Historical

Book Review: Tongues of Serpents

Tongues of Serpents image
Author: 
Novik, Naomi
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Up until now, I had only read one other book by Naomi Novik. I had loved Spinning Silver and the unique take on a classic fairy tale it presented. While I understand Tongues of Serpents is the sixth book in the Temeraire series, I found it to be inferior to Spinning Silver in many ways. I will also grant that I’m not necessarily the target audience for this genre of historical fantasy when it takes a more nautical tilt (like Far Side of the World does). Still, there was enough of a standalone element to Tongues of Serpents that I was able to pull a story out of it and write a review of it.

Some things I had trouble getting used to in this book were the fact that the dragons all spoke in the same English as the human characters. I had a tough time identifying which characters were dragons and which were humans, and I didn’t know why they sounded so similar (I’m sure a previous book explains this). Additionally, I eventually gained a slight sense of the overarching goal of the series (I think it’s to get to China), but I didn’t feel like the characters’ motives were very clear in this book.

I almost gave up reading this book until the end of part one when something interesting happened, but even that sub-plot felt like it never went anywhere and was only an excuse to use a lot more words to describe very few actions. In the end, there was a lot of fluff in this book, and I’ll chalk it up to the way authors write these historical nautical books. Perhaps if it were slanted more toward fantasy or more tied to history (like in the Alvin Maker series), I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, I just kind of skimmed through it and donated it to the next person who might like to read about dragons in Australia.

A historical fantasy that was too light in both history and fantasy, I give Tongues of Serpents 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

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

“It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Harper Lee writes a beautiful and provocative narrative in To Kill a Mockingbird in order to create a conversation about relevant themes that affect our world. The story follows Scout and her brother Jem as their father, Atticus, defends an African American man named Tom Robinson in court for raping a young white woman.
Meanwhile, the children meet a new boy named Dill, and are curious about their neighbor, “Boo” Radley. The book deals with intense themes such as racial injustice, class, and growing up.
When I first read this book in 9th grade, I didn’t care too much for it. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was something that I could read again.
But I was wrong. While re-reading this book, I discovered why it is a classic. The book deals with serious issues while still remaining eloquent and poetic. I adored Scout’s character and her development seen through her interactions with Boo Radley. I thoroughly enjoyed Harper’s writing style and her ability to create distinct and well rounded personalities for each of her characters. I believe that this book should be read both in schools and outside of them because of its powerful and controversial narrative.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sophie L

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees
Author: 
Kidd, Sue Monk
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Phenomenal. That is one of the best words I can use to describe this book. The secret life of bees is an amazing story about a girl who leaves her abusive home with her housekeeper (1950s-60s era) and finds herself living with three sisters who make honey. A story bursting with vivid description and creative storytelling, the secret life of bees draws you in and keeps you there until you are suddenly done with the book. Truly an amazing story that shows that the family you're born with isn't always the family you end up with.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

Book Review: The Scent of Death

The Scent of Death
Author: 
Taylor, Andrew
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The scene is New York, 1778-1780, during the American War of Independence. The story is billed as a mystery. Richard Savill arrives from London to hear the claims of Loyalists who have lost property to the rebels. British Manhattan is a conglomeration of soldiers, refugees, and maybe double agents. As the death toll mounts, Mr. Savill can no longer be content in his roll as an observer. He even ventures out into the Debatable Ground with a pass from Gov. Franklin (Benjamin's son), which may or may not protect him. It is a mystery, but I was fascinated by the historical detail. Well worth your time!

Reviewer's Name: 
Vickie S.

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

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