All Book Reviews

The Battle for Skandia
Flanagan, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In the fourth novel of the series The Ranger's Apprentice, The Battle for Skandia, Will, the protagonist, finds himself stuck in Skandia. Will must help the Skandians repel an invasion. I liked this book because it leaves you wondering, who is going to win. This was a book that was very unpredictable, which I find very enjoyable. I picked this book because it is the fourth book in a really good series. I can relate to Will because he finds himself being required to help those who do not want help. This is by far the best book I have read all year so far. I would recommend this series to anyone who prefers speed and intelligence over raw strength.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Alexander M
The Icebound Land
Flanagan, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In the third novel of Ranger’s Apprentice, The Icebound Land, Will, the protagonist, finds himself a captive of the Skandians. The Skandians are a group of people who raid coastal cities. He is bound to become a slave of the Skandians. The reason I liked this book is because it was very unpredictable. I can relate to the character Will because he is intelligent and thinks outside the box. The best part of this book is the beginning because it makes the reader excited to read the rest of the book to find out what is going to happen. I picked this book because the first and second books were very good.

Reviewer's Name: Alexander M
The Burning Bridge
Flanagan, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the sequel to the Ruins of Gorlon, the Burning Bridge, Will, the protagonist, discovers a secret bridge from the mountains to his homeland. He decides to burn the bridge to prevent those on the other side from getting to his homeland. If the people on the other side got to his homeland there would be war. I liked this book because it was very intense and stayed interesting for the entire book. Also, I could relate to the character Will because he is witty. Sometimes this book is very misleading and unexpected. However, it was still a very good book. If fact, this was one of the best books I have read this year. The reason I picked this book is because I really liked the first
book of the series.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Alexander M
Awards:
One Of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Five students walk into detention one day, but only four make it out alive.

One of Us is Lying follows the gripping story of Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper as suspects in the murder of Simon Kelleher. Each of the high school students have secrets that they would do anything to protect, so how far would they go to make sure they’re kept out of the spotlight?

I liked this book because it delved into the personalities and thoughts of each individual suspect to keep the reader guessing who did it until the very end. Overall, One of Us is Lying is a surprising and engaging book that was hard to put down. I especially liked how each perspective of the characters was described in depth so that the audience was not left out of the storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves murder mysteries and young adult fiction.

One of Us is Lying is a teenage-take on themes as dark as murder and depression, and although other writers are unsuccessful in developing such deep plots for a younger audience, Karen M. McManus writes with an enjoyable voice that establishes her story very effectively that, additionally, is targeted well toward a young adult audience. So, if you’re wanting to sit down and unravel a complex and grounded mystery, you should check out One of Us is Lying.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Anya G
The Rise of Nine
Lore, Pittacus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Book three in the I am Number Four Series is just as thrilling as the first two. As more members of the Garde are introduced and the Loric race to defeat Setrakus Ra, the Rise of Nine is packed with adventure. The Loric develop new Legacies and their powers are strengthened as they come together to battle the Mogadorians. Pittacus Lore is a master of imagery that immerses you in The Rise of Nine. The Rise of Nine is a page-turner and you will not be able to put it down until you have finished it. The Rise of Nine is full of fun, action, and adventure and is a great fantasy/sci-fi novel for any middle or high schooler.

Reviewer's Name: John B
Wicked Saints Cover
Duncan, Emily
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Nadya might be her country's last hope. She is one of the last clerics - folks who can talk to the gods . And while most clerics only can talk to one god, Nadya can speak with all of them. While honing her skills and powers at a monastery, the monastery is unexpectedly attacked by a neighboring country, and Nadya must go on the run. Not long after fleeing the palace, she meets up with a rag-tag group of rebels, who only want to stop the war. Nadya joins them as their plot starts with murdering the neighboring country's king.

Clearly, Emily Duncan has read and enjoyed some Leigh Bardugo. As a fellow Leigh Bardugo fan, I was not mad about how much this series was obviously inspired by the Grishaverse. Its got the same Russian inspired atmosphere, and its more than a little evil. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I didn't even mind the love interest, even though it was instalove, predictable and often angsty. I raced through this to get to the conclusion, and really loved how bloody it was. The bits where Nadya was talking to the gods and struggling with her religion were fun to read and thought-provoking at times. That said, this book is pretty clearly a debut. The writing gets a bit purple at time, twists are telegraphed early, and you read all that stuff I just said about the romance, right? Nonetheless, the book is fast paced, and while I skimmed parts, I ultimately enjoyed it.

If you are looking for a fun, if occasionally cliche YA fantasy, you'll devour this one. Otherwise, give this one to teens who can't get enough of Leigh Bardugo. They'll immediately want the sequel. 3.5 stars - I liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday books for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Wicked Saints will be available for purchase on 02 April, or you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Cover
He, Joan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Hesina’s father, the King of Yan, was found dead. Murdered. And Hesina, now the queen, wants answers. After talking with a sooth, a person with magic who can see the future, Hesina knows how to get answers. She needs a trial, and a prisoner from the dungeon must be released to act as her legal representative. But in Yan society, sooths are executed when discovered, and so even talking to one has put Hesina’s own life in jeopardy. But she doesn’t care, because the truth is out there. And no matter what it takes, she’ll find it.

That description might not make a ton of sense because there are so many things happening in this book that it’s hard to focus on just one of the plotlines. There were three main plotlines: solving the murder, getting justice for the sooths and a brewing rebellion with a nearby kingdom. The last seemed completely unnecessary to me until it wasn’t, but there were several subplots happening as well, and I would occasionally get pulled out of the story by trying to remember who was involved in what. It was a little much. With that said, though, this is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read so far this year.

This book felt really unique to me. It stands out from a very crowded YA fantasy field in that it really hones in on political/court intrigue. Is the oppressed-magical-peoples plotline a bit hackneyed? Sure, but what the author does with it is really cool. Hesina doesn’t automatically do what she thinks is right (save the magical peoples), she actually considers what is best for her kingdom, and what her people need and want. This is a very thoughtful book – our main character spends a lot of time considering her options and hatching plots. Because of this, she’s a really likable character. The book spends a decent amount of time at various trials, and legal settings in fantasy, at least for me, are a bit of a rarity that I really enjoyed. It’s also very twisty. While I figured out who the villain was, I was way off on the murderer. And action lovers, don’t despair – there are fights aplenty here for you and there’s even a touch of romance as well.

TLDR: While perhaps a bit overstuffed, The Descendant of the Crane is an exceptional YA fantasy that is not to be missed. Readers who like their books with a healthy dose of mystery and court/political intrigue will really enjoy this one. For fans of Game of Thrones and Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince. 4 stars – I really liked it.

Thanks to the Albert Whitman Company and Netgalley for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Descendant of the Crane will be available for purchase on 09 April, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Racing to the Finish: My Story Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Ryan McGee
Earnhardt Jr., Dale
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Many know the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. but you don’t need be a fan of his or even a race fan to enjoy (or listening to, as I did) this book. It’s an eye opening perspective of cause, effect, and recovery from concussions of a driver who suffered many in his career. Athletes of all ages and every contact sport and our military are suffering concussions every day and are struggling with the symptoms. Mr. Earnhardt frankly discusses his stubbornness over admitting he had an issue and the inner struggle between his career, family, fans and team. He brings up the advances in concussion recovery over a time and the advances in the therapies to aid in the recovery.

Reviewer's Name: Robin H.
Seafire
Parker, Natalie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is amazing! It’s intense, sisters in arms fighting for what they believe in! Through thick and thin, the amazing story behind these seafaring beauties is one of a kind!

Reviewer's Name: Shelby
Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid
Emerson, Marcus
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

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

Once again, I seem to have jumped in on the second book of a series. Fortunately, there was plenty of exposition detailing the events of The Super Life of Ben Braver. Maybe a little too much exposition. This sequel took a little long getting to its own story because of this, along with a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing as well. Regardless of its slow start, Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid is a pretty standard middle-grade book that calls upon the success of the superhero genre to package a lesson about pride between action set pieces.

While there are some parallels between the X-Men series, I feel the main character’s arc is perhaps a little more similar to early My Hero Academia. Plus, it wouldn’t be a middle-grade story without a bit of a Harry Potter feel to it as well (i.e., a unique main character with a semi-bumbling male friend and an incredibly smart female friend). At the very least, I found the illustrations sprinkled throughout to be well done. They certainly contributed to the comic book hybrid feel of the story, which is probably what draws the X-Men comparisons.

I won’t fault this book too much for its heavy-handed approach toward the main character’s social faux pas since this book is basically for children. That being said, I did find some of the lore and intricacies of the greater story arc to be perhaps a little elaborate. I’m sure if I’d read the first book, this would be less so, but it still seems slightly overcomplicated at times. In the end, I liked some of the unique (if not sometimes gross) superpowers of these kids, and I’d recommend this series for any children who might want to make the jump from comic books to chapter books, and vice versa.

A comic book/chapter book hybrid with a semi-standard take on superheroes, I give Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi
Menon, Sandhya
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Sweet book, but the main character was annoying. Calling coding a passion like art is not something I can get behind. I code for a living and it definitely is not a passion. But that's my perspective. Maybe it is for others though, I don't know. The love story was sweet and the glimpses into Indian culture were very interesting.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Secrets and Scones: A Secret Recipe Book
Remington, Laurel
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Scarlett’s mom is writing a blog and Scarlett seems to be the star – or perhaps victim. All of her embarrassing moments are being shared with the readers and it’s uncomfortable to go to school knowing that her classmates know all of her secrets. Scarlett’s answer is to become boring, but boring is – well – boring. When Scarlett discovers a spectacular kitchen in the house next door, she gives in to temptation and tries it out. In the process, she makes a new friend and discovers the secret ingredient in family and friendships. A fun read that encourages reaching out to others, making friends, and cooking.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Night Sky: A Frozen Discovery Book
Ditcher, Paul
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Learn about the night sky with your friends Anna, Elsa, and Olaf from Disney’s Frozen. Each topic is explored and connected to part of the Frozen story. You can learn about Northern Lights, Seasons, Stars, the planets, Eclipses, and more. If you are a fan of Frozen, this book is a great resource to learn more the science of our night sky.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Easy Origami Woodland Animals
Montroll, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

John Montroll teaches us how to make a forest full of woodland animals witheasy origami. The step-by-step instructions will help you create animals such as squirrels, skunks, bear, and ducks. Have fun creating!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Genres:
What Is Water?
Nelson, Robin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Are you curious about water and its properties? This book can help. You’ll learn about the different states that water can occupy – solid, liquid, and gas. You’ll learn water facts and about rainbows. A great starter book!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Nothing But The Truth
Avi
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Nothing But the Truth," an documentary novel by Avi, depicts a small student-teacher quarrel that became a national headline. The book starts with one's average teenage boy named Philip Malloy. He runs track and is a fairly good student. His arch nemesis and least favorited teacher, Miss Narwin, thinks poorly of Philip, especially after he is switched to her homeroom. The day is always begun with the playing of the national anthem, but when Phil starts to "sing" along, Miss Narwin starts to lose it. After suspensions, interviews with newspapers, and nation wide fame, Philip must not only figure out how to deal with his newly renowned fame, but also how to deal with being honest about what is really going on. This book was a great, quick read. The way the book was composed made for easy reading and enjoyability. "Nothing But the Truth" was written in 1992, but the topic is still relevant decades later. With the kneeling during the national anthem in the NFL to other highly debated political topics, "Nothing But the Truth" is a great book for a quick but thoughtful read.

Reviewer's Name: Ella S
Genres:
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Orczy, Baronness Emmuska
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a wonderful book that incorporates the idealism of the French Revolution to create a unique setting. The historical adventure story is filled with a great blend of suspense, thrills, and romance. The developments included in the story are well-executed and the characters are all full of life. The overarching plot is also intriguing and will captivate the reader until the end of the book. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who like a bit a history.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Sense and Sensibility
Austen, Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In the classic Jane Austen novel "Sense & Sensibility", three sisters -- Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret -- face a new life after their father dies and they are forced to move to a new home. The sisters' relationships are tested as they balance emotional turmoil, suitors, and new beginnings. I loved this book -- partly because Austen's writing style is straightforward and far easier to read than most classics -- and because of how much time Austen took to masterfully develop her characters. The relationship between Elinor (who is sensible and logical) and her sister Marianne (who is emotional and has a love for drama) is deep and complicated. As the story progresses, we see different sides of the sisters as they struggle to grow in their new environment. I absolutely loved this story. Honestly, there isn't a single negative thing I can say about it. I would highly recommend it to someone who doesn't like classic novels, because I think "Sense & Sensibility" could definitely change their minds.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Frankenstein
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In Mary Shelley's classic novel "Frankenstein", a young ambitious scientist decides to play God and, in the process, creates a monster. As the monster struggles with self-identity and the meaning of his life, he enacts revenge on his creator by destroying everything he loves. Any time you dive into a classic novel, it can be difficult to keep your expectations from getting too high. This novel met pretty much all of mine -- the rich character development of both Frankenstein and the monster, the excellent use of suspense and foreboding to create tension, and the well-paced action. There were definitely some slow parts, but that's mostly because the writing style has changed so much between then and now. However, the multiple perspectives helped keep things moving when they began to slow down. I really enjoyed this novel but I had one fairly big complaint: the ending felt rushed. I felt that we were building up to a much more action-packed ending, but things fizzle out very quickly and the novel ends on a strangely unsatisfying note. I think that there could've been more time spent creating a strong conclusion to a really strong story. Besides that, this classic is excellent and definitely worth a read.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Awards:
Professor at Large: The Cornell Years
Cleese, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As a John Cleese fan, it was fun to be able to learn of another of his endeavors - serving as a Professor at Large at Cornell for 10 years! The texts in the book are a collection of some of his lectures over the years. They, of course, elaborate on many of his performance experiences but they also provide a broader view of his other interests.

All the Monty Python group are intelligent and creative, so it is no surprise that Cleese's intellect has been engaged on many fronts over the years. He is also much like his character in comedy in not suffering fools gladly or otherwise. I was pleased to note that he became quite involved in many different schools of learning while on the Cornell campus, and contributed to the thinking of both students and staff.

There is some repetition of topic, but as the student body would experience a turnover over the years, I would expect that important topics would emerge again anyway.

This was a fun and informative read. Since it was a series of lectures, it was easy to pick up and put down without losing the gist of things.

Reviewer's Name: Catherine

Pages