Historical

Book Review: Songbirds

Author
Lefteri, Christy
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

Songbirds is about the disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus--women who had no choice but to leave their families in Sri Lanka or Vietnam or the Philippines and find work as maids in the homes of Cyprus's wealthy class. Nisha, whom the story centers on, is a Sri Lankan woman who has faced much loss. She comes to Cyprus, leaving her daughter behind, and becomes a mother figure for Aliki, the daughter of a somber, grieving widow named Petra. Though Nisha has such an impact on the people around her, especially Petra and Aliki, she is merely seen as a maid, overlooked, taken for granted. In a parallel plot line, Yiannis is a poacher who hunts songbirds for a living. He and Nisha have a secret relationship, which would jeopardize everything if discovered by Petra, and when he finally tells Nisha about the poaching, she is deeply disappointed in him, though Yiannis doesn't stop his senseless killing of songbirds. One night, Nisha goes missing. What ensues is a long, agonizing search in which the police refuse to do anything and Petra begins to realize that she relied on Nisha for nearly everything and didn't appreciate her while she was there. Petra and Yiannis team up, determined to find out what happened.
In my opinion, this story could've been told so much better. The metaphor of the songbirds was far too loud and became redundant and irritating. Lefteri could've more effectively woven together the plot lines of Petra and Yiannis without being so blunt with her metaphor. However, I did find it very interesting--and saddening--to learn about the missing domestic workers of Cyprus. Just as in The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Lefteri brings to light real issues that go beyond news coverage and should be talked about but somehow aren't. These maids are just as human as anyone, having sacrificed lives in their home countries for the benefit of their families. I would have enjoyed this novel more if the pacing had been faster and the plot hadn't been so repetitive; the characters also weren't the most likable.
I wouldn't necessary recommend this book, but the premise is worth knowing.

Reviewer's Name
Alexa

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Author
Hugo, Victor
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an early 1800s novel following the trials and tribulations of several characters living in 15th century Paris. Quasimodo, the famous hunchback, struggles with his unrequited feelings for the mesmerizing dancer Esmeralda, and competes with other characters to win her love. This story is likely best for ages 14+, since it has some difficult words and is written in an old-fashioned style. I believe the heartfelt and memorable ending is the best part of this book, and recommend it to anyone looking for an exceptional classic!
Reviews Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Audrey

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

Author
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This Book Is truly a classic, this I book that we've all read either as a assignment or for fun. This book was set in the Jazz era of New York, this novel tells the story of a self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby and journey to finding the love of his life Daisy Buchanan who also is a very wealthy women. In this novel we start out with a man named Nick who is also Daisy's cousin, he is basically the narrator of it all. He walks us through how he met Jay, and their journey finding daisy. Throughout this story we go through happiness, loss, and love, and it all unfolds out to be a really great novel. So if you like a tragic love story, I think this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name
Makaia

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice

Author
Austen, Jane
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Pride and Prejudice is an 1813 classic novel that follows Elizabeth Bennett, an outspoken and bold woman for her time, and her journey through romance with Mr. Darcy, an anti-social and cold man. I really enjoyed this novel, and although the plot sounds pretty generic, I found myself falling in love with the characters. I especially liked seeing Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's romance unfold, and the clear chemistry between them was also exciting to read about. Both of the characters were well written and I liked the enemies-to-lovers trope the novel followed. Seeing Mr. Darcy opening up and being able to understand why he was the way he was, was also very satisfying.
Overall, this classic novel is a classic for a good reason, and for anyone who enjoys a good healthy romance, with actual depth, Pride and Prejudice is the book for you.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: Hunting Prince Dracula

Author
Maniscalco, Kerri
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

In the second installment to the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, this time we follow Audrey and Thomas to Romania, mainly to escape the grief and memories that London contains, but also to attend one of the best schools of forensic medicine. However, Audrey and Thomas are once again thrown into another murder mystery, this time facing Vlad the Impaler.
Even though the plot of this novel seemed interesting enough, like the first book of this series, I still couldn't find myself connecting to Audrey or Thomas at all. Both of them just seemed like the stereotypical cookie-cutter fantasy romance interests, with no dimension and no personality. While I enjoyed some of the interesting cultural legends and information about Romania, I felt like the novel was going way too slow. I couldn't find myself getting into it, and none of the characters really interested me and kept me focused on the novel. Once I practically forced myself to finish the book, I didn't find myself thinking about the book ever again. There was nothing interesting or unique about the novel and all the characters just seemed like the same characters that I've read about over and over again in the fantasy genre. The murder was also pretty generic and simple to solve, so there wasn't much suspense or build-up. Overall, I could see why some people would like this book, but it wasn't for me.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: Johnny Tremain

Author
Forbes, Esther
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

If you like historical fiction or love tales of friendship through rough times, Johnny Tremain is one of those books you need to add to your reading list. Johnny Tremain is set during the revolutionary war as Johnny starts work as a blacksmith until an accident where he then turns to a more political job. Johnny also works alongside his friend Rab, who wrote for the Boston Observer and through the book, the two become close friends, working alongside each other throughout the revolutionary war. It can be a slow burn at times, but once the action picks up, it picks up highly and it is a very fascinating book to read. I love the very close friendship built between both Johnny and Rab and how it adds to their characters as the book progresses as characters who build off of each other is a favorite trope of mine. I did wish the book ended a bit differently as well, but it is still an amazing read for anyone of any age, whether you love historical fiction or not.

Reviewer's Name
Alexis

Book Review: These Violent Delights

Author
Gong, Chloe
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book does a wonderful job of educating readers about history of the 1920's in Shanghai while still being an action-packed and entertaining story. The plot of two gang heirs clashing as they each work to solve the mystery of an unleashed monster in the city is unique and captivating. I love the devotion of each character to protect their loved ones and battle the conflict of values in Shanghai. This book also keeps readers on their toes. The moment I felt like the story was predictable, it proved me wrong! The longer read is worth it for being immersed in these characters' experience. I look forward to reading the sequel.

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: Lightning Strike

Author
Krueger, William Kent
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Lightning Strike is an excellent thriller. Cork O’Connor lives in his hometown of Aurora. Everything is normal and is going smoothly, until Cork discovers a dead man in the forest. It is deemed as a suicide. But Cork and his father have their own suspicions. Can they uncover the truth before it’s too late? I liked the setting and enjoyed the suspense. I chose this book because the book jacket captured my attention, and I wanted to find out what happens next. Cork O’Connor is curious about what took place, and also is great young sleuth. I appreciate Cork’s determination to solve the mystery. Lightning Strike was a great read and I would highly recommend it.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name
Ananth

Book Review: The Dutch House

Author
Patchett, Ann
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I enjoyed this audiobook quite a bit during long commutes - Tom Hanks' soothing voice envelops you as he tells the story of Danny & Maeve as they grow and experience many of life's common hardships, and the many lines that can be traced back to The Dutch House. I am partial to books with observable character development, and I felt that was seen for a few characters within the novel. I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name
K.H.

Book Review: Horton Halfpott, or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor, or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset

Author
Angleberger, Tom
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Horton Halfpott is a comedy novel about a kitchen boy's life, love, and mystery. Horton Halfpott follows its titular character as he navigates the cruelty of the nobles, a new-found crush, and the investigation of a stolen "Lump". The book's core is its comedy, with a narrator adding to each movement with foreshadowing and direct acknowledgement of the reader. Targeted for kids ages 8-12, the humor is clever but not so much as to confuse a younger audience. Characters are likeable and the main characters are well-developed considering how short the novel is. Although the mystery's conclusion is evident to the reader, watching the detectives' and antagonist's plans in work adds an element of tension to the book, especially during the second half. The only major issue I had while reading was pacing. Most chapters are quite short, and the book could easily be reduced from almost 50 4-5 page chapters to 15 longer chapters. With such short chapters comes some whiplash as certain characters take control of the perspective for a page or two before the reader swaps to a different character. This had some jarring results, especially around the 3/4 mark of the book.

Overall, Horton Halfpott is a great story with some formatting problems holding it back from being a fantastic one. This story is still a worthwhile read for pre-teens, however.

Reviewer's Name
Locke