All Book Reviews

Book Review: Chihuawolf
Ganny, Charlee
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is a cute book about a chihuahua that wants to become a werewolf to impress the dog he loves. Paco is brave but diminutive, with the heart of a lion. His small stature keeps him from being a proper suitor for his love, an Afghan hound. Determined to win her love, he goes on an adventure, looking for a werewolf. But when his love gets dognapped, Paco and his friends spring into action to save her. Along the way, Paco learns that it's not size that matters, but what is in his heart.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Favorite Daughter
Say, Allen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing and empowering! It is a great children's book about how to have pride in your culture. Good book for girls and boys! A must read!

Reviewer's Name: Aisha
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Medina, Meg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Merci Suárez Changes Gears just won the esteemed Newbery Award last month. Merci is a new sixth grader attending a private school. Her Cuban family lives in three small houses that sit in a row. Grandparents, aunt, twin nephews, mom, dad and brother are part of Merci's daily life for better or for worse. Merci's schoolmates, however, are mostly mean to her, maybe because Merci does not come from the same affluent neighborhoods with pools and parks galore. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a gentle story of how Merci's sweet family and school intersect, all while Merci is growing and changing. In fact, Merci's household is changing quickly and somehow Merci has to learn to change gears to keep up.

Reviewer's Name: Betty
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Stieg, Larsson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Despite some of its weaknesses, some of which were due to my reading it via audiobook, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great book. In its sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, some of these weaknesses were addressed, but others manifested in their place. Again, these faults might be attributed to the audiobook format, but are fairly minor when considering how fantastic the story is as a whole. In fact, I probably like The Girl Who Played with Fire more than its predecessor. Of course, part of this was how events in the first book carried over to influence the plot of the second.

In the first book of the Millennium series, I didn’t realize just how much sex was in it. This was mostly because of the rape scene that made everything else seem tame in comparison. In this book, the sex is still there, but there’s so much of it at the beginning that it starts to become distracting. At least when book one included it, it was generally through the guise of a budding friendship. This time, it felt more like the author was trying to hammer home the point that the two main characters were sexually liberated. Other than that, it was also a little challenging to keep track of the timeline, since it jumped around a bit when it followed different characters. This is perhaps a limitation of the audiobook format.

Overall, though, the plot of The Girl Who Played with Fire is superb. Uncovering the past of our favorite, titular character was a great way to continue a series that started with such an engaging and enigmatic figure. With less mystery present in this volume, the twists are still believable and entertaining while also focusing more on the action that centers on Lisbeth Salander’s desire to remain as disconnected as possible.

A fantastic follow-up to a great book, I give The Girl Who Played with Fire 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Unwanteds
McMann, Lisa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In the town of Quil, there is an odd tradition. On kids’ thirteenth birthdays, they participate in the purge, where the government judges kids by their creativity and separates them into three groups. The Wanteds get to stay in Quil to train to be warriors. The Necessaries also stay, but only to do farm work. The last group is the Unwanteds--the group of kids who have shown too much creativity. They are sentenced to death.

When Alex Stowe's thirteenth birthday comes up, he isn't excited. He already knows that he will be an Unwanted because of all his infractions. When the purge comes and he is sentenced to death, he thinks it is his death date. But, when he gets to the lake of boiling oil, the place where the Unwanteds are sent to be killed, a strange man comes and offers them a second chance.

Instead of punishing the Unwanteds, he wants to bring them into the magical world of Artime, harness their creativity, and use it to give them magic. But if Artime is discovered by Quil, it might ruin Artime forever. Can Alex help save Artime or will it be discovered and destroyed?

I originally got this book from finishing the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Challenge. I don't usually read or enjoy fantasy books, but I loved this one. I really enjoyed the concept of the story and loved all of the creative characters. It was also cool how they not only got to learn magic but also got to create new spells. This is the first book in a series of seven. I can't wait to read the rest of them.

Reviewer's Name: Ben C
Awards:
Looking for Alaska
Green, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Looking for Alaska follows the ordinary story of a boy by the name of Miles "Pudge" Halters. In his chaotic first year at Culver Creek Boarding School, he meets many people who guide him in his search for himself, including Chip Martin and Alaska Young. Love, friendship, and innocence are tested in this rapid novel as John Green marvelously weaves unpredictability and relatability in between the lines of this gripping book. I liked this book because of its intricate simplicity; the telling of the story made it feel like it was specific to Pudge, but within the awkward relationships and persistent daydreams I saw a bit of myself reflected back at me. I picked this book up in an effort to empty my bookshelf, and as it cleared my shelf it filled my heart with raw emotions that I was not expecting. My favorite part was the contrast of the before and after of the pivotal point in the story. The only thing I didn't particularly enjoy was the undeveloped relationships between characters that were evident in some chapters. Overall, Looking for Alaska was worth my time and told a unique story that twisted the basic "new kid" story into an unpredictable plot.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Anya G
Elijah of Buxton
Curtis, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book "Elijah of Buxton" is incredible. While it's meant for younger readers, the book had several thought-provoking moments, which can captivate older readers. The protagonist, Elijah, is well-developed and his journey is full of fulfilling comedy, adventure, and surprises. The book is written in a light-hearted manner, which keeps it from being too depressing. There are some gruesome moments, but they all contribute to the story. It also relates to slavery from a unique perspective, although it does a great job addressing other values. The only thing I found wrong with the book was that it did have a somewhat weak plot. Other than that, I would recommend this book to almost anyone, as its messages can relate to anyone.

Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Genres:
I Am Number Four
Lore, Pittacus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I am Number Four is one of the best books I have ever read. An alien race, known as the Loriens, send nine children along with their guardians to Earth to save their kind. The Loriens have been invaded by the evil Magadorians and their only hope are these nine children. The Loriens have special powers and magic associated with them, yet look like humans. I am Number Four follows the journey of the fourth Lorien child sent to Earth and his thrilling quest to stay hidden and alive. This novel blends science fiction, action, and romance in a fantastic roller coaster that will have you on the edge of your seat and will pull at your heartstrings. While it contains violence, I recommend this book to anyone, but especially middle and high schoolers.

Reviewer's Name: John B
A Study in Charlotte
Cavallaro, Brittany
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A new take on Holmes and Watson, two teens in an American boarding school bond over their family's shared history. Both of them are descended from the infamous Sherlock Holmes and his infamous partner Watson, and they find a way to live up to their history. They become detectives of their own stories when they are framed for murder. Thrilling and exciting, the story of Charlotte and Jamie kept me captivated with every turn of the page. I am sure readers who enjoy mystery and romance alike will enjoy it. Recommended for ages 15+
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Settare R
Genres:
The Rough Patch
Lies, Brian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Evan and his dog did everything together. They shared many adventures and created a beautiful garden, but when the dog passes away Evan is devastated. The Rough Patch, by author/illustrator Brian Lies, would be a wonderful place to begin a discussion about death and grief with young children. Children and adults will identify with Evan and how he works through his sorrow. This beautifully written and illustrated picture book for ages 3 - 10 is a 2018 Caldecott Honor winner.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
The Great Alone
Hannah, Kristin
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I loved The Nightingale and was hoping this would be another great story by Hannah, but I wasn't impressed. The story takes place in Alaska, but the story has to do with marital abuse and I just couldn't get into the story. It was horrible, but I can't recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Genres:
Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale
Lloyd-Jones, Sally
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My boys and I loved reading this book over and over. The story line begins with Doreen the fish heading off on an adventure to visit a family member. She ends up where she wanted but there were many unusual adventures along the way. We laughed at the cleverness of the author's story and enjoyed learning some of the alphabet that was hidden the illustrations. The pictures really enhanced the story and the kids interacted with the story as we read. It was delightful!

Reviewer's Name: Julie
Hello Lighthouse
Blackall, Sophie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

From the cutaway of the inside of a lighthouse to the rescue of shipwrecked sailors, Hello Lighthouse, a beautifully designed book by Sophie Blackall, is sure to fascinate children and the adults who read to them! Intriguing illustrations and information illuminate the daily life of lighthouses and their keepers. Hello Lighthouse is the 2019 Caldecott Medal winner. It is just right for repetitive readings for children ages 4 - 10.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
The Patchwork Bike
Clarke, Maxine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mom is fed up with her rambunctious kids but somehow she silently supports their active play as they build a bike out of junk and proceed to ride it up and down, all around and even through the house. Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Than Rudd is a vivacious celebration of childhood play. The illustrations are created with paint on a cardboard box and the texture and motion they create is the perfect complement to the sparse but active text. Take a look at the end papers to see how a stroke of paint can create vibrant motion. This is a fun read for kids 3 – 7.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Meet Yasmin!
Faruqi, Saadia
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly, is an innovative pick for readers age 5 - 8. It is chock-full of colorful illustrations that support the simple but intriguing text. This early chapter book tells the tale of spunky, creative Yasmin and her family as they move through everyday situations. The familiar settings will help young readers decipher new or difficult words as they read. The back matter of the book contains a page of discussion questions, a glossary of Urdu words, information on Pakistan, crafts to explore and a recipe for a yummy drink.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
Slade, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the book, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzalez have created a gorgeous non-fiction book about Project Apollo and all the people who made the moon landing possible. Lush illustrations combine with informative free verse in this book for children age 10 - 14. There are photos, a selected bibliography, and website list in the back of the book.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Book Review: Unmarriageable
Kamal, Soniah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Unmarriageable is a very charming Pakistani retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. If you aren’t familiar with the original, all you really need to know is that it’s a period romance with a lot of social commentary around sexism and classism. Unmarriageable is a very faithful adaptation set in Pakistan in the early aughts, so I think if you like the original, you’ll also enjoy this one.

The best part of Unmarriageable, to me, was the social commentary. Not only does Kamal approach the sexism and classism from a more modern Pakistani lens, but she addresses racism and colonialism as well. Pakistani culture in the early 2000s apparently had some attitudes towards women’s place in the home and sex and sexuality that somewhat mirror that of Georgian England. It was (is?) frowned upon to have sex or most types of sexual contact before marriage. Women were expected to tend to the home. Light skinned folks were seen as being more attractive than darker skinned folks. Kamal addresses all of this and much more quite deftly without compromising the swoony romance.

Speaking of romance, if you like Pride and Prejudice for the romance, Unmarriabeable will make you quite happy. Alys Binat and Mr. Darsee are just as likable as their original counterparts (so, in Darsee’s case, it may take a minute to warm up to him). Their chemistry and enimistry is almost palpable. The book definitely swings hard towards being cheesy at times, but that didn’t really compromise my enjoyment of the book.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the Sherry (Charlotte) character. I always thought Lizzie was kind of horrible towards Charlotte, and Sherry and her relationship with Alys get a lot more time and consideration in this version of the classic.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this one. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you should definitely check this out. It’s perhaps a bit too close to the original, but as an Austen fan, I wasn’t much fussed by that. 4 stars.

Thanks to Ballentine Books and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Unmarriageable is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Nowhere Boy
Marsh, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fourteen year-old Ahmed is hiding in the basement. No one in the house above knows he is there. His family is dead. He has no one to stay with and nowhere to go. He is stuck, in Belgium, in this basement, all alone. Then Max, the boy upstairs, discovers him. Will he tell the police? Will Ahmed be sent back to Syria? What happens next is a fast paced adventure about compassion, hope and doing the right thing. Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh is great for suspense lovers age 10 to 16.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Genres:
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
Lukeman, Noah
2 stars = Meh
Review:

As a writer who is looking to submit to agents soon, I was hoping The First Five Pages would give me some insight into the hook that could lead to the acceptance of my book. Additionally, as an individual who also creates and publishes short story anthologies, I hoped this book would give some useful advice for writers to keep their stories out of the rejection pile. Unfortunately, while this book is almost 20 years old, much has changed since its initial publication. Everyone has computers. Word processors and other tools are in abundance. Nobody prints out manuscripts anymore.

Split into three sections and a total of 19 topics, this book doesn’t so much tell an author how to avoid rejection from agents and publishers as much as how to write. I will say from personal experience that the one topic on formatting is the most important topic to pay attention to, especially since
I’ve rejected tons of submissions that don’t follow the guidelines—albeit for additional reasons besides the formatting ignorance. There might be some tidbits in this book that will help an author create a manuscript worth accepting, but they’re buried in so much basic advice that most beginning authors will probably miss them.

This is the crux of the problem with this book: it’s not meant for authors who are ready to submit. There’s no nuance in the examples contained in this book, which doesn’t help anything when the topics are so rudimentary as to make me wonder why anyone who still has these problems with their manuscript is submitting to agents and publishers in the first place. If these writers hadn’t already heard the advice to “show, don’t tell,” then there’s no way they’re far enough in their writing career to be able to create a submittable manuscript.

Basic writing advice for authors who probably aren’t ready to submit to agents or publishers anyway, I give The First Five Pages 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Larsson, Stieg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For many years, I was hesitant to read this book, mostly due to a few intense sequences that I saw in the David Fincher film adaptation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be subjected to them in book form any more than I had been already. Fortunately, these scenes were quite a bit more tolerable in the book, mostly because the descriptions weren’t nearly as visceral as watching them on the big screen. I’m only now kicking myself for waiting this long to read such a fantastic book. While the book and the movie diverge in a few spots, I can see the reasoning behind the differences.

When it comes right down to it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a showcase for its titular character. Lisbeth Salander is tough, smart, and an overall entertaining individual to follow. While it takes quite a while for her to become involved in the main plot, at least the Mikael Blomkvist sections are still interesting enough to carry themselves until that point where the two characters join forces. I did find the distinction between these two characters’ plotlines a little hard to follow early on, but that’s likely an artifact of listening to the audiobook version.

I did find it a little odd that the book essentially starts with the introduction of Mikael’s investigation, only to take almost half the book to start it. Granted, this allowed plenty of room for both Mikael and Lisbeth to be developed as characters, but it felt a little like a sudden realization that the primary focus of the plot wasn’t addressed up until that point. Additionally, I did like the framing of the book around Mikael’s Millennium problems, especially with the much more thorough ending that tied everything up with a nice little bow.

A great book with fantastic characters, I give The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Awards:

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