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Fiction

Book Review: The Clockwork Dynasty

The Clockwork Dynasty
Author: 
Wilson, Daniel H.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

f there's anything Daniel H. Wilson is good at, it's writing about robots. In his latest book, The Clockwork Dynasty, he takes a steampunk approach by setting the book, not in the future, but in the present and distant past. Returning to the origins of robots via the automatons created for the entertainment of the wealthy and royal, Wilson has crafted another workable piece of fiction centered on robots. Unfortunately, as is the case with some of this other writing, I didn't like a few of his stylistic choices.

The Clockwork Dynasty jumps back and forth between flashbacks and "present era" actions, which can sometimes be distracting, especially if one of the storylines is particularly interesting at the time. I almost wonder if there could have been a better way to focus on the action in the present and to reveal the details of the past in more of a "show" instead of the "tell" provided via flashbacks. Additionally, I get why some of the violence was present in this book, but it (along with the few moments of obscenity or sex) seemed a little unnecessary.

One of my other qualms with this book was with the audiobook itself. Since the individuals reading each of the sections were different between the past and the present, it did help to know where I was in the story. However, the male voice of the past was a little quieter than the female voice of the present. This meant I turned up the volume each time the story was in a flashback, only to scramble to turn it down when the timeframe switched. Some volume leveling would have made this book a little less difficult to listen to, is all I'm saying.

A steampunk story by the modern master of robot stories, I give The Clockwork Dynasty 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

'Book Review: Little Worlds'

Little Worlds
Author: 
Collet, Geraldine
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Step into the Little Worlds of many different kinds of children with
unusual ways to look at the world. Author Geraldine Collet and illustrator
Sebastien Chebret have created a colorful picture book for children ages 3-7.
This picture book is sure to inspire some wonderful conversations about how
exciting it is to be an individual who looks at the world in a fresh, new
way.

Reviewer's Name: 
Anonymous

'Book Review: Hello, Universe'

Hello, Universe
Author: 
Kelly, Erin Entrada
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Virgil is very shy but his family is incredibly loud. His mom calls
him Turtle and he really hates that. His fortune teller, 12 year old Kaori,
tells him to watch out for the color red and that starts a disastrous day of
being bullied and getting stuck in a deep well. Will his life end with his
disappearance? Every chapter of Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly will
delight readers 9-12 as they uncover a story with many pieces that fit
together beautifully at the end.

Reviewer's Name: 
Anonymous

Book Review: More Happy Than Not

More Happy Than Not
Author: 
More Happy Than Not
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"More Happy Than Not" is a great LGBT youth novel chronicling a single summer of Aaron, a kid growing up in a poor neighborhood in New York. He struggles with his dad's recent suicide, his own attempt to do the same, and his one-bedroom apartment, but he's coping with the help of his lifelong friends and his amazing girlfriend, Genevieve. One day, Aaron meets Thomas, the interesting but directionless kid next door. They quickly grow to be best friends while watching movies on Thomas' roof and scoffing at those who choose procedures with Leteo, the revolutionary brain surgery which buries painful memories for those who can't deal with their past. But as the book goes on, Aaron's relationship with Geneveive and his friends becomes strained and his attitude towards Leteo becomes less scornful. This book is packed with twists and is a great choice for young readers and for fans of "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind".

Reviewer's Name: 
Mckenna R.

Book Review: Renegades

Renegades
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is an average, but fun book about superheroes. The plot centers around Nova who has to join a team of superheroes to spy on them while secretly being a villain. Since I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies, I thought that this book was pretty cliche. I could figure out every twist before I read about it happening. I also thought that the pacing of this book was weird. Some scenes that were unimportant to the plot seemed to drag on while other important scenes went by way too fast. This might have been intentional, but I don't see the point of it. I thought that this book was average. It was an extremely forgetful book, which was very disappointing because I love some of Marissa Meyer’s previous books. One thing I did like about this book was the depiction of anarchy which is very rare, especially in young adult books. I don't think that this would be a good book to read if you have seen a lot of superhero movies since it uses a lot of cliches from that genre. However, if you are interested in science fiction, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sophie L.

Book Review: Scarlet

Scarlet
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is the thrilling sequel to Cinder. Scarlet is a continuation of Cinder’s story while retelling another fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood. Generally, I feel like the sequels are never as good as the original, but that was not the case for this book. Scarlet was definitely my favorite book in the entire series (besides Winter). I fell completely in love with the new characters (especially Scarlet). Marissa Meyer has a talent for creating likable and relatable characters. She also has a talent for describing the setting. Cinder took place in Beijing while Scarlet took place in France. Meyer illustrated France just as vividly as she illustrated Beijing. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction or anyone who enjoyed Cinder.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sophie L.

Book Review: The Carpet People

The Carpet People
Author: 
Pratchett, Terry
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Having now read one of Terry Pratchett's books, I thought it might be interesting to go back and read his very first work. Many authors don't manage to become famous with their very first book, and I think Terry Pratchett is no exception here. The Carpet People is an amusing book with his standard British charm, but I think it never goes far enough in its exploration of the idea. After all, I was expecting this book to be more along the lines of The Borrowers instead of just a straight-up fantasy with a few references to the fact that these creatures lived in the carpet.

Part of the problem I seemed to have with this book was the incessant need for fantasy books to create new names for objects and creatures that already (mostly) exist. If you took away the carpet setting, I think this book could be practically indistinguishable from any other fantasy book. This is what disappointed me the most. I believe there are plenty of potential moments to highlight the size disparity between creatures that live in the carpet, and the rest of the world we're familiar with (a la Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)).

Granted, I will give this book some grace considering that Terry Pratchett originally wrote it when he was a teenager. For this reason alone, I do have to say that it should be an inspiration for young writers, just to show that it can be done. Pratchett clearly improved his writing skills over time to become a bestselling author, but it's important to recognize and realize that he didn't start out that way. Ironically enough, though, I almost preferred the serialized version of this story that he originally wrote over the more "standard" version that aligns with his later styles.

An amusing book and impressive first novel for a teenage Terry Pratchett, I give The Carpet People 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a fast-paced and action-packed book that you can't put down. The book is a futuristic and dystopian retelling of the classic fairytale, Cinderella. This is definitely one of my favorite books. You won't find another science fiction book with as many interesting and diverse female characters. The book has a very exciting plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. In addition to that, Cinder has many amazing characters. I couldn't pick my favorite one. All of the characters are lovable and distinct. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the setting. I loved Meyer’s vision of what the future would look like. She described the setting perfectly. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science fiction or fantasy genres.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sophie L.

Book Review: Ganymede

Ganymede
Author: 
Priest, Cherie
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Now that I’ve read the first three books in the Clockwork Century series, any hope I had of some cohesive narrative is essentially gone. While following a new character for each book helps to provide a different setting of the steampunk alternate universe, when I know these characters won’t matter outside their own books, I kind of stop caring about them. Even previous heroines are relegated to cameo and minor character status as the persistent series of somewhat pointless events drags on. And don’t even get me started on the zombies, which are a distraction to any actual story in my opinion.

I think the main problem I have with these books is the fact that things happen without much lead-up or foreshadowing. Sure, there are some fascinating factors involved with making a submarine work in the Civil War era, but the resulting battle and conclusion went exactly as I expected them to. This isn’t foreshadowing as much as it is conforming to clichés. There doesn’t seem to be much at stake in any of the character arcs, which is made all the more prevalent by the relatively uninteresting characters themselves. Some have distinguishable quirks, but they all feel flat in a world that could be that much more interesting.

As for the “twist” near the end involving one of the characters, I feel it was poorly executed, let alone unnecessary. Considering the medical techniques at the time, even in an alternate universe, the individual in question probably didn’t have the necessary “assets” to convincingly pull this deception off. If anything, it was only hidden via clothing, but since there were no hints or foreshadowing about this surprisingly minor character, I had no way to even know if anything was off to begin with. I can believe that some of them might exist in that timeframe, but it just felt like a cheap add-in for the sake of “inclusion.”

Another steampunk book in a series that isn’t going anywhere, I give Ganymede 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing story with important underlying themes. I really enjoyed this book. I read To Kill a Mockingbird on my own and then in class, which only made me appreciate the book more. The book explores controversial issues such as prejudice, racism, what it means to be a woman/lady, and growing up, which are all still relevant in today’s society. However, this is not a book for people who enjoy eventful/plot driven stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a character-driven story (in my opinion). Harper Lee’s usage of symbolism, language and setting add to the enjoyment of the book. I could not recommend this book enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is a thought-provoking and classic book that everyone should read before they die.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sophie L.

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