Book Reviews by Genre: Historical

The Nightingale book jacket
Hannah, Kristin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Originally I was interested in this book because it was highly praised among those who read it. It portrays two sisters and their lives in World War II. One named Isabelle and one named Vianne, it shows the different courses of their lives but in the end their own impact made on those around them. If you are interested in learned about women’s contribution in war this book is for you! I would recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their perspective on war, but be aware this book does touch on some topics that may be triggering. Overall, the Nightingale was a wonderful read that gave me more insight to women’s lives at the time and their contributions.

Grade 10

Reviewer's Name: Lilly
The Song of Achilles book jacket
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller is a stunning and deeply moving retelling of the Iliad that captivates from beginning to end, earning a solid 5 stars. Miller skillfully weaves a tale of love, friendship, and heroism, focusing on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. The narrative beautifully explores the complexities of their bond, providing a fresh perspective on the legendary characters. Miller's prose is both lyrical and evocative, effortlessly transporting readers to the ancient world. The emotional depth and nuance she brings to the characters make this retelling a triumph, resonating with readers on a profound level. "The Song of Achilles" is a masterpiece that seamlessly combines rich storytelling with timeless themes, earning its well-deserved 5-star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
A River Runs Through It
MacLean, Norman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I love how books can give insight into things we might not otherwise know. How, when someone "writes what they know" in an autobiographical sense, the reader gets to experience that slice of their life. I'm not interested in fishing—in any of its styles. And yet, A River Runs Through It gave such a clear picture of what it's like to go fly-fishing that I felt like I had actually experienced it. I'm still not interested in trying it in real life, but now I feel like I get it.

Of course, A River Runs Through It isn't entirely about fly-fishing. There are other universal themes, like fatherhood, brotherhood, sonship, and unity with nature. I can also appreciate that there is a Christian tilt to the main character without being judgmental of the choices his family has made. This unconditional love speaks to what Christianity is all about. That's not to say that the actions of his family aren't frustrating to read about, it's just that going fly-fishing is something that washes away any bad blood.

While it's a quick read, A River Runs Through It doesn't need much to convey the author's genuine attitude toward life. Because it's not about the details of actually fly-fishing that reveal how knowledgeable Maclean is at the sport. There weren't any facades that tried to paint the main character as a saint. All the characters had flaws, just some were more obvious than others. An accurate examination of an individual's life says more about what they've accepted than what they wish they'd wanted to be. And perhaps being in the "natural environment" where they're the most comfortable is the whole point of this book.

A heartfelt love letter to family and fly-fishing, I give A River Runs Through It 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Atonement book jacket
McEwan, Ian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Atonement" is the story of thirteen year old Briony and her misunderstanding of the world. It begins in the Tallis household in 1935. Obsessed with fantasy and books, she sees sinister motivations in the blossoming romance between her sister and the son of the family's house cleaner. When something terrible happens, Briony makes a mistake that will change the lives of everyone around her.

The characters in this story are all well developed, but Briony is the stand out in this regard. Her motivations straddle the line between clearly defined and mysterious. She has a clearly defined character, dramatic, self centered, and eager to please. Cecilia and Robbie are less defined, but still sympatheic and interesting. I found Robbie slightly unpleasant in the second half of the book, but it was understandable considering the circumstances.

The plot cannot be properly discussed without getting into spoilers. However, it unfolds in a clear manner. All the plot points are set up before they happen, and given proper foreshadowing. At the end, there is a plot twist. Since I highly recommend this book, I will not be spoiling the twist. However, I will say that it makes everything else that happened in the book unclear (in the best possible way).

This book contains a depiction of rape, extreme violence, and rather gruesome hospital scenes. If any of these subjects upset you, I would not recommend this book. If you are able to handle these topics, and you appricate books that focus on pyschology and character exploration, I would definitely recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Demon Copperhead book jacket
Kingsolver, Barbara
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The sole way to describe Demon Copperhead by Barbra Kingsolver is a long, dark coming-of-age narrative. Demon Copperhead, born and raised in the southern Appalachian mountains by a single drug-addicted teenage mother, is seemingly designed for failure the moment he was born. Throughout his childhood, Demon confronts an abusive stepfather, an addicted mother, exploitive fosters, and selfish friends. As he faces a life of mistrust, inadequacy, and poverty, Demon relies on his wits to survive. While the book is lengthy, there is never a dull moment or lull in the plot, and the characters within the narrative are dynamic, adding depth to the story. The writing style effectively lures the reader into the constructed world of Lee County.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
American Dirt book jacket
Cummins, Jeanine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Against all odds, Lydia and her son, Luca, survive a brutal cartel massacre, leaving them with only one option: to embark on a dangerous and arduous journey to seek safety in the United States. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a harrowing story about the survival, resilience, and hope of migrants fleeing north to the United States. Cummins skillfully captures the hardships, fears, and hopes of these characters, providing a window into the harsh realities faced by those making the perilous trek north. American Dirt humanizes the migrant experience by creating empathetic and multifaceted characters, illustrating the diversity within the migrant community and their shared aspirations for a better future.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The Song of Achilles
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I loved this book! The detail in these stories was terrific and made the book a lot easier to follow. The story was entertaining and kept you on the edge of your seat at some parts. My only dislike about this story is that in the beginning of the book when Patroclus is naming all of the different Greek gods and demigods and such, so many names did get a bit confusing. It was a bit hard to follow but only lasted for about the first chapter and was an easy read after that. I rated this book 5 stars because the Greek mythology base in the story was very interesting, and you grew to love the characters as you read it. It made me smile, laugh, and cry. Genuinely a great book. In my opinion, this book is meant for young adult readers, I would say 15+ in my opinion. It does contain some violence but nothing too graphic and one brief sexual content scene but does not go into much detail. Would definitely recommend it!

Reviewer's Name: Ashley
The Poppy War book jacket
Kuang, R. F.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When I picked up The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang, I sought a good, possibly wonderful, fantasy book, as one would expect from a New York Times best-selling author. What I was not expecting was to be enlightened and disturbed to the same degree within its 544 pages. Now let me back up; The Poppy War is a historical and grimdark fantasy that draws its plot from mid-20th-century China, with the main conflict based on the Second Sino-Japanese War. The book provides insight into the brutality of war and its aftermath. While the book is based on the Second Sino-Japanese War, the author does a wonderful job constructing an immersive plot and charming characters taking creative liberties to make the book a story of its own. I would highly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Where the Crawdads Sing book jacket
Owens, Delia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Where the Crawdads Sing, written by Delia Owens, detail the fictional account of Kya and her survival in the marsh of North Carolina. After her mother is beat one too many times by her father, Kya's mother leaves, leaving Kya to fend for herself - against her abusive dad and the wilderness. Kya learns the value of self-reliance, she falls in love with the marsh and its functions and importance to the ecosystem. She also, however, feels the urge of having human company, and her adventures of falling in love (and back out) are incredibly detailed and heart wrenching. My favorite part about this book was the imagery; the way simple things, like leaves falling off of a tree, were described it felt as if I was standing right next to Kya, watching the leaves fall with her.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
The Call of the Wild book jacket
London, Jack
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"The Call of the Wild," written by Jack London, is a novel set in Yukon, Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush. Buck, a rather large, domesticated dog, is stolen from his comfortable life and sold into the brutal world of sled dog teams in the harsh wilderness. Buck quickly learns to adapt to his new environment, tapping into his primal instincts as he navigates the challenges of survival. He forms a bond with John Thornton, a kind-hearted prospector, but Buck never feels free, and he contemplates breaking his friendship with John Thornton to escape into the wild. I enjoyed the book because I am an animal lover and I liked reading about the events that Buck endured. Subsequently, I would recommend this book to animal lovers because, after all, it is about a dog and his strive for freedom.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
A Farewell to Arms book jacket
Hemingway, Ernest
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway, details the account of Frederic Henry, a medic for the Italian army during the Italian campaign of World War One. He is sent to the front lines of the war, and while he is eating dinner, a bomb explodes over him and he is injured. During his recovery process, he falls in love with Cathrine Barkley, an English nurse. Henry soon desires to leave the army and will do so in any means possible so that he can escape and be with his Ms. Barkley. I enjoyed the book because it was quite satirical, except the humor was quite advanced, so I would recommend this book to teenagers and adults. Overall, however, it was grammatically unique and I believe that I have become not only a better reader from reading this book, but a better writer as well.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Tess of the D'Urbervilles book jacket
Hardy, Thomas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

WARNING: This reveiw and this book contains discussion of sexual assult.

Tess of the D'urbervilles is an excellent book. It tells the story of Tess Durbyville, who's father has become obessed with the idea of their noble heritage. After an incident with the carriage, the family is left in financial peril. Tess agrees to work for her supposed relations. However, this leads her into the arms of Alexander D'urberville (who is not actually related to her).

Tess herself is a great protagonist. She's well defined as a dreamer who is devoted to her family. Both of these traits help her, but cost her dearly. Alexander is a more complex antagonist than you'd first assume, while still being hatable. Angel Clare is a good character as well, he has well defined traits, but I was not able to end up liking him. He admits to not being a Christian, and not believing in all of the doctrines of the Bible (just to clarify, almost all of today's Christians would take issue with the way Angel treats Tess). Furthermore, he openly admits to his parents that he does not have the same beliefs he does. Yet, he still abandons Tess because of these beliefs (that he doesn't have).

That brings me to the major problem. Tess is constantly thinking about how Alexander is her true husband, and how she is ruined. While these are realistic things for someone in her predicament to think, I felt that the book does not take a strong enough stance against these beliefs. If it wasn't for this, I would have given the book 5 stars (if I had the option, I would have given it 4.5). Tess of the D'urbervilles has excellent prose, shocking twists, tragic moments, and great character progression. If you are not uncomfortable reading about sexual assault and you enjoy classic literature, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Pachinko
Lee, Min Jin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Pachinko is a critical darling and bestselling epic that is a must read for historical fiction fans wishing to learn about Korea and Japan from the early 1900s to recent times.
What makes Min Jin Lee’s second novel (2017, 496 pages) stand out is the well-developed characters who battle the tides of history and the message showing how cruel life can be for second-class citizens in a war-torn country.
There are strong women throughout, notably Sunja, the naive daughter of a Korean fisherman who is seduced by a wealthy, married businessman, becomes pregnant by him but rejects becoming his mistress to marry a sickly Japan-bound minister which kicks off a dramatic saga that resonates through the next four generations.
This epic provides a window into life from Japan’s best universities to the criminal underworld and everywhere in between while displaying how these stubborn, devoted women find the strength to maintain family bonds against forces that could destroy them.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The Golem and the Jinni book jacket
Wecker, Helene
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book, "The Golem and the Jinni" was a fantastic book for several reasons. However, before I get to those reasons, I'd like to explain more about how I chose this book. I was in need of a book for entertainment. Typically, I like to investigate what books are similar to others that I have enjoyed before I visit the library, but this visit was more impromptu. A book was grabbed off the shelf, and I began to read it.
As for the book itself, I enjoyed the historical accuracy the most. Although I was not alive during the described time period, I enjoy the subtle nuance in architectural designs and consistent description between different characters (albeit with a different view for each character; Saleh obviously doesn't describe location unless it reflects faces, until... a spoiler). I enjoyed the inconclusive details the least; without spoiling too much, a lot of the information explained about a Golem's behavior simply never matters, or never comes up. When I first catalogued the details provided to me, I assumed that at least some of it would be relevant to the plot. The vast majority never was. The book was still surprising; the information dump near the climax was amazing for how much it concluded, even if I still complain about the information that was never resolved. The characters are relatable because they aren't relatable. Social situation are difficult for both the Golem and the Jinni, albeit for different reasons. This isn't one of the best books I've read this year, but I'll give it a 4/5 for amazing descriptions of the setting and lovable characters.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
A Very Large Expanse of Sea book jacket
Mafi, Tahereh
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

This book suffered from a lot of major flaws, ranging from one-dimensional characters to confusing (and silly at times) plotlines. Mafi not only leans into harmful stereotypes, but she further exaggerates them and emphasizes them as the norm. The relationships between chatacters are largely shallow, their development rushed, and their personalities bland. I remember next to nothing about these unremarkable characters. This book is an infuriatingly simple tale of stereotypical people following a messy and illogical story, and I advise readers to avoid it whenever possible. The greatest strength of this book is its relatively short reading time.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Anne of Windy Poplars book jacket
Montgomery, Lucy Maud
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

When Anne finishes her schooling at Redmond, she decides to start a new life away from Green Gables. She finds herself in her tower room at Windy Poplars, befriending two old widows, Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty. She arrives at Windy Poplars looking for a job. She gets one as the principal of Summerside High School. Anne is then made aware that she was not the person they wanted as the principal, but they couldn’t find anyone better. Over time, Anne also becomes friends with the housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. Anne loves her students, but she greatly misses her lover, Gilbert Blythe, who is currently in medical school. Anne of Windy Poplars is a book in the Anne Of Green Gables series. It was less interesting and active than the other books, but it had a decent plot. I am a person who likes action and drama, but this novel did not satisfy me. Contrasting to the other books in the series, it was very drawn out and not very suspenseful. It left me with the urge to not continue reading. I want a book that makes me want to read more and never stop, but this did not meet those expectations. The only reason I kept reading was to keep the series going. I finally finished the book, and I’m glad I did. The storylines following Anne of Windy Poplars were much more interesting, but the books later on had flashbacks and connections to it.

Reviewer's Name: Katherine
The Hope of Azure Springs
Fordham, Rachel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A tragic circumstance brings together the town of Azure Springs and Sheriff Reynolds as they seek to find the individuals who badly injured a young woman. Em, orphaned at a young age, and having spent seven difficult years with a guardian, comes to know the caring people of Azure Springs as it becomes apparent that her life is still in danger. A real page-turner that pulls you deep into Em's life and Sheriff Reynolds who will stop at nothing to secure justice for her.

Reviewer's Name: Tammy
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo book jacket
Reid, Taylor Jenkins
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I had heard a lot of wonderful reviews about this book and the book definitely met every one. The book focuses on the scandalous life of the mysterious and legendary actress Evelyn Hugo as she retells the story to unknown journalist Monique Grant. During her retelling, the story unfolds that connects everything, leaving the readers still wanting more. I was happily surprised reading and would love to get the chance to be able to experience the story for the first time again. I enjoyed the old timeliness of Hollywood and the resemblance to Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. If you want to be engrossed by a book with twists and turns till the end, then this book is for you!
Reviewer Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Tisha
Circe book jacket
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Critically acclaimed author Madline Miller takes on Greek mythology in a way never done before. In her novel Circe, a lonely child, born from the sun god Helios and a nymph mother, tries to find her way within a world where she does not quite fit. Her father is too powerful to relate to, and her mother wishes Circe had not been born. Not to mention, Circe’s siblings dislike her greatly, and make her life insufferable. It is only when her father, Helios, sends her away to a secluded island where she cannot leave, that she finds the missing piece she has been looking for all her life. Filled with secret romances, magic, sea monsters, mysterious sailors, and man-pigs, Circe is a novel that will wreck your heart and leave you angry for justice. Her isolation is familiar to us all, and reminds us of the importance of loving ourselves. This is a must read!
Reviewer - Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Hanna
Cathedral of the Sea
Falcones, Ildefonso
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Cathedral Of The Sea closely follows true events in Catalonia during the 1300s under King Pedro’s reign. It is about the cruelty of the Holi persons and the king of that time. As the men of God, they take best food and live luxurious life. On the other side, people are dying from hunger, different kind of diseases and they have nothing to feed their children especially the Jews. Jews are killed by Christians just because of their religion even they think Jews do not have the right to live. In this novel, religion is broadly used to terrify the people and to maintain rule over them. Sometimes, these kind of holy persons get their soul poisoned because of their greedy nature. Everyone should have the right to follow his/ her religion freely.

Reviewer's Name: Muhammad N.