Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

BornOfIllusionThis book is set the 1920’s U.S. and features a young illusionist (magician) named Anna. Since she was young Anna has performed in circus acts with her mother, who pretends to be a medium who can talk to the dead. While her mother is a gifted performer, it is Anna who really has the power of the clairvoyant. They seem to be moving up as they hit the big time in New York, performing regularly on stage and offering private seances to the wealthy elite. But as Anna’s powers develop, she attracts unwanted attention from people who wish to harm her and her family. At the same time her mother remains controlling as ever, and Anna is confused by romantic emotions she feels towards two very different young men. To complicate matters, the question of who her father is continues to plague her – is she Harry Houdini’s daughter?

I enjoyed this story a lot but wish it had been better written. I wanted more complexity and depth to emerge but instead the story remained surface level, with every thing tying up nice and neat at the end.

Review by Ms. Rosenkrantz

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is the story of a disgruntledly romantic man named Humbert Humbert and his awkward, controversial, but still rather calculated attempt at love with his landlord’s preteen daughter, Dolores Haze. It is definitely a disputed subject, one that001_michael_bierut.jpghad been labeled lewd and perverted, as Humbert, a middle-aged man, not only falls in love with a young girl, but has an ongoing relationship with her as well. While Humbert and Dolores (Lolita for short), travel across America, exploring its lush landscape, they discover more about themselves, as well as what they mean to each other. At times, it may make you doubt your own personal beliefs, which can be challenging, as Humbert Humbert is often described as simply a lonely man trying desperately to find his way among the throngs of disappointment when it comes to loving Lolita. But in sum, this classic novel is a necessary read, as it delves deep into the workings of the mind, in a poetic and comedic way, to truly discover love, especially how it can be both a catalyst for madness and for joy.

Review by Ella S.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

It’s been three weeks and I am still thinking about this remarkable book. This story is told through the eyes of 16-year-old Starr Carter, who happened to be in the passenger seat of her childhood best friend and former crush Khalil’s car when he was shot and killed by a local police officer. Starr has a lot going on: negotiating her private school identity with the poor neighborhood she lives in, telling her father about her white boyfriend, and no17-angie-thomas-hate-you-give.w710.h473.2x.jpgw grieving the death of Khalil and deciding whether or not to reveal the fact that she was the “Girl Who Survived” this horrific incident.

Thomas was inspired to write the novel after the murder of Oscar Grant and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement, and she effectively portrays a range of perspectives on police brutality while flushing out full, engaging characters. Starr’s narration at once intense, authentic, and hilarious. I laughed out loud when Starr describes her Grandma, and I cried thinking about the weight of Starr’s responsibility to herself and her community. The Hate U Give is a beautifully crafted story that manages to address a myriad of timely issues: the difficulty of navigating two separate worlds, the ways in which the media often vilifies and tries the victim, and the struggle between truth-telling and self-preservation. Stone skillfully reveals the complexity of these issues with both levity and depth. This book should be required reading for adults and young adults.

If you want to know more, check out Angie Thomas’ interview on NPR!

Review by Ms. Irby

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

In September 1941, during the 3-year long bombardment and starvation of Leningrad by Hitler’s army, thousands of Leningrad’s citizens starved to death and were forced to eat one another to survive. Dmitiri Shostakovich, a world-renowned composer, crafted a symphony during this horrific time that would rally his fellow citizens and awaken the rest of the world to the plight of Russians during the siege.  

Anderson’s compelling and thorough rendering of Shostakovich’s life took me from the Russian Revolution in 1917 to Lenin’s takeover a few months later and finally to the rise of Stalin’s regime and the siege of Leningrad by Hitler’s army. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad is an excellent example of gripping narrative nonfiction – I learned more about Russian history through the lens of Shostakovich’s life than I ever did in a history class.

Similar books to check out: Drowned City and Most Dangerous 

Teacher’s Guide to the novel. 

Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry

Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry

Soul food is often stereotyped as being as unhealthy as it is delicious. This cookbook boasts huge flavor alongside a variety of nutritious, no-meat treats. Bryant Terry pulls from cooking traditions from the diverse African diaspora – North Africa, Ethiopia, Brazil and the 61DUkUn680L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Southern US all feature prominently throughout the book. You can find sauces, salsas, and stews, sweet and savory snacks, and beautiful images accompanying each of the sections. A whole chapter is devoted to okra, black-eyed peas and watermelon – scrumptious! Each receipt also has a soundtrack and/or reading suggestion to get you in the proper cooking mood. Though many of the offerings are a bit more complicated than I can usually manage in the kitchen (I mean I have a 9 month-old LOL!), I wish someone would make them for me because they sound delicious!

Review by Ms. Rosenkrantz

Watched by Marina Budhos

Watched by Marina Budhos

Watched-When Naeem first arrived in the US he did all the right things – obeyed his parents, worked hard at school, hung out with the good kids. But now that he’s a senior in high school things aren’t going so well. Not only is he totally behind in school, but his so-marina_budhos_author_photo_credit_franck_goldberg_78c1833de7b4fc88870335fcc53a3df9.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000called friend sets him up to take the fall for a crime. Waiting to be booked Naeem is approached by two police officers who have a
proposal – instead of going to jail, he can pass information to the police about people in his community. Watching what people do doesn’t seem so bad, Naeem even thinks he is probably keeping people safe. But as he gets to know
both the watchers and the watched, Naeem realizes that playing for both sides is a sure way to get caught in the middle.

Review by Ms. Rosenkrantz

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

The thing I liked least about this book was the title. Th18599754e thing I liked most about this book was THIS BOOK! Say What You Will is what happens when Wonder gets to high school. This book affirms that we are all lovable and unlovable, regardless of where we are as people31a25S68fDL._UX250_ on the able-bodied, able-minded spectrum. Amy and Matthew begin to get to know each other when Matthew is hired by Amy’s parents as her peer-helper, because Amy needs help with many things – she has cerebral palsy, uses a walker and a computer voice box, and can’t eat solid foods. On the other hand she is hella smart, creative and determined to be a part of the high school experience. Matthew, while his body works just fine, has a mind that is constantly tricking him into doing things over and over again, counting and ordering and clearing. He has undiagnosed OCD which separates him from his peers. Their story is complicated, but isn’t love always?

Definitely check out this book if you enjoyed John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.

Review by Ms. Rosenkrantz