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All Book Reviews

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a rather peculiar adventure tale filled with all sorts of oddities and misfits. The story begins with the main protagonist, Alice, as she follows the White Rabbit into the infamous rabbit hole. In Wonderland, or so it seems, she meets several creatures all with the strangest backstories and personalities. The story is carefully crafted so that much of the book confuses the casual reader. A great concern for detail is needed to understand the novel and its full meaning. The book shares the complexities and hardships of growing up, in which the Lewis Carroll absolutely nailed. He also shares his negative opinions about the British government through the main antagonist, the Queen of Hearts, who is meant to be a high and powerful monarch, but never does anything. Overall, the book is a great read and it is certainly entertaining to spend some time to pick out the many small details hidden in the book. 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Story Thieves
Riley, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Story Thieves, by James Riley, is an adventure novel that deals with a book-ception type of concept. Owen, one of the two main protagonists, meets Bethany, the other main protagonist, while he catches her mysteriously disappearing into books. He agrees to keep her power a secret on one
condition: he gets to visit his favorite Kiel Gnomefoot series. They both go on a quest through several books to try and find Bethany's missing father, but end up messing up the book series. The duo encounters all sorts of baddies, and the many plot twists keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
The uncomplicated storyline keeps the plot straight forward and allows for good development of the characters and settings. The novel is a pretty entertaining read, and I would recommend it to people who just like a good, solid, and basic adventure novel.
Steven L, 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
City of Rats
Emily Rodda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book City of the Rats in the Deltora Quest series, by Emily Rodda, takes place in the mythical land of Deltora, and sends you on a quest with the three main protagonists, Lief, Barda, and Jasmine. The novel is a classic adventure quest, where the protagonists face off against the truly evil Shadow Lord. This particular book brings you along with the characters, as they are forced to enter the forbidden City of the Rats in order to find another lost gem to restore to the Belt of Deltora. In it, Emily Rodda succeeds in developing the characters and setting. The monsters and magic have a certain sincerity in their wrongdoings that you don’t find in many adventure tales. The protagonists also have this relentlessness for stopping the Shadow Lord, and the despite their fears, push on through the most dreadful of times. Overall, the book is meant for people who like fantasy adventure novels, and I would recommend not only this singular book, but the entire Deltora Quest series to anybody willing to read it. Steven L, 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Awards:
The Circle
Eggers, Dave
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The only reason I read this book was because of the movie starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks but I'm one of those who [for the most part] read the book first before watching the movie because we all know that books are always better and have more details than the movie versions.

I've been on the fence about deactivating my Facebook and Twitter accounts and signing up for Instagram or keeping my blog, Ravelry and GoodReads active since I use Ravelry and GoodReads mainly as online databases for my yarn craft and books respectively so I won't have to create an offline database from scratch and my blog as a way to share things that I enjoy and my book reviews like this one. The Circle by Dave Eggers definitely showed some pros and cons to going "off the grid" to quote Mercer and some pros and cons to being online to keep up with family and friends and social media is good way to reconnect with old friends especially if you have no way of contacting them because your address book hasn't been updated in a long while.

Enter Mae Holland who hasn't used her social media account in a while and ends up working for the Circle, a tech company who is all about sharing [everything] and being social online and offline and unifying everything into one account. I rated this book 4 stars not because it's really good but mostly because the author managed to make me feel something and made me think. When Mae first started working at the Circle, I felt as stressed out and exhausted as Mae felt while learning about her new job and balancing her work-related duties as well as her "social" duties and the constant need to "smile," "frown," and "zing" can be overwhelming for someone like me who likes to moderately share things online. Yes, I do believe that there are things that should be kept private and still do even after reading this book.

I don't think it is healthy to spend so much time online "smiling," "frowning," and "zing-ing" what other people share to the point where you no longer have time to live your life in the real world. And changing your opinions because you don't like getting "frowns" is not being human. Being human is about having different opinions and thoughts and it shouldn't matter if your opinion is unpopular because it is you. The way it is presented in this book is that slowly, everyone in the world is of one mind, one opinion which is already happening in the real world. People get shamed, hated on or bullied online when you express sentiments that are not in line with the sentiments of others. And this mentality should stop.

There are some aspects of unifying databases from this book that I liked the idea of. An example would be medical records that way when you switch medical providers or during medical emergency situations, all your records can be found in one centralized system/location to make it super efficient for the medical team to give you the right medication or treatment as well as if you're unconscious, there's a way to alert your medical/care team to send help. While it is also great to get real time results on polls and surveys, being forced to vote by suspending all electronic/computer/online activities until you've voted is wrong in the sense that people have the right to vote or not vote. Sure it will help a lot if everyone voted but to make it mandatory like what the Circle suggests violates the right to decide whether to vote or not. I'm on the fence about humans getting micro-chipped like most of our pets are micro-chipped because I personally don't want everybody in the world to know where I am. I only want my I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contacts to know where I am and that's about it. There's more examples in this book that I'm either on the fence on or completely against the idea of but I have to end it here otherwise, this review will be as lengthy as the novel itself.

Moving on to the general overview of the plot. It's believable to some degree and I can see the parallels to the real world especially on the social media aspect and we are somewhat slowly getting there on the other technological aspects. The pacing of the story is slow to moderate and sometimes it makes you think if there's any point to this whole thing. The whole time I was listening to this book, I was waiting for a really cool plot twist or a big revelation or a big self-discovery, but unfortunately, none of those happened. There was a revelation towards the end but it was a bit of a let down because somehow, at the back of my mind, I already knew that.

As for the characters, I feel like they're not as well-developed as I'd hoped. There's no real depth to Annie, Dan, Jared, the three wise men, Francis, or any of the rest of the characters, including Mae (more on that, later). It feels like these other characters are there to either add drama in the case of Francis, to move the story along in the case of Dan, Jared, the three wise men, etc., and as proof of validation and someone to vent to as in the case of Annie. As for Mae, I somewhat resonated with her in the beginning but as the book progresses, her character became less real and more fake in the sense that the Mae readers liked in the beginning slowly disappeared as she became "one with the hive" err Circle and lost her own individuality. Another thing that was disturbing about Mae was in the end, while visiting her catatonic best friend, Annie, she looks at one of the monitors scanning Annie's brain waves and wonders what Annie's dreaming/thinking about while in a coma and decides that people's thoughts should be accessible to everyone and that "the world deserves nothing less" which to me, is frankly, quite disturbing.

Finally, the narration. Dion Graham did a wonderful job narrating/reading this book even though this book follows Mae's perspective and there's none of that high-pitched voice trying to sound like a woman/girl.

In conclusion, if you are someone who shares everything online then you might enjoy this book and if you are someone who is on the verge of deactivating all of your online and social media accounts, you might find extra reasons in this book to permanently go offline. If you are someone who likes to see characters evolve into a better version of themselves, this book is not for you.

Reviewer's Name: Mary Grace C.
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984, written by renowned author George Orwell, a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair, follows the protagonist Winston Smith set in what Smith believes to be the 80s in London. In fact, Smith is not sure of anything anymore, definitely not the exact year or what happened to his family or who the mysterious dictator called Big Brother is or who his state is at war with. Eurasia, right? No, must’ve been Eastasia... All Smith knows are the mottos of each of the ministries that form the government in Oceania, where London is. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. He is told what to think, what to say, and what to do for nearly every part of his life. His government banks on strict organization and dire consequences for disobeying the rules. 1984 is an interesting read that set the bar for dystopian novels, defining inefficient governments from real life examples.
The novel is more realistic being inspired by Orwell’s hatred for totalitarianism and the events of World War II. I recommend 1984 to anyone curious about examining different types of societies, their standards and how those effect the population. The novel is fairly political and examines rebellion, although not as face paced as typical young adult reads. 1984 allows for an in depth examination of the character’s internal conflicts, Winston is one of the more detailed and complex protagonists because there are many parts where he cannot he sympathized with due to his lesser characteristics. The setting is clearly presented in a more world-building way than just giving out straight information. I was especially pleased, surprised, curious, and angry throughout the progression of the story.
Overall, I did enjoy this book more than most others, but the fact that Winston does not form any significant relationships until the second part and is the primary person talking, I was relatively bored during the middle chapters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Awards:
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Among one of the first Dystopian genre novels ever published, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World questions the extent at which technology could potentially control society. Set approximately 632 years after the creation of the Model - T, a World State now controls society with the intent on eradicating personal thinking and individual creativity. With a new system called the Bokanovsky process, the World State utilizes the idea of Henry Ford’s assembly line to produce thousands of nearly identical embryos that will grow up to work for the State. All embryos are conditioned to be in one of the 5 castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon; with Alphas destined to control the World State and Epsilons to perform menial labor. When Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John decide that something is wrong within this “perfect” society, they take it into their own hands to expose the World State and stop this flawed Utopia. Huxley’s novel, written in only 4 months, is phenomenal because it challenges the ideals of the limits to which technology can override nature. With the novel being published in 1932, Huxley questions practices that were uncommon and unrealistic back then, but are slowly becoming a reality now as our society leans more and more towards technological innovations. I recommend this novel to high school readers, especially those interested in the Dystopian genre, since this is a perfect example of a Dystopian Utopia.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Oedipus Rex
Sophocles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The hero isn’t always epic and won’t always have a happy ending, sometimes he may face a tragic event and meet his downfall. Sophocles Athenian tragedy Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, is a phenomenal play written and first performed around 430 B.C. The play follows the story of Oedipus, a man who became the King of the city Thebes by solving a riddle and defeating a sphinx that was threatening the city and then marrying the queen of Thebes, Jocasta. One day, when Thebes is suffering from a catastrophic plague, Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to an oracle to find out how to stop the plague. Creon returns telling Oedipus that the plague will cease if the killer of the previous king, Laius, is found and exiled. Little does Oedipus know, he is Laius’s killer. Before Oedipus was born, a prophecy was told to Jocasta that her son would kill his father and marry his mother, and so she sent her son out to be killed in the mountains. That boy was Oedipus, and as the prophecy stated, he has returned to Thebes unknowingly to fulfill that prophecy. I love this Greek play by Sophocles because it is one of the first pieces of literature that tells the story of the “tragic hero” and his downfall. I recommend this play to all, but more advanced readers as the translation is also a bit complex.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Backman, Fredrik
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fredrick Backman’s wit and humor ties in wonderfully with a tear-jerking finale. From beginning to end, I was torn between laughing and weeping. The innocence and wonder of childhood is perfectly captured, while also including the remorse of being thrust into the real world. Elsa, a seven year old girl, has an eccentric grandmother, the kind who just wants to make her happy. Her grandmother, however, does this in an odd way; shooting-paintballs-at- pedestrians-off-her-balcony type of way. And it works. Although Elsa is chased and bullied at school, her grandmother can paint a wonderful picture in her mind. But too soon, she dies of cancer, leaving behind a trail of letters for Elsa to discover, taking her on her last ever quest from her
grandma: giving the letters to their recipients. On the way, she discovers the story behind faces she never gave a second thought. Backman paints a masterpiece with his words, keeping me hooked and enthralled at every turn of this book.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Adams, Douglas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is witty, genius, and an example of common English humor: dry, but hilarious.
Seconds before Earth is blown away to make way for an intergalactic freeway, Arthur Dent discovers galaxies and planets, lightyears beyond his own. He hitches a ride with his best friend, Ford Perfect. Ford is a cleverly disguised alien, who has been stranded on Earth for the past 15 years as he writes a revised guide to the galaxy. Arthur and Ford happen to hitch ride with the most disagreeable and intolerable creatures, the Vogon. They are then discovered and thrown into the soul-sucking abyss of space. Seconds before they suffocate, Ford and Arthur are picked up by a recently stolen ship, stolen by the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his girlfriend, Trillian. The ship is on an improbability drive, which is why they crash land on a long believed mythical planet, called the Heart of Gold.
The planet was in a hibernation-like state, and has only just awoken recently. Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod explore while Arthur meets Slartibartfast, who explains that the Earth was a test, run by mice, to discovery the Question of Life, since they know the answer is 42. However, Earth was destroyed seconds before test completion. Trillian, Zaphod, and Ford are captured by the mice and kept in a dream-like prison. That is, until Arthur is brought to the mice and the group is reunited. The mice explain that they are interested in harvesting Arthur’s brain as organic evidence.
So, naturally, the group manages to escape in the knick of time, avoiding both the mice and the galaxy police, who are searching for Zaphod.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
Tempests and Slaughter
Pierce, Tamora
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In Arram Draper’s first year at Carthak’s School for Mages, his work ethic and raw power make him something of child prodigy. As such, he is singled out for individual studies with two other similarly passionate and hard-working students: Varice and Orzone. Varice is a charming young lady with a gift for cooking magic and charm for days, and Arram quickly finds himself drawn to her, perhaps as more than a friend. Orzone is the leftover prince which means that he’s the fourth of four in line for the Emperor’s throne, though that list seems to be shortening quickly. The three soon learn that they will not just have to contend with their studies, but a growing struggle for power and control of the Empire that is threatening to change Carthak forever.

If you’ve read some of Tamora Pierce’s other works (if you haven’t, stop reading this review and pick up The Song of the Lioness quartet RIGHT NOW – it is apparently awesome in audio format as well), the lead character of this story will be familiar to you. I read and re-read her books continually in my youth, but while there was a huge nostalgia factor in reading this for me (so many easter eggs!), I absolutely would have still enjoyed it if I were totally new to the character. While you certainly should read her other works, you don’t need to have read them to enjoy this one.

Tempests and Slaughter starts when Arram is just 10. Precocious little bugger that he is, Arram started school a full year early. Because he’s so young at the beginning, the start of the book read as very middle grade to me, which wasn’t a bad thing; it just wasn’t what I was expecting. As in her other series, Pierce perfectly captures the pain and biological changes that come with puberty and I found myself transported back to those awkward times in the best of ways. After Arram gets a little older and meets up with Varice and Orzone, the book begins to pick up as all three characters get developed and the worldbuilding picks up. This is definitely a book that’s primarily focused on character development and worldbuilding, but as Arram is a lovable character and the worldbuilding is rich, the almost total lack of plot did not bother me too much. A very interesting mystery appears later in the book, though it felt a little rushed and the conclusion a bit forced. However, it nicely sets things up for the next installment which I will unquestionably be pre-ordering.

All in all, this was a great read. If you like your fantasy with a healthy dose of complex characters and intricate world building, you’ll really enjoy this one. I’m going to go re-read some backlist Tamora Pierce now, and I suggest you do the same. 4 stars.
Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for the free electronic copy for review consideration. Tempests and Slaughter is released on 06 February, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Moore, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is riddled with real humor. It is a dark thriller and will leave you wondering how the author managed to not split his sides while writing it. It is an easy read and the break up of character plus chapters makes me think I am watching it in film. This would be an interesting story in film but definitely hilarious nevertheless.

Reviewer's Name: Myra
Genres:
The Trumpet of the Swan
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is a fun adventure as we go with Louis to repay his father's debt. We visit a small pond in Canada, Camp Kookooskoos, Boston, and even a zoo! This book is full of love, kindness, and adventure!

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey
Awards:
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
O'Brien, Robert C.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is a great big adventure as we go to a small brick in the ground, to a secret campus hidden in a rosebush, to a laboratory called Nimh, to Thorn Valley. This book is great for children and is one of my favorite books!

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey S.
The Book of Lost Things
Voigt, Cynthia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Max's parents have dashed off on an unexpected adventure and left their 12 year old son Max behind, alone...well, his grandmother is around to watch over him, but she is busy being a librarian. Max has to fend for himself and picks up a part time job as a solutioneer (sounds like engineer, but much more mysterious). His first task is to find a lost pet and this snowballs into many intricately involved adventures that will keep readers turning pages with anticipation to find out what this determined young man will do next. The Book of Lost Things, by Cynthia Voigt, is sure to please children 9 - 13 who enjoy a good mystery.

Reviewer's Name: Barb
Bob, Not Bob!
Scanlon, Liz Garton
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For the parent, teacher or librarian who loves a good read aloud that can only be done with "the voices" - this is your book. A boy with a cold in his head calls for his mom, but it sounds like "Bob," and of course his dog, Bob, comes running instead. Hilarious situations will tickle reader and listener alike in Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick with pictures by Matthew Cordell. For ages 3 - 7.

Reviewer's Name: Barb
Big Bear Little Chair
Boyd, Lizi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd is reminiscent of the block cut, three color art children's books of the 40's and 50's. Very simple text accompanies the beautiful illustrations depicting size comparison. Each page is a story unto itself, and children will love filling in the details of why the big zebra has such a little broom or why the big bird is carrying a little red umbrella. Perfect for ages 2 - 5.

Reviewer's Name: Barb
Awards:
Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows
Rawls, Wilson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is so well written that it didn't matter that I had nothing in common with the narrator and no interest in hunting. In fact, I felt sorry for the coons. This is a story of love and devotion that had me enthralled, especially in the second half. The ending, while a bit contrived, was still beautiful.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Terminal
Gordon, Roderick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the sixth and final book in the Tunnels series. The adventurer will find their heart racing often during the amazing, fast-paced, roller-coaster ride these characters are involved in from Tunnels until the final pages of Terminal. The historian is excited about the creative use of many myths and legends of the world. The dreamer wonders if some of this book is based on fact and finds themselves thinking about the possibilities throughout the day as their whole mind is consumed by the characters and stories that weave throughout this series.

I found myself ordering books and doing research on many of the ideas in this book to see what else I could find.

But most importantly, this series ends in a way that was unpredictable and THAT made this whole reading adventure WORTH EVERY MINUTE!

Reviewer's Name: Rachel W.
Divergent
Roth, Veronica
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When I first picked up this book, I was skeptical, because I'm not normally a fan of dystopian novels. But I LOVED this book, I read it in three hours, I could not put it down. This fast paced thriller drew me in. When I was finished I found my self picking it up various times and rereading my favorite parts. I would for sure recommend this book to everyone I know.

Reviewer's Name: Emma R.
The Bookseller's Tale
Swinfen, Ann
2 stars = Meh
Review:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least by my friends) that a person such as myself, in possession of historical studies, must be in want of a good medieval mystery. Sadly, I found Ann Swinfen's first book in her Oxford Mystery Series to be only so-so, not even qualifying as good. I admit, too, that I am rather spoiled by having read many of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael Mysteries and all of Mel Starr's Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. Perhaps if I had not done so I would like this series better, but I cannot assess it any other way than having encountered medieval mystery before. The Bookseller's Tale opens with bookseller Nicholas Elyot of Oxford living a quiet yet sad life, his wife taken by the Plague, his widowed sister living with him (for the same reason, the Plague took her family) to care for not only him but his surviving children. All is going along fairly well until a young student who frequents is found murdered by Master Elyot, dumped unceremoniously in the river Cherwell. What ensues is a long trail of details to catch his killer by himself and the murdered student's academic teacher (why not the local Sheriff or Bailiff, I'll never know). The book is excellent at descriptions of how a bookseller's life in the mid-1300s would look. Who they might employ, who would be their friends (academics, it seems), and the layout of hearth and home and Oxford. In truth, it was more like The Time-Traveler's Guide to Navigating the Streets of 1350 Oxford than a mystery at times, Ms. Swinfen takes you on a twisty-turny journey through streets that I assume are mostly non-existent today. I would have preferred less detail of streets and business and more interesting plot, I found myself missing the intrigue of Ellis Peters and the straightforward style of Mel Starr. Not even illuminated books and stolen property were enough to spice it up, as I found myself plodding along on rabbit trails with Master Elyot. As a result I was rather bored about 2/3 through and didn't particularly care why the young man was murdered, though I did finish the book and went "Oh." at the end. But again, this could be just me. Maybe to others it will be exciting and the perfect accompaniment to a rainy afternoon and cuppa by the hearth.

Reviewer's Name: C. Marie

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