Adult Book Reviews

Hallowe'en Party book jacket
Christie, Agatha
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Agatha Christie is an author you can rarely go wrong with, and Hallowe'en Party is no exception. The book is another Hercule Poirot mystery. In this one, his friend Ariadne Oliver attends a Halloween party where a girl named Joyce claims that she once saw a murder. Later in the night the girl is found drowned in the barrel of apples.

The characters are fairly standard, though they're fairly entertaining. The dynamic between Mrs. Oliver and Poirot is particularly charming. The dead characters and the eventual murderer are also given some degree of depth. Other than that, the characters are serviceable but shallow.

The plot mostly consists of Poirot speaking to the various suspects and witnesses. It drags a bit at points, but quickly picks up. The twists are all well built up, and nothing feels like it comes out of nowhere. All the pieces fall together in a satisfying way.

This book is also sold as "A Haunting in Venice". This is because the new Hercule Poirot movie is loosely based on this story. However, the key word is loosely. So, if you watched the movie first, be aware that these two stories have almost nothing in common (aside from the main character).

I would recommend this book to fans of Agatha Christie and mystery fans in general.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Geiger, Helen M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“The Zoo on the Mountain” is an inspiring historical tale of The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. This book follows the famous Coloradoan zoo and its owners through the highs and lows of its existence. Starting with Spencer Penrose’s first bear and carrying through the disastrous flood from the mountain above, the impeccably accurate accounts of this book portray the humble mountain zoo in its true light. “The Zoo on the Mountain” is a interesting and mentally moving piece of literature. It’s a zooful of knowledge!

Reviewer's Name: Dominic
Fourth Wing
Yarros, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fourth Wing is about twenty-year-old Violent Sorrengail and her time as a first year at Basgiath War College, where she trains to be a dragon rider. I
chose to read the book due to its popularity, and how it appealed with my interests in dragons and fantasy, as well as its relatable romance.
enjoyed the loveable characters and the interesting plot that kept me hooked in and invested. I didn't like some of the side-characters who seemed flat, I feel some of these characters could have been flushed out and developed more.
This is an enjoyable fantasy romance for young adult readers who prefer a more drawn out story and romance.

Reviewer's Name: Ash R.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Diaz, Junot
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I picked up this book because it was on a list of Pulitzer Prize winners and I figured that was a good enough metric to give it a shot. I was not disappointed. Told from a few different perspectives, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a fantastic look into the lives of Dominican Americans. I could tell the author was writing from deeply personal experiences, and the result was riveting.

There's a lot I don't know about the Dominican culture, but I felt this book was an eye-opening look into their history. Told as personal anecdotes from the characters, it was wild to see the effects of living under a dictator. However, even once someone escaped from that oppression, life in America wasn't an easy walk in the park either. The effects of racism might not be as bad as having your daughters sold to a dictator, but they still aren't pretty. Using these point-of-view stories to convey all this made the experience of reading this book feel more authentic.

This audiobook also included a short story by the same author, "Drown." While this story wasn't quite up to the quality of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a lot of the author's style was still present. Of course, this style felt a little rougher than his Pulitzer Prize-winning work, but it was interesting to see how it evolved between the two. Ultimately, the Pulitzer Prize can be a somewhat subjective metric for whether a book is good or not. Here, it's spot-on and I think people should read it because of its award-winning status.

An excellent and authentic examination of the life of a Dominican American, I give The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Eldest
Paolini, Christopher
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Eldest is a five-star book because of the amazing amount of fun I had reading it trying to figure out where they are based on the map in the front. Also, the ending was super satisfying because if you’ve read the first one you know Eragon had no father at the end you learn who it is.
I chose this book because I like to finish a series to the end and this is the second one and it was as good or better than the first.
Also, Paolini is an amazing author, and he is especially good at painting a picture in your mind with nothing but words especially when he comes to describing the elves and their main city Elesmera. All in all this book is great so don’t let its length stop you from enjoying the amazing books of Paolini.

Reviewer's Name: Landon J.
Genres:
Summer Knight
Butcher, Jim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A piece of advice given to most writers is to make their characters suffer, then document how they grow. In Summer Knight, Jim Butcher puts Harry Dresden through the ringer. Not only is Dresden on the edge of being homeless and dead from starvation, but he finds himself tangled up in the politics of the wizards and faeries. As usual, the world-building in the Dresden Files is fantastic and multi-layered. Sure, there are still the problems that keep popping up in this series, but they seemed less when Dresden was focused on merely staying alive.

With each book in the Dresden Files, I find the deepening lore fascinating. In Summer Knight, we finally learn about the council of wizards and see how unique Harry is when compared to others from the organization. In learning about more of his past, it’s easy to see how Dresden has come to this impasse with the council. Furthermore, Grave Peril had mere hints of the faerie world and workings that Summer Knight fully expanded upon. While a lot of the world-building looks like mere politics, that it’s as well thought out as this shows to Butcher’s talent here.

While there are still bad examples of “men writing women” in this book (which is the case throughout the series), at least it seemed a bit toned down from the previous books. Dresden’s backstory made him a bit more likable in this book, as there were at least explanations why he is the way he is. I enjoy his somewhat unorthodox way of handling magic battles and can’t wait until he’s truly trained to be a more precise magic user to really see his talent emerge.

Some great world-building and main character exposition for the Dresden Files, I give Summer Knight 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
The Road to Little Dribbling
Bryson, Bill
2 stars = Meh
Review:

keep forgetting that Bill Bryson’s books are hit-or-miss for me. I’ll read one and think it’s great, then proceed to another and find myself disappointed. Perhaps I’ve already read the good books from his bibliography and now all I’m left with are the ones that aren’t. I’ll usually forget that I’ve been disappointed after a few months or years of not reading Bryson, which inevitably leads me to remembering his good books and giving it another shot. The Road to Little Dribbling is another book I’d put on the “bad” pile.

While I never read the book that preceded this one, I didn’t need any context to determine The Road to Little Dribbling’s major flaw. As a Millennial, I am often annoyed by Boomer-age people who bemoan that things “used to be better.” They’ll moan about prices being lower, quality being better, and everyone living happily together in blissful togetherness. Those sentiments are the entire basis of this book. Maybe it’s supposed to be read as humor, but most of this book felt like the spiteful mutterings of a grumpy old man.

The issue with memoirs is that the main character is usually the author. In this book, the main character is not likable by any means. He talks down to everyone and paints them as idiots. The few slightly amusing bits were only when he proved to be the fool in a scenario that had gotten him hot and bothered. Listening to this audiobook in the car, it felt like I was driving around with someone who I would not have given a ride to in the first place. None of the positives of his journey stuck out to me because every other commentary provided was full of sour gripes.

A memoir full of whiny complaints about how the past was better, I give The Road to Little Dribbling 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Blighted Stars
O'Keefe, Megan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I quite enjoyed most of the elements of this book. I liked the characterizations, the world-building, plot, and dialogue. I haven't spend a ton of time in sci-fi, but I feel as though most of the jargon had some good context and I was able to pick it up pretty readily. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am bought into finishing the trilogy and finding out becomes of these characters.
I particularly liked the ideas that are put out in terms of consumerism, colonization, ecological terrorism, and species symbiosis and parasites. It wasn't all 'grim-dark' and while it left me clenching my fist, it wasn't hopelessness, but self-reflection, and a blossoming interest-- which I feel are good reactions to have to scifi-typical questions that are often raised in texts. I particularly appreciated that I didn't love the characters from the beginning. I felt they were pretty well-rounded and they grew on me.

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle S.
Eragon
Paolini, Christopher
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Eragon is a 5-star book because though it is long and hard to understand to the right reader it is wonderful. If you think you have a big vocabulary read this book as a test and get absorbed into the inheritance trilogy. I chose this book because it was long, and I like long books but though it is long don’t let that stop you from exploring with Eragon the newest dragon rider all throughout Alegaesia 15 leagues (51 miles) from Carvahall his hometown deep in the dwarf city of Farthen Dur. This book had plot twists all around the corner, it was not at all super predictable and all throughout Eragon's final battle you will be sitting on the edge of your seat. If you want something to do over the summer that isn’t just sitting down, playing video games try reading this book, it is a great summer read.

Reviewer's Name: Landon J.
The Great Gatsby book jacket
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Great Gatsby is a really good book that I did not expect to like because I was assigned to read it in school. Set prior to the Great Depression, the book sets the stage for how the wealthy lived on the East Coast, while also portraying some of the nation's struggles at that time through various pieces of text and dialogue. The book was a constant surprise to me, and even when I felt confident something would for sure happen the book took an unexpected turn. It is very hard to find a "good" character in the book, seeing as most of them are more "morally gray", and this creates a very interesting dynamic for the reader. Overall it was a very good book, and that's coming from someone who's hated just about every book they've had to read in school.

11th grade

Reviewer's Name: Emily
Alive! book jacket
Reader's Digest Association
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

“Alive” is a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride from beginning to end! Dozens of harrowing true stories from ordinary people who have have stared death in the eye and lived have been compiled into one book for the ultimate tale of survival. Whether it’s a devastating tornado, a collapsing ice cave or a bloodthirsty shark, “Alive!” has nothing but nonstop adventures from cover to cover. “Alive!” is a must-read for thrill-seekers everywhere. Kids, don’t try this at home!

Reviewer's Name: Dominic
A Dash of Style book jacket
Lukeman, Noah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation” truly sheds a new light on the mysterious world of punctuation. In his book, Lukeman examines each and every one of the illustrious yet overlooked punctuation marks in the English language. After discussing each mark’s unique qualities and the ways in which to employ them, he turns to the reader and provides simple yet effective exercises to give the them a grasp on the teachings of the chapter. He also uses incredible insight to determine the type of writer that over- and under- uses each type of punctuation mark, and imprints on the reader a better understanding of what punctuation does to a piece of writing. This book is a crucial piece of literature for writers and non-writers alike. “A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation” definitely leaves a mark on its readers!

Reviewer's Name: Dominic
Genres:
What If 2 book jacket
Munroe, Randall
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“What If? 2” is a must-have for both information and entertainment! Randall Munroe takes the wildest want-to-know questions from curious minds and presents them with serious — yet hilarious — scientific answers. From filling the solar system with soup to creating raging candy storms, Munroe comically lays out the effects of each silly scenario. Curious minds will devour this book full of the perfect balance of fact and fiction. “What If? 2” finds a whole new purpose for the world of science!

Reviewer's Name: Dominic
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl book jacket
Rae, Issa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book follows Issa Rae, a half-Senegalese actress and producer (she was the president in Barbie and also stars in Insecure!). The book follows Issa as she tries to find herself throughout her life because she has always felt awkward and how she has come to terms with herself. This book is extremely funny. While most of the book has humorous undertones, there are sections that are quite serious. Issa Rae writes about her life in an upwardly mobile immigrant family & her painful attempts to be cool. You don't have to be awkward or black to enjoy this book.

Reviewer's Name: Yasmin
The Devil Wears Scrubs book jacket
McFadden, Freida
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the fantastical world of medicine, doctors are galavanting around saving lives in the nick of time… or not. Maybe being a doctor is less glamorous than glorified Medical Dramas may suggest. Perhaps, for the newly initiated, the countless sleepless nights on call or mean residents demanding tasks at a dizzying pace, being a doctor is harder than one could imagine. The Devil Wears Scrubs provides a humorous satirical glimpse into the misadventures of a green intern, Jane McGill, as she attempts to navigate the dizzying pace of hospitals and the profession of saving lives. Jane is metaphorically slapped across the face with reality on her first day at County Hospital; she knows nothing and will do everything wrong. It does not help that Jane was assigned under Dr. Alyssa Morgan, who seems to leave out important instructions and make Jane’s life all the harder. As Jane navigates her new hectic environment, McFadden’s humor and satire make this novel about the grueling nature of the medical field largely entertaining.

To be honest, I was skeptical, somewhat expecting a medical supernatural romance, and based on the summary and title, one could infer worse. I judged the book by the cover. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The book flows seamlessly, fast-paced, witty, and entertaining. It made me laugh a great deal with the subtlety of the humor and satire and the quick remarks of the characters. Jane is a compelling protagonist who makes a lot of mistakes and faces dire consequences.

While I enjoyed this book greatly, don’t expect anything too deep. The characters are shallow, the plot not much to fawn about, and the endless loose ends at the end. All of these reasons may seem to discount the potential of this book, but The Devil Wears Scrubs was never intended to be deep; it is supposed to be lighthearted, witty, and entertaining. So if you go into the book expecting depth, save yourself the time, and set it down, but if you want a good-natured laugh at the misfortune of another, written in a satirical tone, then by all means pick up this book right now.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Icebreaker book jacket
Grace, Hannah
2 stars = Meh
Review:

"Icebreaker" struggles to thaw even the coldest of hearts with its repetitive and uninspired intimate scenes, serving as a glaring distraction from its bland plot and overall spineless narrative. The author's attempt at crafting a compelling story falls flat, as the plot meanders aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. Despite the potential for intrigue in its premise, the execution falls short, leaving readers feeling disconnected and unengaged. The intimate scenes, far from adding depth or passion to the story, only serve to highlight its glaring shortcomings, becoming tedious and predictable with each repetition. Overall, "Icebreaker" fails to leave a lasting impression, offering little more than a disappointing reading experience that fails to ignite any sense of excitement or satisfaction.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Where the Forest Meets the Stars book jacket
Vanderah, Glendy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Where the Forest Meets the Stars" by Glendy Vanderah is a mesmerizing blend of heart-wrenching reality and whimsical fantasy that left me utterly captivated. Set against the backdrop of a serene forest, the story weaves a tale of grief, healing, and unexpected connections that transcend the ordinary. The characters, Joanna, Ursa, and Gabriel, form an unlikely trio whose interactions are enchanting. As they unravel the mysteries of the stars and confront their own inner demons, the line between reality and fantasy blurs beautifully, inviting readers into a world where anything seems possible. The author's prose is both lyrical and evocative, painting vivid scenes that linger in the mind long after the final page. With its rich narrative and emotionally resonant themes, "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" is a masterpiece that reminds us of the magic inherent in everyday life. It's a book that stays with you, stirring your soul and igniting your imagination with every turn of the page.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Invisible Man book jacket
Ellison, Ralph
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

TW: This book contains racism and police brutality. If either of these topics trigger you, I would recommend finding a different book.

‘Invisible Man’ is a story about an unnamed black man in the 1930s. He attempts to make his way in the world, but is blocked at every turn by society’s barriers and refusal to see him. He goes from university to the brotherhood trying to find his place. The story includes steady commentary on racism that remains prevalent to this day.

Almost all the main characters have a layer of depth to them. From Dr. Bledsoe to Mary, they all have clear motivations and roles in the story that contributes to the themes. The main character in particular surprised me. It’s not uncommon for the point of view character to be serviceable, but not have many defining traits. This narrator did, though. He was an eloquent speaker and was obsessed with his grandfather’s last words. It’s not the most exaggerated personality, but it was clear and consistent.

The plot moves along nicely, never staying in one place for too long. The progression makes sense, and no scene feels wasted.

This is a classic novel for good reason. I would recommend it to those who are looking for a longer, thought provoking read.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Animal Farm book jacket
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Animal Farm is an allegorical story about farm animals that manage to overthrow the humans and run the farm by themselves. However, the pigs slowly take more and more power, until it’s no better than it was before.

The plot is simple and easy to follow. Even a child could easily understand it. However, this is a very compact story. Every page has a new development that moves the story along. The characters are likewise simple, yet effective. Boxer and Benjamin are the standouts in this story. Boxer because of his lovable nature and Benjamin for being one of the few characters in the book to hold some complexity.

The reason for this story’s simplicity is that it is an allegorical story. Every element is designed to mirror the Russian Revolution (though it could easily be applied to many worldwide revolutions). Since they have to represent broad groups of people, the characters can seem a bit flat at times. The same goes for the plot. It’s great for those who want a quick and thought provoking story, but could be disappointing for those looking for in depth analysis.

I would recommend this book to fans of symbolism and allegory, or even the run of the mill dystopia fan.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Flowers in the Attic book jacket
Andrew, V.C.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Flowers in the Attic is about the horrible life of four siblings. Before their lives were turned upside down, their father provided for them, but when he died, the mother decided to take herself and four children to her parents house. The mother was exiled by her parents for her marriage to her husband, so going to her parents for help was her last resort. When arriving at her parents house, the mother decides to hide away her children to gain back her dying fathers favor to inherit his fortune. Until the grandfather dies, the four children will be locked away in the attic and hidden from the world. This story is told through the oldest daughter Cathy’s perspective, and follows her journey with her three other siblings while living in their grandparents' attic. This was a very depressing and disturbing book with a lot of twists and turns nobody would have seen coming. If you like sad stories that do not leave your mind easily, this is the perfect book for you! Personally, I do not recommend this book if you are not prepared for a very disturbing story.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabel