YALSA Award

Book Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I only thought Good Omens was just OK. You’d think that the combination of two of the best British writers would create an incredible story, but I felt it was mostly disjointed, un-climatic, and full of that British humor that tends to be more random than based in actual jokes. Granted, most books by Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman that I’ve read have been hit or miss, depending on how peculiarly random the subject might be. Sure, there are elements of a great story here; it just felt distracted from its main purpose half of the time.

The core of Good Omens is split into two parts: following the actual Antichrist who is unaware of his theological significance/role in the end of the world and the journey of an angel and a demon who happened to lose said Antichrist. This idea's strength is enough to give the story some merit, but the execution seemed flawed to me. Too much time was spent in random and meaningless interactions that didn’t add to the story other than to be “humorous” for their pure obscurity. If anything, this type of humor is standard for Pratchett, so I’m not surprised it was there, just disappointed that it seemed to play such a large part of the story.

I’m sure most people loved the relationship between the angel and the demon, but I almost found the actions of the unaware Antichrist to be much more interesting and would have liked that those parts of the book played more in the plot than just being a side story. I know Amazon made a television show of this book, so maybe I just missed something that the show might be able to reveal to me as to why this book was so popular. As for me, it was just kind of “meh.” An interesting plot that suffers from British humor, I give Good Omens 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

For years, I had heard of The Lunar Chronicles and thought people were referring to the two Sega Saturn video games, Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. However, seeing as most people haven’t heard of these video games, I eventually figured out that they referred to the Young Adult series of books. While 2012 was definitely around the height of the re-imagined fairy tale craze, I do have to admit that this science-fiction take on these classic stories is a fresh new way of adapting the plots that we all grew up with through Disney movies.

The first book in the series, Cinder, takes Cinderella's down-and-out heroine and updates her to a cyborg unaware of her royal origins. What made this story engaging was figuring out how the standard trappings of the Cinderella story would be adapted to this futuristic setting. Granted, this made some of the plot points more than obvious well before they happened, but I usually ended up smiling at the bits of homage that Cinder paid to its origins—such as a “pumpkin” of a car and the leaving behind of certain footwear.

While the plot was mostly predictable, I appreciated the awkward “teenager” dialogue of the titular protagonist but only to a point. I’ll admit that YA books have a kind of frenetic style that matches their main characters' emotional turbulence, and Cinder certainly reads like a teenage girl replete with the insecurities, slang, and missed steps that a full-grown adult wouldn’t necessarily have as character quirks. The problem is that having to follow such a snarky young individual for so long through the story makes it eventually grate on my nerves, especially when the path she needs to take in her life is so obvious. Then again, perhaps I’m just a crotchety old man who isn’t in-tune with the youth anymore.

A great sci-fi Cinderella retelling, I give Cinder 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Predator's Gold

Predator's Gold
Author: 
Reeve, Philip
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Taking place a few years after the events of Mortal Engines , I was aided somewhat in my read-through of Predator’s Gold by the fact that I didn’t have a movie to compare against. While the first book in this series helped set the stage, I felt the real story didn’t start until book two. After all, this series really is about the relationship between Hester and Tom. In Mortal Engines, they had only just met; in Predator’s Gold, we see how far they’ll go for each other, even if most of the story beats are somewhat predictable.

I appreciated how thoroughly real this ridiculous concept of monstrous towns roaming the world and devouring each other seems in this book. This post-apocalyptic setting felt thought-out by adding the main setting of Anchorage and the introduction of a charlatan author who cons everyone around him for his sole benefit. So often, an additional concept is added to the world-building, and I’d think, “That makes sense in this context.” I also appreciated how previous ideas were integrated into this story, showing how nothing is a “throwaway” idea.

Despite the excellent world-building, the root of this story is Hester and Tom’s relationship. While the more “romantic” elements were merely alluded to—as this is a series meant for children, after all—I was slightly annoyed with how stubborn these two characters were. If they’d been together for a few years, you’d think they’d have figured out some of these simple relationship issues before they become lynchpins tied to the survival of entire cities. I also felt the “will of God” was in a lot of the plot developments, as these two characters always seemed to be brought to the right place at the right time so they could continue to be together.

Excellent world-building with so-so character relationships, I give Predator’s Gold 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. W.
Awards: 

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Ender’s Game is a science-fiction book set in the future of Earth. Humans have battled with the Formics or “Buggers” three times before. Mazer Rackham was the only reason why the Humans won the first two wars, and he can no longer fight. In anticipation of the third war, and in search of the next Mazer Rackham, Humankind has been training their youth to battle by the use of realistic war games, which are sometimes in zero gravity. When Andrew “Ender” Wiggin joins the other boys in the Battle Room, he clearly exceeds them in battle tactics, and leads his team to victory. Ender eventually finds himself being trained by Mazer Rackham himself as the battle draws nearer. This book displayed excellent character development, along with a sensational plot. Ender’s Game was action packed from start to finish. This book is an easy five stars, despite the author’s use of profanity. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to read a quality Sci-Fi Novel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Zach M.

Book Review: The Murderbot Diaries #1: All Systems Red

The Murderbot Diaries #1: All Systems Red
Author: 
Wells, Martha
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

We all struggle to figure out who we are. It’s no different for a robot that’s managed to secretly override its governor unit and develop self-aware independence. The artificial construct, made up of regenerative organic and artificial parts, privately calls itself Murderbot out an emerging sense of guilt it tries to squash by watching hours of mindless TV. But even that distraction cannot keep a socially awkward, self-conscious entity from developing feelings about the humans it serves. That internal conflict is so realistic it is easy for the reader to forget it is an artificial construct narrating. Murderbot’s deadpan humor keeps the 2017 novella from bogging down and raises it well above a familiar action/corporate malfeasance plot. The novella is the first of a five-part series, all available through PPLD, with a full-length novel, Network Effect (May 2020) continuing Murderbot’s journey of self discovery and soap operas. A sixth series entry is scheduled for April 2021.

Honors: 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella, 2018 ALA/YALSA Alex Award, 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella, 2017 Philip K. Dick Award finalist.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: The City of Ember

The City of Ember
Author: 
DuPrau, Jeanne
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is about Ember, a post-apocalyptic city that is built underground to save the human species. Lina Mayfleet, and her best friend, Doon Harrow try to follow a set of clues left behind by the creators of the City of Ember, known as the builders, to get to the real outside world, where nobody dares to go.

But now they must go outside as the 2 centuries of rations of food and water that lasted an extra 40 years, are now coming to an end. But after many generations of living in the enclosed, walled city, nobody knows how to get to the outside world.

Lina and Doon find a box that has the instructions of how to get out of Ember, but Lina’s baby sister, Poppy makes it hard on them. She makes sure that Lina and Doon solve a puzzle because the pieces of paper have been torn, ripped, and eaten by Poppy.

Another challenge the Lina and Doon face is terminology. Because the letter on how to get out is now some 240 years old, the terminology has changed, it has words that are familiar to us like ‘boat’ or ‘candle’, but not familiar with the people of Ember. Lina and Doon figure out what these words mean to solve the already torn up piece of paper.

This book definitely keeps you wondering about the past and the future, and with many intriguing parts, I'm going to go with 4/5 stars for City of Ember.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gurman

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Book Cover
Author: 
Riggs, Ransom
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: 
Savannah H.

Book Review: All Rights Reserved

Book Cover
Author: 
Katsoulis, Gregory Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Imagine never being able to tell someone how much you love them, or knowing the government is aware of everything you say. Every sentence is monitored. Words are no longer free to use. Companies copyright words and gestures, they fine anyone who uses them. Saying "Sorry" is ten dollars and every nod or scream is .99 cents ( per second). No word is free, people are imprisoned by debt and fear. Restlessness stirs and violence is everywhere. People sue left and right for small accidents. Upon turning 15 everything changes for an individual. Cuffs are placed, listening to every word that comes out of your mouth. Retaliating can lead to extreme and inhumane punishments. Speth Jime is a fourteen-year-old who is almost fifteen when she witnesses the suicide of her friend. She decides in honor of her friend to be silent, making the world stand still. "All Rights Reserved" is a very captivating and incredible novel. Every page is filled with various twists and turns. The book represents the importance of words and the power they possess. It also shows the influence we have on others, for better or for worst.

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella J.
Awards: 

Book Review: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Book Cover
Author: 
Cholodenko, Gennifer
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Al Capone Does My Shirts was a required summer reading book for me this year. The plot of the story was how an eleven-year old boy named Moose left his San Francisco home to live on the prison island Alcatraz because his father had to relocate there for work. Moose’s sister Natalie, who sadly suffered from autism, was trying to get into a special school, but the principal would not let her join. Moose tries to get her into the school, while trying to still play baseball and do other things on his own.
On a scale of five stars, I would give it a four for the following reasons:
1. The plot was easy to follow, but at the same time you never knew what was going to happen next.
2. The character development was excellent, because you could easily relate and understand the characters' predicaments.
3. I thought the book was clever, funny, and meaningful.

For all of these reasons, I would give Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko four stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Zach M.

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
Author: 
Dashner, James
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Maze Runner is the first book in James Dashner's dystopian trilogy. It follows Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped in a maze with a group of boys and no memory of his past. This book kept me on my toes, and I couldn't put it down. It was intense and mysterious with a gripping plot and a diverse group of characters. I would definitely recommend this book to teens who love action packed adventure and the ideas presented through futuristic worlds!

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma

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