Historical

Book Review: Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein

Author
Hemphill, Stephanie
Rating
1 star = Yuck!
Review

Hideous Love is a verse novel about the life of Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the iconic Frankenstein. Mary Shelley ran away with her lover, Percy Shelley and traveled around Europe, getting inspiration from the scenic surroundings for her writing.
Mary Shelley had led a very interesting life full of tragedy and drama and with award-winning Stephanie Hemphill writing it, it'll be great, right?
Ha... no. All I got was disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Reading Hideous Love was a chore. I kept on thinking it would get better, but it didn't happen.
The poems were choppy and I feel like Stephanie Hemphill just tried to make her sentences as short as possible, put them in a pile, and called it poetry.
Horrible Love didn't even scratch the surface of the emotions Mary Shelley must have felt, I couldn't relate to her at all; it was hard not to skim through the poems. I can't help but think that Hemphill didn't even try putting any structure or effort in her novel. A few poems in Hideous Love were written fairly well, but that meager amount can't make up for all of the rest of those tedious and boring poems.The verse novel was mostly about Mary Shelley worrying about the faithfulness of her husband and her actual writing was just tacked on there like an afterthought.
I don't recommend this to anyone, and Hideous Love is possibly the worst book I have ever had the misfortune of reading. The Wikipedia article on Mary Shelley was more interesting and gave more information.
Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Miriam X

Book Review: Egg & Spoon

Author
Maguire, Gregory
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Elena is a peasant living in Miersk, a village in Russia. Ekaterina is a noble that was passing through Miersk on her way to a ball. Due to an unfortunate accident, Elena and Ekaterina switch places and need to set things right again.
I first took notice of Egg & Spoon because of the aesthetic of the cover. I was about to choose not to read it after seeing the summary, but then I saw that it was written by Gregory Maguire, so I decided against not reading it.
The writing style is truly beautiful, and I can't really find the right words to describe it, which is frustrating, to say the least. To me, the story is slightly reminiscent of having a (very long) conversation with someone; it kind of goes off into tangents, it gets unusually descriptive on small things that don't really matter, and it talks about a little bit about everything. I find that really enjoyable, but for some people, it can seem long and tedious. I had to really concentrate while reading it because I kept on admiring how amazing the writing was instead of actually processing what was happening.
The characters were incredible! Everyone had different and unique personalities and reacted to things differently. I found all of them quite charming in their own ways. They all just had so much character!
The humor had me dying of laughter and really lightened the mood of the whole story.
One thing I didn't like about the novel was its pacing. Everything happened too slowly, and I was always waiting for something to happen to push the story along; Egg & Spoon is definitely not for impatient people, especially since it has almost 500 pages. It was really hard to get through.
Egg & Spoon was based off of Russian folklore and really gave off a fairy tale vibe, which is always a plus.
Egg & Spoon is definitely not for everyone, but, in my opinion, it was phenomenal.
Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Miriam X

Book Review: Shadow Spinner

Author
Fletcher, Susan
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

“Shadow Spinner” is a book based on an old legend that some intellectuals say began in India, although evidence seems to point to a Persian book of fairy tales. The original story tells of a Sultan who, after finding his wife with another man, chooses to believe that all women are deceitful. As cruel revenge to womankind, he marries a new girl every night and then kills her when morning dawns. One night his latest new wife, Shahrazad, begs to tell her younger sister, Dunyazad, one last story before the Sultan executes her the next day. The Sultan agrees and finds he enjoys the tale, but he is dismayed when it is not finished by morning. So he lets Shahrazad live to finish the story the next night. But it turns out that she also has time to weave another new tale but does not complete it either. And so she is allowed to live yet again.This continues. But how long will Shahrazad be able to keep telling her life-saving stories? Here the author of “Shadow Spinner” decides to give the legend her own
twist. Enter young Marjan, a servant.
Marjan is a young servant girl who will probably never find a husband. Who would want to marry a girl with a crippled foot?. Marjan was not born this way. Her mother purposely dropped a heavy pot on Marjan’s foot so the Sultan would never choose her for a wife. Although her mother did this for her daughter’s protection, Marjan feels furious towards her mother. She is especially angry because, after maiming her daughter for life, her mother drank poison like a coward. Throughout the book we catch glimpses of what this hot rage has done to Marjan and how she carries this grudge with her always.
One day Marjan and her mistress, Auntie Chava, enter into the Sultan’s harem to sell jewelry to the women who live there. Because she is so skilled at telling stories to the children of the harem women, she is approached by Dunyazad, who tells Marjan that Shahrazad is desperate for more stories. She has told the stories in every book that the Sultan owns and told all the tales she’s heard. She begs Marjan to tell a new story. Marjan agrees, and Dunyazad leads her to Shahrazad where she is asked to retell the tale. But before it is over Shahrazad frowns and says that she does remembers telling that same story already. She asks Marjan to tell another. Marjan consents to the queen’s request,but story after story she tells is rejected. At last she tells one that is new to Shahrazad. Grateful for Marjan’s help, Shahrazad asks her to come live in the harem so that she can continue to help provide her with stories that can save all the young women's lives. Knowing she will be forbidden to depart, Marjan is upset to be leaving her beloved Auntie Chava forever. But she is honored to know that Shahrazad needs her help.
One morning some time later, after Marjan has already been living in the harem for a while, Shahrazad tells Marjan that the Sultan loved her story and Marjan is overjoyed to hear that the tale was one that the Sultan was familiar with already and loved very much. But she is dismayed when Shahrazad asks for the rest of the narrative so that she can tell it to the Sultan, who wants to hear it the next night. It is a matter of life and death. Marjan tells Shahrazad that she doesn’t know the rest; she only heard the beginning from a blind storyteller out in the marketplace one day. But Shahrazad must have the story or the displeased Sultan may kill her. And so Marjan is smuggled out of the harem in the mornings in search of the blind storyteller so that she can learn the rest of the tale. Every evening she sneaks back to the harem empty-handed.
Shahrazad tides the Sultan over with other tales but knows that she must soon have the ending rest of the storyteller’s story to placate the ruler. Over the course of her search, Marjan discovers the Sultan’s mother has plotted to make her son angry with Shahrazad so that he will kill her. She wants to make her own servant queen. But her most shocking, discovery is the fact that Shahrazad loves her husband despite what he’s done to the young women of his city. When Marjan asks Shahrazad how she can possibly love a man like the Sultan, Shahrazad states this profound truth: “There’s nothing wrong with loving someone. It’s hating - that’s what’s wrong.” It is then that Marjan finally realizes her hatred toward her own mother is wrong. She must learn to forgive her for what she has done. In the midst of all this, the search for the storyteller goes on. But the Sultan’s mother is trying harder than ever to catch Shahrazad, Dunyazad, and Marjan in doing something wrong. Eventually, all three of them, along with a kind, elderly woman and helpful old man, are going to be killed. Marjan thinks she knows how to change the Sultan’s mind, but will she really be able to save everyone she has come to love so dearly?
I found this book to be a gripping tale, and enjoyed the deep message of love and healing shown throughout. Shahrazad’s mission to help the Sultan mend from where he has been hurt by his treacherous first wife is admirable and Marjan’s personal struggles are relatable. How does one find it in their heart to love someone who has hurt them (mentally or physically)? A fun, well-written story, but one that makes you think - “Shadow Spinner” is a beautiful re-imagining of a classic legend.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Cosette P.

Book Review: Newt's Emerald

Author
Nix, Garth
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Garth Nix wrote a regency romance with a touch of fantasy back in the 90s, and it's finally been published! It's adorable. It falls somewhere in the middle of Jane Austen and Gail Carringer - it's closer to Austen than Carringer as the fantasy elements are pretty light. The main character is spunky and extremely likable, the love interest is perfectly serviceable, and the dialogue is punchy. Also, there's cross-dressing. A super fun read - 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name
Britt

Book Review: Lost

Author
Davies, Jacqueline
Rating
1 star = Yuck!
Review

In my opinion the book Lost was a terrible book. Lost is a book about emotions and feelings. Ug, I thought this would be about a lost dimension or something. Not a book about a girls work and love life. I felt this story dragging on forever, what felt like reading hours was only mere minutes. I read the back cover and it looked like a good book. Never judge a book by it’s cover, the story inside was so bad I wanted to slam the book down and say “That’s it!” Also, It was written like you were in the story, such as refences to you. Like “You are singing!” Unless you like playing along and doing what a book says at 10 at night, do NOT read this book.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name
Lucas L.

Book Review: Cold Mountain

Author
Frazier, Charles
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Charles Frasier’s novel Cold Mountain intrigued me from the beginning. It tells the story of Ada and Inman who both have suffered from their own tragedies and horrors from the beginning of the novel. Inman is scarred emotionally and physically from serving in the Civil War. Ada is left with the family farm after her father dies and having been raised sophisticated, she has no idea how to maintain it. However, each is able to overcome their trials and defy society’s expectations in pursuit of each other and their own dreams. The characters in this novel are both so relatable in the idea that we all experience horrible, sad things that we must learn to overcome and we also all face limitations and expectations from society that we must ignore in order to embark on our own journey in pursuit of our own American Dream. Although long and a bit tedious at points, this novel is definitely one of the best I’ve read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Tessa B.

Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved

Author
Paterson, Katherine
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

You know, I love Katherine Patterson. Bridge to Terabithia is my all-time favorite children's book. This book just didn't affect me the same way. Maybe it was the subject matter, I don't know. It was well written, just was missing the magic. But it's still worth a read.

Reviewer's Name
vfranklyn

Book Review: Flight Of Dreams

Author
Lawhon, Ariel
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Pretty amazing book. I didn't know too much about the Hindenburg, but the author described everything so well I felt like I was right there! I love that she based the stories off of real people, after I finished the book I went to the website she recommended and read more about the people I "met" in the novel. I also viewed the footage, and it's hard to believe anyone survived that horrible inferno. Great novel!

Reviewer's Name
Krista

Book Review: Salt to the Sea

Author
Sepetys, Ruta
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Wow. Another amazing historical novel by Ms. Sepetys. At first I wasn't sure about the short chapters that alternated by point of view, but by the end I didn't even notice. Beautiful writing, emotional story of a tragedy that I'm sure most people aren't even aware of. Good grief, I'm wrung out after reading this beautiful novel.

Reviewer's Name
Krista

Book Review: Jackaby

Author
Ritter, William
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Nice idea, not especially well executed, but serviceable nevertheless. Penniless but daring young Abigail Rook is stuck in New England when she meets an eccentric private detective named Jackaby. He specializes in supernatural deduction using an ability to see what other people can't -- faeries, monsters, etc. He is also in need of an assistant. When a very odd murder occurs, Jackaby and Abigail are on the case. Who is the murderer? Can our heroes stop the killer in time to save innocent lives? And will we ever learn what Jackaby's initials stand for? At best, it's a really laudable middle-grade supernatural mystery. Unfortunately, Jackaby himself falls rather flat. He seems to be a collection of quirks and mannerisms borrowed from more famous characters. Abigail is by no means and ideal character, but she is independent in a way that many female protagonists aren't. There are several appealing secondary characters -- one of whom is a ghost -- who were a bit more unusual, but on the whole, this book does not have the most intriguing cast, although it does try very hard. The plot itself is reasonably interesting, but suffers from the same malady as the characterizations: originality, or rather, lack thereof. Anyone who's familiar with folklore (or has read Harry Potter) has a good chance at guessing the identities of the murderer and other characters long before the big reveal. If you want a lightweight, easy-read fantasy-mystery with some fun characters and fairly witty dialogue, you'll probably like it, but for really intense murder mystery fans, look elsewhere.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Caroline K.
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