Historical

Book Review: Of Mice and Men

Author
Steinbeck, John
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

George and Lennie are two laborers searching for work in California. While George is small and quick, Lennie is a man of tremendous size and has the mind of a young child. Despite their differences, they have formed a "family", clinging to their dream of owning an acre of land and producing their own produce. When they find a job at a ranch in the Salinas Valley, fulfilling their dream seems to be within their grasp, but conflict arises when Lennie begins a flirtatious relationship with the ranch owner's wife, and even George can't protect him from that.

I liked this book! Lennie and George's relationship is heartwarming, and it shows that having close friends can make even the hardest life bearable. My favorite characters were Crooks and Lennie. Crooks, who lives by himself because he is the only black man on the ranch, shows how discrimination affects mental well-being. Like Lennie, Crooks has been outcasted and looked down upon by society for something he can't control, and I liked how Steinbeck brought two very different characters together by sharing their shared loneliness. George is a complicated character because, at the end of the book, he does what he believes is 'best for Lennie' but it begs the question of how far a friend should go if it's in 'your best interest'. I watched the movie as well, as it was also really good!

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma

Book Review: Nectar in a Sieve

Author
Markandaya, Kamala
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This novel follows the life of a young Indian girl named Rukmani, who is married off at the age of twelve. She marries a poor farmer, Nathan: because she has three older sisters and is not as "desirable" by Indian standards, her parents cannot find a better suiter besides a poor farmer. Throughout their marriage, Rukmani and Nathan struggle with poverty, and misfortune. In addition, British colonizers have set up posts in their town, further destroying Rukmani and her family's sense of community and opportunity.

My favorite character is Rukmani because of her complexity. She is a flawed and interesting character because, on one hand, she breaks the gender norms of her culture and often finds ways to support the family even when Nathan can. However, I will argue that Rukmani is complacent in her poverty and accepts things as the way they are knowing she could do better. I also really liked how this book touched on intergenerational conflicts. Rukmani often finds herself detached from her children because they're growing up in westernized society. Nathan is my least favorite character because he's just...there. Overall, this was a good book because it exposed me to a different culture.

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma

Book Review: Compass South

Author
Larson, Hope
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Compass South is the thrilling story of Alexander (Alex) and Cleopatra (Cleo) Dodge, twins in 1850s America. With their single father missing, and no money left to live, the twins abandon their gang-ridden home in Manhattan. Cleo and Alex set out to impersonate missing boys who are heirs to a rich uncle in California. Along the way, they meet suspicious characters, new friends, and obstacles of every kind. This graphic novel is a thrilling adventure with lush artwork, a solid story, and lovable characters. Each chapter slowly unravels the journey of the Dodge twins and was good enough for me to read in a single sitting. Highly recommended to lovers of graphic novels, adventure/mystery, and Mark Twain-type stories.

Reviewer's Name
Lily

Book Review: The Crucible

Author
Miller, Arthur
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Crucible is an allusion to the Salem Witch Trails of 1692. The main character, John Proctor, is a well-respected farmer in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. When the first rumors that there are witches in Salem start stirring, Proctor pays little attention to them: he doesn't particularly believe in witchcraft and believes the townspeople are simply being hysterical. However, when his wife is accused of witchcraft, John has to put aside his personal feelings and find a way to save his wife and friends from hanging.

I hated the ending, but it made the play so much better. John develops significantly as a character. In the beginning, he only cared about protecting his reputation and hiding his affair, but in the final act, John became a martyr for the people of Salem. He's my favorite character in the play, and the movie is just as good!

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma M.

Book Review: Moloka'i

Author
Brennert, Alan
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Moloka'i is a book about the undaunted and courageous spirit of humanity. At seven, Rachel Kalama is diagnosed with leprosy, a condition that would alter her life forever. She is taken from her family to spend her life in Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (imagine quarantine lasting for your entire lifetime). On the island, Rachel confronts the aura of death, as the disease progresses among residents without a known cure. Moloka'i is a tale of sadness, but also a tale of survival. In a world of death, there is warmth, love, humor, and hope. The book follows Rachels's life with many twists and turns. I absolutely loved this book and it was one of the best books that I have read this year. Reflecting on the book, it truly demonstrates how there is a lot of good in this world, even if you have to dig deeper to find it.

Reviewer's Name
Isabella J.

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman

Author
Lee, Harper
Rating
2 stars = Meh
Review

This book was okay. It follows the brilliant "To Kill a Mockingbird". Maybe the shoes were just too big to fill. It's telling that rumor has it Lee didn't want Watchman to be published. The main problem that I had with the book is there is a lot of tedious soliloquizing by Scout. Also, there's a part in the beginning of the book that is straight out of Mockingbird, which isn't surprising as Watchman was written before and became the basis for Mockingbird.

Meh.

Reviewer's Name
vfranklyn

Book Review: Lucky Broken Girl

Author
Behar, Ruth
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Lucky Broken Girl is about is girl named Ruthie, who recently moved from
Castro's Cuba. When her father decides to buy a car and surprise the family,
they get into a terrible accident, testing the car out. Ruthie breaks her
leg, and must live in a body cast to mend her leg and to make sure one leg is
taller than the other, since she is growing. Ruthie must spend months in the
body cast. Along the way, Ruthie makes friends and loses friends, learns how
to paint, and continues her life, as much as possible, as to not get behind.
This is also a true story. The author changed some parts of the story, but it
is based off of true events.
I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me that not everyone's life is
perfect, and everyone is going through something. Even though the setting of
the book was in Ruthie's room most of the story, I had a lot of trouble
putting the book down. There are some sad parts but there are also a lot of
happy parts. This book is definitely a ten out of ten.

Reviewer's Name
Mackenzie

Book Review: This Light Between Us

Author
Fukuda, Andrew
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda is an extremely powerful and compelling historical fiction novel. I came upon this book completely by chance when I had nothing else to read, and decided to give it a chance and I am so glad I did! This Light Between Us, set before and during World War II, tells the story of two pen pals--a French-Jewish girl named Charlie and a Japanese-American boy named Alex. When they are ten years old, Alex's class gets assigned pen pals from France, and the teacher mistakes Charlie as a boy, therefore assigning her to be Alex's pen pal. Alex, who is a cartoonist and lives in his older brother Frank's shadow in their small town of Bainbridge Island, Washington, is shy and quiet and doesn't have a lot of friends. Popular, vivacious Charlie is instantly taken with the idea of writing to an American, and therefore wishes to continue their correspondence. For years, Alex and Charlie's letters fly across the Atlantic, including Alex's cartoons, and Charlie's tales of life in France. They discuss dreams, plans, ambitions, and how they finally will meet. The first part of this book is dedicated to the letters between Charlie and Alex, and as the situation in Europe worsens for Jewish people like Charlie, she finds solace in writing to Alex until the fateful day that Peal Harbor is bombed and all the Japanese Americans on Banbridge Island are directed to be sent to internment camps. Alex and his family are sent to the Manzanar Internment Camp in California right as Charlie's letters to Alex trickle to a stop. Determined to find the girl that Alex has come to love, Alex signs up to go to war.

I've read Farewell To Manzanar twice in school, and I found This Light Between Us tells the story of the Japanese internment camps in a much more accessible and heartbreaking way. This book is not a memoir, unlike Farewell To Manzanar, and even though the experiences described in both are the same, I connected to Alex's family's struggles in this book much more than I did in Farewell To Manzanar. The utter desperation of the entire family and the lack of hope described in this book is so heartbreaking that it is understandable why Alex signs up to go to war. I was also worried that the part of the book dedicated to Alex fighting in the war would be slow or even boring. Alex is constantly motivated by his desire to find Charlie. Every struggle in training, every battle he fights is for the purpose of finding her. The characters Alex experiences in his regiment are memorable and touching, and add to the narrative beautifully.

There is a quote from Jane Eyre that talks about a string being knotted in on person, right below their heart, and tied to another person, and however many miles away they may be, that string always will bring them back together. This concept is expressed and used many times in This Light Between Us, and truly represents the love that Alex and Charlie have for each other-- the idea of loving someone you've never met but who knows you better than anyone else is such a clever take on a historical fiction love story, and really sets This Light Between Us out from the crowd of WWII novels.

I loved this book. I read it in just a few days, and found it impossible to put down. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, romance, or just a good story! This Light Between Us is a powerful gem of a book that I highly recommend!

Reviewer's Name
Allie

Book Review: Things Fall Apart

Author
Achebe, Chinua
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Things Fall Apart is about a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, who watches as his village is destroyed by European missionaries. Once a feared and respected man in his village of Umuofia, Okonkwo is reduced to eventually taking the orders of white men. Okonkwo is a hard and emotionless man who believes that anything that is not masculine is weak and therefore unworthy. When missionaries come to Umuofia, Okonkwo urges his fellow villagers to resist the attempts to diminish their culture and replace their government, but he's met with little support. Eventually, Okonkwo is banned, and when he returns, his village has completely changed.

I liked Things Fall Apart because it's a great book that challenged the idea of African savagery and portrays African culture, specifically Nigerian culture, as complex and intricate, and not the 'uncivilized' society many people view Africans as today. Okonkwo is an interesting character because his unwillingness to adapt to the new change represents an internal struggle many pre-colonized Africans faced in the wake of colonization. The ending is symbolic because it represents the ultimate death of culture as a result of European exploration.

Overall, the novel provides a beautiful insight into another culture often ignored in mainstream media.

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma

Book Review: No Longer at Ease

Author
Achebe, Chinua
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

No Longer at Ease is the second installment in the African trilogy series. It is preceded by Things Fall Apart and follows the life of Obi, Okonkwo's grandson. Obi leaves his village in Nigeria to pursue an education in Britain where he meets Clara and falls in love with her. He returns to Nigeria and gets a job in civil service with the help of the board of elders. Obi is conflicted between his African culture and Western lifestyle, and heavy in debt, he takes a bribe.

Just like his grandfather, Obi is strong-minded and stubborn. He intends on marrying Clara although she is an osu, and begins taking bribes when he cannot pay his debts. He questions Nigerian traditions, and often compares Africa to Britain, ultimately positioning him in a place where he finds it nearly impossible to balance both cultures. However stubborn and sometimes reckless Obi is, he's a symbol of generational growth: unlike his grandfather and father, Obi ultimately understood that one culture was not better than the other, and change was imminent. Okonkwo, Nwoye, and Obi symbolize the different industrial stages of Nigeria and the social turmoil that followed, and they show the theme of western versus eastern culture clashes.

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma