Goodreads Choice Award/Nominee

Book Review: The Sun Does Shine

Book Review: The Sun Does Shine
Author: 
Hinton, Anthony Ray
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Wow. I didn't think there is still rampant racism in America but boy was I proven wrong. In 1985, Ray Hinton was unjustly incarcerated in Alabama and will held in Death Row for 30 years. The prosecutor, police, jury, and judge were all white and despite his clear alibi he was found guilty. The police officer who arrested him said he believed Hinton was innocent but was still going to arrest him because if it's not him, it's someone 'like him.'
Throughout his heinous unjust incarceration on death row, Hinton never lost hope that he would be exonerated. His spirit helped the most hardened criminals shoulder their last days.
Eventually Hinton was exonerated, but not before the prime of his life had been stolen from him. He dedicates his life now to abolishing the death penalty, calling it a broken system. According to statistics, 1 in 10 inmates on death row are innocent.
This is a powerful memoir about survival, hope, and resilience. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few

Record of a Spaceborn Few
Author: 
Chambers, Becky
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Considering that A Closed and Common Orbit was only loosely related to the first book in the Wayfarers series, I knew that I shouldn’t expect the third book in this series, Record of a Spaceborn Few, to have any significant connection to the previous books. Unfortunately, even the several different storylines in this book were hardly connected, seeming more like a series of short stories that were inter-cut between themselves. While Chambers’ world-building and dialogue are still top-notch, there isn’t anything in this book other than some boring characters living their boring lives.

I understand that any author worth their salt will develop vast amounts of details about the universe they create. However, most authors leave the aspects of the minutia and banal day-to-day lives out of their writing in favor of an actual plot with actual conflict. Instead, this book is filled with the details of world-building and nothing else. If these characters were better connected, or there was a stronger plot driving their stories, it would have maintained my interest. Unfortunately, most of the stories of these characters’ sub-plots are too generic and trope-like for me to care about any of them.

About the only reason I’m giving this book as high a rating as I am is due to the aforementioned writing on the part of the author. The actions and consequences are clearly thought out, and there is a realism to the dialogue that continues from the previous two books (but by this point makes a lot of the characters sound the same). If anything, this book should have been the first in the series. It should have introduced the universe and the stakes that anyone who ventures out into space is sure to face. The fact that it’s (in my opinion) the weakest in the series is probably why more exciting adventures were written for books one and two.

A disappointing and boring record of space, I give Record of a Spaceborn Few 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. W.

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking book jacket
Author: 
Cain, Susan
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

While it’s taken me a long time to finally get around to reading this book, most of what Quiet presented was what I had already known by living my life as an introvert. I will applaud this book’s ability to help society realize how ubiquitous the introverts that comprise the population are. Quiet also helps show what our needs are in this world that prizes the traits of extroversion over anything else. Even if there are many times where I have to put on my “extrovert suit,” it helps to know that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert.

Perhaps my only qualm with this book is how anecdotal the evidence is. Whether it’s stories about famous introverts (which can be inspiring) or younger introverts who are being brought up by parents who don’t quite understand the strengths of the introvert type, Quiet uses a lot of case studies to show how out of place introverts are, especially in the United States. I understand it can be challenging to study a personality type that’s so broad, but a few more references to scientific studies would have been helpful.

What struck me in Quiet was the background it provided on why society evolved to value the extroverts and deem the introverts as “problems.” I still see the effects of this emphasis today. Sure, I put up with being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, and I have made adaptations in my life to survive and thrive in it. I can empathize with the introverts who cannot cope, though, and hopefully, this book can continue to help introverts claim this personality type and own it as I have over the years. Even if we’re different from the perceived norm, we still provide value to a world that insists that louder is better.

A great anthem for those introverts who feel out of place in a gregarious society, I give Quiet 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.
Genres: 

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine book jacket
Author: 
Honeyman, Gail
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A story of wildly eccentric Eleanor and her battle with discovering her worth.
Eleanor Oliphant lives a normal, planned out life. Vodka and pizza on weekends and work throughout the week. An ordinary job, nothing special.
Ordinary co-workers, sometimes rude and harsh, but normal nonetheless. All seems well until Eleanor sees the love of her life. Johnnie, a musician with sparkling brown eyes and a whiskey aura about him. She plans on creating a relationship with him; one with long walks, cuddles, and warm cups of tea.
All seems well until Eleanor meets Raymond, a junkie with an unshaven beard and a smoker's cough. Raymond shows Eleanor kindness and compassion without expecting anything in return. Eleanor realizes that she's never quite know how that feels, she's spent her whole life being unaware of how good people can be. "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine," is a masterpiece at work, with the challenging lesson of learning that everyone deserves love, and no one should ever feel alone. Loneliness is a dangerous thing and can infect you like a virus, but Eleanor learns to battle that and discover her worth.
With a heart-wrenching twist, you'll never expect, "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine," will leave you completely speechless, so go ahead, and pick it right on up.
(Reviewer Grade: 9)

Reviewer's Name: 
Hanna S

Book Review: Divergent

Divergent book jacket
Author: 
Roth, Veronica
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The journey of a girl who only had a mere spark, but soon let it engulf in flames.
Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian world where people are categorized by personality and lifestyle preferences. There are five sections: Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, Abnegation, and Candor. Beatrice lives in the abnegation faction, with nothing to her name but her father's presence in the council.
That becomes an issue when Beatrice discovers that she is different from everyone else. Something inside of her has been trying to tell her that, but she left it to simmer. When she makes a life-altering decision to change her faction, she fears that she has disappointed her family. Beatrice soon learns to let go of what once held her back and fight for what she truly wants. In, "Divergent," the reader sees first-hand how grueling life can be and how becoming completely and utterly obsessed with the things you want only sets you up for success. In a dystopian world of chaos and mayhem, Beatrice not only sets out to find herself but is desperate to find the truth. Who is really behind all of this destruction? And how brave do you need to be to figure it out?
(Reviewer Grade: 9)

Reviewer's Name: 
Hanna S

Book Review: Weapons of Math Destruction

Weapons of Math Destruction image
Author: 
O'Neil, Cathy
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I love data. I love what it can show us as individuals and what it can show as society changes from year to year. Being able to trend my spending is just as useful to me as knowing how many people are participating in my National Novel Writing Month region. Because I’m always interested in seeing what pure numbers can show me about the world, I was intrigued to find this book, Weapons of Math Destruction. While I had already heard many of this book’s conclusions, it was interesting to read about the algorithms that work silently behind the scenes of our society and how nobody can really control or change them.

I’ll agree that it’s terrifying to have decision-making boiled down to a number popped out of an algorithm that decision-makers just blindly trust without understanding the rules of causality or correlation. People are messy, so I understand how finding a single aggregating number to represent an individual is a simple solution. However, I agree with the author’s outrage that these numbers are putting the disenfranchised into a toxic and harmful feedback loop. It’s difficult enough to survive out there without an arbitrary number determining your fate and you having little to no ability to change it. Of course, this point is pounded home about one or two times too many in this book.

From personal experience, I have received a brief glimpse behind the curtain into how these algorithms work. When I got married, I moved from one zip code to another in the same town. At that point, my car insurance premiums suddenly went up. Why? Because I was in a zip code filled with people who were “bad drivers.” Despite nothing about me or my car changing, now I was suddenly a bad driver. I do think there are some substantial reforms needed in these algorithmic systems. Still, I don’t necessarily think the solutions provided by the author are the right answer (they seem mostly based on the author’s personal opinions and biases).

A repetitive look into the dangers of blindly trusting algorithms, I give Weapons of Math Destruction 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Reviews: If I Stay

If I Stay book cover
Author: 
Forman, Gayle
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A tragic story, reflecting the struggle of a girl who clings to life. This novel brought many tears to my eyes as I read it. The main character Mia and her family had just been in life threatening car crash; when in the hospital Mia wakes up but outside of her body. She is faced with a heartbreaking
decision: to stay and live, or to die and leave. Mia while in this conscious drift apart from her physical body re-lives all the life changing moments of her past and witnesses all of her relatives and friends as they come to the hospital to potentially say goodbye. Mia is then faced with the decision of whether she should stay. Sadness, memories, romance, heartbreak, the novel If I Stay has it all.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Madison S

Book Review: Bob

Bob
Author: 
Mass, Wendy, Stead, Rebecca
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is about a girl who goes to her grandma's house after not being there for five years. She finds a small goblin named Bob awaiting her arrival. The two set off on an adventure to find Bob's family before they forget each other forever. This is a great story about the power of friendship. Rebecca Stead writes many amazing books and this is one of the best. This is a book that will leave you wanting more unable to put it down.

Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
McKenna B

Book Review: The Wishing Spell

The Wishing Spell
Author: 
Colfer, Chris
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Two twins Alex and Conner were at their school in their Language Arts class.
Today's lesson was on fairy tales. Alex was more kind of that girl who was a total geek and paid attention to everything in class, while Conner was more of the guy who sat in the back and snoozed off. That day after school they went to their grandmother’s house where their grandmother read them a book.
And it was not any book its was a book called the Land of Stories. One day Alex takes the book because she wanted to read it and then gets accidently sucked in! Alex and Conner have to make a Wishing spell to get out of the book. The rest of the book is the amazing adventure that awaits! People who like the show Once Upon a Time or people who just like fairy tales and have great knowledge in them will like this book and the series. This book is very unpredictable and will have you wanting to read more. This is one of the best books I have read this year!

Reviewer Grade: Grade 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Pranav M

Book Review: Becoming

Becoming
Author: 
Obama, Michelle
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Fantastic memoir about the life and times of Michelle Obama, from her early upbringing in South Side Chicago to her time as First Lady. I loved the descriptive quality of her experiences and was amused by the meeting and falling in love with Barack. The anecdotes of life in the White House were particularly interesting. I would recommend listening to this book instead of reading it, if possible, as she is the narrator.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

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