All Book Reviews

Peter Pan
Barrie, J. M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I didn't grow up with Peter Pan as a child. The fact that I'm reviewing this book when I'm 34 merely highlights this oversight. I didn't even get into this story through the animated Disney version. Again, another oversight. About the only reason I know anything about Peter Pan is through the 1991 movie Hook—which I remember quite fondly. At this point, finally getting around to reading the source material was refreshing even if I already picked up most of the pop culture references this book inspired.

While I didn't grow up with Peter Pan, I can see its merit. I'll probably even read it to my daughter when she's old enough to understand it. What's perhaps the most notable quality of this book is how its randomness almost makes sense. Do you know how kids make stuff up but have a logical sense about their creations? Well, Peter Pan has plenty of elements that seem random but somehow work to build a coherent and cohesive narrative. I'm almost more surprised how close Hook and the Disney adaptation held to the source material. The fact that the ideas presented in Peter Pan are so unique and have yet to be fully replicated in any other story says something about its timeless quality.

That's not to say that Peter Pan is perfect—even if it gets close. Sure, it's charming, but it also hasn't aged too well either (which is also present in the Disney adaptation). 100+ years after this book was written, the world is a different place. These small qualms can be glossed over fairly easily if a parent wants to do a little censorship when reading to their child (they don't necessarily add to the plot).

A unique and creatively random children's story that just works, I give Peter Pan 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I read this book my freshman year of high school and there are some really interesting parts to this book involving suspense, murder and mystery but the book can be a little confusing if you don’t really pay attention. This book is very well written as it’s showed us how it was during this time period, giving us a whole perspective on how the characters were feeling at this point of time. The characters in this book do have to deal with a couple of problem which some don’t really go their way for example the whole situation with Tom Robinson. Although this book is well written it does carry some inappropriate language include a very discriminatory word, but you do have to keep in mind that this book was written in a very controversial time where saying the n-word wasn’t really frowned upon (not say that is was right). I wouldn’t recommend this book for children because it’s does deal with murder and rape but other than that it is a very good book.

Reviewer's Name: Miguel R.
My Best Friend's Exorcism
Hendrix, Grady
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Is your friendship strong enough to defeat a demon? High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen find out after an evening skinny-dipping in 1988 outside Charleston, S.C. goes awry. Gretchen is no longer the same girl who's been
Abby's best friend since fourth grade. She's moody and irritable. Not unusual for a teen, but then odd things begin happening whenever she's around. What's a friend to do?

While this title is considered adult fiction, this hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist and its themes of teen angst and adolescent drama makes this a novel that can be enjoyed by adults who remember Esprit shirts and big hair or by young adults who identify with being a social outsider.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Mars
Bakić, Asja
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A debut collection of short stories by Bosnian feminist Asja Bakic who uses dystopian, science and speculative fiction techniques to shine a light on gender relations through lenses of eroticism, skewed humor and horror. The stories are a series of twisted universes set in the former Yugoslavia and Mars. The main characters must make sense of their strange reality whether they are a woman who will be freed from purgatory once she writes the perfect book (Day Trip to Durmitor), a woman who awakens with no memory before learning the truth about herself (Abby) to another meeting her clone (Asja 5.0).

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Humans: A Brief History of How We F---ed It All Up
Phillips, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A thoroughly entertaining account of how far modern humans have come and how often they messed it up in groan-worthy ways despite best intentions. Journalist and humor writer Tom Phillips relies on sound scholarship to inform, entertain and maybe demoralize (in a funny way) the reader. Examples run the gamut from a Chinese emperor who stored gunpowder in his palace then hosted a lantern festival, the inadvertent forensics pioneer/lawyer defending an accused murderer who proved to the jury that the victim may have accidentally shot himself by accidentally shooting himself, the Austrian army that attacked itself one drunken night, and other equally spectacular blunders of modern times.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Shadow of the Fox
Kagawa, Julie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is the first in a new Young Adult series. It features a girl, Yumeko, who is a half-fox demon. She is tasked with taking an ancient scroll to a secret monk. With the help of Tatsumi, a samurai-esque boy who also wants the scroll, she begins her dangerous journey. The book is overall a fun read, but is more suited to a younger audience or fans of anime. Throughout the book, I found myself nostalgically reliving DragonBall Z, Inuyasha, Samurai Champloo, and Rurouni Kenshin. The severity of their mission with the familiar tropes from beloved manga and anime had me smiling...but the story itself is not one that I feel obliged to finish. I would recommend this title to any anime-fan in your life or young adults needing a quick, action-filled read.

Reviewer's Name: Meagan
Genres:
Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness
Dahl, Melissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever done something awkward. Now, raise your hand if you enjoyed that moment.

I’m willing to bet there’s not a single person in the world who would raise their hand in response to the second question. All of us hate awkward moments because they’re… well… awkward.

But in her hilarious book Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, Melissa Dahl proposes that we learn to laugh at our awkward moments. In doing so, we can feel less alone.

Sounds pretty interesting, right? But Dahl goes one step further. She says that by actively seeking out awkward activities, we can diminish the power they have over us.

Some examples of these deliberately awkward activities include singing “Mary had a Little Lamb” in public, going to a crowded restaurant and asking a group of complete strangers to listen to your maid of honor / best man speech, and reading an embarrassing entry from your diary out loud to a live audience.

If the idea of doing any one of these activities sounds terrifying to you, you’re not alone. Indeed, the book opens with Dahl feeling like she’s in a waking nightmare as she reads an entry from her middle school diary out loud to a live audience.

But as Dahl later explains, these deliberately awkward activities are a form of exposure therapy prescribed by cognitive behavior therapists to help their patients navigate the realm of social anxiety. And it’s in anecdotes like these that the book’s strengths really shine through, as Dahl does an excellent job of balancing her own experiences of awkwardness with the more scientific aspects of social anxiety. The result is a book that’s both refreshingly honest and unusually grounded for a topic as seemingly trivial as awkwardness. Highly recommended for anyone who’s ever experienced the
discomfort of awkwardness (which is everyone… right?)

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
The Lost Man
Harper, Jane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fans of Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk series may be surprised to find that her latest outing is a standalone novel. But make no mistake: The Lost Man is every bit as riveting as The Dry and Force of Nature. It follows the Bright family as they’re forced to come to terms with a very personal loss. Before his death, Cameron was a charismatic and successful rancher and father of two, leading his family to wonder what could have possibly compelled him to venture into the unrelenting Outback alone.

Cameron’s younger brother Nathan is the main character and quite a sympathetic one at that. Divorced, disgraced, and utterly alone, Nathan stands in stark contrast to his older brother Cameron. His story will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt like they’ve hit rock bottom.

Though Harper is known for her mystery novels, the mystery surrounding Cameron’s death in some ways takes a backseat to the family dynamics at work before--and after--Cameron’s death. In other words, the characters, not the plot take center stage here.

Readers who enjoy expert characterization, vivid sensory descriptions, and realistic depictions of family drama will feel right at home with The Lost Man.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Gone by Midnight
Fox, Candice
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

You may recognize Candice Fox as the coauthor of James Patterson’s Harriet Blue series, which includes titles like Never Never, Fifty Fifty, and Liar Liar. But with Gone by Midnight, the third book in her critically acclaimed Crimson Lake series, Fox has shown that her work deserves a place on every mystery lover’s shelf.

Like the previous two entries (Crimson Lake and Redemption Point), Gone by Midnight follows the wrongfully accused former policeman Ted Conkaffey and convicted killer Amanda Pharrell. In this latest outing, Ted and Amanda are
tasked with investigating the disappearance of 8-year-old Richie Farrow, who seemingly vanished without a trace from his hotel room. Ted and Amanda are two of crime fiction's most original private detectives with Ted’s love for his pet geese and Amanda’s penchant for rhyming and sponge cake. The banter between them peppers the prose with some genuinely hilarious moments.

In addition, the plot moves along at a brisk pace, with plenty of subplots to keep readers’ interest, including Ted’s relationship with his 2-year-old daughter and Amanda’s dealings with a local biker gang.

Anyone looking for a locked room mystery with a bit of Aussie flare should look no further than this thoroughly entertaining romp.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves
Nestor, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

James Nestor’s book Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves is both literally and figuratively the most breathtaking book I’ve ever read. It’s literally breathtaking because it’s about freediving, AKA diving sans scuba equipment, an activity as awe-inspiring as it is dangerous. (Side effects may include death, blood squirting out of your nose, mouth, and eyeballs, and paralysis.) Herbert Nitsch, the world’s self-proclaimed “deepest man” dove more than 800 feet on a single breath without using a scuba tank. And he lived to tell the tale.

Deep is also figuratively breathtaking because it reveals some of the most awe-inspiring facts about our ocean that you’ll ever read. Freediving is the only way to see sperm whales up close and personal. These behemoths' brains are shockingly similar to our own and allow them to communicate using a click-based language. Resulting studies have even shown that sperm whales have their own culture and distinct accents.

But freediving with sperm whales is, naturally, not without risks. Sperm whales’ clicks are so loud, their pulsations can literally kill us. One intrepid freediver found his hand temporarily paralyzed when a sperm whale greeted him with a click.

Deep is the rare sort of nonfiction book that reads like a thriller novel. Every page is chock-full of awe-inspiring revelations that will make you look at the sea with a sense of wonder typically reserved for children. Scientific journalism has never been this entertaining.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Boneshaker
Priest, Cherie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Boneshaker is the novel that kicks off Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" series - one of the most widely acclaimed book series in the Steampunk genre. Boneshaker explores an alternate history of the United States during the Civil War era. The plot centers around Briar Wilkes, the widow of the infamous Leviticus Blue - inventor of the titular boring machine that he was commissioned to create, in order to retrieve the vast veins of gold that are hiding under the thick ice of Alaska in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush. During a devastating test run, the Boneshaker destroys the foundations of a good portion of Seattle, killing many, and releasing a dangerous gas that turns survivors into zombies. Leviticus disappears, and walls are erected around Seattle to contain the "blight" gas, and the "rotters". Briar does her best to survive and raise her son Zeke in the "Outskirts" of Seattle, suffering the prejudice shown to both of them, due to her husband's actions. Zeke is convinced that he can prove that his father was innocent, and that the destruction was purely unintentional, so he journeys beneath the wall, into Seattle to find the evidence he needs. Unlike Leviticus, Zeke's
grandfather (Maynard Wilkes) is revered as a folk hero, having lost his life in the exodus of Seattle, freeing inmates from the prison. Zeke feels this may help him if he runs into trouble within Seattle's walls. When Briar finds Zeke gone, and what his intentions are, she arms herself with Maynard's accoutrements and catches an air ship over the wall, to search for her son. Separately, Briar and Zeke find people who help to save them from being devoured by the "rotters", and attempt to aid them in their respective searches. Briar learns of the mysterious Dr. Minnericht who seems to run the
doomed city within the walls, and that many are convinced that he is in fact, Leviticus Blue (something she doesn't believe). When events draw Briar and Zeke both into Dr. Minnericht's stronghold, it seems the heart of the mystery
will be resolved with this fateful meeting.

Boneshaker is an epic foray into a dystopian alternate universe, and readers of various genres, are sure to find many wonders to be fascinated by in this version of Washington's famous "Emerald City".

In addition to physical book and audiobook formats, Boneshaker can also be downloaded and enjoyed at home, in either ebook or eaudiobook form.

Reviewer's Name: Chris W.
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favorite book of all time-- which isn't a phrase I throw out lightly! This book truly has the best of all worlds-- a wonderful romance, lovable characters, humor, and beautiful writing. Pride and Prejudice is the story of a young woman in the 1800's, Elizabeth Bennet. The Bennet family has five daughters, and in an age where the only thing women could do was marry rich, all the girls are pressured to find wealthy matches to secure the family's comfort. Elizabeth, however, refuses to marry the first man the comes along, and only marry when for love. She meets brooding, silent, proud and very rich Mr. Darcy, who at first has no interest in Elizabeth. Over time, he begins to fall in love with her wit and charm. Elizabeth thinks Darcy is the last man she could ever marry, but through the course of the novel, begins to see that her prejudices towards him are fake and that he is a true gentleman who is only shy. The questions remains-- will they overcome their pride and prejudices and get married? I'm not a huge fan of 'classical classics' where the writing style is dull and hard to understand. I was so pleased to find that this is not the case with Austen's writing style. I enjoyed every single page of this wonderful novel, and truly did not want it to end! I will certainly be reading more Austen! I would recommend this book to anyone-- fans of romance, family-oriented stories, comedies, fans of classics, and even reluctant readers of classics who would like an easy gateway into the world of classic novels.

Reviewer's Name: Allie S.
Fablehaven: Keys To The Demon Prison
Mull, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In the last book of the Fablehaven series siblings Kendra and Seth hurry to different preserves in order to stop the Sphinx. If he collects all the artifacts, the prison holding the worst demons will be unlocked, possibly destroying the world. With new surprising allies and many secrets to be told will the Sorensons and their friend be able to save the world? This was probably my favorite Fablehaven book. Brandon Mull is a terrific author with many other series. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did and be sure to read the squeal series: Dragonwatch!

Reviewer's Name: McKenna B.
Genres:
Dragonwatch
Mull, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In Brandon Mull's squeal series to Fablehaven we follow Kendra and Seth as their adventure takes them back to Wyrmroost. Wyrmroost is a dragon preserve where the king of dragons Celebrant the Just resides. After the fall of Zzyxx the Dragons begin scheming to overthrow the preserves and bring back the Age of Dragons. Kendra and Seth must work together to become a powerful dragon tamer and stop this potential threat. This is a great series for Fablehaven lovers. To find out more about dragons and the different preserve is very exciting. Enjoy reading! You won't want to put this book down!

Reviewer's Name: McKenna B.
Wrath of the Dragon King
Mull, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the second Dragonwatch book Kendra and Seth must race against the clock to find a magical relic before the end of Midsummer Eve. If the dragons get a hold of the talisman before Kendra and Seth it could lead to the fall of Wyrmroost. The war has begun, what will it take to stop it? Another great book by Brandon Mull. This book tells more of the preserve and all who reside in it. Happy reading!

Reviewer's Name: McKenna B.
Brideshead Revisited
Waugh, Evelyn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the book to read when you're up for lofty prose fiction that's readable, sophisticated, and becomes gradually more and more that of a delightful meandering upon a grandeur of intricate reminiscence, which, though, it may seem a meandering at first, reveals itself soon to be very much otherwise, instead, the exact opposite—this author never wanders, never guesses, but totally knows where he's expertly taking you—Evelyn Waugh, I realized, was truly a master, he absolutely wins the contest for your literary respect, telling, not a delightful, but a painful story remembered in part from the initial mobilizing of the second world war back to the 1920s, with a thoroughly nostalgic march forward in time from then, a growing up story in an exceedingly high society, I mean, not just aristocratic, like you'd expect in a novel written in the kind of British high style of Brideshead Revisited, but cream of the crop top, the tiptop aristo-of the-cratic. Waugh's writing is proportionately as great as this reviewer's is stilted. This book deserves your time. I put off reading it for a long time. I thought it might be impenetrable. I wonder what's like to listen to?

Reviewer's Name: Trent
Shantaram
Roberts, Gregory David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a character driven novel that develops multiple sub-plots that get tied up in very satisfying ways. For well over 900 pages it clips along with humor, romance, and suspense. It does this in an atmosphere of 1980s Bombay mafia, narrated by a character who calls himself, among other things, a philosopher. He convinced me. It's loaded with well written and well thought out reflections by a fictional person who you suspect is the spokesperson for the author's own lived experience. If you google it you'll see that there's a cult following to this book. It's an international bestseller by an author whose backstory is quite intriguing, to the point where fact and fiction coalesce. I don't easily stick with a purported page-turner that is even one inch thick, but this is a brick's worth of good storytelling that won't be a waste of your life.

Reviewer's Name: Trent
Fireworks
Cotugno, Katie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I LOVE KATIE COTUGNO. If every reader had a written-in-the-stars author who wrote exactly her type of book, she would be mine.

This book has:
-the perfect amount of kissing
-major boyband vibes that will make you listen to Backstreet Boys' "Millennium" for 3 days straight
-a bile-inducing ending that you didn't want, but you actually need
-a dreamy, too-perfect boy that will raise your standard for romantic partners who may come your way

Cotugno's writing is smart and spot on 18-year-old. I would not mind a sequel to this book.

Reviewer's Name: Erika
A Trick of the Light
Penny, Louise
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After the last book took us outside of the town of Three Pines, I was happy to return to Three Pines with its characters that I've grown to love even if i do dislike some of there personality traits. If you look past all of the murders that have occurred in this charming town that isn't even on a map, it sounds like a quaint village that I could see myself living in.

Reviewer's Name: Amber
Genres:
Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Truss, Lynne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Lynne Truss writes and teaches proper punctuation and it’s importance, however, she does so with awesome humor. It is helpful but also hilarious. I read it for fun, often. Anytime I pick it up, I am able to lighten up and laugh for a bit.

Reviewer's Name: Tasha
Genres: