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All Book Reviews

Cascade
Bergren, Lisa T.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you haven’t already PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! It is a great book to read!
It is the second book in the River of Time trilogy. Please read the books in order or you will have no clue what’s going on. It is a time-travel, historical fiction, adventure, and romance book. This book will keep you on your toes. It is one of the best books I have read this year!

Reviewer Grade 8.

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

This is an amazing book! It is a time-travel and historical fiction novel with adventure and mixed in. Also there is some romance (so boys might not like this book). It is the first book in the River of Time trilogy (please read the books in order). There’s not one slow part in this book however, there is a cliffhanger at the end. It is one of the best books I have read all year! Reviewer Grade 8.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Awards:
Tess of d'Uvervilles
Hardy, Thomas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Written in the Victorian Era, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy follows the story of Tess Durbeyfield and her tragic downfall. When Tess’s father discovers that he is the descendant of an ancient noble family, the d’Urbervilles, he sends Tess to the d’Urberville mansion hoping that Mrs.
d’Urberville will make Tess’s fortune. After being forced to take a job at the mansion to provide for her family, Tess is taken advantage of by Alec d’Urberville and is forced to live in shame and exile. After meeting a man named Angel Clare, Tess and Angel fall in love, but Tess has neither the strength nor the heart to tell Angel of her shameful secret. When she finally does, her secret tears their relationship apart, but will their love triumph over this “sin” ? This novel by Hardy truly reveals the division of men and women during the Victorian period and how a sin commited by a woman, even if not by her own fault, had everlasting consequences back then. I recommend this book to mature readers, as there is mature content and sexual references, but I highly recommend reading it because it holds both culture and themes that are present even in modern society.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Heart of Darkness
Conrad, Joseph
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is the Heart of Darkness? Is it a metaphorical thing such as thoughts and mindsets, or is it a literal tangible place? Joseph Conrad’s novel follows the story of Marlow, an introspective sailor, who recounts his journey up the Congo River to five men who are on the same ship as Marlow:
the Director of Companies, who is also the captain and host, the Lawyer, the Accountant, Marlow, and the unnamed Narrator. What’s interesting is that the story is told from the point of view of the unnamed narrator who is conveying to the readers what marlow is telling him. Marlow explains in detail of his journey into the African Continent and his venture up the Congo River. He tells of acts of imperialism, acts of racism, and acts of evil commited within the region. The Heart of Darkness has gained much praise and criticism since its release, nevertheless it explores Conrad’s view of evil and darkness, but also leaves it up to the reader to make their own conclusion. I recommend this novel to readers who are seniors in high school or above because this novel is extremely difficult to read as Conrad’s style is very complex. To fully experience the novel, one must read it multiple times.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Dracula
Stoker, Bram
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Twilight, Count Von Count, Nosferatu, where do all of these vampire themed genres come from? Also, where do all the vampire cliches come from? I mean why do they hate garlic, can only be killed with a steak through the heart, and have no reflection in a mirror? All of this goes back to the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. This 1897 gothic horror novel was written during the Victorian Era, a period many consider of high etiquette and stern morality.
The best part about this novel is that there is no one point of view, the story is written in segments of diary entries and newspaper articles. We get to see the story from multiple characters’ views, which is absolutely phenomenal because it creates dramatic irony and suspense. In Dracula, we follow the story of 7 people as they discover the existence of Count Dracula as a vampire. When one of the 7 become a victim of the Count, the rest set out to exterminate the Count and rid him of the world. I recommend this book to all readers (high school and above as the vocabulary and style is somewhat
difficult) as this teaches all of us about the evolution of contemporary culture and the culture of the Victorian Era. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
Beowulf
Heaney, Seamus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mighty hero triumphs over evil and saves the people from utter destruction. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it’s the basic plot line of the cliche hero’s tale that everybody knows. However, all of these tales most likely spawned from Beowulf, the oldest surviving English poem written in Anglo - Saxon around the 11th Century A.D. Beowulf is an epic poem that begins with Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Hrothgar’s people live in peace when they are attacked and threatened by a monster named Grendel, who kills off the Danes everynight in their mead-hall, Heorot. So in comes Beowulf son of Ecgtheow, a mighty warrior from Geatland who promises to defeat Grendel and bring prosperity back to the Danes. Beowulf is an amazing poem as it not only tells the classic tale of the epic hero and his journey, but contains hidden meanings aside from literal. Beowulf has no known author, but contains elements of factual history, which tells us this may be a tale describing actual events. This piece of literature is a traditional master piece and should be preserved as an example of how words and tales can evolve over decades. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
House of Women
Goldstein, Sophie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What happened to the last expedition? Was the last expedition male? Where are the male of the local species? Is Jael the only male in the area? Has he created his own harem of native women, driving off the males with his pheromones?

I found this book on a must read list from NPR for 2017. It looked interesting and had a fascinating synopsis and review. I read it, liked the drawings and wanted to know who “Jael” was from the story. The last interaction between the women is about his criminal history. Aphra asks Sarai what it says and she responds with “It doesn’t matter.” However, I suspect it does, I think it had a direct impact on everything that occurred in the story. The author did a good job of “setting the hook” with that closure. Considering the dream fish sequence, I think it was intentional. As I reread the story a few more times, elements that seemed trivial began to come together and illuminate more of the story. I think it is worth a read, or several reads.

Reviewer's Name: Monique Baker
Book Review: Doubting Abbey
Tonge, Samantha
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Very stereotypical chick lit. Not particularly well-written but I finished it so it was okay.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Beneath the Sugar Sky
McGuire, Seanan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This series, the Wayward Children series, has become one of my favorite series this year and Beneath the Sugar Sky, Seanan McGuire’s third installment is no different, it has stolen my heart. This series center’s around a school Eleanor West’s home for Wayward Children. It is a boarding school for children, who have found themselves in magical worlds of all types and then had to come back to “the real world”, to become reintroduced to society. But, to the children, the school is a waiting place, a holding cell, a place to stay until they find their door back into the magical world from which they came. This series explores the curiosity of children, their adventurous spirit, and their willingness to believe in the impossible.

In this story, we join our heroes right after the events that took place in Every Heart a Doorway. Right at the beginning we meet Sumi’s daughter Rinni, who comes from one of these magical lands. In it her mother, Sumi, was foretold to birth a daughter that would save their magical land from great evil, but Sumi died in our world before she could fulfill her destiny. But Rinni is born anyway and comes back to our world to bring her mother back from our world, a world without magic. Our heroes then embark on an adventure through many dangerous, intriguing, and beautiful worlds to bring back Sumi and right the wrong that has been committed.

I love Seanan Mcguire’s writing style. It is dark, whimsical, and at times serious and sad, with a touch of magic thrown in. She tackles issues such as how families and children relate to each other, and obesity with grace and clarity. I really enjoyed the fact that one of the main characters in this book, Cora, was overweight and portrayed as a hero. While I do agree with others that have read the ARC of this book, that the character of Cora does, I think, dwell too much on her status as “the fat girl”, it seems like every other page; I also think the character’s inner dialogue of the subject is a good portrayal of how many teens who deal with this issue, think about their weight. I also love the world building in this series and in this book, particularly the world of Confection, the world Sumi and Rinni come from. It is particularly atmospheric, alluring and to be honest, a child’s dream. Finally I really enjoy the diversity of characters in this book from a Mexican American to a child with a broken arm, to a bisexual character, it has a character that is relatable in it for just about anyone.

Studded with beautiful worlds, engaging and believable characters, and atmospheric literary prose, Beneath the Sugar Sky is a diamond in the rough of YA fiction.

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge books and Netgalley for the E Galley of this book for review! This book isn't out till January 9th but you can put a copy on hold today.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Genres:
The Adventures of Nanny Piggins
Spratt, R.A.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The enchanting tale of a nanny who is a flying pig that babysits 4 children. Each story of the series is different. It is extremely humorous and funny. A must read.

Reviewer's Name: Vanya
Genres:
The Darkest Part of the Forest
Black, Holly
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This was my first foray into Holly Black’s books, and I coming away from it not as impressed as I thought I would be. While I generally love fantasy and anything to do with faires, or fairy tales, there was just something about this book that made me not fully connect with the characters.

The general story line, I absolutely love! Of a small town forced to live in between two worlds that of fae and human and all the complications that comes with; Of a sleeping beauty like character waking after centuries of sleep; and of a hero that pledges her life to fighting the monsters in the middle of the forest. I also absolutely love the world building in this book, the description was beautiful, atmospheric, and haunting and made me wish fairy worlds were real. But the character development for me was just not as strong as it could have been, which is why rating this book was so difficult.

I am giving this one a solid 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Genres:
The Cottingley Secret
Gaynor, Hazel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“ I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell...”

The Cottingley Secret is a story about fairies, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and an old bookshop in a Irish harbor town, what is not to love about this book.
This story is a modern retelling of the real historical legend of the Cottingley Fairies. After coming to live with her cousin Elsie Wright in Cottingley England, during the height of the first world war, Frances Griffiths and her cousin both claim to see real live fairies at the bottom of the garden. The cousins soon prove their claims by photographing the fairies in the garden. These real live photos soon catches the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wholeheartedly believes the girls and proceeds to publish several of these photos in a magazine. Soon after, the girls and the fairies became a national sensation and through the country into the grip of fairy fever. This marks the beginning of a time that would define their lives and have them keeping secrets until the day of their deaths.

Meanwhile in modern day Ireland, Olivia Cavanaugh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and soon discovers a manuscript that recounts the story of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. As she reads through the manuscript, written by Frances, she soon discovers she has more in common with her than she ever imagined.

Hazel Gaynor connects past and present in a way that is both modern and extremely touching. I really connected with Olivia in this book. As she, and the reader, reads through Frances and Elsie’s story, she finds strength to face her painful past and let go of a life that has always been planned out for her to pursue a life that connects her to the desires of her heart.

Filled with amazing literary prose, a beautiful atmospheric environment and strong characters, this story is historical literary fantasy at it’s best.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
A Natural
Raisin, Ross
2 stars = Meh
Review:

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

This book was, without a doubt, the gayest book I’ve ever read. Usually, I don’t read books with LGBTQ+ themes, but the cover and title led me to believe it was about soccer (or, in this case, football). I am not against books with these themes, per se, as long as the characters are likable and relatable. It’s just I would hope that Random House isn’t merely publishing books with these themes to get “automatic” sales from people who want to support the LGBTQ+ movement. Unfortunately, based on the weakness of the story in A Natural, I suspect this as the only reason a large publisher released it.

For a book I thought was about football, actual instances of the sport being played collectively comprises perhaps 1% of the entire book. That’s roughly 3.86 pages of football in a book about football players. If you’re looking for tension and action on the pitch, you’d be better off reading something like The Rook Crew instead of this. So, instead of football, what does this book have in it? In a nutshell: sexual assault, rape, and homophobia. I would have hoped that a story about coming to terms with a young man’s sexuality would have been more inspiring, but the undertone of the narrative certainly feels against the idea.

Like I mentioned above, I could let most of this slide if the characters were interesting. Instead, we’re left with a loner football player who gets in a relationship with someone involved with the team. I don’t know why the main character decided to do this, as the characters are all pretty flat. On top of this, we have to follow a side-plot of a failed marriage included only for a minor (and predictable) plot point near the end. I was actually more taken aback by the sexual abuse that was allowed/permitted as part of the team’s “hazing” than the gay sex scenes that lacked any description at all. By the end, nothing was resolved, and I felt unfulfilled. I honestly failed to see the point of this book, other than a cash grab.

A boring book with boring characters playing a boring sport, I give A Natural 1.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Genres:
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride
Elwes, Cary
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

While I love audiobooks for their capacity to let me mindlessly absorb books while I’m driving to or from work, much of the story comes down to the narrator and their inflections. Sometimes these narrators can be annoying, or incomprehensible, or vary their volume too much. It is a rare treat to find an audiobook that fully capitalizes on the medium, either by adding music and sound effects or (in this case) using the voices of actual people to narrate the story. As You Wish is just such an audiobook, and I would even go so far to say it is the superior version of this book, even without “reading” it for myself.

As one of the most frequent and common of quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987) is an odd little film that just works. It’s fantasy, it’s comedy, it’s family-friendly. It’s all these things and more. But what about the people who made it happen? There have been horror stories of narcissistic directors or difficult actors making successful films, even despite their personalities. Fortunately, this most beloved of classics was not like that at all. All the behind-the-scenes stories helped to add an understanding and depth to The Princess Bride that should appeal to both diehard fans and those unfamiliar with the film.

Cary Elwes does a fantastic job of stringing these stories together while also exploring the backgrounds of all the characters (and the actors who played them). While the other actors do get their say in this audiobook, it’s Elwes’ impersonations of many of the individuals that was hilariously on point. He takes a humble and even-handed approach to storytelling that brings the listener into the midst of the filmmaking process without letting his personality get in the way of recounting historical events. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or a fan of audiobooks, his book is absolutely worth a listen.

A superb audiobook that everyone should listen to, I give As You Wish 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Finney, Jack
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Most people know this book by its numerous film adaptations, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978), Body Snatchers (1993), and The Invasion (2007). In fact, I like to think that many facets of this story have become a part of popular culture, including the replication “pods” and Donald Sutherland’s scream in the 1978 film version. While the source material is inherently pulpy, a result of the genre and the era in which it was published, there is an entertaining quality to the story that has allowed it to survive for so long.

Simple in its execution, but brilliant in its reveal, The Body Snatchers builds up an inherent distrust of the people surrounding the main characters as they investigate why everyone seems “off” in this small, California town. While the full explanation of the aliens’ presence and purpose is relegated to an enormous information dump more than half-way through the book, it nevertheless contains some interesting ideas and concepts that could be plausible given the circumstances. I would have preferred better integration of this information into the plot, but sometimes the characters just need to sit down and explore these ideas in depth.

In the end, The Body Snatchers has plenty of strong moments in its plot. Sure, there’s the weaker section or two, and the more upbeat ending didn’t have much explanation other than the aliens’ annoyance of humanity’s persistence. Still, it’s a fun story, and even decades later it’s clear why The Body Snatchers is a timeless classic, even if it’s not “on par” with more significant literary titans. Maybe that’s its charm, though. By making it about the “everyman,” the horror and terror of everyone around them being replaced by emotionless beings is much more relatable on a visceral level.

A timeless pulp classic, I give The Body Snatchers 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Book Review: Rules for Radicals
Alinsky, Saul
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rules for Radicals is a complicated book and yet one i find myself applying more and more to my everyday life as time wears on. It was written by a lifelong political organizer and social reformer and is a guide he wrote on these topics when his health started to fail. The title may sound extreme and certainly some of its content is, the majority of its pages are simple and can be applied to much of one’s life in the form of philosophy. It covers topics from government to culture and how they should operate, how to tell if they are corrupt, and when corrupt if they should be reformed or replaced. In an age of vast political change I see this easily being applied to many facets of life.

Reviewer's Name: Jaydon K.
Genres:
Book Review: Night Sky
Brockmann, Suzanne; Brockmann, Melanie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Night Sky" is a joint effort Between mother and daughter Suzanne and Melanie Brockman. Despite the fact that two different minds worked on this title, It is smooth polished and a well unified work of fiction. This is a fantastic young adult novel that I would recommend well before Titans of the genera such as "Divergent".Within its pages we follow a girl by the name of Skylar who develops from a pent up and unconfident teen with an over bearing mother to a strong young woman with the courage to stand up not only to her mother but also to the shadow organization that orchestrates horrible events the world over that no one will dare defy. Like most young adult novels it has a romantic sub plot that you can see coming from one hundred miles away while facing the other directions with your eyes closed. Thankfully however, this fact does little if anything to detract from the quality of this book. The characters feel real and alive, each with their own personalities. The descriptive language is detailed enough that the world easily paints its self in the readers mind. With elements of horror, mystery, action, fantasy, and romance this is a well rounded first effort from the duo that I recommend wholeheartedly.

Reviewer's Name: Jaydon K.
Book Review: Deep Blue
Donnelly, Jennifer
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I picked this book because of the title, genre, cover, and reviews. I enjoyed this book because there are several points of view and the plot. Serafina seems to be the main one, a princess of blood, first in line to the throne, and engaged to a prince of foreign waters. Although most girls do not face those situations, Serafina is also a sixteen year old teen trying to pass school, make her mother proud, and avoid people spreading rumors and gossip about her.
Then war breaks out after her parents are assassinated and she is forced to go on a journey along with five other young mermaids she must lead. Along the journey they discover they have to work together to gain the power they need in the upcoming battle. They must destroy a monster, win a war, and stay alive while they all face their own personal problems.
This book is one out of four in a series. Each book after the first only seems to only grow in excitement with twists, turns, and surprises for which there's no warning. If you like this first one, I recommend reading them all.

Reviewer's Name: Amber H.
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: Into the Deep
Fleming, Missy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I picked this book because of the cover and title. There are so little people who know about the ocean, so who's to say what the possibilities are. I enjoyed that author's thoughts to include some real life situations in the world which should be addressed. In a lot of ways this book raises awareness to the treatment of the oceans.
There were several surprises normal teen girls would not expect to be normal in their daily lives, but you can still relate to the feelings the main character Zoey feels. After all she is still a girl worried about passing high school.
Zoey's wish is to be normal, but it is not a possibility after she lost her leg in a freak shark attack when she was little. Then things only become stranger when she is drenched by a rogue wave on the night of her sixteenth birthday. Zoey's fear of the water tries to keep her away, but she can't help the pull to the ocean she feels while she is away. She decides to venture out to the world of merpeople after she meets her long lost grandmother. After a few short days she realizes life under the sea has dangers, and she may be the only one who can stop the end of the world.
This is the only book for the story, although I am hopeful it will continue into an amazing series.

Reviewer's Name: Amber H.
Genres:
Book Review: The Goddess Test
Carter, Aimee
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
When I was searching for a book, this one caught my eye because of the title and cover. I have an interest in Greek mythology and this book was an amazing refresher. Even if you don't know much about the myths to begin with this book covers the need to know basics, especially with the story of Persephone. I enjoyed the modern twist to the original stories I grew up with as a child. This book held surprises and turns to the plot I would never have expected. I recommend this book for the teen girls. I could really relate to all the emotions and thoughts which seem to fly through Kate's mind.
There is romance, challenges, and life threatening situations the main character Kate Winters must face to save the lives of her dying mother, and a mysterious dark handsome stranger who seems to believe he's a god. All the while she tries to save the lives of the people around her, someone wants her dead and that someone has succeeded in killing eleven girls before her. She must become immortal or die trying.
This book is one of three in a series, with other connecting books on the side I highly recommend. Once I started reading I could not put it down until I finished the entire series.

Reviewer's Name: Amber H.

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