Historical

Book Review: Alvin Journeyman

Alvin Journeyman
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

With this fourth book in the Alvin Maker series, I’m starting to see why a
lot of writers like to stick to trilogies. If anything, I think most readers
can probably skip this volume and move on to the next one because there
wasn’t anything too new or interesting that happened in it. If anything, it
was a re-hash of events in the previous book with a few new characters added
to it. I will concede that Alvin Journeyman did finally develop a fitting
antagonist for Alvin. Still, so few pages were dedicated to this sub-plot
that I’m wondering if it should have just been pulled out and made into its
own novella that would span the gap between book three and book five.

Once again, the strength of the series as a whole carries through here, and
some loose character arcs are tied up before moving on to more important
things. However, spending the majority of the book hashing over what astute
readers (or even readers who were moderately paying attention in the last few
books) already knew as truth just to confirm to the rest of the characters
around Alvin that he wasn’t lying seemed like a waste of words.

If anything, using the delay in Alvin’s journey to develop Calvin’s
“making” abilities did provide a bit of contrast between the two and will
likely pay off when the forces of good and evil clash in future volumes. I
still appreciate the way Orson Scott Card integrates actual history with a
fantasy explanation, though. Despite the missed step here, I’ll continue
with the series to see how it resolves. At the very least, volumes like this
show me why it’s not as notable as the Ender Saga, which was a solid four
book set (that’s really just three books with the third split into two
parts).

A weak link in the Alvin Maker series, I give Alvin Journeyman 3.0 stars out
of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Mrs. Everything

Book Review: Mrs. Everything
Author: 
Weiner, Jennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Surprisingly good. I was expecting more of a lighthearted chick lit experience, but it was a compelling read that delved into the lives to two sisters over a period of time. I'm not sure what the title has to do with the story but still a very powerful story.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: 
Harrow, Alix E.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This beautiful work of art, is a love letter to stories and bibliophile’s everywhere. I loved Harrow’s intoxicating magical debut so much that I blew through it in 4 days! I read it back in March but it still sticks with me to this day! But I have to admit, I have been a hard time finding words to describe this magical beautiful experience of a book because it grabbed my heart so completely and did so much to me, that to try to express it in words and to remember all the intricate details has been difficult. But I am happy to report I am currently doing a re reading and so far it is just as magical, heartbreakingly tender and beautiful as the first time. I am so excited that it has finally come out and more people get to experience this epic journey into unknown worlds. This should be on everyone’s reading lists!

Meet January Scaller, a brown girl, an in between sort of thing some call her, growing up in the 1900’s a time rife with social change, and colonialism. A difficult time where the world is in transition and nothing is at it seems. January is the ward of a wealthy white benefactor, Mr. Locke, who spends his waking moments hunting for the worlds artifacts and then selling them to the highest bidder. Or more truthfully, employing people like January’s father to hunt down these treasures, so he can sell them. As a result, his sprawling estate resembles a museum decorated with treasures and all sort of odd things from around the world. Being taught to always be the good girl, she is tollerated in Mr Locke’s society but still she feels like a artifact herself.

With her father gone for months at a time and Mr. Locke attending to meetings, January grows up alone, content with wandering the lonely grounds and halls to be among it’s treasures and discover its secrets. One day when she was 7, playing amidst the wide open fields of the estate, she discovered a door, a blue ragedy door that hadn’t looked like it had been used in ages, and she wished for it to lead to elsewhere, using a old diary she had found. Next thing she new, she was stepping from the familiar into a new world unknown. When she was was older, in the same place she found the diary, she discovered a mysterious book that spoke of secret doors, other worlds, and adventure. As the pages keep turning January discovers connections and truths to her own story, that she never would have imagined and is led into a adventure of a lifetime.

Full of beautiful imagery and entrancing atmospheric prose, this story exhibits the best things I love about books and fantasy in general. Prose that flower off the page and into the reader’s imagination, a coming of age tale, a magic system based in words and stories, other lands, a wild, beautiful, strong heroine who has trouble fitting in and conforming to standards, dastardly villains, sweet friendships, and a heart of love and family at it’s center.

Stories have a way of communicating deeper truths that can’t be understood and communicated in any other way. And their is so much in this book! A imaginative tender hearted lonely adventuresome girl full of all the desires that young girls have, the yearning to be loved both romantically and by a father, and the desire to be part of a grand adventure in unknown new exciting places. This story communicates hope for better things and the understanding that their is something more. It communicates love and the need for family and belonging, it communicates the importance of discovering identity and sticking to your truths no matter what. And it communicates so many other truths that are at once both universal but at the same time, personal as stories speak to each of us differently and discovering what they say, is part of the adventure.

And everyone should go on this adventure! Everyone should read this intricate, tender hearted, complex, magical, tale that will sweep your heart between it’s pages and not let it go, even after the last page is turned.

Thank you to Orbit publisher for my ARC of this wonderful tale for review!

Reviewer's Name: 
Tawnie M.

Book Review: Orange for the Sunsets

Orange for the Sunsets
Author: 
Athaide, Tina
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Tina Athaide’s debut novel, Orange for the Sunsets, is a story of friendship, resilience, and perseverance. Written for the middle grades and set in 1972, Athaide helps readers examine who and what they call home. It’s the story of Ugandan best friends, Asha and Yesopu, who don’t see their differences until Ugandan President Idi Amin announces that Indians have 90 days to leave the country. Asha, an Indian, and Yesopu, an African, are torn apart. Journey with them as they learn that letting each other go may be the bravest thing that they can do.

Reviewer's Name: 
Carol

Book Review: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky
Author: 
Lee, Stacey
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Under a Painted Sky is a fictional western story set in 1849 on the Oregon Trail. It is about two girls named Samantha and Annamae who after some unfortunate luck leave their home, Missouri, behind to start a new life, but they must first survive the Oregon Trail. While traveling along the Oregon Trail, Samantha and Annamae disguise themselves as boys to avoid unwanted attention and they join a group of cowboys, but will Samantha and Annamae be able to trust them? Under a Painted Sky is a story about friendship and self-discovery that leaves you wanting to read more. Overall, I really enjoyed reading Under a Painted Sky because Stacy Lee developed the characters very well and I would recommend reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma G

Book Review: Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again
Author: 
Lai, Thanhha
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Inside Out and Back Again is a historical drama all told in poems. A Vietnamese family is forced to flee their home in Saigon, Vietnam due to the outbreak of the Vietnam war. Luckily, they escape and flee to Alabama, however, Ha, the daughter in the family has trouble adjusting to the different lifestyle in the U.S. In, this book, you get a view into the life of Vietnamese refugees and their struggle to adjust to a new life, all in the form of poems. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great story filled to the brim with poems.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Kyle Y

Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: 
Foer, Jonathan Safran
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows a nine-year-old boy named Oscar coming to terms with life after his father's death on 9/11. When looking through his dad's things, Oscar breaks a vase and finds a key and a mysterious envelope labeled "Black". He decides to embark on a mission to find every person named Black in New York City in an attempt to find the one Black who knew his father. Along the way, he meets new friends and discovers more about those he already knew. This book is written from the alternating perspectives of Oscar, his grandmother, and his mute grandfather whom Oscar has never met. This adds an interesting layer to the story, as Oscar lost a parent in 9/11 and his grandparents, both children at the time, lost their families in the bombing of Dresden. This shows a theme throughout this book that grief from war and terror is universal. This book's overall commentary on the human experience and grief, both individual and collectively experienced by a nation, shows the skill and thoughtfulness of the author. On a personal level, I did not find the characters particularly enticing and had a hard time following the plot at times, but I would still recommend the book, especially to someone with an interest in 9/11 or the world wars.

Reviewer's Name: 
McKenna R

Book Review: The Help

The Help
Author: 
Stockett, Kathryn
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Help is a novel set in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960's, written by Kathryn Stockett. The main character, Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, is a aspiring journalist who lives with her parents and has no intention of starting a family like all of her friends; what she really wants is to be a writer. She decides to take a big risk and interview the help--the African American women who work in the households of white families to make a living--and write about their experiences. Kathryn Stockett's novel follows the lives of three women: Skeeter and two African American women: Aibileen and Minnie. The Help is spectacularly written and very accurately depicts society during segregation. It will make readers laugh out loud, cry, and connect with the characters. The plot is unpredictable and enjoyable, told through several perspectives which creates the perfect character development.
I strongly recommend this book to all readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa H

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This is a story that beautifully represents society in a way few novels can. Set in Maycomb, Alabama in the early 1930's, it is told from the perspective of a 6-year-old girl, Scout, as she grows, plays, and gets into trouble with her older brother, Jem, and comedic friend, Dill. Scout's wise father, Atticus, must defend an innocent black man accused of rape; along the way Scout meets people and learns things that impact her life. Meanwhile, Scout, Jem, and Dill, are determined to learn more about their mysterious neighbor and the violent rumors that surround him--sometimes getting themselves into humorous situations--and learn something surprising. The book is spectacularly and wisely written, with characters readers will connect with, and themes that are important in all readers' lives: courage, empathy, and the power of standing up for what you believe in. Scout's sense of humor and insightful observations will make readers think and keep turning the pages for more.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa H

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