Award Book Reviews

The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women
Koehler-Pentacoff, Elizabeth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Tragedy ran deep in the Kennedy family--so much so that some people even questioned if the family was cursed. Rosemary Kennedy was born in 1918. At the time of her birth, the hospital was overcrowded with victims of the Spanish flu. The nurse, who though perfectly capable in assisting Mrs. Kennedy to give birth, urged her to wait until the doctor could come. The baby, Rosemary Kennedy, was forced back inside her mother's birth canal for two hours by the nurse during the wait. This irregular birth led to lifetime consequences in Rosemary. She had learning disabilities. Despite this, she was pushed equally as hard by her parents. Rosemary never made it intellectually past the fifth grade level. Her condition affected the Kennedy family because at the time people with disabilities were seen as having a "bad gene" and were not even allowed to receive the sacraments or eucharist at the catholic church. As Rosemary's condition worsened, her parents were desperate to fix her before she "ruined" her brother JFK's political career. This story is unique because it sheds light on a member of the Kennedy family whose tragic story eventually brought positive change in how to deal with the disabled.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth
Awards:
Blood of Elves
Sapkowski, Andrzej
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’ll admit that I had a bit of a head start understanding the Witcher universe when I picked up this book. I’ve played a few hours of The Witcher 3 on my Switch, and I watched the first season of the show on Netflix. Would the lack of this prior knowledge have hurt my chances of understanding this high fantasy? Not likely. Arranged as a series of vignettes, Blood of Elves reveals its characters and setting based on a collection of almost everyday scenarios. While this approach made understanding the overarching goal of the series difficult to discern, it did make the characters quite a bit more realistic and relatable.

When it comes down to it, this book is about its characters. Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer all stood out to me as unique and well-rounded individuals who each had their own stories to tell and plotlines to follow. And while their interactions are all intertwined in some way, their individual journeys allow them to shine in their own way. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed listening to this audiobook: it wasn’t so focused on building the world where these characters lived (like most Tolkein-esque high fantasy). Instead, this book made sure I understood who these characters were and what challenges they have faced and will face in the future.

Two scenes/stories stood out to me in this book that I feel need special praise. First, I have never before read a book that had an entire fight/training sequence performed exclusively in dialogue. There were no character actions other than what was described through what the individuals said to each other. To be able to do this so well is an achievement in writing in and of itself. Secondly, I found the story where Geralt meets a monster “expert” to be incredibly humorous. This bit of levity helped to keep the book from getting too dark and morose, which was welcome considering some of its content.

A fantastic character-based high fantasy, I give Blood of Elves 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Awards:
Genres:
Ringworld
Niven, Larry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It can be difficult to judge a book, especially one as critically acclaimed as Ringworld, with 50 years of scientific and societal progress between when it was written and today. On the one hand, there are many scientific concepts explored in this book that we almost take for granted in modern sci-fi. On the other hand, the stink of 1970s misogyny doesn’t age very well, and this book is a prime example. Even today, sci-fi authors are still trying to dig out from the sexist tropes that books like this perpetuated throughout the genre. It’s a complicated, uphill battle, but we’re trying to be better than this.

For 1970, I do have to admit that the science presented here is relatively revolutionary. Unfortunately, the descriptions were occasionally a bit dry and felt more like reading a textbook than a sci-fi adventure. I could appreciate how Niven described the indescribable scale of something as massive as the Ringworld. Additionally, the alien races were well-rounded and had complex physiologies and backstories that made the group dynamic entertaining to read. However, the only thing well-rounded about the women in this book were their bodies.

Aside from the considerable age difference between the two romantic leads being an acceptance of pedophilia, it’s clear that Niven only thought of women as objects. This is disappointing because the story could have been more interesting if the female characters had any agency other than being driven by pleasure or luck. I have to recognize that this book is still a snapshot of its temporal circumstances, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse it in today’s society. Acknowledging that it’s from the 1970s, modern works should be more aware of these flaws when using such a pivotal science fiction book as a base for today’s books.

Some great science with not-so-great misogyny, I give Ringworld 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Ringworld
Niven, Larry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It can be difficult to judge a book, especially one as critically acclaimed as Ringworld, with 50 years of scientific and societal progress between when it was written and today. On the one hand, there are many scientific concepts explored in this book that we almost take for granted in modern sci-fi. On the other hand, the stink of 1970s misogyny doesn’t age very well, and this book is a prime example. Even today, sci-fi authors are still trying to dig out from the sexist tropes that books like this perpetuated throughout the genre. It’s a complicated, uphill battle, but we’re trying to be better than this.

For 1970, I do have to admit that the science presented here is relatively revolutionary. Unfortunately, the descriptions were occasionally a bit dry and felt more like reading a textbook than a sci-fi adventure. I could appreciate how Niven described the indescribable scale of something as massive as the Ringworld. Additionally, the alien races were well-rounded and had complex physiologies and backstories that made the group dynamic entertaining to read. However, the only thing well-rounded about the women in this book were their bodies.

Aside from the considerable age difference between the two romantic leads being an acceptance of pedophilia, it’s clear that Niven only thought of women as objects. This is disappointing because the story could have been more interesting if the female characters had any agency other than being driven by pleasure or luck. I have to recognize that this book is still a snapshot of its temporal circumstances, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse it in today’s society. Acknowledging that it’s from the 1970s, modern works should be more aware of these flaws when using such a pivotal science fiction book as a base for today’s books.

Some great science with not-so-great misogyny, I give Ringworld 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Ringworld
Niven, Larry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It can be difficult to judge a book, especially one as critically acclaimed as Ringworld, with 50 years of scientific and societal progress between when it was written and today. On the one hand, there are many scientific concepts explored in this book that we almost take for granted in modern sci-fi. On the other hand, the stink of 1970s misogyny doesn’t age very well, and this book is a prime example. Even today, sci-fi authors are still trying to dig out from the sexist tropes that books like this perpetuated throughout the genre. It’s a complicated, uphill battle, but we’re trying to be better than this.

For 1970, I do have to admit that the science presented here is relatively revolutionary. Unfortunately, the descriptions were occasionally a bit dry and felt more like reading a textbook than a sci-fi adventure. I could appreciate how Niven described the indescribable scale of something as massive as the Ringworld. Additionally, the alien races were well-rounded and had complex physiologies and backstories that made the group dynamic entertaining to read. However, the only thing well-rounded about the women in this book were their bodies.

Aside from the considerable age difference between the two romantic leads being an acceptance of pedophilia, it’s clear that Niven only thought of women as objects. This is disappointing because the story could have been more interesting if the female characters had any agency other than being driven by pleasure or luck. I have to recognize that this book is still a snapshot of its temporal circumstances, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse it in today’s society. Acknowledging that it’s from the 1970s, modern works should be more aware of these flaws when using such a pivotal science fiction book as a base for today’s books.

Some great science with not-so-great misogyny, I give Ringworld 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
 Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is about two unlikely friends who create an imaginary world with many kinds of animals and beasts. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke become friends when Leslie moves and becomes Jess’s neighbor. But they really get to know each other when Leslie is the only girl to beat Jess in a running race.

One day, Jess and Leslie use a hanging rope to swing over a little river that is nearby, and that’s when they start to rule, as king and queen, the imaginary Terabithia.

There, the two friends have adventures as they try to rule over their subjects, and keep peace and order in Terabithia. Some of these subjects include hairy vultures, squogres, and other spirits, both good and bad. Squogres are massive squirrel-like creatures who are constantly growling, and they wear strange golden helmets with a spike on top, like a Triceratops.

With this book keeping you imaginative, with some sad and happy parts, I'm going to go with 3/5 stars for The Bridge to Terabithia.

Reviewer's Name: Gurman
 Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is about two unlikely friends who create an imaginary world with many kinds of animals and beasts. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke become friends when Leslie moves and becomes Jess’s neighbor. But they really get to know each other when Leslie is the only girl to beat Jess in a running race.

One day, Jess and Leslie use a hanging rope to swing over a little river that is nearby, and that’s when they start to rule, as king and queen, the imaginary Terabithia.

There, the two friends have adventures as they try to rule over their subjects, and keep peace and order in Terabithia. Some of these subjects include hairy vultures, squogres, and other spirits, both good and bad. Squogres are massive squirrel-like creatures who are constantly growling, and they wear strange golden helmets with a spike on top, like a Triceratops.

With this book keeping you imaginative, with some sad and happy parts, I'm going to go with 3/5 stars for The Bridge to Terabithia.

Reviewer's Name: Gurman
 Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is about two unlikely friends who create an imaginary world with many kinds of animals and beasts. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke become friends when Leslie moves and becomes Jess’s neighbor. But they really get to know each other when Leslie is the only girl to beat Jess in a running race.

One day, Jess and Leslie use a hanging rope to swing over a little river that is nearby, and that’s when they start to rule, as king and queen, the imaginary Terabithia.

There, the two friends have adventures as they try to rule over their subjects, and keep peace and order in Terabithia. Some of these subjects include hairy vultures, squogres, and other spirits, both good and bad. Squogres are massive squirrel-like creatures who are constantly growling, and they wear strange golden helmets with a spike on top, like a Triceratops.

With this book keeping you imaginative, with some sad and happy parts, I'm going to go with 3/5 stars for The Bridge to Terabithia.

Reviewer's Name: Gurman
The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood, Margaret
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood, Margaret
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood, Margaret
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Joy Luck Club
Tan, Amy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Joy Luck highlights mother-daughter relationships in the midst of generational conflicts. The Joy Luck daughters, Jing-mei, Waverly, Rose, and Lena, are first generation Chinese-Americans living in San Francisco during the 1980's. They feel their mothers are overbearing and do not understand their desire for independence. Ironically, their mothers feel they are losing their Chinese identity and became Americanized.

I love this book! The book is structured like the traditional Chinese game mahjong, and each of the daughters and mother's stories are complex and thought-provoking. Although it's set back in the 80's, a lot of its themes regarding mother-daughter relationships and intergenerational conflicts are relevant amongst first-generation immigrants and families today. Among the eight main characters, Jing-mei is my favorite, because she's really the only daughter that fully embraces her hyphenated identity.

This book is different because it tells the story of eight women who are so similar yet so different at the same time. I really recommend this to anyone looking for a female dominated novel!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Awards:
Vinegar Girl
Tyler, Anne
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This lightweight comedy of manners by Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Tyler is based on William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The 2016 novel is part of a Hogarth Press series of classic plays retold by modern, popular authors to honor the 400th anniversary (April 1616) of his death.
Set in modern-day Baltimore, Kate Battista is the 29-year-old daughter of eccentric scientist Louis Battista. The witty and sharp-tongued Kate is a socially inept college dropout after being expelled for criticizing a professor's efforts. She then drifted into a part-time preschool assistant job while caring for her detached, workaholic father and younger sister, Bunny.
Dr. Barrista's brilliant lab assistant, Pyotr, must leave the country due to an expiring visa, prompting the self-involved scientist to concoct a sexist plan where his daughter marries Pyotr to allow him to stay and work for him. Kate is appalled. But she warms to the idea after meeting Pyotr, who enjoys and shares her outspokenness, and realizes this arranged marriage may help her create a satisfying future.
Tyler's considerable skill at bringing characters and settings to life with humor and precision are a big help in this tale about finding a partner who appreciates and shares your idiosyncrasies and principles. It's a quick read and a fun one for Tyler fans.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Book Cover
Berry, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After being caught with her lover, Ares, Aphrodite tells the stories of two couples that fell in love during World War 1. James and Hazel met at a party that Hazel was playing piano for. They start to go on dates and they really like each other, but James is shipped of to the battlefield. Hazel decides to join the Red Cross to be closer to James. There she meets Colette, who becomes a fast friend.

This book was amazing! I loved the perspective of the gods on the story. They often make appearances to discuss specific parts of the story relating to the gods' affinities. I also loved seeing the couples be together, even during their struggles. While reading this book I cried multiple times and couldn't be happier about that.

I would also highly recommend the audiobook. There were so many different narrators it truly felt like I was in the story. One of the characters passions is composing music and in the audiobook you can actually hear the music! It is a wonderful experience.

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Book Cover
Berry, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After being caught with her lover, Ares, Aphrodite tells the stories of two couples that fell in love during World War 1. James and Hazel met at a party that Hazel was playing piano for. They start to go on dates and they really like each other, but James is shipped of to the battlefield. Hazel decides to join the Red Cross to be closer to James. There she meets Colette, who becomes a fast friend.

This book was amazing! I loved the perspective of the gods on the story. They often make appearances to discuss specific parts of the story relating to the gods' affinities. I also loved seeing the couples be together, even during their struggles. While reading this book I cried multiple times and couldn't be happier about that.

I would also highly recommend the audiobook. There were so many different narrators it truly felt like I was in the story. One of the characters passions is composing music and in the audiobook you can actually hear the music! It is a wonderful experience.

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Book Cover
Berry, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After being caught with her lover, Ares, Aphrodite tells the stories of two couples that fell in love during World War 1. James and Hazel met at a party that Hazel was playing piano for. They start to go on dates and they really like each other, but James is shipped of to the battlefield. Hazel decides to join the Red Cross to be closer to James. There she meets Colette, who becomes a fast friend.

This book was amazing! I loved the perspective of the gods on the story. They often make appearances to discuss specific parts of the story relating to the gods' affinities. I also loved seeing the couples be together, even during their struggles. While reading this book I cried multiple times and couldn't be happier about that.

I would also highly recommend the audiobook. There were so many different narrators it truly felt like I was in the story. One of the characters passions is composing music and in the audiobook you can actually hear the music! It is a wonderful experience.

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Book Cover
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Book Cover
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Book Cover
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jacob's grandfather has always told crazy stories. Stories about faceless monsters and kids with mysterious abilities. When he was younger Jacob believed these stories because his grandpa had scary pictures of these strange kids, but as he got older Jacob thought these were just little kid stories until a family tragedy brings one of those monsters from his childhood to life. This tragedy gets him to travel to a small island off the coast of Whales, where he begins to discover more about his grandpa the peculiar children from his stories.

The atmosphere that the author created for this book was amazing. You can feel eeriness of the things that Jacob sees through the pages. It is only enhanced by the pictures of strange things scattered throughout the story. The unique characters and idea held my attention completely and the fast-paced plot made me think it was over to soon. This book is part of a long series that I can't wait to continue!

Reviewer's Name: Savannah H.
Salt to the Sea
Sepetys, Ruta
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Salt to the Sea is about 4 people who are running from their past in the midst of WWII. Joana is a nurse fleeing from the dangers of Lithuania, with the hope that a ship will take her out of Europe. Florian is on the run from a mistake he made back in Germany also looking for the chance to escape without anyone finding him and taking him back to Germany. Emilia has finally decided to flee from the family that was taking care of her after the woman and her daughters betray her trust. Alfred is escaping reality by joining the German fleet to escape the mistake he made that cost him his girlfriend and his sanity. As the book continues all the character's paths join and they meet on the Wilhem Gustoff- a bigger tragedy than the sinking of the Titanic. The ship that promises safety, ends in tragedy. This is my favorite author, and out of all her books, this one is my absolute favorite. The character's stories blend together to make all the little plots into one overarching plot which I think is really cool. The chapters switch off narrators so you get to see the story in different perspectives. I like how the author shows a different side of the war than other WWII books where Germany is portrayed as the enemy and not as a country also in war. In this book, many of the people also fear Russia more than Germany because Russia was the one attacking and not helping and Germany was the one evacuating people. This makes the book different and I think more interesting. This is a really good book and it is worth a try.

Reviewer's Name: Emma
Genres:

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