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All Book Reviews

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Cain, Susan
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
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Okay, let me just say this: All you poser dystopian teen novels 'breaking the rules' with scandalous gratuitous plot elements better just step back. Nineteen Eighty-Four, the granddaddy of all dystopian novels, just handed your butt to you. This book isn't kidding around. Danger, insubordination, illicit sex, graphic torture, this book has it all. It's not for the weak of heart. And the ending is so powerful and heart-wrenching! The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars from me is the lengthy political and philosophical treatises that appear a few times in the book. I get it, this is the quiet power behind the novel and the part that is dissected by academia. But I'm not an academic, so it didn't do it for me.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Lake Silence
Bishop, Anne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the first book in another story arc that takes place in the world of "the others", laid out and told from a different perspective in the Meg and Simon series beginning with Written in Red. Lake Silence takes place in another town in the world of "the others" with a whole new cast of characters and problems to solve. Anne wrote this story from the view of an ordinary woman who has survived being married to a verbally abusive husband, the divorce and now the betrayal by the same dirt bag. As a consequence, this story has real human depth without all the self pity one would expect of such a perspective, and instead shows how the problems are handled from flexibility and strength, assisted by truly helpful friends, human and "other". The story is well told and I've re-read it several times waiting for the follow on book, Wild Country. I recommend this book as a story the reader can "sink into" and identify with from multiple points of view.

Reviewer's Name: Pauline E.
Genres:
Only Human
Neuvel, Sylvain
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Third in a trilogy, the Themis story is as gripping in this last novel as it was in the first two, the characters as real as any you've met personally. The story wraps up the trilogy with the end of the robot story. The why, who and where of it are answered and addressed. It's a particularly emotional book in that the main characters finally duke it out over their deep disagreements and yes, work something out. I'm hoping Sylvain does another series as his science fiction writing is entrancing and gripping and exciting. All the reasons for reading a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Pauline E.
Spinning Silver
Novik, Naomi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER***

About seven years ago, there seemed to be a renaissance of fairy tale retellings and reimagining that swept through popular culture. From television shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm to movies like Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Mirror Mirror (2012) to the books of Melanie Dickerson, it seemed that wherever you turned, you could find someone’s different take on classic fairy tales. While perhaps a little outside this bubble of pop culture, Spinning Silver has the benefit of standing out in a field of genre books that seems to have cooled in recent years.

Based partially on the story of Rumpelstiltskin, author Naomi Novik has masterfully combined elements of Jewish and Russian folklore to reimagine this story from a somewhat more modern perspective while also maintaining its fairytale settings and tropes. If anything, her strong and independent female characters highlight how chauvinistic the original fairy tales seem when compared to the culture we’re living in today. I appreciated how smart the story is, taking the concept of “turning silver into gold” from a merely economical standpoint and turning it on its head by adding in fantastical elements more akin to alchemy.

While the point of view of this book jumped around from a few of the characters, I found the interconnectedness of their stories to be incredibly well done. I probably would have left out the old woman’s POV, since it didn’t add anything other than some unnecessary backstory, but other than that, each character’s storyline had its own tone, challenges, and uniqueness to make the entire plot a well-rounded affair. Writing the story in this way helped to humanize antagonists, provide the terror of poverty, and show plenty of character growth throughout the characters. Even the fact that the “simple” solution of the climax wasn’t the best solution for the characters speaks to the depth of thinking that went into this brilliant plot.

An intelligent and well-written fairy tale reimagining, I give Spinning Silver 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
Book Review: Illegal
Colfer, Eoin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ebo’s brother Kwame is missing. But Ebo knows where he’s gone: to find their sister. Life in Libya is hard, so Ebo and Kwame’s sister, Hannah, left and promised to send back money once she was installed in Europe with a new job and more money. But since she left, Ebo and Kwame have heard nothing from her. So when Ebo wakes up one morning and Kwame is gone, Ebo knows he must go after him. What follows is the harrowing, heartbreaking story of Ebo’s journey through dangerous cities, deserts, and the ocean.

Wow. Look, I cry a lot, and am no stranger to crying whilst reading. But this book made me sob. Like, uncontrollable tears running down my face. The refugee story is often a sad and intense one, and Ebo’s is certainly no exception. And then, when you think about Ebo’s story in the context of it being a real thing happening to real people in this world that we all share, and the US is actively turning away people in similar if not the same situation, well, its depressing. But importantly so. One must also consider the fact that thousands of children, thousands of people are dying, and no one seems to care. It’s a deeply sad book that will cause lots of introspection, but for me, that’s a good thing. This is an issue that needs more attention.

The stunning artwork added to the impact. Seeing Ebo’s expressions - the heartbreak, loss, and hope playing out across his face – made what was already an intense, powerful story all the more affecting. I loved pretty much everything about this book, and I hope you take the time to read it. 5 stars.

Thanks to Baker & Taylor, Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the free paper and electronic advance copies, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Illegal is available now – put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Long Earth
Pratchett, Terry and Baxter, Stephen
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Having read a few of Sir Terry Pratchett's books before, I am no stranger to the randomness of his writing style. Usually, he has some character or object that just doesn’t fit in a normal narrative, but he manages to work it in with an explanation that’s both natural and makes sense. However, this only works if Pratchett has control over the entire story. Unfortunately, as is the case in The Long Earth, the randomness that Pratchett brings to the table sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the mostly sci-fi story. For instance, does an artificial intelligence have to be a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycle repairman? If you want to take the story seriously, probably not.

In the end, this book seems to be mostly written by Stephen Baxter, with only a smattering of Pratchett’s charm thrown in occasionally for levity. I haven’t read any of Baxter’s other books, but I’m not sure if I’d want to, considering how The Long Earth was put together. First off, the entire book seems to be an exposition dump about “stepping,” which is the process wherein people can move from one parallel universe into another. None of the narratives seems dedicated to anything in particular. With no goal in mind, the story will often get distracted away from the main character during little vignettes that explore some of the potentials of the multiverse theory presented therein.

I did appreciate the amount of thought that went into the limitations and peculiarities of stepping between parallel Earths, but when that’s the only focus of the book, it tended to get repetitive. So often, I’d be listening to this audiobook and realize that there wasn’t much dialogue between these characters; they were mostly spewing out more explanation about the Long Earth in a series of expository dumps of information.

A book full of sci-fi exposition, I give The Long Earth 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Briar Rose
Yolen, Jane
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Based in modern day America, this novel tells the story of a girl trying to discover her grandmother's past after hearing the story of Briar Rose for many years. After her grandmother dies with her last words being, "Promise me you will find the castle. Promise me you will find the prince. Promise me you will find the maker of the spells," Becca will not give up looking for her grandmother's lost origins. She goes through the contents in the box left to her relentlessly, until she finds the name "Kulmhof" on a piece of paper. Becca proceeds to make some calls, and finally takes a trip to Poland where she meets a certain Josef Potocki. Josef then reveals to Becca the story of her grandmother's past. It was a brutal and ruthless history of origin occurring during the Holocaust.

Even though the book was quite interesting and definitely kept me reading, there was some content I personally found disturbing. Most of this content consists of Josef Potocki being openly and quite obviously gay and a gay and lesbian agenda being enforced throughout the entire book. There was also a brief description of a sexual encounter between Josef and one of his former gay lovers that was completely disgusting.

Overall, I could not stop reading this book and found it very intriguing! The three stars is because of the unnecessary LGBTQ references and sexual encounter. If not for those few things, this book would have been downright amazing.

Reviewer's Name: Ella S.
Mixed: A Colorful Story
Chung, Arree
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Our new favorite! The author uses primary colors and color theory to describe segregation and racism. Once blue and yellow decide to mix a rainbow of possibilities opens up.

Reviewer's Name: Beth S.
Pebble in the Sky
Asimov, Isaac
2 stars = Meh
Review:

As I pulled together some of the information for this review, I became aware that Pebble in the Sky was Isaac Asimov's first novel. To be honest, that explains a lot. I’d read a few Asimov books before— I, Robot being a personal favorite—so I was a little disappointed with this story. If anything, it showed Asimov’s potential for bigger and better stories, or at least stories that were a little more focused. As it is, Pebble in the Sky provided the groundwork for prequels and some of Asimov’s best writing, but it remains fairly rough in comparison.

Some of the ideas in Pebble in the Sky are certainly noteworthy, including an age limit for humans and telepathic abilities. We also see here the ability of science fiction to address social issues as well. In this case, racism was the topic du jour, which was definitely in the early edges of revolution in 1950. And yet, the political commentary wasn’t nearly as subtle here as it could have been. Furthermore, while the more fantastical ideas presented here had some merit, their execution probably needed a little extra work. It’s a good first book, but it’s far from perfect.

It’s weird to me that I found a book by Isaac Asimov so mediocre, but I suppose that merely accentuates how great an author he eventually became. His future works would subsequently have the greater depth of thought that went into their premises and science, but as Pebble in the Sky shows us, that wasn’t always the case. There almost seem to be too many ideas crammed into this book to allow adequate time to explore each one. Consequently, when it jumps around from one subplot to another, it can be a little easy to get lost in the transition.

Isaac Asimov’s adequate first novel, I give Pebble in the Sky 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Dear Mrs. Bird
Pearce, AJ
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book took me on an emotional roller-coaster! The beginning bits were so funny, I figured it was going to be more of a slapstick comedy (which I was okay with), and then the reality that this was set in London during the Blitz set in, and I found myself gasping. Plucky Emmaline is such a lovable character, I would love if the author would consider revisiting her life in the future! Strongly recommend for those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. While it is not written in letters, Dear Mrs. Bird packs a similar emotional punch.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
Genres:
Wanderlost
Malone, Jen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wanderlost is about a girl named Aubree who is perfectly comfortable with living in laid back Ohio. It's predictable and she's fine with that. One night when her parents are gone, Aubree decides to throw a party where her perfect goody two shoes sister named Elizabeth unexpectedly shows up. She doesn't seem to mind and she promises to keep the party a secret. But then the cops show up at the house and when one of the cops knows Elizabeth, he is desperate to get her into trouble for "serving underage drinkers" even though she never did. The tour company Elizabeth was going to work for is her only way to get into the job that she's been dreaming about forever. But because Elizabeth gets arrested, she begs Bree to go do the tour and pretend to be Elizabeth. After lots of persuading, Bree reluctantly agrees. She never expected to spend her summer traveling across Europe to several different incredible sites with five elderly people. Bree then has phone conversations with a boy named Sam whom she can't help falling for. I bet every reader will fall for him too ;) I know I did. Eventually, Bree knows she needs to tell Sam the truth about who she is. Can she do it? This book is one of the best books I've ever read. The author is great at describing feelings and the characters were round. I hope you guys will fall in love with the characters and plot as much as I have.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth P.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ware, Ruth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

2 1/2 stars. It was a fun Gothic-type novel, but nothing really memorable. If you just need something light to read with not too much substance (I call them "chewing gum" books), you may enjoy this title. This is my 3rd Ruth Ware novel to which I've given 2 1/2-3 stars so I think I'm done with her books.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
The Rejected Writers' Book Club
Kelman, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you need a laugh-out-loud book with plenty of zany characters and a main character who happens to be a librarian, PICK UP THIS BOOK NOW!!! These are a wacky group of writers, and you will just have a good time following their adventures. Be sure to read the next two books in the series - "Rejected Writers Take the Stage", and "The Rejected Writers Christmas Wedding."

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Apollo 8
Kluger, Jeffrey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In August 1968, NASA made the bold decision to win a major battle in the Cold War by launching the first manned flight to the moon. President Kennedy's deadline of putting a man on the moon by 1970 was fast approaching, but Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were up to the challenge to make a huge advancement in order to meat the deadline. Apollo 8 tells the full story of the mission from Mission Control to the astronauts' homes, from the test labs to the launch pad. Apollo 8 also gives a summary of the Mercury, Gemini, and the other Apollo missions and talks about the science behind the mission in an easy to understand manner. From the coauthor of the bestselling book about Apollo 13, Apollo 8 is a thrilling yer informative tale and a great resource to have. I highly recommend this book for anyone in high school or older who is fascinated by the space program or is doing a project on anything related to NASA.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
The Science of Breakable Things
Keller, Tae
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I loved this book and its amazing way of taking a classic plot like a dead mother and transforming it into a mother than only seems dead, but is actually sick with depression. The main character, Natalie, misses how her mom used to act and be around her. When her teacher Mr. Neely requires a science project for school and suggests a egg drop, she enters the competition determined to win the cash prize. Natalie thinks she can use the money to take her mom and herself to see a rare blue orchid her mom used to study when she still worked. With the help of her best friend and a new acquaintance, will her hopes to have her mom back to normal splat right in front of her? I recommend this book for an easy, but inspiring read about friendship, family, and keeping hope alive.

Reviewer's Name: Cook, Anna
Genres:
Curtsies & Conspiracies
Carriger, Gail
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As Sophronia Temminnick goes into her second year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality she is learning more and more ways to kill with weapons, poisons, and over tea. To infiltrate a hive of vampires. And to subdue you by simply looking at you. For this is no normal finishing academy, it is a school that is training her to be a spy. With 10 boys from Bunson's (school for evil geniuses in training) on board. Being friends with two boys Lord Mercy and Soap the sootie will be much harder than you will expect, considering that they are both fighting for her. As an unexpected trip to London appears out of nowhere what will Sophrnoia have to do to uncover the truth and save her friends?

Reviewer's Name: Anneka S.
The Scorpio Races
Stiefvater, Maggie
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.
Genres:
America is Not the Heart
Castillo, Elaine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Sometimes, this book had amazing descriptions about experiences and personalities. But the majority of the book was dreadfully dull and dragged on and on. The main character described, in detail, her hook-up stories and one-night stands, leading up to her more fruitful and lengthy relationship with a witty, quick woman named Rosalyn. I felt that although physical intimacy is a large factor in mature relationships, I really didn't need to hear about EVERYTHING they did to each other. I was drawn into the story because the plot seemed fascinating. In theory, it would be, but the author was so fixated on producing a lengthy novel that the story was drawn out. So the story line is this: Hero De Vera arrives in the US as an illegal Filipino immigrant. Her uncle welcomes them into his home, without questioning her very questionable past. The past where she dropped out of medical school, took up one night stands with near strangers, and joined the New People's Army, a discreet organization in the Philippines, where lots of murderous secrets lurk. Hero moves into her uncles house, and is welcomed into the work-alcoholic behavior of her uncle and aunt, who are trying to provide for their family and others. Their young, American-born Filipino daughter, Ronnie, is feisty and spunky. Hero meets Rosalyn and, almost instantaneously, begins to nurture a crush for her. That is, until their physical relationship begins. And THAT is when things got nasty. In conclusion, an intriguing plot, terrible writing, and unnecessary details on Hero's sexual pleasures. And it took a decent chunk out of my time, too.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
After Iris
Farrant, Natasha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is great! I loved how it captured a big-family dynamic, and how it completely dived into the mind of Bluebell, the twin of Iris, now dead. Bluebell struggles with her twin's death, the negligent behavior of her mourning parents, and the varying personalities of her eccentric remaining siblings. Her elder sister, Flora, is subject to outbursts, passionate rants, and dying her dreadlocks pink. Blue's younger siblings, Twig and Jasmine (yes, I'm aware they have stupid names) are temperamental and adorably obsessed with anything cute and fluffy. When Blue's parents hire a stay-in babysitter, Zoran, to tend to the kids full-time when the parents are away, Blue realizes that she doesn't have to live in the shadow Iris left behind when she died. She realizes she is her own person, outside of her deceased twin.

I LOVED this book! It's about a large family coping with loss, and a former twin coming to terms with her sister's premature death.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:

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