Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: Sh*t My Dad Says
Halpern, Justin
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Not for the easily offended, this book is a real gem of modern comedy. It is episodic, which allows easy reading in the few minutes you have while waiting in line someplace, or any time you need a good chuckle. It is obvious that the author's father cares about him and his happiness, but he definitely shows it through heavy doses of "tough love" that will have you laughing out loud as you read. Seriously, don't read this anywhere you need to stay quiet!

Adam C.
Book Review: Texas Gothic
Clement-Moore, Rosemary
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

I've read this book twice, which is really saying something. This book has everything I like- a little mystery, romance, fantasy, and a lot of humor. I actually laughed out loud in public, especially at the part when Amy, our heroine, chases a 'delinquent cow' through a field wearing only her underwear and a pair of over sized galoshes. She's very snarky and I love it. I highly recommend this for fun read!

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Alexie, Sherman
4 stars = Really Good

The main character of this book is Arnold "Junior" Spririt. Junior lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation where getting a good education isn't as important as Junior thinks it should be. During his Freshman year of high school, Junior decides to to transfer from the rez school, Wellpinit, to Reardan, where the only other Indian is the school mascot! As you can imagine those first days and weeks are tough for Arnold at Reardan. But, eventually he does start to develop some important relationships. Junior's overcomes so many obstacles throughout this book and Alexie tells a wonderful story through compassion and humor.

Book Review: Secrets
Heitzmann, Kristen
4 stars = Really Good

This author has been recommended to me for a while and I've finally started reading fer books. Why did I wait???? She is an excellent writer, and her books are full of suspense, connectedness, and the search for meaning. I am reading two of her series now, and find that every book of Kristen Heitzmann's is an excellent read!

Book Review: The Time Keeper
Albom, Mitch
4 stars = Really Good

This fictional book creates an interesting entwining of 3 peoples lives, each with unique circumstances, and brings them all together in unexpected ways. Most intriguing was the fictional character who created the concept of how we keep time, and his demise because of this.

Book Review: The Night Circus
Morgenstern, Erin
4 stars = Really Good

I really enjoyed this book. It was very descriptive and I felt like I was in a dream when I was reading it. The only issues I have with it were the disjointed timeline was confusing at times and the ending dragged on for too long. Still, I'd recommend it.

Book Review: The Book Thief
Zusak, Markus
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Great book! I wasn't interested in the subject matter at first, but had to read for a book club. After I started it, I was hooked! I love that the book is written from the perspective of death. Zusak has a magical way with words.
Highly recommend!

Book Review: Ready Player One
Cline, Ernest
4 stars = Really Good

Fantastic book! Lots of fun, with great 80s references, as seen from a dystopian future in which most of reality has been supplanted by the far more pleasant world of OASIS (a VR interface). This book will appeal to gamers and fans of 80s pop culture.

There were a few moments where I felt like some elements of the story were being brushed over (without giving away too much, there were some deaths that I felt were not acknowledged much in the text, though this is completely in character with the POV character's detachment from reality). But these were powerful elements that might have been more character-defining and perhaps might have demonstrated more about his motivation. This is why I could not, in good conscience, give the book the 5 stars. It could be just my own personal preferences coming through. Some people might be totally fine with that.

I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Wil Wheaton, who does a great job with the characterizations and is completely believable as the first-person narrator. Not only that, but it really sounded like he was enjoying himself while narrating the book. And of course, that always makes it more fun as a listener.

Book Review: The Thieves of Ostia: A Roman Mystery
Lawrence, Caroline
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

When Flavia's neighbor's dog is killed, she insists on finding the culprit.

She gets help from her neighbor, Jonathan; freed slave, Nubia; and mute beggar boy, Lupus. Together these friends explore first-century Roman life and culture while solving an intricate mystery. Details of the time period are woven into the story seamlessly. But the friendships and dialogue are timeless and relatable. Every chapter is a cliffhanger and the action is non-stop in this excellent series (The Roman Mysteries). Some violent themes may be too mature for younger readers; I recommend these fantastic reads for nine to ninety. My whole family can't put them down! You'll be glad there are seventeen sequels.

Book Review: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth
Robbins, Alexandra
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book was interesting but took too long to wade through. I read as much of it as I could but it seemed to be repeating itself. Meh. It did make me afraid for my daughter when she eventually goes to school and has to deal with the politics and drama of girl culture. I also didn't think the portion of the book about teacher cliques was necessary, when the title implies a book about students.

Book Review: Divergent
Roth, Veronica
4 stars = Really Good

I liked it. It started off a bit slow for my taste and it took awhile for me to immerse myself in its reality, but once I did I quite enjoyed it. It gets good about two thirds of the way through and has a very good ending, although I'm left with a spoiler question I won't address here, except to say, why the heck didn't she...?

Book Review: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Cahalan, Susannah
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I started out giving this book 4 stars - it is a fascinating inside look at this author's hospitalization for a rare autoimmune disorder which caused her complete memory loss of the time she was ill and could have eventually led to her death had her doctor given up on her.

The more I think about this book, however, the more I liked it - I've found myself talking about it with friends and family over the past few days and marveling at this author's tenacity on recreating her "month of madness" through interviews and tapes. I feel this is a wonderful and well-written book, not only of one woman's experiences with an illness that displayed itself so quickly and violently, but a fascinating look into our brains and how they work (or don't work).

Book Review: Honeymoon With My Brother: A Memoir
Wisner, Franz.
4 stars = Really Good

Franz Wisner was dumped at the altar, but his honeymoon was already paid for. In an attempt to cheer himself up, he takes his younger brother, Kurt, on his "honeymoon" to Costa Rica, and the two brothers connect in a way that they hadn't as adults. Upon their return from Costa Rica, Franz and Kurt decide to quit their jobs, sell their houses, and embark on a year long trip around the world, and this book tells of the adventures. Part travelogue, part relationship story, after finishing this book I called my sister to try to convince her that we, too, could quit our jobs, travel the world, and become better friends!

Book Review: The Book of Air and Shadows
Gruber, Michael
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Do you long for another heart thumping thrill a minute ride similar to the Da Vinci Code? Then, you might consider this excellent book. With narrative lines from 2 different points of view that eventually meet up, this book is a conspiracy thriller with a very personal vendetta. There aren't any huge evil organizations, but there is an unknown mastermind who seems to have an uncanny knack for knowing what all the major players are up to at any given time. This hunt for a previously unknown Shakespeare manuscript is action packed and engaging. Where else will you find the worlds of academia, intellectual property law and Russian mobsters all mixing it up hoping for the big score?

Book Review: The Bonesetter's Daughter
Tan, Amy
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book was really wonderful! It's about a young girl who is embarrassed by the things her mother does. Then she is given a manuscript to read. It is written in Mandarin, written by her mother. She has someone translate it and is taken back to her mothers time and finds out things about her mother she never knew. This story is heart warming and full of interest. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: A Mass for the Dead
McDuffie, Susan
4 stars = Really Good

This exciting historical mystery tale takes place in 14th century Scotland. The Prior of Oronsay, an unpopular and unsavory character, is found strangled on the beach, his mouth stuffed with sand. Muirteach, the crippled bastard son of the Prior is assigned the nearly impossible task of finding out who of the many people who had motives to end this man's life is the murderer. Susan McDuffie, in her first published novel, very successfully introduces her readers, via this suspenseful plot and surprise ending, to what is to become a series of mysteries involving the main character, Muirteach.

Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon
Cowell, Cressida
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Don’t expect this book to be much like the movie-DO expect it to be even better! Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III does not want to be the next Chief of the Hooligan tribe, but as the chief’s son, he must. When he is only able to capture a small, toothless dragon to train, he’s sure he is doomed. But Old Wrinkly assures him “A Hero of the Future is going to have to be clever and cunning, not just a big lump with overdeveloped muscles.” Hiccup’s cleverness allows him to become the best dragon trainer ever, but is it enough to save the tribe from Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus? These nine books are hysterically funny, especially in audio, but then you’ll miss the author’s amusing illustrations-a difficult choice!

Book Review: Listen to the Silent Night
Mackall, Dandi Daley
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

“It was not such a silent night,” repeats this beautifully illustrated story of Christmas. We hear the whoo of owls, the knock on a door, the moo of cows, and the flutter of angels on the night Jesus was born. Each sound brings a different part of the biblical story to life and paints the setting in bustling Bethlehem.

Book Review: Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It
O'Hurley, John
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This a gently humorous and touching book about an elderly dog and the baby who is brought into his household. The author is an actor and singer, currently hosting the Family Feud. Scoshi, his aging Maltese, has been a constant friend and companion through years of struggle, happiness, and sadness. In the twilight of his wonderful life he is introduced to William, the infant son of the author and his wife. Scoshi, by way of notes scribbled and placed under "the big blue elephant toy", inparts words of wisdom and encouragement to young William. The author "assists" in putting these notes in order for presentation. It is sweet, thought-provoking, and probably will bring the reader to gentle tears. I loved it!

Book Review: The Book of Joe
Tropper, Jonathan
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Joe Goffman grew up in the small town of Bush Falls, where everyone knows your name and the local high school basketball team is made up of demigods. Joe left this town at 17, wrote a best selling tell-all novel based on the town, and hasn't returned until he got the phone call that his father suffered a stroke and was in a coma. While dealing with his sick father, terminally ill best friend, high school sweetheart, delinquent nephew and hundreds of townsfolk who hate him, Joe discovers that leaving Bush Falls couldn't make him forget Bush Falls. Tropper writes a terrific homecoming story that is both funny and heartbreaking, and you will find yourself laughing out loud while crying.

Book Review: The Art Forger
Shapiro, Barbara
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

A painter who is shunned by the art world suddenly receives the opportunity of a lifetime, to redeem herself as a true and original artist. She just has to copy one last Degas painting and her dreams will come true. However, is the painting that she is mysteriously given to reproduce a real Degas that was stolen in the Gardner art heist in 1990?

I found this book utterly fascinating. I personally consider a book compelling if it makes me want to learn more, and I found myself researching the Gardner heist, the paintings by Degas, and Isabella Gardner herself.

I feel like I also learned a little more about the interesting process of creating a painting, and will look a little more closely the next time I am in a museum! Very enjoyable read.

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables
Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud)
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I love Anne. She is such a terrific role model for girls young and old. This book is very well written. The story unfolds in a leisurely way with lush descriptions of nature and imagination. I enjoyed how the relationship between Marilla and Anne grew into one of deepest love. Each time I read this book I get something new out of it. This time it was the understanding that achievement means hard work and sacrifice. Simple enough, but not something one necessarily thinks of when stating a lofty ambition. I can't wait to read Anne of Avonlea!

Book Review: The Girl With No Shadow
Harris, Joanne
4 stars = Really Good

Having been a huge fan of both the book and the film Chocolat (as well as Joanne Harris' other books such as Five Quarters of the Orange and Blackberry Wine), I was looking forward to reading this sequel to Chocolat. Although I read Chocolat MANY years ago, and some of the scenes have been replaced with scenes in the film, I still thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. The character development is not as strong as the first novel, and magic seemed to be more dominant, but the story was interesting and kept me intrigued to the end. As each chapter is narrated by one of three characters, I originally was confused as to who was "talking," but noticed that each character has a symbol (Yanne is a cat, Anouk is a bunny, and Zozie is a cloud) which identifies the speaker, and this made it a little easier to read. The ending was slightly abrupt, and I'm hoping that she will continue the story in a another novel!

Book Review: The Sword
Johnson, Jean
4 stars = Really Good

A curse and being exiled to a land where women are forbidden should drive any man crazy. In Nightfall Isle, there are eight men, all brothers and all four sets of twins, starved for women's attention. The only problem is that there is a curse looming over their heads that states that if a woman comes into their lives, let alone eight women, it will be the end of the land of Katan. Saber, former Count of Corvis, and the Eldest son of the eight, knows this more than any for it is HIS curse that is supposed to wreak that certain Destruction should he find his Predestined Bride. So when a certain Kelly Doyle, from Earth, happens to magically drop in to their castle, he wants nothing more than to rid him and his brothers of her immediately. Complications rise and feelings twist. Can Kelly Doyle somehow manage to find a place in Saber's heart or will he do EVERYTHING in his power to change destiny and reject his "Predestined Bride?" The first book of the Sons of Destiny is a delightful book with humor, romance and even some serious catty fights. The ending definitely leaves you wanting to rush to your bookstore or library and pick up the second.

Book Review: Sundays at Tiffany's
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good

Very sweet and touching novel about a woman who meets her childhood imaginary friend as an adult. Neither Jane nor Michael (the imaginary friend) knows why they've been reunited, and the end has a little twist that is satisfying. This is a quick read (Patterson's books are usually broken up into very short chapters), but you will not want it to end! Also available in Audio Format.