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All Book Reviews

Book Review: Tell Me Three Things
Buxbaum, Julie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I think this book would have been better if I had read it instead of listening to it. The person who voiced it was highly annoying. Too bad, it may have gotten 4 stars otherwise.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Don Quixote
de Cervantes, Miguel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Aside from the “Cliff’s notes” version presented on the TV show, Wishbone, I knew enough about Don Quixote to be dangerous without having actually read it. After all, this book has spawned such words and phrases as “tilting at windmills” and “quixotic,” as well as a Broadway musical. But how does this 17th-century classic hold up in today’s world? One would argue that chivalry was already dead by the time it was written, so it’s not likely to be an examination of chivalrous attitudes and how they’d benefit society. As far as I see it, Don Quixote is a bit like a romantic comedy in the vein of William Shakespeare’s plays.

Probably the first-ever recorded instance of a dedicated live action role player (LARPer), the character Don Quixote borders on that line between comedy and tragedy. If I were to give a medical explanation for his actions, it’s either severe delusion and dementia or a high-functioning psychosis. And yet, his dedication to his chivalrous quest is charming if not slightly amusing when he comes face-to-face with reality. The fact that many characters go along with his delusion to work out some relationship issues shows that this book enjoys the lighthearted nature of chivalrous nostalgia.

When it comes right down to it, Don Quixote is a comedy of errors. The long series of mistakes and awkward situations brought about by the titular character’s delusion merely highlights the contrast between the fictional worlds of the books that influenced his demeanor and the real world around him. In fact, one would almost say the moral of this story is being able to distinguish fiction from reality, of which Don Quixote is unable to do. Such as it is, Don Quixote is a fun read, especially if you don’t try to read too much into it.

A comedy with some potential takeaways, I give Don Quixote 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Awards:
The Beach at Night
Ferrante, Elena
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“The Beach at Night” is an amazing read. The dolls tale is dark and scary but rich with life. Through words, the doll recognizes her existence, identity and family. When the thief tries to take those words from her, to sale on the doll market, she faces the potential loss of the things she values most. However, I think this story is much more than a dolls scary adventure, it is a reflection of who we are based on the words that have been given to us. In addition, to have those words taken is to be essentially silenced an existential fear for many in our world.

Reviewer's Name: Monique
Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs. Edna, The Very First Chicken
Rees, Douglas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs Edna The Very First Chicken is a thoroughly enjoyable read. What caught my eye first is the adorable chicken on the cover with the very big eyes, eyes that remind me of a young child exploring their world for the first time. Inside I found Edna, who is a small thing not to be underestimated and Rex, who is a big thing intent on taking what he wants. The story demonstrates that size does not matter when you believe in yourself and stand for what is important for yourself and your community, in this case, survival. The illustrations are wonderful adding character to Rex and Edna and coloring a world long gone, a great read for children. However, the end of the story left me thinking about the impact our actions ultimately have on others, in this case Rex. He only wanted breakfast and was denied the opportunity to eat, leading to an end of the Rex.

Reviewer's Name: Monique
The Clockwork Dynasty
Wilson, Daniel H.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When I picked up this book, I have to admit, I was surprised, because sci fy steam punk fantasy stories is not the type of book I usually read, yet it ended up being so much more than I had imagined. The Clockwork Dynasty is not just a book about a race of humanlike mechanical creatures or avtomats that secretly live among us and are fighting a war that has raged for centuries, but it’s a story about life and the constant search for meaning and purpose.

This book waffles back and forth between present day Orgon, Washington and other places, and the 1700’s beginning in Russia and taking the reader on a journey through history and time. And while this may bother some people, the non-linear storytelling I think, adds so much more to the book and allows the author to unfold the story in a deeper more meaningful way.

In present time it follows the story of June someone who has made a career in ancient technology, ever since an encounter she had a child with her grandpa changed her perception of the world and started her fascination with this avtomat technology. A couple years after her grandfather’s death she receives a avtomat artifact that will cause her to team up with an avtomat named Peter, launch her into a great adventure in the secret avtomat
world, and ultimately determine this race’s extinction or survival. In
the 1700’s it follows the story of brother (Peter) and sister (Elena) two humanlike avtomats that were resurrected by a Russian clock maker using something called an anime which serves as the Avtomat’s heart and soul. As they live through the years they spend it hiding their secret, trying to blend into society, and fighting a war that has been raging among their own race for centuries.

This story explores the character’s constant search for meaning in a way that is both at times sad and extremely insightful. In the book each avtomat’s anime is marked with a Pravda or a special word that is their bond and command. As long as they satisfy their Pravda, they are at peace, otherwise they suffer. In Peter’s case this word is justice. As the book progresses we see his idea of justice shift and change as he lives through the years. Through a fascinating inner dialogue, Peter perception shifts from gaining justice simply by serving rulers in war to something far deeper and more moving, as this quote, when he encounters a dying soldier on the enemy’s side in the battlefield, suggests:

“Once Pravda was clear to me. By obeying my emperor all was well. But what was simple is becoming complex. I can see no evil inside this grievously wounded man, only honor. And though no clockwork flutters beneath his throat, I can see the inevitable forces that led him here, through no fault of his own, fating him to die in the shadow of this crumbling wall.”

As the book progresses a new perspective of right and wrong emerges leaving him questioning not only who he is but why he was made.

Another major theme this story also explores is the theme of war. As Peter recounts from his past, countless experiences on various battlefields throughout his life, and in the present, his own thoughts on his own race’s war; the reality of war is pressed heavy on the reader making this book at times very depressing, sad, and dark.

This reality is made even more real by the moving prose and incredible worldbuilding that takes place throughout the book. Another reason I love this book is the incredible character development between Peter and Elena.
How she is treated by him as a little sister at the beginning of the book, and how he sees her changes through the book from a little girl needing his protection to a sophisticated, wise learned, woman who’s one desire is to make her own way in the world is absolutely incredible. Daniel H Wilson does an amazing job of weaving together past and present into an engaging literary story that has something for everyone. Thank you to Doubleday books and Netgalley for an e- ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Awards:
White Chrysanthemum
Bracht, Mary Lynn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This was a very difficult book to read, but it was so beautifully written. Dual timelines tell the story of sisters separated by war. You will learn Hana's story from 1943 in Korea when she is taken by Japanese soldiers to become a "comfort woman" in Manchuria (the details of which are haunting).

Hana's sacrifice allows her younger sister, Emi, to stay on their island home off the coast of South Korea, but she is also tormented by the effects of World War II and the Korean War. We meet Emi as an older woman in 2011, still trying to find out what happened to her sister. Both stories are compelling and heartbreaking, but showcase the strength of these women to survive. Highly recommended.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Awards:
Genres:
The Hazel Wood
Albert, Melissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Alice and her mom, it seems, have always been plagued by bad luck no matter where they go. One day when Alice’s mom disappears she and a friend set out on a journey to find her. This journey, they soon discover, takes them on an adventure to a place called the Hinterland. It's a place which she has only read about in her grandmother’s stories -- a reclusive authoress with a cult following who published a volume of pitch-dark fairy-tales and then quietly disappeared along with most of her books. This place, she soon discovers, is also much more than meets the eye. It’s a place where fairy-tales are real, fantastical and frightening monsters roam freely, and stories are woven into the fabric of its reality.

Melissa Albert’s tale is filled with dark and vivid writing, and its reliance on the power of stories is something that drew me into this book. It grabbed hold of me and never let me go. A page turner with twist and turns every which way, it has become one of my all-time favorite reads this year. Filled with Original Fairy Tales, a frightening adventure, and one young girl's fantastical journey into the heart of story itself, The Hazel Wood is destined to become a classic in fantasy literature that will leave an impression for generations to come.

Definitely put it on your to read list. It isn't out until January 30, but you can put your copy on hold today! Thank you to Netgalley, Flatiron Books, and Macmillan for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Genres:
Watership Down
Adams, Richard
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In an ever-increasing list of books I failed to read as a child, I finally managed to get to Watership Down. While I am aware that many people speculate the true meaning of the book to be an allegory for Nazis or Communism, or whatever, the prologue provided by the author in this edition stated that it was merely a bedtime story for his children. With this in mind, I’m sure many subconscious influences led to some of the themes in Watership Down.
Either way, the story seemed to be a rambling series of events that didn’t have much of a point or purpose.

Let’s be clear: I like rabbits. I think they’re cute, and I even own two of them. Therefore, I appreciate the little details of lagomorph mannerisms sprinkled throughout. And yet, there were a few confusing choices made in this book, like giving a somewhat-confusing “rabbit language” that rarely had context, and was mostly abandoned by the end of the book. I also couldn’t buy into the idea of a “rabbit army” since most of the rabbits I’ve seen in the wild have been mostly solitary animals, and hardly in the numbers described in Watership Down.

When it comes right down to it, the thing that perhaps disturbed me the most about this book was the anthropomorphism of the rabbits. Sure, the “side stories” about El-Ahrairah were distracting and often unnecessary, and I couldn’t honestly tell you the character traits or attributes of any of the numerous rabbits, but the fact that they could talk to each other made them seem somewhat human. Consequently, this then introduces ideas like war and sex trafficking via the “innocent” covering of rabbits. I feel these tend to be mostly human traits, so it pulled me from the story when I had to remind myself, “Wait, these are rabbits.”

A meandering story that puts humans in rabbit bodies, I give Watership Down
2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Dawn of the Dreadfuls
Hockensmith, Steve
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As I’ve mentioned before in my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , I understand the concept of combining this classic piece of romantic literature with its complete obverse; it just felt like it was almost held back from its full potential by adhering to (most of) the original manuscript. With the prequel to this book, Dawn of the Dreadfuls manages to examine the ridiculous nature of this mashup in a way that’s so tongue-in-cheek that the tongue has practically ruptured the cheek entirely.
That is, this prequel doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as the original Jane Austen adaptation did.

Even if the non-Pride and Prejudice and Zombies characters were mostly cartoonish in their representation of stereotypes and tropes, they were fun to read as they provided a delightful offset to the canonical characters of the Bennet family. Also, instead of trying to find some boring section of text wherein to insert some zombie excitement, Dawn of the Dreadfuls provides equal parts action and society to accommodate a balance that highlighted the extreme disparity between the two. In fact, when the two finally meet, it’s during the exciting climax of the story. Of course, knowing this is a prequel means there has to be some way out of the predicament; otherwise the original Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book cannot take place.

Despite all the things it has going for it, Dawn of the Dreadfuls suffers from a plot that seems to drag along like the un-functioning foot of a zombie. Sure, each plot point has its purpose, but they almost seem to belabor the point. There were a few chapters where I felt the plot to be somewhat repetitive if it weren’t for a slightly different outcome to show character growth. In any case, I’d still prefer this book over Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

A prequel that could fully explore a ridiculous combination, I give Dawn of the Dreadfuls 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:
Wolf by Wolf
Graudin, Ryan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Wolf By Wolf is dystopian and historical fiction novel. The author
writes what would happen if Hitler and his Nazis won WWII. Yael is a death
camp escapee. While in death camp, the ‘doctor’ experimented on her and
several other test subjects. The result was both a gift and a curse: Yael is
a skinshift, meaning she can distort her features to look like other people.
Using her unlikely power, she escapes. She joins a secret resistance, aiming
to demolish the Nazis and Hitler. Using her power, she competes in a
motorcycling race across continents. The prize? A dance with Hitler… and an
opportunity to kill him. I’m giving this book 4 out of 5. I thought the plot
was really cool, as well as the writing, but when Yael is competing in the
race, all you get to read about is her riding on a motorcycle. Overall, I
really liked the book.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Genres:
Reign of the Fallen
Marsh, Sarah Glenn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Odessa is a rare type of mage: a necromancer. She can resurrect the dead. But not without a price – if any part of the dead’s body is seen by the living, the dead person turns into a Shade (think of an unholy combination between a Demogorgon and Venom, or, if you must, a zombie). When Odessa’s mentor mage turns up brutally murdered by a Shade, and other murders quickly follow, Odessa knows she has to do something before the Shades kill everyone she holds dear.

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. There were things I really liked, and things that didn’t work for me at all. One of my issues was the severe lack of character development – Odessa and two other characters get some level of development, everyone else is more or less a name on a page. So when people started dying, I didn’t really care. Odessa, however, cares a lot and spends a lot of time addicted to pain medication and grieving, which would have been a lot more interesting to read if I knew her at all as a character. For me, this plot line would’ve been better in a future series installment. There’s a lot of romance, and I liked some of it (Simeon and Danial for LIFE), and some of it annoyed me (Odessa and Evander, I’m looking at you). There’s a romance at the end that was excellent, but began a bit too soon for me – I could’ve done with the characters not getting together in this book, especially given their circumstances. I did like the diversity in the ethnicities of the characters as well as in the relationships.

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding. None of it was particularly new, per say, but it was all sort of assembled in a way that I thought was really rich and creative. I just wish that worldbuilding had been backed up by stronger
characters and plot. Odessa spends a ton of time grieving, which makes sense, but didn’t exactly make for an exciting plot. That, and the deaths and twists were pretty transparently telegraphed. The identity of the proverbial “bad guy” was pretty obvious as soon as they appeared on the scene.

While this book didn’t work for me on a lot of levels, I think most readers will love it. There’s action, romance (LGBT+), diversity, and some seriously cool worldbuilding. I’ll be recommending this one to a lot of teens, even though it wasn’t necessarily my thing. 2.5 stars.

Reign of the Fallen will be released on 23 January, but you can put your copy on hold today! Thanks to Razorbill and Netgalley for providing the eARC for review consideration.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Book of Mormon
Smith, Joseph
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The greatest book of all time.

Reviewer's Name: Brennan
Red Queen
Aveyard, Victoria
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this dystopian novel, Reds (those with red blood) live like peasants and servants to the god-like Silvers (those with silver blood), who live in luxury and royalty, possessing mind bending powers that make them superior. While the Reds slave away, Silvers feast. Mare, a Red, finds herself right in the middle of it all when she is surprisingly allowed to work in a Silver palace. In a freak accident, Mare finds out something about herself… she possesses one of the many god-like powers, like the Silvers.
And not just any power, a power that has never been seen before. She is betrothed to marry a Silver Prince and forced into a Silver life. She embarks on a quest to find out who she really is. This book, I think, deserves a 4 out of 5. The plot was amazing, but several things kept it from a full score.
First of all, the author’s attempt at creating a heartfelt and loving romance failed miserably, leaving me gagging from the sappiness of it all. On that note, I felt like the main character, Mare, was too dependable on her lover. However, I did like the overall plot and outcome, and I didn’t regret reading this book.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
The Remains of the Day
Ishiguro, Kazuo
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Alright, this book was even worse than Kazuo Ishiguro’s other book(Never Let Me Go). I didn’t know that that was possible, but it is. In this book, an old, traditional English butler takes a road trip along the English countryside. That is it. Oh, I forgot one thing: he does remember some of his dreadfully dull and pointless memories about his career. The main character (the butler) Mr. Stevens doesn’t even show character development by the end of the book. There is one thing that I liked about this book: that it finally got round to finishing.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Britt-Marie Was Here
Backman, Fredrik
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Britt-Marie was Here is the incredible sequel to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, both of which are fantastic books. Britt-Marie is a picky, stubborn, and socially awkward old woman. She doesn’t criticize or judge people, even if they’re as rude, messy, and vulgar as they are. But hidden inside the busybody is somebody who dreams and imagines, just like the rest of us. When she moves to a new town, she is confronted with people who have muddy floors (an unforgivable sin), disorganized drawers (oh, the horror!), and ‘modern’ hairstyles (Shriek!). This book perfectly captures the everyday messiness and beauty of human life, complete with humor along the way. It will make you look at the curmudgeons in your life a different way!
Reviewer's Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Genres:
The Mark of the Dragonfly
Johnson, Jaleigh
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Piper lives in a dystopian planet far away. Almost every night, meteors shower down in her hometown, sometimes destroying homes and lives. The selfish King Aron turns a blind eye to their suffering. But when Piper finds a lost girl who can’t remember a thing about her past life, the adventure begins. The lost girl, Anna, has the mark of the dragonfly on her; an elite tattoo, only given to the most high class and honor worthy citizens, granting them the King’s protection. Piper and Anna embark on a quest to find out who Anna is, and return her to her home and family… if she has one. I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars, because I thought the plot was great, but it was just poorly written. Also, some of the ‘twists’ were predictable, the main character (Piper) made some really stupid decisions, and the romance between Piper and another character was sappy and cliche. Overall, it was a pretty good book, and I don’t regret reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T
Awards:
The Invisible Wall
Bernstien, Harry
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Harry is a small boy living in a war torn part of England. His street is divided by an invisible wall… a wall divided the Jews from the Christians.
There is an unspoken hatred of the other side, and any possible relationship between the two sides is crushed. But what happens when a Jew and a Christian fall in love? Harry’s elder sister begins to love a Christian boy, and is treated horribly for it. She is beaten by her drunken father and shamed by her family and friends. Harry is forced to choose between what he knows to be right and what he has been raised to accept is right.This book is nonfiction.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully written and I loved the author’s narration. Although, I felt like nothing good ever happened. It seemed like the author was just choosing the most terrible, most horrendous things and depicting that as the everyday life. Who knows? Maybe that’s how it actually was.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T
Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro, Kazuo
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Kathy isn’t a normal kid, and neither are any of her friends. They were all cloned, and someday, their vital organs will be harvested until they die. But for now, they will grow up in a secluded boarding school nestled in a corner of England, called Hailshem. Hailshem is idyllic: creativity is nurtured, friends are everywhere, and there are supported teachers. Kathy retells her experiences as she looks back on her life in preparation for her organ donations. And…. that’s basically it. It sounds like a really interesting concept for a book, but the author completely butchered it! His writing drags on and on, and completely bored me to death. If he had written it better, or if someone rewrites it, the book would be fascinating. But the writing style is so dreadfully dull. I warn you-- do not read this book! You will seriously regret it if you do!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is an amazing book to read! It is a sci-fi, action filled, parody of the classic Cinderella fairy-tale. This is the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. Please read the books in order!!! This book will keep you on your toes! There’s a cliffhanger at the end (so make sure you get next book Scarlet before you finish Cinder). Cinder is one of the best books I have ever read!

Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Torrent
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Please, please, please read this book! You won’t regret it! It is the third and final book in the River of Time. Please read the books in order to avoid serious confusion. It is a mixed of different genars to time-travel to romance to adventure. You will not get bored with this book. It is one of the best books I have read ever!

Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.

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