SUMMER READING 2016: 5 Guest Reviews from Tweens & Teens

Summer Reading is on! We’re having a great summer at BCPL with events ranging from fitness activities to a lab with the Kentucky Science Center to awesome magic shows. But the heart of Summer Reading will always be books and reading.

And we’re so excited with the response we are receiving from the participants in our 2016 Reading Challenges. Here are just a few of the book reviews we’ve received so far; more will be posted here over the month to come. Thanks to all of our guest reviewers for sharing!

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Sara Nickerson
Reviewer: Tyler W., Age 10
Tyler’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel/Mystery
Audience: Tween/Teen

Tyler’s Summary & Review:  A boy and his mom move into a mansion only to find out weird things keep happening. It’s ok. Kind of a long book.

Quarterback Sneak by Jake Maddox
Reviewer: Tyler W., Age 10
Tyler’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Sports Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Tyler’s Summary & Review:  A quarterbacks suddenly starts acting very strange, which puts the team in major jeopardy.I enjoyed this book, I can relate to one of the characters because he wants to help his team. I also have a passion for football.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Katelynn’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/School Story
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween

Katelynn’s Summary & Review:  A boy has a facial disease and has a hard time “fitting in” at school and out of school. I am here to tell you that I really think you should read this book. First, the book makes me feel like I’m in the story experiencing what is going on. Next, the book has really good detail to make me imagine everything that is going on. Last, the book has a really good story behind that and it has a good plot. That is why you should read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Enjoy!?

EXTRA: Tracy’s Thoughts: I couldn’t agree more with Katelynn’s rating and review! I loved this book back when I read it, hence its inclusion on our Best of 2012 book list for middle grade and tween readers and my whining over its exclusion from the 2013 Youth Media Awards. Here’s my brief overview from one of our Book Picks lists:

Ten-year-old Auggie was born with extreme facial abnormalities. When he was younger, he used to wear a space helmet all the time just to hide from the stares. Now Auggie—homeschooled all his life—is ready to come out of hiding and is set to begin fifth grade at a private Manhattan middle school. Heartbreaking, funny, and simply wonderful in every way, Wonder is a must-read for book lovers of all ages. Ages 8 and up

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield
Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11
Katelynn’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Animal Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade

Katelynn’s Summary & Review: A zebra and other animals get captured and have to train to be gladiators. Once they train, they have to fight to earn their freedom.

I think you should read the book Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield. First, this book has some great facts about the Romans and other things. Next, the book has really great humor. Last, the book has a lot of feeling in it. That is why I think you should read the book Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Reviewer: Kaylee F., Age 12
Kaylee’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Audience: Teen/Young Adult

Kaylee’s Summary & Review: The storyline is about a girl named Bella Swan and when she moves in with her dad at the town of Forks. I thought this book was a great start to an amazing series.The story itself was great because it explained how Bella felt at all times in amazing words and vocabulary. I loved the characters a lot because they all were a big part of an amazing story. I loved the setting because when the author wrote to explain the setting she made it feel like I was actually looking at it myself. I just enjoyed this book so much I couldn’t even put it down. You should really read this book and fall in love with it just as I did.

EXTRA: Tracy’s Thoughts: As Kaylee says, this book is compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down and read the entire book (about 500 pages) in a single night. I have a few issues with the book (Edward’s stalker tendencies, for one), but nothing that prevented me from staying up till about 6:00 in the morning until I finished!

Are you interested in submitting a guest review? Use the submission form on our website to share your thoughts (positive, negative, or in between) about your latest read. And remember: eligible BCPL patrons earn an entry in our Summer Reading Grand Prize Drawing for each review they submit!

GUEST REVIEW: The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls

Tonight we have a special guest review from a new library employee! But Donna isn’t new to Book News & Reviews; in 2012, when we Donna was simply a library patron, she contributed reviews of Home at Last by Bonnie Leon and Siobhan Fallon’s linked short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone. Glad to have you back, Donna!

Donna’s Rating:4/5 Stars
Genre: Mainstream Fiction/Love Story
Audience: Adult

Summary: Thirty-something Bess Gray despairs of ever finding “the one.” Then she meets a charming Irish musician and becomes instantly smitten. After a couple of months of dating he proposes. The problem? Rory has already been married EIGHT times before. Before deciding whether to follow her heart and leap all in, Bess embarks on a journey to meet each of the past wives and learn where Rory’s past marriages went wrong.

Donna’s Review:
It took a little bit to get used to the jumping back and forth from the his and her viewpoints during the reading of this book. Once I got past that, the story did stick its fangs into me. It kept me coming back for more. I wanted to know all about the hows and whys of Rory’s eight wives. How in the world did he end up being married that many times? More than one is not that uncommon in modern times, but eight?

I liked getting to see Rory mature with each of his wives, what could have been just relationships if not for his very giving and romantic nature. I also liked seeing how Bess came to terms with each of them, as she definitely wanted to know about each of them. As we women all do, she wanted to see if each one was prettier than her, smarter than her, etc. Bess’s grandparents and gay friend, Cricket, liven up the main story line.They show the  reader there are always different shades of gray in relationships.

I think the end could have gone either way, or any way, and I don’t want to spoil it for you! The whole story, and for me, Bess’s thoughts, were something that any woman would want to think about. Every woman wants to know about her predecessors and sometimes ends up finding out too much about them. This book might change the way some women think about finding out too much information. In my opinion, this book is a 4-star read. It is funny, sad, and has much romance to offer while showing the loneliness and vulnerability of people, whether single or in a relationship.

Are you interested in contributing a guest review to Book News & Reviews?

  • We encourage BCPL patrons and members of the community to share thoughts on what they are reading and welcome guest reviews. Find details here.  
  • Or, if you would like to share your favorite recent reads but think writing a full review is too much trouble, join our What Do You Recommend? collaborative board on Pinterest!

GUEST REVIEWS: Picture Book Flash Reviews

We have a couple of firsts for you today at Book News & Reviews! Today we are featuring our first reviews from BCPL’s very own Ms. Cheryl as well as our first child-submitted review. Five-year-old Tabitha Beck is a soon-to-be first grader, a HUGE Dora fan, and a patron at our Lebanon Junction Library location. She graciously chose to share her thoughts with us about one of her favorite books, which she has read many times.


Charlie Goes to School
by Ree Drummond

Reviewer: Ms. Cheryl
Ms. Cheryl’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Audience: Ages 4–8
I am a big fan of Ree Drummond and couldn’t wait to read her children’s book. Charlie is the main character and is a Bassett Hound. The book is written from his perspective. Charlie starts off the story at the beginning of his day with how he “helps” out all the human family members. Then he discovers school and wants to have a school for all the animals on the farm. Things do not go well, and Charlie eventually gives up and takes a much needed nap. The author writes a very fun and engaging story and the illustrator did a fantastic job of illustrating the book. I really enjoyed looking at the pages and all the little characters on each page.

The Worst Princess
by Anna Kemp

Reviewer: Ms. Cheryl
Ms. Cheryl’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Ages 3–7
This book was a quick and fun read. It has rhyming words and a funny twist to the typical “Happily Ever After” princess story. The princess is a bit more adventurous than your average princess, so she is very excited when her brave and wonderful prince finally comes along. Only this prince wants his princess at home being happy with her clothes and castle. Throw in a naughty dragon that comes to the princess’s rescue, and you have a great read.

Show Me Your Smile:
A Visit to the Dentist

by Christine Ricci

Reviewer: Tabitha Beck
Tabitha’s Rating: (Rating not provided, but we’re guessing Tabitha gives it a 5 out of 5!)
Audience: Everyone (Publisher recommends ages 3–5)
This is a Dora book and I love Dora, the Explorer. In this book Dora goes to the dentist and I learned that it’s not that scary. I would recommend this book to anyone to read. It’s good to go to the dentist because if you don’t take care of your teeth, you won’t be able to eat. The dentist helps you keep your teeth healthy and keep your smile beautiful. I love this book.

GUEST REVIEW: Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal and John Nickle

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book/Humor/Mystery/Fractured Fairy Tales
Audience: Ages 4–8

First lines: “There are eight million stories in the forest. This is one of them.”

Allison’s Guest Summary & Review:
With a title like this, I couldn’t help picking up this read. Officer Binky is a fun character, rife with all the characteristics of a gumshoe detective, who investigates the crimes occurring in five fairy tale classics. Kids will be familiar with these stories, retold afresh without reinvention, and complete with tongue in cheek references. But children will also be enthralled by Levinthal’s artwork–an appealing acrylic montage. All in all, this was a fun read, which should keep kids laughing!

GUEST REVIEW: The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Anderson

Allison, our Outreach/Programs Supervisor here at BCPL is back with another guest review! This time, she’s got me hooked. I think I’m going to have to read this book (and its prequel) for myself!  –Tracy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Genre: Alternatie History/Speculative Fiction
Audience: Adult/Young Adult Crossover
Series: Boleyn Trilogy #2

Summary: What if Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a son who’d grown up to be king? With his regency period over, King Henry IX is sitting the throne of England trying to maneuver palace intrigue, war on the horizon, passion, and secrecy. His legitimacy still doubted, tensions are at a heightened state with the Catholics, and he is betrothed to the young princess of France. But he is still enchanted with his childhood love, Minuette, and the court is beginning to take note. Even more scandalous is the fact that Minuette is in love with another—Henry IX’s best friend. Will the secrets of the court change the course of an empire?

First Line: “You will not tell me what I can and cannot do with my own son!”

Allison’s Review:
Rarely do I find a book that I read cover to cover in basically one sitting. Rarely do I find a book that while completely fiction, mirrors actual historical events in a way to keep me interested. Rarely do a find a quick-paced storyline that is also detailed. And rarely do I find a book in which the author has been able to take such artistic license with history in order to write their fiction yet stay so true to many aspects of real-world historical events. This book—and in fact both books in this series published thus far—have managed to accomplish all of this!

If we were to imagine a living male heir of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, William Tudor (King Henry IX) is that heir. Watching him come of age, with a mixture of the personalities and characteristics of both his parents, is mesmerizing. And the political intrigue (of which I am not usually a fan) is captivating. The love triangle surrounding Minuette is thought-provoking. Sinister plots abound. Henry IX’s sister Elizabeth is a beloved royal princess who’s to be married off in a diplomatic bargain, yet the character we know as Elizabeth I is evident.

Most enjoyable for me in this storyline is the constant mystery and intrigue that sends you catapulting between one imagined outcome and another. And, the teaser chapter from the next installment in the trilogy, The Boleyn Reckoning, leaves me asking the question: Can the release date of July 15th get here already?

GUEST REVIEW: My Sister’s Stalker by Nancy Springer

BCPL programmer Allison is back with another guest review!

Allison’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Audience: Teen/Young Adult

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Rig Googles his sister, who he is missing camaraderie with
since his parents’ divorce, and finds that there is a website dedicated
to her. He feels that the person who put the pictures
of his sister on the website is a stalker, though he has trouble trying
to convince his mother of that fact. She feels that
the site dedicated to her daughter is created by an
admirer. Rig skips school and takes a bus to his old
hometown to show his father what he has found. While
his mother is obviously looking at things pessimistically, his more
down-to-earth father shares his concerns. The two of
them embark on a journey where Rig has to look into himself to “connect”
with the website creator in order to save his sister from what he sees
as a threat.

Allison’s Guest Review:
This will be a good read for reluctant readers, especially among young men. It is a quick read; it took me just under two hours to read. It will be perfect for those who just want a quick mystery, but some readers used to in-depth novels will be asking for more detail. Rig is a typical sixteen year old, struggling to adjust to a new town and a new school after his parents’ divorce. He feels more connected to his mother than his father, and begrudgingly admits to missing his sister, too. He must connect with his father in order to warn his sister of the danger he feels she is in, and discovers that he has the quality traits his father has always professed to not seeing in Rig. The two embark on a trip to save Rig’s sister dealing with knife-wielding maniacs, an inability to communicate, and inner turmoil in order to accomplish their goals.

GUEST REVIEWS: Flash Reviews from 2013 Cabin Fever Participants

Ever get sick of hearing what Lucinda and I think of our latest reads? Ready for a fresh opinion? How about some of your fellow BCPL patrons? Here are several guest reviews we received as part of our 2013 Cabin Fever program. Thanks to all of our guest reviewers for sharing!

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Reviewer: Anonymous Patron @ Ridgway Library
Anonymous Patron’s Rating:
5/5 Stars
Genre: Romance
Audience: New Adult/Adult
Series: Beautiful #1

Summary: Travis Maddox, Eastern University’s playboy, makes a bet with good girl Abby that if he loses, he will remain abstinent for a month, but if he wins, Abby must live in his apartment for the same amount of time.

Anonymous Patron’s Review: This story was amazing! I literally could not put it down! This was a wonderful love story about two people you would not think should be together until all the “pieces” unfold. I am looking forward to reading the author’s other books.

Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon
Reviewer: Heather Lawrence (Mt. Washington Library)
Heather’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Christian Fiction/Romantic Suspense
Audience: Adult
Series: Guardians of Justice #2

Heather’s Summary & Review: The story of Allison Taylor and Mitch Morgan pursuing their admiration and affection for each other has enough love, adventure, and danger to keep the reader wanting to know “What happens next?” There was enough character development to understand the good guys from the bad guys but still leave a little suspicion and doubt of some of the characters’ overall intentions and roles in the story. The theme of faith and belief in God is dispersed throughout the story, helping the reader see connections to events and understand why things happen from a spiritual standpoint. The book is a great example of how when a person puts his/her trust in God, even the most dangerous of situations can become a moment of strength and courage.

A Golden Betrayal by Barbara Dunlop

Reviewer: Debbie Sanders (Ridgway Memorial Library)
Patron’s Rating:
3/5 Stars
Genre: Category Romance
Audience: Adult
Series: Silhouette Desire #2198 / The Highest Bidder #6

Summary: Convinced a headstrong American woman and her auction house are connected to the theft of a priceless statue, an Arabian prince kidnaps her.

Debbie’s Review: A funny romance with a spunky couple that are attracted to each other as soon as they meet. Good read.

Let It Sew by Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Reviewer: S. Jeanine Hall  (Hillview Library)
Heather’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Humor
Audience: Adult
Series: Southern Sewing Circle #7

Jeanine’s Summary:
It’s Christmas in Sweet Briar, South Carolina. A grinch has taken over the towns Christmas Decorating Committee, and Tori, Dixie, and Rose have been drafted to help. Charlotte Devereaux, a founding member of the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle, has passed away. She left behind a sketchbook of clues indicating her husband was murdered. Will Tori and her sewing circle gals have time to solve a murder and de-throne a grinch before Christmas? After all, they have a hundred Christmas stockings to make!


 Liberator by Bryan Davis
Reviewer: Marie Webb  (Lebanon Junction Library)
Marie’s Rating: No star rating was given.
Genre: Christian Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult/Adult
Series: Dragons of Starlight #4

Summary: The resurrected Starlighter,
Cassabrie, may be the humans’ last hope on Starlight as Jason, Koren,
and Elyssa struggle to warn the soldiers of the dragon king’s plan to
wipe them out using a deadly disease that already threatens Koren’s
Marie’s Review:
Liberator is the 4th book in a series “Dragons of Starlight.” I found the books to be interesting and captivating. Davis has created a world within a world with a lot of intriguing characters. This keeps you guessing as to the outcome and actually who the good guys are and who will prevail.


Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
Reviewer: Anonymous Patron  (Mt. Washington Library)
Marie’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Chick Lit
Audience: Adult
Series: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants #5

Summary: In this final Sisterhood, published as an adult novel, the girls are now in their late twenties. The pants are long gone and each is missing the closeness they once shared, so Tibby organizes a reunion that could change their lives in unexpected ways.
Anonymous Patron’s Review:
It was good to revisit old friends from the previous Sisterhood books. The girls learned to be bold and embrace both the joys and sorrows of a well lived life.

Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters by Betty Barden
Reviewer: Lisa Houchins (Mt. Washington Library)
Lisa’s Rating: No star rating was given.
Genre: Adult Nonfiction/Crafts
Audience: Adult

Lisa’s Review: Lots of information for the beginning crocheter. Laid out well and easy to follow. Lots of pictures. Even a few cute ideas and patterns.

GUEST REVIEW: My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

We have a new guest review! Christie—wife, mom, musician, and BCPL employee—is a first time reviewer here at Book News and Reviews. She is an avid reader and especially loves books with happy endings.

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Holiday Fiction
Audience: Adult
Series: Virgin River #20

Christie’s Summary & Guest Review: It is always nice to visit Virgin River. This time Robyn Carr took us on a journey with Jack’s niece, Angie, and the youngest Riordan boy, Paddy. Now that Ms. Carr has introduced us to so many characters I almost feel like she has to skim the surface on each character. Each time she mentions someone that has been in a previous story she has to give a small back story. For someone who has already read the series this is not always necessary and for someone just starting with this book, they wouldn’t know anyway. I felt like some of the back stories took away from Angie and Paddy’s story. 

I found Angie and Paddy to be very likeable, but their story seemed very similar to Luke and Shelby’s: A younger girl, who just went through a traumatic experience, falling in love with someone emotionally unavailable and a man, struggling with a life decision and not really knowing what he wants, then they both realize it is each other they want. A lot of Paddy’s thoughts were the same thoughts his brothers had already experienced. I found Shelby to be stronger than a lot of heroines, but still young and naive.

With all that being said, it is still nice to visit the city and see that things have not changed; in fact they just keep getting better. The people of Virgin River still band together to get all things needed done and still put their armed forces up on the highest pedestal. It would be so neat to walk into Jack’s Bar, eat one of Preacher’s meals, and just listen and observe all things happening in that small, quaint town that holds everyone together.  

GUEST REVIEW: Gentle’s Holler by Kerry Madden

Allison, our teen and adult programmer here at BCPL, has a new guest review for you! 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Younger Teens/Tweens (middle school)
Series: Maggie Valley #1

Summary: Livy Two Weems is a young girl in North Carolina, who dreams of being a songwriter but is always brought out of her dreams by her nine younger siblings.  Her father is an aspiring banjo player, her mother is constantly the rock of the family.  Livy Two is growing up poor and only wants to make things better for her poverty stricken family, especially her younger sister Gentle, who is blind.  Tragedy strikes, and Gentle is trying to come to grips with it, and help her family survive the turmoil in its wake.

Allison’s Review:
When I was younger I read The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings, and when I picked up Gentle’s Holler I was not expecting to find the same story. The blurb on the inside cover made me want to read about Livy Two, whose twin sister Olivia died at birth and to whom she sometimes prayed. I wanted to read about the poverty-stricken family and Livy Two’s sibling who was blind. I wanted something new. If I hadn’t already read The Yearling, I may have really enjoyed the story.  However, Gentle’s Holler seemed more like an endeavor to retell Rawlings’s classic tale.

There are some really touching parts of the story, like Livy Two’s dedication to finding something to help her younger sister Gentle function as normal without her sight. When Livy’s older brother Emmet leaves the family, we are drawn in to her heartbreak. When Grandma Horace arrives to help the family out of despair, the reader can genuinely feel the tension between family members.  And, when Livy’s father is desperately hanging onto life, I could identify with her fears and emotional state. 

I’m not sorry I took the time to read the book, but I wish that the writer would give us something a little more original to ponder.

GUEST REVIEW: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

We have a new guest reviewer! Mary W. is a BCPL employee and an avid fan of  “weird” books, or so she once told me. For her first review, she is taking on the latest novel by Chris Bohjalian, who is probably best known for Midwives (a former Oprah Book Club pick). Another of his novels, Double Bind, had a Great Gatsby connection, and this one seems to be somewhat influenced by The Turn of the Screw. I’ve been meaning to try Bohjalian for ages, and I actually gave The Night Strangers a try (in audio format), but I had to give up because I found the reader’s delivery to be wooden and unlistenable. But based on Mary’s reaction and other reviews I’ve read—from Justin Cronin, author of The Passage: “The first chapter of Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers is so riveting, I dropped the book in the tub.”—I definitely need to seek out a print copy ASAP.   —Tracy

Mary’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genres: Psychological Suspense/Horror
Audience: Adult

 First Line: “The door was presumed to have been the entry to a coal chute, a perfectly reasonable assumption since a small hillock of damp coal sat moldering before it.”

Mary’s Guest Review & Summary:
The book starts with a small jet taking off from an airport and running into a flock of birds, which destroy the engines, and the pilot must land in a lake. He hopes to make a safe landing but instead the plan flips end-over-end and 39 passengers are killed. As a result of this, he can’t fly anymore and his family decide to move to a small community in hopes he will heal from his nightmares. They move into a house with a door in the basement that has 39 large screws placed around it so it cannot be opened. He decides to open it anyway.

Time to change subjects. He is married to a nice lady and has twins who are not quite teens yet. The teens don’t care for the new place and one is hearing voices in the night. The people who are their neighbors are herbalists and have lots of greenhouses everywhere. Sort of like a cult.

This book has a lot of twists and turns and sometimes I got lost at first but it gets more and more interesting as it goes on. If you like books about ghosts, witches, and weirdo people, this book will be a good read for you. I can only say one word about the ending of the book! ASTONISHING! I didn’t see the ending coming. The epilogue stood me on my head!! This book is not for the faint of heart.

GUEST REVIEW: How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation by Simone Elkeles

Allison, our teen and adult programmer here at BCPL, is back with another guest review! This time, she’s taking on one of Simone Elkeles’s How to Ruin titles. I loved the first book in Elkeles’s Perfect Chemistry trilogy (for me, the second two were disappointing) and enjoyed both of the Paradise books, so it looks like I have yet another series to add to my ever-growing TBR list.  –Tracy
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Chick Lit
Series: How to Ruin #3
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Summary: Signing up
for an overseas summer boot camp program where her hot and sexy boyfriend Avi
is stationed might not have been Amy’s greatest idea—especially when she finds
out that Avi is keeping a secret that could tear their relationship apart.
Allison’s Guest Review: 
Only in the last year have I become acquainted with
the writings of Simone Elkeles. This book
is true to her form in that she finds a way to bring the reader a tale of a
teenage girl coming into her own. Amy is
a well-developed character, and the reader is given early insight into her
inner turmoil. She is a confident,
strong, and determined young lady who decides to attend a summer boot camp in
order to see her boyfriend, Avi.  Amy
thinks that she will spend time with Avi when she gets there, only to find out
that her expectations are false. She is
forced to get dirty, which is not on her list of favorite things to do. Through Elkeles use of bits of humor, we are
able to watch as Amy faces and ultimately conquers her struggles-and see her
emerge as a different person.
Well-written, excellent plot development, great
storyline.  What more could you ask for?

DUAL/GUEST REVIEW: You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

We’ve got another guest review! Donna is a regular library patron and a second time guest reviewer for Book News & Reviews. She previously contributed a review of Home at Last by Bonnie Leon. This time around, Donna chose to review one of my absolute favorite reads of 2011, so I am also posting my mini-review from the last BCPL Recommended Reading List

Donna’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tracy’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Genre: Short Stories/Realistic Fiction
Audience: Adult

Donna’s Summary & Review:
I really enjoyed this book. It was another book that I could not put down once I started reading it. The novel is set in Ft. Hood, Texas. These are lives lived on the military base, a world all its own, complete with its own stores, movie theaters, even its own laws. The missing husbands are living on the other side of the world, deployed to wherever the government says they are needed.It actually is a collection of short stories, mostly written from the deployed soldiers’ wives’ point of view. There is one story at the end that is actually written from the soldier’s point of view.

All the stories are very down to earth and believable, with all the raw human emotions that come along with messy, long distance relationships. Qualities like jealousy, uncertainty, fear, pride, shame, disbelief, love, loyalty, they run the gamut. Siobhan keeps the stories short enough to make the reader want more, but long enough to make a genuine connection to the characters. If you are a wife living on base, or at home, while “your soldier” is away, you will surely know deep in your gut some of the feelings that surface here. If you are any other part of the military family, it will give you insight into what your soldier and their families are working through. I gave this book 4 stars, only because I would have preferred to have a more complete ending to each short story. I would think that each and every one of the short stories could be made into an individual novel. Other than that, it was a 5 star.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
As I said, this was one of my favorite reads last year, and I have been singing its praises to anyone I can get to listen. Here’s what I had to say earlier this year:

Eight gripping stories, each showing a different dimension of the domestic side of military life, make up this debut story collection set primarily around the military base in Fort Hood, TX. Fallon shies away from political commentary, instead focusing on the personal drama of families and soldiers coming to grips with extended absences of a year or more. The characters are real and haunting, and their stories are full of complexity and humanity. There is the wife with breast cancer who struggles with her daughter’s rebellion; the successful investment banker–turned–soldier who questions his place in the world; and a bored young wife who becomes obsessed with her Serbian neighbor’s suspicious behavior. In one particularly memorable story, a soldier on leave camps out in his basement on a covert mission to discover whether rumors of his wife’s infidelity are true. Fallon’s prose is simple yet elegant, and the life she breathes into each of her characters left me fully engaged in the book from cover to cover.

Would you like to contribute a guest review to Book News & Reviews? Find how here!

GUEST REVIEW: Home at Last by Bonnie Leon

We have our very first, non-library employee guest review! Donna, one of our regular patrons here at BCPL,  loved Home at Last so much that she wanted to share it with all of us.

Are you enthusiastic about a book you’ve read recently? If you would like to contribute your own Guest Review to Book News & Reviews, find out more here.

Donna’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Audience: Adult/Young Adult
Genre: Historical/Christian Fiction
Series: Matanuska Series #3
Donna’s Summary & Review: 

I just finished the book called Home at Last by Bonnie Leon. This is the 3rd novel of a trilogy called The Manatuska Valley Series, set in pre-World War II Alaska. The book is about the son of the Hasper Family coming to terms with resentment that has festered in him for years, after the death of his much beloved father. The book is a Christian Fiction novel, based on historical facts. It is about a young man that goes to war, taking his love for his childhood girlfriend with him. He and his girlfriend, along with his family, have their ups and downs, but they never lose their faith in God. This book, along with all the other two books in the series, is a book that you will not be able to put down.   

The book is so uplifting with Christian prayer, along with human faults, that I was able to readily identify with and be blessed with so much, that I did not want the book(s) to end! The 1st book starts out with the Hasper family moving from a dusty farm in the lower 48 states, to Alaska. The family hopes to win a good farm in the land lottery that the US government is using to help families settle Alaska. There are pitfalls and heartaches in Alaska, just like everywhere though, that the family must work its way through. You will get to know each of the characters in the small town of Palmer, Alaska. The characters will come alive for you; it’s almost as though you are a part of the family.

GUEST REVIEW: Along Wooded Paths by Tricia Goyer

Our adult/teen programmer, Allison, is back with another guest review! This time she delves into adult Christian fiction.

Allison’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Audience: Adult
Genre: Christian Romance/Amish
Series: Big Sky #1

 In lieu of a summary, I found this book trailer:

Allison’s Guest Review:
I had all but given up on Amish fiction. After having read scores of the same old storyline (Amish girl falls in love with someone from outside her world; someone has a horrific buggy accident; another Amish girl is pregnant before her marriage; family secrets are revealed), I was hesitant to delve into this one. Imagine my surprise when Tricia Goyer changed all that. 
Granted, all those elements that usually make up the storyline of an Amish romantic fiction are there, but they are not the storyline in this particular book. Goyer uses descriptions of the Montana town where Marianna is living that allow the reader to form a mental picture of the town and its inhabitants. I could actually see Sarah and Marianna conversing in the kitchen of the country store where they worked. More so than other Amish fiction books I have read, Along Wooded Paths delves deeper into the thoughts and hopes of a young girl, the struggle she has with her faith, and the choices she ultimately makes. 

I can honestly say I am looking forward to reading the next installment, Beyond Hopes Valley. And, Goyer certainly intrigued me with her teaser chapter! This was a great read, full of all those elements necessary to draw a reader into its fantasy world. I would highly recommend it.

DUAL/GUEST REVIEW: Trapped by Michael Northrop

Allison’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Suspense

Summary: Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a week-long blizzard that shuts down the power and heat, freezes the pipes, and leaves them wondering if they will survive.

Allison’s Guest Review:
I really enjoyed this one. Narrated by the main character, a boy who sees himself as a normal teen, this book takes us into the mindset of teens lost in a crisis. At first, the reader feels like the characters don’t give the situation its due worry, but as the characters develop, the reader realizes that the nonchalant attitude displayed by many of the teens trapped in the school are simply avoiding admitting the danger they face, even to themselves. There are a few scenes which introduce some humor, and many details given to enthrall the reader and keep him/her moving along with the story. It was refreshing to read a book with no clearly defined hero/heroine; just a telling of the story with points of drama where they are needed.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
I was very impressed by Northrop’s debut novel, Gentlemen, and after reading the blurb and reviews for Trapped I had high hopes for his sophomore effort. As in his first book, Michael Northrop does an excellent job of building tension. Not only is there a growing awareness that this is indeed a life-threatening situation, there is also tension as the 7 teens—many of whom are mere acquaintances—must pull together. I liked that these are seven typical teens, although they do tend to represent the usual cliques (popular girls, jock, outcasts, the school bully). This lends the book a sort of  Breakfast Club-meets-Christopher-Pike vibe (I’m thinking Weekend). The characters often misread one another, allowing their own preconceptions to get in the way. For me, this was the real drama of the story.

However, the characters, particularly the narrator, just didn’t have the same zing that I expected after reading Gentlemen. What I enjoyed so much about Gentlemen was Tommy’s voice—sharp, biting, and darkly funny. Scotty, the narrator of Trapped, just didn’t have that something special that made me truly invested in the story’s outcome. I needed more character development. The ending, too, was a bit abrupt for my taste and doesn’t really do justice to the excellent premise. But despite my quibbles, Trapped is a quick, enjoyable read and a solid choice for a cold, snowy day’s read.

GUEST REVIEW: The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

We have our first Guest Reviewer! Allison, our Teen and Adult Programmer here at the library, wanted to share her reaction to one of the many new additions to the fairy tale genre. (Seriously, fairy tales are HOT right now—on TV, in movies, and in books. But more on this is a later post…)

Instead of a traditional written summary, we found this great book trailer:

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so.addVariable (“StoryID”, “1b7d95761c5883e2ad020e7aaedaba5f084d1602”);
so.addVariable (“Volume”, “.5”);
so.addVariable (“HostURL”, document.location.href);
so.addVariable (“quality”, “high”);
so.addVariable (“AutoStart”, “true”);
so.addVariable (“MoreVideoURL”, “”);
so.addVariable (“OneClipEmbedCodeHeight”, “342”);
so.addVariable (“Org”, “barnesandnoble”);
so.addVariable (“OneClipEmbedCodeURL”, “”);
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so.addParam (“quality”, “high”);
so.addParam (“allowFullScreen”, “true”);
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so.addParam (“menu”, “false”);
so.write (“flashcontent”);

Rating: 2/5 Stars
Audience: Young Adult/Teen (Middle and High School)
Genre: Historical Romance/Fairy Tale

Allison’s Guest Review: This book completely fell flat with me. Dickerson begins with the retelling of a Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty tale, and for the first six or so chapters, she hits the nail on the head. The main character, Rose, as well as her mentor, Frau Geruscha and the well-mannered (and betrothed) Lord Hamlin are wonderfully developed. After the basic plot set-up, however, the story winds through a mist of characters which hold little importance to the main theme. Finally, the evil conjurer Moncore makes his appearance, with little fanfare or back story. The reader has found herself enthralled in the fairy tale beginning, waiting for the eventual “happily ever after” ending, only to have multiple characters and plots confuse her. The entire plot is summed up in the last two chapters, without much prior understanding as to what conspired to make these events come together.

Are you interested in being a Guest Reviewer?
Simply send your review to [email protected], and tell everyone about the book you loved (or hated!).

Guest reviewers wanted!

Did you ever want to be a book reviewer? Well, Lucinda and I thought that it would be a great idea to solicit guest reviews from fellow readers and library patrons. We want to know what you’re reading! Love it or hate it, send us a brief review of any book you have read recently and your review may be featured on Book News and Reviews.

Here are the rules:
1. Tell us the title and author of the book you are reviewing.
2. Give a star rating to the book, based on our rating system.
3. Provide a brief, ORIGINAL summary of the book (at least one complete sentence).
4. Provide a brief review of the book (250 words or less). Did you like it? Why did you rate it as you did?
5. Tell us your name (an internet handle/alias is okay) and age/grade.
6. Please send your reviews to me at [email protected], with “Blog Guest Review” in the subject line so I can prioritize it (You have no idea what my inbox looks like. Seriously).

Easy, right?  Feel free to send over reviews now, and I’ll start publishing them as they come in. We look forward to hearing from you!