All Book Reviews

Hive Book Cover
Lyga, Barry
2 stars = Meh
Review:

In the near future, an app called BLINQ tracks all social media usage and amalgamates posts from a number of platforms. On BLINQ, you can vote to condemn a person for their social media output – if a person’s condemns to likes ratio gets out of balance, they’ll find themself condemned in real life. For example, a person who ignominiously dumps their partner on Facebook might find themself getting physically dumped in the trash. The punishment is designed to fit the crime. Called the Hive, its something our lead Cassie loved to participate in – until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. After a racy tweet, Cassie finds herself the target of the Hive, but her punishment is more severe than all that have come before it: death.

This was a fast paced, enjoyable dystopia which was a good change of pace from my normal fare of fantasy. I think teens are going to love it. Aside from a few horrendous decisions, our lead Cassie is likable, smart (ostensibly, anyway) and her experiences navigating a new high school will resonate with teens. As Cassie spends most of the book running for her life, it will definitely appeal to thriller fans or those that need their books to be very plot based. I read the book in a day or two even though I had a good idea of how it was going to play out. Little attention is given to the supporting characters, though the book did also present a few chapters from Cassie’s mom’s perspective, which I loved. The authors did a great job portraying a somewhat fraught mother-daughter relationship. There’s though-provoking, if heavy handed, social commentary to be found as well, and I think this book will stick with some readers long after they've turned the last page.

Ultimately, though, the book had what I’m going to call the “Scythe” problem: the premise just wasn’t believable. The Hive was certainly believable – its basically a physical manifestation of the shame that we’re willing to dole out to strangers online (if you’d like a great non-fiction read on the topic, try So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson ). Did I for one second think that the first person to get the death penalty would be a teenage girl who tweeted something offensive? I did not. I had trouble getting over that.

TLDR: If you liked The Maze Runner, Divergent or yes, Scythe, you should definitely check out this thrilling dystopia.
Lots of teens will love this one, but it didn’t do it for me – 2 stars. It was ok.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kids Can Press for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Hive will be released on 03 September but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Cozy Life
Edberg, Pia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It's so easy to get caught up in daily life and, in my case, neuroses. The Danish concept of hygge offers a way to enjoy the simple things by making an change to coziness. It's a conscious change and can be applied to all walks of life. Now I find myself asking if something is hygge throughout the day. I plan to use some of the suggestions, such as keeping a clean, cozy house, thinking more positive, and restarting my gratitude journal. Good book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Messenger's Legacy
Brett, Peter V.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In a series that’s full of exposition and backstory, I found it a little odd that these extraneous details weren’t relegated to side-story novellas so the plot of the main series of books could focus on the current action. What’s even more curious is that Messenger’s Legacy, a side-story novella in this series, doesn’t explore anything new or interesting that hadn’t already been covered in the main books. The only new information I learned in this novella was slightly more detail about bog and swamp demons, which seems unnecessary with all things considered.

Following somewhat minor characters from The Warded Man (who haven’t appeared in the series since), Messenger’s Legacy shows it is easier to survive in demon-infested nights than the series initially indicated. While I’m not sure if any of these details will come into play in the main-line books, it does help expand the world-building just a little bit more than if this story hadn’t been included at all. As always, the demon-infused action is exciting and a strength of the author’s writing.

I’m sure there are much more interesting backstories and side-stories to tell in this series, so it’s curious that this one was written about at all. I’d much rather read about the original Deliverer or the society that crumbled away in the desert (leaving behind powerful wards in the process). Sure, there’s some personality explored in this story that helps pull the reader back to less god-like individuals and their struggles against the demons. However, with so many more interesting stories to tell, I’d suggest that anyone reading this series can skip this novella and not miss anything important.

A curious side-story that doesn’t add anything to the series, I give Messenger’s Legacy 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Daylight War
Brett, Peter V.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’m glad to see that it only took two books for Peter V. Brett to cut down on some of the extraneous flashbacks and exposition in the Demon Cycle series. While whole chunks of The Warded Man could have been cut with nothing significant lost in the process, and The Desert Spear had what appeared to be an unrelated storyline that weaved through the narrative, The Daylight War has a minimal amount of this “fluff.” Granted, there is still some amount of world-building that helped to explain yet another aspect of this setting, but it’s minimal in comparison to its predecessors.

Additionally, I already knew this series was an adult fantasy from my experience with The Warded Man and The Desert Spear. These are tame when compared to the third entry in the series. The sex in this book made the previous two look like nuns in comparison. Sure, it could be argued that it “adds to the plot” in a few spots, but I’m just used to it at this point. At any rate, the differences between the two different cultures hearken back to the European and Middle-eastern cultures that undoubtedly influenced them, which also would explain the adult nature of these books.

As for the plot, the first two books seemed to set up the far superior plot in this book. While The Warded Man followed one deliverer’s path, and The Desert Spear explored an equally-gifted deliverer from a different culture, The Daylight War revealed how similar—and how different—these two men are. I don’t know if I liked the “mindreading” aspect of these individuals’ new power, as it seemed a little like lazy writing at times, but the addition of the warded skills to take on a severe threat from the demons was entertaining as always.

An adult fantasy that has finally cut a lot of the fluff of its predecessors, I give The Daylight War 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Mecha Samurai Empire
Tieryas, Peter
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

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

For a genre that’s usually associated with Japanese anime and manga, I haven’t seen many “mecha” novels (or movies, for that matter, with Pacific Rim (2013) being the only notable example). Consequently, when I received an advance reader copy of Mecha Samurai Empire, I was looking forward to reading it. While there were still a few grammatical and proofreading errors in this book—of which I’m sure have been fixed in the final version—portions of the plot didn’t sit well with me. My main qualm is the main character who really isn’t good at anything but still gets to pilot a huge and complicated piece of machinery just because he wants to.

A clear and obvious mix between The Man in the High Castle and Neon Genesis Evangelion, the few strong elements of this book were in the mecha battles themselves. The problem is that the references sprinkled throughout are so obvious (I had to roll my eyes at the Mega Man 2 reference) as to distract from the story. I don’t mind if other stories influence writers, but at least make their influence less obvious when crafting something “new.” At its worst, Mecha Samurai Empire holds to all the tropes and clichés present in mecha anime and manga. If you're into that kind of thing, this probably isn't a problem.

While I still enjoy the spectacle of giant robots fighting, a good story needs to come down to its characters. Since I didn’t particularly like the main character, I tried to grab onto some of the minor ones. Unfortunately, while some of the character arcs were highly predictable, most of the minor characters didn’t stand out either (and the one that did was super annoying). Just like Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) made me lose faith that we’ll see live-action adaptations of mecha anime like Evangelion or Gurren Lagann, Mecha Samurai Empire shows we still have a way to go before novels of this genre are prevalent.

An obvious mashup with pretty good action, I give Mecha Samurai Empire 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Awards:
Book Review: A Woman Is No Man
Rum, Etaf
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. This book blew my mind! So gripping and powerful, a glimpse into a culture I would otherwise never be privy to. Isra and Deya were both so brave. One doomed and the other prevailing. I learned a lot from them and from this book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Les Misérables
Hugo, Victor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of the most profound pieces of literature ever crafted, simply due to the fact that the main character is a metaphor for Jesus Christ. This masterpiece of prose has been well documented, however, it relates human tragedy and a profound love as only Mr. Hugo himself could have imagined the reader could absorbed. Cosette is a wonderful character as well as lil' Gavroche and he introduces unknown things to an American audience if they ever read books anymore.;)

Reviewer's Name: Mike S.
The Remedy for Love
Roorbach, Bill
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The story was cute enough, lawyer meets girl, girl is eccentric, lawyer has conflicting feelings about his ex. However, the dialogue was sometimes vexing to get through.

Reviewer's Name: C. Sandoval
The Honeymoon Effect
Lipton, Bruce H.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In his book The Honeymoon Effect, Dr. Bruce Lipton speaks about the cellular effects of love. He teaches readers that what the brain interprets as being in love, or loving someone very deeply, causes a cascade effect of enhanced cellular healing, release of a higher level of positive chemicals throughout the body, and a notable increase in general well-being of the body, mind, and spirit. After reviewing the science behind the emotion of love and its effects, Dr. Lipton teaches readers how to create more love in their lives. Thus, he makes the case that they can create happier, healthier lives for themselves and those they care about through fostering this important emotion.
I enjoyed this book for its sensible science, interesting premise, and useable teachings. I would recommend this book to readers age 16 and up who wish to gain a greater understanding of the science of the emotion of love.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
EFT

EFT

Evans, Janet
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In her book EFT, Janet Evans describes one of science's biggest breakthroughs in stress-relief: the Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. EFT is a method of processing and releasing emotions which combines the latest in modern psychology with Eastern acupressure points. Research has shown that by describing what one's emotions are, or the problem being experienced and how it makes one feel, while tapping on a series of acupressure points, the cortisol response in the body is significantly reduced.
After describing what EFT is and how to do this stress-relief technique, Ms. Evans provides readers with a list of 10 experiments to try in stress-relief to prove that, as she says, "Your mind creates your life." This book is interactive, with the experiment portions comprising most of the book. After a brief introduction to each challenge by giving the scientific backing for it, Ms. Evans invites readers to try for themselves and see how their mind helps them create, or re-create, their life.
I enjoyed this book. Ms. Evans's writing style is concise, clear, and her EFT experiments are enjoyable as well as helpful. This book is useful for all ages, as stress-relief is important for everyone.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
E2

E2

Grout, Pam
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

E2 is a book about the fusion of the common wisdom of positive thinking with modern-day science. The premise Mrs. Grout lays out for readers begins with her book's prologue, Albert Einstein's famous theorem e = mc2 (energy = mass* the speed of light)(squared). In her book, Mrs. Grout presents the scientific energetic evidence for why actions such as positive thought so incredibly shape people's lives. By teaching readers how easy it is to influence the energies around them thorough positive thought and belief, she shows how to change one's life for the better.

I enjoyed this book very much, because it is so inspirational and helpful in creating a more positive life. I would recommend this book to any reader looking to influence their life positively. The age range appropriate would be from 15 to any adult age.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
The Tapping Solution
Ortner, Nick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In his book "The Tapping Solution", Nick Ortner introduces readers to a valuable tool for, as he says, "stress-free living". While unfortunately, no life is free from stress, the Tapping Solution (or EFT) is a method in which modern psychology is combined with eastern acupressure points on the face, chest, underarms, and hand to release stress when tapped upon them. Why does this method work? Multiple studies have shown that one of the greatest benefits of acupuncture and acupressure is cortisol reduction in the body (the stress hormone). When tapping these EFT points while saying aloud the emotion one is experiencing, the cortisol has been shown to significantly drop in the body.
This has multiple applications, as Mr. Ortner goes on to explain, including aid with anxiety relief, stress relief, and even help for those days that don't go right. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to reduce the stress in their life and re-wire their brain.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
The Biology of Belief
Lipton, Bruce H.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In this book about the effect of thoughts and belief on the body's cells, Dr. Lipton compellingly shows the science of positivity. A fascinating and encouraging read for teens and above, this book encourages positive thinking for all. The case Dr. Lipton makes, backed by his own research, is "the more we put happiness into our thoughts, the more happiness our bodies experience", meaning release of positive chemicals, less stress, and better healing. This is an important book that encourages positive thinkers and those working to change their thinking. This is because as Mr. Lipton says, positivity heals.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
Sleepover at the Museum
LeFrak, Karen
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Mason and his 2 best friends are celebrating his birthday with a sleepover at the museum of natural history. They begin with a scavenger hunt through the museum. While they figure out the clues, they are also figuring out the best place to sleep for the night. You can help solve the clues and learn facts about various exhibits while you explore with them. Would you choose the same place to sleep as they do?

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Sorting
Pluckrose, Henry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Learn about sorting as you read this book. You’ll learn simple ways to sort of pile of things and how to further sort a group. You’ll get some sorting practice and see some sorted groups. You’ll learn about different sets and what they might include. This book is a fun introduction to sorting a variety of things.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Cookiesaurus Rex
Dominy, Amy Fellner and Evans, Nate
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Cookiesaurus Rex comes out of the oven with a huge attitude! He starts out happy with his green frosting until he realizes that other cookies are getting sprinkles and more. Is he happy with his new look? See the different ways he’s decorated and find out what happens to him in the end. This is a fun book with colorful illustrations that help tell the story.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Awards:
Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
Scarry, Richard
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The pig family is going on a picnic. Join them on this interactive journey and learn about all sorts of vehicles – some real and some made up. In addition, you can find that tricky Goldbug on each page. You’ll learn a bit about transportation, hunt for Goldbug, learn new vocabulary, and see some funny things. You’ll see new things each time you read this book. It’s destined to become a family favorite!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was a really good start to the Harry Potter series. I had been recommended to it a few times before reading it, and it was totally worth it. This book starts the series comprising of Harry Potter's adventures at Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. I liked how this book never really let me down with many exciting elements and details leading up to a huge climax. Although, it did seem to drag at the beginning. I didn't really like that, but once you get past Harry's life with his aunt and uncle, you will not be disappointed. This is a book to read if you are into fantasy, and action.

Reviewer's Name: Katie
Genres:
The Drawing of the Three
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While it took me a while to get used to The Gunslinger , I was able to dive right in with The Drawing of the Three as I continue reading this Dark Tower series. Personally, I think the simplicity of the story and the immediacy of the danger helped to hook me from the start. Unlike the first book in the series, The Drawing of the Three has a solid set of relatable characters that are introduced just fast enough to get used to their unique personal challenges. If anything, these individuals piqued my interest, and I’m curious to see where their story goes from here.

One aspect of this book I found to be extremely entertaining was the action sequences. When there were stakes on the line, and things had to happen, the resulting action in these plot-moving points was both intense and hilarious. Generally, I am not much of a fan of the “fish out of water” approach to characters, but King makes it work here with The Gunslinger traveling back and forth between the worlds to take advantage of our modern wonders that help him survive in the fantastical world of the Dark Tower.

I also have to give kudos to the narrator of this work, Frank Muller, as his voice acting brought every character to vibrant life via their accents and verbal tics. I had no doubt who was speaking as he wove the story through his reading. Although, the one qualm I had with this book was that one of the characters was a bit grating on the nerves. While this added some excellent conflict to the story, it was annoying having to hear their manic voice for as long as I had to. I’m just glad that they weren’t the first character pulled into the Gunslinger’s world. Otherwise, I don’t know how I could have kept listening.

A superior and straightforward story in the Dark Tower series, I give The Drawing of the Three 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Roadwork
Bachman, Richard
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I wasn’t aware of Stephen King’s Richard Bachman pseudonym until I picked up this book to read on a whim. While it’s clear all of King’s technical prowess is still present in Bachman’s work, the “king of horror” gained a chance to write outside his genre. Of course, King has done this before with a few different books (like Hearts in Atlantis , The Green Mile , and The Dark Tower series), but writing under a pseudonym seemed to unleash an amount of cynicism I’ve hardly seen in King’s writing before.

Written in the early 1980s, Roadwork exhibits all the identifying marks of a cynic who has been over-saturated with consumerism. The need to have a job to support a family by buying a house that needs to be filled with the accouterments of modern living is a bit too much for some people. This is especially true for those who don’t quite meet the standard of the "American dream” in their own mind and have no other course other than to wallow in self-pity. By now, it’s practically a tale as old as the industrial revolution. Unfortunately, this means Roadwork doesn’t stand out much in my mind as an original story.

Perhaps Roadwork was one-of-a-kind back when King wrote it, but I doubt that was the case. Heck, the beat poets of the ‘60s and ‘70s certainly wrote about separating themselves from the toxic consumerism shoved down their throats. Roadwork almost felt like a “paint by number” novel that covered all the basic items in a story of this kind, checking each box until it reaches its obvious and inevitable conclusion. While it was nice to read something by Stephen King that wasn’t necessarily beholden to the fame of his name, I’m not sure if I would have read it if he wasn’t attached to it at all.

A so-so cynical work that is hardly original enough to mention, I give Roadwork 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.

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