Category Archives: Staff Recommends

What We Saw REVIEW

What We Saw
By Aaron Hartzler

Available in Print & eBook.

Trigger Words: sexual assault, rape

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

I had picked this book up from the library shelf eons ago. I finally grabbed it from my toppling pile of books and read it almost straight through in two days. The story resonated with me for many reasons. It’s a story about sexual assault on a minor that’s witnessed by many classmates at a party. The volatile world of rape culture has been at the foremost of people’s news lately. Last summer, the shocking lenient sentence was issued to the Stanford swimmer who dragged an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and raped her. Our own elected leader has claims against him for sexual assault, which he paid to have ‘go away’. Every time I turn around, I feel like I’m hearing another story of a poor victim trying to fight the system to gain themselves some justice. And so many times, the system lets them down.

Hartzler dives right into the main issue with rape culture, the sense of compliance. Too often, people dismiss the abusive and degrading things men say and do as ‘boys will be boys’ and that’s at the heart of ‘What We Saw’. Kate, the protagonist, grapples with uncertainty about the events of what happened the night it all went down. She wasn’t there when it happened but she knew everyone that was. She struggles with understanding how her school, the administration and fellow peers could so easily accept that the boys in question are innocent and the girl is lying. We see that too often in the world today. Ultimately, Kate can not stand aside and just ‘be alright’ with everything. She seeks out the truth, knowing full well that she might not like what she finds.

It’s a difficult subject to read about and you know in the end, relationships will be tested, trust will be lost and hearts will be broken. But it’s an important topic that needs to stay in the light and be talked about. Hartzler’s writing makes the story flow along well. Even though I was going to end the story with a heavy heart, I was still caught up in the feelings and thoughts of the characters. Bravo to Aaron Hartzler for tackling a tough subject.

Happy reading!
Maggie
Librarian
Warren Branch

This Is Our Story REVIEW

This Is Our Story
By Ashley Elston

Available in Print.

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

This book is an excellent murder mystery! I was hooked from the first page. The story is primarily told from Kate’s perspective but also has alternating point of view from one of the unnamed boys and the police interview transcripts of the suspects.

Without giving too much away, the mystery revolved around more than just the murder of one of the five River Point Boys. It also dabbles in political corruption, mistaken identity, illegal betting, drugs and blackmail. There’s plenty to grab your attention in this story.

Kate finds herself in the middle of the investigation to find the murder suspect due to her relationship with one of the boys and her work with the DA’s office. As the story unfolds, more and more comes to light about the five boys and their various activities. I loved this story for all its twists and turns. It keeps you on your toes until the very end. It even concludes with a primetime legal drama courtroom style ending!

This was an excellent read that I couldn’t put down. For fans of mysteries and thrillers, definitely pick up this book!

Happy reading!
Maggie
Librarian
Warren Branch

Nightfall REVIEW

Nightfall
By Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

Available in Print & eBook.

‘Nightfall’ immediately reminded me of ‘The Forgetting’. Set in a remote fantasy world, the residents of Bliss spend 14 years enjoying day. After 14 years, the sun sets and the island experiences 14 years of night. And you don’t want to stick around for that.

As the sun starts to set, the residents of Bliss start to make their way to shores to depart for the desert land where they will stay until Night is over. But for Marin, Line and Kana, things don’t go according to plan. When Line goes missing, Marin and Kana go in search of him but they return to the shore too late. In their attempts to figure out how to leave the island, they discover that they are not alone.

The story follows their mad dash to escape the island and reveals the past that the adults have kept hidden. It’s told in alternating viewpoints from the three teens which would be fine except the narrative will switch multiple times in one chapter which at first threw me for a loop. Overall, the story is fast paced and full of action and surprises. When I finished the story, I wanted to know about the mysteries of the island and of the desert land that the people of Bliss travel to but I was content with what the authors provided in the story line.

For fantasy  and action fans, this is a quick and interesting read for a lovely rainy day.

Happy reading!
Maggie
Librarian
Warren Branch

Rebel of the Sands REVIEW

Rebel of the Sands
By Alywn Hamilton

Available in Print & eBook.

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Western, fantasy and a little dystopia make up a fantastic start to a new series. This book reeled me in with a bang from the start. It jumps right into the action and doesn’t slow down at all. This story has a lot of elements of things I generally like; such as folklore and mythology, action and disasters, strong relationships and interesting characters.

Amani, the lead character, is someone you can really root for. I liked her from the start and I’m excited to see where her path leads in the series. She’s a young girl that wants to make more for herself then just being someone’s wife in her dead end town. She takes her destiny into her own hands and launches her escape with the help of a mysterious bandit named Jin.

Besides great lead characters like Amani and Jin, the supporting group is fascinating as well. The character backstories are interesting and lead you wanting more. The action of the storyline like I mentioned is fast and keeps you moving steadily along. As the story starts to unfold, you learn more about the overall world of the series and the turmoil that has begun. Amani and Jin are heading right into the thick of it when the first book ends. I’m looking forward to seeing where their adventure leads them in the second book which will be out in early 2017.

If you love a fast paced action story or a well built fantasy realm, then give this series a whirl!

Happy reading!
Maggie
Librarian
Warren Branch

Every Hidden Thing REVIEW

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

Available in Print.

There was a time not so long ago when dinosaurs were new. Not to the planet, but to the knowledge of humans. The fossilized bones of dinosaurs had to be discovered and dug up to reveal the extinct creatures. The bones had to be assembled and the creature classified and named. Some of the men doing such work were formally educated like Professor Cartland. Some were self-taught like Michael Bolt. Cartland and Bolt are rivals and hate each other so much that they often stoop to petty sabotage.

This story is about the children of those two men – Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt. Both were raised without their mothers by fathers who surrounded them with science and the new discipline of paleontology. Rachel and Sam want to search for bones like their fathers. Sam might not have the money to go to school, but could be like his father. Rachel…well, women do not go to university and become dinosaur hunters. It’s not proper.

Sam and Rachel meet for the first time on the night Sam’s father is presenting his latest find and Rachel’s father is there to embarrass him. Sam feels a connection to Rachel (even as they are both pulling their fathers apart during the fight that breaks out). Rachel has never had boys show interest in her (and is considered plain by most standards), so she hesitates in the face of Sam’s interest.

Maybe they would never see each other again…until their super competitive fathers end up pursuing the same dinosaur that could be the most extraordinary find of all. The search takes them all out west (Rachel had to beg to go since a young lady does not travel in the wilds of the west with a bunch of young male students). The heated battle between the two parties is not even the worst of it. They face the hot dry conditions and the ever looming presence of Sioux who view the Badlands as sacred ground.

Through it all, Sam and Rachel find each other. If they survive this expedition, can they be together when their fathers hate each other so much?