Book Review: “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi

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Children of Blood and Bone took the Young Adult book world by storm when it was published in 2018. For one thing, the cover is absolutely exquisite. For another, this is a fantasy book about people of color; diversity can be hard to find in the fantasy genre. Author Tomi Adeyemi uses her background as a Nigerian-American and her studies in West African mythology to create an intricate world with cultures and problems that real-life people can relate to.

This novel introduces us to two pairs of very different brothers and sisters: Zélie and Tzain, the underdogs in a society built on racism and the fear of magic; and Amari and Inan, the princess and prince who have everything but shrink under their cruel father’s abuse. As the four collide, and suppressed magic begins to make a comeback, their cities will never be the same again.

Mild spoilers ahead.

 

What Children of Blood and Bone gets right: I enjoyed reading about the complex, but ultimately loving, brother-sister relationships in this story, as well as each character’s development and growth throughout their journeys. The animals in this book are really cool as well. For example, Zélie has a lionaire (Nailah) whom she and her friends can actually ride like a horse.

Plot-wise, Children of Blood and Bone reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Zélie is a special girl who can bring magic back into the world, just like Aang is the avatar who can bring balance back to his world. And Zélie has wisdom beyond her years at times; her quote “I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain” gave me chills.

What Children of Blood and Bone gets wrong: There are a lot of rules and regulations about magic that don’t come out until later in the book. It can be difficult to keep up with, and some of it doesn’t fully make sense to me in regards to how it works in the story. And while the action scenes were exciting, they were hard to follow for me. I wasn’t too sure what was going on at times.

Although Zélie was the main character, I actually liked her the least out of the sibling pairs. While she means well and has a good cause, she’s constantly reckless. I wanted to see the story from Tzain’s perspective, as he was probably my favorite character due to his practicality and protectiveness, but we never got that.

Who should read Children of Blood and Bone: Fans of magic, fantasy, heroic stories, and West African mythology.

Who shouldn’t read Children of Blood and Bone: Readers who don’t enjoy fantasy.

 

Children of Blood and Bone is available in our Recreational Reading section. The sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, is also available!

Content note: a brief suggestive scene, violence, racism.

Most book reviews on this blog are written by Olivia Chin and reflect her personal opinions of the books, not the library’s view as a whole.

Book Review: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins

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The announcement that Suzanne Collins was publishing a Hunger Games prequel was the proverbial shot heard ’round the literary world. Everyone wanted to get their hands on it. I think excitement waned a bit, however, when we realized that it was about President Snow as a young man. This is a testament to how hated President Snow was in the original series- at first glance, he’s not the kind of interesting villain you’d want to read about; rather, he’s hated so much that you’d rather not think too much about him at all.

Regardless of how much you might hate Snow, picking up The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is still a welcome return to the disturbing world of Panem and all of its rules and division. While Panem is a horrible place, it’s a well-written, engrossing one. With this prequel, we get to learn more about how the Hunger Games came to be the way they are in the original trilogy. Plus, Coriolanus Snow as a young man may surprise you.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gets right: Suzanne Collins is awesome at writing about psychological warfare. Throughout The Hunger Games trilogy, we saw how having to constantly act and perform was exhausting to Katniss; in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, we see how Coriolanus Snow is similarly affected. You wouldn’t think that a Capital kid from a rich family would have to fake his way through life in order not to die, but that’s the case for Coriolanus. The adults around him can’t be trusted- in fact, they may even decide to kill him- and this situation makes him a more relatable character than you’d expect. Coriolanus actually has a few things in common with Katniss, at least in this book.

However, unlike Katniss, Coriolanus is a very controlled and calculating character. He often relies on charisma and faked confidence to get him through dangerous encounters. While I enjoyed how raw and honest Katniss was, sometimes her brash words and deeds would make me cringe as I feared what kind of trouble she would get in. She was not a natural actress; but for Coriolanus, acting is not only easy but necessary, which probably explains how he eventually made it to the top in the Capital.

 

What The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gets wrong: Most of the side characters don’t get fleshed out or developed very well. I felt like I barely knew anyone other than Coriolanus and Sejanus, his fellow mentor and a rebel sympathizer, throughout the story.

The plot kind of meanders around in Part I as various attacks postpone the Games. Then there’s some romance in Part II and III that just didn’t strike me as believable (slight spoilers in the next few sentences). Don’t get me wrong, I love romance in books, but this one seemed shallow to me. Coriolanus gets caught up in petty jealousy when the girl he likes could die the next day, and I’m just not having that. And why would Lucy Gray Baird be interested in Coriolanus- how does she have time for feelings when she’s facing her death? They couldn’t be more different and their romance is based on the bare minimum. If Lucy Gray knew more about how possessive and controlling Coriolanus actually is (which we as readers get to hear in his thoughts) I don’t think she would like him at all. This romance was doomed from the start because they don’t know each other at all.

 

Who should read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Fans of The Hunger Games who want to revisit the world of Panem. Readers who enjoy learning about ambitious, cunning protagonists who later become villains (Coriolanus is definitely an unhealthy Enneagram Three, and would be in Slytherin were he at Hogwarts).

 

Who shouldn’t read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: If you didn’t like The Hunger Games, then you probably won’t like this prequel, either. And even as a Hunger Games fan, I didn’t particularly love this book because Coriolanus just doesn’t *get* it, and he got on my nerves a lot toward the end. He just doesn’t allow himself to have empathy for others who are different from him. I liked the ending, where he was finally showing his true colors, better than the rest of the book where he was pretending to be a decent person.

 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes can be found on our summer Staff Picks display. You can also check out The Hunger Games trilogy!

Content note: violence, psychological trauma, substance abuse.

Most book reviews on this blog are written by Olivia Chin and reflect her personal opinions of the books, not the library’s view as a whole.

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!

Top 5 Popular Book Series At The Library

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What is your favorite book series? Other than items on Reserve, books from popular series are the most checked out items in the library. Read the list below to see which ones our patrons enjoy.

 

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

This series has been so popular here at the library that we’ve gotten a second set of copies! We also have the lovely illustrated versions, the movies, and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

 

Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson books practically fly off the shelves in our Family Room. Old and young readers alike will enjoy these mythically-based adventures.

 

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

While readers are still waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish the next book, we have all of his current A Song of Ice and Fire books here at the library. We also have the Game of Thrones companion book Fire And Blood, which tells the history of the Targaryen family.

 

The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

This wouldn’t be a list of popular series without the timeless classics of The Lord of The Rings trilogy (and The Hobbit). The movies are also available in our DVD section!

 

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

We recently acquired the last few books in this dynamic fantasy series. The Throne of Glass books can be found in our Family Room.

 

Bonus: Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer

Revisit the wildly popular (and possibly the most infamous) book series of the early 2000s. We have all of the Twilight novels and a Twilight novella at the library.

 

Read Through The Decade: 2010-2020

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If you want to revisit the past 10 years, reading the books that were published in that time period is a great start. The major discoveries and concerns of a decade are often reflected in its literature and nonfiction. We’ve listed a book that was published in each year from 2010-2019, leaving 2020 open for new books. Which of these recent books have you read?

All of these books are available at the library. Click the links to find where they are located, or ask for help at the Circulation Desk.

 

2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells–taken without her knowledge–became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

 

2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Waging a fierce competition for which they have trained since childhood, circus magicians Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love with each other and share a fantastical romance that manifests in fateful ways.

 

2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Read our review of Gone Girl here.

 

2013

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected

 

2014

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.  But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.

 

2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction- if they don’t kill each other first.

 

2016

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape.

 

2017

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Memphis, Tennessee, 1936. The five Foss children find their lives changed forever when their parents leave them alone on the family shantyboat one stormy night. Rill Foss, just twelve years old, must protect her four younger siblings as they are wrenched from their home on the Mississippi and thrown into the care of the infamous Georgia Tann, director of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. South Carolina, Present Day. Avery Stafford has lived a charmed life. But when Avery comes home to help her father weather a health crisis and a political attack, a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her deeply shaken. Avery’s decision to learn more about the woman’s life will take her on a journey through her family’s long-hidden history.

 

2018

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Explores the life of one lighthouse as it beams its message out to sea through shifting seasons, changeable weather, and the tenure of its final keeper.

 

2019

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Eleven-year-old George Washington Black – or Wash – a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen to be the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, they must abandon everything and flee.

 

2020

What will you read in 2020? Be on the lookout as new books are released and added to our shelves!

 

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: “The Sight” by David Clement-Davies

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Have you ever picked up a book about wolves with powers and then realized that it’s really a thinly-veiled hot take on creation myths, religion, faith, and humanism? That’s what happened when I dived into The Sight, a novel I’ve been waiting to read for a long time and finally got my hands on recently. I read it in two days because I just couldn’t put it down.

Mild spoilers ahead.

 

What The Sight gets right: I loved The Sight pretty much right away. I mean, the book opens with a haunting description of a Carpathian castle; to a vampire fan like me, this is easy bait. But it’s so much more than the fascinating wilderness setting. The wolves in The Sight have their own gods and stories and, in fact, everything in nature is connected and respected (even their prey). Yet, just like with humans, not every wolf has the same beliefs, and these ideas clash as different packs are formed.

The main focus of the novel is the power of the Sight, which is essentially increased intelligence, the ability to see through another’s eyes, and the ability to see visions and recall memories (which is something most animals can’t do very well). Some wolves are afraid of the Sight, while others want to embrace its power for good or evil. Eventually, a terrifying prophecy comes into fruition as the wolf Larka struggles to protect a stolen human child and learn the ways of the Sight.

What The Sight does wrong: The Sight doesn’t have the friendliest view of religion, as some wolves come to realize that the stories they have believed in are just that, stories. The main antagonist, Morgra, uses some of the stories to make her followers obey her, using their fear to control them.

However, I think The Sight ultimately takes the view that having faith in something can be good and helpful as long as it doesn’t blind you to “the truth,” which is what the book’s protagonist, Larka, values the most. This is definitely a philosophical book that will make you think; for example, the wolves have their own version of Jesus Christ (a sacrificial wolf named Sita). At the same time, if you’re a believer, it can be disappointing that the wolves seem to reject their religion toward the end- but this is a work of fiction, after all.

Who should read The Sight: Lovers of philosophy, creation myths, Romanian history, fantasy, and wolves.

Who shouldn’t read The Sight: There are some reviews on Goodreads that call this book boring and sad? I don’t personally agree with that judgment, but I suppose some readers might get bogged down in all of the legends and folk tales that the wolves tell each other. And The Sight definitely has sad moments, but many of them are foreshadowed, and an older reader won’t be caught off guard by them.

 

The Sight isn’t currently available at the library, but you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.

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.