Book Reviews by Genre: Thrillers/Suspense

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 Silent Patient book jacket
Michaelides, Alex
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Enthralling, captivating, and unexpecting are all words that can be used to describe The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, an irresistible and stunning psychological thriller. The suspense from the first chapter is palpable, and the skillfully laid out plot leaves the reader second-guessing until the very end. It is truly, in the full sense of the word, a thriller, full of curveballs and red herrings, multidimensional realistic characters, thick, palpable emotions… The list goes on. Michaelides’ wonderful writing style and the perfect plot pace were just the cherry on top.

The plot is utterly outstanding. From the first words, the protagonist, Alicia Berenson, shocks the reader with an unspeakable act of violence: she killed her husband. Why? That is the sole question I found myself asking the whole book. An even bigger question: why did she fall silent after the murder? And will she ever speak again? An added layer of complexity is her new psychotherapist, Theo Faber, who is anything but perfect. Theo’s obsession with Alicia raises another question: why is he obsessed? What are his motivations? As the plot unfolds, the mystery behind Alicia’s silence uncovers vast psychological trauma and the lies of her close friends and family. As the plot thickens, Michaelides creates a haunting setting as he delves into the intricacies of the human mind. It becomes evident that this novel is well-thought-out and plentifully researched to draw the reader into a realistic setting. Honestly, I have no criticism of The Silent Patient and could not recommend it enough for anyone looking for a suspenseful plot-twisty psychological thriller.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Morning Star
Brown, Pierce
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After the disappointment of Golden Son , I was leery of starting on the last part of the Red Rising trilogy. Oddly enough, this book was actually somewhat interesting, but in a way that made the first two books seem unnecessary. There was definitely a lot of action in this book, which is part of what made it more exciting than the others. And as far as a book that’s supposed to wrap up a trilogy, Morning Star certainly doesn’t leave too many loose plotlines when it ends. I still think the world-building is forced with all the Roman imagery and sci-fi tech, but at least now it’s over.

As with the previous books, I still had trouble with keeping track of all the different characters and their motivations. The main character was pretty straightforward (if not bluntly so) and his love interest just felt like she wanted to do whatever he was doing. Everyone else had weird names that made it hard to track who was who and which side they were on. At least the plot was simple enough that I could follow what was happening.

The biggest question that came from this book was, “What was the point of trying to get into (and be rejected from) the high society?” It seems to me the only reason to have the first two books was to give the main character a love interest from a caste that was above his station. I think if it could have worked some elements of the first two books into this one, then it could stand by itself. After all, the idea of an oppressed population rising to defeat their wealthy overlords is probably the most interesting concept in this series.

A trilogy finisher that could have been a standalone book, I give Morning Star 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
American Dirt book jacket
Cummins, Jeanine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Against all odds, Lydia and her son, Luca, survive a brutal cartel massacre, leaving them with only one option: to embark on a dangerous and arduous journey to seek safety in the United States. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a harrowing story about the survival, resilience, and hope of migrants fleeing north to the United States. Cummins skillfully captures the hardships, fears, and hopes of these characters, providing a window into the harsh realities faced by those making the perilous trek north. American Dirt humanizes the migrant experience by creating empathetic and multifaceted characters, illustrating the diversity within the migrant community and their shared aspirations for a better future.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Good girl's guide
Jackson, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of my favorite books so far. The book is full of twists and turns and one of the most gripping story. I loved most of the characters.
Every chapter showed us a new suspicious person. Every chapter changed the perspective towards each character. I loved this series. At last it's not a book of black and white, there were so much gray ...

Reviewer's Name: Subhashini
Strogoff
Verne, Jules
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

While we mostly know Jules Verne for his science fiction stories, it's hard to miss the fact that his books are also quite adventurous. Even though Michael Strogoff: Courier to the Czar isn't one of his famous works, it may be one of his best. This book was something my father wanted his children to appreciate, and now that I've read it a few more times, I truly understand how ahead of its time it was.

Even if Michael Strogoff isn't explicitly a science fiction novel, Jules Verne still sneaks plenty of science into this race across Russia to save the life of the Czar's brother. Of course, since it is an adventure novel, Michael Strogoff certainly has a lot of adventure between Moscow and Irkutsk, with some scenes feeling like they were pulled out of a modern action film. The tension of sneaking behind enemy lines to deliver an important message never lets up. I don't want to give too much away, but there are quite a few well-written twists that show Verne's mastery of this "Russian James Bond."

Of course, there are still some tropes that are an artifact of the time when it was written. Cultural stereotypes are present and the age difference between Michael (a 30-year-old man) and Nadia (a 16-year-old girl) is uncomfortable considering how the story ends. Also, Verne describes Michael as this specimen of a man that borders on eye-rolling machismo. Still, there are plenty of interesting characters, including Alcide Jolivet and Harry Blount, who provide some humor in an otherwise serious adventure. If you like Jules Verne books, you'd definitely like Michael Strogoff.

A hidden gem of a Jules Verne adventure, I give Michael Strogoff: Courier to the Czar 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Guest List book jacket
Foley, Lucy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Hidden motives, secrets, and lies are the backbone of Lucy Foley’s thriller, The Guest List, and did I mention drama? From the moment you open the book, drama spills out, but in a good way. The characters are the point of the book. Their problems its lifeblood. The Guest List is not solely about the murder but all the threads connecting the cast of characters to one another in some elusive way. And the mystery is cleverly interwoven with all the lies and personal issues, so you won’t know who did it until the end. Even if you do figure it out, the characters have so much more to offer than just their motive. Foley creates characters you will hate, pity, and love. Totally recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
When No One is Watcing
Cole, Alyssa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A thriller that takes an already scary concept - the systemically racist practice in real estate known as red-lining - and makes it into a more tangible threat. In an historically black neighborhood, Sydney is still grieving the loss of her mother when her neighbors start disappearing one by one. Can she figure out who is behind the accelerated changes of her neighborhood before it's too late?
This book has some genuinely terrifying moments, particularly when the narrative is breaking down the historical practices of red-lining, gentrification, systemic racism, slavery, and the shifts of old practices into new formats. It brings these concepts forward in an approachable way (unlike my review, probably).
This book is a thriller-romance with a John-Wick-esque style by the end. So if you're into social commentary with the just-right amount flair of romance, this is for you! My only frustration is the ending felt a tad bit rushed...but overall, it was satisfying.

Reviewer's Name: Meagan
Sleeping Giants book jacket
Neuvel, Sylvain
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sylvain Neuvel's "Sleeping Giants" is the first book in a series of three fantastic novels about alien technology and what it means to be human. This book was lent to me by my father, so I knew it had to be amazing. I was not wrong in that assumption. My favorite part about this book is likely the most divisive part: the format. This book is explained in an interview format, between each character and a mysterious interviewer that is developed further in the later installments of this series. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like how jarringly different this format is; sometimes it is noticeable when the author wanted to convey some important information, but the constant interview made the information difficult to show. It wasn't exclusively interviews; occasionally a mission log was used for variety's sake. My least favorite part of the book is actually what wasn't included in the book. It sounds picky, but I think that this book had room for more. The cliffhanger, while masterfully executed, came too soon. Not enough happened before the book ended, so I was left immediately scrambling to acquire the other 2 books in the series. The book, and especially the series as a whole, is absolutely surprising at nearly every step. Characters assumed narratively immortal die, and enemies turn into friends that save the world in the third book. Each character had interesting flaws and contrasting personalities, so each character introduced to us through the mysterious interviewer felt like someone you could meet walking down the street. All in all, this book is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
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
bHorror Hotel book jacket
Fulton, Victoria & McClaren Faith
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Have you ever read a book that’s so bad it’s good? Maybe even great? Even if you haven’t, there is room for one of these books in everyone’s lives. This book for me is Horror Hotel. Cringey, “Gen Z” dialogue? Horror Hotel has it. Badly written plot with an obvious twist? You can find that in Horror Hotel. One dimensional characters? You guessed it, Horror Hotel. Though, I will give this book credit where it’s due. I had found myself laughing harder than I’ve ever had at a book. It has the exact same energy of something you’d write with your friends at 3 AM. If you are looking for grade-A trash, you’ll definitely find it in Horror Hotel.

Reviewer's Name: Maya
League of Liars book jacket
Scholte, Astrid
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

League of Liars is an excellent read for fans of anything from fairytales to Ace Attorney. I enjoyed its heart-racing mind games and plans. The prison’s ever-changing playing field always made sure the characters didn’t have things too easy. I also loved the interesting magic system, (and the legal consequences that come with it). However, I think that the plot could have been instantly resolved if magic was used, which makes the characters, who took the hard way, feel idiotic at times. Other than that, if you like well-crafted fantasy worlds, page-turning mysteries, more twists than a bag of pretzels and twice as many likable characters, read League of Liars! (8th Grade)

Reviewer's Name: Maya
We Were Liars book jacket
E. Lockhart
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

We Were Liars is a mysterious young adult novel about a wealthy family who spends every summer on their private island. The story focuses on the main character, Cadence. After Cadence suffers a head injury during one of the summers, she cannot remember almost anything from that trip to the island. The next summer things are very different and Cadence has to try and remember why.
This book is quite a page-turner. As Cadence slowly remembers more and more details of the mysterious summer when she suffered her head injury, it is nearly impossible to put the book down. However, not all page-turners are necessarily great books. The story of We Were Liars may have been intriguing, but the content was not very substantial. There didn’t really seem to be any morals, and if there were, they weren’t very clear. Things just happened throughout the story, and although it was a mystery, nothing was truly deep or thought-provoking

Reviewer's Name: Liam
Murder on the Orient Express book jacket
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Murder on the Orient Express is a compelling Christie mystery. The book is steady and methodical: after the initial inciting incident, each of the passengers are questioned in order. Then, the evidence is reviewed and the conclusion comes easily to the detective. This novel was a straightforward, easy read, but I found it was better enjoyed by just sitting back and reading. Formulating theories, from the perspective of the reader, is relatively difficult due to key details being under developed when first introduced in the book. Therefore, the detective is better informed than the reader throughout the mystery, which took away some of the intrigue for me. Ultimately, however, the ending was satisfying, and Murder on the Orient Express is a well-written, captivating read.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
And Then There Were None book jacket
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Any fan of mysteries should read And Then There Were None because it is such a wonderfully refreshing book. It is understandable why the book continues to have an impact decades after its release. Following And Then There Were None is not that difficult. Yes, it's a mystery, so pay attention (or at least keep track of who's passing and when), but the book doesn't aim to mislead its readers with unusual text. Guilt and justice are two of And Then There Were None's themes. Every visitor taken to the island is charged with an unfounded murder. As the death toll climbs, visitors struggle in various ways with their own personal emotions of guilt. Justice Wargrave's confession clarifies the notion of justice. Those who loved And There Were None like me should read more of Agatha Christie's work or if you want to read a book similar to And Then There Were None I recommend The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Overall, I loved Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None because of how it always kept readers on the edge.
Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Anushka
The Silent Patient book jacket
Michaelides, Alex
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Initially, the premise of this book caught my attention: a psychotherapist sees a patient who murdered her husband years ago (as revealed in the opening line) and has not spoken since. Without spoilers, the story is told in a fascinating way, and Michaelides makes the most of his creative freedom in the medium of novels. Right after I finished reading, I thought the book perfect for what it sought out to do; however, upon further reflection, I feel it missed the spark that makes a good book. Yes, the story was interesting and the flow of events was steady, but by the last third I felt there wasn't enough struggle or buildup to make the progress with Alicia impressive. The novel told two stories simultaneously (the one of Theo's wife and the one of his patient), which was a great artistic choice, but I think that left each individual plotline underdeveloped in the 300 page novel. The Silent Patient is well-written, organized, and unsettling. Although I struggle to grasp the greater message behind the nuanced story Michaelides told, I definitely enjoyed reading it.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Unwind book jacket
Shusterman, Neal
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Unwind has a fresh, fascinating, and frankly genius premise: after a war is fought on abortion, the U.S. government passes legislature allowing parents to sign an order to "unwind" their teenagers. The teen is then taken apart, and each body part is used for transplants. Like any good dystopia, the concept poses a number of thought-provoking questions that the book tries to address, like "do we have souls?" or "what makes a person themself?" or "how scary is it to be unwound, really?", and it answers them with varying degrees of success. Unwind is an excellent conversation starter; it is riddled with nuanced philosophical ideas which are, at times, uniquely terrifying. However, that's where the problems with Unwind lie: the intrigue doesn't stretch much farther than the initial concepts. Shusterman is talented at worldbuilding, and every new detail of Unwind's dystopia is interesting, inspired, absurd, and simultaneously realistic. Unfortunately, the story fails to make use of this inherent intrigue. Much of the reader's time is spent spectating characters as they shuttle from one location to another. They have minimal development, or, when they do have development, it is sudden and drastic. Shusterman builds a vivid universe only to guide readers through the dullest corners. Unwind is worth a read for the conversation, not the story. If a reader expects the average teenage dystopia, they should pick another book; but if they want fresh perspectives, creative horror, and possibly a hint of existential dread, Unwind is the perfect read.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
You'll Be the Death of Me book jacket
McManus, Karen M.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

You'll Be the Death of Me was disappointing to say the least. McManus' other book, One of Us is Lying, had fascinating characters and a clever plot. This book felt like a knock-off. Ivy, Mateo, and Cal are three high school students who skip school one day and get swept up in a shocking murder mystery. The actual plot and eventual killer was kind of interesting, but not enough of a shock to be fully entertained. This is one of those mysteries that you can absolutely guess midway through the book. The three main characters are pretty bland and don't have good chemistry. Why do they just remember this one "Best Day Ever" in middle school and decide to randomly skip school? Were they actually long-term friends or just acquaintances? It seems like the author couldn't decide. Plus, every romantic interaction felt forced and uncomfortable. Not my favorite.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder book jacket
Jackson, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a surprisingly dark and complex book. The main character, Pip, decides to investigate a "solved" murder in her town from five years ago, one that she is very close to. She teams up with the alleged murderer's brother and slowly unravels a well-hidden mystery. The book's organization made an otherwise-complicated crime easier to understand. You would read a chapter, then Pip would summarize the findings in her capstone project diary entry. This information was backed up with occasional maps and diagrams as well. Although I did get lost at some parts with there being so many names, I appreciated there being enough suspects that it was impossible to figure out the mystery until the characters did. Pip was clever and eloquent, so her handling of this personal investigation didn't take away from the story. Not to mention her friends along the way, who were pretty well-developed side characters. If you think the pacing is slow for the first part of the book, keep going!
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
One of us is next book jacket
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Bayview Four, the four pupils Simon falsely accused of being the cause of his death, are no longer together, and their younger classmates and relatives are forced to play a new round of gossip-filled Truth or Dare. One year has passed since the events of One of Us Is Lying, and a game of Truth or Dare has begun. However, this isn't your typical Truth or Dare. This game can be deadly. Accepting the dare could be risky, even fatal while telling the truth might reveal your deepest secrets. This sequel had a mixed record as far as success goes. First on the list is Phoebe. It's true if you decide not to play. Phoebe’s secret is dark and it keeps her relationships and family messed up until the very end when the truth is spilled. Maeve then enters the scene, and she ought to know better than always taking the dare. However, things have become dangerous by the time Knox is ready to be tagged. The dares have turned deadly, and Maeve has learned that she cannot rely on the authorities for assistance after what happened to Bronwyn last year. or security. Although Simon is no longer with us, someone is committed to preserving his legacy at Bayview High. And the regulations have altered. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, so many things were left untouched like relationships and the truth or dare game that I feel like there must be a third book.

Reviewer's Name: Anushka