Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: Trafficked
Purcell, Kim
4 stars = Really Good

This was a really good book. Although it is considered teen fiction, it didn't really read that way. I was very impressed by the narrative. The protagonist is from Moldova and her voice is very authentic. The author obviously did her homework, particularly involving the different customs and dialects of the former Soviet Union and Moldova in particular. Crazy that stuff like this still happens in real life.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Hungry
Renn, Crystal
4 stars = Really Good

Crystal Renn's memoir is very powerful. Her description of her battle with anorexia is riveting and her realization that she was killing herself and her decision to become a plus size model was awesome. I love her positive body image. She encouraged me to find my 'set point' and love my body for what it is. Thanks Crystal!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Rock the Kasbah
Loerzel, Marie
4 stars = Really Good

Rock the Kasbah is an entertaining book written by a Colorado Springs local author. Marie and her family lived in Morocco. This book had me laughing out loud more than once. It is personal and touching and brutally honest. I highly recommend it. (p.s. It may not be for the faint of heart)

Jan
Book Review: The Next Best Thing
Weiner, Jennifer
3 stars = Pretty Good

This was a good book. It was unapologetically not great literature, just a fun, better than average example of chick lit. I enjoyed it. There. I admit it. I enjoy chick lit.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good

If you can suffer through the prose, the story is quite fascinating. Scott Card's psychological storyline is very interesting, and the ending was unexpected. It's worth trekking through the poor word choices and mucky muck of what is supposed to be "adult conversation" just to see how it all ends.

Cassie
The Martian
Weir, Andy
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Well, of course, since one of the Mars rovers plays a significant part in the story! Mark Watney is marooned on Mars, the victim of a violent sand storm that sent his astronaut colleagues scrambling back to Earth, convinced that he was dead. Now it's all about survival, getting back home, and not going crazy when the only music available is one of the other astronaut's disco collection! Mark is one resourceful guy - kind of a Macgyver on Mars - and he's pretty good with a one-liner as well. He'll need all his skills, because Mars is a very dangerous place. Most of the book is in the form of log entries and they can be kind of technical. Just go with the flow and enjoy the twists and turns. Weir is obviously very conversant with space jargon and procedures and has produced a really authentic description of what could be a fanciful situation. Here's hoping that someone who reads this will be inspired to actually take us there!

Alan
Book Review: Hollow City
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good

I liked this book better than book 1 (Mrs. Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children). It felt to me like book 1 was a prequel to this one. I'm glad there was some resolution with the main character's parents. I'll probably read the next installment. Definitely a cool idea to make a story out of found strange photos.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Find Momo
Knapp, Andrew
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

In each beautiful photograph, you can find Momo's sweet little face somewhere, sometimes in an obvious place, and sometimes you have to really search for him! Adorable little book - gorgeous photography as well!

Krista
Book Review: A Little Ray of Sunshine
Rich, Lani Diane
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

If you want just a good book to read that is light, funny, and yet poignant, give this one a try. Loved it!

Krista
Book Review: You Should Have Known
Korelitz, Jean Hanff
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book was not at all what I expected - I was thinking it would be more of a suspense novel. Instead it is about a woman coming to grips with her own hypocrisy as well as a horrific turn of events in her life. The beginning of the book was pretty difficult to get into - I was wondering what the author was setting us up for, but apparently it was just to show the shallowness of Grace's world. I also became frustrated at this apparently intelligent woman's complete lack of intuition (which maybe was the point!) Maybe she did "know" on some level and decided to stick her head in the sand.
As the story moved away from the murder and toward her rebuilding a life for her and her son, I actually started liking it more, surprisingly. 3 1/2 stars.

Krista
Book Review: The House Girl
Conklin, Tara
3 stars = Pretty Good

2 heroines, one a 2004 lawyer and the other a slave in the mid 1800's. The author goes back and forth between the 2 leads, the 2 era's and the life situations seamlessly. this was the author's debut novel.

Trish
Book Review: Wonder
Palacio, R. J.
4 stars = Really Good

This was a sweet book. I loved Auggie's voice and how different parts of the book were narrated by different characters. I also loved the message, which was to always be kinder than necessary. A feel-good, quick read.

vfranklyn
The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie
Joyce, William
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I don't normally review picture books, but this book was awesome! The story was compelling and beautifully written and the artwork was gorgeous. Zoe fell asleep as I was reading it to her, which is rare for her. Since it's a book about the Sandman, this is a good thing. So beautiful.

vfranklyn
Book Review: I Am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

A powerful look at a young girl's fight for education in Pakistan. Malala starts by filling us in on her country's history, from before colonization by the British through the Taliban takeover. All the while she and her father fight for girls' education. It's hard not to despair for her as she is fighting against such great odds, but her positive attitude reminds us that good can overcome evil. She wants every person in the world to be educated. Amen to that!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half
Brosh, Allie
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book is a funny look at a woman's neuroses, with great drawings. I could relate to her constantly feeling like she wanted to trip strangers, throw sand at beachgoers, and otherwise behave inappropriately. It got three stars because while it was funny, it was a bit disjointed as well. Still, worth the quick read.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Wonder
Palacio, R. J.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Wonder is wonderFUL. At times your heart is breaking and at others soaring during this story of a boy's experiences in middle school. Even if you weren't born with a chromosomal abnormality that has rearranged your face, you will find yourself in the pages of this book. I am far removed from middle and high school days, but the characters found in 'Wonder' are all distinct reminders of that time, and I suspect young people reading this book will see themselves here too.

Evan
Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars
Green, John
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I could say so many things about this book, but what I most want to say is that you should read it. Even when you're crying and want to put it down, you're laughing through your tears a few paragraphs later. Beautiful and memorable.

Evan
Book Review: Detroit: An American Autopsy
LeDuff, Charlie
4 stars = Really Good

I've never enjoyed an obituary so much. Charlie LeDuff sure knows how to cozy up to his readers, even if the tales he's telling are less than happy, quaint musings set in Paradise. An easygoing, narrative style meant I had serious trouble putting this book down. Partially, I'm fascinated by the empty shell that is now the city of Detroit- and I'd much rather hear about it from the bottom, up than vice versa. Real stories from real people put things into a much clearer perspective, while also lending a definite desperation to the tone. Detroit has died, and after ignoring its death throes, we didn't even have the decency to give it a proper funeral.

Charlie is ready to breathe one last breath of life into a city that has been burned down by its own residents no less than three times in history. It's a city that in fact gave birth to the American worker, the American sound, and American progress. It's hard to escape the irony that it's also where all of those things have gone to die.

Evan
The Round House
Erdrich, Louise
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

When I heard about this book it had already won the National Book Award for Fiction. The description immediately intrigued me, and even after only a few pages I was engrossed. Louise Erdrich has rolled out a story so rich in emotion, character development, and place that it is almost impossible to stop thinking about the story after finishing it.

The story begins in 1988, with the attack of a woman living on a North Dakota reservation. The woman's reaction to what has happened to her, combined with the reactions of her husband Bazil and son Joe, bring the action to a deeply emotional place. Narrating the story is adult Joe, looking back at his 13 year old self with complete honesty and rawness. Expertly interwoven with details about Native American and Ojibwe culture and history, the reader feels deeply embedded in the lives of the characters as well as a profound sadness at what has come to pass on the original inhabitants of our great land.

This is not an easy book. There is lust, violence, rape, and sadness. Yet there is also strength, honor, and perseverance. And hope, most important of all.

Evan
Liesl & Po
Oliver, Lauren
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

A most magical story that weaves together the lives of several seemingly incompatible characters. In the author's note, Lauren Oliver explains that she wrote this book as a manner of dealing with the loss of her best friend, and the concept of death and loss are pervasive throughout the story.

Liesl is locked in a tiny attic bedroom by her evil stepmother. Will is the mistreated orphan assistant of an alchemist. Po and Bundle are ghosts, from the Other Side. Together they embark on a touching adventure in a darkened world and learn the true meaning of magic.

Liesl & Po is a sensitive book that pretty much demands that the maturity and sensitivity of its readers accepts that it is a tale of mystery, fantasy, and magic. If you stop to question the plausibility of certain events within this story, then you've already lost the point. Let yourself be drawn into the warm embrace of Oliver's thoughtful prose and let your heart bloom with this lovely tale of friendship.

Evan
In the Kingdom of Men
Barnes, Kim
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

My introduction to this book was through an NPR interview with the author. I really connected with the things she was saying about her life in general, though our early lives were nothing alike. Not only did I know that she would be a prolific writer, and she is- using lyrically beautiful phrases that have an almost heart-wrenching clarity, but her ability as a storyteller is almost unmatched by anything I've read lately.

'In the Kingdom of Men' is a fictional tale that, in some truth, describes the lives of Americans living in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s on the Aramco Oil Company compound, which really did exist. The compound is a 'Little America' of sorts, with everything (and more) that the wives and husbands could need while spending their lives in the desert. Virginia Mae McPhee and her husband Mason have escaped Oklahoma to a new kind of withering heat. Virginia, or Gin, is at first uncomfortable with the level of luxury she is now living in:
houseboys, gardeners, a private car to take them everywhere. Even then, it all comes at a price, and Gin soon finds herself wanting much more than the oppressive life she seems destined to lead. In the land of emirs and oil princes, women are even more invisible than they might have been in America.

There is something more to this story, and plenty of colorful characters, adventure, and action to keep the reader fascinated and fully engrossed in the education of Gin McPhee and land where sand meets sea.

Evan
Book Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Un
Boo, Katherine
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

It has taken several days since finishing 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' for me to put together what I might like to say about it to others. Before now I've basically just resorted to, "Yeah, you should really read this book."

But, yeah, you should really read this book. Even if you're not like me, and you DON'T try to pick at least ONE book about India every time you pile up your requisite stack from the library, you should still really read this book.

Narrative non-fiction books are some of my favorites, and Katherine Boo does an incredible job of telling a true story that reads like a novel. The action takes place in the slum of Annawadi, one of the many shantytowns or slums in the city of Mumbai, India. Mumbai has one of the highest concentrations of people in the world, and nearly 3/4 of the population lives in poverty. Poverty that is abject beyond anything you would see in the United States. No electricity or running water, and diseases that have long been extinct in other developed countries.

Boo has chosen to chronicle the stories and lives of a few of the slum's inhabitants, and it actually gives the reader a closer look at how a specific group of people have inserted themselves into the global market. In a place where so few have so much, and so many have so little, even trash is a commodity that is bought, sold, and traded. Many of the people of Annawadi scrape out a meager existence on the scraps of plastic and metal that are thrown away and discarded by others. I don't think I'll ever look at trash in the same way.

In summary, an excerpt from the advance praise on the book jacket aptly describes the book like this: "There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them. If we receive the fiery spirit from which it was written, it ought to change much more than that." ~Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Evan
Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build- And Steal- The World's Most Dangerous Weap
Sheinkin, Steve
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Everything they probably taught you in middle school, but WAY more entertaining and fascinating! Steve Sheinkin wrote textbooks and then vowed to make it up to us with engaging narratives of history. The espionage, the intrigue, the science, and the implications of it all kept me returning to this Newbery Honor book. The many facts with which Sheinkin presents the reader are accessible as well as interesting, and the use of original photographs puts faces to names and gives perspective to the devastation caused by the weapons. Excellently cited, Sheinkin paves the way for researchers and history buffs young and old to continue their reading on this fascinating time in our nation's past.

Evan
The Shipping News
Proulx, Annie
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Poor Quoyle. The quiet, miserable hulk of a man has lost his two-timing wife in an accident- leaving him with their two daughters to raise. Joining resources with an estranged aunt, he decides to make a new life in their ancestral homeland of Newfoundland. There, Quoyle and his timid girls find a home amongst the briny townspeople and rediscover what it is to love and be loved.

Slow, deliberate pace gives way to lush descriptions of landscape and characters. Nothing much really 'happens,' per se, but the daily lives and emotions of the characters keep the pages turning. I've heard this was made into a movie, but I can't imagine it could soar to the heights that the book does. Proulx is a master of prose and shapes a town, a landscape, and most importantly- a man- into shards we all find within ourselves.

Evan
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit
Seal, Mark
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Could. not. put. this. down! I literally read it in about 27 hours. I was amazed by the story itself and also by the fact that I don't remember anything about it when it happened (2008). You, too, will be transfixed by the web of lies and false persona this man has been able to weave. It's truly fascinating that he was able to get away with it for so long. If you get as interested as me, there are Youtube videos that show some of the interviews with him after all was said and done.

Evan