Historical

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Author: 
Tan, Amy
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Joy Luck highlights mother-daughter relationships in the midst of generational conflicts. The Joy Luck daughters, Jing-mei, Waverly, Rose, and Lena, are first generation Chinese-Americans living in San Francisco during the 1980's. They feel their mothers are overbearing and do not understand their desire for independence. Ironically, their mothers feel they are losing their Chinese identity and became Americanized.

I love this book! The book is structured like the traditional Chinese game mahjong, and each of the daughters and mother's stories are complex and thought-provoking. Although it's set back in the 80's, a lot of its themes regarding mother-daughter relationships and intergenerational conflicts are relevant amongst first-generation immigrants and families today. Among the eight main characters, Jing-mei is my favorite, because she's really the only daughter that fully embraces her hyphenated identity.

This book is different because it tells the story of eight women who are so similar yet so different at the same time. I really recommend this to anyone looking for a female dominated novel!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: The Bluest Eye

Cover of The Bluest Eye
Author: 
Morrison, Toni
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Bluest Eye is about a young African-American girl named Pecola living in 1940's Ohio. Pecola lives with her brother and abusive parents who constantly tell her she is ugly because of her dark skin and kinky hair. On top of that, the children at her school bully her for the fact that her father is an alcoholic. All her life, Pecola has wanted blue eyes to feel pretty. Her only friends, Freida and Claudia try to defend her against the colorism in their community, but Pecola is unable to embrace her features and becomes obsessive over her desire for blue eyes.

One of the reasons I read this book is because of Morrison's writing style and her thematic elements. The book is very intellectually stimulating and gave me better insight into colorism and how it is still largely prevalent today in the African-American community. I really liked how Morrison used a young girl as a main character to show how these feelings of low-esteem and poor body image are started at a young age, and how the people around us influence our thoughts and feelings.

There are a lot of complex characters and you get to hear each of their stories about why they're the way they are. Claudia is my favorite character because she represents women and girls who challenge our ideas of beauty. The ending was sad, but it really brought light to how damaging our obsession with beauty is.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Lovely War

Book Cover
Author: 
Berry, Julie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

After being caught with her lover, Ares, Aphrodite tells the stories of two couples that fell in love during World War 1. James and Hazel met at a party that Hazel was playing piano for. They start to go on dates and they really like each other, but James is shipped of to the battlefield. Hazel decides to join the Red Cross to be closer to James. There she meets Colette, who becomes a fast friend.

This book was amazing! I loved the perspective of the gods on the story. They often make appearances to discuss specific parts of the story relating to the gods' affinities. I also loved seeing the couples be together, even during their struggles. While reading this book I cried multiple times and couldn't be happier about that.

I would also highly recommend the audiobook. There were so many different narrators it truly felt like I was in the story. One of the characters passions is composing music and in the audiobook you can actually hear the music! It is a wonderful experience.

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah H.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Book Cover
Author: 
Riggs, Ransom
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah H.

Book Review: Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea
Author: 
Sepetys, Ruta
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Salt to the Sea is about 4 people who are running from their past in the midst of WWII. Joana is a nurse fleeing from the dangers of Lithuania, with the hope that a ship will take her out of Europe. Florian is on the run from a mistake he made back in Germany also looking for the chance to escape without anyone finding him and taking him back to Germany. Emilia has finally decided to flee from the family that was taking care of her after the woman and her daughters betray her trust. Alfred is escaping reality by joining the German fleet to escape the mistake he made that cost him his girlfriend and his sanity. As the book continues all the character's paths join and they meet on the Wilhem Gustoff- a bigger tragedy than the sinking of the Titanic. The ship that promises safety, ends in tragedy. This is my favorite author, and out of all her books, this one is my absolute favorite. The character's stories blend together to make all the little plots into one overarching plot which I think is really cool. The chapters switch off narrators so you get to see the story in different perspectives. I like how the author shows a different side of the war than other WWII books where Germany is portrayed as the enemy and not as a country also in war. In this book, many of the people also fear Russia more than Germany because Russia was the one attacking and not helping and Germany was the one evacuating people. This makes the book different and I think more interesting. This is a really good book and it is worth a try.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Book Cover
Author: 
O'Brien, Tim
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Things They Carried is a memoir by Tim O'Brien about his experiences as an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. O'Brien was chosen to be drafted in 1968. This incident was extremely stressful for O'Brien who had taken a stand against the war, yet didn't want to disappoint his community. He pondered running away to Canada, but eventually decided to fight. The Things They Carried is a series of stories that are so well written. The work is a bit hard to understand just because O'Brien wrote it in a way that is not completely nonfiction. In the book, he explains this concept more in depth. Overall, I thought this book was a very well written, interesting, and educational story regarding the horrors of war from O'Brien's perspective in Vietnam.

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth P.

Book Review: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Book Cover
Author: 
Cholodenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Al Capone Does My Shirts was a required summer reading book for me this year. The plot of the story was how an eleven-year old boy named Moose left his San Francisco home to live on the prison island Alcatraz because his father had to relocate there for work. Moose’s sister Natalie, who sadly suffered from autism, was trying to get into a special school, but the principal would not let her join. Moose tries to get her into the school, while trying to still play baseball and do other things on his own.
On a scale of five stars, I would give it a four for the following reasons:
1. The plot was easy to follow, but at the same time you never knew what was going to happen next.
2. The character development was excellent, because you could easily relate and understand the characters' predicaments.
3. I thought the book was clever, funny, and meaningful.

For all of these reasons, I would give Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko four stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Zach M.

Book Review: The Crown's Game

The Crown's Game
Author: 
Skye, Evelyn
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

The Crown's Game is a Russian inspired fantasy set in the 1800's. It's told in duel-perspective from Vika and Nikolai, the only enchanters left in a country deprived of magic, they're both competing for the position of Imperial Enchanter through and ancient competition called the Crown's Game. A game where there can only be one winner and the other competitor is sentenced to death.
I really enjoyed the historical setting of the book. As well as the politics we get to see among the royal family. I like that it was told in duel-perspectives because it was interesting to see what both of the main characters are thinking. Also because it adds to the tension between the two characters and intrigue to the plot.
I think the book could have benefited from clearly labeling what perspective each chapter was told from, although I don't think it was that big of an issue because after a few sentences you could tell what the perspective was. Also some of the descriptions at the beginning of the book are a bit cheesy but the issue goes away as the book progresses.

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah

Book Review: How I Became a Spy

How I Became a Spy
Author: 
Hopkinson, Deborah
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

On his very first assignment as a civil defense messenger in World War II London, Bertie Bradshaw finds the diary of a spy lying in the street. He eagerly reads about the young spy’s training and how she parachuted into France to assume her new covert role. Things soon begin to sound dangerous as one by one her fellow agents are captured by the Nazis. Then the diary suddenly changes into code.

Bertie decides to trust a gutsy American girl, Eleanor, and his best friend David, who is Jewish, with the secrets in the diary. In a race against time, they must try to decode the final messages and then track down not only the spy who wrote them but also the traitor who is leaking information to the Nazis - information so vital that it will affect the success of the invasion of France and the lives of countless allied agents.

I immediately felt affinity for Bertie because he is a believable thirteen-year-old, forgetting his helmet and his training at first but then gaining courage and confidence as the story progresses. Bertie is also struggling with what seem to be panic attacks, stemming from the bombing of his house and the separation of his family, which makes his determination all the more admirable. I also enjoyed Little Roo, Bertie’s trained rescue dog, who has more to do with the success or failure of the venture than you might think.

Reviewer's Name: 
Cynde

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is an essential piece of literature. It tells a story that highlights the darkness of America's past, through the innocent eyes of a young girl. With this type of narrator, who almost only understands pure truth, joy, and rage, it is possible for readers to feel what she feels, and be brought into her small world (Alabama during the Great Depression) with simple, yet beautiful writing. The story itself is touching, and focuses on themes of family, racism, and solidarity. Aside from its essentiality in explaining America's history, it also can be read as a coming of age story, where the characters begin to see the harsh reality of the world in which they grew up, and in which they created lasting memories and relationships. It will make you laugh, cry, and feel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Malachi

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