Carnegie Medal

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Author: 
Cain, Susan
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

This book has me questioning whether or not I'm actually the straight-up extrovert I believed myself to be. Maybe it's a product of aging or of circumstances, but I find myself identifying with the introverts in some aspects of my life. My husband is a hard-core introvert, so this book reinforced what I already know about him. The anecdotes were very interesting and the presentation was more readable than your average nonfiction book. Good book!

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
Author: 
Stiefvater, Maggie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

How would it feel to ride the most powerful and the fastest thing on the island of Thisbe? Well Sean Kendrick is doing just that, on his mount, the water horse Core. And what will it be like for Puck Connoly? The first woman to ride in the races, ever, on her island horse Dove? and how will this all play out when Mut Malvern on a breathlessly fast piebald mare, who wants to hurt Sean more than anything learns that Sean cares for Puck. What will happen in the corse of 2 weeks of training and a 5 minute race.

Reviewer's Name: 
Anneka S.

Book Review: Wonder

Wonder
Author: 
Palacio, R.J.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book was given me to as a present and I truly had no intention of ever reading it, but when I did, I was insanely shocked at how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hadn't read a book like it before and I really enjoyed the drama that was in the story. I knew the plot was going to be interesting but I was really worried about how they would make a plot that didn't seem to shocking for a kid's book. The bullying part was done really well and I believe that instead of telling kids not to be mean, this book should be included in anti-bullying campaigns instead. This book can actually show children, especially younger ones, the effects that bullying anyone will have on the person. I really enjoyed the switching point of view from Auggie and Via because it was super interesting to see how Via reacted to everything about her brother as well, and the problems she had because of who her brother was. Since I had planned on regifting this book, I'm super glad I read it and while it may not be in my top ten favorites of all time, it does have a special place in my heart now.

Reviewer's Name: 
Brenna C.

Book Review: If I Stay

If I Stay
Author: 
Forman, Gayle
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Having seen the movie before reading the book, I didn't have very high hopes. However once I finally managed to read the book while on vacation, I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't read any other books that were quite like this one. It was easy to get attached to Mia, whether she was talking about her boyfriend, her family, or even her thoughts while she was in the hospital searching for her family and trying to decide if she wanted to stay or not. The entire thing was amazing and it was really a unique read for me, and I truly did enjoy the book. My only issue with the book was the last line, it was such a massive cliffhanger. Although, it did make me immedietely want to go out and buy the sequel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Brenna C.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows was a great book that I loved! In this book Harry, Ron, and Hermione all set of on a mission that Professor Dumbledore left Harry at the end of his 6th year at Hogwarts; to find and destroy the Horcrux's that Lord Voldermort has made to make himself immortal, or as close as he can get to it. As harry and his friends set out they discover that this will not be as easy as they had thought. As they find out how the Ministry of Magic has been infiltrated by he-who-must-not-be-named their mission just becomes more important. Can Harry and his friends do it and restore the magical community to the way it used to be?
7th grade

Reviewer's Name: 
Anneka S.

Book Review: Lila

Lila
Author: 
Robinson, Marilynne
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer." Ruth 3:9

What happens when an old man, broken from years of suffering, looks into the face of a feral woman who has wandered into his church for shelter? In this moving story, he sees humanity in her face. He sees her loneliness and her sin-ravaged state, but he can see beyond that to a human being, near ruined, yet not beyond the hope of a redeemer. She is a person in need of compassion and comfort. He offers her a home for her world-weary frame. He marries her.

The story of Lila finds its poetic power in Robinson's unmatched ability to empathize with the human condition. Each page of this story is dripping with compassion and sympathy. The genius lies in how the very fabric of the story weaves a picture of the deepest desires of every human heart.

Lila, at her core, is a person in desperate need of protection and affection.
Here Robinson proves herself to be a master of symbolism. When a shawl was spread over the sickly, neglected, and dying toddler Lila, by a wretched woman overcome by compassion for an unloved child, this shawl and this memory become the defining features of Lila's life. And later, as a forsaken, hopeless, and forlorn grown woman, who has now lost the one person in the world who ever cared for her, Lila finds again someone spreading his dark suit jacket, the one he preaches in, over her freezing shoulders as they walk along the road. Lila says, looking back on that moment: "She thought it was nothing she had known to hope for and something she had wanted too much all the same." A covering, a home, protection. And again: "But if she had prayed in all the years of her old life, it might have been for just that, that gentleness. And if she prayed now, it was really remembering the comfort he put around her, the warmth of his body still in that coat. It was a shock to her, a need she only discovered when it was satisfied, for those few minutes." This story brings to life the theme that we often don't even know what to pray for and that mercy is so much bigger than our imagination.

Robinson is an author who truly understands how to express suffering, estrangement, loneliness, and courage in a breath-taking and lovely story of grace and redemption. She has a deep perceptiveness in the way she portrays the various motives that control the human heart and she writes with forthrightness and blazing accuracy. Read an be changed.

Reviewer's Name: 
Leslie Taylor

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
Author: 
Doeer, Anthony
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

If All the Light We Cannot See were a movie, I would consider it “Oscar bait.” Set during the most romantic of World Wars: check. Main character with disability: check. Drama, tragedy, and suspense: check, check, and check. It’s then no wonder that All the Light We Cannot See ended up winning a Pulitzer. Sure, it’s filled with plenty of the “award” tropes that we tend to see repeated over and over again—but it works. What helps this book stand out from the rest of the books and movies that try too hard to earn awards is twofold: its characters and its plot.

Before I get too far into my praise for this book, I have to mention that the narrator for the audiobook version seemed to mispronounce a few words early on, which threw me for a loop and made me wonder if I’ve been mispronouncing them myself. Similarly, it was a little challenging to track the timeframes for some of the subplots, but the impact of the book was still the same. The author was able to paint a vivid set of lives set on opposite sides of a global conflict. From the blind French girl forced to survive on her own to the prodigious German boy with a penchant for radios and STEM, their internal and external conflicts were prime examples of gripping and engaging storytelling.

While there didn’t seem to be one primary driving plot in this book, the addition of the handful of subplots worked in concert to create a gem of a story (har har). These subplots were natural to the characters that embodied them, which helped to produce an amount of realism that held everything together. Everything just made sense, and even the semi-tragic ending was a satisfying end that left no subplot or loose end untied.

A beautiful piece of prose worthy of its Pulitzer, I give All the Light We Cannot See 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

Book Review: The Underground Railroad
Author: 
Whitehead, Colson
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I listened to this book on audio, so I'm sure I missed bits and pieces. Cora's life as a slave in Georgia and through her journey on the underground railroad was fascinating. The depiction of the underground railroad as actually being an underground railroad was odd to me, but I'm sure there's some symbolism or other literary device that escapes me. Probably the most interesting part of this book was the section that took place in North Carolina. It was so indicative of the Third Reich that it was chilling. I found the ending to be abrupt, but still overall an interesting read.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Circle

The Circle
Author: 
Eggers, Dave
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

When I saw the movie adaptation of this book, I felt like the presentation of this somewhat interesting idea was already dated by about five years. This made me curious if the book was any better. As is probably no surprise to anyone, the book was much better. Sure, the movie cut a few things from the book that I thought were a bit too unnecessary (all the “sex,” that is) or underutilized (the “Calvin” character), but the book really hits at the intensity of the internet-addicted generation. I would even go so far as to say The Circle is the modern version of 1984 .

I’m somewhat torn when it comes to the message presented here. I understand how trying to stay on top of millions of e-mails, and thousands of social media updates can be utterly overwhelming. I also agree that a lot of ideas that seem to be beneficial to society will have the removal of personal privacy as an adverse side effect. However, the vehemence that people participate in the world does bring up a good point about apathy. Granted, I don’t think we should be nearly as extreme in our “oversharing” on social media, but if the majority of success is just showing up, then why do so many people find themselves too busy to even participate? Do they not want to engage with their fellow humans?

I did appreciate how the transition from utopia to dystopia went almost entirely unchecked. The main character’s journey really helped to show how the addicting nature of online interactions and instant feedback can get out of hand. From documenting our lives to searching for information to even searching for love (of which internet dating wasn’t included in the movie), the internet is a powerful place. If anything The Circle highlights how dangerous a true democracy can really be, particularly if the minority opinions are known at each decision point.

A terrifying look into our digital mirror, I give The Circle 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Circle

The Circle
Author: 
Eggers, Dave
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The only reason I read this book was because of the movie starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks but I'm one of those who [for the most part] read the book first before watching the movie because we all know that books are always better and have more details than the movie versions.

I've been on the fence about deactivating my Facebook and Twitter accounts and signing up for Instagram or keeping my blog, Ravelry and GoodReads active since I use Ravelry and GoodReads mainly as online databases for my yarn craft and books respectively so I won't have to create an offline database from scratch and my blog as a way to share things that I enjoy and my book reviews like this one. The Circle by Dave Eggers definitely showed some pros and cons to going "off the grid" to quote Mercer and some pros and cons to being online to keep up with family and friends and social media is good way to reconnect with old friends especially if you have no way of contacting them because your address book hasn't been updated in a long while.

Enter Mae Holland who hasn't used her social media account in a while and ends up working for the Circle, a tech company who is all about sharing [everything] and being social online and offline and unifying everything into one account. I rated this book 4 stars not because it's really good but mostly because the author managed to make me feel something and made me think. When Mae first started working at the Circle, I felt as stressed out and exhausted as Mae felt while learning about her new job and balancing her work-related duties as well as her "social" duties and the constant need to "smile," "frown," and "zing" can be overwhelming for someone like me who likes to moderately share things online. Yes, I do believe that there are things that should be kept private and still do even after reading this book.

I don't think it is healthy to spend so much time online "smiling," "frowning," and "zing-ing" what other people share to the point where you no longer have time to live your life in the real world. And changing your opinions because you don't like getting "frowns" is not being human. Being human is about having different opinions and thoughts and it shouldn't matter if your opinion is unpopular because it is you. The way it is presented in this book is that slowly, everyone in the world is of one mind, one opinion which is already happening in the real world. People get shamed, hated on or bullied online when you express sentiments that are not in line with the sentiments of others. And this mentality should stop.

There are some aspects of unifying databases from this book that I liked the idea of. An example would be medical records that way when you switch medical providers or during medical emergency situations, all your records can be found in one centralized system/location to make it super efficient for the medical team to give you the right medication or treatment as well as if you're unconscious, there's a way to alert your medical/care team to send help. While it is also great to get real time results on polls and surveys, being forced to vote by suspending all electronic/computer/online activities until you've voted is wrong in the sense that people have the right to vote or not vote. Sure it will help a lot if everyone voted but to make it mandatory like what the Circle suggests violates the right to decide whether to vote or not. I'm on the fence about humans getting micro-chipped like most of our pets are micro-chipped because I personally don't want everybody in the world to know where I am. I only want my I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contacts to know where I am and that's about it. There's more examples in this book that I'm either on the fence on or completely against the idea of but I have to end it here otherwise, this review will be as lengthy as the novel itself.

Moving on to the general overview of the plot. It's believable to some degree and I can see the parallels to the real world especially on the social media aspect and we are somewhat slowly getting there on the other technological aspects. The pacing of the story is slow to moderate and sometimes it makes you think if there's any point to this whole thing. The whole time I was listening to this book, I was waiting for a really cool plot twist or a big revelation or a big self-discovery, but unfortunately, none of those happened. There was a revelation towards the end but it was a bit of a let down because somehow, at the back of my mind, I already knew that.

As for the characters, I feel like they're not as well-developed as I'd hoped. There's no real depth to Annie, Dan, Jared, the three wise men, Francis, or any of the rest of the characters, including Mae (more on that, later). It feels like these other characters are there to either add drama in the case of Francis, to move the story along in the case of Dan, Jared, the three wise men, etc., and as proof of validation and someone to vent to as in the case of Annie. As for Mae, I somewhat resonated with her in the beginning but as the book progresses, her character became less real and more fake in the sense that the Mae readers liked in the beginning slowly disappeared as she became "one with the hive" err Circle and lost her own individuality. Another thing that was disturbing about Mae was in the end, while visiting her catatonic best friend, Annie, she looks at one of the monitors scanning Annie's brain waves and wonders what Annie's dreaming/thinking about while in a coma and decides that people's thoughts should be accessible to everyone and that "the world deserves nothing less" which to me, is frankly, quite disturbing.

Finally, the narration. Dion Graham did a wonderful job narrating/reading this book even though this book follows Mae's perspective and there's none of that high-pitched voice trying to sound like a woman/girl.

In conclusion, if you are someone who shares everything online then you might enjoy this book and if you are someone who is on the verge of deactivating all of your online and social media accounts, you might find extra reasons in this book to permanently go offline. If you are someone who likes to see characters evolve into a better version of themselves, this book is not for you.

Reviewer's Name: 
Mary Grace C.

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