All Book Reviews

Invision book jacket
Kenyon, Sherrilyn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Nick was born evil. As the most powerful demon to ever exist, every fiber in him was created to destroy, annihilate, and wreak havoc. It is his destiny to destroy the world and everyone he loves. But he is determined to thwart his destiny, and live his life as a somewhat normal person. When he's not being thrown against lockers by the school bully, he's battling demons and pushing the limits with the Fates of the Universe. Except for this time, with the help of his ancient demons friends and the Eye of Ananke, he can see the mishaps of the future...and knows that someone besides him is trying to change it. Now, he has to battle something far deadlier and treacherous than ever before...and he has no idea who or what it is.

This is the seventh book in the series, and once again it does not disappoint! I like how there is a mix of adventure, the supernatural, romance, and fantasy (and even some special appearances from Greek gods and goddesses!) and that the main character is relatable: he's in high school, trying to figure out who he is and what he stands for. The book also isn't a super long read, and once you start, it's hard to put it down!

Reviewer's Name: Nneoma
Fairest book jacket
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the last decade or so, the idea of “redeemable villains” took off. So many stories had antagonists that had their heinous acts justified by some past trauma that somehow made them more human and understandable. While I appreciate flawed characters and the bad decisions that eventually led them down the dark and evil path, I don’t think it’s always necessary to make villains redeemable. That is unless it’s done well. Fairest does it well.

Right from the first pages of Fairest, the reader understands that Levana was the runt of the family. The amount of teasing and hypocrisy that formed this young girl into the evil queen she would eventually become is understandable. However, the real brilliance of this story comes in when Levana tries to solve her problems the only way she knows how: by manipulation. It’s not entirely her fault, as the royal family seemed to be built on this foundation of getting what they want by any means necessary—still, it doesn’t excuse what she did.

Even if Fairest is only a side-story for the Lunar Chronicles series, I think it’s required reading to understand the series’ main antagonist fully. If you want to read it chronologically (before Cinder ), it’s a good amount of backstory that will help bring you up to speed, even at the expense of being spoiled by some of the (albeit obvious) twists of the series. If you read it after Cress and before Winter, then it stands as a much-needed flashback before the conclusion of the series. At the very least, I’m glad that this story wasn’t crammed into the other books and was given the room to be its own story.

The best “understandable villain” I’ve ever read, I give Fairest: Levana’s Story 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Cress book jacket
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with me will know that one of my top three favorite movies is Tangled (2010). It then comes as no surprise to me that the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series that adapts the Rapunzel fairy tale into this sci-fi retelling would be my favorite of the set. It wasn't until I was reading original fairy tales to my daughter that I realized how close Cress came to representing the story it was based on instead of just relying on the familiar accouterments of the fairy tale.

While I didn't appreciate as much of the split storylines in Scarlet , I felt they improved the greater story arc of the whole series here. Cress explored much of the inner workings of the antagonist faction of Lunars that had been missing up until this point of the series. As such, I was able to gain a greater emotional attachment to the rag-tag group of rebels. It also helped that there was clear character growth in some of the minor characters like Carswell Thorne and Cress through the challenges they had to overcome.

Perhaps the best reason this was my favorite book of the Lunar Chronicles series is that it truly was building toward the climax of the series as a whole. Watching all the different pieces fall into place to set up the final book of the series was what had me hooked on this story all the way through. And sure, it still had that "teenage girl" quality to its prose, but at least it helped make the characters realistic—even if it was to adhere to the tropes of the Young Adult genre.

The sci-fi Rapunzel retelling I didn't know I needed, I give Cress 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Three-Body Problem book jacket
Liu, Cixin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A few years ago, someone suggested that I read the Remembrance of Earth's Past series, so of course, I added it to my Overdrive wish list so I could eventually listen to the audiobook. I'm usually down to read some hard sci-fi since it's a niche genre I enjoy. I was intrigued that this book came from China because I don't usually think of hard sci-fi when I think of that country. In fact, I hardly think of literature that wasn't written hundreds of years ago.

It's been about five months since I read this book, so this review is a long time coming. I still vaguely know what this book was about and what science was explored within its prose, but that's about it. Nothing stuck with me other than the sense that it was a bit of an Ender's Game ripoff. I would have liked to connect with the characters a bit more, but The Three-Body Problem seemed too bogged down in trying to get its complex science across to spend enough time creating characters that I liked.

Ultimately, much like the Broken Earth trilogy, I can understand the hype this book had received, even if it didn't fully grab me when I listened to the audiobook. I'll continue this series if for no other reason than it presented an interesting idea that I'd like to see to completion. Perhaps the fact that I'm listening to a translation of the original Chinese story is what's reducing some of my enjoyment of this book, which isn't necessarily the book's fault. I think the world is big enough for other non-Anglo cultures to tell stories like this, and for this reason alone, I would recommend fans of hard sci-fi at least give The Three-Body Problem a chance.

Interesting hard sci-fi concepts from China, I give The Three-Body Problem 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Reading List book jacket
Adams, Sara Nisha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book has left me gutted, happy, and exhausted. It summed up everything I've loved about books since I was little, how stories can be a way to escape, but also how they allow you to step into someone else's shoes for a while, and hopefully understand not only each other's differences, but also our similarities. An emotional rollercoaster, definitely one of my favorites of the year.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Achebe, Chinua
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Introduction , imprint, synopsis, genre, central theme and evaluation

Reviewer's Name: Ruth
Illuminae
Kaufman, Amie and Kristoff, Jay
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Illuminae is an enthralling mix of science fiction and thriller. Written as a case file and using many different formats (audio logs, transcribed security footage, and interviews are just a few), Illuminae has action, mystery, and romance to interest many teen readers, although its multimedia style may be jarring to some. Overall, an excellent book and the start of one of my favorite series to date.

Reviewer's Name: Locke
Treasure Island
Stevenson, Robert Louis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is an amazing book filled with suspense and action to no end. It follows the story of a boy named Jim Hawkins, whose life takes a turn after buccaneers turn his quiet inn life upside down. He is whisked on a voyage after learning of a "treasure island". After overhearing a conversation between some of his most trusted friends, Hawkins has to find a way to fix the voyage-and stay safe! Treasure Island is filled with twists and turns that will certainly keep you on edge for the whole book! Check it out, you'll definitely enjoy it.

Reviewer's Name: Gemma
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Really Good.

Reviewer's Name: Leeann
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
O'Brien, Robert
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Mrs. Frisby, a mouse, and her family have lived in peace, traveling between summer and winter homes to account for the farmer's plowing and the weather.
But when Timothy, her youngest son falls very ill, and cannot be moved in time, Mrs. Frisby sets out to fix her dilemma. She soon comes across the rats of NIMH, who are very strange and very smart. They are more than willing to help her, but they already have a problem on their hands, one they aren't even aware of.

This book is amazing! It shows the thoughts and worries of Mrs. Frisby, and then her ways of dealing with them in a terrific way. I loved the characters and the suspenseful plot. It kept me up late, because the rats are just so fascinating, especially in their way of coping with their unique problems.
This is a fantastic read, and everybody who reads this book will love the sweet and charming character of Mrs. Frisby, and the spectacularly mysterious rats. Even if you usually stick to nonfiction, you will love this book, because it shows some interesting science...

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
A World Out of Time
Niven, Larry
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I’m starting to realize that science fiction in the 1970s might need to stay there. While there was a lot of progress in the genre past the golden era of the 1950s, many of these books are unfortunate snapshots of a time that has not aged well. Similar to Ringworld , I found A World Out of Time to rely heavily on the sexism that runs rampant through 1970s sci-fi. Additionally, while the hard science presented in this book was generally plausible, the way it was presented was so dry and dense as to make it more of a Ph.D. thesis than an entertaining read.

On the plus side, A World Out of Time explores many scientific ideas that were well ahead of its time. Aside from the normal sci-fi tropes of mind implants and artificial intelligence, this book also deals with climate change in a way that hasn’t been felt until now. Granted, it blames this extreme change of the Earth’s environment on the sun and less on the humans who inhabit it, but the thinking about what would happen to our planet if such a thing were to happen was thorough enough to be believable.

Despite these forward-thinking ideas, A World Out of Time treats sex and drugs as inconsequential parts of life in the future. It’s clear the culture of the 1970s influenced this part of the book, but it feels so outdated compared to today’s standards that it was difficult to read without rolling my eyes. Sure, it’s probably less prominent than the pulpy science fiction stories that came before it, but the fact that the author felt these things needed to be included tells me more than I need to know about him.

A dry hard sci-fi novel that hasn’t aged that well, I give A World Out of Time 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Stories of Your Life and Others
Chiang, Ted
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After reading Exhalation , I found myself in search of more stories by Ted Chiang. This led me to Stories of Your Life and Others. Partly because this collection included many of Chiang’s earlier stories, not all of them were great pieces of literature like the ones in Exhalation. I could tell that Chiang was still trying to find his voice as a writer as he explored many science fiction topics common to the genre. While not all of the stories are fantastic, there are enough good ones to warrant reading this collection.

What’s a little disappointing is how some of the ideas Chiang explores in this book are truly interesting topics, but the execution of these stories feels a little too erudite for the common reader. I appreciate Chiang’s later ability to humanize these ideas (as shown by my love of Exhalation), but he just wasn’t quite there yet with these early works. Still, there are a handful of award-winning stories in this book, including “Tower of Babylon” and “Hell Is the Absence of God.” Chiang’s ability to combine science and religion is second to none, and these stories prove as much.

One story in this book stands out from the rest. It makes sense that “Story of Your Life” was the titular choice for this book. For those unaware, the movie Arrival (2016) is based on this short story (and is a pretty close adaptation). Even if you only read “Story of Your Life,” I think you’ll get something out of this collection. It is by far the most approachable of these stories, and it deserved all of the awards bestowed upon it when it was originally published in the late 1990s.

A good collection of Ted Chiang’s early works that contains a few sparkling gems, I give Stories of Your Life and Others 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Caliban's War
Corey, James S. A.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

One of the things I like about James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series is how these books focus on the crew of the Rocinante. Many hard sci-fi writers try to show how smart they are by making it obvious how much math they did to explain how their sci-fi universe works. While The Expanse certainly has these moments, they’re fit in between the human drama that follows James Holden and his crew. Trouble seems to follow them wherever they go, and in Caliban’s War, they’re pulled into a political conflict that spans the solar system.

I appreciate how an overarching plot with the protomolecule connects Leviathan Wakes to Caliban’s War. While the first book in the series took some time ramping up into having a cohesive collection of characters, Caliban’s War uses all four members of Rocinante’s crew in a new way that felt more interesting. Of course, this book also contains my favorite “character of the day” with Chrisjen Avasarala as the U.N. ambassador. Her calculated political ambitions were fun to watch as they unfolded, and she tried to keep on top of all the chaos that was happening.

Caliban’s War also benefits from plenty of action and tense moments. What could easily be confusing and hard to follow was well written and engaging. My heart was racing as these exciting sequences took the political drama and made it explode in a way that was both expected and fun to read. Ultimately, the emotional connection to the characters—both continuing from book one and exclusive to this book—is what made everything click for me in this novel. Granted, I would have liked a little more continuity between the two books by bringing over more characters from Leviathan Wakes. Still, sometimes a long-running series has to focus on bite-size stories instead of carrying a huge and unwieldy plot throughout.

An exciting, political, and action-filled hard sci-fi gem, I give Caliban’s War 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Stone Sky
Jemisin, N. K.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with The Stone Sky. It took me some time to get used to the way the author wrote the Broken Earth trilogy, but by the end of the second book, The Obelisk Gate , I had bought into the premise. The fact that this book had a lot to live up to with the foreshadowing presented in the second book might be why I’m disappointed with the result. After all, I was looking forward to some epic moments involving the moon, which didn’t seem to materialize for me. Now that I’ve finished this trilogy, I’m starting to wonder if the reason it didn’t quite fully click for me was because I was reading it via audiobook. There seemed to be a lot that I missed that would leave me confused about who the characters were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Perhaps if I had dedicated time to focusing on these audiobooks instead of listening while I was doing other things, I would have liked the series more. As it stands though, I probably couldn’t tell you what the point of this book was without going back and rereading it.

Ultimately, the Broken Earth trilogy is well written. The language might be a little too poetic at times and the fantasy setting introduces a lot of terminology that was difficult to keep track of, but I can see the appeal of it. The magic system is truly unique, even if the explanation for its origins made less sense than if it was just an unexplainable magic force. I do appreciate that most of the loose ends were wrapped up and either explained or made into moot points by the series’ conclusion. And while the resolution of this trilogy felt a little cliché, at least it provided an ending that most would come to expect from this type of sub-genre.

A pretty good trilogy wrap-up that might need a second read-through, I give The Stone Sky 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Song of Achilles
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the story of Patroclus and Achilles and what their lives were like. They meet each other at a young age and soon become fast friends. They go to train with the Centaur Chiron in the mountains, but soon the call of war comes knocking. Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, has been kidnapped and taken to Troy. This causes the heroes of Greece to rally together to fight, including Achilles. Achilles desires the promise of glory, so he joins, and Patroclus, who can't bear to leave him, follows. This war will challenge of how far some will go for the promise of glory even at the cost of love. This book is told through Patroclus' perspective and gives a unique inside into what the Trojan War was like.

I've heard amazing things about this book, and I was not disappointed when I sat down to read it. Both of these characters were so lovable, I soon became invested in the story. I didn't know a lot about the Trojan War other than the wooden horse. I loved learning more about the history while following the boys' lives. This story was an emotional roller coaster for me. Be prepared to shed some tears and yell if you hop onto this wild ride. I loved this book so much and would recommend it to many. Every character had depth and played an impacting role in some way. It was beautiful. Here is one of my favorite quotes: "He is half of my soul, as the poet say." Song of Achilles.

-10th

Reviewer's Name: Alyson
Wishtree
Applegate, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Red is a tree. A red oak tree, to be precise. Red has helped and befriended many animals, and even a human! But as all trees know, it is forbidden to speak to them. That changes when a Muslim family moves in nextto Red. The next thing Red knows, a very bad message is carved into the wood. Red must decide whether it would be better to destroy the rule that trees have had for centuries, or to destroy a little girl’s hope.
I liked the way the author showed Red's thought process and Red's decision making. I also liked the names for the animals, especially the raccoons. The forgetful raccoon mom's name was Big You and her three kids were all named You. I think the humor added to the book so it was not all about hardship.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
Genres:
The Battle of the Labyrinth
Riordan, Rick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Percy Jackson, a teenage demigod, is the son of Poseidon. He is on the lookout for Nico, who has no idea what he's gotten into, and who blames Percy for his sister's death. And, of course, on the lookout for Luke, who has been aiding the evil titan Kronos in his quest to destroy the gods, and who does not care if innocent people die in this quest. But even more problems come into view when an entrance to the Labyrinth (a maze that is quite capable of killing Percy and his friends) is found in the center of Camp Half-Blood. Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson must enter the maze and convince Daedalus to help them before Luke gets there first.

This book is just amazing. I loved the balance between action, humor, ( I even had to stop reading at some points, to show my family the excellent jokes) suspense, and mystery. The book, being based on Greek mythology, has lots and lots of references to the Greek gods and goddesses, myths, and some of the heroes. And yet, it manages to have a unique plot, despite all of the other stories inside it. Rick Riordan did an excellent job of this, and the book is just amazing. However, I would recommend reading the first books in the series before this one, as it is a continuation of that story. It was great, and an especially good read for people who are bored out of their minds, because it was long and filled with great writing.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey
The Kiss of Deception
Pearson, Mary E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Lia is escaping from her future. Marrying the Prince of Dalbreck is not what she had in mind for the rest of her life. Fleeing Morrighan, Lia and her best friend, Pauline, rush to Terrivan. The undercover princess is at peace until two mysterious gentleman show up in her town. Little does she know one is an assassin, and another is none the than her betrothed. Lia finds out her escape isn't as discreet as she thought. The disorder she left behind is only getting worse.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down and found myself finishing it within days. Pearson has a perfect flow for the story and keeps you wondering what's next.

Reviewer's Name: Lilly
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
Gemeinhart, Dan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is about a Girl named Coyote who travels around the country in a school bus with her dad, Rodeo. On their Journey, they meet lots of new people and they help people in need. I really liked this book because it was very funny and made me laugh a lot. I also liked that there were lots of different characters. Even though I did like this book a lot, I thought it was a bit slow paced. It was a very enjoyable and emotional book to read, and I am glad I read it. Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Lotus
I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011
Tarshis, Lauren
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Dexter has always wanted to go storm chasing. So when Dr. Gage, a meteorologist comes to Joplin, Dex has a chance to do just that. The storm seems harmless enough, at first. But when they realize the clouds are hiding a tornado, the storm chases them instead. Dex is trapped in the car. Can he survive, just like his brother Jeremy, a Navy SEAL?

This book is ok. It had lots of detail, and I especially liked the tour of the meteorology van, because I enjoy science. I also liked the way Mrs. Tarshis described all of Dex's feelings about his brother and the tornado. It seemed like Dexter was real, at some points in the book. It also got to the action pretty quick, and it is interesting the whole way through. I would read this book if you are bored, like most of the books in the I Survived series. It could have been longer, though.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey