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Historical

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.

Book Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies

Curtsies & Conspiracies
Author: 
Carriger, Gail
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

As Sophronia Temminnick goes into her second year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality she is learning more and more ways to kill with weapons, poisons, and over tea. To infiltrate a hive of vampires. And to subdue you by simply looking at you. For this is no normal finishing academy, it is a school that is training her to be a spy. With 10 boys from Bunson's (school for evil geniuses in training) on board. Being friends with two boys Lord Mercy and Soap the sootie will be much harder than you will expect, considering that they are both fighting for her. As an unexpected trip to London appears out of nowhere what will Sophrnoia have to do to uncover the truth and save her friends?

Reviewer's Name: 
Anneka S.

Book Review: America is Not the Heart

America is Not the Heart
Author: 
Castillo, Elaine
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Sometimes, this book had amazing descriptions about experiences and personalities. But the majority of the book was dreadfully dull and dragged on and on. The main character described, in detail, her hook-up stories and one-night stands, leading up to her more fruitful and lengthy relationship with a witty, quick woman named Rosalyn. I felt that although physical intimacy is a large factor in mature relationships, I really didn't need to hear about EVERYTHING they did to each other. I was drawn into the story because the plot seemed fascinating. In theory, it would be, but the author was so fixated on producing a lengthy novel that the story was drawn out. So the story line is this: Hero De Vera arrives in the US as an illegal Filipino immigrant. Her uncle welcomes them into his home, without questioning her very questionable past. The past where she dropped out of medical school, took up one night stands with near strangers, and joined the New People's Army, a discreet organization in the Philippines, where lots of murderous secrets lurk. Hero moves into her uncles house, and is welcomed into the work-alcoholic behavior of her uncle and aunt, who are trying to provide for their family and others. Their young, American-born Filipino daughter, Ronnie, is feisty and spunky. Hero meets Rosalyn and, almost instantaneously, begins to nurture a crush for her. That is, until their physical relationship begins. And THAT is when things got nasty. In conclusion, an intriguing plot, terrible writing, and unnecessary details on Hero's sexual pleasures. And it took a decent chunk out of my time, too.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: The Tuscan Child

The Tuscan Child
Author: 
Bowen, Rhys
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Loved this dual-timeline novel. Both stories were strong enough that they could have stood on their own, but together they were wonderful. The descriptions of a small town in Tuscany were so vivid that I felt like I was there, and the food in particular made me hungry! I've only ever read the Royal Spyness mysteries by Rhys Bowen, but they are among my favorite lighthearted mystery series. Now, I'm definitely going to have to pick up In Farleigh Field and her other mysteries!!!

Reviewer's Name: 
Krista M.

Book Review: The City of Brass

The City of Brass
Author: 
Chakraborty, S.A.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

In S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel, The City of Brass, we find some of the standard tropes that seem to be the foundation of the Young Adult genre. There are snippets of works like Harry Potter and Twilight that seem to leak through, their influences helping to shape the world that the author has created. However, while some of these tropes might be tired in any other setting, they are used to great effect here, as the author has created something grounded in culture and traditions that helps to enhance the fantasy world that lies just beyond our own.

While I did enjoy reading this book overall, there were a few weaknesses. The start of the story was action- packed and hooked me right from the get-go, but then the section leading up to the second half of the plot seemed to be bogged down with lots of exposition and world-building. It also wasn’t necessarily clear to me why the main character needed to go to the titular “City of Brass,” other than her brief hope that she’d be trained there. I also didn’t get the sense that the journey took months, as the traveling companions didn’t seem to be as exhausted from the trek as I thought they should be.

Despite this semi-minor weakness, the characters and the world were well developed and well thought out. I had to roll my eyes at the “love triangle,” mostly because it’s a cliché of the genre, but the three main characters involved in such romantic entanglements were unique and interesting individuals that made me want to keep reading. This book uses a lot of specific terminologies that took a little bit to pick up, especially from the perspective of a reader who isn’t as familiar with Middle Eastern languages. I was still able to pick it up via
context, only needing the glossary at the end to confirm my suspicions.

An excellent debut that pulls from a rich and unique culture to create its fantasy, I give The City of Brass 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: 
Savit, Gavriel
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Oh MY GOSH this book was incredible!! It reminded me a lot of the Boy in Striped Pajamas, because it's told innocently from the perspective of a child in WWII. It was heartbreaking. Few books make me cry, but I was on the verge of tears in this book. The characters had depth and complexity, they weren't 2d with one personality. They were like real people-- irrational, scared, kind, sly. I loved it so much, you won't understand until you read it.
So when Anna's Jewish father is killed when the Nazi's invade Poland, she finds herself in the care of the Swallow Man-- dubbed so because he reminds her of Soloman, but it wouldn't be wise to call him that in the time of WWII.
He insists on keeping up the pretense that they are father and daughter, because he is coping with the premature death of his daughter, who is around Anna'a age (7 years, I think). They travel across Europe on foot, with seemingly no predetermined destination. The Swallow Man says that keeping still makes it easier to be found, and one should never be found. It is better to be lost than to be found in times of war, he says. So the Swallow Man instills wisdom and new ideas into Anna, and teaches her how to survive by talking the language of Road, which is essentially not telling the whole truth, or maybe sprinkling in some truth to a big lie, or just convincingly lying to get what you want. So they pass checkpoints, borders, and strangers, talking Road and surviving. Then they find a Jew, who is used to horrors, but ignorant on how to avoid them. He entertains Anna with Jewish prayers and songs while they walk. The end leaves a lot to want, it was heart-wrenching and sad, but I won't give it away (you're welcome).
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Shadow Spinner

Shadow Spinner
Author: 
Fletcher, Susan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I LOVED this book! It incorporated a love and talent for storytelling perfectly, and infused it with a colorful and entertaining story. As an aspiring writer, I cherished reading about another storyteller, and how it changed her life.
Marjan is a young, crippled girl around the age of 13 in medieval Persia, where the there is a strict class contrast between prosperous sultans and poor beggars. She's loved telling stories, and admires Shahrazad. Her husband, the sultan, forcibly married a young girl every night and murdered the following morning, because he was convinced all women were despicable after his wife betrayed him. But Shahrazad stays alive by telling a story every night, keeping him intrigued and saving her life by morning, living another day. But after a thousand and one nights, she begins to run out of stories to tell, and so she enlists Marjan to find stories. Marjan seeks out a begging storyteller she saw in the market, and suddenly is thrust into a world where she has to become sneaky and smart in order to stay alive.
All in all, Shadow Spinner was really intriguing and I loved reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

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