All Book Reviews

Book Review: Three Bags Full
Swann, Leonie
4 stars = Really Good

A very unusual crime mystery! Takes place in Ireland. A flock of sheep find their shepherd murdered and go about solving the crime. Very funny at times, poignant, and surprisingly suspenseful. Lots of red herrings. You have to think like a sheep to read this book. Also available in Large Print.

Book Review: A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana
Kimmel, Haven
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I've been very lucky recently to have found quite a few very good books. This book is no exception. It is very well written. I loved Zippy's voice and the way the author manages to convey the thoughts of a child believably.

Book Review: Little Children
Perrotta, Tom
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I loved this book. I thought it was really well written and paced. I grew attached to the characters and found in each one flaws that were sympathetic. I was satisfied with the ending, even. I saw the movie and really enjoyed it as well. Also available in Audio Format and as a DVD.

Book Review: Infidel
Hirsi Ali, Ayaan
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book is amazing. The author has a powerful voice and through all the events in her life she remains humble. Ali is a very brave woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. Some of the things she went through were so profoundly disturbing that I had a hard time continuing to read (especially while eating). I loved her strength and willingness to question and examine every aspect of her life.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Myron, Vicki
4 stars = Really Good

This is an absolutely beautiful story of a small kitten who was left in a book-drop on a freezing morning of the Spencer Public Library, and ended up becoming not only the library mascot, but a source of pride for the small town. Dewey's personality shines through in this touching memoir written by the former library director. Not only do you learn about Dewey, you also get a peek into the history of the small farming town of Spencer, Iowa. Also available in Large Print.

My Father's Paradise : A Son's Search For His Jewish Past In Kurdish Iraq
Sabar, Ariel
4 stars = Really Good

I'm not sure why I picked this book up, but I'm really glad I did. The subject matter; a man's life long commitment to documenting a quickly disappearing language; might not sound interesting but it is! There is so much more to the story of Yona Sabar. The diaspora of the Kurdish Jewish population was the opposite of what we commonly understand. Instead of being sent out of the Jewish state they were removed to the Jewish state. The transition was difficult in many ways including economic, cultural and socially. But for a 12 year old boy in 1951 who loved his home in Zakho where he fit into a larger community of Jews, Muslims and Christians it was especially difficult. The transition to Israel was even more difficult for his parents. He eventually found his place; they never really did. The relocation paved the way for his move to America where he built a successful life. His son, Ariel, was typical of children born to immigrants. He was embarrased by his father and didn't understand his ways at all. Through a long struggle with many ups and downs the man and his son build a strong relationship. They travel back to Zakho together and to Israel. These trips provided a basis for understanding that finally helped the son understand his father and his bigger family. A very human story and pertinent now with the immigration issues facing America.

Book Review: Alone Together
Turkle, Sherry
4 stars = Really Good

If you’ve ever found yourself spending “quality time” with your family or friends while you check your email on your iPhone, your teen checks Facebook on her iPad, and your friend reads the news on his Android, this book may give you something to think about. As the digital age sparks increasing debate about what new technologies and increased connectivity are doing to our brains, comes this thought provoking examination of what our iPods and iPads are doing to our relationships. In this third in a trilogy that explores the relationship between humans and technology, Turkle argues that people are increasingly functioning without face-to-face contact. She interviewed high school students, computer programmers, young professionals, and people of the pre-Internet generation asking them about their use of technology and its effect on their lives. For all the talk of convenience and connection derived from texting, e-mailing, and social networking, Turkle found dissatisfaction and alienation among users: teenagers whose identities are shaped not by self-exploration but by how they are perceived by the online collective, mothers who feel texting makes communicating with their children more frequent yet less substantive, Facebook users who feel shallow status updates devalue the true intimacies of friendships. Turkle's book makes a strong case that what was meant to be a way to facilitate communications has pushed people closer to their machines and further away from each other.

book cover for The Fault in Our Stars
Green, John
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Great book! The story is about a girl named Hazel who has cancer and she meets a guy named Augustus in a support group. It's a sad story in a way, but it's also story about love and hope. I really liked this book! Keep a box of tissues handy!

Ventures 2
Bitterlin, Gretchen
3 stars = Pretty Good

The book id very good and helped me alto.

Mi Y.
A Grown-Up Kind Of Pretty
Jackson, Joshilyn
4 stars = Really Good

Every 15 years, major issues crop up in the lives of the Slocumb women. The author writes from three points of view, highlighting the trials and tribulations of three different generations of women as they overcome life obstacles.

Book Review: Junie B. Jones Series
Park, Barbara
1 star = Yuck!

The books about this kindergartner and then first grader may be funny, but they do not help any child learn or improve in reading. Junie B. Jones is disrespectful and says things that her parents don't like. I read these when I was about six or so and will never forget them. I colored the "bad words"
(stupid, dumb, hate, etc.) over in black!

Emma S.
Book Review: Ring of Five Trilogy
McNamee, Eoin
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

In this trilogy, the boy Danny leaves his parents to be trained at Wilsons School of Spies--but that wasn't the school his parents thought they were sending him to! As the trilogy progresses, Danny is caught in webs of truth vs. treachery when he is discovered to be the fifth member of the Ring of Five, an evil group of people trying to take over the Upper and Lower Worlds.

Emma S.
Cover of the book The Outsiders
Hinton, S. E.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

The rift between social classes in thirteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis's world grows stronger each year. He's a greaser, which essentially means that he's a hood, even though he gets excellent grades and his idea of acting out is going to the movie theater without one of his brothers or a buddy. The social elite, known as the socs, hate the greasers and vice-versa. But for Ponyboy he can't quite make the connection for the reason to hate. Not when he meets the pretty and friendly Cherry at a drive-in-theater. Not when he knows his oldest brother Darry would be a soc and have gone on to college if it weren't for the fact that their parents are dead and he's taken on the responsibility to keep the Curtis family together. The difference between the two worlds explodes in Ponyboy's face when he and his best friend are confronted in the park one night by a gang of socs out for blood. Not even Ponyboy can imagine away this horrific turn of events that puts him and Johnny on the run. "The Outsiders" is the very first book ever that I would recommend to every reader, as soon as they hit their teens. It doesn't matter if it's a thirteen-year-old or a sixty-five year old reading it, just so long as they do. S. E. Hinton was published when she was 16 years old and I cannot praise her highly enough. Realistic fiction is difficult enough to master at the best of times let alone when you're only sixteen. Ponyboy's world is tough and gritty and terrifying but it's a place that people need to realize exists.

World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War
Brooks, Max
4 stars = Really Good

Just so we're clear on this, zombies totally freak me out. I do read a considerable amount of horror and suspense fiction, but there is something about zombies that just push me into panic (I cannot handle "The Walking Dead"). That being said, this book kept the gross-out factor (the one that gives me the willies whenever I see TWD featured on Sci-Fi magazine) to a minimum, and focused on the world impact, and the human element. This book was about the survivors, how humanity managed to make it through. I really enjoyed it.

Slaughter, Karin
4 stars = Really Good

I was looking for a suspense book to read and I was drawn to Karin Slaughter. I was engrossed right away into the story of a murder at the home of a wealthy couple. I was also drawn to Will Trent and how good of a detective he is, despite having dyslexia. I plan on reading the rest of the series. I really want to know how Will develops over time. A great suspense/mystery book that is character driven!

Book Review: Kushiel's Dart
Carey, Jacqueline
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This is a fantastic debut by one of the best authors around today. Her use of language is fantastic, and the end makes you want to run right out and pick up the second book-regardless of the fact that the first one is over 900 pages!! I devoured this series, and have now read everything that this author has ever put out. I've not been disappointed by her yet, though this trilogy is still my favorite of all her works.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes And How We Can Do Better
Ripley, Amanda
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

The Unthinkable, by Amanda Ripley, is one of the All Pikes Peak Reads books based on a survival theme. The author examines disasters from 9/11 to Katrina to lesser known events, and attempts to analyze who survives and why. This is fascinating stuff! I couldn't put it down. Though it's painful to revisit such events, the psychology of those who made it through, as well as the responses of many victims, first-responders, and eye witnesses is stunning. Of course, the inevitable thought process that occurs is "How would I respond in such an unthinkable situation?" No one knows for sure, but it's a mesmerizing scenario to consider.

The Tortilla Curtain
Boyle, T. Coraghessan
4 stars = Really Good

Although this isn't a "new" book it's still current today. It contrasts an immigrant family that lives in a canyon ditch to a rich American family.

T.C. Boyle really did a great job of showing both sides of the story. I had to read the last couple of pages a few times ... I just couldn't believe how it ended. I highly recommend it!

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Wow. All I can say is wow. This book exceeded my wildest expectations. It kept me up till 4 in the morning because I HAD to finish it!

Winter Of The World
Follett, Ken
3 stars = Pretty Good

Winter of the World is the second of three volumes in Ken Follett's fictional history of the twentieth century. The story begins in 1933 and ends in 1949, and traces the interlocking story of people from Britain, Germany, the United States, and the Soviet Union. As is often the case with Follett's novels, the villains are almost all irredemably bad and the heroes make poor choices but never abandon virtue. Eventually there is a (more or less) happy ending.

Given the years it covers, you won't be surprised to know that the Nazis and World War II feature prominently in the book. Follett does attempt to explain how Hitler and his gang were able to take over a modern comopolitan country like Germany and how both Hitler and Stalin clamped down ruthless tyrannies on their unfortunate peoples. He also concentrates on the spies who tried to resist the Nazis, often recruited by and working on behalf of the Soviets, disguised as the brotherhood of all mankind.

There is a large cast of characters, so large I had to keep referring to the cheat sheet at the front of the book to remember who is who. also, although the novel stretches around the planet, the characters keep meeting each other in ways that really strain a person's sense of disbelief after awhile.
Finally, even though the book is more than 900 pages long, there is a feeling it was edited from an even longer manuscript by removing all the adjectives and adverbs.

Follett has a reputation for including a sizzling sex scene in each of his novels, but there was really nothing too hot here.

If you have a grounding in the history of the period and enjoy this kind of panoramic novel, go ahead and borrow a copy. Otherwise, let it sit on a library shelf.

Artemis Fowl
Colfer, Eoin
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Eoin Colfer has created a world where Fairy tale creatures exist next to our modern world humans. Artemis is a master mind criminal who discovers his good side. The book is fascinating, captivating and full of humor.

Book Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Brontë, Anne
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Anne seems to be the Bronte that time forgot and I can't imagine why. This novel is absolutely stunning from start to finish. The heroine is a newcomer to this small hamlet and keeps herself and her son very isolated to the annoyance of the townsfolk. A young landowner named Gilbert Markham, however, takes a liking to her. She doesn't fall in a faint at his feet which he finds unusual plus there's an air of secrecy about her that appeals to him. The more he gets to know her, the more he genuinely appreciates her grace and her upstanding character. Little does he know she has a secret more terrible than he could ever imagine. This book is gothic literature like all of the Brontes and deals with some heavy issues like spousal abuse. That would have been an amazing topic for the time in which it was written. Plus, I enjoy that most of the book is from the hero's perspective, a rare viewpoint from the female authors of that time. I literally gulped it down. I just couldn't stop reading. Before I read the book I loved the miniseries but now I realize that miniseries simply does not do Anne Bronte's marvelous work any justice at all. The book is a gem.

Peretti, Frank E.
4 stars = Really Good

Frank Peretti is one of the most outstanding inspirational authors of his generation. He first began in the 1980s with two smash hits "This Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness" and progressed from there. However, it had been 7 years since his last book was published, a co-effort with Ted Dekker. Imagine my pleasant surprise at discovering not only had he finally written a new book but that it deviated from his more recent tendency towards Christian horror.

"Illusion" is a blast back to Peretti's original imaginative writing style.
More of a sci-fi/supernatural tale, this book follows the story of two Christian magicians who met and married during their youth. After Mandy dies in a fatal car crash, Dane retires from society until one fateful day when he encounters a young female magician that could be the spitting image of his wife, right down to the types of tricks she performs. In this world of Peretti's nothing is as it seems and miracles are possible. It's good have him back writing for the fans that love him so much. And for his first full-length novel in 7 years, "Illusion" really delivers.

uiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
Cain, Susan
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Excellent book for introverts, extroverts and everyone in between! It lays out the science and psychology behind introversion, give pointers to introverts and parents of introverts, and it's just a nice feel-good book for people like me who've been told their whole lives that being an introvert is an undesirable trait. The author Susan Cain has done amazing research into the topic and really relays both facts and personal opinions very logically and well-rounded. I can't recommend this book to everyone enough.

Kinky Gazpacho
Tharps, Lori L.
4 stars = Really Good

A quick read that is part memoir and part travelogue. I really enjoyed this book. Lori Tharps has an easy going writing style. She describes growing up in Milwaukee and eventually living in Spain. When she was in junior high, she began studying Spanish. In a way she became obsessed with Spanish and all things Spain. Eventually Lori became an exchange student first with AFS (American Field Service) in Morocco and then her junior year in Salamanca, Spain. Anyone who wants to be an exchange student or was an exchange student, will love Kinky Gazpacho!