion in New York, millions of dollars, and large amounts of fame. The only thing he is missing is his one true love. In this 20th century literary classic, The Great Gatsby, my three favorite points were the vocabulary, the protagonist, and the plot.

In The Great Gatsby, the vocabulary was obviously of the early 20th century. This book was first published in 1925 and is set in 1922. Through the use of the wonderful period vocabulary, I was able to really immerse myself into this book. The vocabulary was very adult, however this did not make the book difficult to read. The Great Gatsby enlarged my vocabulary greatly. I love the way this book was written and would not change a word.

Another one of my favorite points was the protagonist, the one and only Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, apart from being one of the wealthiest men in America, was a very relatable character. The one thing he wanted was the one thing he could not have, true love, Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby had an adventurous life from a very young age. He ran away from home when he was only a teenager. After living a very impoverished life, he decided to join the army. He first met daisy at a military ball at Daisy’s house. Gatsby was instantly enchanted. When he left to fight overseas, Daisy got married to another man, Tom Buchanan. Gatsby was very jealous of Tom and would do anything he could to get Daisy back. Gatsby’s jealousy eventually led to his downfall.

My third favorite point of the novel was the plot. The plot is something that nearly everyone who has loved and lost can relate to. It is about the longing for something you can not have. This plot was very enticing and had no slow points. It always keeps you guessing and is never predictable. Nick Carraway, our narrator, rents a house in Long Island next to the phantasmagorical mansion of the millionaire Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is famous for throwing magnificent parties. It is known that no one is actually invited to these parties, they just kind of show up. One afternoon Nick receives an invitation to one of his parties, the only invitation Gatsby has ever given. When Nick starts attending more and more of Gatsby’s parties he discovers the true meaning of them. Gatsby is hoping that Daisy, a past love, will show up. When Gatsby finally does manage to meet with Daisy, things do not go quite as expected. After their first meeting in five years, things slowly start to fall apart for our protagonist, Jay Gatsby, and his love, Daisy Buchanan.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good classic book. This book is a very sobering tale of the real world and how love may not always be what you expected. F. Scott Fitzgerald has written a true classic of the twentieth-century. Though I enjoyed the entire novel, my three favorite points were the vocabulary, protagonist, and the plot.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Reviewed by Tomi Nelson

From the back of the book:                        

“Dust pile up like snow across the prairie…”

  A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo’s life, scarring her inside out. Her mother is gone. Her father can’t talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better – playing the piano – is impossible with her wounded hands.

  To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from  the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma – and in the surprising landscape of  her own heart.

Imagine feeling like your all alone in this world, or even being blamed for your own mothers tragic death. I know I can’t even begin the thought of any of that, nor taking the blame. Could you? What about the fear of being left in the darkness by the dust? No, I don’t believe anybody could unless they are left in the situation, but this is the exact idea  put into the award winning novel Out of the dust by Karen Hesse. This book tells the story of a young freckle faced girl named Billie Jo who faces these situations. There are so many things to say about this book, but I believe that the life – like tone, jaw dropping conflict and characters is what I enjoyed the most about it.

The life – like tone of this book is really what put me into it and what made me feel like I was a part of it. The author wrote it in the tine as if the reader was the main character, to me anyways. Some parts of this novels tone made me so emotional and on the edge of my seat cause of its hints of the tone was so real. One example of this on the story would be when Billie Jo is explaining the feelings while she plays the the piano at the Palace for Arley Wanderdale. It gives me the feeling of when I play my clarinet in front of a crowd of people, that took a lot of connection to get to that point to. It’s amazing how the tone of this book affects the whole point and I’m sure if anybody was to read it they would feel the same way with many parts of this novel.

The jaw dropping conflict is what really caught me and led me to keep on reading it because I wasn’t expecting it at all. The conflicts that are put up against Billie Jo are just so unbelievable; I don’t know how she got through it. One of the biggest one though is her Ma dying along with her little brother Fredrick, but what makes it worst is she is blamed for it. People ignore everything that happened except for what she did and only pointing out her mistake. With the pain of losing a mother and a brother, she’s slowly losing her father. That’s not all though, her hands are wounded from the accident and she can’t do the one thing she loves without being in pain. With this conflict and so many others like no rain for long period of times, and the dust destroying everything around it, I’m sure that any reader will love the conflict of this novel.

The characters was such a good choice for this book because I don’t think I could even think  of any different characters to put in this novel, they fit so well together. There’s Billie Jo who is a long – legged girl, with a wide mouth, and cheekbones like bicycle handles. A redheaded, freckle – faced, narrow hipped girl with a fondness for apples, and a hunger to playing fierce piano. Bayard Kelby (Billie Jo’s dad) stands tall like Billie Jo, has blondy-red hair and high cheeks rugged with wind. He is very uncommunicative, never gives up on rain, and was a dutiful husband. Mad Dog (Billie Jo’s friend) a blue eyed boy, who sings with a smooth voice with Arley Wanderdale and his band. He respects Billie Jo and didn’t see her nothing other than than the girl she was. These are the three main characters that show up the most in this story and you will love how you connect with them throughout the story.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and when I got to the end I was wishing there was more, but there wasn’t. So to anyone who might be thinking about reading this book I really recommend it to anyone who loves a book that keeps you thinking and on the edge of your seat. I’m sure anybody who reads this book will love it from the first word to the last. Through the life – like tone, jaw dropping conflict, and the characters, Karen Hasse created the award winning novel Out of the Dust.






The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Reviewed by Summer Jewell


Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Imagine a harsh world in which discrimination and practical slave labor is around every corner. Imagine being basically the property of our employers, deemed unimportant due to our race. In The Help, Skeeter Phelan, a rich, white, twenty two year old, attempts to break down social barriers between races in her town of Jackson, Mississippi. Not only is she teaming up with a group of of black maids to create a contriversial novel that shows the life of an average maid, she’s also starting to develop independence for herself. The three best aspects of the book, in my opinion, are the interesting setting, dynamic voice, and deeply flawed characters.

First, I enjoyed the location and time period of the book. It was set in Jackson, Mississippi and began in 1962. I thought it was interesting that The Help is a historical fiction novel. This means, more or less, that life was pretty much like this in the sixties, with discrimination being a major problem. No history book has ever shown me the detail of this topic, I never imagined this as if I were there, until I read this book. Seeing the struggle of the time period in such detail, almost as if the reader were facing it, really opened my eyes. Also, I found it very interesting that the book mentioned innovations of the time period as well, giving us a look into how much we have evolved. For example, when the protagonist began to wear dresses that fell above the knee, it was a big deal. There were certain standerds set for women in that time, that are not neccesairily around now. It was pretty much unheard of.

Next, the voice caught my attention. I really admired the author’s use of multiple narrorators, giving us the ability to view several different story lines. The book gives lets us investigate the lives of several different women, withvarying opinions and contasting lives. Since one of the women is white, for example, we get a glimpse at how much of a privelige it is to have freedom. Throughout the novel, story lines intertiwine and the narrators are all talking together. I think that’s really interesting, because I haven’t read that many books like this, so I found that aspect unique.

Lastly, I was in awe of the strong willed, dynamic characters. There is Skeeter Phelan, a white woman out of college for a few years, still living with her mother. She is just trying to find fulfillment, which she knows comes along with independence. I really liked the way she acknowledeged this independence, saying “….I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.” Next, there’s Minnie. Minnie is a maid who was working for the mother of Hilly Holbrook (the meanest woman in town). She seems like a genuinely tough woman, but as we continue to read the book, we realize Minnie’s tough shell breaks. She faces family troubles, and reveals a secret as to why she lost her job that changes everything. Lastly, there is Aibeleen. She works for Miss Leefolt, and builds a very strong bond with them. This is probably because she lost a son of her own. Aibeleen is a very caring person, and I believe her part of the story is my favorite part. Through Aibeleen, we learn that your experiences don’t have to harden you, and you can move on.

The Help is an emotional, entertaining, and sometimes amusing book. It teaches you a lot about life, and you learn that everyone faces their own struggles. I would reccomend The Help to anyone who likes books with a lot of drama and emotion, as well as anyone with a particular intrest in discrimination or the time period of the 1960s. With a realistic setting, a unique voice, and independent characters, The Help is a pretty great book.