Historical

Book Review: Mexican Gothic

Author
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Noemí Taboada is a beautiful socialite who loves wearing opulent purple gowns, riding in a convertible and smoking French cigarettes. A woman of her station, as the novel relates, "was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting." Instead, this strong-willed, intelligent and brave woman seizes an opportunity not realizing it could lead to her demise. Neomi’s father receives a disturbing letter from his niece and recent newlywed Catalina. The frenetic message suggests a mysterious doom awaits Catalina, who may need psychiatric help and a divorce, a scandal the businessman wants to avoid in 1950s Mexico City. So Neomi negotiates her way into a chance to attend graduate school – rare in a country when women could not vote – in exchange for heading to the isolated High Place, a distant Victorian mansion once funded by now-depleted silver mines. Once there, she must find out if the letter is nothing more than “female hysteria” as Neomi’s father assumes, or something more sinister.

Moreno-Garcia does a wonderful job sprinkling in the antiquated language of classic Gothic horror to pace this atmospheric creeper while Neomi’s dread about the Doyle family and its hideous patriarch mounts, as does her dueling desires to stay and garner graduate school or flee for her own sanity. The oppressive feel of dead, rotting High Place hints at a history of violence, madness and even darker secrets as the 320-page novel’s protagonist soon finds out. Once there, she meets the drugged Catalina’s menacing and alluring husband, who worms her way into her dreams, which are becoming an evermore disturbing mix of lust and horror. Her only ally is the family’s youngest son, who seems a decent fellow, but hides secrets of his own. Follow along as the amateur sleuth learns more about High Place, its exploitive colonial past and its unique power as the novel – equal parts Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft –speeds toward a satisfying, albeit gory conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Best Horror

Reviewer's Name
Joe P.

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

Author
Lee, Harper
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel entirely worthy of its praise. The humor, subtlety of the impact left by the narration from a young girl's perspective, and incredibly real themes all fit together perfectly. The story is a straightforward read and combined with the intricate storytelling based on the author's own life, the topics surrounding race and justice feel meaningful. The story follows Scout Finch, a young girl, and her friends Jem and Dill while depicting their views on life in the South during the Depression. The juxtaposition of childish natures and mature outlooks on violence, prejudice, and societal struggles brought about by the narration stand out. Each instance of injustice and depiction of the imperfections of humanity in a struggling society tie the development of the characters and rise to the climax together well. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it is a fantastic, and rather light read.

Reviewer's Name
Steven

Book Review: Villette

Author
Bronte, Charlotte
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Villette is an incredibly hard read. The novel follows Lucy Snowe in her escape from England. She reminisces on her life's story and the overall storyline is intriguing. The side characters play their parts well, and certain tragedies in the story do leave hard-hitting impacts. Nevertheless, the book is over four-hundred pages of intricate literature with an incredible range of advanced vocabulary. However, the complexity of the read does add a bit of fun to the book, despite drawing attention away from the story itself. Looking up advanced English and French vocabulary almost makes the novel a neat, theatrical dictionary. While hard to understand and read, it allows the reader to dive deeper into each character and develop them more on a personal level. Overall, I would only recommend this book to people looking for a challenging read and with time on their hands.

Reviewer's Name
Steven

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

Author
Dickens, Charles
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

A Tale of Two Cities is a grand novel by Charles Dickens that details the events of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, along with many other characters, throughout the beginning the middle of the French Revolution. The book starts off a little slow, but after getting through most of the exposition, the book turns into an undoubtable classic. The main characters are detailed thoroughly, and their motivations fuel their bond and the plot beautifully. The inner conflicts they face all fit into place like pieces of a puzzle over the course of the novel, which leaves the reader both satisfied and distraught at the same time. The sub-plots also tie the story together well, and the heroic ending is written perfectly. The setting of the French Revolution, romance, and character development throughout the story creates a captivating bond with the reader and always leaves one in a state of suspense. The themes relating to the greater scale of humanity and sacrifice also leave a lasting message. Although it is a decently long read, I would recommend A Tale of Two Cities to anyone as a must read.

Reviewer's Name
Steven

Book Review: Stranger in Savannah

Author
Price, Eugenia
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Stranger in Savannah is the final chapter of Eugenia Price's Savannah Quartet series and fills the niche of a Southern historical romance novel.

The novel follows the Browning, Mackay, and Stiles families and does an excellent job of creating drama related to the buildup of the American Civil War. While I do not often read romantic novels and the like, Stranger in Savannah feels very realistic thanks to its historic references. The setting of the Civil war and the air of political tension gave life to the drama, however, the underlying themes and Mark Browning as a character were all the more captivating. The book also drew me in with each characters' ambitions being intriguing and thoroughly fitting in major and minor plot points surrounding the setting and cast of the quartet. Overall, the novel was a fitting end to the series, and I would recommend not only this book but the entire Savannah Quartet to those interested in thematic historical romance.

Reviewer's Name
Steven L

Book Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Author
Foer, Jonathan
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Was very reluctant to start book because I usually don't lean towards heartbreak stories. After reading it, its so much more than that. Its a book about a boy who thinks different than the most of us. The difficulties that this 9 year old boy faces with social interaction and phobias really keeps you intrigued. Oskar the nine year old boy is probably one of the most interesting protagonist characters I've ever met and you just have to read to find out why.

Reviewer's Name
Adan D.

Book Review: Refugee

Author
Gratz, Alan
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

The novel “Refugee” by Alan Gratz wasn’t a very good book in my opinion. I read it for my English class in high school and I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s about three refugees throughout history, but the stories are kind of connected. One refugee is a young boy escaping from Nazi Germany, the second is a young girl escaping from Cuba in the 90s and finally the third is a young boy escaping from Syria in 2016. Before reading this I had read a book about a boy who was in a concentration camp, and it was a true story written by him. Refugee doesn’t even come close to how good that book was. Along with that, it’s not very well written.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book, there are far better books about this topic.

Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name
Emani

Book Review: Great Expectations

Author
Dickens, Charles
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I read this book because it’s my mom’s favorite book of all time. It follows a young boy named Pip as he grows up. It’s a love story, and a pretty good one. Though it’s a little hard to read because of the old style English writing that Dickens used, it’s definitely worth reading. Overall, I would highly recommend this book!

grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name
Emani

Book Review: The Queen's Accomplice

Author
MacNeal, Susan Elia
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

For several months my addiction to the entire Maggie Hope series has seriously interfered with all things domestic! I have just finished yet another well-researched book by a fairly young author, who evidently has a passion for writing novels about career women during the dark days of World War II. Susan Elia MacNeal keeps the pace moving, the tension building, and the characters believable. Maggie Hope is a brilliant academic turned spy! Her adventures, from the first book onwards, will take you into conversations with Winston Churchill, the Royal family, and Nazi sympathizers. I recommend that you read the books in chronological order as each one builds upon the previous book

Reviewer's Name
Janet M.

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

Author
Tan, Amy
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book expresses the powerful spirits of four Chinese American mothers and daughters. The four mothers formed the Joy Luck Club after creating a strong bond with one another over mahjong after all four moved from China to San Francisco. Each mother holds her own unique struggle while living in China and while raising their "Americanized" children. As the daughters grow they realize that they shouldn't have rejected their Chinese heritage when they were young. Their mothers also wonder if they raised their daughters the right or wrong way because they were able to gift them with the independent spirit of an American, but may have disconnected them from their Chinese culture. While the book describes the lives of each mother and daughter, the plot mainly focuses on Jing-mei (June) Woo who, after her
mother passes away, travels to China to reconnect with the twin daughters her mother was forced to leave in China. Though this story follows the tales of Chinese women, I believe that anyone can find a connection to the struggles and conflicts these women faced.

Reviewer's Name
Jenna W.