Staff Review: The Institute

The Institute
by Stephen King

Ah, Stephen King, my old friend. It’s been a long time since I read anything by the Meryl Streep of horror and I went into this book hopeful and thinking, “It’s going to be traumatic X-Men. I’m definitely going to like it.” To reiterate, it was a very enjoyable experience starting with the punchy cover art of a child in a boxcar, meant to simulate his own bedroom (this is relevant to the narrative and not just for looks). 

The novel starts out with twelve year-old Luke Ellis minding his own business and kicking back to have pizza with his parents while he decides whether he wants to go to MIT and Emerson, prematurely, now that he has surpassed the educational capacity of his elite private school. Besides his intellect, what makes Luke special is that he can move objects with his mind. Nothing major, but he does make pizza pans shake and other unusual disturbances that could attract unwanted attention. 

One night he is stolen away from his home by a team of expert kidnappers and taken to The Institute where there are other children with similar powers. Some have telekinesis and some have telepathy, but all of them are being experimented on. Luke and his friends are determined to escape and uncover the secrets of this strange and highly secretive facility. Along the way, Luke befriends a number of his fellow inmates and forms an unshakable bond that will last, no matter where they go after their time at The Institute has come to an end. 

What really impressed me about King’s latest venture into a coming-of-age story is, that he managed to pull off a really fantastic ending and some truly heartbreaking and horrifying twists. Stephen King is not generally known for having very good conclusions (I’m looking at you, IT),  but in this one, everything was wrapped up in a very sensible and satisfying fashion. 

The only major criticism I have for this book is that Luke does not sound at all like a child. His dialogue comes across as something that was written by someone who has not encountered someone in their early adolescence in a long time. Since this title has been branded as having cross-market appeal and can be targeted toward young adult and adult audiences, that could be a stumbling point. That may not be a dealbreaker for most people, but I found that some of those choices took me out of what was happening in the narrative because of the way something was said. It felt inauthentic. For an actual teenager, this may cause them to laugh out loud and hit the shelves to find something else. – Katie

 

Staff Review: Love Your Life Not Theirs

Love Your Life Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want
by Rachel Cruze

It seems slightly ironic that I am discovering authors while watching Youtube. Or, maybe that isn’t the case, since anyone in business seems to gravitate towards Youtube and social media to spread their message! I discovered financial guru Dave Ramsey through his Youtube channel. I really enjoy his “tough love” approach with folks who call into the show with financial questions. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy and I really appreciate that! Soon after, I discovered his daughter, Rachel Cruze on Youtube as well. While she is not as tough as her dad, she seems to still have a way with viewers. I decided to pick up her book Love your life not theirs : 7 money habits for living the life you want. I highly recommend this book for the 18-30 year-old in your life who spends a lot of time on social media. Studies have shown that spending time on social media is bad for you! Users may suffer from depression by constantly comparing themselves to what they see on social media. But we need to remember, social media is not real life! And this is one of Cruze’s driving points in the book – constantly comparing yourself to the Joneses is not good. Your friends with expensive cars and designer handbags are broke because they don’t know how to handle their money. Cruze promotes living under your means, which I whole-heartedly agree with. She also encourages young couples to constantly discuss and plan their finances together, from daily budgeting to saving for retirement. This is a wise move because finances are a large factor in marital disputes and unfortunately, divorce. Some might dismiss this as another silly self-help book, but its message is important! -Kristin

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson

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Sorcery of Thorns

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson is a beautifully written world that will appeal to book lovers and make you want to live in its rich depths. It is a world in which certain books are magical, called grimoires, and are capable of magic and destruction if damaged. As a result, there are wardens who keep dangerous grimoires locked up and protect society from them in case of disasters and apprentices who are training to take on the mantle of warden in the future. Elizabeth Scrivener is one of those people, although she was left on the steps of the Great Library as a child and has grown up exploring its halls – unlike her peers.

Elizabeth Scrivener is one of my favourite new characters, but I’m a (future) librarian I’m biased. She is strong-willed, intelligent, loves to…

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Staff Review- The Favourite

The Favorite
Recommendation by Katie

 If there is only one thing that readers take away from my review, let it be this: 

  This is essentially what the big Oscar-bait film boils down to, but it is so much more about the nuanced journey than the destination. Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz feature in this jet black loosely historical comedy based on the reign and life of Queen Anne. During the midst of war with France, all the ailing monarch can focus on is her own pain and pleasure. Every person that serves her from the lowest chambermaid to the nobility clamors for her attention. The favor of the queen is the most valuable asset a person can claim, even if it is fleeting. 

Abigail Hill (Stone) comes to court a destitute young maid who was gambled away by her father. Wide-eyed and covered in filth, she stumbles into this grandiose world with only her naive charm and a seizable bag of ambition. Abigail lies in wait surveying the politics of her new habitat and observes the massive influence that her cousin Sarah Churchill (Yes, that Churchill) has over Anne. Anne is a terrible Queen. She has the most mercurial temper, she is very self conscious, and she would prefer the company of her 17 rabbits to affairs of state. Lady Sarah (Weisz) is Anne’s lover and more importantly the woman behind the woman. As the queen’s favorite she is given unparalleled influence and effectively rules the country. Abigail wants that power and the course of this movie is the rabbit race for supremacy. 

This movie is exceptional. Even though there are a lot of dramatic moments throughout I found myself laughing uncontrollably. Having watched three Yorgos Lanthimos films, the absurdist and often unnatural-sounding dialogue works really well as a source of comedy. This is what I think makes The Favourite and The Lobster enjoyable when I found The Killing of a Sacred Deer painful to sit through. 

Despite how much I have been propping up the comedic aspects of this film, it also has some jarring moments of pathos. Even though all of these people are terrible and weird, the acting of the three brilliant leads causes you to root for them both as flawed individuals and as couples. (Team Sarah!!!!) The Favourite made me reflect on the nature of love. Sarah is not frost-cold and unfeeling toward Anne, but she does have to be the heavy a lot of the time and tell her when her makeup looks terrible or not to overindulge in sweets. Abigail is superficially more kind to Anne but everything she does has an ulterior motive. Will honesty and sense win the day or will Anne be blind to Abigail’s flattery? 

Staff Review – Darwin’s Origin of Species 

Darwin’s Origin of Species 
by Janet Browne

 

I was looking for  a non-fiction book that I could read quickly, get some real knowledge from and really enjoy.  And I found it!

The Atlantic Monthly Press has published  books that are ‘biographies’ of world changing books from “The Bible” to “Das Kapital.” The biography that I chose was Janet Browne’s “Darwin’s Origin of Species.”   She writes about all the research that went into the planning and development of the book and the personality and dedication of the author. After working on the book for years, Charles Darwin’s book was finally published on November 24 in 1859 with the title:  “On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”  He knew how controversial it would be. The concept that evolution (plants and animals changing slowly from generation to generation) and not divine creation  was put forward for all to debate. And they certainly did!

I loved Janet Browne’s short book (only 153 pages long!) It provides the background of the book, an intellectual biography of Charles Darwin, a summary of the controversy in Britain, and a followup of the twentieth century’s take on the book.  It has footnotes, a list of sources and suggested reading and a real index! It was a fast and inspiring read! Onward to “On the Origin of Species!” Or maybe Browne’s biography of Charles Darwin.

Many books in the series, “Books that Changed the World,” are in Ocean State Library Catalog.  Go on the catalog, from Title scroll down to Series and put in “Books that changed the World” for a complete list. – Charlotte

 

 

Staff Review – The Testaments

The Testaments is the rabidly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I was eagerly counting off the days at the beginning of September until the launch date. Virtually everything about the book was shrouded in mystery. It would be set in Gilead, it would be 15 years after the close of the first book, and there would be three point of view characters. That was it. After over 30 years of wait time in between these works, some hype was felt, especially by me. I tried not to let it color my opinions, but it was extremely difficult.

One of the recurring stars of this dystopian drama is someone readers will  be familiar with if they have read the previous installment or seen the tv show: the taser-wielding Aunt Lydia,  the scourge of Gilead. Then there is Agnes. Agnes is a true child of Gilead who doesn’t remember any other way of life but she is fearful that she will be married off to the most powerful man that will have her. Last but certainly not least is Daisy. For this Canadian teenager her whole life and identity comes into question on what she believes is her 16th birthday.

While I enjoyed  this book, I don’t think that it has quite the same acidic punch that The Handmaid’s Tale possesses and I think that is mainly due to splitting up the narrative focus between three characters. The absence of June’s incredibly strong voice leaves a considerable void for the reader, but ultimately this book is  a well-written exploration of how life finds a way even under the darkest of regimes. Drawing inspiration from current politics, as always Atwood makes it very clear what her stance is and that alone makes this a delightful read. The Testaments also sprinkles in some additional details of the inner workings of Gilead and the true corruption and dysfunction that it takes  to make the sausage. It’s not just birthmobiles and punishing handmaids; the aunts are the keepers of genealogies and they ensure that there are new aunts to go on pilgrimage outside of Gilead.

I’m honestly  really hoping based upon what happened in this book, that there will be a sequel to this sequel coming down the pipeline. As Margaret Atwood herself puts it, “All good things come to she who waits.” – Katie

 

A Boy Called Bat – Elana K. Arnold

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A Boy Called Bat (A Boy Called Bat, #1)

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Boy Called Bat is a children’s chapter book about a boy that tries to convince his veterinarian mom to let him keep the skunk kit that she rescued. It is a very simple storyline without much to make it stand out other than the fact that Bat, Bixby Alexander Tam, has autism. The most beautiful part of this book is the fact that no one ever comes out and says it, but most of the people in the book just function around it as if there is nothing wrong with Bat – and there is nothing wrong with him. He just functions and thinks a little differently than his peers. That normalizing of autism was so beautiful.

His mother and even his sister are able to understand his idiosyncrasies and mold the world in a…

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