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All Book Reviews

Book Review: Wolves and Roses
Bauer, Christina
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Wolves And Roses by Christina Bauer is placed in a similar world to ours, but in this world there is a race known as the Magicorum. The Magicorum are the descendants of shifters, fairies, and witches from fairy tale stories. This book tells the story of Bryar Rose, who has the life template of Sleeping Beauty. Or, in other words, she's destined to live a life similar to Sleeping Beauty. The problem is that Bryar has no interest in living a fairy tale life, all she wants to do is go to a normal school with normal people. Her dream can happen, but she has to convince her guidance counselor, who wants her live the perfect Sleeping Beauty template, to let her go to her dream school. Bryar's plan is to get her counselor to sign the necessary papers for her dream school and live a normal life. But, all her plans are turned upside down when she meets a mysterious boy, who shows her that things aren't what they seem to be and the people she thought she knew are really strangers to her. I would rate this book an five out of five because it was an amazing romance and a great twist on a classic fairy tale.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle F
Flipped
Van Draanen, Wendelin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Flipped is an innocent novel with characters that the audience either sympathizes or connects with easily. The novel follows children Bryce Loski and Juli Baker in a period of coming of age starting when Juli moves into Bryce’s neighborhood in the second grade. She develops an annoying and persistent crush on him that Bryce just wants to go away but over the course of six years their feelings flip for each other. Bryce, once distant and cold, is now interested in Juli but he does not show this new feeling well after he upsets her on three separate occasions which causes Juli to begin to dislike him. There is also a movie based on the novel which I think does justice to the book portraying everyone accurately and evoking the appropriate emotions. The only major difference is the time period, the novel takes place from 1994-2000 and the movie takes place from 1957-1963. I personally enjoyed the the 1957-1963 setting better because that emphasizes the whole playing with the neighbors outside for hours and everyone knows everyone aesthetic which is necessary to the plot. Flipped is a quick read I read for the first time in the fifth grade in elementary school but continue to enjoy now as a high schooler.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W
Awards:
Genres:
The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride #1)
Patterson, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Max has been caring for everyone, the flock, since the person who was like a father to them disappeared. Each one of them contains a special ability, including wings. They don't know what had happened, only that they had been in the lab for too long until their father figure helped them escape. But when creatures called erasers take their youngest, Angel, back to where they were created, they have to rescue her, along with trial and error.

Reviewer's Name: Mona H
The Hush
Melki-Wegner, Skye
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Review: In a world full of music, Chester travels from town to town to find his father who was one of the people who had gone missing. He makes money from the music he plays on his fiddle, but there is one song that you must not tamper with, or it is an automatic death sentence. Unfortunately, he cannot control it and accidentally plays it while preforming. But right before the ax comes down, he is saved by someone who recruits him in the Nightfall Gang, a thieving group. With this, he is brought along for an adventure full of mysteries and music.

Reviewer's Name: Mona H
Genres:
To Kill a Kingdom
Christo, Alexandra
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lira steal's princes' hearts. Literally. She lures them into a trance-like state with her siren song, and drags them down to the bottom of ocean where she rips out their hearts. After failing to steal Prince Elian's heart, the pirate prince also known as the "siren killer", Lira's mother, the Sea Queen, turns her into a human in punishment, and commands that she retrieve Elian's heart, or stay a human forever.

Are you getting Little Mermaid vibes from that description? Good, because there is a definitely Little Mermaid inspiration here, though it's definitely more Anderson than Disney (for examples, sirens turn into sea foam a few moments after they are killed). There's also some Greek mythology (I feel like this is the origin of sirens, but I only say that because of the Odyssey), but the influences, while noticeable, are integrated nicely, and the world-building game in this book is super strong. Elian and Lira travel to several different kingdoms, and each kingdom has its own flavor and customs. There's also some cool mythology around sirens vs. mermaids vs. mermen, and I really loved where she went with the mermaids in particular. It was a version of mermaids that I had never read before.

Elian and Lira are both complex but likable characters (if you like your heroes of anti- or bloodthirsty variety, which, I DO). Initially, Lira is a stone-cold killer. She was raised to be one, and the fact that she could be anything but a stone-cold killer after her upbringing is kind of magical. As the book develops, she learns more about humans and begins to *gasp* kind of like them. Her character development and growth are a main theme throughout the book, and Lira's maturation is slow enough to develop seems plausible.

Elian was also fine; he mostly serves as a foil to Lira, and it's fun to see his opinion of her change as he slowly learns more about her. There is a bit of romance between them, but as they are at odds for most of the book, its kind of a forbidden romance which is a trope that I love when done right (needless to say, it was done right here).

Amazing worldbuilding, great characters, no sequel - what's not to love here? If you are into pirates or mermaids or lux worldbuilding, you'll enjoy this book. 4 stars - I really liked it!

Thanks to Feiwel & Friends and Netgalley for the eARC for review consideration. To Kill a Kingdom will be released on 06 March, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Holidays on Ice
Sedaris, David
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I listened to this book, most of which was read in a nasally, whiny voice. The initial stories about working as an elf at Christmas-time had tears of laughter pouring out of my eyes, Unfortunately, the book rapidly went downhill. This satire started out funny, but it kept going too long as if the author didn't know when to end the story. There were also some disturbing images that added absolutely nothing. The stories were sarcastic, but the bitterness in them really turned me off. Can't recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
The Train of Lost Things
Paquette, Ammi-Joan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Where to start? This book was poignant, beautiful, lovely and dealt with the subject of loss, through a child’s eyes, in a way that pulled at my heart strings, big time. This beautiful tale follows a young kid named Marty as he deals with the pain and loss that comes when someone close is dying and there is nothing you feel you can do about it. When Marty’s precious possession is lost, his jean jacket scattered with buttons that represent his fondest memories with this person, at first he is devastated, but then he hears the tale of the train of lost things and he goes on a quest to find it and retrieve the precious thing he lost. Along the way he comes across two others, both on similar journeys, and discovers that what matters is not the objects themselves but the memories they represent and the love that he shares with his loved ones.

Paquette’s character Marty, approaches the subject of loss and death with a childlike curiosity. Yet throughout the story, Marty also displays the strong denial that comes with facing loss and death, questioning whether or not what is happening is really true. Marty’s love for his loved one and his need that, retrieving this jacket would make things all better, is what kept his character going. Yet in the end he realizes that life and death are not always that simple. But memories and love have a stronger power over death and loss and sometimes to overcome them you just need to escape reality to really understand that.

I don't usually pick up kids books but I picked up and read this book in one day! That is how good it was! I love this book in every way and I highly recommend it! Even though this book is for kids, I also recommend it for older people, or anyone dealing with loss, as the lessons learned can be applicable for anyone.

Thank you to the publisher Philomel Books for a ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book doesn't come out till March 20 but you can put it on your hold list today!

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Book Review: The Higher Power of Lucky
Patron, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very good book. I listened to it on audio and the narrator was fantastic. The climax of the book takes place during a dust storm, which is a classic case of the natural elements reflecting the story line. A bit contrived, yes, but good for young readers. The conclusion was textbook, but also okay for younger readers. If you'd like to read a good story with no surprises, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
So You Want to Talk About Race
Ijeoma, Oluo
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

We white people all need to read this book. Especially if you DON'T want to talk about race.

Reviewer's Name: Dory
Into the Wild
Krakauer, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I was required to read Into the Wild for English class and normally I’d be procrastinating to get into those books but I enjoyed this one a lot. In 1990, based on real life events, a wealthy boy named Christopher McCandless, fresh out of college from the East Coast, abruptly decided to donate all of his money to charity, sever contact with his parents, and set out for the great Alaskan wilderness. He journeyed all over the West Coast traveling around California, New Mexico, and Arizona and even held a job at a farm in South Dakota, eventually renaming himself Alexander Supertramp. Alexander picked up new skills and information such as how to skin a moose, different camps he might stay at, what weapons he needed, etc. from all of the individuals he met. For years, he remained in the continental United States but his goal was always to live off the earth in Alaska - he thought there was more to life than the money and fame his parents treasured. What I enjoyed most about this book was that there were actual accounts of Alexander’s journey either from his personal journal or the friends he encountered that allowed the readers to sympathize with Alexander and understand his goal despite his unfortunate fate. The problem with the novel was that I think Alexander was portrayed to be more conscientious and experienced than he truly was due to the fact the author, Jon Krakauer, outright states he idolizes him in the foreword. This concept can also be emphasized by the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter that provide quotes from famous adventure novels including The Call of the Wild and White Fang as if trying to ensure that Alexander was the hero Krakauer thought he was. However, I did find Krakauer’s bias easier to support the claim that Alexander was naive. Why else would the author be trying so hard to prove he was not? Slow-paced at some parts, but I do think this is an interesting telling of what so many individuals are afraid to do.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Spy School
Gibbs, Stuart
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs, is a really good, light, and easy read. The book's main attraction is its plot twists. The unknown double agent, hidden 'spy' school, and secret organization all combine to make a great action-packed, half-romance novel. The ending also gets the reader hyped up for the next book in the series. Stuart Gibbs uses great foreshadowing throughout the book, and hints at every little detail in the plot. Although the plot is sort-of cliche and some characters are kind-of bland, the book sums up to be a highly entertaining read. I would recommend this book to anyone willing to put in the little time it takes to read it.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
Stuart Little
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Stuart Little, by E. B. White, is quite the fascinating tale of an adventurous mouse on a quest to find his beloved, lost friend. The book is endlessly entertaining, and Stuart the mouse hooks the reader with his various shenanigans. Rather than developing the side characters, E. B. White strives and succeeds at focusing on peculiar Stuart and amusing the reader. The side plots also fit very nicely into the main story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it is a quick, easy, and wondrous read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a 'meh' romance novel. While I may not be a big fan of the genre (which is why I personally find it excruciatingly boring), the book exceeds in describing how relationships were the main influence of wealth and power in Britain around the 1800s. Jane Austen also gives each character an 'okay' backstory. Other than that, the book struggles to keep the reader interested. The characters are bland, their relationships have a very poor development, and some of the well-developed side characters just leave without any sort of sentimental goodbye. The book just seems to be a monotonous lecture with all of the uneventful dialogue, and overall, the book just doesn’t seem to capture the reader. I would maybe recommend this to some hardcore fans of romance, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There’s a reason they had to call the movie, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Three Times Lucky
Tumage, Sheila
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Three times lucky is an amazing book filled with lots of epic adventure and mystery. Mo will become forever attached to you, as her and her best friend Dale will crack the case of Mr. Jesse's murder as the Desperado Detectives. Mo will forever search for her lost, Upstream mother, obsess over Lavender, and find that her real family was right in front of her the whole time! This is a great story for mystery book lovers and drama as well!

Reviewer's Name: Danielle
Genres:
Tess of the Road
Hartman, Rachel
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Tess Dombegh is ruined. When she was quite young, she met an ambitious young scholar who took advantage of her and left her in the family way. Since then, her main goal has been to find her twin sister, Jeanne, a husband that will save their family from their dire financial straits. Tess successfully finds Jeanne a husband, and after getting extremely drunk at their wedding and embarrassing herself and their entire family, she decides to run away.

Notice that I got through this description with nary a mention of dragons? There are dragons in this world. But only barely, hence the reason I didn't need to mention them in my synopsis. This is actually, I think, the weakest point of the book, but I'll come back to that later.

I am more conflicted about this book than I've been about any other book in recent memory. Tess, our main character, is insanely unlikable and unsympathetic, especially at the beginning. However, she's intentionally unlikable and its entirely because of the circumstances of her world are similar to that of Edwardian England in terms of how the ladies are treated. As Tess travels further down the road - often painstakingly slowly, the unnecessary and at times boring digressions in this book are legion - she learns more about who she is, who she wants to be, and how she can make her way in a world that sees her as less than a person because of her gender.

Those parts, the introspective philosophical parts, I liked. Unfortunately, they were few and far between and were including in those aforementioned digressions that had nothing to do with the plot at large. My interest in the book would wax and wane in huge swings. I did finish it, and I even liked the ending, but wow, this was often a slog.

The thing that bothered me the most about the book was almost the complete waste of the worldbuilding. There were dragons and quigutl (sic), which are like the small, less ferocious cousins of dragons, and while a quigutl was a main character, that character could have easily been a jaded staff member, or really anything else. The fantasy world didn't add to the story, and sometimes, it distracted from Tess' character development, which, at the end of the day was the point of the entire novel. I think making this book pure historical fiction (and I loved the worldbuilding and fantasy setting in Seraphina, the companion series) would've made it a more impactful, better book.

Anyway, complaints aside, at times, I found myself really loving this book, mostly on the strength of Hartman's writing and the very important messaging regarding women's rights. Overall, though, the execution left something to be desired, at least for this reader. I won't be coming back for the sequel if there is one (everything was tied up nicely, but there definitely is room for another book), but I would definitely read another book by this author. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Random House Children's and Netgalley for the eARC that I received for review consideration. Tess of the Road is released on 27 February, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Crossed
Condie, Allyson Braithwaite
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the second time I read Crossed and after I finished I took to
Goodreads to see some other reviews. What I saw most of were individuals
saying that Crossed was not as action packed as Matched and that the audience
was waiting for the majority of the book for something to happen; for Cassia
to see Xander, to leave the Society, to start searching for Ky, to know what
happened to the Anomalies, to get to the Rising... I was eager too for all of
those things to happen but I did not find the book boring but rather
suspenseful. If the book were boring then the new characters Cassia and Ky
met might be uninteresting but I found myself fretting over Eli, annoyed with
Indie, heartbroken alongside Hunter, and sympathizing with Vick. I did not
think the different groups traveling through the canyon called the Carving
was agonizing in any way except positively - I just wanted to get to the part
where Cassia and Ky met up already but I was also satisfied with the other
events such as the deaths, learning about the tablets, the outing with
Xander, and more. When some others said Crossed was not action packed I think
they meant there was a lack of the Society’s interaction, no one was being
monitored or reprimanded for an Infraction but honestly I was relieved and
not frustrated with that at all. There were still plenty of plot twists
throughout the novel that made up for the lack of the Society and I was
curious about all of them. In fact, because of all the conflict and
unfairness the Society put the characters through in Matched I did not want
the Society in this book at all and was curious to figure out what was beyond
the borders of the Outer Provinces. One thing I will say is that this is one
of those stereotypical dystopian books with a love triangle but the book
begins to give some closure as we see which boy Cassia is leaning towards
permanently. Cassia’s goal besides locating Ky is to locate the Rising (the
name of the rebellion against the Society) but everything is rushed. Her next
task is given to her immediately, none of the major leaders are met, and any
information about the Rising is hardly given at all. The author spends the
entirety of the book in the Carving and the last three pages are introducing
the rebellion. Because of the anticlimactic ending, I rate this book 4/5
stars. I am planning to reread Reached because the lack of a satisfying
ending only made me want to know what happens next more

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Hulme, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The plot of The Glitch in Sleep is intriguing - I enjoyed the idea
that there are two different dimensions one called The World (where we live)
and the other called The Seems which controls The World via departments such
as nature, weather, and sleep. For example, the sleep department creates
dreams/nightmares, decides the hours of sleep a person receives if any at
all, and more. But the issue is that The Seems is a well-oiled machine and
depends on organization - if any of these departments do not completely do
their job and the issue is not fixed before the next day then something
called the Ripple Effect occurs which essentially unravels the Chain of
Events and foils the Plan. The Plan consists of organizing principles upon
which The World is managed and if The Plan is foiled, chaos ensues. Becker
Drane is a Fixer, someone who repairs malfunctions in The Seems that
negatively effect The World. One of the reasons I rate this book three stars
instead of five is because Becker is 12 years-old but acts adult-like, his
characterization does not feel appropriate for his age. In fact, all the
children act more mature than normal. At nine years old Becker fills out the
equivalent to a job application/aptitude test in which one of the questions
is something along the lines of “How would you change The World if The
World were being remade?” I can not imagine a nine year old answering that
sufficiently enough that a secret society responsible for the well-being of
The World and every person there would be impressed enough with a child that
they immediately hire him and trust him in deadly situations with advanced
technology. I do applaud the diversity in the book with representation from
countries not normally acknowledged in children’s literature. One thing I
also got a little irritated with was the constant tributes and references to
Highland Park, NJ, Becker’s hometown. The authors both grew up there but I
never lived there and I felt that the information about White Castle and the
different schools located there and other children’s names who were
probably were old friends of the authors were sort of unnecessary and did not
further the audiences’ love or Becker’s loyalty to Highland Park. I mean
if something happened to Highland Park than I would have seen the tributes
and references as appropriate but there was no immediate danger so they
seemed irrelevant and they often came up in times that broke with the tone. I
am sure someone from/living in New Jersey might enjoy these but even as
someone who has been to Highland Park several times and has family relations
there, I did not care too much. I also think there is a lot of world building
in motion and there is too much information regarding the tools and the
departments and officials that is overwhelming. I can also see a potential
romantic relationship being set up which might complicate the next book in
the trilogy by taking away from the plot. I will read the next book to see
some character development and relationships unfold and gain more
understanding of The Seems because the book was left on a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Genres:
The Glitch in Sleep
Hulme, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The plot of The Glitch in Sleep is intriguing - I enjoyed the idea
that there are two different dimensions one called The World (where we live)
and the other called The Seems which controls The World via departments such
as nature, weather, and sleep. For example, the sleep department creates
dreams/nightmares, decides the hours of sleep a person receives if any at
all, and more. But the issue is that The Seems is a well-oiled machine and
depends on organization - if any of these departments do not completely do
their job and the issue is not fixed before the next day then something
called the Ripple Effect occurs which essentially unravels the Chain of
Events and foils the Plan. The Plan consists of organizing principles upon
which The World is managed and if The Plan is foiled, chaos ensues. Becker
Drane is a Fixer, someone who repairs malfunctions in The Seems that
negatively effect The World. One of the reasons I rate this book three stars
instead of five is because Becker is 12 years-old but acts adult-like, his
characterization does not feel appropriate for his age. In fact, all the
children act more mature than normal. At nine years old Becker fills out the
equivalent to a job application/aptitude test in which one of the questions
is something along the lines of “How would you change The World if The
World were being remade?” I can not imagine a nine year old answering that
sufficiently enough that a secret society responsible for the well-being of
The World and every person there would be impressed enough with a child that
they immediately hire him and trust him in deadly situations with advanced
technology. I do applaud the diversity in the book with representation from
countries not normally acknowledged in children’s literature. One thing I
also got a little irritated with was the constant tributes and references to
Highland Park, NJ, Becker’s hometown. The authors both grew up there but I
never lived there and I felt that the information about White Castle and the
different schools located there and other children’s names who were
probably were old friends of the authors were sort of unnecessary and did not
further the audiences’ love or Becker’s loyalty to Highland Park. I mean
if something happened to Highland Park than I would have seen the tributes
and references as appropriate but there was no immediate danger so they
seemed irrelevant and they often came up in times that broke with the tone. I
am sure someone from/living in New Jersey might enjoy these but even as
someone who has been to Highland Park several times and has family relations
there, I did not care too much. I also think there is a lot of world building
in motion and there is too much information regarding the tools and the
departments and officials that is overwhelming. I can also see a potential
romantic relationship being set up which might complicate the next book in
the trilogy by taking away from the plot. I will read the next book to see
some character development and relationships unfold and gain more
understanding of The Seems because the book was left on a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Genres:
Dear Evan Hansen
Levenson, Steven
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Dear Evan Hansen" is a Broadway Musical about the importance of honesty, love, and remembrance. This book (or script) is about two troubled families that come together with the death of Connor Murphy. Evan Hansen, a high schooler with anxiety, tries to help Connor's family get over the loss of their son, but ends up lying in order to do so. Everything goes wrong for Evan, making up a strong friendship that never truly existed. Toward the end, it is demonstrated that everything will be okay in the long run. This book is better appropriate for an older audience as it deals with heavy topics. If you love musicals, Broadway, and inspiring stories, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
I'll Give You The Sun
Nelson, Jandy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"I'll Give You The Sun," is a touching story about relationships, heartbreak, and love. This story is told from the point of views from Noah and his twin sister, Jude Sweetwine. "I'll Give You The Sun," starts with a broken family that appears like it will never be mended and everything will remain shattered for life. However, as the plot progresses, the reader understands that nothing is permanent and mistakes can be fixed. Life can be renewed and more glorious as ever. This book really emphasizes the quote, "No rain, no flowers." My only critique for this book is that it gets inappropriate at some points; this book is more suited for an older audience.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:

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