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Adult Book Reviews

The Man He Never Was
Rubart, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

James Rubart has been one of my favorite Christian authors for a long time, and his latest, The Man He Never Was, does not disappoint. This is not just “a modern re imagining of Jekyll and Hyde,” it is a story of one man’s radical journey to discover what true love really looks like and the freedom we find through redemption.

Torren Daniels is a regular guy pursuing the career of his dreams. A football star with a loving family and everything to lose. He lives for the game, taking out his anger and frustration like most guys on the football field, through the game. But one day when he goes to far, his perfect life and career fall apart and he is left with nothing but his anger, frustration and rage at himself and his family.

Fast forward eight months, Torren has disappeared and everyone, including his wife and family, believe he is dead. Until one day he shows up in a hotel room with nothing but his wallet, the clothes on his back, and no memory of his life for the past eight months. But one thing he does know, he has come back different. More different than he has ever been before. The anger and frustration he has dealt with all of his life, seems to be gone. Instead being replaced with love, patience, and kindness, but are these changes truly real or are they simply an illusion?

What follows in the preceding days, is not only a physical journey to discover what happened to him, but a spiritual one that reveals the struggle of good and evil we all face inside ourselves and the redemptive freedom we can experience when Christ’s true love is set free within us.

Rubart’s storytelling gets down to the issues in a fast-paced way that does not dwell on flourishes and world building, as much as it does on character development. Torren is not a likeable character especially at the beginning of the book, but as the book progresses, and he goes on this journey, we see how the other relationships in his life, shape how his character responds. The other character’s in the book likewise are shaped by, and changed by, how his character responds to them, especially Torren’s wife.

Rubart’s story is highly complex, and as the story unfolds and the layers are peeled back, we see the struggle that is really going on inside Torren. Rubart approaches issues such as broken relationships, anger, loss, forgiveness, and abandonment in a way that is both realistic and extremely relatable. These issues and how they shape his character’s lives, also help shape the timber and tone of the overall story and come to a head in the conclusion of the story in an important and life changing way.

Rubart’s stories have always been complex and interesting. But one of the things I have always loved about him as an author and continue to love about him, evident in this book and the others I have read, is the way he has a way of presenting spiritual truths in a highly complex and original way but within the real world and in a way that is not overbearing, and is extremely relatable. The Man He Never Was, does not just present an updated version of the story of Jekyll and Hyde but takes the story and makes it real in a way that I never considered or imagined. Rubart takes the characters of Jekyll and Hyde and presents them as allegories as he explores the battle of good versus evil that is constantly going on inside each one of us.

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction for an E-Arc of this book for review. This book is out February 20 but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Outcasts of Time
Mortimer, Ian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book follows the story of two brothers John and William in 1340’s Medieval England who are suffering from the Black Death. But as their end draws near, they are given a choice that changes the course of their lives forever. They are told that they have six days left to live, which they can either spend with their loved ones, or search for salvation and redemption for their lives across the centuries; spending each one of their remaining days 99 years after the last. So, each day takes places one century after the last. The brothers choose the latter and are launched into an adventure that spans centuries in the time frame of a few days.

Observers of the world across centuries, John and William hardly recognize the world around them each day they wake up, and as their journey for salvation progresses, questions the world around them in a way that has readers questioning humanities true motives. Rather than focusing on the good things and advancements the world has made through the centuries, the characters, especially John, ponder how these advancements have brought humanity farther and farther away from God. As the years and days progress, the novel asks the question what is true salvation really and examines the idea of what is good verses bad?

When I received an ARC of this book in the mail from the publisher at first, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it, but as I read the back, I became excited, because this book deals with a sci-fi like subject of time travel in a way I haven’t seen before. This book took me a while to get through and it also is a book that really makes you think. Warning! If you are looking for only a traditional time travel sci-fi book, this book is probably not for you however, if you like historical fiction this book is probably more for you. This book deals with time travel in a highly conceptual way. It is a time travel book written by a very noted historian and reads very much like a historical novel with all the historical details you would find in a history book. But it is also very philosophical as the main character questions the world and the ideas in it. As this quote from John shows when he is discussing, with the family he is staying with, the bad things done by others around them.

“I myself wish for nothing more than to spend the rest of my days engaged in good deeds,’ I say. But how can I tell what a good deed is in this day and age? What is “good” and “bad” if God’s law is constantly changing? How can we do good if the meaning of “good” and “bad” are dependent on who wins the war? How can a man go through this world in sure knowledge that he is doing the right and proper thing?”

This is just one of many philosophical musings that the author poses through the book that seek to answer difficult questions and these details really make the reader think and ponder the difficult answers to questions like, what is good verses bad. These details I think also give the book a conceptual quality that puts it above the norm and makes it more than just another sci-fi book about time travel.

Ian Mortimer is an excellent historian and the historical detail in this book are incredible! He weaves together history and time travel in a highly original and interesting way that makes readers both question the world and presents readers with a clear picture of England’s evolution from a small underdeveloped town to a large industrial country that leads the world in more ways than one. I highly recommend this book for readers of historical fiction or anyone who likes highly conceptual, philosophical books that question the world and everything in it. I give this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to the publisher Pegasus Books for an ARC of this book for review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Robogenesis
Wilson, Daniel H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

While I appreciated the logical nature that Daniel H. Wilson brought to the idea of a robot apocalypse in Robopocalypse, I felt the book itself was disjointed as a series of short stories that examined the various forms our robot servants would turn on us. The whole book seemed more like an academic exercise than a piece of fiction. In the follow-up to Robopocalypse, Wilson picks up right where the last book left off. With the exposition of how the robots turned on us already covered, he then is able to fully explore the fictional environment via its characters in Robogenesis.

It took me a little while to recall who some of these characters were and what had happened during the previous book, which left me confused in the early moments of each section. Once I eventually got my bearings, the stories themselves were interesting and tied together pretty well. Some of the action was a little disorienting, but overall I had a good idea what was happening. There were a few storylines I would have liked to see fleshed out more (like Matilda’s storyline), as well as some that were perhaps fleshed out too much.

And by “fleshed out,” I’m of course referring to the almost gratuitous and graphic violence that’s present in this book. I’m not sure it was really necessary, and it was more unsettling than anything else. I mean, I get that the end of the world will be violent, but it doesn’t need to be described in gory detail. At least by the end of the book, it looks like there’s a satisfying conclusion, but with the clear indication that the war is not over. This means I’ll probably have to read the next book in this series whenever it comes out.

A good sci-fi that blends realism with a few entertaining characters, I give Robogenesis 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Book Review: A Man Called Ove
Backman, Fredrik
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book starts of slow and then continues a leisurely pace throughout. It was a bit hard for me to get through the first half of the novel as it mainly dealt with the thought process of a suicidal curmudgeon. But as the novel unfolds, Ove is unwrapped to show a man with quiet strength who is mourning the loss of his wife and his job. As the novel continues, we meet people who insert themselves into his life, showing him kindness and giving him purpose. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quiet, leisurely novel about the power of friendship.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
'Book Review: The Snowman'
Nesbo, Jo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Have you ever heard of Leatherface? Hannibal Lecter? Freddy Krueger? Good. Because if you like those kinds of killers and movies, then you will absolutely love this novel, The Snowman. The book follows the path of a detective with a dark past who is forced to hunt down one of the most deadly and disturbing killers he has ever faced, as he simultaneously struggles with the battle within himself. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I would recommend this novel to people who enjoy thrillers, horror novels, or anyone who enjoys getting a little disturbed sometimes.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Book Review: Don Quixote
Cervantes, Miguel de
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Written in 1605, and translated in at least 50 languages, the novel Don Quixote has often been considered the father of western literature. And for good reason. Coming in at around over 900 pages, this novel is an amazing read. This book follows the hilarious journey of Don Quixote and his portly sidekick, Sancho Panza, as they travel around Spain searching for adventures. I would suggest this book to anyone who enjoys long novels, humor, or anything like Princess Bride.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Pet Sematary
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: If you have any pets, I recommend removing them from the vicinity!
This novel, coming in at around 400 pages, is a very chilling read. You follow an ordinary family in a not so ordinary town as they attempt to deal with the realization that anyone buried in the cemetery behind their house horrifyingly comes back to life. This all starts when they bury their cat, and they then find it beck in their house. This book is very good, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes horror, thrillers, or maybe people who like zombies.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Genres:
IT

IT

King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: This book is incredible. One of the scariest novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading is also one of the longest. In this book you follow the journey of seven characters - all brilliantly well rounded and fleshed out, if I may add. You alternate between their experiences during childhood and adulthood of facing and fighting the demonic and supernatural clown, Pennywise. I recommend this book to fans of horror and Stephen King, or anyone who enjoys a long read of a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
The Way of Kings
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Review: This book is amazing, period. Sanderson has created a truly living, breathing world with his debut novel in the Stormbringer Archives series, and I believe that this novel deserves a spot next to the classics of Tolkien and Robert Jordan. The book follows the separate journeys of multiple characters across the world of this universe; however, even though the different tales seem separate, they all end up interconnecting and melding into one truly grandiose story. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Lord of the Rings and such, fantasy enthusiasts, or anyone who is simply searching for a good book. However, the length of the book, being over one thousand pages long, may put some people off, but if you give this book the time and dedication that it truly deserves, you will be rewarded with an amazing experience.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Genres:
The Circle
Eggers, Dave
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The only reason I read this book was because of the movie starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks but I'm one of those who [for the most part] read the book first before watching the movie because we all know that books are always better and have more details than the movie versions.

I've been on the fence about deactivating my Facebook and Twitter accounts and signing up for Instagram or keeping my blog, Ravelry and GoodReads active since I use Ravelry and GoodReads mainly as online databases for my yarn craft and books respectively so I won't have to create an offline database from scratch and my blog as a way to share things that I enjoy and my book reviews like this one. The Circle by Dave Eggers definitely showed some pros and cons to going "off the grid" to quote Mercer and some pros and cons to being online to keep up with family and friends and social media is good way to reconnect with old friends especially if you have no way of contacting them because your address book hasn't been updated in a long while.

Enter Mae Holland who hasn't used her social media account in a while and ends up working for the Circle, a tech company who is all about sharing [everything] and being social online and offline and unifying everything into one account. I rated this book 4 stars not because it's really good but mostly because the author managed to make me feel something and made me think. When Mae first started working at the Circle, I felt as stressed out and exhausted as Mae felt while learning about her new job and balancing her work-related duties as well as her "social" duties and the constant need to "smile," "frown," and "zing" can be overwhelming for someone like me who likes to moderately share things online. Yes, I do believe that there are things that should be kept private and still do even after reading this book.

I don't think it is healthy to spend so much time online "smiling," "frowning," and "zing-ing" what other people share to the point where you no longer have time to live your life in the real world. And changing your opinions because you don't like getting "frowns" is not being human. Being human is about having different opinions and thoughts and it shouldn't matter if your opinion is unpopular because it is you. The way it is presented in this book is that slowly, everyone in the world is of one mind, one opinion which is already happening in the real world. People get shamed, hated on or bullied online when you express sentiments that are not in line with the sentiments of others. And this mentality should stop.

There are some aspects of unifying databases from this book that I liked the idea of. An example would be medical records that way when you switch medical providers or during medical emergency situations, all your records can be found in one centralized system/location to make it super efficient for the medical team to give you the right medication or treatment as well as if you're unconscious, there's a way to alert your medical/care team to send help. While it is also great to get real time results on polls and surveys, being forced to vote by suspending all electronic/computer/online activities until you've voted is wrong in the sense that people have the right to vote or not vote. Sure it will help a lot if everyone voted but to make it mandatory like what the Circle suggests violates the right to decide whether to vote or not. I'm on the fence about humans getting micro-chipped like most of our pets are micro-chipped because I personally don't want everybody in the world to know where I am. I only want my I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contacts to know where I am and that's about it. There's more examples in this book that I'm either on the fence on or completely against the idea of but I have to end it here otherwise, this review will be as lengthy as the novel itself.

Moving on to the general overview of the plot. It's believable to some degree and I can see the parallels to the real world especially on the social media aspect and we are somewhat slowly getting there on the other technological aspects. The pacing of the story is slow to moderate and sometimes it makes you think if there's any point to this whole thing. The whole time I was listening to this book, I was waiting for a really cool plot twist or a big revelation or a big self-discovery, but unfortunately, none of those happened. There was a revelation towards the end but it was a bit of a let down because somehow, at the back of my mind, I already knew that.

As for the characters, I feel like they're not as well-developed as I'd hoped. There's no real depth to Annie, Dan, Jared, the three wise men, Francis, or any of the rest of the characters, including Mae (more on that, later). It feels like these other characters are there to either add drama in the case of Francis, to move the story along in the case of Dan, Jared, the three wise men, etc., and as proof of validation and someone to vent to as in the case of Annie. As for Mae, I somewhat resonated with her in the beginning but as the book progresses, her character became less real and more fake in the sense that the Mae readers liked in the beginning slowly disappeared as she became "one with the hive" err Circle and lost her own individuality. Another thing that was disturbing about Mae was in the end, while visiting her catatonic best friend, Annie, she looks at one of the monitors scanning Annie's brain waves and wonders what Annie's dreaming/thinking about while in a coma and decides that people's thoughts should be accessible to everyone and that "the world deserves nothing less" which to me, is frankly, quite disturbing.

Finally, the narration. Dion Graham did a wonderful job narrating/reading this book even though this book follows Mae's perspective and there's none of that high-pitched voice trying to sound like a woman/girl.

In conclusion, if you are someone who shares everything online then you might enjoy this book and if you are someone who is on the verge of deactivating all of your online and social media accounts, you might find extra reasons in this book to permanently go offline. If you are someone who likes to see characters evolve into a better version of themselves, this book is not for you.

Reviewer's Name: Mary Grace C.
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984, written by renowned author George Orwell, a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair, follows the protagonist Winston Smith set in what Smith believes to be the 80s in London. In fact, Smith is not sure of anything anymore, definitely not the exact year or what happened to his family or who the mysterious dictator called Big Brother is or who his state is at war with. Eurasia, right? No, must’ve been Eastasia... All Smith knows are the mottos of each of the ministries that form the government in Oceania, where London is. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. He is told what to think, what to say, and what to do for nearly every part of his life. His government banks on strict organization and dire consequences for disobeying the rules. 1984 is an interesting read that set the bar for dystopian novels, defining inefficient governments from real life examples.
The novel is more realistic being inspired by Orwell’s hatred for totalitarianism and the events of World War II. I recommend 1984 to anyone curious about examining different types of societies, their standards and how those effect the population. The novel is fairly political and examines rebellion, although not as face paced as typical young adult reads. 1984 allows for an in depth examination of the character’s internal conflicts, Winston is one of the more detailed and complex protagonists because there are many parts where he cannot he sympathized with due to his lesser characteristics. The setting is clearly presented in a more world-building way than just giving out straight information. I was especially pleased, surprised, curious, and angry throughout the progression of the story.
Overall, I did enjoy this book more than most others, but the fact that Winston does not form any significant relationships until the second part and is the primary person talking, I was relatively bored during the middle chapters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Awards:
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Among one of the first Dystopian genre novels ever published, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World questions the extent at which technology could potentially control society. Set approximately 632 years after the creation of the Model - T, a World State now controls society with the intent on eradicating personal thinking and individual creativity. With a new system called the Bokanovsky process, the World State utilizes the idea of Henry Ford’s assembly line to produce thousands of nearly identical embryos that will grow up to work for the State. All embryos are conditioned to be in one of the 5 castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon; with Alphas destined to control the World State and Epsilons to perform menial labor. When Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John decide that something is wrong within this “perfect” society, they take it into their own hands to expose the World State and stop this flawed Utopia. Huxley’s novel, written in only 4 months, is phenomenal because it challenges the ideals of the limits to which technology can override nature. With the novel being published in 1932, Huxley questions practices that were uncommon and unrealistic back then, but are slowly becoming a reality now as our society leans more and more towards technological innovations. I recommend this novel to high school readers, especially those interested in the Dystopian genre, since this is a perfect example of a Dystopian Utopia.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Oedipus Rex
Sophocles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The hero isn’t always epic and won’t always have a happy ending, sometimes he may face a tragic event and meet his downfall. Sophocles Athenian tragedy Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, is a phenomenal play written and first performed around 430 B.C. The play follows the story of Oedipus, a man who became the King of the city Thebes by solving a riddle and defeating a sphinx that was threatening the city and then marrying the queen of Thebes, Jocasta. One day, when Thebes is suffering from a catastrophic plague, Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to an oracle to find out how to stop the plague. Creon returns telling Oedipus that the plague will cease if the killer of the previous king, Laius, is found and exiled. Little does Oedipus know, he is Laius’s killer. Before Oedipus was born, a prophecy was told to Jocasta that her son would kill his father and marry his mother, and so she sent her son out to be killed in the mountains. That boy was Oedipus, and as the prophecy stated, he has returned to Thebes unknowingly to fulfill that prophecy. I love this Greek play by Sophocles because it is one of the first pieces of literature that tells the story of the “tragic hero” and his downfall. I recommend this play to all, but more advanced readers as the translation is also a bit complex.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Backman, Fredrik
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fredrick Backman’s wit and humor ties in wonderfully with a tear-jerking finale. From beginning to end, I was torn between laughing and weeping. The innocence and wonder of childhood is perfectly captured, while also including the remorse of being thrust into the real world. Elsa, a seven year old girl, has an eccentric grandmother, the kind who just wants to make her happy. Her grandmother, however, does this in an odd way; shooting-paintballs-at- pedestrians-off-her-balcony type of way. And it works. Although Elsa is chased and bullied at school, her grandmother can paint a wonderful picture in her mind. But too soon, she dies of cancer, leaving behind a trail of letters for Elsa to discover, taking her on her last ever quest from her
grandma: giving the letters to their recipients. On the way, she discovers the story behind faces she never gave a second thought. Backman paints a masterpiece with his words, keeping me hooked and enthralled at every turn of this book.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Adams, Douglas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is witty, genius, and an example of common English humor: dry, but hilarious.
Seconds before Earth is blown away to make way for an intergalactic freeway, Arthur Dent discovers galaxies and planets, lightyears beyond his own. He hitches a ride with his best friend, Ford Perfect. Ford is a cleverly disguised alien, who has been stranded on Earth for the past 15 years as he writes a revised guide to the galaxy. Arthur and Ford happen to hitch ride with the most disagreeable and intolerable creatures, the Vogon. They are then discovered and thrown into the soul-sucking abyss of space. Seconds before they suffocate, Ford and Arthur are picked up by a recently stolen ship, stolen by the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his girlfriend, Trillian. The ship is on an improbability drive, which is why they crash land on a long believed mythical planet, called the Heart of Gold.
The planet was in a hibernation-like state, and has only just awoken recently. Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod explore while Arthur meets Slartibartfast, who explains that the Earth was a test, run by mice, to discovery the Question of Life, since they know the answer is 42. However, Earth was destroyed seconds before test completion. Trillian, Zaphod, and Ford are captured by the mice and kept in a dream-like prison. That is, until Arthur is brought to the mice and the group is reunited. The mice explain that they are interested in harvesting Arthur’s brain as organic evidence.
So, naturally, the group manages to escape in the knick of time, avoiding both the mice and the galaxy police, who are searching for Zaphod.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Tempests and Slaughter
Pierce, Tamora
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In Arram Draper’s first year at Carthak’s School for Mages, his work ethic and raw power make him something of child prodigy. As such, he is singled out for individual studies with two other similarly passionate and hard-working students: Varice and Orzone. Varice is a charming young lady with a gift for cooking magic and charm for days, and Arram quickly finds himself drawn to her, perhaps as more than a friend. Orzone is the leftover prince which means that he’s the fourth of four in line for the Emperor’s throne, though that list seems to be shortening quickly. The three soon learn that they will not just have to contend with their studies, but a growing struggle for power and control of the Empire that is threatening to change Carthak forever.

If you’ve read some of Tamora Pierce’s other works (if you haven’t, stop reading this review and pick up The Song of the Lioness quartet RIGHT NOW – it is apparently awesome in audio format as well), the lead character of this story will be familiar to you. I read and re-read her books continually in my youth, but while there was a huge nostalgia factor in reading this for me (so many easter eggs!), I absolutely would have still enjoyed it if I were totally new to the character. While you certainly should read her other works, you don’t need to have read them to enjoy this one.

Tempests and Slaughter starts when Arram is just 10. Precocious little bugger that he is, Arram started school a full year early. Because he’s so young at the beginning, the start of the book read as very middle grade to me, which wasn’t a bad thing; it just wasn’t what I was expecting. As in her other series, Pierce perfectly captures the pain and biological changes that come with puberty and I found myself transported back to those awkward times in the best of ways. After Arram gets a little older and meets up with Varice and Orzone, the book begins to pick up as all three characters get developed and the worldbuilding picks up. This is definitely a book that’s primarily focused on character development and worldbuilding, but as Arram is a lovable character and the worldbuilding is rich, the almost total lack of plot did not bother me too much. A very interesting mystery appears later in the book, though it felt a little rushed and the conclusion a bit forced. However, it nicely sets things up for the next installment which I will unquestionably be pre-ordering.

All in all, this was a great read. If you like your fantasy with a healthy dose of complex characters and intricate world building, you’ll really enjoy this one. I’m going to go re-read some backlist Tamora Pierce now, and I suggest you do the same. 4 stars.
Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for the free electronic copy for review consideration. Tempests and Slaughter is released on 06 February, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Moore, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is riddled with real humor. It is a dark thriller and will leave you wondering how the author managed to not split his sides while writing it. It is an easy read and the break up of character plus chapters makes me think I am watching it in film. This would be an interesting story in film but definitely hilarious nevertheless.

Reviewer's Name: Myra
Genres:
The Bookseller's Tale
Swinfen, Ann
2 stars = Meh
Review:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least by my friends) that a person such as myself, in possession of historical studies, must be in want of a good medieval mystery. Sadly, I found Ann Swinfen's first book in her Oxford Mystery Series to be only so-so, not even qualifying as good. I admit, too, that I am rather spoiled by having read many of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael Mysteries and all of Mel Starr's Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. Perhaps if I had not done so I would like this series better, but I cannot assess it any other way than having encountered medieval mystery before. The Bookseller's Tale opens with bookseller Nicholas Elyot of Oxford living a quiet yet sad life, his wife taken by the Plague, his widowed sister living with him (for the same reason, the Plague took her family) to care for not only him but his surviving children. All is going along fairly well until a young student who frequents is found murdered by Master Elyot, dumped unceremoniously in the river Cherwell. What ensues is a long trail of details to catch his killer by himself and the murdered student's academic teacher (why not the local Sheriff or Bailiff, I'll never know). The book is excellent at descriptions of how a bookseller's life in the mid-1300s would look. Who they might employ, who would be their friends (academics, it seems), and the layout of hearth and home and Oxford. In truth, it was more like The Time-Traveler's Guide to Navigating the Streets of 1350 Oxford than a mystery at times, Ms. Swinfen takes you on a twisty-turny journey through streets that I assume are mostly non-existent today. I would have preferred less detail of streets and business and more interesting plot, I found myself missing the intrigue of Ellis Peters and the straightforward style of Mel Starr. Not even illuminated books and stolen property were enough to spice it up, as I found myself plodding along on rabbit trails with Master Elyot. As a result I was rather bored about 2/3 through and didn't particularly care why the young man was murdered, though I did finish the book and went "Oh." at the end. But again, this could be just me. Maybe to others it will be exciting and the perfect accompaniment to a rainy afternoon and cuppa by the hearth.

Reviewer's Name: C. Marie
Don Quixote
de Cervantes, Miguel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Aside from the “Cliff’s notes” version presented on the TV show, Wishbone, I knew enough about Don Quixote to be dangerous without having actually read it. After all, this book has spawned such words and phrases as “tilting at windmills” and “quixotic,” as well as a Broadway musical. But how does this 17th-century classic hold up in today’s world? One would argue that chivalry was already dead by the time it was written, so it’s not likely to be an examination of chivalrous attitudes and how they’d benefit society. As far as I see it, Don Quixote is a bit like a romantic comedy in the vein of William Shakespeare’s plays.

Probably the first-ever recorded instance of a dedicated live action role player (LARPer), the character Don Quixote borders on that line between comedy and tragedy. If I were to give a medical explanation for his actions, it’s either severe delusion and dementia or a high-functioning psychosis. And yet, his dedication to his chivalrous quest is charming if not slightly amusing when he comes face-to-face with reality. The fact that many characters go along with his delusion to work out some relationship issues shows that this book enjoys the lighthearted nature of chivalrous nostalgia.

When it comes right down to it, Don Quixote is a comedy of errors. The long series of mistakes and awkward situations brought about by the titular character’s delusion merely highlights the contrast between the fictional worlds of the books that influenced his demeanor and the real world around him. In fact, one would almost say the moral of this story is being able to distinguish fiction from reality, of which Don Quixote is unable to do. Such as it is, Don Quixote is a fun read, especially if you don’t try to read too much into it.

A comedy with some potential takeaways, I give Don Quixote 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Awards:
The Clockwork Dynasty
Wilson, Daniel H.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When I picked up this book, I have to admit, I was surprised, because sci fy steam punk fantasy stories is not the type of book I usually read, yet it ended up being so much more than I had imagined. The Clockwork Dynasty is not just a book about a race of humanlike mechanical creatures or avtomats that secretly live among us and are fighting a war that has raged for centuries, but it’s a story about life and the constant search for meaning and purpose.

This book waffles back and forth between present day Orgon, Washington and other places, and the 1700’s beginning in Russia and taking the reader on a journey through history and time. And while this may bother some people, the non-linear storytelling I think, adds so much more to the book and allows the author to unfold the story in a deeper more meaningful way.

In present time it follows the story of June someone who has made a career in ancient technology, ever since an encounter she had a child with her grandpa changed her perception of the world and started her fascination with this avtomat technology. A couple years after her grandfather’s death she receives a avtomat artifact that will cause her to team up with an avtomat named Peter, launch her into a great adventure in the secret avtomat
world, and ultimately determine this race’s extinction or survival. In
the 1700’s it follows the story of brother (Peter) and sister (Elena) two humanlike avtomats that were resurrected by a Russian clock maker using something called an anime which serves as the Avtomat’s heart and soul. As they live through the years they spend it hiding their secret, trying to blend into society, and fighting a war that has been raging among their own race for centuries.

This story explores the character’s constant search for meaning in a way that is both at times sad and extremely insightful. In the book each avtomat’s anime is marked with a Pravda or a special word that is their bond and command. As long as they satisfy their Pravda, they are at peace, otherwise they suffer. In Peter’s case this word is justice. As the book progresses we see his idea of justice shift and change as he lives through the years. Through a fascinating inner dialogue, Peter perception shifts from gaining justice simply by serving rulers in war to something far deeper and more moving, as this quote, when he encounters a dying soldier on the enemy’s side in the battlefield, suggests:

“Once Pravda was clear to me. By obeying my emperor all was well. But what was simple is becoming complex. I can see no evil inside this grievously wounded man, only honor. And though no clockwork flutters beneath his throat, I can see the inevitable forces that led him here, through no fault of his own, fating him to die in the shadow of this crumbling wall.”

As the book progresses a new perspective of right and wrong emerges leaving him questioning not only who he is but why he was made.

Another major theme this story also explores is the theme of war. As Peter recounts from his past, countless experiences on various battlefields throughout his life, and in the present, his own thoughts on his own race’s war; the reality of war is pressed heavy on the reader making this book at times very depressing, sad, and dark.

This reality is made even more real by the moving prose and incredible worldbuilding that takes place throughout the book. Another reason I love this book is the incredible character development between Peter and Elena.
How she is treated by him as a little sister at the beginning of the book, and how he sees her changes through the book from a little girl needing his protection to a sophisticated, wise learned, woman who’s one desire is to make her own way in the world is absolutely incredible. Daniel H Wilson does an amazing job of weaving together past and present into an engaging literary story that has something for everyone. Thank you to Doubleday books and Netgalley for an e- ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Awards:

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