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All Book Reviews

The Clockwork Dynasty
Wilson, Daniel H.
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
Little Worlds
Collet, Geraldine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Step into the Little Worlds of many different kinds of children with
unusual ways to look at the world. Author Geraldine Collet and illustrator
Sebastien Chebret have created a colorful picture book for children ages 3-7.
This picture book is sure to inspire some wonderful conversations about how
exciting it is to be an individual who looks at the world in a fresh, new
way.

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Hello, Universe
Kelly, Erin Entrada
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Virgil is very shy but his family is incredibly loud. His mom calls
him Turtle and he really hates that. His fortune teller, 12 year old Kaori,
tells him to watch out for the color red and that starts a disastrous day of
being bullied and getting stuck in a deep well. Will his life end with his
disappearance? Every chapter of Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly will
delight readers 9-12 as they uncover a story with many pieces that fit
together beautifully at the end.

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Genres:
Gianferrari, Maria
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Coyote Moon is beautifully written by Maria Gianferrari with gorgeous
illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline. Coyotes have become common place in
cities and towns all over the U.S. The story focuses on their opportunistic
eating habits and back matter will explain how they have come to live in
inhabited areas. It also contains a short bibliography and websites to visit.
Children ages 5 - 10 will love reading this book again and again.

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Genres:
More Happy Than Not
More Happy Than Not
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.
Renegades
Meyer, Marissa
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is an average, but fun book about superheroes. The plot centers around Nova who has to join a team of superheroes to spy on them while secretly being a villain. Since I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies, I thought that this book was pretty cliche. I could figure out every twist before I read about it happening. I also thought that the pacing of this book was weird. Some scenes that were unimportant to the plot seemed to drag on while other important scenes went by way too fast. This might have been intentional, but I don't see the point of it. I thought that this book was average. It was an extremely forgetful book, which was very disappointing because I love some of Marissa Meyer’s previous books. One thing I did like about this book was the depiction of anarchy which is very rare, especially in young adult books. I don't think that this would be a good book to read if you have seen a lot of superhero movies since it uses a lot of cliches from that genre. However, if you are interested in science fiction, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
Scarlet
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is the thrilling sequel to Cinder. Scarlet is a continuation of Cinder’s story while retelling another fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood. Generally, I feel like the sequels are never as good as the original, but that was not the case for this book. Scarlet was definitely my favorite book in the entire series (besides Winter). I fell completely in love with the new characters (especially Scarlet). Marissa Meyer has a talent for creating likable and relatable characters. She also has a talent for describing the setting. Cinder took place in Beijing while Scarlet took place in France. Meyer illustrated France just as vividly as she illustrated Beijing. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction or anyone who enjoyed Cinder.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
The Carpet People
Pratchett, Terry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Having now read one of Terry Pratchett's books, I thought it might be interesting to go back and read his very first work. Many authors don't manage to become famous with their very first book, and I think Terry Pratchett is no exception here. The Carpet People is an amusing book with his standard British charm, but I think it never goes far enough in its exploration of the idea. After all, I was expecting this book to be more along the lines of The Borrowers instead of just a straight-up fantasy with a few references to the fact that these creatures lived in the carpet.

Part of the problem I seemed to have with this book was the incessant need for fantasy books to create new names for objects and creatures that already (mostly) exist. If you took away the carpet setting, I think this book could be practically indistinguishable from any other fantasy book. This is what disappointed me the most. I believe there are plenty of potential moments to highlight the size disparity between creatures that live in the carpet, and the rest of the world we're familiar with (a la Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)).

Granted, I will give this book some grace considering that Terry Pratchett originally wrote it when he was a teenager. For this reason alone, I do have to say that it should be an inspiration for young writers, just to show that it can be done. Pratchett clearly improved his writing skills over time to become a bestselling author, but it's important to recognize and realize that he didn't start out that way. Ironically enough, though, I almost preferred the serialized version of this story that he originally wrote over the more "standard" version that aligns with his later styles.

An amusing book and impressive first novel for a teenage Terry Pratchett, I give The Carpet People 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Genres:
Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a fast-paced and action-packed book that you can't put down. The book is a futuristic and dystopian retelling of the classic fairytale, Cinderella. This is definitely one of my favorite books. You won't find another science fiction book with as many interesting and diverse female characters. The book has a very exciting plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. In addition to that, Cinder has many amazing characters. I couldn't pick my favorite one. All of the characters are lovable and distinct. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the setting. I loved Meyer’s vision of what the future would look like. She described the setting perfectly. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science fiction or fantasy genres.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
Ganymede
Priest, Cherie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Now that I’ve read the first three books in the Clockwork Century series, any hope I had of some cohesive narrative is essentially gone. While following a new character for each book helps to provide a different setting of the steampunk alternate universe, when I know these characters won’t matter outside their own books, I kind of stop caring about them. Even previous heroines are relegated to cameo and minor character status as the persistent series of somewhat pointless events drags on. And don’t even get me started on the zombies, which are a distraction to any actual story in my opinion.

I think the main problem I have with these books is the fact that things happen without much lead-up or foreshadowing. Sure, there are some fascinating factors involved with making a submarine work in the Civil War era, but the resulting battle and conclusion went exactly as I expected them to. This isn’t foreshadowing as much as it is conforming to clichés. There doesn’t seem to be much at stake in any of the character arcs, which is made all the more prevalent by the relatively uninteresting characters themselves. Some have distinguishable quirks, but they all feel flat in a world that could be that much more interesting.

As for the “twist” near the end involving one of the characters, I feel it was poorly executed, let alone unnecessary. Considering the medical techniques at the time, even in an alternate universe, the individual in question probably didn’t have the necessary “assets” to convincingly pull this deception off. If anything, it was only hidden via clothing, but since there were no hints or foreshadowing about this surprisingly minor character, I had no way to even know if anything was off to begin with. I can believe that some of them might exist in that timeframe, but it just felt like a cheap add-in for the sake of “inclusion.”

Another steampunk book in a series that isn’t going anywhere, I give Ganymede 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing story with important underlying themes. I really enjoyed this book. I read To Kill a Mockingbird on my own and then in class, which only made me appreciate the book more. The book explores controversial issues such as prejudice, racism, what it means to be a woman/lady, and growing up, which are all still relevant in today’s society. However, this is not a book for people who enjoy eventful/plot driven stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a character-driven story (in my opinion). Harper Lee’s usage of symbolism, language and setting add to the enjoyment of the book. I could not recommend this book enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is a thought-provoking and classic book that everyone should read before they die.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Sanchez, Erika L.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Julia was happy that her older sister Olga fulfilled the role of "perfect Mexican daughter." Prim and proper, Olga always did what she was told and followed the rules. During Julia's junior year in high school, Olga was run over by a semi-truck and killed. After Olga's death, Julia is surprised when she finds some scandalous items in Olga's off-limits room. As Julia tries to learn more about her dead sister, she finds herself learning more about her family, friends, and ultimately, herself.

YA contemporary fiction is not really my thing - I went on a reading spree of this genre recently as I was reviewing my Goodreads "read" list from 2018 and realized that I have read zero books in this genre. Because I need to read it for work, I decided to go with award winning books and/or authors from a different background than myself. This book, a National Book Award finalist about the daughter of Mexican immigrants living in the US, met that metric and appealed to me on the diversity front. I gave it a go, and was quite pleasantly surprised.

Julia is an extremely sympathetic character, and not just because she does fairly well in the face of a lot of adversity. Her voice is at times raw and honest and at other times snarky and hilarious, which really worked for me. Even though we don't have a lot in common, I was able to connect with Julia and I really cared about her and her story.

There's a lot of character development as Julia slowly learns more about her family members and their pasts, and there's just enough intrigue to keep the pages turning.

In addition to being a good coming of age story, this book covers some really important topics. Obviously, there's a lot about grief and how we grieve differently. Julia is suffering from depression, and the book is not shy about discussing her mental illness. The end of the book is followed by a section entitled "Mental Health Resources." Moreover, I learned a bit about some aspects of Mexican culture, and I got to take a peak into the lives of folks who had recently immigrated into the US from Mexico.

Considering this wasn't really my thing in the first place, I quite enjoyed it! Readers of contemporary YA will like this one - its got a touch of romance, a likable protagonist, and loads of substance. 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
A Wrinkle in Time
L'Engle, Madeleine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Meg Murry is an outcast. She feels that she doesn't belong anywhere -- not at school, and especially not among her family of accomplished scientists and visionaries. But, when three strange women appear and offer to help her find her missing father, she is whisked away to another world. With the help of her brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin, she works to find her father and save Earth from impeding evil. I originally read "A Wrinkle in Time" back in middle school, but decided to reread it before seeing the film, and found that I loved the book just as much as I did the first time around. The writing is charming and clever. The worlds are vast and imaginative. Meg and her brother Charles Wallace undergo compelling character arcs and discover their true purpose along the journey. I have nothing negative to say about this amazing story. To anyone who loves fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, rich characters, and interesting plots, go read this book!

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Aru Shah and the End of Time
Chokshi, Roshani
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a habit of lying. She exaggerates her life to her pretentious classmates in the hopes of fitting in. But, when she lights an ancient cursed lamp to impress them, she accidentally brings about the end of days and a dark creature known as the Sleeper. Together, with her new friend Mini, they have to stop the Sleeper and save humanity. "Aru Shah and the End of Time" is an exciting, funny, heartwarming book that reminded me ofsome of the earlier "Percy Jackson" books by Rick Riordan -- and I thought Mini and Aru's unlikely friendship was a charming, very compelling part ofthe story. There were some parts that were slow and seemed to meander a little, but, nevertheless, this story was a blast. From the minute the story starts, you will want to follow Aru and her friends to the very end.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Jackaby
Ritter, William
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The year is 1892. Abigail Rook has just arrived in New Fiddleham, England, in search of work when she meets the strange young detective R. F. Jackaby. After a series of unusual murders strike the town, Abigail and Jackaby work to crack the case and catch the killer. "Jackaby" is a fun, engrossing read that I couldn't put down. Every twist and turn left me dying to know more. The plot, characters, and setting were very interesting and excellently crafted. That said, I will admit that the end was a little predictable. I figured out who was the killer about half-way in, but the details surrounding the truth were unexpected enough for me to forgive that. If you are a fan of "Sherlock" and/or "Supernatural", this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Dread Mountain
Rodda, Emily
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The fifth book in the Deltora Quest series, Dread Mountain, is quite the entertaining read. Like the seven others in the series, it is an adventure novel that lives up to its name. The characters fit perfectly into the story, and are well developed. You really get to know Barda, Lief, and Jasmine as they work together to defeat the evil Shadow Lord. In this case, they struggle together to push through tough news and the environment along their journey to Dread Mountain. Along this part of the quest they meet several side characters, and while the unique 'races' of the characters are extraordinary, most stay lacking in development. The only other main fault in the book is the evil boss monster Gellick, as he doesn’t seem like a real threat to the characters. The book has more of a self vs self conflict, and I wish the big 'baddies' like Gellick were featured more as a sort-of fear than some sort of pushover. Other than that, I would recommend this book to anyone willing to spend a good 45 minutes reading.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Book Review: Oedipus at Colonus
Sophocles
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Oedipus at Colonus is part of Sophocles’ Athenian tragedies trilogy called the Oedipus plays. Oedipus at Colonus picks up after the events of Oedipus Rex and follows Oedipus’ life after his exile from Thebes. He starts off wandering in strange lands with his daughter, Antigone, trying to find out where they are. A citizen tells them that they are in Colonus, a sacred Athenian city. The King of Colonus, Theseus, comes to see Oedipus, and Oedipus asks Theseus if he can take refuge in Colonus in exchange for eternal prosperity for his city. Oedipus’ second daughter, Ismene, arrives and informs them that Oedipus’ two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, are planning to go to war with each other for the throne. Oedipus asks for refuge in Colonus, as he knows his sons will come for him due to a prophecy that was told: The city that Oedipus is buried in will forever have good fortune. Oedipus promises that if Theseus offers him his trust and protection, he will bring fortune to Colonus by being buried within its confines. Theseus agrees and him and Oedipus form a great bond. With Oedipus’ death nearing and the conflict in Thebes increasing; Antigone, Ismene, and Theseus must figure out how to solve the situation of Thebes as long as ensure Colonus’ security. I love Sophocles’ Oedipus plays because it connects history with tragedy and makes for one of the most revered plays for its age, dating back to 401 BC. I read the plays using the Dover Thrift Editions as their translations are the easiest for me to grasp and understand.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
Knights of the Borrowed Dark
Rudden, Dave
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Well-crafted masterpiece from beginning to end. The author described this book as a response to the "twee" children who are immediately drawn into a fantastic scenario. The main character here is a self-described skeptic and almost chooses not to follow the plot.

Lots of suspense in the middle section when the almost-Lovecraftian antagonists are sneaking around the orphanage. The author plays with the format; for dark sections, the pages are black with only the sounds visible. Recommended for anyone who is interested in writing, as you can feel all the work that went into making this book, and those who like adventure children's books (Charlie Bone, Harry Potter). Even if you think children's lit is too cute, you should still read this--it's great!

Reviewer's Name: Jennifer
Genres:
Book Review: The Underground Railroad
Whitehead, Colson
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
Genres:
The Luster of Lost Things
Keller, Sophie Chen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Dreamlike magical realism which combines beautiful prose and thoughtful insight into a young boy's life with a motor speech disorder and the shadows cast by the disappearance of his father. An enchanting read for fans of Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca
Genres:

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