Staff Book Reviews

The Wedding Party Cover
Guillory, Jasmine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Maddie and Theo have known and disliked each other for a long time - as long as they've had the same best friend, the newly engaged Alexa Munroe. When they end up hooking up after Alexa's engagement party, it was unexpected for both of them to say the least. They both end up in the wedding party, and they know they will be thrown together more often. When they find themselves unable to resist a second hook-up, they put some rules into place, the chief one being that they'd only hook up until the wedding and then they'd go their separate ways forever.

If you read that synopsis and thought that you knew exactly where this book is headed, then you are correct! This is a very straightforward romance. What you see is what you get. I was expecting a little more. I thought it would be a comedy or maybe there would be some political commentary since our leads are both people of color but neither of those things were present. That said, I actually found the straight-up nature of this read to be surprisingly refreshing. I knew exactly what I was going to get and I got it. I didn’t learn anything new, and some aspects of the story were frustrating (for example, they don’t hate each other so much as tolerate each other with mild annoyance) , but all was resolved by the end. It was a good palate cleanser, and next time I don’t know what I’m in the mood for, I may pick up a Guillory book.

To be completely honest, I don’t read a ton of romance (which is how I would classify this book, perhaps mistakenly). If you like contemporary romance, I see no reason that you wouldn’t like this one – its a sexy read with believable characters and scenarios. 3 stars. Despite myself, I ended up kind of liking it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley publishing for the advance copy which I got in exchange for an unbiased review. The Wedding Party will be available on 16 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Cover
Garcia, Kami
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

After a car accident that killed her mother, Raven is living with her her new mom (her aunt) and foster sister Max, in New Orleans. In addition to losing her mother in the accident, Raven lost all of her memories. Adding to that, she can hear the thoughts and feelings of those around her. As she tries to remember who she was, Raven is making new friends and learning that what matters is who she is, and who she chooses to be going forward. That is, until her past catches up with her...

I'm not at all familiar with the Teen Titans but know enough to know that Raven's a popular character from that series. And I can see why! In this iteration, she immediately (albeit accidentally) puts mean girls in their place, and stands up for those being bullied, which I like. Memory loss may not be the most original way to begin an origin story, but its certainly an effective way to slowly introduce the audience to the character, and it was used to good effect here. The high school bits were just right - prom, foiled romance, mean girls - Garcia nails those elements. I just wish there had been a bit more to the story. I liked it, but it all felt a bit trite. Its a perfectly good origin story, but there's nothing new here. Just when it starts to get really interesting, it ends. I do hope there is a sequel planned.

For me, the thing that can really make-or-break a graphic novel is art, and the art in this is wonderful. The coloring was just right - its mostly purples, blacks, light blues and beige, and the muted palatte really sets and fit in with the overall tone. When a red character emerges, he really pops. Also, sometimes I find artwork to be confusing (especially in action sequences), but that was not at all the case here. In fact, this would be excellent graphic novel for those who are just starting out with the medium.

TLDR: A run of the mill but nonetheless entertaining origin story that will delight teenagers (and adults) who aren't sick of superheroes.

Overall, this is a really solid graphic novel for teens that I'll probably end up booktalking. 3 stars - it was pretty good!

Thanks to DC Ink and Netgalley for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Teen Titans: Raven will be released on 02 Jul, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps
Winstanley, Nicola
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s not easy to give a cat a bath as you will soon realize when you read this book! Mr. Flea, the cat in this book, is NOT agreeable to having a bath. The five simple steps that start the book turn into much more work than Mr. Flea’s owner is expecting. Enjoy this book and its pictures and learn what might be the best way to bathe a cat.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
What Is Inside THIS Box?
Daywalt, Drew
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Monkey and Cake are asking big questions in this easy reader. They are curious about the magical cat that’s inside the box. Why does it disappear when they open the box? How do they know if the cat is really in the box when it is closed? When the box is closed, they can think about anything they want to be inside. It’s a dilemma, isn’t it? See what happens when Monkey & Cat walk away from the box. This is a beautifully illustrated fun book for those who are learning to read.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös
Heiligman, Deborah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Once there was a boy who loved math. He loved math so much that he spent all of his time thinking about numbers. He spent so much time with math that he couldn’t do many things that ordinary people do. The biography tells the story of Paul Erdos, one of the greatest mathematicians, and how he found his way in the world sharing his ideas and love of math.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Book Review: According to a Source
Stern, Abby
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I can't believe I'm even saying this, but I really enjoyed this novel. It's about a tabloid reporter in Hollywood and is as vapid of a novel as you can probably imagine. Nonetheless, I found myself wanting to carve out time to read it. Much like cotton candy, it was empty calories but oh so good. Actually, while it starts out vapid, plot elements like friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships are visited with surprising aplomb. Should I be reading the great American novel instead of this? Perhaps, but sometimes it's necessary to eat junk food to appreciate quality cuisine.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Soul of the Sword cover
Kagawa, Julie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Soul of the Sword picks up directly at the end of the events of the first book in the series, Shadow of the Fox. If you haven’t read Shadow of the Fox, and you like Japanese mythology, what are you waiting for? Pick it up now! Also, skip this review, because spoilers.

If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too. I did not remember the first book that well as I read it last summer, but Kagawa writes this in such a way that it’s easy for the reader to jump right back in. Most of our characters (save Tatsumi, because he’s mostly a demon now) get further development, and Yumeko in particular really seems to have grown a lot throughout the course of the book. My favorite character, the ronin Okame, has an exceptionally fun development. The worldbuilding, which was fantastic in the first book, continues to be alluring as Kagawa further fleshes out what was already a well-drawn world. The plot, like the first book, is fast-paced and while this is definitely something of a bridge book, it’s a bridge book that is really fun to read.

Readers of Rick Riordan who are looking for something a little more grown-up, or folks who like their fantasy to be steeped in mythology, you won’t go wrong with this series. I’m excited for the next one to come out. 4 stars – I really liked it!

Thanks to Harlequin Teen & Netgalley for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Soul of the Sword will be available for purchase on 18 June or you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Be Brave Like Batman!
Hitchcock, Laura
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

There is no need to be afraid of the dark. You have all the tools to be brave like Batman! Just use your gadgets, get help, and use your wits. Don’t let your fear stop you from doing what you need to do. Think like Batman and conquer your fears!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story
Newman, Lesléa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the story of Gittel. She is supposed to travel with her mother to America. At the last minute, her mother is unable to board the boat because of health concerns and so Gittel must travel alone. Read the story of tis young Jewish girl and her journey to America for a better life. Will she find mama’s cousin when she reaches America? Will her mother be able to join her in the new country? Read this beautifully illustrated picture book to find out. It’s loosely based on stories handed down in the author’s family.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Who in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Tinker, Rebecca
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You may be familiar with the series and game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, but do you understand who she is? This book will give you the background on her. She is always one step ahead of her pursuers. How did she learn her awesome skills? Read this backstory and figure out how she came to
be this infamous and elusive criminal.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Color of Us
Katz, Karen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Karen Katz celebrates diversity in The Colors of Us. Seven-year-old Lena thinks that brown skin is brown skin until she takes a walk with her mother. They admire the different shades of skin on the people they see and compare the colors to foods and other natural things. It’s a colorfully illustrated book that helps kids see that we are all both different and the same.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Peek-a WHO?
Laden, Nina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This darling rhyming board book allows readers to guess what’s hiding on the next page. Page designs with cut-outs give clues to what might be there. The simple text and colorful pictures help make this a fun book for little ones.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau
Berne, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This biography of Jacques Cousteau uses beautiful pictures to illustrate the text. It introduces us to the tiny baby born in France and names Jacques. It chronicles his love of water and how his passion for the ocean developed. It shows us how he dreamed to becoming a “manfish” with the ability to breathe underwater and explore. He grew to be one of the greatest oceanographers in the world and a champion of the sea. The book is both inspiring and magical.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Awards:
Interrupting Chicken
Stein, David Ezra
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Papa is trying to read little red chicken a story at bedtime, but she keeps interrupting. She can’t help herself! She inserts herself into the story of Hansel & Gretel. She jumps into the story of Little Red Riding Hood. She changes the story of Chicken Little. Will little red chicken ever stop interrupting and go to sleep? Find out when you read this story.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Clue Is in the Poop: And Other Things Too
Seed, Andy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Using the clues they've left behind, you can learn to track and identify animals and this book will help. It will introduce you animal tracking through observing what's left behind whether it is poop, tracks, or more. You'll learn about what animals eat (and therefore, what you might find in their poop). You'll learn fascinating facts about a variety of animals and start on your way to become a wildlife detective.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
A Woman Is No Man
Rum, Etaf
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Definitely among my favorite books of the year. Beautifully written in alternating points of view, each woman's story is absolutely compelling, enraging, and heartbreaking. There was a passage toward the end of the novel where I found I actually was holding my breath.

This is the type of book that makes you understand the power of words and stories and how important they are, on so many levels - from Isra reading to escape her suffocating life, to Deya for whom books mean freedom and education and choice, to the reader who is ultimately changed by the experience of their story.

This book is going to stay with me for quite a while - definitely an author to keep on my radar!!!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
We Hunt the Flame Review
Faizal, Hafsah
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Zafira has gained respect amongst her community for being the only person brave enough to dare the forest of a the Arz – a rapidly growing magical forest from which most who enter don’t return. She’s known as the Hunter. However, all respect Zafira has gained would be lost if folks were to find out that she was a girl. Nasir has a name of his own: Prince of Death. He assassinates all who cross his autocratic, despotic father, no matter how he feels on the subject. As the Arz grows and resources get more scare, both Zafira and Nasir find themselves on a journey to find a magical relic long buried on a dangerous island long presumed lost.

Another nearly impossible to write description! The worldbuilding in this thing is complex, and its really hard to give a short summary of the plot outside of “awesome” girl and scary-but-hot boy go on a quest for a magical object. While I do love complex worldbuilding, it bogged down the story for the first 40% of the book, and I kept getting confused by which peoples had what characteristics if they weren’t the peoples of our main two protagonists. Speaking of our two main protagonists, they were the least interesting characters in the story. Zafira is your standard strong-but-still-insecure-attracted-to-the-bad-boy YA fantasy protagonist, and Nasir kills people for no reason. The author tries to describe it away (his girlfriend will be brutally tortured), but this guy kills hundreds of people to (maybe) spare the lives of a few. Utilitarian he is not.

Anyway, after a lot of labored worldbuilding, we finally get to the island and team up with some other folks on the same quest. After this, the book is a lot of fun for about 30%. The characters have great chemistry, and the new ones are all dynamic and interesting people (beings) who we learn about slowly through the switching perspectives of our main characters. There’s a heist vibe and some great chemistry between friends and enemies alike . If that section had been the whole book, you would be reading a very different review. However, unfortunately, the book then focuses on a romance between our two leads, and I never found it to be convincing or compelling.

TLDR: This book was so close to being a really fun read, but a forced romance between two largely un-compelling leads overcame my love of the supporting characters, their chemistry, and some really fun worldbuilding elements.

I think folks who liked The Gilded Wolves or the Throne of Glass series will find things to like here. For this reader, it was mostly a miss. 2 stars – it was ok.

Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Netgalley for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. We Hunt the Flame will be available for purchase on 14 May, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Brain Lab for Kids
Chudler, Eric H.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Are you interested in neuroscience? Try these 52 experiments and activities to explore neuroscience. You might explore your reflexes, vision, hearing, or sleep and body rhythms. You might learn about memory. Have some fun and learn about yourself as you read this book.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Most Magnificent Thing
Spires, Ashley
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A girl comes up with a magnificent thing and hires a canine assistant to help create it. No problem! They gather supplies and get to work. Things do NOT go as plans. They try and try again, but are unable to make the magnificent thing. Then the girl gets mad and then she hurts herself! Things are not going well and she want to quit! Her assistant suggest a walk and then off they go. As they reach the end, the girl realizes how to make her magnificent thing and she gets to work. With persistence and creativity, they truly are able to make the most magnificent thing.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
That Is Not a Good Idea!
Willems, Mo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A very plump goose is met by a hungry fox who invites her to dinner. Will dinner go as planned? This humorous book by Mo Willems reminds us to listen to our inner gosling and expect the unexpected. The book involves simple text and a minimum of words allowing readers to explore the pictures to understand the story.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Awards:

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