Staff Book Reviews

Girl, Wash Your Face
Hollis, Rachel
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book wasn't bad. I finished it. I even got two takeaways: Don't compare yourself to others, and don't worry about weight so much as being in shape (paraphrased). However, I did not agree with her assessment of people using prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression, and sleep as being unnecessary. She said it twice in the book. Also, she holds herself up as the standard to which we should all aspire, not on purpose, it was just a side effect of the book. It was okay for a rah rah book, but I wouldn't recommend it to my friends.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Daisy Jones & the Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Daisy Jones & the Six is a telling of the eponymous band's tumultuous story, by the band and in interview format. Its kind of: Almost Famous -The Fleetwood Mac Story. There's drugs, sex (some consensual), drugs, rock & roll and drugs! There are a lot of drugs. But mostly, there's an intensely readable character study about a bunch of talented young people who couldn't get out of their own way.

At the recommendation of a friend and colleague, I read one of Reid's other books, the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and I adored it. When I was approved for Reid's newest on Netgalley, I was pretty excited and rightly so: this book did not let me down. It truly is a book about complex characters told against the gritty, adrenaline filled background of rock & roll in the 70s. I sometimes felt I was almost at the concert, waiting the wings, electrified. The atmosphere was to die for. But again, the characters are the whole thing. Daisy and Billy, our two main characters, were both interesting to read for their own reasons, but my favorite by far was Karen. I did a fair amount of highlighting in this book, and most of those lines belonged to Karen (the rest, Daisy). This book is just dying to be made into a movie (a google search reveals, that, even better - its been optioned as a tv mini-series on Prime! Dream casting: Jenny Lewis should play Daisy Jones. Digression over.) as the characters practically spring off the page. Really, the only downside for me was that it didn't feel new. I've read versions of this story before. But this is a great version of that story, and if you like a good tortured romance, or have felt moved by music, I think this book will make you feel something. I did. 4 stars - I really liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Ballentine Books for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Daisy Jones & the Six is available on 05 March, but you can put your copy on hold today.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Book Reviews: The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood, Margaret
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is old school dystopian literature. Atwood nails it. It's likely the best dystopian novel I have ever read.

Offred is a handmaid, a woman set aside for breeding purposes. Her only desire is to survive, but her memories push their way up into her mind. She had a husband and a child and they are gone. What broke my heart were the memories of her beloved child. It's so softly touched upon that it shows itself as a raw wound that she can barely handle.

Well told and powerful, I give this book 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Kingdom of Copper
Chakraborty, S. A.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Kingdom of Copper is the sequel to City of Brass, and there are spoilers for that book ahead.

Kingdom of Copper picks up about five years after the events of City of Brass. Nahri is married to Muntadhir and is navigating court politics and learning to use her skills as magical healer. Ali, after getting exiled from Daevabad following the events of City of Brass, has managed to survive several assassination attempts and has made a life for himself in a small village. Forced to return to Daevabad, Ali quickly returns to his post as resident trouble maker/possible emir (which in this case means heir to the throne), and Nahri finds her world rocked once again.

The complex, Middle Eastern inspired world and world-building that were the best part of City of Brass are still present in this book, while they are less of a focal point. Overall, I much preferred Kingdom of Copper to City of Brass. My short review of City of Brass read as something like: "great worldbuilding, annoying characters, promising ending." But because we had that time jump of five years, our characters have separated, matured (at least a bit), and the love triangle that brought down the first book died a satisfying death. The worst part of the first book to me was the romantic angst, and little of that exists in this sequel to the betterment of the book.

TLDR: If you liked the first book, you’ll love this one. If you were on the fence about City of Brass as I was, know that the sequel is much improved.

Kingdom of Copper would appeal young, new and other adults and fantasy readers who like rich world building and a unique setting. 3.5 stars.

Thanks to HarperVoyager for the advance edition, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Kingdom of Copper is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Four Dead Queens
Scholte, Astrid
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was not for me, but I think a lot of young adults will really love it. The following is essentially a laundry list of my issues. First, the worldbuilding was pretty weak. The fours quadrants are fairly reminiscent of those in Divergent, but they rarely interact and the farming sector basically works on Amish rules while the technological sector has holographs and advanced biosuits and all sorts of stuff. It does not make a ton of sense. And neither does the “queenly law” or really anything to do with the rules the palace or kingdom operates under – it all seemed pretty transparently created to serve the story that was written. Moving along. The characters really left something to be desired. Most were one-dimensional. The main character, Keralie, couldn’t make a good decision if her life depended on it and falls squarely into the snarky and ostensibly clever thief trope. We do get to hear from the queens a bit, but as I knew they’d end up dead and we only spent a little time with each of them, I didn’t find that it added to the story. And, of course, there is instalove between Keralie and our extremely boring male lead, Varin.

Some components of the book are pretty enjoyable. I think the premise is really cool (if executed poorly). The first queen’s murder took me a bit by surprise, and was deliciously gruesome. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I quite liked the last 50 pages or so – the author, a debut, clearly has some really great ideas. Unfortunately, they didn’t come together in this book, though I’d try another book by this author pending favorable reviews.

TLDR: Readers who loved The Red Queen and Divergent will probably enjoy this one as well. I couldn’t get past the weak characters and worldbuilding, but I think a lot of readers will likely devour this one nonetheless. For me, it was just ok. 2 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and G. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Four Dead Queens will be released on 26 February.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Nine Perfect Strangers
Moriarty, Liane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I usually like this author. I mean, she's not Harper Lee and it's not To Kill a Mockingbird lit, but generally entertaining. This book was an exception. Poor plot, unlikable characters, an unbelievable storyline (and not in a cool Harry Potter way), and a weak ending. Without giving away too much, it's about nine strangers (title spoiler alert) who go to a swanky health spa in rural Australia. That sounds kinda sweet, right? Well, the spa is run by a Russian psychopath who gives them illegal hallucinogenics and that's where the story jumps the shark. Skip this one and read one of her other novels instead.

Reviewer's Name: Laura
Genres:
Five Trucks
Floca, Brian
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Using simple language, this book shows the jobs that five drivers and their trucks do. It also introduces counting backwards and ordinal numbers. Learn about the different jobs that people have to get an airplane ready for take off. Watch the boy and his suitcase prepare for their trip. A fun book for those who are interesting in airplane travel.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Awards:
Hungry Bunny
Rueda, Claudia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Play along as you read this book. Bunny is hungry. He’s so hungry that you can hear his tummy growl. He’s hoping for a treat and you can help. Help him along on his adventure as see if he’s able to have a treat to fix his hunger problem.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Dirt+Water=Mud
Hannigan, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

What happens when you combine two things like dirt and water? What about
girl + dog? Join this girl and her dog as they have a great time using their
imaginations. What will happen next?

Reviewer's Name: Carol
All the Water in the World
Lyon, George Ella and Tillotson, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Using simple text and colorful illustrations, All the Water in the World explains the water cycle and encourages us to live green.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Look
Woodcock, Fiona
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Ooh! While this book is about the trip a brother and sister make to the zoo, it’s also about words with the letter pair OO. It’s cool. It encourages you to look at balloons, kangaroos, and more, just look!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Book Review: Chihuawolf
Ganny, Charlee
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is a cute book about a chihuahua that wants to become a werewolf to impress the dog he loves. Paco is brave but diminutive, with the heart of a lion. His small stature keeps him from being a proper suitor for his love, an Afghan hound. Determined to win her love, he goes on an adventure, looking for a werewolf. But when his love gets dognapped, Paco and his friends spring into action to save her. Along the way, Paco learns that it's not size that matters, but what is in his heart.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Medina, Meg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Merci Suárez Changes Gears just won the esteemed Newbery Award last month. Merci is a new sixth grader attending a private school. Her Cuban family lives in three small houses that sit in a row. Grandparents, aunt, twin nephews, mom, dad and brother are part of Merci's daily life for better or for worse. Merci's schoolmates, however, are mostly mean to her, maybe because Merci does not come from the same affluent neighborhoods with pools and parks galore. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a gentle story of how Merci's sweet family and school intersect, all while Merci is growing and changing. In fact, Merci's household is changing quickly and somehow Merci has to learn to change gears to keep up.

Reviewer's Name: Betty
The Rough Patch
Lies, Brian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Evan and his dog did everything together. They shared many adventures and created a beautiful garden, but when the dog passes away Evan is devastated. The Rough Patch, by author/illustrator Brian Lies, would be a wonderful place to begin a discussion about death and grief with young children. Children and adults will identify with Evan and how he works through his sorrow. This beautifully written and illustrated picture book for ages 3 - 10 is a 2018 Caldecott Honor winner.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Hello Lighthouse
Blackall, Sophie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

From the cutaway of the inside of a lighthouse to the rescue of shipwrecked sailors, Hello Lighthouse, a beautifully designed book by Sophie Blackall, is sure to fascinate children and the adults who read to them! Intriguing illustrations and information illuminate the daily life of lighthouses and their keepers. Hello Lighthouse is the 2019 Caldecott Medal winner. It is just right for repetitive readings for children ages 4 - 10.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
The Patchwork Bike
Clarke, Maxine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mom is fed up with her rambunctious kids but somehow she silently supports their active play as they build a bike out of junk and proceed to ride it up and down, all around and even through the house. Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Than Rudd is a vivacious celebration of childhood play. The illustrations are created with paint on a cardboard box and the texture and motion they create is the perfect complement to the sparse but active text. Take a look at the end papers to see how a stroke of paint can create vibrant motion. This is a fun read for kids 3 – 7.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Meet Yasmin!
Faruqi, Saadia
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly, is an innovative pick for readers age 5 - 8. It is chock-full of colorful illustrations that support the simple but intriguing text. This early chapter book tells the tale of spunky, creative Yasmin and her family as they move through everyday situations. The familiar settings will help young readers decipher new or difficult words as they read. The back matter of the book contains a page of discussion questions, a glossary of Urdu words, information on Pakistan, crafts to explore and a recipe for a yummy drink.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
Slade, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the book, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzalez have created a gorgeous non-fiction book about Project Apollo and all the people who made the moon landing possible. Lush illustrations combine with informative free verse in this book for children age 10 - 14. There are photos, a selected bibliography, and website list in the back of the book.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Book Review: Unmarriageable
Kamal, Soniah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Unmarriageable is a very charming Pakistani retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. If you aren’t familiar with the original, all you really need to know is that it’s a period romance with a lot of social commentary around sexism and classism. Unmarriageable is a very faithful adaptation set in Pakistan in the early aughts, so I think if you like the original, you’ll also enjoy this one.

The best part of Unmarriageable, to me, was the social commentary. Not only does Kamal approach the sexism and classism from a more modern Pakistani lens, but she addresses racism and colonialism as well. Pakistani culture in the early 2000s apparently had some attitudes towards women’s place in the home and sex and sexuality that somewhat mirror that of Georgian England. It was (is?) frowned upon to have sex or most types of sexual contact before marriage. Women were expected to tend to the home. Light skinned folks were seen as being more attractive than darker skinned folks. Kamal addresses all of this and much more quite deftly without compromising the swoony romance.

Speaking of romance, if you like Pride and Prejudice for the romance, Unmarriabeable will make you quite happy. Alys Binat and Mr. Darsee are just as likable as their original counterparts (so, in Darsee’s case, it may take a minute to warm up to him). Their chemistry and enimistry is almost palpable. The book definitely swings hard towards being cheesy at times, but that didn’t really compromise my enjoyment of the book.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the Sherry (Charlotte) character. I always thought Lizzie was kind of horrible towards Charlotte, and Sherry and her relationship with Alys get a lot more time and consideration in this version of the classic.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this one. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you should definitely check this out. It’s perhaps a bit too close to the original, but as an Austen fan, I wasn’t much fussed by that. 4 stars.

Thanks to Ballentine Books and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Unmarriageable is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Nowhere Boy
Marsh, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fourteen year-old Ahmed is hiding in the basement. No one in the house above knows he is there. His family is dead. He has no one to stay with and nowhere to go. He is stuck, in Belgium, in this basement, all alone. Then Max, the boy upstairs, discovers him. Will he tell the police? Will Ahmed be sent back to Syria? What happens next is a fast paced adventure about compassion, hope and doing the right thing. Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh is great for suspense lovers age 10 to 16.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Genres:

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