All Book Reviews
“Shadow Spinner” is a book based on an old legend that some intellectuals say began in India, although evidence seems to point to a Persian book of fairy tales. The original story tells of a Sultan who, after finding his wife with another man, chooses to believe that all women are deceitful. As cruel revenge to womankind, he marries a new girl every night and then kills her when morning dawns. One night his latest new wife, Shahrazad, begs to tell her younger sister, Dunyazad, one last story before the Sultan executes her the next day. The Sultan agrees and finds he enjoys the tale, but he is dismayed when it is not finished by morning. So he lets Shahrazad live to finish the story the next night. But it turns out that she also has time to weave another new tale but does not complete it either. And so she is allowed to live yet again.This continues. But how long will Shahrazad be able to keep telling her life-saving stories? Here the author of “Shadow Spinner” decides to give the legend her own
twist. Enter young Marjan, a servant.
Marjan is a young servant girl who will probably never find a husband. Who would want to marry a girl with a crippled foot?. Marjan was not born this way. Her mother purposely dropped a heavy pot on Marjan’s foot so the Sultan would never choose her for a wife. Although her mother did this for her daughter’s protection, Marjan feels furious towards her mother. She is especially angry because, after maiming her daughter for life, her mother drank poison like a coward. Throughout the book we catch glimpses of what this hot rage has done to Marjan and how she carries this grudge with her always.
One day Marjan and her mistress, Auntie Chava, enter into the Sultan’s harem to sell jewelry to the women who live there. Because she is so skilled at telling stories to the children of the harem women, she is approached by Dunyazad, who tells Marjan that Shahrazad is desperate for more stories. She has told the stories in every book that the Sultan owns and told all the tales she’s heard. She begs Marjan to tell a new story. Marjan agrees, and Dunyazad leads her to Shahrazad where she is asked to retell the tale. But before it is over Shahrazad frowns and says that she does remembers telling that same story already. She asks Marjan to tell another. Marjan consents to the queen’s request,but story after story she tells is rejected. At last she tells one that is new to Shahrazad. Grateful for Marjan’s help, Shahrazad asks her to come live in the harem so that she can continue to help provide her with stories that can save all the young women's lives. Knowing she will be forbidden to depart, Marjan is upset to be leaving her beloved Auntie Chava forever. But she is honored to know that Shahrazad needs her help.
One morning some time later, after Marjan has already been living in the harem for a while, Shahrazad tells Marjan that the Sultan loved her story and Marjan is overjoyed to hear that the tale was one that the Sultan was familiar with already and loved very much. But she is dismayed when Shahrazad asks for the rest of the narrative so that she can tell it to the Sultan, who wants to hear it the next night. It is a matter of life and death. Marjan tells Shahrazad that she doesn’t know the rest; she only heard the beginning from a blind storyteller out in the marketplace one day. But Shahrazad must have the story or the displeased Sultan may kill her. And so Marjan is smuggled out of the harem in the mornings in search of the blind storyteller so that she can learn the rest of the tale. Every evening she sneaks back to the harem empty-handed.
Shahrazad tides the Sultan over with other tales but knows that she must soon have the ending rest of the storyteller’s story to placate the ruler. Over the course of her search, Marjan discovers the Sultan’s mother has plotted to make her son angry with Shahrazad so that he will kill her. She wants to make her own servant queen. But her most shocking, discovery is the fact that Shahrazad loves her husband despite what he’s done to the young women of his city. When Marjan asks Shahrazad how she can possibly love a man like the Sultan, Shahrazad states this profound truth: “There’s nothing wrong with loving someone. It’s hating - that’s what’s wrong.” It is then that Marjan finally realizes her hatred toward her own mother is wrong. She must learn to forgive her for what she has done. In the midst of all this, the search for the storyteller goes on. But the Sultan’s mother is trying harder than ever to catch Shahrazad, Dunyazad, and Marjan in doing something wrong. Eventually, all three of them, along with a kind, elderly woman and helpful old man, are going to be killed. Marjan thinks she knows how to change the Sultan’s mind, but will she really be able to save everyone she has come to love so dearly?
I found this book to be a gripping tale, and enjoyed the deep message of love and healing shown throughout. Shahrazad’s mission to help the Sultan mend from where he has been hurt by his treacherous first wife is admirable and Marjan’s personal struggles are relatable. How does one find it in their heart to love someone who has hurt them (mentally or physically)? A fun, well-written story, but one that makes you think - “Shadow Spinner” is a beautiful re-imagining of a classic legend.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Small Steps by Louis Sachar was an outstanding book. The author of the book demonstrates a young person’s struggle fitting in. Armpit, the main protagonist is ready to change his image after being known as a thug/ruffian. He’s just about ready when an old friend from correction camp comes and makes a deal with him. I give this book a 4/5. The book gave a strong and positive message, however there were a few very boring parts.
Reviewer Grade: 7
When you first pull Eragon off the shelf, you expect to be pulled into a world of fantasy, magic, heroic deeds, and a dark brooding evil. And from page one, Paolini does not disappoint. His masterful usage of language and tone go beyond the realm of mastery and into the realm of artistic genius. From the moment you read the short synopsis of the book to the moment you flip that last page, you are spellbound; subject to Paolini's expert manipulation of emotions. There is only one downfall, and even that ends up being a strength. That unfortunately is that Paolini follows the basic formula of how to write a cliche fantasy novel. He turns this weakness in his novel into his strength, however, by creating a book so masterful, he redefined the formula. Paolini's Eragon, while somewhat predictable (but then almost every book has some level of predictability), keeps the reader involved and sitting at the edge of their seat until the very end. Paolini has more than earned his place among the great fantasy writers of all time. He may not yet be a J. R. R. Tolkien or George R. R. Martin, but he has proved his worth and earned a place in the memories and hearts of millions.
Reviewer Grade: 12
Tobias Eaton - known as "Four" - tells his full story in a collection of short stories before the events of Divergent take place. Abused by his father, Tobias wishes to leave his faction, Abnegation, to escape his miserable life. When he joins Dauntless in the hopes of making a new life, he incidentally discovers dark secrets within the faction...secrets regarding Divergents.
This book was great! I liked hearing more about Four, who didn't have quite enough time to tell his whole story in Divergent. We also learn a great deal about the corruption within the factions. It gave a fresh perspective on the Divergent world overall. It was excellent.
Reviewer Grade: 9
This book was amazing. At the beginning, it begins slow. The first couple of chapters focus on Haven and her "condition". These chapters give you an emotional connection to the characters, and bits of how each person views life. From the religious grandmother to the gay best friend you feel for Haven. She's been longing for this boy, Ethan, since she was nine. The only person who never thought she was crazy was her father, but he's gone now, and Beau of course. But when she finally finds out what she needs to do too find Ethan, and learn more about her life, you'll go through a confusing emotional roller coaster with her. I picked this book because the slogan under the title (What if love refused to die?) interested me. This book surprised me in so many ways, it threw in many clues of these surprises, but with all that's going on you won't notice what's really going on. The book is a big puzzle, and you have to put the piece together, until it all comes together.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Leo Koretz was a con man operating in Chicago in the 1920s - he was basically like a 1920s version of Bernie Madoff. His crimes have faded into obscurity, so Jobb has decided to tell his story. Leo's story is juxtaposed with that of Robert Crowe, the would-be political climber who was sort of responsible for chasing Leo down and prosecuting him.
I listened to this book, and while it starts off pretty slow, it picks up when Leo starts his swindling, and stays somewhat fast paced and consistently interesting until the very end, when the author reveals the fates of all of the "players", and I didn't really care. I read somewhere that this book reads like a "fiction" book, and I wouldn't really agree with that statement - while it was interesting and paced considerably more quickly than many non-fiction books, if a fiction book spent several minutes/pages outlining the costs of jewelry that a con man gave to his wife (boooooooring), I'd throw that book across the room. Basically, this book was meticulously researched, but at something of a cost - there were a lot of details that felt pretty superfluous, and the details often interrupted the otherwise somewhat narrative flow of the book. I also could've done without the Robert Crowe parts...while Leo was a "real piece of work", Crowe just seemed like a massive jerk. All that aside though, it was a fun, fascinating listen. I liked it - 3 stars.
Steve's baby brother is sick. Like, probably going to die soon sick. So, when Steve is visited in his dreams by the wasps living in the nest over his house, and they offer to fix the baby, Steve feels like all of his problems are being solved...until he realizes the solution is perhaps not as perfect as it originally seemed.
This is one weird, creepy little novel. I listened to it (and apparently it's illustrated, so I missed the illustrations), and narrator was a little blah at first, but later on in the story I realized that that was probably somewhat intentional. The first disk was a little slow for me, but by the final disk, I was sitting in my driveway listening because I just had to know what was going to happen. Wow. I've never read anything quite like this, and while I won't say that I loved it, I did ultimately enjoy it.
Garth Nix wrote a regency romance with a touch of fantasy back in the 90s, and it's finally been published! It's adorable. It falls somewhere in the middle of Jane Austen and Gail Carringer - it's closer to Austen than Carringer as the fantasy elements are pretty light. The main character is spunky and extremely likable, the love interest is perfectly serviceable, and the dialogue is punchy. Also, there's cross-dressing. A super fun read - 4 stars.
This graphic novel follows Tom Jensen, the author's father, as he hunts the Green River Killer. The story oscillates between the story of catching the Green River Killer (mostly set in the 80s in Seattle) and the post-catching pre-trial interviews with Gary Ridgway. Needless to say, it's a fascinating perspective.
I tend to prefer graphic novels with color, but I thought the artwork in this was great. The artist manages to capture the expressions of the different (real) characters, which led to some very chilling panels. However, the story jumped around in such a way that was confusing - it would often take me a few panels to realize that there was a time jump or perspective switch or whatever.
Overall, this was a pretty gripping read. I'd recommend it to fans of true crime novels.
Many people in the Witchlands are witches - folks born with magic. Most have some sort of elemental magic (water, wind, fire, earth), although some have powers based in the "aether" or the "void". Our two protagonists are a Truthwitch - she can tell if someone is telling the truth or not, and this is super rare/desired in this mythology - and a Threadwitch, which is someone who can see connections between people. At the start of the book, they upset a very powerful and rare Bloodwitch, these witches can control other peoples' blood, and spend the rest of the book on the run from him and other nefarious foes out to exploit the Truthwitch's rare powers.
This is a perfectly good fantasy series opener. It's got a very conventional system of magic (elemental magics aren't exactly a new concept), and while one of the main characters was one of those magical beings that men just die over, which, ick, I did enjoy the two main characters. Their strong female friendship was at the heart of the story, and I think that's great modelling for young women. The magic wasn't inventive, but there were a few fun new critters (sea foxes!) that I really enjoyed reading about. Fairly standard fantasy fare, but a solid first outing. I'd check out the sequel, and would expect the series to improve going forward. For the most part, I liked it.
I don't always like the first volume of a graphic novel series as the world-building can be confusing - but I really enjoyed this one! Volume 1 tells a nice story with a beginning, middle and end, and it's a great intro to the Captain Marvel story. Captain Marvel's origin story was rather hilariously told by Kit, a child, in 4 panels at the end of the first issue, and it just sounds nuts. But even with almost no previous exposure to the character, I was immediately hooked and was able to fall in line with Carol Danvers and and her crew with minimum confusion. Also, Danvers has a cat (or possible ferkin). Named Chewie. Be still my heart.
Mare Bellow's blood is red, which marks her for a life in poverty at best, and a brutal death on the front lines of a war she didn't ask for, at worst. She lives under the harsh rule of the Silvers, folks with special powers (mostly elemental, though some are X-men like). Later, surprise surprise, she finds out that she has special powers too and her life is upended.
Confession: I tried to read this book like 5 times. I finally got through it. I should've stopped trying. This book is one big, cliched, full of plot holes mess, there's a seriously stupid, unlikable, mean (and not even in a fun way) main character. In addition to an unoriginal plot and vapid characters, the writing is not stellar. I can see a certain type of reader enjoying it, but it certainly wasn't for me.
Olive Silverlock is back at Gotham Academy after a summer off - a summer that she barely remembers. With the help of her ex-boyfriend's little sister "Maps", Olive and crew are trying to oust a mysterious ghost before the ghost makes Gotham Academy uninhabitable for the living.
I wanted to like this title more than I actually ended up liking it. It started out with a bang - I found the first issue to be delightful - and then stumbled a bit after that. Even though I enjoyed the art, premise and
characters, I found the story itself to be wanting. Lots of potential here, and hopefully it will be more fully realized in future volumes.
Blue Sargent is not a psychic. Her mom is a psychic. Her aunts are all psychics. But Blue has another skill - she can amplify psychic power. So every year on St. Mark's Eve, she accompanies one of the "real" psychics to
greet the ghosts of the people who will die in the next year. Usually, she sees nothing. But this year, she sees the ghost of a boy: Gansey. Later, Blue and Gansey have a meet-not-cute, and Blue finds herself swept along with Gansey and his friends Noah, Adam and Ronan on an epic quest to find a long lost Welsh king...because Blue thinks that this king might be the only thing that can save Gansey.
First, I love the way Stiefvater writes. She manages to imbue whimsy and/or something otherworldly (and often slightly sinister) into almost every paragraph, and her descriptions are often at once hilarious and spot on. For example:
April was a bad time for the Aglionby boys; as it warmed up, the convertibles appeared bearing boys in shorts so tacky that only the rich would dare to wear them.
Ronan kept staring at Whelk. He was good at staring. There was something about his stare that took something from the other person.
Great, unique descriptions. I just love her writing and her ability to make the reader feel like they've known the characters forever.
On top of that, the plot is simply and uniquely marvelous. I had never heard of Glendower (our long lost Welsh king), and this story felt really fresh, even though I was reading it for the third time. A colleague thought it was boring, and I will concede that it gets off to a bit of a slow start to allow
for world-building and character development, but I DARE you to try to read the last 100 pages or so in more than one sitting.
It's just soooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooooooooooood.
5 unreserved stars. J'dore.
I read the book because I loved the Netflix series, and while I'm not sure that I loved the graphic novel series, I'm totally enjoying it so far. It's similar to the Netflix series in character, though pretty different in plot. Matt Murdock and Luke Cage show up, as does Captain America (Steve Rogers flavor). Sadly, there's no Patsy so far. Carol Danvers (AKA Captain Marvel) seems to be fulfilling that role for the time being. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable noir graphic novel series with a strong female protagonist.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.