Book Reviews by Genre: History

Legion
Morris, Jon
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

With the success of comic book movies in the last decade, it's sometimes hard to forget that these films don't explore all of what the pulpy medium offered. The rise in popularity of comics in a few different "eras" inevitably led to saturation in the medium. When something becomes saturated, creators don't care as much about what they're putting out, since everything sells. This is how a book like The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains can collect quite a few foes that were better left forgotten.

If there's anything this book does well, it's showing how simple and bland the early years of comics were. Perhaps I'm just used to the modern era that's had decades to figure out which superheroes and supervillains work best. Many of the early comic villains are forgettable, indicating a lack of imagination on the part of their creators. Unfortunately, since this book collects a lot of these villains in one place, it is boring to get through. After a few pages of supervillain puns, I got the "joke" this book was trying to make. And it just kept going.

While I understand organizing this book chronologically showed how these regrettable supervillains evolved over the years, I think it might have had more variety if it just stuck to being exclusively alphabetical. After all, it would have kept my attention a little better if I learned about a villain like Lepus before being reminded that M.O.D.O.K. exists. Perhaps my surface-level interest in comic books (especially the classics) is why it took me a while to get through this book. Still, if you want to be a super-fan of this medium, you might already know about Doctor Voodoo, which might make this humorous commentary on him a moot point.

A slightly amusing gimmick that highlights the lack of early comic book creativity, I give The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Into Africa book jacket
Dugard, Martin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Into Africa, written by Martin Dugard, details the epic adventures of Stanley Livingstone and his trek across Africa to find the source of the Nile River. Livingstone battles disease, unfriendly tribes, and stubborn porters (the people who help carry supplies) in his journey. The brutal, but beautiful march encompasses Africa from it sweltering hot savannahs to it thick rainforests. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure because this book is about the exploration of Africa. I enjoyed this book because it taught me a lot more about Africa and it's people.

Reviewer's Name: Finn G.
Diary of a Young Girl book jacket
Frank, Anne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Diary of a Young Girl" is the poignant and haunting diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Anne chronicles her life in hiding in Amsterdam, where her family sought refuge in a secret annex. Through her diary entries, she shares her hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations, providing an intimate account of the daily struggles and emotional turmoil endured by Jews in hiding. I enjoyed the book; having experience the Covid-19 shutdown, the atrocity that she had to go through put my life into perspective. Sometimes what individuals go through is difficult, but is nothing compared to horrors experienced by others. I recommend everyone to read this book because it fosters a sense of humility in all that read it.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Legendary Children
Fitzgerald, Tom (Thomas)
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you're looking to get educated on LGBTQ+ history, this is a great book to try. I loved hearing about some of the most influential figures of the LGBTQ+ movement and their impact on others. They persevered even through backlash from events like the AIDS epidemic and built a community where everyone is welcome to be themselves. Some parts can get slow to read, but the authors use modern language and humor to appeal to a variety of audiences and make history more entertaining. This book is so empowering, give it a try!

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
Larson, Erik
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is a compelling story of the popular World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the serial killer who took advantage of it. Set in the late 1800's, David Burnham and H. H. Holmes receive equal attention in alternating chapters between the fair's fascinating architecture and the growth of a heartless killer. I liked reading about the trials and errors of the fair and technology in the 19th century. Also, Holmes' terrifyingly calm demeanor added suspense to what would happen to his victims. It is a cool turn-of-the-century book, but the shift between monotone construction and graphic murders was an interesting style that isn't for everyone.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Jewish Transport to Auschwitz
Macadam, Heather Dune
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I wavered between a 4 and 5 star review here, but my reviews are based on storytelling ability, not necessarily how little I enjoyed hearing about the details of Auschwitz. This author did a fantastic job of telling the stories of nearly 1,000 women while letting some of their personal accounts lead the pace and tone. Though the characters were hard to keep track of at some points, there was constant clarification of individuals to develop empathy for the girls in the Holocaust. There was also some groundbreaking information on the sexist disparities between records of the female experience in Auschwitz- as soon as you think life couldn't have been worse for these prisoners, it is revealed that women were treated the absolute worst. Definitely worth the read if you can stomach the tragedy.

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

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot, is a book detailing the life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks unknowingly donated her cells to one of the most important fields of research, cancer cures. Her tumor cells, also known as “HeLa”, are extraordinary in that they replicate fast enough to create a whole new human in under 48 hours. This book is fascinating in more than one way: it explores the history of her and her cells, and it explores some gray areas in rights to cells and parts of dead entities. Instead of focusing just on one topic and one family, it expands to include many that have had to deal with bio material rights. I personally found this an interesting but slightly disturbing read. I recommend reading this one to learn about the history of cell rights and their gray areas.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan
Unbroken book jacket
Hillenbrand, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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

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
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
Kamkwamba, William and Mealer, Bryan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
Schlosser, Eric
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Fast Food Nation is a nonfiction book that is extremely informative about the fast food industry. The book starts with the history of fast food and then informs the audience of business deals, the horrors of fast food, and ways the fast food industry affects others. I picked this book because I wanted to know the truth to what happens in the fast food industry and all of the gross things that are done to the food. Fast Food Nation has several local and state references from Cheyenne Mountain to Greeley, Co. I really liked this book since it was outstandingly educational about every aspect of the fast food industry such as the meat industry, fast food employees, advertising, food poisoning and more; however, I would have liked it more if it went even more in-depth about all the ways the food is handled. Overall, I recommended this book if you want a good nonfiction read and if you want to be more educated about the five to ten dollar meal you buy frequently.

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

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
Review:

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!
Review:

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
Review:

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.
Kon-Tiki
Heyerdahl, Thor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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
Cover of The Federalist Papers
Hamilton, Alexander; Madison, James; and Jay, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Federalist Papers are one of the most fundamental documents in US history. It is not only an explanation of the functions of the Constitution, but it is a gateway into the minds and personalities of the founding fathers John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. I learned more about the Constitution than I ever thought possible. I learned the amazing complexities that were built into the most important document in the United States and the intended purposes of the three branches of government, as well as the arguments for increased federal power in governments. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the foundations of American government and the minds of its founders.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison B.
I Am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"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
Night
Wiesel, Elie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The autobiography Night by Elie Wiesel is a gripping nonfiction retelling of his experiences during the Holocaust. Starting with Elie’s normal life before World War II and continuing onto the horrors of the concentration camps. Elie was a young boy growing up in the town of Sighet, Romania when he was taken to a concentration camp with his family. The book saddens me every time I read it. It draws the reader in and makes them feel as though they were there, starving in a camp or trudging across the frigid wilderness with no end in sight. I would recommend Night not because it makes the reader happy but because it is the best depiction of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Reviewer's Name: Harrison B.
Night
Wiesel, Elie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I had to read this book in English class Freshman year. I honestly wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. It's a true story called "Night" written first hand by Elie Wiesel about the Holocaust. It's about a young boy and his family that got sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. This book is extremely well written, and is a really sad story. There was one part, I won't spoil it, but I couldn't stop crying. "Night" really gives you a look at what it would have been like to be in Elie's shoes. Overall, of course this is quite a sad book, but I would highly highly recommend!!

Reviewer's Name: Emani K.