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Read + Review: Joseph Stalin: Dictator of the Soviet Union by Linda Cernak

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The book is focused on Joseph Stalin, a ruthless Soviet dictator from the WWII era. It is set mostly in post-WWI Germany, with a section about his role in his childhood and WWII. Though the book is non-fiction, it is more of an informational book than a biography, and it features more info about what he did, than him as an actual person. It also showed his political ideologies and their effects on the Soviet Union.

I am not a huge fan of non-fiction books, but this particular example is filled with interesting facts and a deeper look at the life of the Red Tsar. It had many photographs of Stalin’s public and personal life and showed many of his allies and enemies as well. I liked how it was very organized and had a timeline-like chronological layout for the chapters. There were also many interesting facts about his secret police force and his spies.

One memorable thing was the section on how Stalin would edit himself standing next to Lenin, the Soviet Union’s first dictator. It made him seem like he was Lenin’s second-in-command when in reality he was somewhere in the background. It made him look like he was more important and powerful than he actually was, giving him a larger-than-life figure. Overall, it was a very informational and well-written book and would be great to use as a source for research.


Reviewed by Vishnoy, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Nothing by Annie Barrows

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Charlotte and Frankie are two best friends that are the epitome of normalcy. They spend their days lounging around, hanging with their friends, and going on a few short adventures. And this Christmas break, nothing is different, but they want to hilariously document their life in the short book of Nothing. Through this novel, we explore their ups and downs of friendship, the trials and tribulations of family, and what it means to be loyalty. Yet, the boring lifestyle of these two friends is what truly makes it the book of Nothing.

I had originally picked up this book because of how normal it sounded; there were no huge plot twists, simply the life of a modern teenager. Going into this, I expected it to be still somewhat engaging, but I’m very on the fence with that statement after reading the story. As a child, I used to read the Ivy + Bean books that Annie Barrows wrote. However, I felt that those types of childlike language translated here and furthered my confusion. The point of view of the story kept switching, so I was constantly scratching my head at who was talking and for what purpose. I found the book a little too boring for my taste. Perhaps that was the intention of the story, but I don’t think that many teens would be too interested in this type of genre. However, I encourage anyone to still take a shot. This book didn’t mesh with me, but maybe it will for others.

I enjoyed that this book showed that friendships aren’t as perfect as people try to make it out to be. Frankie and Charlotte were best friends, but they still fought and pushed each other harder than they wanted to be pushed. Yet, in the end, they still had each other’s backs, which is what true friendship is about.


Reviewed by Mitali, Grade 10, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

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The book is from Rachel and Henry’s points of views. They were best friends in school, until Rachel moved to Sea Ridge, a town by the ocean. She, her mother, and her brother Cal lived there happily; until one day, Cal mysteriously drowned in the ocean. Rachel couldn’t stand the ocean anymore, and her mother sent her to live with her aunt in the town that she had previously lived in. At the same time, Henry has had an on-off relationship with his girlfriend Amy, and every time they break up, he thinks it would be the last time, but he always wants her back. Also, his family is considering to sell the bookstore, which is his only happiness. Once Rachel moved back, they tried to bring each other back to the ways things used to be, but so much had happened since then.

The book was absolutely amazing. There was so much description and there were so many emotional twists and turns. The book really drew me in, and there were times that I wanted to stop reading because the book was so sad, but at the same time I wanted to keep going. There really was no main conflict; it was simply normal problems of everyday life. The book really gets you thinking about the small things in life and that we have to appreciate everything and everyone in our lives.

In the novel, Henry and his family own a bookstore, and there is a section called the Letter Library. Filled with books that cannot be bought, there are classics and favorites lining the shelves. People are allowed to write in the margins about parts of the book, and you can meet people that share similar interests. There were certain books that shared a deep connection between two characters, and entire letters and conversations were passed back and forth. The Letter Library added a whole new facet to this novel.


Reviewed by Heer, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

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Daria is an Iranian American girl who is proud of who she is. Her former friend Heidi who is in a clique called the “Nose Jobs,” while Daria’s friends are called the Authentics. The Authentics included her, Kurt, Caroline, and Joy. One day in their English class, Mr. Farrell assigns a project about what brought them to this point in their life. Daria decides to draw up a little family tree, including her brother Amir and his husband Andrew, and her parents Sheila and Baba. She then decides that she should do a DNA test on herself. She finds out shocking news that will test her family and the Authentics. She is on the road of self-discovery and secrets.

I like how her friends and family were tested throughout the story. You also get to learn about her culture at the same time. The friendship that Daria, Kurt, Caroline, and Joy had was one of a kind. I loved how her mom was so party crazy, while the dad just went along with everything so the mom wouldn’t be mad at him. It really showed their relationship clear and how they are as parents. The author being the same race as the character that he wrote made you feel better because you know the culture is truthful. There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like. If I had to really choose it would be Heidi’s attitude.

The most memorable thing was when her niece was born. I understood how she felt because I’m currently having a niece too, so I felt like I could relate with the character.


Reviewed by Alanda, Grade 11, Libbie Mill Library