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Book Reviews Summer 2016

This is the page where you can find book reviews from other readers taking part in Adult Summer Reading 2016 with the Morrill Memorial Library.

To submit your own review, please click here.

Court-of-mist-and-fury-book-cover“A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy – 5 stars

This book is overwritten and overwrought and I love it. The characters feel all the feelings truly madly deeply. And I’m in.


Plum-pudding-murder-book-cover“Plum Pudding Murders” by Joanne Fluke

Murder Mystery – 5 stars

A young woman, Hannah, who is also owner and baker of “The Cookie Jar” in Lake Eden, Minnesota, discoves the corpse of an acquaintance and she sets her mind to find the murderer. I really enjoyed this book. As an added bonus, the author includes all of the recipes for the treats sold in Hannah’s shop. I intend to read all of the books in this series and try out many of the recipes!

Tell-No-One-book-cover“Tell No One” by Harlan Coben
Suspense/Mystery – 5 stars

I saw a book review for a recent Harlen Coben book called “Missing You”. It intrigued me so I read it. I liked it so much I decided to read all of his books. “I just finished Tell No One”. Evidently, many of Coben’s books involve an incident in a character’s past that comes back to “haunt” them. This book recalls the disappearance and murder of a respected doctor’s wife that occurred 8 years previously. But is she really dead? Who is sending the doctor cryptic emails? Why are his home and office bugged? Who is watching him? Find out by reading this novel! Hold onto your seats for the surprising plot twists!

Man-called-Ove-book-cover“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrick Backman
Contemporary Fiction – 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I’ve a read a book this funny. Not just funny like “this made me feel amused” but funny is in “my spouse is giving me dirty looks because I’m laughing so hard and it’s preventing him from falling asleep” sort of way. Ove is a man out of time and his persistent belief tha he and others around him should be functional and useful is hilariously at odd with our modern yearning for freedom from responsibility. Chapters are poignant little vignettes with a background story that ties them all together. Amazing and insightful.

Gorilla-my-love-book-cover“Gorilla, My Love” by Toni Cade Bambara
Fiction – 5 stars

Underrated female African American writer from the 70s-90s. Absolutely incredible to experience.


Ms-Marvel-volume-3-crushed-book-cover“Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed” by G. Willow Wilson
YA Graphic Novel – 5 stars

I am really enjoying this series.


Ms-Marvel-volume-4-last-days“Ms. Marvel, Volume 4: Last Days” by G. Willow Wilson
YA Graphic Novel – 5 stars

I would totally recommend this it got really good towards the end.


Apple-turnover-murder-book-cover“Apple Turnover Murder” by Joanne Fluke
Murder Mystery – 5 stars

This is the second Joanne Fluke book I have read. I liked it very much and can hardly wait to try the recipe for Apple Turnovers. I was happy that this murder “victim” met his demise! Hannah eliminates her suspects one by one until she is trapped in a scary predicament near the end of the book. Read it to find out what happens!

Among-the-mad-book-cover“Among the Mad” by Jacqueline Winspeare
Mystery/Historical Fiction – 5 stars

Among the Mad is the sixth Maisie Dobbs mystery and, as with the preceding volumes, Winspeare excels at sensitively and intelligently handling the violent fallout of the first World War. Maisie is nearly killed by a suicide bomber in downtown London and is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation of a threatening letter sent to the Prime Minister shortly thereafter. The reader learns with Maisie about the history of chemical warfare and the manufacture and testing of gasses that left men dead, blind, or gasping for air while bombs fell in the trenches around them.

The secondary thread of the narrative centers around evolving attitudes towards mental illness or “war neuroses” that we would today call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While the target of the police investigation may well be “Among the Mad,” Maisie also confronts the effects of loss and depression on her own personal friends. Engaging characters and brilliantly researched details about life in the 1930s make this one of the best mystery series out there.

weefreemen“The Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchett
YA Fantasy – 5 stars

The first of Terry Pratchett’s series about aspiring witch Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men will appeal to lovers of young adult fantasy like the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books. Tiffany lives in a small rural village with lots of sheep where she helps her large family around the farm, looks after her perpetually sticky younger brother, and excels at making cheese. When strange monsters start appearing, and small, angry blue men think that Tiffany can stop them, she’s determined to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother and solve everyone’s problems using ill-fitting boots, a large frying pan, and a brilliant mind.

The-shack-book-cover“The Shack” by William P. Young
Fiction – 5 stars

Loved the book. It was at once somber and light-hearted, made me think about some heavy topics without feeling too bogged down.


Wicked-boy-book-coverThe Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
True Crime, nonfiction – 5 stars

Not only does the author tell the story of the 13-year-old Victorian boy who commits the crime of matricide, but she explains the psychological traumas that turned the child into a “wicked boy.”

This book has educated me about childhood in Victorian times and about the abuses and stresses that cause crimes.

Louisa-book-cover“Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams” by Louisa Thomas
Biography – 5 stars

An excellent account of a fascinating woman in American history.


Through-the-woods-book-cover“Through the Woods: Stories”  by Emily Carroll
YA Graphic Novel, supernatural – 5 stars

Phenomenal illustrations, the artwork is beautiful. The stories are good and creepy, all five having something to do with the woods. One or two reminded me of traditional fairy tails but were actually their own unique stories. Recommended for teens and adults alike.

Lit-up-book-cover“Lit Up” by David Denby
Nonfiction – 5 stars

Through observing great teachers teaching great books, “Lit Up” makes apparent the benefits of reading and why it’s important that we encourage kids to become avid readers.

Look-at-you-now-book-cover“Look at You Now” by Liz Pryor
Nonfiction – 5 stars

Great read! I couldn’t put the book down. I was so drawn into the life of the author, and wanted to know what happened to her.

south-on-highland-book-cover“South on Highland” by Liana Maeby
Memoir Fiction – 5 stars

“South on Highland” is a truly beautiful and breath-taking story of a young narrator succumbing to drug addiction. Leila Massy is a rising Hollywood writer who spirals into a deep depression, disconnection, and addiction to a wide range of substances. The line between reality and the imaginative world captured in the words of an author is often blurred, but nowhere else is that line more difficult to distinguish than in “South on Highland.” It is evident that there are major aspects of Ms. Liana Maeby’s life intertwined with fiction in her first novel. The account takes after a “memoir fiction” genre of books. Simply the fact that Liana Maeby is so close to the fictitious name of Leila Massy is just a surface-land connection. “South on Highland” is gripping, lyrical, and haunting. It’s a masterpiece of the fictitious memoir genre and a triumphant first publication.

what-in-gods-name-book-cover“What in God’s Name?” by Simon Rich
Fiction – 5 stars

What if God was real? What if Heaven exists? What if Heaven is simply a typical bureaucratic corporation in the sky with God as its CEO? That is the amazing premise of Simon Rich’s novel “What in God’s Name?” It’s hilarious and a quick, fun read full of angels, boardrooms, college students, and miraculous gusts of winds. Simon Rich offers a compelling alternative to the afterlife and the reader can’t help but get sucked into this capitalist view of Heaven. It’s a romantic comedy, philosophical address, and an apocalypse-centered action adventure in one short novel. Some serious fun!

Glow-book-cover“Glow” by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
Historical Fiction – 5 stars

The clash and mingling of African, white, and Cherokee cultures and people in Georgia from about 1850 – 1941 is the setting but the characters and lush, descriptive language are the true stars of this debut novel from Jessica Maria Tuccelli. If you like stories about families, don’t mind a touch of a ghost story, and love when you can’t stop thinking about various characters long after you’ve stopped reading for the night, this is for you.

“Glow” made me uncomfortable and happy and sad and so many other feelings; I found myself falling asleep after reading a few chapters, still thinking about Lovelady and Willie-May and Amelia and Riddle Young. It’s true that I had a hard time getting into this at first. The language has a drawl to it. A heaviness. You can’t speed read this one. But it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it.

Summer-secrets-book-cover“Summer Secrets” by Jane Green
Fiction – 4 stars

It was pretty predictable at times but overall I enjoyed it.


Difference-engine-book-cover“The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Science fiction/steampunk – 4 stars

Classic sci-fi book. More like a collection of vignettes than a novel, but it works. Heady and somewhat dense writing. Recommended if you enjoy novels with words made up for that fictional world, or books about Victorian England.

Jacobs-folly-book-cover“Jacob’s Folly” by Rebecca Miller
Fiction, Magical Realism – 4 stars

Very unique premise for a book – a man from 1700s France is reincarnated as a fly on Long Island in the present day, and he tries to influence the lives of two people he encounters. The book flashes back to his previous life, so there are several story lines unfolding through the book. I enjoyed Miller’s writing style, she was dryly witty. The pace of the book sped up dramatically at the end and didn’t match at all the book’s earlier pacing, and in fact the ending felt rushed. Overall a good read though, recommend.

Welcome-toNight-vale-book-cover“Welcome to Night Vale” by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
Magical Realism – 4 stars

Highly recommended for fans of the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast, but it would be pretty hard to jump into this for someone who hasn’t listened to at least a few episodes. I prefer the podcast to the book, but in the book we get a view into different parts of Night Vale that are only alluded to in the podcast. Instead of focusing on Cecil and his radio broadcasts (though there are a few radio segments providing backdrop to the story), the book follows two characters as they try to figure out the mystery of the man in the tan jacket with the deerskin suitcase. Part of their journey leads them into the library, which we’ve only had horrific hints of in the podcast, and reading the book is worth it just to learn more about librarians (the most fearsome creatures in the world). The reductive pedantic style went on a little long, but if you enjoy the podcast, don’t miss this book. Definitely listen to the audio version, which is entirely narrated by Cecil.

The-last-policeman-book-cover“The Last Policeman” by Ben Winters
Mystery/Sci-fi – 4 stars

Hank Palace is your stereotypical up-and-coming police detective. He has a photographic memory, a tragic past, unusual living arrangements, and a burning desire to prove himself on his first big case – it looks like suicide, but he’s convinced it’s murder. There’s only one big problem. A giant asteroid is going to crash into the Earth in about six months and nobody really cares that much about law enforcement, or anything else, anymore.

Set in Concord, New Hampshire, The Last Policeman puts an intriguing spin on a traditional mystery by using the end of the world scenario to see how people live with that. Some people commit suicide, some throw endless parties or go on one last vacation, and some, like our protagonist, buckle down and do their jobs.

The-fireman-book-cover“The Fireman” by Joe Hill
Science Fiction – 4 stars

When men and women all over the world start to spontaneously combust, fear and panic spread, well, like wildfire. Joe Hill’s apocalyptic thriller follows nurse Harper Grayson as she tries to navigate this new and dangerous world. People infected with the spore called Dragonscale are rounded up and persecuted, but enclaves of survivors face infighting and suspicion.

Tautly written and anxiety-inducing, The Fireman follows Hill’s other novels including Horns and NOS4A2 in keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. Like his father, Stephen King, Joe Hill knows how to make the pages fly by as the reader has to find out what happens next, fearing the worst and still hoping for the best.

Bunker-Hill-book-cover“Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution” by Nathaniel Philbrick
History nonfiction – 4 stars

Nathaniel Philbrick provides an excellent bridge between books that cover the ideological fervor of the Boston patriots and those that focus on the hard, years-long fight of the Revolutionary War. During the sixteen months between the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, key figures in Boston society worked hard to find a middle ground between the Patriots and the Loyalists. The book pays particular attention to the efforts of the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Dr. Joseph Warren, to avoid open conflict and to the restraint and indecisiveness of Loyalist Governor Thomas Hutchinson. While the opening chapters can be slow at times, readers will welcome the nuanced re-introduction to familiar figures like John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere, and the slow building of tension pays off with the dramatic events that began in April of 1775.

Philbrick’s attention to detail in the movements and actions of the British Regulars and the Colonial Militia, and the popular responses to the events on both sides, is masterful. The narrative climaxes at the Battle of Bunker Hill, with an impressive description of the bravery and the mistakes of militia leaders, British officers, and common soldiers. The book would be a success if it ended there, but it continues with an engrossing account of the arrival of George Washington and his efforts to lead and to shape the Continental Army throughout the Siege of Boston. Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution is a must read for lovers of American history, offering excellent insight to the political motivations, the military efforts, and the people who began the Revolutionary War.

My-notorious-life-book-cover“My Notorious Life” by Kate Manning
Fiction – 4 stars

As a nurse, and fan of “Call the Midwife”, I thoroughly enjoy the history/issues in this book. They are still relevent today! 


Beat-to-quarters-book-cover“Beat to Quarters” by C. S. Forester
Historical Fiction – 4 stars

The first of the Hornblower novels to be written, but the sixth chronologically, this is a classic naval adventure set during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Horatio Hornblower is the most competent officer you’ll ever read about, but his self-doubt and shyness make him think the worst of himself even as he conducts his missions with steely resolve and earns the admiration of his crew. This book follows Hornblower on a secret mission the Pacific coast of Central and South America where he demonstrates his resourcefulness and diplomacy and introduces the Lady Barbara Wellesley, who forces him to rethink his misogynistic attitude towards women.

Mapping-of-love-and-death-book-cover“The Mapping of Love and Death” by Jacqueline Winspear
Historical Fiction / Mystery – 4 stars

The seventh Maisie Dobbs mystery is an interesting mix. From the standpoint of character development, there’s a lot happening in the novel and longtime readers will be thrilled and emotional about the shifts taking place around our heroine. The mystery starts with a strong concept, but the focus of the story drifts and the suspects’ motivations and the case building which are usually so detailed, don’t get the attention Winspeare usually gives them. If you’re not starting with the first book in the series, you could comfortably jump in with any of the next few, but Among the Mad and The Mapping of Love and Death are really for veteran Maisie readers.

Echoes-book-cover“Echoes” by Laura Dockrill
Fairy tales, short stories, poetry – 4 stars

Wow, this book was really well done but it’s not for the faint of heart. This mix of short stories and poetry takes classic fairy tales, and some obscure tales, and retells them in a modern light. Gruesome details are not spared. Fairy tales tend to have an abrupt style in their telling to help the plot move quickly in a short space of time, and in these stories that style lends a callousness or brutality that makes the tales even more disturbing. But if you can handle it, this book is really quite beautiful. Neat pen and ink illustrations accompany all the stories and poems. The editing was not great however, and I found a lot of typos.

Brain-maker-cover“Brain Maker” by David Perlmutter
Health – 4 stars

This was the kick I needed to get more proactive about my health. Today I didn’t eat a cupcake and had probiotic rich fermented vegetables with my meal. Too soon to tell if the advice will improve my health but it seems reasonable enough to give it a try.

curse-of-the-pharaohs-book-cover“The Curse of the Pharaohs” by Elizabeth Peters
Cozy / Historical Mystery – 4 stars

This is the summer of re-reading the Amelia Peabody series and I’m loving it. One star off for being a bit long but otherwise, these books are old friends.


The-invoice-book-cover“The Invoice” by Jonas Karlsson
Fiction – 4 stars

Quite a cute read!


chesapeake-blue-book-cover“Chesapeake Blue” by Nora Roberts
Romance – 4 stars

A great conclusion to the series.


Open-road-summer-book-cover“Open Road Summer” by Emery Lord
Sappy YA Romance – 3.5 stars

Great build up, eh ending.


99-days-book-cover“99 Days” by Katie Cotugno
YA Romance – 3.5 stars

People are horrible…



Quick-book-cover“Quick” by Lauren Owen
Fantasy – 3 Stars

Vampires in Victorian England



“Spark Joy” by Marie Kondo
Self-help, Nonfiction – 3 Stars

For those who have the time and space to gather each specific category of items in one place, touch each item to judge joy-fullness, discard those not sparking joy (after thanking each for a job well done), and then carefully store the remainder, this book offers guidance. The author establishes clothing as the first category to attack. Realizing that there are clothes in my attic, basement, 4 closets, various bureau drawers and bins, I quickly concluded my assignment would not be quick and painless…particularly considering I would then have to move on to do the rest of the family’s clothing before proceeding to the books/papers/kitchenware, etc. The book has been returned.

The-house-of-the-scorpion-book-cover“The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer
YA Science Fiction – 3 Stars

This is my son’s assigned summer reading, so I decided to read it as well. It was pretty heavy for a young adult novel. The book revolves around a young boy who was created (cloned) for spare parts and organs of a powerful drug lord. I read a lot and this was unlike any book I have read before. I love dystopian themes (Hunger Games, Divergent), but this took it to a whole new level. The morality of cloning was questioned; the class system was a constant theme; despotism and communism were introduced. As far as assigned reading goes, this was an interesting choice (much more interesting than Siddhartha), but would I pick it up and read it on my own volition, probably not.

The-rosie-effect-book-cover“The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion
Fiction – 3 stars

I came in to this expecting to love it as much as the Rosie project. I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t parts that made me laugh so hard people asked if I was ok.

Glory-over-everything-book-cover“Glory Over Everything” by Kathleen Grissom
Historical Fiction – 3 stars

To be fair, I listened to the audiobook and the unnatural sounding dialogue and almost patronizing depiction of slaves may have entirely ruined the book for me. The story was “meh” at best and there were so many points when I just wanted to shake the author. Too many coincidences, unrealistic characters, and plot stretches for me to recommend this book. Too bad, The Kitchen House was a decent book.

Hyperbole-and-a-half-book-cover“Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh
Humor – 3 stars

The language was off-putting but some parts of it made me laugh really hard. I also found her story of depression very poignant.

What-if-book-cover“What If? : Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions” by Randall Munroe
Nonfiction, science – 3 stars

Some of it was interesting and entertaining while some of it made me zone out.

Silent-girls-book-cover“The Silent Girls” by Eric Rickstad
Crime Thriller – 2 stars

The mystery itself was good, but the author was heavy-handed in insinuating what are clearly his own biases into the story. For some reason he has a serious chip on his shoulder about the criminal justice system, and another chip about anyone who is not from the Northeast Kingdom in VT, especially people who dare to visit the NE kingdom and earn a livable income. The writing style was overly self-conscious and try way too hard to be a gritty man’s-man book. I can appreciate hyperbole, but this was just so clumsy – don’t use the same clearly hyperbolic simile twice in the same paragraph! Also, the ending was just not good. He may be setting himself up for a sequel, and for his sake I hope he is – otherwise his ending is truly sloppy. Where was this guy’s editor?

Liz Reed

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