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Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: A Homemade Life
Wizenberg, Molly
3 stars = Pretty Good

Molly Wizenberg, creator of the popular blog, Orangette, has written an intriguing story of her life centered around the kitchen. No chapter is longer than 5 pages, followed by a recipe or two around which that chapter is written. I want to try them all - from Burg's (her father) Potato Salad to Fresh ginger cake with caramelized pears. I'm inclined to purchase this book .... for the recipes alone!

Vickie S.
Book Review: No Man's War
Ricketts, Angela
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book first interested me because the author's husband is still active duty Army, stationed here in Colorado Springs. The sub-title is "Irrevernt confessions of an Infantry wife." I wondered how she could get away with writing such a book, since military dependants are advised that anything said or done could reflect adversely on their sponsor's career. And yet, she writes candidly and humorously. I admired her insistence that she is an "Army brat," who grew up to become an "Army wife," not a "military spouse." The language gets rough in some chapters, but, as an "Air Force wife" myself, I had to keep reading, to see what she said next. Of course, all names have been changed to protect "the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and those who remain in The Fight." Ranger on!

Vickie S.
Book Review: Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good

As a cyborg--part human, part technology-- sixteen-year-old Cinder is the lowest of the low and an embarrassment to her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interface gives her the ability to tell when people are lying to her, and to access to a netlink with news, and manuals that help her be the best mechanic in New Beijing. Being the best mechanic comes in handy when the Prince needs his android repaired and this is how Cinder and Prince Kai meet. This story's contains elements familiar to the fairy tale: evil stepmother, prince, a small foot, and a ball; but the resemblance ends there and takes the story a million miles beyond the original tale. The story has one small flaw, but it is barely noticeable in this can't-wait-to-see-what-happens-next retelling.

Renee
Book Review: The Boy in the Suitcase
Kaaberbol, Lene
4 stars = Really Good

This was a book club book. It wouldn't have been on my radar otherwise. That's what I love about my book club, I often get to read good books I would otherwise miss. Which makes me think of how many other great books there are out there that I'll never get the chance to read. Anyways, this book was very good. I definitely recommend it. It takes place in Denmark and Lithuania so I was a bit confused on the geographical aspect, but that's my fault, not the book's. The author crafts an engaging storyline with well defined characters. This book is translated, so I bet it's even better in the original language, read by someone who knows the culture and geography.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Matched
Condie, Ally
3 stars = Pretty Good

This is a teen melodrama romance so there's a bit of navel gazing going on. It seemed to me that the main character tried too hard to be poetic, which was somewhat annoying. But it picks up towards the middle and becomes a more interesting. I plan to read the second in the series. If I were a teenage girl, I would probably give this book a higher rating, so apologies to the author.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Dirty Daddy
Saget, Bob
3 stars = Pretty Good

I laughed out loud a few times, so there's that. Sagat's dirty, of course, but he also has heart. It took me a little while to get into his mindset, but once I was there I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend listening on audio because he reads it, which is great.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Man's Search for Meaning
Frankl, Viktor
4 stars = Really Good

That something so important could come out of the holocaust is amazing. I can imagine Dr. Frankl studying and analyzing the psychology of survival in his head while a prisoner, and then finally writing and publishing his greatest achievement. Logotherapy is a sound explanation on the meaning of life. Great book.

Virginia
Book Review: Cleo: The Cat who Mended a Family
Brown, Helen
3 stars = Pretty Good

A kitten delivered to a family after a horrible tragedy helps them heal in ways they never would have imagined. The beginning is very sad and yet Cleo is such a wonderful addition to the family. The middle of the story sagged a bit for me, but then picked up at the end. Reminiscent of a feline Marley & Me.

Krista
Book Review: Real Santa
Hazelgrove, William
4 stars = Really Good

Very fun book about an unemployed father determined to keep his daughter's belief in Santa Claus alive. Through an increasingly complex (and expensive) scheme, we encounter wannabe directors, incontinent reindeer, and just a touch of magic. If you like zany but heartfelt holiday stories, pick this one up!

Krista
Book Review: Leaving Time
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Thirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf has lived with her grandmother, after her mother disappeared and her father is sent to a psychiatric ward a decade ago when a caretaker at their elephant sanctuary is trampled. Jenna keeps searching online and reading her mother's old journals in search of answers. Desperate, she turns to Serenity Jones, a psychic who had success in the past finding missing persons, and to Virgil Stanhope, a drunken private detective who had originally investigated Jenna's mother's disappearance. The ending caught me completely off guard. A great read!

Vickie
Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood
Blake, Kendare
4 stars = Really Good

Anna was sixteen and on her way to a school dance when she was killed. Someone cut her throat...someone nearly cut her head clean off! They say she was wearing a white party dress, and when they found her the whole thing was stained red. Anna Dressed in Blood is Scary, but you won't have to sleep with the lights on. Ghost hunter, Cas Lowood provides a witty perspective on ghosts, but the story keeps you wondering what happened to the end.

Renee
Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood
Blake, Kendare
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Such a great book to read around Halloween! It sucked me in from the very beginning, and I almost read it all in one sitting! (Adult responsibilities were the only thing keeping me from it!). Suspenseful, spooky, and fast-paced, this book has a great story, likable characters, and a mystery that will keep you guessing.

Highly recommend for those that love ghost stories! (may be a little too much for those that are easily frightened).

Becca
Book Review: Serafina's Stories
Anaya, Rudolfo
4 stars = Really Good

Serafina's Stories shares the folklore of the southwest through the story telling template of Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights. Rudolfo Anaya focuses on the time of the Pueblo revolt against the Spanish Conquistadores. The captured Serafina weaves tales from both Pueblo and Spanish tradition that illuminate the similarites and differences of the peoples struggling to coexist in the same land.

Maria
Book Review: The Watson's go to Birmingham - 1963
Curtis, Christopher Paul
4 stars = Really Good

This was a good book. The narrator was very entertaining and the weird Watsons were fun to get to know. The characters had some depth, especially the Byron character, and I think if this book had been an adult novel the characters could really have been explored. It's a kids chapter book and so it's not as fleshed out as it could be, but was enjoyable nonetheless. I would have liked to see a bit more focus on the events towards the end of the novel, but I can see that the purpose of focusing on Byron in the beginning was to show his growth toward the end.

vfranklyn
Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See
Doerr, Anthony
4 stars = Really Good

Set during World War II in France and Germany, this beautifully written novel tells story of a young blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a young German boy named Werner, whose paths cross only briefly in the story. For a time, we are caught up in the lives of these two sympathetic characters and the lives of those around them, caught up, like them, in the war itself.

Bill
Book Review: A Discovery of Witches
Harkness, Deborah E.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Normally I don't read fantasy, but a book store owner and PPLD patron recommend A Discovery of Witches to me. I loved it and the other 2 in the trilogy. Although it has vampires, witches and demons, it isn't the usual blood-sucker massacre. Without giving away the plot, witches, vampires and demons are all looking for The Book of Life to discover what in their genetic makeup makes them different from humans. It is very well written. It's an adult book, but older teens would like it, too.

Susan
Book Review: Gone Girl
Flynn, Gillian
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

AMAZING book. They say "never judge a book by its cover" but that's exactly what I did. I randomly selected this book based on the cover and it did not disappoint. It has been a long time since I have read a book that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. A great psychological thriller with a lot of unexpected twists and turns. I finished the book in one day! Since then, it has been brought to life on the big screen and is currently playing in theaters. I have not gone to watch the film yet, but it has also gotten great reviews. Of course, read the book first and then go see the movie.

Chantal
Book Review: Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft
Heyerdahl, Thor
4 stars = Really Good

I am embarrassed to admit that I had not heard of this book, expedition, or the theory behind it all, but I am glad I corrected that. Basically, Norwegian anthropologist/botonist/zoologist/other-titles-ending-in-ists Thor Heyerdahl, after living in Polynesia conducting graduate level research, hypothesized that the islands were populated by Peruvians from traveling from the east -- and not from peoples of Asia, which was the widely-accepted belief. The main argument against Heyerdahl's theory was that ancient Peruvians did not have boats -- they had balsa wood rafts. It was not believed that rafts could make a journey of that magnitude. To prove his theory, Heyerdahl built a craft using materials exactly like the ancient Peruvians (no metal -- nails. wire,etc) and set off on the 4000 mile journey with 5 other explorers and a parrot. It was so exciting -- read like a novel more than a nonfiction memoir. The only thing preventing me from giving it 5 stars is that I thought it was a bit "too happy." I am sure these men suffered on this journey (sunburn, salt sores, homesick, hunger, tired of being trapped on a small raft for 100 days, etc...) yet other than a brief mention of someone getting seasick, it sounded more like a summer camp experience. Still, I really liked it!

Laura
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Strayed, Cheryl
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Strayed's memoir of her hike from California to Oregon on the Pacific Coast Trail reads like a novel. She opens with a scene more than midway through the book and leaves the reader wondering how she'll overcome such a major obstacle, but that's pretty much how the whole book reads. Her younger self is unprepared for such a grueling hike, and makes mistakes and misjudgments the entire way, but that makes you root for her to make it (and makes you worry that something bad will happen before she does). She's a flawed character, struggling and imperfect, which makes the internal journey as fraught and interesting as the hike.

This is a great book for readers who enjoy biography and memoir, but fiction readers who enjoy stories of strong women in challenging situations will be drawn to the character. It is well-written by someone who knows how to draw the reader into their world.

Cindy
Book Review: The Climb
Bukreev, Anatoliĭ
4 stars = Really Good

A great read for those interested in Mt. Everest. While "Into Thin Air" is the classic book about the deadly 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest, there are some factual inaccuracies that Jon Krakauer neglected to correct. In "The Climb," Anatoli Boukreev tells the story of the deadly storm from his perspective, correcting some mistaken views of his actions during the climb. With the recent deaths and rising controversy about guided tours on Everest, "The Climb" provides a unique perspective on the topic.

Becca
Book Review: Real Murders
Harris, Charlaine
4 stars = Really Good

After reading all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, I decided to try another series by Charlaine Harris. Real Murders is the first book in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and I am hooked. The writing is fun to read and easy to get involved in. Harris has a way of creating characters that come to life on the pages. I would recommend this for anyone who just wants an enjoyable read.

Christy
Book Review: Orange is the New Black
Kerman, Piper
4 stars = Really Good

I would say I have a pretty large fascination/genuine interest in prison, the criminal justice system, and prison culture and I sincerely enjoyed reading Piper Kerman's book from cover to cover. Not only does she provide a detailed account of her experience in a federal women's prison, but she does so without catering exclusively to the gritty details and instead offers an in-depth experience for the reader.

Instead of feeling like you're reading a tragic soap opera of events, I finished this book feeling thoughtful and more than a little sad about America's prison system. One can't help but wonder about those still incarcerated, especially in the federal prison system, and wonder what we are really doing by warehousing humans the way we do.

While Piper doesn't attempt to guide the book into long diatribes against our prisons, she does make some very meaningful observations such as this one:
"Great institutions have leaders who are proud of what they do, and who engage with everyone who makes up those institutions, so each person understands their role. But our jailers are generally granted near-total anonymity, like the cartoon executioner who wears a hood to conceal his identity. What is the point, what is the reason, to lock people away for years, when it seems to mean so very little, even to the jailers who hold the key? How can a prisoner understand their punishment to have been worthwhile to anyone, when it's dealt in a way so offhand and indifferent?"

I hope this book can be more than a tastefully offensive miniseries and maybe a watershed to actual change.

Evan
Book Review: House of Sand and Fog
Dubus, Andre
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

By the time I finished this book I was numb. It is so beautifully written that you can't help but commit to it entirely. While the contents are far from pleasant, the characters are explored to such a degree of depth that the reader becomes entwined in the often confusing points of view shared by the protagonists.

Dubus seems to slip almost effortlessly between male and female characters with internal dialogue that is achingly realistic. After Kathy Nicolo loses the house she inherited from her father in a bureaucratic mistake, the house is snatched up at auction by a deposed Iranian Air Force Colonel. In the fight that ensues to recover (and retain) the house, it becomes apparent that the stakes are much higher than anyone ever imagined.

Just as sand shifts beneath our feet, the ground that holds us is often not as stable as it seems. Fog obscures the vision, preventing us from seeing things as clearly and clouding our judgment. The House of Sand and Fog combines those two elements in this dark and deeply moving story.

Evan
Book Review: Leaving Time
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Another amazing book by Jodi Picoult. Absolutely fantastic. Just.... wow.

p.s. I love books that make me want to learn more about a topic, and this book gave me a new awareness and appreciation for these amazing animals (elephants) and the people who care and advocate for them.

Krista
Book Review: Sweetshop of Dreams
Colgan, Jenny
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I just thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Light and sweet, but with enough substance to not make me gag. I happen to love clutzy protagonists, and Rosie got into enough scrapes to make me laugh out loud. Aunt Lilian's story kept the whole novel grounded for me, if it was a stand-alone novel, it would be quite depressing. In my opinion, their stories balanced each other to make a wonderful story. The supporting cast was great as well, I particularly loved when Edison came around!

Krista