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Staff Book Reviews

Dear Mrs. Bird
Pearce, AJ
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book took me on an emotional roller-coaster! The beginning bits were so funny, I figured it was going to be more of a slapstick comedy (which I was okay with), and then the reality that this was set in London during the Blitz set in, and I found myself gasping. Plucky Emmaline is such a lovable character, I would love if the author would consider revisiting her life in the future! Strongly recommend for those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. While it is not written in letters, Dear Mrs. Bird packs a similar emotional punch.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
Genres:
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ware, Ruth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

2 1/2 stars. It was a fun Gothic-type novel, but nothing really memorable. If you just need something light to read with not too much substance (I call them "chewing gum" books), you may enjoy this title. This is my 3rd Ruth Ware novel to which I've given 2 1/2-3 stars so I think I'm done with her books.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
The Rejected Writers' Book Club
Kelman, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you need a laugh-out-loud book with plenty of zany characters and a main character who happens to be a librarian, PICK UP THIS BOOK NOW!!! These are a wacky group of writers, and you will just have a good time following their adventures. Be sure to read the next two books in the series - "Rejected Writers Take the Stage", and "The Rejected Writers Christmas Wedding."

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Genres:
The Art of Inheriting Secrets
O'Neal, Barbara
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My favorite so far of Barbara O'Neal's books, and my favorite of the year! This book was just beautiful in every way and just what I needed. Beautiful setting, family secrets, descriptions of food that made my mouth water, and one of the most beautiful love stories I've read in a long time. I honestly felt sad when this book ended. I will be recommending it to anyone looking for a mystery, a Gothic novel, a healing story, a foodie book, or a gorgeous love story. Just wonderful.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Genres:
Stack the Cats
Ghahremani, Susie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the perfect counting book for young cat lovers! It doesn’t stop with just counting the cats, but also incorporates simple addition and multiplication, arrays, and equality. It also encourages creative thinking as readers decide how to next stack the cats. The simple text and colorful illustrations make this a great book for all.

Reviewer's Name: Carol S.
You Swallow Spiders in Your Sleep! The Fact or Fiction Behind Animals
Mason, Paul
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

There are a lot of animal myths that have been passed down without knowing whether they are really true. This book looks at these myths to see if they are true. You’ll learn if earwigs crawl into people’s ear, if you can make two worms by cutting one in half, if touching a toad can give you warts, and so much more. Amaze your friends with your wealth of knowledge and actually learn something too!

Reviewer's Name: Carol S.
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
Connor, Leslie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Not only can Mason Buttle barely read or write, he’s the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade. His best friend was found dead in the Buttle family orchard and Mason’s relentlessly bullied. On top of that, Lieutenant Baird doesn’t seem to believe Mason’s story of what happened the day that Benny died. Life’s not going well. Join Mason and his new friend Calvin as they figure out how to escape the bullies. This heartwarming story of self-reliance and hope will encourage readers who struggle with bullying, friendship, and even learning difficulties.

Reviewer's Name: Carol S.
Genres:
Strange the Dreamer
Taylor, Laini
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Trying to write a review on any of Laini Taylor’s works, but especially this lovely beautiful book, that does the book justice, is like trying to fit a round nail into a square peg. It simply cannot be done. But I will try to do the best I can. I first came upon this work through goodreads first, as several of the people I followed recommended it, and also through a friend. When I saw what it was about, and that it combined all of my favorite elements of a fantasy, including librarians, books, magic, god’s, ghosts, monsters, angels, and a fantastical journey to an atmospheric and magical place, I jumped at it, and it did not disappoint.

Lazlo Strange is an orphaned junior librarian who resides in the city of Zosma. Like any librarian he spends his days among the stacks of dusty volumes in the library of Zosma, and like every librarian he also has dreams that he wants to follow. Since he was small, he has dreamed about a mythic lost city called Weep, whose real name has been erased from history, and whose stories are only told and remembered in the dusty old volumes of fairy tales and histories that have all been but forgotten. Reading and writing and dreaming about Weep, Lazlo naturally wishes one day to visit this mythic lost city. But honestly never expected his dreams to amount to much. Until one day, by chance, a group of warriors led by someone called the Godslayer, from none other than the mythic lost city, visits Zosma, seeking a delegation of people to go back with them to the city of Weep to help solve a problem. And suddenly Lazlo gets the chance to pursue his dreams in a way he never thought possible. On this journey he meets many people, including a half human goddess named Sarai, the Godslayer’s long suffering wife Azareen, and the prince Thyon Nero, among others, has many fantastical experiences, and many mysteries await him. Including: What is this mysterious problem in Weep that none of its delegates seem to want to reveal? What happened to Weep to hide it from the rest of the world? What creatures call themselves gods? And how could have Lazlo dreamt of a blue skinned goddess before he even knew she existed?

The themes running through this beautiful piece of fiction are vast and dense, and intense. This story is about many things including chasing your dreams and the importance of never giving up on those dreams. It’s about relationships and the difficult and painful things we can do to those we love and don’t love. It’s about war, and the tolls, both emotional and physical, it takes on everyone involved. It’s about hate, and the damage revenge can do on both those that give it and the ones receiving it. It’s about love, the different kinds of love we all
experience, and what we will do to protect those we love. But most importantly, at it’s heart this story is about identity, both individual, and the crazy journey, our hero Lazlo, takes to find it, and group identity in how we see those different from us and how we react to those differences. These themes are inter-mingled to form a compelling intense and beautiful narrative.

Where Taylor really shines through here is her prose. She really uses prose brilliantly to make each character take an emotional journey of their own, which serves to display and inter weave those narratives beautifully. And the words were so brilliantly chosen, that whenever a character spoke about a difficult subject, it was like I was there with them and felt what they did. When you have that strong of an emotional connection, that to me, says the author was doing their job. The atmospheric, dreamy, quality of the prose, also made the world’s, both dream and fictional, come alive in a way that I have seen few authors really achieve.

This brilliant beautiful adventure story about a junior librarian, should be on everyone’s to read lists. The emotional intensity of it… I felt like it ripped my heart out of my chest and then put it back again. If you haven’t yet, run, don’t walk, to put it on hold or check it out. This story has something in it for everyone, and you won’t be disappointed!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Genres:
Raymie Nightingale
DiCamillo, Kate
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Taking place in Florida in 1972, Raymie Clarke is trying to win the Little Miss Florida Tire competition in hopes of getting her father, who has left town with another woman, to see her picture in the paper and return home. Along the way, she meets two girls who are also entering the contest, and falls into an unlikely friendship.
I loved this book. It was superbly written and Raymie's voice was so believable as to think she was a real girl. It's a bittersweet book, so beautiful and filled with longing, determination, and a bit of magic. I've read other books by Kate DiCamillo but this one is my favorite. I'd love to see this as a movie. 5 stars!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Interpreter of Maladies
Lahiri, Jhumpa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was beautiful in the variety of characters portrayed in the short stories. All had a common thread of India and Indian culture, but each story was in a class of its own. It's hard for an author to really dig deep in short stories, but there is depth in these. There were a few that ended abruptly, but I loved each and every one of them and I learned a lot about Indian culture.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Grace and Fury Cover
Banghart, Tracy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Serina has aimed to be a Grace her whole life. In a world where women aren’t allowed to learn to read, becoming one of the heir’s paramours is pretty much as good as it gets – otherwise she’ll be relegated to a life of work in a factory. When she’s selected to go to the palace to be considered for a position as a Grace, she’s beyond thrilled and takes her younger sister Nomi along as a handmaiden. But neither Serina nor Nomi are prepared for the backstabbing political machinations at large in the palace, and soon both girls will find their world turned upside down.

This was sold to me as The Selection meets The Handmaid’s Tale, which sounded super intriguing as I enjoyed those books for very different reasons - guilty pleasure and biting social commentary respectively. And one of the girls does have an arc that very much meets that description. Interestingly, I didn’t really like her story. Most of that has to do with the fact that we’re told that the character is smart and rebellious, but we’re mostly just shown her swanning around the palace making stupid decisions. The other sister has an arc that’s more Beauty Queens meets The Hunger Games, and I really enjoyed that one. It was a much more unique story, and the character experienced a lot of growth.

Because the sisters’ paths diverge, I feel that it’s fairly safe to say that at least one of the two stories will appeal to most YA dystopia and fantasy readers. If you like your dystopia with a dose of feminism, you’ll enjoy this slightly derivative series opener. I liked it. 3 stars.

Thanks to Little, Brown and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Grace and Fury will become available for purchase on 31 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Kill the Farm Boy
Dawson, Delilah S. and Kevin Hearne
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It took me a while to review this book because I couldn’t figure out exactly how to rate it. This novel is a pun filled fantasy adventure that pokes fun at the traditional fantasy quest. It involves magic, elves, a dark lord name Toby, sleeping maidens, a sand witch named Grinda, a talking goat named Gustave, fairies, a bunny bard named Argabella, a female warrior named Fia, a rogue name Poltro, and a harrowing danger filled quest to cure the dead-ness of a farm boy name Worstley, killed at the beginning of this book, that was destined to fulfill a great destiny …. or so we thought.

While at times this book was funny, I particularly enjoyed the details of how the world was described, for example when the enchanted castle and the maids were being described at the beginning of the book, particularly the last line. “There was also an abundance of portent swaddled about the place. Oodles of it. A surfeit, even. Something would go down there soon. But for now, the lady slept. And drooled a little, probably.” Or the dark lord’s constant obsession with cheese and crackers throughout the book.
Other times, I think the humor went over the top, which was not a particularly big selling point for me and leaves a somewhat sour taste in my mouth. For example, when our heroes arrive at the hut of the healer and Agrabella first wakes up after being healed. “In this case with her eyes shut, Argabella had to assume she was being licked across the face by a troll with gingivitis who’d recently partaken of fresh garlic and sardines and possibly eaten another, even sicker troll for breakfast. Her eyes burst open… She soon realized that this was because she was staring into someone’s extremely furry armpit” Or maybe it was the fact that books with tropes and puns are just not the type of books I am particularly drawn too or like. However, I do appreciate and like each of the character’s own inner dialogue as they wrestle with their feelings and other issues throughout their journey together. For example, when the warrior realizes she love’s the bunny bard, “She realized that even more than roses, even more than a proper set of armor, she wanted to be kind and generous and the whole range of happy adjectives to this truly unique woman for a long, long time.”

Overall I think this books was well written, and at times funny, it takes a traditional subject, fantasy quests, and turns it into something new entirely. While this book wasn’t for me particularly, I would recommend it for anyone who loves, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Princess Bride.
the movie Space Balls, or anything with wacky humor. This book comes out today so put a copy on your holds list! Thank you to Negalley and the publisher Del Rey for a free e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Genres:
What Is Climate Change?
Herman, Gail
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book has tons of great information that can be helpful to children or adults who want to learn more about climate change. The author explains the subject matter with great detail, while still using language that is accessible and easy to understand. Concepts such as the environment, history, politics, and weather and how they all relate to one another are included using a diplomatic style. This is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about what’s going on with our planet.

Reviewer's Name: Jordana
Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds
Slater, Lauren
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was okay. It takes the reader through the history of psychotrophic drugs. It's overall pretty dry. There are some parts that are very interesting, such as the author's struggles with psychotrophic drugs and the use of psychedelics in psychiatry, but overall I was pretty bored reading it. Maybe I'm not the target audience. Maybe it's geared more toward the academic set. But I did learn some, so I give it 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Thompson, Hunter S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was fantastic! It takes you on a drug-fueled, depraved, whirlwind tour of Las Vegas with Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his attorney. The sheer amount and variety of drugs ingested was enough to blow my mind, not to mention the shenanigans that occur as a result. There were some instances of depravity that curled my toes, but the ride was well worth it. Gonzo journalism rocks!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Kill the Farm Boy
Hearne, Kevin and Dawson, Delilah
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Normally, I’d start off my review with a synopsis, but plot wasn’t exactly the point of this book, so I’m going to skip it. What you need to know is this: Kill the Farm boy is a satirical fantasy novel that skewers the “chosen one” white male narrative. Tonally, it’s as if Deadpool were your dungeon master and he had recently swallowed a thesaurus. If that appeals to you, you will love this book. If not, pass on it.

I had fairly mixed feelings – humor is subjective, and while I sometimes found it funny, I also found it grating at times. For example, there was a chapter about trolls that had me in stitches. But there was also an entire chapter about the group entering the Morningwood that had me rolling my eyes. A certain type of audience will absolutely love this one. I was not that audience, but I still, for the most part, appreciated it for what it was as I generally found the writing quality to be very high. There’s little character development, and the plot is just a vehicle for jokes, but again, those things aren’t the point.

This is definitely one of those books that will be very hit-or-miss for people, and while it was mostly a miss for me, it’s one that I think I’ll be recommending to a lot of patrons, particularly teens. If you like Mel Brooks or Monty Python, you’ll probably like this too (it would make a pretty funny movie).

Thanks to Del Rey and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Kill the Farm Boy will be released on 24 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Fawkes
Brandes, Nadine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

If you aren’t familiar with Guy Fawkes Day, every year in England on 05 November, citizens burn Fawkes’ effigy to celebrate his failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Fawkes tells the story of Thomas Fawkes, Guy’s son, with a fantasy twist. In this world, folks have powers based on colors. Some folks can manipulate some colors, others all colors, which leads to different magical schools of thought and serves as a stand in for the Catholic-Protestant tensions of the time.

If you know anything about my reading preferences (I read mostly fantasy), this next thought is a bit shocking: the fantasy elements really ruin this book. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding is really shallow. You’ll be left with loads of questions about color power like: What if something is more than one color? Paint? How does that work? Why can’t someone who can control Green also control Blue and Yellow? Or vice versa? And so on.

I really wish the book had been written as straight historical fiction. A point about religious persecution could have been made (that was perhaps attempted, but for me it didn’t land). The story might not have dragged for the first three quarters of the book. Add to the weird pacing and lackluster worldbuilding the fact the main character manages both to be extremely judgmental and lack any convictions for most of the book, and you’ve got a book that really isn’t fun to read. I found myself skimming just to get through it.

With that being said, I did enjoy the last quarter of the book. The pacing picks up, Thomas develops a backbone, we get to spend some time with my favorite character (Emma!), and Guy Fawkes gets a tiny bit of development.

This wasn’t for me, but perhaps some folks will be swept away by the romance and intrigue. For fans of historical fiction that can look past the weak fantasy elements. 2 stars. Meh.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Netgalley for the free eARC, which I received for review consideration. Fawkes will be available for purchase on 10 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Glow: Animals With Their Own Night-Lights
Beck, W. H.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Bioluminescence, the ability to glow, is an adaptation that some animals have. They are animals that make their own light. You may be familiar with fireflies that glow in the air. Other animals glow on land and many others in the water. Learn about some different animals that glow and how and why they do it.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon
Krosoczka, Jarrett J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Things don’t always go your way. Sometimes you lose your balloon or your ice cream melts. What can you do when things don’t go right? This book helps you figure out how to look on the bright side of things and turn challenges into opportunities.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Going Where It’s Dark
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Buck Anderson is a spelunker. He used to go caving with his friend, David, but now David has moved away. Caving is the one way that Buck escapes from his worries. He stutters and the kids at school make fun of him for it. He’s bullied a lot. This coming-of-age adventure will inspire and encourage young readers.

Reviewer's Name: Carol

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