Sekret-Review

“An empty mind is a safe mind.”

This quote underscores the main theme of Sekret by debut author Lindsay Smith in describing Russia’s culture. With a flair of YA touch and the supernatural, Smith isn’t someone who is incapable of spelling. In fact, this is intentional. The setting of this book is in 1960′s USSR, and I suppose by spelling “secret” as “Sekret” it reflects the Russian language.

Prior to reading Sekret, I was very interested in Russian history with regards to my European history class. I noticed the innumerable controversies linked to Russian history (Rasputin? Romanov? Babushkas?). This book does a good job of incorporating Russia’s mysteries during its communist years into the story and giving the reader an intimate perspective on its dark history.

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all-this-talk

A strong, moving family drama set around an Italian-American family who has issues dealing with the outside world and with each other.

Spanning generations, the Grasso family has a lot going on amongst their own family, not to mention trying to get back to Italy for one last visit. The personalities of all of the family members are well-defined and strong in their own way and the way the characters interact with each other is timeless and is reminiscent of typical family relations. Each of the fully developed characters are realistic and engaging. Some family secrets that are hidden for years emerge and there is nothing phony or fake about the repercussions.

Not the best family drama story ever written, but a deeply-engaging story nonetheless.

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library!

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Breakfast-Review

Do we all have a dream? As human beings, we are very much susceptible to the pits of our own idealism. Lost in an imagined world of our own wonders leads us to question: What is true anymore? Sarah Combs’ debut book, Breakfast Served Anytime, questions the availability of dreams and the intangible journey of social navigation.

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TBR2

The Hit by Melvin Burgess began with a promising concept: a drug called Death that plagues a society in the near future. This drug provides the victim with one week of pure bliss, including anything they could ever ask for in terms of riches, power, intelligence, and romantic partners – however, after the week is up the victim dies. As the story progresses the plot becomes extremely convoluted with the addition of several seemingly unnecessary characters and a subplot of a terrorist organization that manufactures fake death. The protagonists had superficial personas, which made them unrelatable and unlikable. The fast-paced nature of the novel kept me interested in the story, but it fell short of my expectations. The idea of a world obsessed with a particularly fatal drug had the potential to be the foundation for a thought-provoking book, however Burgess should have further explored the societal and emotional effects of such a drug in order for his book to live up its potential.

- Nicolette

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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TBR3

Much like The Hunger Games and The Testing, The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean is a dystopian novel centered around the aftermath of a war. Living in a town torn apart by war, William “Billy” Dean is an enigmatic child whose unknown powers guide him into a world of mystery. This novel is an exceptional story suited for adults but is admired by young adults as well. With a well-paced plot, David Almond tells the story using Billy Dean’s illiterate stance so the reader can get a glimpse into his mind. You get to watch Billy grow and see his perceptions alter. Patient readers will enjoy this book to its fullest potential and will revel in its perplexity.

- Kristjan

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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TBR4

As a die-hard lover of young adult contemporary fiction, one of my favorite things about these books is when a character grips me so hard that I want to crawl through the book and just love him or her, and this is where I found myself with Torn Away by Jennifer Brown. While Jersey didn’t initially start out as a character with issues, it only took a few pages before she became one. I found myself so attached to her that I wanted to go to her and give her encouragement and support and just HELP HER THROUGH THIS TIME IN HER LIFE. She took over my heart while I was reading this book, you guys, because my heart was broken for her.

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TBR1

We Were Liars has been talked about all summer as the new trendy YA novel, and from first glance, it’s got all the right credentials: a prominently placed quote of praise from “Mr. YA” himself, John Green, an intentionally vague plot summary on the dust jacket that speaks of a “shocking surprise ending,” and photographic cover art. After I read it, however, it turned out to be a far more old-fashioned affair. It’s a psychological thriller from YA novelist E. Lockhart that tells the story of Cadence Sinclair, a wealthy 17-year-old girl who lives an idyllic life of golden sunsets and childhood adventure on an island off the coast of Massachusetts during the summer, until a mysterious accident changes everything.

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bitterriver

Keller’s second mystery set in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia and featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins is ALMOST as strong as the first, A Killing in the Hills (2012).

I loved Keller’s first Elkins outing (it was one of the most compelling American mysteries I had read in a while), so I was very excited by the prospect of another harrowing suspense tale. Although it’s not as strong as the first, this story is still intense – a real page-turner. This time, just as Elkins is put in charge of prosecuting the case of a murdered teenager found in the river, two more devastating events happen in Acker’s Gap…a sniper shoots up the courthouse and there is an explosion at the popular diner in town. Elkins pursues the case in her usual persistent way, but this time, her life comes under threat and the case has issues hitting too close to home, literally.

The best part of this book, as it was with A Killing in the Hills, is the well-constructed plot, fully-realized characters and excellent, top-notch writing. Keller, a journalist by trade who earned a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for her feature writing in the Chicago Tribune, has found a second trade: crime novelist. I cannot wait for the next Elkins book!

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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five-memorial

I should start this review by expressing some bias on my part. I am personally connected to the events in this book since my uncle was one of the patients in Memorial during Katrina. Thankfully, he was one of the lucky ones who got out shortly after the flooding began. As I was reading this story, it was all the more captivating and heart-wrenching since I kept thinking what would have happened had my uncle not been as lucky.

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mourning-book

Looking for your next great read? I would highly recommend The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard! It’s emotional, well-plotted, engaging, well-constructed and suspenseful without being a thriller. What more can you ask for from a good novel? And it’s a debut novel, at that!

Most of the story takes place 16-17 years before the epilogue, which is set in 2011. So, we head back to 1994 and there we meet Kirsten Hammarstrom, 10, and her family, all of whom live on a rural Wisconsin farm. Grandpa (dad’s father’s) lives in the smaller of the two houses on the farm and Aunt Julia living just down the road. An idyllic, tranquil, laid back life. Until 18-year-old brother Johnny falls for the wrong girl and then the wrong girl goes missing, with Johnny as the prime (and only) suspect.

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