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Award Book Reviews

The Essex Serpent
Perry, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book as profound as The Essex Serpent. Perhaps it’s because they don’t write books like this anymore.
While written in the last few years, the style of The Essex Serpent is distinctly Victorian. It holds callbacks to the greats of gothic literature, including the physiological studies of Frankenstein and the back-and-forth letter writing of Dracula . All the while, the ever-present gloom of the muddy and foggy Essex shoreline hides the eponymous serpent just outside the reader’s view, providing anticipation of its reveal. Is the Essex Serpent real or is it a figment of so much imagination?

Of course, in staying with the Victorian style, the book does suffer somewhat in readability. The vocabulary and description are certainly more voluminous than modern volumes, but my biggest qualm seems to be more along the lines of the seemingly endless talk that occurs in the first half of the book—perhaps trying to mimic one of Jane Austen's romances—that only seems to be present for character exposition. There are also a few sub-plots that sound incredibly important, but don’t end up having much sway on the outcome of the plot.

Still, despite having to get used to the style, the characters and their drama is expertly crafted. In particular, the “friendship” between the widow Cora and the married clergyman Will was positively heart-pounding.
Cora’s son was delightfully peculiar, as was Will’s wife. If The Essex Serpent was more predictable, I’m sure the ending would have been different. I’ll have to settle for the conclusion as written, instead of having to read a more serious version of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters . At least, the plot surrounding the Essex Serpent is exciting and was what kept me reading through the muddy first half.

A modern book expertly written in the Victorian style, I give The Essex Serpent 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
The Green Mile
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

While most people might not realize Stephen King wrote The Green Mile, I was completely unaware that the original version of this book was released serially—much like Charles Dickens used to do with his books. The novelty of experimenting with this format is somewhat lost now that the volumes are collected together to create a whole narrative. Even so, King is still the master of his craft, even if there’s minimal “horror” contained within the walls of this prison. At least, it’s an expected horror through the system of capital punishment, and not tied to the terror of the unknown.

Even though I enjoyed this story for its characters and plot, one element stuck out like a sore thumb: the framing via the retirement home. Sure, there’s a neat twist involved near the end, but so often the narrative would pull away from the time period in the prison to show some parallels to retirement living in a distracting way. I don’t think this added much to the story and it seemed to be more of a diversion than a benefit to the plot as a whole. Either way, these moments are few and far between, which helps move the action along.

Overall, King’s descriptive writing brought much of the book to vivid life. His imaginative ideas and foreshadowing give the reader just enough information to figure out the real culprit of the crimes mere pages before the characters themselves were able to. Each of the characters is unique and has their own qualities that causes you to either love or hate them—depending on who they are. Even if you’re not a fan of Stephen King’s other works, I highly suggest you read The Green Mile, regardless.

A fantastic non-horror Stephen King novel, I give The Green Mile 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:
On Stranger Tides
Powers, Tim
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Since I knew the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie was based on this book, I decided to give it a read to see if it was any better than the so-so extension of the Pirates franchise. Let's just say that this book was a loose inspiration for the film. About the only elements that survived the transition were Blackbeard and the Fountain of Youth. Of course, even the movie version vastly improved the Fountain. In fact, I think I prefer the Pirates movie of the same name, even if the two don't share much in common.

I will say that On Stranger Tides does excel in its action sequences. The fights and battles are choreographed and described in such a way that is entertaining to read and comprehensible to understand. Unfortunately, a book full of fight sequences does not a good story make. Events in this book just seemed to happen, almost at random, and with no foreshadowing of what was to come. This made it difficult to follow, especially as the story seemed to jump from character to character, so I had to remember what was happening in each of the plotlines all at once.

I got the sense that this book didn't know what it wanted to be, mostly because it had so many main characters that it never had enough time to devote to any of them. Some of these characters never had clear motivations,
or if they did have goals and ambitions, they weren't revealed until much later in the book. The magic system could have been a little better fleshed out, as there didn't seem to be any consistent rules or reasoning behind the effects the magic created. Overall, I was mostly disappointed with what this book could have been.

Some good action sequences drowning in too many subplots, I give On Stranger Tides 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
The Dragonet Prophecy
Sutherland, Tui
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is the first in a growing series of 10 books and sets up the rest of the books. This book is set from the perspective of Clay. Clay is a Mudwing dragonet that is part of a prophecy to stop the War of SandWing succession. This book is a great source of entertainment for those looking to begin the Wings of Fire series. I would suggest this book for people of ages of 10-15, although it could still be enjoyed by younger or older people. I give this book an 8/10 (4/5 on Review Crew) because after rereading this book a couple of times, I found that at many times it can actually be quite boring.

Reviewer's Name: Aiden L.
Awards:
They Both Die at the End
Silvera, Adam
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My favorite book of the year (so far). It had action, romance, and took you on a sad roller coaster of emotion. The main characters were very likeable. The setting is in the present, but with a few changes. One of these changes is that the government can tell you if you will die that day. Our two main characters both learn that they will die sometime that day. They meet and create a friendship that eventually turns into romance. They go on many adventures and overcome thier biggest flaws in one day. They also have major character development. The reader will be on the edge of thier seat when they find out if the both truly die at the end.

Reviewer's Name: Amelia W.
Genres:
They Both Die at the End
Silvera, Adam
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My favorite book of the year (so far). It had action, romance, and took you on a sad roller coaster of emotion. The main characters were very likeable. The setting is in the present, but with a few changes. One of these changes is that the government can tell you if you will die that day. Our two main characters both learn that they will die sometime that day. They meet and create a friendship that eventually turns into romance. They go on many adventures and overcome thier biggest flaws in one day. They also have major character development. The reader will be on the edge of thier seat when they find out if the both truly die at the end.

Reviewer's Name: Amelia W.
Genres:
They Both Die at the End
Silvera, Adam
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My favorite book of the year (so far). It had action, romance, and took you on a sad roller coaster of emotion. The main characters were very likeable. The setting is in the present, but with a few changes. One of these changes is that the government can tell you if you will die that day. Our two main characters both learn that they will die sometime that day. They meet and create a friendship that eventually turns into romance. They go on many adventures and overcome thier biggest flaws in one day. They also have major character development. The reader will be on the edge of thier seat when they find out if the both truly die at the end.

Reviewer's Name: Amelia W.
Genres:
One Of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an exciting murder mystery book. I enjoyed all the difrent perspectives of the four main characters. All four of the main characters were flawed in some way, but still likable. The reader will enjoy the mystory until the very end when it is reveald. The author throws you in many directions and when you think you know who did it, new evidence will come up.
I took off one star simply because I thought the ending was a little predictable. Overall I enjoyed this book and I recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Amelia W.
One Of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an exciting murder mystery book. I enjoyed all the difrent perspectives of the four main characters. All four of the main characters were flawed in some way, but still likable. The reader will enjoy the mystory until the very end when it is reveald. The author throws you in many directions and when you think you know who did it, new evidence will come up.
I took off one star simply because I thought the ending was a little predictable. Overall I enjoyed this book and I recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Amelia W.
One Of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an exciting murder mystery book. I enjoyed all the difrent perspectives of the four main characters. All four of the main characters were flawed in some way, but still likable. The reader will enjoy the mystory until the very end when it is reveald. The author throws you in many directions and when you think you know who did it, new evidence will come up.
I took off one star simply because I thought the ending was a little predictable. Overall I enjoyed this book and I recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Amelia W.
Counting by 7s
Sloan, Holly Goldberg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Counting By 7s" by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a story about a girl and her struggles of going to school for the first time. The main character has to face many difficulties, and find herself along the way. I loved this book when I read it; usually I donate books once I finish them, but this book was a keeper. For my reading level, I found this book really good; not too easy and not too hard. I really loved the plot of this book, and liked seeing the view of the different characters. This book does talk about some heavy topics (including death), but is a very good book to learn about empathy and the impacts your actions have. If you love a happy ending and a satisfying novel, this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:
Counting by 7s
Sloan, Holly Goldberg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Counting By 7s" by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a story about a girl and her struggles of going to school for the first time. The main character has to face many difficulties, and find herself along the way. I loved this book when I read it; usually I donate books once I finish them, but this book was a keeper. For my reading level, I found this book really good; not too easy and not too hard. I really loved the plot of this book, and liked seeing the view of the different characters. This book does talk about some heavy topics (including death), but is a very good book to learn about empathy and the impacts your actions have. If you love a happy ending and a satisfying novel, this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:
Counting by 7s
Sloan, Holly Goldberg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Counting By 7s" by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a story about a girl and her struggles of going to school for the first time. The main character has to face many difficulties, and find herself along the way. I loved this book when I read it; usually I donate books once I finish them, but this book was a keeper. For my reading level, I found this book really good; not too easy and not too hard. I really loved the plot of this book, and liked seeing the view of the different characters. This book does talk about some heavy topics (including death), but is a very good book to learn about empathy and the impacts your actions have. If you love a happy ending and a satisfying novel, this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
Dionne, Erin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet", a story about a middle school teen and her struggles of trying to fit in, demonstrates the fact that family is always first. This book talks about Hamlet, a girl going through 8th grade. First of all, I am in 8th grade and find the reading level a little bit easier than I am used to. It is a very well-written novel, but aimed toward a younger audience; on one of the websites that sell this book, it is suggested for 4-7 graders. But other than age, this book is pretty good. It talks about some issues that sometimes/rarely come up with public schooling (this book talks about an extreme of this), and how to deal with fears and anger. Along with being a fictional novel, this book is a mystery.
If you like narrative stories including some elements of mystery and staying strong, then this book is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Awards:
Genres:
The One
Cass, Kiera
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was so good, I had such a good time reading it and would definitely read it again. The One is my favorite out of all the other books.
Getting to the end of America's romance was amazing, America is so relatable and is a great character to follow through the series. Although these books are more romantic there are still many parts where I was so excited that I couldn't stay in my seat. I'm so glad that I read this series and took part in America's journey through The Selection. I highly recommend reading this series because I loved it so much that I would easily read it again and have just as much fun as I did reading it the first time.

Reviewer's Name: Tierney B
The Old Man and the Sea
Hemingway, Ernest
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I did not enjoy reading The Old Man and the Sea mostly due to the format it was written in. The Old Man and the Sea is a book that focuses on one of an old man’s most memorable fishing trips where he attempts to kill massive a fish larger than his very ship. One of the main reasons why I did not enjoy reading this book is because of the fact that all of the main characters have names that are revealed throughout the story, but they are never used by the narrator figure. For example, throughout the entire book, Santiago is only referred to as “the old man” by the narrator, even though his real name is known early on in the novel. I also found the book to have a dull plot, focusing on descriptive writing rather than events that occur within the story. Even though I did not particularly enjoy reading this book, there is a lot of symbolism and descriptive writing throughout the novel, which some people may enjoy.
Reviwer Grade= 9

Reviewer's Name: Hanna N
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Never before have I read a book that has been so self-aware . . . and I loved every minute of it. There’s breaking the fourth wall, and then there’s Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. A fun and hilarious read for teens and adults, this book’s premise is as ridiculous as it is original. Of course, while it tends to border on the random (for maximum comedic effect), this book also manages to tie all these random pieces together in the most satisfying way. The comedy in this book is effortless, and the plot is certainly the most interesting thing I’ve read recently.

I think the ability of this book to successfully break norms and fully immerse the reader in the world is due to Sanderson’s talent as a fantasy writer. The details that seem odd, like receiving a bag of sand for your thirteenth birthday, manage to be relevant to the climax of the story. Even the unique “superpowers” present in this narrative are fully fleshed out, and the minutia of how they work makes sense and adds to the depth of the characters. In fact, these superpowers practically define the personalities of the people who wield them.

While this is only the second Sanderson book I’ve finished reading (I’m still working on The Way of Kings ), I am quickly becoming a fan of his work. Or, at least I genuinely enjoy the shorter books that he writes, like this one. I can’t wait to pick up the rest of the books in this series, because the characters and the world are so real to me that I want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Who knew that unassuming librarians could make the best villains? Maybe that’s the whole point, though?

A hilarious, random, and well thought-out adventure, I give Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
Genres:
Snow Falling on Cedars
Guterson, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This was an amazingly written book with a centralized focus on a piece of history that is rarely paid much attention to. Focusing on the false trial of Kabuo Hiyamoto for murder, a Japanese-American man living on San Piedro Island, the book discusses prejudices harbored against Japanese people after WW2 and internment camps and tackles the idea of what is socially acceptable vs. what is morally correct. Guterson's writing style flows well and reads like an easygoing narrative, leaving most of the inferences and questioning to be made about morals to the reader. It questions human nature and the role of justice in vengeance, and leaves us wondering ourselves about humanity, with mixed feelings of both disgust at some of the characters and hope for the future.

Reviewer's Name: Gia D.
Awards:
Genres:
The Clockwork Dynasty
Wilson, Daniel H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

f there's anything Daniel H. Wilson is good at, it's writing about robots. In his latest book, The Clockwork Dynasty, he takes a steampunk approach by setting the book, not in the future, but in the present and distant past. Returning to the origins of robots via the automatons created for the entertainment of the wealthy and royal, Wilson has crafted another workable piece of fiction centered on robots. Unfortunately, as is the case with some of this other writing, I didn't like a few of his stylistic choices.

The Clockwork Dynasty jumps back and forth between flashbacks and "present era" actions, which can sometimes be distracting, especially if one of the storylines is particularly interesting at the time. I almost wonder if there could have been a better way to focus on the action in the present and to reveal the details of the past in more of a "show" instead of the "tell" provided via flashbacks. Additionally, I get why some of the violence was present in this book, but it (along with the few moments of obscenity or sex) seemed a little unnecessary.

One of my other qualms with this book was with the audiobook itself. Since the individuals reading each of the sections were different between the past and the present, it did help to know where I was in the story. However, the male voice of the past was a little quieter than the female voice of the present. This meant I turned up the volume each time the story was in a flashback, only to scramble to turn it down when the timeframe switched. Some volume leveling would have made this book a little less difficult to listen to, is all I'm saying.

A steampunk story by the modern master of robot stories, I give The Clockwork Dynasty 3.0 stars out of 5.

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

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

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Genres:

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