Staff Book Reviews

The Willoughbys
Lowry, Lois
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The four Willoughby kids have a problem. Their parents don't like them and they are planning to go on vacation, permanently, without the kids. Put into play an abandoned baby, a very sad old man and a pretty great Nanny and you have an endearing and entertaining plot by beloved author, Lois Lowry. The Willoughbys can be described as a winning combination of the Penderwicks and Series of Unfortunate Events for kids age 8 - 12.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Genres:
The Unmapped Chronicles: Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings
Elphinstone, Abi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When Casper hides from the boarding school bullies, he finds himself magically transported to a land of enchantment and is immediately arrested as a criminal by a cranky girl named Utterly Thankless and her little dragon. Thus begins a headlong crash into a quest to save Utterly's kingdom complete with monsters, magicians, witches, trolls, griffins and other unearthly dangers. Kids 8-12 will enjoy the fantasy escapade Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings by Abi Elphinstone.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
The Lions at Night
Boehman, Jessica M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Two stone lions who guard the entrance of the New York Public Library jump off their pedestals one night and scamper into the subway. I wonder where they will go? Join lions, Patience and Fortitude,as they enjoy a night out. This wordless picture books is an enchanting gem to read and explore over and over again. Ask your child questions about what is happening. Let them tell the story and practice creating sentences and story lines. You'll be surprised at what they come up with. For ages 3 - 9.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Universal Love
Weinstein, Alexander
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Universal Love" is 11 short stories set in the near future, showing how people use technology to navigate relationships. In one story, a widower signs up for a program to re-create his deceased wife, only to find out his daughters downloaded a fictitious history from romance novels. Another story has testimonies of why people use on-line dating services. A third story explores the relationship of two robotic children who try to act like human children, even to the point of having real life problems and addictions. An interesting look at technology and how it could be in our not far future of how we relate to each other. One constant remains, and that is our need for human interaction, no matter the media we use to get it.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
Book Cover
Bayron, Kaylynn
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.

I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.

This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Cover
Guillory, Jasmine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Olivia Munroe has just moved to LA, and finds herself frequenting her hotel's bar as she navigates the rental process in LA. On her last night in the hotel, she meets a sexy stranger at the bar. They have a cute interaction, but go their separate ways. Olivia is stunned when she realizes the sexy stranger was in fact Max Powell, a hotshot junior senator from CA. The two have another chance encounter, and this time continue to see each other. But is Olivia ready for life in the public eye?

This is my second Jasime Guillory book (The Wedding Party was my first), and I obviously liked the first enough to read this one, but I liked this one so much more! Olivia and Max were just such great characters, I fell in love with both of them pretty quickly. There's also some topical information about relations between the Black community and the police and politics at large, so that was super timely to read and adds an extra dimension to what would otherwise be a fluffy book. Really, aside from a couple of plot aspects that annoyed me personally, the only thing that bothered me was the lack of sex! Where is the sex?!?! There was soooooooo much sex in The Wedding Party that I expected a bunch here as well and was disappointed by it's absence, especially as I connected with these characters a little more.

I would generally recommend this to women's fiction readers, especially those who are looking for a slightly lighter way to read woke. 3.5 stars - it's somewhere in-between "I liked it" and "I really liked it" for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Books for the eARC that I received in exchange for an honest review. Party of Two is available on 23 June.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Cover
Cho, Zen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water follows a nun who joins a group of bandits trying to protect a religious relic from those who would destroy it. It's a novella, so that's really most of the book, but Zen Cho crams a ton of character development and plenty of plot into this short little read. The two main characters are so well drawn, and I absolutely fell in love with them. The banter between the bandits is loads of fun - I laughed out loud on multiple occasions. There are plenty of fight scenes. I got to learn the word wuxia (think Chinese martial arts heroes). It's very rare that I want a book to be longer, but I so wanted more of this. I'll be checking out Cho's backlist work, Sorcerer to the Crown. 4 stars - that was very good.

Thanks to Tor and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water is available now - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Almost Home
Debbie Macomber
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Almost Home is comprised of four short stories detailing 4 people who take risk of opening their hearts to new relationships. "Whale Island" is about a children's writer who is resisting falling in love with the reporter who interviews her because she has a big family secret to hide. In "Queen of Hearts', a man who was a real geek in high school has become successful and handsome as an adult and has run into the woman who he had a crush on in high school but felt out of her league. "The Honeymoon House" is a story of a photographer who finds a bridesmaid of a halted wedding destroying his house. And finally "The Marrying Kind" reunites two high school sweethearts who has a very brief marriage right when they got out of high school but were cruelly torn apart by family members. A great read if romance novels are your genre!

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
In Her Shoes
Weiner, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Maggie and Rose are sisters with very different lives and personalities. The two common things they share are their mother's tragic death, a "car accident" when they were kids and the same shoe size. Rose is an attorney, practical, responsible and has her own apartment. Maggie, the younger of the two, is good looking (which she uses to her advantage), impetuous and manipulative. They live together for a short stint, until a major falling out causes them to go their own ways. Thus begins a journey of self discovery for each woman and the surprise of a grandmother who they thought was long gone. The love/hate relationship of sisters is well captured, along with humor and sharp observations.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Singer, Michael A.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow...reading this book will take you on a spiritual journey unlike any other. If the idea of becoming more mentally and emotionally free, mindful, concious, happy and self-actualized interest you, then give this #1 New York Times Bestseller a read today!

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms
Lakhiani, Vishen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Written by the founder of the successful online learning platform MindValley, this book will change your life, or at least spark a bit of self-reflection. Vishen takes the reader through 10 life-redefining laws leading to success, which are then divided into 4 parts. Part I explains how we have each been shaped, for better and for worse, by our culture and childhood. In Part II, the reader is challenged to either accept or modify what was brought to the surface in Part I. Part III is entitle "Recoding Yourself" and delves into mindfulness, discipline, "bending reality," goal setting to lead to lasting fulfillment every time and other compelling topics. Finally, Part IV provokes the reader to find their quest, and change the world. This is one of the most worthwhile self help books I have ever read and I recommend it to anyone wanting to change their life, thinking patterns, or habits for the better.

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:
Travel As Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity
Diehl, Gregory
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Part travel, part philosophy, part self help, this book is certainly a compelling read. Gregory Diehl shares his unique perspective and riveting accounts from his time spent traveling around the world. He describes in depth how his experiences and sometimes dark and uncomfortable lessons he learned while living in multiple countries around the globe have shaped his unique identity. He also challenges readers to examine the lessons in self discovery they too have encountered when traveling and to experience immersion in other cultures in order to develop a more well-rounded identity and life experience.

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
The Bat
Nesbø, Jo
2 stars = Meh
Review:

While this is the first book (1997) in the wildly popular Harry Hole series, it was actually the fourth translated into English. After reading it, I had assumed it was the first book and the publisher had been cheap -- poor translation and editing --- but hoped to piggy back on Stieg Larsson's success in the U.S.. I began reading the series with Harry Hole No. 9, The Phantom (2011) as a Why Not? purchase during a lengthy flight delay. I am thankful I did not start with The Bat or I might have missed out on one of my favorite Nordic Noir authors and a compelling character in Hole (prononced HO-Lay in Norwegian). The Bat gets off to an uncharacteristically slow start but later delivers the gritty thriller action Nesbo fans enjoy in later works. In the novel, the troubled police detective travels to Australia to investigate the murder of a Norwegian, then discovers and solves a series of homicides while running amok of local authorities eager to send him back to Oslo. If you are a series reader who wants to start at the beginning, then read The Bat. But don't feel bad if you start with Cockroaches (1998) or even The Redbreast (2000), the third Hole book, which won The Glass Key award for best Nordic crime novel.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Criss Cross
Patterson, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Alex Cross used to be a police detective but for the last few years he's been a psychologist who still does consultant work with police. In his career, he has crossed paths with a numerous amount of serial killers and other highly intelligent murderers and psychopaths. Needless to say, he's made a few enemies along the way. In this latest novel (he appears in a total of 28 at this writing), Alex must reflect on past cases and enemies as the mysterious "M" plays cat and mouse while copycatting previous cases he's worked on. It even leaves Alex wondering if a prior nemesis whose death he witnessed is still alive when he sees his carbon copy in the flesh. But things escalate when "M" manages to kidnap his 10 year old son Ali. Not the best book I've ever read, but I enjoy the incredible family dynamics Alex has with his 90 something grandmother, his wife and his three kids which have been developed over the past 30 years, and ties me into reading each new novel written with this character in it. Patterson writes very short chapters, so the novel provides a quick read.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches
Priest, Cherie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Everyone is has heard the macabre childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden, and the gruesome murders that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts. Many have questioned the acquitted Lizzie's innocence, but few have explored if there might have been a very justified reason for Ms. Borden to wield her infamous axe. After the trial, the Borden sisters have retired to a more secluded life in their new home called Maplecroft. In a scenario worthy of HP Lovecraft, Cherie Priest uses her Fantasy/Horror/Mystery skills to shape a very different version of Fall River - one where people are starting to act "peculiar". Something from the ocean is calling to them, controlling them, and causing them to change, and commit murderous acts. Lizzie and her studious sister Emma, have seen something like this before, but they had hoped it had ended with their parents. Unbeknownst to the town, the Borden sisters have been keeping mysterious night creatures at bay, but now townspeople are becoming infected with some madness Lizzie and Emma suspect may engulf the town. Lizzie searches for answers in ancient lore, while Emma conducts her research in modern science. Can their combined efforts save the very town that shuns them?

This book is not for the faint of heart, as it details some ghastly fight, and murder scenes, but it is a fresh paranormal take on an existing notorious history. Maplecroft:The Borden Dispatches is available in book form, but can also be downloaded in eBook and eAudiobook formats.

Reviewer's Name: Chris W.
Awards:
The Institute
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Luke Ellis is an especially bright boy living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He's so smart, that he is poised to attend a prestigious University in the Massachusetts area at the tender age of 12. Then in the course of one night, his life completely changes. His parents are murdered and he is kidnapped and taken to a place known as the Institute in the remote woods of Maine. He wakes up in a room that looks like exactly his but is not. He soon meets other kids who are both younger and older than him in a building called "the front half". These are kids with special talents such as telekinesis or telepathy,or TK or TP for short. Their talents are strengthened, using a series of shots and painful experiments, administered by abusive caretakers. Those who graduate to the "back half" never return, as their combined talents are used to commit psychic assassinations of political figures and others who are in power. Unfortunately, the combined group think strips the young residents of all their faculties. As victims disappear, Luke becomes more desperate to find a way out.

With the recent state of the world, I didn't think I could bear a Stephen King book, but found myself pleasantly surprised and distracted. King not only writes for entertainment, he often wants to impart a deeper message. A must read.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
A Gentleman in Moscow
Towles, Amor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Bolshevik tribunal puts Count Alexander Rostov under lifelong house arrest at The Hotel Metropol, a real luxury establishment located near the Kremlin, at the start of the Soviet Union. This man, who has never worked a day in his life, uses his considerable charm to carve out an existence while bearing witness to some very tumultuous decades. The people he meets, loves and opposes over the next 30 years help the nobleman determine a purpose in life under reduced circumstances. His evolution over the decades and his charm make the Count, who could have been insufferable in a different situation, someone many would befriend. This beautifully written second novel by the author of The Rules of Civility provides an interesting perspective on Soviet history, what it means to be a family and the reasons why to keep on living, even in a gilded prison.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Jonasson, Jonas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This charmer was a runaway international bestseller and it is easy to see why. The main character, Allan Karlsson, is memorable even as his stories from his wanderings around the world get more and more far-fetched. Karlsson has always done what he wanted and skipping his 100th birthday party at the start is the least surprising thing when looking back upon this Swedish novel. I read this for a book group (book club set available through PPLD) and one participant described Karlsson as Forest Gump with a dangerous affinity for vodka and explosives. This "intelligent, very stupid novel" as the author described it, is enjoyable if a tad long.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Women Who Run With the Wolves
Estés, Clarissa Pinkola
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Centered around the "Wild Woman Archetype," Dr. Estes examines what it means to be a "Wild Woman," the expectations placed upon women in society and the consequences of ignoring the wild feminine nature within. The book certainly has a different approach to imparting knowledge and experience, but her tales of ancient myths and stories will make you feel as if you are sitting around a cozy campfire with an old friend. If you want to better understand the Wild Woman Archetype, an empowered and liberated side of women, I would recommend giving this classic New York Times bestseller a read.

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:
 How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
Kepnes, Matt
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is jam-packed with helpful tips and tricks for making travel affordable and more accessible to individuals living on a budget. Whether you travel seldom or regularly, this book will get you excited about the various ways to save big money on trips that may have previously seemed financially out of reach. Want to plan a trip to India? Skip to the chapter specific to the country or region where you want to go for highly specified money-saving advice. I found myself jotting down a long list of notes to refer back to when planning for my next trip. Give it a read if you enjoy traveling and saving money while you do it!

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Genres:

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