All Book Reviews
Matched by Ally Condie tells the story of a young girl living in a society where everything is chosen for you - who you are, where you live, who you marry. Cassia, the protagonist, is matched with her best friend - everything seems to be going great until it is discovered that she has also been Matched with another boy. This book had a lot of potential and an interesting concept, but I personally felt it didn't really deliver. The pacing was slow. There wasn't much tension. The characters were a little one-dimensional and cheesy. Although it wasn't one of my favorite books, it could make for a nice summer read.
Reviewer Grade: 9
The name Agatha Christie is synonymous with unique and puzzling mysteries, but And Then There Were None is definitely one of her best. The plot is simple enough: ten people are invited to an island, stranded there, and then accused of a murder. And then one by one each person begins to die just like the people in the old nursery rhyme “Ten Little Soldier Boys.” However, the reader is kept in the dark as to who the murderer is until the very end, and the end is not at all what the reader might have expected. The plot moves along fairly quickly, but it doesn’t get confusing. The characters are fully sketched out which helps to make the story somewhat believable. The best thing about this book is that it is not at all cheesy; it is gripping and just frightening enough to make the reader want to finish the book before they turn out the lights at night.
Reviewer Grade: 11
Cornelia Funke deserves major praise for Inkdeath, because this book, the last in a trilogy, is every bit as good as the first book (something that does not often happen). It continues where the last book left off, with Meggie’s family stuck in the fictional Inkheart world where her father has become a noble robber called the Bluejay. Because he is the champion of justice and the defender of the poor, he is wanted by many powerful nobles. Most want to kill him; however, one of them, the cruelest of them all, wants the Bluejay to save him. But this noble is the one whose death would set the people of the Inkworld free. The plot stalls a little in the middle of the book, but it is more than made up for by the surprise hero at the end. Like the previous books, it has rich characterization and heavy themes. Plenty of times the characters wonder whether our world is after all more “real” than the fictional world they are stuck in, and they often wonder if after all their entire existence is written out by some far-off author. And the book is so well written that the reader could easily find himself wondering also.
Reviewer Grade: 11
This is the perfect summer book! It is a feel-good character centered book. A.J. Fikry is a young widower who isn't coping very well with the death of his wife. He owns and operates a bookstore that he seems not to care about, and is very judgmental about the books he sells and reads. Then one day his life changes when a baby is left for him to care for. A.J. transforms. He loves the baby and gives his all to her. He develops friendships and even falls in love again. But with all good books, there is a little twist! You will have to read it to find out! I highly recommend this book as a vacation book or if you just need a change of pace from what you usually read.
The main characters in the story are Paris Christie, Cooper McQueen, Tamara Maddox (the Maddox family is the family who owns the Red Thread Bourbon company), and Levi Shelby.
The Bourbon Thief is a must read! It's simply captivating and different from many other thrillers I have read. The story focuses on the past and ties it with the present. The author did a spectacular job in making sure we were blown away in everything she wrote. It felt original and the plot was mysterious and romantic. It was mysterious because the Maddox family's bourbon company shut down suddenly and no one knows why. Paris wants the bourbon, but why? What does Paris want to hide? I love the third person narrative because I saw each character's view points and the fact that I could read that was already amazing to me.
Dandelion Wine is a book about an entire town in Green Town, Illinois. It follows many of the different citizens, but focuses on the character development of Douglas Spalding. The book starts with him and his Grandfather making dandelion wine, as a tradition as the beginning of summer. I am reading this for school, and at first, I wasn't thrilled with it. It has no plot, but instead makes up for it with the mini stories throughout the book. Every chapter is new, and about a completely different citizen of Green Town. I was shocked with how the book had many different themes, most of them dealing with love and death, but most of all grief. Each chapter changed my perspective of the world just a little bit, so by the end I felt almost new. I was able to relate to Doug very much, along with other characters. This book hits the hard questions, and views the tragedies of life through only a boy's eyes. I found myself gasping at parts, not because of plot twists, but because of the complete shock of innocence vs tragedy. It made me view life in a completely different way. This has defiantly made my top 5, maybe even 3, book list.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Atlantia is about a girl named Rio. The earth was polluted long ago, so to make a safe haven, the people made Atlantia, an underground city. However, the people below could not survive without some people staying above to farm, and send them supplies. Some people sacrificed their health below so that their loved ones could be healthy instead. This formed the two civilizations: Above and Below. Rio has always dreamed of seeing the stars, the sun, the Above. When your 15 you are able to choose were you want to spend the rest of your life. Once you choose, you cannot go back. Rio’s dream of going above is crushed when her mother dies in a mysterious way, and her twin sister, Bay, makes her promise not to leave her, thus trapping her in Atlantia. When the time comes to choose, Rio goes first, being the older twin, and chooses the Below. However, to everyones surprise, Bay chooses to go Above, and abandons Rio with no explanation. True, the best friend of another boy who chose to go up, thinks he knows why his sister left Rio, and together, they find the truth, about more things then they were looking for. I first picked up this book, about two years ago, when Ally Condie was in Colorado for a book signing. As a volunteer at the library, I was at the event, and got my copy of Matched signed, and bought Atlantia and got that signed as well. I didn’t read it until quit recently. I especially enjoyed the book’s themes. Unlike other YA novels, the focus on the book was not the romance, but the sisterly love instead. This made a great combination of the themes of love in the book. Atlantia always found a way to surprise me, and the plot twists kept on coming. Unlike Condie’s other books, the Matched series, this book wasn't overly romantic and predictable. I was defiantly not disappointed in the writing. Another thing, however, is the reason that Bay leaves does not fit the plot, and confuses me more than anything. Other than that, it was a very well put together book.
Reviewer Grade: 10
In this book, you happen to meet Alyssa, the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice Liddell. You may think that's really cool, but no. As her great-great-great granddaughter, she must live with the legacy that the original Alice left behind, which happens to not be a very positive one. Everyone knows that the original Alice went to the asylum for being "crazy" after she came back from Wonderland, and most of her decedents are destined to follow. Those family members that were "destined to follow" include Alyssa's mother, Allison. Now Alyssa is living with just her father and occasionally goes to the asylum to visit her mother. Then, all the teasing from others about her family history pushes her over the edge. She ends up determined to find Wonderland and prove that no one in her family has been "crazy" at all! She decides to follow out with this plan A.S.A.P.. Once she finally gets there, (yes, Wonderland does exist in the book) she goes throughout it and sees that Alice's story has many things wrong with it, and that because of Alice's age at the time, she was mistaken about many things. You'll see White Rabbit and his descendant are NOT really cute rabbits at all. Then the "pretty" flowers from the original tale turn out to be almost like zombies! Eventually, you find out that all the characters you met in the original story, are backwards and creepy! Alyssa will encounter many trials that might keep her from ever going back to the real world. Or will they? I loved this book a lot even though I'm not a fan of the original 'Alice in Wonderland'. This twist made it really exciting, thrilling and like every chapter held an even better part of the adventure! Also, there is a little romance too! But I actually didn't pick this book out. I ended up getting it from a friend for Christmas, and I really didn't think I would like it. That is... till I started it! My favorite parts are seeing all the characters be so different from the originals! But, I also had a least favorite part, which was actually still a great part! It was when Alyssa goes to the asylum to visit her mother and something crazy happens, but I'll leave it a surprise! ;) I feel like I could even relate to Alyssa because I'm always trying to prove I'm right when others think I'm wrong, which might not be a very good thing but..... Anyways, I think that any one over the age of eleven can read this. (if their parents approve of zombie flowers and whatnot) So, if you're looking for a good book, you just found it. No matter if you like the original 'Alice in Wonderland' or not, this story will keep you engaged no matter where you are in its adventure!
Reviewer Grade: 8
Suspenseful, Mysterious, Heart Wrenching. These are just a few words to describe the novel, Aimee. Aimee, an intense novel written by Mary Beth Miller, focuses on the life of teenager, Zoe, who was just accused of aiding her best friend, Aimee, into suicide. Taking place after court, this exciting novel shows the struggles Zoe goes through regarding the absence of Aimee, separation of her former life, a very eager shrink, and the disapproval of her very existence from her parents and new town. Filled with a range of emotions from depression to elation, you will feel her journey from the personal dialogue and realistic depictions. Many characters interact with Zoe to enhance her very unusual everyday situations, such as (a personal favorite character) Chard, who was a love interest of Zoe’s ever since she met Aimee, Marge, a court-appointed shrink that frustrates and separates Zoe even further from normalcy, and Hope, a suicidal girl who shares classes with Zoe, who knows her story and is eager to become her only friend. Will she overcome all of the odds constantly stacked against her? Only you can find out! Pick up Aimee today and prepare to be unable to put it down!
Reviewer Grade: 12
Every year in different countries in Erdas, children of the age of ~12 get a chance to call a spirit animal - an animals that will be attached to them forever, and gives them the chance to join a group of folks called the "green cloaks" who use their spirit animals to protect Erdas from threats: especially the conquerors. Our four protagonists all call spirit animals - but they aren't just any spirit animals. They are four of the fallen: spirit animals that helped the green cloaks during the last time the conquerors threatened Erdas. As the conquerors begin to attack Erdas anew, the four children must pick a side and learn to fight.
This was quite fun! It was a little generic, and the writing was a little simple, but hey, this IS a book for middle grade readers. I listened to it as I was running, and I've continued listening to the series on long runs as it is easy to follow even when you zone out, its extremely entertaining and at times it manages to be quite clever. It also seems like no one side (green cloaks vs. conquerors) is completely good or evil, and I appreciate that kind of complexity.
Is your family going on a road trip this summer? This would be a great choice to listen to, as I would think the material would be appropriate for all ages. The narration, while not fantastic, is perfectly serviceable. If you want a great middle grade series for your kids, this could be the perfect one to start them with - the entire series has been published, and there are like 10 books in it, so it should keep them busy for a while. That, and it's pretty captivating from the start. Or hey, if, like me, you like to listen to books on long runs, this series is perfect for that sort of thing.
Doon is a romantic fantasy with heart breaking scenarios between lovers and friends. There is a lot of magic throughout the story. In Doon, the stakes are set high because an evil witch wants to take over. I love that the book was so unpredictable. I couldn’t put the book down.
Actual Rating: 3.5
Reviewer Grade: 7
This is the fourth book in the series so it is continuation of Sophie’s story of her fight against a group called Neverseen. They have tried to kill her several times because they view her as a threat. They run to her creator, Black Swan, for help. This is a book of rebellion, betrayal, and Elfin drama. This is a fictional story that is unpredictable and fascinating. It is one of my favorite stories.
Actual Rating: 4.5
Reviewer Grade: 7
Finding Audrey is a heartfelt and touching story on a girl recovering from depression. The story is unpredictable at times. The author left out key details on what caused the character to become depressed. This book was not my favorite because it was not relatable to my life.
Reviewer Grade: 7
Trials of Apollo is a view of a Greek god turned human. This book is written by Rick Riordan the writer of The Percy Jackson series. This is a fresh new twist on Greek mythology with new characters, slang, and a threat lurking behind a innocents face. This is a very entertaining book on betrayal, friendship, and family. I enjoyed the classic characters and the new ones too.
Actual Rating: 3.5
Reviewer Grade: 7
Better Off Friends is a realistic fiction about two best friends, a girl named Macallan and a boy named Levi. This is a dramatic story on falling in love with your best friend. I believe that this is the best book I read this year. Though this story was a little predictable it was a fascinating story. This book was written by the wonderful Elizebeth Eulberg. She has written lots of romance novels.
Reviewer Grade: 7
Greta Stuart has been a hostage for most of her life. Well, technically, she's one of the "children of peace". You see, long ago, after the world was ravaged by the effects of global warming, an AI named Talis put himself in control, and decided to almost completely eradicate war by having the leader of each country turn over their heir to be a "child of peace" until the child reached the age of 18. Should that country go to war, the child will be killed. Greta's nation, the Pan Pols (Canada) are about to go to war over water, and Greta knows that her death is imminent.
This book is hard to explain. Basically, the world-building is pretty detailed, but not without some holes (many of which are explained by the end of the book), and most of the first half of the book was spent explaining the world that Greta and her fellow hostages lived in. Also, Greta is the proverbial ice princess - she is fairly stoic, even in her own head, and so I didn't think she was very likable for the first half of the book.
However, as the book progresses, Greta really comes into her own. Her stoicism and propriety have given her a certain amount of power in regards to the fellow children of peace, and it's really fun to see her step up and wield that power. And then, stuff goes terribly, horribly wrong, and the pacing and intrigue of the story really pick up.
I'd give the first half of the book 2 stars, and the second half 5. So, over all, like a 3.5 or something. By the end, I was loving it. If you like really complex dystopian novels (this is more like 1984 than Divergent), then this one is not to be missed.
An insightful look at intercultural conflicts in the medical field. This book follows the case of a young Hmong girl named Lia Lee, the daughter of refugees, who presented with epilepsy in her infancy. The author, Anne Fadiman, follows both the parents and the doctors involved in the case, interviewing the key parties and untangling the miscommunication that led to Lia’s eventual brain death. The author is respectful to both sides and manages to explore the conflict that arises over the medical care without placing blame, instead asking what both sides viewed as good medicine, what they hoped to accomplish, and why they were unable to communicate their ideas to one another and agree on how to handle Lia’s treatment. The edition I read also had a helpful afterword in which the author updated readers on where the people she interviewed are now, some 20 years later, and how the hospital in Merced (and other hospitals throughout the country) are starting to change how they train their staff to interact with a multicultural community that might have very different ideas about what good medical care looks like. This book always makes top non-fiction lists, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it I can say that for me it lived up to the hype.
This was a very disappointing read. The novel follows Alison, who was the sole survivor of the massacre of her family when she was a teenager. She has since moved to London, changed her name, and tried to put her past behind her, but a wedding invitation from her boyfriend’s ex draws her back to the community she thought she’d left behind. The book came well-recommended, and I went into it expecting a better story than the one I got. This was sold to me as a psychological thriller that follows Alison’s attempt to investigate the massacre, which had been treated as a murder-suicide committed by her father. Unfortunately, the characterization was clumsy, the writing was poor, and the ending, without spoiling anything, was badly explained and unsatisfying. I came to hate every character in the book, and by the end of it I was reading out of a sense of obligation rather than any actual interest in the plot (if you’re paying any attention, you’ll figure the ‘mystery’ out an agonizingly long time before our oblivious protagonist catches on).
On Such a Full Sea opens in a futuristic Baltimore (“B-Mor”). The protagonist, Fan, is the descendant of refugees from a Chinese city whose population was transplanted to America to work in fisheries after the complete environmental collapse of their homeland. The US at this time is in crisis, with limited resources divided unevenly among the heavily stratified classes. There’s a very rare chance for children to be “promoted” into the upper classes via a national exam, as indeed Fan’s brother was, but most of the country lives in labor colonies and has their career set at birth -- in the government-controlled regions, that is. Outside the carefully controlled urban production centers, there’s nothing but lawless wilderness across most of the country (the so-called “open counties”).
The plot kicks off when Fan’s boyfriend (and father of her unborn child) goes missing -- possibly taken by government officials -- and she sets out into the wild open counties outside of B-Mor to search for him, encountering a bizarre, violent world. Fan is a bit flat -- in fact, nearly all of the characters are -- but what really stood out was the way the story was narrated. It’s told not from Fan’s perspective but from the point of view of the community back in B-Mor, always speaking as “we”. The narrator relates to us the legend that has grown up around Fan since her escape, speculating on what it was about her and this incident that sparked so much fascination -- and briefly protest -- in an otherwise defeated community. What we “learn” about Fan’s adventures is thus largely a compilation of the stories that have grown up around her since she left B-Mor. Her characterization makes a bit more sense when you think of her as a folk hero, but some readers may dislike the lack of insight into what she’s thinking or feeling. We move back and forth between events in B-Mor and episodes in Fan's search for her boyfriend, which (despite the weaknesses I mentioned) were inventive and compelling.
It’s not an entirely original setting, and the narration style was a bit (okay, a lot) off-putting at first, but the writing itself was beautiful and I ended up enjoying it much more than I had expected. If you like dystopian fiction, I’d recommend giving this book a try.
A very heavy, difficult book to get through, in part because it was written in dialect, which always takes some getting used to, but largely because it was so relentlessly depressing that I couldn’t read it for too long of a stretch. A Brief History of Seven Killings tells the fictionalized story of the (factual) 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley, referred to throughout simply as “The Singer”. Told from a staggering number of different perspectives, ranging from the young would-be assassins themselves, to the unemployed daughter of a middle-class family pretending to be pregnant with Marley’s child in an attempt to get out of the country, to a CIA agent assigned to keep communism from spreading to Jamaica, it’s a grueling, violent read, but there’s a lot worth hearing. The story begins with the assassination attempt, then jumps forward to sections set in the 1980s and 1990s, with close attention to Jamaica’s changing political scene and the lasting mark that violence leaves on the characters. The writing is strong and Marlon James does an excellent job juggling the huge cast (though if you’re like me you’ll probably have to refer back to the character list provided at the beginning of the book at least a few times). I don’t know if “enjoyed” is the right word, but I felt like I got a lot out of it, and it was certainly a deserving winner of the Man Booker Prize. I will say that the word “brief” in the title is a bit of a stretch -- it weighs in at 688 pages. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.