Biography/Memoir

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

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.

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