Staff Book Reviews

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
Vérant, Samantha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Although this book was predictable and sometimes read like a Hallmark movie - I completely enjoyed it. The food described made my mouth water, the side characters were charming and actually more interesting than Sophie (who
was a bit whiny), and the description of the French chateau made me want to go wander through a field of lavender. If what you need is escapist fiction, this book will fit the bill perfectly.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
The Book of Two Ways
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Oh this book ripped me apart. Jodi Picoult is a master at putting people's in impossible situations where you're not sure what side you're on. I also loved learning more about Egyptology and quantum physics, I'm kind of nerdy that way. If you're expecting a light read, this may not be the one for you. I loved it!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
The Chicken Sisters
Dell'Antonia, K. J.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Enjoyable book. I was expecting something more, but it is like one of those comfort movies you watch, knowing as you go into it how it all will end. Parts of it were repetitive and long-winded, the book could have been at least 50 pages shorter. The descriptions of a fried chicken dinner made me super hungry, though!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Faye, Faraway
Fisher, Helen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is going to be one of my favorites of the year, it just hit me right in the gut. That feeling of nostalgia and wishing you could go back in time to tell yourself "it's going to be okay. " The eternal tug between looking backward, and trying to stay focused in the present. And knowing that when you lose someone, there are always things left unsaid. I just loved it.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
The Lost Apothecary
Penner, Sarah
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Gorgeous read! The story is told from 3 viewpoints: Nella (the apothecary) and Eliza (a young girl who befriends her) both take place in the late 1700s. Then there is Caroline who is a present-day woman who is discovering their story. I've mentioned in another review how much I enjoy dual timeline stories where a physical object connects them, and this one is a superb example. Both timelines are compelling, and the author skillfully balances the stories, so that it is not quite as "jarring" when you jump from one timeline to another. Wonderful writing, wonderful story, I highly recommend to all historical fiction lovers out there. Oh, and mudlarking is now on my bucket list!!!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Vera
Edgarian, Carol
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Great story set during the chaos of the 1906 earthquake and fires of San Francisco. Vera is not a warm and fuzzy character, but you will admire her grit at keeping herself and "family" safe and fed despite the fact that she was often dismissed by them. The author does an amazing job placing you in the middle of a nightmare, the city is as strong a character of the novel as Vera herself. 4 1/2 stars, strongly recommended to historical fiction fans.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing
Owens, Delia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I just loved this novel. I loved how it painted the marsh with words and conjured a believable main character that you want to root for. The story line was very interesting and kept me engaged. It's not a hard read and chapters are relatively bite sized, but don't let that fool you. This book packs a punch. 5 stars!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
My Sweet Angel
Glatt, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

John Glatt does a great job in laying out this heinous murder, based on a true story. Managing to lay out a timeline with both moves and medical complications, Glatt exposes a mother who went to great lengths to do everything she could to create publicity for her sick son. The photos in the middle of the book, as heartbreaking as they are, make a much heavier impact if you wait until you've completed the book to look at them.

Reviewer's Name: Nicole E.
The Lost Girls
Glatt, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

John Glatt is a very skilled investigative journalist and author. This book describes in chilling words the recall of "missing" girls in a small town and the murderer who tries to help "find" them along the way. As usual, Glatt's thorough research exposes the situation in depth. His delicate use of imagery gives all of the information you need to visualize his crimes without being a huge trigger for those with PTSD.

Reviewer's Name: Nicole E.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Gregory, Philippa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Other Boleyn Girl is a wonderful book that was also made into a movie. The book, though historical fiction, does follow the actual events, within reason.

Reviewer's Name: Nicole E.
Normal People
Rooney, Sally
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This novel about two Irish teens in an on-again-off-again love affair that deftly displays the transformative power of relationships over time through lessons learned. The decisions made by teens Connell and Marianne are ones many can remember from their own past. That makes their emotional travails realistic and their longing believable and poignant in the hands of a skilled writer like Sally Rooney. This is only her second novel following up her well-regarded debut, Conversations With Friends. In Normal People, the two grow up in the same small town with Connell lliving the life of a popular athlete while Marianne is a loner. Their situations reverse at college due to their different social classes. But despite the constant change of their formative years, these complex characters are drawn together by a shared emotional connection these intelligent kids struggle to understand. It is this journey together as lovers and friends and all the messy emotions involved that makes this coming-of-age tale resonate. This title is available as a PPLD book club set and is also the basis for an Emmy-nominated Hulu television series that is written and produced by the author.
Awards: British Book Award, Costa Book Award, An Post Irish Novel of the Year

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Convenience Store Woman
Murata, Sayaka
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This poignant English-language debut of one of Japan best contemporary writers is the best-selling story of 36-year-old Keiko Furukura, a quirky outsider who struggled to fit in until she found peace and purpose in her life working at Smile Mart. Human interaction and social norms are difficult for her to comprehend but the store manual explains, line by line, how to act. She does her best to copy her fellow employees' mannerisms and dress to better play the part of a "normal" person and remain a "useful tool" for the store. But after 18 years at the same store, her family and coworkers pressure her to make one of two choices -- focus on a career or marry and start a family. These constraints force the self-described "convenience store animal" whose emotions are only stirred by "the store's voice telling me what it wanted, how it wanted to be" to take measures to avoid scrutiny. This deadpan love story about a quirky woman and a store sticks with you long after you've finished thanks to some beautiful writing, a memorable protagonist and the larger questions raised. The short novel (163 pages) touched a nerve in Japan, generating a sustained discussion concerning conformity, especially for women. The book's notoriety garnered Murata, who continues to work at a convenience store after 18 years, Japan Vogue Magazine's 2016 Woman of the Year honor.
Awards: Akutagawa Prize

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Richardson, Kim Michele
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was a powerful story set in the mountains and hollers of rural eastern Kentucky in the 1930s. Cussy Mary is a strong woman who has dedicated her life to providing books and other reading materials to the isolated impoverished hill folk. Cussy Mary, also called Bluet, is the last of her kind, a Blue woman with blue skin. When the ending came around, I thought I might be disappointed, but it was handled deftly and with a light hand. Very good book!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Crazy Enough
Large, Storm
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This raw and honest memoir is a great mix of entertainment and powerful introspection. Storm Large has spent her wild life with a deep seated fear she will turn out like her mother, who was institutionalized many times for mental illness. Then there's her sex addiction. Definitely not a book for kids or teens. Overall, I recommend this quick read to those who like to read about the wilder side of life and are interested in mental illness.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: Christmas at Tiffany's
Swan, Karen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was better than I expected. Chick lit is my guilty pleasure and this one was better than most. I liked the descriptions of New York, Paris, and London and the story line was sweet. But don't let the title fool you, it doesn't take place just during Christmastime.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
Hill, Jenna Miscavige
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is very informative, albeit slow paced. I learned a lot about Scientology and its disturbing practices. If you're looking for a fast-paced nail biter of a memoir, this isn't it, but if you want to learn about what Scientology really is, then give this book a try.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Blubber
Blume, Judy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I enjoyed this book. It was a very accurate description of bullying and being bullied. The problem I had with it is it ended very abruptly and there was no illustration on how to overcome bullying and no vindication. I assume the author did this on purpose, providing a snapshot of bullying with no solution. A list of anti-bullying resources would have made a great addition to the book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
All the Impossible Things
Lackey, Lindsay
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a 2020 All Pikes Peak Reads teen selection. This is a very good book. It's fast paced for the subject matter and the characters are engaging. I think the 'impossible' message in this book is inspiring, but may have been dealt out with a heavy hand. But that's okay. I liked the magical realism as well. Overall, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Go Set a Watchman
Lee, Harper
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was okay. It follows the brilliant "To Kill a Mockingbird". Maybe the shoes were just too big to fill. It's telling that rumor has it Lee didn't want Watchman to be published. The main problem that I had with the book is there is a lot of tedious soliloquizing by Scout. Also, there's a part in the beginning of the book that is straight out of Mockingbird, which isn't surprising as Watchman was written before and became the basis for Mockingbird.

Meh.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Red Hood
Arnold, Elana
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Acclaimed Young Adult author Elana K. Arnold knows there is realism to be found in dark fairy tales and the award-winning author delivers once again, following up her Printz Award-winning Damsel with Red Hood (Feb. 2020), a retelling of the classic fairy tale geared toward older teens. The story centers on Bisou, a girl in a red hooded sweatshirt, who discovers she has inherited the instincts and supernatural strength -- triggered by menstruation during the full moon -- to stop the boys who turn into werewolves at that time from hurting the young women they prey upon. It's a violent and bloody tale enhanced by layered depictions of strong females, positive male allies and a realistic portrayal of teen life. Arnold effectively blends magical realism, dark fantasy elements and modern prose together into a disturbing but ultimately empowering story that celebrates sisterhood that spans generations while shining a light into the dark shadows of rape culture. The story quickly builds to an ending that does not disappoint.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.

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