All Book Reviews

Book Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo
Galloway, Steven
4 stars = Really Good

A compelling narative through the eyes of the individuals effected by the war. Each had a deeply emotional pull on how we live and deal with such trauma.

I recommend this as an eye opener for anyone seeking the perspective of others who've had to endure hardships in their lives.

Deborah
Book Review: The Mouse-Proof Kitchen
Shah, Saira
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I thought this would be a light(ish) book about a couple's jaunt to France with a crumbling home and the challenge of a baby with a disability, somewhat similar to the film Under the Tuscan Sun. Ummm, wrong. This was heartrending, difficult, but beautiful book. The couple are overwhelmed, angry, irrational, awful toward each other, and altogether too flawed to fully like, but the whole time I was wondering what I would do/how I would feel in their situation. There are many metaphors in the book, but what I came away with was that life doesn't always turn out the way you want it to, but it becomes what you make of it, which sometimes turns out even better than imagined.

Krista
Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Alexie, Sherman
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Loved, loved, loved it!

Krista
Book Review: Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger
Harbison, Elizabeth
3 stars = Pretty Good

3 1/2 stars. As an Audrey Hepburn buff, I saw this as a modern retelling of Sabrina (well, more modern than the Julia Ormond version). With a couple of references to Ms. Hepburn in the book, this could have been intentional. I enjoyed reading about the work Quinn did with brides on finding their perfect wedding dress, even if it was unconventional. I also loved the daily challenges put forth by Quinn's friend Glenn - those were probably the best, and funniest, parts of the book! The main characters just fell a little flat for me.

Krista
Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind
Moyes, Jojo
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Loved this book! The dual storylines worked well together - when things were getting so bleak in Sophie's time, we switch over to Liv's fight for the painting. I love books and stories about the history of objects, such as The Girl in Hyacinth Blue or The Red Violin. Both stories were heartbreaking and real - Sophie's willingness to do anything to reconnect with her husband, and Liv's difficulty letting her husband go after death were engrossing, I didn't want to put the book down!

Krista
Book Review: My Fair Lazy
Lancaster, Jen
2 stars = Meh

Borderline 1 star. Jen Lancaster really annoys me. It could be because she writes super clever banter between herself and everyone else. Puhleeze. It's like she has a big sign on her back that says, 'Gee, aren't I witty? Don't you wish you were friends with me?'. Not really. Oh God, and the footnotes! Lame way to try to be clever. She just tries too hard. But I did finish it, but no more Jen Lancaster for me.

vfranklyn
Book Review: High Rhulian
Jacques, Brian
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I thought that this book had really good characters and gradual development of the plot. It's a really good read and keeps you interested.

Like the other books in the Redwall series, it gives really interesting plots to the characters. The story line isn't too fast or confusing and you can usually figure it out halfway through the book, but it is still a great read.

Caitlyn
Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Alexie, Sherman
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Life on the Spokane Indian Reservation is tough for Junior. Not only is he small and easy to pick on, but he "was born with water on the brain" and has developed differently because of it. After Junior decides to transfer to a school off the reservation to try and find hope (which is completely unheard of), his life on the reservation becomes even harder. Illustrated with Junior’s witty cartoon sketches, this book is a quick read that makes you laugh in the midst of pain and brings to life the hardships of others.

Tori
Book Review: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good

Okay...I had heard about this book, and then I read it. I thought it was AMAZING. Characters were very good. First person was great, but very funny and realistic. I loved it. I loved Fang, Iggy, Nudge, and the Gasman. I felt like Angel was just a character I personally didn't connect with (she is the kind of character I never like- the kind of character who everyone just adores and dotes over, when, in reality, they are kind of annoying) and Max was great too- tomboyish, but not so much that she was super annoying. I read this book in two or three days (it is around four hundred pages) and the only reason I would say it isn't a five star, is that there is language. Now, mind you, there isn't very much. But what there is is not polite and offensive.
They say Oh my _ , which is extremely offensive to me, and it is used very often in this book. I just wanted to tell you, great book except for these words. I would suggest this book for thirteen years old at the very youngest. I myself am a teen, but I did not enjoy reading the language James Patterson uses. Still, I like the series A LOT, even though some of the characters annoy me more now than when I first started. Great, great, great book! I loved the characters and story!

Carli
Book Review: Free Will
Harris, Sam
3 stars = Pretty Good

For a small book, it was definitely intense. Sam Harris is a great American intellectual and advocate for reason. In "Free Will", he really brings up an issue that really makes you reconsider everything you ever thought about what drives us as human beings. It leaves you to chew on what you just read and think more about why we do what we do. He inserts in some of his sense of humor too, which helps break up the pace. I only wish he could've expanded a little bit more, and gave more insight into opposing viewpoints.

Cassie
Book Review: Sweeping Up Glass
Wall, Carolyn
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book was incredible. The voice of the protagonist was so engaging I was sucked right in and had a hard time putting it down. There were some instances in the book that were so intense I kept thinking to myself, 'Oh God, make it stop!', but in a good way. It left me with some questions about Ida's motivations and the extent of what she knew about the secret. Beautiful and hauntingly written, I can't recommend this book enough!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Disclosure
Crichton, Michael
1 star = Yuck!

Someone used Crichton's name to get this book published. It is too technical and slow to take off. Crichton knew how to mix tech with exciting, fast-paced storytelling. I am so disappointed.
I knew it was too good to be true; a new Crichton novel after his death.

Moderator's Note: From the Michael Crichton official website (http://www.michaelcrichton.com/books-disclosure.html), Disclosure was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1993 prior to the author’s death in 2008.

Gee
Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling
Galbraith, Robert
4 stars = Really Good

Galbraith (er, I mean, Rowling) constructs a very interesting protagonist, Private Detective Cormoran Strike, a British veteran who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan. The book is a bit slow at times, but still incredibly captivating as you follow the investigation of a prominent model's apparent suicide. It's a great whodunnit for anyone, even those who aren't into murder mysteries. This was a straight trough read for me, and I only paused while I cooked dinner. I dearly hope to read more adventures of Cormoran Strike!

Casey
Book Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo
Galloway, Steven
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book didn't grip me like I expected it to. It was a good book, but because it was fiction I had a hard time really believing that that could have happened in real life. It made me want to know more about the siege of Sarajevo. I'm still not sure why it happened.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Pretty Little Liars
Shepard, Sara
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Pretty Little Liars is about a teenage girl named Alison, who goes missing. One year later they find her body. The day of her funeral her four friends Hannah, Aria, Emily, and Spencer get a text from an anonymous person but after the message it say -A. After that they keep getting strange text messages from -A. Whoever A is knows everything they're doing.

Sammi
Book Review: The Circle Maker
Batterson, Mark
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book was another hit by Mark Batterson. It teaches you how to pray circles around your biggest dreams and fears. An inspiring read that I will read more than once.

Kylee
Book Review: Golden
Kirby, Jessi
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Golden is a spectacular book with an unexpected ending. I could read it over and over again!

Alison
Book Review: Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry
Taylor, Mildred D.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Wow. This book was amazing. It was so well-written that I felt like I was there experiencing everything with Cassie. I wonder if I could be as brave as the Logans when faced with bodily harm. The courage of all civil rights activists blows my mind. My mother's family lived in Mississippi in the 1930s and were white. I hope they were sympathetic to the plight of African Americans, and not racists. But in reality, they were likely racists like most other whites during that time. What would I have been like if I was born during that time period? I like to think I'd be sympathetic and would stand up for what's right, but if you're raised with inequality as your reality how do you overcome it? I guess with education and experience and a knowledge of right and wrong, justice and injustice. But still, would I have had the bravery to stand up for what's right if it means physical harm? I hope so. Brilliant book. Perhaps my favorite children's novel of all time.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Into the Whirlwind
Camden, Elizabeth
4 stars = Really Good

Reviewed for Bethany House as a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

Mollie Knox never imagined her precise, orderly world would ever shatter, but shatter it did, on a dry day at the beginning of October in 1871 when fire ignited all of the Chicago skyline. Running her father's watch business might have never been something she would have chosen for herself, but she excels at the fine craftsmanship and, better yet, the accounting aspect of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, named after her father's time during the Civil War.
That night, as the fire blazes, Mollie finds herself fleeing for her life with Zack Kazmarek, the attorney for Hartman's, Inc. who purchased the majority of her watches for resale. Yet, despite the upheaval of losing almost everything, Mollie determines to start her life afresh, refusing to wallow in self-pity, she determines to rebuild her father's company, although now she has a little matter of Zack's unexpected adoration for her to contend with.

I'm a romantic in some ways, but not in others. I fear that for me Elizabeth Camden's main mistake was having a hot-headed hero. Don't get me wrong, I sometimes enjoy that type of hero, and I liked Zack very much by the end, but it was a long time in coming. I expected him to be cool and collected, logical, which is the persona he presents to the reader up until we realize he is almost goofy with love over Mollie. Goofiness in the male hero has never entirely been my cup of tea. Especially when halfway through the novel, a second man is introduced, Colonel Lowe, who I liked much more. I didn't buy into the author's storyline for him because it just not seem plausible so a little of the magic for me was lost right there.

However, with that out of the way, apart from the generally overdone romanticism near the first 3rd of the novel, I was quite thoroughly enchanted by Elizabeth Camden's story. She has a charming way with words that really paints a vivid image in the reader's mind of this historic setting and the fire as it destroys Chicago. The imagery is quite breathtaking. I couldn't ask for a better heroine than Mollie, who I respected as a strong woman, and I especially loved the little character of Sophie, the child Mollie and Zack find during the fire and care for until her family finds her. She is such a horrendous brat but only because she has nothing to do, nothing to occupy her time, and I loved Elizabeth Camden's gentle nudge that children need something to occupy them and they must not be too spoiled or it will ruin their character. That's a fantastic message she incorporated and I applaud her for it.

So, overall, a very enjoyable read. I wouldn't mind picking up a few of Camden's other books when I have the time.

Carissa
Book Review: Out Of Control
Connealy, Mary
2 stars = Meh

I HATE this book. Not the storyline because it's actually rather interesting, but the CHARACTERS. As other reviewers have already stated, it's incredible how Mary Connealy managed to highlight all of these characters flaws while completely ignoring any good points they might have. The character development is limited to stubbornness on the part of both the hero and heroine. He thinks she's stubborn, she thinks he's stubborn. She thinks he's stupid, he thinks she's stupid. Well, guess what, they're both right!

I don't mind flawed characters in Christian fiction. What I mind are those supposed spunky heroines who don't have a lick of good sense and run off into danger at the drop of a hat paying no never-mind whatsoever to their sweetheart's words of advice. That's what I hate and that's what describes uppity Miss Julia Gilliland. The thing is, I believe the author intended us to like Julia. Because she's really a sweet person deep down and cares about others and puts them first. No, she's a bossy brat whose first thought over anything else is geology and fossils, even over her family, the man she supposedly loves, and his family. Even over her own safety! There's a word for her that I'm too polite to mention, but I'm sure you know what it is.

And don't get me started on the supposed hero of this mixed-up historic romance, the dashing and moronic Rafe Kincaid. I disliked him already when he started bossing around a woman he had no right to boss around. He's often thinking about how desperate he is to marry her, and my main question is "Why?!" Just because she's pretty and you've never seen a woman other than your mother? Geez! And when he started throwing out thoughts on "wives obey your husbands" and how much fun it was going to be to teach that to Julia, well, my patience with him just snapped. There's a flip-side to that verse, buster, the one that says "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church." This jerk expects her to obey him and offer nothing in return. I don't have enough fingers to count how many times he kissed her to shut her up because he didn't like what she was saying! How the heck is that the action of a romantic hero? She may not be in the right, but neither is he.
They'll be one heck of a married couple once the smoulder cools down and they can't stand each other.

I know what you're going to say. To each his own, and obviously some people like this book because it's gotten some positive reviews. However, putting aside my annoyance with the lead characters, Mary Connealy's prose is just bad. I've heard she's an excellent author so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that this book is merely a weak link in her genius. But all Julia's eyes do are flash when she's angry, joyful, fearful, excited, dangerous, threatening, etc. And her wild red hair. It's better to not describe your character's physical appearance at all than limit the descriptive to flashing eyes and wild red hair. It's the same with another character, always, always described his wild blue eyes glinting in the sun or in the shadow or in the firelight or in the moonlight or off the freakin' cave wall. All his eyes do is glint! The author forgot that she had already had Rafe answer Julia's question about whether he could draw because Julia asks him the same question a few chapters later. She ends one chapter in Julia's voice with thoughts on her being dragged off by a madman and starts the next chapter with Rafe in fear because his love has been "dragged off by a madman." Wow, who knew their minds were so totally in sync.

The only reason, and it's a slim one, that I'm giving this book 2 stars instead of 1 is because I like the secondary characters of Ethan and Audra. Ethan can be a pain, but at least he's not a demanding, overprotective, bossy jerk like his brother. And Audra is gentile and naturally kind, two traits that are glaringly lacking in Julia. Maybe this means the 2nd book will be better since it's about Ethan, but it may take me awhile, months even, to reach the point where I even want to pick up another one of this author's books. And that's a sorry thing for me to say about anyone because I can forgive bad writing most of the time, but not when it's joined with horrible main characters.

Carissa
Book Review: The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
4 stars = Really Good

I gave this book four stars, not because I got a lot out of the book initially, but because the literary criticism opened my eyes to its attributes. Otherwise, I would have given it three stars. Of course, it is a good book, but I found myself underwhelmed a great part of the time reading it. I liked the prose and its reflection of jazz music but I was confused by the overt racism in the book. Then I read the criticism and realized that the racism came from Tom Buchanan and that he was a white supremacist, a quality aimed at making him unlikeable. The fact that Daisy chose him over Gatsby illustrates her lack of character, which makes Gatsby's obsession with her even more misguided. The excess and the emptiness of Gatsby's lifestyle make this book a cautionary tale that applies even today.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Unwind
Shusterman, Neal
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

There are no words.
EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!
I have never seen a book like this before. It was one of the most amazing books I have ever read.
I've read it 5 times.

Alice
Book Review: Now You See Me`
Mason, Jane B.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I loved how it was so mysterious and how there was a mystery behind it! It was one of my favorite "Poison Apple Books" I've read yet!!! :)

Zoe
Book Review: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Moore, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good

Great book! Very funny to listen to on eAudio. This book is about Joshua, or Christ, from the point of view of his best friend Levi, who is called Biff. Moore did his homework and it's a fun tongue-in-cheek version of the story of Jesus Christ. My only critique is the parts that take place in modern times with Biff and the angel aren't as interesting as the parts that take place during Joshua's life. Still, it's a very funny and clever book.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Justice League of America
Fox, Gardner F.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

My favorite characters are Flash and Green Lantern. This book is a bunch of comics all put into a collectors edition!

Lincoln