Walter’s review of Candide by Voltaire

51jejxue7jl-_sx310_bo1204203200_Candide is an orphaned servant from a European castle who sees violence and war at an early age. He travels across Europe looking for love and wealth, meeting all kinds of characters and giving his opinion/analysis of all the archetypes they resemble. He eventually finds peace and morality in El Dorado, but leaves it, rich and looking for his love.
I would recommend this book to students, because Voltaire uses the picaresque adventure to describe lots of classic struggles and emotions. You can see how Candide handles them, hear different character’s viewpoints on issues you may be struggling with yourself, and just get to read a fun story.

Walter rates this book 4.5/5

Tags: travel, self-discovery, romance, philosophy, adventure

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Medha’s Review of My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Summary from the Publisher: Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted. Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.

Medha’s Review:  Honestly, this book’s plot development is rather weak. The premise was interesting enough, but everything that happens in this book is very predictable. That being said, the Bollywood weighs it out. This book is smart, because it takes the Indian culture through the eyes of girl who is obsessed with Bollywood. It works well, because the Bollywood isn’t just a side piece about the Indian-ness, it’s the main thing. The Shah Rukh Khan references kept me going, and I loved the short movie reviews at the beginning of each chapter! Winnie’s take on everything from poojas to shopping is very authentic, and makes the story relatable. While the way she handles things with Raj is iffy at best, the lifestyle depicted in the book is charming and very accurate. I have to say though: who starts watching Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge at 11 pm on a school night??? No desi mom would allow that, tbh. There were a lot of references to movies that even I, a Bollywood follower, did not quite understand. Whether they were older movies, or just not very popular ones, a few jokes did go over my head. Still, there were plenty that I did understand, and I loved them! Other than the Bollywood, this book doesn’t do much to surprise. The characters are all rather bland, and Dev and Raj seem too perfect to be realistic. Winnie seems to have a whole lot of time for a senior filling out college apps, as she goes gallivanting all the time and watches movies whenever she feels like it. This book would be a great read if you’re a fellow Shah Rukh Khan fan. Otherwise, feel free to skip it. (I’m not exaggerating. Winnie has approximately six dreams where Shah Rukh Khan imparts wisdom to her in the form of movie dialogues. I am not making this up.)

Medha rates this book 3/5

Tags: Family, mild romance, friendship, bollywood, culture, relationships, film

Medha’s review of Mirage by Somaiya Daud

a1g-6emqfrlGoodreads Summary:

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Medha’s Review:

Mirage is the latest in the new trend of books about subjects being forced to serve royalty and then slowly coming to join a rebellion. Still, it’s an interesting idea: a body double for a hated princess? The story had real potential. The book is written in flowery language that attempts to capture the beauty of classical poetry. The issue is that barely anything happens. The plot is so barren, and when the book ends just as things start to pick up. The story seems like a series of small moments strung together with no real overarching plot holding everything together. The premise was rather fascinating, but the story didn’t make the most out of it. For a story about “violence and fear” there is no fighting at all, and basically no rebelling either. Amani spends a lot more time cooking than she does rebelling, and she spends a whole lot of time examining how beautiful everything is. The world building is complex. You’ll need to pay attention if you’re hoping to understand who is conquering who, who hates who and why. Maram’s family tree is also overly complicated, and there are just so many characters that float in and out of the story for no apparent reason. The characters are well fleshed-out, if not completely likable. You have the stubborn and resilient Amani who keeps fluctuating between her conflicted emotions. Idris, who is basically the Prince Charming of the story, and nothing more. Maram turned out to be a surprise package in this book. She hides a spectrum of emotions behind her tough exterior, and suffers from the burdens placed on her at such a young age. The plot moves much too slowly, and it doesn’t seem like anything of value really happened anywhere in the story. The story drops off in the middle of the climax, possible hoping to attract readers to a sequel? Even said climax seems forced and could have been easily avoided with some rational thinking on Amani’s part. The only reason I’d come back is for Maram, a worthy addition to my list of favorite literary teenage royals.

Medha rates this book 3.5/5

Tags: fantasy, rebellion, kingdoms, war, science fiction, romance, relationships, violence

Medha’s review of Sadie by Courtney Summers

41e0bso2fwl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Quick summary from the publisher:

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him. When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Medha’s Review:

Sadie was an interesting read. It took me a while to ease into the dual timelines: Sadie’s actions, and then West finding her footprints weeks later. Still, it was an engrossing read, and a gritty one at that. The story is layered and nuanced, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. The characters were sharp and unflinching, and realistically flawed. Sadie’s journey to find the murderer never felt rushed, and the resolution feels realistic. West’s podcast shows the story from a different angle, and helps fill in the holes. The story keeps you engaged and reveals things one at a time, lulling you into a false sense of security before dropping a bombshell. Characters come in and out of the story, exactly as one should expect from a girl on the run. Still, none of them really stick with you except the villain. Fitting, as the murderer is the driving force of the story. Frighteningly enough, the story feels like something you’d see on the news, yet it remains far from predictable. Doesn’t hurt that it’s got an absolutely stunning cover.

Medha rates this book 4/5

Tags: mystery, suspense, murder, family

Roy Long’s review of We are the weathermakers: The history of climate change by Tim Flannery and Sally Walker

51d6aq8ff0l-_sx338_bo1204203200_In this compelling story, Tim Flannery explains the history of our climate in a simple, concise method that anyone can understand. He explains both natural processes and human impact, which is significantly altering the former. The book ends by discussing successful communities that have curbed their carbon footprint – and how they can be a model for all of us.

In the era of global climate change, it is important to understand both the science and the politics of the issue. The book is especially well written by the scientists, because the clarity makes it an agent of communication between the scientific community and everyone else.
The book is also well written in science. Discussed topics range from the Milankovitch Cycles to the rise of carbon in the Anthropocene. In short, this makes a great science book.

Roy rates this book 4.5/5

Tags: Nonfiction, climate change, science, politics, human impact on nature

Mrs. Ashworth’s review of Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

29589074In April, 1936, millionaire and founder of the Ellingham Academy, Albert Ellingham, received a riddle. A threat, signed “Truly Devious”. No one took it seriously at the time, because if there was anything Ellingham appreciated and nurtured, it was a love a good game. The Ellingham Academy just so happened to be a special free school for the gifted and talented, one where students were encouraged to use their brains. Unfortunately, soon afterward, one of the brightest students, Dottie Epstein, met a tragic end at the bottom steps of the tunnel leading to the glass-domed structure at the center of the lake behind the house. No one solved the crime. But Stevie Bell, of the current-day Ellingham crop, has decided that her school project will be to solve the murder. The problem: once Stevie starts broadcasting the news, another riddle appears, and another murder takes place, and the list of suspects for the current murder includes many of her classmates. Is the latest murderer a copycat, or has Truly Devious returned to keep the original case cold?

I appreciate a good mystery, and this certainly fits the bill.  It’s the first book in a series, so be prepared for a “to be continued…” at the end.

Mrs. Ashworth rates this book 4/5

Tags: betrayal, friendship, identity, light romance, mystery realistic fiction, suspense

Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

61i7djavpnlThe book is set in a time when TV dominates society, and books are seen as irrelevant and are burned to ashes by the firemen. Guy Montag is one of the firemen, but during one book burning, he ends up taking a book. Reading it ends up changing Montag’s life. He becomes a fugitive that the government wants to track down after attempting to infiltrate the fire station with the help of a man he meets because of his interest books.

I would recommend this book to people who love classic novels with strong meanings woven in the writing. This book has amazing description and literary devices that enhance the story and often require rereadings of some sections. As an added bonus, the book is relatively short and a quick read for those lazy readers.

This reviewer rates Fahrenheit 451 5/5.

Tags: dystopian, science fiction, censorship, intellectual freedom