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Category Archives: Reviews – Staff

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The Art of Racing in the Rain – A Review

Posted on July 30th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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the art of racing in the rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Our Teen Book of the Month group is reading this book for our August 14th book discussion at 3pm in the Central Library Teen Room.

Enzo is a mixed breed dog named after the founder of the Italian car company, Ferrari. He’s also owned by a professional race car driver, Denny. The story is told through the point of view of Enzo as he recounts his life with his human family on the night he realizes he won’t be making a round trip ride to the vet the next morning. His mobility issues are making it increasingly harder for him to move around as he gets older and older.  Enzo learned a lot about life through Denny and his racing tips and tricks and he applied them to the obstacles in his way whenever he could. Their family life wasn’t the greatest. Denny’s wife died from brain cancer and Denny ended up in a legal battle with her parents over the custody of his daughter. Enzo knew the grandparents were not nice people and didn’t like the fact that Zoe, the daughter, had to spend so much time with them. Money is tight for Denny, he’s lost his wife, might lose his daughter to his in-laws, but he’ll never lose Enzo. Enzo is always there for him and for Zoe, when he can be, helping to keep their spirits up and to keep them going when things get tough.

This was an AWESOME book. But don’t read it in public. Unless you don’t mind bringing a large hanky and a bucket to collect your tears in. This book will have you bawling your eyes out and laughing hard in certain places. You will learn a lot about life, as Enzo did, and have a good time doing it. There are a lot of references to racing cars, but you don’t have to have a love of cars to read this and enjoy it, which is another reason it’s a great read. I highly recommend it to everyone who loves dogs especially.

Like Me – A Review

Posted on July 24th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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like me

Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer by: Chely Wright

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Like Me is  Chely Wright’s memoir/autoboigraphy. She explains how she grew up, how she got into singing country music, how she rose to the top of the charts with a number one song, and most of all, how she dealt with being a lesbian in an anti-LGBTQ atmosphere before gaining the courage to come out of the closet.

I admit to being a country music fan. I might not always remember who sings which song, but I do love the music. About two years ago I went to Book Expo America and had the opportunity to meet Chely Wright who was there signing her book. I was star-struck, of course. She wasn’t popular at the time, but I remember when she was and I knew she had good songs out there. Standing in line, I was amazed that she seemed very down to earth as I knew virtually nothing about her except her music. She’s naturally pretty (as her cover shows) and she doesn’t do anything to change that. Sure she’s got money, but she doesn’t fling it around and buy expensive things just because she can. She’s smart and hard working too, definitely things to admire in anyone you meet. I don’t think I said anything other than ‘thank you’ to her when she signed my copy, though I wish I could have unglued my mouth for more than that.

Reading her memoir, I truly understood how difficult it was for her to stay in hiding for nearly 30 years before she told a single person she was gay. She had relationships with men, hoping each time that things would change and she would fall in love and be straight. She prayed at least once a day for God to take away the gay that was inside her. And she had several relationships with other women that she kept hidden from the world. The pain was evident every time someone cracked a gay joke, or told her there were rumors she was a lesbian and that if it was true she was going to hell. She’s Christian through and through and she had the strength to hold onto her beliefs, even when her church continually spoke against her. She has to be admired for that strength. Even when she hit rock bottom, when she thought about committing suicide, she was able to use her faith and hold on just a little bit longer until she was strong enough to go back out into the world.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with coming to terms with being LGBTQ, coming out of the closet, or anyone who simply wants to know more about what it’s like struggling with these issues. She writes in a conversational tone that makes her words easy to understand and before you know it, you’ve reached the end, amazed at the long journey you’ve taken with her.

The Sable Quean – A Review

Posted on July 17th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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the sable quean

The Sable Quean by Brian Jacques

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Another Redwall tale full of dashing and daring characters, this time ready to save the young dibbuns from an evil sable quean. These woodland creatures have heart and bravery even when faced with such evil as the sable and her horde of vermin looking to take over Redwall Abby. Adventure and action await the reader who picks up this book. And it’s not just the soldier hares who get in on the action. The dibbuns are every bit as brave as their parents, even when they’re missing their home, family, friends, and good food.

The Redwall series will always remain one of my favorite series. These books can be read in any order, though I urge new readers to check out Redwall and Mossflower first. Redwall is the first book and Mossflower (my all time favorite!) is the second book in the series and the prequel to Redwall. Read those two first, and you can then read any of the other books in any order you like. Also, if you like audio books, I highly recommend listening to this series in audio. Brian Jacques narrated his own books, often with a full cast of readers behind him as various characters. He had such an amazingly rich voice that was perfect for vocal storytelling. This series is geared toward a wide audience age range from late elementary school through middle school and into high school. A lot of older kids and adults have also read and enjoyed these books. I started reading them in 7th grade and read them through highschool and into college. After Brian Jacques’ death, I picked up the last four Redwall books I had yet to read and I’m now working my way through them. He was my favorite author growing up, and it didn’t seem right to miss out on these last few books. The Sable Quean is the second to last novel in the Redwall series and at some point before the year’s end I intend to read the final book, The Rogue Crew.

The Sable Quean was a fantastic read, which couldn’t be put down once I got into it. Of course, if you’ve read all the books, you know they do become rather predictable in what happens. Even so, some of the things that happen in this book were not predictable at all, which was a bit refreshing.  It was a fun read and one I would recommend to anyone who likes the Redwall series or other similar books, such as the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.

The Name of the Star – A Review

Posted on July 5th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

This is the story of a girl from Louisiana who goes by the name Rory. Her parents accept a job in Bristol, England and so Rory decides she wants to go to a boarding school in London for her final year of high school. The school she chooses happens to be in the area where Jack the Ripper murdered several people in the late 1800′s. When the killings begin again, on the same dates, with all of the details as exactly like the originals as they can be, the entire city of London is thrown into chaos. No one knows who the original Jack the Ripper was, so who could this new Ripper possibly be? Rory discovers she can see and talk to a strange man her roommate cannot see or hear. What does it mean? Who is the strange bald man? And just who exactly is the third roommate in Rory’s room who arrived late in the semester, almost ruining the bond she’d formed with her first roommate?  Will Rory escape the wrath of the Ripper alive? Or will she become one of his victims?

This book was amazing! It was recommended to me shortly after it first came out and I just never got around to reading it until now. I should have. I should have picked it up right then and there and started reading. On the inside cover of the paperback, YA author Ally Carter, is quoted as calling it “unputdownable”. Granted, that’s not a real word, but in this case, I think we’ll let that slide. This book WAS unputdownable! I loved the new/fresh setting, as I rarely read books set in England, or maybe there just aren’t that many YA books set there. I wouldn’t want to live there (hate cold and rain too much!) but visiting via a good book is perfect. I also liked her portrayal of all the characters. They’re realistic without going over the top. Usually books that revolve around a school have the popular kids with their noses stuck in the air and too many groups and cliques. This didn’t. Not to that degree anyway. I enjoyed the relationship Rory has with her first roommate, and the relationship that eventually grows with her third, as they live in a room meant for three. And I liked how the murderer is not who you think he is. Ever. I kept changing my mind, changing it back again, only to change it to something else a second later. The ending was not predictable and was very satisfying. What a rush!

In short, I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good murder mystery. Even with a paranormal twist, it seemed very realistic. Fantastic reading.

Shadowfell – A Review

Posted on June 26th, 2013 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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shadowfell

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room

Read for my personal summer reading list (book #1 on the list) and also for our July 3rd TBOM book discussion.

This is the first book in a series about Neryn, a sixteen year old girl with the ability to see the Good Folk, fairies who blend in with nature, tend to be very small, and don’t have typical fairy wings. The king of Alban has decreed that anyone with canny abilities should be killed, or work specifically for him. No one is allowed to speak of the old ways, or practice the ancient arts. Anyone who can sing or weave a basket too well is thought to have abilities they shouldn’t. This is not a time of peace, but of unrest, a time when being overheard speaking the wrong words could cause death, or worse, a mind-scrapping. Enter Neryn, a young girl who’s grandmother told her secret tales of the Good Folk, who was ready to stand up for what she believed in, and eventually died for those beliefs. Neryn is on a long journey with Flint, a companion she isn’t sure she can trust with her deep secrets. It turns out, however, that Flint has secrets of his own and they might be closely related to hers. Will she reach Shadowfell, a destination marked for safety to those with canny abilities? Or will Flint turn her over to the king for his use?

This book was well written, seemingly above the traditional YA fantasy novels that have been written lately. I fell into a world that was at once fantastical, and yet very believable. I loved the Good Folk, who are like fairies and yet not like any that have been written about recently. These are magic folk of old stories. They blend into nature and only come out if you can see them, only help you if you are kind hearted and share whatever you can with them. Neryn learned to share from her grandmother, learned that it doesn’t matter how much you have, you always have something you can share. Often she is hungry and offers a little of her food to the Good Folk in return for a little of their help. She is able to call mythical creatures to her aid, creatures not found in typical YA novels. She is strong, and kind. She isn’t what I would call “girly” and she isn’t not “girly” either, something else I liked. The cover of the book doesn’t have the typical girl in a beautiful gown (which usually never appears in the actual book!) and that made the book that much more approachable. This was a good read over all, but there were a few issues I had with it, minor though they might be. Trust is a hard won issue throughout the book. No one is trustworthy in Alban. Everyone is looking over their backs. That’s understandable, but the trust between Neryn and Flint goes back and forth so many times, it does get a little irritating, along with the repeated traveling, that never seems to end. As for Flint himself, it is stated somewhere in the book that he’s young, perhaps early twenties at the most. But his actions, and the way he speaks, puts him at a much older age. I kept picturing Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), and thus, had a little trouble picturing the budding romance between the two. I actually would prefer him to be a man of Aragorn’s age, minus the romance. I’ll admit, I’m getting tired of there having to be a romance in every YA book out there. Otherwise, I loved this book, and will likely give the second book a try when I get a chance.

For those who are interested, our TBOM book discussion will be at 3pm on July 3rd. Everyone is welcome and snack food will be provided!