Historical

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.

Book Review: A Dance in Donegal

A Dance in Donegal
Author: 
Deibel, Jennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In her debut novel, A Dance in Donegal, Jennifer Deibel paints beautiful pictures with her words.

I was able to experience the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Ballyman, Donegal with Moira Doherty who travels to her mother's homeland from Boston to teach school. Ballyman is a small village in Ireland that is shrouded in superstition, and rumors about Moira's mother.

This novel is a beautiful story of grace, love, and forgiveness that is amust read!

Reviewer's Name: 
Amanda

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
Author: 
Henry, Patti Callahan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

f you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, and perhaps were introduced to Joy Davidman through the movie, "Shadowlands", this in-depth look at her life, and struggles before she first began her correspondence with Lewis. Already a prolific poet and writer, Davidman was extremely well-educated and had been a child prodigy. This is an evocative account for her search for God, her quest for peace during a strained first marriage, and ultimately, coming to terms with the illness that took her life after finding fullflling love with C.S. Lewis. The book is well-researched, but is a novel that is written in the first person.

Reviewer's Name: 
Janet M.

Book Review: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Book One
Author: 
Ferris, Emil
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A lot of people put down graphic novels as just comic books and many are little more than that. But there are a few that transcend this genre. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 is such an example. This debut novel by Emil Ferris tells the story of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, a girl growing up during the turbulent 1960s in Chicago. Reyes is an aspiring artist and her story is told in her perspective with detailed drawings filled with B-movie horror monsters from her beloved matinees, all sketched by a very talented schoolgirl with a Bic pen in her spiral notebook. Her neighborhood is a scary place and so is dealing with her mother's late-stage cancer and her older brother's drug-dealing and pimping. It's why Karen wishes she was a monster -- to be safe from those she sees in real life. As just a family drama, this novel delivers. Then this beautifully illustrated work of art reminiscent of Robert Crumb and Otto Dix, becomes so much more. The ever-curious Karen decides to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, a Holocaust survivor. That sudden plot twist turns this work into an historical epic, a detective story and a psychological thriller that garnered numerous industry accolades and award nominations worldwide. Vol. 1 is currently available through PPLD while Vol. 2, the conclusion of the story, is scheduled to be published in September 2021.
AWARDS: 2018 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album-New, Best Writer/Artist and Best Coloring; 30th Annual Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ Graphic Novel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage
Author: 
Crane, Stephen
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The Red Badge of Courage is really not a great book. It is centered around the Civil War and tells the story of Henry, a Union soldier who leaves his farm to go fight. During the war he cannot make up his mind to run away from the field or stick with his friends in battle. While some might find the book interesting, personally it just dragged on and on. Sometimes it would go really in depth into a battle or a part of the story that was not very important and in others it would just gloss over a major part that you needed to understand. I would not recommend this book to anyone as it is hard to understand and is not very well written.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emily S.

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