Historical

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.

Book Review: Blood for Blood

Blood for Blood
Author: 
Graudin, Ryan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Axis Tour may be over, however Yael's journey is far from over. Blood for Blood starts right after Yael shot Hitler only to realize it was a skin shifter portraying Hitler. As Yael escapes SS men she can’t help but wonder how many skin shifters exist. Unsure who is real and who is a skin shifter she doesn’t know who to trust. Yael doesn’t even know if operation Valkyrie worked.
Luka witnessed Adele Wolfe shoot Hitler, or so he thought. The girl he thought was Adele Wolfe over the course of the Axis Tour was someone entirely different. In search of the true identity of inmate 121358ΔX Luka chases after her, whoever she may be.
Who is inmate 121358ΔX? How many other skin shifters exist? After a daring race around the world, and Hitler appearing dead, will the world fall apart?
Blood for Blood focuses so much on the relationships and development of the characters. Blood for Blood made me feel the characters emotions. The development of Yael over the series is incredible. At the beginning of this book Yael couldn’t face her history, but in the end of the book she conquers her fear and the past. I really enjoyed seeing different side of Luka and Felix. For example the feelings of Felix as he underwent interrogation. The ending was unexpected but fitting to the series. I highly recommend this book and series. I already want to read it again. If you have read Wolf by Wolf then you need to read Blood for Blood, it is totally worth reading.
Reviewer Grade: 9th

Reviewer's Name: 
McKenzie W.

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale
Author: 
DiCamillo, Kate
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Taking place in Florida in 1972, Raymie Clarke is trying to win the Little Miss Florida Tire competition in hopes of getting her father, who has left town with another woman, to see her picture in the paper and return home. Along the way, she meets two girls who are also entering the contest, and falls into an unlikely friendship.
I loved this book. It was superbly written and Raymie's voice was so believable as to think she was a real girl. It's a bittersweet book, so beautiful and filled with longing, determination, and a bit of magic. I've read other books by Kate DiCamillo but this one is my favorite. I'd love to see this as a movie. 5 stars!

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: 
Twain, Mark
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Huckleberry Finn is a rebel against school, church, and the respectable society that wants to civilize him. Therefore, after faking his own death, Huck embarkes on a raft journey down the Mississippi River along with Jim, a runaway slave. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel full of shenanigans, adventures, schemes, and pranks in addition to deep contemplation that gives some great advice. This adventure is truly a classic and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or older since there is something in this book for all ages.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B.

Book Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: 
Lee, Mackenzi
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

This is one of those books you could crank through in a day. The first third was hilarious, and kept me hooked throughout the following two thirds, which, admittedly, were boring by contrast. To be honest, this book was a light and fluffy book you read just to keep you occupied, not to get to you to think or be creative. If any of you have read 'The Upside of Unrequited', the first third was so similar to that. But then the author attempted to make it an action book with a romantic twist, and I gagged. Essentially, the son of an English lord, Monty, is in love with his best friend, Percy. Throughout the entire book, he's giggling over how cute/handsome he is, but worrying about how Percy, his oppressing father, and upright and historic English society will handle a bisexual lord, so he doesn't come out. But Monty, Percy, and Monty's sister must complete a tour around Europe for a year. Soon they are thrown off course when Monty steals a precious treasure from the room of another lord when Monty is making out with some pretty lady he picked up at a party. (Another thing that bugged me: Monty was constantly drowning his feelings by getting wasted/picking up gorgeous people at parties). And this was when the book went downhill. Monty is such an annoyingly flawed character, which is the author's way of proving he's 'only human'. Even though he's falling for Percy, when Percy kisses him, he pretends he doesn't care as a way to hide his true feelings and protect himself. He also sneaks out and gets drunk on a regular basis, and when he
can't get wasted, he complains. Then the author attempted to make the book adventurous and thrilling, but it was just boring. Once Monty stole the treasure from someone's room, he quickly realises that he had stolen the 'key' to a tomb in a sinking island that holds a 'heart' that, when transplanted into a human body, allows the human to neither live nor die. Basically, they're brain dead; not medically dead, but no brain activity. It was okay, and not terrible. At points I wanted to reach through the book, grab Monty, shake him, and scream, "Stop it!" into his ear. I don't recommend it, but if you're going on vacation or a long plane ride, this book is good for you not having to actually think about what you're reading.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Bud, Not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy
Author: 
Curtis, Christopher Paul
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is absolutely A+ amazing!! Heartwarming story about what a 10 year old boy's life may have been like in 1936. It is entertaining, yet informational at the same time. It keeps you on the edge of your seat with adventure and humor. The way Curtis explains and describes everything is also amazing as well. Overall very very great.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Francesca J.

Book Review: Fawkes

Book Review: Fawkes
Author: 
Brandes, Nadine
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

If you aren’t familiar with Guy Fawkes Day, every year in England on 05 November, citizens burn Fawkes’ effigy to celebrate his failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Fawkes tells the story of Thomas Fawkes, Guy’s son, with a fantasy twist. In this world, folks have powers based on colors. Some folks can manipulate some colors, others all colors, which leads to different magical schools of thought and serves as a stand in for the Catholic-Protestant tensions of the time.

If you know anything about my reading preferences (I read mostly fantasy), this next thought is a bit shocking: the fantasy elements really ruin this book. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding is really shallow. You’ll be left with loads of questions about color power like: What if something is more than one color? Paint? How does that work? Why can’t someone who can control Green also control Blue and Yellow? Or vice versa? And so on.

I really wish the book had been written as straight historical fiction. A point about religious persecution could have been made (that was perhaps attempted, but for me it didn’t land). The story might not have dragged for the first three quarters of the book. Add to the weird pacing and lackluster worldbuilding the fact the main character manages both to be extremely judgmental and lack any convictions for most of the book, and you’ve got a book that really isn’t fun to read. I found myself skimming just to get through it.

With that being said, I did enjoy the last quarter of the book. The pacing picks up, Thomas develops a backbone, we get to spend some time with my favorite character (Emma!), and Guy Fawkes gets a tiny bit of development.

This wasn’t for me, but perhaps some folks will be swept away by the romance and intrigue. For fans of historical fiction that can look past the weak fantasy elements. 2 stars. Meh.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Netgalley for the free eARC, which I received for review consideration. Fawkes will be available for purchase on 10 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

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