All Book Reviews
Earlier this year, I read If I Was Your Girl, and it is one of the most timely books I have ever encountered. Meredith Russo’s tale of a young girl moving to a new town is so much more than your standard teen romance.
Amanda just moved to Lambertville, a small Tennessee town where the big events are high school football games and church socials. She’s nervous about getting a fresh start for her senior year of high school, but she quickly makes a handful of friends. However, she’s hiding two big secrets. One, she attempted suicide while she was at her old school. Two, Amanda is transgender. Amanda is not expecting to fall in love, but encountering Grant, a young man with secrets of his own, leaves them both struggling to be honest with each other.
Amanda’s parents are separated, and she moves from a larger city where she lived with her mother to a small town where her father is still coming to terms with his daughter’s identity. If I Was Your Girl tells Amanda’s story almost flawlessly, interweaving flashbacks to her old life and helping the reader understand Amanda’s reasons for transitioning and her acceptance in her new home. Meredith Russo blends some of her own life experiences into Amanda. As readers, we’re shown an incredibly deep look. We see the psychological effects, glimpses into the recovery from the surgical procedures, and her experiences with a local support group prior to the move.
As has been mentioned in many reviews of this book, If I Was Your Girl covers a fairly easy take on transition. Amanda knows from a young age who she is, and has no trouble covering the costs of hormone therapy and various surgeries while she is still young. It’s an idealized version of transition, and it is important to note that this is currently quite rare in reality (I personally was waiting for tragedy to strike throughout my read, because everything seemed to be going too well). This is also noted by the author. “I’m worried that you might take Amanda’s story as gospel, especially since it comes from a trans woman. This prospect terrifies me, actually! I am a storyteller, not an educator. I have taken liberties with what I know reality to be.” However, this does not diminish the importance of a book by a transgender author, starring a transgender character, and featuring a transgender model on the cover in a year when transphobia is at a terrifying high.
All in all, I loved this book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a much-needed beacon of hope in what has been a very dark year for LGBT+ folks around the country.
I read this book twice! I made a one-month trip to Japan, and this book had come up when I was looking for guidebooks about Tokyo. Once I started reading, I could read through it in several hours. The author is from France and lived in Tokyo for half a year. He describes what he experienced in colorful illustrations with animated characters. His observations were very keen in details, and location spots marked by the major train routes and police stations will let you know that Tokyo would be a fun and safe (and curious) place to visit. After my trip I checked it out again to assimilate my experiences. It was great to review my memories there. Thank you, author!
I have to admit, I chose to read this book based on the title alone! I liked the title and I loved the book. Classic chick-lit. The main character of the book is the LBD (Little Black Dress) of the season. The dress that every woman, no matter her age or size, wants! The dress affects the lives of not only the nine women, but a few men too! If you are looking for an easy read, this book is for you! It made me laugh and smile. A fun read! I can't wait for Jane L. Rosen's next book.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore is not a new book (2008), and I found it quite by accident. It was one of those books whose title intrigued me and front cover graphic caught my eye. It looked like a Fannie Flagg book, so it had to be good, right? I was not disappointed.
This is the coming of age story following Catherine Grace Cline, born and raised in a small, rural town in Georgia in the early 1970’s. A spunky kid with a great sense of humor, Catherine Grace spends her Saturdays at the local Dairy Queen, contemplating ways to escape her small-town and move to Atlanta to reinvent herself. When she is old enough, has graduated high school, and with the help of a close buddy, she finally leaves family, friends, and her boyfriend behind and does make it to the big city. She’s in her element now. However, before things really take off in the city, and much to her dismay, she must soon return to the old homestead when tragedy strikes the family. Once back and over time, Catherine Grace comes to realize maybe her small town life is not so bad after all.
Characters in the book bring out the best and worst in Catherine Grace and are vital to the story. They offer words of Southern wisdom to this dreamer and help her through the good times and bad. These characters include a younger sister (Martha Ann), her Baptist preacher father, a once-close friend of her mother’s (Gloria), and her boyfriend (Hank).
If you’re looking for an action-packed, fast moving story, this is not the book for you. Like its Southern setting, this is a story that must be soaked up with leisure while lying on the lawn being warmed by the late afternoon sun with a glass of wine in hand. Enjoy!
All humans are different: some are talented, some are smart, and some are just successful, but some are not any of those. But why? Malcolm Gladwell sets out to determine why some people are successful and why some are not and also what factor do all these “celebrities” have in common. Most of us believe it's sheer talent and determination that makes someone successful, which is true since you need to be talented and have strong work-ethic, but Gladwell proposes another theory: when you are born. Your birthday apparently determines whether you are successful in your career and even your life, according to Gladwell. It may sound crazy, but the evidence is undeniable and Gladwell’s explanations are truly phenomenal and well-thought out. However, there's more than that: Gladwell reviews the life of geniuses such as Bill Gates, Bill Joy, and Chris Langan and determines why those people are classified as “geniuses,” he explains that a lot about becoming successful isn’t talent or IQ, but it’s the coincidental opportunities you get at, somehow, the perfect time. I love this book and Gladwell obviously did his research, I recommend this book to all readers since everyone is an outlier.
Reviewer Grade: 11
Chris Kyle was nothing more than a simple Texan man who loved hunting and rodeos. All that changed in 1999 when Chris signed up for the Navy SEALs and began BUD/s training. From that moment on, Chris Kyle vowed to protect and fight for his nation, even putting country before family. American Sniper is an autobiography written by Kyle himself, as he talks about his childhood, life before, and after becoming a SEAL. He records life on the battlefield of Fallujah and Ramadi, but also the relations he had with his teammates, both alive and deceased. Kyle is acknowledged to be one of the deadliest snipers’ in American History with a count of 160 confirmed kills. This is one of the most well-written and amazing novels I have ever read and for anyone who didn’t know, Chris Kyle was killed on February 2, 2013 on U.S soil by a former marine, which makes this book all the more honorable and, for lack of a better word, sad. When reading this, you can actually know what the life of a SEAL, or even a militant at that, was like but also that Chris Kyle was an amazing man who gave so much for so little.
Reviewer Grade: 11
This is an epic love story that spans, not only generations in Australia, but follows them around the world. Yes, it was made into a mini-series in the 1983 (worth watching), but you would be doing yourself a disservice if that is your only exposure to The Thorn Birds.
This is another telling of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". This story follows the trails and tribulations of the famed courtship from the point of view of Mr. Darcy and his cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam. Fans of "Pride and Prejudice" will enjoy receiving more insight into the classic romance.
At only a smidgen under two-hundred pages, this book appeared to be a concise and quick read. Surprisingly, my experience was quite the opposite. The War of The Worlds presents a typical scenario that many novels have sadly claimed. The initial third is gripping and chocked full of descriptors and entertainment; the second third is nearly pointless to the main plot; the concluding third wraps the story up, leaving enough aspects unresolved for the imagination to expand upon, but doesn't carry on the initial third's promise. Thus, leaving the reader confused and with a feeling of wasted time.
After reading the beginning chapters a sense of urgency becomes the overlying theme. Peril soon engulfs the novel's setting as its characters realize the grave situation. The Author takes his time here by writing pages of description to meticulously set the scene. The story progresses to a small climax at the end of this third, which casts a shadow of high expectation on the other two thirds. This initial third is a marvel of a opener that brings honor to the class of classic English-literature.
If paper could speak to its reader it'd ask that they'd grip their new-found excitement and trudge through the muck. The majority of this third's viewpoint comes from that of a flat secondary-character with little importance to the story. This characters presence only delayed the objectives that the first chapter created. Their travels were hectic; slightly smile inducing at times. Taking this character shift seriously was difficult as the pages grew thinner and crucial answers were yet to be disclosed. The author even goes as far as giving a figurative apology for sidetracking the reader at this third's close; H. G. Wells' canny sense of humor makes an unexpected appearance here.
After hope for the story as-a-whole was drained, Wells restored the glorious successes of the initial third, but not fully. Excitement and intensity were brought back as the conclusion drew nearer. The story abruptly shifted to the round, main-character, again; swapping character who're in different settings is usually abrupt, so this isn't a true issue. This character goes on to see the conclusion, which wraps up most of the events and questions that the previous content created.
I didn't find this novel to be terrible or great. It proved to me that it's a mediocre work glossed with wild literary technique and vocabulary. Wells' persistence use of over description dimmed the natural flow and appeal of his writing. There's little reason to use half a page or more to describe minute details. It would have been better if he spent the time to detail the larger picture, rather than tiny scenes. Character development was superb at first, but fell flat due to the second third's character shift. If the second third was omitted in its entirety and, then rewritten without the secondary-character's perspective the novel would be vastly improved. Wells wasn't an illiterate fellow with corn for brains. His derailing of the story added multiple perspectives and was most likely an attempt to add another dynamic. The incessant over-descripting showcased his incredible vocabulary while portraying him as an over confident writer. Paying closer attention to the plot and character development will lead to a better story than any amount of impressive vocabulary ever could. It's clear that H. G. Wells is a gifted and skilled writer, but this certainly isn't a jewel.
Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a hybrid human/monster called an "Arcanic", as she tries to free fellow Arcanics from human cruelty and avenge her mother's death at the hands of a powerful group of human witches. Oh yeah, and Maika herself keeps turning (at least partially) into an old-world style monster that kills almost everything in its sight, regardless of whether they are friend and foe. As we follow Maika in her quest for revenge, we get flashbacks that inform us of her motivations and murky past.
This was definitely one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.
Maika is a layered anti-hero with a disability (she's missing an arm). I liked her more and more the more I learned about her. She's not shy about killing people, though, hence the anti-hero label. In fact, she's probably more of a villain than an anti-hero, but that really only added to the story for me. I mean, this title earns its "M" rating. It's very very bloody. Maika does not do nice things to her enemies.
The art was GORGEOUS. SO PRETTY. I'm fairly new to graphic novels, but this just might be the best art that I've seen. The cover is actually relatively simple compared to the insanely intricate steampunk/art deco panels on the inside. Art lovers, check this book out for the artwork alone (but be prepared for a rather gory experience).
So even though I very obviously loved this title, it was not perfect. Like in many graphic novels, there is little by way of introduction to the characters, and you are just thrown right into the story with background info being filled in later. Because the world-building was so complex, I found myself having to read certain parts several times (or having to revisit prior pages/storylines). This could just be a me thing because I have this problem in a lot of graphic novels, but I also found some of the action scenes to be incomprehensible.
I can't believe I almost forgot this amazing detail, but there are talking cats. You know what makes almost every story better? A talking cat.
This was definitely an excellent read. Graphic novel fantasy lovers, you would be remiss to not check this book out (but stay away if you don't like blood). 4 stars.
Julia Navarro is a fine author whose books I have enjoyed. This book is a complete departure from her other novels. It is good and well written and she has the knack of keeping the many characters who move in and out of the story fresh in your mind. The prime character Thomas Spencer is a sociopath and appears on just about every page in the book. The book is over 800 pages long and details how a sociopath deals with people in his life and it starts with childhood and continues to well into adult life. It is intriguing how the author attempts to convey what a life a person with such a devastating personal disorder must be like. A method she uses throughout the book is to have Spencer explain to the reader what he is really thinking as opposed to what he is doing. I found those parts of the book informative when trying to understand the mind of a sociopath. All in all a fine although lengthy read.
A Monster Calls is an award winning, simple, easy to read book about a very complicated, emotional issue. A young boy, Conor, faces the stark reality of his mother’s terminal illness. He has been suffering from a recurring nightmare and suddenly a new dream-like monster comes to him to see him through this upheaval. It is a short book that will have you emotionally tied up in knots written for young adults, but applicable to all people that are dealing with loss, closure and guilt. Conor’s internal struggle vividly comes to life in the form of the monster in this book. If you’re looking for a quick read that will pull you in and hold you, this is the book for you.
This book is the second in the Steelheart series, and it is a great story. It has fantastic characters, great descriptions of locations, and a bunch of plot twists that keep you on your feet. The plot may be confusing at times, but it all makes sense in the end. There are plenty of details that make an appearance in the next book too! Overall, I think this is a very good book.
When I started this book I could not understand why it had been banned. It seemed so innocuous. I only read it because it was in the free pile where I work. I looked it up and it was for violence, language, and an unpatriotic view of the Revolutionary War. Fair enough. It is violent and unpatriotic for sure, which is why I liked it. It's also a very good story and is about as accurate an account of the Revolutionary War era as can be reasonably expected from a work of fiction for young people.
I skimmed the parts of this book that didn't apply to me. But stretching and relaxing before practice and performances, thorough memorizing as a tool to help you quickly recover when you make a mistake, finding something to love in each tune (even those you don't love - I'm looking at you, Loch Carron), and recognizing the bravery of performance and competitions resonated with me. A good read.
For my Review I read the second book in the Benzenghast by Alice LeGrow. This book was just as good as the first one, maybe even better. In this on Dinah and Vincent are still trying to free all the ghosts with the help of Edaniel the tower god. During this time Vincent falls ill. What I liked most about this book was that it shows you what it is like when someone keeps blaming themselves for something that is not their fault.
For my review I read Writing on the Wall byWendy Lichtman. It is about a young girl and how she uses math in life. There is a little mystery though. There was a fire in one of the class rooms and someone thinks it was Arson. Instead of telling anyone they write it in an obvious place in code. I really liked how creative the author got with this book.
I really enjoyed reading this book that is part of the popular series. The pace is fast, which I like. I traveled to Japan in August of last year, so I remember some of the places the book talks about. The Samurai culture is very interesting to me and readers will enjoy it. This story has it all, history, geography, international travel and an interesting ending.
Reviewer Grade: 7
This enjoyable story about Danny Dragonbreath is a good read. Danny has to deal with bullying, but he makes it through. His trusty friend Wendell is a classic. You will enjoy the pirate ship, the amphibians and the deep sea creatures. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Reviewer Grade: 7
This book was very fun to read, it left you on the edge of your seat. It is a fairly short book. The story line has a fast pace. I would recommend this book to a more advanced reader. It is a riveting survival story centered in the Canadian wilderness.This book is now one of my favorites.
Reviewer Grade: 7