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All Book Reviews

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:
End of Watch
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This final book of the Bill Hodges Trilogy finds retired police detective, Bill Hodges, investigating a string of suicides involving survivors of the Mercedes Massacre. Along with his private investigation agency, Finders Keepers, and his partner, Holly Gibney, Bill must figure out why survivors who have spent the past five years rebuilding their lives suddenly decide to commit suicide. The only item that seems to connect the individuals is that they have all received a free handheld video game called a “Zappit”. Are the video games consoles really hypnotizing users and telling them to do something they would not normally do? Why does it only affect certain users? With the help of Holly, the tech wizard of the duo, Bill races to find answers before a suicide epidemic ensues. In classic Stephen King style, this crime thriller pits good versus evil and includes an element of supernatural suspense that makes the story even more engaging.
Once again, King takes current events and imagines a “what if” scenario that plays on some of our worst fears. King’s character development and storytelling style quickly pulls readers into the book and carries them through to the last page. Don’t let the pink and blue fish on the cover fool you. This book has some twisted, creepy characters and gore filled scenes that may be unnerving to some readers. As a life-long King fan, I found it hard to put it down. To get maximum enjoyment of the book, I suggest starting at the beginning of the trilogy with Mr. Mercedes and continuing on into Finders Keepers before diving into End of Watch.

Reviewer's Name: Melanie
Shine
Myracle, Lauren
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shine by Lauren Myracle is a teen mystery book about a girl named Cat investigating the viscous assault of her old gay best friend, Patrick. She lives in a back country kind of town where everybody knows everybody, so the sheriff decides to blame the crime on outsiders to avoid causing any drama.
Cat knows this isn't really what happens so she takes matters into her own hands and interrogates all her friends and a few tweakers, aka meth addicts.
Overall, the book was very good. I enjoyed the mystery and the plot twist.
It was a page turner that made you want to keep reading without any breaks.
Although the author stayed true to the language of "redneck" people, I wasn't especially fond of it because it seemed uneducated. Otherwise, everything about this book was good. The main character is easy to relate to because she is a reader and a smart girl that stands up for her friends, but also admits her flaws. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Kayla B.
We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When I found this book, the title instantly spoke to me. I couldn't stop reading it from the first paragraph. It's powerful and quirky at the same time. There was never a sentence where I got distracted by the outside world, because the words drew me in, every second. I love this book.

Reviewer's Name: Zoe
Ithaca
Dillon, Patrick
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Ithaca is an Odyssey retelling, but told from the perspective of Odysseus' son, Telemachus. The first third of the book focuses on Telemachus' experiences on Ithaca up to the present day of the book. Odysseus has been gone for 16 years, and has been missing for eight, and other, strange men have started to live on Ithaca in hopes of becoming its new chief and marrying Penelope, Odysseus' wife. Telemachus eventually decides to take a journey to see Nestor on Pylos in order to find his father, and ends up travelling a little more extensively than he perhaps originally intended. In the next third of the book, we basically get the events of Odysseus' trip home from Troy as explained by Odysseus and a bard. The last third of the book follows Telmachus as he returns from his trip to find Odysseus, and then discovers that the man himself has come home.

The decision to retell the Odyssey from Telemachus' point of view was a great one, and it's those parts of the book that were, to me, the most successful. The book actually ends up being a great coming of age tale set against the backdrop of Greek mythology and culture. It made for an interesting read, and Telemachus' character and his relationship with his parents was flawed in a really genuine way. A+ for character development. However, the second third of the book, the sum up Odysseus' return journey bit, I could've done without. I read The Odyssey ages ago (in high school, like one does), but it's still enough of a pop culture reference (and yeah, I've read the Riordan books too, so that helps) that I knew the story already, and that part felt a little disjointed. I get why it was necessary, but ultimately, it harmed the narrative a bit. You are kind of pulled out of Telemachus' story to read the "best parts" version of Odysseus' journey, and it just felt rushed.

The Odysseus part aside, though, I really liked this book. I find myself liking it more and more the more I think about it. It's one of those books that stays with you for a while. If you are looking for a fantastical, gory, and ultimately very human coming of age tale, then this is for you. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Traitor
Pausewang, Gudrun
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For my review I read the book Traitor by Gunrun Pausewang. Traitor was set in Nazi Germany and is in the perspective of a young girl who hides a Russian who at the time was an enemy of Germany. In the beginning this book was not my favorite, but it grew on me so I kept reading. The one thing I did not like about this book was the ending because it was really sad. I also liked the ending because it was new and most books have happy endings, but it was still really sad and I wish the book had not ended that way.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Awards:
Bizenghast
LeGrow, M. Alice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book I read for my review was the book Bizenghast by M. Alice LeGrow. This book is about a young girl and boy who stumble across a mysterious graveyard. The girl accidentally signed a contract that made it so she sold her soul to the graveyard. The only way to free her soul from the contract is to free all the ghosts stuck on earth. This book is amazing and one of the best manga I have read so far.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Psyren Vol. 1
Iwashiro, Toshiaki
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For my review I read the book Psyren by Toshiaki Iwashiro. Psyren is about a young high schooler who finds a mysterious phone card. This card makes it so you are part of the Psyren game, and you must find the gate to get back to your world. In the beginning of this book I did not like it. I found it boring, but in the end I fell in love with it. I like that the main character is really nice and will actually help anyone in need.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Shinobi Life. Vol. 1
Conami, Shoko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For my review I read the book Shinobi Life by Shoko Conami. This book is about a young girl who wants to die, but a boy her age saves her and she changes her mind. This boy is a ninja from the past who stumbles into the future. The girl falls for him, but he cannot fall for her. I really loved how funny and serious this book is.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Shinobi Life. Vol. 2
Conami, Shoko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For my review I read the second book of the Shinobi Life series. In this book you find out that Kagetora and Beni have both fallen for each other. Sandy thought something stands in their way. Beni's father has already had an arranged marriage planned for her making Kagetora and Beni's love forbidden. I really loved this book, my favorite part about it is how Kagetora is so protective over Beni.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name: Paige C.
Night
Wiesel, Elie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’ve always loved learning about the holocaust and people’s stories. Elie Wiesel's story is the best one I’ve heard yet. He puts so much emotion into his story and his writing and it makes you feel like you’re in the holocaust. Elie starts his story off by talking about his religion and the church he went to. His instructor, Moshe the Beadle had been gone for so long, and when he returned he had a story of a near death experience with the Nazi's. Of course, no one believed his “story” and they carried on with their lives as normal. One night they got real news that the Nazi's were coming the next morning and that’s when everything bad started happening.
All the walking, traveling, and suffering he went through was very interesting to read. My teacher read this book to the whole class in 8th grade and I instantly fell in love with it.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Layla P.
Awards:
An Abundance of Katherines
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I've always loved John Green's books and "An Abundance of Katherines" is no different. Colin Singleton just graduated from high school when his 19th Katherine dumped him. Once Hassan, Colin's best friend finds out, they decide to go on a road trip to get Colin's mind off of things. They make a few pit stops until they reach Gutshot, TN where Hassan point out the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. When they get out of the car to see it, they met someone, who will change the entire road trip. This book was filled with surprise after surprise and every chapter left you wanting more. This book was definitely one of my favorites.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Layla P.
A Wrinkle in Time
L'Engle, Madeleine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A Wrinkle in Time is an interesting story about three children, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, who go on a perilous journey to rescue Meg's father. He had been missing for a very long time, and Meg was just starting to lose hope. However, in the middle of a dark, stormy night, an old tramp invites herself in and tells the children the truth about his disappearance and the shocking truth about where he had gone. Now Meg and her friends must travel across universes, planets, and even time to rescue her father before it is too late. Will they succeed in saving her father or will they suffer a terrible fate instead? Find out by reading A Wrinkle In Time. It is a very good book.
Review Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Nicole B.
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
Novak, B.J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ever wonder what your grandmother might be up to in heaven? Or maybe why it is that there are some people who just give the best advice? BJ Novak, writer and star of The Office, explores these topics and much more in his refreshingly hilarious One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. Tales run the gamut of the absurd to the seemingly mundane: from a peek inside a blind date with a warlord, to a boy who is not allowed to eat sugary name-brand cereals. Each story is almost like two sides of the same coin, all at once being achingly funny and heartbreakingly human. The collection, while as a whole is mostly always humorous, ebbs and flows with a sincerity that demonstrates Novak’s keen ability to not only write about human emotion, but to make the reader feel it as well. One More Thing shows that Novak’s writing is intelligent, his command of language sharp and his wry humor at its best.

Reviewer's Name: Heidi

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