Book Reviews by Genre: Romance

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
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
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 Love Hypothesis book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Let’s be real for a second: if you want a snarky and admirably catchy writing style and you’re not adamantly opposed to romance novels, you arguably have to read at least one of Ali Hazelwood’s books. For this reason, I’d highly recommend The Love Hypothesis. This charming, witty, romantic comedy follows Olive Smith as she navigates the treacherous path of a Stanford biology graduate program and complex relationships within her department. It is a classic enemies-to-lovers and grumpy meets sunshine trope, as Olive and Adam pretend to be a couple to appease her roommate and his family. The relationship between Olive and Adam is unbelievably wholesome and will fill your heart with warmth and happiness. Additionally, all of the characters in the story are simple yet relatable, so you won’t find yourself drowning in unnecessary information. While the plot is easy to predict, the snarky and witty writing style of Hazelwood transforms this romantic comedy into a master piece. That being said, the plot is still immaculate, with a perfect ending that will rip your heart in two. Chefs kiss.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Love on the Brain book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Love on the Brain is stacked full of misunderstandings. When Bee Königswasser gets her dream job at NASA, she is ecstatic, except when she realizes her archnemesis, Levi, is her co-worker. So, who does she blame when her equipment stops working? Or when the staff ignores her? Levi. Through all of Bee’s misadventures, the reader is pulled along seamlessly and introduced into the narrative with an enviable writing style.

So here’s an equation: Romance plus STEM equals?

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
It Ends With Us book jacket
Hoover, Colleen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"It Ends With Us" by Colleen Hoover is a real and effective novel that explores the story of Lily Blossom and Ryle Kincaid. This book very evidently gives off the message, that it is okay to not be normal. To be scared to make tough choices. I think of this book as Hoover's courageous attempt in relation to her personal life to share awareness about abuse and harassment. I believe reading this novel will help change many lives that have been held under similar circumstances. This narrative will help teach people that sometimes, moving on or letting go is the best decision you can make for yourself. I felt proud when Lily was able to make extremely hard life-changing decisions to prioritize herself and her happiness. She is a character to admire and love. Hoover has derived so many layers to each character which adds depth to the story as a whole. Colleen Hoover’s subject is heartbreaking, but in our lives, it’s become such an ordinary deal that we naturally begin to avert our eyes easily from such content.
Love has no boundaries, but your health does. Real love should not end in excruciating pain. Taking your chances will only result in you getting used to the affliction.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
All Your Perfects book jacket
Hoover, Colleen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"All Your Perfects" by Colleen Hoover is a deep, emotional novel that delves into the complexities of marriage and the impact it has on the physical and emotional well-being of its characters. The story primarily revolves around Quinn and Graham, a couple who were once so deeply in love but find their relationship strained by the challenges of infertility, putting their marriage to the test. Colleen Hoover's narrative represents a tale of love, loss, and resilience, exploring the ups and downs of this couple's journey.
I give "All Your Perfects" a solid 4-star rating because the book shines in its depiction of the many struggles people face in maintaining a healthy, thriving marriage. I love how it addresses the issue of infertility, shedding light on how it can strain even the most loving relationships. This novel also doesn't shy away from the emotional toll this takes on the characters, which makes it a relatable and thought-provoking read for those who have faced similar challenges. Hoover's writing is very engaging, and she masterfully captures the depth of the emotional agitation that couples may tend to experience when dealing with such issues. This novel clearly excels in its portrayal of human vulnerability and the strength it takes to navigate the complexities of love and marriage, making it a compelling read.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Atonement book jacket
McEwan, Ian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Atonement" is the story of thirteen year old Briony and her misunderstanding of the world. It begins in the Tallis household in 1935. Obsessed with fantasy and books, she sees sinister motivations in the blossoming romance between her sister and the son of the family's house cleaner. When something terrible happens, Briony makes a mistake that will change the lives of everyone around her.

The characters in this story are all well developed, but Briony is the stand out in this regard. Her motivations straddle the line between clearly defined and mysterious. She has a clearly defined character, dramatic, self centered, and eager to please. Cecilia and Robbie are less defined, but still sympatheic and interesting. I found Robbie slightly unpleasant in the second half of the book, but it was understandable considering the circumstances.

The plot cannot be properly discussed without getting into spoilers. However, it unfolds in a clear manner. All the plot points are set up before they happen, and given proper foreshadowing. At the end, there is a plot twist. Since I highly recommend this book, I will not be spoiling the twist. However, I will say that it makes everything else that happened in the book unclear (in the best possible way).

This book contains a depiction of rape, extreme violence, and rather gruesome hospital scenes. If any of these subjects upset you, I would not recommend this book. If you are able to handle these topics, and you appricate books that focus on pyschology and character exploration, I would definitely recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Where the Crawdads Sing book jacket
Owens, Delia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Where the Crawdads Sing, written by Delia Owens, detail the fictional account of Kya and her survival in the marsh of North Carolina. After her mother is beat one too many times by her father, Kya's mother leaves, leaving Kya to fend for herself - against her abusive dad and the wilderness. Kya learns the value of self-reliance, she falls in love with the marsh and its functions and importance to the ecosystem. She also, however, feels the urge of having human company, and her adventures of falling in love (and back out) are incredibly detailed and heart wrenching. My favorite part about this book was the imagery; the way simple things, like leaves falling off of a tree, were described it felt as if I was standing right next to Kya, watching the leaves fall with her.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
The Notebook book jacket
Sparks, Nicholas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"The Notebook", by Nicolas Sparks, is a fictional love story about Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton. They are each other's first love, but societal pressures and World War II separate them, leading Allie to become engaged to another man. Allie, before getting married, visits Noah to see if she is making the right choice. However, she soon realizes that she never stopped loving Noah and becomes torn over Noah and her fiance. I enjoyed the book, however, sometimes the conversations seemed forced and stereotypical. I would, however, recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good love story

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Genres:
Tess of the D'Urbervilles book jacket
Hardy, Thomas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

WARNING: This reveiw and this book contains discussion of sexual assult.

Tess of the D'urbervilles is an excellent book. It tells the story of Tess Durbyville, who's father has become obessed with the idea of their noble heritage. After an incident with the carriage, the family is left in financial peril. Tess agrees to work for her supposed relations. However, this leads her into the arms of Alexander D'urberville (who is not actually related to her).

Tess herself is a great protagonist. She's well defined as a dreamer who is devoted to her family. Both of these traits help her, but cost her dearly. Alexander is a more complex antagonist than you'd first assume, while still being hatable. Angel Clare is a good character as well, he has well defined traits, but I was not able to end up liking him. He admits to not being a Christian, and not believing in all of the doctrines of the Bible (just to clarify, almost all of today's Christians would take issue with the way Angel treats Tess). Furthermore, he openly admits to his parents that he does not have the same beliefs he does. Yet, he still abandons Tess because of these beliefs (that he doesn't have).

That brings me to the major problem. Tess is constantly thinking about how Alexander is her true husband, and how she is ruined. While these are realistic things for someone in her predicament to think, I felt that the book does not take a strong enough stance against these beliefs. If it wasn't for this, I would have given the book 5 stars (if I had the option, I would have given it 4.5). Tess of the D'urbervilles has excellent prose, shocking twists, tragic moments, and great character progression. If you are not uncomfortable reading about sexual assault and you enjoy classic literature, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Time Traveler's Wife book jacket
Niffenegger, Audrey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Time Traveler's Wife", written by Audrey Niffenegger, is the fictional account of Henry DeTamble, a man with a unique genetic condition that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and his wife Clare Abshire. The narrative follows their love story as they navigate the challenges posed by Henry's sporadic disappearances and unpredictable reappearances at various points in time. I really enjoyed how the plots all came together; while Clare aged normally, she would see Henry at different stages of his life. For example, when Henry time travels, he sees Clare when she is 13 and when he is 35. Another time Henry was 28 whilst Clare was 20. Clare's development was linear, while Henry's was sporadic. I would recommend this book to adults who enjoy a good love story. However, there is some adult content in the book so I would not recommend it for children or teenagers.

Reviewer's Name: Finn G.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you have read the Hunger Games series, then you know that President Snow is the main villain and set a iron grip on the Districts of Panem. I you haven't read the trilogy, then might I highly suggest you do.
This book takes place decades before the trilogy starts and we read through Coriolanus Snow's eyes before he becomes the president and monster of Panem. Coriolanus has already set himself up to be in a position of power even as a young adult, and after his city was besieged, and his parents died, the Snow name and fortune left in ruins. Coriolanus Snow has decided that he will never be the weaker side again. The Hunger Games were not a new event for Panem during the time yet they were never popular, now though Coriolanus and his class are each assigned a tribute to make the Games finally noticed. Coriolanus has been assigned the girl of District 12, perhaps the worst choice available, or so he thinks.

Reviewer's Name: Xzavier
The Hunger Games book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a suspenseful novel about 16-year-old Katniss in the dystopian land of Panem. In this world, the 13 districts protested against the government. In punishment, they must provide two tributes (one boy and one girl) from each district. When Katniss's sister was chosen as tribute Katniss stepped up to protect her. Now she must fight to the death with the other 23 tributes for a chance to continue with her life.

Reviewer's Name: Cailyn
Turtles All the Way Down book jacket
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is a very insightful novel that explores themes of mental health, friendship, and self-discovery. The story follows the life of 16-year-old Aza Holmes, a young girl who is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, as she navigates the challenges of adolescence and tries to solve a mystery involving a missing billionaire. Aza's struggles with mental health serving as a powerful critique of the ways in which society can stigmatize and marginalize those with mental illnesses. Her relationships with her best friend Daisy and her love interest Davis provide an intriguing exploration of the challenges of friendship and the complexities of romantic relationships. Green’s prose perfectly captures the voice of a young girl struggling with mental illness- his descriptions of Aza’s thought processes and compulsions are vivid and immersive, offering a nuanced portrayal of the experience of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. His use of metaphor, such as the titular “turtles all the way down,” adds depth and meaning to the story, inviting readers to reflect on the deeper themes of the novel. I loved the depth and detail that this book had, and I feel like each and every character had so many layers to them that really helped me visualize the story as I read. Turtles All the Way Down is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and I plan to read it again. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys coming of age, narrative style books with strong takeaways.

Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Tress of the Emerald Sea book jacket
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Tress of the Emerald Sea" was a brilliant standalone book set in Brandon Sanderson's "cosmere" (his unique term referring to the general world where most of his books take place). I didn't actually choose to read this book; my uncle lent me this book because I love nearly all of Brandon Sanderson's books. After reading this magnificent book, I am very thankful for his generosity. I enjoyed the development of the protagonist, Tress, over the book the most. Tress stays kind throughout the entire book, but her bravery develops as she grows from a timid cup collector to something I don't want to spoil, but she gains a massive amount of bravery in the pursuit of kindness. I didn't enjoy the ease at which the final boss was dealt with, but the conclusion was relatively tidy and neat. This is the type of book where I constantly need to ask myself, "How did the author think of this"? Spore oceans that kill you but still float ships? Cup collectors creating chaos? Nothing was offensively predictable, and the little twist right at the end reminded my instantly of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away's little twist at the end regarding the protagonist's parents. I won't say this has been the best book that I've read this year, but that is only because the year is still young and Brandon Sanderson's kickstarter had 3 other books in it.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Less book jacket
Greer, Andrew Sean
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book Less follows a middle-aged, gay author named Arthur Less, and recounts his loves and losses from a third person point of view. His lover of many years, Freddy, leaves him for a more serious relationship, he goes on a trip around the world partly to avoid Freddy's wedding and his upcoming 50th birthday. The book explores themes such as love, heartbreak, self-doubt, fear of aging, and sexuality. In Less's journey, he discovers that he can't run from his fears by traveling across oceans, he must face them. A Pulitzer prize winner, the language in the book is mature and riddled with literary references spanning throughout history. The author uses many intricate metaphors to describe Less's situation, and then book ends with an incredible twist that will make your jaw drop. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary literature and wants a meaningful, yet entertaining read.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
We All Fall Down book jacket
Richards, Natalie D
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Romance, thriller, and horror all wrapped into one. Natalie D Richards does it once a great with a book you won't be able to put down until the final page. When two best friends in love have a falling out over a fight at a party it seems nothing could bring them together again. Except for the bridge that is. Strange things keep bringing them back to the place of the party and back to each other. Lock on bridges and hearts hold mystery but the views of both parties is being clouded by their own mental struggles. This is a very emotional book and capitating one that I can't wait to read again. Readers enjoy and beware of the bridge.

Reviewer's Name: McKenna