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Staff Book Reviews

All American Boys
Reynolds, Jason
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Rashad Butler, ROTC student, budding artist, and black teenager walked into a local corner store to get some chips one day. A lady next to him getting beer tripped over something and fell into Rashad. Next thing Rashad knows, he's on the sidewalk getting crap beat out of him (in a loses consciousness/internal bleeding sort of way) by the white policeman installed at the corner store.

Quinn Jones, a white boy, witnesses the entire thing. And the policeman who beat up Rashad for no discernible reason? Well, that's Quinn's bestie's big brother, Paul. And Paul was almost like a big brother to Quinn growing up, as Quinn's dad died in Afghanistan when he was only 7. So Quinn has some thinking and deciding to do - does he betray Paul (and this is how its put to him by Paul) and quell the truth, or does he go to the police?

All American Boys is obviously a social justice book, and it's a timely and important one. I tried to read it, but didn't get very far due to having trouble with the vernacular (it didn't feel authentic), but when I listened to it? Wow. The narrators were fantastic. It was powerful, and made me cry on my way to work several times. I was left with the overall impression that everyone should read this book - if I were a teacher, I'd teach it in my classroom. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: James and the Giant Peach
Dahl, Roald
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Roald Dahl specializes in tapping into the feelings of injustice that kids experience. It's frightening when you first find out life isn't fair. But he rights this wrong by imposing justice where oppression once existed.

This is and odd book. There are giant peaches, giant talking bugs, and cloud monsters! But it was endearing and enjoyable.

My 6.5 year old daughter was riveted off and on throughout the story, but I think the target audience is a bit older.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
A Study in Charlotte
Cavallaro, Brittany
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This was a very interesting Sherlock Holmes update. The story follows Jamie Watson - great great grandson of THAT Watson - as he accepts a rugby scholarship at a prep school in Connecticut. This prep school coincidentally (yes, they pretend its a coincidence, though it's pretty transparently NOT a coincidence and I wouldn't consider that a spoiler, because...duh) is where The one Charlotte Holmes - great great granddaughter of THAT Holmes - is attending school. Pretty soon, both Charlotte and James find themselves being implicated in Sherlock Holmes copycat murders, and they team up to find the murderer and clear their name.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I could've done with a more interesting mystery. The writing was perfectly fine, the mystery familiar (again, it's a Holmes copycat), but the characters were definitely the best part. They didn't feel like Watson and Holmes carbon copies, but there were some clear similarities. The mystery was fairly subpar - I like my mysteries to be a
bit more...mysterious...but the ending left the series open for a fun sequel that I might someday read.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Cliff, Tony
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Delilah Dirk. Globetrotting troublemaker. If that doesn't grab you, move on.

This is a really fun adventure story. Set in the early 1800s in Turkey, the book begins with Delilah Dirk springing herself from a Turkish prison, recruiting her prisoner as an adventurer, and then heading off (on a flying ship, no less) to get vengeance on an evil pirate overlord.

I rated it 4 stars because I couldn't always follow the action sequences, but overall, the art is gorgeous and the characters well-developed. If you haven't tried a graphic novel before, this could be a great one with which to start!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
A Court of Mist and Fury
Maas, Sarah J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For whatever reason, Sarah J. Maas has mastered the second book slump that seems to hit other authors. Thus far, the second books in her series have been my favorites (tied with book 4 in the ToG series).

I basically didn't like the first 2/3 of the last book (A Court of Thorns and Roses), and LOVED the last 1/3, and I'm here to report that book 2 is consistently awesome throughout. Without getting too spoilery, there was a relationship that really bothered me in the first book due to the male character being super controlling and emotionally abusive, but that thing implodes within the first 50 pages or so, and then the rest of the book is just funfunfun. 5 stars, and I can't wait for the next one.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here
Breslaw, Anna
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Scarlett Epstein writes fanfic for her favorite show, Lycanthrope High (think...Buffy. Or maybe Teen Wolf or something). But when Lycanthrope High is cancelled, Scarlett goes into a teensy tailspin, and tries to find value in new/exciting things.

My feelings about this one are very mixed. For the most part, I think that Scarlett is a very likable character. She's witty, sarcastic and feminist, but she does make inconsistent and sometimes bizarre decisions. For example, wants to get out of her small provincial town, but won't do a thing about it. She would constantly complain about how she was going to graduate high school
and be stuck working at Target or something, but then she got terrible grades out of what seemed to be laziness. No sympathy for ya there, girl. Her internal monologues were generally spot on and funny, and she's definitely the best part of the book. Aside from her bestie, Avery. I really liked Avery. Oh yeah, and her much older neighbor Ruth was freaking great. I loved Ruth.

The love interest was the woooooooorst, I had no idea what she saw in that jerk. It felt realistic though, I guess most of us probably date a few jerks in high school. And college. And post-college. Anyway, all parts featuring Gideon (her love interest) made me want to toss the book across the room.

Finally, the story is interspersed with Scarlett's fan fiction, which was...reaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllly bad. Like almost painful to read bad.

Oh, and there is a plot line involving Ruth which you see coming from like 293874832787 miles away and it ends up reading like an after school special.

Anyway, while this book had a TON of problems, it was saved by a (mostly) likable cast of characters and some really funny lines.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
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

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