Book Review: “A Curse So Dark And Lonely” by Brigid Kemmerer

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If you’ve been reading young adults books over the past few years, you’ll know that there are a plethora of fairy tale retellings out there. There’s nothing quite like taking a familiar story and turning it on its head for entertainment. A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is a well-written, fleshed-out Beauty and the Beast story.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What A Curse So Dark And Lonely gets right: This book provides an interesting look at the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, with several changes such as: more violence, more diverse characters and representation, and a fresh take on the beast’s curse.

The three main characters (Harper, Rhen, and Grey) develop strong bonds with each other over the course of the story. Each character has their own personality and voice, which I chalk up to solid writing.

What A Curse So Dark And Lonely gets wrong: I would love to see my favorite character, Grey, get some justice in the next book. He was, in my opinion, the most fleshed-out and likable character (although I liked Rhen and Harper just fine), and his cliffhanger ending was both exciting and disappointing.

There were definitely parts of the plot that I had to suspend a lot of disbelief on, but hey, it’s a YA fantasy novel. That’s par for the course. It got kind of crazy toward the end, but, to be fair, the author was setting up for another book!

One last thing: I don’t like the title. Just call it “The Curse” or something. There’s way too many nouns + two descriptors in titles these days; just look at Children of Blood and Bone A Court of Thorns and Roses, Days of Blood and Starlight, etc.

Who should read A Curse So Dark And Lonely: Fans of fairy-tale retellings, YA novels, and fantasy worlds in general.

Who shouldn’t read A Curse So Dark And Lonely: Readers who don’t enjoy fantasy.

 

A Curse So Dark And Lonely is available at the library.

Content note: A few mildly suggestive scenes; brief language.

Top 5 Books About Running

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This past December, I ran my very first marathon. It was so fun and yet so painful at the same time! What I most liked about the race was the support and energy I felt from the other runners and spectators. It really felt like I was doing something meaningful, even though I’m sure a lot of people thought I was crazy for running 26.2 miles in the cold.

There’s definitely a sense of community among runners, and there are several books about running that accurately capture this feeling. Read the list below and click the links to find these books in the library!

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

My favorite book about running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, is short and to the point. Murakami, a marathon runner and a famous novelist, writes with wisdom about his experiences. He compares running to writing and examines the discipline behind long distance running.

 

Running: A Global History by Thor Gotaas

How did we as humans become so fascinated with running? This book explains it all, tracing runners throughout world history.

 

Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald

The best elite runners have learned that the key to faster running is to hear what your body is telling you. But are you listening?

 

A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti

This young adult fiction novel is about a girl on a cross-country run, trying to deal with a traumatic event from her past. Along the way, she becomes a reluctant activist and symbol.

 

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

Read all about the true story of how three elite athletes trained to run a mile in under four minutes.

 

All of these books are available at the library- just click the links to find their locations!

Book Review: “A Heart In A Body In The World” by Deb Caletti

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After completing my first marathon, I wanted to read a young adult (YA) book about running. I picked up A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti from the library’s Family Room. This novel is about much more than running (it has the major theme of dealing with a traumatic event) but running sets the framework for the main character, Annabelle, to begin the healing process.

Annabelle is a high school cross country runner who is in therapy and trying to deal with PTSD after a terrible event. On a whim, she decides to embark on a giant run from Seattle to Washington, D.C. Her grandfather helps her out, providing her with food and support from his RV. Soon her run turns into a cause, with hundreds around the country tuning in and showing support.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What A Heart In A Body In The World gets right: This has nothing do with the actual story, but wow, what a great cover!

As for the actual story: the hazards of running are really well described! When Annabelle freaked out in the shower because she hadn’t realized that she was chafed from her run, and the hot water was stinging her? That’s real, y’all . . . just take my word for it. And while she wishes for some Body Glide for chafing, let me tell you, that stuff only works some of the time.

It’s sad that recent, real-life events have made a novel like this so timely and necessary, but I’m glad that author Deb Caletti wasn’t afraid to tackle this kind of subject.

This book will show you the worst of humanity, but it also shows you the best of humanity: the surprising kindness of strangers, the willingness to support a good cause, and the love that a family has for each other. Annabelle’s story is both sobering and inspiring. It’s a story worth reading, even if you end up crying a little along the way.

What A Heart In A Body In The World does wrong: I personally am not the biggest fan of books that are written in present tense, so that took a little getting used to with this novel. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the “heart facts” that prefaced many of the chapters- they were interesting, but they took me out of the story.

Who should read A Heart In A Body In The World: Readers who enjoy running and young adult novels.

Who shouldn’t read A Heart In A Body In The World: While this book is certainly inspiring, it’s also very sad at times. If you’re looking for something more lighthearted to read, then pick up something different.

 

A Heart In A Body In The World is available in the library’s Family Room.

Content note: PTSD, gun violence, language.

Reading List: Fun Books For Light Reading

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We get asked a lot about “fun” and “light” books to read. Maybe they have a playful plot, a beautiful setting, or a funny protagonist. These are the kinds of books that are perfect for a study break! We’ve compiled a list below of some fun books that will put a smile on your face (and give your brain a break, too). Click the links to see where each book is located in the library.

 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

It’s the story of Cinderella, but with a twist: Ella is actually under a curse that she’s trying to break. Ella Enchanted is funny, romantic, and smart.

 

Wildwood by Colin Melloy

When her baby brother is kidnapped by crows, seventh-grader Prue McKeel ventures into the forbidden Impassable Wilderness (a dangerous and magical forest at the edge of Portland, Oregon) and soon finds herself involved in a war among the various inhabitants.

 

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes is an entertaining read about a boy who is sent to a correctional camp with a mysterious history. If you liked the movie, then you’ll love the book- it has the same sense of humor and mischief!

 

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

You can’t go wrong with the classic story of the practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins. Pair the short novel with the original movie and the reboot: we have them all here at the library!

 

Greater Than Gold by David Boudia

Learn all about the inspiring story of Olympic athlete David Boudia in his book Greater Than Gold. Boudia talks about how his faith in God changed his life.

 

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

If you enjoy romantic comedies, then you should pick up To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. This Young Adult book details the mishaps of teenager Lara Jean, whose secret love letters somehow get mailed to all of her crushes from throughout the years.

 

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a samurai, learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States.

 

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

One of my all-time favorite middle-grade books, Bunnicula is the story of a rabbit that just might be a vampire and the other pets of the family who are trying to solve this mystery. Oh, and it’s absolutely hilarious.

 

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Author Jonah Lehrer believes that creativity is not a single gift possessed by the lucky few- it’s something that everyone can use and develop. There’s a lot to learn from this creative nonfiction book!

 

How To Be A Good Creature by Sy Montgomery

A naturalist and adventurer discusses the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals who have profoundly affected her, exploring themes of learning to become empathetic, creating families, coping with loss, and the otherness and sameness of people and animals.

 

Book Review: “Turtles All The Way Down” by John Green

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John Green is a household name in young adult literature- you may know his books The Fault in Our Stars or Looking for Alaska. Green’s books often have a teenage protagonist who is learning to grow and navigate new relationships. In Turtles All The Way Down, Green explores the inner thoughts of Aza, a sixteen-year-old with OCD who begins to search for a missing local billionaire.

What Turtles All The Way Down gets right: Aza is a sympathetic character with a frustrating illness. Her OCD and anxiety get in the way of her relationships sometimes, and while it’s hard to read about, it’s fairly realistic. She has to take care of herself first at times, and her friends learn to be understanding of this while Aza learns to focus on other people more.

The mysterious aspects of the story- where did the billionaire go?- are interesting if not a bit predictable towards the end. Turtles All The Way Down will pull at your heartstrings as you watch the two sons who were left behind deal with their father’s disappearance.

What Turtles All The Way Down gets wrong: There’s nothing particularly wrong with Turtles All The Way Down. I could see it being hard to read if you disagree with the way Green portrays OCD and anxiety. And if you’re looking for a happy ending, John Green is not your author.

Who should read Turtles All The Way Down: People who enjoy bittersweet stories. People with OCD or who have friends with OCD- Aza’s first romantic relationship deals with her OCD struggles well, and Aza’s best friend learns to see Aza apart from her compulsive tendencies.

Who shouldn’t read Turtles All The Way Down: People who may be triggered by Aza’s major OCD incident. Readers who want a happy ending.

 

Turtles All The Way Down is available in the library’s Family Room.

Book Review: “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver

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Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? Even if you haven’t, you’re probably familiar with the basic thematic concept of living the same day over and over again- it’s been done in many movies and books. Sometimes this kind of storyline can get boring and repetitive. However, when it’s done right, it can be effective and even entertaining, and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is a great example of this.

Before I Fall  examines the life of a popular “mean girl,” Samantha Kingston, and what happens when she dies and then has to relive her last day multiple times.

 

What Before I Fall does right: Samantha (Sam) goes through the stages of grief when she realizes that she has died, has to relive her last day, and isn’t sure why or how to get out of it. One day shows her taking a nihilistic view- if she’s really dead, then nothing she does matters, right? On a different day, she’s so grateful to see her parents, friends, and town again that she practically beams the whole day. I find this take on the popular “Groundhog Day” theme to be pretty realistic.

The characters in Before I Fall dance off the page as if they were real. Hardly anyone is two dimensional, even though they may seem that way at first. Sam learns more and more about the people around her and how her actions have affected them for better or for worse. She seeks to make things right with those she has wronged- in particular, she wants to help a bullied girl named Juliet when Sam realizes that Juliet committed suicide on the same original day that Sam died.

Sam herself undergoes a fair amount of character development, but it doesn’t seem rushed, forced, or overly moralistic. She changes slowly, with plenty of frustration about her situation and toward her friends when they don’t understand why she seems different with each relived day. It’s a believable amount of growth, but Before I Fall still leaves you with that glowing sense of redemption.

 

What Before I Fall gets wrong: There are parts of the book that seem a little long, and there are times when Sam makes choices that seem cringey or obviously wrong- doesn’t she know better by now? But all of this is leading to her ultimate redemption, and it’s worth it to keep reading.

 

Who should read Before I Fall: Older teenagers, college students, and adults alike may enjoy this realistic depiction of teenage life (played out through an unrealistic Groundhog Day theme). Before I Fall can be very sad at times, but the ultimate messages are of love, friendship, family, and redemption.

 

Who shouldn’t read Before I Fall: With its mature themes and language, Before I Fall is not marketed towards younger readers. However, older readers will probably enjoy and relate to this book. Please be warned, however, that this book contains heavy themes and intense depictions of teen and adult problems (think Thirteen Reasons Why and read the content note below).

 

Content note: language, suggestive content, heavy themes (including eating disorders, suicide, and inappropriate relationships).

 

Before I Fall is available in the library’s Family Room.

Spotlight On Library Displays

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Did you know that the library creates displays to showcase our collection? Each month, a new display theme goes up on the first-floor bookcase near the stairs. Monthly themes include:

  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Summer Reading
  • STEM
  • Historical Fiction

and more!

 

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We also have books on display in the Family Room. These include children’s books and young adult books. Pictured below is our “Universe of Stories” display!

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All of the books, audiobooks, and DVDs on display are available for checkout. Just take the item you want to the Circulation Desk and they will check it out for you.

Book Review: “The Bigfoot Files” by Lindsay Eagar

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The Bigfoot Files by Lindsay Eagar is a new middle-grade book at the library. Miranda Cho is a young girl with big aspirations and anxiety; she struggles to cope with her mom’s Bigfoot obsession and frequent travel (which makes Miranda miss school).

 

What The Bigfoot Files does right: Miranda has “to make things perfect. Even if other elements of her life threatened to ruin everything.” She struggles with Trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder, and her anxiety is often worsened by her mom’s inconstancy. Miranda’s desire to do her best, coupled with her fractured home life, make her a sympathetic character. She’s only 12, and yet she feels like she has the whole world on her shoulders.

The sense of “what if” is fun to read about, even as Miranda tries to deny the existence of cryptozoology animals. I also appreciated the Bigfoot clues that Miranda and Kat find, as my dad often looked for the same signs in real life. The author did her research!

What The Bigfoot Files gets wrong: This is more of an editing issue, but some of the wording is a little confusing. British words and spellings are used throughout the book- like “crisps” instead of “chips.” There’s nothing wrong with the British dialect, but it’s confusing because the book’s setting is in the United States. I kept wondering if Miranda and her mother were British immigrants, since Miranda called Kat “mum” so often. The characters’ dialect does not match where they are from, and there is no explanation given for this, so it might take you out of the story at times.

Who should read The Bigfoot Files: Anyone who enjoys biology and botany- the nature descriptions are spot-on. People who like stories about mothers and daughters with a little mystery thrown in.

Who shouldn’t read The Bigfoot Files: If you don’t enjoy woodsy descriptions, then this book is probably not for you. Most of The Bigfoot Files takes place in a national park.

 

The Bigfoot Files is available in the library’s Family Room.

Book Review: “Amal Unbound” by Aisha Saeed

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This is what I now remember most about my last afternoon at school- the smell of the dusty chalkboard, the sound of the students lingering outside the door, and, mostly, how easily I took my ordinary life for granted.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed is the story of a bright Pakistani girl who has to make the most of unfortunate circumstances. When Amal’s mother begins to struggle with post-partum depression, Amal stays home from school to take care of her younger sisters. She dreams of a better future when she can go to college and become a teacher. When Amal accidentally offends a member of her village’s ruling family, she is forced into indentured servitude and her whole world turns upside down.

What Amal Unbound gets right: It’s refreshing to read a book that’s not set in the United States. Amal’s story is uniquely Pakistani, and reading about her culture helped me learn new words and customs. The injustice that Amal faces is heartrending, but we cheer for Amal as she learns how to navigate the world and still be herself. Aisha Saeed wrote the fictional story of Amal as a reflection of Malala Yousafzai and her fight for women’s education, and Saeed hopes that Amal Unbound and similar stories will inspire young girls all over the world to stand up for what is right.

What Amal Unbound gets wrong: Nothing, really. My only caveat is that this book is written for a younger audience than me, so there’s some repetition here and there. However, that’s not a reason to ignore this book! The story is compelling for both adults and children.

Who should read Amal Unbound: Middle-grade children, teens, and adults who want to learn about different cultures, customs, and global problems.

Who shouldn’t read Amal Unbound: Adults who prefer adult narratives.

Book Review: “North of Beautiful” by Justina Chen

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North of Beautiful is a well-written young adult book about a girl who learns to be brave. Terra Cooper was born with a port-wine stain on her face and has learned to hide it from others, in particular her verbally abusive dad. Together with her timid mom, Terra learns to stand up for herself and accept herself as she is. In the midst of Terra’s transformation, she meets a Goth romantic interest, goes to China, and creates map-based art.

 

What North of Beautiful gets right: The main characters experience a lot of growth throughout the book. None of them become perfect, but they each begin to make positive changes in their lives. North of Beautiful has a happier ending but not so optimistic that it’s unbelievable.

The traveling part of the book is fun but never overshadows the characters themselves. North of Beautiful is all about relationships and inner motivations. It’s encouraging to watch Terra repair her relationship with her mother and begin building a new one with Jacob.

What North of Beautiful does wrong: Terra’s insecurity can be hard to read about in the first part of the book. She seems to look down on others who don’t put as much effort into their appearance as she does. However, as the book goes on, we begin to understand why Terra feels that way, and we get to see her grow and change.

Who should read North of Beautiful: Anyone who has struggled with how they look, likes cartography, or enjoys a (mostly) innocent romance. Teenagers who need someone to relate to. Adults who will understand the relationships between Terra and her parents.

Who shouldn’t read North of Beautiful: People who aren’t interested in reading about teenagers or families. People who get bored by character development and need more action in their stories.

 

Check out North of Beautiful from the library’s Family Room.