Adult Book Reviews

The Screwtape Letters
Lewis, C. S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a novel told in correspondence. Specifically, letters back and forth between a demon called Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood. These demons write to one another about all sorts of things, as families do, but mainly the humans. In this book, humans are the occupation of demons. Keeping them distracted, discontent, and leading them to misery is a merit of any accomplished demon. Readers will enjoy Wormwood's questions of "why must we do this?" or "is there a better way?" as he struggles with his mission to lead humans astray. Screwtape and Wormwood discuss many relevant issues of our own time, and the subject of spiritual warfare is present throughout. The Screwtape Letters is highly recommended for fans of Lewis as an introduction to more serious work or works on theology.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
The Great Divorce book jacket
Lewis, C. S.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis is a metaphysical novel following a bus tour through the afterlife. Strangers embark on wild journey through Heaven, Hell, and everything in between. As the story unfolds, characters realize every choice they make has a consequence, and their eternal destinies await them. Lewis speaks to universal experiences of grief, loneliness, and tragedy; his characters' stories are slowly told throughout the novel. Readers will enjoy the characters with varying backstories, explaining why they got on the bus tour. Follow humanity and hope unveiled in The Great Divorce. Next Stop: your bookshelf!

Reviewer's Name: Lily
John Dies at the End book jacket
Wong, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

John Dies at the End is a story on two levels. On hand hand, it's a poignant exploration of the darkness of humanity, the fear of the unknown, the tragedies of life, and the devastating realities we exist besides everyday. But also, it's about two idiots on a space drug and their strangely resilient dog.
This book should be the blueprint for every dark comedy. It isn't a needlessly tragic story with a few laughs thrown in or a joke fest that undercuts every poignant moment. It blends comedy and tragedy seamlessly, balances it perfectly, and hits it for a home run with meticulous writing and characters. This is mostly done by finding the hilarity in tragedy, specifically the tragedy of life. This book is strangely and wonderfully existential for being mostly about shadows and movie monsters, a very classic demons of a character mirrored by demons of the world. The characters in general are stellar, with so many flaws and so much cynicism but with some shining nuggets of morality and love that makes them very easy to root for.
The entire thing is a joke that takes itself seriously in the best way possible. There are horrible moments of death and gore and dehumanization, and I would definitely look up some content warnings, but it's still such a fun ride. One minute there's gruesome character deaths and existential dread and body horror and such, the next minute one of the characters need to just kill the alien larvae quickly to get to work on time. Or their dog explodes and shows up like two days later and they don't care enough to investigate that. It's a rollercoaster of mood swings, but in a good way.
All in all, I don't know how to describe this book without using far too many words. Basically, despite some anticlimactic moments and weaker plot structure, this is a perfect dark comedy. I'd recommend this to any fans of horror, humor, existential dread, nihilistic humor, and well-written alien drugs!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Silent Patient
Michaelides, Alex
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This eerie thriller was interesting, and I could have never guessed the plot twist! The Silent Patient follows a psychotherapist named Theo who is intrigued by patient Alicia's story of murdering her husband without warning or motive. She becomes mute and is resistant to talk about what happened that night, but Theo is determined to change that. Each chapter was engaging and added to the mystery of what led to the murder. Plus, the setting of a psychiatric hospital added to the grim and suspenseful tone of the book. By the very end, I was a bit confused by the plot twist because once it was revealed, it seemed like the characters totally changed personalities. Nevertheless, it was still a great book.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Wild Horse Country
Philipps, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wild Horse Country, written by two time Pulitzer Prize winner and Colorado native David Philipps, is a masterpiece of investigative journalism. Philipps goes to every corner of the country to explore the current state of one of the final remnants of the Wild West: Mustangs. Even without a previous interest in wild horses and their current happenings, readers will be immersed in the stories of how they came to be, the people who have saved them, the people who haven't wanted them saved, and the people who have failed to do anything at all. Philipps explores the situation so fully, and immerses himself in the journey of learning, but still somehow manages to create a book that is unbiased and logical, rather than one based in the individual perspectives he sought out to chronicle in his book's pages. Each story, each piece of research and investigation, is captivating and beautifully written, but even more impressive than the stories and investigation themselves is the way the book can inspire a reader to do something. Not only within the situation of the wild horse, but in the everyday situations that surround us, Philipps inspires readers to learn.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Genres:
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas, Alexandre
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Count of Monte Cristo serves as a literary masterpiece in both its prose and its raw images of humanity. Following Edmond Dantés on a journey of injustice, desperation, vengeance, success, readers are immersed in over a thousand pages of story about morality and the human experience. Through the chronicles of Dantés, his ruses, and his eventual persona, the Count of Monte Cristo, readers are able to explore France high society during the Napoleonic Wars, but also the injustices within the lower classes, and stories from everyday life of prisoners, laborers, and those outside of the elite. At its core, it's a book of adventure and romance, but the adventure is not without purpose. The manipulation, disappointment, and pure emotion are the driving forces of each character, and what makes the book such a special read.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
The Things They Carried
O'Brien, Tim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Things They Carried is a modern necessity. A series of stories and reflections follow the journey of a hypothetical O'Brien and his squad as they 'hump' through the mountains and forests of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The book plays with the ideas of reality and storytelling, and forces readers to construct a robust and complex understanding of the stories of war and the life after. At points, it becomes almost impossible to discern between reality and falsities, and the book itself is an intellectual journey. The stories tell the seemingly exciting and eventful moments of the war, but put a special emphasis on the trauma and shocking notes of the war. O'Brien contrasts each element with an essential counterpart: excitement with terror, nonfiction with fiction; storytelling with teaching. It's this contrasting of truths that makes The Things They Carried a staple on any bookshelf, and a read worthy of any audience.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Breasts and Eggs
Kawakami, Mieko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Breasts and Eggs, lengthened from its original version, is a breakthrough piece for Mieko Kawakami, but also for the literary world. Her masterful prose is able to capture the attention of any reader, and draw anyone into the worlds she creates. The book is centered around a family of low-income Japanese women, battling their way through life and facing poverty, the image of their bodies, each other, and their desires for the future. Each conversation is written as if it's taking place in the readers' living room, and each sense is captured on every page. Kawakami works through seemingly every contemporary issue effortlessly, putting each piece into place within the story, instead of unnaturally breaking the flow of her storytelling She plays with issues of fertility through a character whose journey should, on paper, be shocking and different than anything readers have seen, but does it in a way that makes it feel real and beyond possible. The book is so fantastic that it could be read in a day if readers can't make themselves put it down, but it would be a rollercoaster of a day.

Reviewer's Name: Malachi
Crime and Punishment
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Crime and Punishment is a novel like no other. Set in Russia in the mid-1800s, Crime and Punishment watches the mental anguish suffered by a poor man forced to turn to murder in order to survive. The work has been cemented as one of the greatest pieces of psychological writing of all time and for good reason. Raskolnikov is a deeply tortured protagonist, and Dostoevsky brutally captures his emotions, fears, and motivations throughout the novel. As other characters with conflicting motivations threaten Raskolnikov's plans and schemes, his stress only becomes more powerful.
Crime and Punishment is not an easy novel by any means. The writing style is fairly archaic, and conversations can run on for what feels like forever. However, the story is so well thought out and executed that it deserves a read from anyone interested in psychology, literature, or even acting (the story serves as an excellent example of a character study from which one can take notes). Do not expect light reading or a feel-good story, as this book will take the reader into the desperation and pain experienced by the protagonist.
Crime and Punishment is one of the best novels of all time, and although it is a challenge to read, it is absolutely worth it for its views on society and man's mental state. If this review has sounded interesting to you, do yourself a favor and check it out today.

Reviewer's Name: Locke
Genres:
My Nonidentical Twin
Evie, Meg
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I enjoyed this nonfiction book a lot. This book was very informative of what Tourette’s Syndrome is. The author, Evie, walked the readers through the pros and cons of having Tourette’s Syndrome.
I follow Evie on social media platforms and see this journey documented through there too. However, her channel is not as informative as this book. I love how this book brings awareness to Tourette’s Syndrome and the people who suffer from it.
If any reader wants to be more aware of this condition, I recommend reading this well written autobiography by Evie Meg.

Reviewer's Name: Abigail
It
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Despite the high page count, I've been looking to reread It by Stephen King for some time. It was a great book; it just took some time to get through. Seven friends all team up to fight an other-worldly murderous clown after several people turn up dead in the small town of Derry. This clown feasts on your worst thoughts and fears, and destroys your mind as well as your body. The switch between the seven friends as kids versus adults was entertaining, because they handled emergency situations differently as well as having different motives because of how the clown affected their childhoods. The chapters could get tedious at times and have a lot of fluff (in a horror book? YES!). I would even call the last hundred or so pages strange as the final battle became sort of biblical and unlike the direction of the rest of the book. Still, if you're a fast reader and would like to get a horror book under your belt, try it out!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Genres:
Mexican Gothic
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Mexican Gothic follows an interesting take on haunted houses and distant ancestry. The resilient main character, Noemi, travels to a small town to visit her newly-married cousin at a house called High Place out of concern for her cousin's illness. The longer she stays, though, the more she realizes that there is something more sinister going on than an isolated family. Unlike some reviews I saw, the pacing was engaging for me. It was broken into short chapters with a lot of action in the last hundred or so pages, which is how a lot of thrillers are organized. This helped me be motivated to read more when the story line was not quite my taste. It was cool, however, that Noemi was realistic in her thoughts and reactions. It made the story feel more genuine as the plot got crazier. This isn't something I would necessarily recommend, but it was still enjoyable.

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Reid, Taylor Jenkins
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It is a deal breaker for me when a book's main character is unlikeable. This book was not like that. Evelyn is a talented and determined character who was able to break away from her traumatic experiences and pave the way for female actresses that don't match Hollywood's cookie cutter movie stars. She isn't always polite and malleable, which was cool to see when other books set in the same time period only focus on men's perspectives. I was invested in Evelyn's life throughout the progression of her seven marriages and how they ended. Monique is a scatter-brained but relatable character as well. I enjoyed how she and Evelyn interacted and the twist of how their stories intertwined. Try this book if you like historical fiction and being uplifted by female empowerment.

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

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is a collection of nine short stories about cultural differences. In each of the nine stories, the beautifully composed characters are taken through inspirational journeys, whether conflicts about romance, communication, cultural differences between India and America, or separation. Not all endings are happy, but a lesson can be learned from each story. It is a must-read book that challenges cultural differences and will transform a mindful reader's perspective. Overall, I would rate the book five out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Into the Wild book jacket
Krakauer, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a nonfiction story about a young man named Cris McCandless. After graduating college in 1991, McCandless left without a trace hitchhiking around the United States. During his travels, McCandless goes by the name Alex Supertramp wanting to reinvent his life. He meets and changes countless people's lives. McCandless had his sights set religiously on Alaska, thinking it his last grand odyssey. McCandless wanted to fend for himself in the Alaskan wilderness, which inevitably proved fatal. This beautifully written book is full of adventure and life lessons. Overall, I would rate this book four out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Sense and Sensibility book jacket
Austen, Jane
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Sense and Sensibility follows two sisters, Marianne and Elinor, who have been left destitute following their father's death. Marianne is an impulsive romantic who chases love wherever it will lead her. Elinor is logical and socially conscious, and hides her turbulent emotions even from those closest to her. Together, the two of them will survive scandal, family drama, and first loves in an attempt to find the prized middle ground between passionate expression and silent intelligence.
This is not the best Jane Austen novel. I've only read about one and a half of her other works, but I can guarantee anyone that this is not the best Jane Austen novel. My main problem with this work is that it has all the drawbacks of a Jane Austen classic (slow pace, meandering conversations, way too many characters) with none of the expected romantic investment.
There's still a lot of great stuff about this book. The best thing for me was the main character, Elinor. Elinor is the character through which we sees the story, which has a lot of benefits. It makes her sister's antics more endearing and impactful. It makes her romantic situation more sympathetic, which it needs. It also makes the book much more interesting, because Elinor is an amazing character! She's funny in the best, most sarcastic way possible. She's observant and intelligent, so its great to watch how her mind works. She deeply loves the people around her, and gives everyone new dimensions. She is what makes this book special. The other benefits, I'd say, is the general humor in the writing, the drama of the story, and the sustained level of tension.
The thing I don't like about this romance novel is that it doesn't do what its supposed to do: create a compelling romance. Both sisters have romances that both end somewhat in tragedy, which is supposed to be very sad and moving. This works a pretty well with Marianne, since her situation involved a lot of deceit and drama that was very fun to read. It does not work at all with Elinor. Elinor's love interest is present for very little of the novel, and is so boring that I already forgot his name for this review and wouldn't have remembered it while reading the book if Elinor didn't think about him so often. And she does think about him a lot, which doesn't make sense to the audience, since he's offered so little of himself as a character to be a compelling love interest. This wouldn't be as big of a problem if romance wasn't the central pivot of the book, but as it stands it's distracting to see the intelligent, charismatic lead longing after someone the audience couldn't care about less.
All in all, this book is still very good, and worth a read! I'd recommend this to anyone who likes regency romance, interesting female lead characters, moving emotion, and lots of drama!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Beach Read
Henry, Emily
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Emily Henry is an author whose work I've enjoyed, so Beach Read was on my list right away. The story follows January and Augustus, two accomplished novelists and college rivals, who become neighbors and work together to overcome writer's block caused by their resurfacing trauma. They challenge each other to new genres and experiences and definitely don't fall in love along the way. January is a fun character to read about during her most embarrassing and romantic moments, despite each situation being exaggerated so much that it felt silly. Augustus' personality was a little bland and I wished there was an actual reason for them to become enemies instead of the overused misunderstanding trope. However, the message of valuing family despite their faults and taking a leap of faith for the sake of your individuality is important. I'd say this book isn't life-changing, but good to read if you can relate to any struggles with parental relationships or feeling obligated to stay in a relationship that is just average.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Storm Front
Butcher, Jim
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Storm Break follows Harry Dresden, the only wizard-for-hire in the country, as he investigates a grisly murder that could only be done by dark magic. Along the way, he'll have to juggle the case of an abandoned wife, the demands of his only friend in the force, the pressures of a sentient skull, and the condemnation of a council that wants to end him once and for all.
I didn't give this book three stars because it's a decent book. I gave this book three stars because it does some things really, really well and some things really, really badly. Throughout my reading, my internal rating jumped between one and four stars, so I stuck with three because it was mostly a good book and two stars should be reserved for boring books. And this definitely wasn't boring.
On the good side, I enjoyed the world building. It remains typical enough to the urban fantasy realm to seem cozy without being boring. Every magical creature has the exciting things we're used to, with some extra thrown in for fun, and lots of personality to make up for any stereotypical writing. The creatures and world building sell the danger of the world, making the stakes very high in the first book, something I appreciate. I like the main character, Harry Dresden, because he's a funny guy. I mean funny in that he cracks actually funny jokes, as well as funny as in he doesn't ever think things through and the outcome is always hilarious. I also like how the Harry has a "sad hidden backstory", but its not really hidden or sad because he talks about it so matter-of-factly that you forget how messed up it is in context. I loved the mystery of the novel, even if some twists threw me for a loop. The writing could also be surprisingly emotional for whats meant to be a cynical cop novel, in a way that really makes you sympathize with the twisted situation the protagonist is in, as well as the innocent people wrapped up in it. The ending was very satisfying and climactic and well bought, and really kept me invested until the end. Basically, its a very good urban fantasy novel with a fascinating protagonist and a thrilling story!
Now for the really, really bad stuff. Or just one really, really bad thing. In short: the author of this story has no idea how to write women. Or, he knows how to write women, and he just chooses to do it in the worst way possible. Every single woman in this book is one of three things: desperate for help from the dashing protagonist, incredibly attractive for no reason and really into the protagonist, or a token "strong independent woman" who devolves into one of the other two types within chapters. And I cannot stress how jarring this was. The author can write witty dialogue and fantastical creatures and heart wrenching emotion, but he can't write a single female character without sexualizing or demeaning her in some way. It's like walking through a local art gallery full of beautiful landscapes and self portraits, and then out of the blue there's a two-year-old's finger painting. I could go on for hours about how bad it was, and I really want to, but basically: about half of the women in this book are prostitutes, about half of the women die horribly and helplessly, most of them hit on Dresden and he always assumes its to seduce him for nefarious purposes, and not a single one of them has more than a shred of autonomy, character, or soul. All of that had to go into the main character, who is amazing alone, but whenever he's around woman he feels like a gross power fantasy that I can't sympathize with until about ten pages after he shares a conversation with a female character.
All in all, this book is a frustration. I want to enjoy the world building and fun characters and funny moments and good plot, but every so often a woman is introduced and I have to resist the urge to track the author down and throw the book at his face. If you can suffer through that, there is some great writing to be found! If you can't, I don't blame you.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Leviathan Wakes
Corey, James S. A.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Leviathan Wakes is set in a time where humanity has reached the edges of the solar system, desperate to grow past the confines of Earth. Jim Holden is on a ship meant to drag ice from asteroids when he discovers a secret that kills most of his crew and puts the rest of them in horrible danger. Detective Miller has just been assigned to a throwaway missing persons case that is far more than it seems. The two men will find their stories colliding in a way that could either create a new, starward path for humanity...or end it for good.
This was one of the first serious, in-depth science fiction books I've read in a long time, since those types of books usually wear me out. But this one blew me away. The first surprise was the world building. Most science fiction has complex world building, its a staple of the genre. But this was beyond insane world building that still stuck itself between the lines, in small observations or bits of daily life. It hardly ever had to derail the story to go in depth about the mechanics of this world, but by the end my brain was still clogged with what felt like endless information about this fascinating future for humanity. The second surprise was in the characters. No one felt like a staple science fiction character. Detective Miller at first seemed like the stereotypical sad grizzled cop, but the complexity of his character blew everything I was expecting out of the water. Jim Holden at first looked like the paragon leader type, but he often gets things wrongs or makes bad choices in a way that still endeared us to his endlessly moral character. The side characters also deliver, with memorable personalities and motivations. The third surprise was in the plot. It starts slow, meandering its way through the characters, but then it takes off like a shot. There will be huge chunks of action and long bits of calm, but the two are well balanced. The twists are also wonderful, because they aren't trying to be surprising or upsetting. They just want to tell a good story. And it does that job well.
All in all, this book is wonderful in so many ways. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves complex science fiction, well-written characters, breathtaking action, and a twisting mystery alongside!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
This is How You Lose the Time War
El-Mohtar, Amal
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a correspondence set throughout the whole of time, between two people on opposite sides of an eternal war. Red is a member of the Agency, a stark, metallic technotopia wielding bionic creations to tear time into place. Blue is a part of the Garden, an organic monolith determined to sink its roots into every part of time. The two of them are the best of the best, clashing invisibly over and over through time and space. When one of them leaves a letter, it begins a conversation throughout time, one that will change both of them, and the world, forever.
This book was a phenomenal read. It was a difficult thing to work through, something that refused to hold your hand and guide you through the sudden shifts and strange situations. But after drowning for a little while, everything starts falling into place, and soon you can't tear yourself away from the pages. The prose was brilliant, bringing every place and century and emotion vividly into focus. The characters are endearing and heartbreaking, and their development as they grow to understand and care for each other is profound. The storylines were vivid and fascinating, creating a whole new meaning to "the butterfly effect." Even the world building, as intentionally vague as it is, is still understandable and entrancing. I honestly don't know what it is that made me obsess over this book. Maybe it was the evolution of the characters, transforming from hellbent killers to cautious friends. Maybe it was the distinctiveness of the two characters voices, made all the more special since both sides of the story are written only by their given author. Maybe its the fascinating world around the characters, the future dystopias and steampunk cities and sand swept temples. I don't know what it is, but its one beautiful, wild ride.
From what I can tell, most people either love or hate this story. The ones who love it give gushing reviews not dissimilar to mine. The ones who hate it call it confusing, obtuse hogwash that doesn't properly develop its world or characters enough to be compelling. I can't tell what side of the spectrum anyone is going to fall on, but I know that everyone should give this a chance. All in all, I recommend this book for anyone in the mood for strangely poetic science fiction, star-crossed enemies, or an examination of a universe that can be forever changed by the beating of wings.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve