Biography/Memoir

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

Book Review: Maus

Maus
Author: 
Spiegelman, Art
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Maus is a two-part graphic survival story of World War II in Auschwitz. It is a true story of Art Spiegelman's father, who was a Polish Jew and was put into Auschwitz, one of the biggest concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
The comic book style is an amazing way to learn history, as it enforces themes through images and tells a story rather than spitting facts, like some history books do. The author portrays different nationalities as different animals, which stands as an ongoing theme in the book: The Jews are the mice and the Nazis are the cats. This makes for an easy relation between the two (cats hunt mice). I am not a huge fan of learning history for the sake of learning history, but I adored this book. I found it intriguing on a very personal level, but also extremely informative. I strongly recommend Maus.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout
Author: 
Grace, Laura Jane
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I love this book with all my heart. As a longtime fan of Against Me!, it was so exciting to read about how the band started off, the positive and negatives of touring and recording, the growth, decay and rebirth of the band and how the entire time the primary figure that has driven Against Me! from the very beginning was struggling with her identity. I'm utterly in love.

Reviewer's Name: 
Cassie

Book Review: Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation)

Book Review: Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation)
Author: 
Hillenbrand, Laura
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Unbroken (teen version) is a well crafted biography written by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian and bombardier of World War II. Louie was mischievous and trouble-making as a young boy until his older brother, Pete, introduced him to running. As Pete urged Louie into the sport of running, Louie began to desert his old ways and commit himself to running. Louie soon was at the top of his school in running, setting new records and winning numerous races. Louie’s skill carried him all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the strongest point of his life, Louie hoped to travel to Tokyo for the following Olympic games. Unfortunately, terror came and his dreams were to be put on hold.
World War II struck, causing Louie to enter into the Army Air Forces as a bombardier. Louie and his team of airmen faced many near death experiences.
Although these were blood-curdling situations, none would compare to what Louie was soon to face. On a rescue mission in May of 1943, Louie’s plane crashed. The crash led to a terrifying and unfathomable journey on which Louie survived life on a raft and the wrath of Japanese guards of the POW camp he resided at. Louie went through incomprehensible pain from being beaten by his captors, having to perform forced labor, going through starvation, and constantly battling a sickness. He was also robbed of his self-esteem and was treated like he was worthless. Consequently, Louie’s story is breathtaking and intriguing. Unbroken provides insight on the torturous lives of POW during WWII and the determination and perseverance of many during WWII.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a WWII buff, history lover, or is in search of a thrilling and breathtaking story. I enjoyed it because I am interested in learning about World War II and I found the book to be moving.
Unbroken is fascinating and is not dull or boring. The book will leave you wanting more and you will find it hard to put it down. However, I found the beginning part to be a bit uninteresting and tedious, as it told about the planes and equipment for World War II. Once that part is over, though, the book is quite exhilarating. I would caution that younger children should not read the book, as there are some graphic and gruesome scenes of how the POWs were treated. I would suggest the book for teens between the ages of 13-16, since there is an adult version of the book for those older than these ages.
Unbroken is one of my favorite books, and anyone who is interested in history or is seeking an electrifying story should read it.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: 
Maya K.

Book Review: Instant Mom

Instant Mom
Author: 
Vardalos, Nia
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Fans of Vardalos get a behind the scenes look at her (generally not-so) glamorous Hollywood life -- and a personal tale about her struggles with infertility and foster-adoption that transformed her in to the "Instant Mom" of the title. While most parents on this journey don't have to negotiate with the entertainment press, Nia's story is funny, sweet, and deeply relatable. She is currently an Adoption Ambassador for the Adoption Council of Canada (and the book does include some information for those starting their family adoption journey) but the story stays close to home, close to the heart, and is a charming personal tale of her family's origins.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rebecca O.

Book Review: Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes Cover
Author: 
McCourt, Frank
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This is an incredible book. One day, while going through some stuff in my basement, I came along this book and decided to read it even though I already have a bazillion books I plan on reading. This one surprised me. It is so funny yet so sad as you get to grow up with this witty young boy through the trials and tribulations of living in Ireland with a dad that can't keep a steady job "enough to feed ya a days meal" and the hardship the school boys bring on the daily. You will probably find yourself crying and laughing at the same time all throughout this book. It's just a work of art.

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella S.

Book Review: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal
Author: 
Mezrich, Ben
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Upon a recent re-watch of The Social Network (2010), I came to the realization that the story was based on the book, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. In standard fashion, I put this book in my “to read” list and waited until the audiobook was available. Even though both the book and the movie were created shortly after the meteoric rise of Facebook into the mainstream, the story is still intriguing and captivating. In fact, I think the strength of both works is due to the irony of the whole situation: an anti-social computer genius creates the largest social network ever.

While the book doesn’t use Mark Zuckerberg’s legal troubles as a framework to break up the story as the movie does, both hold very closely to the same narrative. The one thing the book manages to emphasize more than the film is the “romantic” aspect of the whole endeavor. Essentially told from Eduardo Saverin’s perspective, the impetus to attain coveted social connections so as to increase the chances of meeting girls is made clear right from the get-go. The fact that college is the best place to do this is probably why the events of Facebook’s creation (as well as the Winklevoss’ failed website) took place there.

Partly because this story is so incredibly entertaining (in a soap opera drama kind of way), I do have my doubts about the accuracies of its plot. Because depositions and other legal documents comprised the majority of the research, some of the inner thoughts of the characters remain the speculation of the author (except Saverin, who provided consultation for the book). Nevertheless, Zuckerberg’s genius is evident in this book, especially since the portrayal of his character is a mostly apathetic computer programmer who wasn’t out to create “the next big thing” but instead saw a gap and ably filled it.

An enthralling story of one of the most culture-changing inventions of our lifetime, I give The Accidental Billionaires 4.5 stars out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps

Book Review: Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps
Author: 
Warren, Andrea
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

There are a crap ton of holocaust books out there. That said, this is a good one. The author interviews a survivor and recounts his horrible tenure in the death camps. The result is riveting. This book is classified as juvenile, but it's best for upper elementary and older, including adults.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin
Author: 
Griffin, Kathy
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Kathy Griffin is remarkably well spoken. I enjoyed reading this book because it seemed like she was just talking to me. She dishes on celebrities, which is fun. It will come as no surprise that she's funny, but she's also very smart and loyal to her friends and family. Good memoir!

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Biography/Memoir