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Adult Book Reviews

Hazelet's Journal
Hazelet, George Cheever
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This review is really about a spread of books I found or was able to access through PPLD. After an enjoyable visit to Skagway, AK, I became interested in Klondike Gold Rush history. Through the PPLD catalog and an interlibrary loan I accessed: Hazelet's Journal by George Cheever Hazelet: If you enjoy history from original sources, this book will draw you in as the author writes honestly about a business failure that led him to seek gold in Alaska. The arduous travels searching for gold are documented both by journal and amazing photographs. It is a slow read for someone who enjoys more of a "story." Although Cheever fails in the gold rush, as well, the stage was set for eventual successes that were instrumental in Alaska frontier development.

Journey (fiction) by James Michener: A quick read that will be more enjoyable to the reader looking for a story within the historical background of the gold rush. Four Englishmen and an Irishman push their way across Canada to Dawson City, fulfilling the image of the phrase "Mad dogs and Englishmen."

Gold! The Klondike Adventure by Delia Ray: Young Adult book that provides an easy-to-read purview with photographs of the rush, perils, commercialism, and subculture that arose between Skagway and Dawson City. Prospectors and merchants alike sought riches on the Alaskan frontier within a very short timeframe: 1897-1900.

Klondike Fever by Pierre Berton: Subtitled The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush, this book provides an exhaustive and interesting read about the gold rush from many different angles. This book was accessed through an interlibrary loan. However, the book was so old it was not pleasant to read so I am hoping PPLD will purchase a new edition. It is a very good book!

Reviewer's Name: Rita
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard" is a collection of bedtime stories from the Wizarding World, with commentary from Albus Dumbledore in between. This book was amazing! I loved getting a new perspective of the Wizarding World, even after the end of the Harry Potter series. I also enjoyed getting to read the stories that were mentioned in the series, such as Babbitty Rabbitty and the Cackling Stump. It is like a little taste of Hogwarts that will make you homesick. Each story is captivating and full of J.K. Rowling's trademark wit.
I would recommend this to people who love Harry Potter and want to return to the Wizarding World one more time.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, Scott F.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The classic tale of "The Great Gatsby" follows Nick Carraway, a newcomer to the city, who discovers the lavish and intoxicating life of Jay Gatsby, his next door neighbor. Nick soon becomes entangled in a net of secrets and deception that involves his friends Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. After hearing so many incredible things about "The Great Gatsby", I came into the story with high expectations. Unfortunately, they were not really met. While the story is undeniably powerful, it lacks in some areas. I found all the characters extremely unlikable. There was no one to really root for. In addition, there were parts of the story that seemed to drag on for far too long. I found myself asking, "When is something going to happen?" at several points. All in all, I didn't hate this story, but it definitely wasn't my favorite classic to read. Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Awards:
The Secret
Byrne, Rhonda
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne reveals the science behind the Law of Attraction and how to apply it to every day life. I'm not kidding when I say this book changed my life. After discovering how I have personal power to positively change my life using the Law of Attraction just by thinking positively, everything opened up. I learned that life doesn't simply happen to us; we can make our lives extraordinary. Incredibly well written and very powerful, this book is full of inspirational quotes and success stories used to motivate you towards achieving your goals. I highly recommend this book if you want to affect positive change in your life.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Way of Kings
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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

I’ve only recently started reading Brandon Sanderson's books, but I’ve liked what I’ve read so far. I started out with Warbreaker , which was a relatively light fantasy novel when compared to the hefty tome that is The Way of Kings. While I loved the moderate pace that Warbreaker moved at, I instinctually knew that most “high fantasy” books are usually bogged down with exposition and world-building. The Way of Kings is certainly a “high fantasy,” which makes me wonder if perhaps Sanderson tried to do too much in this first volume of his newest series.

The Way of Kings follows about three main storylines but could have potentially gotten away with two of them, even if the one that could be easily cut—the Soulcaster theft storyline—had some of my favorite characters in it. I could also see the plotline being pared down to the one following Kaladin (who appears in each of the parts) since a lot of the “royal” plotline mostly just provided the world-building and exposition needed to ground the reality of the setting. In the end, this is just three books intertwined together to make one big book.

Perhaps because of its length, it took me the better part of eight months to finish reading The Way of Kings. Granted, I mostly only read it on my Kindle when I was flying somewhere, but I wasn’t necessarily drawn to keep reading once I returned home. All this being said, the magic system is well-developed, the world is creative and rich with details, and (most of) the characters are incredibly entertaining. Under different circumstances, I’d give my rating an additional half a star, but since reading it felt a bit more like work than entertainment, I’ll leave it where it is.

A creative “high fantasy” that perhaps bites off more than it can chew, I give The Way of Kings 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Genres:
Sourdough
Sloan, Robin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Much like Armada to Ready Player One or Artemis to The Martian , I looked forward to reading Robin Sloan's follow-up to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore . Unfortunately, much like the follow-up books by Ernest Cline and Andy Weir, respectively, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Sloan’s Sourdough. I will give credit that Sloan’s quirky and charming style is still in high form here, it’s more that there wasn’t much of a central conflict that would have led to a satisfying ending. It’s almost like too many plotlines got into the mix, and it muddled everything up to the point where it would be too difficult to follow each to their logical conclusion.

Cline has video game references. Weir has accurate, hard sci-fi. If there’s one thing Sloan does well, it’s the fusion of analog and digital. From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, it was the appreciation of the printed book in the era of Google searches. In Sourdough, Sloan explores the future of food—which is perhaps the most analog of topics—by including some realistic and relatively soon-to-be-realized technological advances like nutrient gels, robotic cooking, and alternative growing environments. If this was the primary focus of the book, there could have been a great conflict between old and new instead of what felt like a rushed, gulping ending to a book I’d want to sip like great wine.

Sourdough was my “vacation book,” meaning that I was truly looking forward to reading it. I love the style Sloan uses, which is both humorous and light. This book was quite the quick read, but that was helped by the fact that I hardly put it down. It’s a little disappointing that some of the “mysteries” weren’t played up more (I never really did care who Mr. Marrow was), and that the ending felt a little out of left field, but I’m sure I’ll pick up Sloan’s next book, regardless. After all, I was still entertained with this one, even if it didn’t live up to the “Mr. Penumbra” expectation.

Another semi-adequate follow-up from one of my newer, favorite authors, I give Sourdough 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The Currents of Space
Asimov, Isaac
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For the first time, it seems that I’m reading a series backward. Of course, it was also written a bit backward, which explains why I’m going about it this way. While Pebble in the Sky was the first book in this series, it actually comes at the end of the narrative. A year later, Isaac Asimov would write the prequel, The Stars, Like Dust , which was then followed by a book that fit between the two. The Currents of Space is that book. Fortunately, there isn’t much tying this book to Pebble in the Sky, other than the universal setting for the events to take place.

It is encouraging that Asimov’s writing was able to improve in two short years between his first ever novel and this follow-on prequel. The Currents of Space has a distinct main character, apparent conflict, and well-timed plot revelations. The focus of this book helps to describe a somewhat interesting and thrilling scenario, even if it’s peppered with lots of clichés that are still present to this day. The “amnesiac expert” is by no means a new or unique storytelling device by today’s standards, but it may have been interesting back in the 1950’s.

Despite the improvement in Asimov’s writing, there were still a few choices that I felt were perhaps due to the weaknesses in Pebble in the Sky. In his first book, it was difficult to grasp everything that was happening. In The Currents of Space, one of the characters does an exposition dump that amounts to a recap of the first two-thirds of the book. While there was some added info to this information that led to the satisfying conclusion of the plot, it still seemed unnecessary if the reader was paying attention up to that point.

An improvement over his previous work in the series, I give The Currents of Space 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at Blackheath, her family’s estate and her childhood home. Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve her murder. Eight of the same days. The day repeats on a loop, but each day for eight days, Aiden occupies a different body. His only escape from the never ending loop is to solve her murder.

Wow. This was a fantastic, kind of trippy thrill ride. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is The Magus by John Fowler, and that’s only in the sense that both you the reader and the main character really have absolutely no clue what is going on. Unlike The Magus, though, (almost) everything is revealed by the end of the book and it comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Even if it were just a closed door murder mystery, it would still be good. The mystery itself was twisty enough to keep the reader constantly on their feet. I guessed one thing, but most of the elements of the mystery were a total surprise when they were revealed. It’s deliciously complex. The addition of the eight different perspectives along with the fact that everyone is unreliable really added to the story. Add to that the fact that someone is killing off Aiden’s hosts, and the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because I was staying up too late (just one more chapter!). There were a few world building things that were left frustratingly vague, but I think that was by intention, so I can’t complain.

This genre bending book will screw with your head in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I really loved the reading experience. I think a lot of people will enjoy it – mystery lovers, those that enjoy high concepts and general fiction readers are going to love this one. I certainly did! 5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be available for purchase in the US on 18 September 2018. You can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984 is a timeless classic about a dystopian future where war is constant and you are constantly watched and carefully studied by an ominous force called the Thought Police. Everyone is expected to completely devote themselves to The Party (the ruling government) and believe everything they say. If the Thought Police detects the slightest amount of dissonance in a citizen, they disappear and, according to The Party, cease to exist - and never existed. One party member, Winston Smith, has been rebelling against the Party in thought only for years. Now, he finally gets enough courage to stand up for what's right. Will Winston be able to stop the tyrannical rule of The Party or will it all be in vain? Find out in 1984!

Reviewer's Name: Mckenna R.
Lord of the Flies
Golding, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A group of boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash. With no adult supervision, the boys are free to do whatever they want. At first this is something to celebrate. However, as their time on the island grows, the boys learn the challenges of staying alive. Eventually, some of the boys become complete savages and complete chaos reigns the island.
Lord of the Flies is full of symbolism and is at some points very difficult to understand. To follow the story, much inferring is necessary along with a fairly advanced vocabulary. I personally did not enjoy the story very much.
However, some readers may disagree. I do not recommend this book for anyone that is younger than high school.
Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Genres:
Breakthrough
Grumley, Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All four of these books (Breakthrough; Ripple; Leap; Catalyst) are fast paced, incredible adventure/mystery's, creative, fascinating with wonderful characters both human and animal. Michael is a great author. Can't wait for the next book in the series.

Reviewer's Name: Camille Oliver
Bring Me Back
Paris, B.A.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I slogged through 200+ pages of tedium to reach an absolutely ridiculous conclusion. This will be the last time I see Paris.

Her books have gotten progressively worse. I would lump her in with Ruth Ware. Modern day "thriller" writers who are popular. Why, I do not know.

Reviewer's Name: Alfred Weber
Awards:
The Romanov Empress : a novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna
Gortner, C.W.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fabulous. If you are at all interested in the Romanovs as a whole (beyond Nicholas and Alexandra), this is a wonderful introduction. This book expands the story of the Romanovs from the point of view of Empress Maria Feodorovna who married the Russian Tsarevich and was the mother of the ill-fated Russian monarch Nicholas II (she was also the sister of Queen Alexandra of the U.K., King Frederick VIII of Denmark, and King George I of Greece - luckily there is a handy family tree in the front of the book for you to refer to!) Beautifully written and engrossing.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
The Long War
Pratchett, Terry
2 stars = Meh
Review:

You think with an inciting incident as extreme as the one at the end of The Long Earth , the follow-on book, The Long War, would be an exciting series of battles. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Instead, authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter take the Speaker for the Dead route by aging the main character of the first book by at least a decade and throwing in heavy doses of non-human racism (speciesism?). For a book that has “war” in the title, there isn’t much war at all. This is disappointing for many reasons.

Sure, there’s still plenty of neat science fiction ideas presented here, but The Long War exhibits the same problems that were present in The Long Earth. First and foremost, the wit and humor of Terry Pratchett is hardly to be seen in this book, only occasionally popping up to add levity to a situation. Secondly, there’s so much exposition that the book “tells” instead of “shows,” that it almost becomes a bore to read. Finally, with so many subplots strung together, it was difficult to know precisely what was going on, who these characters were, or why I should care.

I’ll still probably suffer through the rest of this series since I don’t have to think very hard when I’m listening to the audiobook. The fact that I want to get through this five-book series as quickly as possible says something, though. The real problem is that the ideas and settings presented here could have been great. If the end of the first book had transitioned seamlessly into this one, causing the people who could “step” to rise up against those who would perform the despicable act that affected datum Earth, then we’d actually have a war on our hands instead of . . . this. Don't even get me started on the ending, which I'm pretty sure had a good paragraph of dialogue copied from The Long Earth.

An overly long book with little to no war, I give The Long War 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The First Grave on the Right
Jones, Darynda
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the first of a 13 book series and it is FANTASTIC!!!!! It is hilarious, the characters are very well developed. The story line is very intriguing as well as entertaining. All around this book is a great mix of romance (beware it seems a little surprising how descriptive it is), supernatural and comedy!!

Reviewer's Name: Meg
Awards:
Genres:
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:

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