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Staff Book Reviews

The Clockmaker's Daughter
Morton, Kate
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This story centers around an impassioned artist and his dreams, a mysterious murder, an enchanting English manor and all that went on their throughout its many years, a ghost that stands outside of time witness to it all, a vanished girl, an archivist and her discovery of a priceless artifacts, and how what went on there all those years ago effects who she is today.

In the past, the 1860’s to be exact, this story begins with a talented artist Edward Radcliffe and a group of artists that spend a summer at the house of his dreams Birchwood Manor. But shortly after arriving a mysterious murder is committed, a priceless artifact disappears and one of the women vanishes. A hundred years later in the present an archivist, named Elodie, finds a satchel which contains an unrelated photograph and a sketchbook that contains a drawing of Birchwood Manor. As she digs deeper into the mystery she is pulled into a story that has her questioning her past and who she truly is. This beautiful atmospheric mystery spans the length of time, and is told by the many voices and people all living within and around the Manor’s walls.

Before I go any further, first, let me say this. Kate Morton is the master of atmospheric beautiful Gothic mysteries and I am a big fan of hers and have loved every one of her past books. Her intricate and deeply rooted stories her beautiful prose, and her enchanting settings are the reasons why she is simply one of the best in her genre. That being said, this work, was a bit of a disappointment. While all the elements of what I love about Kate Morton’s books were there; an intricate story steeped in history, an old vast English manor with a secret or two to hide within its walls, old families with long pedigrees, a family mystery, an enchanting setting, this book fell short for me mainly because of its intricacy and complexity. I also believe the ending was a bit weak. I really wanted to love it, I just couldn’t.

Morton, I believe, really attempted to tell a challenging story, but simply had to many voices trying to tell it. While I like a good dual timeline novel, this one, with at least four voices and timelines was simply too much. There were times that, because of how she bounced around among the numerous timelines, when I got completely lost in which timeline I was following. This combined with how many characters and voices there were throughout the novel, made the story overall a whole lot less enjoyable. I’ll admit, this story took me a good while to get through and I do recommend, if reading this, keeping a list of who everyone is and which timeline goes where. It’s definitely a book you have to think through. That being said the story itself was beautiful and it makes me wonder, if it wouldn’t be better as an audio book where each of the voices are sounded out. Overall a 2.5-3 star read for me. However, if you are a Kate Morton fan and if you love atmospheric Gothic mysteries, I couldn’t count this one out, I would still give this one a go, just maybe as an audio book. Place your copy on hold today!

Thank you to Netgalley, Atria books, and Simon and Schuster for a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Cover Image
Kagawa, Julie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every 10,000 years, an ancient dragon rises to give one mortal a wish (in exchange for their soul) and the world changes. Two characters, a kitsune-hybrid and a ninja, find themselves trying to keep the path to the dragon out of the hands of several interested and nefarious parties. Shadow of the Fox follows our heroes as they travel to and from different monasteries dodging monsters in their quest to protect ancient scrolls.

Shadow of the Fox was a ton of fun! It gave me Percy Jackson vibes, but was definitely for a slightly older audience and the mythology in this book was Japanese, which I found to be very cool. I liked both of the characters – the kitsune must hide her fox nature from her ninja travelling companion as he is a monster killer, and kitsune are a type of…if not monster, then non-human trickster. The ninja is trying to resist becoming possessed by the evil demon that occupies his sword. Their relationship is thus a bit fraught, but adds a really interesting dynamic. Their other travelling companion (a disgraced Samurai who spends most of the book amusingly drunk) provided some levity. Some of the mythology was completely new to me, which made for a engaging reading experience. I liked it enough that I read one of Kagawa’s other books, The Iron King, as well. If you enjoyed that one, you’ll likely like this – I found the formats to be similar, though I personally found the Japanese mythology more interesting than the fairies.

TLDR: This is a really entertaining and action packed fantasy for fans of Percy Jackson and Kagawa’s other books. I loved it, and am excited to get my own copy! 5 stars.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Shadow of the Fox is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
I Am a Cat
Bernstein, Galia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lion, Cheetah, Puma, Panther, and Tiger say that Simon isn’t a cat. After all, cats have certain characteristics. Can he convince them that he’s really a cat? Read along to find out.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Have You Seen Elephant?
Barrow, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

You can play hide-and-seek with elephant, but beware, he’s very good. This beautifully illustratrated, interactive book has children looking for elephant in a variety of places. Will you be able to find him?

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Nothing But Trouble
Davies, Jacqueline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the small town of Odawahaka, nothing ever happens. Maggie, however, likes to make things happen. Read along as Maggie, and town newcomer, Lena, make mischief all over town. A great book for girls who like cleverness and determination.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Ms. Bixby's Last Day
Anderson, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Ms. Bixby is a special teacher. She makes a difference in the lives of her students including Topher, Steve, and Brand. As each boy narrates the story, we realize what she means to each of them and we understand the lengths they go to to tell her this.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Squirrel in the House
Vande Velde, Vivian
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Twitch, the school-yard squirrel and Cuddles, the dog next door, don’t get along. Twitch narrates the book and explains why squirrels have such a better life – they have no rules. During the holiday celebrations, Twitch heads inside Cuddles’ house and mayhem ensues. The day turns serious when a young human gets into trouble. Can Twitch & Cuddles work together to save the boy? Read & find out.

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

Finished this book at 2 a.m. (thanks a lot Mr. Turton!). Freaking amazing! I don't even quite know how to classify it - and I don't want to give anything away so I won't even try. Let's just say that it is like reading a REALLY good murder mystery through a kaleidoscope, shifting perspectives constantly to allow everything to eventually come together. I would suggest just letting the first half of the book just wash over you without trying too much to figure it out - otherwise it would get frustrating. And keep track of the characters - that is very important (and there are a lot of them!). Wow, just wow.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
The Loney
Hurley, Andrew Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The raw intense power of this book is simply incredible. Gothic horror literary fiction at it’s best!

The Loney follows the story of 2 brothers Smith and his cognitively disable brother Hanny, known as the boy who does not speak, their family and their religious community as they take a pilgrimage to a religious shrine at the Loney, a bleak desolate part of the English coastline, in hopes of finding healing for him. This book takes place in the 1970’s and centers around a family and a tight knit religious community. It explores family dynamics, the tight knit relationship between the brothers, which I absolutely loved and felt was so strong, and between the brothers and their parents. Particularly their mom a religious overbearing figure who is definitely seen as not only the leader of her family but a very strong leader within the religious community as well often imposing her will on everyone. It also explores relationships between the religious community. Both among members and between the new more modern/ forward thinking priest and the parishioners as well as between the priest and the two brothers. The relationship study in this book, from a sociological and psychological standpoint is alone worth five stars.

But the Loney is more than just a sociological study, the Loney is also a desolate raw place riddled with secrets, rugged beauty and loneliness, a place time left behind. This is evoked perfectly in this quote describing the Loney.

“A sudden mist a mumble of thunder over the sea the wind scurrying along the beach with it's crop of old bones and litter was sometimes all it took to make you feel as though something was about to happen. Though quite what I didn't know. I often thought their was too much time there. That the place was sick with it. Haunted by it. Time didn't leak away as it should. There was nowhere for it to go and no modernity to hurry it along. It collected as the black water did on the marshes and remained and stagnated in the same way."

Eerie and creepy right! The sense of place and atmosphere that Hurley portrays here is so strong, that it’s like a a whole other character in the book. It slowly gathers itself around you like a invisible blanket and doesn’t let go. Add to that the tight writing, the slow burn of the story, the eerie terrifying conclusion, and the gothic dreary English coastline setting and you have the perfect fall read. Don’t expect a fast moving gore horror but if you like gothic creepy horror that slowly builds and creeps up on you, you will love this book! I highly recommend reading this beautiful piece of fiction! I cannot say enough about Andrew Hurley! No wonder Stephen King said this is a “great piece of fiction.” Hurley is definitely one to watch! You can put your copy of this atmospheric psychological suspenseful horror on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Muse of Nightmares
Taylor, Laini
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This follow up to the beautiful best seller Strange the Dreamer picks up right where the first one left off. This book is just as intense, dark, raw, magical, entrancing, dreamy, atmospheric, and amazing as the first one. I can not sing the praises of Laini Taylor enough. She is a force in YA fiction that infuses her characters with such deep emotions, that the reader cannot help but to be pulled in to the tide of emotion that the character is feeling. This is definitely a very emotional book that transcends the story itself, to explore the power of the human spirit.

When we left Lanzlo and the others in Strange the Dreamer, the citadel had nearly fallen, Lazlo had just discovered his true identity, that he was more than just farangii junior librarian who liked to dream, but a god blessed with the very god like power that caused so much pain and anger all those years ago when the godspawn first came to Weep. Sarai his lover also was no longer a goddess but a ghost. She goes to join the ranks of other ghosts all held together and controlled by her sister Minya who is still intent on the revenge of Weep, and holds both of them hostage using Sarai’s soul as a bargaining chip. We also have the addition of two new characters Kora and Nova, and their stories intertwine to meld with the main narrative in both beautiful, surprising and painfully sad ways. As these various characters go through the grief and trauma, and pain that resulted from the citadel’s near fall, they also discover all they are truly capable of.

If Strange the Dreamer was about the question of Identity, Muse of Nightmares is about the question of origins. This book also explores origins from many different perspectives. It explores origins of the citadel and how it came to be in Weep, of Weep the city itself, it explores the circumstances of Lazlo’s true birth and nature, it also explores how the other characters in the book, such as Minya, developed to become the people they are today and how their perspectives shape their future actions. It asks the question What really happened all those years ago? And the various answers to this question once their discovered, are anything but simple. They open up paths to new worlds, characters, and horrors that are both painful and beautiful. Filled with mystery, intrigue, loss, pain, beauty beyond imagining, and so much
more, Muse of Nightmares is a diamond in the rough of YA fiction and needs to read by everyone. Laini Taylor is a truly magical and memorable writer. If you haven’t yet please pick up the first book of this series Strange the Dreamer, these characters are truly memorable characters that everyone needs in their life. This book come out October 2, so now is the time to catch up if you haven’t yet. You can put both on your holds list today! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Genres:
Black Wings Beating Cover Image
London, Alex
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In a world where dominion over birds of prey equals power, twins Brysen and Kylee have a love/hate relationship with falconry. Brysen longs to be good at the sport, but lacks the patience and ability. Kylee is a natural, and even has powers that allow her to speak with the birds, but she just wants to pay back their family’s debts and then leave their village forever. When Brysen compounds their debt and then agrees to hunt the ghost eagle – the very same eagle who killed their father – Kylee knows that she has to help, or lose her brother to the birds as well.

The world building in this book is phenomenal. London creates a rich world with opposing religions about to go to war, and creates an entirely new mythology built around falconry. Now, I know there are other fantasies based around falconry, but as I’ve not read them, this was all totally new and fascinating to me. Kylee and Brysen take turns narrating, and their perspectives were realistic and different enough that you had a great feel for them as characters quite early on in the book. They were so authentic as not to be entirely likable – Brysen in particular makes quite a few stupid and/or impulsive decisions and I found him to be a bit hard to root for. I really enjoyed Kylee, though, and I loved how the world was presented with equality in terms of sexuality and race. Several of our characters are people of color and/or LGBTQ+, and they don’t seem to be oppressed or seen any differently because of it, which was refreshing to read.

For this reader, the plot left something to be desired. The book starts off with a bang, but then quickly devolves into an adventure story in the woods as Kylee and Brysen search for the ghost eagle. The aforementioned “opposing religions about to go to war” parts show the most promise, but were unfortunately relegated to the background. That will likely change in the sequel, but it made this book a slow read for me. I actually put it down in the middle and read an entirely different book as it wasn’t really holding my interest. I felt like the book might have worked really well as a prequel novella, but as a full length novel, there was a lot of filler as Kylee and Brysen navigate the woods with only one important seeming development.

Black Wings Beating was an interesting dive into the world of falconry that sets up a sequel with a lot of promise. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes adventure stories with a touch of the fantastical. 3 stars – I liked it!
Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Black Wings Beating will be available for purchase on 25 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of the first dystopian novels, Brave New World follows an outsider as he tries to navigate the workings of a society that has been developed into a utopia by using conditioning and genetic modification. Originally excited to visit this 'brave new world', Savage becomes increasingly distraught by the lack of humanity exhibited by its inhabitants.

I liked this book better than 1984, mostly because 1984 had some 'preachy' sections and this one had fewer and had a more interesting plot line to me. While 1984 was violent, Brave New World was promiscuous. Both books eschewed solitude for constant interaction, 1984 being involuntary, Brave New World, voluntary. Both books are worth reading.

One reason Brave New World is fascinating is because of the way they control the birth and childhood of the population by conditioning and genetics. Copulation is as common as a handshake and soma restores all to rights. All this was written in the 30s! Aldous Huxley is the man!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Nowhere But Home
Palmer, Liza
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Chef Queenie Wake can't keep a job because of her abrasive personality. Finally, she has no where to go but back to the small Texas town where her mother's reputation as a thieving, loose woman made life miserable for her and her sister. Queenie takes a job no one wants, cooking the last meal for death row inmates. Her search for making the inmates' last meal the perfect memory of the happiest time of their lives changes Queenie. She learns the importance of forgiveness, family and love. The story will make you cry and perhaps make you think differently about things that you thought were straight forward. It's a lovely book.

Reviewer's Name: Susan
Awards:
Genres:
What If?
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Three separate scenarios are show to illustrate what happens when a boy kicks a beach ball into the ocean. This story, told mostly through the pictures, examines the possibilities and encourages imagination and language.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Awards:
Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!
Fleming, Candace
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s bedtime on the farm. When pig goes to his sty, he finds cow there and tells him to “Go sleep in your own bed!” This sets off a chain reaction as animals are relocated to their own beds. The simple repetitive text encourages children to “read” along and the pictures are delightful

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Math & Magic in Wonderland
Mohr, Lilac
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Do you like math & logic puzzles? If so, you can solve puzzles along with twins, Lulu and Elizabeth. They’re on a grand math adventure inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poetry. Do you have the ability to solve the puzzles and outwit the Bandersnatch? Check out this book and find out.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Stay! A Top Dog Story
Latimer, Alex
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Ben loves his dog, Buster, but has to leave him with Grampa when he goes on vacation. He remembers and writes down all sorts of instructions for Grampa. As he remembers more things, he writes postcards from vacation. Eventually, he remembers what he forgot, but it is too late. Grampa & Buster are already on the way to the post office. Read what happens as Buster learns how to behave – at least most of the time.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Cover Image
Revis, Beth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Nedra wants nothing more than to become a medical alchemist (think magical doctor). When the opportunity arises for her to spend one year at the best alchemical school in the country, she jumps at it, even though she knows it means leaving her twin sister and her parents – perhaps forever. Nedra quickly jumps to the top of her class, but when a plague breaks out and starts killing commoners, Nedra finds herself out of the classroom and into the hospital. As she studies the plague, she realizes that it might not be entirely natural. Anyone around her could be responsible for its rise, even those that she trusts the most and she turns to a forbidden form of alchemy, necromancy, to try to find the answers.

The book is narrated by two characters, Grey and Nedra. Nedra was an enthralling character. The book follows her as circumstances get progressively more dire and she does what she has to do to survive and keep her twin sister alive. Her inevitable descent into darkness felt earned and real. Grey is Nedra’s classmate and love interest, and I didn’t mention him in the synopsis because he was entirely unnecessary to the book. I think he just served to give an outsider’s perspective on Nedra, but his chapters read as wholly superfluous to me. Perhaps he’ll have more of a role in the sequel?

The alchemy and necromancy themselves were quite cool, aside from the cruelty to rats. The cruelty is addressed and makes sense (one could argue that we use lab mice in a similar fashion), but might be upsetting to animal lovers. The first part of the book, while not fast paced, was still fun to read as we got to hang out with Nedra quite a bit in the hospital and learn about her craft and motivations. As she experiments more with necromancy, the book gets twisty and dark, and I really enjoyed the ending. There are also some fun political machinations and a revolution brewing in the background, all of which add to the immediacy of later plot points.

If you enjoyed a good villain origin story, such as Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, Tamora Pierce’s Tempests and Slaughter or the TV show Breaking Bad, you should give this book a read. I enjoyed it, and I think I’ll like the sequel even more when it comes out in a year or so. 3 stars.

Thanks to Razorbill and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Give the Dark My Love will be available for purchase on 25 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: The Romantics
Konen, Leah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Cute book about love, told from the perspective of Love. I liked the idea behind it, having Love narrate the story. I'm not the target audience, but I enjoyed it. Teens that are into rom-coms will enjoy it even more.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
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:

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