Thursday, August 25, 2016

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Talia is a member of the Valdemar citizenry who live along the eastern border called Holderfolk. Holderfolk keep to themselves living in a patriarchal family system with women subjugated by the men in their lives. They live day to day following orders and completing tasks of their fathers and his wives.

When confronted by her family at the age of 13 that she is to begin the process of marriage, Talia is terrified. Her only other option is to be cloistered, giving up her own livelihood to prayer and the church. So Talia does what any youth in her situation would do with only unfavorably options given in their future. She becomes a runaway and seeks solitude from her family and others while she thinks about where she will take her life next.

Talia, while hiding, is confronted by a Companion. Companions are mystical creatures linked throughout Valdemar history to Heralds. She soon finds herself bareback riding the Companion back to the capital in hopes to return it for some kind of compensation. Instead she is made a Herald at the royal court after she rescues the Companion and trained as a Herald. During her training she soon uncovers a plot to seize the throne and Talia must use her newly trained empathic powers to save the queen.

What I Thought: This is the first of the Valdemar books written by Mercedes Lackey. It sets the tone and flow for every other Kingdom of Valdemar book in publication by Mercedes Lackey and does a good job of presenting and summarizing the basics for any reader of her books. The Kingdom of Valdemar is a complex communal system of checks and balances run by a King or Queen (who has to be a Herald) and Heralds and their Companions who ride circuits around the kingdom working with its citizenry.

I didn’t start with Arrows of the Queen in the Valdemar books and had to learn through 5-6 novels the ins and outs of how Valdemar society works and was shaped by its complex history. I recommend starting from the beginning and working your way forward so you don’t have to backtrack in the readings. There are many concepts and ideologies associated with the books and the functions of its many characters. If you don’t start from the beginning I would suggest a healthy dose of Medieval European history and a lot of high fantasy novels with a focus on magic or pscionics a.k.a. mind magic. Just flexing my inner geek for you.

Mercedes Lackey loves to tackle social norms and controversial topics in today’s society. One of the things I like to see in her writing is how she approaches clashes between characters in relation to something like controversial family relationships and governance, same sex relations, and things we still take for granted 19 years later.

One thing I can tell you about the book is that Talia is your typical female protagonist for a fantasy. She has her own set of social and emotional cuts she tries to hide from others. The traumas from her past life and the expectations she has for her every action shapes and defines her character and personality. She is difficult to get to like sometimes but that’s part of her struggle and the life she once had. Relationships come hard to her and reaching out even harder. It takes the character a long time to open out and accept new emotions and feelings, but when she does it opens up a new talent within her to connect with others. This is a very strong and encouraging aspect of Arrows of the Queen and helps progress the story.

If you like violence and conflict this book isn’t for you. The message and execution is a subtle thing that drives this series. There are times when description is vivid but it is done in a tasteful fashion.

I recommend this for High Fantasy readers and older teenagers who find that there isn’t enough substance in YA novels. Enjoy!

Readalikes: Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Or look this book up on NoveList!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne; based on characters by J.K. Rowling

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Albus Potter, son of Harry Potter, is miserable. He doesn't feel his famous father understands him, he got sorted into Slytherin - a House he hates - and his only friend Scorpius is rumored to be the son of the Dark Lord. When the two boys hear of something they can do to try and change their world for the better, they seize the moment, but may in fact be making things worse...

What I Thought: Despite being the eighth installment in the Harry Potter series, this screenplay would have worked better as a standalone story about a boy growing up with a famous father. As-is, it's written itself into a corner: the plot hinges on young Albus Potter's frustrations at living in his father's shadow, but it's not allowed to ever fully become Albus's story - the title isn't Albus Potter and the Cursed Child for good reason. The climax of the story hinges completely on Harry's personal trauma, and events from Harry's life are frequently revisited (sometimes physically) by the characters.

The plot and many of the characterizations also read like fan fiction: full of cameos, trivia, full redemption arcs for fan-favorite characters, and a villainness with a completely unbelievable backstory. The moral of the story, that "anyone can become anything if circumstances were different", also flies completely in the face of the Harry Potter novels' focus on personal choice. This is not a Harry Potter story. It's an anti-Harry Potter story starring the cast of Harry Potter.

All of which is unfortunate, because the two new protagonists, Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, are delightful. Both sound very believably like teenagers - their banter is great - and the "anyone can become anything" theme isn't a bad idea in and of itself, just one at odds with the world of Harry Potter in the novels. The screenplay is also very good at "show, don't tell" for evoking how miserable Albus is: its use of short vignettes to show time passing is very powerful, as incident upon incident piles on Albus until he reaches a breaking point. I would very, very happily read a seven-novel series about Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Just maybe not one with this plot. Or where Albus's dad still manages to get his name in the title.

Recommended, ironically enough, more for casual fans of Harry Potter than diehard ones.

Readalikes: The Magicians by Lev Grossman, for more "gritty" fantasy; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, for a pair of main characters that should appeal to fans of Albus and Scorpius.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Arena by Holly Jennings

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Arena by Holly Jennings

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The year is 2054, and virtual gaming (eSports) has overtaken traditional sporting events worldwide. Millions of viewers tune in worldwide to get a glimpse of arena death matches featuring gamer turned athletes. Team Defiance is one such team, led by Kali Ling, who are fighting in the RAGE Tournaments to be this year’s champions. Gamers live every day dying and coming back to life like gods to appease viewers and sponsors alike. Every player is a modern digital gladiator wielding weapons and wearing armor.

The pain is real and the brutality extreme, and has made the public numb to outrageous acts of violence. Kali Ling is an exceptional fighter. Coined ‘The Warrior’, she is the first female captain to lead a team in the RAGE tournament. Is the task before her to difficult? Can she deal with the realities of the sport? When a tragic event happens during the tournament, can Kali find herself again in time to get herself and her team back into competitive form? Virtual gaming is much more than it appears, the truth is being hidden and not everything is as it seems for those not involved with the fighting.

What I Thought: This is Holly Jennings's debut novel as a writer. Both the concept and subject reflect current trends popping up in our society and changes affecting our culture as we move on from the age of millennial gamers into the 21st century. Virtual Reality gaming has just hit the markets and a story about its use is well planned for a writer. As a new writer, Jennings is just getting into the industry and has some lacking elements in her work as she explores her possible future in the story. The evolution of her characters and their interactions are well established and you can relate to their shortcomings and personalities when describing an avid gamer or athlete. She does a great job of blending the two together for the purpose of the story.

The action on the other hand is lacking. Jennings touches on the combat and brutality of the sport but never goes into full detail of the situation. When someone cuts into someone else, is there sensation, is there a change in personality, what else can happen to those involved? In Arena the characters in a sense become numb to the violence. There is little difference or variation between one gamer and another as they compete. I would have liked to see her delve deeper into what happens because of sport and the violence. Even with what is expected of gamers for sponsors and the fans, the addition of drinking and drug use just blurs the differences between reality and the virtual world. I would have also liked her to go a little bit more into the aspect of the combat, the styles, tactics, and uses of each. Combat in the tournament matches was extremely fast and was overshadowed by the challenges of Kali and the team. So much so that at times it was forgotten and I had to go back and read them again to remember what happened.

A bright spot in the story was Kali’s interactions with her team and the challenge that is the sport and the image she is being forced to play by her boss and sponsors. The conflict hits close to home and some of the more controversial aspects of professional sports we see today in Boxing and MMA when fighters interact with media and the spotlight.

This is one of my first science fiction titles that I have read with a focus on sports and virtual reality. The conflict is there but more background and research into the effects of gaming and violent sports would have made the story more convincing. I liked the concept and the approach, but I think it needed more detailed information for the reader to push them closer to the problem and message. The romance was light and has teenage tones of relationship which was good. I don’t like romance in books to overshadow the conflict that the main character is facing and the focus of the book.

Recommend for older teens and adult readers who actively read science fiction. Once again this story has a strong female character which the story revolves around and I think it help move and shape events. Enjoy!

Readalikes: This is Not a Game by Williams, Walter Jon

Or look this book up on NoveList!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Elia Juarez

What I Read: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Gated tells the story of Lyla, a 17-year-old who has been living in a doomsday cult known as the Community since she was 5 years old. The cult’s leader, Pioneer, came into her family’s life shortly after Lyla’s little sister Karen was kidnapped and convinced her emotionally vulnerable parents that the world was soon to end, and the only way to be saved is to move to the Community and prepare for the arrival of “The Bretheren,” a race of aliens who came to Pioneer in visions and foretold the end times.

12 years later, the Community’s members have been stockpiling weapons, food and other provisions inside of a huge underground silo, where they plan to move on the day Pioneer believes the earth will begin to end. Shortly before this happens, though, Lyla meets some people from the outside world – a local sheriff and his son Cody, who begin to raise doubts in her mind about the things Pioneer has been preaching all this time, which of course does NOT make Pioneer or the other members of the community happy.

What I Thought: I found the book quite entertaining. It’s outside of the realm of what I normally like to read, since it is realistic fiction and I like to read mostly fantasy and dystopia. Still, it was an interesting enough premise to keep me reading. Because it’s told from the point of view of someone living inside of a cult situation, you get a unique understanding of why otherwise seemingly normal and intelligent people would let themselves get sucked in to something so bizarre, as well as getting the perspective of someone who didn’t really have the choice to join, since her parents brought her into this lifestyle before she was old enough to know any better.

Look this book up on NoveList!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 6

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Wow! We have a bumper crop of new reviews for the last week of the 2016 Summer Reading Program! Thanks to everyone for sending in their reviews. We will contact the winner of the last $10 gift card later this week. 

Here are the last patron reviews of SRP 2016!

Reviewed By: Mary H.
What I ReadWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Find It @ YCLDHere!

What I ThoughtBased in Seattle, about a mom dealing with a nervous breakdown. Very funny read.

Reviewed By: Jeanette W.
What I ReadThe Sackett Brand by Louis L'Amour
Find It @ YCLDHere!

What I ThoughtWhat a great book! Tell Sackett is heading west with his new bride when he is attacked, his wife murdered, and his outfit burned. He is a hunted man as he sets out to find the man who killed his wife. I love that this is a clean book with no foul language or sex. I for sure want to read more about the Sacketts.

Reviewed By: Linda P.
What I Read: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI enjoyed this book. It was a good mystery. I can't imagine what I would do if my child could not be found in the chaos of a shooting.

Reviewed By: Linda P.
What I Read: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtAt first you think Ove is just an old, cranky, man who complains about everything and everyone, but by the end of the book you will wish that you could be more like Ove.

Reviewed By: Linda P.
What I Read: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI enjoyed this book but when I was nearing the end I couldn't help feel a sense of relief to have finished the book.

Reviewed By: Tom B.
What I Read: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtThis book was laugh out loud funny. By going on a journey through the main historical events of the 20th century, Allan Karlsson has certainly lived an eventful, out of the ordinary, crazy life.

Reviewed By: Tom B.
What I Read: The Smoke Is Rising by Mahesh Rao

What I ThoughtI was disappointed with this. I didn't think this went together as a novel. The parts telling the story of a few main characters were fragmented, but well written. But the parts that were involved with the local 'politics' were tedious.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI think it's interesting that the main character, Rachel, challenges us to think about how much we assume about--and pre-judge--other people based on our limited knowledge of them. To feel pity, disgust, frustration, compassion, and so much more for one character is a rare thing.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought I found this book superficial and, at times, even boring.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI found it to be jumpy and often disjointed. I am not a fan of the current trend of devoting one chapter to one character and the next to another and flipping back and forth.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought It was a good book but, I found the orphan trains to be an interesting and horrifying time in our history.

Reviewed By: Sue H.
What I Read: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI loved this book! It gave me a lot of information that I did not know.

Reviewed By: Sue H.
What I Read: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtThis is a great book. It is one of those that make a person ponder what they would do in such a situation.

Reviewed By: Deb D.
What I Read: Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone by Terry Greene Stirling
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtThis book was written in 2010. I found it interesting that the immigration debate is still going on now in Arizona. It clearly showed the struggles of the people on both sides of the story. It was a very personal book because the stories were about real people who were interviewed by the writer. It shared stories about the lives of people in Mexico, crossing the border, their stays in Phoenix and Arizona and the return home by some either by choice or deportation.

Reviewed By: Wendy P.
What I Read: Hidden Talent by Blanca D'Arc

What I ThoughtIn this Sci-fi romance life changes drastically for the main character when she is found hidden in a colony of alien horse trainers. Psychic abilities are unleashed and desires are unbelievable in this alien culture.

Reviewed By: Tammy T.
What I Read: 39 Clues: Nowhere to Run by Jude Watson
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: Just when Dan and Amy thought their life would return to normal, a new enemy has discovered the serum. He's trying to become the President while eliminating the kids. This was a great way to extend the series. It was a page turner and I had a hard time putting it down.

Reviewed By: Jenice H.
What I Read: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: I was surprise how different it was from the movie. It did have some same parts but in different places. I liked it, it was like picturing another movie in my head.

Reviewed By: Jenice H.
What I Read: Under Their Sky by Margaret Peterson Haddix

What I Thought: I liked so much that I can't wait for the second book to come out. It was mysterious, adventurous, surprised me every time, wouldn't expect what would come out next.

Reviewed By: Charlotte M.
What I Read: The Martian by Andy Weir
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: Very easy read. It was funny & kept me interested. There was a good amount of science to it, but it was written in a way that was easy to follow & understand.

Reviewed By: Sandra C.
What I Read: In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: Great literature! This book made me get my confidence back as a stay-at-home mom. Made me realize the importance of my presence for my family. My role as a stay-at-home mom is more valuable than any amount of money I can get at a job. I am my

Thanks again to everyone for sending in reviews this summer; having multiple perspectives on some of the same books this week was especially fun. Keep reading the Staff Picks blog all year round, and we'll open it up to patron submissions again next year!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 5

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


There's one more week to participate in the Adult Summer Reading Program at the Yuma County Library District! Sign up at any library to receive a Reading Log. Read three books (or attend library programs) to be entered in a drawing to win a Kindle Fire. Complete a Reading Championship Challenge for another shot at the prize. Or write a book review for a chance at a gift card! Here's this week's entries:

Reviewed By: Mary H.
What I Read: That Summer by Lauren Willig
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: This book was about a young woman as just pieces together her past. It was a light read for me and I enjoyed it.

Reviewed By: Wendy P.
What I Read: Rena Drake by Liliana Hart
What I ThoughtThis book has a strong main character. Action packed with a reluctant love interest and internal conflicts from distinctional family members definitely keeps you turning pages. Oh by the way did I mention the main characters are dragons?!

Reviewed By: Wendy P.
What I Read: The Dragon and the Princess by Jo Beverley
What I ThoughtA joy to read. A very creative blend of Renascence type settings mixed with the authors own dragon creation. Great read with minimal sex scenes and a focus on honoring one's commitments to the greater good of others verses self.

A big "thank you" to everyone who's sent a review thus far. How many can we get for our last week?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 4

Posted by Rebecca Brendel



















Happy Fourth of July! This is also the fourth week of Summer Reading, and we've received quite a few reviews this week. Thanks to everyone who's send a review in thus far! Don't forget - you can submit as many as you'd like for multiple entries into our weekly raffle.

Reviewed by: Whitney K.
What I Read: Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: This is the first book of the Drake Chronicles. It is about the preparation of 16-year-old Solage Drake's Blood Change. This is when she will join her parents & brothers as vampires. Solage & her best friend Lucy are always getting into dangerous situations. There is a prophecy that says after the Blood Change Solage will be the vampire queen. Because of this many want to kill Solage or marry her. This book is a page turner & leaves you looking for more.

Reviewed by: Wendy U.
What I Read: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: Speak was about a teenage girl who was friendless because she called the police to a party. A year passed until the truth was "spoken". She had been raped at the party and was too afraid to tell.
This is an excellent book for teens or women of any age. It may help the reader understand that letting your voice be heard is the first step in dealing with the crime and starting the healing process. It's ending helps her realize she was not alone and voices needed to be heard for a change to occur and the predator to pay.

Reviewed by: Celina L.
What I Read: Tinker Bell & the Pirate Fairy by Tea Orsi
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: Zarina got in trouble for misusing the pixie dust. Zarina tried one last experiment and the results don't disappoint her at all. The pixie dust turns change. She shares her experiment with Tinker Bell. She flew away and left Pixie Hole behind. One year past. And every fairy gathered to celebrate the Four Seasons Festival and a fairy entered through the back.

Reviewed by: Wendy P.
What I Read: Dominated by Maya Banks
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I ThoughtThis book is a sequel to Mastered. I was enthralled by the characters. Evangeline is a well thought out character. I even cried on her behalf. This book is erotic fiction and not for the easily offended.

Did you spend any of your Independence Day with a good book? Let us know!