Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne

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After losing her mother, Cecelia moves in with her famous grandmother, who writes psychological thriller books for a living and has an almost cultish fan base in the town she lives in. Cecelia quickly becomes caught up in the town’s drama and mystery, as well as a possible murder that greatly reminds her of one of her grandmother’s books. Upon doing her own research, she soon finds that her mother based the book off of a true story that the town never solved. However, it is unclear whether the current murder that brings the town into a web of corruption and mystery is based off of the original murder or Cecelia’s grandmother’s book. She teams up with new friends in order to find the truth about both murders and bring justice to a longtime cold case.

I really enjoyed this book. I found the pacing to be quick and engaging. Additionally, the narration was very relatable and felt extremely real to the reader. The plot kept the reader guessing and the resolution to the murder was not overly obvious or completely obscure, so the mystery was tied up very well and it did not feel like there were many loose ends. I also liked how the book explored many different themes like political corruption, grief, and social class, instead of focusing solely on the murders.

The way that the book presented a very different kind of murder mystery than I’ve ever read before was very interesting and memorable. I liked how different it was that the characters were trying to solve two murders at once and observing the similarities between the two deaths. I also liked how the plot shined light on the history of the town and how it tied in to the murders. I found this memorable because other mysteries tend to focus solely on the murder at hand and nothing else.

Reviewed by Caitlin F., Glen Allen Branch Library


The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb

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In The Art of Insanity, an 18-year-old high school senior named Natalie Cordova grapples with bipolar disorder while navigating the pressures of college admissions and the gossip mill at school. She conceals the truth about a near-catastrophic car accident that wasn’t accidental, fearing it would disrupt her mother’s perfect image. As the weight of her secret grows heavier, Natalie faces additional challenges, including an art show that could shape her future and the presence of Ella, a classmate who knows too much. Amidst it all, she finds solace and connection with Ty, a captivating boy who brings light into her life. With humor and insight, the book addresses the journey toward self-acceptance, shedding light on mental illness and promoting understanding while featuring characters from diverse backgrounds.

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb offers an engaging and educational reading experience, regardless of familiarity with mental illness. The book skillfully balances the seriousness of its subject matter by incorporating entertaining moments, particularly through the endearing antics of a pug character. The juxtaposition of beautiful art against the protagonist’s challenging life experiences adds depth and resonance to the story. It is a compelling read for teenage girls, encouraging them to broaden their perspectives beyond their social circles, while also providing great enjoyment for adult readers. Above all, the book explores the importance of honesty, highlighting the consequences of our choices for ourselves and future generations.

The Art of Insanity by Christine Webb is notable for its in-depth exploration of mental illness, presenting different perspectives that enhance our understanding of the subject. I especially liked how the author highlights the uniqueness of each individual’s experience with mental illness, promoting empathy and dispelling stereotypes. Webb skillfully integrates these themes into the story, making the book a memorable read that encourages readers to embrace the diversity of human experiences.

Reviewed by Shreya P., Glenn Allen Library

Books, Read + Review

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

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The third book in the Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson continues to share the story of Spensa, a human pilot, as she travels in the Nowhere. She battles time and foes on the mission to get home from the Krell ship, Superiority, where she was collecting information on their technology and way of life. Along the way, she will meet new friends, and make new enemies, all while traveling in an uncharted, dangerous world that most don’t survive. Follow Spensa through the Nowhere as she learns more about not only herself, but the world around her and her family.

This book is full of twists and turns that I did not expect. I really enjoyed how Sanderson described the Nowhere and how easy it was to visualize while reading. The new characters that were introduced added a whole new perspective and storyline, while also bringing up old mysteries and wrapping up the whole story very nicely. I do wish that there was more perspective from Spensa’s friends on Defiant, such as Jorgen so that readers are able to understand what was happening while Spensa was on her mission.

The most memorable part of Cytonic for me was the growth as a character that M-Boy experienced. It was really nice to see him move past the previous restrictions that he had and really become a memorable character.

Reviewed by Avery B., Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

What the Fact?! by Seema Yasmin

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“What The Fact” is a book that discusses the good and bad places of information and how to avoid fake news. The book is divided into five sections. The first section talks about false information on the internet and how to recognize it. The second section discusses bias and how beliefs do not necessarily mean something is right. The third section talks about the press and news, although it may be perplexing for some readers. The fourth section talks about the effects of social media on the brain. Finally, the fifth section talks about different methods of convincing someone to do what you want them to do.

“What The Fact” is an important book that helps readers identify and avoid false information. The book covers topics such as biases, the influence of social media, and the importance of critical thinking. The examples in the book were helpful for understanding the concepts discussed. However, I found the political content to be boring and believes that the book could have been more effective with additional examples. The more supporting details, the better.

One of the parts of the book that stood out was the example of a person who decided to eat only bananas as a way to diet. This story was used to illustrate the power of social media, as the person’s extreme diet choice became popular and others began to adopt it as well. This trend took on a life of its own, and people became overly influenced by what they read online.

Reviewed by Nitya G., Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

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Emilie Hornby’s Valentine’s Day could not have gone worse. She gets late to school after hitting a classmate’s car, spills coffee over her outfit, and she sees her boyfriend kissing another girl. To top it all off, her father bears unwelcome news, making it all too much. Overwhelmed, Emilie goes to bed, ready for the day to be over… only to wake up and find that it’s February 14th all over again. She relives the agonizing events day after day, and at first, no matter how much she tries, nothing changes. Her car still gets damaged, and her plans with her boyfriend don’t work out. But as she starts to embrace the resetting Valentine’s Days, Emilie finds herself making use of the opportunity and unexpectedly getting closer to Nick. Breaking free of everyone’s expectations, Emilie wonders if she even wants everything to return to normal when the loop is over.

Although stories about a repeating day are nothing new, I’ve had good experiences in the past with this cliché and was intrigued by the summary. I’m happy to say that the book didn’t disappoint. Something that I really enjoyed is how once Emilie finds herself relatively free of consequences, she gets into a lot of fun shenanigans, and I found myself having fun with her. It speaks to how well the author developed Emilie’s growth from quiet and obedient to something more. It was exhilarating in a way watching her push past what was expected of her and letting loose, especially since I can relate, being a relatively quiet and obedient person myself. Emilie’s love interest was also fun, and they had good chemistry together. However, since it was mostly Emilie’s story, we don’t really know a whole lot about the love interest for a majority of the book. Additionally, the romance did move a little too fast considering only Emilie remembers anything from the previous Valentine’s Days, but it was cute enough to make up for that. One thing I didn’t like is the presence of miscommunication to create drama. Miscommunication is a trope that has been overdone in stories, especially in romance, as a way to create conflict. Although I do understand that miscommunication is a common trope in romance, I wish the story didn’t resort to it but gave us something more nuanced, especially since it felt a little abrupt and unfair for the characters. I do appreciate that it made sense within later context, but it felt like a copout from developing a better conflict to have. This story also ended up giving a hint as to why the never-ending loop happens in the first place; I personally wasn’t a fan of it, but it was touching. Although a few things slightly annoyed me, this book was overall very fun and cute, with lots of heartwarming fluff that I appreciated. It’s between 4 and 5 stars, but I’ve rounded down to 4 stars.

What was memorable about this book is the genuine fun that I felt while reading it. I think one of my favorite moments in this book is that at one point, Emilie receives a promposal (albeit pretend) that’s Cupid Shuffle themed, and it’s in public. In the context of that moment, the contrast of what the crowd thinks versus what’s actually happening is hilarious, both for the characters and for me. It’s one of those moments that amazed me with how fun it was.

Reviewed by Christine J., Twin Hickory Area Library