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Other Award(s)

Book Review: The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent
Author: 
Perry, Sarah
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book as profound as The Essex Serpent. Perhaps it’s because they don’t write books like this anymore.
While written in the last few years, the style of The Essex Serpent is distinctly Victorian. It holds callbacks to the greats of gothic literature, including the physiological studies of Frankenstein and the back-and-forth letter writing of Dracula . All the while, the ever-present gloom of the muddy and foggy Essex shoreline hides the eponymous serpent just outside the reader’s view, providing anticipation of its reveal. Is the Essex Serpent real or is it a figment of so much imagination?

Of course, in staying with the Victorian style, the book does suffer somewhat in readability. The vocabulary and description are certainly more voluminous than modern volumes, but my biggest qualm seems to be more along the lines of the seemingly endless talk that occurs in the first half of the book—perhaps trying to mimic one of Jane Austen's romances—that only seems to be present for character exposition. There are also a few sub-plots that sound incredibly important, but don’t end up having much sway on the outcome of the plot.

Still, despite having to get used to the style, the characters and their drama is expertly crafted. In particular, the “friendship” between the widow Cora and the married clergyman Will was positively heart-pounding.
Cora’s son was delightfully peculiar, as was Will’s wife. If The Essex Serpent was more predictable, I’m sure the ending would have been different. I’ll have to settle for the conclusion as written, instead of having to read a more serious version of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters . At least, the plot surrounding the Essex Serpent is exciting and was what kept me reading through the muddy first half.

A modern book expertly written in the Victorian style, I give The Essex Serpent 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides
Author: 
Powers, Tim
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Since I knew the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie was based on this book, I decided to give it a read to see if it was any better than the so-so extension of the Pirates franchise. Let's just say that this book was a loose inspiration for the film. About the only elements that survived the transition were Blackbeard and the Fountain of Youth. Of course, even the movie version vastly improved the Fountain. In fact, I think I prefer the Pirates movie of the same name, even if the two don't share much in common.

I will say that On Stranger Tides does excel in its action sequences. The fights and battles are choreographed and described in such a way that is entertaining to read and comprehensible to understand. Unfortunately, a book full of fight sequences does not a good story make. Events in this book just seemed to happen, almost at random, and with no foreshadowing of what was to come. This made it difficult to follow, especially as the story seemed to jump from character to character, so I had to remember what was happening in each of the plotlines all at once.

I got the sense that this book didn't know what it wanted to be, mostly because it had so many main characters that it never had enough time to devote to any of them. Some of these characters never had clear motivations,
or if they did have goals and ambitions, they weren't revealed until much later in the book. The magic system could have been a little better fleshed out, as there didn't seem to be any consistent rules or reasoning behind the effects the magic created. Overall, I was mostly disappointed with what this book could have been.

Some good action sequences drowning in too many subplots, I give On Stranger Tides 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: The Dragonet Prophecy

The Dragonet Prophecy
Author: 
Sutherland, Tui
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is the first in a growing series of 10 books and sets up the rest of the books. This book is set from the perspective of Clay. Clay is a Mudwing dragonet that is part of a prophecy to stop the War of SandWing succession. This book is a great source of entertainment for those looking to begin the Wings of Fire series. I would suggest this book for people of ages of 10-15, although it could still be enjoyed by younger or older people. I give this book an 8/10 (4/5 on Review Crew) because after rereading this book a couple of times, I found that at many times it can actually be quite boring.

Reviewer's Name: 
Aiden L.

Book Review: They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End
Author: 
Silvera, Adam
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

My favorite book of the year (so far). It had action, romance, and took you on a sad roller coaster of emotion. The main characters were very likeable. The setting is in the present, but with a few changes. One of these changes is that the government can tell you if you will die that day. Our two main characters both learn that they will die sometime that day. They meet and create a friendship that eventually turns into romance. They go on many adventures and overcome thier biggest flaws in one day. They also have major character development. The reader will be on the edge of thier seat when they find out if the both truly die at the end.

Reviewer's Name: 
Amelia W.
Genres: 

Book Review: One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying
Author: 
McManus, Karen M.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This is an exciting murder mystery book. I enjoyed all the difrent perspectives of the four main characters. All four of the main characters were flawed in some way, but still likable. The reader will enjoy the mystory until the very end when it is reveald. The author throws you in many directions and when you think you know who did it, new evidence will come up.
I took off one star simply because I thought the ending was a little predictable. Overall I enjoyed this book and I recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Amelia W.

Book Review: Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s
Author: 
Sloan, Holly Goldberg
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Counting By 7s" by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a story about a girl and her struggles of going to school for the first time. The main character has to face many difficulties, and find herself along the way. I loved this book when I read it; usually I donate books once I finish them, but this book was a keeper. For my reading level, I found this book really good; not too easy and not too hard. I really loved the plot of this book, and liked seeing the view of the different characters. This book does talk about some heavy topics (including death), but is a very good book to learn about empathy and the impacts your actions have. If you love a happy ending and a satisfying novel, this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: 
Siena G

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Author: 
Sanderson, Brandon
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Never before have I read a book that has been so self-aware . . . and I loved every minute of it. There’s breaking the fourth wall, and then there’s Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. A fun and hilarious read for teens and adults, this book’s premise is as ridiculous as it is original. Of course, while it tends to border on the random (for maximum comedic effect), this book also manages to tie all these random pieces together in the most satisfying way. The comedy in this book is effortless, and the plot is certainly the most interesting thing I’ve read recently.

I think the ability of this book to successfully break norms and fully immerse the reader in the world is due to Sanderson’s talent as a fantasy writer. The details that seem odd, like receiving a bag of sand for your thirteenth birthday, manage to be relevant to the climax of the story. Even the unique “superpowers” present in this narrative are fully fleshed out, and the minutia of how they work makes sense and adds to the depth of the characters. In fact, these superpowers practically define the personalities of the people who wield them.

While this is only the second Sanderson book I’ve finished reading (I’m still working on The Way of Kings ), I am quickly becoming a fan of his work. Or, at least I genuinely enjoy the shorter books that he writes, like this one. I can’t wait to pick up the rest of the books in this series, because the characters and the world are so real to me that I want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Who knew that unassuming librarians could make the best villains? Maybe that’s the whole point, though?

A hilarious, random, and well thought-out adventure, I give Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars
Author: 
Guterson, David
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This was an amazingly written book with a centralized focus on a piece of history that is rarely paid much attention to. Focusing on the false trial of Kabuo Hiyamoto for murder, a Japanese-American man living on San Piedro Island, the book discusses prejudices harbored against Japanese people after WW2 and internment camps and tackles the idea of what is socially acceptable vs. what is morally correct. Guterson's writing style flows well and reads like an easygoing narrative, leaving most of the inferences and questioning to be made about morals to the reader. It questions human nature and the role of justice in vengeance, and leaves us wondering ourselves about humanity, with mixed feelings of both disgust at some of the characters and hope for the future.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gia D.

Book Review: The Clockwork Dynasty

The Clockwork Dynasty
Author: 
Wilson, Daniel H.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

f there's anything Daniel H. Wilson is good at, it's writing about robots. In his latest book, The Clockwork Dynasty, he takes a steampunk approach by setting the book, not in the future, but in the present and distant past. Returning to the origins of robots via the automatons created for the entertainment of the wealthy and royal, Wilson has crafted another workable piece of fiction centered on robots. Unfortunately, as is the case with some of this other writing, I didn't like a few of his stylistic choices.

The Clockwork Dynasty jumps back and forth between flashbacks and "present era" actions, which can sometimes be distracting, especially if one of the storylines is particularly interesting at the time. I almost wonder if there could have been a better way to focus on the action in the present and to reveal the details of the past in more of a "show" instead of the "tell" provided via flashbacks. Additionally, I get why some of the violence was present in this book, but it (along with the few moments of obscenity or sex) seemed a little unnecessary.

One of my other qualms with this book was with the audiobook itself. Since the individuals reading each of the sections were different between the past and the present, it did help to know where I was in the story. However, the male voice of the past was a little quieter than the female voice of the present. This meant I turned up the volume each time the story was in a flashback, only to scramble to turn it down when the timeframe switched. Some volume leveling would have made this book a little less difficult to listen to, is all I'm saying.

A steampunk story by the modern master of robot stories, I give The Clockwork Dynasty 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: More Happy Than Not

More Happy Than Not
Author: 
More Happy Than Not
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"More Happy Than Not" is a great LGBT youth novel chronicling a single summer of Aaron, a kid growing up in a poor neighborhood in New York. He struggles with his dad's recent suicide, his own attempt to do the same, and his one-bedroom apartment, but he's coping with the help of his lifelong friends and his amazing girlfriend, Genevieve. One day, Aaron meets Thomas, the interesting but directionless kid next door. They quickly grow to be best friends while watching movies on Thomas' roof and scoffing at those who choose procedures with Leteo, the revolutionary brain surgery which buries painful memories for those who can't deal with their past. But as the book goes on, Aaron's relationship with Geneveive and his friends becomes strained and his attitude towards Leteo becomes less scornful. This book is packed with twists and is a great choice for young readers and for fans of "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind".

Reviewer's Name: 
Mckenna R.

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