Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Realistic

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
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
Star
Mishima, Yukio
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rikio is a star and he likes the glamor, money and notoriety that comes with that lifestyle. His ears ring with the cheers, screams and exhortations of fans, mostly young women, who would kill for a moment with him. But it also means constant scrutiny, which has the 23-year-old celebrity struggling with his own anxieties and obsessions. What if those fans stop desiring him someday? The self-loathing star would rather be in character on a movie set than be himself.
Written shortly after starring in his first film, the late Yukio Mishima delivers a blunt, rich portrayal of a flawed young man lost between his public persona and private life. The novella, first published in 1961 and translated into English for the first time in 2019, is even more relevant now in today's 24/7 media landscape. Awards: Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Book Cover
Zoboi, Ibi & Salaam, Yusef
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Yusef Salaam is one of the "Central Park Five", young men of color who were incorrectly accused of raping and beating a woman jogging in Central Park in the late 80s. After the five had served their sentences of 5-15 years, they were exonerated when the real culprit came forward. This book is clearly heavily inspired by Yusef's story as it tells the story of Amal, a teen in prison for a similar crime that he did not commit. It starts with the conviction and then moves into Amal's experiences in a juvenile detention center.

Every year, there's a book that I promote really heavily in classrooms. This will definitely be that book. It's so good. So sad. So spare in that way that only books in verse can be. It takes a while to read, because sometimes you just kind of have to sit with it for a while to process it. It does such a great job of illustrating just how deeply flawed and racist our "justice" systems are. I dare you not to empathize with Amal. I can't wait to share this important book with everyone I know! Also, like, that cover y'all. So pretty. And it's relevant to the story! Anyway, consider this required reading, especially for all the folks trying to "read woke". 5 stars.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Punching the Air is out 01 September - put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Ghost
Reynolds, Jason
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I had taken a break from reviewing books until I read Ghost. This book is really well written. The narrator is believable and the plot illustrates his struggles and growth. Ghost is a troubled kid who stumbles onto a track team and turns his life for the better. I both loved and hated the ending, because it was so good but I didn't want the book to end. Great quick read. I highly recommended giving it a whirl.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
96 Miles
Esplin, J. L.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

John and Stewart’s father is a survivalist. At their home in a remote part of Nevada, they have everything they need to sustain them for six months – water, food, gas, even a generator to keep the refrigerator running. So when the power goes out for half the country, the brothers aren’t too worried, even though their father is away. They’re doing better than a lot of other people who weren’t prepared. But then, a group of men come in pickup trucks and they take everything. They force John and Stewart to kneel on the floor at gunpoint and one man tells John, “I’m sorry, kid, but we need what
you’ve got.”
Now, their only chance for survival is to walk 96 miles in the blazing desert heat to a friend’s ranch. There’s also a time limit. It’s important that they make the trip in three days - no longer than that – and Stewart won’t believe that he’s not going to die.
Then they encounter another set of siblings, Cleverly and her younger brother, Will. Cleverly decides that her best option is to join them, but John is not certain whether having Cleverly and Will tag along will help or hurt his chances to get Stewart to the ranch in time.
Every day is a struggle to find food, drinkable water, and to keep Stewart on his feet. Together, the four of them experience the desperate things that people feel justified to do in times of crisis and the best and worst of human nature, both in themselves and in others they find along the way.

Reviewer's Name: Cynde
Criss Cross
Patterson, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Alex Cross used to be a police detective but for the last few years he's been a psychologist who still does consultant work with police. In his career, he has crossed paths with a numerous amount of serial killers and other highly intelligent murderers and psychopaths. Needless to say, he's made a few enemies along the way. In this latest novel (he appears in a total of 28 at this writing), Alex must reflect on past cases and enemies as the mysterious "M" plays cat and mouse while copycatting previous cases he's worked on. It even leaves Alex wondering if a prior nemesis whose death he witnessed is still alive when he sees his carbon copy in the flesh. But things escalate when "M" manages to kidnap his 10 year old son Ali. Not the best book I've ever read, but I enjoy the incredible family dynamics Alex has with his 90 something grandmother, his wife and his three kids which have been developed over the past 30 years, and ties me into reading each new novel written with this character in it. Patterson writes very short chapters, so the novel provides a quick read.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
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
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: 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: Nowhere Boy
Marsh, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fantastic! Ahmed is a 14 year old Syrian refugee that has been orphaned and left with no money and no place to go. He ends up in Brussels and hides in the wine cellar of a house. Max, whose family lives in the house, discovers him and they strike up a friendship. What follows is a story of loyalty, determination, and desperation. The ending almost made me cry. The book brings up questions about whether or not countries should accept refugees and how to determine who is good and who is a terrorist. I definitely recommend it to everyone, as the plight of middle eastern refugees should be known to all.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Drama
Telgemeier, Raina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very sweet book. The three things I liked best about it were the following:
1. It was a play within a play.
2. A character breaks up with his girlfriend because she was trying to get someone to cheat on a test.
3. The main character doesn't give a second chance to the boy who disrespected her.
It's a lighthearted book that addresses some deep themes and is fun to read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: Mrs. Everything
Weiner, Jennifer
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Surprisingly good. I was expecting more of a lighthearted chick lit experience, but it was a compelling read that delved into the lives to two sisters over a period of time. I'm not sure what the title has to do with the story but still a very powerful story.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Flush
Hiaasen, Carl
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Noah's dad is in jail for sinking the Coral Queen, a gambling boat that dumps raw sewage into the pristine water of the Florida keys. A fun adventure, Hiassen delivers yet again. So far he has done no wrong. I listened to this on cd and was not impressed by the narrator, but Zoe loved the parts she heard and wants to read it now. If that's not a tribute to the book, than I don't know what is.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Orange for the Sunsets
Athaide, Tina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Tina Athaide’s debut novel, Orange for the Sunsets, is a story of friendship, resilience, and perseverance. Written for the middle grades and set in 1972, Athaide helps readers examine who and what they call home. It’s the story of Ugandan best friends, Asha and Yesopu, who don’t see their differences until Ugandan President Idi Amin announces that Indians have 90 days to leave the country. Asha, an Indian, and Yesopu, an African, are torn apart. Journey with them as they learn that letting each other go may be the bravest thing that they can do.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Cover
Menon, Sandhya
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Sweetie Nair is fat. She doesn’t care, but her mom cares. Like, a lot. A lot a lot. Definitely too much. So much that so when Ashish, a hot local boy from a good (and crazy rich!) Indian family tries to date Sweetie, Sweetie’s mom shuts it down. But Sweetie won’t give up without a fight, and so she, Ashish and Ashish’s parents hatch a plan in which the kids will go on four dates. If it works out, they’ll tell Sweetie’s parents. If not, no harm done. Plus, what can happen in four dates? Turns out, a lot.

If you’ve read any of Menon’s other books, this one is completely on brand. I’ve read her other two books, and this one might be my favorite? It’s up there with Dimple, for sure. It’s a funny romantic comedy with endearing, mostly believable characters from a culture that’s different from mine. In addition to reading an adorable book, I get to learn a little bit about Indian Americans. This one has an added element of pointing out our society’s horrible ways of treating fat people. The way a folks react to Sweetie will have you seeing red – but you know it’s unfortunately totally realistic. Luckily, Sweetie is a self-confident young lady, and it was a joy to see her grow throughout the book. Ashish isn’t too bad himself! He has a very believable journey through the course of the book, and was a male lead you could root for even as he made a few terrible decisions.

TLDR: If you’re looking for a light, funny and very swoony read, this one will do it for you. I know it put a smile on my face.

Sandhya Menon is coming to PPLD to be the keynote speaker for Mountain of Authors! Meet her, listen to her give a talk and get a book signed on 27 April at 21c. More information about the event can be found here: https://research.ppld.org/mountainofauthors

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon Pulse for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. There’s Something About Sweetie will be available for purchase on 14 May – don’t forget to put your copy on hold!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Secrets and Scones: A Secret Recipe Book
Remington, Laurel
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Scarlett’s mom is writing a blog and Scarlett seems to be the star – or perhaps victim. All of her embarrassing moments are being shared with the readers and it’s uncomfortable to go to school knowing that her classmates know all of her secrets. Scarlett’s answer is to become boring, but boring is – well – boring. When Scarlett discovers a spectacular kitchen in the house next door, she gives in to temptation and tries it out. In the process, she makes a new friend and discovers the secret ingredient in family and friendships. A fun read that encourages reaching out to others, making friends, and cooking.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Medina, Meg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Merci Suárez Changes Gears just won the esteemed Newbery Award last month. Merci is a new sixth grader attending a private school. Her Cuban family lives in three small houses that sit in a row. Grandparents, aunt, twin nephews, mom, dad and brother are part of Merci's daily life for better or for worse. Merci's schoolmates, however, are mostly mean to her, maybe because Merci does not come from the same affluent neighborhoods with pools and parks galore. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a gentle story of how Merci's sweet family and school intersect, all while Merci is growing and changing. In fact, Merci's household is changing quickly and somehow Merci has to learn to change gears to keep up.

Reviewer's Name: Betty
Nowhere Boy
Marsh, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fourteen year-old Ahmed is hiding in the basement. No one in the house above knows he is there. His family is dead. He has no one to stay with and nowhere to go. He is stuck, in Belgium, in this basement, all alone. Then Max, the boy upstairs, discovers him. Will he tell the police? Will Ahmed be sent back to Syria? What happens next is a fast paced adventure about compassion, hope and doing the right thing. Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh is great for suspense lovers age 10 to 16.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Genres:

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