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All Book Reviews

The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rich with symbolism and human feeling, the compassionate author leads us to consider deepest plumes of human sentiment. We are artfully led by the hand into the inner corridors of human hearts, where we are taught to stare down passion, shame, despair, revenge and finally courage.

First, we are compelled to walk around in a world where there is no forgiveness. We are removed from the fresh and life-giving promises of scripture to a stale and unrelenting universe, a universe in which once you have sinned in certain ways, you are branded for life. Hawthorne’s world takes the world of Jesus and turns it upside down. Where Jesus welcomed the repentant prostitutes and the reformed tax collectors and had his very harshest words for the proud, exacting Pharisees, in Hawthorne’s world the town’s peoples’ sins of unforgiveness and pride are smugly overlooked.
Hawthorne’s world does to us what all good fiction ought to do: it causes us to shudder. We feel instinctively the cruelty of the sentence placed upon the young woman and the baby, although we acknowledge her sin. This should lead us to praise our God for the forgiveness and grace that is so freely offered us in scripture. As the Pharisees ask Jesus what they should do with the woman caught in the act of adultery (and where, I always wonder, is the man?), we should know his response: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7

Yet we come to appreciate the large-heartedness of Jesus all the more as we come to live in the world of Hester Prynne. Hawthorne, understanding the longing that we all feel to be welcomed and loved unconditionally within a society of people, haunts us with the solitary and scorned life Hester Prynne is relinquished to. As we sink deep into the mire of her forlorn pit, our hearts should soar all the more with the blessed promises of our great God:
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph 2:12,13

As we walk around in Hester Prynne’s world, we know what it would be like to be separated from Christ, to be alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, to be cut off from the promises of God. And yet we rejoice, because we know by faith that Hawthorne’s world is a skewed, twisted world, bearing no resemblance to the true community of faith.

Hawthorne’s character Dimmesdale is as unlike to Christ as nearly any man can be. Dimmesdale’s portrayal of failed manhood is so epic, I can scarcely think of another rival in literature. Here we see a man so small, so petty, so devoid of the smallest scrap of courage or courtesy, that he sits back passively allowing a woman to not only care for, love, and instruct his child alone, but also do so while laboring under the unrelenting sorrow of his shame. He sees this woman daily scorned, reviled, despised, belittled, made an object of while he walks around enjoying his position of influence and respect in others’ eyes. The fact that his sin daily eats away at him till his health is completely deteriorated does not make him any less pathetic in my eyes. No, he is the more pathetic for it. For he shows none of the manly dominance over human affairs that God gave to Adam when he blessed him and gave him dominion over the world. Instead, Dimmesdale is a peon, a victim of circumstance, a shadow of man, resigned to say simply “come what may,”
devoid of action and refusing to take responsibility at every turn.

What a striking contrast to our mighty savior. It is the man Jesus Who in all things takes the initiative. Jesus takes the shame for sins He never committed. Jesus stands up and takes our punishment. Jesus bears all our sorrow and our shame. Jesus, though perfect, identified himself with the lowly, with sinners and allowed himself to be crucified in the most undignified and hideous fashion, next to violent criminals. Jesus, instead of leaving a woman to lonely sorrow while he enjoyed respect, became a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. (Is. 56)

Is the Scarlet Letter a book for today? Why else does abortion flourish today except that we are plagued with a generation of Arthur Dimmesdales walking our streets? We have everywhere men who will not take responsibility for their actions and protect the children they have carelessly fathered.
Instead, they take their women to the clinic in the shadows and leave them to the abortionist scalpel, which brands hearts with a letter so hot and scarring, only the red-hot blood of Christ will heal.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Gilead
Robinson, Marilynne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I feel the same way about this book as I do certain of my favorite foods: I absolutely love it but I can understand why someone else wouldn't. The very distinctness of this book is what makes it so lovely. If you're looking for an action-packed page-turner, keep looking. This is a book to be savored.

On the pages of Gilead, I was confronted with the transcendence, the miracle that is everyday life. The author beckoned me to see the smallest detail of existence as a thing to be cherished. I found myself deeply moved by the quiet steadiness of a man who had lived in one small, inconsequential town his whole life. He wrote no great books, and made no national waves, but he was faithful and content. What a concept! Yet he fought real battles! They were the struggles he waged in his own heart. For instance, he fought hard to love the wayward son of his best friend who had caused the family so much grief for decades, and had now returned. But in the end, he rose as a victor, and gave a blessing so moving it could change the course of a life. He had struggled for decades with loneliness. While his best friend had a household of eight kids, he had remained wifeless and childless for years after his first wife had died in childbirth. But this eventually served only as a platform to make him a stronger and more sensitive man--a man able to love more deeply because of all his heartache. All of this is described so skillfully, so carefully, that the reader cannot help but love all that the author loves. And what else is a good story for if not to capture the affections?

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Home
Robinson, Marilynne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is not some trite, feel-good, cliche-gushing, sappy-ending kind of book. I'd say rather, Robinson portrays a little love for Flannery O'Connor in her writing. But a reader must remember that an author writes this way, not always to be dark for darkness sake (like Poe), but to sketch the world as she believes it really is. Home portrays the world as a messy place, with the messiest of all places on earth being the human heart.

Jack Boughton has wandered the world for 20 years as the wayward son of a faithful pastor but returns back home, just before his father passes away.
Jack relives much of his childhood as he returns to this home he has been gone from his whole adult life. Here he must face the remembrance of not belonging to something lovely, something he was and still is cut off from. He sees how a darkness in his heart has kept him from the light, the warmth, the fondness of family love. He has been a heartache to his parents and this he hates. But hating oneself is not the same thing as redemption; neither is regret; neither is simply making a physical trip to one’s childhood home, nor caring for your father for the last few weeks of his life. Reminiscing with your little sister and visiting all your old haunts, no, none of these things alone makes for redemption. It is much more complicated than all of that, and can only happen in the heart. Like many good books, the reader is not given a pat, 5-step plan. The path is left ambiguous. But we are only given hints. Jack whispers one of the deepest longings of every human heart, when he says to his father under his breath, “Bless me, even me also, O my father.” (From Genesis 27:34)

There is no tidy reconciliation scene between father and son, although Jack at one point tries to fake a change in his beliefs to ease his father's last days, but his father sees right through it. However, before the book ends, Jack receives a blessing from his namesake, his father’s best friend, and this is where the unexpected power to both forgive and to claim a promise, pierces through the binding darkness that Jack on his own could never have escaped.

A father who loves unconditionally a wayward son, and a life-long family friend who intercedes between a father and a son who love each other but can't understand each other, these two things are among the strongest forces on earth.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Jayber Crow
Berry, Wendell
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

We all read in order to see through someone else’s eyes, C. S. Lewis has famously remarked. Jayber Crow is a novel that opens one’s eyes to the little-known world of living in backwoods obscurity, with all its glories and hardships. This is a world that is forever cut off from the majority of city-dwelling America, because one realizes that to truly enter into one such community, one must be born there.

After Jayber’s aunt dies, 11 year-old Jayber is sent to live at an orphanage, but never feels at home. After graduating, he wanders some, taking a job as a barber in a city, but always he feels out of place. Finally, he makes his way back to his tiny hometown where he is immediately recognized, helped, and accepted. Being back there, he feels a connection to his young parents who died when he was 4, and to his loving great aunt who took him in until she died when he was 11. People in the town of Port William remember his kin, and immediately see Jayber as one of them. He never leaves.

Jayber spends his whole life as the town barber, which involves much more than cutting hair. Listening to people’s stories and watching their lives, Jayber becomes part of something greater—a community built on permanence and unconditional love. That’s not to say that all is rosy in this little community. Jayber struggles with questions about God that he can’t find easy answers to. He also deeply loves a girl that ends up in an unhappy marriage to an unfaithful and foolish man, and he grieves for her, wishing more than anything that she could be happy. He grieves for her when her children’s lives bring her much pain through various tragedies. But ultimately, Jayber matures and changes throughout the book by learning the value of honest hard work, contentment and faithfulness to one’s word.
These are truly small-town values that are shown for all their worthiness in a setting that will draw you in and make you thankful for the time you got to spend in Port William, Kentucky.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Awards:
Genres:
Housekeeping
Robinson, Marilynne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

How can the deepest loss be quantified? What happens in the heart of a little girl when her mother drives off a cliff after leaving her and her sister alone at Grandma’s? How does such a girl become a woman? Who does she grow to be?

In the achingly beautiful prose that only Robinson can craft, the reader comes to taste a small portion of the fear, the ache, the loneliness that is the human heart. All these emotions find their representation in the haunting landscape that surrounds the forsaken town of Fingerbone. The defining feature of this town, next to its remoteness, is a great, icy lake. A train full of many passengers, including the young girls’ grandfather, once plunged off the bridge into that lake. Her mother also drove her car into it.
By staring into it, Ruthie sees everything lovely swallowed up. As she grows older, she finds herself bound to the same hopelessness that drove her mother into there. She begins to feel the pull.

Ruthie’s aunt Sylvie, now her guardian, represents the living dead.
Although she has never tried to drown herself in the lake, Ruthie begins to realize more and more that the cold lake is where Sylvie’s heart lies. She begins to see Sylvie as a representation of what her mother would be like if she had never driven off, but wished everyday that she could. What Ruthie needs as she comes of age is someone to bring her into the light. She needs someone to be the mother she never had: to delight in her and think that everything she does is adorable. But true to real life, the longing that Ruthie has is never realized and she resorts more and more to the cover of darkness.
This is a book that stares loss in the face for what it truly is. When one gives one’s life over to darkness, the ripple effects are so devastating, so tragic, so destructive, that a little girl can be forever derailed. And what can be more heart-rending than that?

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Genres:
Middlemarch
Eliot, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Few novels have the ability to do several things at once, and do them well:
invoke a strong sense of place, bring characters to brilliant light, create a plot that intrigues, and allow all three of these elements to weave together into a pattern that is simultaneously beautiful, heart-breaking, and resonating with every day life. But Middlemarch achieves these things effortlessly. A small, provincial village, with all its petty pursuits, its bickering, its politics, but also its small acts of heroism, soon has the reader feeling as if he knows this place to well; it could almost be his home.

The real draw of the book however is the depth to which each character becomes known to the reader, known better than we know our friends, and maybe better than we know ourselves. Only a master novelist can peel back the layers of a character's mere actions and reveal the motivations of the heart.
She doesn't just show us unhappy marriages, she shows us why they are unhappy. Pettiness and self-absorbtion consumes some, kindness and devotion are what others live for.

I highly recommend this piece of superb literature for its insight into the relationship of the sexes, and how things can go wrong, and how things can go right. She doesn't shy from the ugliness of relationships, while also showing how much good can be done to one whose heart is devoted to goodness.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Cry, the Beloved Country
Paton, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mystery of unbelief and rebellion and the misery that flows flows from it, is a great theme in scriptures and is played out painfully and powerfully in this epic novel. The questions surrounding unbelief, the pain to all who witness lives unraveling, and the consequences that lead to death can never be expounded upon simply. They are mysteries without simple answers.

In this profound book, some are driven to evil and misery by poverty and social injustice. But others, particularly two of the main characters, choose dark paths when they have been given every opportunity out. Light and life are offered but they follow after death and darkness.

Although this is story set in South Africa, it bears meaning for all time.
All are offered living water. "Come to me all you who thirst, come buy and eat, without money and without price." But many will not come. The dog returns to his vomit and sow to wallowing in his mud. To those who have tasted of the everlasting water, to those who know life and light, this remains among life's greatest mysteries. Everyone is offered cleansing waters of forgiveness, they are offered an eternal pardon, they are offered everlasting joy, they are offered peace and hope, but they love the darkness.
And they suffer for their choice as their life unravels thread by thread, and they bring grief upon grief on everyone who loves them. But they do not care and they do not turn. And Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood, but you were not willing."

A father weeps over a son and a sister, and as he weeps, he participates in the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem. And yet, there is one in the story who flees corruption.

The ultimate crisis of this story takes place in the heart of the old priest who has led a faithful life. For darkness is predatory and never at rest, but it creeps and pursues and desires to consume and devour and distinguish all light. Will the priest be overtaken by hopelessness and despair and fear in his darkest hour? Will anger and perplexity and grief have the final word in his bereaved heart? Where will he turn to comfort? The darkness will not stop pursuing him and will not be content until he too has lost his joy in life.
How will he fight? What will he hold on to?

Highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Awards:
Boys of Blur
Wilson, Nathan D.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Out of the putrid slime of a Florida swamp emerges a tale that is oozing with a sense of place. The reader feels as though a thin line of sweat is trickling down the side of his face while he bakes beneath a relentless Florida sun. As one reads, one can nearly feel the smoke blinding the eyes and burning the nostrils next to a blazing cane field, while cool mud squishes between the toes. Before too long, the reader finds that this obscure, out of the way place, a place he never gave any thought to, a place no one would ever think to visit…is a place he begins to love.

Any skilled author intuitively knows that the setting of a well-told story is so intimately woven into the legend itself, that to rip the tale out of its setting would unravel the very threads of the narrative itself. Can you imagine what would be left of To Kill a Mockingbird if it was removed from a 1930’s Alabama small town? Imagine the Tale of Two Cities not taking place in England and Paris during the French Revolution? Similarly, this glorious story is its place and the place is the story.

But the brilliance of a master storyteller is not only to nurture a sense of place, but to use this backdrop as the means to develop universal themes that speak to the deepest yearnings of all people in all places. This book adeptly portrays true fatherhood as not being a matter of mere biology, but of heart loyalties. One’s affections are moved to esteem the courage of a mother who saves her son from a cycle of violence. But most importantly, the book reminds the reader of the timeless need, in all corners of the earth, no matter how remote, how obscure, how removed—the universal need for a hero.
The true hero faces the danger head on, with no thought of his own skin, purely out of love and loyalty to the helpless who need him. He can arise from an unlikely place, from a checkered past, from outside the “in crowd.” This is the message the world will always long to hear; the message of Beowulf.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Profound human love and the most repugnant savagery, horror and redemption, a heroine and a grotesque revenger, two families with dark secrets, two cities, all in the backdrop of the bloodbath that was the French Revelation. In reading it, be prepared for the "Best of Times and the Worst of Times."

Like all great stories, the brilliance of this tale is its ability to not only intimately draw us into the tangled lives of these characters, battered by the historical tyrannies of their time, but to use their story as a parable to understand the human narrative as a whole. Perhaps this is why Dickens believed this book to be his magnam opus; perhaps he felt like it was his clearest statement of what he believed.

The struggles of a small family open the reader's eyes to understanding the larger struggles of humanity in general. We learn not only about the turmoil and violence plaguing France at the time of the French Revolution, but the sin and darkness plaguing our human race. Through this story, we understand principles which will prove true for all times and all places. Dickens writes that the evil cruelty of the French aristocracy gave birth to something according to its kind, the French Revolution, as all things since beginning of creation have produced according to their kind. Evil begets more evil.
This is the story of humanity.

But redemption and resurrection echo throughout the novel as well. Darnay had a mother, who, though an aristocrat, once sought to make restitution for the something incredibly cruel her heartless husband had done. This woman is mentioned only once briefly in the whole book, but her influence on her son Charles Darnay profoundly changed the course of Darnay's life and the whole book.

Even Dickens' style of writing is a reflection on the truth of real life. For instance, every single scene in the book is important to the story, although for the first half of the book, the reader can't figure out how it will come together. But at the end, as everything is revealed, the reader can think back and see the purpose for each scene. Similarly, as we walk through life, we rarely understand the purpose for the various scenes we find ourselves in.
Although we will never understand completely until heaven, there are times when it is all brought together and we see the purposes behind puzzling circumstances.

In typical Dickens style, this book is written to tug at your heart strings.
But this is not done in a manipulative or sentimental way, but in the most straightforward way possible: by giving an often newspaper-sounding account of the events that take place in each scene. Yet any reader with a pulse will be profoundly moved in numerous scenes. How does he do this? By focusing his accounts on the human element, the true purpose behind any story. Woven through every page in this book is the message that every human being counts.
Collectivism, sacrificing the individual for the group, is shown to be barbaric.

Another stroke of genius is Dickens uncanny way of portraying evil. Madame DeFarge becomes in the book everything that she hates. The reason she got to be the way she is, was because of something terrible that was done to her sister and brother by the aristocracy when she was still young. And yet, at the end of the novel, it is said of her that as she puts men and women to death, she cares nothing that they may be innocent, or that they may leave behind a bereft sister or brother or wife. She only cares that more and more people die, and she is never satisfied.

In a pre-Flannery O'Connor style, Dickens leaves the reader no room for false hopes in the goodness of humanity. He wants to take your false hopes and hit them out of the ballpark never to be seen again. If there's one thing that this story was supposed to shatter, it is the myth that man is getting better and better, and the solutions to his sin is minor. Redemption is possible, but the price is higher than any of us imagined.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Lila
Robinson, Marilynne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer." Ruth 3:9

What happens when an old man, broken from years of suffering, looks into the face of a feral woman who has wandered into his church for shelter? In this moving story, he sees humanity in her face. He sees her loneliness and her sin-ravaged state, but he can see beyond that to a human being, near ruined, yet not beyond the hope of a redeemer. She is a person in need of compassion and comfort. He offers her a home for her world-weary frame. He marries her.

The story of Lila finds its poetic power in Robinson's unmatched ability to empathize with the human condition. Each page of this story is dripping with compassion and sympathy. The genius lies in how the very fabric of the story weaves a picture of the deepest desires of every human heart.

Lila, at her core, is a person in desperate need of protection and affection.
Here Robinson proves herself to be a master of symbolism. When a shawl was spread over the sickly, neglected, and dying toddler Lila, by a wretched woman overcome by compassion for an unloved child, this shawl and this memory become the defining features of Lila's life. And later, as a forsaken, hopeless, and forlorn grown woman, who has now lost the one person in the world who ever cared for her, Lila finds again someone spreading his dark suit jacket, the one he preaches in, over her freezing shoulders as they walk along the road. Lila says, looking back on that moment: "She thought it was nothing she had known to hope for and something she had wanted too much all the same." A covering, a home, protection. And again: "But if she had prayed in all the years of her old life, it might have been for just that, that gentleness. And if she prayed now, it was really remembering the comfort he put around her, the warmth of his body still in that coat. It was a shock to her, a need she only discovered when it was satisfied, for those few minutes." This story brings to life the theme that we often don't even know what to pray for and that mercy is so much bigger than our imagination.

Robinson is an author who truly understands how to express suffering, estrangement, loneliness, and courage in a breath-taking and lovely story of grace and redemption. She has a deep perceptiveness in the way she portrays the various motives that control the human heart and she writes with forthrightness and blazing accuracy. Read an be changed.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
How Green Was My Valley
Llewellyn, Richard
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It would be extravagant for one to expect to come across such a book more than a handful of times in a lifetime. It is while reading a book like this that I am suddenly overcome with a desire to read less books, and to read only quality books and to read them more carefully. I would trade many stacks of books for this one pearl. I wonder that I have wasted so much of my time on so much drivel, when something so compelling was waiting to be read. I wonder that libraries and book stores are so crammed with piles of worthless pages, and stacks of pages, when buried beneath them all is a such a forgotten gem.
For every now and again comes along a writer who pulls back the veil from mundane life and reveals the mysteries and the wonder that we had forgotten were lurking all along. We are children again, humming along through the pages of this book, who see afresh the every day grandeur of a small mountain village, a loving family wading through pain and brokenness, sifting through the ideas of Marxism and socialism, trying to cling to tradition and faith.
We see a father and and his sons who love each other dearly but disagree fiercely; we long to live amongst the quaintness of tight-knit village living, but are revolted at the devastation caused by gossip and bitterness.
We become the young boy who is subject to grotesque treatment at an English school on account of the differences of dialect between the English and the Welsh. (This is so perplexing to Americans! Furthermore, the English treat the Welsh as though they are uneducated, uncouth barbarians, when in fact, the young boy taught himself advanced trigonometry while recovering from an illness, with the help from his older brother, a coal minor and an advanced mathematician himself.) But everywhere is beauty and freshness: the loveliness of the Welsh valley, the spirit of home and happiness, of merry-making and festivities. Not only does the Welsh valley echo with the clear song of joy and rejoicing, but the pages themselves ring with the notes of celebration that draw our eyes upwards from our shuffling feet, from looking at the day in and day out, to see brightness, clearness, the dawning of warmth, the tender meeting of souls, the sweetness of unbreakable family loyalties. These soul-swelling scenes are contrasted by the gruesome discovery of the ways of the world.
Only a few writers are given the vision to see and portray reality in all its starkness and splendor. Only a few know how to paint the picture only as they really see it, without any pretense or agenda. Only a few have the courage to detail all they see: the gruesome, the lovely, the perplexing; to look and to keep looking, and to record what they see in all its fullness.
Llewellyn blazes a trail for us all, to not only see, but to say; to not only know, but to tell. And in the telling, one comes to know more. We enter a small Welsh village 100 years ago, but we leave understanding our own spot on the planet a little better. We meet the Morgans but after having met them, we know our own friends, family, and neighbors, yes, even our own selves, a little better.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Devos, Kelly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Cookie Vonn is fat. And while she doesn’t want her weight to rule her life, she’s interested in fashion design. And in fashion, size is everything. Her dreams of getting out of Scottsdale, attending Parsons, an elite fashion design school, and becoming a fashion designer for women of all sizes might not work out if she can’t lose the weight.

Fast forward two years. Thanks to insane self-control, and the power of NutriMin (a stand in for Weight Watchers) Cookie has lost the weight. And the opportunities do start to roll in. She’s offered the chance to meet her idol and cover his fashion show for NutriMin. Better yet, after a breakfast meeting with him, she gets an offer to design a special plus size line that will be released as a preview for his upcoming Winter/Spring Collection. But even as Cookie’s life seems to be exactly what she wanted, she finds being skinny isn’t a panacea, and that somewhere along the way, she might have lost not only the weight, but herself.

This is a great new adult coming of age novel that I ate right up. It’s not my normal fare – I typically don’t read YA romances unless the protagonist is a person of color. While Cookie is white, she is fat, and that is definitely an underrepresented group of people in most modern literature, so I decided to take a chance on this one, and I’m really glad I did. I think some overweight readers will balk at the idea of this being a Cinderella story, but that’s not what this is – a lot of the book really centers on Cookie realizing that while her weight might be part of her identity, its not what makes her Cookie, and that realization is what makes this a strong coming of age tale.

The book switches back and forth between past and present Cookie (fat and skinny), a literary device that worked well here. We know Cookie gets skinny, but we learn why and how in the “fat” chapters, and we get to learn how she reaps the fruits of her labor in the “skinny” chapters. I wanted to know what happened to both versions of Cookies, and I found myself staying up way too late one night reading this. Cookie herself is a smart, resourceful young woman, and while she makes some seriously stupid decisions, they all seem in character and are the sort of decisions an inexperienced young woman might make – especially when the adults around her were sometimes giving her awful advice. I hated both of her relationships, but they seemed pretty realistic, and hopefully young women can learn from Cookie’s mistakes. I wish she had cut both guys out of her life as they were both toxic (one of them gets off way too easily), but that is my really my only major complaint.

I really liked this one, and I think new adults and older teens who enjoy contemporary reads will as well. If you like Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella or Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, this book is definitely for you. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Fat Girl on a Plane is available for purchase now, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
How to Disappear
Roat, Sharon Huss
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

THIS IS A MUST READ! How to Disappear really made me think about how I treat others and how they see me. If you’re feeling alone, or a bit of an outcast, this book is for you. It helped me to realize that I need to be more open to other people and not judge them so quickly. At first, I found slight difficulty in connecting with the main character, Vicky, but towards the middle of the book I began to understand her. I recommend this book to ages 12+ because it contains mature themes like suicide prevention, going to therapy, cussing, etc. I firmly believe that if you go deep into How to Disappear, you’ll come back with a new perspective on how much one person can help others. Live vicariously.

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
Awards:
Genres:
Hoot
Hiaasen, Carl
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mother Paula's, a beloved international pancake franchise, is looking to build its 469th restaurant in Coconut Cove, Florida. However, the site on which this restaurant is to be built is home to several families of burrowing owls, an endangered species. However, the owls are hardly ever visible so no one knows about them. That is except for Roy Eberhart and a mysterious boy known only as Mullet Fingers. It's up to these two middle schoolers to save the owls. However, they struggle with school bullies, fences, guard dogs, cops, and Mullet Fingers' parents who think that he is in military school in Alabama. This book really is a hoot and I recommend it for all middle school and early high school readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Genres:
Chomp
Hiaasen, Carl
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Mickey Cray is a professional animal wrangler in the Florida Everglades. He has rented out his animals to countless television shows and movies. However, he knows that he is in trouble when Derek Badger, a "survivalist" on a reality TV show, wants to rent some of his animals and to hire Mickey Cray to be his bodyguard for wild Florida animals in the Everglades. This book is packed with wild animal encounters, including gators, snakes, and bats. In addition, Chomp includes escaping from a crazed gunman and tons of humor. I highly recommend this book for all middle school and early high school readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Flush
Hiaasen, Carl
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Coral Queen, a very profitable casino boat, is dumping all of its sewage into the ocean. The only problem is that Dusty Muleman, the owner of the Coral Queen, is getting away with the illegal dumping since there is no evidence. Noah's Dad is concerned with the environment and always likes to do the right thing. However, he sometimes gets carried away. Therefore, Noah's Dad decides to sink the Coral Queen, but gets caught in the process and sent to jail. Now it is up to Noah to clear his dad's name and bust Dusty Muleman.
This book is hilarious and has a great moral. There are unexpected twists and turns throughout the entire book. I highly recommend this book to all middle and early high school aged readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Quantum Physics for Poets
Lederman, Leon M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Quantum Physics for Poets explains some of the most arcane quantum physics topics to readers in a form which captures imaginations and aids understanding. Mr. Lederman and Mr. Hill have managed to write a book that spans simpler topics to far more complicated topics that most will never encounter, with a poetic theme to it that speaks to readers’ artistic souls. The blending of right brain and left is exceptionally done, managing to combine a love of understanding the world around us and a love of the singularly beatific rhythm that poetry provides in one’s life. An excellent book and an enthralling albeit challenging read, I would recommend this book to anyone with a high level of interest in the sciences, particularly physics, and a large interest in exploring its greater depths.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
The Hidden Lives of Owls
Calvez, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hidden Lives of Owls is a gripping nonfiction book that not only builds one’s knowledge of the species, but actively forges a bond between readers and the unique creatures. The book chronicles Mr. Calvez’s journeys through nature’s forests as he observes the innermost habits of owls. Mainly, Mr.
Calvez observes the owls at night, giving way to the book’s title of “Hidden Lives”, as he observes things one would not usually see in the daytime. Through its first-person narration by Mr. Calvez, a naturalist, the Hidden Lives of Owls reveals many aspects of the life of the owl about which one would never before be aware. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the mysterious creatures that are owls, and interested in searching out further facts about these beautiful, wonderful, animals than is seen on the surface.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth D
Darwin's First Theory
Wesson, Rob
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Everyone knows the name Darwin. The name is synonymous with one of the most important theories ever generated by mankind. At this point in the world, the name is less a name and more a representation of something much greater. Yet, as Mr. Welson leads us to question in his book Darwin’s First Theory, how deeply do we truly know the man who changed the face of our understanding of earth forever?

Written by leading geologist Rob Welson, Darwin's first theory explores the beginning of Charles Darwin’s quest to find a theory of the earth, and explores how his early theories helped shape his future and most famous theory of evolution. By bringing us along through well-researched narration of Mr. Darwin’s first journey on the HMS Beagle, Mr. Welson brings us to a greater understanding of the man whose theory shaped modern biology around the world. Darwin’s First Theory is an informative read. To anyone interested in Darwin, and interested in a greater understanding of biology's most influential theory, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth D
The Melting World
White, Christopher P.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Melting World, a tale of the author’s journey to Montana and beyond in order to better understand global climate change, is a powerful commentary on the state of global warming in our world today. Mr. White’s research is as fascinating as it is frightening, gripping us and emboldening readers to continue the changes in the world such that these caps cannot continue to atrophy at the rate they are. Since Mr. White traveled to Montana, and did research regarding the Rocky Mountain Ice, the Melting World hits close to home for Coloradoan readers. The book is neither overly long nor overly short, so one is left with a satisfied feeling of comprehension of the situation without being bombarded by information overload. Naturally, the Melting World is not a light book, and can be an upsetting one, but a book which is important to read nevertheless. To anyone who cares about the environment, I would recommend this gripping read.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D

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