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All Book Reviews

Small Steps
Sachar, Louis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Emily T.
Awards:
Eragon
Paolini, Christopher
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Andrew T.
Four
Roth, Veronica
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Eternal Ones
Miller, Kirsten
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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

Reviewer's Name: Nevaeh B.
Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation
Jobb, Dean
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
The Nest
Oppel, Kenneth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Newt's Emerald
Nix, Garth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Green River Killer: A True Detective Story
Jensen, Jeff
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Truthwitch
Dennard, Susan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More
DeConnick, Kelly Sue
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Red Queen
Aveyard, Victoria
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy
Cloonan, Becky
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Raven Boys
Stiefvater, Maggie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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.

or

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1
Bendis, Brian Michael
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
All American Boys
Reynolds, Jason
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: James and the Giant Peach
Dahl, Roald
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
A Study in Charlotte
Cavallaro, Brittany
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Cliff, Tony
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
A Court of Mist and Fury
Maas, Sarah J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

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.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here
Breslaw, Anna
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Scarlett Epstein writes fanfic for her favorite show, Lycanthrope High (think...Buffy. Or maybe Teen Wolf or something). But when Lycanthrope High is cancelled, Scarlett goes into a teensy tailspin, and tries to find value in new/exciting things.

My feelings about this one are very mixed. For the most part, I think that Scarlett is a very likable character. She's witty, sarcastic and feminist, but she does make inconsistent and sometimes bizarre decisions. For example, wants to get out of her small provincial town, but won't do a thing about it. She would constantly complain about how she was going to graduate high school
and be stuck working at Target or something, but then she got terrible grades out of what seemed to be laziness. No sympathy for ya there, girl. Her internal monologues were generally spot on and funny, and she's definitely the best part of the book. Aside from her bestie, Avery. I really liked Avery. Oh yeah, and her much older neighbor Ruth was freaking great. I loved Ruth.

The love interest was the woooooooorst, I had no idea what she saw in that jerk. It felt realistic though, I guess most of us probably date a few jerks in high school. And college. And post-college. Anyway, all parts featuring Gideon (her love interest) made me want to toss the book across the room.

Finally, the story is interspersed with Scarlett's fan fiction, which was...reaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllly bad. Like almost painful to read bad.

Oh, and there is a plot line involving Ruth which you see coming from like 293874832787 miles away and it ends up reading like an after school special.

Anyway, while this book had a TON of problems, it was saved by a (mostly) likable cast of characters and some really funny lines.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:

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