Historical

Book Review: Belle Epoque

Belle Epoque
Author: 
Ross, Elizabeth
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Belle Epoque is the name given to late 19th-century Western Europe, especially France. It describes a time of social and technological innovation as well as a certain level of moral depravity. As you may have discovered, it is also the title of this book. Belle Epoque is about Maude Pichon, a poor girl from provincial Brittany who comes to Paris seeking adventure, glamour and opportunity. Through a series of financial misfortunes, she is forced to become a repoussoir, a beauty foil: a physically unattractive woman who is paid very well to accompany a rich woman in order to make the client look better by comparison. Maude leads a double life, spending her days accompanying wealthy young Isabelle at dances and operas, her nights spent visiting the bohemian music halls. This life takes a severe moral toll on Maude, even as she makes more and more money. Eventually, she is forced to choose between what is easy and what is right.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were appealing and generally well-developed, although there were occasional slight inconsistencies in character behavior. Costume details are lovely, and it is easy to connect with Maude's awe and astonishment at the way her wealthy clients live. Due to the nature of the main character's occupation, topics such as physical appearance and self-worth are frequently broached. As a result, anyone who has ever felt, ugly, unloved, or simply unable to measure up will understand what Maude and the other repoussoirs feel and, like Maude, will realize how awful the repoussoir trade really is. The writing style is easy and simple, and the author manages to tackle difficult subjects like the nature of beauty without it feeling too heavy-handed, and the book itself retains a generally pleasant, light feel throughout, despite the darkness of certain moments. My only real complaint is that the chapters are often very short, only two or three pages, and as a result, the plot sometimes feels episodic and choppy. Other than that, it was great. Ultimately, it communicates an uplifting message of inner beauty, positive self-worth, and the importance of pursuing your passions and being true to yourself. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an easy, quick read that still has substance and a very satisfying ending.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Caroline K.

Book Review: The Green Glass Sea

The Green Glass Sea
Author: 
Klages, Ellen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This novel tells the story of two girls, Dewey and Suze, who grow up during World War II. Dewey is good at math, just like her dad, but Suze's talent for art sometimes puts her at odds with her scientist parents. Both girls' parents are working on something secret for the government called "the gadget," but that's about all they think they have in common. This novel is one of the best I've ever read. It takes turns following each girl and her life in Los Alamos. Occasionally I found myself not caring for and even disliking Suze, but eventually she makes a decision that makes her character much more likable. This is a classic coming of age story, but by taking unexpected turns it makes its message much more meaningful and heart wrenching.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: 
Caroline J.

Book Review: Les Misérables

Book Review: Les Miserables
Author: 
Hugo, Victor
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

Les Miserables was one of the most boring books I've read. I chose this book because my mom told me that there was a movie about it and the new musical. Well I bought it and I almost fell asleep. I mean if you like the classics then go for it but if you're more of an action or adventure person then this could easily put you to bed. the historical facts we're seen clearly in this book but if you a lot about French history then this book is easily predictable.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella Z.

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray
Author: 
Sepetys, Ruta
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book really made me want to cry. I loved how this entire story revolves around a 12 year old girl who is forced to move from place to place. I could relate to the protagonist because she has to make tough choices and she had to make sacrifices for the greater good. This story will cause sadness and also create a spark of hope. This is a beautifully written story and is perfect for any age.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella Z.

Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
Author: 
Zusak, Markus
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Book Thief is about a girl living in the times of the holocaust. After the Nazi book burning she seals a book and hopes to learn to read it. Then her family takes in a Jewish prisoner who escaped the concentration camps. This will leave you on the edge of your seat. I chose this book based on the movie and I loved it. This is a wonderful story told from Death's P.O.V. I can't say anything bad about this book. This book is full of twist and turns. Reviewer Grade:7

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella Z.

Book Review: Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie
Author: 
Wilder, Laura Ingalls
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Little House on the Prairie is a mediocre novel about a little girl named Laura, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and her Ma and Pa traveling across a prairie then settling down and building a house. Almost the entirety of the first 18 chapters are mind-numbingly boring (the most exciting thing that happens in the first 240 pages is Ma dropping a log on her foot). The last few chapters were pretty good, but it didn't outweigh the annoyingly long descriptions of prairie grass and dull accounts of cooking supper that dominated most of the story. I do not recommend it to people who like action or adventure stories, however, I would recommend it to anyone who read and enjoyed Little Britches by Ralph Moody or anyone who is a fan of the late 1800's settlement genre.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jacob U.

Book Review: Great Expectations

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

Although it was first published in 1861, this classic novel is still fresh and relevant in the 21st century. It is the story of a poor, rural, uneducated boy named Pip who meets and falls in love with a rich, beautiful, and cruel girl named Estella. Through the generosities of a mysterious benefactor, Pip is able to move to London and become a wealthy, eligible, gentleman. It seems that he may at last be worthy of Estella's love.
If only it were so simple.

Filled some of the most famous characters in English literature, including several murderous convicts, a bizarre and sadistic woman who dresses only in a moldy wedding gown, a law clerk with a double life, and an exceptionally loyal best friend, this book is unforgettable. A commentary on the nature of social mobility as well as a coming-of-age novel, this story is equal parts mystery, romance, and legal drama, with enough plot twists to keep any reader turning pages (trust me -- I read it during finals week).

Most importantly, this book is a good choice for teenagers because it is relatable. It deals with finding yourself, searching for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world, coping with unrequited love, being financially responsible, finding good friends, spending your time and money on the right things, being appreciative and kind towards people who you may believe to be below your station, giving second chances, and the importance of staying close to your family even if you think that they are embarrassing, ignorant, or are not good enough for you.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. Even if you think that classics are boring or that historical fiction just isn't your thing, try Great Expectations. You won't regret it.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Caroline K.

Book Review: Honolulu

Book Review: Honolulu
Author: 
Brennert, Alan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A young girl desperate to escape her stifling existence in Korea in the early 1900s decides to become a "picture-bride" to a man starting life in Hawaii. This story was beautifully written, we follow Jin throughout her life, marriage, struggles and triumphs in Hawaii. Absolutely loved it. If you liked this - make sure to read Alan Brennert's other book, Moloka'i!

Reviewer's Name: 
Krista

Book Review: The Notorious Pagan Jones

Book Review: The Notorious Pagan Jones
Author: 
Berry, Nina
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Pagan Jones was a 1960s teen movie superstar until a terrible accident happened landing her in juvenile detention. A mysterious stranger
arranges her release, only if she will star in a movie being shot in Berlin.
This story is a fascinating race through the city at a time when the Berlin Wall is just being built. While the story has very fun moments (you get a great taste of 60s culture and clothing), there are also real characters and events sprinkled throughout that make it very interesting!

Reviewer's Name: 
Krista

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