Crowdsourced Short Book Reviews – by my friends!

So here we are locked in (or at least we should be – come on people!), and my friends have books to recommend. The request was a brief book review of a book that floats your metaphorical (socially distanced) boat. Care to join in the fun? Message me and I’ll see about doing this again.

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Dodgers by Bill Beverly. A powerful coming of age story that follows East, a LA gang member, on his journey to complete a mission. – Stacey Robothom Baugh

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The Nix: a smart, funny and often touching novel about a professor. Struggling to write his next book, he finds inspiration when his estranged mother makes news headlines. – Jennifer Ress Bush

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It’s a coming-of-age story in which the sibling relationship is the most significant. Vivid characters surrounded by strange beauty. – Jill Hecht Maxwell

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The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. I’m working my way back through the first three before I finally read the final book. Spanning from 1910-1960 Barcelona, they’re crime, thriller, noir stories. Gorgeously descriptive in it’s portrayal of a beautiful, yet socially broken Spain following the civil war. Each book is self contained, but there are character/family lineage crossovers. The books are: The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Labyrinth of the Spirits. – Sean Hefferon

Adding on to Sean’s review — I just finished the last book. Not much need to read the rest of the series. They are not the main characters and not featured until the end. For everyone, it’s over 2000 pages of delicious reading. – Robert Gerson

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Tembi Locke, From Scratch. A haunting, beautifully written memoir about love, loss and how food can bring us together and heal our broken hearts. – Lauren Henry

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The Starless Sea. I have no idea what happened but I loved it anyway. – Jennifer Ray

Adding on to Jennifer’s review — That is the best description on the book. I was sad when it was over. – Michelle Smith

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Carl Hiaasen creates some really outrageous characters. – Robert Gerson

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How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen. It puts into perspective and context what is important in life, how to understand where you are in that “process” while bringing different views and experiences that enrich everyone’s understating of their own sense of achievement and happiness. – Pablo Terpolilli

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I’ve been reading a lot of Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s about the Spanish civil war, and it totally holds up. – David Larmore

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If you are interested in learning more about epidemiology and the political and social implications from years past, (particularly the Reagan administration), I recommend And the Band Played On by Randy Shiltz. – Leslie Salters

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I am very excited to read The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. It’s the final book in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the first two, gave a new perspective on Henry VIII, the wives, and the history of that time. Absolutely riveting…and many pages, which is good when one is social distancing as we all are right now. – Phyllis Stone

The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After – Review by Rebecca

Rebecca smiles so much, which is magnificent for a middle schooler (tough years!). She is positive, smart, funny, and kind. If Rebecca enrolled in a school for good and evil, she would be on the good side! Enjoy her review.

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In The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After, Sophie and Agatha are in their own respective happily ever afters. But the Storian hasn’t stopped their story. Then are they really happy? And which side will prevail? Good or Evil? Those are the thoughts the book left me with after reading only a few chapters. This book was able to make me love a character one page, and hate them the next. 

While reading this book there are some safety precautions I would like to tell you, dearest Reader. This book will make you go through a roller coaster of emotions that you didn’t know you signed up for, make you fall in love with a character with just TWO WORDS, and wonder what went wrong with your favorite character.  All of this happened within one book. Although this book may be categorized under fantasy, I believe it created a genre of its own. Terms like Good and Evil are used but their meanings disappear. Is Evil always bad? Will Good always win? I believe this book, no not this book, but the whole series will leave you with loving for both Evil and Good. 

East – Review by Colette

Rose has always felt out of place in her family. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him, she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she finds love, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun. – Amazon

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East is an amazing, wonderful, gripping, just-can’t-put-it-down book! Told through multiple perspectives, this story is about a girl named Rose. Rose is creative and inquisitive girl who loves to explore and wander off, much to her mother’s dismay. Her mother Eugenia, is incredibly superstitious with birth directions (which direction you are facing when you are born), up to the point where she tempts fate. Eugenia decided that she would have 7 children. One for each point on the compass except north. When her east born child Elise dies, she has a final child – Rose. Rose develops a love of weaving and sewing. When Rose is born, the shadowy circumstances around her birth lead to her whole life and even her name being a lie.

Alright, enough intro. Let’s get to the good parts (of which there are many). When Rose is around 12, things go from bad to worse. Her family is about to be evicted from their home, and her older sister Sara is close to death. Okay, maybe not such a good part, but still a good read. A week before they are evicted, a talking white bear comes to their home and says that if he is allowed to take their youngest daughter “The one who lies near death will be made well again. And you will be no longer poor but wealthy” Rose decides to go with the white bear and is taken to a palace in a mountain. Yes, the palace is literally in a mountain. There she witnesses all sorts of magic from impenetrable darkness to secret visitors. When her curiosity becomes her undoing, she must go on a great journey to right the wrongs she caused.

As you travel with Rose on her journey, it is impossible not to root for her every step of the way! 10 out of 10, and a wonderful book for anyone who likes adventure, mystery, suspense, and fantasy!

Steelheart – Review by Keuyrbel Zewedu

IMG_20180705_134619_2Keuyrbel can’t get extra credit for doing another review or writing during the summer, so it’s extra awesome that he emailed me. He might be done with my class, but I’m hoping we’ll keep working together in the school’s drama department. He’s as adorable on stage as in his picture. Don’t let the smile fool you. His book taste can run darker, as his review shows. Enjoy!
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Shots. Cries. Screams. Blood. Death. At the First Union Bank, Deathpoint arrives unnamedand starts skeletonizing people in the bank, then Steelheart arrives. Steelheart stops Deathpoint and forces him to surrender his loyalty to him. Steelheart continues Deathpoint’s task: killing innocents. As Steelheart gets to the last 10, a man stands up, grabs a gun, and fires. Deathpoint is down, shot after trying to kill Steelheart. But Steelheart is bleeding on his cheek. Steelheart turns and, with anger, kills him with his own gun. A boy hides in a vault. Steelheart finishes killing the people and flies, commanding one of his servants, Faultline, to bury the vault. Faultine finds the boy in the vault and lets him go. Later, Steelheart turns most of Chicago into steel and calls it Newcago. That boy is 8-year-old boy David Charleson and that dead man was his father. Deathpoint, Steelheart, and Faultline were all Epics, humans granted superhuman powers by Calamity, a star. And Steelheart is invincible. Ten years later, at 18, David joins a group named the Reckoners committed to killing all Epics in the United States. Meeting them in Newcago, he gives them his research and convinces them to try to kill Steelheart. Because David knows Steelheart’s secret. David has seen him bleed. And he intends to see him bleeding again.
 
After reading Steelheart, you will feel amazed and still have that feeling for months. This book is truly a must-read, 10-out-of-10, amazing, suspenseful, and interesting book. I learned the importance of trust, safety, teamwork, security, and rebellion from incorrect methods. What I really like about this book is how David and the Reckoners are able to work as a team to help the United States. This series will be amazing once you read it. After this are books Firefight and Calamity. There is also a short story called Mitosis. I recommend for readers 10 and up. What are you waiting for? Stop reading my review and go read the books. There are 3 books in the Reckoner stories, plus a short story.

 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Review by Simrin Reed

 

IMG_0210-1Simrin has a mysterious smile. She’ll probably think it’s weird that I’m saying such a thing, but she smiles a lot in a way that makes me want to know what she’s thinking about. For all I know it’s, “Crazy teacher lady, stop talking!” Simrin appears to enjoy learning about history and words, and her time with friends. She’s a social, sweet, fun kid and it’s always great to see her at the end of a long day.

 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabstein

16054808-1 “Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library. Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route.”

– Good Reads

 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a wonderful book that constantly keeps readers wanting more. The main character(s) are 12- year olds just like us, and you can relate in many situations. You feel like you were there when it all happened, and there are puzzles and clues that you can solve along with the character. Chris Grabstein has crafted a story in which there is comedy, action, and mystery all rolled into one book. Also, there are the classic elements to a great book. The protagonist, Kyle, the antagonist, a boy named Charles Chiltington, a great/ appropriate setting, the wacky, modern library, the conflict, a competition where there is heated feelings, eliminations, and back- stabbing, and the resolution, where there is a surprising ending to the story. These elements all combine to make a funny story. I have read the book at least 10 times and it never gets old! Anyone 10 and up would love this book, as there is humour and ideas that are funny for that age. Anyone younger than that wouldn’t get the references and humour throughout the book. Overall, Chris Grabstein has created a story that constantly makes readers want more, and where it teaches kids all about one of the most prominent things in our world – a library!

The Westing Game – Review by Hanako W.

imageHanako is currently a 6th grader in my class. Insightful, sweet, bright and sincere, this kid is going places. She likes to sit at the front of the room and acts like I’m pretty interesting and funny, which I enjoy, especially, since it’s the last class of my day and the fourth time I’ve delivered the same lesson.

 

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin71MT0ceUanL

When sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, an extraordinary game begins. Although no one understands why the unconventional, game-loving millionaire has chosen a possible murderer to inherit his extensive fortune, the players all know that Sam Westing may not be alive, but that won’t prevent him from playing one last game.    

This book was spectacular. It was a detailed, edge-of-your-seat kind of story, with twists and turns on every page. The Westing Game is full of mysteries just waiting to be solved, and, as a reader, in a way, you get to. The characters are so deeply developed that you can imagine what he or she may do before he or she does it. This allows for the reader to have a “day in the life of a detective” and further expands on their understanding of the story. In the plot, there was a lot of working together involved. Players of the Westing Game are put in pairs, and then required to try and figure out who murdered Sam Westing. In the end, the only way that the players can win is to use one another’s individual talents. This was one of the themes of the book, but it was very subtle, and not as cliché as books that I have read before. I read The Westing Game this past year, and was perplexed as to why I had never read it before. I recommend this book to students and adults of ages 9 and up, simply because some of the parts can be a bit confusing. For me, however, that is one of the parts of the book that I enjoyed. Ellen Raskin tied the short, simple things that, as readers, we may sometimes overlook, into the larger, more complex areas, to create a slowly thickening plot. This was a beautiful book about how teamwork can open up opportunities that may not typically come without the help of complementary personalities working together.