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All Book Reviews by Genre: Biography/Memoir

El Deafo
Bell, Cece
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This book is full of so much character it's so hard to stop reading, and it's also an easy book to read because it's a graphic novel.This book tells so much story of this girls problems she goes through, the pros and the cons.

Reviewer's Name: Delaney
Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved
Bowler, Kate
3 stars = Pretty Good

It's been a little while since I've read this book. It's about a professor who has written and researched the 'prosperity gospel', is diagnosed with cancer, and struggles to reconcile the two. The best part about the book was the appendix which talks about what and what not to do when interacting with someone going through a trauma. I read this book while a friend of mine was dying of cancer. I wish I had the opportunity to utilize the advice in this book to comfort her.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
We Bought a Zoo
Mee, Benjamin
3 stars = Pretty Good

"We Bought A Zoo", an inspiring story about following your dreams, is an interesting novel. Published in 2008, this book is now a major motion picture. I started reading this book about two months ago, having finished it mid-April. I am in the eighth grade, and found this book a little advanced.
It talked about terminology that is most likely aimed towards an older audience, of that including zoology and business. However, I found this book very informative and inspiring in spite of it's difficulty. This book is a personal narrative from the perspective of Benjamin Mee and his road to zoo owner. The copy I read did include some profanity (cursing), so if that is not something that appeals to you, this book may not be for you. However, if you like an inspiring read and learning new things, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
I am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
4 stars = Really 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 Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Ella S.
Holidays on Ice
Sedaris, David
1 star = Yuck!

I listened to this book, most of which was read in a nasally, whiny voice. The initial stories about working as an elf at Christmas-time had tears of laughter pouring out of my eyes, Unfortunately, the book rapidly went downhill. This satire started out funny, but it kept going too long as if the author didn't know when to end the story. There were also some disturbing images that added absolutely nothing. The stories were sarcastic, but the bitterness in them really turned me off. Can't recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
Into the Wild
Krakauer, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I was required to read Into the Wild for English class and normally I’d be procrastinating to get into those books but I enjoyed this one a lot. In 1990, based on real life events, a wealthy boy named Christopher McCandless, fresh out of college from the East Coast, abruptly decided to donate all of his money to charity, sever contact with his parents, and set out for the great Alaskan wilderness. He journeyed all over the West Coast traveling around California, New Mexico, and Arizona and even held a job at a farm in South Dakota, eventually renaming himself Alexander Supertramp. Alexander picked up new skills and information such as how to skin a moose, different camps he might stay at, what weapons he needed, etc. from all of the individuals he met. For years, he remained in the continental United States but his goal was always to live off the earth in Alaska - he thought there was more to life than the money and fame his parents treasured. What I enjoyed most about this book was that there were actual accounts of Alexander’s journey either from his personal journal or the friends he encountered that allowed the readers to sympathize with Alexander and understand his goal despite his unfortunate fate. The problem with the novel was that I think Alexander was portrayed to be more conscientious and experienced than he truly was due to the fact the author, Jon Krakauer, outright states he idolizes him in the foreword. This concept can also be emphasized by the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter that provide quotes from famous adventure novels including The Call of the Wild and White Fang as if trying to ensure that Alexander was the hero Krakauer thought he was. However, I did find Krakauer’s bias easier to support the claim that Alexander was naive. Why else would the author be trying so hard to prove he was not? Slow-paced at some parts, but I do think this is an interesting telling of what so many individuals are afraid to do.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
The Invisible Wall
Bernstien, Harry
4 stars = Really Good

Harry is a small boy living in a war torn part of England. His street is divided by an invisible wall… a wall divided the Jews from the Christians.
There is an unspoken hatred of the other side, and any possible relationship between the two sides is crushed. But what happens when a Jew and a Christian fall in love? Harry’s elder sister begins to love a Christian boy, and is treated horribly for it. She is beaten by her drunken father and shamed by her family and friends. Harry is forced to choose between what he knows to be right and what he has been raised to accept is right.This book is nonfiction.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully written and I loved the author’s narration. Although, I felt like nothing good ever happened. It seemed like the author was just choosing the most terrible, most horrendous things and depicting that as the everyday life. Who knows? Maybe that’s how it actually was.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride
Elwes, Cary
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

While I love audiobooks for their capacity to let me mindlessly absorb books while I’m driving to or from work, much of the story comes down to the narrator and their inflections. Sometimes these narrators can be annoying, or incomprehensible, or vary their volume too much. It is a rare treat to find an audiobook that fully capitalizes on the medium, either by adding music and sound effects or (in this case) using the voices of actual people to narrate the story. As You Wish is just such an audiobook, and I would even go so far to say it is the superior version of this book, even without “reading” it for myself.

As one of the most frequent and common of quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987) is an odd little film that just works. It’s fantasy, it’s comedy, it’s family-friendly. It’s all these things and more. But what about the people who made it happen? There have been horror stories of narcissistic directors or difficult actors making successful films, even despite their personalities. Fortunately, this most beloved of classics was not like that at all. All the behind-the-scenes stories helped to add an understanding and depth to The Princess Bride that should appeal to both diehard fans and those unfamiliar with the film.

Cary Elwes does a fantastic job of stringing these stories together while also exploring the backgrounds of all the characters (and the actors who played them). While the other actors do get their say in this audiobook, it’s Elwes’ impersonations of many of the individuals that was hilariously on point. He takes a humble and even-handed approach to storytelling that brings the listener into the midst of the filmmaking process without letting his personality get in the way of recounting historical events. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or a fan of audiobooks, his book is absolutely worth a listen.

A superb audiobook that everyone should listen to, I give As You Wish 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Skloot, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a powerful narrative detailing one of the most revolutionary scientific and medical discoveries of the 20th century: HeLa cells. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 when she was 31 years old. During a surgery to remove some of her tumor, one of her surgeons took a sample of that tumor for testing in his lab. As he had tested many other cancerous cells, he expected Henrietta's cells to die within a few hours. They never did. Her cells continued to reproduce, and still do to this day. Henrietta's family, however, was never notified that her cells were taken. They discovered this in a news article years after the fact. The book not only tells Henrietta's story, but her family's as well. Rebecca Skloot worked for years with the Lacks family to ensure that justice was done, and Henrietta was not lost to history. I enjoyed the personal perspective that Skloot used to tell the story. It had the full potential of being written like a scientific journal, but Skloot told it as a beautiful narrative. Henrietta, her husband and children, and even Rebecca herself were characters and there was emotion on every page. It reads like a novel. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in medicine and its history.

Reviewer's Name: Hannah H.
Book Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Sedaris, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

David Sedaris truly does not disappoint in his autobiography, When You’re Engulfed in Flames. The way that he is able to express himself while being true to his own story is amazing. He takes a normal self-discovery story and adds enough detail and personal insight, that it makes it one of the most entertaining books that I have ever read. I can see, however, that this is not the book for everyone. It uses quite a bit of vulgar language, discusses about adult topics, and talks about multiple controversial subjects (political subjects in our nation). It has a very liberal feel, and would most likely not appeal as much to strict conservatives. But, nonetheless, a book is a book, and this one was extremely well written and hilarious. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud in quiet environments. The wit that David Sedaris has is impeccable and one of a kind and constantly present throughout the book.
I initially picked up this book because it was given to me as a gift. The gift giver had not read the book but had just seen the exquisite artwork on the cover and knew it was going to be good. Since then, I have recommended this book to so many who want a quick, funny, uplifting read. And that is why I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading self narratives with a humorous twist.

Reviewer's Name: Emma K.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Trevor Noah's autobiography, which focuses on his childhood in South Africa, gives audiences a funny yet insightful look into life in South Africa before and after apartheid. The book is also a compelling mother-and-son love story. Noah's astute and comedic storytelling makes "Born a Crime" is a very smart and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Melina
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler
Freedman, Russell
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Russell Freedman's book chronicling the White Rose Resistance Movement is a brief but enlightening overview of the resistance to the Nazi's in WWII that will sure to spark interest in history for teens and adults. Freeman's work is always well researched, well written and he includes many interesting historical photos as well as an index, notes and a great selected bibliography for further exploration. Spoiler alert to parents, readers will encounter gruesome facts about the execution of the movements members, so parent pre-reading is advised. For ages 12 - 18.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Love, Lucy
Ball, Lucille
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball is an amazing depiction of the iconic bombshell actress, Lucille Ball. It is an autobiography and describes her early life, family dynamics, acting career, marriages, and divorces. I found the story to be quite inspirational and it is now one of my favorite books. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about what her life was like. In her early career, she wasn’t considered to be an exceptional actress and was told that she was untalented and would not be hired. Amazingly, she is now one of the most iconic female comedians of all time for her work on the show “I Love Lucy”. I have a newfound respect for her and her work after reading this book.
This book really speaks to the dreamers. If you’ve ever had someone tell you that you’re not good enough at the thing you love to do it professionally, read this book! One of the most interesting parts of the book is when Lucille depicts going to an acting school in New York City. After the first term, she was kicked out because she “didn’t have what it takes”.
As we all know, she ultimately proved them wrong. Her story is one of success when barely anyone believed in her.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+. It did not have an swearing in it and the book was easy to read. It is 286 pages which might be a little long for the younger readers.
The autobiography “Love, Lucy” by Lucille Ball is an amazing and inspirational story about the immensely talented actress who defied early critics to become a leading lady in American television.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
'Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind'
Kamkwamba, William
2 stars = Meh

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkawamba and Bryan Mealer is a nonfiction book or biography that describes William Kamkwamba's rise to fame. He undegoes a transformation from being a poor farm boy to emerging as a creative, and intuitive inventor. The book exceeds at telling not about the facts of William Kamkawamba's, but rather, telling the reader about his story. In times of need, William decides to build a windmill to provide electricity for himself and his family. This gives him something to do and learn, as he is prohibited from going to school, thanks to poverty. The book then proceeds to tell the reader about inventions and ideas that have no impact on anything, and just seem like filler content. William then becomes famous and gets to go to school. Through the story, the book fails by providing no depth to any of the characters or real plot. While the book also tries to insist that the theme is about one bright idea lighting up the world, there is no evidence or real example of William influencing people. He just gets some money and gives electricity and better conditions to his
fellow townspeople. Overall the book is exciting at first, but once the creation of the windmill is over, the book becomes dry and dull. I can not
recommend this book to anyone else, as it was really a boring read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
King Leopold's Ghost
Hochschild, Adam
4 stars = Really Good

Adam Hochschild brings to light an important part of history that is largely ignored in relations to the horrors of the colonization of Africa. Hochschild follows, in detail, the formation of the Belgium colony in the Congo. His descriptions and the information he puts forth draws the readers in and highlights the travesty that King Leopold let loose on this part of Africa and its people. The details that Hochschild puts into his book reveals hidden intrigues that keep the readers engaged. And the history that Hochschild relates to the development of this colony allows readers to see the bigger picture. This book addresses key topics, like racism and slavery, that develop readers understanding of this time and the need to prevent similar situations in the future.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: Lynzie M.
Boeselager, Philipp Leopold Antonius Hubertus, Freiherr von
3 stars = Pretty Good

I first gained awareness of “Operation Valkyrie” when the film starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie (2008), was first released. It makes logical sense to me that not all Germans involved in the war were Nazis, and not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s tactics. It is then the logical conclusion that some of them would attempt to assassinate the leader who had brought their country into a sweeping, global conflict. While this assassination attempt failed, I was still curious about the inner-workings of the plot and the people who would go so far as to try and kill Hitler.

My expectation of this book was for it to be an in-depth analysis of the many facets of the operation. From Hitler’s security concerns to the backgrounds of the lives of the individuals involved, I was expecting this book to be a non-fictional examination of the assassination that never succeeded. Instead, I was a little surprised to read the personal account of one of the conspirators of the assassination. The whole narrative was quite short (not even four and a half hours long), and left me wanting more. While this first-person account was entertaining, it wasn’t quite enough to satiate my desire for knowledge.

Because this book was only the translated account of Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, there were plenty of details about his life and the life of his brother, but not much else. I was hoping his story would be the structure on which a deeper narrative would develop, but it remained the pure and unadulterated memoir of this single individual. I can’t fault the book for being the simple story of a German who wasn’t going to stand around and let Hitler ruin his country, but if there were a historical “wrapping” added to it, I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the book.

A simple story about a failed assassination attempt, I give Valkyrie 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Spiegelman, Art
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Maus is a two-part graphic survival story of World War II in Auschwitz. It is a true story of Art Spiegelman's father, who was a Polish Jew and was put into Auschwitz, one of the biggest concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
The comic book style is an amazing way to learn history, as it enforces themes through images and tells a story rather than spitting facts, like some history books do. The author portrays different nationalities as different animals, which stands as an ongoing theme in the book: The Jews are the mice and the Nazis are the cats. This makes for an easy relation between the two (cats hunt mice). I am not a huge fan of learning history for the sake of learning history, but I adored this book. I found it intriguing on a very personal level, but also extremely informative. I strongly recommend Maus.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout
Grace, Laura Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

I love this book with all my heart. As a longtime fan of Against Me!, it was so exciting to read about how the band started off, the positive and negatives of touring and recording, the growth, decay and rebirth of the band and how the entire time the primary figure that has driven Against Me! from the very beginning was struggling with her identity. I'm utterly in love.

Reviewer's Name: Cassie
Book Review: Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation)
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 Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Maya K.
Instant Mom
Vardalos, Nia
4 stars = Really Good

Fans of Vardalos get a behind the scenes look at her (generally not-so) glamorous Hollywood life -- and a personal tale about her struggles with infertility and foster-adoption that transformed her in to the "Instant Mom" of the title. While most parents on this journey don't have to negotiate with the entertainment press, Nia's story is funny, sweet, and deeply relatable. She is currently an Adoption Ambassador for the Adoption Council of Canada (and the book does include some information for those starting their family adoption journey) but the story stays close to home, close to the heart, and is a charming personal tale of her family's origins.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca O.