FDL Reads: Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad

Cover image for Escape from North Korea : the untold story of Asia's underground railroadEscape from North Korea:  The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad  by Melanie Kirkpatrick

Reviewed by: Dawn Dickey, Reference Assistant

Genre: Non-fiction, History

Suggested Age: Adults

What is the book about?: Escape from North Korea gives firsthand accounts of people that have escaped from North Korea’s repressive regime. The book describes those involved:  the Kim family authoritarian regime, the escapees, those who give aid along “Asia’s Underground Railroad,” plus people and organizations outside North Korea that help in numerous ways.

My Review: Author Kirkpatrick gives an unvarnished look at the North Korean government’s human rights violations, examining in detail why its citizens want to escape, the repercussions if they are caught, and the routes they take to freedom. In the book’s subtitle as well as throughout the book, Kirkpatrick deftly compares America’s Underground Railroad with this new Underground Railroad that aids North Koreans. Quotations from people escaping along America’s Underground Railroad link these voices from the past with the voices of present day escapees. This technique, along with the many personal accounts of courageous actions, make the book a compelling and fascinating read.

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: Taxidermy Art: A Rogue’s Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself

Cover image for Taxidermy Art : A Rogue's Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It YourselfTaxidermy Art: A Rogue’s Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself  by Robert Marbury

Reviewed by: Laura Warren, Reference Assistant

Genre: Non-fiction, Art

Suggested Age: Teens, Adults

What is the book about?: We have all run across taxidermy in one form or another, whether it is on the wall at the local pub, in a hunter’s den, or at the Natural History Museum. This book is not necessarily about trophy or natural history taxidermy, rather Rogue Taxidermy. This subsect modifies traditional taxidermy, veering into a more creative representation. This book begins with a short explanation and history of Rogue Taxidermy, including traditional taxidermy history as well as pioneers, and their contribution to the field. Twenty one artists are then featured with a brief biography and beautiful color examples of their work. All of these artists are inspired by traditional taxidermy, but each has a unique interpretation. The next segment includes lessons aimed to teach readers to begin taxidermy at home, with step by step instructions and helpful illustrations. The final section includes additional resources for those who wish to learn both traditional taxidermy as well as Rogue Taxidermy.

My Review: The history and introduction to this book are intuitive and give you an insightful context through which to view this art. The artists are as different as the animals they choose to portray. Rogue Taxidermy has really begun to take off, and this book is a great way to understand just how diverse this art form has become. As a novice taxidermy collector, it is hard to pick just one of these pieces, or even a favorite of these artists. Some of those featured use just pelts, others use just bones, and still others use no organic matter at all, but are inspired by the medium. These artists all have abundant thoughts to portray, and the execution is beautiful. This art will not appeal to everyone, but these pieces are much more than just beautifully preserved specimens of nature. If Rogue Taxidermy, or traditional taxidermy appeal to you I highly recommend that you check out this title.

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak

Cover image for The improbable theory of Ana & ZakThe Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

Reviewed by: Carey Gibbons, Reference Assistant

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Suggested Age: Teens, Adults

What is the book about?: Ana is an overachiever. She’s at the top of her class, she’s captain of the Quiz Bowl team, she doesn’t date, and she certainly doesn’t have time for games or comic books. She’s headed off to college in the fall and she has her whole life ahead of her for continued greatness and perfection – or does she? Zak is a slacker. He’s a gamer and a comics nerd. He lives for conventions, specifically WashingCon. Zak is content to continue his aimless gamer guy lifestyle – or is he? When Ana’s younger brother escapes a Quiz Bowl trip to attend WashingCon, Ana’s best bet for help is Zak. Hi-jinx ensue as Ana and Zak chase Clayton from one end of the convention hall to the other, dodging drunk Vikings, angry Tributes, and Strawberry Shortcake(?!). And if they don’t find Clayton by morning, neither one of them will have the life they’ve so carefully or carelessly planned out.

My Review: I’m a fan of Brian Katcher’s work and his latest does not disappoint. Ana and Zak especially appealed to me since I’m a con goer myself. Katcher does a great job of depicting the con experience, from cos-play to fan girls and boys to super intense (and maybe a little smelly) gamers. It is easy to see that Katcher writes the con experience from a place of love. Both Ana and Zak are relatable and likable characters. While neither of them are out to save the world, their own problems mean a lot to them and the people they care for. Quite frankly, I find that refreshing. I’m a total sucker for YA dystopias but Ana and Zak reminds us that being a teen is difficult enough without having to lead a worldwide rebellion or save all of civilization. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. This is a great book for both its intended audience and the fully grown adult nerd. Check this book out, and then go back and read Katcher’s other books too – they’re all pretty great!

P.S. How cute is that cover?!

Rating: 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: The Exile: an Outlander Graphic Novel

Cover image for The exile : an Outlander graphic novelThe Exile: an Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen as illustrator

Reviewed by: Diane Soffietti, Reference Assistant

Genre: Historical Fiction, Graphic Novel

Suggested Age: Adults

What is the book about?: This is historical fantasy reformatted from a novel to a graphic novel for adults.

Diana Gabaldon has written eight novels in the Outlander series. This is a graphic novel, and a retelling of the beginning of her series from the male lead character, Jamie Fraser. It is set in the Scottish highlands during the 1740’s before the Jacobite rebellion, which later failed to replace the Hanover kings with the Stuart line. The lead female character is Claire Beauchamp Randall, who travels from 1945 by means of a witch’s stone circle while she was visiting the highlands with her husband, Frank Randall, whose ancestor is the garrison leader of Fort William, a British stronghold in the Scottish region. Jamie is an outlaw with a price on his head as he had defied Captain Randall when he escaped after being flogged by the Captain. Politics and family loyalties are part of the challenges of Jamie and Claire when they are married and Claire is accused of being a British spy. Jamie has sworn to protect Claire as they face these challenges.

My Review: I chose this book because I had just watched the DVD from the recent TV series, Outlander. I have only read a few graphic novels, but what I liked the most about this format was that it showed what the characters were thinking. It also has the Gaelic phrases incorporated into the story with a translation on the same page. This story is true to the book, Outlander, but it has added background to Jamie’s godfather and other characters. The artwork from the illustrator is very realistic and captivating. Included in the front and back of the book are notes from Diana that explains the process of transferring her characters and story to this graphic format. I also enjoyed reading more about the history of the era and of the tartan colors. There are many fans of the Outlander series and this book adds to the fan frenzy.

There are some scenes of sexual acts and fantasy dealing with time travel and witchcraft. We have many graphic novels in both the teen space, and the adult fiction section which are separated and located behind the elevator on the second floor. They are organized by the main character or series title, and not by the author or illustrator.

Rating: 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: The Bullet

Cover image for The bulletThe Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

Reviewed by: Sylvia Shults, Circulation Assistant

Genre: Thriller

Suggested Age: Adults

What is the book about?: A single woman, scholarly, a bit reclusive, goes in for a routine doctor’s visit and discovers there’s a bullet in her neck. She has no idea how it got there — she doesn’t even have a scar. Surgery is risky, not only because of the bullet’s placement, but also because the bullet is the last bit of evidence in a murder case — the murder of her parents. Her orderly life is turned inside out with this bizarre diagnosis.

My Review: This book was amazing! I’m always a bit leery of thrillers told in first person, because there is zero chance for any storytelling from the “bad guy’s” POV. The hero has to do all the heavy lifting in the story. But this works. There’s an immediacy to the story because of the use of first person, and the author does a great job — a masterful job — at bringing all the strings of the story together. And I flat-out promise you that you will NOT see the ending coming. This is a beautiful thriller. Highly recommended.

 

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: Go Set a Watchman

Cover image for Go set a watchman : a novelGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Reviewed by: Genna Buhr, Public Services Manager, Interim Co-Director

Genre: Literary Fiction

Suggested Age: Adults

What is the book about?: In Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout – now 20 years older and more often called Jean Louise – has returned home from New York to visit Maycomb and her family. She struggles to understand changes she’s noticing of those closest to her, changes she’s witnessing in her hometown, and changes she’s feeling within herself.

My Review: 

I’ll preface my review with the a few notes. I read Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird nearly twenty years ago and decided not to reread it before Go Set a Watchman. I enjoyed the experience of reading Mockingbird immensely and felt the book was worthy of the praise it had received over the decades. However, I don’t think I am as emotionally invested in the story or the characters as much as many Mockingbird lovers are. I was aware of the controversies regarding the release of Watchman and its storyline. That being said, I tried to approach the book open-minded, but somewhat aware that it wasn’t going to be the same as Mockingbird. I decided to read it for the story and characters, but not necessarily from the viewpoint of social commentary.

Now, onto my review. I enjoyed Watchman. I don’t read a lot of fiction; I’ve always been more of a non-fiction reader. However, as I got into the book, I found myself having the same reading experience that I remembered having with Mockingbird, enjoying Scout’s internal monologue and Lee’s first-person narrative. I was excited to have my next opportunity to sit down and continue with the book, as I was anxious to find out how the story would progress. I was intrigued to learn each character’s opinion of a situation and how they would come to terms with the others’.  I didn’t find myself categorizing the characters as “mensch” or “unmensch,” but was fascinated by how Lee portrayed them each as human – flawed as we are – and how she had them explain their individual reasoning.

I would agree with some critics that opine that the storytelling and use of language isn’t as strong as Mockingbird (although it probably isn’t fair, given the history of the manuscript, to expect it to be). However, I didn’t find that some of the minor clunkiness was detrimental to my enjoyment of the book. There were also several cultural and historical references with which I wasn’t familiar, so I would go so far to suggest that an Internet connection is a handy reading partner for this book.  While I enjoyed this novel, it is one that has potential to be fairly divisive amongst readers. Read it for yourself, recognize your own situation, background, and biases going into it, and take the unexpected opportunity to experience Harper Lee for a second time.

Rating: 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: Rat Queens vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery

Cover image for Rat Queens. Volume One, Sass and SorceryRat Queens vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis K. Wiebe, art by Roc Upchurch

Reviewed by: Carey Gibbons, Reference Assistant

Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Suggested Age: Adults

What is the book about?: Hannah the foul-mouthed elven mage, Violet the unstoppable dwarven fighter, Dee the atheist elder gods style cultist and Betty the drug addled smidgen thief are the Rat Queens. They’re an adventuring team out to keep the city of Palisade from harm! If by “keep from harm” you mean instigate bar fights and destroy public property… not everyone is perfect. In order to make up for transgressions against the city, the Rat Queens are sent on a quest to clear goblins out of a nearby cave. However, this quest is a lot more dangerous than the Rat Queens have bargained for and none of them are stupid. Someone set them up to fail. The Rat Queens are going to find out who, and make them pay!

My Review: I loved this book so much that I immediately went out and bought volume two. Rat Queens is both a mockery of and homage to all things Dungeons and Dragons. While the basic plot has the trappings of a D&D campaign, Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty become real complex real fast and they’re easy characters to love either despite or because of their foul mouths and do-what-I-want attitudes. It’s nice to see believable, relatable female characters in the realms of swords and sorcery – characters who stand on their own two butt-whomping feet, who make their own decisions, and who will eat drugs and candy for breakfast if they want to, thank you very much. Wiebe tells an excellent story and Upchurch brings all of the smart, sexy, sassy fun of Rat Queens to life with his illustrations. This is a must-have for anyone who loves comic books or adventure gaming.

Note: Rat Queens is full of violence, profanity, nudity, drugs, and other adult themes. Do not read if these things make you uncomfortable.

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: Armada

Cover image for Armada : a novelArmada by Ernest Cline

Reviewed by: Jimi Roberts, Circulation Assistant

Genre: Science Fiction

Suggested Age: Adults and teens

What is the book about?: Zack Lightman is by all accounts any 18 year old high school gaming addict.  One day while daydreaming in class, he sees a spacecraft from his favorite video game flying around outside of his classroom window.  He begins to wonder if he is going insane and hallucinating or if he is truly seeing some type of alien spacecraft.  Zack longs for some type of zombie apocalypse or alien invasion to happen in his life while pondering what to do after high school.  Has that moment finally arrived, or is he having the same mental breakdown his father supposedly had 17 years earlier?

My Review: Armada is the second novel from the author of Ready Player One.  I would encourage anyone who has read his first novel to go into this one with an open mind and try not to compare the two; they are very different novels.  Armada is heavily influenced by the big science-fiction franchises of the late 70s and early 80s:  Star Wars, Star Trek, The Last Starfighter and Alien, amongst others.  It pays homage to these films while crafting a new and exciting tale out of the pieces that all these films have in common.  In my opinion, that’s what makes this so much fun.  Of course, there are sci-fi cliches in this book – that’s the point.  This all will seem familiar to both the reader and the characters by design.  These characters are familiar with the same movies as the reader.  If I had to nit-pick one thing it would be the length.  I felt like another 100 pages could have gone a long way towards fleshing out some of the supporting cast, which would have given the story a little more depth.  This novel is certainly full of action – some of it is the best action writing I’ve read to date, but I found the story to really hit its stride in the more intimate moments.  There’s a section in the middle that can only be described as “going X-files” and it was fantastic.  I could have easily read 2 or 3 more chapters of that part and been ecstatic.  That said, this was a great, fun (really quick) read and I think any fan of the sci-fi genre will get a kick out of it.  If you go into it expecting Ready Player Two though, you will likely be disappointed.  If you go in as a fan of 80s sci-fi, you will probably leave wanting more.  

Rating: 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: The Wrath and the Dawn

Cover image for The wrath & the dawnThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Reviewed by: Barb Rude, Reference Assistant

Genre: Fantasy

Suggested Age: Teens

What is the book about?: The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of 1001 Nights. Shahrzad’s best friend has been murdered by the king, so she volunteers to be his next bride—and possibly his next victim. She’s determined to find out why he kills his brides, and she’s also determined to kill him. Her desire for revenge starts to melt as she gets to know him. Love is complicated and secrets are dangerous.

My Review: I like this book. The setting and characters are brought alive through vivid descriptions. Shahrzad is quick, fierce, and bold. The story unfolds with strong emotions. The changes between characters happen with enough depth to feel authentic, and the story develops at a strong pace. My only quibble was the use of magic. Shahrzad discovers she has a powerful talent but never uses it, which was unsatisfying. As this story is the first of two, I imagine we’ll see more magic in the next book. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the story.

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

FDL Reads: The Magician’s Nephew

Cover image for The magician's nephewWelcome to another edition of FDL Teen Reads, brought to you by the Teen Advisory Board!


The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Reviewed by: Hannah Reed, Teen Advisory Board

Genre: Fantasy

Suggested Age: Teens, Kids

What is the book about?:  The Magician’s Nephew is the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia. Digory and Polly are sent out of our world with magic rings by Digory’s Uncle Andrew. The first place they visit is sort of like a world-between-worlds. Then, after figuring out how to travel with their rings, they visit Charn, where they meet Queen Jadis. The Queen had destroyed everybody and everything in Charn and when the kids go back to our world, Queen Jadis follows them, wanting to rule our world since there is nothing left of hers. In London, where the children live, The Queen causes nothing but trouble so Digory and Polly get her out of our world as quickly as possible. In the world-between-worlds, the children jump into a random pool, planning to leave Queen Jadis there. They find themselves in an empty world, along with Queen Jadis, Uncle Andrew, a cabby, and his horse. Soon after arriving in the empty world they start to hear singing, then they see The Lion Aslan and as he continues to sing they witness the creation of Narnia. In Narnia, animals talk and trees are alive. Digory pleads with Aslan for something to heal his mother, who is deathly ill. Aslan sends Digory, Polly, and Fledge, who was the cabby’s horse but now talks and has wings, to a garden in the mountains for a golden apple. Digory does not understand how an apple will help his mother, but he does as he is instructed. Upon returning with the apple, Aslan tells Digory to toss it to the river bank, there blossoms an apple tree covered with golden apples. Aslan tells Digory to take an apple off the tree and give it to his mother. Digory, along with Polly and Uncle Andrew, returns to London. Digory rushes to give his mother the apple, and after she eats it, she quickly becomes well again. Digory plants the apple core in the back yard, where it grows into a normal apple tree. After years have passed the apple tree is blown down in a storm, so Digory uses the wood to make a wardrobe.

My Review: The Magician’s Nephew is a very inspiring book. It taught me that it’s okay to have an imagination, as long as you can decipher between what is real and what is imaginary. After I read the book, my mind opened up and I became much more imaginative and creative. I’ve always wanted to be an author but before I read The Magician’s Nephew, I never had the imagination or creativity to write a good story. C.S. Lewis has opened up a whole new world for me. Another reason I love The Magician’s Nephew is because of the tone it was written in. C.S. Lewis wrote the book as if the events he describes have actually happened, and if you open up your imagination, they have happened. The Magician’s Nephew was written to teach kids to use their imaginations. I absolutely love The Magician’s Nephew and all of its characters. It is an amazing read was written by an extraordinary author

Rating: 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL ReadsWelcome to FDL Reads, weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.  Librarians (and possibly some other guest reviewers) review all types of books, from children’s picture books, young adult favorites, to the latest adult thriller, and share their thoughts each week at fondulaclibrary.org. If the book is owned by Fondulac District Library (or another local library), you’ll see a direct link to the catalog entry and whether or not it is available.  If it is checked out or at another local library, you will be able to place a hold as long as you have your library card and PIN numbers. As with any book review, these are our opinions…we disagree amongst ourselves about books frequently.  We all have different likes and dislikes, which is what makes the world an interesting place. Please enjoy, and keep on reading!

imagine, inform, inspire