Revolutionary War fans will rejoice in this well-written work and hope that the author has more on the way.




Beck (Igniting the American Revolution: 1773-1775, 2015) continues his deeply detailed story of the American Revolution’s beginnings.

In this volume, the author focuses on the British occupation of Boston and the attempts by American forces to retake it. The first and most formidable problem was that the Colonies did not yet have an army of their own. The provincial armies and local militias were united only in their common cause, and localism doomed attempts to field a cohesive force. Men from different states would never recognize any superior but one of their own. The forces not only lacked unity; they also tended to go their own ways in battle. Disciplining troops was difficult, as all believed themselves equal; in the spirit of casting off George III’s sovereignty, soldiers rejected all authority. Even so, the author notes that the colonists did not initially intend to separate. They wished for liberty, not independence, but patriotism and a sense of duty were new ideas. It was the king’s attitude that drove them to it. Beginning with a few skirmishes and the Battle of Chelsea Creek, Beck leads up to the Battle of Bunker Hill. In the middle of the night, Americans built entrenchments out of range of bombardments from English ships. English Gen. Thomas Gage attempted to encircle them but failed. In the end, it was a bloody fight and a pyrrhic victory for him. The fall of Montreal and the siege of Quebec seem to be asides in this story until we see Col. Henry Knox bringing desperately needed artillery and cannon across frozen Lake Champlain and the Hudson. Though Beck only covers a short period, his excellent research brings to life the men who fought, providing readers with real, tangible heroes, not just hazy historic figures.

Revolutionary War fans will rejoice in this well-written work and hope that the author has more on the way.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3309-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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