All Book Reviews
This was just delightful.
My Lady Jane is a semi-historical semi-fantastical look at the life of Lady Jane Grey, cousin to King Edward VI, who was queen for 9 days and then swiftly deposed and subsequently beheaded by Mary I (aka Bloody Mary). The book looks at the events through the perspectives of Edward, Jane, and Jane's new husband, Gifford Dudley (call him G). The authors decided to rewrite history a bit to give some folks shapeshifting powers and to give our Lady Jane a happy ending. The result was a charming, whimsical read written in the sarcastic and snarky prose of today, and it was marvelous.
The book is even more impressive when you consider that it has three authors, but felt as though it could have been written by one person (I'm sure that each author wrote from a different character's perspective, but it was never jarring). The characters were well fleshed out, each perspective was funny and interesting, and I never felt myself racing through one character's chapter to get to a character I liked better (because I liked them all). I'm a big sucker for court intrigue, and there is obviously a lot of that here. The fantasy elements are pretty small, and honestly, the book could've sort of been done without them, but they do give the authors an out for some of the less historical aspects of the book (like Edward's survival, for example).
I gave the book four stars instead of five as, though I loved the tone for most of the book, by the end it was feeling a bit twee. The book was also a bit overlong. Overall though, this is a great read that I would recommend to people who like quirky, well-written books about strong women with a touch of fantasy. I hope these authors team up to write another alternate history, because I'd so be there. 4 stars.
Adult Fiction. Martha's Vineyard on a foggy summer night. A private jet carrying eleven people takes off for New York. Eighteen minutes later it disappears from radar. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, a 40-something artist, and the four-year-old son of the wealthy David Bateman, the chairman of ALC News. How did this happen? A terrorist attack? Why was this has-been painter aboard this flight? The chapters highlight the backgrounds of each of the passengers, the pilot, co-pilot, the flight attendant and Bateman's Israeli bodyguard, guiding us toward the solution of this sad ending to so many lives. This author is also a screenwriter for Lies and Alibis, My Generation and The Unusuals, as well as a writer and produces for the series Bones.
A Teen Book. Seventeen-year-old Hendrix is left to care for his Gpa, who is losing his memory due to Alzheimer's, in a senior facility. All his grandfather wants is to go home to Ithaca, New York, to remember his deceased wife, before he forgets her completely. Corrina, also seventeen, was adopted from Guatemala. She's a musician, feeling crowded and suffocated by circumstances in LA. One night, they decide combine forces, steal a car and Gpa and head for New York. The adventure is one of friendship, but mainly one of learning to love. Language and mature situations.
Adult Fiction. After twenty-five years Ava and her husband divorce. Ava joins a book group, not only because she loves to read, but also to meet new people. The first order of business is to select the twelve titles for the coming year, "the book that matters most to you." Ava didn't read the email, so the first book she thinks of is "From Clare to Here," by Rosalind Arden. This book meant so much to Ava during her childhood, when her younger sister died and her mother jumped off a bridge to her death. Meanwhile, Ava's daughter Maggie is supposed to be studying art in Florence, Italy. She follows a boy to Paris and sinks into an alcohol and drug culture. The chapters alternate between Ava's finding her way in Providence, Rhode Island and Maggie's slow climb back to sobriety. Ava promised her book group that she would invite the author of her book to their last meeting of the year. A fantastic ending!
Teen Fiction. It's 1976. The three Babcock sisters - Adrienne, Vanessa and Marie - make regular trips from San Diego to a clinic in Mexico, where their mother receives treatments for leukemia that are banned in the United States. Chapter one ends with their mother announcing that in spite of these treatments, she has been diagnosed as terminal. The remainder of the book describes how each of the sisters reacts to this diagnosis. Then their mother agrees to invite Barb and her son Caleb, who is also undergoing treatment, to stay with them in San Diego. Things start to go wrong when Barb questions the combination of medications that Mrs. Babcock is taking. She and Caleb move to a hotel after Mrs. B becomes hysterical when a new doctor at the clinic wants to perform his own blood tests. When the ultimate betrayal is revealed, you won't believe it!!
It has been a year since Magnus Chase discovered he was a demigod, checked into the Hotel Valhalla, and entered the treacherous world of Norse Mythology. But, his quest has just begun. Thor's hammer has gone missing, Magnus's best friends Hearthstone and Blitzen are nowhere to be found, and a new child of Loki is wreaking havoc at Hotel Valhalla. Not to mention, there's a mysterious assassin that has warned Magnus of the dangers of retrieving Thor's hammer...
This is the sequel to the Sword of Summer - and I had very high expectations.
The Hammer of Thor met all of them. It is a fun, adventurous thrill ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns. We get to learn more about the mysterious pasts of our favorite characters and see their relationships develop. This book was amazing!
Reviewer Grade: 10
Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein explore the skills of academic writing, explaining what writers do wrong, how they can do it right, and why these methods work. This book is more for those interested in improving their rhetoric skills and those in Language and Composition classes. I use this book for my AP Lang class and it’s very helpful since Graff and Birkenstein give you useful templates to replace your boring sentences and transitions and they explain why those templates are effective. Rhetoric is a skill widely used in all writing, and being able to master this skill opens doors of creativity for works such as: argument essays, persuasive essays, etc.
Furthermore, they point out mistakes commonly made by student, and even professional, writers and why they are ineffective. There are short but interesting articles in the back of the book, that tie in with activities they provide for you to practice the skills they just relayed to you. I really think most writers, or upcoming writers, should read and keep this book because it gives you useful strategies and templates, which you can use and eventually turn it into your own writing style.
Reviewer Grade: 11
Holcomb, Kansas 1959, the Clutter family was brutally murdered and no one knew who or why they did it. Truman Capote wrote this book as a novel, with dialogue between the murderers and the family; although he was not there, he gathered as much information about the murder as possible and was able to turn it into a book instead of a document. Moving on, the story follows the life of the Clutter family before and after they were murdered, however it focuses more on Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers of the Clutters. In need of cash, and fast, Hickock calls his old jail friend Perry Smith and they decide to execute a robbery of the Clutter family, who they thought were rich. After invading the house and finding no cash, they dispose of the Clutters, rid of the clues, and escape the law for as long as they could. I love this book since it enables the reader to have a mystery going on in their head and also because murder was uncommon back in 1959, so it enables the reader to feel how it was to hear of a major crime, such as this, back then. I recommend this book to every reader out there, it was very well written and one of the most amazing “New Journalism” type of books, as Capote said.
Reviewer Grade: 11
September 1992, a young man named Chris McCandless is found dead in the Alaskan Wilderness and Jon Krakauer is determined to sniff out every clue as to why. Into the Wild follows the life of Chris McCandless, a young man who dropped everything and took to the road, and how he even ended up in Alaska in the first place; and although he is dead, the trail and influences he left behind live on in those he met. The story jumps around occasionally, but it is just extraordinary to me how a single young man was able to travel almost all of the United States by foot and hitchhiking, and then end up in Alaska where he lived in the Wild until August 1992. Krakauer interviews the people who Chris has interacted with, and all of them say that Chris changed their life for the better, even those who he only shared a car ride with. I personally enjoy this book because it makes you feel as if what he did was amazing and if you, too, need an adventure like that in your life. I definitely recommend this book to all readers since every single person can take something from this book, negative or positive.
Reviewer Grade: 11
I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Fifth Season (http://ppld.org/book-reviews/fifth-season). This was a strong second entry, and on reflection I ended up liking it even more than the original book. The plot is far more linear than in The Fifth Season, but there are still unexpected twists and turns, and for me the characters really came into their own here. You will see some old, familiar faces along with a number of new additions to the cast from regions of the world we hadn't previously been exposed to. There was one character in particular whose story-line took a surprising turn that caused me to do a complete 180 on how I saw them. For me, it hit all the right notes: deeper world-building, strong characterization, and a complex plot that held up to closer scrutiny.
If you haven't finished the first book, the next part of this review will include minor spoilers. The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season started, with Essun discovering her murdered son just as the Season hits. While the previous book then went back and forth in time to explore how she had arrived at that point, this one moves us into the future as she sets off in pursuit of her husband (Jija) and daughter (Nassun), hoping to rescue Nassun before she meets the same fate as her brother. The chapters alternate between Damaya/Syenite/Essun's journey and her daughter's, with the odd interlude featuring someone else. The narration is still in its distinctive second person format, but in this book we finally learn who the speaker is. In my opinion, Jemisin answered just enough questions from the first book while still leaving mysteries for the finale, and I can't wait for the third and final entry in the series (projected release in 2017). Highly recommended to lovers of fantasy!
This book was surprising good! It was very well written and told from a fascinating narrative viewpoint. The book is written as a series of letters which serves the story line well. It wasn't overly adolescent so it appeals to both teens and adults. Charlie is optimistic and sees beauty in the world. I also liked that he listens to great music and reads great literature, which allows the reader to check out the titles he mentions. Great book!
I'm not going to try to describe this book, because there is a lot going on and I wouldn't really know where to start. Here's what you need to know:
It's a companion novel to American Gods, but you do not need to read American Gods first. In fact, I found this book to be vastly superior to American Gods, though the internet does not necessarily agree with me on that one.
Do you like Loki? Or like, the idea of Loki? Or just trickster gods in general? Anansi is the African trickster god, and this book is a TRICKSTER god of a novel: its clever, tricky and pure fun.
I listened to this book, and the narration was stellar. Lenny Henry nails the Caribbean accents, the humor, the eeriness, and well, all of it. I'd strongly recommend consuming this in audiobook format.
Oh, and while the characters never felt super fleshed out to me, it didn't matter, because this book was all about stories. And Anansi's stories are the best stories.
The villain was absotively the worst in the best kind of way.
Anyway, if you are looking for a funny, fast, excellently crafted mythological type of read, look no further. 5 stars.
WOW. This was awesome. Spoilers ahead for Six of Crows.
Crooked Kingdom picks up right where Six of Crows left off. Kaz and crew have just been pulled off the heist of a lifetime and then were subsequently stiffed 30 million kruge. Van Eck, the double crosser, stole not only their money, but their comrade/crew member Inej as well. Needless to say, the crew is mad and ready for revenge. The question is...just how far are they willing to go to bring down Van Eck and his cronies?
The answer: pretty far. And it is fantastic.
Bardugo hits all of the right beats in this novel. The heisty stuff is twisty and surprising. The intensity level is insanely high for the duration of the novel. The emotional beats are EMOTIONAL. Like in Six of Crows, each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, and Bardugo uses this technique to develop a rich backstory for each character. I found myself vacillating between loving the characters for who they are and wanting to adopt them off the mean streets of Ketterdam to fix them and give them a loving, safe home. They've all been through a lot, and it informs their lives and choices in a believable way. The villains are semi-developed as the book progresses, and Van Eck at one point does something so terrible that I just sat there and thought WHAT? NO. for like 10 minutes. Bardugo also does a really great job of introducing the very real horrors of human trafficking into a fantasy novel. I hope the book raises some awareness about this very real, terrible issue.
Oh, and a fun bonus: If you've read Bardugo's other series, there are a couple of exciting cameos in store.
Anyway, for me, this was a practically perfect fantasy novel. It made me laugh, cry, and will be something that I'll come back to and re-read every few years. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.
What’s Left of Me, a dystopian novel by Kat Zhang, follows the life of Addie and Eva, two souls living in one body while trying to hide their secret from the totalitarian government. In their society, everyone is born with two souls. Eventually, they are supposed to settle by a young age, meaning that the weaker soul would fade away and die. In their world, every hybrid was arrested, never seen again. They (Addie and Eva) never settled, but the government didn’t know. Everyone thought that they had settled at the age of twelve, even their own parents. Eva just lost control of their body. She was still able to communicate with Addie through thoughts. Then, a girl from school told her that she knew their secret and offered to bring Eva back.
Riskily, they agreed. Will they succeed or get caught in the act?
This is a very interesting book. I think I enjoyed the beginning of the novel most, where it talks about what it means to be a hybrid in their society. It really made me think about what it would be like to have another soul in my body, to share everything with her. It made me so curious, I googled if everyone is born with two souls. However, I would not be compelled to pick up the sequel for the book. I did not enjoy it as much as I have other dystopian novels. While amazing and thought provoking at the beginning, it just had a downfall at the end, becoming more confusing and dull as the book went on. The romantic subplot didn’t make very much sense, because that would be very awkward for the other twos would who would have to be dragged into it. Also, it needs to be more descriptive. The setting and protagonist were barely described, leaving the reader with a fuzzy image. The negatives aside, this was a wonderful book. What’s Left of Me is a great book for teenagers, even though it is officially labeled as a young adult novel.
Review Grade: 8
Meghan Chase has never been normal. She lives on a pig farm. Her father disappeared when she was just six. She is forgotten by everyone, even her stepfather. But as she nears her sixteenth birthday, extremely strange things begin to happen to her. First, she sees a mysterious stranger watching her, and her best friend, Robin, becomes strangely protective. Then, her half brother, Ethan tells her about the monsters that are always watching him.
Megan is soon drawn into a world that she never could've imagined. A world of magic, faeries that would kill you in an instant, and unbreakable pacts: The Nevernever. It is there that she realizes that her whole life has been a lie.
This book is a fantastic novel with tons of action, humor, and romance. The characters are well developed, and fun to read about. Many of the characters are from other stories such as Puck, King Oberon, the Big Bad Wolf, ext. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who likes books with fantasy, humor, and supernatural themes. It is the first book of an originally four book series (the author has added additional books with different characters as the focus of the story). There is, I believe, some slightly questionable language and topics, not to mention romance, so if that bothers you this might not be the book for you. Overall, this book is amazing, and very character driven, and I recommend it to lovers of The Mortal Instruments, and Julia Kagawa's other books.
Review Grade: 9
Lily is a hopeful songwriter who is struggling in chemistry. After her teacher bans her from having her notebook in class, she writes on the desk instead. This sparks an ongoing conversation through notes with an unknown pen pal. As the letters continue, more and more personal information is shared, and more feelings surface inspiring Lily to write lyrics. With a typical cast of characters – the best friend, the mean girls and boys, the crush(es) – P.S. I Like You isn’t anything too different from many of the other cute, light romances, but it’s still a quick, enjoyable read.
This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.
This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!
This story has it all, from tacos, to laugh out loud humor, to dragons, to colorful illustrations, and most importantly you also learn about why NEVER to give dragons totally mild salsa with jalapenos. The results are action packed, disastrous, and hilarious. Luckily, the dragons make everything right in the end.
This book is just plain old fashioned silly, and even a bit absurd, fun! The pictures in this book really capture the tone and elevate and enhance the story rather than get in the way. I'd even argue that they might be the main draw of this already entertaining book. The illustrator, Daniel Salmieri, didn't take the illustrations too seriously and you can tell they had as much fun making the book as you will reading it. Enjoy this lighthearted, humorous romp and feel free to enjoy a few tacos along the way when reading!
In the city of Ketterdam (imagine an alternate Amsterdam), Kaz is the first lieutenant of one of Ketterdam's most notorious and successful gangs. He's is approached by a city government official with an impossible task - rescue a scientist from the world's most well protected prison. And the prize? 30 million kruge. Kaz, of course, accepts. And he assembles a team of six to pull off what amounts to the world's most ambitious heist.
The story alternates between the POV of five of the six team members, and each character's story is gripping. All characters are developed throughout the course of the books, and each has their own distinct, fascinating voice and story. There's a sharpshooter, a magician, a traitorous solider, a demolitions expert, a wraith (read and find out!) and of course, the fearless leader, Kaz. And, to make things even better, they are a diverse group of people hailing from all over the world.
This book was really fun, and I've never really read anything quite like it. I will be booktalking this one and forcefully shoving it into the hands of anyone who comes into the teen center (I kid. I'll lovingly hand it to them while gushing effusively.). 5 stars
Serafina is the Chief Rat Catcher at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. She and her Pa secretly live in the basement, where he is basically the electrical engineer of the place. Serafina's presence in the house is a secret so she mostly traverses the estate through tunnels and doesn't go outside. One night, she witnesses a man in a black coat magically abducting a child, which changes everything.
I listened to this book, and the narrator didn't really do it any favors. Her Southern accent was pretty terrible, but thankfully, she kept forgetting to use it. Narration aside though, this book had some problems. The author took a cool premise and an even cooler setting and then wrote a really boring book. There were kind of two main things going on that should have been really interesting, but weren't. The first thing was the identity of the man in the black coat, which was painfully obvious from the start. Had Beatty done a kiddo type version of an Agatha Christie novel (these are the people at the Biltmore estate...and one of them is guilty of MURDER MOST FOUL), I'd probably be typing a really different review right now. Alternatively, he could've played up Serafina's secret a bit more, and that might have made things more interesting. As it was, even though there was a lot going on, nothing of importance ever seemed to really happen.
I also found myself getting annoyed by a fictional Vanderbilt named Braedan (weird name for a kid of Dutch origins in 1899, dontcha think?) who is a bit of a love interest. Every part featuring him was pretty painful as Serafina basically becomes a useless quivering mess when he's around. Blegh. Oh, and at one point, a character says something along the lines of "you don't call girls heroes, you call them heroines" which, just, are you trying to say that girls can't be heroes? Because if so, gross. I'm paraphrasing, but that's what I took away from the statement.
But on the other hand... look at that cover! Gorgeous.
If 1.5 stars was an option, that's what we'd be doing here. I liked the beginning, the premise and the setting, but wish the author had done more with the latter two elements.