All Book Reviews

The Way of Kings
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER***

I’ve only recently started reading Brandon Sanderson's books, but I’ve liked what I’ve read so far. I started out with Warbreaker , which was a relatively light fantasy novel when compared to the hefty tome that is The Way of Kings. While I loved the moderate pace that Warbreaker moved at, I instinctually knew that most “high fantasy” books are usually bogged down with exposition and world-building. The Way of Kings is certainly a “high fantasy,” which makes me wonder if perhaps Sanderson tried to do too much in this first volume of his newest series.

The Way of Kings follows about three main storylines but could have potentially gotten away with two of them, even if the one that could be easily cut—the Soulcaster theft storyline—had some of my favorite characters in it. I could also see the plotline being pared down to the one following Kaladin (who appears in each of the parts) since a lot of the “royal” plotline mostly just provided the world-building and exposition needed to ground the reality of the setting. In the end, this is just three books intertwined together to make one big book.

Perhaps because of its length, it took me the better part of eight months to finish reading The Way of Kings. Granted, I mostly only read it on my Kindle when I was flying somewhere, but I wasn’t necessarily drawn to keep reading once I returned home. All this being said, the magic system is well-developed, the world is creative and rich with details, and (most of) the characters are incredibly entertaining. Under different circumstances, I’d give my rating an additional half a star, but since reading it felt a bit more like work than entertainment, I’ll leave it where it is.

A creative “high fantasy” that perhaps bites off more than it can chew, I give The Way of Kings 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Genres:
Sourdough
Sloan, Robin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Much like Armada to Ready Player One or Artemis to The Martian , I looked forward to reading Robin Sloan's follow-up to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore . Unfortunately, much like the follow-up books by Ernest Cline and Andy Weir, respectively, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Sloan’s Sourdough. I will give credit that Sloan’s quirky and charming style is still in high form here, it’s more that there wasn’t much of a central conflict that would have led to a satisfying ending. It’s almost like too many plotlines got into the mix, and it muddled everything up to the point where it would be too difficult to follow each to their logical conclusion.

Cline has video game references. Weir has accurate, hard sci-fi. If there’s one thing Sloan does well, it’s the fusion of analog and digital. From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, it was the appreciation of the printed book in the era of Google searches. In Sourdough, Sloan explores the future of food—which is perhaps the most analog of topics—by including some realistic and relatively soon-to-be-realized technological advances like nutrient gels, robotic cooking, and alternative growing environments. If this was the primary focus of the book, there could have been a great conflict between old and new instead of what felt like a rushed, gulping ending to a book I’d want to sip like great wine.

Sourdough was my “vacation book,” meaning that I was truly looking forward to reading it. I love the style Sloan uses, which is both humorous and light. This book was quite the quick read, but that was helped by the fact that I hardly put it down. It’s a little disappointing that some of the “mysteries” weren’t played up more (I never really did care who Mr. Marrow was), and that the ending felt a little out of left field, but I’m sure I’ll pick up Sloan’s next book, regardless. After all, I was still entertained with this one, even if it didn’t live up to the “Mr. Penumbra” expectation.

Another semi-adequate follow-up from one of my newer, favorite authors, I give Sourdough 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The Currents of Space
Asimov, Isaac
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For the first time, it seems that I’m reading a series backward. Of course, it was also written a bit backward, which explains why I’m going about it this way. While Pebble in the Sky was the first book in this series, it actually comes at the end of the narrative. A year later, Isaac Asimov would write the prequel, The Stars, Like Dust , which was then followed by a book that fit between the two. The Currents of Space is that book. Fortunately, there isn’t much tying this book to Pebble in the Sky, other than the universal setting for the events to take place.

It is encouraging that Asimov’s writing was able to improve in two short years between his first ever novel and this follow-on prequel. The Currents of Space has a distinct main character, apparent conflict, and well-timed plot revelations. The focus of this book helps to describe a somewhat interesting and thrilling scenario, even if it’s peppered with lots of clichés that are still present to this day. The “amnesiac expert” is by no means a new or unique storytelling device by today’s standards, but it may have been interesting back in the 1950’s.

Despite the improvement in Asimov’s writing, there were still a few choices that I felt were perhaps due to the weaknesses in Pebble in the Sky. In his first book, it was difficult to grasp everything that was happening. In The Currents of Space, one of the characters does an exposition dump that amounts to a recap of the first two-thirds of the book. While there was some added info to this information that led to the satisfying conclusion of the plot, it still seemed unnecessary if the reader was paying attention up to that point.

An improvement over his previous work in the series, I give The Currents of Space 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at Blackheath, her family’s estate and her childhood home. Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve her murder. Eight of the same days. The day repeats on a loop, but each day for eight days, Aiden occupies a different body. His only escape from the never ending loop is to solve her murder.

Wow. This was a fantastic, kind of trippy thrill ride. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is The Magus by John Fowler, and that’s only in the sense that both you the reader and the main character really have absolutely no clue what is going on. Unlike The Magus, though, (almost) everything is revealed by the end of the book and it comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Even if it were just a closed door murder mystery, it would still be good. The mystery itself was twisty enough to keep the reader constantly on their feet. I guessed one thing, but most of the elements of the mystery were a total surprise when they were revealed. It’s deliciously complex. The addition of the eight different perspectives along with the fact that everyone is unreliable really added to the story. Add to that the fact that someone is killing off Aiden’s hosts, and the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because I was staying up too late (just one more chapter!). There were a few world building things that were left frustratingly vague, but I think that was by intention, so I can’t complain.

This genre bending book will screw with your head in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I really loved the reading experience. I think a lot of people will enjoy it – mystery lovers, those that enjoy high concepts and general fiction readers are going to love this one. I certainly did! 5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be available for purchase in the US on 18 September 2018. You can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
How to Be a Lion
Vere, Ed
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Leonard was a gentle lion and all the other lions tried to bully him into being fierce. But Leonard and his duck friend, Marianne, have other plans on how to live their lives. How to be a Lion by Ed Vere is a delightful picture book about being OK with being different. For ages 4 - 8.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Still Stuck
Yoshitake, Shinsuke
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While getting ready to take a bath, a little person gets stuck in their shirt and then imagines all the things that will happen if they never get out. Kids and adults will love the humor of Still Stuck, by Shinsuke Yoshitake, and it will certainly spark some creativity of their own on how to get unstuck! This is a crowd-pleaser for kids age 2 - 7.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Mortal Engines
Reeve, Philip
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Tom, a lowly museum apprentice, is suddenly and literally thrown out of the elevated, traction city of London into a world of intrigue, mortal danger, conniving pirates and robot-like Stalkers who are programmed to kill him. He has to endure travelling with a cranky, would-be assassin and come to grips with his own doubt about what his city really is. First published in 2001, Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve, is a classic Steam Punk novel that will keep readers 9 - 90 on the edge of their seats turning pages to find out what catastrophy will occur next in poor Tom's life. This is the first book in a series.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984 is a timeless classic about a dystopian future where war is constant and you are constantly watched and carefully studied by an ominous force called the Thought Police. Everyone is expected to completely devote themselves to The Party (the ruling government) and believe everything they say. If the Thought Police detects the slightest amount of dissonance in a citizen, they disappear and, according to The Party, cease to exist - and never existed. One party member, Winston Smith, has been rebelling against the Party in thought only for years. Now, he finally gets enough courage to stand up for what's right. Will Winston be able to stop the tyrannical rule of The Party or will it all be in vain? Find out in 1984!

Reviewer's Name: Mckenna R.
Fish in a Tree
Hunt, Lynda Mullaly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Fish in a Tree" is about a girl named Ally Nickerson who has dyslexia and faces the struggles of not being able to read and everyday struggles any student can relate to. Ally experiences the school hardships of being alone, bullying, and not wanting to work. Despite these struggles she manages to get through the year while succeeding with her new friends. Throughout the story Ally learns valuable traits that the reader can relate to and apply to their own life. The novel "Fish in a Tree" not only inspires the reader, but teaches that things do get better. I personally liked the book because it was inspiring and had a great plot.

I picked this book for multiple reasons and was not at all disappointed. My first reason for picking the book was because it is a new battle book. My second reason for picking "Fish in a Tree" was the fact the reviews states fans of R.J. Palacio's "Wonder" would enjoy it and "Wonder" is one of my favorite books. I enjoyed the amazing character development the most. I actually enjoyed enjoyed all parts of "Fish in a Tree" and can honestly can not find a part I did not enjoy. This book did surprise me. I expected it to end in a sad, depressing way but it was in fact the exact opposite. I related the most to the main character Ally and her friends Keisha and Albert. This is by far one of the best books I have read this year. I would 100% recommend reading "Fish in a Tree".

Reviewer's Name: Oriana O.
Genres:
Wonder
Palacio, R.J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Wonder fallows different perspectives of a boy named auggie and his family and friends. Auggie is a little boy with a deformed face. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes the switching of one prespective to the next. Anyone who wants to read this book is welcome to it can be read by 8-18 year olds or just anyone who wants to read it. The author did a really good job of tying all the perspectives together and make them not confusing. It was definitely one of my favorite books.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H.
Genres:
The Shade of the Moon
Pfeffer, Susan Beth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Shade of the Moon is the final book in the series Life as we Knew it. This story fallows the perspective of the youngest brother living in a secure location until something bad happens. This book is sad at some parts but you kind of have to read it to complete the series. You have to read the first three books of the series before you read this one. Again some parts are sad but it rapped up the story well in the end. Would recommend if you have read the other books.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H.
This World We Live in
Pfeffer, Susan Beth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This world we live in is the third book in the life as we Knew it series. This one fallows the story of Miranda and her family surviving off what food they get each week. It all changes when more people show up at town. I would recommend this book to anyone who has read the entire series up to this point the books will not make sense if you haven’t read this far. Parts of the book are sad but overall I would say it was a good book. With all that happens in this book you will have to read the next and final book to satisfy you. 8/10 I would recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H.
The Dead and the Gone
Pfeffer, Susan Beth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the second book in the Life as we Knew it series. In this book it fallows the story of Alex and his family trying to survive this apocalyptic world in a big city, New York City. Read this book before you go on to the next it is very important that you do. I would recommend this book to anyone who has read the first book the author did a fantastic job of writing this book. I wouldn’t read this book if you are younger because it may be a little more graphic. I enjoyed reading this book and the ones after it. Would recommend

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H.
Awards:
Book Review: Life as We Knew it
Pfeffer, Susan Beth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book Life as we Knew it is a book about an asteroid hitting the moon and knocking it closer to the earth. Miranda and her family must survive this catastrophe together. I really enjoyed this book I would recommend this book to people who like dystopian books. I would really recommend this book to anyone I can, it is a series though. In the series there are four total books. Definitely a must read.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H.
Mirage Book Jacket
Daud, Somaiya
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In this Moroccan inspired sci-fi/fantasy read, our protagonist, Amani, is taken away from her family and planet by an oppressive regime right in the middle of her coming of age ceremony. She soon discovers that she’s been taken because she looks exactly like the princess and heir to the throne, Maram. As assassination threats aimed at Maram get more serious, Amani realizes that she’s been taken to be trained as a body double. While at first swept away by the trappings of the court, Amani comes to understand that she faces mortal danger on two fronts: if she doesn’t portray the princess well enough, if she’s discovered, she’ll be killed. If she plays the princess too well, she’s likely to be assassinated.

When I read this premise, I knew I needed to get this book in my hands. I love court intrigue and the chance to learn about a new-to-me culture. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. For almost every element that I considered, there was something that I liked and something that I hated. For example, take the world building. The Moroccan lense through which the world was built led to some rich cultural and fantastical elements as well as some pointed commentary about the negative effects of culture erasure and colonialism. However, the science fiction elements were completely out of place, unnecessary, and jarring. They’d take a spaceship to another planet and I would have totally forgotten they were in space, that’s how extraneous the science fiction elements were. There was a paradoxical wealth and dearth of technology that drove me a little crazy.

Maram was really well developed and was a very interesting character as she's got a bit of moral ambiguity going on. Amani was a little flat and seemed to have almost no agency. She falls into instalove with Maram’s fiancé who was even more flat than Amani, so perhaps they deserve each other? The plot meandered, and I often wondered where the story was going – it did get interesting after Amani realizes she’s in a great place to further resistance efforts but that realization was a long walk to a short drink of water, to use an aphorism from my childhood.

While I liked elements of the book, on the whole, it didn’t work for me. Many other reviewers have loved it, though, so if the premise sounds intriguing, you may consider giving it a try. For readers of Renee Ahdieh and Tomi Adeyemi. I liked half of it, so I’ll give it half of the stars: 2.5.

Thanks to Flatiron Books and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Mirage is available now – put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is succh a good book. PLEASE READ IT. If you are into fantasy you would love to read this book it has so much element to it. With all the creativity J.K. Rowling put into this book its was just amazing!

Reviewer's Name: Haylie
We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

We Were Liars is a mysterious young adult novel about a wealthy family who spends every summer on their private island. The story focuses on the main character, Cadence. After Cadence suffers a head injury during one of the summers, she cannot remember almost anything from that trip to the island. The next summer things are very different and Cadence has to try and remember why.
This book is quite a page-turner. As Cadence slowly remembers more and more details of the mysterious summer when she suffered her head injury, it is nearly impossible to put the book down. However, not all page-turners are necessarily great books. The story of We Were Liars may have been intriguing, but the content was not very substantial. There didn’t really seem to be any morals, and if there were, they weren’t very clear. Things just happened throughout the story, and although it was a mystery, nothing was truly deep or thought-provoking. The ending was shocking, but after thinking on it I thought, “That’s it?” I think that the drama of the story tricks you into thinking it’s a deep book, but the longer you think on it the more shallow it becomes. Basically, this book is purely entertainment, which is not all bad, but it was one of those books that after I read it, I thought about how I could have used my time differently.
Overall I would not read We Were Liars again, but it wasn’t a terrible book. If you are looking for a book that is just entertainment and won’t make you think much, this is the book for you. If you are looking for an exciting mystery novel, I would say look elsewhere.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn P.
Genres:
Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It is a good book. I like it because the characters are funny and it has a sense of wonder. The main character is Harry. He starts out living under his uncles stairs then soon learns that he is a wizard. He then is sent to Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry where he makes new friends and learns magic. He then learns that the sorcerer’s stone is in the school and someone is trying to steal it. That is why I believe that book is good. I would recommend it if you are looking for a fantasy.

Reviewer's Name: Ethan H.
Divergent
Roth, Veronica
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I read this book shortly after I read the Hunger Games and I truly thought it would be much better than it ended up being. All of my friends had told me it was the most amazing book they had ever read and they loved everything about it. It was a struggle for me to keep reading the book but I had bought the entire series, so I was determined. I truly regret buying the books and wish I would've spent the money on a different series. The entire book seems like it's trying to be a mashup of other popular dystopian books and every time I would pick it up, I found myself thinking it had no originality. It reminded me a lot of The Giver, which is one of my favorite books, but it was like if The Giver was mixed with the The Hunger Games and not well written. I definitely haven't reached for Divergent since I read it the first time, and I don't think I'm likely to ever read it again.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Brenna C.
Lord of the Flies
Golding, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A group of boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash. With no adult supervision, the boys are free to do whatever they want. At first this is something to celebrate. However, as their time on the island grows, the boys learn the challenges of staying alive. Eventually, some of the boys become complete savages and complete chaos reigns the island.
Lord of the Flies is full of symbolism and is at some points very difficult to understand. To follow the story, much inferring is necessary along with a fairly advanced vocabulary. I personally did not enjoy the story very much.
However, some readers may disagree. I do not recommend this book for anyone that is younger than high school.
Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Genres:

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