Book Reviews by Genre: Biography/Memoir

Unbroken book jacket
Hillenbrand, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Unbroken (teen version) is a well crafted biography written by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian and bombardier of World War II. Louie was mischievous and trouble-making as a young boy until his older brother, Pete, introduced him to running. As Pete urged Louie into the sport of running, Louie began to desert his old ways and commit himself to running. Louie soon was at the top of his school in running, setting new records and winning numerous races. Louie’s skill carried him all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the strongest point of his life, Louie hoped to travel to Tokyo for the following Olympic games. Unfortunately, terror came and his dreams were to be put on hold. World War II struck, causing Louie to enter into the Army Air Forces as a bombardier. Louie and his team of airmen faced many near death experiences. Although these were blood-curdling situations, none would compare to what Louie was soon to face. On a rescue mission in May of 1943, Louie’s plane crashed. The crash led to a terrifying and unfathomable journey on which Louie survived life on a raft and the wrath of Japanese guards of the POW camp he resided at. Louie went through incomprehensible pain from being beaten by his captors, having to perform forced labor, going through starvation, and constantly battling a sickness. He was also robbed of his self-esteem and was treated like he was worthless. Consequently, Louie’s story is breathtaking and intriguing. Unbroken provides insight on the torturous lives of POW during WWII and the determination and perseverance of many during WWII.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a WWII buff, history lover, or is in search of a thrilling and breathtaking story. I enjoyed it because I am interested in learning about World War II and I found the book to be moving. Unbroken is fascinating and is not dull or boring. The book will leave you wanting more and you will find it hard to put it down. However, I found the beginning part to be a bit uninteresting and tedious, as it told about the planes and equipment for World War II. Once that part is over, though, the book is quite exhilarating. I would caution that younger children should not read the book, as there are some graphic and gruesome scenes of how the POWs were treated. I would suggest the book for teens between the ages of 13-16, since there is an adult version of the book for those older than these ages.
Unbroken is one of my favorite books, and anyone who is interested in history or is seeking an electrifying story should read it.

Reviewer's Name: Ava W.
The Glass Castle
Walls, Jeanette
4 stars = Really Good

The book The Glass Castle is an autobiography by Jeanette Walls, going through her hectic life and how she handled everything. I liked this book, but it's about a really sensitive topic, and it could go through a lot of overwhelming and gross details towards the middle of the book, so I recommend for more sensitive readers not to read this. I picked this book because I saw that we had to read it in school, so of course, I wanted a little peek of what it was about. The start of the book was more calm, but readers could start to tell that her family isn't the way it's supposed to be. Throughout the book, there will be a lot of surprising and unexpected events, most not very wanted. I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" the book because that would sound wrong, but I felt the need to keep reading, seeing what happens next. I feel like a lot of students could relate to Jeanette. Maybe our conditions might not be as bad as hers, but readers could feel luckier and safe to be living a better life. But overall, I do recommend this book to less sensitive readers.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Trisha
Born A Crime
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This story explains what it was like to be born a crime. Trevor Noah is the child of a South African mother and a European father, which in South Africa, was illegal. Trevor has to learn how to stay positive with a racist government in control. This book does an excellent job explaining what it was like to grow up during Apartheid. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book because despite the bad circumstances, this book made me laugh a lot.

Reviewer's Name: Lotus
Profiles in Courage
Kennedy, John F
4 stars = Really Good

This book contained a lot of wisdom from a president’s point of view and was a very useful insight into his perspective. I appreciated the many different stories about many different historical figures and their trials, however, i did notice a strong bias against others and their perspectives. If i was to recommend this book to someone else, I would advise them to be careful about taking every word he says to heart, as he doesn’t phrase things from a neutral perspective. Overall i enjoyed the book, but it should be read by people looking for insight, not as an entertaining or exciting book. Though it may not have been thrilling or suspenseful, overall it was really good.

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey
Priceless : How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
Wittman, Robert K.
3 stars = Pretty Good

Are you a fan of true crime novels? Do you just love the excitement, the suspense of solving mysteries? Or do you like art and the masters like Leonardo de Vinci? This book is for you. Well on the outside this book might just seem like another true crime story it is really different. I always liked crime novels and tv shows and I was and still am interested in the work organizations like the FBI do to prevent crime. This book has a different approach to your classic true crime novel by not just focusing on how the FBI solves murders but by focusing on how one man (the author) went undercover in the FBI to help recover some of the world's most famous stolen art pieces. It centers around his life and shows other things than just his cases, like how he was suspected of killing his friend. It also tells the story of how he founded the FBI's Art Crime Team. Well this book may not be for everyone if you like a good true crime book this book may work for you. It is slow in parts but makes up for that by telling stories that seem absurd to realize actually happened.

Reviewer's Name: Emily
Small steps: the year I got polio
Kehret, Peg
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

In this amazing autobiography, Peg tells the story about how she got polio and cheated death. When Peg found out she had polio her life changed. When she got to the hospital, she was terrified! When Peg meet her roommates, she realized that this was not the end of the world. She fights her battle with polio and wins it with the help of doctors therapists and her family. This book will entertain with ages from 6 to adult! I defiantly recommend this to read is your looking for a short great read.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Estella
Man's Search for Meaning
Frankl, Viktor E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Man’s Search for Meaning gives a rare perspective on life during the Holocaust. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was forced into four different labor camps during WWII, and ultimately survived, while his family members were all slaughtered. Most books from the Holocaust are centered around horror stories from prison camps, and the sheer brutality of one of human history’s most devastating genocides. Frankl gives the psychiatrist’s view on life after camp and works to answer one essential question - how do we move on from grief? He recounts the moment he was free to leave as confusing - almost more shocking than freeing. What do you do after your entire family is killed? Where do you go after being released from a death camp hundreds of miles from home?

The book’s storytelling is devastating and beautifully crafted, and its exploration of humanity’s search for lives worth living - lives significant for the individual - has become one of America’s most influential pieces of literature. The book is heartbreaking, but so is any story worth telling. It has everything to be expected from such a terrifying chapter in our history, but what makes it so unique is the way it addresses life after the terror ends. Anyone wanting to search for meaning in their own lives, or at the very least get a new perspective on the Holocaust, needs to read this.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Alda, Alan
4 stars = Really Good

After reading If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? , I decided to add some other Alan Alda books to my reading list. Months later, I finally got around to listening to the audiobook for Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. I appreciate that Alda was the narrator, as he already has such a great voice for narration. That being said, there are a few aspects of this book that were likely lost in the translation to audiobook format.

As a celebrity, Alan Alda was invited to speak at many graduation ceremonies for many decades. This book is a collection of some of the speeches he gave at these events. While there are certainly gems of wisdom spread throughout this book, many of the same points are reiterated from speech to speech, making it slightly repetitive after a while. Also, if you don't happen to agree with some of his political views, you might not find some of the speeches particularly interesting. Despite all this, if you can glean some useful advice out of these speeches, then it was worth the read.

One thing I had trouble distinguishing in the audiobook version was where the speeches started and ended and where Alda's reflections and asides started. I would occasionally notice an echo in the recording, which likely indicated that it was one of his speeches. I think the echo was trying to replicate the sensation of listening to Alda in a large space (like the ones used for graduations), but it was so faint as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the book. I appreciate the attention to detail, but it could have been a little stronger.

Some useful graduation advice from Alan Alda, I give Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
Kamkwamba, William and Mealer, Bryan
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book is one of the most inspirational stories I've ever read. The journey put forth, following William, is truly a gem that makes you think about what could've happened if something had been different. I loved reading it because I felt every details of William's journey to develop his windmill that put him on fame. His determination to prove that science is 'real' and can make a difference, especially during a time and in a culture that rejects it, shows his character and his want for a better life in his land. He perseveres through the struggles of drought and hunger, and overcomes the ridicule thrown from all sides to be able to rise up and rise above, and make his visions come true. A really inspirational story, that shows a hero's journey in a way not usually thought.

Reviewer's Name: Evelyn
Wild Swans
Chang, Jung
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Jung Chang recalls the experiences of her grandmother, her mother, and finally herself, all in distinct eras of China in Wild Swans. While the book is about Chang's family and the hardships they faced under changing authorities, the account is just as much about the consequences of ideologies, and how our loyalties shape who we are. Chang describes the brutalities of Japanese occupation, as well as the callous nature of China under Mao Zedong. The book is slow at first but becomes thrilling with the rise of Mao, and Chang's detailing of life under Communism. Highly recommended for those interested in learning more about China in the twentieth century.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave
Douglass, Frederick
4 stars = Really Good

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass illustrates Douglass's life during slavery in Maryland and his attempts to make it to freedom. This narrative demonstrates the horrific situations/events and the terrible way slaves were treated throughout the time period of slavery way deeper than the average history text book. The narrative is extremely informative about life's of slaves since it goes into specifics about slaves being born, their living quarters, amounts of food, the masters, etc. It is very difficult to relate to or know exactly how a slave was treated in this time period; however, this book allows readers to understand the hideous and fearful actions that were taken against these human beings. This narrative brought tears to my eyes and shocking expressions to my face when reading certain real events that took place. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was extremely well written because it allowed me to see more than what is taught in an American History class because Frederick Douglass goes so in-depth about his experiences in slavery throughout the narrative.

Reviewer grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Lana
The Girl with Seven Names
Lee, Hyeonseo with David John.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Hyeonseo Lee is a young woman who was able to escape North Korea after years of determination and courage. Lee explains in great detail the brainwashing she and all other North Koreans have gone through and how they continue to be treated by their oppressive government. She also offers an insight into the daily life of a North Korean and thoroughly explains that the indoctrination is not the fault of the people, but the tyrannical governments. At the young age of 17, Lee must leave everything she has known behind as she escapes on her own and makes her way across the North Koreans and Chinese border (intending to make South Korea her final destination). While on the run, Lee realizes that her journey may not be as easy as she expected. Following her successful mission, she is able to flourish even more than she originally envisioned. As you read this book, you'll finally learn why she came to be known as "the girl with seven names."

Reviewer's Name: Jenna W.
Permanent Record
Snowden, Edward
3 stars = Pretty Good

Permanent Record is the memoir of Edward Snowden life. Snowden was the man who exposed and leaked how the US government used mass surveillance on enemies but also US citizens. Snowden knew so much of this system as he
was a former employee of the CIA. I choose this book because it's nonfiction and about an important event that happened recently. I also chose Permeant Record because I love reading about politics and government. This book
definitely surprised me because of Snowden's reasoning and motivation of why he did what he did. I liked Permanent Record because the readers get a first person perspective of the events that unfolded. Although I liked the book, I
disliked how Snowden's actions endangered the lives of several American spies, and other government officials.

Reviewer's Name: Ananth S.
Heyerdahl, Thor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Kon-Tiki is a novel about a group of men who sail across the ocean on a polynesian raft with the bare necessities for life. Using barely any modern resources, like a GPS or Emergency SOS, they set sail in the early 1950’s. They wanted to prove that it is possible to sail to polynesia in a raft. The beginning was a little rough for me, as it was about the preparation, the, and the support behind the project. I disliked them going into so much detail about the raft they were trying to copy. They were trying to copy the exact rope, the exact bamboo, the exact position of launch, and the exact shape. If you are a story lover like me, it starts out rough, but it turns into a fabulous journey towards the middle. I enjoyed this book because of the sense of adventure and the sense of
exploration. It describes the adventure of meeting the Whale Shark with a passionate sense of adventure, describing the people on board being panicked at first, then treating it as a kind of puppy. This is a favorite of mine, due to the fact that the adventure was both interesting and thrilling. I recommend this book to anyone that is looking for an adventure on the sea.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
Henry, Patti Callahan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

f you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, and perhaps were introduced to Joy Davidman through the movie, "Shadowlands", this in-depth look at her life, and struggles before she first began her correspondence with Lewis. Already a prolific poet and writer, Davidman was extremely well-educated and had been a child prodigy. This is an evocative account for her search for God, her quest for peace during a strained first marriage, and ultimately, coming to terms with the illness that took her life after finding fullflling love with C.S. Lewis. The book is well-researched, but is a novel that is written in the first person.

Reviewer's Name: Janet M.
Crenshaw, Dan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This book is fantastic! Dan Crenshaw offers brilliant advice on mental toughness and how to combat the outrage culture with critical thinking. Crenshaw's methods are simple, easy to practice, and are what is missing in today's society. Written from his life experiences of being a Navy SEAL and United States Congressman, Crenshaw makes this book relatable and applicable to everyone's lives. Crenshaw also cites many articles, studies, and medical experts to backup his advice. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to become a well-informed voter, contributing citizen, or successful person.

Reviewer's Name: John
The Boys in the Boat
Brown, Daniel James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Boys in the Boat tells the story of how nine men took gold during the 1936
Olympics in Berlin. As you read the book, you will feel the struggles of the
men to make the Washington rowing team as Juniors, compete for a spot in the
first boat as seniors, and overcome the biggest challenge yet in winning the
gold medal. This book is an easy five stars because of character development
and an easy to follow plot. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted
to read about one of the most important Olympic gold medalists.

Reviewer's Name: Zach
My Sweet Angel
Glatt, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

John Glatt does a great job in laying out this heinous murder, based on a true story. Managing to lay out a timeline with both moves and medical complications, Glatt exposes a mother who went to great lengths to do everything she could to create publicity for her sick son. The photos in the middle of the book, as heartbreaking as they are, make a much heavier impact if you wait until you've completed the book to look at them.

Reviewer's Name: Nicole E.
I Am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
3 stars = Pretty Good

"I Am Malala" was a pretty great book, and is now one of my personal favorites. It did not take me long to read and is good for anyone ages 12+. This book does contain some sensitive contents and might not be great for younger kids, unless the parents are okay with harsh and sad topics in the Middle East. The book does not contain a whole lot of content on what goes on in that area of the world, and it mostly focuses on Malala and her story. Malala is a young teen from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She was raised peacefully, but the Taliban soon started to take over the area. The Taliban started like a little seed, but grew into a giant weed that basically controlled everything. They eventually made it so girls were not allowed to go to school, and women were not aloud out of their house unless they are accompanied by a male relative. Malala would not put up with this, for she has a desire to learn and know answers to her questions. She is the daughter of the principal of her school, and grew up admiring the students that attended. After surviving a bullet to the head, months in the hospital, and a move to England, Malala becomes activist and stands up for girl's rights and
her belief that everyone has the right to go to school. I liked this book because Malala is a great role model and author. She really provides a strong figure for any girl growing up in this hectic world. This is definitely one of the best books I have read and I am sure I will read it again in times to come. Any girl (or boy) can relate to Malala because she described herself as being an ordinary girl that wanted to see change in the world. She shows that anyone can adjust their view on the world if they just use their voice to speak out. I absolutely suggest this book to someone if they are looking for a fairly quick read!

Reviewer's Name: Sukhleen
Crazy Enough
Large, Storm
4 stars = Really Good

This raw and honest memoir is a great mix of entertainment and powerful introspection. Storm Large has spent her wild life with a deep seated fear she will turn out like her mother, who was institutionalized many times for mental illness. Then there's her sex addiction. Definitely not a book for kids or teens. Overall, I recommend this quick read to those who like to read about the wilder side of life and are interested in mental illness.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn