Staff Book Reviews

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
Book Review: The Slave Across the Street
Flores, Theresa L.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is a highly disturbing but about a teenager that gets caught up in a sex slave ring in the Detroit suburbs. It's a very graphic depiction about the trauma she endured for 2 years, trying to protect her family. It's hard to imagine that this could happen in the American suburbs, but it does. Leaning heavily on her faith, she overcame the trauma and terrifying memories, and starts working to help other girls like her.

Not expertly written and too preachy for my taste, I was riveted and disgusted by the graphic scenes of her repeated torture. It made me angry that her parents didn't notice something was wrong, and that teachers and security officers at her school who saw what was happening didn't do anything because they were afraid of her captors. Overall, a good but highly disturbing read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Last Girl book jacket
Murad, Nadia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. Just wow. Nadia takes us through the miasma of Iraq sects and their competing values. She also talks about the Iraq war and the birth of ISIS from the rubble of the American occupation. However, in the most intimate way, she tells us about her sect, the Yazidis and their religion, persecution, and relationship with the Islamic State. And it's here that the real story begins.

In August of 2014, Nadia's village was occupied by ISIS, ending in the genocide of her people. She and other girls we sold into slavery and were considered less than human to their captors. Nadia pulls no punches about what she endured. It's brutal. In a series of fortunate events, Nadia embarks on a dangerous escape.

Told with honesty and forthrightness, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. I was highly disturbed by the sex slave recollections, which was her intention, and fascinated by her explanation of the regions, sects, and politics of Iraq, something I knew very little about. Despite the intense subject matter, I highly recommend this book. It was fantastic.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Silent Patient book jacket
Michaelides, Alex
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Alicia Barenson is a famous painter who shoots her husband in the face five time then stops speaking. A psychotherapist works with her to get her to speak again and becomes obsessed with her.

Maybe mystery/thrillers aren't my cup of tea? It started out very good, pulling in the reader with a fascinating story about Alicia. However, the way it played out in the end was convoluted and disappointing. I wasn't like "Oh wow! What an ending!" Instead, I was like "Huh? What the...?" If you can get over the ending, the book is a good read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Take it as a Compliment book cover
Stoian, Maria
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A graphic novel featuring true reports of sexual harassment and assault in its many forms. A really powerful, quick read. My only problem with it is I wish it was longer. I read it in about 30 minutes. I did like the format of graphic novel. It made it seem more lighthearted than it actually is, which further illustrates the darkness of the subject matter.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Becoming
Obama, Michelle
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fantastic memoir about the life and times of Michelle Obama, from her early upbringing in South Side Chicago to her time as First Lady. I loved the descriptive quality of her experiences and was amused by the meeting and falling in love with Barack. The anecdotes of life in the White House were particularly interesting. I would recommend listening to this book instead of reading it, if possible, as she is the narrator.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six
Reid, Taylor Jenkins
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A Fun book about 70s rock and roll. It made me wish I could hear the songs they wrote. The author did a good job of describing the music and the volatile relationship between the two main characters. I would love for this to be a movie if it isn't already. Oh, I see it's being turned into a TV series. Cool.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: The Guinevere Deception
White, Kiersten
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Premise: Guinevere died in the convent where she'd been sent by an her father. An imposter, Merlin's daughter and Arthur's new protector, is her replacement, and all have been fooled into thinking she's the "real" Guinevere, save Arthur, who she immediately marries and starts to protect.

I found the beginning of the book, with its delicious hints of a larger story of evil and darkness, to be captivating. Unfortunately, those hints, for the most part, stay hints, and the book ended up being a pretty predictable retelling of sorts that was paradoxically too faithful and not faithful enough to its predecessors. It had glimpses of the humor from Mallory, T. H. White and Steinbeck. It had the promise of the adventure that lies in those tales. It just never fully delivered. And the end, when it finally came, was predictable enough to be a bit disappointing.

That said, I do love Arthurian legend, and this version of Guinevere is not without promise. If the next entry gets great reviews, I'll give it a go as my familiarity with the characters and story would render a re-read unnecessary. 3 stars. I...liked it? I'll recommend it to younger readers new to the legend.

Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Guinevere Deception will be on sale on 05 November, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: A River of Royal Blood
Joy, Amanda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Eva's nameday is coming up. And on that day, she'll become a Rival Heir. From then on, she'll be expected to try to kill her sister (or die in the process), so that one of them could take the throne. Eva's always been her father's favorite, but in this matriarchal society, her mother, the Queen, who, of course favores Eva's sister Isadore, would do anything to make sure that Eva doesn't get the throne. Including helping Isa with her magic while trying to keep Eva from accessing hers. But the throne is Eva's destiny. It's that, or death.

This was another instance of the plot being hard to describe, though that's mostly due to the fact that there are so many things happening in this book. It's pretty complicated. Not in a bad way - I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding was very cool, I loved the khimaer. A lot of it was new to me, or a fun twist on a familiar concept. I loved the book's mythology. Something about it felt fresh. I also bizarrely really liked the middle part of the book - its full of layered mysteries, court intrigue, training montages and the right amount and type of romance. It's built on mutual and earned respect (and yes, hotness). There's a lot to like in this book, and it won't be the last by this author that I read.

That said, the beginning and ending were rote and felt a bit weak. The end, in particular, felt like it existed only to get you to read the next installment. There was no resolution, and it felt very rushed, especially after a story that was otherwise taking its time unfolding. I don't want to spend a lot of time criticizing what was otherwise a fun read - give it a go!

TLDR: This was so close to being really good, but it just missed the mark (rote beginning and ending, super strong middle and worldbuilding). I quite enjoyed it, nonetheless. 3.5 stars - I almost really liked it. :)

Thanks for the eARC Netgalley and Putnam for the advance copy! A River of Royal Blood will be available for purchase on 29 October, but you can put your copy on hold today.

Reviewer's Name: Britt

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