Adult Book Reviews

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Part 3, Stardust Crusaders, 01
Araki, Hirohiko
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The continuation of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure brings back old
characters with a fresh take and introduces us to new characters that make
Jotaro's group feel rounded. It is definitely different, but 100% recommend
it.

Reviewer's Name: William W.
Zen and the Art of Happiness
Prentiss, Chris
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This non-fiction book is a great guide full of life improvement tips.
In this book, Chris Prentiss guides you through different strategies on how to be the best you, how to be the happiest you, and so on. The author teaches you different ways to be happy based on many Chinese philosophies and personal experience. What I liked about this book, was how simple it was. The methods presented by the author can be done by anybody and doesn’t require anything else, yet, he still shows how effective his methods are through telling stories about successful friends of his who listened to his advice.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
The Last Wolf
Krasznahorkai, László
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This bundle of stories is an interesting read. It contains three stories about a writer facing an identity crisis, a hunter gone mad, and a final story about the impact of the hunter’s actions. The way this story is written can be often confusing and difficult to understand for casual readers. I personally didn't like this book, due to the bland, depressing, atmosphere of the setting, and the complexity of the sentences. Often times, it is difficult to tell when the narrator is talking or when he is thinking.
Regardless, I still believe it is a fine read for readers with an advanced vocabulary. Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
The Cozy Life
Edberg, Pia
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This guide provides an interesting approach to improving your life at home with a danish concept called hygge. In this book, different and interesting danish methods are presented, including how to make the most of your time with loved ones, what to avoid when participating in hygge, how to make your house a more relaxing atmosphere. Towards the end, there is a cookbook sharing many of the author’s favorite danish dishes. I found this book very helpful at giving ideas on ways to make your living space more relaxed and inviting, using things like lighting, plants, and cleanliness. In conclusion, I think this would be a nice book for anyone looking for ideas to throw a family reunion or looking to be a little more relaxed.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
City of Thieves
Benioff, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Could not put this book down. The story kept me guessing about what might happen next, but the two main characters were brought to life by the author's ever-present humor of humans in tough situations. One of the best books I've ever read.

Reviewer's Name: Karen P.
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: The Wedding Date
Stoneley, Zara
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Ugh. But I finished it. The writing was terrible and the plot was contrived. Such an annoying book. But, like I said, I finished it. The problem could be that this was more of a romance novel then chick lit. I don't like romances but I do like check lit. Either way, two thumbs down.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Les Misérables
Hugo, Victor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jean Valjean has been in prison for 19 years. On the day he is freed, he walks to the city of Digne, which is over thirty miles away. Exhausted, he searches for food and shelter, but is rejected at each place he goes to because he was a former convict. Finally he is told to ask the Bishop of Digne for help. The Bishop agrees without hesitation. Valjean wakes up early in the morning and steals the Bishop's silverware. He is caught and brought back to the Bishop, but the Bishop saves Valjean from returning to prison by pretending that the silverware was actually a gift. He even gives Valjean silver candlesticks as well. The Bishop convinces Valjean to turn around his life.

Exceptionally strong character development was a highlight for me. Some themes in this classic are sacrifice for others and unexpected generosity; for example, Valjean has an opportunity to shoot his worst enemy, but instead decides to free him. The plot also weaves the connections between characters magnificently. This book has made me experience emotions more strongly than any other book I've read.

Les Miserables is a relatively long novel; Victor Hugo (the author) is willing to become verbose frequently. I actually enjoyed its details, which made me more immersed in the story. If you don't usually read books with philosophy, it may take a little getting used to. Even if you have already watched the play, the book is still worth considering; there is plenty of extra material in the book that the play skips.

Reviewer's Name: Byron S.
Song for the Unraveling of the World
Evenson, Brian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

At the beginning of this year, one of my reading goals was to try a new genre. The short story genre is the genre I never new I needed until I read this book. The strength of short stories, in my opinion is the ability of the author to do a lot within a small amount of space; creating strong character development, great world building and meaningful messages within each story.

Within a few pages Everson manages to create character driven stories that are terrifying, full of paranoia and delusion and at the same time haunting and beautiful. From a girl without a face, to a therapist who never leaves his patience alone, to a film director willing to do anything to get the perfect final scene, these stories evoke a sense of fear and explores exactly what we will do to fulfill our most inhuman impulses. These stories provide a great introduction to a genre I now love. I can’t wait to see what else Everson does, he is definitely one to watch. Thank you to Eidelweiss and Coffee House press for the Digital Review Copy for review!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Lincoln's Last Trial
Abrams, Dan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Lincoln's Last Trial was a fantastic read and I could not recommend it more. The book follows Robert Roberts Hitt, a steno man - one who records what is said during a trial. His latest job is a trial where Peachy Quinn Harrison was accused of murder. Abraham Lincoln, a well-known lawyer, is hired to defend him. This trial's victory is what ended up launching Lincoln into the presidency, and was the presidential candidate's last murder trial. Everything said in this book is true, but it is written in the style of a fictional book, making it an easy read for anyone. As the author follows Hitt in the buildup to the trial and during it, he discusses various things relating to the events occurring at the time. This makes the pace of the book fairly slow, as lots of information is given in-between events, but it is certainly worth it. Lincoln's genius as a lawyer, the advice he gave to law students, and details only his friends would know (he kept papers for cases in his hat!) are all revealed. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book, especially if law, history, and government are of interest.

Reviewer's Name: Rosina R.
Red Prophet
Card, Orson Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Continuing from the previous book in the Alvin Maker series, Red Prophet flashes back and shows certain events from a different point of view before driving forward into some fascinating alternate history. I continue to enjoy the fantastical elements brought into American history, even to the point of explaining how certain famous historical figures were the way they were. Although, if you know enough history, you’ll realize the fates of some of the characters presented in Red Prophet (William Henry Harrison, for instance) might not need the foreshadowing missing from this text.

While Seventh Son managed to set up this alternate history and establish some of its rules, Red Prophet delves into the action and excitement that comes from some of the more “kinetic” talents of these characters. Once the plot catches up with where Seventh Son left off, I was hooked. The interactions between Alvin and the Native Americans were quite interesting, and I found everything up until the climactic battle to be top-notch storytelling. Sure, it took a little while to get there, having to first set up the eponymous “Red Prophet” and his powers of observation, but it was worth it in the end.

My one qualm with this book lies in some of its more peculiar metaphor, allegory, and allusion. Near the end of the book, several scenes and sections feel entirely disjointed from the narrative. Perhaps they were to serve some “higher purpose” to lay out the moral of the story—or even the series as a whole. These scenes had characters who suddenly were ripped out of their normal behavior and put into a completely different context. And for what? To show that the history of the Native Americans is rich and varied while also infused with war and darkness? There had to be some other way to convey this than the way it was done here.

An action-packed follow-on to Seventh Son that gets a little too “heady” at times, I give Red Prophet 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Seventh Son
Card, Orson Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Having loved Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga, I decided to start into another of his series, Tales of Alvin Maker. I was used to his science fiction writing, so I thought it would be interesting to see how he handled semi-historical fiction. For the first book in a series, Seventh Son certainly has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s clear this book came on the heels of the Ender Saga, as there are a lot of parallels between characters and motifs that I just couldn’t ignore. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing by any means.

While the history of colonial America is the setting of Seventh Son, the fantasy elements added to it made for an interesting read. I did appreciate the distinctive “good vs. evil” conflict between the Makers and the Unmaker, even if it’s a little too tried and true. At the very least, while the religious characters had some amount of strawman characterization set against them, they were well rounded enough not to make the whole story seem too anti-Christian. They weren’t necessarily the enemies, but their ignorance factored into the enemy’s tactics.

Perhaps the little snippets of American history sprinkled throughout this book were what intrigued me the most. Sure, the superstition and “magic” involved in creating an alternate timeline of history made quite a bit of sense. However, without at least a cursory knowledge of these events and historical figures, then readers could potentially miss a lot of substance. As with the Ender Saga, Card uses his writing to dive into different theologies and philosophies that do more than merely entertain. The fact that books like this can be thought-provoking through solid characters is a testament to his talent as a writer.

An adequate start to a series with plenty of potential, I give Seventh Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is a fantastic novel that examines the racism present in the South during the Great Depression. The book includes several remarkable instances of justice being served to the widespread prejudice present, which captures the reader. All of the character are well developed and serve well in their roles, especially the main protagonist. The entire setting is also intriguing and forms a solid foundation for the plot. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone as it is a fascinating tale about Southern life.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Once and Future King
White, T.H.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Once and Future King, by T. H. White, is a great fantasy classic that is a retelling of the saga of King Arthur. The novel is stuffed with a mix of wonderful emotions that blend together to make a very unique fantasy story. The characters are all developed very well, especially the protagonist, and the plot fits them very well. The book has some very sorrowful scenes, but does a fantastic job of spacing them out with its humor. The only downside to the book is that it is for high-level readers.

If the story was put into a bit simpler language, it would relate to more people and reduce the amount of strain placed on the readers' mind while trying to interpret it. Overall, The Once and Future King is a great fantasy novel, but its use of complicated language takes away from the world it creates.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Guy Montag, a fireman who lives in the future where all books are banned, is required to burn them all. Guy then meets a strange girl who explains how books aren't so bad. He begins to spend more time with her and as more fire calls end up worse and worse, his point of view on books is eventually changed. Guy becomes a rebel to the fire company, as he tries to stand up to what is right. He later meets with an ex-professor who helps him generate a plan. Will he succeed? Read this book to find out. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read about an alternate point of view on the future and readers who like technology as well as robots.

Reviewer's Name: Miles
The Wedding Party Cover
Guillory, Jasmine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Maddie and Theo have known and disliked each other for a long time - as long as they've had the same best friend, the newly engaged Alexa Munroe. When they end up hooking up after Alexa's engagement party, it was unexpected for both of them to say the least. They both end up in the wedding party, and they know they will be thrown together more often. When they find themselves unable to resist a second hook-up, they put some rules into place, the chief one being that they'd only hook up until the wedding and then they'd go their separate ways forever.

If you read that synopsis and thought that you knew exactly where this book is headed, then you are correct! This is a very straightforward romance. What you see is what you get. I was expecting a little more. I thought it would be a comedy or maybe there would be some political commentary since our leads are both people of color but neither of those things were present. That said, I actually found the straight-up nature of this read to be surprisingly refreshing. I knew exactly what I was going to get and I got it. I didn’t learn anything new, and some aspects of the story were frustrating (for example, they don’t hate each other so much as tolerate each other with mild annoyance) , but all was resolved by the end. It was a good palate cleanser, and next time I don’t know what I’m in the mood for, I may pick up a Guillory book.

To be completely honest, I don’t read a ton of romance (which is how I would classify this book, perhaps mistakenly). If you like contemporary romance, I see no reason that you wouldn’t like this one – its a sexy read with believable characters and scenarios. 3 stars. Despite myself, I ended up kind of liking it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley publishing for the advance copy which I got in exchange for an unbiased review. The Wedding Party will be available on 16 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Nightflyers
Martin, George R. R.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Those who are familiar with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series may be lamenting the end of the semi-faithful Game of Thrones television show. In the time we’ll all have to wait until the next Song of Ice and Fire book comes out, there are other little stories from this author to satiate our appetite. Nightflyers is a short novella by Martin that also seems to be hinging itself on the success of Game of Thrones, albeit in the science fiction genre instead of high fantasy.

Considering how verbose Martin can get with his works, it was almost refreshing to read a story that was so focused and short. Granted, even though Nightflyers is science fiction, all of the notable George R.R. Martin elements were present: mainly, sex and violence. Depending on your tolerance of these elements, I can say that they’re at least naturally integrated with this novella. Martin certainly seemed to have an adequate grasp of sci-fi to give this story a satisfying twist that drove the plot into the denouement.

Without giving too much away, I did appreciate the science (and pseudo-science) that was used to create an interesting story. Or, at least, the story was written in such a way—with a dash of horror sprinkled in to engage the reader—that prevented me from being bored with it. If it had been expanded out into a full-size book, I’m sure I could see where plenty of fluff could have been added in to reach the required word count. In the end, I’m glad that Martin kept this short, which works primarily to the story’s benefit.

A quintessential George R.R. Martin sci-fi novella, I give Nightflyers 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Micro
Crichton, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I liked Michael Crichton's writing. And what I mean by this is that I liked Jurassic Park (and to a lesser extent, The Lost World). Recently, I’ve been delving into a few of his other works, like Timeline and Micro. I understand that authors like Crichton excel in their genre—in this case, the technological thriller—but at what point does it just become the same old song and dance? Sure, I know a different author completed Micro and released posthumously. However, it mostly just felt like another re-hash of Jurassic Park mixed with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).

To Crichton’s credit, I feel his exploration of complex scientific principles in his writing are easy to understand and mostly accurate. For Micro, each bit of information that drove the plot seemed to make sense from a scientific standpoint. This was a plus considering how often the “shrink ray” sci-fi trope is done incorrectly. Of course, most places were pretty obvious where the science was being inserted since they didn’t necessarily flow as well as the other parts of the book.

My main qualm with Micro, aside from it containing all the standard Crichton tropes (e.g., “evil corporations”), is how the characters were practically indistinguishable from each other. The fact that they all primarily came from the same scientific laboratory and were thrust into the dangerous world of the microscopic didn’t help to keep track of who died and who lived. It was almost as if the author needed a large group of faceless characters to feed into the “drama” of trying to survive and return to standard size. None of their demises stuck with me other than being particularly grotesque and cringe-worthy.

A semi-unoriginal mashup of Jurassic Park and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, I give Micro 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
William Shakespeare's: The Jedi Doth Return
Doescher, Ian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. I enjoyed how there was some finality to the stories started back in A New Hope, and Empire Strikes Back. Plus, there were a ton of neat creatures (like the Rancor and Sarlacc) and machines (like the Speeder bikes and AT-STs) that grabbed my attention from a young age. Sure, I can understand the depth of Empire Strikes Back now that I’m an adult, but Return of the Jedi always holds that element of nostalgia for me.

So, how does the Shakespearean version of my favorite Star Wars story stack up? If anything, Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return is consistent with its predecessors, Verily, a New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back . I enjoyed the voice acting and the little changes that made the audiobook more than just a Shakespearean reading of the screenplay. Of course, having listened to three books of this fantastic mashup, it has almost overstayed its welcome. Almost. I still think it’s a genius fusion of two pop culture masterpieces, but at what point does it lose its originality?

Sure, The Jedi Doth Return adds some new bits like songs (which land just about as well as the “added” songs in the 1997 Special Edition re-release). Overall, though, I was a little taken aback at how little dialogue there was in it. Most of the action was described either in chorus or soliloquy, which merely highlighted how much action was present in the original movie. This is great for an action-packed conclusion on the big screen, but it doesn’t land quite as well on the printed page (or audiobook). Despite this, I still think fans of either Star Wars or Shakespeare (or both) should give it a read.

Another consistently funny mash-up of archaic speech and futuristic sci-fi, I give Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Book Review: According to a Source
Stern, Abby
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I can't believe I'm even saying this, but I really enjoyed this novel. It's about a tabloid reporter in Hollywood and is as vapid of a novel as you can probably imagine. Nonetheless, I found myself wanting to carve out time to read it. Much like cotton candy, it was empty calories but oh so good. Actually, while it starts out vapid, plot elements like friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships are visited with surprising aplomb. Should I be reading the great American novel instead of this? Perhaps, but sometimes it's necessary to eat junk food to appreciate quality cuisine.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Between Shades of Gray
Sepetys, Ruta
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Taking place during WWII... Lina, a fifteen-year-old girl, lives a peaceful and normal life drawing and going to school but when the NKVD, better known as Soviet officers, force them to leave, adventure and chaos abduct Lina's normal lifestyle. Lina, her brother Jonas, and her mom Elena have to travel by train living with the bare minimum to survive off of. From Soviet officers forcing them to work to stealing food to survive, Lina has to find a way to outlast WWII and the capture of her family. Her main goal through all this; to find her dad. This dramatic adventure written by Ruta Sepetys will pull you off your seat.
Reviewer's Age: 15

Reviewer's Name: Aiden F

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