Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: Still Foolin' 'Em
Crystal, Billy
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Listen to the audio version of this book. Billy Crystal reads it and it's awesome. He's got such a great attitude about his life and his gratefulness permeates the pages. Thumbs up!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Peter Pan
Barrie, J.M.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

From the moment Wendy realizes she'll grow up, to the very end when Peter stole Mrs. Darlings thimbles, this book was brilliant, sad, and filled with adventure. I loved that Tinker Bell was a a 'common' fairy and that Hook was more three dimensional and not an all evil figure. The narrative was beautiful, clever, and even a bit melancholy. Peter is the tragic figure here. But of course, he's fine and happy. I loved how Wendy's daughter and granddaughter played into the mix. Perhaps you stay young forever through your offspring.

Michael Hague illustrates this volume brilliantly.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Doomed
Palahniuk, Chuck
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Doomed was the amazing sequel to Damned by Chuck Palahniuk. He, being one of my favorite authors, has yet to let me down, though I admittedly have always been skeptical of sequels. There was nothing disappointing about Doomed. It fulfilled all the same curiosities, gruesome details, excitement and dark humour that Damned had. The series is an account, written by a 13-year old girl as blog entries (Damned was written as letters to Satan).
Madison Spencer died and was sent to Hell to pay for her earthly crimes. It details her heroism and her mission to save the rest of the planet from going to Hell as she did. It's very imaginative, easy to read, and captivating.

Cassie
Book Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redempt
Hillenbrand, Laura
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Wow. This book was gripping! The resilience involved with surviving as a POW in Japan was amazing to me. Louie Zamperini is one-of-a-kind. There was a dogfight towards the beginning of the book which ended the life of "Super Man" that was so astonishingly realistic I literally could not put down the book. Awesome. I highly recommend this book as a portrait of the World War II psyche.

vfranklyn
Book Review: A Stolen Life
Dugard, Jaycee
4 stars = Really Good

Wow, this book was at times disturbing, perplexing, and heart-wrenching. It was interesting to hear about Jaycee's abduction from her point of view. I can see how it lasted 18 years as she was afraid of what would happen if she defied her abductor and as she wanted to protect her daughters. I couldn't help but feel for her mother, who must have been beside herself with worry. Jaycee is a very strong, brave, and resilient woman and I wish her the best.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood
Richards, Jame
3 stars = Pretty Good

Written in short verses, Three Rivers Rising is a fictional account of the disastrous Johnstown Flood that occurred in 1889. Several different characters are introduced, each on a different rung of the complex social hierarchy of the time, and each affected by the flooding in various ways.

The verse format seems to be catching on more in young adult literature, and though I do like how fast the book reads a result, I always feel like certain details don't get fleshed out well enough.

This story spends so much time examining people and their lives before the flood, but doesn't spend enough time describing the aftermath and how the survivors dealt with the incredible loss of life and property.

ekendrick
Book Review: Little Girl Gone
Campbell, Drusilla
4 stars = Really Good

This was a well-written portrait of an abused woman and her dependence on her boyfriend. I never understood how women could stay in abusive relationships, but this book showed how the situation can happen and how a woman can feel trapped, even deserving of such treatment. I didn't want to like the protagonist, after all she's assisting her boyfriend in an abduction that results in the stealing of the captive's newborn child. But she was a sympathetic character that grows with her friendship with Django. All in all, this is a good book that makes you think about abuse from the abused point of view.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
McCall Smith, Alexander
3 stars = Pretty Good

This was a good book. I enjoyed the adventures of Mma. Ramotswe. It was very insightful and funny and it was interesting to learn about Botswana and Africa in general. I'm not really a 'mystery' person, so that's mainly why it only got 3 stars.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Sweeping Up Glass
Wall, Carolyn
3 stars = Pretty Good

This novel was engaging and the characters were realistic. The story line moved quickly. The ending was satisfying, but I was left questioning some of the characters' motivation for the choices made and what I might have done in their shoes. It isn't my usual choice in reading, but I don't regret the time I gave it. There were unexpected parts in the plot that kept my attention to the end. I tend to be cautious when I hand out stars. :)

Angie
Book Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Pessl, Marisha
4 stars = Really Good

This is the strangest book I have ever read. I usually do a summary, but the summary for this would be long and confusing. I am still thinking it over. It took me awhile to figure out that I really liked it. Special Topics in Calamity Physics is one of those books that you either love or hate. Either you finished it or at some point put it down and gave up on it. If you like novels written in the Nabokovian style - characterized by a lush descriptive style and intricate wordplay - then Special Topics in Calamity Physics is the book for you! Also, you have to like open ended/ambiguous endings. This book will definitely challenge you and give you something to think about!

Melissa
Book Review: Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Gonzales, Laurence
2 stars = Meh

I only read half of this book. The writing style was too jumpy/jumbled for me. I felt that Laurence Gonzales was repeating the same things over and over. I did like the survival (or in some cases non-survival stories) and wished there had been more of those with the follow-up to the incident instead of so much description of the brain functions of survival. This was just an okay book for me.

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

This was a fast read. I enjoyed it, but I can't say that I enjoyed it. Meaning it was hard to read a novel that brought to life what a war can do to people and how they have to live. I liked all of the characters, but I liked Kenan and Dragen the best. They were just two men trying to survive and not be shot by snipers as they tried to get water and bread. I was engrossed when their stories were told. Overall a good book. Highly recommended.

Melissa
Book Review: Sweeping Up Glass
Wall, Carolyn
4 stars = Really Good

I really liked this book. At times it was hard to put down. In the beginning I wasn't sure where the story was going and knew a big secret would be revealed. I totally guessed wrong as to what the secret was, but that was okay. This is a great book for a book group. There is lots to discuss! I highly recommend it!

Melissa
Book Review: Carrie
King, Stephen
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I've never really been a Stephen King fan. I liked Night Shift, but read it a long time ago. However, I decided to give him a try again and go old school. WooHoo!! This was a superbly crafted work of fiction. The premise and plot development was textbook and the narrative was engaging. I flew through this book, feeling for Carrie the whole way. Perhaps the post prom narrative could have delved farther into Carrie's mind, but that's my only suggestion. Perfect horror novel. I'm reading The Shining next.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Good Omens
Gaiman, Neil and Pratchett, Terry
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Unexpectedly charming and funny with just a dose of mind bending. The story leads up to the end of the world, starting with the birth of the Antichrist. An angel and a demon who have resided on Earth since the beginning of time aren't quite ready for everything to end. With many quirky characters, a plot that twists and turns and in the end, connects very well, it's definitely worth a read. The wisdom that comes from the 11 year old Adam Young (aka The Antichrist, the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan and Lord of Darkness) is my favorite part of the entire book.

Cassie
Book Review: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Bach, Richard
3 stars = Pretty Good

Back in my younger days I may have given this book 4 or 5 stars. Now I'm older and know better. A lot of the wise and enlightened sayings were really just a bunch of hooey. But I did get two things out of it. The first was the story in the beginning about the creature in the river letting go of the bottom and rising up to be carried along by the current. The second was the comparison of death with jumping into a cold, deep lake. It is scary because you don't know what's down there along with the initial shock of the cold water. But once you're in it's okay, even refreshing.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Drinking and Tweeting: And Other Brandi Blunders
Glanville, Brandi
3 stars = Pretty Good

Yes. I read this. I know. But, it didn't suck. It was actually pretty entertaining and the parts about her having to watch a new mother-figure enter her children's lives was downright heart-wrenching. Not bad at all.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The One and Only Ivan
Applegate, Katherine
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This was such a great novel. So sweet and life affirming. I loved Ivan and Ruby and wanted them to be happy. I thought the novel might have gone a darker route, but I'm glad it didn't. A sweet, quick read.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Power of Habit
Duhigg, Charles
3 stars = Pretty Good

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting, but I can't remember too much about it now, which is why it's only getting 3 stars. I do remember the cue -> action -> reward loop that makes up habit and am half-heartedly applying it to my nail-biting habit. Just knowledge of the cues has already helped me be aware that I'm biting or am about to bite my nails. We'll see what happens. I also plan to implement the habit loop in Zoe's violin practices.

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Other Typist
Rindell, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good

Gone Girl meets Gatsby in this story set in a 1920s Manhattan police station. A fashionably "unreliable" narrator, Rose Baker tells the tale of her introduction to life in the Jazz Age fast lane, led by the other typist at the station house, Odalie. Good girl Rose ends up in luxurious surroundings, sinful speakeasies, and oceans of bathtub gin before becoming involved in various criminal activities. But is it really Odalie at the helm of Rose's loss of innocence and eventual institutionalization? I can honestly say I'm not sure what the "truth" of the story is, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A highly recommended first novel.

Alan
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