Monday, September 30, 2019

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei - ESSENTIAL

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, illustrated by Eisinger, Scott and Becker, 205 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Top Shelf, 2019. $15. 9781603094740

Language: PG (3 swears 0 'f') racial slurs; Mature Content: G;  Violence: PG.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

George Takei, best know for his role in the original television series Star Trek was forced into a "relocation camp" as a child with his family during WWII. Beginning with the round up, the incarceration of the families (at 2 different camps) and concluding with Takei's career and advocacy, it is a thorough history of the outrageous treatment of Japanese-American Citizens.  

Oh how I wish this was in full color! It's just not as appealing as it should be because the inside panels don't mirror the wonderfully colored cover.  Because George and his brother were children, the perception of the experience is milder than if it were told from the viewpoint of the adults.  This is perfect for teaching a young reader.  George's dad does a lot explaining, so the political, cultural and personal situations are well taught and clear.  I cried, I was angry, I loved it. Please make this part of your library.  Everyone should read They Called Us Enemy.

Lisa Librarian

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America - ADVISABLE

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, 164 pages.  NONFICTION Viking (Penguin), 2019.  $18.  

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

This book tells the story of six spies who helped George Washington gain the information he needed to outsmart the British Army during the Revolutionary War.  The book highlights the war stories that the spies were a part of and tries to give a background to those spies (at least as much information as can be found). There are also other spies mentioned, such as Benedict Arnold and Nathan Hale.  

This book is a fun look an intriguing part of United States history.  The men and one woman who were spies were fascinating to read about and easy to cheer on. The only reason I wouldn’t put it in elementary school, is the reader needs to have a decent understanding of the Revolutionary War to appreciate the bigger picture, but that said if you have a higher level reader, content wise there isn’t anything a 5th or 6th grader couldn’t read.  There are a lot of older pictures included and it is a fast read.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Strike Zone by Mike Lupica - ESSENTIAL

Strike Zone by Mike Lupica, 249 pages. Philomel (Penguin), 2019.  $18.

Content: G (father arrested) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

While Nick, 12, was born in America, his parents are in the country illegally.  It’s the secret he keeps from everyone except his two best friends on his baseball team.  He keeps it even from the girl he likes because her dad is a cop.  While that is on his mind the most, he is still busy this summer pitching his way up to the tournament champs so that he can win the chance to meet Michael Arroyo, his hero, another boy who started his life in America as an illegal and became a pitching champs for Nick’s beloved Yankees.

Lupica is always on point when it comes to sports novels and I love how he includes life within the pages on an equal level.  This one brings us back into the life of Michael, who was the main character in Heat.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Ten Blind Dates by Ashley Elston - HIGH

Ten Blind Dates by Ashley Elston. 336 pages. Hyperion (Disney Book Group), 2019. $19.

Language: R (47 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Christmas break has never looked better than when Sophie’s parents let her stay with her grandparents instead of going to her pregnant sister’s itty bitty apartment. With the freedom to sneak away and see her boyfriend, Sophie is excited about the prospects of finally having alone time with him -- until she overhears that he is thinking about breaking up with her. Now Sophie is heartbroken and regretting her choice not to see her sister for Christmas, so her loving extended family decides to set up blind dates for her to get over her new ex -- what could be more fun?

Elston book was just fun to read -- so fun! There were no overly embarrassing or ridiculous situations like I was wary of when I started, which was a relief to Sophie as much as it was to me. I think it’s been a while since I was able to read a simply fun book that was compelling to read but didn’t cause anxiety by not knowing what was happening when I had to put it down. Elston put lovable and relatable characters in a silly situation, and readers are invited to join the delightful ride. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, nudity, and brief mentions of porn.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin - OPTIONAL


Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin, 352 pages.  Algonquin Young Readers (Workman), 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (31 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW  

Lizzy decides that her senior year at high school is going to be different than her previous high school experience.  Lizzy also wants to hid the fact that she has grand mal seizures.  Lizzy latches onto the new girl, Claire, and Claire helps Lizzy to see and experience a more adventurous lifestyle.  Lizzy also has a new boyfriend, Matt Ashby, but it quickly becomes apparent that Matt isn’t being completely honest with her.  As Lizzy tries to become something more than her previous nerd self, she starts to realize that everyone has their own secrets and she must find her place among them.  

This book takes place in the eighties, so there are a lot of cultural references that might confuse young readers of today.  Lizzy wasn’t easy to relate to or necessarily like because of all her insecurities and how quickly she wanted to give up everything that she had worked for.  The content includes graphic sex talk, heavy make-out sessions, underage drinking, reference to rape and a suicide.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.  

Come November by Katrin van Dam - ADVISABLE

Come November by Katrin van Dam, 384 pages. Scholastic Press, 2018. $19. 

Language: PG-13 (17 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking); Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Marina’s mom has lost her job, again.  She is so focused on the New Worlders Society and the end of the world, that a little thing like a job doesn’t seem to matter.  However, it matters to Marina, and she is trying to find a way to make sure her and her little brother, Daniel, have enough to eat and a place to live, but she doesn’t know how long she can keep this up.  When her mom tries to convince her to go to New York with her for the NWS conference, Marina agrees, not because she believes the New Worlders, but because she is hoping to meet up with her dad. He might be the only person that can help.       

I found this story to be so engaging.  I really felt for Marina, her circumstances, and why she felt she had to take care of everything on her own.  Of course, I also wondered how far the author was going to take the “end of the world” aspect, and was surprised at how anxious I was not knowing what was going to happen.  Sometimes we just don’t know the motivation of others and the author did a great job of revealing the motivation without it seeming forced. Not all aspects of the story wrap up nicely because life isn’t like that, but there is a satisfying ending. I believe this will appeal to those students that like contemporary realistic fiction.   

Reviewer: RB

Synapse by Steven James - ADVISABLE

Synapse by Steven James, 384 pages. Thomas Nelson, 2019. $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kestrel and her brother, Trevor, haven’t spoken in a very long time, but the tragic events unfolding lead them to start reaching out again. Jordan is an Artificial—a machine with AI capabilities—who just wants to experience being human. Nick, tracking down the perpetrators of the most recent terrorist attack, isn’t sure if he wants to let himself love another woman after his last wife left him. All thrown together by unpredictable circumstances, these people will find they need each other through the difficult week ahead of them.

Honestly, reading this book was kind of an odd experience because of all the issues and contradictions of different points of view brought up. If you want a book to make you think, this one is for you. I had to put the book down several times to ponder my own views on questions about technology and emotions, belief in God, the origin of justice, hope and lies, ethics and integrity dedicated to various forms of belief, and more. I can’t imagine the time and skill it took James to craft so many varying viewpoints and beliefs for his various characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed each new perspective and how the perspectives complemented and contradicted the others. The story itself, too, kept building and becoming more complex until I was sure it couldn’t all be resolved together. Reading this book was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting—and it was worth every page. The violence rating is for terrorism, murder, and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Child of the Dream - A Memoir of 1963 by Sharon Robinson

Child of the Dream - A Memoir of 1963 by Sharon Robinson, 233 pages. MEMOIR Scholastic Press, 2019. $17. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Sharon Robinson turned 13 in 1963. Living in Connecticut, and being the daughter of baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, allowed Sharon to live a life very different from the black children who were living in Birmingham, Alabama. Because her father was involved raising funds for and helping with the Civil Rights movement she was well aware of that difference, and she was afraid for them and heartbroken when she heard about the children's marches. Her problems at school - not getting asked to dance because she's one of only 2 black girls in her grade - seem unimportant to her, but her father tells her "Don't let anyone else define your value, Sharon. You don't have to fit in. Stand out. Be the best you can be. 

While I loved the message and the story, I didn't feel the passion and concern for the children in Birmingham and the Civil Rights participants, there were just too many layers. We heard about things that happened the same way Sharon did, removed a little - even she had to do research to find out what was really happening. The writing is also awkward in places, conversations don't sound right, like Sharon is talking to a history teacher rather than her grandmother or father. There was a lot of background knowledge building, maybe too much. An interesting memoir, but not a great read about experiencing the Civil Rights Movement. Includes photographs.

Lisa Librarian

Echoes of War by Cheryl Campbell - HIGH

Echoes of War by Cheryl Campbell, 400 pages. SparkPress (BookSparks), 2019. $17.

Language: R (251 swears, 73 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The Wardens are the army of alien invaders who started the war hundreds of years ago. While some humans are fighting to defend from the Wardens’ attacks, a large group of humans and aliens are simply trying to survive the chaos of the war raging around them. Dani is one of these survivors. She’s always looked out for herself and her dog, but, when the opportunity comes to reclaim her home from the Wardens, Dani can’t help herself from fighting against the odds.

I was intrigued by the premise but skeptical as the story started. However, as the story unfolded, I found myself lost in Dani’s struggles and vision for the future. Her seemingly reckless and determined nature made sure that there was never a boring moment, and I fell in love with her friends made along the way. This story necessitates several large time gaps where the author jumps over weeks, months, and even years at a time. Usually I am not a big fan of big time jumps, but Campbell expertly crafted the transitions is a way that the flow was smooth and the story continued to be engaging through each time jump. Campbell’s success in making me interested despite a pet peeve I usually have with books only made me more enthusiastic about reading what she had written. I have only rated this book as “optional” instead of “advisable” for purchase because of the language rating. The mature content rating is for sex, prostitution, and attempted rape; the violence rating is for war violence, death, and suicide contemplation.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Jewel Bright Sea by Claire O’Dell - NO

A Jewel Bright Sea by Claire O’Dell, 328 pages.  Kensington Books (Rebel Base Books), 2019. $16.

Language: R (96 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As a bonded servant because of her father’s debts, Anna must obey her master -- but that is not the only reason she has for going on this dangerous quest. If she is successful in getting what her master wants, Anna will finally earn her freedom. Months of following clues has gotten Anna closer, and she knows she will be successful, until another group shows interest in the thing she seeks and puts the reward of her freedom at risk.

I found the beginning confusing, something to slog through hoping that the story would get better and make more sense. It did, for a while, but I’m still a little confused about how everything worked out in the final battle of the story. I was also disappointed in the short-but-descriptive-enough sex scene that was randomly inserted in the middle of the book. Everything resolved nicely, though, in the end. The mature content rating is for that sex scene, groping, and implied rape; the violence rating is for battle gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman - OPTIONAL


The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman, 303 pags.  Swoon Reads (Macmillan), 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (93 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Elise and her mother move to a small beach town the summer before her senior year, so that they can help Elise’s niece and sister-in-law after Elise’s brother dies as a soldier in Afghanistan.  One day while Elise is walking her dog, she saves a young man from drowning named Mati and they start to have feelings for each other.  The only problem is that Mati is from Afghanistan and that brings up a lot of prejudices from Elise’s mom.  

I enjoyed this book and I think it helps readers to empathize with people from war-torn countries and the prejudices they face.  My only complaint is the countdown to when he has to return to Afghanistan is drawn out and then the ending is tied up quickly.  The violence is a hate crime and the mature content is heavy kissing.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

Chasing Beverly by Ashlynn Cubbison - OPTIONAL

Chasing Beverly by Ashlynn Cubbison, 308 pages. Acorn Publishing, 2019. $24.

Language: R (84 swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When business finally introduces Beverly and Gavin, both of them know that their lives -- in their companies and beyond -- have been changed. While Gavin is ready to pursue what is obviously forming between them, Beverly can’t see past her baggage and the inevitable heartbreak it will bring them both.

The story was okay. It’s an enjoyable fluff read but not something that kept me on edge needing to know what was going to happen next. As I read, I was annoyed with a lot of the chapter breaks. I can understand Cubbison purposefully interrupting things that I wanted to know more about in order to keep readers in suspense, but the problem is that she wouldn’t go back address those things until several chapters later -- if at all. I also found Gavin to be too perfect and unrealistic. Even with the cliffhanger ending and several unresolved questions, I am not going to read the sequel. The mature content rating is for sex; the violence rating is for a horrific car crash description as well as mentions of domestic violence and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford - ADVISABLE

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford, 432 pages. Inkyard Press, 2019. $14.

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Nor and Zadie have been prepared their entire lives for one of them to be chosen as the most beautiful girl in Varenia and the future queen of Ilara. As the day of the choosing ceremony gets closer, Nor tries to ignore her desire to leave, knowing that she will never be chosen, and Zadie has to accept everything that leaving her world behind will mean, knowing that she will probably be chosen. But, after the ceremony, when their fates are sealed, these two stubborn sisters find a way to take hold of their own fates despite being raised to be biddable beauties.

While I think the story got a little slow in the middle, the rest of Nor’s story was exciting to follow. I was eager to see how her future unraveled, especially when she and her sister, Zadie, made decisions to change everything that was expected of them -- something I wish I was brave enough to do more often in my own life. However, the resolutions near the end included enemies being taken care of too easily, so I’m both curious and wary as to where the sequel will take this story.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Life and a Glass of Milk by Vansh Sharma - OPTIONAL

Life and a Glass of Milk by Vansh Sharma, 82 pages. POETRY. Aurora House, 2019. $18.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Looking at life through the eyes of a 12-year-old, everything seems a little simpler. Life may not always be easy, but there is companionship and beauty all around.

The best part of this book is that it is a real example of how you can be a poet -- or any kind of writer or artistic creator -- at any age. I thought that the poems were pretty good for a 12-year-old, and the illustrations were decent, too. Sharma obviously loves to write poems, and I hope that his voice continues to develop as he continues writing. I didn’t connect with and love a lot of the poems, but they aren’t bad.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Kriss: The Gift of Wrath by Ted Naifeh - OPTIONAL

Kriss: The Gift of Wrath by Ted Naifeh, 115 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Oni Press, 2019. $15.

Language: PG-13 (10 swears, 0 “f”) ; Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kriss struggles to understand what the purpose of his life is in a village that continually rejects his efforts. Listening to the voice that tells him that he comes from the northern kingdom, Kriss prepares himself to leave -- though one friend in the village isn’t ready to say goodbye.

Honestly, I’m still confused about what the story was about and where it was going, but I’m not as upset as I usually am about a book I didn’t understand. Instead, I find myself intrigued. I want to read more of Kriss’s story and see how this fits into the bigger picture of his life. As Kriss searched for answers of where he came from and where he is going, that desire was lit inside of me as well. Hopefully, we all get those answers sooner rather than later.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner - ADVISABLE

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner, 272 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2019. $21.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Moth has never fit in -- and her newly discovered witch heritage isn’t really helping. Now Moth feels trapped between two worlds, not knowing where she belongs or what is right.

Moth’s story is a fun afternoon read with a good message and fun illustrations. While we might not all struggle with learning how to use magical powers, fitting in and finding a place to belong in life is a struggle for everyone. As Moth makes mistakes and gathers courage to stand up for herself, she will inspire the heroine or hero in each reader to be the best they can. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke - OPTIONAL


The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke, 339 pages.  Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (15 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Frey is a Boneless Mercy, a person who helps mercifully end people’s lives who are dying from disease or physical limitations.  She is part of a close-knit group of other Boneless Mercies, but Frey longs for a different kind of life, a life where she will be known for her heroism and bravery.  Frey convinces her other Mercies to hunt a beast that is terrorizing a village in the hopes of changing her fate.  

I was drawn to this book because of it’s fantastic cover and the premise sounded intriguing.  I was disappointed by the unfolding of the story because it was all action and plot lines with no character development.  The relationships have no depth or growth and there is a very high death count and slit throats.  

Reviewer, C Peterson.    

My Unedited Writing Year by Hope Lyda - GIFT

My Unedited Writing Year by Hope Lyda, 368 pages. NON-FICTION. Harvest House Publishers, 2019. $20.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: GIFT - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lyda gives readers 365 invitations to get the creative juices flowing and to assure you that you are, in fact, a writer. With any sort of prompt you can think of -- from making lists to free writes to what if scenarios to writing prayers and blessings -- Lyda plans to help you stretch those writing muscles.

Creativity is not something that Lyda is in want of, but I have discovered that I don’t have as much of it as I thought -- though I suspect that I have more now after accepting some of the Lyda’s invitations. I loved going through the invitations to write from Lyda and that they were all so different. Writing ended up being addictive for me, and I would do several prompts in a row, even when I didn’t have time to. The various prompts helped to stretch the way that I think and engaged my mind with new thoughts. I love this book and think that it is a great undertaking for writers and those who don’t call themselves writers alike. However, I have advised that it not be bought for a library because it invites readers to write within its pages to fully engage with the prompts and the 365 prompts encourages readers to use it as a guide and companion for an entire year, both aspects of which break common library policies.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Altered by Vicki Stiefel - NO

Altered by Vicki Stiefel, 396 pages.  Afterworld Publishing, 2019. $1.

Language: R (95 swears, 5 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Kit miraculously survives fall she and her sisters were in, her first thoughts are about her sisters -- did they survive, too? -- and how to continue to survive the new situation she’s in. Only once Kit meets Rafe and is out of immediate danger does she start to realize something isn’t right about the world around her. Kit bides her time, waiting for more information, but then she plans on making her own decisions regardless of the plans others have made for her.

I found the premise exciting and enjoyed chunks of the book, but I think it was poorly executed overall. Out-of-character moments were confusing and frustrating as I tried to understand the world being created; contradicting and unaddressed details were merely distracting at first but became annoying as the problem persisted; and I didn’t like how this strong-willed woman allowed the many inequalities in her relationship go unaddressed. I also did not appreciate the graphic sex scenes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson – ADVISABLE


Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, 453 pages. Margaret McElderry Books (Simon), 2019 $18  Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 (implied intimacy); Violence: PG13(scary demons/killings).

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: MEDIUM

Elisabeth was raised in a library, one of five in the kingdom. The books in this library are no ordinary books, they are grimoires, and many of them are very dangerous. Elisabeth is well into her training to become a Warden and be in charge of keeping them, luckily she seems to have a way with them. Her life is turned upside down when a Malefict, a book that is out of control, goes on a rampage. Elisabeth discovers a dark and horrible plot. Nathaniel is a dark wizard, whose very power comes from Demonic energy. He has his own issues and problems and doesn’t want to get mixed up with Elisabeths wild accusations. Will she be able to convince him or have to try on her own.

Despite deals with demons and one mention of bisexuality (which had nothing to do with the story, and I think was thrown in to make the story more edgy), this is actually a fairly wholesome book. It features a strong female lead, who is both brave and adventurous. It reminds me a bit of the two main characters in Howls Moving Castle. The book is quite long but very readable and fast paced. This was a thoroughly well written and enjoyable read. I think teen readers will enjoy the story and of course, as librarians, we like books about libraries and books (even if they can turn into evil monsters).

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

War’s Ending by A. J. Park - HIGH

War’s Ending by A. J. Park, 586 pages. Emerald Lake Books, 2019. $18.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Shalyrie loves the excitement of visiting new colonies in her uncle’s kingdom, and Newport is beautiful. But Shalyrie was not expecting the excitement to include attempts on her life and the tragedies of war. Finding fear and the unknown on every side, can Shalyrie find a way to encourage and foster peace?

I was quickly sucked into the story as I started reading, and I mostly stayed engrossed for the rest of the time I followed Shalyrie and her friends through their battles. At one point, the story seemed to get a little repetitive with several consecutive attempts on Shalyrie’s life, but then the story moved on and became engaging again. Overall, I took pleasure in reading how Shalyrie and her friends dealt with the challenges they faced and how Shalyrie would not abandon her beliefs, even as keeping them became more difficult. We could all be a little more like Shalyrie.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman - AVERAGE

Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman, 336 pages. JIMMY Patterson Books (Little, Brown and Company), 2019. $18.

Language: R (265 swears, 46 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Aidan finds himself alone at a hotel in New York during spring break as he waits for his family to show up the following day. So he decides to look for a hookup on an app. He falls asleep in his hookup’s hotel room and wakes up to find that the guy is dead. Shot through the head. And now the dead guy’s cell phone is ringing.

Aidan's story was enjoyable to read because it moves quickly through twists and turns without being choppy or disorienting, which kept me immersed the whole time I was reading. Going through the unexpected with Aidan was exciting and up until the end, like Milman didn’t know how to make resolutions interesting to the reader, but everything up through the climax was well done. I even found myself laughing aloud at some of the snarky and random thoughts Aidan had. However, despite all of that good, I felt that the outrageous amount of swearing put a damper on all that was fun about the book. If I wasn’t reviewing this book, the swearing would have deterred me enough to put it down without finishing. The mature content rating is for drug use, masturbation, sex, and statutory rape; the violence rating is for criminal activity, murder, suicide, and acts of terrorism.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, September 23, 2019

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhatena - OPTIONAL


A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena, 374 pages.  Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language:  PG (4 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.   

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Zarin and Porus are killed in a car accident and when the Saudi Arabian religious police come to question why they were together in the car in the first place, the story begins.  Zarin is an orphan who lives with her mentally ill and abusive aunt and her sometimes kind and protective uncle.  They treat Zarin as though her beauty is a sin which pushes Zarin to use it to get what she wants from men.  Porus is a kind empathetic teen who falls for Zarin’s sassy ways, but his humble life isn’t exciting enough for Zarin until her world is shaken and she needs someone she can rely on.  

This book is hard to read because it’s depressing and the characters aren’t easy to relate to, even though you do have deep empathy for their situation.  The cultural rules about religion, dating and appropriate relationships is interesting.  There is a lot of sexual content including a non-graphic description of a person raped after being drugged, a lot of sex talk, teen boys who sexually shame women and infidelity.  There is also a graphic car accident description and a graphic death explained during a story.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka - HIGH

If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, 359 pages. Viking Press (Penguin), 2019. $18

Language: R (51 swears; 4 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Cameron is a popular girl at a fancy LA prep school who has no pangs of conscience about being one of the mean girls in her school.  When her crush, Andrew, walks away from a relationship with her because of her bad attitude, Cameron decides to take a lesson from Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”, which she’s studying in English class, and apologize to all the students she’s bullied.  She works hard to make amends to the students she’s hurt and discovers a whole new group of friends, a new boyfriend, and a few things about herself along the way.

I thought this book was going to be tough to read—I really disliked the main character, Cameron, at the beginning.  However, it really drew me in and I thought the authors did a great job showing Cameron’s growth throughout the book.  I think teen girls that don’t mind edgy content will really like this book.  That said, this book’s first word is a swear word and it is liberally sprinkled with more swear words throughout.  It has a lot of teen drinking, teens “hooking up” for casual sex, and some drug use.

Reviewer: M. Wilson

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu - AVERAGE

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu, 256 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL, Lion Forge, 2019. $12.

Language: PG (6 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Nova, a witch, goes to investing a tip of something strange going on in the forest, she doesn’t expect to find her old, werewolf friend, Tam. Tam is determined to defeat the demon causing mischief in the forest, and Nova won’t let them do it alone. But now they’re starting to wonder if they have taken on more than they can handle as they find out the demon isn’t acting alone.

While magic and supernatural troubles make things difficult for Nova and Tam, they also have to deal with problems we all encounter in our non-magical lives, like finding acceptance from others and ourselves. The encouraging uplifting story coupled with enchanting illustrations made this graphic novel a fun read.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Wild Lands by Paul Greci - HIGH

The Wild Lands by Paul Greci, 384 pages. Imprint (Macmillan), 2019. $18.

Language: PG-13 (23 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (deaths)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS  - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Siblings Travis and Jess are headed into the ravaged countryside in search for anyone or anything that may have survived the rending of the earth and the collapse of the government. While they find a few sympathetic souls, they are mostly surrounded by dangers lands and terrifying strangers.

The character development is excellent in this book.  Travis and Jess are tested by the desolate and ruined land; they find hope and friendship in a group of fellow teenage wanderers, but they also find much conflict. Their journey takes them through challenges physical, mental, and moral. Travis steps up to the task of taking care of his sister, while Jess shows amazing resolve and grit through the challenges she is faced with. Dylan is a truly frightening character because he posses some power to ""know"" what is happening before hand. Greci has developed a world that is altogether too real and possible. His description of the land is almost like another character.  He has created a frightening landscape with his firsthand knowledge of the wilderness of Alaska. I would highly recommend this novel to those who love a high adventure, thrill ride of survival through the wild lands of Alaska.

Jessica Nelson Media Specialist

Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper - ADVISABLE

Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper, 263 pages. Charlesbridge, OCT 2019.  $17.

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jade’s best friend recently moved away, but it really doesn’t matter because they had a fight before she left anyway.  Now Jade occupies her time with writing stories about an imaginary best friend, Zoe, who does everything with Jade and they get along perfectly.  At night she comes home and shares her stories with her Dad who is battling cancer. Then one day a boy in her school “borrows” Jade’s notebook of Zoe stories and promises her a big surprise in return.  Monday morning who should be at Jade’s school – a girl named Zoe who looks like, sounds like, and acts like the Zoe Abby created.  Everything seems to be perfect, until it isn’t.  What does it mean to be best friends anyway?

Cooper’s book has a lot to recommend it, especially taking a hard look at what it means to be a friend or a best friend.  About letting others be who they are, not what you want them to be.  Or letting go of your assumptions about the people around you whom you have slotted into little boxes. A nice slice of your students should enjoy this.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones - HIGH


Language: R (93 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Neither Lena nor Campbell want to be at the football game, but Lena is using it as a cover to see her man and Campbell got guilted into volunteering at the concession stand. When things go south at the big rival game, Lena and Campbell have no one to help them escape the chaos except each other. They might not have chosen one another as friends, but this night of terrifying situations is not one Lena or Campbell want to spend alone.

Segal and Jones beautifully crafted a glimpse into the lives of the two main characters, Lena and Campbell. Readers only get to experience this one night with them, and, while I like how they wrapped the story up, I wish that I got to spend more time with these characters and see the further impact this night had on their lives. I love the contrast between Lena’s and Campbell’s voices in their alternating chapters and the different perspectives they share with each other throughout their time together. While the entire narrative takes place in one night, the lessons that can be taken away by readers are numerous. The mature content rating is for drug use, and the violence rating is for shooting and rioting.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Project Me 2.0 by Jan Gangsei - OPTIONAL

Project Me 2.0 by Jan Gangsei, 250 pages.  Aladdin (Simon), 2019.  $19

Content: G (fart jokes, shorts fail)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE; MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Anna Murphy moves back to town after being gone for five years, Farley, 11, decides its time to improve himself.  He finds a self-help site online and when he clicks on the link and fills out the forms, he finds himself with his own self-help guru – a little 8 bit surfer dude Online Master, Tomy, who isn’t going to actually leave Farley alone until he accomplishes the entire program.  Now Farley has to keep Tomy secret from his family and actually figure out how to improve himself.  And it may not be in the ways he thinks.

Thinking about it after the fact, I kind of like the idea of a little guru in my pocket.  Oh, it would be super annoying, but it would ultimately WORK (I hope). Gangsei manages to write a book about a middle grade boy that isn’t about his being involved in a sport or obsessed with a video – just a book about a kid who wants, somewhat reluctantly, to be a better version of himself. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

The Bookwanderers by Anna James - ADVISABLE

The Bookwanderers (Page & Co #1) by Anna James, 281 pages. Philomel (Penguin), 2019.  $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Tilly, 11, has lived with her grandparents above their bookshop ever since her mother disappeared when she was a baby.  As she is wandering around the shop one day her hears her grandmother talking to a old-fashioned dressed woman who disappears as Tilly rounds the corner. Then a atrange girl with red braids appears as Tilly tries to find a quiet spot, followed soon a very energetic blond girl in a blue dress and white apron. What secrets have her grandparents been hiding from her all of these years?  When Anne pulls Tilly and her friend Oskar into her book for a trip to Green Gables, Tilly suddenly needs answers!

Kids ready for a trip through the pages of a book will love Tilly and her adventures.  Since the villain of the piece is still out there, I am sure there will be a sequel.  I love this particular plot theme and James does it very well.  

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Mending the Mind by Courtney Peppernell - ADVISABLE

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019. $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Peppernell has a beautiful way with words and a style that feels poetic, even if what she offers is not always set up in a structure that looks like a typical poem. She shares thoughts about heartbreak, encouragement, fear, and our impact on others throughout the five sections the thoughts are separated into. Readers are never told the full story, though a narrative is strung through the background of Peppernell’s poetry -- we understand and feel with Peppernell, even without all the details.

While I love poetry, I often have a hard time staying engaged through an entire book of poems, so I was surprised to find that I wanted to keep turning the pages until I had finished all of Peppernell’s words. I enjoyed the pensive and positive state her words helped me find within myself. Each of her poems are easy to read and relate to -- the kind of honest and sincere thoughts you want to read more of because they feel like truth.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson - OPTIONAL

The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson, 288 pages.  Holiday House, 2019.  $18

Language: R (20+ swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG (implied sex); Violence: PG (some psychological abuse)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Piper was happy living in The Community with her brothers and sisters, even though they only saw Mother and Father once in a great while and were raised by the Aunts instead. Until that day when the awful people ripped her away from everything she remembers.  Now she lives with “the woman” who won’t let Piper go Home and won’t let her see Mother or Father.  When can Piper finally go home?

Peterson takes a powerful look at the evil of people manipulating small children for control and the power of the mind to finally free itself from lies.  

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick - ESSENTIAL

Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick, 208 .  Blue Sky (Scholastic), 2019.  $18.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Sam’s summer camp is being evacuated as a huge fire is approaching.  When he runs back to his cabin to grab his cell phone he gets cut off from the rest of the campers and must survive on his own.  He stumbles upon a cabin stocked with a helpful Jeep and then picks up Delphy, another lost camper.  Together they are racing against the odds to survive.  Their plight gets even worse when they are spotted by the reckless arsonists who have been setting the forest on fire.  Now not only is nature working against them, but also men who don’t want their crimes to be known.

Full of close calls and abrupt rescues, which stretch the imagination a bit, Philbrick’s book is still heart pounding enough to be a welcome read by many.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS