Staff Book Reviews

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
Book Review: The Palace of Illusions
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee
4 stars = Really Good

This was a fascinating look at an Indian epic, which I do not know much about. Told from the point of view of a woman was a very clever way to put a new twist on a story! I wavered between 3 1/2 and 4 stars for this one, primarily due to the fact that I was occasionally completely confused as to who she was talking about at any given moment. Many of the names are very similar, and although she gave a short list in the front of the book, it did not come close to capturing all of the players in the epic. If I had to do it again, I'd probably make a cheat sheet bookmark of who everyone is!

However, it makes me want to learn more about the Mahabharata, which as I've always said is the mark of a good book!

Krista
Book Review: Rooms
Oliver, Lauren
4 stars = Really Good

Varied between 3 1/2 - 4 stars. I actually enjoyed the stories of the ghosts more than the Walkers. I didn't really care for anyone in the family except Amy. The writing is wonderful as with all the Lauren Oliver books I've read, even when I wasn't sure I wanted to continue, I was compelled to finish the book just because of the way she describes things (in this case, not always pleasant, but still interesting).

Krista
Book Review: The Objects of Her Affection
Cobb, Sonya
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Read this book in about 1 day, I couldn't put it down! I felt "uncomfortable" reading it - watching someone spiral into deeper and deeper problems is a little difficult, I just wanted to shout at her "Sophie, STOP IT!!!" Fun book to read, I look forward to this author's next book!

Krista
Book Review: The Bedwetter : Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee
Silverman, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good

This book was clever and entertaining, just like Sarah Silverman. I listened to it on audiobook and it was read by the author, which I highly recommend. A very sincerely sweet and funny book.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Orphan Train
Kline, Christina
4 stars = Really Good

This book was really good. The story was engaging and the characters were interesting and multi-dimensional. It was about a week ago that I finished this book, so really I don't remember what I was going to review. But it was good. The only problem I had was that something major happened towards the end of the book that I didn't feel was addressed enough or resolved completely.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Invention of Wings
Kidd, Sue Monk
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book was incredible. The narrative was so powerfully written I felt transported in time to the antebellum south. I'm embarrassed that I'd never heard of Sarah and Nina Grimke before this book. They are inspirational heroes of their time. Handful was so beautifully and hauntingly drawn that I felt she was as real as Sarah and Nina. I can't recommend this book enough! Sue Monk Kidd did her research, that's for sure. The story was so realistic it could pass for nonfiction. Awesome!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Wild Bunch Women
Rutter, Michael
4 stars = Really Good

Not exactly a meticulously researched volume on the women in the West. Lots of speculation. However, it was very readable and interesting. I liked that the author tried to make the subjects as human as possible. It's so strange to me that these women lived in a West that was so raw and untamed little more than a century ago. Good, quick read.

vfranklyn
Book Review: At Least You're in Tuscany: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Swe
Criswell, Jennifer
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Stumbled across this title through Goodreads, and I am so glad I did!
The author gives and honest, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious view of her experiences moving to Italy rather impulsively. I didn't realize she had a blog, now I'm going to go through the photos to match faces with people I feel I've met through her book! Highly recommend.

Krista
Book Review: The Angel Makers
Gregson, Jessica
2 stars = Meh

I would start this novel and read a few chapters, then lay it down for a day or so, then pick it back up and have no idea what the book was about. The beginning doesn't grip at all. It gets better towards the middle. I'm not sure why I kept reading it, to be honest. The storyline is interesting, but the writing is disconnected.

vfranklyn
Letter to my Daughter
Angelou, Maya
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book is a compilation of essays on a variety of subjects. Thought provoking and beautiful, I highly recommend this quick read. I especially appreciated Angelou's observation that instead of "you can't go home again", it's more accurate to say you can't ever leave home, meaning your first home, where you grew up. I find this to be very true as I often think of where I grew up and the friends I had there as a child. Thankfully, I'm able to keep in touch with the most dear of them on Facebook.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Walton, Leslye J.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Umm. Wow. This was an amazing book - it was weird, and beautiful, and horrible all at the same time. Reminded me somewhat of Far Far Away as it was like the original versions of fairy tales, dark and disturbing, but awe-inspiring at the same time. I had to keep reminding myself that this is cataloged as a teen book - I think adults would love it and appreciate the writing as well. Anyone who argues that YA novels are not sophisticated or that they are written at a lower level should pick up a copy of this book. Fantastic.

Krista