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All Book Reviews

The Secret Rooms
Bailey, Catherine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I really was intrigued by this book. It was promoted as a mystery and I love a good mystery. Especially a true-life mystery surrounding the death of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland. In the beginning I was very intrigued and couldn't put the book down. But after awhile, I just couldn't take it anymore. Catherine Bailey took an interesting piece of British history and some how turned it into a tedious, uninteresting story. Plus, she never really delivered on all of the mysteries she found surrounding John Manners. I think this book could have been much more interesting with A LOT of editing. I do admit, I did learn some interesting tidbits. Not enough for me to recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Awards:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Lockhart, E.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book didn't go the way I expected it to. I expected a light teen fiction read, but the storyline was meatier than your normal teen novel. The pranking doesn't get started until about 2/3 of the way through. The reason why she was doing it really wasn't laid out very clearly. I think I was a little disappointed overall.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids
Ricci, Mary Cay
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My daughter's teacher recommended this book. It focuses on what parents can do to help children succeed. It comes from a place that all children have tremendous potential for growth, not just ones identified as 'gifted'. The advice that I took to heart was to talk with Zoe about how her brain works, how it gets stronger when she works hard and challenges herself. How difficult work is worth the effort and setbacks and failures are necessary for growth. I learned a lot and highly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
The Raven Boys
Stiefvater, Maggie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Blue Sargent has unusual name, but she is an unusual girl. She lives in the small town of Henrietta, in a house filled with psychics, including her mother. Ever since she can remember she has been told that she if she kisses her true love he will die. Up until now Blue has tried to stay away from boys, especially the preppy rich ones that go to the boarding school in town. But when she gets involved with four boys from the Aglionby School who are searching for the burial site of a mythical Welsh king, Blue’s plans go out the window. As the hunt for the grave becomes more dangerous (ghosts and Latin speaking trees included), so too does Blue’s relationship with one of the boys named Gansey. Will Blue be able to be part of the quest without killing one of the Raven boys?

The Raven Boys is a dark and gritty fantasy, which turns the ‘true love’s kiss’ cliché on its head. For anyone looking for a more modern take on the fantasy genre or are interested in the paranormal, this is the book for them.

Reviewer's Name: K. S.
The Demon King
Chima, Cinda Williams
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an amazing example of epic fantasy. The first book of the Seven Realms Series, The Demon King is a great start. Princess Raisa ana'Marianna is about to come of age in a time of high tensions. She aspires to be like her ancestor, the warrior queen, Hanalea, who saved the world by defeating the demon king. Her mother though, influenced by magical means, has another plan; a plan that could put the Grey Wolf line of queens at risk.
Hans Alister is a retired streetlord. He stopped living the life of crime a year ago to protect his family. He didn't know that when he started doing the right thing, he would put them in more danger than ever before. Told from two perspectives, this amazing novel combines action with romance and political intrigue. This book is set in a phenomenally developed world, with a complex culture and thought out political relationships. I would recommend this book to people that enjoy fantasy, as long as they like a fair amount of backstory and politics mixed in with the action.
Review Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Hailey K.
Awards:
Genres:
Story Thieves
Riley, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Owen, a young book-nerd, desperately wishes he could live inside his favorite series. Bethany, a half-fictional girl, is desperately searching for her missing father within fictional worlds, hopping from story to story. One day, Owen discovers Bethany's secret. He makes a deal - he helps her find her father, she allows him to enter his favorite book. But, as they discover, the worlds of fiction are much more dangerous than they appear on the page...
This book was so much fun! I loved every minute of it! Owen and Bethany are great characters that you root for. I also loved the various references to popular books, such as Harry Potter, Peter Pan, and Percy Jackson. If you enjoy fun and geeky adventure stories, this one is DEFINITELY for you!
Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Throne of Glass
Maas, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Celaena Sardothien was the most feared assassin in the country. She killed without mercy or remorse. When she was captured, she was sent to the salt mines of Endovier, a labor camp that few survived longer than a week.
Now, a year later, the crown prince needs a champion to participate in a competition. The winner will, after four years of service, be awarded their freedom. At first, all Celaena wants is to win, but as she begins to care again, she discovers that winning isn't the most important thing, and her competition may not be her most dangerous advisory. This book has amazing characters, and a plot that is sure to keep you reading. Like any epic fantasy, this book has a fair amount of backstory. That being said, this book is full of action, and a great read. I strongly recommend this to anyone that likes fantasy and doesn't mind a little romance.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Hailey K.
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.

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