All Book Reviews

A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The opening lines say it all. I do enjoy Dickens, but this is by far, my favorite novel of his. This book follows the effects and far-reaching ramifications of the arrogant cruelty of the French aristocracy before their Revolution. A man is saved from an unfair imprisonment, but must regain himself through his devoted daughter and friends. They build a new life in England, where we get to know an array of complex characters – each with their own foibles and narratives. Meanwhile the fervor of the people of France veers towards the inevitable overthrow of the tyrannical aristocracy, and as often happens, the oppressed become the new oppressors. Destiny drives our main characters into the French turmoil where they find chaos, danger, and ultimately redemption.

Reviewer's Name: Chris W.
Girls of Paper and Fire
Natasha Ngan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every year one girl from the lowest caste in each of the 8 provinces is selected to be a Paper Girl - a concubine to the king. Usually, the girls choose to put themselves forth for the selection. But this year, there will be nine girls. Lei, the ninth, was ripped from her home by a General trying to curry favor with the King. And unlike the other paper girls, this was in no way a choice for her. As she learns more about her fellow Paper Girls and life in the palace, she becomes further disgusted with the caste systems and the concept of Paper Girls. And she'll do everything in her limited power to defy the king - even if it costs her her life.

Girls of Paper and Fire was awesome. I've been burned by heavily hyped diverse YA fantasy lately (Children of Blood and Bone, Mirage), but luckily for me, this one did not disappoint. The premise sounded fairly...gross for lack of a better word - a girl stripped from her home against her will to become a concubine to the king. You know there's going to be some unconsensual sex happening. And there was, but it was handled really well by the author. She takes a very sensitive issue and does not sensationalize it. In fact, its presented in such a way that women who have had similar experiences might find some solace in the book, which, if you read the Afterword, was clearly the author's intention.

Unlike some YA fantasy, this was a slowly paced book that was mostly about developing our main character. Lei really grew as a woman and a person throughout the course of the book. She stands up for her beliefs, herself, her body, even though it almost gets her killed. There's also romance, and its a slowly developed, realistic story of love in the worst of times. The worldbuilding was stunning - the setting was Malaysia inspired, and the formation of the three different castes and their traditions was well thought out and presented in such as way as to be simultaneously creepy and gorgeous. My two complaints are fairly minor: there were a few very predictable plot elements, and the writing occasionally leaned into too flowery territory. Otherwise, though, I loved it.

If you are looking for a feminist fantasy read with excellent worldbuilding and character development, you won't go wrong with Girls of Paper and Fire. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Family Plot
Priest, Cherie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book provides a unique twist on the classic haunted house story. A salvage crew combs through an ancient house to save its architectural treasures before the house is demolished. The crew’s presence disturbs more than dust though, as a vicious spirit starts to attack the crew, who had made the unfortunate decision to sleep in the house to save on their budget. If they abandon the job, it could mean the end of the family business, but staying gets increasingly unbearable. I think I read this book entirely over the course of a few nights – I didn’t want to put it down! Hollywood has been notorious for sequels and prequels of established “brands”. I highly suggest that they snap up the movie rights for The Family Plot, and give their audience something rich and original.

Reviewer's Name: Chris
Genres:
Fish in a Tree
Hunt, Lynda
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a well told story of dealing with a disability and the difference that having positive relationships makes in that ongoing struggle. I loved the short chapters and the peaks into each character's life.

Reviewer's Name: Mary
Moby Dick
Melville, Herman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Moby Dick is a classic piece of literature, an iconic masterpiece. The story, once it pick up, is extremely engaging and interesting. The characters, such as Ishmael and Captain and Ahab, all exude personality and uniqueness. Plus, it has one of the greatest antagonists in all of literature: Moby Dick himself. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. There are some downsides, such as the language of the seamen being somewhat hard to grasp, and the several chapters describing whaling or the anatomy of whales being completely pointless. However, these do not detract too much from the overall experience, and the novel is still an exceptional one. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a good novel to read, or anyone who has a passion for the ocean.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Frankenstein
Shelly, Mary Wollstonecraft
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The classic tale of mystery and horror is also one that is an extremely entertaining read. While it may not be the scariest novel ever, the mere ideas that it presents are certain to make one a bit uneasy. The plot is iconic: Victor Frankenstein, aspiring philosopher and scientist, creates a horrifying monster out of dead bodies and reanimates it from the dead. The monster then goes on a murderous rampage after being rejected by his very creator. The novel is very good, and the message it presents, of not overreaching for knowledge, is a timeless one. The only downside to this icon of horror is that some chapters tend to drag, and have little purpose. However, this is not a huge detriment since the rest of the novel is so entertaining. I would recommend to thriller or horror enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Lord of Chaos
Jordan, Robert
2 stars = Meh
Review:

While the first five novels in the Wheel of Time series were near masterpieces in their own right, the sixth entry is where the series begins to peter out a bit. Whereas the previous novels were compelling high fantasy adventures, this one seems to exist in more of the vein of a drama. Intense magical battles and high stakes plots to unravel are here replaced with the female characters prattling on about the color and feel of their dresses, or complaining about men with each other. Additionally, there is an enormous cast of characters to keep track of, which does tend to drag the novel down and make it more confusing than it needs to be. True, this was also a problem in the the first five novels, but compounded with the sometimes boring plot and mundane female characters it becomes a much more noticeable problem. Most of the novel is people sitting around postulating for power and talking. However, there are some things to be appreciative of, such as the political intrigue, chapters from the Forsaken point of view, and the return to Shadar Logoth, but these things just don't help the novel in the long run. I would recommend it to anyone who has read the previous five books.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Genres:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Albertalli, Becky
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" is about a student named Simon who is 17 and is closeted. He emails his unknown friend that goes by the fake name Blue frequently and also goes the fake name Jacques. Everything is fine, until Martin sees Simon's email one day in the library. Martin uses the emails as a way to blackmail him. Simon is forced to do everything Martin asks in order to keep his sexual orientation a secret from the outside world. Martin does terrible things to get what he wants which is a chance with Simon's friend Abby. While this is happening Simon becomes closer with Blue and eventually develops a crush on the unknown boy who goes to the same school. Many things happen between Martin and Simon but everything ends when Martin takes things too far. As a result of Martin's extreme act, he is forced to come out to everyone. Simon becomes even closer with Blue and things escalate to them knowing each other's identity. Blue and Simon end up dating in real life and everything ends happily despite the many issues Simon had to face with coming out and Martin.

I read this book because I had heard good things about the movie Love, Simon and wanted to read the book it was based off of. "Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" was an amazing book. I loved the LGBT+ representation. Simon's feelings were very real and relatable. I finished the book in a day because I enjoyed it that much. I would definitely recommend to anyone and I would definitely classify it as one of the top three books I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: Oriana O.
Genres:
The Last Star
Yancey, Rick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Last Star by Rick Yancey was an enthralling close to The 5th Wave trilogy that left me in a trance of teardrops and the grip of a smile. Throughout the series, a group of survivors varying in age and personality banded together while a cruel species from another planet seized the Earth in determination
for solitude-- without care to the danger of the human life that already inhabited the planet. The book follows the minds, attitudes, and decisions of several characters, including Cassie Sullivan, her little brother, and her high school crush, along with other rogues that had survived the inhumane attacks of the inhuman. It was a race to get to the next page as the question of survival blared atop the ink and paper and as hate and wrongdoing and abandonment bloomed within the dying fields of love and innocence and hope. I thoroughly enjoyed this story because of how unfathomable yet relatable it was; the idea of aliens attacking Earth is very far from reality, but the way humans responded to the intruders in The Last Star was raw and familiar. I picked this book up because I had previously read the first two books of the series (The 5th Wave and The Infinite Sea) and appreciated the storyline of the movie, "The 5th Wave". The Last Star was at no point predictable; there were plot twists tucked into the spaces between chapters. Along with this, Rick Yancey's poetic script was remarkable throughout the story because of his beautiful descriptions of the action that allowed a new depth to be reached within the intricate plot. I would recommend this book to anyone who seeks adventure from the confines of a bedroom, as well as the understanding of the crude emotion that helps us to grow not as persons but as a people.

Reviewer's Name: Anya G.
Life and Death Twilight Reimagined
Meyer, Stephanie
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

In "Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined", the hit series Twilight is essentially gender-bent -- Bo, a human boy from Arizona, moves to the Washington town of Forks to live with his father. There, he meets Edythe, a vampire girl, and they fall in love. This book left me speechless, but not in a good way. The writing is atrocious; the dialogue was cliche and awkwardly phrased. The characters are flat and one-dimensional -- everyone simply changes genders and names (ex. Alice becomes Archie, Jasper becomes Jessamine). For reference, I also read the original Twilight book, just to see if it was as badly written as the reimagined one. I discovered that there were several lines from the original that were also in the reimagined version. It was as though she copied and pasted the same lines from her first book into this one. That seems to contradict the idea of a remake. For those who might be wondering if the reimagined book is any better than the original, the answer is no. But, if you enjoy a cheesy read like I do sometimes, then you may enjoy "Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined."

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
The Hunger Games
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In "The Hunger Games", sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her young sister's place in the cruel Hunger Games, an annual televised competition where children fight to the death until one remains. Although I'd watched all the movie adaptations before reading this book, I was still completely hooked. Everything about this book is absolutely fantastic -- the characters, the plot, the writing. The characters are complex and complicated, blurring the line between good and evil -- Katniss, in many ways, makes a phenomenal anti-hero. The plot moves quickly -- every chapter leaves on a cliffhanger, making it impossible to put the book down. The writing is succinct and gripping. The only criticism I could think of is that the beginning is a little slow, but it picks up very quickly from there. Everyone should read this book -- it's possibly one of the greatest books I've ever read. "The Hunger Games" is simply amazing.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
City of Ghosts
Schwab, Victoria
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Cassidy Blake is an unusual girl. She has been able to see ghosts since she nearly drowned a few years ago, befriending a young ghost boy named Jacob. When her parents start filming a television show about paranormal activity in Edinburgh, Scotland, she's dragged along and taken for an unexpected adventure. I absolutely adored this book! I'd heard great things about Victoria Schwab's writing, and I can say that "City of Ghosts" definitely lives up to the hype. It was witty, charming, gripping, and magical. Jacob and Cassidy's friendship is deep and meaningful. I also loved the setting of Edinburgh, which could be considered a character of its own. I have nothing negative to say about this amazing story -- except that it was over far sooner than I would've liked! Although this book is targeted more towards a middle-school audience, I think everyone who loves fantasy or paranormal books would love this one. You won't regret it.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
City of Bones
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the first book of the Mortal Instruments series, "City of Bones," sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is thrown into a dark new world after her mother is kidnapped. She encounters the Shadowhunters, Nephilim warriors who fight evil in New York City, and joins them in a mission to save her mother and stop a great evil. This book was great. Although I had seen the movie adaptation prior to reading this book, it felt as though I were entering this world for the first time. Cassandra Clare does an excellent job pulling the reader into the story -- hooking them with an interesting, complex world and fantastic characters. The plot is fast-paced and incredibly gripping. If I had any criticism, it would be that the main character Clary wasn't necessarily the most likable protagonist. At times, she acted spitefully and (occasionally) unfairly. It was often difficult to root for her. But what saves this is the other characters, who were incredibly developed and likable
-- Simon being one of my favorites. I'm looking forward to reading all the other books in this series -- and would definitely recommend this to lovers of urban fantasy and folklore.

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Woods Runner
Paulsen, Gary
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When Samuel is just thirteen, he is already grown up. He is a man of the forest who enjoys being deep in the wilderness rather than around other people. He is an expert hunter and his neighbors rely on him to bring them fresh meat. From his neighbors, he and his family hear that a war is starting.

One day, while he is out hunting, he sees smoke coming from the direction of his house. He runs back to find almost everyone in his village dead. The few who were not killed were taken prisoner. Among those few left alive are Samuel’s parents. Now he must use woodsman skills to track down his parents. Finding allies and avoiding the enemy are key in the survival of himself and his parents.

Even though this book takes place during the war, it focuses more about Samuel’s journey to find his parents. It skims the surface on some of what happened during the battles, but more on Samuel’s problems and how he survived. I really enjoyed how, at the end of each chapter, the book explained a little bit about something that was in the war, whether it was the type of guns they used, some of the different jobs people had, etc.

Reviewer's Name: Ben C.
Genres:
Illegal
Colfer, Eoin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ebo is a boy from Ghana with a tough life. First his parents have died and he has to live with his alcoholic uncle. Then his sister left Africa for the nearly impossible journey to Europe, seeking a better life. Then Ebo’s brother does the same thing. Ebo refuses to be left behind, so he too embarks on the dangerous journey. He travels across his country, then through a desert, and then across something even more dangerous the ocean. Can Ebo find his brother and overcome the dangers of his journey?

With tons of adventures in this past and present story, readers will find out what it was like for refugees to try and get to Europe. Millions of people attempt the journey, but only some survive. People died of many things--sickness, dehydration, old age, drowning, and even getting killed by others are just some of problems they face.

This is a stand alone graphic novel with a great story and wonderful illustrations. It really showed me how hard it was to live in Ghana and how difficult it was to make the journey to Europe. Besides all the ways a person might die, they also could be sent back for not having the proper immigration paperwork.

This is one of my favorite books that I have read in the last few months. Even if you aren’t normally a fan of graphic novels, I would recommend reading it to gain insight about the migrant crisis around the world.

Reviewer's Name: Ben C.
Star Wars. Thrawn
Zahn, Timothy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was amazing. It is a must-read for Si-Fi and Star Wars fans.

Reviewer's Name: Rachel
The Astronaut's Son
Seigel, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While the modern landscape for space exploration is expanding in ways that are very exciting, it’s interesting to read a story set in the early 2000’s that actually accomplishes something that hasn’t happened in decades: landing on the moon. And yet, this part of the plot of The Astronaut’s Son takes a minor role when compared with the primary thrust of the story. Sure, I would have thought that there would be plenty of things to occupy an astronaut’s time in the lead-up to a significant accomplishment, but apparently, there’s plenty of free time to explore the validity of a conspiracy theory.

I’ll admit that I never thought that there would be Nazi sympathizers in the space program, but The Astronaut’s Son brings up a few interesting and perhaps semi-plausible ideas. These are explored via the main character’s investigation as to whether his father’s sudden death would was truly due to a health condition that could affect him during his own mission, or if it was due to more sinister circumstances. Despite not ever seeming to deliver straight answers, the journey was still exciting and entertaining. The story may be fictional, but there did seem to be some deep-seated elements that had the possibility of being true, thus helping to suspend my disbelief.

Some of the other subplots, like the birth of a child and numerous characters’ marital infidelities, were interesting for character development, even if I thought they would have affected the main plot more than they did. After all, wouldn’t it be more interesting if there wasn’t even a genetic link between the main character and his father after all? At any rate, I was certainly blown away by this book at first, and it wowed me with its writing and style. However, if you think too much about it, you’ll start to realize there are some holes in it that can’t entirely be covered up, regardless of its entertainment value.

An interesting and perhaps plausible exploration of Germans and Jews in the space program, I give The Astronaut’s Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Chinese Cinderella: the True Story of an Unwanted Daughter
Mah, Adeline Yen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The true story "Chinese Cinderella" is about a young Chinese girl named Adeline who faces the struggles of being unwanted and unloved. Adeline is seen as bad luck because her mother died after she was born. Her stepmother, Niang, hates her and favors all other siblings besides Adeline. Adeline achieves academic awards and good grades in hopes to make her family proud however they still see her as nothing. Throughout the book she faces many different problems all relating to her family mistreating her. Adeline is even sent to an orphanage at one point due to her friends coming to her house to throw a party for her. Not only does she face physical issues, but Adeline faces mental and emotional issues. Despite these issues, Adeline stays strong until the end and continues to try her best.

I read this book for a book report and was not at all disappointed."Chinese Cinderella" was sad but heartwarming. During multiple points in the book I cried. Adeline's feelings are very relatable and real. I thoroughly enjoyed the book."Chinese Cinderella" is in a genre of books I do not generally read however I was surprised and actually liked it. It is one of the best books I have read this year; I would definitely recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Oriana O.
Awards:
The Long Cosmos
Pratchett, Terry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

By the time I reached the end of the Long Earth series, I had a revelation. With the bounding conditions of the universe being that there are multiple worlds accessible via stepping and that no iron can pass between worlds, the ideas to explore these multiple worlds are almost endless. My revelation was that this series would have been better as an anthology of short stories from a collection of authors, instead of a handful of semi-disjointed novels that didn’t ever quite know what they were doing. The story never shined through, instead of feeling like a distracted three-year-old who wants to explore the potential of other worlds.

While I felt the series was starting to succeed in telling coherent and solid plots, this book removed that forward progress. When nearly one-third of the first part of the book seems to be comprised entirely of summary and recaps of the last four books, you know there’s not a lot of original ideas present in this one. And while minor tangents like the Johnny Shakespeare side-plot were amusing, they were loosely connected to the main plot at best. Even this main plot didn’t feel like it had enough time spent on it, as the main character of Joshua Valienté seemed to spend most of his time distracted on other worlds with unique trees instead of exploring the Long Cosmos that this book was supposed to be describing.

Even though this book was released after Terry Pratchett's death, it was clear he still had some of his influence on the plot and characters. Unfortunately, as was the case in the other books of the series, his contributions seemed to be fairly obvious, as they were the ones that didn’t quite fit in with everything else and just managed to be silly in an otherwise scientific exploration of new worlds.

The final book in a series that should have been an anthology, I give The Long Cosmos 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Hunters
Flanagan, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The novel, The Hunters, by John Flanagan is a great read. The book is the third in the Brotherband book series, and is still entertaining, even if you haven't read the previous books. Throughout the tale of Hal and his fellow Herons, every character is well developed, including some of the side characters. The only thing that I would recommend is that the author tries to build more of a connection between these great characters and the reader. The plot does include some unexpected, but well-placed twists and turns, which adds to the story, but the overall plot is sort-of bland. It's just a good guys versus bad guys kind of story, and it includes some unnecessary events that just seem to prolong the story. I see a great deal of more potential to build upon the base story and flesh it out, especially with the theme of brotherhood in mind. Overall the book is a pretty good read if you're into adventure, and I would recommend it to anyone with some spare free time.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:

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