Historical

Book Review: Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea
Author: 
Sepetys, Ruta
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Salt to the Sea is about 4 people who are running from their past in the midst of WWII. Joana is a nurse fleeing from the dangers of Lithuania, with the hope that a ship will take her out of Europe. Florian is on the run from a mistake he made back in Germany also looking for the chance to escape without anyone finding him and taking him back to Germany. Emilia has finally decided to flee from the family that was taking care of her after the woman and her daughters betray her trust. Alfred is escaping reality by joining the German fleet to escape the mistake he made that cost him his girlfriend and his sanity. As the book continues all the character's paths join and they meet on the Wilhem Gustoff- a bigger tragedy than the sinking of the Titanic. The ship that promises safety, ends in tragedy. This is my favorite author, and out of all her books, this one is my absolute favorite. The character's stories blend together to make all the little plots into one overarching plot which I think is really cool. The chapters switch off narrators so you get to see the story in different perspectives. I like how the author shows a different side of the war than other WWII books where Germany is portrayed as the enemy and not as a country also in war. In this book, many of the people also fear Russia more than Germany because Russia was the one attacking and not helping and Germany was the one evacuating people. This makes the book different and I think more interesting. This is a really good book and it is worth a try.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Book Cover
Author: 
O'Brien, Tim
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Things They Carried is a memoir by Tim O'Brien about his experiences as an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. O'Brien was chosen to be drafted in 1968. This incident was extremely stressful for O'Brien who had taken a stand against the war, yet didn't want to disappoint his community. He pondered running away to Canada, but eventually decided to fight. The Things They Carried is a series of stories that are so well written. The work is a bit hard to understand just because O'Brien wrote it in a way that is not completely nonfiction. In the book, he explains this concept more in depth. Overall, I thought this book was a very well written, interesting, and educational story regarding the horrors of war from O'Brien's perspective in Vietnam.

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth P.

Book Review: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Book Cover
Author: 
Cholodenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Al Capone Does My Shirts was a required summer reading book for me this year. The plot of the story was how an eleven-year old boy named Moose left his San Francisco home to live on the prison island Alcatraz because his father had to relocate there for work. Moose’s sister Natalie, who sadly suffered from autism, was trying to get into a special school, but the principal would not let her join. Moose tries to get her into the school, while trying to still play baseball and do other things on his own.
On a scale of five stars, I would give it a four for the following reasons:
1. The plot was easy to follow, but at the same time you never knew what was going to happen next.
2. The character development was excellent, because you could easily relate and understand the characters' predicaments.
3. I thought the book was clever, funny, and meaningful.

For all of these reasons, I would give Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko four stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Zach M.

Book Review: The Crown's Game

The Crown's Game
Author: 
Skye, Evelyn
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

The Crown's Game is a Russian inspired fantasy set in the 1800's. It's told in duel-perspective from Vika and Nikolai, the only enchanters left in a country deprived of magic, they're both competing for the position of Imperial Enchanter through and ancient competition called the Crown's Game. A game where there can only be one winner and the other competitor is sentenced to death.
I really enjoyed the historical setting of the book. As well as the politics we get to see among the royal family. I like that it was told in duel-perspectives because it was interesting to see what both of the main characters are thinking. Also because it adds to the tension between the two characters and intrigue to the plot.
I think the book could have benefited from clearly labeling what perspective each chapter was told from, although I don't think it was that big of an issue because after a few sentences you could tell what the perspective was. Also some of the descriptions at the beginning of the book are a bit cheesy but the issue goes away as the book progresses.

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah

Book Review: How I Became a Spy

How I Became a Spy
Author: 
Hopkinson, Deborah
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

On his very first assignment as a civil defense messenger in World War II London, Bertie Bradshaw finds the diary of a spy lying in the street. He eagerly reads about the young spy’s training and how she parachuted into France to assume her new covert role. Things soon begin to sound dangerous as one by one her fellow agents are captured by the Nazis. Then the diary suddenly changes into code.

Bertie decides to trust a gutsy American girl, Eleanor, and his best friend David, who is Jewish, with the secrets in the diary. In a race against time, they must try to decode the final messages and then track down not only the spy who wrote them but also the traitor who is leaking information to the Nazis - information so vital that it will affect the success of the invasion of France and the lives of countless allied agents.

I immediately felt affinity for Bertie because he is a believable thirteen-year-old, forgetting his helmet and his training at first but then gaining courage and confidence as the story progresses. Bertie is also struggling with what seem to be panic attacks, stemming from the bombing of his house and the separation of his family, which makes his determination all the more admirable. I also enjoyed Little Roo, Bertie’s trained rescue dog, who has more to do with the success or failure of the venture than you might think.

Reviewer's Name: 
Cynde

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

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

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is an essential piece of literature. It tells a story that highlights the darkness of America's past, through the innocent eyes of a young girl. With this type of narrator, who almost only understands pure truth, joy, and rage, it is possible for readers to feel what she feels, and be brought into her small world (Alabama during the Great Depression) with simple, yet beautiful writing. The story itself is touching, and focuses on themes of family, racism, and solidarity. Aside from its essentiality in explaining America's history, it also can be read as a coming of age story, where the characters begin to see the harsh reality of the world in which they grew up, and in which they created lasting memories and relationships. It will make you laugh, cry, and feel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Malachi

Book Review: The Fallen Architect

The Fallen Architect
Author: 
Belfoure, Charles
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Douglas Layton was a famous architect and a hero until the balcony of London’s Britannia Empire Theater collapsed. The balcony caused many to lose their lives and Douglas Layton served prison time for it. After serving his time in prison Douglas is on a mission to find out who was truly responsible for this tragedy. He gets a job at the same theater and gets a brand new identity to disguise himself. Douglas gathers more evidence that this incident was intentional. He must tread the water carefully and not let anyone figure out who he is. Fallen Architect is a suspenseful mystery book that will grip the reader's interest and will have them craving for more.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ananth

Book Review: The Valiant

The Valiant
Author: 
Livingston, Lesley
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Valiant follows the journey of a Celtic warrior from a princess to a slave to a famed gladiatrix. Throughout the story struggles with family, love, and trust. The warrior Fallon faces fierce rivals and feuds within Rome and even her ludus. Not long after arriving in her ludus she finds someone she thought was dead acting as master of the ludus. Eventually she meets Cesar the mastermind behind the fall of her home and the owner of her ludus.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sam

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Cover of the book The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Author: 
Hugo, Victor
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is about four men who are captivated by a mysterious gypsy dancer. The story begins on a holiday where a play is going on until everyone becomes distracted by the gypsy girl dancing in the square. This is where we meet Esmeralda the gypsy and Gringore the playwright. Many things happen until Esmeralda ends up meeting Pheobus, a soldier, who is very egocentric, when he saves her from the deformed bell ringer - Quasimodo - and a priest named Claude Frollo. Esmeralda is soon accused of witchcraft and is sentenced to be hanged. Fortunately, she is able to find shelter in Notre Dame before that can happen. Many want to kill her, but some want to save her.

I had to read this book for school, and my English teacher recommended it. And the first chapter was not very interesting so I became skeptical, but at the end, I thought the book was really good. There are some parts where the author goes into detail about a location to better help set the scene, and this is where I struggled to focus on the book, but you should push forward because the story line is worth it. The Disney movie did not do this book justice and there is some adult-themed content in the book so I would not recommend this book to middle-schoolers or younger. I do think that sooner or later, everyone should at least give this book a try because it really made me think.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma M.

Book Review: Allies

Allies
Author: 
Gratz, Alan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Alan Gratz has given us a gripping tale in the book Allies. The invasion at Normandy during D-Day is seen from the viewpoint of a number of allies who's stories weave in and out of the fray during that first day of fighting. True to life characters, from soldier to resistance fighters, and and edge-of-the-seat story line will compel readers age 9 -15 to keep turning pages.

Reviewer's Name: 
Barbara

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