All Book Reviews

Black Cake
Wilkerson, Charmaine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is a about a family. More specifically their mother and the life she has. While reading this book you are learning about the mom and how the connections she had to different people. This book has so many twists and turns that will keep you on your toes. I choose to read this book because it seemed interesting to uncover all the mysteries that were going on in the book. It seemed fun to piece together a story. In this book I really liked the element where the characters also didn't know everything about their mom. They were learning it along with you. I didn't like that the timeline was hard to follow along because sometimes it would randomly say something from a different part of the story which sort of confused me. I think you would enjoy this book if you like piecing together things to find out the whole story of what happened to someone you would really enjoy this book.

Reviewer's Name: Lucy
How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Safety
Auburn, Zachary
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I had seen this book cover on the internet a few years ago and found it to be an amusing concept. When I ran across the paperback version of this book at a thrift store, I bought it and gave it a read. Presented by the fictional "American Association of Patriots," How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety is a satire parody of right-wing and evangelical pamphlets that seek to inform readers of the "right" way to do something. In this case, talk to your cat about gun safety.

This book is actually a collection of a few different pamphlets that cover a variety of topics, including safety for guns, sex, online, and the apocalypse. To its credit, if you didn't realize this was satire, you'd think this book was being serious. Perhaps this is more an indictment of how crazy some people have become since 2016. Unfortunately, this is one of the only gimmicks this book has, and it does it to death. I'm impressed that most of the advice is actually accurate, but that's because it almost reads like a pamphlet you'd hand parents trying to talk to their teenagers and just did a find-and-replace to change "teen" to "cat."

I enjoyed the humor for the first few chapters, but by the end, I was mostly skimming, trying to get through it. There seemed to be a quota of cat puns the author tried to force into this book, with at least one or two of these eye-rolling jokes occurring per page. Since this is the other gimmick this book has, there isn't much more to it than the amusing title and concept.

An amusing satire gimmick, but not much else, I give How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Kahneman, Daniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

We all make choices. Every day, from the banal to the life-altering, we can break these choices down into two different ways of thinking. It's amazing to me how this psychological subject presented in Thinking, Fast and Slow is so intuitive, but so difficult to control. Daniel Kahneman does a superb job bringing this topic down to the layperson level with plenty of examples and quizzes to show the reader how we can literally change an impulsive decision into a logical one.

Thinking, Fast and Slow opened my eyes to the two systems that influence every decision I make. The quick-thinking "System One" runs on emotions, whereas the slower "System Two" takes time to examine a situation thoroughly before deciding. The amazing thing about these systems is that sometimes the intuitive System One is correct—meaning that it can sometimes be easy to overthink a problem. What's even more fascinating is seeing how easy it is to switch our thinking from System One to System Two when we need an answer from the brain instead of the heart.

If I find this book at a used bookstore, I'll likely pick it up as a reference. I read it as an audiobook, so I could not do many (if not all) of the exercises detailed in it. This is yet another case of a non-fiction book being better in a physical format. Still, I gleaned a ton of useful information from it for the 20 hours I spent listening to its concepts. Even if you're not interested in psychology, I'd recommend reading this book merely for the insight into how you (and those around you) come to decisions.

An eye-opening look into the psychology of decision making, I give Thinking, Fast and Slow 4.0 stars out of 5.

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

'll admit that watching the Expanse television show spoiled this book for me. I already knew what was going to happen, so there weren't too many surprises in this book because the show kept close to the source material. Even with this a priori knowledge going in, I found Abaddon's Gate to be my favorite book of the series so far. The plot felt like it was actually getting somewhere instead of just dancing on the edges of the important series arc that finally solidified in this book.

Some of my favorite moments of the series were retained in the written form of this book, including the description of the first "sudden stop" when someone tried entering the alien portal. The human drama was also interesting because it wasn't entirely geopolitical but wove in elements of religious beliefs as well. It helped that the crew members of the Rocinante are fully fleshed out characters by this point in the series, since these books really are about how they react to being in the middle of this interplanetary (and now intergalactic) alien conspiracy. And while it might be nice to have the "character of the day" stick around for more than one book, I understand the decision to only focus on the Rocinante throughout the series.

As with previous books in the Expanse series, Abaddon's Gate excels in its depiction of realistic science in a fictional setting. Unlike more traditional hard sci-fi, this book uses these moments of real science sparingly to drive the plot forward instead of stopping at every instance and lecturing the reader as to the mathematical physics behind what is happening. This is so effortless in its execution that it never distracts from the action, which keeps the pacing at a nice, brisk action-based pace.

An exciting turning point in the Expanse series, I give Abaddon's Gate 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is a masterpiece, I love harry but m more obsessed with his father and his besties. PERIOD

Reviewer's Name: Raven
Genres:
Plain Truth
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book tells an amazing story. Picoult is an amazing author who has a way of keeping readers on the edge of their seat. And this book is no exception. It's an emotional rollercoaster but at the end, you've really enjoyed the ride.

Reviewer's Name: Lena R.
The Burning
Bates, Laura
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Overall well written book with a lot of mystery, history, and teen drama. I enjoyed reading this book everyday.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsy H.
Genres:
Waking Gods
Neuvel, Sylvain
2 stars = Meh
Review:

When I read Sleeping Giants , the narrative technique used to tell this story blew me away. I was hooked, and it pleased me to learn there were two more books in this Themis Files trilogy. Sure, I still had some qualms with the first book, but it was mostly from an "omniscient exposition dump." It took me a while to get back to this series, but I was looking forward to reading the second book, Waking Gods. In that time, something changed, and I did not enjoy this book.

Despite loving this indirect narrative approach in the first book, the technique showed its cracks as it reached past its limitations in Waking Gods. Interviews and recording transcripts can only show so much, and it's difficult to get into the characters when they're at arm's length. And perhaps this was the other thing I didn't like about this book: the characters. None of them are particularly likable or logical—especially the main character of Dr. Rose Franklin. The odd twist that was introduced at the end of the first book didn't help either. None of the characters could catch a break, save one mistake that led to the twist ending that propels the reader into book three.

Maybe all these weaknesses were in Sleeping Giants, but the excitement of finding an extra-terrestrial robot distracted me too much to care. In Waking Gods, there were more questions than answers. It didn't help that the plotlines that had the most focus were the ones I didn't feel added anything to the story. I can still appreciate the science fiction in this series, but I'm only going to continue to the last book in this trilogy just to see how it all ends.

A significant downgrade from its predecessor, I give Waking Gods 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
In the Cities of Coin & Spice
Catherynne M. Valente
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin & Spice is the second book in a two-book series, and the better of the pair by far. It's a deeply warm-feeling fantasy tale about a multitude of characters (which I'll discuss further in a moment), feeling 'adult' without being overly edgy or dark. In the style of 1001 Nights and similar fairytales, The Orphan's Tales is told through stories and anecdotes from almost every named character, something like a matryoshka doll in story form. This results in a cast where no one character feels sidelined or irrelevant, and in which every character is almost equally lovable-- my personal favorite is Oubliette, a huldra (which is described as being a sort of combination of a girl, a cow and a tree) who is seeking independence after being rejected and labeled wicked by her family.
As with most books, The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin & Spice is not free of problems; it uses some language that is now considered unacceptable, and there is one character who proceeds to go into a pages-long monologue largely concerning castration, but these are the only glaring issues. The prose and story structure may also confuse or overwhelm readers, but those who are prepared will likely find a great deal of enjoyment in it!

Reviewer's Name: Ori
Genres:
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead book jacket
Austin, Emily
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a story about Gilda, who is an atheist, twenty-something years old, highly anxious, and gay. When she goes to a church after hearing about free therapy and assumed to be applying for the receptionist position, Gilda can't bring herself to correct anyone. Over her term as a Catholic receptionist, Gilda will have to lie about a dead woman, learn the lines for mass, hide her new girlfriend, and discover the hope that can come with the truth.
This book is the type of realistic fiction I usually call "a day in the life." It isn't about extraordinary circumstances or new love or changing lives. It's just someone struggling to survive the way that they always have, perhaps while working to get themselves out of it. Gilda's life is terrifying and constrictive. She's constantly afraid of what other's think of her, of people's disapproval, and yet is often so exhausted that she can barely communicate with the people she cares about. She's also, as the title foreshadows, constantly obsessing over death. Seeing the world through Gilda's eyes is strange and sad and scary. But it's also extremely enlightening. Even though Gilda is definitely an neurotic anomaly, her quirks and struggles are extraordinary relatable. The author really forces the reader to stare in the mirror, to see the fears and embarrassments that hold us back on a daily basis. One example could be Gilda's focus on death, which is almost paradoxical since her fixation on the end of her life keeps her living the life she has right now. I know that when I finished this book, it filled me with the desire to live my life to the fullest. The book also stands out with great prose, memorable characters, and vivid atmosphere!
All in all, this book might be unpleasant to read sometimes due to the depressing subject matter, but it's so educational and important that I'd recommend everyone read this at least once!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Things They Carried book jacket
O'Brien, Tim
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Things They Carried is an interesting narrative about a group of soldiers as they navigate the horrors of the Vietnam War. Each chapter is fairly short and tends to have a lot of action or interesting commentary, so it was pretty engaging. What I didn't love, though, was the author's combination of realism and fiction. He used his own name as the main character, but experienced fake scenarios with people who never existed. It was sometimes frustrating, not knowing what was real or not. O'Brien was a soldier in the war, but he said that fictional war stories are a way for him to convey important messages of courage without reliving the trauma of his actual experiences. This is a unique genre, so it's worth a try if you like realistic fiction.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Caliban's War book jacket
Corey, James S. A.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Caliban's War is the second book in The Expanse series. It continues with Earth, Mars, and the Outer Planets with high tensions after barely avoiding interplanetary war with the destruction of Eros. When a figment of the planet-destroying protomolecule tears through some Martian marines, war once again becomes a possibility. Will a disillusioned crew, a grieving scientist, a stubborn UN officer, and a self-destructive Martian be able to find the truth, or will war and violence and alien evolution consume them all?
This book is as good as the first book. That's high praise, since the first book was very, very good. It continues the somewhat difficult experience of lots and lots of characters in lots and lots of places, but I feel like this novel was a bit easier to digest since most of the worldbuilding was out of the way. The characters also pick up smoothly from last time, with the effects of the last book's events heavily influencing them and their actions. The way they interact with this world, their situations, and each other is so organic and complex that I found it hard to feel I wasn't reading about real people. I also like how the author lets so many of her characters hate or dislike each other while still juggling all their perspectives in different chapters. It is such a treat to see through one character's eyes while they do something they think is perfectly normal and rational, then pivot to another character's point-of-view that sees the first characters actions as completely stupid. While the new cast of characters was initially overwhelming after the amount of emotional investment that was steeped into last book's characters, I found them extremely interesting and fun. They were all completely different from one another, and gave so much variety to the way we see the story. Once again, the realism of this series is striking. Even if every little political nuance isn't picked up, we can still follow the general vein of alliances and rivalries as well as we follow them in our world. It almost feels like reading a historic fiction book, with every plot point a mirror to similar groups and events in our own history. Finally, the plot of this book was very solid. There was some dragging on the beginning, and the ending wasn't nearly as climactic as the first book's, but it was still a wonderfully gripping and satisfying story.
All in all, the Expanse story remains a tour de force with Caliban's War, and I can't wait to see what the next story holds. I would recommend this to anyone who loves great sci-fi, lovable characters, and a plot that's out of this world!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
King of Scars book jacket
Bardugo, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country's bloody civil war -- and he intends to keep it that way. But some secrets aren't meant to stay buried -- and some wounds aren't meant to heal. This is not really a book of spills and thrills, but its biggest triumph lies in its deep undercurrents, in the attention and care that Leigh Bardugo pours into her characters -- into their failures and successes, and their responses to trauma, threats, and uncertainties. Bardugo breathes vivid life into each one of her characters, and lays their hearts open to the reader, which is easily perceived through the multiple different point-of-views. As a result, there is a devastating sense throughout that the characters are being stripped down to their essence, revealed in all of their glassy fragility and heartfelt vulnerability. Fantasy, politics, inner-demons, and romance -- all used to support this novel through character development and unexpected turns in the story. The King of Scars duology is my favorite out of the entire Grishaverse series -- combining storylines and characters from both the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. I absolutely loved this book, and would definitely recommend the series.

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

The only thing keeping this book from a full 5 stars is the fact that I'm still upset about a choice Leigh Bardugo had made in writing the end of the book. I won't spoil anything, but I will say, I have never cried harder over anything. This book opens where we left off with Wylan wearing Kuwei Yul-Bo's face, and our gang must rescue Inej, get revenge, and defeat the bad guys. But that doesn't even begin to sum up all of the action, adventure, and craziness that this novel entails. And as well as being dark and compelling, the characters and relationships we love become even more fascinating and developed. Kaz and Inej, Jesper and Wylan, and Matthias and Nina have come quite far with each other, and draw me in more and more as time goes on. This found family has been and always will be my favorite group from any novel. The ending was devastating, but it was absolutely amazing. It was the kind of ending a story like this deserves -- the kind that leaves you wanting more, but knowing that it finished in exactly the right place.

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
The Wicked King book jacket
Black, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After tricking Prince Cardan to not only be king, but also into obeying her every command for a year and a day, Jude steps up as the new king's seneschal. With nearly the entire kingdom of the High Court of Faerie, at her command, Jude conspires of how to keep the throne from her evil step-father, Madoc, and hold it until her step-brother, Oak, is old enough to rule. Kidnappings, murder, betrayal, scheming, plot-twists, unexpected and unspoken thoughts, The Wicked King was a book I never wanted to end. Holly Black uses such captivating diction, dialogue, and imagery, it constantly had me yearning for more. If I could read this story over and over again for the first time, I would. Holly Black has a way of combining politics, war, calculating and powerful Faerie, and sub-plots of romance; nothing too overbearing or confusing. It has everything I could ever wish for in a fantasy book. I definitely recommend reading this novel to anyone and everyone.

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Caraval book jacket
Garber, Stephanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The first book in Stephanie Garber's trilogy is a fantasy story about two sisters and their adventure at a nighttime, carnivalesque game. Scarlett Dragna leaves the tiny island where her and her sister, Donatella, live with their cruel and powerful father. Their exigence for leaving was the long awaited invitation to the legendary Caraval. Only, as soon as Scarlett and her sister reach the island, her sister is kidnapped. In order to save her sister, Scarlett must win the game. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is a mere performance. Getting entangled in a game of magic, love, heartbreak, and manipulation, Scarlett must stay focused and find her sister within the five nights of the game, or Donatella will be lost forever. The less you know about the book, the better. The more confused you are, the more you will enjoy it. I sat down and read this book in a matter of a couple of hours. Plot-twist after plot-twist -- once you start to think you finally understand what is going on, Garber turns the story around and confuses you once again. This is a story I will never forget reading, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a bit of mystery.
Reviewer's Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Small Spaces book jacket
Arden, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The book is about a book loving kid named Ollie who after coming home from school sees a woman trying to throw a book into water. Ollie of course takes the book away from her and got a warning. The book Ollie got slowly connects to the farm she's visiting for a field trip. After the trip the bus breaks down and they find themselves listening to the bus driver and leaving into the fog. Which led them to a creepy place where scarecrows roam around at the night. Overall I loved to see the book slowly connect as the pieces began making sense. You get to see the characters grow emotionally and begin to understand each other. The eerie feeling of the book fits and the ending makes it feel like it's gone back to this small town and nothing ever happened.

Reviewer's Name: Hana
At Briarwood School for Girls book jacket
Knight, Michael
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lenore Littlefield is a student at the Briarwood School for Girls. She plays basketball. She loves history. She goes out with friends. She's pregnant. Throughout the novel she will seek aid from an isolated history teacher, an intense coach turned play director, and a ghost that's been waiting for her call. But in the end, it'll be up to her to take the next step forward.
Despite never reading extensively from the genre, I believe this book is the epitome of southern gothic. It has a lazy purpose to it, a meandering story structure that maintains its tension. The characters are all disillusioned, which is contrasted starkly by the idealistic and energetic schoolchildren around them. This book is really good if you enjoy this sort of thing, otherwise there's a chance the plot could strike you as slow or boring. I personally really liked it, especially the use of prose to bring meaning and intent to the setting. Another great thing about the novel is the story-within-the-story, meaning the play that Lenore Littlefield participates in, that beautifully mirrors and enhances the significance of Lenore's situation and the themes of the novel. The only reason I gave this book four stars was that the ending felt out of nowhere to me, but looking back that was probably the authors intent.
All in all, this book was a very good supernatural southern gothic. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes great characters, interesting story structure, amazing prose, and a heartfelt story!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Last Night at the Telegraph Club book jacket
Lo, Malinda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Last Night at the Telegraph club is set in the 1950's and follows Lily Hu a student in her final year of high school, and follows her life. During a dangerous time for Chinese Americans. It progresses slowly the struggles of Lily slowly begin adding up putting pressure on the characters, in multiple moments you can feel the pressure yourself, and feel the struggles. It confronts multiple stereotypes of the time this book it set women in stem, and the lesbian community. The characters in this book feel like their real, the characters have multiple layers to their personality. It immerses you in the story that you can perfectly picture and see yourself in the settings. The ending it leaves you wanting more, I would love to see a sequel of the following events that happened afterwards.

Reviewer's Name: Hana
The Maze Runner book jacket
Dashner, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I started reading this book in 2012, just a few years before the movie was released. This book is a personal favorite of mine that I have read over and over again. This dystopian story follows a boy who was placed in the center of a maze with several other boys and follows his journey as he uncovers dark truths and attempts to escape the maze. Personally, I love the attention to detail in this book and how it keeps you on your seat throughout the story all the way to the end. In no way was this book predictable. When I first read this book I wasn't aware that it was of a series, so I was delighted to find out there were more books because of how great of a story it was. I would recommend this book to tweens and up since there is some mature material such as fighting and dying (it doesn't go into gory detail). Overall, this is a great read that I would personally highly recommend!

Reviewer's Name: Ashley