Book Reviews by Genre: Fiction

The Nightingale book jacket
Hannah, Kristin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Originally I was interested in this book because it was highly praised among those who read it. It portrays two sisters and their lives in World War II. One named Isabelle and one named Vianne, it shows the different courses of their lives but in the end their own impact made on those around them. If you are interested in learned about women’s contribution in war this book is for you! I would recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their perspective on war, but be aware this book does touch on some topics that may be triggering. Overall, the Nightingale was a wonderful read that gave me more insight to women’s lives at the time and their contributions.

Grade 10

Reviewer's Name: Lilly
The Song of Achilles book jacket
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller is a stunning and deeply moving retelling of the Iliad that captivates from beginning to end, earning a solid 5 stars. Miller skillfully weaves a tale of love, friendship, and heroism, focusing on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. The narrative beautifully explores the complexities of their bond, providing a fresh perspective on the legendary characters. Miller's prose is both lyrical and evocative, effortlessly transporting readers to the ancient world. The emotional depth and nuance she brings to the characters make this retelling a triumph, resonating with readers on a profound level. "The Song of Achilles" is a masterpiece that seamlessly combines rich storytelling with timeless themes, earning its well-deserved 5-star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Project Hail Mary
Weir, Andy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing! it has twists and turns, and the author is amazing! The science is explained well enough that anyone can understand it. Also, whenever you think the book is done, it just goes, 'Here's another problem, Main character! good luck!" Also, the book is in the format of a 'White Room" story, meaning that the character has no memory, and has to figure everything all out, along with you! Would recommend to any sci fi fan over the age of 12.

Reviewer's Name: Nolan B.
The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

TW: A main theme of this book (and thus the review) is suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest finding a different book.

“The Midnight Library” is a story about Nora Seed, whose life has not gone how she’s expected. Worse yet, she feels as though it’s all her fault and her regrets weigh heavy on her. One night she decides to end her own life, but she wakes up in a library with her elementary school librarian. That’s when she gets the opportunity to live the lives she could have led if she’d made different decisions.

As the story goes along, we see many of Nora’s alternative lives. Some of them are just as disastrous as her regular life (her best friend dies, her husband cheats on her). Others are nearly perfect, but can’t be truly satisfying when she didn’t create them. I was glad that some of the alternate lives were good, otherwise it would have seemed like Nora’s original life was simply the lesser of two evils. All of them are interesting to read about. Another interesting aspect of the book is the library itself. The author knows when to reveal information and when to keep things vague.

There aren’t many characters to keep track of. Nora is the main character, and the reader gets a good sense of her interests and aspirations through her various lives. Her friends and family all get a decent amount of depth as well, though they’re not in focus most of the time.

I can’t pretend that I really resonated with the message of the book. I would have preferred if it focused a bit more on the good things that could happen in Nora’s future rather than the good things that happened in her alternate lives. However, that could be a problem exclusive to me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. It’s a fast read and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
What You are Looking For Is in the Library book jacket
Aoyama, Michiko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"What You Are Looking For Is in the Library" is a book about a library connected to a community center and the unusually perceptive librarian, Sayuri Komachi. The book is told through five stories of people . Along with the books they came for, Mrs. Komachi gives them an unrelated book and a felt gift. This leads them to discovering new perspectives on their problems and their lives.

All the characters in this book are delightful. Since there are five stories, each with a different main character, it would take too long to go over all of them. However, the standouts for me were Tomoka, Natsumi, and Mrs. Komachi herself. Tomoka was relatable in her struggles, but also had a proactive nature that made her likeable. Natsumi has an interesting story about motherhood that isn't seen much in modern media. And of course Mrs. Komachi tows the line between mysterious and friendly in a charming way. Every once in a while there will be a character that appears in multiple stories, and the crossovers are pleasant without being distracting.

The stories themselves are all quite simple. Someone receives insight after reading a book, usually talking with friends and neighbors as they decide on their life's path. Though they're all quite short, none of them feel incomplete or rushed.

I would recommend this book for people looking for a comforting read or a story about the power of books.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Rogue Protocol
Wells, Martha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

By this point in the Murderbot Diaries series, I'm used to the short length of these stories. I appreciate that there's still an overarching plot that the books are driving toward, but the bite-size adventures of the sentient AI robot are also entertaining by themselves. Now that the series is in a good groove by book three, I was glad to see the introduction of a foil to compare and contrast the main character's interactions with the humans.

The rogue SecUnit continues to find himself deeper into the shady dealings of humans, but with each interaction, he's finding it harder to hide who he is and what he's doing. That these "missions" he gives himself are a significant amount of effort for someone who would much rather be lazy and just watch vids all day seems contradictory until you realize that it's great character development—even if it's subtle. Raising the stakes with each book also helps to make this one the best one in the series to date. There has to be a point soon when things become fully out of the SecUnit's control.

It's always interesting to me how the characters that have stuck with me through the series (aside from the main character of course), are the other AIs and robots. In Rogue Protocol, I immediately fell in love with Miki, who showed the other side of human-robot relations as a pet/mascot. The contrast between Miki and the SecUnit was a fantastic plot device and I would love some kind of spinoff with those two characters (or characters like them). Unfortunately, the abrupt ending to this book left me a little disappointed, as I felt there needed to be more time with the characters to get their full range of emotions after the climax.

A great book filled with contrasting human-robot relations, I give Rogue Protocol 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
12 Months To Live
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jane Smith is a defense attorney, trying to defend a probably guilty client of three murders. Gripping, well paced with great character development.

Reviewer's Name: Jane R.
I Am Not Okay With This
Forsman, Charles
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I'm open to a lot of visual styles for graphic novels. It can be what elevates a mediocre story to something profound, but it can also tonally clash with the message and leave a muddled mess. Storytelling in this format is a challenge to pull off and few have been able to do so successfully. I Am Not Okay With This unfortunately falls into the other camp here. Even if this were just a novel without the "graphic" part, there's not much to recommend it.

Filled with cliches about what it's like to be a teenage girl, I Am Not Okay With This suffers from the "men writing women" trope. None of the interactions felt believable or realistic. Instead, they seemed forced through what a man thought these interactions should be based on minimal or merely pop culture research. None of it had the feel of anyone who has lived as a teenage girl in similar situations—psychic powers notwithstanding. This was why it leaned so heavily on the tropes commonly associated with girls in puberty and the male fetishes that go along with it.

I wasn't sure if this was trying to be edgy by focusing only on heavy subjects like sexuality, bullying, and suicide, but the simplistic art style felt too childish to accomplish any of these goals with any level of gravitas. There wasn't even a satisfying conclusion to anything, which would only be frustrating if this book wasn't such a quick read. I'm sure it's less of a time commitment than watching the Netflix show, but I still probably wouldn't recommend it (even if I haven't seen the Netflix show to compare against).

A mismatched graphic novel obviously written by a man, I give I Am Not Okay With This 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The It Girl
Ware, Ruth
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I love Ruth Ware but this was so disappointing I didn't even finish it, and I really tried. I was just so frustrated with the format and the characters that I no longer cared about the conclusion.
The back and forth format was really repetitive and annoying, and the characters all felt thin. The main character only had two modes, panic attack or despair, but the way it was written it was impossible to have empathy for her.
Her anxiety became very formulaic. The supporting characters were all very predictable, which is not good in a whodunit. I really hope she's back on her game with the next one as I liked every one of her books until now.

Reviewer's Name: Kristen S.
Genres:
The Spanish Love Deception book jacket
Armas, Elena
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lovable characters, an amazing plot, swoon-worthy chemistry, and a captivating writing style, what more could one ask for in a rom-com narrative? Like seriously. And those beautiful ideas are immaculately expressed in The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas. This book stole my heart—a truly well-done teaser love story. From the first page, Armas unfolds every parcel of the story with perfection, leaving just enough time before uncovering another equally interesting idea. The classic enemies-to-lovers trope is perfectly applied as mysterious and stone-cold Aaron meets open and bubby Catalina. At first, the motives are questionable; you’ll find yourself asking, “why would Catalina be soo adamant about finding a fake boyfriend to bring home for a wedding?” and if she hates Aaron with that much ferocity, “why did she put that aside and take him?” But as the plot unfolds, everything makes sense in a kinda sick way, and motives come to life. And through it all, Aaron and Catalina could not be more wholesome. They frankly stole my heart. It is honestly an emotional rollercoaster that I wish would never end. When it finally did, it was perfect.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The American Roommate Experiment book jacket
Armas, Elena
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is a better way to start a relationship with someone, your best friend’s cousin, than calling the cops on them? Answer: There is none, especially if it's a rom-com novel—the perfect first encounter. This is what happens to Rosie Graham when she unexpectedly comes across Lucas Martin, her best friend’s cousin, “breaking into her out of town friends apartment” and calls the cops. New flash, he was not breaking in; he had a key, but little did she know that this was the start of an excellent relationship and a well-written, feel-good book because everyone needs a decent, feel-good book in their lives, right? Well, at least for me, that book is not The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas. I mean, yes, technically, the novel is a feel-good book, but it is also so much more. It's about overcoming your past and moving forward. It’s about loving yourself and supporting others. It’s about allowing yourself to rely on others. The American Roommate Experiment is an emotional rollercoaster bundled up into 400 pages. That made me feel anywhere from devastated to ecstatic, to awe, to hate, and to love in a single chapter.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas as much as its prequel, The Spanish Love Deception. I found the plot too slow, even for a slow-burn-type book, and overly stacked with tropes. While I enjoy a good friends-to-lovers trope, in this case, I found it extremely frustrating, and generally, I found that Lucas and Rosie lacked the necessary chemistry. I mean, water and oil have better chemistry. Both Lucas and Rosie would, in my opinion, make better friends than lovers, and the romance piece felt like an afterthought in the plot and their relationship. It is still a well-written novel with fascinating characters and a well-needed message. I adored the character development that progressed but found the romance part severely lacking. The best way I would describe The American Roommate Experiment is a modern feel-good comedy, and if that is what you’re looking for? Great. It is a perfect read, but don’t go looking for a romance novel.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Life of Pi book jacket
Martel, Yann
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel recounts the major events of Pi's life before going into detail about him being stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. It has frequent anecdotes about zookeeping and religion, especially near the beginning. The main character, Pi Patel, is an extremly likable main character. Though he is not particularly colorful or eccentric, his devotion to God and resilience make the audience instantly emphasize with him. Richard Parker, the tiger, is also made interesting. Though he doesn't do anything out of the realm of possibility, it's always left unclear how he's going to respond to the current situation. The rest of the characters are not particularly deep, but they all serve their purpose.

The plot is fairly simple, focusing more on describing Pi's struggle in detail than twists and turns. Sitting on a boat for seven months is hard to make interesting, but this book rises to the occassion. Every change in circumstance is explored, and Pi has to respond in creative ways. In between the speeches about how to train a tiger and why a hyena is dangerous, there are themes about faith that are masterfully done. While I can't say I agree with everything that's said about religion, I do appriciate how it is explored.

I would reccomend this book to animal lovers, people who enjoy survival stories, and anyone looking for a unique story that will keep them hooked.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Love, Theoretically book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Okay, so the plot may be a little silly. A desperate adjunct physics professor, Elsie Hannaway, makes up for her pathetic paycheck by becoming people’s fake girlfriend. Does she enjoy her jobs? No. During the day, she deals with pathetic and entitled college students who couldn’t care less about physics. At night, she people-pleases to make enough to live. All while living in a probably rat-infested apartment. Whoever said academia was easy? And when she finally might get an actual well-paying job at MIT, she runs into Jack Smith, the older brother of her favorite client. Who may or may not think she works at a library?

That being said, the classic enemies-to-lovers trope and the quirky, witty characters complement the plot perfectly. The chemistry between Jack and Elsie is palpable. Frankly, Love, Theoretically, brings out the uncontrollable laughter and wholesome feelings everyone needs. However, this is definitely not my favorite Hazelwood book, and out of all the protagonists of her other books, Elsie just didn’t make the same spark. Throughout the whole book, Elsie needs constant approval from those around her, and despite being a wonderful, smart person, she lacks self-esteem. And I mean, I get it; some people have trouble with self-esteem, but Elsie’s people-pleasing tendencies are taken to too much of an extreme. And Jack, the most wholesome, caring person, sends mixed signals the whole book. The “you don’t like me” phase was too drawn out and, at times, annoying. Still, I enjoyed the light, pleasant read like always.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Eight Hundred Grapes book jacket
Dave, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Eight Hundred Grapes" by Laura Dave is an exceptional novel that effortlessly earns a well-deserved 5-star rating. Set against the picturesque backdrop of a California vineyard, the story intricately weaves together themes of love, family, and self-discovery. Laura Dave's storytelling prowess shines through, creating a narrative that is both emotionally resonant and utterly captivating.
The vineyard setting adds an extra layer of charm and uniqueness to the narrative, creating a vivid backdrop that complements the story's themes. The novel explores the complexities of family dynamics, the choices we make, and the impact these decisions have on our lives.
What sets "Eight Hundred Grapes" apart is its ability to balance romance, drama, and introspection seamlessly. Laura Dave's writing style is engaging, pulling the reader into the lives of the characters and making the book difficult to put down. Overall I found "Eight Hundred Grapes" to be a literary gem, offering a rich and satisfying reading experience that warrants the highest praise.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Caves of Steel book jacket
Asimov, Isaac
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As someone who generally stays away from science fiction books, I was pleasantly surprised by this venture outside my comfort zone. Elijah Baley is the main character, living thousands of years in the earth's future. In this time period, robots have become commonplace and other planets have been commonplace. Tension has grown between earth dwellers and the residents of the other planets (referred to as spacers). There are also concerns about the increasing number and sophistication of robots. Elijah, though less extreme than many of his colleagues, is not immune to this prejudice, and is less than happy when he has to team up with R. Daneel Olivaw, a spacer robot, to solve a homicide.

The characters are not deep or complex, but they are consistent and interesting. All characters have a purpose in the story, and most of them change in some way by the end. Elijah is likable, perhaps especially so because he's allowed to fail. He's shown to be incorrect in many of his initial beliefs, and makes many false assumptions, but he retains good qualities throughout it all. R. Daneel is an interesting take on the robot archetype. Though he's shown to be effective in his job and capable of change, he lacks essential human qualities that Elijah must make up for. The side characters all have clear motivations, personalities, and are interesting without being obtrusive.

The plot strikes a balance between complex and easy to follow. There are a great deal of plot twists and dead ends, but the story takes its time and allows the reader to process everything. I hope I re-read this book one day, so I am able to look for clues to the culprit that I might have missed the first time around.

I have no overt critiques. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it's not a deep philosophical experience. There are tcertainly hemes, but the book focuses more on excitement and intrigue than anything else. I would reccomend this book to sci-fi fans, and anyone looking to get into the genre.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Last Thing He Told Me book jacket
Dave, Laura
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"The Last Thing He Told Me" by Laura Dave is a gripping thriller that follows the life of Hannah Hall after her husband mysteriously disappears, leaving behind a note with the cryptic message, "Protect her." As Hannah unravels the secrets of her husband's past, she discovers hidden truths and forms an alliance with his teenage daughter. The novel masterfully blends suspense with emotional depth, exploring themes of love, trust, and the complexities of family dynamics.
In my opinion, "The Last Thing He Told Me" is a well-crafted and engaging story, deserving of a 4/5 rating. Laura Dave skillfully weaves a compelling narrative, keeping readers on the edge of their seats with unexpected twists and turns. The characters are vividly drawn, and the emotional journey they undergo adds layers to the plot. While the storytelling is strong, a bit more depth in certain explanations could enhance the reader's understanding of certain character motivations and plot intricacies. Nonetheless, the book succeeds in delivering a satisfying blend of mystery, emotion, and intrigue, making it a highly enjoyable read!

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Dark Tower
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For a series that spanned over two decades, it’s nice to see that The Dark Tower ends on a titular high note. Other series may lose steam or fade to mediocrity as the stories to tell become less interesting. Or the author dies. While this series narrowly avoided this fate, the meta subplots in the last few books were well out of the way for the grand finale that is The Dark Tower. I’m almost disappointed that more of the books in the series weren’t like this, since there were actual stakes involved.

I don’t normally think of Stephen King as an “action” writer, but the fight sequences in this book were absolutely superb. These enemies had the “final boss” gravitas that made the battles so entertaining to read. That there was an incredible new superpower introduced in this book makes me wish we had more stories about that character since it was such a great ability. It’s always a mark of a great ending that I almost want to keep reading to see what else happens in this world—even with all the loose ends tied up.

King definitely understood that he was never going to write the most satisfying ending for the Roland saga since it had built up for 20+ years. His solution was a great way to both leave it as the best ending we’d ever imagine while also providing a satisfactory conclusion to the Gunslinger finally arriving at the Dark Tower. That there were as many happy endings in this book as there were made the experience of saying goodbye that much more bittersweet. The Dark Tower isn’t a perfect series, but it’s solid from start to glorious finish.

The best ending that the Dark Tower series could ask for, I give The Dark Tower 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
They Both Die at the End
Silvera, Adam
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing! The story will honestly warm your heart and keep you on your toes. The characters' development is done so beautifully and you definitely get an idea about how important life is. Don't waste another moment and please read this book!

Reviewer's Name: Breanna
Infected
Sigler, Scott
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Stephen King has written most of the horror I’ve read. In deciding to branch out from the master of the genre, I saw the cover for this book in the listing of audiobooks for my library’s reader app and thought it looked interesting. While the horror here was more body/gross-out horror—which I didn’t have any issue with—there are other, deeper problems with this book. I’ll grant that in terms of audiobooks, it was an interesting recording with the sound effects and “alien voice” bits. However, I can’t say I recommend this book based on those merits alone.

Perhaps this is an artifact of the times, but a book that came out in 2008 has not aged well at all. First, is the abundance of “men writing women” tropes that not only minimize the female characters to minor roles but doesn’t consider that perhaps not everything has to be about sex. Furthermore, while the main character was a person of color, there were a lot of negative stereotypes and mildly hidden racism that came through. Reading this book made it feel like I had gotten inside the head of a “bro” guy, and it was pretty cringe.

I think the biggest problem was that this book was too cavalier with its “gross-out” factor without having enough suspense to justify the constant violence. When I didn’t care about any of the characters and the vignettes that split off to explore one-shot characters didn’t give me enough time to be empathetic for them, then who cares about the violence that happens to them? More often than not, the pacing felt so slow that I had to check how much time was left, hoping that at some point it would go faster.

A horror story that was scary for reasons other than its violence, I give Infected 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Brave New World book jacket
Huxley, Aldous
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Brave New World presents a uniquely disturbing dystopia- but unfortunately, that is where its strengths end. The plot, aside from the setting, is so loosely strung together that a main character, main storyline, or even main theme is unclear. The story meanders from one under-developed character to the next and, without the support of a vivid setting, the novel would crumble. I admire the creativity behind the premise and the craft behind the writing style, but the plot simply lacks. The novel is only worth reading to delve into the vivid world that Aldous Huxley created.

Reviewer's Name: Samah