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All Book Reviews

Book Review: A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire
Martin, George R.R.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I'm not a fantasy reader. I'm not even a fantasy watcher, but like so many other readers of Game of Thrones, the sheer awesomeness that is the series led me to read the book. This book VERY GOOD! This is high praise coming from a non-fantasy reader. I actually was glad I had seen the series because it helped me better visualize everything. I'm not going to continue on with the series because the books are really very long and I just can't commit to that. But I'll keep watching and loving the series! 4 stars because the book was too long and dragged in some places.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
The Nameless City
Hicks, Faith Erin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Kaidu is new to the Nameless City. This is a city so frequently conquered that no name, despite thousands, sticks. He's trying to become a warrior, make friends, and know his father but all three tasks seem unlikely for the shy boy. Then he meets Rat, a street-smart girl who has the ability to think on her feet and run quickly. They form a friendship and manage to save their city from an upcoming threat that could change who runs the city. Fans of Avatar the Last Airbender comics or TV show would adore this series. It's new, it's refreshing, and follows an interesting and still developing story arch. I couldn't put it down as I turned page after page of beautiful illustration and compelling story. There are many cultures at war with one another in the still, albeit temporarily, peaceful city. The first in the series, I look forward to watching the story take shape and tackle complex issues about identity, war, friendship, and trust. It was really enjoyable and I highly recommend it!

Reviewer's Name: Meagan H.
Midnight Riot
Aaronovitch, Ben
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Peter Grant has just finished training to be a PC (police constable) in London. Right as he's about to get assigned to the paperwork unit (not his first choice) he chats up a ghost witness to a gruesome murder. After that, he discovers that he has some magical ability, and begins training to be a wizard copper whilst trying to solve the murder.

This was so fun! If I were to describe it, I'd say it's like the Dresden Files (both are urban fantasy series about crime solving wizards) but like a billion times better. It's fairly similar in premise, but different in most other ways. It has a lighter tone, a more likable protagonist, diverse characters, and was just a more enjoyable reading experience for me. The author used to write for Doctor Who, so fans of that show may also like this read. My only complaint is that it read like an ARC. Did anyone bother to edit this thing? The grammar was terrible (some of which was probably intentional, but some of it clearly wasn't), and occasionally character names were just wrong. Like, all of a sudden, a character who wasn't in a scene would "say" something and it was clear that her name was just transposed with the other lady main character - this happened at least twice.

Anyway, lack of editing aside, this book was an absolute joy to read. I've already checked out the next in the series and would strongly recommend this to urban fantasy readers. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Slade House
Mitchell, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Such a great story, and only 238 pages! I bought this book in an airport since I forgot to bring anything to occupy my time on a long flight. Boy am I glad I did! I could not put the book down until I finished it! Interesting tale, set over many decades, with notable references to eras that made it easy to get lost in the story. If only there were more of the story to read!

Reviewer's Name: Jessica Henry
Awards:
Genres:
Mother-Daughter Book Camp
Frederick, Heather Vogel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I love how heather can really bring her books to life, it is also nice how she writes them so that we can share the same emotions, and understand the same things with the characters. I especially love this one because she leaves it so that you can ponder what the girls futures will be like. This book was funny, sad, AWESOME, and more!! I highly advise this to any girls 11+

Reviewer's Name: Natalie Adcox
Genres:
Steeplejack
Hartley, A.J.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Anglet is a steeplejack, a person who climbs buildings for a variety of work related reasons (chimney work, retrieval, the building of things, etc.). One day, at the end of a shift, she discovers a dead body on the ground. As being a steeplejack is quite dangerous, she isn't completely alarmed at first, until she realizes that the person did not die of natural causes - he had been stabbed in the back. After that, she takes it upon herself to solve the murder mystery as well as a few other mysteries that crop up along the way.

I feel like I should've liked this book more than I did. The beginning is extremely slow, but only due to the author having to do some serious world-building, which is something I often like. The world itself was pretty cool. It's a newly colonized version of South Africa, which made for a unique setting. Actually, the racism/discrimination bits were so well done as to be hard to read. The main character is likable. She's that lovely combination of fierce and vulnerable that is common in YA, but rarely successfully pulled off. Hartley pulls it off. He knows what he's about - this book was extremely well written.

So why didn't I like it? I'm kind of asking myself the same question here, but my overall feeling was definitely just "meh". I think that, for me, the book lacked any real tension or emotional impact. I liked Ang, but I never really cared that much about her, or anyone else in the story. I definitely didn't care about Berrit, the murder victim. Actually much is made about how NO ONE cares about Berrit and his life was one that wasn't going to be worth living anyway, so...who cares who murdered him, really? Aside from a few terrifying scenes featuring her would-be rapist/boss (and a few other emotional but spoilery scenes) the book went from action scene to action scene with no real emotional impact, and without feeling like it was fast paced. Somehow, in the midst of all of the action, the book felt like a really slow read, mostly because I just couldn't make myself care about the fates of most of the characters.

With a more compelling mystery and better developed characters, this book could've been very likable. Still, I think many will like it, and I'm definitely not opposed to picking up the sequel. 2 stars - it was ok.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
A Monster Calls
Ness, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Patrick Ness keeps writing books that resonate with me. His work tends to focus on emotional journeys with characters either growing from a painful experience or coming to accept something about themselves. This book is no different. At a glance, this book appears to be a horror story. "A Monster Calls" is a cryptic title and the description implies a monster is after a teenage boy. The story follows Conor, a boy who has nightmares about one monster but is visited by another. The other monster wants to tell him 3 true stories and, when the third story is done, Conor must tell it a 4th...or else the reality Conor fears will happen.

In actuality, this book is not scary - at least not in a horror sense. It contains a few unsettling moments and any scary moments come from human fears we carry with us throughout our lives - fears of loss or change or the unknown. It examines them in such a way that is poetic and compassionate, particularly as it relates to grief. Ultimately this book is about learning to cope - it just happens to explore this concept with monsters, nightmares, and a tree. This book made me cry at work - which is a good thing, but you know...kind of awkward nonetheless. Would recommend to lovers of reality based fiction, modern faerie-tales (in a way), unsettling stories, or emotional stories.

And seriously, have the tissues at the ready.

Reviewer's Name: Meagan
Insurgent
Roth, Veronica
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is full of love, excitement, and hardship.

Reviewer's Name: Jana
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" tells the story of what happens after "All was well." Albus Severus Potter enters his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with Rose Granger-Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy. The next generation faces the expectations and pressure of being children of the Golden Trio - especially Albus, who resents being the son of the Chosen One and doesn't believe his father is the hero everyone says he is. After hearing about what happened the night of the Triwizarding Tournament, the night the second Hogwarts Champion was killed, Albus decides to go back and fix the mistake his father made. But awful things happen to wizards who meddle with time...
I had really high expectations for this story - and it met all of them. Humor, adventure, friendship, emotion. Almost the entire original cast - Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and Draco - return. I felt that this story gave me even more closure than the Deathly Hallows epilogue. I'd DEFINITELY recommend reading the series before reading Cursed Child, because it will not only enrich the experience, but it will allow you to better understand the plot and characters.
Reviewers Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Genres:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Rowling, J.K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling was amazing. This is the book that concludes the whole series, making it a very sad book. In this book there are numerous deaths of characters you love, and it brings back old characters you may want to see again. The book gave closure for those who have read it. The book was well written, well planned out, and showed that not all bad guys are bad, and not all good guys are good.
Reviewer Grade:7

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince by J.K Rowling was a fantastic book. If you have read all the books leading to this, it will be very enjoyable to read. It introduces us to more of Tom Riddle’s past. The book is the second to last, and is full of so much, you won’t want to not read it. The book is spectacular, and deserves a perfect 5/5 rating.
Reviewer Grade:7

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.
Allegiant
Roth, Veronica
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Allegiant by Veronica Roth was a disappointment to me. Honestly it was very poorly written. The book is in both Tris' and Four’s perspective, which I usually like, but it was very difficult to distinguish the two. Most books I read, when in different perspectives they think differently and have a different structure of thinking, but Four and Tris have the exact same thoughts all the time. The only difference is that Four tells Tris no, when she wants to do something. This was the worst book in the series, and was extremely slow.
Reviewers Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.
I Like You Just the Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People
Mollen, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

By far the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed out loud throughout the entire book. I can not wait to read her new book and also watch her upcoming series about this book. Hilarious!!!!!!

Reviewer's Name: Shannon
Insurgent
Roth, Veronica
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Insurgent by Veronica Roth, the second in the Divergent series, was very well written. I feel the relationship between Beatrice (better known as Tris) and her instructor/boyfriend Four was very well thought out. This book made me yearn to read the last one quickly. The book’s main plot was amazing, and Insurgent was absolutely amazing when it came to the developments of its characters.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.
Divergent
Roth, Veronica
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Divergent by Veronica Roth was a very interesting story. In her utopian society Beatrice Prior must make a decision that impacts her whole life. When sixteen everyone must choose a faction where they believe they belong, each with their own perspective of why the human race fell. This book is full of suspense and will leave you on the edge of your seat. It, in my opinion, is somewhat a copy of the Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars. Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Strayed, Cheryl
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I finished this book about 3 weeks ago so my review is clouded by the passage of time. This book is written from the perspective of an inexperienced hiker embarking on a harrowing adventure. I often found myself wondering why she didn't just give up; how she could possibly have survived hiking in the snow and ice without succumbing to hypothermia or sustaining injury; how she could continue hiking on severely damaged feet; or how she could have hiked for an extended period of time without encountering the powerful thunderstorms so prevalent in the high country. Also, it was a bit long for my taste. Still it was very good and I recommended it especially to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Buck, Rinker
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Have you ever daydreamed about what it was like to cross the American West in a covered wagon during the 1800s? Well, I have, and apparently Mr. Buck and his brother Nick have too. The idea to "See America Slowly" was planted by their father, who took them on a covered wagon trip from New Jersey to Pennsylvania which ended up being featured in LOOK magazine in 1958. Before setting out on their epic journey, Buck gives the reader fascinating background on wagons (it's not a Conestoga!), mules and their unsung contribution to America's development, and getting cheated (just like the early pioneers) by outfitters who sell inappropriate equipment at outrageous prices. The cast is filled out by three mules - Jake, Beck and Bute - and a filthy Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, our merry band will experience many of the hardships encountered by travelers in the nineteenth century (storms, lack of water, and dangerous terrain) and some new ones (semi trucks, miles of fences, and inferior truck stop coffee). Buck also gives the reader lively background sketches of the many colorful characters who made their way over the trail originally and the contemporary controversy over the LDS church's efforts to re-brand the route as the Mormon Trail. So hop aboard, partner, and let's go "see the elephant! You'll have a great trip.

Reviewer's Name: Alan
Awards:
Genres:
This Savage Song
Schwab, Victoria
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Three monsters plague the US in the future: the zombie like Corsai, the vampiric Malchai, and the soul-stealing Sunai. Kate Harker has always been safe from the monsters - her father is the man who controls the monsters in the northern part of Verity City. After her mother died when she was a young child, Kate's father has done all he can do to keep Kate out of town to keep her safe from the monsters in Verity. But Kate wanted to come home, and so she made sure to get kicked out of every boarding school possible, until the only one left is Verity's own Colton Academy. On her first day at Colton, she befriends a fellow new student named August. Unbeknownst to Kate, August is a Sunai. His father is in charge of southern Verity City, and is working to eliminate all of the Corsai and Malchai in the area. After a botched assassination attempt at Colton, Kate and August find themselves on the run from monsters - but which of their fathers sent the monsters after them? Or was it BOTH fathers? Or could it somehow be neither?

Phew, that was hard to explain. Clearly there is some pretty complex and creative world-building happening in this book, but I would expect nothing less from Schwab. I picked up This Savage Song because I've been reading Schwab's Shades of Magic series (if you are reading this review, just stop and check out A Darker Shade of Magic, you can thank me later), and in both series the world building is quite well done. In fact, the first third or so of This Savage Song was spent on world building, and I found that part to be the most enjoyable. It seemed like the book might then start to veer into "do they like each other" sort of romance territory, but my fears about having to read about teenage angst for the next 300 pages or so were pretty quickly assuaged as Kate and August find themselves running for their lives. For me, the "running from the monsters" parts of the book were ok - there wasn't a ton of new ground covered and it read as a fairly standard on the run type of novel. The mystery of who, exactly, put the hit out on them was interesting and made the running parts of the book more enjoyable. Neither character seemed to have a ton of personality or got a lot of development, but I definitely liked August more than Kate, and feel that I got to know him a bit better over the course of the book.

While this book was not without its problems, the last page or so was AMAZING. Like, ensures you'll read the next book in the series AMAZING. Well played, Schwab.

3 stars. I liked it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Dog Master: A Novel of The First Dog
Cameron, W. Bruce
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Dog Master: A Novel of The First Dog will appeal to dog lovers, scholars and those with inventive imaginations. The novel attempts to answer the fascinating question of how and why the lives of humans and canines might have become so intertwined. W. Bruce Cameron brings to life the daily challenges of prehistoric humans so vividly that the characters become readily accessible to the reader. Despite the necessary leaps of creativity involved in writing a novel about early humanity, Cameron grounds the story with details based on his own extensive research of the time period and wolf behavior. The resulting story is both realistic and fanciful. It was fast-paced and entertaining, but also made me want to raid the nonfiction section to study ancient history after I finished the book. The book hops between timelines and story-lines, so can sometimes be a bit difficult to keep track of, but the different perspectives are relevant and add depth to the story. The subject matter appeals to our deepest curiosities of what it means to be human and its portrayal of the beginning of the human/dog relationship is relatable to anyone who has formed a bond with a dog.

Reviewer's Name: Bethany
Genres:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Thorne, Jack
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter made a return to the forefront of pop culture at the end of July with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a screenplay of the new stage play that takes us back to the magical wizarding world. It’s a bold new direction for the story, taking place nineteen years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (please note that this review will assume that you have read or, at the very least, watched the final entry in the series), and the world is a very different place for Harry and his friends.

Almost two decades have passed since the Battle of Hogwarts. Since Voldemort’s defeat, our original heroes have attempted to move on with their lives. Harry is a Ministry of Magic official now, head of the Office of Magical Law Enforcement. He’s happily married to Ginny, and father of three children. Hermione is Minister of Magic, and married to Ron, who has taken over operation of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. At the outset of the play, Harry and Ginny’s second child, Albus, is bound for his first year at Hogwarts. While on the train, he meets his fellow first year, Scorpius Malfoy, and despite their fathers’ history, they become fast friends. In short order, the boys arrive at school and are both sorted into Slytherin, much to Albus’s surprise.

The following years pass quickly (we are only shown hints of events during the first three years that Albus and Scorpius are in school), showing the lack of real communication between Albus and his father. Being the son of The Boy Who Lived, it turns out, is not easy. Albus has Scorpius as a friend, but neither of them seem to be the children their fathers hoped they would be. You see, a rumor has been flying about the wizarding world that Draco Malfoy isn’t actually Scorpius’s dad. Gossip is that Malfoy wasn’t able to have a child, and so he illegally used a Time Turner in order for his wife to conceive a son with Lord Voldemort. This rumor is given more credence when the Ministry of Magic confiscates what is believed to be the last Time Turner in existence, one that doesn’t appear to have the one-hour-back limit of previous ones. But if someone could go back more than one hour in time, what would they seek to do with that power?

In their fourth year, Albus and Scorpius learn about the existence of the Time Turner and ask themselves that question. When Amos Diggory arrives at the Ministry to implore Harry to go back and save his son, Cedric from Voldemort, Harry refuses, for fear of what disrupting the past might do. When given the opportunity, though, Albus and Scorpius leap at a chance to change the world in the hopes of finding their place within it. However, the threat of Lord Voldemort doesn’t only linger in the past.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn’t a Harry Potter novel. It’s a play based on a story by J.K. Rowling, but the heavy lifting of the writing was done by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. It’s a vastly different sort of read because of that, and we don’t get anywhere near the level of insight into each character. It doesn’t move in quite the same way, but it is no less magical. Cursed Child is to the Harry Potter series what The Force Awakens was to Star Wars: a return to a beloved world that retreads some familiar moments while still laying the groundwork for a younger generation. New perspectives on classic moments left me feeling more connected to the characters than I had since first finishing Deathly Hallows.

Having read through the entirety of the screenplay, I only want one more thing from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I want to see it on stage.

(Note: This review orignally appeared here: https://swordsoftheancients.com/2016/08/10/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-c... )

Reviewer's Name: Philip
Genres:

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