Adult Book Reviews

The Fifth Season
Jemisin, N. K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy book with such a unique magic system in place. I truly enjoyed the amount of thought that went into a world where the main source of power was that of the earth itself. From magma to solid obelisks, the ability to control the vibrations of the planet (either to amplify or dampen) had an interesting and logical follow-through in its characters and storyline. I’m honestly looking forward to eventually starting the next book in the series since the world was built so well. It’s no wonder that it ended up winning the Hugo Award for that year.

While I suppose The Fifth Season is also partly a pseudo-post-apocalypse story, it was only shown in small snippets and references here and there. Consequently, this would make this story almost “modern fantasy” in comparison to some of the classics. Additionally, this would explain some of the character elements added with little to no explanation or relevance to the plot. It sometimes seems like the sexual encounters and fluid genders of these characters are included o merely hit a checkbox of “inclusivity.” Sure, people who relate to these characters feel like their represented, but if these traits don’t affect the plot, then it doesn’t matter about their sexuality at all.

I also found the bold choice of second-person POV to be a bit jarring when it spliced in the more traditional third-person narrative. Initially, I thought these segments were striking in the way that it pulled me into the story. That was until I was given a name and a purpose and any number of other traits that made the “you” in the story into a character that was basically repeated throughout. I get how these different characters interacted to tell a much broader story (which is again, part of the book’s strength) I just didn’t care for the reader’s identity to be given to them via the second person POV.

A uniquely written and crafted fantasy with one or two minor flaws, I give The Fifth Season 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
William Shakespeare's Get Thee...Back to the Future!
Doescher, Ian
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Having already listened to the audiobooks for the Shakespearean versions of the original Star Wars trilogy, I was curious to see how another beloved pop culture film would fare with the treatment. Get Thee…Back to the Future! had a bit more of a challenge when compared to the Star Wars stories. First, as the plot is set in (relatively) modern times, much of our technology had to be “explained” in Shakespearean format (e.g., a car is “a horseless carriage born on fumes of gas and flame”). At least the Star Wars stories seemed to fit in the Shakespearean timeframe a little better.

Despite this clash of modern and medieval, the transformation into Shakespearean form does end up working. I’d probably compare this to some of his comedies like The Taming of the Shrew , Twelfth Night , and Much Ado About Nothing , if for no other reason than the comedy of errors involved with Marty being hit on by his mother. I did appreciate some of the more heady references that were thrown in to make it seem more akin to something from Shakespeare’s era (the constant oedipal references were foremost among them).

One thing that seemed to be missing from the audiobook version of this was the sound effects and music that helped accentuate the Star Wars stories. Granted, Back to the Future didn’t have much in terms of sound effects. However, the music is iconic enough that it would have made a welcome addition. And by music, I mean Alan Silvestri’s score, since all the “pop songs” were addressed in the narrative and motif. Either way, it’s a short read and a fun little experiment to see how the “father of modern drama” can enhance (or ruin, depending on your tastes) our modern favorite films.

The Shakespearean comedy I didn’t know I needed, I give Get Thee…Back to the Future! 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Waste Lands
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Before I got into reading the Dark Tower series, I saw the movie adaptation. It’s honestly what inspired me to get into the books. While I was a little disappointed with The Gunslinger , The Drawing of the Three showed me the series’ true potential. Moving on from my favorite book in the series, we have The Waste Lands. It's sort of a mash-up of the two earlier books in terms of characters and plot points. However, it's ultimately less than the sum of their parts (and that’s mostly due to the ending). What strikes me with The Waste Lands is how it could have been better than it was.

Those who have seen the movie version of The Dark Tower will recognize a lot of scenes, if not a huge chunk of them. I can see why they cut the two most interesting characters from the film, especially since everyone ends up splitting off to go on their own journeys almost as soon as everyone finally comes together. And while I did appreciate the weird “robot animals” and the riddle motif, I was ultimately frustrated that this core group of four characters didn’t have more time to show what their inter-personal dynamic would evolve into.

At the very least, the strength of the overall series and the thorough and vivid descriptions of this fantasy world were enough to overcome my misgivings about this book. It’s still well done on a technical level, even if some of its better moments are likely to be explored in future volumes. The cliffhanger ending was a bit of a bummer, though, especially since it might be a while before I can get the next book in the series from my library any time soon. I’ll still read it eventually, though, if for no other reason than to see how these characters fare in their travels.

A great book with some wasted potential, I give The Waste Lands 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Book Review: Prince Caspian
Lewis, C.S.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are drawn back into Narnia 1,300 years in the future to help Prince Caspian defeat a terrible king and gain the throne.

This book was not nearly as good as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I listened to it on audio and while the narrator was good (Vanessa Regrave), the story left something to be desired. I know Prince Caspian is young, but he sounded like a whiny child to me. Over all, it was pretty good, but not great.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Big Little Lies
Moriarty, Liane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When a bullying issue arises in Kindergarten, several mothers duke it out on the elementary schoolyard. As we glimpse into the world of the three main mothers we see heart-wrenching elements unfold.

I didn't expect to get much out of this book. In fact, I thought it would be snarky and contrived. After all, the title smacks of drama. But I enjoyed it thoroughly, drama and all. I hadn't read the summary and didn't have any idea as to what would happen next. It was fun and powerful at the same time.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Giesbrecht, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Monster of Elendhaven follows two characters – Johann, the eponymous monster, and Florian, a mage that ultimately forces him to do his bidding. Mages are forbidden to exist in Elendhaven, and the locals in power kill Florian’s family, so Florian is out for revenge. And he’ll use Johann to ensure he gets it.

It’s rare that I wish a book was longer, but that’s definitely the case here. The worldbuilding was spectacular, as was the prose, but the plot was pretty basic, and the end jarring. I could have spent much longer in this dark, twisted world with our dark, twisted characters. I kept thinking of Patrick Suskind’s book, Perfume: A Story of a Murderer, as both of our characters were somewhat similar to the protagonist of that book. There’s a romance that I wouldn’t have minded so much, but again, it wasn’t given time to breathe in this short little novel.

TLDR: This book is nasty in that deliciously evil sort of way. If that’s your thing, you’ll love it. I wish it were a bit longer.

3.5 stars. Thanks to NetGalley and Tor for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Future of Another Timeline
Newitz, Annalee
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Tess is a time traveling member of the Daughters of Harriet, a group that does it's best to make their present time, 2022, a safe place for women, whether cis or trans. There's a men's right's activist group from further in the future trying to undermine their efforts by erasing the Daughters of Harriet and women's rights folks from the timeline. Meanwhile, in 1992, teenager Beth, a friend from Tess' past, finds herself in a bit of a pickle. She and her friends kill a boy who was in the process of sexually assaulting their friend. This starts the girls down a murderous path that Tess will do her best to stop.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I usually enjoy time travel, unless its being used as a cheap plot device which was definitely not the case here. Newitz did a lot of homework for this one - the historical notes at the end were really interesting and trips to the past often include historical figures. The story alternates between Tess and Beth with a few other perspectives thrown in on occasion. Tess mainly splits her time between the late 1800s (easily my favorite parts), the early 1990s and her present in 2022, while Beth's story is firmly situated in 1992. While I enjoyed both stories, I never really felt compelled to read the book. Both perspectives were interesting, but not captivating or thought-provoking (though I suspect the book will provide plenty of thinking material for some readers). As a result, certain plot points felt unnecessary and the book felt overlong. I really hated the way Tess' story ended. Nonetheless, its an enjoyable read that makes a great point (women are people too, who knew?) that I would recommend to science fiction readers that are interested in women, women's and LGBT rights. There's also quite a bit of 90's punk rock that readers of a certain age will love. The ending is also quite optimistic, which I wasn't expecting, but did welcome.

TLDR: The Future of Another Timeline is interesting book full of time travel shenanigans that is plagued by the same issues that all time travel book face. Ultimately, while the book was fun, feminist and full of salient social commentary, it wasn't compelling.

3 stars - I liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Tor for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Future of Another Timeline will be available for purchase on 24 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: No Judgments
Cabot, Meg
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

First, before I go any further with this review, if you are ordered to evacuate, for goodness sake, EVACUATE. Doing anything else is putting not just your life at risk, but those of the emergency responders as well. It’s just not ok.

Alrighty then, I’m going to hop off my soapbox.

After the death of her father, an assault, and a bad breakup, Bree has decided to flee New York in search of warmer, more gentle climes…and people. As a current resident of Little Bridge Island (a small key in FL), she’s not excited when the first hurricane she experiences is a Category 5. She decides to stick it out in Little Bridge with her employers, the Hartwells and their hot-if-unavailable playboy son, Drew. No Judgements follows Bree’s exploits before, during and after the hurricane.

Meg Cabot’s books are always hit-or-miss for me, and unfortunately, this one was the latter. There were a few things that were approached in a completely inappropriate way. For example, our heroine deciding not to leave Little Bridge even though literally everyone she knows is begging her to evacuate, she has no experience with hurricanes, and she lives in an apartment that’s only eight feet above sea level. There’s also some insane gun usage later in the book, and a grown adult solves an issue with his fists and is lionized for it. No no no no no. The book, being a romantic comedy, has some fun romantic moments, but a lot of the comedy felt, again, borderline inappropriate to me. Hopefully some of those jokes are removed before the book is published.

Why is the protagonist 25? This book would’ve been much more interesting if it were about an older protagonist, and this woman, to me, did not act like most 25 year olds that I know. She acted like she was a teenager, and not a very smart or mature one at that (see above examples). Romantic comedies featuring twenty-somethings are a dime-a-dozen. I wish Cabot had taken a risk here. The male lead is not any better. He likes animals and is hot, and we don’t learn much else about him. They do fall in love instantly, though, so…yay?

As someone who grew up in a hurricane affected area, I think the idea of a romantic comedy centered around a hurricane is a fabulous idea. I just wish the execution had been less offensive. I did like the pet-rescue sub-plot, though.

Even though I didn’t enjoy this book, I’ll still check out Meg Cabot’s next one and keep recommending those books of hers that I do like (for instance, Insatiable or Queen of Babble). I mean, I read this book in a day, so that says something, right? I think plenty of readers will enjoy it. For me, though, it was a 1 star read: I didn’t like it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the electronic advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. No Judgements will be released on 24 September, but you can put your copy of the book on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Detective Cross
Patterson, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Packed with action and intensity, Detective Cross is a mystery-action that will have you on the edge of your seat for the entire duration of the book.
The plot starts with a bomber planting bombs in national parks. Police search and defuse the bombs, only for more to be planted the next day. The serial bomber keeps on planting more and more, with the authorities always a step behind. I would highly recommend this book, as it had me on edge the whole time, with its accurate details and action packed plot. Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Great Gatsby is truly a masterpiece. The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick and his mysterious neighbor Gatsby. Gatsby is very wealthy and throws grand parties, yet has a mysterious and possibly immoral past.
Fitzgerald is a master of imagery, character development, and mystery. Set during the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby is a fascinating commentary on life in America. I understand why The Great Gatsby is a classic and many students are required to read it. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful book that any reader from high school to adults can enjoy and learn something from.

Reviewer's Name: John B
Awards:
The Way of Kings
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The highlight of The Way of Kings is assuredly the masterful world building. Sanderson manages to craft a fantastical and believable world with unique quirks and mountains of lore. With an exciting narrative to boot, this book (over a thousand pages long) tends to threaten other menial activities such as sleep. Though occasionally losing momentum through its frequent shift of character viewpoints, The Way of Kings is definitely a worthwhile read with compelling characters and gripping action.

Reviewer's Name: Evan T
Genres:
Book Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Lewis, C.S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I listened to this on CD. The narrator was fantastic. The book was also fantastic. Well written, aimed at younger readers, but still enjoyable by adults. There's a reason why this book is a classic. The story had me thinking about bravery and forgiveness, but the Edmund story line was a bit frustrating. His siblings were kinder than I would've been, although I have to remember that he was just a child. All in all, a must-read, or listen.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Becoming
Obama, Michelle
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book is compelling and Michelle is a very interesting read. It's refreshingly honest and shows their true struggles. And I can relate to how she feels about politics. Michelle is grounded and illuminating giving the book a lot of value.

Reviewer's Name: Cheryl T.
Target Alex Cross
Patterson, James
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Another solid Patterson book, but didn't seem as realistic in how Alex Cross resolved the murders. He just seemed to "know" which takes some of the fun out of it. Of course, he leaves you with a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Cheryl T.
Venomous
Wilcox, Christie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Explore the effects of many venoms and venomous animals from across the world and their interactions with humans from the stunningly potent bullet ant to the awesomely efficient komodo dragon in this nonfiction exploration of various creatures' venoms. The author does a commendable job of portraying dangerously venomous animals in ways to give them well earned respect andf fear, rather than just fear mongering. The book follows some of the author's experiences and the experiences of others to accurately show how the animals behave and how their venoms act in a personable method. The author also describes how the different venoms work in a scientific approach with her personal experiences with stings, providing multiple perspectives on the effects of certain venoms. Overall, I enjoyed how the author provided multiple perspectives of different animals and how she showed how dangerous some animals are while instilling respect for said animals. I would recommend this to anyone who has attended college level biology courses who want to study the venoms of certain animals due to the use of more advanced terminology.

Reviewer's Name: Gabriel P
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Rovelli, Carlo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an informative and very useful guide to several aspects of physics, ranging from relativity to the various theories surrounding the very fabric of our universe. Anyone reading this should, however, have some background information to basic physics as this book covers some basics surrounding more complex concepts of physics such as quanta and time. The author simplifies the concepts down and organizes them into seven lessons that become progressively more complex or confusing so I would suggest any potential readers to not skip around the book. I rather enjoy the progression of the book and how the author made the complex theories understandable to the average person who is interested in the more confusing concepts of physics. I would recomend this to anyone who wants to understand more about physics and get an small taste of the most complex ideas of physics.

Reviewer's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Gabriel P
Killer Cocktail
Kiely, Tracy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this story, Nic and Nigel, who are Hollywood celebrities found some clips from the set of A Winter’s Night. Which is a movie from 2 decades ago known because of the great story and the behind the scenes drama, including the death of a celebrity. But a burglary occurs, convincing the couple that there may be someone on those clips who doesn’t want to be seen. The book is filled with gossip about fictional stars who are always at each other's throats, and a dog who is also in on the fun. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good mystery.

Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Genres:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Foer, Jonathan Safran
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows a nine-year-old boy named Oscar coming to terms with life after his father's death on 9/11. When looking through his dad's things, Oscar breaks a vase and finds a key and a mysterious envelope labeled "Black". He decides to embark on a mission to find every person named Black in New York City in an attempt to find the one Black who knew his father. Along the way, he meets new friends and discovers more about those he already knew. This book is written from the alternating perspectives of Oscar, his grandmother, and his mute grandfather whom Oscar has never met. This adds an interesting layer to the story, as Oscar lost a parent in 9/11 and his grandparents, both children at the time, lost their families in the bombing of Dresden. This shows a theme throughout this book that grief from war and terror is universal. This book's overall commentary on the human experience and grief, both individual and collectively experienced by a nation, shows the skill and thoughtfulness of the author. On a personal level, I did not find the characters particularly enticing and had a hard time following the plot at times, but I would still recommend the book, especially to someone with an interest in 9/11 or the world wars.

Reviewer's Name: McKenna R
The Help
Stockett, Kathryn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Help is a novel set in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960's, written by Kathryn Stockett. The main character, Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, is a aspiring journalist who lives with her parents and has no intention of starting a family like all of her friends; what she really wants is to be a writer. She decides to take a big risk and interview the help--the African American women who work in the households of white families to make a living--and write about their experiences. Kathryn Stockett's novel follows the lives of three women: Skeeter and two African American women: Aibileen and Minnie. The Help is spectacularly written and very accurately depicts society during segregation. It will make readers laugh out loud, cry, and connect with the characters. The plot is unpredictable and enjoyable, told through several perspectives which creates the perfect character development.
I strongly recommend this book to all readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H
Genres:
The Odyssey
Homer
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by Homer, and it is a literary classic about two great quests. Ten years after the fall of Troy, Odysseus still hasn't returned home to Ithaca, and his house is plagued with suitors wanting to marry his wife, Penelope. His son, Telemachus, feels overwhelmed but is sure that Odysseus isn't dead. With the help of the goddess Athena, he sets off to search for his father as the reader learns more about Odysseus's previous journey and resulting enslavement. Telemachus encounters many obstacles which shape him and build his confidence by the end of the story.
Although this book is a classic and was probably very popular in ancient Greece, it is not an enjoyable book to read. There is too much unnecessary dialogue, and the plot is excessively long. Due to the old language and lengthy descriptions, reading The Odyssey is a very strenuous task.

Reviewer's Name: Alexa H

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