Historical

Book Review: Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Author: 
Choldenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Al Capone Shines My Shoes is an incredible story, that follows up the Newbery Honor novel Al Capone Does My Shirts. In this book, Moose Flanagan's autistic sister is headed to a boarding for special needs students, due to one of the most notorious inmates in Alcatraz. Al Capone is more involved in this story
than the first and writes Moose a letter asking a favor. Choldenko does a great job of mixing real life criminals and fictional characters to make an amazing narrative to read. I enjoyed how this book was very surprising and stood out from the first book in the series. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a mysterious and exciting story to read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Miles

Book Review: Al Capone Does My Homework

Al Capone Does My Homework
Author: 
Choldenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Al Capone Does My Homework finishes off an amazing book series to read. This book is action packed and includes gambling, stolen belongings, and counterfeit money. Al Capone plays a surprising role in this story and saves someone's life. Moose's relationships with his friends are further developed in this novel, and his father is promoted which puts Moose's family in even more danger. This book is spectacular and filled with action. It is a very good closing to the series and gives all readers a different perspective of Al Capone.

Reviewer's Name: 
Miles

Book Review: Zebra Forest

Zebra Forest
Author: 
Gewirtz, Adina Rishe
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

The book Zebra Forest, by Adrina Gewirtz, tells a story of four lives that are held captive by their father and... the book is essentially just that. The plot is incredibly dull and basic, the characters have no real life to them, the book just seems ramble on and on, and here, everything that can be wrong with a book is present. The title doesn't even have any real importance in the book! I get how maybe a few people might like this book, but from a writing perspective, this book lacks in everything. The book tries so hard to address a somewhat difficult-to-cover topic but forgets that it's meant for older audiences and fails at both. Overall, I would only recommend this book only to the most desperate of readers, or a younger kid.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L.

Book Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter
Author: 
Morton, Kate
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

This story centers around an impassioned artist and his dreams, a mysterious murder, an enchanting English manor and all that went on their throughout its many years, a ghost that stands outside of time witness to it all, a vanished girl, an archivist and her discovery of a priceless artifacts, and how what went on there all those years ago effects who she is today.

In the past, the 1860’s to be exact, this story begins with a talented artist Edward Radcliffe and a group of artists that spend a summer at the house of his dreams Birchwood Manor. But shortly after arriving a mysterious murder is committed, a priceless artifact disappears and one of the women vanishes. A hundred years later in the present an archivist, named Elodie, finds a satchel which contains an unrelated photograph and a sketchbook that contains a drawing of Birchwood Manor. As she digs deeper into the mystery she is pulled into a story that has her questioning her past and who she truly is. This beautiful atmospheric mystery spans the length of time, and is told by the many voices and people all living within and around the Manor’s walls.

Before I go any further, first, let me say this. Kate Morton is the master of atmospheric beautiful Gothic mysteries and I am a big fan of hers and have loved every one of her past books. Her intricate and deeply rooted stories her beautiful prose, and her enchanting settings are the reasons why she is simply one of the best in her genre. That being said, this work, was a bit of a disappointment. While all the elements of what I love about Kate Morton’s books were there; an intricate story steeped in history, an old vast English manor with a secret or two to hide within its walls, old families with long pedigrees, a family mystery, an enchanting setting, this book fell short for me mainly because of its intricacy and complexity. I also believe the ending was a bit weak. I really wanted to love it, I just couldn’t.

Morton, I believe, really attempted to tell a challenging story, but simply had to many voices trying to tell it. While I like a good dual timeline novel, this one, with at least four voices and timelines was simply too much. There were times that, because of how she bounced around among the numerous timelines, when I got completely lost in which timeline I was following. This combined with how many characters and voices there were throughout the novel, made the story overall a whole lot less enjoyable. I’ll admit, this story took me a good while to get through and I do recommend, if reading this, keeping a list of who everyone is and which timeline goes where. It’s definitely a book you have to think through. That being said the story itself was beautiful and it makes me wonder, if it wouldn’t be better as an audio book where each of the voices are sounded out. Overall a 2.5-3 star read for me. However, if you are a Kate Morton fan and if you love atmospheric Gothic mysteries, I couldn’t count this one out, I would still give this one a go, just maybe as an audio book. Place your copy on hold today!

Thank you to Netgalley, Atria books, and Simon and Schuster for a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: 
Tawnie

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible
Author: 
Kingsolver, Barbara
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters out into the Congo in 1959. He's a prolific and die-hard evangelical Baptist pastor, with his mind set on converting the majority of the Congo population to Christianity. His wife, Orleanna, is submissive and silent, obeying him and allowing him to hit their children. Rachel, the eldest Price daughter, arrogant, self-centered, and sorely missing her comfortable 16 year-old life back in the States. Next come the twins, Adah and Leah. Adah is shriveled up and crippled, but her mind runs like a confusing, rampaging fire. Leah has cut her hair short and vows to shoot her bow and arrow as well as any village boys. And Ruth May, the baby of the family at 5 years old, with her warped and imaginative outlooks on their jungle surroundings. The Price family is trying to hold it together as the Congo fights for independence from Belgium, as they watch children starve to death on their doorstep, and the colorful like of the jungle swirl around their broken household. -Jordan T, 8th grade

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: 
Twain, Mark
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

The classic tale "Huckleberry Finn" is about a young boy and his adventures with a slave named Jim amidst war and racism. I hated this book for two reasons. Firstly, the plot doesn't seem to go anywhere. It seemed that Finn and Jim just wandered aimlessly around, befriending unlikable people and getting into trouble. Secondly, Finn was a very unlikeable protagonist. He doesn't show any sort of compassion or kindness towards anyone -- and doesn't seem to care if his friend Jim lives or dies. It is difficult to root for and follow a hero that you hate. While I personally did not enjoy this book, don't let that stop you. I know many people who really enjoyed "Huckleberry Finn" -- I was just not one of them. But, if you are someone who likes a strong plot and a fairly likable hero, this one is not for you.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gillian P.

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Author: 
Fitzgerald, Scott F.
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The classic tale of "The Great Gatsby" follows Nick Carraway, a newcomer to the city, who discovers the lavish and intoxicating life of Jay Gatsby, his next door neighbor. Nick soon becomes entangled in a net of secrets and deception that involves his friends Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. After hearing so many incredible things about "The Great Gatsby", I came into the story with high expectations. Unfortunately, they were not really met. While the story is undeniably powerful, it lacks in some areas. I found all the characters extremely unlikable. There was no one to really root for. In addition, there were parts of the story that seemed to drag on for far too long. I found myself asking, "When is something going to happen?" at several points. All in all, I didn't hate this story, but it definitely wasn't my favorite classic to read. Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gillian P.

Book Review: The Romanov Empress : a novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

The Romanov Empress : a novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna
Author: 
Gortner, C.W.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Fabulous. If you are at all interested in the Romanovs as a whole (beyond Nicholas and Alexandra), this is a wonderful introduction. This book expands the story of the Romanovs from the point of view of Empress Maria Feodorovna who married the Russian Tsarevich and was the mother of the ill-fated Russian monarch Nicholas II (she was also the sister of Queen Alexandra of the U.K., King Frederick VIII of Denmark, and King George I of Greece - luckily there is a handy family tree in the front of the book for you to refer to!) Beautifully written and engrossing.

Reviewer's Name: 
Krista

Book Review: Briar Rose

Briar Rose
Author: 
Yolen, Jane
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Based in modern day America, this novel tells the story of a girl trying to discover her grandmother's past after hearing the story of Briar Rose for many years. After her grandmother dies with her last words being, "Promise me you will find the castle. Promise me you will find the prince. Promise me you will find the maker of the spells," Becca will not give up looking for her grandmother's lost origins. She goes through the contents in the box left to her relentlessly, until she finds the name "Kulmhof" on a piece of paper. Becca proceeds to make some calls, and finally takes a trip to Poland where she meets a certain Josef Potocki. Josef then reveals to Becca the story of her grandmother's past. It was a brutal and ruthless history of origin occurring during the Holocaust.

Even though the book was quite interesting and definitely kept me reading, there was some content I personally found disturbing. Most of this content consists of Josef Potocki being openly and quite obviously gay and a gay and lesbian agenda being enforced throughout the entire book. There was also a brief description of a sexual encounter between Josef and one of his former gay lovers that was completely disgusting.

Overall, I could not stop reading this book and found it very intriguing! The three stars is because of the unnecessary LGBTQ references and sexual encounter. If not for those few things, this book would have been downright amazing.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ella S.

Book Review: Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird
Author: 
Pearce, AJ
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book took me on an emotional roller-coaster! The beginning bits were so funny, I figured it was going to be more of a slapstick comedy (which I was okay with), and then the reality that this was set in London during the Blitz set in, and I found myself gasping. Plucky Emmaline is such a lovable character, I would love if the author would consider revisiting her life in the future! Strongly recommend for those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. While it is not written in letters, Dear Mrs. Bird packs a similar emotional punch.

Reviewer's Name: 
Krista M.

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