Staff Book Reviews

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
DiCamillo, Kate
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Oh, Kate DiCamillo, you have done it again! Flora is a little girl, a cynic in fact, but the day that her neighbor Tootie vacuums up a squirrel and he comes out with magical powers her cynicism is shaken to its core. Ulysses, as Flora names him, is a sensitive superhero of a squirrel who has a penchant for poetry and is always hungry. In fact, Ulysses is responsible for all kinds of wonderful things, including bringing Flora closer with her mother and father, and giving her a healthy dose of optimism.

Lovely, short comic strips flesh out the major action in the story. All in all, a heartwarming tale that will engage listeners and readers alike.
Younger children will enjoy listening to this story, say first to second grade. 4-6 graders will be able to read this on their own.

Evan
Book Review: The Road
McCarthy, Cormac
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Scary and haunting. There were times when I actually had to put this book down because I was so terrified by what had just happened or what I thought was going to. Cormac McCarthy can take a sparse, post-apocalyptic nothingness and turn it into a setting rich with emotion and detail. I find myself still thinking about this story; wondering, hoping...unable to let go of the images it leaves behind.

Evan
Snow White Must Die
Neuhaus, Nele
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Snow White Must Die is an excellent police procedural/mystery. It is by German author, Nele Neuhaus, but the translation is flawless. It doesn't read like a stiffly translated book. If this hadn't been the Manitou Library's book club selection, I probably wouldn't have read it since I don't care for translated books. Snow White Must Die is outstanding and I am looking forward to reading Neuhaus' other books. I don't want to give away the plot, so read it for yourself. It is in hardback and on Overdrive.

Susan
Stardust
Gaiman, Neil
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Beautiful little story, full of fantastic imagery and good feelings.

It revolves around the journey of a young man in search of a fallen star for his love. He travels through the magical land of Faerie and encounters many wonderful, strange and malicious beings. A great book with a happy ending.

Cassie
The Lover's Dictionary
Levithan, David
4 stars = Really Good

This book is set up as a series of dictionary entries that portray one couple's roller coaster of a love story. As such it follows no specific timeline and lets the reader try to piece it together one entry at a time.

There is at least one word for each letter and the corresponding "definitions" range from a few words to multiple pages making this book a quick read at only a little over 200 pages.

Tori
Book Review: Winger
Smith, Andrew
3 stars = Pretty Good

It was o.k. I felt like there was just not much of a plot until the very end, and then it just... ended. If the end (those of you who have read it know the "end" I'm talking about) would have been more toward the middle of the story, I think the book would have been more interesting.

Otherwise, it was a book about a teenager who is overly cocky to hide his insecurity. Nothing really new. Funny in parts, and not unreadable, just o.k.

Krista
The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier
Davidson, Jim
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Absolutely amazing! This is not at all the type of book I usually read, but the author is going to be coming to speak at our library so I wanted to learn more about him. I could NOT put it down (even thought it was about 12:30 a.m.)! Will be highly recommending this book.

Krista
Book Review: Mud Season
Stimson, Ellen
1 star = Yuck!

I was really looking forward to this book, and it started off very well - there were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. But toward the middle, the author seemed to start rambling. The stories jumped around and it was more of the author flitting around her memory for cute stories rather than one cohesive tale. It got to the point that I had to put the book down. Her habit of ending a paragraph with a telling "clue" of the next story became annoying as well.

Krista
Book Review: Life After Life
Atkinson, Kate
4 stars = Really Good

Wavering between three and four stars. While I appreciated the intricacy of Ursula's many lives (I kind of saw it as a Sliding Doors type of book), there were points when I was madly flipping back and forth trying to remember what happened the LAST time she died and who the myriad of characters were, which was frustrating and took me out of the story. I do think the writing was amazing, and read this much faster than I anticipated.
I agree with other reviews I have read in that I'm not sure how it should have ended, but the one it had was not as strong as the rest of the book. I may change the rating once I have the chance to digest this book a bit more!

Krista
Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Shaffer, Mary Ann
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This was a wonderful book written by the characters in the form of letters to each other. The story line was engaging. Historical fiction that takes place shortly after the Nazi occupation of an island between England and France. It felt as if you had spent time with new friends at the end of the book. Charming!

Angie
Book Review: The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus
2 stars = Meh

This book was too long and the author tried too hard to make it deep and poetic. But I read the whole thing, so it wasn't bad. I liked hearing about Hitler's reign from a German non-Jew perspective. Death as a narrator was okay, I guess. I don't know, it just didn't really work for me. Also, although it's technically a teen book, I think it's more suited for adults.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Riggs, Ransom
4 stars = Really Good

This was a really neat book. I really enjoyed the photos and the way they were woven together to make a fascinating story. I can imagine the author collecting odd photos and then constructing a story to link them all together. I wonder if there will be a sequel?

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Adams, Douglas
4 stars = Really Good

I finished 3 of the 5 books. Books 1 and 2 were AWESOME, 5 stars for sure, but Book 3 got a bit convoluted. But I love Hitchhikers, especially the bizarre jokes that manifest themselves throughout the book. Great bits include the bovine animal at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe that tries to tempt Dent and friends with various parts of its body for dinner; Slartibartfast and his award-winning fjords; The planet that tricked its mid-level personnel to leave it for Earth; The fact that Earth is actually a giant computer made by mice to determine the Question to the Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Good stuff. Very, very funny.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy
Fielding, Helen
4 stars = Really Good

Yay! I love Bridget. I can't help it. She has a special place in my heart. At times sad, at times frustrating, at times very funny, and completely full of heart, this book is the perfect homage to perhaps the most endearing heroine in chick lit.

vfranklyn
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