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Staff Book Reviews

Smoke, Mirrors, and Murder:  And Other True Cases
Rule, Ann
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I love watching true crime on tv and decided to finally read a book in that genre. I chose Ann Rule because she was the queen of true crime writing. This particular book was a compilation of some of the stories she had written about. I was engrossed right away and couldn't put it down. I now know why Ann Rule's books are so popular. In the first story "The Deputy's Wife", she survives her ordeal, but it was scary reading about it. I like that Ann added resources for victims of domestic abuse at the end of this story. The other story that I am still thinking about is "The Truck Driver's Wife". I won't give details, but it truly is a mystery!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair
Dicker, Joel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I wasn't sure what to expect when I starting reading this book. I did know it was an international best seller and it was translated from French. I was pleasantly surprised by it! I do think the book could have been edited a bit more. It's a mystery set in 2008. So the presidential election is at the backdrop of the main story. When you are reading it, you find that the mystery is a love story. But as it unfolds, you find out there is alot of trickery going on. At times, the investigation into what happened to Nola was very repetitive. Also, the bits between Marcus and his mother could have been cut out entirely as well as the parts about the 2008 presidential election. Neither really progressed the story. But I liked how Dicker wrote his characters and I did like the twists to the mystery. But I wasn't crazy how things were tied up neatly in a bow at the end. But I do think the mystery and the process of solving it and proving Harry innocent was engrossing. If you like mysteries and want something easy to read, I would recommend The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Awards:
Genres:
The Coldest Girl In Coldtown
Black, Holly
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Imagine waking up from a high school party to find that all of your friends now littering the house around you attracting flies. Then you hear a noise and realize you are not alone. Upon exploring the house you discover your friend chained to a bed and a vampire chained beside him—just out of reach. What happened while you were blacked out in the bathroom is a chilling story. Readers might find it shocking, but for Tana vampire attacks are an all-too-common occurrence. Not all of the monsters can be contained in the Coldtowns created to preserve the vampires and protect the population. The all-night parties within the walls are streamed live as reality entertainment that gives the vampires a rock-star quality. Those who escape are featured on the daily bounty hunter programs. These parallels to real life, as well as the characterizations of the vampires make them seem approachable and almost amiable. How close can Tana get before she is in danger?

Reviewer's Name: Renee
Book Review: Don't Breathe a Word
Cupala, Holly
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Wow. This book sucked. Stifled teenager runs away from loving family to escape abusive boyfriend. Why did she do this? Because she met a homeless boy whom she thought could 'save' her from this situation. Seriously?! How about having the abused girl save herself?! Homelessness is romanticized as she becomes part of a loving rascally unkempt band of misfits. Okay folks, let's get this straight. Being homeless sucks. If you have a loving family, like the main character does, there is no reason at all to be homeless. The main character is annoying and overly melodramatic. In fact, all of the characters are two dimensional and stereotypical, without exception. The symbolism is pedestrian and heavy handed. Even the "shocking" elements of the story seemed to be put in there as if the author was thinking,"Ooh, this is shocking! Let me put it in here to prove how edgy this novel is!" The ending was contrived and very unrealistic for a supposedly realistic novel.

Usually I won't finish a book this crappy, but I felt compelled to do so in this case just to have the satisfaction of skewering it. I do feel better having done so.

E-format only, thankfully.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You know, I love Katherine Patterson. Bridge to Terabithia is my all-time favorite children's book. This book just didn't affect me the same way. Maybe it was the subject matter, I don't know. It was well written, just was missing the magic. But it's still worth a read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Flight Of Dreams
Lawhon, Ariel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Pretty amazing book. I didn't know too much about the Hindenburg, but the author described everything so well I felt like I was right there! I love that she based the stories off of real people, after I finished the book I went to the website she recommended and read more about the people I "met" in the novel. I also viewed the footage, and it's hard to believe anyone survived that horrible inferno. Great novel!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
The Love that Split the World
Henry, Emily
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Very unique book - I loved the characterization, and although the plot could be a little slow at points, it allowed you to fully immerse yourself in this strange, confusing world. What I think I loved most about the book was that it was more than just a love story. I really liked the fact that Natalie was learning to love herself for being different. She had a strong best friend who loved her no matter what kind of stories she was told, and she had a family who adored her. This is a book I know I will be thinking about for a while!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
Salt to the Sea
Sepetys, Ruta
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. Another amazing historical novel by Ms. Sepetys. At first I wasn't sure about the short chapters that alternated by point of view, but by the end I didn't even notice. Beautiful writing, emotional story of a tragedy that I'm sure most people aren't even aware of. Good grief, I'm wrung out after reading this beautiful novel.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
The Fireman
Hill, Joe
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The world is burning, one person at a time. A new sort of plague, a spore known colloquially as Dragonscale, is infecting hundreds of thousands around the globe. It begins with something small. It gets into your head. It grows. You feel fine until you see it on your skin-a small stripe, like a gold-flecked stain. You might even mistake it for a bruise at first. But then you know you have it. You know that you’re going to burn, and it’s only a question of when. No one knows exactly how it spreads, and there’s no sign of a cure short of being killed before you ignite. You’ll smoke a bit first, and then you’ll combust, unless someone decides to end your life before then.

In the midst of the chaos is Harper Willowes, a Portsmouth nurse who sincerely wishes for nothing more than to be able to help others through the crisis. She volunteers her services caring for the infected while her husband Jakob works for the Public Works Department, helping to clean up the devestation left behind by the burning infected. It’s at work that Harper first meets the Fireman. He brings a child in for treatment, not for the Dragonscale covering him, but for a ruptured appendix. After the boy, Nick, is taken in for surgery, the Fireman vanishes. A few days later, Nick is gone as well, leaving only questions in his wake. Then, disaster strikes and the Portsmouth Hospital burns to the ground. Harper escapes, but soon makes two discoveries. She’s pregnant and she has the ‘scale. Believing himself to be infected as well, Jakob snaps and Harper is forced to flee for her life and that of her unborn child.

When all seems lost, the Fireman intervenes. He rescues Harper from Jakob’s pursuit and secrets her away to a small camp where over a hundred and fifty infected are living in hiding, including Nick. Living and thriving, to Harper’s great surprise. While there’s no cure for the spore, the people of the camp have found a way to live in harmony with the Dragonscale, under the leadership of Nick’s grandfather. Harper’s medical skills quickly make her indispensable. The camp, however, is no paradise. As panic grips the nation, marauders seek to eliminate any infected. Harper only wants to survive long enough to deliver her baby, but internal power struggles in the camp threaten to expose them all to the roving Cremation Crews. The Fireman may be the only one who can save them all, but he hides a dark secret of his own.

Joe Hill takes on an apocalypse of his own, one that rivals The Stand in scope and violence (not to mention pop culture references). As the world around them burns, his characters must face the fact that other humans may be a greater threat to them than the Dragonscale ever was. The Fireman is a hell of a ride from beginning to end, and is every bit as intense as the flames it evokes. Go check it out.

Reviewer's Name: Philip
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: The Notorious Pagan Jones
Berry, Nina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After a tragic accident she caused that led to the death of her father and sister, teenage Hollywood star Pagan Jones has a second chance at life when the mysterious Devin Jones shows up at Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and offers her a proposition: a part in an upcoming movie filming in Berlin in exchange for her freedom. While it seemed too good to be true, Pagan reluctantly agrees and is sent to Berlin. Pagan personifies the sassy movie star of the fifties, which makes her a fun protagonist--but she still has plenty of depth and flaws that make her interesting as well. Set in the simmering tensions of the Cold War, this thriller/mystery is fast moving and will satisfy the historical fiction buff as well as those who like a good mystery!

Reviewer's Name: Becca P.
Genres:
Book Review: Illuminae
Kaufman, Amie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Told through recovered computer documents, Illuminae tells the story of Kady and Ezra fighting to survive after a rival mining company destroys their colony and they and the rest of the survivors are fleeing on an damaged fleet while being pursued by the enemy warship. What follows are pages of IM chats, reports, and emails recovered to tell their story of rebellion and survival. When a mysterious illness starts to affect other refugees, it adds a whole other dimension to this story. This was a such a unique take on science fiction--telling the story through recovered documents as two teens fight the system so they can stay alive and stay together--a fast and exciting read!

Reviewer's Name: Becca P.
Book Review: Legacy Of Kings
Herman, Eleanor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For fans of Game of Thrones (although I have only watched the show, not read the books, so fair warning!). Told simultaneously through five different characters, Herman takes the real life figure of Alexander the Great and infuses the time period with magic and mythical figures. Twists and new revelations are around every corner and will keep the reader guessing until the end!

Reviewer's Name: Becca P.
Book Review: Sabriel
Nix, Garth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A solid and original high fantasy title. Sabriel knows her father, who has taken her into Death before, has an unusual occupation. But she doesn't realize just how serious it is until her boarding school is attacked by the dead and she has to journey into the Old Kingdom to save her father and the rest of the world. While at times a little slow in the beginning, the build-up to the action-packed end is more than worth it.

Reviewer's Name: Becca
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: The Great Gilly Hopkins
Paterson, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Very good, as all Katherine Paterson novels are. A quick read, and like her other novels, it shows rather than tells. My only problem with the book was the ending was too abrupt for my taste. I would have liked for it to be longer and show her life with her grandmother and the effects of Courtney's visit.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Bellweather Rhapsody
Racculia, Kate
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Brimming with snappy dialogue, mistaken identity, and lots of musical references, "Bellweather Rhapsody" is a raucous read. The book takes place at a high school music festival so its full of hilarious yet relatable high school drama and hijinks. When a high school flute prodigy goes missing and the festival participants get snowed in at the Bellweather Hotel, the festival gets even more chaotic. The book does have some dark elements - there's a fair amount of murder. For fans of dark comedies like "Big Little Lies".

Reviewer's Name: Corrie
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
Kyle, Chris
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Anyone who knows me may realize that this is not my normal topic of interest. However, I do enjoying reading about different perspectives and life experiences from mine. That said, Chris Kyle and I have almost nothing in common as far as beliefs and interests go, but we do have love for country and loyalty to friends and family in common. Of course, he's about as tough as they come. Way tougher than me. I'm sure I would not have been able to do what he did even if I had wanted to. However, I found as I was reading this book that Kyle had a lot of interesting observations about the Iraq War from a front lines perspective. The stories were intense and engaging. I didn't get into the weapons geekery at all, but I'm guessing his target (har!) audience did. Really, a very good book about the front lines experience of a Navy SEAL.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Lock and Key
Dessen, Sarah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I'm not a teen, so I'm obviously not the target audience. The first half of this book was very good and even made me cry. The fact that Ruby's sister was so brave and protected her in her quiet way was very powerful. I loved how her experience protecting Ruby shaped her career and life's purpose. However, once the book got beyond that point it devolved into the naval gazing so common in teen fiction. Too much introspection and obvious symbolism explained by the narrator made for a tedious second half. If the author could have kept up the power of the first half, this would be a 5 star review.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: Being Mortal
Gawande, Atul
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was a very hard read for me. Not because of the writing, but because of the subject matter. I had just placed my father and his wife into a continuing care community when my book club chose this book. The stories of lost independence and the price of safety on quality of life hit me hard. After they moved in my dad went straight to Memory Care. His freedom is gone and he feels it keenly. It's true that he's safe, but I feel like I had a hand in ending his freedom. Of course in my head I know this isn't true, the circumstances were - and still are - way beyond my control, but still.

The takeaway from this book is to communicate clearly with your loved ones what you want as an end-of-life plan. Also, it's important to take an active role in choosing help and help communities. Finally, hospice is a far more humane way to treat the end-of-life experience than heroic measures and ICU. Quality of life is the most important thing and this is defined on a individual basis.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Paris Wife
McLain, Paula
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I loved this book. I felt like I was right there in post-WWI Paris amongst the Lost Generation and the great writers of that time. Having studied literature in college, I appreciated the insight into the mysterious personalities of Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. I also liked the way the author portrayed the Fitzgeralds. While this is a work of historical fiction, it was based off of detailed research and correspondences of that time. I've never been a fan of Hemingway's works, and honestly I'm still not a fan, but Hadley was fascinating. It's telling that his second wife is just a flash in the pan, while Hadley is regarded as his great love. I've got A Moveable Feast on my list to read now

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Kira-Kira
Kadohata, Cynthia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was so beautifully written. It was sparse and clean, but so powerful. It made me cry. I highly recommend this quick read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn

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