All Book Reviews by Genre: Nonfiction

Outliers: The Story of Success
Gladwell, Malcolm
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All humans are different: some are talented, some are smart, and some are just successful, but some are not any of those. But why? Malcolm Gladwell sets out to determine why some people are successful and why some are not and also what factor do all these “celebrities” have in common. Most of us believe it's sheer talent and determination that makes someone successful, which is true since you need to be talented and have strong work-ethic, but Gladwell proposes another theory: when you are born. Your birthday apparently determines whether you are successful in your career and even your life, according to Gladwell. It may sound crazy, but the evidence is undeniable and Gladwell’s explanations are truly phenomenal and well-thought out. However, there's more than that: Gladwell reviews the life of geniuses such as Bill Gates, Bill Joy, and Chris Langan and determines why those people are classified as “geniuses,” he explains that a lot about becoming successful isn’t talent or IQ, but it’s the coincidental opportunities you get at, somehow, the perfect time. I love this book and Gladwell obviously did his research, I recommend this book to all readers since everyone is an outlier.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
American Sniper
Kyle, Chris
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Chris Kyle was nothing more than a simple Texan man who loved hunting and rodeos. All that changed in 1999 when Chris signed up for the Navy SEALs and began BUD/s training. From that moment on, Chris Kyle vowed to protect and fight for his nation, even putting country before family. American Sniper is an autobiography written by Kyle himself, as he talks about his childhood, life before, and after becoming a SEAL. He records life on the battlefield of Fallujah and Ramadi, but also the relations he had with his teammates, both alive and deceased. Kyle is acknowledged to be one of the deadliest snipers’ in American History with a count of 160 confirmed kills. This is one of the most well-written and amazing novels I have ever read and for anyone who didn’t know, Chris Kyle was killed on February 2, 2013 on U.S soil by a former marine, which makes this book all the more honorable and, for lack of a better word, sad. When reading this, you can actually know what the life of a SEAL, or even a militant at that, was like but also that Chris Kyle was an amazing man who gave so much for so little.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Book Review: The Art of Practicing
Bruser, Madeline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I skimmed the parts of this book that didn't apply to me. But stretching and relaxing before practice and performances, thorough memorizing as a tool to help you quickly recover when you make a mistake, finding something to love in each tune (even those you don't love - I'm looking at you, Loch Carron), and recognizing the bravery of performance and competitions resonated with me. A good read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Monuments Men: Allied Heros, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Edsel, Robert M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This read provides an interesting and fast-paced approach to learning the history of World War II’s MFAA, while it is also entertaining as a historical story in itself. It reminds us that valor does not only belong to those who fight the physical wars, but also to those who protect the traditions and values upon which we built and sustain our culture. It awakens pride in us as Americans, as well as respect for the universal value of culture in all nations. The Monuments Men ties together the art of war, the value of culture, the unity of a nation, and the interest of history.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Molly Q.
Genres:
The Secret Rooms
Bailey, Catherine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I really was intrigued by this book. It was promoted as a mystery and I love a good mystery. Especially a true-life mystery surrounding the death of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland. In the beginning I was very intrigued and couldn't put the book down. But after awhile, I just couldn't take it anymore. Catherine Bailey took an interesting piece of British history and some how turned it into a tedious, uninteresting story. Plus, she never really delivered on all of the mysteries she found surrounding John Manners. I think this book could have been much more interesting with A LOT of editing. I do admit, I did learn some interesting tidbits. Not enough for me to recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Awards:
Book Review: Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids
Ricci, Mary Cay
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My daughter's teacher recommended this book. It focuses on what parents can do to help children succeed. It comes from a place that all children have tremendous potential for growth, not just ones identified as 'gifted'. The advice that I took to heart was to talk with Zoe about how her brain works, how it gets stronger when she works hard and challenges herself. How difficult work is worth the effort and setbacks and failures are necessary for growth. I learned a lot and highly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
When Breath Becomes Air
Kalanithi, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This memoir by a brilliant neurosurgeon who contracts lung cancer movingly describes the anguish of terminal illness from the doctor and patient perspectives simultaneously. An accomplished writer with an astonishing grasp of literature, he side steps all the easy answers and leaves the reader in love with life and astonished by living, not intimidated by disease.

Reviewer's Name: David R.
They say/I say : The Moves that Matter in Persuasive Writing
Graff, Gerald
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein explore the skills of academic writing, explaining what writers do wrong, how they can do it right, and why these methods work. This book is more for those interested in improving their rhetoric skills and those in Language and Composition classes. I use this book for my AP Lang class and it’s very helpful since Graff and Birkenstein give you useful templates to replace your boring sentences and transitions and they explain why those templates are effective. Rhetoric is a skill widely used in all writing, and being able to master this skill opens doors of creativity for works such as: argument essays, persuasive essays, etc.
Furthermore, they point out mistakes commonly made by student, and even professional, writers and why they are ineffective. There are short but interesting articles in the back of the book, that tie in with activities they provide for you to practice the skills they just relayed to you. I really think most writers, or upcoming writers, should read and keep this book because it gives you useful strategies and templates, which you can use and eventually turn it into your own writing style.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
In Cold Blood
Capote, Truman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Holcomb, Kansas 1959, the Clutter family was brutally murdered and no one knew who or why they did it. Truman Capote wrote this book as a novel, with dialogue between the murderers and the family; although he was not there, he gathered as much information about the murder as possible and was able to turn it into a book instead of a document. Moving on, the story follows the life of the Clutter family before and after they were murdered, however it focuses more on Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers of the Clutters. In need of cash, and fast, Hickock calls his old jail friend Perry Smith and they decide to execute a robbery of the Clutter family, who they thought were rich. After invading the house and finding no cash, they dispose of the Clutters, rid of the clues, and escape the law for as long as they could. I love this book since it enables the reader to have a mystery going on in their head and also because murder was uncommon back in 1959, so it enables the reader to feel how it was to hear of a major crime, such as this, back then. I recommend this book to every reader out there, it was very well written and one of the most amazing “New Journalism” type of books, as Capote said.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Into the Wild
Krakauer, Jon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

September 1992, a young man named Chris McCandless is found dead in the Alaskan Wilderness and Jon Krakauer is determined to sniff out every clue as to why. Into the Wild follows the life of Chris McCandless, a young man who dropped everything and took to the road, and how he even ended up in Alaska in the first place; and although he is dead, the trail and influences he left behind live on in those he met. The story jumps around occasionally, but it is just extraordinary to me how a single young man was able to travel almost all of the United States by foot and hitchhiking, and then end up in Alaska where he lived in the Wild until August 1992. Krakauer interviews the people who Chris has interacted with, and all of them say that Chris changed their life for the better, even those who he only shared a car ride with. I personally enjoy this book because it makes you feel as if what he did was amazing and if you, too, need an adventure like that in your life. I definitely recommend this book to all readers since every single person can take something from this book, negative or positive.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Stitches
Small, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.

This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!

Reviewer's Name: Will
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Schumer, Amy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For whatever reason, I've read a lot of comedian/actor memoirs in the last few years, and this one has pretty similar fare as to what you'd find in, say, a Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey offering. For me, it's in the middle of the pack in terms of quality (Bossypants > Lower Back Tattoo > either of Kalings's books), but was still an interesting, funny listen. It's part anecdotes, part advice, part social commentary, and part random page filler. For instance, one chapter is her fictional funeral rider, which, while it was kind of funny, was mostly a waste of my time. In this book, Schumer's at her best when she's a little raw - telling a sad/funny story and just letting it be what it is.

Even though I mostly enjoyed the book, the editing was not so great. Schumer calls part of the female anatomy by the wrong name for the entirety of the book. I can't believe that no one noticed that. Also, she was constantly saying "remember earlier in the book when" which you know, yes, we do remember, we're capable of basic memory recall. The persistent references to earlier chapters made me think that she maybe thought this book was going to be read by 8-year-olds or something when they were clearly not the target audience.

I mean, if I learned anything from this book about Schumer herself, it's that she's kind of a ridiculous person. For example, in one chapter, she talks about her "genetic predisposition" to black out whilst drinking, and then she lists the drinks she would normally have on a night out in college:

2 beers while pregaming followed by
4 vodka martinis straight up or a little dirty
Various other drinks

It's not genetics, Schumer, it's the martinis.

With that being said, I do admire her courage in telling stories that were real and painful for her, especially since those stories might offer some solace for people in similar situations, or may help young women avoid those situations entirely. I also like that she's found a cause (gun violence, particularly as it pertains to women), and she isn't shy about sharing the facts or her opinions in the book. Overall, I found the book to be an enjoyable listen, and it helped pass the time on a longish car trip. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Under the Banner of Heaven
Krakauer, Jon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. If there was anyway to just completely rile me up, it was to read this book. Which means the book was really good. I've known just a little about Mormonism from some kids I went to school with and such, but the fundamentalist side of it was alien to me (aside from polygamy). I really makes me wonder about the human condition and the types of religion it accepts, even if it seems like it's being accepted blindly. Great book, and written with more of the facts in mind, rather than a bias.

Reviewer's Name: Cassie
Awards:
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)
Lawson, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jenny Lawson’s memoir is heart wrenching and laugh-out loud funny, especially if you have been touched by friends or family dealing with mental health challenges. I listened to it in the car and nearly drove off the road laughing.
Jenny knows she has problems and this is her story of how they carved out the details of her life – from her taxidermist father to Victor, her husband, and everything in between. Her stream of consciousness storytelling style is perfect. I could relate to, and actually picture, the absurdity of many of her stories. It was enlightening to see life through the eyes of the person dealing with the severe anxiety, depression and other quirks, and not just from an outsider’s viewpoint, thinking “What’s WRONG with you?”
I felt better knowing there are others that are dealing with the same mental health issues and that my family and I are not alone. You will probably put your family back on the normal and sane spectrum after reading this. I didn't care for some of the language that was strewn through the book, but it is part of the culture.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
Awards:
Hidden America
Laskas, Jeanne Marie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I really enjoyed this book! I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, but Jeanne Marie Laskas kept me interested in all of the stories of Hidden America. I learned so much. I have to admit, I never really think about how my fresh fruit gets to me, but after reading the chapter on migrant workers, I am not sure I will look at my daily apple the same way. Also, I thought she did a great job when she went to Yuma, Arizona to the gun shop. That story didn't turn out like I expected it to. But the best chapter is about our trash and the people who tend to it. I just thought a landfill was a place where our garbage went to never be seen again. But there is a lot that goes into landfills and garbage. This was such a fascinating book! A great read and a really good book for a book group. So much to discuss!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" tells the story of what happens after "All was well." Albus Severus Potter enters his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with Rose Granger-Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy. The next generation faces the expectations and pressure of being children of the Golden Trio - especially Albus, who resents being the son of the Chosen One and doesn't believe his father is the hero everyone says he is. After hearing about what happened the night of the Triwizarding Tournament, the night the second Hogwarts Champion was killed, Albus decides to go back and fix the mistake his father made. But awful things happen to wizards who meddle with time...
I had really high expectations for this story - and it met all of them. Humor, adventure, friendship, emotion. Almost the entire original cast - Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and Draco - return. I felt that this story gave me even more closure than the Deathly Hallows epilogue. I'd DEFINITELY recommend reading the series before reading Cursed Child, because it will not only enrich the experience, but it will allow you to better understand the plot and characters.
Reviewers Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Genres:
I Like You Just the Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People
Mollen, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

By far the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed out loud throughout the entire book. I can not wait to read her new book and also watch her upcoming series about this book. Hilarious!!!!!!

Reviewer's Name: Shannon
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Strayed, Cheryl
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I finished this book about 3 weeks ago so my review is clouded by the passage of time. This book is written from the perspective of an inexperienced hiker embarking on a harrowing adventure. I often found myself wondering why she didn't just give up; how she could possibly have survived hiking in the snow and ice without succumbing to hypothermia or sustaining injury; how she could continue hiking on severely damaged feet; or how she could have hiked for an extended period of time without encountering the powerful thunderstorms so prevalent in the high country. Also, it was a bit long for my taste. Still it was very good and I recommended it especially to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Buck, Rinker
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Have you ever daydreamed about what it was like to cross the American West in a covered wagon during the 1800s? Well, I have, and apparently Mr. Buck and his brother Nick have too. The idea to "See America Slowly" was planted by their father, who took them on a covered wagon trip from New Jersey to Pennsylvania which ended up being featured in LOOK magazine in 1958. Before setting out on their epic journey, Buck gives the reader fascinating background on wagons (it's not a Conestoga!), mules and their unsung contribution to America's development, and getting cheated (just like the early pioneers) by outfitters who sell inappropriate equipment at outrageous prices. The cast is filled out by three mules - Jake, Beck and Bute - and a filthy Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, our merry band will experience many of the hardships encountered by travelers in the nineteenth century (storms, lack of water, and dangerous terrain) and some new ones (semi trucks, miles of fences, and inferior truck stop coffee). Buck also gives the reader lively background sketches of the many colorful characters who made their way over the trail originally and the contemporary controversy over the LDS church's efforts to re-brand the route as the Mormon Trail. So hop aboard, partner, and let's go "see the elephant! You'll have a great trip.

Reviewer's Name: Alan
Awards:
Genres:
Night
Wiesel, Elie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’ve always loved learning about the holocaust and people’s stories. Elie Wiesel's story is the best one I’ve heard yet. He puts so much emotion into his story and his writing and it makes you feel like you’re in the holocaust. Elie starts his story off by talking about his religion and the church he went to. His instructor, Moshe the Beadle had been gone for so long, and when he returned he had a story of a near death experience with the Nazi's. Of course, no one believed his “story” and they carried on with their lives as normal. One night they got real news that the Nazi's were coming the next morning and that’s when everything bad started happening.
All the walking, traveling, and suffering he went through was very interesting to read. My teacher read this book to the whole class in 8th grade and I instantly fell in love with it.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Layla P.
Awards:

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