Goodreads Choice Award/Nominee

Book Review: Carve the Mark

Carve the Mark
Author: 
Roth, Veronica
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Carve the Mark, by Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, is told in a fantasy/sci-fi world, where the nations of Shotet and Thuvhe co-inhabit one planet, but not without a whole lot of conflict. One of our two main protaganists, Akos Kereseth, is the son of of Thuvhe's oracles, and he has a dark fate: "The third child of the family Kereseth will die in service to the family Noavek." Our other protaganist, Cyra Noavek, is the little sister of Ryzek Noavek, the cruel and sadistic ruler of the Shotet nation, and her currentgift (a kind of superpower) is to cause instant pain to anyone who touches her and be in constant pain due to this currentgift. When the Assembly (the equivalent of an intergalactic government) reveals the fates of all fated Thuvhesit citizens, Akos' family is attacked and his father is killed, and Akos and his brother Eijeh, fated to become the next Thuvhesit oracle after his mother, are kidnapped by Shotet soldiers and transported across the Divide (a field that seperates Thuvhe and Shotet). Ryzek Noavek, using his current gift, tries to obtain Eijeh's gift of prophecy by destroying Eijeh's mind, and Akos is hopelessly unable to rescue him. Meanwhile, Akos is put into the service of Cyra Noavek after Ryzek discovers that his current gift can help relieve Cyra's constant agony. In this complicated situation, Akos begins to fall in love with Cyra, although it is difficult to get past his resentment towards her and her people, and when they are both put in danger of Ryzek's crazy schemes, their relationship is truly put to
the test.

I really, really, really enjoyed this book. The characters are compelling as well as the story, which was a plot unlike anything I had ever read or seen before. The writing was good, although some humor was definitely lacking. The author did a good job of introducing many characters without taking the focus away from the main characters or making the story too confusing. The world-building was thorough, although at some points, it became a bit tangled, causing me to have to go back and reread some previously mentioned details. If I could, I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Here's the official summary (I think it's better than what I wrote): "In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift. "Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra's currentgift gives her pain and power--something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother's hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows. "Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual current-gift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive--no matter what the cost. "Then Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy each other?

"Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth's stunning portrayal of the power of friendship--and love--in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts."

Reviewer's Name: 
Martha

Book Review: Lumberjanes

Lumberjanes
Author: 
Stevenson, Noelle
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Do you like magical creatures? Do you like actually well-executed pop-culture references? Do you like respectfully handled minority representation? Then the Lumberjanes series is definitely for you! It follows the adventures of five girls at a very unusual summer camp - Ripley, Jo, Mal, Molly, and April. Together, they encounter all manner of magical beasts, artifacts and locations, all while bonding with each other & following their motto of 'Friendship to the MAX!'

The series also has representation to offer, as I previously mentioned. With not only a main-cast lesbian couple, but a trans character,a nonbinary character, and several characters of color, it does well showing the diversity that exists in our world. "But, the art! What do you have to say about the art?" I hear you ask. Well, being a comic, it does have to convey much of its story through images. Through volumes, the art style does shift as different artists draw for Lumberjanes, but it consistently holds in a quality range of 'good' to 'great'. The main artist's style is a little unusual & a bit difficult to get used to, but it'll quickly grow on most readers. Overall, the Lumberjanes series is worth a read, even if it doesn't quite sound like your thing. It's charming and sure to delight pre-teen and teen readers.

Reviewer's Name: 
Olivia F.

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray
Author: 
Sepetys, Ruta
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Taking place during WWII... Lina, a fifteen-year-old girl, lives a peaceful and normal life drawing and going to school but when the NKVD, better known as Soviet officers, force them to leave, adventure and chaos abduct Lina's normal lifestyle. Lina, her brother Jonas, and her mom Elena have to travel by train living with the bare minimum to survive off of. From Soviet officers forcing them to work to stealing food to survive, Lina has to find a way to outlast WWII and the capture of her family. Her main goal through all this; to find her dad. This dramatic adventure written by Ruta Sepetys will pull you off your seat.
Reviewer's Age: 15

Reviewer's Name: 
Aiden F

Book Review: United As One

United As One
Author: 
Lore, Pittacus
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The final battle is upon the Loric. They have prepared for this their entire lives and the time has finally come. However, will all that they have done be enough to defeat Setrakus Ra. Pittacus Lore has written a thrilling conclusion to this blockbuster series. This action packed adventure is wonderful and a great read. I highly recommend this book to all middle and high school aged readers.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B

Book Review: The Marvels

The Marvels
Author: 
Selznick, Brian
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book begins on a ship at sea with a boy named Billy Marvel. He survives a terrible shipwreck and later finds work in a London theatre. There his family lives for generations as brilliant actors--some who are the best kind of people, some who are awful people. All of the family are actors and love the stage and spotlight until young Leontes Marvel. He hates acting, misses his cues, and can’t remember his lines. His parents are ashamed and banish him from the stage. He decides that his destiny lies somewhere else so he runs away.

A century later, Joseph Jervis, another runaway, finds a place to stay with an uncle in London. Grumpy Uncle Albert and his strange but beautiful house lure Joseph on a search for clues. He begins to think that he might be related to the Marvels and begins an incredible adventure to find out who he truly is.

I really enjoyed this book. During the mystery, I felt like I was right alongside Joseph as he found clues to his mysterious past. I am happy that I figured out the mystery before Joseph did. The story had a very sad ending, but overall stayed pretty bright. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes Brian Selznik’s other books, mysteries, or heartfelt books.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ben C

Book Review: Scarlet

Scarlet
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Scarlet" is the second book of Marissa Meyer's series, "The Lunar Chronicles". We left off with new information on Cinder's true identity and her trapped in jail. With gifts from Dr. Erland Cinder must pull a daring escape from prison, using her wits and new allies to push her towards her next goal.
Meanwhile, Scarlet has been waiting weeks for information on her grandmother's disappearance. When nothing turns up, she is forced to turn to more sketchy sources.
Marissa Meyer expertly weaves the two view points to keep the series moving in the dashing book known as "Scarlet".
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Adia R

Book Review: Talons of Power

Talons of Power
Author: 
Sutherland, Tui
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I am an avid fan of the Wings of Fire series, and Talons of Power is by far my favorite! Individual books in the series have been from another dragons point of view, and this time we get to see the world through the eyes of Turtle the Seawing. As Darkstalker's grip over Pyhrria tightens, Tui gives the most unassuming and fearful character in the group to lead them towards victory. The dragonets will be forced to get creative if they want to stop Darkstalker. Each chapter is full of thrills and plot twists, with an ending I'm sure no one saw coming.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Adia R

Book Review: The Wishing Spell

The Wishing Spell
Author: 
Colfer, Chris
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Twins, Alex and Connor Bailey, are two average middle school kids. Alex is a bookworm and is very lonely, while Connor is the class clown and has a lot of friends. Their dad died a year before, and their mother is still struggling to pay off bills. Both of the twins have grown up loving all the classic fairy tales. On their twelfth birthday, their grandmother comes into town to celebrate with them. Alex and Conner are given the old family storybook, filled with all those classic stories they grew up with. Late that night, while Alex is reading, the storybook begins to glow and hum. Alex is shocked, and throughout the week, she realizes its a portal to the land of stories, where fairytales come to life. I chose to read this book because I was told it was about a spin on classic tales. I think that people that like the show once upon a time would like this. I love how Chris Colfer made a connection and a community of the stories like Cinderella, Thumbelina, Sleeping Beauty, and much more. The only part I don't like is that there is sometimes profanity and foul language. Otherwise, this is an AMAZING book and I highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Abby P.

Book Review: William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
Author: 
Doescher, Ian
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I said it for my review of Shakespeare’s Star Wars , and I’ll say it again: this combination of old verbiage and meter with popular science fiction is a match made in heaven. The follow-up to the first part of the original trilogy, Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back continues to be an amusing exercise that anyone who loves Shakespeare and/or Star Wars will enjoy. Some consider Empire to be the best part of the original trilogy, and its adherence to the plot won’t disappoint. Additionally, the audiobook version continues to use music, sound effects, and voice acting to recreate an experience as close to the source material as possible.

While the audiobook did provide a robust experience of the text (especially the voice actors who recreated Han Solo and C-3PO’s speech patterns), the author’s explanation at the end made me realize there were some aspects that weren’t quite as clear as they would have been if I had just read the book normally. For instance, Yoda’s typically backward speech wasn’t as backward as I would have thought—mostly because the Shakespearean cadence sounds a little backward. Instead, Yoda spoke in haiku, which I’m sure would have been more evident if I was reading the words on the page.

As I mentioned above, Empire is the favorite of many Star Wars fans. However, I’m one of the rare few (like the author) who find Return of the Jedi to be their favorite of these first three films. Consequently, since this book held close to the original plot, it seemed to sag a little between the opening act on Hoth and the third act in Cloud City. At least the added soliloquies from ancillary characters like the AT-AT walkers, random Stormtroopers, and the dangerous creatures of the universe added in some humorous elements to the narrative that weren’t strictly canon.

A fantastic audiobook that still might require a read-through, I give Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Desert Spear

The Desert Spear
Author: 
Brett, Peter
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The second book in the Demon Cycle series, The Desert Spear practically proves my point that its predecessor, The Warded Man , started in the wrong place. In fact, if there weren’t an awesome battle sequence at the end of The Warded Man, I’d suggest just skipping to The Desert Spear since all the key moments from the first book were referenced in this sequel. That being said, this book has some of its own issues, some of which are gripes I continue to have about this series—which makes me think this is just the way these books are going to be.

Before I get too far down the criticism hole, I do want to say that I truly enjoy the magic system in these books. The Desert Spear doesn’t necessarily do anything new with it, but there’s at least a little more world building that happens in terms of the demons that I would have liked to see integrated more fully into the story. I like the idea of wards essentially being “computer programs” in a fantasy space, which is probably why I’ll continue to read this series. I’ll also say that the depth of the cultures presented in this book are top-notch and the action is expertly-described.

All this being said, there’s a lot of fluff in this book. The entire first third was practically a prologue to the meeting of the “desert” forces and the “forest” people, most of which could have easily been condensed. Even what I thought was a side story seemed to be only added as a way to integrate a short piece of essential plot near the end of the book. Despite being wordy, these moments were slightly necessary. Additionally, the “modern” sensibilities of Leesha are admirable for a woman in a fantasy setting but most of the time just pulled me out of the story because they didn’t necessarily match the timeframe where it was set.

A book that continues with great world building but in far too many words, I give The Desert Spear 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

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