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Adult Book Reviews

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Huckleberry Finn is a rebel against school, church, and the respectable society that wants to civilize him. Therefore, after faking his own death, Huck embarkes on a raft journey down the Mississippi River along with Jim, a runaway slave. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel full of shenanigans, adventures, schemes, and pranks in addition to deep contemplation that gives some great advice. This adventure is truly a classic and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or older since there is something in this book for all ages.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Code of Honor
Gratz, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Kamran and Darius Smith made a code of honor when they were kids; be the bravest of, the brave strongest of the strong ,help the helpless, kill all monsters. But when Darius graduates at west point, and then joins the army, he is captured by the al qaeda and forced to make public broadcasts about threats from the terrorist group. After that happened Kamran is taken to a government facility and decides to prove that Darius is innocent. He gets the help he needs from Ex-special forces officer Dane Redmond, Aaliya sayid, Jimmy Doran ,and Mickey Hagan. Together they help Kamran rescue Darius, but wait, one of someone might be a traitor to the team.

Reviewer's Name: Brendan M.
Animal Farm
Orwell, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Animal Farm is a dystopian novel about a farm overrun by the farm animals. The animals revolt and create their own hierarchy, which poses an overarching metaphor for humanity. Like many of Orwell’s books, this book exposes the flaws of mankind in an allegorical manner. I chose this book for its dystopian nature, and it did not disappoint. It is artful in its satire, and Orwell takes a clear stance on tyranny. This is among the best dystopian books I have read.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J
This Present Darkness
Peretti, Frank
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Back in high school, I had to read this book as part of my Religions class and thought it was pretty good. As I have been preparing for writing The Slumberealm Gambit, I decided to give This Present Darkness another read so I could recall how Frank E. Peretti combined the fantastical spirit world with the real world. For a book written in 1986, it’s aged surprisingly well, even if the demise of the newspaper and the rise of constant contact via cell phones would make this kind of book set in modern times a hard sell. Even so, I honestly wouldn’t mind if someone adapted this book into a movie, as the plot is thrilling and the action is top-notch.

Strangely enough, one of my qualms with this book is with its formatting and proofreading. There were a few missed typos, and the right-align text didn’t seem as professional as I would have hoped a widely-printed book would be. Regarding content, though, I wonder if the preacher side plot could have either been cut or enhanced so that it would have had the same intensity/focus as the newspaper main plot. Still, by the end of the book, the exciting conclusion is a result of all the pieces being put in place during the somewhat long buildup.

Some people may debate whether angels and demons are real, but this book certainly gives a fantastical look behind the curtain and imagines these beings in elaborate detail. The angels are all quietly patient, while the demons are gruesome and horrifying. The mixture of fantasy imagery and real-world situations is something I hope to soon accomplish in my own writing style, and this book merely reinforced how awesome it was when I read it for the first time more than a decade ago.

An action-filled and thrilling look behind the spiritual curtain, I give This Present Darkness 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Mildred Pierce
Cain, James M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s almost uncanny how timeless the story of Mildred Pierce remains to this day. I could easily see a similar story set in 2009, immediately following the housing crash—instead of following the Great Depression. Of course, this also is an unsettling reminder that many societal structures haven’t changed much since the 1940’s. The patriarchal society that existed then still exists to an extent today, which is troubling because of the increased difficulty women have in trying to get ahead in life, especially after something like a divorce or bankruptcy. The fact that the titular character was able to overcome these limitations speaks to her talent as much as to her luck.

The most noticeable differences between the Hollywood version with Joan Crawford and the source material of this book mainly come down to the amount of suggestive/objectionable material within it. This is likely due to the book’s slightly more pulpy origins, combined with the Hays Code that was prevalent in Hollywood at the time. In fact, the plot almost seems modern, despite its 1940’s roots. The women in Mildred Pierce were certainly more in control of their destinies than we’d like to think, given the era in which they lived.

While the basic rags-to-riches story is inspiring and does lead to some interesting character growth, the constant conflict between the main character and her daughter or husband or lover is what really drives the plot along. The only difference between how Mildred acts at the beginning of the book and how she acts at the end comes down to the simple accumulation of life experience. If she had encountered the kinds of problems when she was barely scraping by, she wouldn’t have reacted in the same way as when she had built a restaurant empire on the one skill she had: hospitality.

A story about a strangely modern woman who overcame patriarchal limitations, I give Mildred Pierce 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds
Slater, Lauren
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was okay. It takes the reader through the history of psychotrophic drugs. It's overall pretty dry. There are some parts that are very interesting, such as the author's struggles with psychotrophic drugs and the use of psychedelics in psychiatry, but overall I was pretty bored reading it. Maybe I'm not the target audience. Maybe it's geared more toward the academic set. But I did learn some, so I give it 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Thompson, Hunter S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was fantastic! It takes you on a drug-fueled, depraved, whirlwind tour of Las Vegas with Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his attorney. The sheer amount and variety of drugs ingested was enough to blow my mind, not to mention the shenanigans that occur as a result. There were some instances of depravity that curled my toes, but the ride was well worth it. Gonzo journalism rocks!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Call of the Wild
London, Jack
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I chose to read this book because it was cheap at the bookstore, and I am so glad that I read it. I have not read many realistic adventure books, but it is my new favorite genre. The Call of the Wild centers around a hard-working, strong dog named Buck who is tragically sold into hard labor. This book evokes sentiments from utter despair to immense joy, and Jack London’s writing style is simple yet eloquent. I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Awards:
The Martian
Weir, Andy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Martian is a stunningly captivating sci-fi book set in the near future. The main character, Mark Watney, is stranded on Mars and must fight for his survival. I picked this book because I love science fiction, and this is by far the best science fiction book I have ever read. The most impressive aspect of The Martian is its scientific realism; every little detail is rooted in real science. I cannot believe the amount of research and fact-checking that must have gone into writing this book. I think this book would be appealing to people who like science, as well as people who just like a good fiction read.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Kill the Farm Boy
Hearne, Kevin and Dawson, Delilah
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Normally, I’d start off my review with a synopsis, but plot wasn’t exactly the point of this book, so I’m going to skip it. What you need to know is this: Kill the Farm boy is a satirical fantasy novel that skewers the “chosen one” white male narrative. Tonally, it’s as if Deadpool were your dungeon master and he had recently swallowed a thesaurus. If that appeals to you, you will love this book. If not, pass on it.

I had fairly mixed feelings – humor is subjective, and while I sometimes found it funny, I also found it grating at times. For example, there was a chapter about trolls that had me in stitches. But there was also an entire chapter about the group entering the Morningwood that had me rolling my eyes. A certain type of audience will absolutely love this one. I was not that audience, but I still, for the most part, appreciated it for what it was as I generally found the writing quality to be very high. There’s little character development, and the plot is just a vehicle for jokes, but again, those things aren’t the point.

This is definitely one of those books that will be very hit-or-miss for people, and while it was mostly a miss for me, it’s one that I think I’ll be recommending to a lot of patrons, particularly teens. If you like Mel Brooks or Monty Python, you’ll probably like this too (it would make a pretty funny movie).

Thanks to Del Rey and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Kill the Farm Boy will be released on 24 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Fawkes
Brandes, Nadine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

If you aren’t familiar with Guy Fawkes Day, every year in England on 05 November, citizens burn Fawkes’ effigy to celebrate his failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Fawkes tells the story of Thomas Fawkes, Guy’s son, with a fantasy twist. In this world, folks have powers based on colors. Some folks can manipulate some colors, others all colors, which leads to different magical schools of thought and serves as a stand in for the Catholic-Protestant tensions of the time.

If you know anything about my reading preferences (I read mostly fantasy), this next thought is a bit shocking: the fantasy elements really ruin this book. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding is really shallow. You’ll be left with loads of questions about color power like: What if something is more than one color? Paint? How does that work? Why can’t someone who can control Green also control Blue and Yellow? Or vice versa? And so on.

I really wish the book had been written as straight historical fiction. A point about religious persecution could have been made (that was perhaps attempted, but for me it didn’t land). The story might not have dragged for the first three quarters of the book. Add to the weird pacing and lackluster worldbuilding the fact the main character manages both to be extremely judgmental and lack any convictions for most of the book, and you’ve got a book that really isn’t fun to read. I found myself skimming just to get through it.

With that being said, I did enjoy the last quarter of the book. The pacing picks up, Thomas develops a backbone, we get to spend some time with my favorite character (Emma!), and Guy Fawkes gets a tiny bit of development.

This wasn’t for me, but perhaps some folks will be swept away by the romance and intrigue. For fans of historical fiction that can look past the weak fantasy elements. 2 stars. Meh.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Netgalley for the free eARC, which I received for review consideration. Fawkes will be available for purchase on 10 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Timeline
Crichton, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It’s been a while since I read any Michael Crichton. I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic Park —and to a lesser extent, The Lost World . I enjoyed the action and the science that went into creating these stories, helping to educate as well as entertain (kind of like my own writing style, if I do say so myself :D). For Timeline, the science in question is more quantum in nature, but I felt the explanations given were sufficient to arrive at a time-travel narrative, even if it did require a small amount of scientific hand-waving. Also, a lot of my perceptions about the dark ages were completely flipped around through this book’s meticulous details.

Even though I liked the scientific and historical sections of this book, there were undoubtedly some weaknesses I cannot overlook. First of all, Crichton seems to like hammering home the idea that science as an entertainment business is a bad idea (a la Jurassic Park) but the corporate sub-plot seemed a little less thought out and didn’t play too much into the grand scheme of things. As for the main plot itself, it seemed distracted most of the time, rarely remembering why these characters were sent back in time in the first place. Some of the characters weren’t even that compelling either, which didn’t help.

I wanted to like this book more, but by the end of the narrative, I got the sense that this was more akin to an action-movie screenplay or video game plot than an actual book. The countdown to the climax was a little hard to keep track of earlier in the book, and it didn’t provide the needed tension early on that it did near the end. Plus, the characters were usually the ones calling out the timestamps anyway, making it mostly redundant. In the end, there were some neat ideas regarding quantum physics, time travel, and history that makes Timeline an educational read, even if it is only once.

A Crichton book heavy in action, but light on plot, I give Timeline 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Beartown
Backman, Fredrik
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Kind of a letdown. I have a tendency to hold sequels to their predecessor's excellence, which almost always results in disappointment (Yeah I know, the first book is always better, but I still have my hopes). The previous books written by this author were all amazing, I heartily recommend them. But Beartown is Backman's newest release, and not as good as the others. Still pretty good, but but excellent like the others. Essentially it's about a dying, small town hidden deep in isolated and cold mountains. But it thrives on hockey, so the town boys are constantly pushed to do better, be better. It follows the intertwined stories of multiple characters. Some of the hockey players, from the heavily privileged to those who have to do everything themselves. Some of the parents and coaches, who are struggling to keep it alive and thriving, but at the same time not break the boys. All in all, it was interesting and I don't regret reading it, but I don't think I'll reread it anytime soon.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Genres:
The Alchemist
Coelho, Paulo
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

To be honest, I only really bought this book because it came heavily recommended from the manager of the bookstore I was at. He claimed it was a book you could read over and over again, and get a new message from every time. But about a quarter of the way through, I admitted to myself it was an average book. It didn't have spectacular or eye-opening writing, and the plot was okay I guess. Essentially, it's about a young shepherd who meets a 'king' in a marketplace in Spain. The king convinces him that there is a Personal Legend everyone has in this world, and the universe conspires to help you achieve it. All throughout this book, Santiago (the shepherd) follows omens, prophecies, and recurring dreams in the hopes of finding a treasure by the Egyptian pyramids. On the way, he helps a crystal merchant, meets an English man who aspires to be an alchemist, the love of his life, and eventually the alchemist himself. In the end, he finds himself, the woman he loves, the treasure of a forgotten pirate (cliche! Boo!), and he accomplishes his Personal Legend. It was okay, but really generic writing and not a very interesting plot. Who knows? Maybe the message will change when I read it again. But I rather doubt it.

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
The Help
Stockett, Kathryn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After watching the critically acclaimed movie I could not help but read Kathryn Stocket’s book, The Help. Watching the movie before reading the book is something I rarely do, and I knew the book would be better in this case, but I underestimated just how good the book would be.

The Help takes place in the 1960s and is a about a girl named Skeeter who wants to write a book about the African Americans who help in white households. However, different chapters are narrated by different characters so each character has somewhat their own story within the story.

This may be a bold statement, but The Help is my favorite book I have ever read. As an avid reader, I loved how long the book was. The book did not seem to end and the characters were so interesting, I didn’t want it to. Stocket’s writing abilities are phenomenal and the fact that each character was so distinctly different from one another was very impressive. I enjoyed the different chapters being narrated by different characters so much since I got to see what each character was thinking and feeling. I also loved the descriptions in the book. It wasn’t so descriptive that it got boring but
it also wasn’t so little that you couldn’t picture the situation. It was the perfect amount and it added to the reality of the story so well.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, especially for long summer reading. The only thing that I can think of that wasn’t great about the book were two specific chapters. They weren’t awful, I just felt that the book could have easily done without them. But obviously they didn’t really take away from the story and I still adore this book.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn P.
Genres:
Siddhartha
Hesse, Hermann
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Siddhartha is a tale of a young man who lives many different lives, from a Brahmin's son to an ascetic to a wealthy merchant. He does this all to find inner peace, or nirvana. I liked this book because of its style of narration. I have learned about Buddhism before from textbooks, but this style of information is so much more interesting. Siddhartha has many character flaws, but he eventually manages to wash them away in the cycle of time. Reading this book is a very introspective experience that everyone should have.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Great Gatsby is a classic set in the Roaring Twenties. It exposes the flaws in the very ideals that built America--wealth, beauty, and the American Dream. The tone of this book is despondent, and every character is tragic in one way or another. Indeed, this is a book of many emotions, some even gut-wrenching. My favorite aspect of this book is how Fitzgerald uses fiction to talk about very real issues. I strongly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
Into the Wild
Krakauer, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Into the Wild is a nonfiction narrative of the life of Christopher McCandless, a man who ventured into the wilderness of Alaska to live a self-sustained life. At first, I thought this book was awfully dry, but I soon warmed up to Krakauer's writing style. In fact, Into the Wild ended up being so thrilling and intriguing that I couldn't put it down. The best part of this book is the inspiration it provides. It talks about McCandless's reasons for leaving civilization behind, and it also mentions many transcendentalist authors. I now love nonfiction adventure. Everyone should read this book.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Book Review: The Brothers Karamazov
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I enjoyed listening to this book. The narrator was fantastic. I found I had to look up plot summaries to really get what was going on (thank you, wikipedia). The nicknames alone were confusing. I suppose that's to be expected with a novel this complicated. It seemed like every character in the book save Alyosha were selfish, immoral, and in a few instances downright depraved. This made it somewhat of a chore to listen to in some parts of the book as I couldn't root for anyone. But I enjoyed the epilogue, which ended on a positive note.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Interpreter of Maladies
Lahiri, Jhumpa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of short stories that reveal the immense cultural differences between America and India. Jhumpa Lahiri writes with such elegance that each individual story evokes a wide variety of emotions. My favorite part of this book is that all the stories come together to form a well-developed image of life in India compared to life in America. I also like that it does not portray one lifestyle as better than the other; rather, it just highlights the differences. Even in short stories, Jhumpa Lahiri has the ability of putting the reader in another person's shoes and immersing them in different cultures. Because of the beautiful writing, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in different cultures.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.

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