All Book Reviews

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland book jacket
Carroll, Lewis
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

the biik is brilliant for children but with enough hilarity and joy for life in it to please adults too, Alice's Adventures in wonderland is alovely book with wich to take a brief respite from our overly rational and sometimes dreary world

Reviewer's Name: Hadil
Daughter of the Pirate King
Levenseller, Tricia
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Alosa is the daughter of the infamous Pirate King. She's also half-siren, a secret she wants desperately to be kept hidden. After staging her kidnap by a rivalry pirate crew, Alosa is tasked with finding a map that will lead her father to a legendary island full of treasures untold. It should be easy: she's one of the best pirates on the sea, and being half-siren has its perks. But cleverly and annoyingly attractive first mate Riden makes her task much more difficult, and for the first time in her life, she has something to fight for...or rather someone.

My favorite part of the entire book was Alosa herself. She's smart, witty, and defies the odds given that she's a female pirate (and the only woman on the ship for most of the novel). Her budding relationship with Riden is amusing, and it's the typical enemies to lovers trope. The novel was full of some nice surprises, and I'm anticipating what's going to happen in the sequel!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Orphans of the Storm book jacket
Imrie, Celia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wonderful book - I've always been interested in the mystery of the two little boys rescued from the Titanic, whose father apparently abducted them from their mother and was sailing under a different name. That alone is an interesting story, but the backstory of this couple was fascinating as well. Enjoyed the writing, enjoyed the research behind the story (there is a great summary in the back of the book of how she researched the story, which is like a giant puzzle). Highly recommend!

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Scary Stories for Yong Foxes
Heidicker, Christian McKay
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Scary Stories for Young Foxes is a very intriguing book with twists and turns all the way down. It is designed to be, hence the name, "scary" but the way the stories from each perspective connect creates a much more interesting story than it may seem. Heidecker is able to create interesting twists in the story, and is entertaining and funny as well, with an odd twist on the famed author, Beatrix Potter. But, I feel like this book could have been a children's book if it hadn't been written like to be like the scary stories you write around the campfire. The writing was not very challenging, but the plotline is perfectly written.

As you read the book you get rather attached to the main characters, Mia and Uly. Uly is a young fox with a disfigured foot, making it harder for him to function in his fox family with his sisters. His mom is always supportive and encourages Uly as he figures out how he will live on his own. But, life on his own takes a turn for the worst...

Mia grew up attending A little fox school with her siblings, and her wonderful teacher, Miss Vix. They are learning how to hunt scavenge, and survive in the wilderness, and Mia loves her class. And her teacher. The litter is learning fast, and loving it. But, disaster strikes, and leaves only Mia and her mom alone, to run from the "monster" that has formed.

Uly and Mia's destinies soon intertwine and create a plotline that is perfect for a casual read, or, if you want to make it more exciting, read it in a dark room and let your imagination run wild. Recommended ages 10+
Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Priya
Genres:
The Things They Carried
O'Brien, Tim
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brian is a pretty good book about the Vietnam war. The book jumps around a lot with the characters in the war, after the war, and before the war. While it could be a little confusing at times, it was still an entertaining book. If you like reading books about Vietnam, but that also go in depth on the character, this would be a great book to read. Overall, I'd recommend this book!

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Red Queen
Aveyard, Victoria
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Red Queen" is set in a world where people are divided based on their blood color, with "reds" being on the lowest part of the social hierarchy and being kept in line and ruled by the "silvers". The silvers have powers, but the reds are normal and have no powers. The book follows Mare Barrow, a red, who gets a servant job at the summer royal castle. While working it is found out that she has powers. The precautions are taken by silvers to prevent unrest in the community, take Mare on a journey, forcing her to leave her world behind for another.
"Red Queen" is beautifully written, from the world-building, to the characters, you get to see all the parts of the arguments and the world. The renowned twist that brought me to this book was amazingly crafted and so hard to see when you get immersed in the story. When the twist happened it surprised me and made me rethink so much that had happened in the book. This book shows moral problems so well, you understand why the books problem is so hard to solve. There are many action scenes/ intricate fighting scenes that you may tune out but it is still a great read because of the writing style. You learn to care for Mare and all her friends as they try to make changes. Your heart will go out to Mare and her mission, so beware, but it is so worth it. This book is so in-depth and makes you care so much about what happens. It would be an amazing addition to any fantasy lovers library and a great read.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan
Anne of Green Gables
Montgomery, L.M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Anne of Green Gables is a popular classic novel about a quirky redheaded orphan named Anne. When Anne is adopted by the Cuthberts at their farm up in Green Gables, we follow Anne as she struggles to adapt to her new life.
Unlike most older classic novels, Anne of Green Gables was a very easy and fast read. I really enjoyed this book, and the story drags you into a youthful and whimsical world. The problems Anne faced, such as her first day at school, or the issues that her overactive imagination would lead her into, were all very fun and lighthearted to read about. This novel filled me with emotions of nostalgia, and the read was a very peaceful and enjoyable one.
Overall, this novel tackles the topics of growing up, being young, and fitting in, all in a very charming way.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder
Jackson, Holly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a YA mystery novel following high schooler Pippa Fitz-Amobi. What first started as a school project, Pippa begins to dig into the murder of high schooler Andie Bell, a case that occurred five years ago, in her small town. The case is apparently closed. Everyone, including the police and jury, ruled Sal Singh, Andie's boyfriend at the time, to have murdered the young girl. Of course, with Sal Singh also pronounced deceased by suicide, there was no way for him to plead guilty or otherwise.
When Pippa begins to research this closed case, she's not so sure that Sal Singh is the killer. So, enlisting Sal's younger brother Ravi Singh, the two investigate this murder mystery together, determined to bring Sal to justice. However, their small town, desperately holding onto their long-shared belief that Sal Singh is a murderer, may not be so easy to convince. But if Sal isn't the killer, who is?
This book was really well written. Written through interviews, articles, and reports, the story truly feels like your solving the murder just as much as Pippa and Ravi are. I loved how intricately the plot was crafted, and whenever new details the public didn't know about the case popped up, I was just as excited and shocked as Pippa and Ravi were. Throughout the book, many questions arose as I read along. Who is the real killer? Could Andie be alive? Did Sal actually do it?
I loved the plot twists and suspense the story put me through, and the fact that the true killer could be someone amongst their town, or someone close to Ravi or Pippa, made the plot all the more exciting. Additionally, I enjoyed the dynamic between Ravi and Pippa. While Ravi is easygoing and calm, Pippa is technical and daring. I enjoyed the balance between the two, especially some of the banter that we got to see between them.
The story also brought up some other important topics such as racial discrimination, unhealthy family relationships, drug use, and sexual assault, which I found was explained in an insightful and realistic way.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I was surprised by how thoughtfully it was written.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
The Night Circus
Morgenstern, Erin
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is about two young magicians who have been trained since childhood to engage in a duel against each other. However, the two said magicians, Celia and Marco, although being raised to fight each other, both fall into an unexpected love.
I have to admit, the plot sounds pretty promising. However, when I read this novel I found that it was incredibly difficult for me to actually push through and finish it.
The writing is beautiful, but I think it was too beautiful in a way. Everything was written in a very flowery way, in which the whole story was made up of very gorgeous-sounding lines, but nothing really past that. To put it straight, there was no substance in the plot. The majority of the novel was just long pretty sentences describing what was happening, but not exactly drawing us into what the sentences were trying to describe. It was like the author was telling us about everything and how everything looked to the eye, but I felt no spark. It was all descriptions and no action. I didn't feel or read any emotional lines or even felt much of a fondness towards the two protagonists. Celia and Marco kind of just seemed like two mannequins placed in the story for show, but there wasn't really anything that built up their characters to make them seem real or three-dimensional. The characters were all flat, and I couldn't see myself rooting for them, or really caring about anything they did.
Overall, while Morgenstern has a beautifully poetic way with words, I didn't see myself being pulled into the plot she was attempting to conceive.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

One of Us Is Lying follows four high schoolers who all fit into different social circles. Bronwyn is the staple "nerd," she's smart, ambitious, and a model student. Addy is the queen bee. She's pretty, popular, and the typical girl that everyone likes. Nate is the rule-breaker. Dealing with illegal substances, and being on probation for drug dealing, he fits the mold of a "bad boy." And then there's Cooper. The golden boy, a star baseball player, and high up on the social rungs, he's adored by many.
The interesting factor about this though, is that all four of these students are being suspected for the murder of a fellow student named Simon. Simon is an outcast, the creator of a popular, yet infamous gossip app that airs out the dirty secrets of fellow Bayview High students.
So when all five of these students are called into detention one day, what happens when Simon is the only one who doesn't leave the room alive? Which one of these four students is a murderer?
A very interesting plot, McManus builds up a fair deal of suspense, giving us POV chapters from each of the four suspects, allowing us to take a look into their lives and sympathize with them. I enjoyed that the author forced us to relate to the suspects, making it all the more difficult to pick out who the killer would be. However, although the plot twists were interesting, there was something generally lukewarm about this novel. Maybe it was because each of the four characters are all walking stereotypes, or because some things seemed a little too cliche, the novel, although having its good moments, fell flat at points as well.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good YA novel or a teen fiction story, but the stereotyping and cliches that were indulged by this novel, such as a "bad boy and good girl" relationship, or how Cooper, the typical golden boy, even has a Southern accent to enunciate his supposedly Southern boyish charm (??) made the story feel like it was at times targeted for a much younger audience than advertised to.
Overall, One of Us Is Lying isn't a terrible book, but also isn't super amazing.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Saenz, Benjamin Alire
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

”Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
A quote from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Saenz has truly mastered the art of poetic prose. This novel is filled with countless more beautiful lines, and I have to say that this story exceeded my expectations.
Aristotle (Ari) is a Mexican-American boy who lives with his PTSD racked Father and loving Mother. Dante is the opposite of Ari. Instead of being a "traditionally" boyish boy, Dante enjoys art and poetry. Dante is emotional and sensitive, while Ari tends to deflect the same feelings.
I really enjoyed this book for countless reasons.
For one, the POC main characters and LGBT romance. I consider diversity to be an important factor in novels, and the author of this story did a good job of illustrating these topics.
Secondly, I liked the pacing of this story. It was pretty relaxed and slow. Reading this story felt mellow and personal, like we were just watching Ari and Dante discover themselves and each other, all in the slow hum of everyday life.
Last, the realism of this novel was something I appreciated. We saw Ari and Dante act like the teenagers they are, and tackle common everyday problems most teenagers face. I liked how nothing was overly dramatized, and while that may seem "boring," I thought this calm, slow, and realistic take on a typical Coming of Age novel was very enjoyable.
Overall, although Aristotle and Dante don't follow much of a plot, I enjoyed watching the novel unfold at its own pace.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Michelle
Robinson Crusoe book jacket
Defoe, Daniel
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Review of Book R. Crusoe

Reviewer's Name: Ivana
The Last Cuentista book jacket
Higuera, Donna Barba
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Petra Peña wants to be a cuentista, a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra’s world is about to change forever. Earth is gone-destroyed by an asteroid. Petra and several hundred humans are voyaging hundreds of years into the future in the hope of saving humanity on a different planet. Before arriving on the new planet Petra and the others will remain in a sleep stasis, downloading information that will help them start over a new planet.

When Petra wakes up, hundreds of years later, she soon discovers the original plan has drastically changed. There is a new group in charge of their spacecraft with a different agenda for those left on board. What does the future hold for Petra and the others? Will she be reunited with her family, and preserve the art of storytelling for future generations?

This is an enjoyable book for ages 12+ who are interested in sci-fi but who might be intimidated to pick up a traditional title from the genre. It’s layered with a beautiful message of family, perseverance, and the lifesaving power of storytelling.

Reviewer's Name: Sarah H.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Big Squirrels Don't Cry book jacket
North, Ryan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this second collection of Squirrel Girl comics, you'll once again find Doreen Green trying to balance her life as Squirrel Girl and as a computer science student at Empire State University. This can be quite the balancing act, especially when you have a huge fluffy tail that you have to hide when you're in your civilian persona. While other superheroes have origin stories that explain their tremendous powers, Squirrel Girl is...Squirrel Girl.

Doreen's "unbeatable" title continues to be tested as she uses both her skills as a squirrel person who can communicate with and control squirrels and as a computer science major to defeat villains who terrorize New York City. The fact that she's a superhero who can talk to and control squirrels is just amusing enough that fans of the first collection will likely enjoy this one. However, I wasn't prepared to read a Howard the Duck crossover in this collection, so know that it's not necessarily a volume completely dedicated to Squirrel Girl.

Once again, I enjoyed Ryan North's writing (there's a lot since Dorreen rarely resorts to violence to solve her problems). I haven't read many comic books, so I'm still getting used to the art styles, especially since they are distinctly different between the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl issues and the Howard the Duck issues. And while this volume was entertaining, there is a certain limitation that comes with a superhero whose only abilities revolve around squirrels. Doreen can use only so many iterations of these powers before they become repetitive.

More Squirrel Girl action with a Howard the Duck crossover, I give The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Big Squirrels Don't Cry 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
A Deadly Education
Novik, Naomi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Deadly Education follows a young sorceress, Galadriel, struggling to survive inside the Scholomance, a school floating outside our reality in a dark void. The school is home to thousands of mals that want nothing more than to tear apart the school's young, squishy magicians, and after the fabled graduation that usually kills about half of the already picked-off graduating class, barely a quarter of students make it. Galadriel, known as El, has to dodge these murderous mals, classmates turned dark, treacherous beasts in the vents, punishing curriculum, her own inclination towards dark magic, and a suspiciously helpful and heroic classmate if she hopes to graduate junior year.
Like all Harry Potter obsessed children, I've read my fair share of the magic school knockoffs that popped up to rake in our sweet, sweet income after the former's stunning success. I've read about fun schools, dark schools, elf schools, schools with just a little magic, schools with way too much magic, complicated schools, normal schools with some sparkle, and everything in between. While these have all varied in quality, none have come close to replicating the same unique nature of the Harry Potter franchise, likely in large part to their resemblance, as readers see "magic school" and can only think of it as a less impressive Hogwarts. This book stands out heavily from the rest, and is one of the first one of these I've read and genuinely thought "Hey, maybe this isn't a blatant attempt to capitalize on my generation's Harry Potter obsession." Instead of capitalizing on the fun shenanigans and beautiful imagery of magic as the Harry Potter books, and most subsequent knockoffs, this book is immediately sobering. Instead of trying to transport the reader to a world of magic beings and sparkling wands, the book opens with a near death experience of the main character, then proceeds to hammer in the normality of the situation. It introduces a strict barter system, the mundaneness of horrible deaths, the need for constant vigilance, and the constant threat of a horrible demise looming over every characters head in El's matter-of-fact, blunt voice. There's no funerals or scandals when someone dies, only remembering where there body is to watch out for the mals that will devour it. Every minute of these teenagers' lives is calculating the odds and risks to get them out alive, fully knowing that most of those with them won't make it out. And its a really, really fun read.
The way the authors shows the creative and all-encompassing ways these characters keep themselves safe from monsters that are literally everywhere makes every moment and character decision fascinating. Just getting a meal involves putting wards on tables, finding sun lamps to sit under, making sure your food isn't poisoned, avoiding the mals hiding in or around the food, and getting a spot far enough from the doors to make sure you aren't first in line if something large and hungry charges in. The amount of thought and detail and danger the author weaves into her world is truly astounding, and gives it that special flavor that finally isn't "Harry Potter but a little to the left." The tone and voice of the book is completely distinct from anything I've ever read. Lots of books try to sell that "we're constantly in danger" bit, but it rarely works since the main cast has plot armor and all the side characters that die get appropriate sadness and deep reflections on the fragility of life from the main characters. When someone dies in this book, they're dead, and that's it, and the characters have to move on or their distraction will get them dead too. It's like a war story set inside a high school, with children talking about rationing empathy and leaving their friends corpses on tables like its just a part of life. And its sad, sure, but the bluntness of it all makes it such a no-nonsense, tight narrative that you can't really grudge it that.
It helps that the narrator, El, is a very logical person, who views deaths as inconvenient but inevitable while still seeming to be a generally kind person. El herself is also very well fleshed out, clearly given her own distinct motivations and temperament. She's hardworking and resourceful, while also being bitingly sarcastic. She has flaws and problems, but watching her work through these throughout the story is immensely satisfying. Her friends and foils get the same treatment. While they're definitely not as well explored as El, they're all characters in their own right, who are also fun to watch survive. And we're all aware of the fact that it would be very easy and in character with the world for them to die, making the stakes gripping and giving the book a quality that makes it almost impossible to put down. There's also this really great main side character who acts like the classic YA protagonist with a ton of idealism and heroism and genuine kindness, and El just thinks he's a huge idiot for some really good reasons that are kind of a reflection on the usual idea of the "hero" as a whole, and their dynamic is super fun!
I read this book maybe six months ago, and I'm rereading it now, and I'm thinking of buying it because it is just that good! It has a distinct tone and a unique world that is explained by a main character we like and fleshed out by a school we can't help but want to know more about. The only real critique I have of this book is the fact that its a bit heavy on exposition, especially in the beginning, but the world is so strange and intense that I was fine learning about it, no matter how long it dragged on. All in all, this book is amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants salty and cool heroines, side characters with protagonist flavor, an extremely vivid and dangerous world, some good emotional wringing, and a conclusion that promises so much more!
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Genres:
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Powers of a Squirrel book jacket
North, Ryan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I was first made aware of this somewhat obscure Marvel superhero because I am a regular reader of Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics webcomic series. While I sat on the knowledge of Squirrel Girl's existence for some time, I finally broke down and bought the two-volume collection of North's imagining of the hero. In this first volume, Powers of a Squirrel, we get to know Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl), a computer scientist student studying at Empire State University.

As a much more comedic superhero compared to the likes of Iron Man or Captain America, Squirrel Girl's claim to fame is the fact that she is "Unbeatable." This includes defeating some of Marvel's most fearsome and powerful villains in unique ways that don't involve violence. Sure, sometimes Squirrel Girl has to get her paws dirty, but the more amusing storylines are the ones where she saves the day using unconventional squirrel-based techniques. That being said, it's a funny gimmick the first few times, then it gets repetitive near the end of this volume.

The art for this comic was decent, but the writing was certainly worth the price of admission. Even the little author notes at the bottom of the page were fun to read, despite being in a minuscule font that my 35-year-old eyes had trouble reading. There's a lot of suspension of disbelief in this collection of the first eight issues of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but honestly, what superhero comic book doesn't have some amount of this? And while Squirrel Girl is a bit more quirky than other superheroes, I do hope that she'll get her own MCU movie in the future.

A quirky and fun Marvel super hero, I give The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Powers of a Squirrel 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Core book jacket
Brett, Peter V.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While it took me a while to finally get around to the last book in the Demon Cycle series, I'm glad I put the time in to complete it. The initial concept laid out in The Warded Man was so interesting that I had to see it play out to the end. The Core wraps up this series with an ending that was mostly inevitable while also managing to add more subplots that merely padded out an already large conclusion to this series.

Overall, my main qualm with the Demon Cycle series is that it is a prime example of "Men Writing Women." This trope is evident in many places across this series but seems most egregious in The Core with its depiction of childbirth (especially the one at the beginning). I understand that many fantasy worlds are based on medieval Europe, but that doesn't mean the writer has to be so heavy-handed with sexism and misogyny. The fact that Leesha's character was written as a counterpoint to this doesn't hold up very well when she also eventually falls into these tropes.

Ultimately, The Core delivers on the "grand battle" between humans and demons that could only come about after the humans stopped killing themselves long enough to create an alliance against the demons. Even with a well-written climactic battle, it felt so delayed and crammed near the end of the book that it was almost a disappointment. However, the strength of the worldbuilding carried this book along, as it did in the previous books in this series. If you can ignore some of its rough edges, I recommend the Demon Cycle for anyone looking for dark adult fantasy.

An action-packed ending to a series with some "Men Writing Women" issues, I give The Core 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Stars Above book jacket
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Something I feel is underappreciated in book series is when authors don't try to cram in as much material and side stories as possible to pad each of the books to be longer than they should be. Keeping the core books of a series concise helps drive the main plot forward without requiring larger and larger volumes to tie up all the loose ends introduced along the way. The Lunar Chronicles excels in this. Look no further than the "prequel," Fairest, and the collection of short stories and epilogue that is Stars Above for proof of this restraint.

I can appreciate that worldbuilding will often create so much content that it doesn't always make sense to include it in the actual storytelling. Still, some origin stories might seem interesting, only to find out that most of these moments of exposition happened along the way as the character's motives are revealed to the reader. Ergo, some stories don't need to be told. Stars Above has some stories like this, but it also contains a few worth reading, the best of which is the pseudo-epilogue to the Lunar Chronicles.

With so many different fairy tales to pull from into the Lunar Chronicles, I'm glad that Marissa Meyer had some restraint in recognizing when some of them wouldn't work with the main narrative of Cinder's rise to claim her rightful throne. The "Little Mermaid" story in this collection works on its own, but I would find myself hard-pressed to see how it would add anything to the overarching plot of the Lunar Chronicles without reworking the whole thing. Even so, it's a good story that any fan of this series will likely enjoy.

Some necessary (and not so necessary) short stories that round out the Lunar Chronicles, I give Stars Above 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Winter book jacket
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If there's one thing I appreciate with a series, it's when all the loose ends are tied up by the end. In the fourth and final installment in the Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer manages to wrap up all the disparate parts of the story that had been running in parallel for three books. Not only does this series have a satisfying ending, but there's even enough time to flesh out the titular character, Winter, so that her presence makes sense in the context of the whole series. Still, even if the backstory for Levanna in Fairest isn't directly needed to understand more of Winter's character in this book, it certainly helped that I had already read it going into this final chapter of the series.

While my standard qualms with the "teenage girl" style of characterizations remain for this book (as it has for the entire series), the dialogue feels very natural (as it has for the entire series). Ultimately, though, it feels like the ending takes forever to arrive, especially since the audience has already known for some time that Cinder is the true heir—a fact that only became apparent to her in the last few books. Plus, there's the almost constant sexual tension that runs through these books as well. I've never wanted to scream at fictional characters, "Kiss already!" so much in my life.

I will say that the sci-fi fairy tale reimagining Meyer does in the Lunar Chronicles is unique in its interpretation while also remaining relatively close to the source material's references. And while there were moments where the characters might have been annoying, all of their motivations were clear and drove them to make decisions that felt logical based on their background. Overall, I think this has become one of my favorite series lately, and I'm now looking forward to reading more of what Marissa Meyer has to offer.

A satisfying ending to the best series of sci-fi fairy tale reimaginings, I give Winter 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Gearbreakers
Mikuta, Zoe Hana
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Gearbreakers is a story with two subjects. First, there's Eris, a revolutionary with a burning hatred for Godolia, the all powerful government that killed her parents and regulates her home with the giant mechas known as Windups. She has dedicated her life to destroying these Windups, and any who dare pilot them. Second, there's Sona, a Windup pilot that is scheming to destroy Godolia from the inside. When the two of them meet after one of Eris' destructive escapades goes sideways, their clashing backgrounds and mirrored desires forges an unlikely friendship, one that will change both of their lives as they know it.
This book is unusual for its genre from the get go. It's clearly a YA dystopia, with its young, child soldier protagonists with appropriately angsty personalities set against a terrifying yet monolithic totalitarian government. I've read plenty of these in my time, like most of my generation, and I'm very familiar with the elements. In this book, the usual elements are subverted immediately. Instead of starting out with a bland everyman that, despite having a hard life, isn't usually directly opposed to the system they're in, this book cuts to the chase. The first voice of the story, Sona, is introduced already chock-full of rage. The entire first chapter begins in medias res, completely skipping the usual revelations and training montages and directing us straight to a character who has just been transformed and is very ticked about this. This is something the book does very well: it trusts its audience to grasp the situation at hand, without needing the exposition many books like this are heavy in, often using heavy and lyrical prose to do so. This is another thing: the prose. The book is unexpectedly poetic in many places, which is also generally strange for the genre. I'm not talking about clunky metaphors about birds and technology, although there is a lot of stuff about technology. Just the writing itself is beautiful, interweaving metaphors and similes and personification and all that fun stuff seamlessly with the literal. This also makes the novel seem older than its setting and genre, more like an old folk tale about ancient gods and classic heroes than a YA dystopia about robots and lasers. Another bright spot in the novel is its vibrant tone, especially with the characters. Every character is brimming with emotion and character and motivations. And they're all unspeakably angry. This author is younger than most, and this definitely shows in the portrayal of the younger characters in the novel. In many books written by older authors, the teenage characters often exhibit the cynicism and stoicism of that older generation in the face of social injustice. While this leads to cool-headed, logical heroes to aspire to, none of them have the same instant relatability with the younger generation as these angry characters do. Most teenagers, in the face of unfairness, get unreasonably angry. Its a fact of life, and having unabashedly angry female teen characters who scream and yell and blow stuff up in the face of their terrible circumstances instead of passing out or something is surprisingly refreshing. The two main characters, and their deep seated anger in the face of trauma and injustice, as well as their different ways of reacting to their similar demons, makes for some great chemistry and explorations of their characters. I will admit, most other characters didn't get similar levels of development, but they were each memorable and likable in unique and fun ways.
All in all, I would simply describe this book as fun and refreshing. The action and characters and writing is all fun, and the way the author subverts typical expectations in unique and interesting ways is refreshing! I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for lots of robots, good emotional conflicts, lots of sadness, lots of laughs, and some cathartically angry female characters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Eve