Book Review: La Vida es Sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Hey everyone! Sorry that I haven’t posted at all for a very long time but I got caught up with a lot of work and also had a lot of debate tournaments in the last few months. Here’s the next book review!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction

Age Recommended: 14 and up

This book was part of a reading assignment that I had in English class recently. I enjoyed it immensely because of the way the author made the reader sympathize with the main character’s situation, even though he was portrayed in a bad light. This book was actually written during the Renaissance period around 1635 and was one of the more famous Spanish works.

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Segismundo has been trapped in a dungeon simce he was born. “A man among beasts and a beast among men”, he has nowhere to go and nobody to talk to except his jailer, Clotaldo.

However, one day, a young woman, Rosaura, and her servant stumble upon Segismundo when searching for a person. Segismundo immediately falls in love with Rosaura, with her being the first person that he has ever seen besides Clotaldo. He professes that since seeing her is death, not seeing her would give him something far worse, life, because giving life to an unfortunate man is like giving death to a fortunate one.

“pero véate yo y muera;
que no sé, rendido ya,
si el verte muerte me da.
el no verte qué me diera.
fuera, más que muerte fiera,
ira, rabia, y dolor fuerte;
fuera vida; de esta suerte
su rigor he ponderado,
pues, dar vida a un desdichado
es dar a un dichoso muerte.”

Soon after, Segismundo is freed from his jail cell as a test to see if he can control himself out of shackles or not. If he can, he will be King. But if not, he will see nothing but darkness for the rest of his days.

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here – this is a dual language version with both English and Spanish: Life Is a Dream/La Vida es Sueño

Book Review: When You Never Said Goodbye by Meg Kearney

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Recommended: 13 and up

This book was an ARC, courtesy of NetGalley

I didn’t really enjoy this book, because while it was a good story and has well developed characters, I felt that the author tried too hard to drag the story out. Even though this book was the third in a series and I easily understood it without having read the first two.

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Liz’s adoptive father has just passed away, which is making her more eager than ever to find her birth mother. After saying goodbye to her mother after another long Christmas, Liz goes back to college with her mission fresh in mind.

When Liz begins investigating her birth mother, all she hits are dead ends. Most people aren’t willing to help her, and those who are willing don’t know how to. Liz finally learns tiny details about her mother through untold sources and begins to piece together an image which she believes to resemble her mother.

However, when a lady finally approaches Liz, claiming to have information about her birth mother, Liz isn’t entirely sure if she wants to know anymore.

Will she eventually find her birth mother?

If you would like to read this book, you can preorder it here: When You Never Said Goodbye: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Birth Mother: A Novel in Poems and Journal Entries

Book Review: The Celtic Dagger by Jill Patterson (A Fitzjohn Mystery)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery

Age Recommended: 12 and up

This book wasn’t very engaging, and had new characters introduced very often that didn’t always add to the book. Moreover, near the end of the book, it suddenly became very disturbing as a murderer was revealed, and I found it difficult to continue reading.

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Fitzjohn is about to leave for a well-deserved break when he’s guilt-tripped into solving one more case.

A man had just been murdered with two stabs to his neck and back. Moreover, the dagger that had been used to kill him had been reported as missing, along with two other artifacts that were later found in his house, and his colleague’s house.

As Fitzjohn works this case, he learns that this man’s main rival was his own brother, James, who didn’t see eye-to-eye with anything the dead man had once said. With all clues pointing to James, the police are ready to apprehend him as soon as evidence is found.

However, when more people are attacked, and James’ alibi  holds, the police must start looking for the real murderer, and fast.

Will they find the murderer?

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: The Celtic Dagger: A Fitzjohn Mystery (Volume 1)

Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction

Age Recommended: 14 and up

This book was well-written but haunting. I would definitely recommend this to people who enjoy reading fantasy novels because the story was unique from the cliche plots of many other books of this genre. All in all, my expectations were high for this book, and it did not disappoint.

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Luke has just been pulled out of school to start his ten years of government service.  He’s pleased that at least his family will be together while working, but he’s torn away from that fantasy and pushed into a harsh reality when he is taken away from his parents and siblings and sent to another place.

Luke’s family goes on to work at the house of one of the most prestigious bloodlines, who are known for their special abilities, while Luke is made to work in a hard labor camp. He is allowed no contact with the rest of his family and ultimately joins a rebel force that helps him survive in the labor camp.

However, he finds out that the rebel force that offered him an escape is working against the very people his family is serving. Moreover, his sisters seem to be enchanted by this family and acting against the family might put them at risk as well.

Will he choose his family or his future?

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: Gilded Cage

Book Review: Naming the Stars by Susan Koefod

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Sci-fi or Fantasy

Age Recommended: 11 and up

The characters in this book were very well developed, and I enjoyed reading the book until the last few pages, where I felt that in a rush to end the book and wrap it up, the author made it too confusing.

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Mary Louisa Moura has disappeared. Her parents have no recollection of her, her possessions are all gone, and nobody can see her. Mary is terrified, desperate, and alone, with nobody to go to. Until Fish.

Fish is a swimming instructor, and happens to be the only person that can see Mary. She begs him for help, and on the way learns that he has more than a few of his own demons to deal with.  As if the situation isn’t bad enough, Fish finds a picture of  a person from about a hundred years ago that looks like Mary, and shows it to her, but it doesn’t actually look like Mary. Mary now has completely different features, and learns that Fish never actually saw the real her.

When Mary realizes that she isn’t actually herself, how will she get her old life back?

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: Naming the Stars

Book Review: When Asia was the World by Stewart Gordon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Non-fiction / translated biographies

Age Recommended: 13 and up

It’s this time of year again… summer assignments. This book wasn’t as boring as I expected it to be, and I enjoyed reading the accounts of people who lived many centuries ago. However, the author could have done a better job linking the different chapters of the book to each other, as they were all independent stories, and the only thing similar about them was the fact that they all took place in Asia and were in consecutive time periods.

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This book focuses a lot on the change and continuities over time in the Asian world from 500 to 1500 CE. Some chapters discuss the evolution of religion as an ideology of empires, and others cover the political and social effects of religion.

My favorite chapter in this book is chapter eight, because while it discusses Islam, a sensitive topic in society today, it also clears up a lot of the mystery surrounding this religion and its way of thinking.

Here is an excerpt from my assignment that talks about the a possible reason for the decline of an empire.

The later destruction of the royal library (140) showed an almost Nazi-like hatred for things of the past, or things of other cultures. It displayed a very rapid decline in the levels of tolerance that rulers had for people of other cultures, or people from other world regions.
This decrease in tolerance also led to “whole regions permanently altered (141)” and the “end of Buddhist culture (141)” which was inevitably detrimental to Asia in the long run. It led to the failure of conquest because of the lack of belief in an ideology, followed by great wars that split kingdoms up even more.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend this for people who like history.

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors, and Monks Who Created the “Riches of the “East”

Book Review: Dark Before Dawn by Monica McGurk (Book 3 of the Archangel Prophecies)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction

Age Recommended: 14 and up

This book was an ARC, courtesy of NetGalley. I have neither read nor reviewed the first two books in this series, but this book was still easy to follow.

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Hope and Michael have been through it all. But another test is yet to come. Hope has the choice of either leaving her world to join Michael or making him abandon his work to come to her. Neither option is desirable, but a choice must be made.

Just when Hope thinks that she’s figured it all out, an old enemy of hers kidnaps her sister and her sister’s friend. Michael and other archangels must find these girls before harm comes to them, but is it already too late?

The girls could be anywhere, and from the terrible hints that their enemy is dropping, their time is coming to an end…

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: Dark Before Dawn: Book Three of the Archangel Prophecies