Book Spotlight: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Reviewed by: Phil, librarian, Cloverdale Branch

Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future the world flat-out sucks; life is hard for most, including teen Wade Watts, who spends most of his time plugged into the virtual reality multi-verse OASIS. Though most use OASIS to escape the harsh reality of 2044, Wade is an ardent Gunter – a term given to those trying to solve a seemingly unsolvable multi-part puzzle devised by one the creators of OASIS. Whoever solves the puzzle will inherit the entirety of OASIS and become one of the richest people in the world. Some Gunters are strict soloists, while others have banded together to form guilds. These competing factions have toiled for years to solve the puzzle to no avail – that is until Wade happens to solve the first part. Suddenly the quest to solve the puzzle reaches a fever pitch, and the game becomes deadly serious. When Gunters start dying in real life it becomes apparent that a sinister force is willing to go to extremes to reach the prize. Wade knows that he is in serious jeopardy. The question is: Will he solve the puzzle before they get to him?         

Why I picked it up: Alex Award (best adult book for teens) winner, and very highly recommended.

Why I finished it: Without a doubt the most fun book that I have read in the past year. It was absolutely impossible to put down.

I'd recommend it to: Gamers, science fiction and adventure tale enthusiasts, as well as 1980’s pop culture fanatics. Even if you don’t generally read in those genres, this book is just plain fun!

Book Spotlight: Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Review by Phil, Librarian, Cloverdale Branch

When Alex’s family travels out of town for the weekend he plans on ditching his trigonometry homework and playing World of Warcraft – that is until something crashes through the roof of his house. Then the explosions start and communications go down. Soon ash has blanketed the world in an oppressive grey, and with the ash comes marauding bands and chaos. Adrift and alone Alex decides to hightail it out of town to try and find his family. On the road he encounters escaped convicts and people full of distrust. He also finds companionship and hope, but the question is will he find his family? And what will the post ashfall world be like?

Why I picked it up:

Seemed like an engaging premise, and was recommended to me as a read-a-like to Hunger Games.

Why I finished it:

I had to see what happened. I enjoyed the characters and the pacing, and it was chock full of suspense.

I'd recommend it to:

People who enjoyed Hunger Games, or any other apocalyptic or dystopian fiction.


Book Spotlight: Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Review by Phil, Librarian, Cloverdale Branch

Miranda leads the life of a fairly typical Midwestern teenager, or at least she did until a giant asteroid slammed into the moon.  After the collision the moon appears oddly in the sky – somewhat titled, and closer to Earth.  The nights are also a little brighter.  Though these changes are unnerving there don't seem to be any major consequences- other than not having to go to school or do homework.  Then the tsunamis hit, and the communications go down.  Grocery stores run out of food, and volcanoes cloud the sky with ash.  Winter sets in and blankets the world in unrelenting snow.  In other words, life as Miranda and her family knew it will never be the same again.

Why I picked it up:  I was intrigued by the concept, and it was highly recommended.  I've been on an apocalyptic fiction kick, so this one was right up my alley.

Why I finished it:  I enjoyed the subtleties, and I wanted to know what would happen to Miranda and her family.  Pfeffer does well to tell this story with a level of realism that many similar stories disregard in favor of sensationalism.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone looking for an apocalyptic novel without the violence.

Book Spotlight: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt:  a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston

Review by Rachel, Librarian at Rincon Valley

This unusual and delightful novel tells the story to Frances "Frankie" Pratt, a young woman who grew up in New Hampshire in the early 20th Century.  After Frankie's graduation from high school in 1920 she uses a scrapbook and her father's old Corona typewriter to compile memorabilia and stories from her life.  Each full color page of the scrapbook shows a collage of mementos from 1920's that carefully tell the story of Frankie Pratt's transition from her teen years to adulthood.  A charming story with vivid characters, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt reveals a time in history that reminds us that anything is possible when you follow your dreams.  Highly recommended!


Book Spotlight: The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Review by Phil, Cloverdale Branch, Librarian

In the future a country called Opium has been established between Mexico and the United States.  Responsible for the majority of the drug manufacturing in the world, Opium exudes power and commands respect.  At the head of this small albeit powerful nation is one man – El Patron – who is so greedy that he seeks even to steal from death.  El Patron surrounds himself with his privileged family, including his clone, young Matt.  Though Matt is pampered by El Patron, he is reviled by the rest of the family, and thought of merely as an animal.  As he ages Matt must contend not only with how others perceive him, but how he perceives himself.  Is Matt plagued by the same dark desires as El Patron?  And to what extent will either go to fulfill those desires?

Why I picked it up:  Award winning title by a multiple award winning author.  Interesting premise with many thought provoking issues.

Why I finished it:  Richly layered and textured, Farmer has managed to craft a haunting tale about human nature that is hard to put down.  I needed to know what would happen to Matt!

I'd recommend it to:  This is not a dense read, but the plot is fairly complex and demands some commitment through slower scenes.  Overall, a very rewarding read.  It will appeal to fans of science fiction, as well as those interested in the human condition.

Book Spotlight: Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Review by Tiffany, Librarian, Sebastopol Branch

Cullen Witter is a 17-year-old living in a small Arkansas town, where nothing usually happens.  However, this summer things are different for Cullen.  His cousin overdoses and his brother disappears.  While all this is occurring, the town is buzzing about an extinct woodpecker that was spotted.  At the same time, readers follow the story of Benton, who receives a mission in Ethiopia and hates it.  He returns home to a less-than welcoming family.  The two stories seem completely unrelated, but in the end, they all come together.

Why I picked it up:  I always try to read prize-winning books.  This book received the Printz Award this year and had an interesting cover.  I also enjoyed its intriguing first line, "I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body."

Why I finished it:  I really enjoyed reading Cullen's story.  I was also curious about how two stories that seemed completely unrelated would come together.  I was sad to see the story end.  I wanted more out of the characters, especially Cullen and his brother Gabriel.

I'd recommend it to:  If you enjoy stories with good character development and small town settings, this is the book for you.

Book Spotlight: Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Review by Phil, Librarian, Cloverdale Branch

Bright Sands Beach is a bleak place, and Nailer's ship breaking crew is barely able to eke a living salvaging materials from the long-abandoned hulks of oil tankers.  Faced with a shortage of food, rival crews, and the "city killer" mega hurricanes, survival is a daily task.  The only hope that ship breakers have is to hit a lucky strike – a hidden cache of rare materials – and buy their way out.  When a city killer hits Bright Sands and washes ashore the wreck of a wealthy clipper, Nailer thinks he's finally hit his lucky strike, and found his way out.  Much to his surprise he finds a lone survivor- a beautiful and wealthy girl – and their encounter ushers in a world of danger, adventure, and ultimately, hope.

Why I picked it up:  An adventure tale set in the post-carbon world by a multiple award winning author – I had to check it out!

Why I finished it:  It was hard to put down from the onset.  I really enjoyed the characters, and the world that Bacigalupi created is rich and intriguing.  Plus, there are some real curveballs in there that make you keep reading.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone wanting a strong adventure tale, and anyone who likes to let their imagination run wild.

Book Spotlight: Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullins

Review by Rebecca, Windsor Branch

Following the destructive explosion of a super volcano, 15 year old Alex decides to brave a desolate, lawless journey to find his family, on vacation in another state.

Why I picked it up:  This book was recommended to me by a friend.

Why I finished it:  I could hardly put this book down!  The writing was great, and very engaging, with well-drawn characters.  It was action-packed, and never slowed down; I kept turning the page to find out what would happen next.

I'd recommend it to:  Just about anyone; the theme is survival, and there are a lot of interesting elements to consider were such a catastrophe to occur.  I enjoyed the pace of the book, and the romance that develops is quite sweet and true to life.

Book Spotlight: The Marbury Lens

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

Review by Rebecca, Windsor Branch

After escaping abduction by a stranger, 16 year old Jack visits London, where he gains access to an alternate reality via a pair of special glasses.

Why I picked it up:  The cover piqued my interest, and the book summary convinced me to read it.

Why I finished it:  I was dying to find out whether the world of Marbury was real, or just a hallucination.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who enjoys considering the nature of reality, and who likes a good story.  The descriptions in the book were fantastic.

Book Spotlight: The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Review by Kathy, Northwest Branch

What would it be like if you couldn't hide your thoughts from others?

Young Todd is to become a man, soon, but has so many questions:  Why are there no women in his village?  And what happened to his mother?  What is so important about him "becoming a man?"  And why is he the only boy left in his village?

If you liked Hunger Games, you may enjoy this adventure trilogy.  Beings with The Knife of Never Letting Go, continues with The Ask and the Answer and concludes with, Monsters of Men.

I found the series which I listened to fascinating.