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Recent Reviews

Water Balloon - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JulyWater Balloon
by Audrey Vernick [j Vernick]

Some novels are so powerful in their style that one must cleanse their reading palette before tackling the next book. This is the case with Water Balloon. Marley is an observant seventh-grader. When Marley surprises her friends with a balloon blitz during a Monopoly game, she takes pleasure in her friends having no idea how they could be sitting outside playing a game on a hot spring day and the next moment being bombed with water and balloons. Marley is also a self-aware teen. When her mom drops her off to stay with her dad for the summer, Marley is poignantly aware that all she really wants to do is wrap herself around her mom and not let go. Even when Marley is confused, I love how carefully she tries to sort through those emotions. Some novels are also so dramatic in their events that it's hard returning to reality after closing the last page. This is not the case with Water Balloon, but that's a reason why I like it. I never lose touch with the heart of Water Balloon. Everything in Water Balloon is about how complicated relationships are. The relationships almost always remain real to me, because of how normal the interactions are. Nothing really extraordinary happens to help Marley to realize that she needs to open up her life to new traditions and friends, but that again goes back to how real her life feels, and why Water Balloon is a quiet gem. There were a couple of problems. When Marley finds herself deserted, Marley compares herself to a loner at school. Maybe readers are supposed to feel sympathy for the solitary, but the comparison bothered me because of how Marley always negatively viewed the girl. As the summer progresses, Marley encounters the boy next door. Yes, they do have one quarrel, but otherwise he reads like every girl's dream date. In reality, relationships with guys are just as complicated as those with girls. Those quibbles aside, I found Water Balloon as a beautiful, calming novel. Marley is someone I'd love to meet in real life. And Water Balloon is the type of quiet fiction that leaves me clamoring for more of its kind.

Score - 8
reviewed by Allison H.-F.
a customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
July 25, 2014

Lamar's Bad Prank - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JulyHow Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy
by Crystal Allen [j Allen]

Thirteen-year-old Lamar is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker's Bowling Paradise. Or so Lamar describes himself. The problem is that bowling isn't what counts with Lamar's friends, his family, or even his town of Coffin. Lamar sets out to improve his life. For starters, he tries again with the girls, this time with a soccer goddess. When Makeda reminds Lamar that he used to know her and prank her, he doesn't walk away but instead gallantly apologizes. So far, so good. Lamar also tries to become the "most athletic, smoothest, baddest dude" in Coffin and gets some unexpected help. Courtesy of the best bowler in the world, Bubba Saunders, Striker's Bowling Paradise hosts a contest with the grand prize of Pro Thunder Bowling Gear. At the same time, Lamar meets Billy Jenks, who invites Lamar to team up with him to earn money through bowling. One of these choices is worse than the other. What makes How Lamar's Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy to shine as a mad, bad, spectacular example of fiction is how Allen handles the aftermath of Lamar's ultimate bad choice. First, while both his dad and the town impose some pretty serious consequences, they aren't so punitive that Lamar has no ability to recover. Second, Lamar has opportunity to show his true colors, when faced with other negative consequences of his actions. Third, through the intertwining of other story lines, Allen shows the complexity of how bad choices are made. She also succeeds in pointing out that everyone makes mistakes. While some may be worse than others, nonetheless we all have our errors in judgment to overcome and choices to make about how we want to live. Allen has written a page-turning novel about bowling and about relationships. In a light-hearted way, she has also introduced romance. How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy will be a humorous and heart-warming addition to any middle grade fiction collection

Score - 8
reviewed by Allison H.-F.
customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
July 17, 2014

Fangirl - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JulyFangirl
by Rainbow Rowell [YA Rowell]

I enjoyed this book. At first I couldn't figure out what the point of it was, but I started to enjoy it in the middle. I don't think that it lived up to what was described on the blurb, but it was still enjoyable. I expected an accurate depiction of fandom and its trials and tribulations,and ended up with a romance. I think that Rowell needs to step away from misfit romance. It has a beautiful cover. A good book.

Score - 8
reviewed by Esme K.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 8, 2014

Out of My Mind - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JulyOut of My Mind
by Sharon Draper [j Draper]

This book is an amazing story as you get to know the main character who struggles with talking, walking, and eating. Even though she has many set back, she always knows how to deal with them. As she takes her journey, she meets people who are nice and friendly to her, and people who are just out to get her. This amazing read will leave you at the edge of your seat, reading twists after twists.

Score - 9
reviewed by Maggie C.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 6, 2014

Colossus Rises - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JulyThe Colossus Rises
by Peter Lerangis [j Lerangis]

What do the seven wonders of the ancient world, the lost city of Atlantis, and a basketball jock have in common? They're all found in Peter Lerangis's book The Colossus Rises. The first book in a new series, it is full of fantasy, magic, and wild humor. The adventure starts on the first page and doesn't let up until the end. Overall a great story.

Score - 8
reviewed by Amanda R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 3, 2014

Wonder - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JulyWonder
by R.J. Palacio [j Palacio]

This book is a touching story that never leaves you guessing to what is going to happen next. You see how August deals with his life and takes his problems by the horns. At first, you feel very sorry him, then you realize that he loves his life no matter how difficult it is. Although it takes an effort, Auggie always gets through the toughest of times and knows how to deal with everything that comes his way.

Score - 9
reviewed by Maggie C.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 2, 2014

The Wanderer - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JulyThe Wanderer
by Sharon Creech [j Creech]

This book is one of Creech's best works. The story takes place in the perspective of all the main characters. This story takes place out in the open ocean, with all the adventure anyone could possible want. there is pure family love and trial, tests of trust, and mystery. I recommend this book to anyone who has the spirit to do anything they want, even against the people who criticize their very hopes and dreams.

Score - 10
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 2, 2014

Jurassic Park - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JulyJurassic Park
by Michael Crichton [Crichton]

I thought this book was amazing because the story just kept on going and there was no part in this book where it was boring. The characters feel so real to the reader, you don't ever want to forget them. The dinosaurs themselves are so terrifying, you feel like they've been brought back from the dead. Once you close that book, you feel like your putting the dinosaurs back into ancient time. I recommend this book to anyone who has a love and appreciation for science and adventure.

Score - 10
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 2, 2014

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JulyAngus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging
by Louise Rennison [j Rennison]

Absoulutely hilarious! This was one of the books that I couldn't put down! I honestly thought the word 'snogging' was a bit gross sounding, but this was awesome with enough of everything that goes in a great book

Score - 8
reviewed by Lia B.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 2, 2014

Good Omens audiobook - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
This review is for the Book on CD format of this itemNew in JulyGood Omens
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, narrated by Martin Jarvis [Compact Disc Gaiman]

Good Omens is the story of an angel who owns a bookshop, a demon whose not really all that bad, and and impending apocalypse that really should have been planned out better. This is a great novel full of all the wit, sarcasm, and satire, that comes with misplacing the Antichrist

Score - 8
reviewed by Amanda R.
customer of the the Gere Branch Library
July 2, 2014

Sisters Grimm - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JulyThe Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives
by Michael Buckley [j Buckley]

The first book in the Sisters Grimm series is a wild adventure of mystery, magic, and a brand new take on the classic fairytales. Prince Charming is the mayor, the three little pigs are the police, and someone just set a giant loose on the town. This story is great for middleschoolers, and full of twists and turns and laugh out loud moments

Score - 9
reviewed by Amanda R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 2, 2014

The One - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JuneThe One
by Kiera Cass [j Cass]

A riveting end to the series. Kind of predictable. But very fast-paced and well thought-through.

Score - 8
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 22, 2014

Things Fall Apart - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneThings Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe [Achebe]

I read this book in my high school English class, which I feel is the best way to tackle this work. "Things Fall Apart" requires deep analysis in order to get at the subtle themes and plot events. Achebe boldly told a story that had rarely been heard before, the colonization of Africa from an African perspective. I had never read a novel written by an African author before, and this book made me want to explore that part of the world's literature a bit more. My favorite part of the book was how Chinua Achebe changed his writing style to more European style writing as the Europeans started to take over. Overall, "Things Fall Apart" was a beautifully written novel.

Score - 10
reviewed by Gillian T.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 22, 2014

Loch - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneLoch
by Paul Zindel [j Zindel]

This book was amazing!!!! It kept you on your toes with horror and mystery. The characters were either one of two things, lovable,or out of this world nasty. I recommend this book to the people who like horror or mystery. Also to those who are open minded...

Score - 10
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 21, 2014

Icefire - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JuneIcefire
by Chris D'Lacey [j D'Lacey]

This book was written with Characters that you could never forget. The only drawback was that the book was written in a way so that it is hard to follow along. I would recommend this book who has a love of dragons and has a strong mind that is capable of wrapping around the impossible and the possible. If you can understand it, then you will really enjoy it.

Score - 9
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 21, 2014

Everything for a Dog - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JuneEverything For a Dog
by Ann M. Martin [j Martin]

This book is actually 3 stories in one. All are about the relationships between dogs and humans, either friendship, rivalry and forgiveness, and healing. All of them are heart warming.

Score - 9
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 21, 2014

Allegiant - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 7
New in JuneAllegiant
by Veronica Roth [YA Roth]

The third book in the best selling Divergent series is full of twists and turns and packed with secrets, betrayals, and bravery. The entire series is a unique look at a dystopian world, but the final book is absolutely brilliant in its portrayal of discrimination and the value of humanity. There is also plenty of Tris/Four interaction for fans. Unfortunately, the switching between Tris and Four's perspectives can be confusing. Also, the ending may disappoint some readers. However, overall it is a good book and certainly worth reading.

Score - 7
reviewed by Amanda R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 19, 2014

Pretty Little Liars - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JunePretty Little Liars
by Sara Shepard [YA Shepard]

This book is SUCH a page turner (it's not even funny). It is a true mystery. You will want to read every other book in the series. You WILL enjoy this!

Score - 10
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 15, 2014

The Giver - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneThe Giver
by Lois Lowry [j Lowry]

What if you thought you lived in the perfect world? What if everyone around you thought so too? What if you found out that your world wasn't so perfect after all? This is what happened to Jonas when he meets "The Giver". This is a MUST READ!!!

Score - 10
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 15, 2014

Divergent - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JuneDivergent
by Veronica Roth [YA Roth]

This very face-paced novel is a page turner. It's thought-provoking and interesting. It is another book about a dystopian society. It is very well written and a book any teen or adult will love.

Score - 9
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 15, 2014

The Arrivals - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 6
New in JuneThe Arrivals
by Melissa Marr [Marr or YA Marr]

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the concept of the story was so different, and it was like nothing I have ever read before. On the other hand, the characters were written as though even Marr took them at face value. Each person who shows up in the Wasteland is a murderer. This fact is apparent at the beginning. In my opinion, this book would have been astronomically better if it contained a personal story for each character and how they ended up doing what they did. It is said a lot that this book is about redemption, but how can they be redeemed or how can we want them to be redeemed if we don't know anything at all about these characters? I felt that despite the fact that the setting and the premise of the story was so out there and original, it was ruined by the lack of time spent in character development.

Score - 6
reviewed by Gillian T.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 15, 2014

How to Break a Dragon's Heart - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneHow to Break a Dragon's Heart
by Cressida Cowell [j Cowell]

I really like this book because it has a very good story line and if you have read the previous books,it fills in some of the blanks. Plus, the characters are very real and you will have a hard time forgetting them. There is Adventure and Mystery. I reccomend this book to anyone who has a heart.

Score - 10
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 14, 2014

fml - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in Junefml
by Shaun Hutchinson [YA PB Hutchinson]

I really liked this book. More than I thought I would. What intrigued me about the book was the cover page. I would recommend this book to teens (maybe especially teen boys) because its really funny, has lots of twists, and goes through the struggle of any other slightly wimpy/slightly unpopular boy. I think the book's strengths were how there were two alternative ways that the story played out. A weakness was that, in the beginning, it was confusing with the two different stories, but I should have read the back of the book more carefully to remind myself that there were two alternative stories.

Score - 9
reviewed by Jadina J.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 12, 2014

Prey - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JunePrey
by Michael Crichton [Crichton]

This book is amazing! I think it is really sad that there aren't a lot of books by this guy in the library. I would recommend this book to teens who are looking for a very intense sci-fi book. It has great details and is a big page turner. I would not recommend this book to younger kids because of the language and the suspense. Anyway this is honestly the best book I have ever read! All I ask for, is a little bit more books by Michael Crichton.

Score - 10
reviewed by Ethan G.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 9, 2014

Note for Ethan: Michael Crichton was one of the best-selling thriller writers of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, before he passed away in 2008. Prey was his next-to-next-to-last novel published while he was still living. Two additional novels written by Crichton was published after his death. In all, Crichton is credit with writing (either under his own name or a pseudonym) 27 novels, four non-fiction books and several short stories. Click THIS LINK to see everything in the Lincoln City Libraries collection by Michael Crichton, including the many movies adapted from his novels, like The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, Jurassic Park, Disclosure and Timeline! — Scott C. / BookGuide

The Silence of Murder - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneThe Silence of Murder
by Dandi Daley Mackell [YA Mackall]

This book is very interesting. Quick and wonderful read.

Score - 9
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 8, 2014

Salem Falls - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneSalem Falls
by Jodi Picoult [Picoult]

I just love Jodi Picoult's novels. This particular book is thrilling. It is about a convicted child rapist who moves to the small town of Salem Falls. He meets Addie who is a rape victim. The story is about the journey these two take through adversity. And not everything is as it seems.

Score - 10
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 8, 2014

The Handmaid's Tale - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneThe Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood [Atwood]

This book really made me think. Reading it made me start to question ideas that I had been brought up with. I'm glad I got that kind of result, as that it what I feel books are for- to show us a new perspective or flip ours upside down. Upon reading the final "Author's Note," it is revealed that the book is based on a series of transcripts (fictional) found by scholars. The second time I would like to explore the story, I think I would like to listen to an audiobook copy, to make it more immersive.

Score - 10
reviewed by Gillian T.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 8, 2014

Ready Player One - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JuneReady Player One
by Ernest Cline [YA Cline]

Ready Player One was a very good book in my opinion. I liked that it combined many different genres. It included fantasy, action, sci-fi, and comedy/pop culture all in one book. The characters were deep, and everyone had their own strengths and weaknesses. People would put up a facade in the Oasis and only at the end of the book do you get to see what they are really like. However, there were some aspects of the book that I did not like. Some pop culture references were too obscure for the targeted audience, young adults. These references, I felt, closed off the book to readers. Also, there were times when the author would repeat phrases four or five times. Maybe this is just me, but I felt Ernest Cline was denying himself creativity.

Score - 9
reviewed by Gillian T.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 8, 2014

Ice - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneIce
by Sarah Beth Durst [j Durst]

This was a fantastic book! I literally finished the book in one day just because it was that good. Cassie portrays the character of a smart, strong young woman as she goes across the brutal Arctic.

Score - 10
reviewed by Amilia B.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 7, 2014

The View From Saturday - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneWhere the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls [j Rawls or jPB Rawls]

This book is absolutly astounding and extremly heart warming. It may be slightly sad, but it is absolutly wounderful. Rawls makes the story seem so real that you forget it is a book and not really happening. You will grow to love the characters and when you finnish the book, you will not want to leave the charming characters in their story. I recomend this story to anyone who loves heartfelt adventure and the love between a boy and his dogs.

Score - 10
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 7, 2014

How to Ride a Dragon Storm - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneHow to Ride a Dragon's Storm: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup the Viking
by Cressida Cowell [j Cowell]

I thought this book was really funny and well writin. The characters are unforgetable and lovable, especialy Hicup Horrendus Haddock 3rd. I have already read the story numerous times and it never gets old. I recommend this book to anyone ages 7-1007.

Score - 10
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 7, 2014

The Lost Hero - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JuneThe Lost Hero
by Rick Riordan [j Riordan]

This was a very good book. I did not like how they did not really introduce the new main person. He just randomly came in to the story. In terms of action I would give it a ten. I would tell a friend to read this book. This book is a very good book for people who enjoy greek mythology.

Score - 8
reviewed by Noah S.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 3, 2014

Raptor - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in JuneRaptor
by Paul Zindel [YA Zindel]

This book was extremely thrilling and horrifing all the same. I recomend this book to anyone who loves science fiction and horror. But... I would not recomend this book to anyone with a weak stomach, because it is very grossly detailed.

Score - 9
reviewed by Felicity N.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 3, 2014

Bad Girls Don't Die - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
New in JuneBad Girls Don't Die
by Katie Alender [YA Alender or YA PB Alender]

I think this is a great book for teens. It is about Alexis and her sister and how they defeat the ghost that haunts them.

Score - 10
reviewed by Mya M.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 2, 2014

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
New in JuneDrums, Girls and Dangerous Pie
by Jordan Sonnenblick [YA Sonnenblick]

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie is a great book that people should read! This book is really good because you learn about how life is with leukimia and how the main character had to deal with his little brother having it. I had many thoughts going through my head throughout this book — What will happen next? Will he be okay?... I would recommend this book for other people because it is filled with lots of action.

Score - 8
reviewed by Savanna B.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 2, 2014

Me Before You - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in MayMe Before You
by Jojo Moyes

I have throughly enjoyed this book and I'll for sure recommend it to everyone, anyone! I'd say that this book could even be read to children but with the exception of a filter. There's only some parts where it's a bit rated R, but mostly PG-13. You'll laugh for sure, and you'll "feel" the characters, especially Will and Lou. I advise to read this book on a rainy day, because it's just one of those kind of books, ya know?

Score - 9
reviewed by Vanessa L.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
May 31, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in MayThe Fault in Our Stars
by John Green [YA Green]

I'd say this is one of the best books I've ever read. Mainly, I wanted to read this before the movie comes out. But, my friend did recommend this to me, because it's an awesome book. I believe that this book has an excellent plot and storyline, great for teens. It's an amazing love story between two cancer patients.

Score - 10
reviewed by Amilia B.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
May 31, 2014

New in JuneBeautifully written. Such an amazing book. It will keep you turning its pages. Make sure you have tissues near you when you read it. It's a sad and sweet one.

Score - 10
reviewed by Ellie R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
June 8, 2014

New in JuneThis book was excellent, it had ups and down and you could never drop the book. I had to actually buy this book from Barnes and Noble, because of the number of holds awaiting for it at the library were huge. I'm pretty sure there were over 200 holds! Most of the book is about the ups and downs in life. But to show you that John Green put in the twist of having to people both have an illness and fall in love. Don't let anyone spoil this book for you and don't see the movie until you have read the book. My absolute favorite book is hands down, this one!

Score - 8
reviewed by Zoie A.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
July 14, 2014

The False Prince - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
New in MayThe False Prince
by Jennifer A. Nielsen [j Nielsen]

The False Prince is the thrilling first book in Jennifer A. Nielsen's popular Ascendance Trilogy. The gripping plot twists and turns as the characters struggle to survive a brutal competition. Winning means riches and power. Losing means death. And no one can be trusted in this witty story that leaves you guessing until the end. This is a book that can be easily read, and will be entertaining to a large range of readers. So get comfortable, because you won't want to put it down!

Score - 9
reviewed by Amanda R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
May 31, 2014

Hope Was Here - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
Hope Was Here
by Joan Bauer [YA PB Bauer]

Hope. Remember the name. It's important to both the main character and to those whom she meets in the realistic novel Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer. This Newbery Honor book is about sixteen-year-old Hope, who seeks a permanent place to call home. It's also about the townsfolk Hope meets, whot need hope in the face of political corruption. Stories of parent desertion are not uncommon in the world of literature for young people. What sets Hope Was Here apart is the quirky details. For example, Hope is the new legal name chosen by the main character to replace her birth name of Tulip. Hope's mom had seen a movie in which an actress was running happily through a field of tulips. Hope Was Here also contains its own unique twists. For example, after bestowing her daughter with the questionable name of Tulip, Hope's mom made an even more serious choice. She leaves Hope with her older sister, Addie, and then takes off to find her own life. Addie's presence, therefore, provides Hope with a mother figure, something not always seen in the typical parent desertion fare. Political corruption might not seem like an exciting topic. Bauer makes it work because of sympathetic and pivotal characters whom Bauer puts in the campaign arena. Addie has dragged Hope from state-to-state all of her life, seeking stable employment. Now, as Hope turns sixteen, they're headed to a rural diner in Wisconsin where they discover their boss, G.T., is looking for new workers because he's dying of cancer. This medical diagnosis has given G.T. a different perspective on life, including the desire to change his town, which he plans to do by running for mayor. Joan Bauer tends to write about characters who are down on their luck but who serve as positive role models. For example, Hope deliberately chose her name knowing that others would turn to her for a smile and comfort. And she managed to live up to her name even in the face of being deserted and facing job loss. Hope Was Here is a fast-paced and fun story.

Score - 8
reviewed by Allison H.-F..
customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
March 19, 2014

Under the Mesquite - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
Under the Mesquite
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall [YA McCall]

An expression that comes to mind about Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is that "the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts". The main storylines to this verse novel are the immigration of a Mexican family to America and the death of a parent. Thematically, the story is also about family, friendship, and identity. All of these parts interconnect to make an emotional experience that will have long-lasting impact. The immigration experience forms one storyline to Under the Mesquite. However, this verse novel is not about the difficulties which can happen to immigrants in crossing the border or when trying to avoid deportation. Instead, Under the Mesquite is about an altogether different struggle: one which I call dual homesickness. Basically, when she's on the American side Lupita misses her former life in Mexico, but when she's on the Mexican side she eventually finds herself longing for her new home in Texas. Because Lupita looks different and has an accent, naturally she also faces discrimination. And yet to my surprise, its Lupita's Mexican friends who harass her the most, accusing her of talking "like you wanna be white". Because of these different takes on immigration, I found Under the Mesquite to have a fresh approach. The death of a parent forms a second storyline to Under the Mesquite. When Lupita enters her freshman year in high school, her mom is diagnosed with cancer. Despite the rallying times when it felt as if her mom would recover and life would return to normal, Lupita and her sisters receive the dreaded middle-of-the-night call. It's often said that there are no new stories. You could view Under the Mesquite in this way, for death of a parent isn't a new tale. But how McCall develops the relationship between Lupita and her mom, down to the symbolism of the mesquite tree, is original, and therefore makes for a memorable read. A story told through verse has a strong chance of turning ones off who are not accustomed to the format. However, I love the emotional punch McCall creates with her intense visuals. I also appreciate that the poetic form allows her to provide the perfect emotional distance from one of the most painful experiences anyone can face. Which means Under the Mesquite has further sold me on the merits of verse novels.

Score - 9
reviewed by Allison H.-F..
customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
March 19, 2014

Moon Over Manifest - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 6
Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool [YA Vanderpool]

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is not the type of book one should fit into a busy schedule. It isn't an easy read, but should have a select audience. The first reason that Moon Over Manifest makes for a difficult read is the huge cast of characters. In fact, before you even get to the title page, you're going to encounter a character list. This alone should serve as warning that this is a different type of book. If that's not bad enough, you'll notice most of these characters aren't twelve-year-olds like Abilene but instead are adults. At times, I felt not only overwhelmed but bored. The second reason that Moon Over Manifest makes for a difficult read is the multiple subplots. Soon after the storyteller Miss Sadie is introduced, the typeface temporarily changes to signal the start of a second story. This story is about Jinx, whose father set him up him to take the blame for the murder of a man. Actually, there's yet another font change, because there's a third story about Ned, who sets off to war because of Jinx but ends up getting killed in battle. With all these stories going on, it might come as no surprise that Moon Over Manifest is over 300 pages long. At times, reading Moon Over Manifest felt akin to scaling a mountain of infinite height. If you can get to the heart of its story, Moon Over Manifest has a lot to offer. I enjoyed the adventures of Jinx, the boy who felt as if he cursed everyone he touched. The adult side of me at least also gained an appreciation for how townsfolk overcame their fears and differences to stand up against corruption. However, Moon Over Manifest is like a stew, which needs time to simmer in your thoughts. Young people who enjoy classics might enjoy plummeting into its depths. Beyond that, Vanderpool will probably find her biggest appeal among mature readers.

Score - 6
reviewed by Allison H.-F.
customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
February 15, 2014

Private Peaceful - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Private Peaceful
by Michael Morpurgo [j Morpurgo or jPB Morpurgo]

I first picked up this book because of the "warish" title hoping to find a book filled with the brutality and intensity of the act of war. Instead I found another side of the war scene in Private Peaceful, an interpretation that showed the interpersonal effects that war have on a young mind. Yes there is still the brutality that come with the territory but it is not the focus of this book and makes for a very interesting point-of-view for the usually war book reader. I highly recommend this novel if you regularly find yourself drawn to these style of books, I am sure you will find yourself deep into the reading as I was.

Score - 10
reviewed by Kellen R.
customer of the Gere Branch Library
February 4, 2014

Seeing Red - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Seeing Red
by Kathryn Erskine [YA Erskine]

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine is deserving of multiple literary awards. It's that good. First, Seeing Red is about relationships, ones between families and ones with neighbors. Red's dad has just died. Erskine has effectively explored reactions to death in her previous novels. Having even myself grieved in different ways, I appreciated that in Seeing Red each family member is handling grief in their own way and learning to respect their differences. Because Red's dad ran a business, the family also has a lot of dealings with neighbors. Some are good, some are not so good. Of the novels I've read by Erskine, Seeing Red has the most complex range of characters. Seeing Red is also about bullies and racism. Bullies come in different forms. As a teacher, I have read and watched enough about bullying to know there aren't any simple answers. Erskine recognizes this, while also making clear that the solution lies within each of us. As for racism, I also respected Erskine's exploration of it. When Red tried to walk away from a gang, and they threatened him, he backed down. He agreed to hit the schoolmate. And immediately regretted it. But also had to live with it, because that schoolmate had been a friend. Later, when Red started to dig through his dad's desk in preparation to move, he discovered a land claim that led to his realization that one of his ancestors had murdered a black person. He didn't want to acknowledge this fact. Yet to deny it would mean being dishonest in his history report to his teacher. And losing an opportunity to right a sin from the past. In earlier novels by Erskine, I've criticized her almost too perfect endings. In Seeing Red, yes, there are some wonderful changes. We expect this both in novels and in life. But reality also remains wholly present. Last, Seeing Red is about history and bringing about change. Red thinks history is stupid. Why care about something that's in the past and unchangeable? But everyone has the ability to make a difference, if only they would try. And history isn't just something to read about. We can make history daily with our actions. Interviews with Erskine often bring out her strong belief that change is something that young people can invoke. Seeing Red is a remarkable example of how hard it can be, but also how important it is, to make a difference. I can't stress enough how realistic yet hopeful this book is. There is so much depth to Seeing Red. It also has the positive of being told from the viewpoint of a male protagonist, still a rare find and feat in literature for young people. Read it today. And expect to hear news of awards in the upcoming months.

Score - 9
reviewed by Allison H.-F..
customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
January 14, 2014

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