Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: The Maid's Version
Woodrell, Daniel
3 stars = Pretty Good

I loved the way that Daniel Woodrell puts words together, his writing is so lyrical! That said, I had a hard time getting through this very slim book with the jumps in time and the amazingly large cast of characters. The story would have been a bit more enjoyable to me had it been linear, and without quite so many side stories of this small town.

Krista
Book Review: The Girl Who Came Home : A Novel of the Titanic
Gaynor, Hazel
4 stars = Really Good

Wavered between 3 1/2 and 4 stars on this one. I actually liked the end very much, and didn't know it was based on a true story, which made it much more poignant. I have read TONS of books about the Titanic over the years, both fiction and nonfiction, and this is one of the better novels, in my opinion.

Krista
Book Review: What She Left Behind
Wiseman, Ellen Marie
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Wow. This is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far. I highly enjoy books with dual storylines, but sometimes one story is much, much stronger than the other. I actually think these two stories of girls close to the same age but in very different time periods could have each stood fantastically on their own, and work even better together. Clara's story of being forcibly committed due to her falling in love with the "wrong" type of man was heartbreaking, and the look inside the psychiatric asylum of the early 1900s was truly painful. The author mentioned that the story came together after hearing about the Willard Suitcase Exhibit, and there is a book based on it - "The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic" by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny. Already have it on hold at the library - I am completely fascinated. Wonderful book.

Krista
Book Review: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street
Gilman, Susan Jane
4 stars = Really Good

I expected kind of a "fluff" book based on the cover, but this was anything but. For one, we go through the entire span of Lillian's life, from her and her family coming over from Russia when she was a child, up through her 70s. I do have to say I loved the main character - she was a tough woman! She was flawed, she was very stubborn, she drank too much and was incredibly angry at the world and suspicious of everyone (understandable when you read what she went through). But for all of that, I actually really liked her! I thought it would take me forever to get through this thick book, but I actually flew through it - I couldn't wait to see what she would come up with next!

Krista
Book Review: A Good Year for the Roses
McNeil, Gil
4 stars = Really Good

Gil McNeil has a way of creating characters that make you want to climb in their world and be their friends. I loved this kooky cast of characters, and enjoyed spending time with them! If you like this book, give her other book a try: The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club.

Krista
Book Review: The Painter
Heller, Peter
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Is Jim Stegner an artist with a violent streak? Or just a violent ex-con with a talent for art? In his second novel, Peter Heller explores this intriguing question with prose both lyrical and muscular. Stegner, a Santa Fe painter with a stint in prison for assault is struggling with deeply embedded grief over the murder of his daughter, Alce. In an attempt to assuage this grief, he flees the New Mexico art scene for a remote cabin in Paonia Colorado where he can paint and also indulge his passion for fly-fishing. Unfortunately, fishing leads him to a situation that explodes in violence that will cause him to question who he is and what he believes. Heller has created a memorable character and, with the first person narrative, never lets the reader lose sight of Stegner's humanity - even when he's engaged in activities more suited to the lawless Old West than the current civilized scene. A great sense of place (I grew up in Paonia, so I should know), and fascinating descriptions of the artistic process and the Santa Fe art world are added bonuses. This is literary writing with a capital L, but also a great suspenseful page-turner. My pick for next year's APPR book!

Alan
Book Review: How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous
Bragg, Georgia
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book is hilarious, clever, disgusting, educational, and all-around awesome! I read it during my lunch break at work which I don't recommend as the content is really gross. But seriously, read this awesome disgusting book!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Dress Your Best
Kelly, Clinton and London, Stacy
4 stars = Really Good

This was more of a 3.5 stars. It was very enlightening, but the clothes choices were pretty much way too dressy for my situation. I mean, a blazer for weekend wear? I live in Colorado. Jeans are the norm. But there was welcome advice on fit for my body type.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Truth About Style
London, Stacy
3 stars = Pretty Good

I'm not sure I got a lot out of this book. I did like that it had a list of stores in the back of the book that specialize in specific needs. I also liked Stacy's voice. It was warm and honest. It seemed like this book was aimed at city dwellers, which is fine. My style needs aren't that, though. Oh well, I'm still going to read her other book.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Hollow City
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good

The story of Miss Peregrine's children just keeps getting better! I enjoyed the first book, but Hollow City, in my opinion, was a more finely tuned and intense story. So many beautiful and unusual images, and I love how the characters continue to grow and reveal hidden aspects of themselves. I can't wait until the final book come out!

Cassie
Book Review: Let the Right One In
Ajvide Lindqvist, John
4 stars = Really Good

Though, it was a very rare situation that I actually preferred the film to the novel, this horror story was very well written and kept my interest the whole way through. Oskar is a 13 year old boy with very few friends and broken home. When along comes the mysterious Eli, who says she's been 13 years old for a very long time. It's unexpectedly touching, terrifying, and psychologically fascinating. I feel that it could've done with fewer chapters, however, focused more on the the primary characters.

Cassie
Book Review: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Gian
Gladwell, Malcolm
4 stars = Really Good

This book was very good. I learned a lot about the mindset and behaviors of the underdog and the necessity of power to promote legitimacy. My favorite part was about the Civil Rights movement and how the leaders used their underdog situation to it's full advantage. So interesting! However, the book ended very abruptly. I would have loved to have seen one more chapter that summed everything up. Oh well.

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

A friend came to the library looking for the third book in this trilogy. It doesn't come out until July 15, 2014. She told me that she really liked the series. I checked out A Discovery of Witches not knowing what to expect, but I love it! It's very well-written and the 579 pages read quickly. I don't want to spoil the plot for you, but there are witches, vampires and demons, lots of interesting history and a "political" (if you are a witch, demon or vampire) issue that make for a spell-binding story. Can't wait to read the second in the series.

Susan
Book Review: Love and Other Four-Letter Words
Mackler, Carolyn
3 stars = Pretty Good

The thing about teen books, especially 'chick-lit' style books, is they all seem to run together. As I was reading this book, I realized that somewhere in my hazy pre-baby past, I'd already read this book. I could just barely remember it. It was like having deja vu while reading. But still it was good, even for the second time around.

vfranklyn
Book Review: This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
Burnett, Carol
4 stars = Really Good

I listened to Carol Burnett read this on audio and it was very good. I didn't watch her show as it was before my time, but I liked hearing stories about her life in show business. Thumbs up, especially on audio.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Girls in White Dresses
Close, Jennifer
2 stars = Meh

This was the blandest book I've read in awhile. The characters and situations were so similar and uninteresting that they were basically interchangeable. By the end of the book I couldn't have told you which character did what. Nothing of interest happened in the entire book. The writing was good enough, but man, boring!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Murakami, Haruki
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Went into it with little expectation and came out of it with my mind completely blown. It left me pondering, wondering what would I do if somehow I was left with such a decision as the main character had to deal with. The narrator speaks from two different points of view, one from his ordinary life in Tokyo and the other from the End of the World. Murakami brilliantly brings it all together with beautiful imagery and such a down to earth voice.

Cassie
Book Review: Trafficked
Purcell, Kim
4 stars = Really Good

This was a really good book. Although it is considered teen fiction, it didn't really read that way. I was very impressed by the narrative. The protagonist is from Moldova and her voice is very authentic. The author obviously did her homework, particularly involving the different customs and dialects of the former Soviet Union and Moldova in particular. Crazy that stuff like this still happens in real life.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Hungry
Renn, Crystal
4 stars = Really Good

Crystal Renn's memoir is very powerful. Her description of her battle with anorexia is riveting and her realization that she was killing herself and her decision to become a plus size model was awesome. I love her positive body image. She encouraged me to find my 'set point' and love my body for what it is. Thanks Crystal!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Rock the Kasbah
Loerzel, Marie
4 stars = Really Good

Rock the Kasbah is an entertaining book written by a Colorado Springs local author. Marie and her family lived in Morocco. This book had me laughing out loud more than once. It is personal and touching and brutally honest. I highly recommend it. (p.s. It may not be for the faint of heart)

Jan
Book Review: The Next Best Thing
Weiner, Jennifer
3 stars = Pretty Good

This was a good book. It was unapologetically not great literature, just a fun, better than average example of chick lit. I enjoyed it. There. I admit it. I enjoy chick lit.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good

If you can suffer through the prose, the story is quite fascinating. Scott Card's psychological storyline is very interesting, and the ending was unexpected. It's worth trekking through the poor word choices and mucky muck of what is supposed to be "adult conversation" just to see how it all ends.

Cassie
The Martian
Weir, Andy
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Well, of course, since one of the Mars rovers plays a significant part in the story! Mark Watney is marooned on Mars, the victim of a violent sand storm that sent his astronaut colleagues scrambling back to Earth, convinced that he was dead. Now it's all about survival, getting back home, and not going crazy when the only music available is one of the other astronaut's disco collection! Mark is one resourceful guy - kind of a Macgyver on Mars - and he's pretty good with a one-liner as well. He'll need all his skills, because Mars is a very dangerous place. Most of the book is in the form of log entries and they can be kind of technical. Just go with the flow and enjoy the twists and turns. Weir is obviously very conversant with space jargon and procedures and has produced a really authentic description of what could be a fanciful situation. Here's hoping that someone who reads this will be inspired to actually take us there!

Alan
Book Review: Hollow City
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good

I liked this book better than book 1 (Mrs. Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children). It felt to me like book 1 was a prequel to this one. I'm glad there was some resolution with the main character's parents. I'll probably read the next installment. Definitely a cool idea to make a story out of found strange photos.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Find Momo
Knapp, Andrew
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

In each beautiful photograph, you can find Momo's sweet little face somewhere, sometimes in an obvious place, and sometimes you have to really search for him! Adorable little book - gorgeous photography as well!

Krista