Historical

Book Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: 
Foer, Jonathan
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Was very reluctant to start book because I usually don't lean towards heartbreak stories. After reading it, its so much more than that. Its a book about a boy who thinks different than the most of us. The difficulties that this 9 year old boy faces with social interaction and phobias really keeps you intrigued. Oskar the nine year old boy is probably one of the most interesting protagonist characters I've ever met and you just have to read to find out why.

Reviewer's Name: 
Adan D.

Book Review: Refugee

Refugee
Author: 
Gratz, Alan
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The novel “Refugee” by Alan Gratz wasn’t a very good book in my opinion. I read it for my English class in high school and I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s about three refugees throughout history, but the stories are kind of connected. One refugee is a young boy escaping from Nazi Germany, the second is a young girl escaping from Cuba in the 90s and finally the third is a young boy escaping from Syria in 2016. Before reading this I had read a book about a boy who was in a concentration camp, and it was a true story written by him. Refugee doesn’t even come close to how good that book was. Along with that, it’s not very well written.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book, there are far better books about this topic.

Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: 
Emani

Book Review: Great Expectations

Great Expectations
Author: 
Dickens, Charles
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I read this book because it’s my mom’s favorite book of all time. It follows a young boy named Pip as he grows up. It’s a love story, and a pretty good one. Though it’s a little hard to read because of the old style English writing that Dickens used, it’s definitely worth reading. Overall, I would highly recommend this book!

grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: 
Emani

Book Review: The Queen's Accomplice

The Queen's Accomplice: A Maggie Hope Mystery
Author: 
MacNeal, Susan Elia
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

For several months my addiction to the entire Maggie Hope series has seriously interfered with all things domestic! I have just finished yet another well-researched book by a fairly young author, who evidently has a passion for writing novels about career women during the dark days of World War II. Susan Elia MacNeal keeps the pace moving, the tension building, and the characters believable. Maggie Hope is a brilliant academic turned spy! Her adventures, from the first book onwards, will take you into conversations with Winston Churchill, the Royal family, and Nazi sympathizers. I recommend that you read the books in chronological order as each one builds upon the previous book

Reviewer's Name: 
Janet M.

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

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

This book expresses the powerful spirits of four Chinese American mothers and daughters. The four mothers formed the Joy Luck Club after creating a strong bond with one another over mahjong after all four moved from China to San Francisco. Each mother holds her own unique struggle while living in China and while raising their "Americanized" children. As the daughters grow they realize that they shouldn't have rejected their Chinese heritage when they were young. Their mothers also wonder if they raised their daughters the right or wrong way because they were able to gift them with the independent spirit of an American, but may have disconnected them from their Chinese culture. While the book describes the lives of each mother and daughter, the plot mainly focuses on Jing-mei (June) Woo who, after her
mother passes away, travels to China to reconnect with the twin daughters her mother was forced to leave in China. Though this story follows the tales of Chinese women, I believe that anyone can find a connection to the struggles and conflicts these women faced.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jenna W.

Book Review: The Crucible

The Crucible
Author: 
Miller, Arthur
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I read this book in English class my junior year of high school. I find the Salem Witch Trials interesting, so I was excited to read this book. While this book is based on actual events, there are some added fictional parts. I thought it was interesting how rumors and blame could cause the deaths of so many people who did nothing wrong. Overall if you find the Salem Witch Trials interesting, I would highly recommend this book!

Reviewer's Name: 
Emani K.

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: 
Schwab, V.E.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

A Darker Shade of Magic introduces the concept of four separate Londons from different worlds. Grey London: grim and without magic, Red London: vibrant, fantastical and full of magic, White London: losing its magic from an ongoing war and numerous power shifts, and Black London: a mystery that was closed off after a mysterious accident. The main character, Kell, is one of two people who are able to travel between the Londons through the use of a type of blood magic. He is the official messenger for Red London and brings messages to the kings of the different cites; however, unofficially he is a smuggler who sells objects from other worlds. He runs into a thief in Grey London after coming into possession of an artifact from Black London, and they must navigate its power and defeat the people that want to abuse it. Schwab's world building and magic systems are incredibly compelling and the concept as a whole sets up a fantastic series. However, the book overall was quite a let down as the story itself was quite overdone, which would not have been much of a problem if the characters were written well. In some parts of the book it become difficult to like the two main characters, which was disappointing because they had all the elements to be great. All of these faults were not the downfall of the book, and Schwab could have potentially gotten away with them; the main flaw was the pacing. At times the pacing was slow and uneventful, making it difficult to want to read the book. A Darker Shade of Magic had the potential to become an amazing fantasy novel because of its ingenuity, but its execution was lackluster.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Julia

Book Review: The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
Author: 
Steinbeck, John
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck is a vivid retelling of the already immortalized myths of legendary Arthur Pendragon and the knights that serve him. I enjoy the stories contained within and it is wonderful to have all the myths collected in one spot and rephrased by Steinbeck. However, there is one recommendation I have for readers and that is to go slowly because the wording in the book itself is fairly complicated and the text sometimes switches into extended metaphors without warning, leaving the reader lost and confused. I would not let this stop you from reading it, the book itself is amazing and the stories of King Arthur are captivating. I would recommend this book to everyone who has an interest in mythology or old stories, or simply anyone who wants an entertaining and captivating story.

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison

Book Review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: 
Speare, Elizabeth George
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the story of sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler who arrives in Connecticut in 1687. All the townspeople believe she is a witch after she does some "unusual" things such as swimming and acting out bible stories. Because of this separation she begins to hang out with the towns "witch" Hannah Tupper. This friendship leads to some major problems in the future.

This book is very dull and not very exciting. I cannot find any reason to enjoy this book as it is so predictable and a very happily-ever-after type of story. I would not recommend this book because of its lack of suspense and very predictable plot.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emily

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Author: 
Callahan, Patti
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan, is the fictionalized retelling of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman's unlikely love story. It is based around the correspondence between the two, their writings, and Joy's copious love sonnets. While C.S. Lewis is primarily known for his works of literature, his relationship with Joy was just as big--if not bigger--a part of his life as his work. The story is told entirely from Joy's perspective, with bits of correspondence sprinkled throughout her narration. Right out of the gate, Joy has an epiphany one night while living in a house in upstate New York with an abusive husband and two small sons. This holy experience leads to Joy's conversion to Christianity; then, searching for answers about faith, she comes into contact with the renowned author C.S. Lewis and they begin corresponding frequently. Eventually, Joy makes the choice to go to England because of health problems and her husband's abuse, and meets C.S. Lewis (whom she calls Jack) for the first time. The rest of the book is an agonizingly slow journey to their marriage, which happens under unfortunate circumstances at the very end.

I had awfully mixed feelings about this book. I was interested in learning more about the life of C.S. Lewis, but instead I received the sad, angsty story of Joy Davidman, and unfortunately, Joy Davidman--as portrayed by Callahan--is not a likeable character. She is impulsive in nearly all her actions, self-pitying and self-motivated (as exhibited by the fact that she leaves her two young sons in an abusive household while frolicking off to Europe), naive, obnoxious in much of her dialogue, excruciatingly desperate to be loved, and altogether irritating. However, I did like Jack's character, and overall there was some good character development. The plot itself was slow and redundant: dialogue dragged and nearly every conversation felt the same to me; I often found myself bored. It seemed like Callahan was running the plot in circles without ever achieving a climax. Also, as the story took place over several years in real life, Callahan was forced to glaze over several months at a time, never really going in depth about what took place in between Joy and Jack's meetings. As for the writing style itself--nothing to compliment. Callahan's syntax was unengaging and at times poorly executed, the story lacked imagery, and the use of British slang seemed forced, coming from an American author. Over the course of the book, Joy's feelings for Jack develop more quickly than his for her, and I couldn't help feeling disturbed by her physical attraction to a man 17 years older than her. Callahan should've backed off on Joy's excessive, out-of-the-blue thoughts of physical desire--they were disturbing and took away from Jack and Joy's friendship.

I believe the love story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman would've been best left alone. While Callahan's novel is historically accurate, the fictionalization of intimate details and dialogue that belonged to the real Joy and Jack in their time did not sit well with me. I appreciated Callahan's inclusion of literary history--especially learning about Jack's life and how
it influenced his writing--and the last fifty pages of the book redeemed itself slightly, as the characters' growth was revealed and some important life lessons shone through. Occasionally I was immersed in the story and
rooting for Joy, but the mundane, repetitive, boring moments overshadowed those, and Callahan's Joy was not the female character I'd hoped she would be. I wouldn't call this book a romance, because it's simply desperation on
one side and friendzoning on the other until a dire situation wakes up the latter party to reality. Becoming Mrs. Lewis did not do it for me, and I don't recommend it unless you immensely enjoy poorly-written, many-liberties-taken fictionalized accounts of famous historical figures' lives. I believe Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis were probably wonderful individuals in reality, and I wish Callahan had done them justice.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa H.

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