All Book Reviews

A River Runs Through It
MacLean, Norman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I love how books can give insight into things we might not otherwise know. How, when someone "writes what they know" in an autobiographical sense, the reader gets to experience that slice of their life. I'm not interested in fishing—in any of its styles. And yet, A River Runs Through It gave such a clear picture of what it's like to go fly-fishing that I felt like I had actually experienced it. I'm still not interested in trying it in real life, but now I feel like I get it.

Of course, A River Runs Through It isn't entirely about fly-fishing. There are other universal themes, like fatherhood, brotherhood, sonship, and unity with nature. I can also appreciate that there is a Christian tilt to the main character without being judgmental of the choices his family has made. This unconditional love speaks to what Christianity is all about. That's not to say that the actions of his family aren't frustrating to read about, it's just that going fly-fishing is something that washes away any bad blood.

While it's a quick read, A River Runs Through It doesn't need much to convey the author's genuine attitude toward life. Because it's not about the details of actually fly-fishing that reveal how knowledgeable Maclean is at the sport. There weren't any facades that tried to paint the main character as a saint. All the characters had flaws, just some were more obvious than others. An accurate examination of an individual's life says more about what they've accepted than what they wish they'd wanted to be. And perhaps being in the "natural environment" where they're the most comfortable is the whole point of this book.

A heartfelt love letter to family and fly-fishing, I give A River Runs Through It 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I suggest the book to people, who want to enjoy an intriguing, fast paced novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone is the perfect book for those people.
This novel is the first of the seven famous Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. This book is about 11 year old Harry Potter, who receives a letter from Hogwarts, which is a school of witchcraft and wizardry.
This book is full of imagination like at one point, Harry Potter is asked to catch the golden ball, while he is flying on the broomstick. Then he stands up on the broomstick and tries to catch the golden ball unexpectedly he falls off from the broomstick and throws up the golden ball to winning the game for his team.
This book keeps you involved throughout the book.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a good book to spark joy and imagination for anyone, regardless of age.

Reviewer's Name: Teja S.
Things Fall Apart
Achebe, Chinua
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The novel was set down in 1958 by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who was the inventor of modern African literature. It is one of the most widely read novels in the world and also has a prestigious role in African literature.
It tells the story of a great wrestler, Okonkow, who is the best warrior among the people, and he hasn't inherited that honor, fame, and reputation from his father or ancestors, as it happens in most of the cases. He becomes a well-respected man, and the tales of his bravery and fighting spread like a bushfire in the other villages .

Things Fall Apart is a true picture of Nigerian culture, language, living style, their religion, different sorts of gods (God of Earth, Goddess of Fire, etc.), and customs, and the people are very much attached to their traditions and religion. Especially, the proverbs are also a big part of their culture. You could sense their importance from this proverb:

"Proverbs are the palm oil with which the words are eaten "

Okonkow is ostracized form the village for seven years for killing one of the clansmen. In his absence, an Englishman comes into his village, asks permission from the tribesmen to live there, and gets it. That's the point where the Nigerian culture's destruction starts. White men come one by one and build colonies to recite there.

So, their traditions, religion, and gods are all crucified ghastly by white missionaries who call Africans uncivilised, savage, and dark people and say we are the ones who came to give them light and are gonna make them civilised, but eventually they put them into the heart of darkness and are responsible for their destruction.

All the nations are known by their own traditions, culture, religion, and language . How could you make an organised nation by destroying its culture? White men came to show Africans a way to come out of their darkness, but the real darkness was inside them. It is a worthwhile novel and should be read.

Reviewer's Name: Muhammed N.
Nimona
Stevenson, Noelle
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It's a rare treat to find a graphic novel with well-rounded characters, an interesting story, and an art style that has range. Even if it started as a webcomic, Nimona shows a surprising amount of depth for the medium. Sure, some of the early parts were clearly encapsulated in a serial format, but they were a quick way to introduce the characters and setting. When the story has some room to grow, it gets even better. It's definitely a page-turner, and I devoured it as fast as I could.

The heart of Nimona is its characters. Flipping the hero's journey on its head and focusing on the villain's perspective was a fun touch. Nimona's chaotic nature was a fun contrast to Lord Ballister Blackheart, who just wanted to do his villainous revenge alone. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how naturally the book handles LGBTQ+ themes. None of it felt forced or odd, even in a science fantasy setting. It was just there, with no winking nods or awkward attention brought to it. Then again, it was also a fantastic adaptation of the "enemies to lovers" trope—or would it be "lovers to enemies"?

As someone who likes to write science fantasy stories, I absolutely loved the science fantasy setting. It has all the trappings of a medieval time, just with video chats, laser guns, and dragons co-existing in a way that makes perfect sense. This is the kind of thing I can completely get behind. If anything, I hope this book inspires more writers to jump into this genre, as I desperately want to read more books like this. It's like the best parts of sci-fi and fantasy brought together in an awesome (but also deeply moving) story.

A science fantasy graphic novel with excellent characters, story, and art, I give Nimona 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Solutions And Other Problems
Brosh, Allie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

My first introduction to Allie Brosh's work—as I'm sure is the case for many—was the "all the things" meme. For those looking for more depth from these drawings, look no further than the humorous illustrated memoir, Solutions and Other Problems. I have never quite read a book like this. When I picked it up off the shelf, I was expecting a graphic novel, only to be surprised with big chunks of text between illustrations. Clearly, the best of both worlds here. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be glad you read this book.

While it might be easy to discount the simple drawing style at first glance, many illustrations in this book prove to be quite exquisite. The stories themselves, which are not all silly or humorous, aid this distinction. Solutions and Other Problems subverted my expectations by being both hilarious and deeply profound. I've never read a book that had both a story about an obsessed kid stealing things from a neighbor's house and an examination of loss and depression. And yet, they both work in this context.

As these essays are deeply personal, I can say I don't particularly agree with some of the choices presented here. And that's fine. Everyone is different, and these are definitely the stories the author wanted to convey. I just don't want to endorse this book without providing the caveat that I probably wouldn't do things the way the author did them. Still, if you're going through some tough times, then perhaps this book will help break through to you with its humor while also comforting you with the idea that your feelings are valid and shared by other people.

The best half-graphic novel/half-memoir I've ever read, I give Solutions and Other Problems 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Better than the Movies book jacket
Painter, Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Better than the Movies is a young adult rom-com about Liz Buxbaum. The story centers around Liz’s senior year and her crush that just moved into town. It’s also centered around her neighbor, who tries to help Liz get her crush to ask her to prom. I think the author did a good job at talking about Liz and her emotions. Most of the story is Liz being a rom com lover like her mom who passed away. She tries to make her life like the romcoms she and her mother enjoyed together. The romance in this book was cute, but I also enjoyed how Lynn Painter kept it solely around Liz and her emotions about her mom and senior year. The coming of age part was very realistic while also playing out kind of like a rom com that Liz loves so much. So I thought that was a clever twist.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
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
Far From the Tree book jacket
Benway, Robin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway is a exploration of family, identity, and the bonds that tie people together. The book follows the interconnected lives of three siblings—Grace, Maya, and Joaquin—who are all separated and discover each other's existence and embark on a journey to understand the meaning of family. Benway skillfully intertwines the perspectives of these three characters, creating a narrative that unfolds with genuine emotion and authenticity. The story delves into themes of adoption, acceptance, and the profound impact of family connections on one's sense of self.
Awarding "Far From the Tree" a rating of 3/5 reflects my appreciation for the novel's engaging storyline and the author's adept portrayal of complex family dynamics. The characters are well-developed, and their individual struggles and growth are compelling. However, at times, the narrative can feel slightly formulaic, with certain plot points following predictable trajectories. Additionally, while the exploration of adoption is insightful, some aspects of the story may feel a bit too neatly resolved. Despite these minor critiques, Benway's ability to craft a touching narrative around the theme of found family makes "Far From the Tree" a solid and emotional read, deserving a 3 star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
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
Black Klansman book jacket
Stallworth, Ron
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Who knew history could be so ironic? It’s 1978, and the Ku Klux Klan is on the rise in the community of Colorado Springs. Ron Stallsworth, the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, launches an undercover investigation with the mission to thwart the Ku Klux Klan’s infiltration into Colorado Springs. Ron Stallsworth can only communicate via the telephone, so he recruits the “white” Ron Stallsworth, Chuck, to conduct all face-to-face meetings. This creates the perfect breeding ground for irony, insanity, and idiocy.

Out of the pure insanity of the circumstances and the idiocy of the Colorado Ku Klux Klan, this book had me uncontrollably laughing. While the writing style leaves much to be desired, the narrative more than bridges the gap. The BlackKlansmen is a wonderful memoir about standing up to terrorism and hate.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Mistborn: The Final Empire book jacket
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A high-stakes fantasy book about love and sacrifice, Mistborn is absolutely outstanding and a definite read for people who love fantasy. As with any excellent fantasy book, the worldbuilding is enthralling, and the magic system is incredibly distinctive yet easy to grasp. The characters are complex, relatable, and flawed, complemented by the third-person omniscient narration. With this cast of characters, the reader will be taken on multiple emotional rollercoasters before the book concludes. And yes, of course, there is romance layered on evenly throughout the narrative. While it does follow a typical plot, a revolution, or overthrow the corrupt leader, it is done uniquely, and there are twists, and there are turns. Honesty, I could not predict the ending and was left gaping on how intense the book got within the last quarter. As I said, I one hundred percent recommend Mistborn. It is an unforgettable read.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Genres:
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
The Upside of Falling book jacket
Light, Alex
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In "The Upside of Falling" by Alex Light, readers are treated to a heartwarming and charming YA contemporary novel. This story revolves around Becca Hart, a high school student who, in an unexpected turn of fate, fake-dates Brett Wells, the most popular boy in school. Although the trope and theme may sound familiar, Light's storytelling immerses it with a fresh and engaging twist. Becca and Brett's journey through the ups and downs of their "pretend" romance is filled with humor, relatable characters, and a delightful exploration of the complexities of high school relationships.
I give "The Upside of Falling" four stars for its simplicity, like a cute, short Wattpad (where it was originally published) story. Alex Light's writing style is refreshingly light and accessible, making it an delightful read for fans of YA romance. The story's direct and endearing approach to love and self-discovery is very enjoyable, and the characters are relatable and easy to root for. This book's likable and uncomplicated narrative is suggestive of the online stories many readers adore, making it a perfect choice for those seeking a sweet and heartwarming escape into the world of high school romance.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Awards:
The Fault in Our Stars book jacket
Green, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" is a heartwarming and pleasant YA novel that explores a variety of themes like love, illness, and essence. This particular story follows the narrative of Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who battle cancer and embark on a journey of love and self-discovery together.
I rate "The Fault in Our Stars" 3 out of 5 stars for its easy readability, enjoyable narrative, and the extremely important message it conveys about cancer awareness through Hazel's and Augustus' characters. It is an incredibly nice, short book to read, particularly for audiences who are young adults. However, compared to some of the other books I've read, it doesn't delve as deeply and lacks the complex storytelling that I often seek while reading. While it certainly has its lovely positives that I enjoyed, the book, in my opinion, falls a little short in terms of depth and construction, which is why I choose to give it a 3-star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Crooked Kingdom book jacket
Bardugo, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Crooked Kingdom is a sequel to Six of Crows, both of which are set in the Grishaverse. It is the story of how Kaz Brekker and his crew as they try to con Jan Van Eck out of his money before he builds an empire with the deadly substance, parem.

As with the last book, the characters are the standouts. Every member of the cast is fleshed out, and you can understand every decision they make. Jesper, Matthias, and Wylan are the standouts in this book. Each of them continue on their arcs in a natural way that leaves their characters feeling complete. Jesper realizes that many of his problems come from hiding his true self as a grisha. Matthias finally sees the beauty in the grisha. Wylan overcomes his father's influence and sees him for what he is.

The plot has constant twists and turns, but is still easy to follow. As the story progresses, the challenges the group faces continually grow more difficult. The characters have to change their plans multiple times to keep up with the growing influence of their adversaries. This story markets itself as a fun fantasy heist, and it more than succeeds in that. It might not say anything particularly meaningful, but it has a few nice messages sprinkled in there.

My main problem with this book is with Inej. Her arc was more or less completed in the last book, and this book doesn't have much for her to do. There's a brief crisis where she believes Kaz only keeps her around because she's useful, but that's resolved rather quickly. She has a rivalry with a character named Dunyasha, but nothing is done with that either. She beats Inej once, then loses the next time they fight. It doesn't make Inej grow or change. It just exists. It might not have bothered me so much if it wasn't built up as this incredible rivalry. I felt that the book wanted her to remain one of the main characters, but had to make up excuses for her to still be in the spotlight.

However, that one critique is rather small. Overall, Crooked Kingdom is a delightfully fun book. I would recommend it to any Grishaverse fans, fantasy fans, or heist fans.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Book Thief book jacket
Zusak, Markus
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was awesome! I had to read it for school, but I ended up really loving it and the way Markus Zusak wrote it. This book takes place in Nazi Germany and follows a young girl named Liesel who loves words and stories but can’t read. The book is interesting because the narrator isn’t Liesel and it isn’t in third person, instead it’s narrated by Death himself. Through Death, we learn about Liesel’s development and the environment she is living through. We watch as she gets older and continues her love for stories and writing. While this story can be heartfelt, the focus still takes place in Nazi Germany where all kinds of tragedies were taking place and made me tear up more than once. This book was amazing but it’s something you have to read slowly because of all the figurative language and metaphors being described at once. You have to think about what Death is telling you and then compare it to Liesel’s story. I loved this book but I was ready to cry by then end of it because of all the events taking place.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Geek Girl Rising book jacket
Cabot, Heather
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

'Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech' is a nonfiction book focusing on the women who have taken their place in the tech industry, placing special focus on the women who help empower other women. Each woman is given a snapshot of her successes and story.

The highlight of this books is learning about these impressive women. I can imagine this would be especially empowering for girls who are looking to get into this industry. Over one hundred women are mentioned, and a list of them are included at the end of the book for reference. Furthermore, with this book at the ready, it would be impossible to claim that there aren't sucessful women in tech.

The writing style is quick and snappy, not lingering on any point for too long. It focuses on telling as many stories as possible. However, none of the stories feel empty. Lots of information is fit into small spaces.

My only complaint is that I wished the book had gone more into detail about the challenges women in the industry face. There were brief mentions of sexism in the workplace, but it wasn't discussed much. Though I understand that the point of the book is to inspire, I would have liked a better understanding of why empowerment is so needed in the tech world.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the tech industry or feminism. I would especially recommend it to anyone looking for female role models.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Illuminae book jacket
Kaufman, Amie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was interesting. It takes place in 2575 so way in the future and includes a planet invasion and a plague. It was also written in the transcripts of files and emails, so even though it was a long book it was a quick read. It was slow at the beginning and a little hard to get into because of the different way of writing it, but it eventually got good. I was interested for a while, but then it just got confusing again. I also did not enjoy the main character or the way she acted, her character development just stopped making sense. I’m not sure if I would recommend this book, I think if you want a legit sci-fi novel you should read this, but be prepared to focus try to transcript emails and codes.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
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
To All the Boys I've Loved Before book jacket
Han, Jenny
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To all the Boys I’ve loved Before is a coming of age novel. Lara Jean Covey writes love letters whenever she has a crush so intense she doesn’t know what else to do. She has five in all, and keeps them all in a blue hatbox for her eyes only. Until by accident someone sends them out and her life spirals out of control

This was an interesting take on love letters as she only wrote them to get over a crush and not to confess her feelings. I enjoyed Lara Jean’s personality throughout the book and liked the supporting characters as they developed. This book is a good focus on grief and letting go as her older sister is off at college and now she’s the woman of the house since her mom died years prior. I feel like I could connect to Lara Jean a lot as she is scared to try new things and makes a realistic approach on growing up.

Reviewer's Name: Cara