Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, the Berlin Wall and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth – Staff Review – Maddy

Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, the Berlin Wall and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Ian MacGregor

During the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie was one of the three entry points in the Berlin wall to cross West Germany into East Germany. Checkpoint Charlie was the gate specifically used by military personnel and gaining access from one side to the other was not easy, especially for East Berliners. MacGregor details the history of the military checkpoint and how dangerous relations were for all sides involved in guarding the barriers and access across the wall. He also uses first hand accounts from military personnel and civilians from the East and West. MacGregor does a great job in detailing all aspects of life during this time and showing readers how the story wasn’t black and white. 
For anyone interested in the Cold War, Berlin wall, or Germany immediately after World War Two, I recommend reading this book as it gives a good history of Checkpoint Charlie and an introduction to how the Berlin Wall affected life on both sides. 

4 stars non-fiction

Fish In a Tree – Staff Review – Corinna

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Available on the cloud library in e-book and audio book.

Daughter of a military father, sixth grader Ally has moved around alot. She is in a new town almost every year and without any consistency in her education no one has yet to pick up on her struggle to read. Enter new teacher Mr. Daniels who begins to notice Ally, seeing something her others had missed. Through her sixth grade journey, with the help of an understanding teacher and some new ‘misfit’ friends, Ally begins to feel more confident and better about herself. I listened to the audio version of this book and I wish I had read it, I found the narrator’s voice to be whiny and irritating, It also seemed to be somewhat predictable, with all the usual school cliques accounted for. But if you are missing school, and your favorite teacher, this book may take you back there.

Two and a half stars.

Renegades Trilogy – Staff Review – Nancy Mes.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer, Archenemies by Marissa Meyer, and Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Nova cannot forgive the Renegades.

After witnessing the murder of her entire family as a child, Nova holds a grudge against the superhero group who promised to be there and failed when she needed them the most. Now a teenager, she plans to take them out from the inside. Disguising herself as Nova McClain, a Prodigy who never falls asleep, she applies to become a Renegade herself, all while operating as the villainous Nightmare after hours. Will she be successful in taking down the organization she holds responsible for the death of everyone she cared for? Or will her true identity be discovered?

While Marissa Meyer is best known for her sci-fi fairy tale retellings, I find her superhero books—the Renegades Trilogy—to be her best work. Filled with compelling characters, a gripping romance, and a solid examination of the concepts of good and evil, The Renegades Trilogy is an excellent example of young adult fiction done well.

The trilogy is headlined by two characters, Nova, on her mission for revenge, and Adrian. As the adopted son of two prominent superheroes, Adrian appears to be the perfect Renegade. But his frustrations with the restrictions set forth by the council leads him to moonlighting as a vigilante known as The Sentinel. By choosing to tell the story of two characters who aren’t entirely on the side of good or evil, Meyer does a great job of exploring the shades of gray between the two. In addition, the series does a great part of picking apart the flaws of a binary hero/villain system. How do you deal with “superhero” characters that act like power-hungry villains? And how much flexibility should be granted to individuals in enforcing justice, when the main thing that sets them apart is the fact that they happen to have flashy superpowers?

But the Renegades trilogy is far from a weighty discussion of heady concepts. No, this young adult trilogy is action-packed, and swift-moving carried forward by fun dialogue between the characters, a hero/villain romance between Adrian and Nova, and plenty of fight scenes. While I found myself skeptical that Nova would be able to keep her secret identity from so many experienced superheroes for so long, the series is so entertaining that this is worth overlooking.

If you’re looking for an exciting mixture of action, superhero concepts, and romance, then I would highly recommend Marissa Meyer’s Renegades Trilogy, a worthwhile read from first to the last book.

Five Stars

The Eleventh Trade – Staff Review – Corinna

The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth

2019-2020 maine student book award list, available in book format on the cloud library.

The Eleventh Trade takes place in Boston Massachusetts where twelve year old Sam is living with his grandfather, after immigrating from Afghanistan. While in Sam’s possession, the instrument Sam’s grandfather uses to make a living is stolen. And thus the quest to find the rebab begins. As we follow Sam’s search for the instrument, he also begins to find friendship also the way. And in pieces we begin to learn what had happened to Sam and his family, and his journey to America.I decided to read this book to familiarise myself with as many of the maine student book awards I I could. I found that the book started off a little slow for me, but as Sam’s journey continued, I became more and more invested to see if Sam was able to get his grandfather’s rebab back, and to learn about their journey to Boston. Spoiler alert: I would suggest finishing this book with a box of tissues at hand. But in the good way, I think we all could use a happy ending right now. 

5  stars

A Gentleman In Moscow – Staff Review – Maddy

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and read by Nicholas Smith

Available on the cloud library in both ebook and audiobook, A Gentleman in Moscow is a nice long book to read while in quarantine.

In 1922 Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a prominent hotel, for being an unrepentant aristocrat by the Bolsheviks (political party in power after the revolution). Going from a prominent man of the upper class who has never worked a day in his life, Rostov is moved to a from his expansive suite to a small attic apartment and left to provide for himself. But being stuck in a hotel, it turns out, is not as boring as it seems. In fact, there will be a lot going on as the times that can be gleaned from inside the Metropol. Some might even happen inside its doors. 
A Gentleman in Moscow is a historical fiction that spans the 1920s-1950s in Moscow. I enjoyed reading about Count Rostov and the rest of the characters in this book. Rostov knows a thing or two about being stuck at home and making the most of it. No spoilers here, but, I was slightly surprised by the ending turned out. 

3 stars

The Serpent King – Staff Review – Cherise

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This book has been on my To Be Read List for a long time. I finally picked it up after a friend of mine sent me a copy. I was struggling to find something to read that caught my attention even while in a reading slump. The Serpent King was able to do that. I devoured it. It was the first book in a long time I didn’t put aside to read another book. And then another book. 

This book follows three friends, Dill, Lydia, and Travis in their senior year of high school in a small Tennessee town. All three are misfits, not exactly fitting in at school. It’s how they became friends. Dill is the son of a Pentecostal preacher who used live snakes in his services who was arrested, grandson of the famed Serpent King, believing madness comes to each Dillard Early (he is the third). Travis deals with hardships at home and the grief over the death of his brother. Lydia is made for big city life, having managed to somehow run an extremely popular blog and is in some cases famous in the larger world but not where she lives. There was something so completely wonderful and aching about this story that simply kept your attention through the whole thing. If spots were slow, it was done in a way that was still entertaining. This story truly knows how to get you to become attached to these characters quickly and to leave you completely wrapped up in their happiness and loses. 

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to read about small town life (though in the south in a lot of ways you can relate with living in a small town even here in Maine) with wonderfully descriptive writing that really connects with you. The Serpent King is available on the CloudLibrary to check out and I highly recommend it. Just be prepared for some tissues!

5 Stars

Wicked as You Wish – Staff Review – Cherise

Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco

I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced, so being able to read and review it was amazing. It was in all ways a great book. I really loved it. Rin is an amazing author who wrote some of my favorite books but this book brings out a whole new side of her writing. From dark and death to lighter and sillier side, but also talking about REAL issues in a way that changes our own stories.

Tala is a great character. She’s complicated. She has a magic that’s different from everyone else while at the same time being nonmagic. She’s strong and focused but is so clearly a teen trying to do what’s right or what she believes is right.
I admit, I wasn’t a fan of Alex. I know he has the right to act the way he does, but he left me frustrated and wanting to shake him half of the time. Because honestly, no one should treat their best friend the way he treats Tala.

I highly recommend this book. You can find it on the Cloud Library.

4 stars.

Circe – Staff Review – Maddy

Circe by Madeline Miller read by Perdita Weeks

Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun, but unlike other gods and goddesses, she doesn’t show signs of possessing powers until later on in life when she starts interacting with mortals. As time with tell, Circe turns out to be a powerful witch- much more powerful than her family ever expected her to be. But her powers come with the price of exile to her own remote island when Zeus and other gods feel threatened. But for Circe, exile may not be the worst way to spend eternity.She can receive visitors and those familiar with greek mythology may know how this goes, at least in the beginning. Madeline Miller’s retelling of Circe gives the goddess the spotlight she doesn’t often get in mythology. 
 I listened to the audiobook version on Circe, which is available on the cloud library. This was my first time listening to an audiobook and its prompted me to listen to more. The woman who read Circe had an aesthetically pleasingvoice for the for the character of Circe. Being able to listen to the story offline while working or traveling allowed me to read a story I might not have otherwise had time for. Check out Circe and all the other great ebooks and audiobooks available for download at the cloud library!”

Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope – Staff Pick – Nancy Mes.

Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormick

My experience with tie-in fiction has been mixed. At best, they’re an excuse to spend more time with characters and a universe that I love. At worst, they feel like cheap filler. But with The Last Best Hope, Una McCormick elevates my expectations by providing a great sci-fi novel that does a wonderful job setting things up for the new Star Trek: Picard series.

With the Romulan star set to supernova, Jean Luc Picard finds himself in charge of a massive undertaking that will require him to leave his beloved Enterprise behind. Now an Admiral, Picard must find a way to relocate billions of Romulans to new planets. Not only is this a logistical nightmare, but he faces pushback at every turn, both from people who want to downplay the severity of the supernova, and members of Federation that do not want to invest so many resources into a foreign power. To Picard, his quest is all about saving lives, but will political squabbles at home derail the most important humanitarian mission of his career?

The Last Best Hope is an engrossing novel that feels sharply relevant today’s issues. While watchers of the show know how Picard’s mission will ultimately end, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the story as he continues to hope, against all odds, that things will turn out for the best. Author McCormick does a great job of presenting all characters as complex individuals, taking time to explain to the audience why even the more selfishly minded people feel the way they do.

If you’re a fan of Star Trek: Picard, then The Last Best Hope is a must-read. An ebook version can currently be found on the cloud library. 

5 stars

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