Staff Book Reviews

The Art of Looking Up
McCormack, Catherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is about famous and not so famous ceiling art around the world and it has beautiful pictures and some awesome explanations about how the art lands into one of four categories: Politics, Religion, Culture, and Power. It is a really great book!!!

Reviewer's Name: Megan
Genres:
The Wrong Girl
Casey, Donis
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a book well worth reading as it has all the mystery and glamor and humor a good mystery should have and it has people who help and show compassion for the girl in the story! It is also a story written with the correct facts of the era in which this story plays. I have read the other Donis Casey books and love how this one has come about. Its a follow up of Donis's other series. Can't wait to read the next one!!

Reviewer's Name: Sandra
The Hundred and One Dalmations
Smith, Dodie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book falls into my "all-time favorite" stories, something I will come back to again and again because of its charm. It "could" be a Christmas Story, a crime novella, a dog-lovers "tail", or a unique investigation into 1950s English culture. Truthfully, it is all of these. The book opens with an introduction to the main players, Pongo and Misses, and their pets, the Dearly couple. The family is cared for by the two beloved nannies, Nanny Cook (Mrs. Dearly's nanny) and Nanny Butler (Mr. Dearly's nanny) and let a smart flat off Regent's Park. Mr. Dearly is a wizard of finance and unusually rich due to helping the British government get out debt. Mrs. Dearly is a housewife. Both love their dogs immensely and the dogs love their "pets" just as much. Then comes the glorious news that Misses is expecting puppies, what could be better?! Enter Cruella De Vil, an old schoolmate (but not friend) of Mrs. Dearly who has devoted herself to wealth and furs. The second passion encouraged her to marry a furrier...and to explore avenues for exotic furs, even dog! Pongo and Misses come to realize that they and their puppies are a central element of this sinister plot of dogdom. How will it end? You will have to read it to find out!

Reviewer's Name: Caitlin
Book Review: The Shadows Between Us
Levenseller, Tricia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alessandra wants to channel her murderous rage into something more productive than, well, murder. So she aims to become the Queen (of course, she'll have to murder the King once she's married him, but that'll be the last one). As the second daughter of a minor royal, this doesn't seem like a super realistic goal, but...you haven't met Alessandra.

I'm a huge sucker for the love-him-then-kill-him trope, and it is awesomely used here. I was expecting this book to be more of a fantasy, but it's really a romance with fantastical trappings. And it is so sex positive! I have been describing it as Wuthering-Heights-only-it's-actually-fun-to-read, but the author describes it as a romance between two Slytherins, which is better. Even though the characters are objectively horrible, you'll find yourself rooting for them. It was a tad ridiculous in terms of how the characters talked and interacted with each other, but in the same kind of way as Daughter of the Pirate King, the author's other book that I've read, which I also enjoyed.

If you are looking for a fun, purely escapist romance, I would highly recommend this book. I read it in one sitting. 4 stars - I really liked it!

Thanks to Netgalley and Feiwel & Friends for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Shadows Between Us is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Book Review: Amnesty
Adiga, Aravind
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Danny is an undocumented immigrant from Sri Lanka living in Australia. As he's undocumented, he works as a cleaner and gets paid under the table. One day, he is contacted by the police as one of his clients had been murdered. Danny realizes that he likely knows who the murderer is, but has to decide whether or not to share that information with the police. If he does talk to the police, his undocumented status will likely be discovered and he would likely be deported.

This book spans one day in Danny's life, but flashes back to show you how and why he ended up as an undocumented person in Australia. And wow, that's a hard, scary life. The book both calls attention to the unfair, and frankly quite Draconian, immigration policies of Australia and presents a really interesting ethical dilemma. The central question of the book is kind of "what do we owe to each other"? Does Danny have a responsibility to turn in the murderer, even if it means his own life will be irreparably changed for the worse? Danny grapples with this question for much of the book, and it's a really interesting thought experiment. Really, my only complaint is that the last third or so of the book is really repetitive; I found the first two thirds to be fairly riveting.

Folks who are interested in ethics or who are interested in the hardships of the immigrant experience should definitely pick this book up. 3.5 stars. I really liked the first 2/3.

Thanks to Scribner and Netgalley for the eARC which I received in exchance for an unbiased review. Amnesty is available now.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
It's Not Supposed to Be This Way
TerKeurst, Lysa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was amazing. From a Christian standpoint, Lysa really gets into disappointments in the faith that I feel people are too shy to talk about. It is a very honest book with personal accounts of disappointments and fears. It isn't preachy, it is matter-of-fact. I have a hard time with general christian books because they can often times sugarcoat or completely ignore the stuff no one wants to talk about; so this book was very promising and refreshing!!

Reviewer's Name: Megan
Book Review: The Bell Jar
Plath, Sylvia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This semi-autobiographical novel is a searing portrait of mental illness. So dark and honest, it brings the reader in to the protagonist's descent into madness and her rise from it. The description of a mental hospital in the 50s was very interesting to me. This was before anti-depressants so many more people suffered there than suffer now. I was particularly fascinated by her description of electroconvulsive therapy. Overall a powerful novel by a one of literature's great writers.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Race to the Sun
Roanhorse, Rebecca
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Nizhoni Begay is a normal seventh grader in many respects, minus the thing where she can see monsters. One day, she gets home from school to see a monster in her kitchen masquerading as her dad's potential boss. Sure enough, the boss-monster kidnaps her dad, and Nizhoni, her brother Max and their best friend Davery take off on a race to the House of the Sun to find weapons they can use to defeat the boss-monster and save Nizhoni's dad.

I really liked this one! All of Rick Riordan's books and the books on his imprint have something of a sameness to them, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (I'd compare it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe). You know you're going to get a snarky teenager narrating an epic quest to save the world where they'll be attacked non-stop by monsters from some sort of mythology. That's what you get here, but its the Navajo edition. I liked it a lot - I think it helps when the mythology being referenced originated more or less in your backyard, and as a Coloradan, it was a lot of fun to read. Plus, the mythology itself is just cool; Black Jet Girl, Spider Woman, and Crystal Rock Boy were particularly fun.

For readers who like mythology, action, adventure and snarky main characters. I really enjoyed this one, and will add this series to the list of books I listen to while I run! 4 stars - I really liked it.

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchanged for an unbiased review. Race to the Sun will be released on 14 January, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Jet Girl
Johnson, Caroline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an insider's look at the military establishment, particularly the elite Navy forces. Johnson overcomes so much to become a fighter pilot only to be alienated by the Navy's most elite squadron. Told with honesty, Johnson's grit is something to be admired.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Pippi Longstocking
Lindgren, Astrid
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As a parent, Pippi really stressed me out, but I still loved the book. Zoe adored it. The final paragraph was perfect.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Cover
Ibanez, Isabel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Ximenia Rojas has been the decoy for Condesa Catalina ever since the usurper Atoc overthrow the Illustrarians a decade ago. Ximenia's family, along with the Condesa's, perished during the civil war, and Ximenia and her fellow Illustrians want revenge. When Atoc summons the Condesa to the palace to be his bride, Ximenia goes in Catalina's place and uses her weaving magic to send messages to the Illustrians via tapestry. With only eight weeks before the wedding, Ximenia must find intel about a magical gem that is the Illustrian's only hope.

My literary 2020 is off to a great start with this gem of a historical fantasy YA novel! I went in with fairly low expectations as 2019 was, on the whole, not a great year for YA fantasy. This was very good and felt like something of a course correction. The "historical" aspect covers Bolivian politics and the introduction of cocaine, at least somewhat (I know nothing about Bolivia and the eARC didn't have an author's note at the end, but the author does reference her two Bolivian parents) and deftly weaves a story of magic, moonlight and betrayal. The moon magic is subtle, but well utilized. Ximenia's ability is, for lack of a better phrase, quite cool. The author took a familiar story of rebellion and a headstrong girl and combined those seemingly stale tropes with magical realism and Bolivian flavor to create a book that felt like something new. The romance was earned. The main character grows a lot throughout the course of the book. Ximenia's story is tied up by the end, but there's an intriguing jungle based thread that's left dangling (not a spoiler!) that I'd be willing to bet will be a second book. I'll read it.

Also, I dare you to read this book and not want some tasty Bolivian treats. The food sounds amaaaaaaaaaaazing and it's mentioned a lot.

TLDR: Woven in Moonlight takes a familiar tale of revolution and spices it up with excellent character development and creative magical realism. I'm having trouble thinking of something to compare it to, because I like it better than most books that I've read that are similar (The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson for example - this is in the same zone, but I enjoyed it a lot more). Recommended for readers who like their fantasies to be revolutionary (ha) with a strong female lead and a touch of magic. 4 stars - I really liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Page Street Books for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Woven in Moonlight is available for purchase or you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood book jacket
Noah, Trevor
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Not bad. I was expecting more on his move to Los Angeles and the establishment of his career and time on the Daily Show but the memoir doesn't cover that. I guess I should have known that judging by the title. There was a little bit of jumping around and muddling of incidents in his life, but overall it was educational and entertaining.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Girl with Brush and Canvas
Meyer, Carolyn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Learn about artist Georgia O'Keeffe in this fascinating novel about her life. Beginning with her early life in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin when she announced her plans to be an artist and following with family hardships where she refused to give up her dream, you'll learn about where she found her inspiration and how she persevered. Girl with Brush and Canvas, is a well-written, entertaining story about one of the most interesting artists of the 20th century.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Hero Next Door
edited by Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Hero Next Door is published as part of a partnership with We Need Diverse Books. It's a collection of short stories by 14 award-winning authors. It's a celebration of everyday heroes that make a difference in their worlds and challenges each of us to be a hero in our world. While every story may not speak to you, there's something in this book for each of us as we work to make the world a better place.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Perfect
Amato, Max
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

How do you define perfect? For eraser, it's a flawlessly clean piece of paper. For pencil, it's a paper full of squiggles and more. Is there a way that they can learn to work together, get along, and become friends? Read this simply "perfect" book to find out. You'll enjoy the ways that pencil and eraser come to life through the illustrations.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Moo, Moo, Chew, Chew Sounds from the Farm
Shand, Jennifer
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Consider reading this this interactive book to your youngster as they transition from board books to picture books. Its tear-resistant pages make it ideal! The guessing game format will delight your child as it introduces new vocabulary and concepts related to the farm.Together you will hear a cow, pig, horse, and more. A delightful book!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Book Review: Guts
Telgemeier, Raina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A graphic novel with heart (and guts). Raina is a fifth grader with crippling anxiety. Sweetly told, the story unfolds to her going to a therapist and getting help. In the end, she learns to cope and trust her friends. Thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Sun Does Shine
Hinton, Anthony Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. I didn't think there is still rampant racism in America but boy was I proven wrong. In 1985, Ray Hinton was unjustly incarcerated in Alabama and will held in Death Row for 30 years. The prosecutor, police, jury, and judge were all white and despite his clear alibi he was found guilty. The police officer who arrested him said he believed Hinton was innocent but was still going to arrest him because if it's not him, it's someone 'like him.'
Throughout his heinous unjust incarceration on death row, Hinton never lost hope that he would be exonerated. His spirit helped the most hardened criminals shoulder their last days.
Eventually Hinton was exonerated, but not before the prime of his life had been stolen from him. He dedicates his life now to abolishing the death penalty, calling it a broken system. According to statistics, 1 in 10 inmates on death row are innocent.
This is a powerful memoir about survival, hope, and resilience. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Cover
Lindsay, Jeff
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Riley Wolfe is the best thief alive. You want it stolen? He can do it. And when the Ocean of Light, an Iranian Crown Jewel, is put on display at a NYC art museum, Riley knows he has his next, best challenge. Because this challenge may be the one that does him in.

I requested this as I loved some of Dexter (the tv show), and have been wanting to read a Jeff Lindsay book for a while. I wasn't really sure what to expect, and I got something a bit unexpected. The plot is that of a pretty standard heist novel. There are a bunch of twists, but never fear, you'll see them coming. The main character, though, is where the real interest lies. He's a horrible person, and Lindsay never tries to make him likable. I mean, did I like him? I did not. But he was sort of interesting when he wasn't doing something very predictable and his actions were occasionally thought provoking. Even writing this review, I'm not sure how I feel about him.

TLDR: This book, while sometimes entertaining, was ultimately just ok. If you can't get enough of heists, you may enjoy this one. Otherwise, check out Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows as it features a twistier heist, deeply flawed but likable characters and will also provide plenty of food for thought. 2 stars. Meh.

Thanks to Penguin Dutton Group and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Just Watch Me will be released on 03 December and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Cover
Colfer, Eoin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Artemis Fowl is back!

Well, not really. But his little brothers are a more than sufficient replacement. Twins Myles and Beckett have lived a life of education and luxury (with some mild kidnapping thrown in). But everything changes drastically when a small troll appears on their island. Before they know it, they find themselves kidnapped by ACRONYM (a government organization that deals with magic) and working with a fairy to escape from not one, but two baddies - an evil, mustache twirling duke and a deranged nun that are themselves at odds. Will the Fowl Twins escape in time to save their lives and, perhaps more importantly, human-fairy relations for the rest of time?

This was very cute. Colfer was in top form here, and this held all of the characteristics of a middle grade book that I find to be readable (they aren't always my favorite). Myles is snarky. Beckett is a loose cannon (who can talk to animals!!!). The duke has access to insanely quirky gadgets and wouldn't be out of place as a Despicable Me super-villain. The evil nun is an evil nun. The pace moves quickly, but we still get to know our characters. Aside from its general predictability (adults will see all the twists coming before they happen), it's a fantastic middle grade read. If the narrator is any good, I'll add this series to my list of books that I listen to while running.

TLDR: If you loved the Artemis Fowl series, you'll love this one too! It has all of the best elements of the original series with some fun new quirks and characters. 4 stars - I really liked it.

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Fowl Twins is available for purchase on 05 Nov, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt

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