All Book Reviews

This Tender Land
Krueger, William Kent
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Orphaned and alone, Odie and his brother, Albert are sent to Lincoln Indian Training School where they spend the next four years of their lives. However, the superintendent is cruel and abusive, and after committing a grave crime, Odie is forced to run away. Together with his brother, Mose his friend, and Emmy, an orphaned girl, Odie and his newfound family take a canoe down the Minnesota River with plans to go to Saint Louis and settle down with their family. During their odyssey, the friends change in different ways as each of them grapples with their heart's truest desires.

This book is an allusion to a different popular story, and I loved the different references and allusions. The main characters are all children, but each of them brought me so much insight into the world and what it means to "find what's in your heart". The novel is also full of great surprises that kept me wanting to read even more! It's mostly an adventure novel, but there is some romance and elements of fantasy and magic, so there's a bit of everything for everyone. The ending was also beautiful, and although it was a bit sad, it was fitting.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published the year she turned 20, marks the beginning of one of the 21st Century’s favorite genres - science fiction. Written as a series of letters, the story is narrated by an explorer who encountered and rescued a scientist in the far north of Europe. He recounts an adventure told by the mysterious scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who had been fascinated by mysticism and modern science since childhood. Destroyed by grief from personal loss, Frankenstein spent his adulthood constantly occupied with experiments. The experiment that brought him near death and freezing to a stranger's ship had toyed with human life as we know it.

The book follows this experiment and Frankenstein himself as they goes through grief, excitement, devastation, apathy, loneliness, and fear. Mirroring experiences Shelley had gone through in her own devastating adolescence, Frankenstein is an achingly heartfelt book to feature such an absurdly impossible plot. This combination illustrated by such a talented author makes for an excellent book, and allows readers to experience a story that has deservedly become a hallmark of modern literature.

Note: For a book written by a woman, there are shockingly few female characters, and seemingly none with importance to the plot. But readers must remember - such gifted writers do everything for a reason. I would recommend looking into the moon as a symbol for maternity, and to the lack of female characters as an element that relates to the chaotic cycle of the story. This book is often a required part of high school curriculums, and therefore includes powerful themes that rest just behind the inherently dark storyline.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Beyond the Break
Buchta, Heather
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The main theme of this book is questioning can you still be a good Christian while still navigating romance. After a 17-year-old girl, Lovette's brother almost dies in a freak surfing accident she is banned from surfing and the ocean. Since her brother's accident, she has given her life to God and is a committed Christian. That is until Jake comes into her life. She now questions can I be a good Christian and am I placing Jake over God. She realizes that she wants nothing more than to surf again, that surfing is a part of who she is. That Jake is a part of who she is. I love this book because of the sweet romance and the drama between the characters. You won't be able to set the book down once you have started it. I highly recommend this book to any teenage girl.

Reviewer's Name: Maria H.
Colfer, Eoin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Just like Godwin’s law asserts that internet conversations eventually lead to comparisons of Hitler, the longer a book series progresses, the more likely it is to include a time travel story. For the Artemis Fowl series, I was glad that it took six books to get here. Unfortunately, this plotline completely stalled the forward momentum the series had developed from the last entry, The Lost Colony (especially with introducing a potential love triangle). Sure, The Time Paradox does set up a revival for bringing back one of the series’ best antagonists, but mostly it is used to highlight the growth of the titular character.

Of course, in comparing the old Artemis Fowl with the new one, there seemed to be a regression of the one I had come to enjoy at the end of The Lost Colony. It was almost like he saw how he used to act and thought, “You know, I should try and be that way again.” Granted, he’s still basically a teenager, and he doesn’t necessarily use logic when it comes to emotional decisions—especially emotional decisions about his family. But perhaps the weakness of this story was that he had to regain all the allies he had built through the last five volumes, thus wasting time in a nearly-solo adventure.

In the end, the fact that the Artemis Fowl series finally reached its “time travel” book signals to me that there might not be many ideas left to explore. The time travel trope is so played out that most of this book was entirely predictable. Nothing drastic ever really changes in these storylines since you know that everything will return to normal by the end in a “deus ex machina” moment. Considering only two more books are left in this series, I believe my suspicion may be correct.

A standard time travel plot every book series must have, I give The Time Paradox 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Into the Drowning Deep
Grant, Mira
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I was viewing some of the recommended books in the PPLD website and I
found this book. The title seemed suspenseful and interesting, and it drew me
in, so I decided to read this book. It's about mysteries wanting to be
discovered and uncovered. Years ago, the "Atargatis" filmed a documentary
about bringing ancient life back and discovering mythical creatures. It was
all going fine until the crew disappeared- and what's weird is how footage of
the crew getting slaughtered by mermaids got leaked out. Because of this, the
public grew suspicious and began to wonder if this was just to mock. Because
of this, Theodore Blackwell is curious and forms a new group of people to
voyage to the Mariana Trench. Each person in the crew has their own specialty
and has their own reason of wanting to explore the same area. Along the way,
they discover that a lot of the "myths" are true while finding fheir way to
safety.

Reviewer's Name: Trisha
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Bowling, Dusti
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is about a girl named Aven who has no arms. Avens parents
get a job which makes them have to moves to an amusement park in Arizona. She
struggles because people look at her like she dose not belong, someone even
asked her if her having no arms in contagious! She meets a boy named Conner
with Tourette's, and they become good friends. They think there has been a
murder at the amusement park and try to solve it while over coming stuff they
both have been struggling with. This book will leave you wondering what is
going to happen next, with a big twist at the end. This book is a must read
for anyone that wants an entertaining book with twist hidden in it.

Reviewer's Name: Estella
Punching the Air
Zoboi, Ibi and Salaam, Yusef
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is about a boy, Amal Shahid, who gets treated differently
because of his race. He had always been smart, artistic, and poetic, but
because of biases in his school, his good work is ignored and he is only seen
as disruptive. Everything goes downhill for him one night in his
neighborhood. A group of white teens and a group of black teens fight and he
is caught in the middle of them. He is caught in the middle and is charged
guilty of a crime that he didn't commit, and he is sent to prison. This ruins
everything for him, including school and college plans. I think that this is
a really interesting and informative book, but it uses a lot of slang
language and harsh language such as swearing too, so younger ages should be
aware.

Reviewer's Name: Trisha
The Girl from the Channel Islands
Lecoat, Jenny
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Hedy is a Jewish girl who went to Vienna to escape the Nazis but she unfortunately trapped herself amongst them. This time, she has no escape. Her life gets into greater and greater danger everyday. She hides with her friends and family and becomes a translator and tries whatever she could to keep herself hidden and safe. She meets a German officer who gives her sympathy and feels the position she's in. Kurt is his name, and he and Hedy start to develop feelings for each other. I feel like readers would enjoy the characters and their useful friendships in the book. Overall, this book is a little more mature because of the situation and the events, especially since it's based on true events, but it is still a great read.

Reviewer's Name: Trisha
Bless Me, Ultima
Anaya, Rudolfo A.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Taking place just after World War II in New Mexico, this novel follows the coming of age of Antonio (Tony). The story is told through the perspective of adult Tony who reflects on his childhood, starting at the age of seven when an elderly curandera, Ultima, moves in with him and his family. Throughout the novel, Tony struggles with understanding his destiny, and whether he should embrace the vaqueros of his father's family or the religious farmers of his mother's. Torn between his parents' different dreams for his future, Tony forms a close bond with Ultima, who serves as his middle ground. During the course of his childhood, Ultima shows Tony how to embrace all sides of his identity to create something new.

I enjoyed this book because it covered a variety of important themes, and although it's centered around Chicano culture and literature, its message transcends cultures. Tony's story was full of heartbreak, adventure, love, and hope, and in one way or another, I found that I could relate to his story and the characters around him. The 2013 film adaption also does a good job of following the original storyline.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Set during the Jazz Age of the 1920s, this novel is told through the perspective of Nick Carraway, who moves to Long Island New York for work. There, Nick meets Jay Gatsby, a mysterious multi-millionaire who has an obsession to reunite with his former lover, Daisy. Throughout the course of the novel, Gatsby makes several attempts to get Daisy's attention, and with the help of Nick, the two eventually begin a secret affair. Ultimately, however, Gatsby's disillusionment with Daisy ends in tragedy.

I gave this novel a three-star rating because I felt that while the plot and storyline were interesting, it doesn't resonate with young adults so I got bored reading through it. None of the characters are likable because they all commit or help in a crime, and many of their motivations are morally corrupt. Given the time it was written, some of the characters also reflect biases held at the time, which are outdated and borderline offensive now. I did like the overall themes and message of the book, and the 2013 film adaption is the best adaption of the four.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Hate U Give
Thomas, Angie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Starr is a sixteen-year-old Black teen living in Garden Heights. Although she lives in a poor neighborhood, Starr attends a private school in a predominately white affluent neighborhood. While Starr is at a party in her neighborhood, a shooting forces her to leave with her friend, Khalil. On their way back, they're pulled over by police, and when Khalil is asked to step out of the car, he's shot and killed. Following his death, Starr finds it increasingly more difficult to balance her two lives, and gains attention when she takes getting justice for Khalil into her own hands.

I loved this book! Besdies the fact that it addresses a real world issue, it was also full of the everyday and the mundane, which was a good balance to the overall conflict in the story. I also liked how the ending was realistic, even if it was sad. Starr is my favorite character because her story is an important example of how each of us has a voice that is valuable, and she also shows that advocacy doesn't always have to be through demonstrations or riots.

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
The Date
Jensen, Louise
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book consisted of several twists and turns that kept me wanting to read more. The author created a surreal feeling and connection between the reader and the main character. Throughout several chapters, the author does not want the audience to pity the main character for what she experiences. She would rather have the audience and the character go through these feelings and motions together. The climax seems as though it is in the earlier chapters of this book, but the suspense only builds from there.
Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Savanah
Man's Search for Meaning
Frankl, Viktor E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Man’s Search for Meaning gives a rare perspective on life during the Holocaust. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was forced into four different labor camps during WWII, and ultimately survived, while his family members were all slaughtered. Most books from the Holocaust are centered around horror stories from prison camps, and the sheer brutality of one of human history’s most devastating genocides. Frankl gives the psychiatrist’s view on life after camp and works to answer one essential question - how do we move on from grief? He recounts the moment he was free to leave as confusing - almost more shocking than freeing. What do you do after your entire family is killed? Where do you go after being released from a death camp hundreds of miles from home?

The book’s storytelling is devastating and beautifully crafted, and its exploration of humanity’s search for lives worth living - lives significant for the individual - has become one of America’s most influential pieces of literature. The book is heartbreaking, but so is any story worth telling. It has everything to be expected from such a terrifying chapter in our history, but what makes it so unique is the way it addresses life after the terror ends. Anyone wanting to search for meaning in their own lives, or at the very least get a new perspective on the Holocaust, needs to read this.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Amulet. Book One. The Stonekeeper
Kibuishi, Kazu
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It is drawn very well. This is a book that I always find myself returning too. The story is also on point. Overall, this is an amazing book.

Reviewer's Name: Elijah S.
A Good Man
Katz, Ani
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was a little rough to get through at the start. However, once they reached the rising action, it was hard to put down. The word choice Ani Katz puts into each and every paragraph truly justifies the situations of this man's perspective. While reading, I felt as if I was being told a story by someone close to the main character about this man's adventures and tales. The ending of this book is sure to be remembered.
Reviewer's Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Savanah
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Bryson, Bill
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Over time, I've found Bill Bryson's books are hit-or-miss for me. I enjoyed his memoir about childhood, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid , and it was A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail that introduced me to Bryson in the first place. However, since then, I've struggled to find something that's lived up to those two books. At Home: A Short History of Private Life came close, but I was really turned off by I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away. Ultimately, I hoped Neither Here Nor There would fit the bill, but it disappointed me once again.

Perhaps Bryson's travels in Europe weren't interesting to me because I haven't been over there myself. Most of the details in this book felt like they would only be understood by someone who knew what Bryson was talking about because they had experienced the same thing. I did appreciate the dueling retrospective look at Bryson's life between his younger days to when he was older and wiser, but most of the focus seemed to be on remembering when he was a young man (and all the negative foibles that come with it).

In the end, Neither Here Nor There doesn't really have anything to say. The author went to Europe and visited the same places twice. That's it. For those looking for some deep philosophical examination of Europe or a comparison of how it's better/worse when compared to the United States, you might end up being disappointed. Sure, there's some of that in here, but it's so light that it merely glances off the main plot of the literal traveling of Europe. It probably doesn't help that much of the humor in this book hasn't aged well either.

Bill Bryson's travel log from his trips to Europe, I give Neither Here Nor There 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Alda, Alan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After reading If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? , I decided to add some other Alan Alda books to my reading list. Months later, I finally got around to listening to the audiobook for Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. I appreciate that Alda was the narrator, as he already has such a great voice for narration. That being said, there are a few aspects of this book that were likely lost in the translation to audiobook format.

As a celebrity, Alan Alda was invited to speak at many graduation ceremonies for many decades. This book is a collection of some of the speeches he gave at these events. While there are certainly gems of wisdom spread throughout this book, many of the same points are reiterated from speech to speech, making it slightly repetitive after a while. Also, if you don't happen to agree with some of his political views, you might not find some of the speeches particularly interesting. Despite all this, if you can glean some useful advice out of these speeches, then it was worth the read.

One thing I had trouble distinguishing in the audiobook version was where the speeches started and ended and where Alda's reflections and asides started. I would occasionally notice an echo in the recording, which likely indicated that it was one of his speeches. I think the echo was trying to replicate the sensation of listening to Alda in a large space (like the ones used for graduations), but it was so faint as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the book. I appreciate the attention to detail, but it could have been a little stronger.

Some useful graduation advice from Alan Alda, I give Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
If I Stay
Forman, Gayle
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I've watched the movie of this book, so I decided to read the book too. Mia was a 17 year old girl who went through a treacherous car crash and lost everything. She was deciding whether she wanted to go to Julliard or spend the years with her boyfriend before this happened but because of this accident, all her dreams shattered. It's a really emotional story, as she loses her entire family because of the accident, and has to restart her dreams from square one. I think that teenagers would love reading this book because it's a bit of every genre and it has a mix of happy and sad emotions.

Reviewer's Name: Trisha
Stung
Wiggins, Bethany
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the first book in a series. I love this book. Fiona wakes up with her world totally altered. She has a weird tattoo on her hand. The honey bees population has collapsed and the world is separated by a wall. People turn into beasts, and she is on the wrong side of the wall. I loved how Bethany Wiggins turned this book into a mystery of who, why, when what? This book was totally unpredictable, surprises around each page! I related to this book because it is about a worldwide pandemic. Honestly I think we can all relate to each and every character in this book! I know I did.

Reviewer Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Hope
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Han, Jenny
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is absolutely amazing compared to the hit film on Netlfix; TonAll The Boys I've Loved Before. The movie covers the basic climax diagram andnonly runs through shallow waters. In the meantime, the book adventures moreninto Lara Jean's life and world. The places described and the moments thatnoccur make the reader feel as if they are a friendly neighbor walking by.nEven though this book has been made into a film, I was shocked about how thenbook set the scene in various ways and made each moment special.

Reviewer's Name: Savanah