All Book Reviews

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
The Giver book jacket
Lowry, Lois
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This story follows the main perspective of Jonas. Jonas lives in an alleged utopian society. They feel no pain, see no colors, feel no love, and hear no music. At the age of 12 every child is given an assignment based on their abilities and what they excel in. Jonas was living a perfect life until his cycle was broken. When Jonas turned 12 he was decided to be the receiver of memory, the highest role in the community. Now everything that Jonas once thought was true and right all come crashing down leaving him with a reality of the community that he can no longer stand for.

The giver is an amazing book full of surprising twists and just a spectacular over all plot. Lois Lowry did an excellent job of not only creating a completely fascinating story, but also leaving you wondering once you finish the read. A main theme of the giver could be the significance of memories to all life. The giver is a dystopian novel as the citizens are living in an extremely censored version of life. I did not particularly enjoy some of the more disturbing memories of death and war that Jonas receives but it is important that they are present so that Jonas will make the final decision. The giver is an amazing book that all would enjoy!

Reviewer's Name: Sienna
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.
One of Us is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good

It's a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Jashmitha
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
A Breath Too Late
Callen, Rocky
3 stars = Pretty Good

Through the eyes of a soul who hasn't left for an afterlife or complete darkness, Ellie Walker traces the days before her suicide, the day of her suicide, and the more indelible days that built her person and childhood. Chapters are written as epistolary entries, which the intended recipients—Momma, Father August, Life, and Dreams—will never get to read, as it was suppressed beneath the devastating end of a soul that didn't speak all truths while alive. She awoke with her mind, dazed and chipped of fundamental segments—abuse, friendship, love, the love of a mother, an advancing future, and more—that once conjoined her memories with coherence. The lament after death was her hand on the clock that struck a new hour as she accepted time's shadow that crept over her and swallowed, despite any interjections she could only attempt to make. Too late, Ellie Walker meandered through the gallery of her memories and realized all they meant to her and all she could become from them.

Anna, 10th Grade

Reviewer's Name: Anna
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
Gathering Moss book jacket
Kimmerer, Robin Wall
4 stars = Really Good

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer is a thought-provoking and beautifully written book that explores the world of moss and the ecological relationships that exist in nature. As a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer's perspective on nature is both scientific and cultural, offering a unique insight into the world of moss. The book is structured around a series of essays that delve into the various aspects of moss and the ways in which it interacts with other living beings. Kimmerer's writing style is poetic and evocative, with her descriptions of the moss and its surroundings painting a vivid picture of the world she is exploring. Her use of personal anecdotes and storytelling adds a personal touch to the book, inviting readers to connect with the natural world on a deeper level. One of the strengths of the book is the way in which Kimmerer explores the interconnectedness of all living things. Through her examination of moss and the relationships it has with other plants and animals, she demonstrates how all living things are dependent on one another and how our actions can have far-reaching consequences. Overall, Gathering Moss is a beautifully written and insightful book that offers a unique perspective on the natural world. Kimmerer's combination of scientific knowledge and cultural insights makes this book a must-read for anyone interested in ecology, indigenous perspectives, and the beauty of the natural world. Her poetic writing style and personal anecdotes make it a very accessible and engaging read.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Holes book jacket
Sachar, Louis
4 stars = Really Good

Holes by Louis Sachar is a piece of young adult fiction that weaves together elements of mystery, adventure, and coming-of-age themes. The novel's plot centers around Stanley Yelnats, a young boy who is sent to a juvenile detention camp after being falsely accused of stealing a pair of shoes. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley is forced to dig holes in the desert as part of a rehabilitation program, leading him to uncover a mystery that has haunted the camp for generations. Sachar's portrayal of Stanley and the other boys at Camp Green Lake is one of the novel's strongest qualities. Through their interactions and experiences, Sachar explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity. Stanley's transformation from a timid and isolated boy to a confident and capable young man is both inspiring and heartwarming. This novel is very appealing due to is humor, unexpected backstory, and suspense that kept me hooked throughout. The novel's themes of friendship, perseverance, and the importance of doing what is right resonate with readers of all ages and make it a true gem of young adult literature, I'd recommend it to all!

Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
Summer and July book jacket
Moiser, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

"Summer and July" by Paul Moiser is a warm novel about a girl named Juliet. Juliet's mother is a nurse who has to travel to California for the summer. Juliet is very upset about the move because she did not want to leave her best-friend Fern. Then Juliet meets Summer, a local surfer girl. Summer helps her adjust to the new surrounding, (which is very hard due to her mental illness). She faces her struggles with her new positive companion. When Summer reveals her own pains, Juliet must now be the one to help Summer overcome them.

Reviewer's Name: Cailyn