chat loading...

Staff Book Reviews

The Darkest Part of the Forest
Black, Holly
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This was my first foray into Holly Black’s books, and I coming away from it not as impressed as I thought I would be. While I generally love fantasy and anything to do with faires, or fairy tales, there was just something about this book that made me not fully connect with the characters.

The general story line, I absolutely love! Of a small town forced to live in between two worlds that of fae and human and all the complications that comes with; Of a sleeping beauty like character waking after centuries of sleep; and of a hero that pledges her life to fighting the monsters in the middle of the forest. I also absolutely love the world building in this book, the description was beautiful, atmospheric, and haunting and made me wish fairy worlds were real. But the character development for me was just not as strong as it could have been, which is why rating this book was so difficult.

I am giving this one a solid 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Genres:
The Cottingley Secret
Gaynor, Hazel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“ I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell...”

The Cottingley Secret is a story about fairies, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and an old bookshop in a Irish harbor town, what is not to love about this book.
This story is a modern retelling of the real historical legend of the Cottingley Fairies. After coming to live with her cousin Elsie Wright in Cottingley England, during the height of the first world war, Frances Griffiths and her cousin both claim to see real live fairies at the bottom of the garden. The cousins soon prove their claims by photographing the fairies in the garden. These real live photos soon catches the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wholeheartedly believes the girls and proceeds to publish several of these photos in a magazine. Soon after, the girls and the fairies became a national sensation and through the country into the grip of fairy fever. This marks the beginning of a time that would define their lives and have them keeping secrets until the day of their deaths.

Meanwhile in modern day Ireland, Olivia Cavanaugh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and soon discovers a manuscript that recounts the story of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. As she reads through the manuscript, written by Frances, she soon discovers she has more in common with her than she ever imagined.

Hazel Gaynor connects past and present in a way that is both modern and extremely touching. I really connected with Olivia in this book. As she, and the reader, reads through Frances and Elsie’s story, she finds strength to face her painful past and let go of a life that has always been planned out for her to pursue a life that connects her to the desires of her heart.

Filled with amazing literary prose, a beautiful atmospheric environment and strong characters, this story is historical literary fantasy at it’s best.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Cruel Prince
Black, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When Jude and Taryn were seven years old, a man who wasn’t a man came to their door and killed their parents. After murdering their parents, the man who was not a man but a fairy, secreted Jude, Taryn and their sister Viv away to Faerie, where they were raised as if they were fairies themselves (nevermind the inconvenient fact that fairies hate mortals). After ten years of living with fairies, Jude wants nothing so badly as to be as beautiful, powerful and immortal. But Jude is a human, so she’s ugly and weak and mortal and has been bullied by her peers who are not her peers her whole life. So when a chance to gain power comes, Jude grasps it with both hands, not knowing that the opportunity will embroil her in the dangerous machinations of power-hungry mad fairies. But even if she had known, Jude wouldn’t have cared. Because she doesn’t just want to be a fairy. She wants to best them all.

This was one of my favorite books of the year. After a crazy fast and brutal start (the book does, in fact, start with a seven year old witnessing the brutal murder of her two parents), the book skips ahead 10 years and seriously slows down to do some worldbuilding. As I’m familiar with the typical rules surrounding the fey, I didn’t find this part to be terribly compelling, but understand why it was necessary. And to be fair, these parts are still at least somewhat interesting – Jude is constantly struggling with love and hate for her adopted father, Madoc, who did kill her parents. Her fairy schoolmates are cruel to the point of not being scared of killing Jude or her sister. There’s a bit of romance (although, as is often the case, it annoyed me). The groundwork for future court intrigue is laid.

Eventually, Jude gets recruited to be a spy for the likely heir to the throne of Faerie and the book goes from pretty good to freakin’ great. The story and character development pick up, and all of sudden it’s all evil machinations, twists, power grabs, allies-turned-enemies and enemies-turned-allies. Jude herself is a very interesting character – she’s not a nice or even necessarily good person, but you will find yourself rooting for despite her willingness to kill or do some seriously shady stuff. Actually, there isn’t one character that you would single out as being “good”, and I have to admit, I loved that. It made an already delightfully twisty read a bit twistier. The second half of the book also brings us some fresh developments on the romance horizon, and I definitely did not hate them. I can’t wait to see where that goes. I can’t wait to see where any of it goes – the ending will definitely leave you waiting for more.

If you’ve read and enjoyed any of Black’s other books, you’ll love this one. She’s known as the “Queen of Faerie” and with this book, she’s earned her title. I buy a fairly small percentage of the books I read, but
I’ll be buying this one. It was AWESOME. 5 stars.

The Cruel Prince will be available on 02 January 2018, but you can put your copy on hold today. Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with an advance electronic copy for review consideration.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Girl in the Tower
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Katherine Arden's The Girl In The Tower is just as good, if not better, than the first book, The Bear and The Nightingale. Filled with more Russian Fairy tales, atmospheric literary prose, rich and strong characters, and the same enchanting setting of Medieval Russia, this book picks up right where the first one left off. It follows the story of Vasya, now a grown up woman she, instead of conforming to the role woman in her day usually play, of marriage or life in a convent, chooses instead a life of adventure. Leaving her home and traveling the vast Russian Wilderness while dressed as a boy, she soon is called upon to defend the city of Moscow and finds the threat greater and more deadly than she imagined. While fighting this threat, only she can stop, she is also forced to protect her secret as she comes upon her brother and attracts the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow.

Part of what drew me to this book is the fairy tales, yes, but also the historical setting of Medieval Russia. Katherine Arden does a masterful job of weaving fantasy elements with real life historical details only a great historian would discover. Blurring the line between history, fantasy, and reality this book and, more importantly this series, is contemporary historical fantasy at its best. It is a sketch not only of real life in Medieval Russia, but also displays the power of story and demonstrates the importance of fairy tales and the lessons they can teach us.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Awards:
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Ward, Jesmyn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Jo Jo and his mother Leonie have been living on a farm in rural Missisippi for their entire lives. Jo Jo's father, Michael, has been in jail for drug related crimes, and thus most of Jo Jo and his sister Kayla's upbringing has been done by their grandparents: the gruff but ultimately loving Pop and the cancer-ridden matriarch, Mam. Everyone's world is about to be upended, though, as time grows near for Michael to get out of prison.

Writing any sort of synopsis for this book was particularly challenging, as there's not much in the way of plot. I don't mean that in a bad way. I sometimes love books that focus solely character development, and that is absolutely what this is. The writing is insanely gorgeous and it's obvious from the gruesome beginning scene as to why this won the National Book Award.

Ward manages to make almost all of the characters relatable or lovable even as they do and say and think terrible things. She absolutely captures some of the wonderfully horrible aspects of the human condition, and here is a lot to love in this book.

That being said, I did not much care for certain aspects of the audiobook. First, by the time I got the book, I had forgotten what it was actually about. I did not remember that ghosts were a part of the story and was really confused for the first part of the book (are these flashbacks? how is that character here? I thought he was dead?), but I eventually figured it out. For me, the ghosts detracted from the story and I could have done without that element, even though magical realism is often my jam. The biggest problem for me, however, was Rutina Wesley's performance (which, hilariously enough, is why I went for this in audiobook format - I liked her in the few seasons I watched of True Blood). It was over enunciated especially given that Leonie is from Mississippi, and I found her parts to be melodramatic as there were a lot of weird pauses and words said breathlessly. It just didn't work for me, and I wanted to skip all of Leonie's parts.

If you would like to read a gorgeously written character study/family drama with a compelling setting, then this is a great bet. Just read it, don't listen to it. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
One Trick Pony
Hale, Nathan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this creative, futuristic graphic novel all technology has been stolen by a species known as the Pipers. When a young girl and two of her friends stumble into a hidden cache of robots, they become the targets of a wild chase. This book is exciting, unique, and includes a battle in outerspace! Recommended for grades 3-6.

Reviewer's Name: Jenny G.
Book Review: Small Great Things
Picoult, Jodi
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Here's the problem I have with Jodi Picoult. She always does some left field plot twist at the end of her books. I find it very annoying. This book is no exception. Something completely weird happens toward the end. Otherwise I enjoyed this book. Especially the Turk chapters. Fascinating and disturbing. Some of the book was heavy handed, but it's hard for a white woman to write about race, so she has my sympathy.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Gone Girl
Flynn, Gillian
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I loved reading this book. I loved everything about how it was written, how diabolical and shrewd the main character, Amy, was. Most of the book had me at the edge of my seat, eagerly lapping up the story as fast as I could. Then I got to the last quarter or so of the book. There came a point where Amy's plans and character changed a little to drastically to be consistent with who she was throughout the majority of the book. And after that, the quality of the writing also noticeably changed, as if a different author with a different writing style picked up where Flynn left off and finished the story from there. And THEN to add further insult to injury, the ending was just terrible, and somewhat unbelievable.

Reviewer's Name: Leah
Though Heaven Fall
Westerson, Jeri
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you like castles, medieval stories and a bit of supernatural I recommend this you!
Set in the 13th century, this novel whisks you back in time. The misadventures of this "cripple" build up from a puddle to a daring rescuing of a wanted madman. While it may seem to drag out sometimes, its worth the wait.

Reviewer's Name: Johana P.
Genres:
The Stolen Marriage
Chamberlain, Diane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

About halfway through this book, I wanted to throttle the main character and give up on the book as I saw it heading in an utterly predictable direction. Tess makes so many bad decisions that it is hard to feel sorry for her being in such a miserable situation. It was also difficult to read the characters' attitudes about racially mixed couples in a time and place when it was not only socially unacceptable, but illegal. However, I'm glad I stuck with it, as about 2/3 of the way through it turned around and ended on a very unexpected note, which I enjoyed!

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

This book is.... very hard to categorize. I read it because I LOVED Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which was also kind of quirky. Lois, an engineer at a robotics company, is given a special sourdough starter by the odd owners of a small restaurant which closes unexpectedly and without much explanation. The starter has some unique properties, and Lois ends up becoming quite obsessed with its care and development, joining a very unusual and exclusive farmer's market to sell the bread she makes. An interesting tale of the melding of traditional skills and technology.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Fall of Giants
Follett, Ken
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fall of Giants is a long but worthwhile book to read. I "read" this via audio-book and enjoyed the narration very much. Ken Follett never fails to write in a historically accurate method and this is no exception. The introduction to the characters takes a bit of time to get through, but it's worth it due to the intricate nature of their lives and how they will intersect later in the book and the following related novels. This book combines elements of politics, revolution, war, love, social injustices and reforms, and insight into daily lives of people living in WWI era Russia, England, Germany, Wales and America.

Reviewer's Name: Merry
Genres:
Handle With Care
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors, as her stories always involve a complex moral dilemma her well-developed characters are grappling with. This story in particular tugs at the heart strings of mothers who would do anything to protect their suffering child. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the deeper, melancholy moments of life.

Reviewer's Name: Bethany P.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Trevor Noah's autobiography, which focuses on his childhood in South Africa, gives audiences a funny yet insightful look into life in South Africa before and after apartheid. The book is also a compelling mother-and-son love story. Noah's astute and comedic storytelling makes "Born a Crime" is a very smart and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Melina
Awards:
Have You Seen Elephant?
Barrow, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An adorable tale about a small boy and a very large elephant combined with an exciting game of hide and seek. This elephant is very good at hiding as you will see in the subtle but wonderful illustrations. This story ends with a new friend and new game, and will have your kiddo delighted with giggles. This is a very worthwhile, silly, and fun story. (JEasy...Grades PreK-2)

Reviewer's Name: Alicia
Claude in the City
Smith, Alex T.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Claude is an adorable dog that wears a beret, a red sweater, and loves adventure. When his owners go to work the fun begins. Claude and Sir Bobblysock, his best friend, visit the city for the very first time. They have an exciting time going shopping for more berets, and having tea, but the most fun happens when they visit a museum. This charming adventure continues and more antics ensue. Claude in the City is a joy to read and sure to entertain. (Grades 3-5)

Reviewer's Name: Alicia
The Bear and the Nightingale
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A perfect winter read! A beautiful atmospheric retelling of the fairytale Jack Frost set in a wintry town on the edge of the Russian wilderness in Medieval Russia. Plus a strong independent female protagonist who risks everything to save her family from the evil forces all around her! What's not to love! Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale is a must read! This novel has it all mystery, magic, adventure, and love! With well developed characters and beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical writing that makes you almost feel the cold wind on your skin and see the snow flakes falling this book cannot be passed up! I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out, The Girl in The Tower!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
'Twas Nochebuena
Thong, Roseanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a really well-done version of Clement Clarke Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” that incorporates the traditions of Guatamala and Mexico by using key words in Spanish. Even this non-speaker can easily interpret the Spanish, as it is woven so seamlessly into the text. The bright illustrations add to the overall enjoyment of this multi-cultural portrayal of Christmas celebrations. A nice addition to all your Christmas favorites! Best for 5+.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Crenshaw
Applegate, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Anyone who’s loved the movie, Harvey, will be instantly hooked by Crenshaw. Crenshaw is a giant cat who shows up in Jackson’s life just when he can use a good friend. Jackson doesn’t always appreciate Crenshaw’s presence and tries to grapple with Crenshaw’s appearance with logic. But with the writer’s eye for detail and empathy, Katherine Applegate creates a believable world where the unbelievable happens and where magic dovetails into reality.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
You're All My Favorites
McBratney, Sam
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

What a fabulous way to assure your little ones that they are all your favorite! Three bears wonder if their mom or dad likes one of them better than the others. But the parents give really good answers to their questions. A perfect book to snuggle up with and comfort all your little bears.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin

Pages