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All Book Reviews

Peter Pan
Barrie, J. M.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

An amazing classic and phenomenal success, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie follows the story of the children of the Darling family: Wendy, Michael, and John. One night, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, a fairy, slip into the house of the Darling family and convince the three children to come with him to Neverland, a place where the lost boys live and also where magic resides. After flying there, the lost boys and Peter ask Wendy to be their mother and caretaker since they have never had mothers. Wendy accepts, only for a short while, but eventually she must leave and return to her parents, who are worried sick about them. Wendy plans to leave, with the lost boys insisting on coming with her, but Peter refuses because he longs to be a young boy forever and never grow up. Leaving Peter on Neverland, Wendy and the lost boys fly away but are attacked by the pirates and captured, so Peter must rescue them, but can he defeat their leader Captain Hook? This book is considered somewhat childish due to Disney’s production of the piece, but the story holds deep and moral meanings that would appeal and interest almost any reader.
Review Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A cultural classic, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
follows the story of a young woman named Hester, who is charged with adultery and punished in the Puritan town of Boston in 1642. The terminology and language used in this book is very old so it may be difficult for readers to interpret the plot or even the text, I know it was for me. The plot is somewhat dull, as it follows the life of Hester who has committed the sin of adultery with a man in the town, and when her husband, Roger Chillingworth, comes back for her, he is determined to find the man and seek revenge. After her punishment, Hester is banished and forced to live on the outskirts of town. With the aid of the minister Dimmesdale, Hester tries to live peacefully with her daughter, Pearl, but will Chillingsworth thwart their plans and get his revenge on the man whom Hester refuses to reveal? I read this book for my AP Lang class and the beginning was very confusing. This novel is very difficult to follow and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people other than those who enjoy old and classic works, but overall the plot is one of a kind and teaches morals that are very significant.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Heir of Fire
Maas, Sarah J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Heir of Fire is the third book in the Throne of Glass series. Celaena Sardothien has been sent to Wendlyn to kill its entire royal family. Still reeling from the loss of her friend and the man she loved, Celaena can't decide what to do. When the fey prince, Rowan, shows up to bring her to the court of her aunt, the fey queen Maeve, she takes the opportunity. To get the information she needs, Maeve has requested that Celaena be trained by Rowan. Celaena has many difficulties with her training, mainly stemming from the fear she has for herself. As the king's plot unfurls, this book weaves a story that is impossible to put down. With a perfect amount of action, magic,
and romance, The Heir of Fire does the rest of the series justice. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has read this far in the series; I also recommend this series to anyone that likes books that are told from many different perspectives, full of action, and witty dialogue. Although this book starts a bit slow, if you get through the first few chapters, you will not be disappointed.

Reviewer's Name: Hailey K.
Genres:
One Mile Under
Gross, Andrew
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Colorado is the setting for best-selling author Andrew Gross’ thriller, One Mile Under. From the Roaring Fork River, which starts at the Continental Divide and runs through Aspen to Glenwood Springs, to the state’s eastern plains, the central theme of the book is water.

After being summoned by his god-daughter, a rafting guide, to investigate a suspicious white water kayaking death, security specialist Ty Hauch joins Danielle Whalen in search of clues to the fatality on the Roaring Fork.

The investigation leads to Weld County, where water is every bit as important to farmers and ranchers as it is to the outdoor recreation industry in the mountains, and there is one more player in this adventure - the oil and gas industry. As Ty and Dani soon find out, extracting ore from far beneath the earth’s surface involves water…and lots of it.

The controversial process is commonly known as “fracking”, an issue that is a hot topic in Colorado today. One Mile Under is fast-paced, educational and a really good read.

Reviewer's Name: Susan
Arsenic with Austen
Hyde, Katherine Bolger
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I really wanted to like this book. I read a review that said it was a literate, well-written, tightly-plotted mystery with shades of Jane Austen. I was ready for a really good mystery - and it had a charming cover. Each chapter begins with a quote from one of Austen's books, but that's where the similarity ends.

Fiftyish Emily Cavanaugh inherits loads of money, property and a library of hundreds of valuable and first edition books. The inheritance allows her to leave her position teaching college literature and move into her aunt's Victorian estate in Stony Beach, Oregon. What's not to like? Upon arrival she learns that her aunt's death may not have been natural, the other legatee wants her inheritance as well as his, the mayor and his realtor girlfriend want her land for a massive development scheme and the man she loved who vanished from her life 35 years earlier is the town's chief of police. A number of felonies occur in attempts to gain her property. Emily sees all the suspects as characters from Jane Austen's novels.

The book started well and had real possibilities, but the author seemed to lose track of her original ideas and fall back on predictable story lines. The conclusion wrapped everything up too quickly and unrealistically. Original or at least interesting plot lines weren't developed. This is Katherine Bolger Hyde's first book. She had a good idea, but lost it in the details. It could have been so much better.

Reviewer's Name: Susan
Genres:
The Trap
Smelcer, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Trap relates the story of an elderly native man named Albert Least-Weasel and his grandson, Johnny Least-Weasel. Albert is out in the Alaskan wilderness checking his traplines. When he doesn’t return on time and the temperature drops, Johnny and Albert’s wife begin to worry about the old man. Johnny believes he should go out and look for his grandfather, but others in the community advise him against this action, suggesting that his Grandfather is fine because he knows what he is doing. Johnny has mixed feelings between the advice of his elders in the community and his own instinct. The choice he makes will have a direct impact on the survival of his Grandfather.

However, The Trap is more than just a story about survival, it is also about the internal stories we tell ourselves as we face difficult situations and navigate challenges. The main characters reflect on their own story, memory and myth as they struggle through their individual conflicts. The author’s skillful use of learning tales and folklore deepens the experience of Albert and Johnny Least-Weasel while teaching the reader about being a part of the land and a culture that is defined by the world they live in. Alternating views between Johnny and his Grandfather allows the reader to experience the hardship of the Grandfather and feel the anxiety of Johnny. The Trap is a good read; I would recommend it to readers who enjoy survival and folklore.

Reviewer's Name: Monique B.
Awards:
When Breath Becomes Air
Kalanithi, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This memoir by a brilliant neurosurgeon who contracts lung cancer movingly describes the anguish of terminal illness from the doctor and patient perspectives simultaneously. An accomplished writer with an astonishing grasp of literature, he side steps all the easy answers and leaves the reader in love with life and astonished by living, not intimidated by disease.

Reviewer's Name: David R.
My Lady Jane
Hand, Cynthia, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was just delightful.

My Lady Jane is a semi-historical semi-fantastical look at the life of Lady Jane Grey, cousin to King Edward VI, who was queen for 9 days and then swiftly deposed and subsequently beheaded by Mary I (aka Bloody Mary). The book looks at the events through the perspectives of Edward, Jane, and Jane's new husband, Gifford Dudley (call him G). The authors decided to rewrite history a bit to give some folks shapeshifting powers and to give our Lady Jane a happy ending. The result was a charming, whimsical read written in the sarcastic and snarky prose of today, and it was marvelous.

The book is even more impressive when you consider that it has three authors, but felt as though it could have been written by one person (I'm sure that each author wrote from a different character's perspective, but it was never jarring). The characters were well fleshed out, each perspective was funny and interesting, and I never felt myself racing through one character's chapter to get to a character I liked better (because I liked them all). I'm a big sucker for court intrigue, and there is obviously a lot of that here. The fantasy elements are pretty small, and honestly, the book could've sort of been done without them, but they do give the authors an out for some of the less historical aspects of the book (like Edward's survival, for example).

I gave the book four stars instead of five as, though I loved the tone for most of the book, by the end it was feeling a bit twee. The book was also a bit overlong. Overall though, this is a great read that I would recommend to people who like quirky, well-written books about strong women with a touch of fantasy. I hope these authors team up to write another alternate history, because I'd so be there. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Before the Fall
Hawley, Noah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Adult Fiction. Martha's Vineyard on a foggy summer night. A private jet carrying eleven people takes off for New York. Eighteen minutes later it disappears from radar. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, a 40-something artist, and the four-year-old son of the wealthy David Bateman, the chairman of ALC News. How did this happen? A terrorist attack? Why was this has-been painter aboard this flight? The chapters highlight the backgrounds of each of the passengers, the pilot, co-pilot, the flight attendant and Bateman's Israeli bodyguard, guiding us toward the solution of this sad ending to so many lives. This author is also a screenwriter for Lies and Alibis, My Generation and The Unusuals, as well as a writer and produces for the series Bones.

Reviewer's Name: Vickie Sherwood
The Last True Love Story
Kiely, Brendan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A Teen Book. Seventeen-year-old Hendrix is left to care for his Gpa, who is losing his memory due to Alzheimer's, in a senior facility. All his grandfather wants is to go home to Ithaca, New York, to remember his deceased wife, before he forgets her completely. Corrina, also seventeen, was adopted from Guatemala. She's a musician, feeling crowded and suffocated by circumstances in LA. One night, they decide combine forces, steal a car and Gpa and head for New York. The adventure is one of friendship, but mainly one of learning to love. Language and mature situations.

Reviewer's Name: Vickie Sherwood
The Book That Matters Most
Hood, Ann
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Adult Fiction. After twenty-five years Ava and her husband divorce. Ava joins a book group, not only because she loves to read, but also to meet new people. The first order of business is to select the twelve titles for the coming year, "the book that matters most to you." Ava didn't read the email, so the first book she thinks of is "From Clare to Here," by Rosalind Arden. This book meant so much to Ava during her childhood, when her younger sister died and her mother jumped off a bridge to her death. Meanwhile, Ava's daughter Maggie is supposed to be studying art in Florence, Italy. She follows a boy to Paris and sinks into an alcohol and drug culture. The chapters alternate between Ava's finding her way in Providence, Rhode Island and Maggie's slow climb back to sobriety. Ava promised her book group that she would invite the author of her book to their last meeting of the year. A fantastic ending!

Reviewer's Name: Vickie S.
Genres:
Tell Me Something Real
Devlin, Calla
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Teen Fiction. It's 1976. The three Babcock sisters - Adrienne, Vanessa and Marie - make regular trips from San Diego to a clinic in Mexico, where their mother receives treatments for leukemia that are banned in the United States. Chapter one ends with their mother announcing that in spite of these treatments, she has been diagnosed as terminal. The remainder of the book describes how each of the sisters reacts to this diagnosis. Then their mother agrees to invite Barb and her son Caleb, who is also undergoing treatment, to stay with them in San Diego. Things start to go wrong when Barb questions the combination of medications that Mrs. Babcock is taking. She and Caleb move to a hotel after Mrs. B becomes hysterical when a new doctor at the clinic wants to perform his own blood tests. When the ultimate betrayal is revealed, you won't believe it!!

Reviewer's Name: Vickie S.
Genres:
The Hammer of Thor
Riordan, Rick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It has been a year since Magnus Chase discovered he was a demigod, checked into the Hotel Valhalla, and entered the treacherous world of Norse Mythology. But, his quest has just begun. Thor's hammer has gone missing, Magnus's best friends Hearthstone and Blitzen are nowhere to be found, and a new child of Loki is wreaking havoc at Hotel Valhalla. Not to mention, there's a mysterious assassin that has warned Magnus of the dangers of retrieving Thor's hammer...
This is the sequel to the Sword of Summer - and I had very high expectations.
The Hammer of Thor met all of them. It is a fun, adventurous thrill ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns. We get to learn more about the mysterious pasts of our favorite characters and see their relationships develop. This book was amazing!
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
They say/I say : The Moves that Matter in Persuasive Writing
Graff, Gerald
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein explore the skills of academic writing, explaining what writers do wrong, how they can do it right, and why these methods work. This book is more for those interested in improving their rhetoric skills and those in Language and Composition classes. I use this book for my AP Lang class and it’s very helpful since Graff and Birkenstein give you useful templates to replace your boring sentences and transitions and they explain why those templates are effective. Rhetoric is a skill widely used in all writing, and being able to master this skill opens doors of creativity for works such as: argument essays, persuasive essays, etc.
Furthermore, they point out mistakes commonly made by student, and even professional, writers and why they are ineffective. There are short but interesting articles in the back of the book, that tie in with activities they provide for you to practice the skills they just relayed to you. I really think most writers, or upcoming writers, should read and keep this book because it gives you useful strategies and templates, which you can use and eventually turn it into your own writing style.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
In Cold Blood
Capote, Truman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Holcomb, Kansas 1959, the Clutter family was brutally murdered and no one knew who or why they did it. Truman Capote wrote this book as a novel, with dialogue between the murderers and the family; although he was not there, he gathered as much information about the murder as possible and was able to turn it into a book instead of a document. Moving on, the story follows the life of the Clutter family before and after they were murdered, however it focuses more on Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers of the Clutters. In need of cash, and fast, Hickock calls his old jail friend Perry Smith and they decide to execute a robbery of the Clutter family, who they thought were rich. After invading the house and finding no cash, they dispose of the Clutters, rid of the clues, and escape the law for as long as they could. I love this book since it enables the reader to have a mystery going on in their head and also because murder was uncommon back in 1959, so it enables the reader to feel how it was to hear of a major crime, such as this, back then. I recommend this book to every reader out there, it was very well written and one of the most amazing “New Journalism” type of books, as Capote said.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Into the Wild
Krakauer, Jon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

September 1992, a young man named Chris McCandless is found dead in the Alaskan Wilderness and Jon Krakauer is determined to sniff out every clue as to why. Into the Wild follows the life of Chris McCandless, a young man who dropped everything and took to the road, and how he even ended up in Alaska in the first place; and although he is dead, the trail and influences he left behind live on in those he met. The story jumps around occasionally, but it is just extraordinary to me how a single young man was able to travel almost all of the United States by foot and hitchhiking, and then end up in Alaska where he lived in the Wild until August 1992. Krakauer interviews the people who Chris has interacted with, and all of them say that Chris changed their life for the better, even those who he only shared a car ride with. I personally enjoy this book because it makes you feel as if what he did was amazing and if you, too, need an adventure like that in your life. I definitely recommend this book to all readers since every single person can take something from this book, negative or positive.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Obelisk Gate
Jemisin, N. K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Fifth Season (http://ppld.org/book-reviews/fifth-season). This was a strong second entry, and on reflection I ended up liking it even more than the original book. The plot is far more linear than in The Fifth Season, but there are still unexpected twists and turns, and for me the characters really came into their own here. You will see some old, familiar faces along with a number of new additions to the cast from regions of the world we hadn't previously been exposed to. There was one character in particular whose story-line took a surprising turn that caused me to do a complete 180 on how I saw them. For me, it hit all the right notes: deeper world-building, strong characterization, and a complex plot that held up to closer scrutiny.

If you haven't finished the first book, the next part of this review will include minor spoilers. The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season started, with Essun discovering her murdered son just as the Season hits. While the previous book then went back and forth in time to explore how she had arrived at that point, this one moves us into the future as she sets off in pursuit of her husband (Jija) and daughter (Nassun), hoping to rescue Nassun before she meets the same fate as her brother. The chapters alternate between Damaya/Syenite/Essun's journey and her daughter's, with the odd interlude featuring someone else. The narration is still in its distinctive second person format, but in this book we finally learn who the speaker is. In my opinion, Jemisin answered just enough questions from the first book while still leaving mysteries for the finale, and I can't wait for the third and final entry in the series (projected release in 2017). Highly recommended to lovers of fantasy!

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Chbosky, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was surprising good! It was very well written and told from a fascinating narrative viewpoint. The book is written as a series of letters which serves the story line well. It wasn't overly adolescent so it appeals to both teens and adults. Charlie is optimistic and sees beauty in the world. I also liked that he listens to great music and reads great literature, which allows the reader to check out the titles he mentions. Great book!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Anansi Boys
Gaiman, Neil
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I'm not going to try to describe this book, because there is a lot going on and I wouldn't really know where to start. Here's what you need to know:

It's a companion novel to American Gods, but you do not need to read American Gods first. In fact, I found this book to be vastly superior to American Gods, though the internet does not necessarily agree with me on that one.

Do you like Loki? Or like, the idea of Loki? Or just trickster gods in general? Anansi is the African trickster god, and this book is a TRICKSTER god of a novel: its clever, tricky and pure fun.

I listened to this book, and the narration was stellar. Lenny Henry nails the Caribbean accents, the humor, the eeriness, and well, all of it. I'd strongly recommend consuming this in audiobook format.

Oh, and while the characters never felt super fleshed out to me, it didn't matter, because this book was all about stories. And Anansi's stories are the best stories.

The villain was absotively the worst in the best kind of way.

Anyway, if you are looking for a funny, fast, excellently crafted mythological type of read, look no further. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Crooked Kingdom
Bardugo, Leigh
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

WOW. This was awesome. Spoilers ahead for Six of Crows.

Crooked Kingdom picks up right where Six of Crows left off. Kaz and crew have just been pulled off the heist of a lifetime and then were subsequently stiffed 30 million kruge. Van Eck, the double crosser, stole not only their money, but their comrade/crew member Inej as well. Needless to say, the crew is mad and ready for revenge. The question is...just how far are they willing to go to bring down Van Eck and his cronies?

The answer: pretty far. And it is fantastic.

Bardugo hits all of the right beats in this novel. The heisty stuff is twisty and surprising. The intensity level is insanely high for the duration of the novel. The emotional beats are EMOTIONAL. Like in Six of Crows, each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, and Bardugo uses this technique to develop a rich backstory for each character. I found myself vacillating between loving the characters for who they are and wanting to adopt them off the mean streets of Ketterdam to fix them and give them a loving, safe home. They've all been through a lot, and it informs their lives and choices in a believable way. The villains are semi-developed as the book progresses, and Van Eck at one point does something so terrible that I just sat there and thought WHAT? NO. for like 10 minutes. Bardugo also does a really great job of introducing the very real horrors of human trafficking into a fantasy novel. I hope the book raises some awareness about this very real, terrible issue.

Oh, and a fun bonus: If you've read Bardugo's other series, there are a couple of exciting cameos in store.

Anyway, for me, this was a practically perfect fantasy novel. It made me laugh, cry, and will be something that I'll come back to and re-read every few years. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:

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