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All Book Reviews

Ash Princess
Sebastian, Laura
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When Theodosia was just a child, she witnessed the murder of her mother, the Queen of Astrea, at invaders’ hands. Those invaders took her country and killed or enslaved all of her people. For the next ten years, Theo was the Kaiser’s puppet – trotted out at banquets wearing a crown made of ash or enduring cruel beatings to represent the oppression and obliteration of her people. But her time with the Kaiser in her old palace was not totally idle.

The whole time, Theo collected information about her enemies. So when a friend from her Astrean past shows up, Theo finds herself embroiled in the machinations of revolutionaries as she has to decide how much and who she is willing to sacrifice to save her people and recover her kingdom.

While this has a fairly typical YA fantasy premise, the execution was a bit different. Usually this sort of fantasy would go what I’m going to call the Throne of Glass route – lady warrior kicks a bunch of butt and saves the day against all odds. This was not that. Theo was more of a politician or a spy. She’s willing to do what she has to save her people, yes, but this book is all intrigue and plotting. The reader is kept on a knife’s edge as Theo and the people around her are constantly close to what is sure
to be terrible death. The book manages to somehow be compulsively readable
but also hard to read at the same time. I found it to be really intense in
the best way possible – I really cared about and for Theo and wanted the best for her and her people. The book ends on an intriguing note (though I found the epilogue to be weak and unnecessary and I hope it got axed before the book was published) which ensured that I’ll be back for the next installment.

I was expecting an enjoyable but generic YA fantasy, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s being marketed to readers of The Red Queen and/or An Ember in the Ashes, but in this reader’s opinion, this book is far superior to either of those. Ash Princess, if not completely original, is a brutal, intense book that I’ll be recommending to teen and adults who enjoy fantasy novels and spy thrillers. If you like your fantasy to be vicious with a healthy side of political intrigue, check this one out. 4 stars – I really liked it.

Thanks to Delacourte Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the eARC which
I received for review consideration. Ash Princess will be available for
purchase on 24 April, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Dreadnought
Priest, Cherie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For the most part, the book series I have read progress the story from one book to another. I get that there are some series with the same character in different predicaments for each book, but jumping from one character to another in each different book is an interesting tactic. Of course, I’m somewhat guilty of this, as The Fluxion Trilogy focuses on different characters for each book. As far as I can tell, The Clockwork Century series also does this, even if the connections between the characters are flimsy at best. Even so, the plot seemed to take a step backward from Boneshaker to Dreadnought.

One of my qualms with Boneshaker was that there wasn’t a lot of world-building that established what this alternate-reality Seattle was like in the scheme of the broader United States. Dreadnought solves this problem by giving the main character an opportunity to travel across the country, thus establishing some of the world-building in the process. In fact, there were a few points where I wondered if I had picked up the first book in the series, only to confirm that Dreadnought was the second book. Unfortunately, I thought the plot of Boneshaker was a little more believable since the cross-country trek in Dreadnought seemed like an obvious ploy by the author to introduce the world to the reader.

I certainly appreciated the thinking that went into the consequences of a decades-long Civil War, but I still think the “zombie” angle of this series seems out of place. I get that steampunk is the combination of some more modern technologies in a Victorian era, but the zombie genre seems so modern that combining the two never really gelled for me. Plus, through the plots of two books, I feel like I’m no closer to understanding where the gas that creates the zombies originates, or if there’s even an endgame to the zombie situation.

A book that should have come first in the series, I give Dreadnought 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Alda, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While miscommunication might be the source of conflict for romantic comedies, it’s a much more significant problem in the real world. If people aren’t able to efficiently and accurately communicate with their fellow man, then we all have room for improvement. Scientists and doctors are often the worst offenders, even though their ideas need to be communicated to the world for the advancement of society. Alan Alda has spent years trying to figure out why people are unable to communicate, and he has also figured out what we can do to improve this situation. As a scientist and writer, I feel many of his insights have merit.

I grew up watching Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers, so I know how often he has interacted with scientists. His conclusions that we can all become better communicators through empathy and understanding of our audience makes sense. I dabbled in improvisational theatre a little in college as I was studying to earn my Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Having first-hand experience of successfully improvising, I always touted its benefits for technical professions. Now I know why. When we synchronize with others, our message has a much better chance of being communicated.

As if to prove his point, this book is not necessarily a scientific account of the research, but merely a personal (and relatable) set of anecdotal stories that should open people’s eyes to the potential communicators trapped within each of us. We all have to communicate on some level, whether it’s orally or written, so if we can all improve our communication skills by learning to empathize with others, maybe society could one day be able to hold civil and vigorous debates without instantly devolving into mud-slinging contests.

A must-read for anyone who communicates (i.e., everyone), I give If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Calamity
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the final book of the steel heart series, David learns who the true enemy and leader of calamity is. A book with love, mystery, and action any teenager would love this book.

Reviewer's Name: David
Firefight
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In the sequel to steel heart fire fight counties to adventures of young teen David. This book is a great drama, romance, and action book. Will David survive to war against epics or will he love one instead. Firefight is my personal favorite book from the series.

Reviewer's Name: David
Metro Girl
Evanovich, Janet
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I can honestly say, this is the worst book I have read in 2018. I couldn't believe it was written by Janet Evanovich. It lacked her usual wit and laugh out loud moments. I actually thought I would love it since I enjoyed the graphic novel. But no. I didn't care about any of the characters.
I thought the story line plodded along and at the end, I just didn't care. I was hoping a canister of nerve gas would just destroy every copy of this book so no one else who's thinking of reading will suffer.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Room
Donoghue, Emma
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Room is from the point of view of a five year old boy named Jack whose mother was kidnapped seven years ago by a man he only knows only as "Old Nick". They've been imprisoned in a shed in his backyard ever since. To spare Jack from the horror of the situation, his mother doesn't tell him Old Nick is actually his father and that some things he sees on the TV, his only link to the outside world, are real. As a result, Jack believes that the only true reality is Room. Their tried-and-true daily routine starts to change as Jack becomes more curious about the outside world and his mother starts to hope again. This book is an incredible and moving read that will make you rethink parenting and your perspective on the world and I would highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Mckenna R.
1984
Orwell, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Although the year 1984 has long since passed, the reality created in Orwell’s novel 1984 contain aspects that our society is beginning to show. 1984 follows a society where the world is ruled by 3 superstates: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia, each of which have a totalitarian english socialism government. The government of Oceania has surveillance on every citizen through monitors called telescreens that enable them to hear and see what every person is doing and every citizen is required to have a telescreen in
their homes. This enables them to see if the citizens are committing “thoughtcrime” and if they are, the thought police kidnap the person and erase them from existence. Winston Smith is our main character with a quiet rebellion against the totalitarian government of Oceania. He believes that he is an individual and should be allowed to have his own freedom. As Winston tries to avoid being erased from existence and maintain a romance with the love of his life Julia, the government slowly closes in on his treason. This is one of my favorite novels and a masterpiece by Orwell as it shows how a society with a controlling government creates fear and false order for the citizens. Aspects within the novel are present in our own government today, so who is to Orwell’s predictions aren’t slowly but truly becoming a reality.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Steelheart
Sanderson, Brian
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Steelheart is the first book in the series. A group of rebels called Reckoners must fight back against super humans who gained their powers from the mysterious planet calamity. David, the main character, spends his life researching the special beast. He joins the Reckoners and decides to put his special knowledge to use. In this all new series written from Brandon Sanderson you can experience love, mystery, and passion.

Reviewer's Name: David H.
Every Note Played
Genova, Lisa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As with all of this authors' novels, this book was beautifully written. I honestly didn't like either of the main characters in the beginning, but as they came to accept the changes in their lives and atone for wrongs they committed to each other I felt more and more empathy for what they went through. This disease is absolutely awful and it is painful to read about its progression, but I'm glad Ms. Genova continues to shed light on illnesses such as this in a way that is accessible. Highly recommended (unless you are feeling blue, then you might want to try something a little lighter!).

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
Simon vs.The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Albertalli, Becky
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Due to the fact that the new movie, "Love Simon", came out recently, I thought it'd be fitting to review the book it's based on! Simon is a mildly popular theatre kid who loves music - and is gay. One day he sees an anonymous message from another boy just like him on his school's Tumblr. His name is Blue, and over a series of emails, they form a kinship as they get to know each other better - without ever revealing their true identities. At the same time, a boy named Martin finds out about Simon and Blue's relationship and threatens to out Simon if he doesn't help Martin get to his crush, Abby. As the months pass, Simon realizes he's fallen in love with Blue and is determined to find out who he really is. The author drops clues throughout the whole novel as to who Blue might be, each one pointing to a different suspect. As each possible candidate was introduced, I felt everything from joy to confusion to dread. All in all, Albertalli creates an engaging and believable narrative of the experience of a gay teen I would recommend everyone to read.

Reviewer's Name: Mckenna R.
Orphan Train
Kline, Christina Baker
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Orphan Train," a touching novel featuring the life stories of orphans in the mid 1900's, explores the importance of friendship and the need for human belonging. This book is a novel that you will remember for awhile. It is also a quick read; a page turner leaving you completely satisfied. This novel is well-written and excitement awaits every chapter. Vivian Daly is orphaned at a young age and is sent away on the famous 'orphan train.' The book unfolds her story; but in between a new character is introduced. Molly Ayer, a girl who needs to do service hours to earn her reputation back, meets Vivian and they instantly connect. Both women tell their stories, and each are left well educated and have a new friend. "Orphan Train" emphasizes the innocence of children and how society's actions can impact the lives of those innocent children. This book is available in a young reader's format, "Orphan Train Girl", which is better adapted for a younger audience. "Orphan Train" does include a few inappropriate scenes; mostly sexually. If you love a historical novel, touching reads, and a tremendously good book, "Orphan Train" is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G.
Genres:
The Selection
Cass, Kiera
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing! It's kind of like a twist on the show The Bachelor. The Selection would be best for teens due to some mature parts. The main character is relatable and is an awesome person to follow through the story. Romance is the main part of the story so if your a fan of romance then this would be a great book to read. I loved this book and would recommend it to teens who love romantic novels and a great story.

Reviewer's Name: Tierney B
The Cask of Amontillado
Poe, Edgar Allan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This isn’t a full length book but rather a short piece of writing - the first I read of Poe’s but by far the most entertaining. The piece is set in an unnamed Italian city during the Carnival season and depicts the protagonist, Montresor, inviting Fortunato, a former friend, to a wine tasting in his cellar. Fortunato previously insulted Montresor and this invitation isn’t one of forgiveness, but revenge. The language isn’t difficult to understand as most pieces from the 1800's are and there isn’t any research needed to be done beforehand in order to read this piece. The Cask of Amontillado possesses a dark, morbid theme which is entertaining depending on the audiences interests, for example, if increasingly horrifying character behavior is something that surprises you. I felt a range of emotions from suspicious to terrified throughout the piece and if there are any audiobooks you can get your hands on, that definitely assists in terms of establishing a more realistic setting. When I listened to the audiobook, echoes of their voices and droplets of water dripping from the ceiling of the damp cellar were included to contribute to an overall eeriness.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Ready Player One
Cline, Ernest
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I don’t know where to start with this review because there are a lot of different elements of the novel to discuss. The reason why I rate Ready Player One four out of five stars instead of five out of five is the overwhelming amount of 80's references mentioned in literally every line that honestly only further bored the audience. The references to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Dungeons & Dragons and more were tolerable because they were iconic - something an individual born 20 years later still understands. Then, Cline writes paragraphs on Atari consoles and Black Tiger or Joust games which just isn’t relate-able for the majority of the audience the novel is targeting (which is why I assume the director replaced the Joust scene with a car race in the movie). But the dominant issue with Cline’s writing is not even necessarily the amount of references but the fact that he explains every single one. At some points, I thought about how I might’ve read a Wikipedia article for the same informational effect. There are plenty of plot twists to contribute to a surprising manner regarding both the characters and the video game - I was never bored with the plot. Ready Player One is one of the many futuristic dystopian sci-fi novels everyone in this generation reads - which is why the 80's references bothered me. I don’t think this is the type of novel most adults born in the 60's or 70's are going to read, yet Cline tries to appeal to them anyway.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Awards:
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wilde, Oscar
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I read this novel on a whim - I had never read any of Wilde before and did not know too much about him as an author apart from the fact he was put on trial and imprisoned during his life. The Picture of Dorian Gray was thoroughly surprising and unexpected. Dorian Gray, at the beginning of the novel, is perceived by Basil Hallward as an individual worth obsessing over, he is infatuated with him and without knowing Dorian yet, the reader is too.
But then the reader is introduced to him physically and I realized he isn't all that. He's almost pompous but somehow clever and he's beautiful. Both Basil and his friend Lord Henry Wotton are influenced to see him more positively by that but I think the fact that Dorian is not tangible to the reader allows us to see him for who he truely is. According to Lord Henry, beauty is worth more than genius is, depicting which friend he prefers over the other. I wanted to sympathize with Basil because he was more sensitive than the others and I felt pity for him as I realized he was not a character anyone particularly cared immensely for. I preferred Basil over both Henry and Dorian because Henry's beliefs appeared rather traditionalist and were more controversial than common and the fact that Dorian was supposed to be a character without any fault was already a warning for me. Honestly, from the title, I did not know what direction the novel was going in from any point during the reading. To clear a few things up, Basil is an artist who paints a portrait of Dorian because he appreciates him in a more aesthetic manner than others who enjoy his company but the portrait appears to change into something more demonic as time goes on symbolizing how awful Dorian was becoming as a person. I mean, I needed to stop reading for a few minutes because I could not believe how little Dorian cared for others but I will admit that the absurdity of it all was entertaining. There is a lot of murder in this book which definitely makes the novel more interesting but then I guess I should also mention not get too attached to some characters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Maybe a Fox
Appelt, Kathi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was a great book, it was beautiful! It was also a B.O.B book for seventh grade from what I know. I loved the characters because they are so relate-able. It all starts when Sylvie, one of the two main characters, goes missing one morning on her daily run to get in shape for track. There is only one explanation for her disappearance, the Slip, which is a mysterious body of water. Jules the other main character is crushed, Sylvie is her only sister, and after Sylvie drowns all she has left is her father. The family of two is torn apart by the loss of their mother and now, oldest daughter. Life goes on, and when the time comes for Jules to go back to school, she sees a sign of luck, but even that is not enough. While all this takes place, deep in the woods, three fox kits are born, two males and one female, who happens to be a kennen. After many adventures Senna, the kennen fox and Jules meet, drawn together by a force of nature. Then something terrible happens. It leaves Jules is in shock, but she makes a discovery of a lifetime. With all the switching from points of view, the book can be a little bit confusing, but it still is great is the reader can understand. I highly suggest this book to anyone looking for a fairly quick read, I was able to read it in about a week. This book was very enjoyable and the reader could feel like they are a part of the book. Highly suggested!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Ella S.
Awards:
I am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"I Am Malala" was a pretty great book, and is now one of my personal favorites. It did not take me long to read and is good for anyone ages 12+.
This book does contain some sensitive contents and might not be great for younger kids, unless the parents are okay with harsh and sad topics in the Middle East. The book does not contain a whole lot of content on what goes on in that area of the world, and it mostly focuses on Malala and her story.
Malala is a young teen from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She was raised peacefully, but the Taliban soon started to take over the area. The Taliban started like a little seed, but grew into a giant weed that basically controlled everything. They eventually made it so girls were not allowed to go to school, and women were not aloud out of their house unless they are accompanied by a male relative. Malala would not put up with this, for she has a desire to learn and know answers to her questions. She is the daughter of the principal of her school, and grew up admiring the students that attended. After surviving a bullet to the head, months in the hospital, and a move to England, Malala becomes activist and stands up for girl's rights and her belief that everyone has the right to go to school. I liked this book because Malala is a great role model and author. She really provides a strong figure for any girl growing up in this hectic world. This is definitely one of the best books I have read and I am sure I will read it again in times to come. Any girl (or boy) can relate to Malala because she described herself as being an ordinary girl that wanted to see change in the world. She shows that anyone can adjust their view on the world if they just use their voice to speak out. I absolutely suggest this book to someone if they are looking for a fairly quick read!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Ella S.
Charlotte's Web
White, E.B.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While it may be considered a children's book, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White lives up to its name as a classic. The simple story provides for a light and easy read, while still providing an elegantly woven story. The characters, while not super developed, are jocular and entertaining, and still preserve the sort-of dramatic side of the book. The friendly relationship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig soon turns into a matter of life and death, allowing for many twists and turns throughout the book. Though simple, the book also has several deeper meanings (I won’t spoil them), allowing for speculation among its audience. The fun in discovering what E.B. White could have meant in just one of the book's lines may very well be the entire hook of the story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter what their age is. There’s always fun to be had in a book, whether it be hidden or minuscule.

Reviewer Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
I Am Legend and Other Stories
Matheson, Richard
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After listening to this audiobook, it became abundantly clear why this story was adapted into a movie on three separate occasions (the most recent being the 2007 movie of the same name). While this latest adaptation didn’t seem to emphasize the “vampire-ness” of the creatures as much as its source material, many of the elements of the story were still present. In fact, I now prefer the original story, as its prose was almost poetic at times in its descriptions of the main character’s struggle to survive. While the ending wasn’t particularly satisfying in either incarnation, the plot development was superb.

I appreciated how the author was able to strip away the superstition that surrounds vampires and look at these fantastical creatures in a more logical and scientific light. Why do vampires hate garlic? Why does a stake through the heart kill them? Do crosses work against vampires who are Jewish or Muslim? His explanations of these well-known trappings of the vampire were as interesting in their revelation as they were in their research. Almost makes me wish that other “horror monsters” had the same treatment since it helps to make their existence somewhat more plausible.

As for the “other stories” included in this audiobook, it soon becomes clear that Matheson is a master of the macabre. Even if the remaining stories don’t necessarily pack the same impact of I Am Legend, many of them are entertaining enough to round out the experience. The narrator’s voice acting certainly added to the characterizations of these other stories, even if seemed a little over the top at times. Overall, these other stories might have been somewhat unnecessary, as I Am Legend can hold its own by itself. Still, the whole collection was entertaining, so I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to read horror.

A poetic and logical examination of a vampire-induced apocalypse, I give I Am Legend and Other Stories 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:

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