Staff Book Reviews

Vinegar Girl
Tyler, Anne
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This lightweight comedy of manners by Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Tyler is based on William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The 2016 novel is part of a Hogarth Press series of classic plays retold by modern, popular authors to honor the 400th anniversary (April 1616) of his death.
Set in modern-day Baltimore, Kate Battista is the 29-year-old daughter of eccentric scientist Louis Battista. The witty and sharp-tongued Kate is a socially inept college dropout after being expelled for criticizing a professor's efforts. She then drifted into a part-time preschool assistant job while caring for her detached, workaholic father and younger sister, Bunny.
Dr. Barrista's brilliant lab assistant, Pyotr, must leave the country due to an expiring visa, prompting the self-involved scientist to concoct a sexist plan where his daughter marries Pyotr to allow him to stay and work for him. Kate is appalled. But she warms to the idea after meeting Pyotr, who enjoys and shares her outspokenness, and realizes this arranged marriage may help her create a satisfying future.
Tyler's considerable skill at bringing characters and settings to life with humor and precision are a big help in this tale about finding a partner who appreciates and shares your idiosyncrasies and principles. It's a quick read and a fun one for Tyler fans.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Book Cover
Zoboi, Ibi & Salaam, Yusef
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Yusef Salaam is one of the "Central Park Five", young men of color who were incorrectly accused of raping and beating a woman jogging in Central Park in the late 80s. After the five had served their sentences of 5-15 years, they were exonerated when the real culprit came forward. This book is clearly heavily inspired by Yusef's story as it tells the story of Amal, a teen in prison for a similar crime that he did not commit. It starts with the conviction and then moves into Amal's experiences in a juvenile detention center.

Every year, there's a book that I promote really heavily in classrooms. This will definitely be that book. It's so good. So sad. So spare in that way that only books in verse can be. It takes a while to read, because sometimes you just kind of have to sit with it for a while to process it. It does such a great job of illustrating just how deeply flawed and racist our "justice" systems are. I dare you not to empathize with Amal. I can't wait to share this important book with everyone I know! Also, like, that cover y'all. So pretty. And it's relevant to the story! Anyway, consider this required reading, especially for all the folks trying to "read woke". 5 stars.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Punching the Air is out 01 September - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Ghost
Reynolds, Jason
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I had taken a break from reviewing books until I read Ghost. This book is really well written. The narrator is believable and the plot illustrates his struggles and growth. Ghost is a troubled kid who stumbles onto a track team and turns his life for the better. I both loved and hated the ending, because it was so good but I didn't want the book to end. Great quick read. I highly recommended giving it a whirl.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
96 Miles
Esplin, J. L.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

John and Stewart’s father is a survivalist. At their home in a remote part of Nevada, they have everything they need to sustain them for six months – water, food, gas, even a generator to keep the refrigerator running. So when the power goes out for half the country, the brothers aren’t too worried, even though their father is away. They’re doing better than a lot of other people who weren’t prepared. But then, a group of men come in pickup trucks and they take everything. They force John and Stewart to kneel on the floor at gunpoint and one man tells John, “I’m sorry, kid, but we need what
you’ve got.”
Now, their only chance for survival is to walk 96 miles in the blazing desert heat to a friend’s ranch. There’s also a time limit. It’s important that they make the trip in three days - no longer than that – and Stewart won’t believe that he’s not going to die.
Then they encounter another set of siblings, Cleverly and her younger brother, Will. Cleverly decides that her best option is to join them, but John is not certain whether having Cleverly and Will tag along will help or hurt his chances to get Stewart to the ranch in time.
Every day is a struggle to find food, drinkable water, and to keep Stewart on his feet. Together, the four of them experience the desperate things that people feel justified to do in times of crisis and the best and worst of human nature, both in themselves and in others they find along the way.

Reviewer's Name: Cynde
How I Became a Spy
Hopkinson, Deborah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

On his very first assignment as a civil defense messenger in World War II London, Bertie Bradshaw finds the diary of a spy lying in the street. He eagerly reads about the young spy’s training and how she parachuted into France to assume her new covert role. Things soon begin to sound dangerous as one by one her fellow agents are captured by the Nazis. Then the diary suddenly changes into code.

Bertie decides to trust a gutsy American girl, Eleanor, and his best friend David, who is Jewish, with the secrets in the diary. In a race against time, they must try to decode the final messages and then track down not only the spy who wrote them but also the traitor who is leaking information to the Nazis - information so vital that it will affect the success of the invasion of France and the lives of countless allied agents.

I immediately felt affinity for Bertie because he is a believable thirteen-year-old, forgetting his helmet and his training at first but then gaining courage and confidence as the story progresses. Bertie is also struggling with what seem to be panic attacks, stemming from the bombing of his house and the separation of his family, which makes his determination all the more admirable. I also enjoyed Little Roo, Bertie’s trained rescue dog, who has more to do with the success or failure of the venture than you might think.

Reviewer's Name: Cynde
Images of America: Fountain
Hahn, Angela Thaden
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Living, working or driving by a community, one can take for granted that each location has a history or story to tell. Since I've been working at Fountain Library for the past two months, I decided it was time to learn about its history. Orignially, it was home to tribes of Ute Indians that roamed and lived off the land. Around the time of the Civil War, Rhode Island native, Thomas Owen found some well water acreage in an area aptly named "Fountaine qui Bouille" which translates to "The Fountain that boils." What follows is a pictorial history of how this community developed, from farming to ranching, and train transporation of goods, to the arrival of "Camp Carson" that was built during WWII. Like every other town, Fountain has a rich history and long time residents that are proud of their community, including the author who is a native in the neighboring area. A recommended read if local history is your cup of tea.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
The Liar
Gundar-Goshen, Ayelet
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive’". This novel covers a life changing event of a 17 year old girl, Nofar, who has lived an average life and is about to enter her senior year of high school. During the summer, she works in an ice cream shop. One afternoon, she has unpleasant encounter with a formerly famous singer, and tells a lie that escalates events in both of their lives. Her life changes in an exciting and scary way, and his for the worse. As things progress, Nofar repeatedly considers the consequences of her words, which have a domino effect as her lie not only impacts her, but many around her as they get pulled into her dishonesty.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
Rita & Ralph's Rotten Day
Deedy, Carmen Agra
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Having a fight with your best friend can really ruin your day. This is exactly what happens in Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day by Carmen Agra Deedy and Pete Oswald. Right in the middle of a crazy fun day an accident happens, someone gets hurt, feelings get hurt and that brings trouble. The ups and downs of friendship are beautifully portrayed in this charmingly illustrated book for kids age 3 - 8.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!
Bell, Cece
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Enter the wacky world of Chick and Brain. Chick insists on politeness, Brain struggles to understand Chick, and Dog has a chicken dinner in mind in the book Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot by Cece Bell. Kids who are getting the hang of reading will enjoy the comic book style of this early reader as well as the absurd humor. This is a laugh-out-loud read for kids age 5 - 8.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Allies
Gratz, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Alan Gratz has given us a gripping tale in the book Allies. The invasion at Normandy during D-Day is seen from the viewpoint of a number of allies who's stories weave in and out of the fray during that first day of fighting. True to life characters, from soldier to resistance fighters, and and edge-of-the-seat story line will compel readers age 9 -15 to keep turning pages.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Genres:
The Willoughbys
Lowry, Lois
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The four Willoughby kids have a problem. Their parents don't like them and they are planning to go on vacation, permanently, without the kids. Put into play an abandoned baby, a very sad old man and a pretty great Nanny and you have an endearing and entertaining plot by beloved author, Lois Lowry. The Willoughbys can be described as a winning combination of the Penderwicks and Series of Unfortunate Events for kids age 8 - 12.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Genres:
The Unmapped Chronicles: Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings
Elphinstone, Abi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When Casper hides from the boarding school bullies, he finds himself magically transported to a land of enchantment and is immediately arrested as a criminal by a cranky girl named Utterly Thankless and her little dragon. Thus begins a headlong crash into a quest to save Utterly's kingdom complete with monsters, magicians, witches, trolls, griffins and other unearthly dangers. Kids 8-12 will enjoy the fantasy escapade Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings by Abi Elphinstone.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
The Lions at Night
Boehman, Jessica M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Two stone lions who guard the entrance of the New York Public Library jump off their pedestals one night and scamper into the subway. I wonder where they will go? Join lions, Patience and Fortitude,as they enjoy a night out. This wordless picture books is an enchanting gem to read and explore over and over again. Ask your child questions about what is happening. Let them tell the story and practice creating sentences and story lines. You'll be surprised at what they come up with. For ages 3 - 9.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Universal Love
Weinstein, Alexander
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Universal Love" is 11 short stories set in the near future, showing how people use technology to navigate relationships. In one story, a widower signs up for a program to re-create his deceased wife, only to find out his daughters downloaded a fictitious history from romance novels. Another story has testimonies of why people use on-line dating services. A third story explores the relationship of two robotic children who try to act like human children, even to the point of having real life problems and addictions. An interesting look at technology and how it could be in our not far future of how we relate to each other. One constant remains, and that is our need for human interaction, no matter the media we use to get it.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
Book Cover
Bayron, Kaylynn
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.

I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.

This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Cover
Guillory, Jasmine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Olivia Munroe has just moved to LA, and finds herself frequenting her hotel's bar as she navigates the rental process in LA. On her last night in the hotel, she meets a sexy stranger at the bar. They have a cute interaction, but go their separate ways. Olivia is stunned when she realizes the sexy stranger was in fact Max Powell, a hotshot junior senator from CA. The two have another chance encounter, and this time continue to see each other. But is Olivia ready for life in the public eye?

This is my second Jasime Guillory book (The Wedding Party was my first), and I obviously liked the first enough to read this one, but I liked this one so much more! Olivia and Max were just such great characters, I fell in love with both of them pretty quickly. There's also some topical information about relations between the Black community and the police and politics at large, so that was super timely to read and adds an extra dimension to what would otherwise be a fluffy book. Really, aside from a couple of plot aspects that annoyed me personally, the only thing that bothered me was the lack of sex! Where is the sex?!?! There was soooooooo much sex in The Wedding Party that I expected a bunch here as well and was disappointed by it's absence, especially as I connected with these characters a little more.

I would generally recommend this to women's fiction readers, especially those who are looking for a slightly lighter way to read woke. 3.5 stars - it's somewhere in-between "I liked it" and "I really liked it" for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Books for the eARC that I received in exchange for an honest review. Party of Two is available on 23 June.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Cover
Cho, Zen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water follows a nun who joins a group of bandits trying to protect a religious relic from those who would destroy it. It's a novella, so that's really most of the book, but Zen Cho crams a ton of character development and plenty of plot into this short little read. The two main characters are so well drawn, and I absolutely fell in love with them. The banter between the bandits is loads of fun - I laughed out loud on multiple occasions. There are plenty of fight scenes. I got to learn the word wuxia (think Chinese martial arts heroes). It's very rare that I want a book to be longer, but I so wanted more of this. I'll be checking out Cho's backlist work, Sorcerer to the Crown. 4 stars - that was very good.

Thanks to Tor and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water is available now - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Almost Home
Debbie Macomber
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Almost Home is comprised of four short stories detailing 4 people who take risk of opening their hearts to new relationships. "Whale Island" is about a children's writer who is resisting falling in love with the reporter who interviews her because she has a big family secret to hide. In "Queen of Hearts', a man who was a real geek in high school has become successful and handsome as an adult and has run into the woman who he had a crush on in high school but felt out of her league. "The Honeymoon House" is a story of a photographer who finds a bridesmaid of a halted wedding destroying his house. And finally "The Marrying Kind" reunites two high school sweethearts who has a very brief marriage right when they got out of high school but were cruelly torn apart by family members. A great read if romance novels are your genre!

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
In Her Shoes
Weiner, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Maggie and Rose are sisters with very different lives and personalities. The two common things they share are their mother's tragic death, a "car accident" when they were kids and the same shoe size. Rose is an attorney, practical, responsible and has her own apartment. Maggie, the younger of the two, is good looking (which she uses to her advantage), impetuous and manipulative. They live together for a short stint, until a major falling out causes them to go their own ways. Thus begins a journey of self discovery for each woman and the surprise of a grandmother who they thought was long gone. The love/hate relationship of sisters is well captured, along with humor and sharp observations.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Singer, Michael A.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow...reading this book will take you on a spiritual journey unlike any other. If the idea of becoming more mentally and emotionally free, mindful, concious, happy and self-actualized interest you, then give this #1 New York Times Bestseller a read today!

Reviewer's Name: Alyssa
Awards:

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