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All Book Reviews

Wild Born
Mull, Brandon
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Every year in different countries in Erdas, children of the age of ~12 get a chance to call a spirit animal - an animals that will be attached to them forever, and gives them the chance to join a group of folks called the "green cloaks" who use their spirit animals to protect Erdas from threats: especially the conquerors. Our four protagonists all call spirit animals - but they aren't just any spirit animals. They are four of the fallen: spirit animals that helped the green cloaks during the last time the conquerors threatened Erdas. As the conquerors begin to attack Erdas anew, the four children must pick a side and learn to fight.

This was quite fun! It was a little generic, and the writing was a little simple, but hey, this IS a book for middle grade readers. I listened to it as I was running, and I've continued listening to the series on long runs as it is easy to follow even when you zone out, its extremely entertaining and at times it manages to be quite clever. It also seems like no one side (green cloaks vs. conquerors) is completely good or evil, and I appreciate that kind of complexity.

Is your family going on a road trip this summer? This would be a great choice to listen to, as I would think the material would be appropriate for all ages. The narration, while not fantastic, is perfectly serviceable. If you want a great middle grade series for your kids, this could be the perfect one to start them with - the entire series has been published, and there are like 10 books in it, so it should keep them busy for a while. That, and it's pretty captivating from the start. Or hey, if, like me, you like to listen to books on long runs, this series is perfect for that sort of thing.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Doon
Corp, Carey
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Doon is a romantic fantasy with heart breaking scenarios between lovers and friends. There is a lot of magic throughout the story. In Doon, the stakes are set high because an evil witch wants to take over. I love that the book was so unpredictable. I couldn’t put the book down.
Actual Rating: 3.5
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn B.
Genres:
Neverseen
Messenger, Shannon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the fourth book in the series so it is continuation of Sophie’s story of her fight against a group called Neverseen. They have tried to kill her several times because they view her as a threat. They run to her creator, Black Swan, for help. This is a book of rebellion, betrayal, and Elfin drama. This is a fictional story that is unpredictable and fascinating. It is one of my favorite stories.
Actual Rating: 4.5
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn B.
Finding Audrey
Kinsella, Sophie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Finding Audrey is a heartfelt and touching story on a girl recovering from depression. The story is unpredictable at times. The author left out key details on what caused the character to become depressed. This book was not my favorite because it was not relatable to my life.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn B.
The Hidden Oracle
Riordan, Rick
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Trials of Apollo is a view of a Greek god turned human. This book is written by Rick Riordan the writer of The Percy Jackson series. This is a fresh new twist on Greek mythology with new characters, slang, and a threat lurking behind a innocents face. This is a very entertaining book on betrayal, friendship, and family. I enjoyed the classic characters and the new ones too.
Actual Rating: 3.5
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn B.
Better off Friends
Eulberg, Elizabeth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Better Off Friends is a realistic fiction about two best friends, a girl named Macallan and a boy named Levi. This is a dramatic story on falling in love with your best friend. I believe that this is the best book I read this year. Though this story was a little predictable it was a fascinating story. This book was written by the wonderful Elizebeth Eulberg. She has written lots of romance novels.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn B.
The Scorpion Rules
Bow, Erin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Greta Stuart has been a hostage for most of her life. Well, technically, she's one of the "children of peace". You see, long ago, after the world was ravaged by the effects of global warming, an AI named Talis put himself in control, and decided to almost completely eradicate war by having the leader of each country turn over their heir to be a "child of peace" until the child reached the age of 18. Should that country go to war, the child will be killed. Greta's nation, the Pan Pols (Canada) are about to go to war over water, and Greta knows that her death is imminent.

This book is hard to explain. Basically, the world-building is pretty detailed, but not without some holes (many of which are explained by the end of the book), and most of the first half of the book was spent explaining the world that Greta and her fellow hostages lived in. Also, Greta is the proverbial ice princess - she is fairly stoic, even in her own head, and so I didn't think she was very likable for the first half of the book.

However, as the book progresses, Greta really comes into her own. Her stoicism and propriety have given her a certain amount of power in regards to the fellow children of peace, and it's really fun to see her step up and wield that power. And then, stuff goes terribly, horribly wrong, and the pacing and intrigue of the story really pick up.

I'd give the first half of the book 2 stars, and the second half 5. So, over all, like a 3.5 or something. By the end, I was loving it. If you like really complex dystopian novels (this is more like 1984 than Divergent), then this one is not to be missed.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures
Fadiman, Anne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An insightful look at intercultural conflicts in the medical field. This book follows the case of a young Hmong girl named Lia Lee, the daughter of refugees, who presented with epilepsy in her infancy. The author, Anne Fadiman, follows both the parents and the doctors involved in the case, interviewing the key parties and untangling the miscommunication that led to Lia’s eventual brain death. The author is respectful to both sides and manages to explore the conflict that arises over the medical care without placing blame, instead asking what both sides viewed as good medicine, what they hoped to accomplish, and why they were unable to communicate their ideas to one another and agree on how to handle Lia’s treatment. The edition I read also had a helpful afterword in which the author updated readers on where the people she interviewed are now, some 20 years later, and how the hospital in Merced (and other hospitals throughout the country) are starting to change how they train their staff to interact with a multicultural community that might have very different ideas about what good medical care looks like. This book always makes top non-fiction lists, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it I can say that for me it lived up to the hype.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
The Crooked House
Kent, Christobel
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

This was a very disappointing read. The novel follows Alison, who was the sole survivor of the massacre of her family when she was a teenager. She has since moved to London, changed her name, and tried to put her past behind her, but a wedding invitation from her boyfriend’s ex draws her back to the community she thought she’d left behind. The book came well-recommended, and I went into it expecting a better story than the one I got. This was sold to me as a psychological thriller that follows Alison’s attempt to investigate the massacre, which had been treated as a murder-suicide committed by her father. Unfortunately, the characterization was clumsy, the writing was poor, and the ending, without spoiling anything, was badly explained and unsatisfying. I came to hate every character in the book, and by the end of it I was reading out of a sense of obligation rather than any actual interest in the plot (if you’re paying any attention, you’ll figure the ‘mystery’ out an agonizingly long time before our oblivious protagonist catches on).

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
On Such a Full Sea
Lee, Chang-Rae
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

On Such a Full Sea opens in a futuristic Baltimore (“B-Mor”). The protagonist, Fan, is the descendant of refugees from a Chinese city whose population was transplanted to America to work in fisheries after the complete environmental collapse of their homeland. The US at this time is in crisis, with limited resources divided unevenly among the heavily stratified classes. There’s a very rare chance for children to be “promoted” into the upper classes via a national exam, as indeed Fan’s brother was, but most of the country lives in labor colonies and has their career set at birth -- in the government-controlled regions, that is. Outside the carefully controlled urban production centers, there’s nothing but lawless wilderness across most of the country (the so-called “open counties”).
The plot kicks off when Fan’s boyfriend (and father of her unborn child) goes missing -- possibly taken by government officials -- and she sets out into the wild open counties outside of B-Mor to search for him, encountering a bizarre, violent world. Fan is a bit flat -- in fact, nearly all of the characters are -- but what really stood out was the way the story was narrated. It’s told not from Fan’s perspective but from the point of view of the community back in B-Mor, always speaking as “we”. The narrator relates to us the legend that has grown up around Fan since her escape, speculating on what it was about her and this incident that sparked so much fascination -- and briefly protest -- in an otherwise defeated community. What we “learn” about Fan’s adventures is thus largely a compilation of the stories that have grown up around her since she left B-Mor. Her characterization makes a bit more sense when you think of her as a folk hero, but some readers may dislike the lack of insight into what she’s thinking or feeling. We move back and forth between events in B-Mor and episodes in Fan's search for her boyfriend, which (despite the weaknesses I mentioned) were inventive and compelling.
It’s not an entirely original setting, and the narration style was a bit (okay, a lot) off-putting at first, but the writing itself was beautiful and I ended up enjoying it much more than I had expected. If you like dystopian fiction, I’d recommend giving this book a try.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Awards:
Genres:
A Brief History of Seven Killings
James, Marlon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A very heavy, difficult book to get through, in part because it was written in dialect, which always takes some getting used to, but largely because it was so relentlessly depressing that I couldn’t read it for too long of a stretch. A Brief History of Seven Killings tells the fictionalized story of the (factual) 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley, referred to throughout simply as “The Singer”. Told from a staggering number of different perspectives, ranging from the young would-be assassins themselves, to the unemployed daughter of a middle-class family pretending to be pregnant with Marley’s child in an attempt to get out of the country, to a CIA agent assigned to keep communism from spreading to Jamaica, it’s a grueling, violent read, but there’s a lot worth hearing. The story begins with the assassination attempt, then jumps forward to sections set in the 1980s and 1990s, with close attention to Jamaica’s changing political scene and the lasting mark that violence leaves on the characters. The writing is strong and Marlon James does an excellent job juggling the huge cast (though if you’re like me you’ll probably have to refer back to the character list provided at the beginning of the book at least a few times). I don’t know if “enjoyed” is the right word, but I felt like I got a lot out of it, and it was certainly a deserving winner of the Man Booker Prize. I will say that the word “brief” in the title is a bit of a stretch -- it weighs in at 688 pages. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Book Review: Guilty Wives
Patterson, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I started out highly annoyed by this book. It seemed so formulaic. But then the main character took off running, so to say. I found myself riveted by her ability to survive, stay true to herself, and uncover the truth. But then I ended up annoyed again by the formulaic ending. It was the opposite of a crap sandwich.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: East of Denver
Hill, Gregory
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I can relate to the subject matter of this book as I live in Colorado and my dad has dementia. I fully enjoyed the storyline and the writing style. The characters and situations were realistically portrayed and the subject matter was not in any way sugar coated. I actually expected it to be more of a heartwarming tale of a small town pulling together to help the main character and his father. But that's not how this book rolls, and I'm glad for it. But the part of me that needed a happy ending gives this book 4 stars instead of 5.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Genres:
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Verne, Jules
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Journey To The Center Of The Earth is a wonderful book. In it, the main characters Axel and his uncle find a mysterious message in a book saying that if you descend into the crater of Sneffels before the kalends of July, you will find a passage to the center of the earth. Putting aside all hesitations, they begin their journey and explore the depths of the earth.
Will their journey succeed or will they die in vain? Find out by reading this book. You will not be disappointed! The only bad part is that it's a bit unrealistic. Overall, this is a great book.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Nicole B.
The Maze Runner
Dashner, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I had originally picked this book to read because the movie is very popular.
I thought that the book would live up to the hype the movie had. It wasn't a bad book by any means, I was just expecting more. Most of the parts were predictable, but there were one or two things that weren't. It had fairly easy vocabulary considering how long the book was. I felt that this book was more geared toward guys with its derogatory terms like "klunk"(poop).
Overall, this is an average dystopian book.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Mikayla B.
Mr. Splitfoot
Hunt, Samantha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

20-something-year-old Cora is dissatisfied with her life. She’s bored of her office job, she still lives with her mother, and she’s just found out that her tumultuous affair with an older, married man has left her pregnant -- and he’s not as enthusiastic about the child as she is (to understate the matter). Then her long-missing Aunt Ruth shows up at her house, mysteriously mute, and draws her into an epic cross-country journey on foot. Chapters alternate between the present, as told by Cora, and the past, as told by Ruth, detailing her childhood with her adopted brother in an orphanage run by an abusive religious cult, their career pretending to channel the dead, and the long road that led her to her niece’s door a decade later. There’s an eerie, supernatural tone throughout the book, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a horror story, and I thought it was a surprisingly tender, thoughtful look at family and finding one’s place in the world. I stumbled across this book by chance and I was glad I picked it up. It’s a quick read with admittedly little in the way of action that nonetheless managed to keep me turning pages like it was a thriller.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is incredibly human and moving. I had to read it for school but I really enjoyed it and fell in love with most of the characters (except Connie who left his wife). If you have the time, just sit back and enjoy it.

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn
Genres:
Uprooted
Novik, Naomi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is incredible. It has fascinating characters and a plot that will keep you guessing. My only thing with this book is that there are two inappropriate parts that I was not at all expecting. You can easily see them coming and skip them and if you skip them it does not affect your understanding of the plot or anything. Just skip them, especially younger readers. I have read the Temeraire series (which is the best series in existence) by Naomi Novik and it did not have a single inappropriate part so this surprised me in the novel; however, you should still read this book. After you've read it, you will have forgiven the inappropriate parts (if you're like me and do not like inappropriate parts in books) and truly have enjoyed yourself. Then, when you are done read the Temeraire series because that is even better than Uprooted.

Reviewer's Name: Caitlyn
Awards:
Genres:
Highly Illogical Behavior
Whaley, John Corey
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the middle of school one day, Solomon Reed took off all of his clothes (save his boxer shorts) and climbed in the school fountain. He went home from school, and then he didn’t leave his house again for the next three years. But aside from the agoraphobia that led to crippling panic attacks, he was pretty happy.

Enter Lisa. Even though she hasn’t seen Solomon since the day he climbed in the fountain, she’s thought about him a lot. So when the opportunity to get a scholarship to the school of her dreams hinges upon an essay about her experience with someone with a mental illness, she decides she’s going to do whatever she has to to become part of Solomon’s life. But as she and her partner Clark become closer and closer friends with Solomon, she realizes that “fixing” Solomon may not be possible, or even something that she wants to do at all.

This is the second John Corey Whaley book I've read (Noggin being the other one), and his books will now be automatically put on my TBR list - he's funny, he has a simple and accessible way of writing, and he manages to pull at your heartstrings while usually making a really good point. I actually liked this one better than Noggin, which is saying something, because I quite enjoyed that read. The mental illness angle is a hugely interesting one, and Whaley doesn't fall into the same trap that some authors do in which their character is magically healed by the end of the book. Ultimately, this is a coming of age tale for Simon and Lisa, and it's a great one. The character development supersedes the plot, which is fine, but it's the reason that I didn't give the book 5 stars.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of any age who enjoy contemporary fiction, John Green or Sarah Dessen. 4 stars - I really really liked it (maybe that's 4.5 stars).

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
An Abundance of Katherines
Green, John
4 stars = Really Good
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 meet 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's Name: Layla
Awards:
Genres:

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