Historical

Book Review: No Longer at Ease

No Longer at Ease
Author: 
Achebe, Chinua
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

No Longer at Ease is the second installment in the African trilogy series. It is preceded by Things Fall Apart and follows the life of Obi, Okonkwo's grandson. Obi leaves his village in Nigeria to pursue an education in Britain where he meets Clara and falls in love with her. He returns to Nigeria and gets a job in civil service with the help of the board of elders. Obi is conflicted between his African culture and Western lifestyle, and heavy in debt, he takes a bribe.

Just like his grandfather, Obi is strong-minded and stubborn. He intends on marrying Clara although she is an osu, and begins taking bribes when he cannot pay his debts. He questions Nigerian traditions, and often compares Africa to Britain, ultimately positioning him in a place where he finds it nearly impossible to balance both cultures. However stubborn and sometimes reckless Obi is, he's a symbol of generational growth: unlike his grandfather and father, Obi ultimately understood that one culture was not better than the other, and change was imminent. Okonkwo, Nwoye, and Obi symbolize the different industrial stages of Nigeria and the social turmoil that followed, and they show the theme of western versus eastern culture clashes.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic
Author: 
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

“Mexican Gothic” follows Noemí Taboada’s mission to uncover the dark secrets of the High Place. Her journey begins when she receives a mysterious letter from her cousin with talk of poison and ghosts. Upon arriving, the Doyle household proves to be untrustworthy with the exception of the family’s youngest son. The Doyle family hid prying eyes behind the walls of the High Palace but Noemí’s sleuthing unlocks a wave of violence and madness.

I enjoyed this book and was hooked from the beginning. I recommend this book for people who enjoy reading about mysteries and paranormal activity. There is a hint of romance but the plot does not revolve around that.

Reviewer's Name: 
Valeria

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities
Author: 
Dickens, Charles
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is one of the most popular books of all time, with over 200 million copies sold to date. The novel is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution and depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same period. The main characters are Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Sydney Carton, a British barrister who endeavors to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette.

A Tale of Two Cities

One of Charles Dickens's most famous novels, A Tale of Two Cities is also one of his shorter (and better) ones. It begins with an unflattering portrait of an England overrun by highwaymen and courts which are almost as rapacious, and soon shows us a France where things are even worse. Nowhere does Dickens demonstrate his marvelous ability to capture moods and sentiments better than in his depiction of a seething, oppressed populace on the verge of boiling into violence.

And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was heavy—cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want, were the lords in waiting on the saintly presence—nobles of great power all of them; but, most especially the last. Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young, shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked from every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the wind shook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.

After spending eighteen years in the Bastille, a French country physician is released and allowed to emigrate to England, where he is reunited with the daughter he has never met. Lucie Manette, typical of Dickens women, is a pure-hearted angel who is instantly devoted to him despite never having known him. Through various plot twists, Lucie marries Charles Darnay, who turns out to be the expatriate nephew of the Marquis who had Doctor Manette imprisoned, in a backstory eventually revealed to us with an even more improbable plot twist.

Once the Revolution begins, Charles Darnay is lured back to Paris to save the life of one of his former servants. Naturally, he is promptly imprisoned and put on trial. His family, including Lucie and their daughter, as well as pretty much the entire cast of the novel thus far, follows him, and are all put in peril of meeting Lady Guillotine. It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.

Dickens's stories are full of improbable plot twists. Characters who met once will always meet again. The coincidences in A Tale of Two Cities almost defy the reader's suspension of disbelief -- but it's Dickens, and Dickens can be forgiven a lot. He shows the pitiless brutality of the French aristocracy and the suffering of the people until your sympathies are entirely with them, and when the tumbrils begin rolling through the streets you can't but think that the aristos had it coming and then some. But then the Terror is unleashed -- and personified in the form of Madame Defarge -- and the oppressed turn just as brutal and pitiless. This is the only way Dickens could have brought our sympathies back to the main characters, who after all, have lived pretty safe and privileged existences even if they weren't the evil "Monseigneur" who ran children beneath the wheels of his carriage. And let's face it, Charles Darnay really picks up the Idiot Ball when he goes back to Paris.

I doubt there are many people who don't know how the novel ends, but while it's a story of redemption and self-sacrifice, I was not nearly as touched by Sydney Carton's heroism as I was by the Madame Defarge vs. Miss Pross
smackdown, which I think is one of Dickens's best climaxes ever, and which none of the film adaptations (below) did justice:

"You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer," said Miss Pross, in her breathing. "Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman."

Madame Defarge looked at her scornfully, but still with something of Miss Pross's own perception that they two were at bay. She saw a tight, hard, wiry woman before her, as Mr. Lorry had seen in the same figure a woman with a strong hand, in the years gone by. She knew full well that Miss Pross was the family's devoted friend; Miss Pross knew full well that Madame Defarge was the family's malevolent enemy.

"On my way yonder," said Madame Defarge, with a slight movement of her hand towards the fatal spot, "where they reserve my chair and my knitting for me, I am come to make my compliments to her in passing. I wish to see her."

"I know that your intentions are evil," said Miss Pross, "and you may depend upon it, I'll hold my own against them."

Each spoke in her own language; neither understood the other's words; both were very watchful, and intent to deduce from look and manner, what the unintelligible words meant.

Reviewer's Name: 
Tamanna

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The amount of description in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is
amazing. Like, Sherlock Holmes good. The characters are well mapped out, the
interactions felt thought through, and the relationships are believable. I
personally didn’t get all the detail the first read through, just from
enjoying the characters too much. The history is realistic, considering the
time period and how poorly the blacks were treated. All things considered,
this is an engaging read with some actual history.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee creates a creative look on segregation in life in the 1930's. As the story goes along, Scout and her brother Jem experience many changes throughout the summer of 1935. Their father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man after the man was accused of an unsolved crime. The event creates much thought and debate on the subject of segregation. The book has many great turns and the potential of characters was used to a full extent. I highly recommend the read for it will give readers an excellent idea of how life was those many years ago.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kate

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Author: 
Tan, Amy
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Joy Luck highlights mother-daughter relationships in the midst of generational conflicts. The Joy Luck daughters, Jing-mei, Waverly, Rose, and Lena, are first generation Chinese-Americans living in San Francisco during the 1980's. They feel their mothers are overbearing and do not understand their desire for independence. Ironically, their mothers feel they are losing their Chinese identity and became Americanized.

I love this book! The book is structured like the traditional Chinese game mahjong, and each of the daughters and mother's stories are complex and thought-provoking. Although it's set back in the 80's, a lot of its themes regarding mother-daughter relationships and intergenerational conflicts are relevant amongst first-generation immigrants and families today. Among the eight main characters, Jing-mei is my favorite, because she's really the only daughter that fully embraces her hyphenated identity.

This book is different because it tells the story of eight women who are so similar yet so different at the same time. I really recommend this to anyone looking for a female dominated novel!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: The Bluest Eye

Cover of The Bluest Eye
Author: 
Morrison, Toni
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Bluest Eye is about a young African-American girl named Pecola living in 1940's Ohio. Pecola lives with her brother and abusive parents who constantly tell her she is ugly because of her dark skin and kinky hair. On top of that, the children at her school bully her for the fact that her father is an alcoholic. All her life, Pecola has wanted blue eyes to feel pretty. Her only friends, Freida and Claudia try to defend her against the colorism in their community, but Pecola is unable to embrace her features and becomes obsessive over her desire for blue eyes.

One of the reasons I read this book is because of Morrison's writing style and her thematic elements. The book is very intellectually stimulating and gave me better insight into colorism and how it is still largely prevalent today in the African-American community. I really liked how Morrison used a young girl as a main character to show how these feelings of low-esteem and poor body image are started at a young age, and how the people around us influence our thoughts and feelings.

There are a lot of complex characters and you get to hear each of their stories about why they're the way they are. Claudia is my favorite character because she represents women and girls who challenge our ideas of beauty. The ending was sad, but it really brought light to how damaging our obsession with beauty is.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Lovely War

Book Cover
Author: 
Berry, Julie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

After being caught with her lover, Ares, Aphrodite tells the stories of two couples that fell in love during World War 1. James and Hazel met at a party that Hazel was playing piano for. They start to go on dates and they really like each other, but James is shipped of to the battlefield. Hazel decides to join the Red Cross to be closer to James. There she meets Colette, who becomes a fast friend.

This book was amazing! I loved the perspective of the gods on the story. They often make appearances to discuss specific parts of the story relating to the gods' affinities. I also loved seeing the couples be together, even during their struggles. While reading this book I cried multiple times and couldn't be happier about that.

I would also highly recommend the audiobook. There were so many different narrators it truly felt like I was in the story. One of the characters passions is composing music and in the audiobook you can actually hear the music! It is a wonderful experience.

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah H.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Book Cover
Author: 
Riggs, Ransom
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah H.

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