Historical

Book Review: Moon Over Manifest

Author
Vanderpool, Clare
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This book definitely deserves its Newbery Honor Award. It tells an intricate story about a girl moving to a small town called Manifest in a captivating way. At the end of every chapter, I was left wanting more. The author didn't tell you everything and you had to piece the clues together. I liked that there is a point of view of someone during WWI because usually books are set in WWII. I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction.
Reviewers Grade:8

Reviewer's Name
Mikayla B.

Book Review: A Criminal Magic

Author
Kelly, Lee
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

After the 18th amendment passed, magic became illegal. Shine, an addictive hallucinogen created as a by-product of sorcery, is the main reason behind the prohibition. So, of course, a seedy underworld of gangsters trafficking in shine immediately springs up, and it is embroiled in this underworld that our two main protagonists, Joan and Alex, accidentally and not-so-accidentally find themselves. As they are both sorcerers, Joan and Alex must figure out how to use their sorcery to survive the crime syndicate and it's machinations.

This is a fun fantasy read that is fairly original in it's premise and setting, with likable and believable characters. The premise does most of the heavy lifting, as gangs set in the 1920s trafficking magic gives Kelly lot to work with. She doesn't disappoint. The gangsters are pretty fearsome and the body count ratchets up quickly. The pacing is tight, and the magic is both deadly and beautiful. Joan is a performer, and the descriptions of the performances themselves are somewhat bewitching.

I did have a few problems with the book. First, while the two main characters were fleshed out and developed, almost none of the other characters got any development, and those that did were then basically ignored for the rest of the book. So when the secondary characters started dying, I didn't really care all that much. And then there's the relationship between Joan and Alex. I didn't mind it at first, but it did that thing that relationships in books often do of getting too serious too fast. It's not instalove, but it's instalove's cousin or something. I also felt that aspects of the 20s were wasted on this book - I wanted more flappers, insane clothing, and awesome music. We really only got the gangsters and the cigarette smoking.

For all it's problems, this fantasy novel was ultimately a great read. The ending was pitch perfect, and left the door open for a sequel. I'd recommend it to light fantasy readers looking for something without a ton of substance that is endlessly entertaining and a little different. I'd probably give it something like 3.5 stars, but since that's not an option, we'll go with 4. I quite liked it.

Reviewer's Name
Britt

Book Review: Upside Down in The Middle of Nowhere

Author
Lamana, Julie
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

It's late August, 2005, Armani Curtis can think nothing more about her tenth birthday, not even warnings of the storm can shake her, that is until she see's her parents shaken up. Suddenly, the party she has been waiting for, has to be cancelled, and Armani finds herself in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, stuck in the attic, and is floating around the whole city of New Orleans.
And just when it seems nothing could get worse, water and supplies are running out, her brother isn't able to breath, now her brother and father are stuck in the water somewhere, and she is stuck in the middle of nowhere without her mother. Now Armani needs to be responsible more than ever, and make the decision to stay put as her mother had told her or leave her mother behind and get on a bus to somewhere far away with her sisters and brother, without almost half her family.

I read this book because I wanted to understand what it would've felt like to be in Hurricane Katrina, the author also get's through to the reader's emotions, but also revisits a historic event that changed a lot of people's life.
Reviewer Age: 12

Reviewer's Name
Isabella P.

Book Review: The Walking Drum

Author
L'Amour, Louis
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour is the story of the twelfth
century adventurer Mathurin Kerbouchard and his journey to find and rescue his father who had been captured at sea. His journey takes him all across Europe and into the Muslim world, a world of culture and science that is much different than the squalid life of Europe. It is a lively story, full of exciting characters, vivid description of life in the Middle Ages, and daring exploits that climax at the infamous Valley of the Assassins. Throughout the book are many historical facts thrown in by Kerbouchard as he narrates his travels which I found interesting, but someone who is simply looking for an adventure book might find them tedious. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who loves history and travel, because it satisfied some of my own wanderlust with its vivid description of the splendors of an age long gone.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Grace O.

Book Review: Prisoner B-3087

Author
Gratz, Alan
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I thought that this was a really good book. It is based on the life of a true Jewish person who lived through the Holocaust. It tells you about all of the horrible things that the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust. Even though there are some very bad things that happened during this time that this book tells you about, it is good to sometimes remind ourselves about this so that it never happens again. The main character goes through several concentration camps and manages to survive until the end of the war. The U.S soldiers eventually come into the last camp that the main character is in and rescues all of the Jews. This book shows how much stress and pain people are able to endure. Overall, this was a great book and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to know what the holocaust was like and who would just like to remind themselves of what happened to the Jews during world war two so that they can help ensure that it will never happen again.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name
Kai K.

Book Review: The False Prince

Author
Nielsen, Jennifer
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Sage, a quick-witted orphan, is to compete with three other children to become the impersonator of a prince, or die. This plan, devised by a nobleman, is made to prevent a civil war that is bound to tear the country apart.
This novel isn't amazing, but it's worth a read.
Most of the novel happened while Sage was training to become an adequate impersonator, which I expected, but it was a little boring at times.
The strongest quality of it was the main character, Sage. He had a lot of
personality- snarky and stubborn, but clever and heroic too. I enjoyed seeing him react to the different trials he had to face as well as the shrewd comebacks he would make.
The ending of the book was the best part. It was when an unexpected (but not
unwelcome) plot twist occurred and everything was tied together. Although I said it was the best part, it felt kind of rushed because so many things happened in such a short time.
I didn't really feel very strongly for this book. To me, it was a tiny bit bland until the last part. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but I definitely think it is worth a try.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Miriam X

Book Review: The Help

Author
Stockett, Kathryn
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Another amazing book! This #1 New York Bestselling novel is truly a piece of art; with a captivating plot and many lovable characters. Taken place back in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help, focuses on the story of a white southern woman named Skeeter whose life-long goal was to become a profound writer for the New York Times, however odds kept stacking against her. The first obstacle for Skeeter was that all of her pish-posh friends since childhood greatly looked down upon her ambitions and discouraged poor Skeeter for not wanting to marry and raise kids. The second obstacle was that the book she wished to complete, which would give her the opportunity to write for the New York Times, focused on the terrible conditions of the Help, a group of black women who worked as maids for the privileged white families of the Deep South. And the final obstacle, which was the biggest obstacle for Skeeter, was that segregation and racism was at an all-time-high in Jackson.
This would have an incredibly negative impact on her eagerness to aid in exposing the terrors inflicted on the black women by the white, meaning extreme courage, caution, and determination. Now all she needs is maids to tell her their stories. A stunning piece of work, an eye-opener, a book about
truth: The Help.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Logan H.

The Dark Days Club

Author
Goodman, Alison
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

Lady Helen has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of her dead, treasonous mother. Because her mother did some shady stuff before she died, Helen has had to be the perfect demur lady, no small task for a quick witted woman in the Regency period. But as new information comes to light surrounding her mother's life and death, Lady Helen realizes that her mother had magical powers...that she passed along to her daughter. Soon, Lady Helen finds herself pulled into the dark underbelly of London as she works with the Dark Days Club to try to keep Londoners safe from a group of demons.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. There's a lot of world building, and Lady Helen is a very likable character who I think behaves in ways that make sense given the time period. There's a great build up to the reveal of the demons, and the mystery of Helen's mother and her powers unfolds very slowly and deliciously. The problem arises when the demons themselves are revealed. While I'll give Goodman points for originality with the demons and how they interact with humans, really, as villains go, they were pretty low-stakes and unfortunately kind of lame. I don't know, I mean, most of them follow rules and don't do anything bad, but they are hated by humans in the know just by virtue of the fact that they are human parasites, which really, isn't their fault. Things get a little more high stakes by the end, but I really couldn't make myself care. I actually put the book down for a week or so because I wasn't dying to know what happens, which is pretty rare for me.

I liked the setting, world-building, and the characters, and would maybe give the next book in the series a shot as the villains get a bit more villainous and less lame by the end. That and Goodman can write. She also clearly did her Regency homework. Overall though, for me this was just ok. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name
Britt

Book Review: The Bourbon Thief

Author
Reisz, Tiffany
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The main characters in the story are Paris Christie, Cooper McQueen, Tamara Maddox (the Maddox family is the family who owns the Red Thread Bourbon company), and Levi Shelby.

The Bourbon Thief is a must read! It's simply captivating and different from many other thrillers I have read. The story focuses on the past and ties it with the present. The author did a spectacular job in making sure we were blown away in everything she wrote. It felt original and the plot was mysterious and romantic. It was mysterious because the Maddox family's bourbon company shut down suddenly and no one knows why. Paris wants the bourbon, but why? What does Paris want to hide? I love the third person narrative because I saw each character's view points and the fact that I could read that was already amazing to me.

Reviewer's Name
Jade

Book Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings

Author
James, Marlon
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

A very heavy, difficult book to get through, in part because it was written in dialect, which always takes some getting used to, but largely because it was so relentlessly depressing that I couldn’t read it for too long of a stretch. A Brief History of Seven Killings tells the fictionalized story of the (factual) 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley, referred to throughout simply as “The Singer”. Told from a staggering number of different perspectives, ranging from the young would-be assassins themselves, to the unemployed daughter of a middle-class family pretending to be pregnant with Marley’s child in an attempt to get out of the country, to a CIA agent assigned to keep communism from spreading to Jamaica, it’s a grueling, violent read, but there’s a lot worth hearing. The story begins with the assassination attempt, then jumps forward to sections set in the 1980s and 1990s, with close attention to Jamaica’s changing political scene and the lasting mark that violence leaves on the characters. The writing is strong and Marlon James does an excellent job juggling the huge cast (though if you’re like me you’ll probably have to refer back to the character list provided at the beginning of the book at least a few times). I don’t know if “enjoyed” is the right word, but I felt like I got a lot out of it, and it was certainly a deserving winner of the Man Booker Prize. I will say that the word “brief” in the title is a bit of a stretch -- it weighs in at 688 pages. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.

Reviewer's Name
Lauren