All Book Reviews

The Three Musketeers book jacket
Dumas, Alexandre
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Despite its lack of general theme, Dumas' The Three Musketeers is a beloved classic. The story follows a young man D'Artagnan as he serves under M. de Treville, the head of the French king's musketeers (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis). As he spends more time with the musketeers, D'Artagnan is caught up in the convoluted politics of the king and jealous cardinal. Somehow, however, in the epic tale of adventure, companionship, romance, and betrayal, Dumas' message is lost to the fast-paced plot. His use of dialogue is masterful in creating realistic suspense between characters; not in all 600+ pages is there a dull moment. Overall, however, The Three Musketeers is best read for an interesting story and nothing else. The main cast is well-developed and serve as contrasts to each other. Although the plot itself is well-constructed, the events lack any greater relationship to each other beyond causation. When I picked this book up, I expected the adventure to follow some sort of formula to parallel D'Artagnan's personality; his personality, however, has little impact on the general plot. Dumas' talent in diction and ability to tell a story is evident, and The Three Musketeers was an enjoyable read, as long as you know what to expect.
Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Fahrenheit 451 book jacket
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

451͒ Fahrenheit is the temperature when paper starts burning. Guy Monteg knows it for sure. He’s a fireman. However, his job is not to put out the fire, but to make it and burn the books. He likes his job, but there is something that he hides from everyone, including his wife.
From every fire, Guy saves a book. In his society, books are forbidden, as they are considered to make people unhappy, evolving complicated emotions and making the readers think. No books means no worries, but a careless life, full of joy and simple entertainment.
One day, Guy Monteg decides that he does not want to live like he used to anymore. He finds a former English professor and asks to teach him to understand what he reads about. Together, they make a plan to save more books in the hope that war will destroy the existing system that they have to live in.
But any secret becomes clear, and the next night Guy gets an order to burn his own house. He destroys it with a flamethrower, as well as his captain, co-workers and the Mechanical Hound.
Monteg escapes. He does not know though, that after all the dangers on his way, he will finally find his destination and meet those whom he will belong to.
It may be hard to feel, but the book is sharp and straightforward. Through the adventure in a fictional universe, Ray Bradbury shows us what might happen, if humanity keeps moving in a direction that will only satisfy basic needs and bring momentary pleasures. I’m sure, some of us can already recognize ourselves with shame in Beatty or Mildred. We’ve already made that first step on the path to the world, where people burn books. This dystopia teaches us that we can always make a difference in the world and change our lives the way that we believe is right. There will be those who will try to destroy you, but there will also be those, whom you will be able to rely on.
The novel creates a tense engaging atmosphere, where you can smell threat in the air and hear the chase behind your back. It does not let the reader go till the very end and stays in mind days after.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
The Crucible book jacket
Miller, Arthur
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Hysteria, spreading throughout Salem, Massachusetts in the 17th century. Teenage girls, being accused of witchcraft for dancing in the woods. A puppet with a needle that can cost someone’s life. Agreeing on execution in order to protect the good name for your family. Mass trials on people being suspected of doing magic. Sounds crazy? Welcome to the world of The Crucible.
The play by Arthur Miller takes us to Salem in a period of witch trials. Everything starts pretty prosaic: a girl named Abigail wants to get love from a local farmer, John Proctor. As it often happens, she finds a love potion the easiest way to reach the desirable goal, however, she, her friends and the family slave Tituba get caught on doing this ritual late at night.
Nobody wants to be punished. Nobody will believe a slave over his own daughter or niece. Considering these two statements, Abigail decides to avoid a punishment by accusing Tituba and the entire list of other women in a town of being witches.
And here is when things start to go heels overhead. Like a huge snowball that captures everything that is on its way, panic enhances more and more people around. Men and women are being executed for no true reason. Even an expert in demonology is invited to take part in the case. And in all this chaos Abigail makes another attempt to get a chance for a future together with John Proctor.
The action develops dynamically in the play, and the characters add more tension to the plot with their bright personalities. You can’t stay indifferent. You either love or, more likely, hate them. A lot of situation are ironic and absurd, however, the play tastes bitter, when you realize how many people had to struggle because of someone’s stupid wish and lack of responsibility.
The book refers a lot to the time of McCarthyism, which had impacted the author’s life in particular. It makes a strong impact on the audience, especially, in the end, and leaves the readers with a lot of questions: Do people change? Is reputation worth sacrificing your life? Whom to believe and what to deny?
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
Animal Farm book jacket
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An attempt to create an independent sovereign state, liquidate domestic and foreign enemies and get rid of vestiges of the past, made by… animals. The only fact of animals ruling and managing their own lives sounds absurd enough, but what if under the masks of pigs, horses and dogs real historical figures are hiding?
George Orwell showed brightly the allegorical reality of totalitarianism and communism in his novel Animal Farm. A fairy tale for grown up readers, the book offers an opportunity to observe the story of animals who tried to get independence from their owner and build a society where everyone’s needs and desires would be equally satisfied (sounds a little utopical, doesn’t it?)
Inspired by the Old Major, two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, supported by all the residents of the farm, carry out a coup d’etat and banish the farmer Mr. Jones. They take the lead and create the laws of the newly created state, the most important of which is “All animals are equal”. However, as the time flows, it turns out that ruling a society is not as easy as it seems to be, especially if at the same time you are trying to benefit from the power that you possess. The animals have to go through propaganda, repressions, socialist competition, ideological pressure and several other social and political changes. Most of them believe their government blindly, and only a few trust their own eyes more than the media. Napoleon, now the only ruler of Animal Farm, discovers that fear and lies are not the worst tools to use, if you want to keep a state in order, especially when the majority of the population consists of sheeps. He goes father and father from where he began and, like many leaders before and after him, becomes a tyrant trying to keep his position and privileges. At the end, he brings the animals back to what they tried to destroy: a totalitarian system where one stands above everyone else. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, the new Commandment says.

The book is written in a simple language and the allegory and similes make the story easy to understand even for the younger readers. All the processes and events mentioned in the novel repeat one of the darkest and most tangled periods of history. But, shown on the example of animals, they make the readers wonder how people, who faced them in real life, could not notice that they were being trapped and fooled.
Compared to some other novels by George Orwell, Animal Farm is pretty easy to read. It would be a perfect choice for those who want to get a better understanding of political and historical processes and enjoy a fictional story at the same time.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder book jacket
Jackson, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a surprisingly dark and complex book. The main character, Pip, decides to investigate a "solved" murder in her town from five years ago, one that she is very close to. She teams up with the alleged murderer's brother and slowly unravels a well-hidden mystery. The book's organization made an otherwise-complicated crime easier to understand. You would read a chapter, then Pip would summarize the findings in her capstone project diary entry. This information was backed up with occasional maps and diagrams as well. Although I did get lost at some parts with there being so many names, I appreciated there being enough suspects that it was impossible to figure out the mystery until the characters did. Pip was clever and eloquent, so her handling of this personal investigation didn't take away from the story. Not to mention her friends along the way, who were pretty well-developed side characters. If you think the pacing is slow for the first part of the book, keep going!
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Book Thief book jacket
Zusak, Markus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Book Thief starts in January 1939, in Nazi Germany. The main character, Liesel, was traveling on a train with her mother and brother when her brother suddenly dies. Liesel was only nine at the time, and the wound that was inflicted then, she would bear forever. At her brother's burial site, she stole a book for the first time, earning her the name "The Book Thief". Her story is told from the perspective of Death, who is depicted as an immortal being with feelings and a heart.

Liesel then traveled to Himmel Street, where she lived with her foster parents for the remainder of the book. Liesel made new friends, finds a family, and overcomes the grief caused by her brother's passing there. But most importantly, she discovered the power and impact of words there. The power of words is the central theme or message of The Book Thief.

Throughout the book, Liesel steals more books and becomes braver and more mature. Initially, she was a child who didn't know about all the beauty and ugliness in the world. But as the plot developed, she experienced more of the brutality of WW2 and found her role in her community. After she learned to read, she started to spread the love that was caused by words to her neighbors, by reading out loud during air raids. She also learned to love and understand people better.

The author, Markus Zusak, used the symbolism of colors to illustrate a picture of the world that Liesel lived in. For example, when Death described a scene, the sky was always a different color or texture. When describing a bloody battlefield, the sky was described as plasticky, to show the stillness and emptiness that was caused by the death of soldiers.

I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a thought-provoking and intense book. Liesel's and the other characters' lives were presented in a very relatable way, which will make readers question their own attitudes on life and the world.

Reviewer's Name: Nabhanya
One of us is next book jacket
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Bayview Four, the four pupils Simon falsely accused of being the cause of his death, are no longer together, and their younger classmates and relatives are forced to play a new round of gossip-filled Truth or Dare. One year has passed since the events of One of Us Is Lying, and a game of Truth or Dare has begun. However, this isn't your typical Truth or Dare. This game can be deadly. Accepting the dare could be risky, even fatal while telling the truth might reveal your deepest secrets. This sequel had a mixed record as far as success goes. First on the list is Phoebe. It's true if you decide not to play. Phoebe’s secret is dark and it keeps her relationships and family messed up until the very end when the truth is spilled. Maeve then enters the scene, and she ought to know better than always taking the dare. However, things have become dangerous by the time Knox is ready to be tagged. The dares have turned deadly, and Maeve has learned that she cannot rely on the authorities for assistance after what happened to Bronwyn last year. or security. Although Simon is no longer with us, someone is committed to preserving his legacy at Bayview High. And the regulations have altered. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, so many things were left untouched like relationships and the truth or dare game that I feel like there must be a third book.

Reviewer's Name: Anushka
The Wild book jacket
Laukkanen, Owen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the kind of book with so many cliffhangers, you can't find a stopping point. This is a book you'll want to read in one sitting but remember you have homework and have to reluctantly put it down. This is a book that makes your hands sweat and your heart beat faster. The vivid imagery and dynamic characters will make you feel as if you're there yourself. This is a book for adventurers. This is a book for the fearless. This is Underlined Paperbacks and this is The Wild.
When Dawn is sent to a wilderness boot camp for one to many bad decisions, she ends up in a situation her parents nor her ever expected. The people she meets there have bad decisions they are also living with and as the woods get darker, their pasts are revealed. Will they make it out of the camp alive? Is everyone there for the reason they claim they are?
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: McKenna
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde book jacket
Stevenson, Robert Louis,
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was alright. I had to read this for school once and actually quite enjoyed it. This is a great book for anyone who likes quick mystery reads. The plot is one that makes the reader want to continue reading! The book is about a mysterious doctor named Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll is a well respected man but awfully strange. If this sounds interesting I suggest reading it! Yes, it wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed the mysterious plot.

Reviewer's Name: Abigail
Heartstopper: Volume Four book jacket
Oseman, Alice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every time I think, "Alice Oseman can't possibly outshine previous Heartstopper books," she proves me wrong! This graphic novel had beautiful art and great representation. Heartstopper: Volume Four follows Charlie and Nick as they deal with separation anxiety, saying "I love you", and working through Charlie's declining mental health. There are some really important themes introduced, the biggest being Charlie's anorexia and OCD diagnosis. This was a really emotional part of the book, but it is also crucial for more young adult books like this to spread awareness about how common mental illnesses are. Charlie and Nick's relationship is strong, but it was also cool that they discussed how spending time with other loved ones instead will strengthen their relationship. Plus, their friends are diverse, endlessly kind, and could easily be real people. It is always a joy to read this series, and I can't wait for Volume Five!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
All Good People Here book jacket
Flowers, Ashley
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I am a big fan of Ashley Flowers from her career with audiochuck podcasts, so reading her first novel was a no-brainer. The story is about a journalist named Margot who returns to the small town in which she grew up to care for her uncle struggling with memory loss. However, the disappearance of a young girl at the same time causes Margot to reflect on the unsolved murder from her childhood, decades back. Like a true investigator, she sets out to solve both cases once and for all. Previous reviews had hinted at constant plot twists, and I definitely experienced that the whole way through. The case wasn't truly solved until literally the last page. Overall, Flowers' writing style is just as eloquent as her podcasts, with unique characters and eerie suspense. Although a few side characters, like the police officer Margot befriends, are pretty bland, more time spent on the Jacobs family character development seemed like the intention all along. And as soon as one plot twist had been announced, it was written off to make way for the next one quite suddenly. It felt as though some character explanations were still unfinished. Finally, though I hate to say it, such an abrupt ending was kind of unsatisfying. It was almost a five star book through-and-through, and just one more chapter could have done it. Nonetheless, I will recommend this book any day!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Shadows book jacket
North, Alex
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Shadows by Alex North is about a brutal crime that rocks a small town, and haunts the ones closest to it. Paul grew up alongside three boys, two of which would later murder one of their fellow students. Twenty-five years later, Paul returns to the town to visit his dying mother and is forced to uncover deeply-hidden secrets about the murder when new crimes start to happen. I liked how each chapter revealed new clues and the final result was difficult to guess. There were several plot twists that felt well-calculated. For as exciting as the plot was, Paul was a very bland main character. The way he described his childhood with the future murderers was boring, and I didn't like the lucid dreaming theme. It seemed like the author was going for a strange cult theme, but it was muddled with the constant flashbacks to present-day. It was a good read for the Halloween season, but not my favorite otherwise.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Old Man and the Sea book jacket
Hemingway, Ernest
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The story of Win and Loss, one of Ernest Hemingway’s most famous works, The Old Man and the Sea introduces us to a fisherman Santiago. He is old, but he has determination and a goal. He wants to catch his Big Fish. He does not give up even after eighty four days of failure and on the eighty-fifth day luck finally smiles at him. Big Fish is on the hook. Three days of confrontation between the fishermen and the fish reveal Santiago’s incredible inner strength and will power. But when he finally comes back to his hut, exhausted and barely alive, he’s left only with a skeleton of his dream and a poor illusion of a better life.
The deep symbols that the story contains can be interpreted in many different ways. Some of the readers may find the old man’s hunt as a waste of effort on a goal that is not worth risking his life. Others, however, will discover Santiago as their role model and an example of undefeatable human nature and endurance on the way to the dream. But this controversy and ambiguity is exactly what makes the book so unique and attractive to the generations of readers.
The language of the novella is typical for all Hemingway's books, simple and straightforward, however, this time the symbolic meaning is hidden under the coat of realistic story. It encourages the reader to think and reflect on the pages that he’s read and on his own life as well and find his own interpretation of the fisherman’s story.

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
Love in the Time of Serial Killers
Thompson, Alicia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

There was no way I was not going to read a book with the title of Love in the Time of Serial Killers! It did not disappoint. It is an unconventional romance with friendship, mourning, and true crime thrown in. Phoebe is a PhD candidate(she's writing her disseration on the true crime genre) who has to spend the summer in Florida helping her brother Connor clean out their childhood home after their father passes away. For Phoebe it is very complicated - she was estranged from her father and has unpleasant memories of her childhood. On top of that she suspects her neighbor Sam is a serial killer! Since I am a fan of true crime, I enjoyed how the author wove in facts about real true crime in the story. If you like quirky romances and a fan of true crime, you will enjoy this book.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Genres:
Miss Aldridge Regrets
Hare, Louise
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you are a fan of locked room mysteries, you will enjoy Miss Aldridge Regrets! It is a historical mystery set in 1936 London. Lena Aldrige is a mixed race nightclub singer in a Soho nightclub. The club's owner is murdered and Lena isn't sure what she is going to do when a chance of lifetime drops in her lap. She is approached by a man who said his boss knew her father and wants to offer her a job starring in a Broadway show and will pay passage for her first-class on the Queen Mary. Lena takes the offer and is looking forward to her new life in New York. But as her trip unwinds, people on the ship start to be murdered and she looks like the prime suspect. There are a few other surprised for Lena as well. This was a wonderful mystery and a great start to the Canary Club Mystery Series.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
 Mañanaland
Muñoz Ryan, Pam
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Max’s grandfather regularly tells him fantastic tales about the ancient tower near their home and a journey to another, magical place. The stories become all too real when Max needs to help a young refugee flee from dangerous pursuers. Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a great read for kids ages 9 – 12 who love a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Genres:
Blue Daisy
Frost, Helen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Sam and Katie find a stray dog and impulsively paint a blue flower on it. This dog is suddenly befriended by everyone in town, even Sam’s and Katie’s arch enemies. Blue Daisy by Helen Frost is a wonderful story about community, written in alternating chapters of prose and poetry. This book can help newly fluent readers, ages 7 – 10, stretch their skills.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-To-Be-Best Friend
Quigley, Dawn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jo Jo finds all kinds of ways to be hilarious in the book Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley. Lots of classroom antics, misunderstandings and funny situations will keep readers ages 6 - 9 laughing out loud and learning a few Ojibwe words at the same time. This is the first book in a series.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
When Grandfather Flew
MacLachlan, Patricia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Emma tells the story of how much her grandfather loved birds and how he taught his grandchildren about the beauty of birds all around him. When Grandfather Flew by Patricia Maclachlan is a gentle story of life and death and the ways it changes us. This is written on a 3rd grade reading level but is perfect for family members ages 3 – 100 who might be experiencing the loss of a loved one.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
One of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of us is lying is the story about Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper and Addy, all these students walked into detention the same day as Simon Kelleher, who never made it out alive. This story contains an amazing plot and a great read for kids 14+

Reviewer's Name: Williow
Genres: