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José reviews: Grant

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Ron Chernow's Grant details the life of a flawed individual who was also a hero because he fought against the injustices of his time. The biography begins at the end. Diagnosed with throat cancer and low on funds he wanted to provide for his family after his death, it was with the help and support of his friend Mark Twain that his memoirs would be published. The book not only became a success but became one of the most detailed and foremost accounts of the Civil War. Unfortunately, Grant did not live to see the success of his story told. As we read more about Grant we see how human and incredibly flawed he was.

Chernow's mission is to critique past biographer's assessment on who Grant was and provide us with a portrait of who he really is. Chernow tells us about all the successes and failures that Grant had to endure. In previous biographies of Grant's, ones that I couldn't find in a Civil War shop or any store elsewhere, he is often portrayed as a drunken loaf. Rumors about his needing to be tied to his horse due to drunkenness have been accepted as fact. What I found most interesting is that his name as we know it is wrong (he was born Hiram Ulysses Grant).

Frances reviews: Warcross

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For those of us seeking a proper pre-game for the Ready Player One movie coming out in March, Marie Lu’s Warcross is not a bad bet. Set in the not so distant future where technology verges on dystopian, it’s mostly the same old problems that plague our protagonist, Emika Chen. Emika’s a hacker/gamer/bounty-hunter/badass-chick with some colorful hair, but for all her attitude, she is lonely and desperate for cash. When she hacks into Warcross—the global game and simulation sensation—in order to steal a valuable item, she surprises not only herself but also the enigmatic, suit-wearing, billionaire-inventor of the game, Hideo Tanaka. Instead of a jail sentence though, Hideo offers her a job: to unmask the mysterious "Zero,” a hacker who has been hiding in the game, and to discover what his end goal is.

Although there is a romance (I wonder with whom??? It’s a thinker!), it wasn’t paced right for me, and they didn’t have much-established chemistry. Similarly, while the mystery served its purpose, it wasn’t really a page-turner. The fun of this book is in discovering the delightful game of Warcross. There are rivalries, and power-ups, and team roles, and youthful grievances: a perfect blend of nerdy and thrilling.

David reviews: Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

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If you have (or know of) young kids (I have two) that enjoy a good story before bed, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site more than fills the bill. Sherri Duskey Rinker (author) and Tom Litchtenheld (illustrator) take us on an end-of-the-day visit to the construction site where all the hardworking trucks are preparing for a good night's sleep. The Crane Truck folds his boom back in and the Cement Truck's drum spins one last spin...

What I find most appealing about this story is the rhythm of the verse, which lends itself to creative oral interpretations. A slower singsong cadence and near whisper will surely put your child to sleep before story's end, while a faster staccato cadence and higher pitch will have the little one engaged throughout.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site has everything a child could want in a storybook including wonderful illustrations that only compliment the story. This book has become a bedtime staple in my home and I anticipate many more readings well into the future.

Seth reviews: The Core

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From the very start, Peter V. Brett's The Core, the finale of the Demon Cycle series, drew me in like the pull of the Core on Arlen just as the song of the sirens pulled Ulysses. The characters, based on the choices they made, each set up their respective journeys. In turn, they grow and evolve. As described by the late Joseph Campbell, regardless of where they fall within the scope of the world of Thesa and Krasia they all are on some aspect of the “Hero’s Journey."

Going into the final installment of the Demon Cycle, I knew each character would have a swan song of sorts. Arlen and Jardir going to The Core. Leesha Paper realizes her destiny as well as the potential role of the child she bears. Renna Bales comes to grips with following her husband while considering where the battle ahead will lead them. Inevera discovers that destiny is more telling than she thought it would be. Mixed in among them are the other wives of Jardir, Sikvah, Wonda, Gared, and so many more; each is part of this tapestry of the unfolding events. They all face the shared danger from the demon hordes that reek havoc in the night. The course is set going into The Core, each character has come to the crossroads, and the choices are aplenty. 

Angelica reviews: The Fact of a Body

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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir is a hybrid memoir that painstakingly weaves the stories of Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich and Richard Langley. As a young Harvard law student, Marzano-Lesnevich spends the summer interning at a New Orleans defense firm for the Richard Langley case. Langley is once again convicted of the sexually motivated death of a six-year-old boy, this time to decide whether he will serve life or receive the death penalty. Despite being opposed to the death penalty, this case not only destabilizes Marzano-Lesnevich’s convictions but also unearths aspects of her own life she thought she could bury. Marzano-Lesnevich affirms that she was abused by her grandfather as a child, further complicating her ideals with her career. In The Fact of a Body, Marzano-Lesnevich analyzes her life and the life of Richard Langley, carefully taking into account their shared traumas and differing trajectories. 

Allie reviews: Long Way Down

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I'll be honest. I read a lot of YA, but I had never read Jason Reynolds prior to his latest release, Long Way Down. I was able to pick up an advanced copy at a book expo earlier in the year and trust me when I tell you that it is a must-read. It's a must-read for not just lovers of YA, but for anyone who appreciates a good "can't put it down, read it in one sitting" kind of story.

Long Way Down begins with Will, whose brother Shawn has just been murdered. In Will's world, there are rules that you follow. No crying. No snitching. Just revenge. Revenge is what leads Will to take Shawn's gun out of his drawer and place it in the waistband of his jeans. He walks to the elevator on the seventh floor, steps on, and presses the button for the lobby. The elevator stops on the sixth floor and on steps Buck, who Will soon discovers originally gave Shawn the gun. Buck instructs Will to check the gun, which is when Will notices that one bullet is missing. Yet he doesn't recall Shawn ever using it. Oh, and there's one more problem. Buck is dead. With each floor, someone from Will and Shawn's past will step on. They will give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. 

Georgette reviews: Little Fires Everywhere

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Anyone who read Celeste Ng's debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, knows the woman has a gift for pulling you into her narrative and not letting you go until the story has been told. Little Fires Everywhere is another shining example of that. Ng sets the story of a family, two outsiders new to town, and a highly publicized custody battle in Shaker Heights, Ohio (her hometown). Shaker Heights is what I expect would be a great setting of a modern day adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. Everything and everyone are regulated- until Mia and Pearl move into town and set things on tilt, just by being themselves. All is fine and dandy until a custody battle between adoptive parents and the biological mother of the child splits the town, friendships, and precarious family dynamics into an inferno of right, wrong, and a conclusion that will leave you quietly stunned. If you want a steadier, less bleak Jodi Picoult, Celeste Ng is your next destination. 

Georgette reviews: The Vineyard

I’m a big fan of Isabel Allende’s work. Her new book came out recently. I was disappointed in it. THIS book by Maria Duenas? The opposite. In fact, I would go as far to say that this book is more like an Isabel Allende book than that one. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves Allende’s work, or fans of Kristin Hannah. Really, anyone who likes historical fiction based around a time and those living in it (rather than historical events that took place), would enjoy it.

Imagine having financial security based on years of hard work, and then life comes along and deals you a losing hand, which results in that security being threatened. This is what happens to Maura Larrea. But this guy is a fighter, and he manages to take a huge chance with what he has left, and he inherits a neglected house and a vineyard in Spain. He leaves behind his life and heads for Spain, with the intention of selling the property and going back to Mexico.

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