Historical

Book Review: The Warhorse

Author
Bolognese, Don
Rating
1 star = Yuck!
Review

In my opinion, Warhorse wasn’t a very good or enjoyable book. The only reason I chose this book is because we were learning about the renaissance era, and I thought, “Maybe this will give me an edge on it.” I was very, very, VERY wrong. This book is about a boy named Lorenzo in the Renaissance era who is an amazing crafter and designs armor protection for a Duke. One day there is a war about to take place so Lorenzo decides to fight the war with the Duke. But, his mentor, Massimo, forbids Lorenzo to because of his father’s wishes. The young armor-smith obeys his master, but to help the army, he lends his horse, Scoppio, to the Duke. Then Lorenzo later goes and joins the Duke, and gets his horse captured! Sorry, can’t tell you anymore. In my opinion, this book was very confusing. To start off, at chapter about 15 it started to get really funky. So up until then you can read it strait-through, but then you need to start to re-read. Also this book was a very uplifting book about hope, but to me it was all about obstacles of war and perseverance. This book was very odd, I mean, how many books can you find about historical fiction on Renaissance war? That is one of the reasons I chose to read some of the odder books, to give you an inside look on the weirdest things. This is the worst book out of 14 that I have read, but a close second would have to be Wh3n. Sure it was action packed, but it was also very depressing. So don’t read that one either. But in all, the character is very un-relatable, that is why I found this book so bad, sure he had a lot of character development, but how many kids do you know that are armor smith designers? So on that note I’ll leave you off, Maybe you’ll like a hidden element I didn’t catch! So with that in mind, go read this book to find out for yourself!

Reviewer Grade:7

Reviewer's Name
Lucas L.

Book Review: The Notorious Pagan Jones

Author
Berry, Nina
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

After a tragic accident she caused that led to the death of her father and sister, teenage Hollywood star Pagan Jones has a second chance at life when the mysterious Devin Jones shows up at Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and offers her a proposition: a part in an upcoming movie filming in Berlin in exchange for her freedom. While it seemed too good to be true, Pagan reluctantly agrees and is sent to Berlin. Pagan personifies the sassy movie star of the fifties, which makes her a fun protagonist--but she still has plenty of depth and flaws that make her interesting as well. Set in the simmering tensions of the Cold War, this thriller/mystery is fast moving and will satisfy the historical fiction buff as well as those who like a good mystery!

Reviewer's Name
Becca P.

Book Review: Legacy Of Kings

Author
Herman, Eleanor
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

For fans of Game of Thrones (although I have only watched the show, not read the books, so fair warning!). Told simultaneously through five different characters, Herman takes the real life figure of Alexander the Great and infuses the time period with magic and mythical figures. Twists and new revelations are around every corner and will keep the reader guessing until the end!

Reviewer's Name
Becca P.

Book Review: Code Name Verity

Author
Wein, Elizabeth
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Actual rating is 3.5 stars

This book has an intriguing premise. A British young woman, apparently a spy (code name "Verity") being held captive in occupied France, tells the story of her espionage career and subsequent capture. In an attempt to avoid further torture and prolong death at the hands of her captors, she promises to reveal secret codes that are related to British intelligence. The first half of the book is written in first person as a journal of sorts addressing her captors. The style itself works fairly well, but the narrative voice is annoying -- I found the main character to be insufferably conceited, rather than brazen and confident (as she was probably intended to be). She was not likable, and thus I didn't care much about her fate. Until...

...the second half.

A new narrator takes over -- Verity's friend and pilot Maddie. She was the one flying the plane that brought Verity to France. She is less uppity, less conceited, and altogether more relatable and likable. She tells the other side of the girls' story -- her training as a pilot, her friendship with Verity, and what happens to her when Verity is captured. I found myself rooting for her all the way. She also managed to make Verity more likable, and as more is revealed, I discovered that I enjoyed them both. By the end of the book, I saw both of them as exceptionally brave characters to be respected and admired.

Although this book is fiction, there are many references to real-life WWII intelligence operations, and plenty of mechanical details concerning planes that are also interesting. The book improves significantly as it progresses -- if you don't like the first half, wait for the second. Anyone who is interested in history or espionage will probably like this. Additionally, it develops into a beautiful story of the power of friendship and sacrifice, but is never sappy. I probably wouldn't read it again, at least not for a while, but it is definitely worth trying.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Caroline K.

Book Review: The Night Circus

Author
Morgenstern, Erin
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This novel is unique. It is a historical fantasy that is almost impressionistic in style and dreamlike in tone. It tells the story of two enchanters who occupy themselves by forcing their respective students into decades-long, painfully drawn-out, life-engulfing…duels? Competitions? Contests? Endurance tests? The rules are vague and the structure of the contest difficult to illustrate, describe, or understand, but the author is so skilled that the reader is drawn in completely, despite the lack of concrete concepts. The mysterious Night Circus of the title is merely the venue for the contest, but it is so compellingly depicted that it pulses with life – almost as if it is a character itself. The real stars are the competitors, however. Celia and Marco – two impossibly gorgeous, talented, and intelligent magicians whose magic is so beautiful and illusory in itself that the reader wishes that it were real, if only to experience the dream which the circus patrons are privileged to witness. The magicians are trapped in a constant battle for something they don’t understand, despite their being drawn to one another and entirely fascinated by the other’s whole being. They strive to win, and, eventually, strive to lose.

The plot is nonlinear, going back and forth in time with almost every chapter, but this is rarely a problem since the chapter headings give precise dates and the chapters focus almost exclusively on one set of characters at a time. The plot is filled to the brim with other fascinating side characters with enchanting plot lines of their own – some are likable, some despicable, all mysterious. The story is woven together intricately. No thread is complete until the final moment, and even then, some enigmatic strings are left hanging, just to give the reader something to think about.

The author does a wonderful job of simply describing – everything. While occasionally the detail is overwhelming and the plot only loosely defined, it makes for pleasurable reading nonetheless. The brief portions written in 2nd-person are spellbinding. Suspension of disbelief is required in enormous quantities, but if you have a good imagination, that should be no problem. Additionally, I found Celia and Marco to be rather boring and unrealistically perfect compared to other characters (the unlikely hero is much more compelling), but that’s part of the charm – the author merely portrays the facts, and the conclusions are left to the reader. If you can briefly relinquish your hold on reality, this book is absolutely magical.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Caroline K.

Book Review: Justin Morgan Had a Horse

Author
Henry, Marguerite
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I liked this book because it was very catchy. For instance, at the end of a chapter, it left you at a cliffhanger. For example, Little Bub, later called Justin Morgan, was about to run in the biggest race in his life, and then the chapter ended. Also, it was a great book for kids because it didn’t have too much detail about the Morgan breed, but it still gave you the feel of the great horse.

My favorite character is either Little Bub or Joel, the main character. I liked Little Bub because he was such a good runner and puller and because of his funny little neigh. Joel and Little Bub became fast friends partly because of that neigh, and as the author describes it, “like the sound of a bugle.” His ability to run so fast helped the schoolmaster (Justin Morgan) to pay off his debts. I liked Joel because of his determination, like when he served for his state in the militia, to help care for the horses. He worked odd jobs in peoples houses to get much-needed supplies, such as water
pails and blankets. Also, I admire Joel in his hopefulness and patience.
For example, he had expected a letter from the schoolmaster and he waited for months. He stayed hopeful, and finally the letter came! Another example was that when the stranger bought little Bub, he didn’t give up looking for him, and he finally found him!

Right now, if I was the author, I would change three things. One, I would change the schoolmaster dying. Two, I would change the author not revealing who the anonymous buyer was for Little Bub. Three, I would change the scene where the small puppy ran out onto the racetrack. I thought Joel shouldn’t of interfered with the schoolmaster’s life.

Reviewer's Name
Kyle

Book Review: Justin Morgan Had a Horse

Author
Tytle, Harry
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

My favorite character in the book was Little Bub because of his personality.
He was a very hard worker and he was brave. He stepped into a boat without hesitation. He worked all day pulling down trees. He was in pulling matches at night.

I liked this book because it had really good descriptions. The author wrote great descriptions like “You are as skinny as a fiddle string!” I also
liked the suspense. When we read about the races we didn’t want to stop.
My least favorite part was that the schoolmaster died. It made me sad because he was really nice. He was like a grandpa to Joel. He was loving because he took Joel on a trip.

Reviewer's Name
Seth

Book Review: The Alienist

Author
Carr, Caleb
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book is amazing. It spent weeks on the bestseller lists the year it was published, and is currently being turned into a television series. It takes place in 1896 and concerns fictional psychologist (or “alienist”) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler who works with his best friend John Moore, a crime reporter, to solve a series of brutal and perverted murders of New York City child prostitutes. They are joined by several other unconventional and intrepid characters who help them investigate the murders, eventually leading to an edge-of-your-seat climactic showdown worthy of any blockbuster thriller.
Our narrator, John Moore, is well-drawn and extremely likeable, providing insight into the personalities of more-difficult-to-access characters such as Laszlo as well as entertaining the reader with sarcastic asides and private commentary. His interactions with Laszlo are especially enjoyable – the two are polar opposites, yet have an enduring friendship that allows them to work together like Holmes and Watson. Dr. Laszlo Kreizler himself is dark, brooding, and intelligent, but moves beyond a stereotype and gains the reader’s sympathy, especially as his intriguing past – and relationships -- come to light. The other members of the team are generally likable as well, if rather underdeveloped. Their racial and religious political correctness seems somewhat manufactured considering the time period, but the strength of the plot and their own likability allows the reader to accept it as signs of the characters’ progressive viewpoints and accepting natures. Also, Theodore Roosevelt and other actual historical figures make cameos – it’s like a treat for history buffs.
Speaking of history, a main factor in the story is the concept of “psychological determinism,” a psychological theory that was new at the time but is now largely accepted, as well as forensic science, which was also mostly untested in 1896. The heroes in this story aren’t your typical Victorian detectives, using Holmesian deduction and raw logic to trace the killer. These investigators use psychology and forensics to catch a murderer who leaves no hard clues, making this mystery uncommonly scientific and engrossing. Additionally, the abundance of subplots -- romantic, criminal, historical, etc. -- create an atmospheric and fleshed-out world that serves its reader well.
I urge fans of psychological thrillers as well as traditional mysteries to read this book. However (as you may have guessed), the subject matter is dark, and there is more than one gory and detailed description of a dismembered body. Additionally, the nature of the investigation leads the investigators into some very unsavory locales. The imagery alone requires that I recommend this book for mature readers, probably ages 15 and up. If you don’t have a strong stomach, you may want to skip a few scenes. Otherwise, this is one mystery you won’t want to miss.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Caroline K.

Book Review: A Lesson Before Dying

Author
Gaines, Ernest J.
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Two characters. Grant and Jefferson. Playing the roles of God in Jesus in society, as saviors. Jefferson is on death row for killing a man. Grant is a man who would rather have nothing to do with the sinner, Jefferson. However, Grant is persuaded to help Jefferson. The two men develop a crazy relationship. Grant’s job is to help Jefferson find his humanity again, after Jefferson’s astonishing defense in trial that compared him to a swine who wouldn’t know better than to kill a man, for he is just that dumb. This book teaches so many lessons, but most important how to be a hero for others. Read this book for nothing else than to get to Jefferson’s tragic journal in the end, where you should be prepared with tears and tissues, for your heart will break for these characters.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name
Madison H.

Book Review: One Crazy Summer

Author
Williams-Garcia, Rita
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I honestly don’t have the words to describe how much I loved this book. It has won four national book awards and has left its mark on my heart. I really enjoyed how this book gave a new aspect on the life of other people in our world. This is a story that readers will look back on for years to come. The changes that these three girls go through are remarkable and their love for each other is touching. A phenomenal piece of work that will stick with children, teens, and anyone who appreciates a good story.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name
Gerilyn M.