Ocean State – Staff Review – Haley

Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan (Request)(CloudLibrary)

A high school student is murdered and everyone involved has the projectory of their lives changed forever. Set in a coastal town in Rhode Island, Ocean State follows two teenage girls, and their families, as one boy becomes romantically entangled with both.

This is another book I picked up without knowing what it was going to be about. Had I known in advance, I probably wouldn’t have read it. The storyline, while plausible, just didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps because I am a mother of girls who will someday become teenagers, or because of the foulness of the character’s speech, attitude, and actions.

2 Stars

A Discovery of Witches – Staff Review – Isabella

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Request)(CloudLibrary)

Deborah Harkness somehow encapsulates three main interests of mine (England, history, and fantastical creatures) into the perfect little box that is “A Discovery of Witches.” Diana Bishop, a professor at Oxford University, spends much of her time in the historical halls of Bodleian Library. Many of her days consist of research, rowing, and rejecting any connections to her witchy identity and lineage. Diana’s self-identity, and the world, flip on their head when an ancient tome and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist, fall into Diana’s path. Though I generally lean away from novels set in the present day, Harkness sprinkles the book with enough history (and a lot of magic) to keep a history and fantasy buff like me, enjoying the ride. I adored this novel and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an escape into a dark academia and wit-filled world.

5 stars

The Shame Machine – Staff Review – Terry

The Shame Machine by Cathy O’Neil (Request)

Tired of all the online shaming and name calling? The Shame Machine by Cathy O’ Neil peers into the business of as well as the sociological aspects of public shaming, primarily through mass media and social media. The book takes a scientific, unapologetic, and non-partisan stance, and also includes some of the author’s own struggles with being shamed as well as not giving into feeding into the systems of shame.

5 Stars

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Staff Review – Isabella

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (Request)(CloudLibrary)

A story emanating from the head of Stephen Dedalus, an Irish boy who struggles to find his place in Ireland. Readers accompany Stephen on a journey of self-realization in a world where the image of the “ideal man” is constantly pushed upon him. I greatly enjoyed seeing Stephen grow into himself following the many hardships of his life. The novel demonstrates that advancement and change are parts of life and, rather than run from them, one should run towards them. While I enjoyed learning about personal growth through Stephen’s story, I did not enjoy the writing style. I find stream of consciousness narration to be confusing and untrustworthy as it comes from a singular point of view. I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story of rebellion and self-realization, but I would not pick it up if stream of consciousness narration is not your style.

2 stars

The Book Thief – Staff Review – Isabella

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Request)(CloudLibrary)

The Book Thief is a classic that I will never get tired of reading. Narrated by Death itself, the novel takes an eye-opening point-of-view of WWII not previously delved into. Death follows many in the novel, including the main character Liesel, a lover of books and all things language who develops sticky fingers following her brother’s death. From small actions such as book thievery, to ones much more courageous and dangerous, Liesel and her foster family rebel against the oppressive Nazi regime. This is a heart-wrenching novel that never fails to make me cry, though I know the ending like the back of my hand. The beautiful writing and incredible story of The Book Thief make it an emotional and inspiring ride.

5 stars

A Family Affair – Staff Review – Haley

A Family Affair By Robyn Carr (Request)(CloudLibrary)

Women’s lit mega star Robyn Carr brings her fans a new novel which is part romance and part domestic drama. Anna McNichol, a respected judge and mother of three grown children, believes keeping her rock marriage afloat is worth it, until her husband suddenly does in a rafting accident.  Ms. Carr takes us through the journey of the family from the funeral through the next year.  Robyn Carr is my go to for heartwarming love stories, however this one missed the mark for me. There was too much packed into this one story and some of the storylines felt unnecessary.  I am not a fan of constant Covid references in the books I read.  I am living through it and feel like books are a great escape from that.  I will always read books by Robyn Carr, this just wasn’t one of her best. 

3 Stars

This Golden State – Staff Review – Haley

This Golden State By Marit Weisenberg (Request)(CloudLibrary)

Can you imagine having to change your name?  Start over in a new town every few years? For seventeen years Poppy and her family have been on the run and she doesn’t know why.  A sudden move to California gives Poppy her first clue into her parent’s past.  Finally wanting to know the truth she submits a DNA test which cracks her world wide open. This coming of age novel is suspenseful, dramatic, with a hint of romance. It had me on the edge of my chair the entire time and I didn’t want to set it down until knowing the full story. This is definitely a good choice for both YA and adults.   

4 Stars

The Cruel Prince – Staff Review – Isabella

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Request)(CloudLibrary)

The Cruel Prince is a YA fantasy novel that I didn’t know I needed. The novel follows Jude, a human girl who, along with her twin sister Taryn and half (faerie) sister Vivi, lives among immortal beings in the world of Faerie. Though Jude feels out of place in this world not built for her, she does all she can to fit in… possibly too much. The main thing I took away from this novel was the beautiful world-building. There are many YA fantasy novels with similar faerie-laden worlds full of mischief and intrigue, but the vivid imagery that Holly Black adopts in The Cruel Prince sets it apart. Everything from the food, to the clothing, to the landscape is described in great detail. While this novel was not my favorite YA fantasy book story-wise, the vivid imagery conveyed through the words of Holly Black kept me constantly engaged (would recommend for a pesky reading slump).

4 stars.

Razorblade Tears – Staff Review – Haley

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby. (Request)(CloudLibrary)

Two ex-cons with nothing in common but a criminal past and the love they have for their murdered sons, join together to seek vengance upon those who hurt their boys. Ike and Buddy Lee were not the fathers their sons deserved; mean and ashamed of their sons being gay, but during their journey to set things right, they are able to confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other. 
Razorblade Tears is a gritty, emotional, and well written story of two flawed fathers out for justice.  I loved it.  However, it is also a crime, so if violence doesn’t sit well with you, I don’t recommend this book.  S.A. Crosby is masterful in his weaving of family, race, sexualtiy, and friendship.  Like its title, this book is sharp, witty, and will also bring you to tears. 
4.5 Stars 

The Verifiers – Staff Review – Haley

The Verifiers by Jane Pek (request)

Meet Claudia Lin, amature tech sleuth with a mystery she is determined to solve using dating app data she has access to from her job at Veracity. Claudia follows in the footsteps of her favorite novel detective as she cracks the case and her own life.

Going in I thought this was going to be an excellent read, however I had mixed feelings about it. The mystery plot line was convoluted with too much tech jargon a lot of the time. The personal interactions of Claudia and her family were the highlights of the book. The constant reference to the literary detective hero also disrupted the flow of the novel. Overall it was lackluster and didn’t live up to its potential.

2.5 Stars

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