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Biography/Memoir

Book Review: The Invisible Wall

The Invisible Wall
Author: 
Bernstien, Harry
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Harry is a small boy living in a war torn part of England. His street is divided by an invisible wall… a wall divided the Jews from the Christians.
There is an unspoken hatred of the other side, and any possible relationship between the two sides is crushed. But what happens when a Jew and a Christian fall in love? Harry’s elder sister begins to love a Christian boy, and is treated horribly for it. She is beaten by her drunken father and shamed by her family and friends. Harry is forced to choose between what he knows to be right and what he has been raised to accept is right.This book is nonfiction.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully written and I loved the author’s narration. Although, I felt like nothing good ever happened. It seemed like the author was just choosing the most terrible, most horrendous things and depicting that as the everyday life. Who knows? Maybe that’s how it actually was.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T

Book Review: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride
Author: 
Elwes, Cary
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

While I love audiobooks for their capacity to let me mindlessly absorb books while I’m driving to or from work, much of the story comes down to the narrator and their inflections. Sometimes these narrators can be annoying, or incomprehensible, or vary their volume too much. It is a rare treat to find an audiobook that fully capitalizes on the medium, either by adding music and sound effects or (in this case) using the voices of actual people to narrate the story. As You Wish is just such an audiobook, and I would even go so far to say it is the superior version of this book, even without “reading” it for myself.

As one of the most frequent and common of quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987) is an odd little film that just works. It’s fantasy, it’s comedy, it’s family-friendly. It’s all these things and more. But what about the people who made it happen? There have been horror stories of narcissistic directors or difficult actors making successful films, even despite their personalities. Fortunately, this most beloved of classics was not like that at all. All the behind-the-scenes stories helped to add an understanding and depth to The Princess Bride that should appeal to both diehard fans and those unfamiliar with the film.

Cary Elwes does a fantastic job of stringing these stories together while also exploring the backgrounds of all the characters (and the actors who played them). While the other actors do get their say in this audiobook, it’s Elwes’ impersonations of many of the individuals that was hilariously on point. He takes a humble and even-handed approach to storytelling that brings the listener into the midst of the filmmaking process without letting his personality get in the way of recounting historical events. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or a fan of audiobooks, his book is absolutely worth a listen.

A superb audiobook that everyone should listen to, I give As You Wish 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: 
Skloot, Rebecca
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a powerful narrative detailing one of the most revolutionary scientific and medical discoveries of the 20th century: HeLa cells. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 when she was 31 years old. During a surgery to remove some of her tumor, one of her surgeons took a sample of that tumor for testing in his lab. As he had tested many other cancerous cells, he expected Henrietta's cells to die within a few hours. They never did. Her cells continued to reproduce, and still do to this day. Henrietta's family, however, was never notified that her cells were taken. They discovered this in a news article years after the fact. The book not only tells Henrietta's story, but her family's as well. Rebecca Skloot worked for years with the Lacks family to ensure that justice was done, and Henrietta was not lost to history. I enjoyed the personal perspective that Skloot used to tell the story. It had the full potential of being written like a scientific journal, but Skloot told it as a beautiful narrative. Henrietta, her husband and children, and even Rebecca herself were characters and there was emotion on every page. It reads like a novel. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in medicine and its history.

Reviewer's Name: 
Hannah H.

Book Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Book Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author: 
Sedaris, David
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

David Sedaris truly does not disappoint in his autobiography, When You’re Engulfed in Flames. The way that he is able to express himself while being true to his own story is amazing. He takes a normal self-discovery story and adds enough detail and personal insight, that it makes it one of the most entertaining books that I have ever read. I can see, however, that this is not the book for everyone. It uses quite a bit of vulgar language, discusses about adult topics, and talks about multiple controversial subjects (political subjects in our nation). It has a very liberal feel, and would most likely not appeal as much to strict conservatives. But, nonetheless, a book is a book, and this one was extremely well written and hilarious. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud in quiet environments. The wit that David Sedaris has is impeccable and one of a kind and constantly present throughout the book.
I initially picked up this book because it was given to me as a gift. The gift giver had not read the book but had just seen the exquisite artwork on the cover and knew it was going to be good. Since then, I have recommended this book to so many who want a quick, funny, uplifting read. And that is why I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading self narratives with a humorous twist.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma K.

Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Author: 
Noah, Trevor
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Trevor Noah's autobiography, which focuses on his childhood in South Africa, gives audiences a funny yet insightful look into life in South Africa before and after apartheid. The book is also a compelling mother-and-son love story. Noah's astute and comedic storytelling makes "Born a Crime" is a very smart and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Melina

Book Review: We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler
Author: 
Freedman, Russell
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Russell Freedman's book chronicling the White Rose Resistance Movement is a brief but enlightening overview of the resistance to the Nazi's in WWII that will sure to spark interest in history for teens and adults. Freeman's work is always well researched, well written and he includes many interesting historical photos as well as an index, notes and a great selected bibliography for further exploration. Spoiler alert to parents, readers will encounter gruesome facts about the execution of the movements members, so parent pre-reading is advised. For ages 12 - 18.

Reviewer's Name: 
Barbara

Book Review: Love, Lucy

Love, Lucy
Author: 
Ball, Lucille
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball is an amazing depiction of the iconic bombshell actress, Lucille Ball. It is an autobiography and describes her early life, family dynamics, acting career, marriages, and divorces. I found the story to be quite inspirational and it is now one of my favorite books. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about what her life was like. In her early career, she wasn’t considered to be an exceptional actress and was told that she was untalented and would not be hired. Amazingly, she is now one of the most iconic female comedians of all time for her work on the show “I Love Lucy”. I have a newfound respect for her and her work after reading this book.
This book really speaks to the dreamers. If you’ve ever had someone tell you that you’re not good enough at the thing you love to do it professionally, read this book! One of the most interesting parts of the book is when Lucille depicts going to an acting school in New York City. After the first term, she was kicked out because she “didn’t have what it takes”.
As we all know, she ultimately proved them wrong. Her story is one of success when barely anyone believed in her.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+. It did not have an swearing in it and the book was easy to read. It is 286 pages which might be a little long for the younger readers.
The autobiography “Love, Lucy” by Lucille Ball is an amazing and inspirational story about the immensely talented actress who defied early critics to become a leading lady in American television.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sophie L.

'Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind'

'Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind'
Author: 
Kamkwamba, William
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkawamba and Bryan Mealer is a nonfiction book or biography that describes William Kamkwamba's rise to fame. He undegoes a transformation from being a poor farm boy to emerging as a creative, and intuitive inventor. The book exceeds at telling not about the facts of William Kamkawamba's, but rather, telling the reader about his story. In times of need, William decides to build a windmill to provide electricity for himself and his family. This gives him something to do and learn, as he is prohibited from going to school, thanks to poverty. The book then proceeds to tell the reader about inventions and ideas that have no impact on anything, and just seem like filler content. William then becomes famous and gets to go to school. Through the story, the book fails by providing no depth to any of the characters or real plot. While the book also tries to insist that the theme is about one bright idea lighting up the world, there is no evidence or real example of William influencing people. He just gets some money and gives electricity and better conditions to his
fellow townspeople. Overall the book is exciting at first, but once the creation of the windmill is over, the book becomes dry and dull. I can not
recommend this book to anyone else, as it was really a boring read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L

Book Review: King Leopold's Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost
Author: 
Hochschild, Adam
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Adam Hochschild brings to light an important part of history that is largely ignored in relations to the horrors of the colonization of Africa. Hochschild follows, in detail, the formation of the Belgium colony in the Congo. His descriptions and the information he puts forth draws the readers in and highlights the travesty that King Leopold let loose on this part of Africa and its people. The details that Hochschild puts into his book reveals hidden intrigues that keep the readers engaged. And the history that Hochschild relates to the development of this colony allows readers to see the bigger picture. This book addresses key topics, like racism and slavery, that develop readers understanding of this time and the need to prevent similar situations in the future.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: 
Lynzie M.

Book Review: Valkyrie

Valkyrie
Author: 
Boeselager, Philipp Leopold Antonius Hubertus, Freiherr von
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I first gained awareness of “Operation Valkyrie” when the film starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie (2008), was first released. It makes logical sense to me that not all Germans involved in the war were Nazis, and not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s tactics. It is then the logical conclusion that some of them would attempt to assassinate the leader who had brought their country into a sweeping, global conflict. While this assassination attempt failed, I was still curious about the inner-workings of the plot and the people who would go so far as to try and kill Hitler.

My expectation of this book was for it to be an in-depth analysis of the many facets of the operation. From Hitler’s security concerns to the backgrounds of the lives of the individuals involved, I was expecting this book to be a non-fictional examination of the assassination that never succeeded. Instead, I was a little surprised to read the personal account of one of the conspirators of the assassination. The whole narrative was quite short (not even four and a half hours long), and left me wanting more. While this first-person account was entertaining, it wasn’t quite enough to satiate my desire for knowledge.

Because this book was only the translated account of Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, there were plenty of details about his life and the life of his brother, but not much else. I was hoping his story would be the structure on which a deeper narrative would develop, but it remained the pure and unadulterated memoir of this single individual. I can’t fault the book for being the simple story of a German who wasn’t going to stand around and let Hitler ruin his country, but if there were a historical “wrapping” added to it, I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the book.

A simple story about a failed assassination attempt, I give Valkyrie 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

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