Adult Book Reviews

Robinson Crusoe book jacket
Defoe, Daniel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

"Robinson Crusoe" is a fictional novel by Daniel Defoe; telling the story of Robinson Crusoe, a young Englishman who becomes stranded on a deserted island after a shipwreck. The novel follows his solitary existence as he learns to survive, building shelter, finding food, and adapting to the challenges of his new environment. Over the years, Crusoe encounters both moments of despair and triumph, offering readers a captivating tale of resilience, self-reliance, and the indomitable human spirit. I was fascinated by this book; if I were to compare it to another book I would say that it is the grown up version of Hatchet (written by Gary Paulsen). I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good adventure novel.

Reviewer's Name: Finn G.
The Omnivore's Dilemma book jacket
Pollan, Michael
4 stars = Really Good

The Omnivore's Dilemma, written by Micheal Pollan, provides the reader with an analytical view of what we, as humans, should eat. He dives into the industrialization of corn production. Because the government of the United States subsidizes corn, more farmers produce corn than in a free market society, thus there is a surplus of corn. With this surplus, industries evolved to consume the cheap, plentiful corn. One example is the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO, commonly referred to as a "feedlot"). People feed cows (that are packed in fences) the cheap corn, which decreases the price of the cows, which then leads to the creation of more business selling far more affordable cow meat, such as McDonalds. Although the food is far more accesible and less of a budget burden, Pollan raises questions about the health externality of eating corn fed cows. Because the cows are packed together, disease tends to run rampant, so the cows' food (chopped up corn) is mixed with a variety of antibiotics and hormones to control disease. When we eat the cow, what is fed to the cow is now fed to us. I enjoyed the book because it made me more cognizant about the food I put in my body, and I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the logistics of how and where we get our food.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Dracula book jacket
Stoker, Bram
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Dracula, written by Bram Stoker, is a fictional account of a vampire hunt in Transylvania. Jonathan Harker, a lawyer, is sent by his boss to Castle Dracula to assist in a real estate transaction with a wealthy man named Count Dracula. However, he is soon not allowed out of the castle, and slowly he realizes the the Count is no ordinary man. Harker manages to escape and eventually teams up with a colleague to hunt down Count Dracula. I enjoyed the book, it was full of complex back stories that merged into one beautiful crescendo: the hunt of the Count. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to expand their vocabulary, as the book is rich with complex words and sentences. I would also recommend this book to avid readers; (as it is a classic) it should be ensured that to be a genuine reader one must read this famous work of art.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Freakonomics book jacket
Levitt, Steven D.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

"Freakonomics" written by economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, explores unconventional connections between economics and various aspects of society, challenging conventional wisdom. Levitt's research delves into topics such as the economics of drug dealing, the impact of parenting on a child's success, and the hidden motivations behind seemingly irrational behaviors. The authors highlight the power of data analysis and critical thinking to uncover surprising insights. The book ultimately encourages readers to question assumptions, think outside the box, and view the world through an economic lens to gain a deeper understanding of human behavior. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys economics, as well as questions conventional ideas of society.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Diary of a Young Girl book jacket
Frank, Anne
4 stars = Really Good

"Diary of a Young Girl" is the poignant and haunting diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Anne chronicles her life in hiding in Amsterdam, where her family sought refuge in a secret annex. Through her diary entries, she shares her hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations, providing an intimate account of the daily struggles and emotional turmoil endured by Jews in hiding. I enjoyed the book; having experience the Covid-19 shutdown, the atrocity that she had to go through put my life into perspective. Sometimes what individuals go through is difficult, but is nothing compared to horrors experienced by others. I recommend everyone to read this book because it fosters a sense of humility in all that read it.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
The Millionaire Next Door
Stanley, Thomas J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The Millionaire Next Door is a collection of studies about the secretive habits of millionaires done throughout the course of Thomas J. Stanley's career. He juxtaposes making a lot of money with being wealthy: you can make an incredible salary, but to be wealthy you have to save that earned money. For example, in the book there are two examples: One is a man who has been living in the same small house for 20 years, drives a 10 year old truck, and uses a Casio Duro (an affordable watch). The other is a doctor who earns $700,000 dollars a year. The doctor has an enormous house, fancy new cars, and embezzles his wife with divine jewelry. Obviously, the doctor is rich, right? Incredibly, the doctor's net worth is less than "the regular joe's". The doctor's obsession with having consumer goods limits his net worth. His need to "fit in" necessitates him spending almost all of his net worth on tangible goods. From the outside, he appears rich, but on the inside he has little retirement savings and no mental bandwith to focus on the far future. Meanwhile, the man who has been living in the same house for 20 years has seen the value of his house triple. His affordable lifestyle allows him to not only live below his means, but to invest his time (not spent shopping) and money wisely so that he builds a fortune. The Millionaire Next Door teaches us that the typical millionaire as seen by society (fancy clothing, the "newest iPhone", etc) is not actually a millionaire, but rather an
under-accumulator of wealth with nonexistent sapience in regard to the future. I would recommend this book to those who want to be wealthy in the future because becoming wealthy does not occur overnight: it takes years of discipline, sacrifice, and integrity. And the best time to start on your financial journey to freedom is now.

Reviewer's Name: Finn
Invisible Man
Ellison, Ralph
3 stars = Pretty Good

"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of African American identity in a society that refuses to see them as anything but invisible. Published in 1952, the book tells the story of an unnamed narrator who struggles to find his place in a world that constantly denies his existence.

The novel is set in the early 20th century and follows the narrator's journey from his youth in the South to his experiences in the North, where he encounters racism, violence, and exploitation. The narrator's quest for identity is complicated by the fact that he is not only a black man in a white-dominated society but also an individual struggling to define himself.

Throughout the novel, Ellison employs richly symbolic imagery to convey the narrator's experiences and emotions. The use of motifs such as blindness, invisibility, and masks emphasizes the ways in which society seeks to hide or ignore the realities of racism and prejudice. At the same time, the narrator's invisibility serves as a metaphor for the struggle of African Americans to assert their identity and agency in a society that denies them these basic human rights.

Ellison's prose is both poetic and poignant, as he explores the complexities of race, identity, and power. He also addresses issues of class and gender, as the narrator navigates the world of white power brokers, black nationalists, and women who seek to control him.

Overall, "Invisible Man" is a powerful and important work that continues to resonate with readers today. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of racism and inequality in America, and a call to action for all those who seek to create a more just and equitable society. If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend that you do so.

Reviewer's Name: Aman G.
A Little Life
Yaragihara, Hanya
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

"A Little Life" by Hanya Yaragihara is a commendable literary fiction which will make you cry and smile, often both at the same time.
I read this book last year and I still think about it sometimes and that's how I know it's a good book.
Honestly, saying it's a 'good' book is an underestimation.
My sincerest apologies.
Let me correct myself, A Little Life is not a good book, it's a magnificent book. A fine piece of literary fiction.
After a couple of decades this book is going to be considered a classic from this
generation. I have dibs on it.
Reading it was quite an expedition,
It was as if I rode a rollercoaster of
whereupon I felt the highest of highs and lowest of the lows, varying from small soothing ecstasies to immense crestfallenness.
The book is bildungsroman of sorts which simply means we follow characters from their childhood towards their adulthood and we basically read them go through their lives.
We circle the lives of four college friends, based in nyc, who technically grow up together.
But our focal point resides on Jude, our protagonist, whom we adore!
A little context: In his adult life, he is a successful litigator who has got his act together,
but little do we know, he's been through hell and back. We untangle his mind-boggling mysteries on this expedition of ours. Its a tragic tale really but despite the unfortunate trajectories there is something so beautiful and pure about this book,
I guess what I'm referring to is friendship.
The bond these college friends share.
These characters grow on you, you can tell they're written with love.
They re so complicated and real and even relatable, sometimes.
Moreover, text is simply elysian. I needn't say more.
The beauty is in the details, in the intricacies.
Once you get through the initial fifty pages, it'll grow on you indefinitely.
and it'll become unputdownable and your fingers would ache since its a mammoth of a book. And you're dread it when you're nearing the end,
dread it because you do not want it to end yet,
thats how lovely these people are, and their story is. Well, lovely and sad.
Once you devour the text,
you'd miss them.
your heart would be left rended all over the place, like mine was
and you'd think how the text wasn't long enough, like I did after reading 800 something pages,
I wished there were more to the book.
Adding some trigger warnings for this book at the end of my review-
sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, scary verbal abuse, psychological manipulation and gaslighting, kidnapping/
imprisonment, many modes of self-harm, suicide, rape.
I think I covered them all, look trigger warnings up once just to be sure.
Read this book. I insist and assure you will have a good time.

Reviewer's Name: Nishtha
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Squirrels Just Wanna Have Fun
North, Ryan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

After reading the second collection of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I was a little worried that this third collection would be more of the same. Comedic situations involving a variety of Marvel heroes and villains punctuated by some silly squirrel-based shenanigans. And while The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun has these things, there was also a fair amount of character growth for the titular superhero.

I appreciated that this volume included some of the lore surrounding Squirrel Girl, especially since we've only seen her in modern settings in most of these issues. Knowing what it was like growing up as Squirrel Girl helped ground the character a little more and make her relatable. The arc where she teamed up with Ant-Man was also entertaining because of the change of scenery (everything is in New York, give Canada a chance!). Still, these comics were a bit "samey" to the rest of the ones in the previous two volumes.

What really struck me in this collection was the "flying squirrel" arc. Being unbeatable can become a bore after a while, so giving an antagonist that was clever enough to push Squirrel Girl to grow as a hero was a refreshing change. Perhaps my exposure to shonen-type mangas where the characters power up and grow stronger in each arc is what drew me to this story. Because while having the powers of and over squirrels is a neat trick, being able to fly is a significant upgrade to this superhero's arsenal of abilities. Plus, flying squirrels are inherently cool creatures anyway.

More Squirrel Girl adventures with good character growth added in, I give The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
What if? 2
Munroe, Randall
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

As a fan of XKCD, I've loved the What If? spinoff series despite how irregularly Randall has updated it. Considering there have only been five new posts in the last five years, and they were all in the months leading up to the release of this book, I needed a good dose of What If? Partly because it had been so long since I had read any What If? posts, all the chapters in this book felt fresh and hilarious. Now that I read through it, I'm sad that I'll have to wait another eight years for a third book in the series.

Randall always has a down-to-earth style of describing incredibly complicated scientific concepts. This means What If? 2 is quite educational once you get past the ridiculous premises that readers have sent in. It's also nice how each chapter is easily readable in a few minutes so that I could just pick it up and get a good laugh before moving on to something else. After all, this book is straight-up funny. This should come as no surprise—again—given the absurd questions readers asked Randall.

It felt like this book had more new content than the previous book in the series. This might not be true, but it felt that way because I hadn't read any of the posts that made it into this book in several years. This was my main qualm with the first book: that it was just a printed-out part of the internet. In this sequel, there weren't just new questions answered but also quick little sections that covered easily answerable questions (as compared to its predecessor's highlights of disturbing questions with no answers). Overall, I found it to be a fun read and I'm counting the days until What If? 3 comes out.

Hilarious and scientifically accurate answers to oddball questions, I give What If? 2 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
Fu, Kim
4 stars = Really Good

Canadian author Kim Fu provides 12 entertaining, oft challenging and daring stories in her latest award-winning collection (Feb. 2022, 232 pages).
She does a skillful job of taking extraordinary circumstances, such as a tween girl sprouting wings and turning that into a believable rite of passage. In another, a Bridezilla meets a sea monster and what follows is a witty commentary on social expectations and ecological consequences.
All the stories blur the lines between reality and the fantastic, and the weird and mundane, all while shining a spotlight on human contradictions concerning sexuality, death, guilt and technology.
As a result, all prove memorable for different reasons, making this collection one of the few worth reading in its entirety.
AWARDS: An NPR, Book Riot, Chicago Public Library,, South China Morning Post, Ms. Magazine, and Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2022; 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Prize Winner; Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction Book of 2022

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
When No One is Watcing
Cole, Alyssa
4 stars = Really Good

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
Snowpiercer - The Prequel: Part 1: Extinction
3 stars = Pretty Good

One of the best original sci-fi movies to come out in the last decade, in my opinion, was Snowpiercer (2013). The story originated as a 1982 French graphic novel under the name of Le Transperceneige. While I haven't read the original source material, I decided that a prequel graphic novel was probably pretty safe to read. I figured the events leading up to the world ending and a perpetual train being launched wouldn't spoil anything for me (I also haven't seen the TV show either).

While it's only a scant 90 pages, part 1 of this prequel trilogy, Extinction, had nothing I didn't already know in it. Most of the plotlines in this book were fairly generic end-of-the-world-type stories. Each one obviously would lead to the last of humanity boarding this infinitely running train, which was no surprise. It probably didn't help that there weren't that many distinct characters to latch onto in this book to make it more relatable. I understand that it's laying the groundwork for the next two books, but it almost felt that this part of the prequel series was unnecessary.

Perhaps I'm more inclined to cleaner art in graphic novels I like to read. This book had a rough, almost sketch-like style I found to be unpolished. Maybe that was the feeling the illustrator was going for, but some scenes were hard to parse visually because of how dark and thick the lines were. Granted, I still want to go back and read the original graphic novel to see if the style fits better for the actual post-apocalyptic story. However, for this "real world" setting, the art style feels too heavy even for a pre-apocalypse story.

A somewhat unnecessary story with a heavy visual style, I give Snowpiercer - The Prequel Part 1: Extinction 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is a masterpiece that has endured the test of time because to its sharp social critique, gripping story, and endearing characters. The narrative is set in early 19th-century England and explores issues of love, marriage, social standing, and human evolution.
The Bennet family, especially the clever and independent-minded Elizabeth Bennet, is at the center of the narrative. Elizabeth, the second of five daughters, must contend with social pressures about marriage and the search for acceptable suitors. The matchmaking activities of Mrs. Bennet and others in their social circle are put into motion when Mr. Bingley, a rich and affable gentleman, arrives into the area.

But Mr. Darcy, the mysterious Mr. Darcy, steals the show. Darcy's interactions with Elizabeth lead to a turbulent relationship marked by misunderstandings and miscommunications since he is first regarded as prideful and arrogant. Austen deftly explores the concepts of pride, prejudice, and the significance of first impressions via their interactions.
Austen's work is known for its astute insights of human nature and prevailing societal mores. Her razor-sharp humor and astute conversation give the characters life and give them the impression that they are acquaintances or even friends. The book has a number of notable passages, including the well-known first line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

The secondary relationships between Elizabeth and Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice" are just as diverse as the central romance. Each character in the story—from the vivacious and witty Mr. Bennet to the interfering but adorable Mrs. Bennet and the wonderfully quirky Mr. Collins—adds nuance and complexity. The characters negotiate their relationships and personal development against a vivid backdrop created by Austen's deft depiction of society's order, etiquette, and expectations.
The book's study of timeless themes that cut across space and time accounts for its ongoing popularity. It investigates the nature of love, the effects of rash actions, the need of self-awareness, and the pursuit of happiness in a culture that forbids it. The author adds depth and importance to the story by sharply criticizing the restrictions put on women in that time period and by supporting autonomy and authenticity.
In conclusion, the enduring ideas and likeable characters of the English literary classic "Pride and Prejudice" continue to enthrall readers. Jane Austen's skill in fusing sarcasm, romance, and keen observations of human nature has made this book a treasured classic that has endured through the ages. Whether you adore historical dramas or simply value well-crafted narrative, "Pride and Prejudice" is a must-read novel that will entertain and connect with readers for decades to come.

Reviewer's Name: Arjun
Ready Player One
Cline, Ernest
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Ready Player One is an amazing Sci-Fi book with the protagonist being Wade Watts. The Year is 2045 and us humans have used almost all of our fossil fuel and are keeping worse care of our planet. Thankfully technology has further developed and there is a Virtual reality called the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) created by James Halliday. The OASIS is accessible to anyone in the world, aside from the wondrous video game aspect from it there is an entire school system embedded in the code. Although Halliday died in 2040 his legacy lived on. Halliday created a challenge for any OASIS users, before he died he proposed a contest. Halliday hid secrets within the code and if you could figure them out you could inherit his fortune (half of a trillion dollars) along with control of the OASIS itself. Even after 5 years though no one had come even close to solving his riddle,
“The Copper Key awaits explorers
In a tomb filled with horrors
But you have much to learn
If you hope to earn
A place among the high scorers” (Ernest Cline, Ready Player One)
But one day, Wade was attending school and it hit him like a monster truck he knew how to solve the riddle.

Ready Player One is a truly fascinating novel. I would recommend it to anyone 14+. If you have an interest in highly developed characters, a futuristic dystopian world, 1980’s pop culture, and video games this will be a book that’s hard to put down. Wade Watts is of course the most advanced character since he is the main protagonist. Ernest does a wonderful job at explaining Wade’s backstory and how it is affecting him in the present. And the way that the world is now so messed up in the book and how Ernest depicted how it would be is amazing. Wade lives in a place called the stacks, an old field that has multiple RVs stacked on top of each other. Also people who were born in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s will get a kick as they remember their teen years in the 1980’s and understand the references. And of course if you love video games you will hear yourself cheering on Wade as he has to defeat bosses and figure out the riddles. Overall, I think that Ready Player One should be a book that most teens and young adults should read because I genuinely think that you will love this book as much as I did.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
Forgotten Journey
Ocampo, Silvina
4 stars = Really Good

Do you like very short stories that close the curtain before you fully know the resolution? Do you like real-life mundane events rendered slightly haunting? Do you like that odd pit in your stomach when something slightly horrifying is delivered in a naive and innocent voice? I think you'll like Silvina Ocampo's translated short stories anthology Forgotten Journey.
The stories are from another time (late 19th and early 20th century) and place (Argentina?) and the characters generally reflect that. I feel as though I got a (distorted) glimpse into the lives of a variety of characters -- well-off and poor, urbane and rural, altruistic and self-serving -- sometimes a mix of all of these from one scene to the next. I particularly enjoyed the creative and evocative descriptions -- one that sometimes evokes the banalest of objects or environments into a fantastically peculiar observer of the eccentricities of people.
Anyway, I'm grateful that PPLD has books like these, and I plan to explore more of Ocampo's and her contemporaries' oeuvre.

Reviewer's Name: Gabriela
Chen, Kirstin
4 stars = Really Good

A fast-paced caper (288 pages) with enough twists and turns to thoroughly entertain makes Kirsten Chen’s third novel well worth your time. But it is the Singapore native’s cutting commentary about the stereotype of model minorities, materialism and the American Dream that makes this work resonate after completion and a good book club selection.
The story centers on two Asian Americans – a mysterious woman knee deep in the illegal counterfeit handbag trade and a new mother and model minority stereotype who finds herself sucked into a shiny world where, as Chen writes “Money can’t buy you happiness … but it can get you a decent fake.”

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Lee, Min Jin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Pachinko is a critical darling and bestselling epic that is a must read for historical fiction fans wishing to learn about Korea and Japan from the early 1900s to recent times.
What makes Min Jin Lee’s second novel (2017, 496 pages) stand out is the well-developed characters who battle the tides of history and the message showing how cruel life can be for second-class citizens in a war-torn country.
There are strong women throughout, notably Sunja, the naive daughter of a Korean fisherman who is seduced by a wealthy, married businessman, becomes pregnant by him but rejects becoming his mistress to marry a sickly Japan-bound minister which kicks off a dramatic saga that resonates through the next four generations.
This epic provides a window into life from Japan’s best universities to the criminal underworld and everywhere in between while displaying how these stubborn, devoted women find the strength to maintain family bonds against forces that could destroy them.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Cavallaro, Brittany
3 stars = Pretty Good

"A Study In Charlotte" follows Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes, the descendents of the famed duo themselves. While the Watsons have lived relatively normal lives, the Holmes have kept up their prestigious reputation and penchant for mysteries. Jamie has been wishing for a friendship with Charlotte all his life, which makes it all the worse when they start off on a bad first impression. However, when the both of them become suspects in a murder, they have to work together to find the real culprit. Along the way they form a touching friendship that might be leading to something more.

Before I continue, this book features a main character who has been sexually assaulted. If this is a trigger for you, do not read this book.

The highlight of this book is the relationship between Jamie and Charlotte. It's built up naturally and is extremely heartwarming. It does fall into a common trap of romance books though, in that I didn't really care about any of their other connections. The mystery is perfectly serviceable, though nothing standout. The humor in this book is above average, especially in regards to Charlotte's eccentricities and Jamie's reactions. The way they handled the Holmes mythos was similarly interesting, though not mind blowing in any capacity.

Overall this is a solid read with some standout elements that I would definitely recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book jacket
Schwab, Victoria
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is about a French girl who did not want to get married and prayed to a dangerous higher being made a deal. The deal makes Addie cursed to live until she gets tired of living and not being able to remember as she lives. Throughout the novel Addie is alone for 300 years her only company this higher being who enjoys to mock her. Finally after 300 years someone remembers her.
The novel is written in a bit of a slow pace, but it slowly builds up as it goes on. The novel switches between the past of characters lives and the present. The ending is a little surprising. The book is worth the read.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Hana