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Fantasy

Book Review: Monstress

Author: 
Liu, Majorie
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I chose this book because comics are a type of novel that I find interest in. This is a fantasy book that takes place where monsters and humans are divided after a war, and monsters who are caught by humans on the other side are used to be sold and experimented on. The main character, Maika, goes on the other side in search for hope of her mother. This is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys comics.

Reviewer's Name: 
Mona H

Book Review: Uprooted

Uprooted
Author: 
Novik, Naomi
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an interesting read - with magic and mythical creatures - but I found that in the first few chapters I stepped away from the novel several times. The beginning was slow with not much action, more setting up the scenery and the laws of the land than anything else. The novel follows a girl named Agnieszka living in a quaint village called Dvernik by a magic infested forest where every ten years a mysterious and immortal wizard called the Dragon, who lives in a nearby tower, visits to pick one woman as payment for protecting Dvernik from The Wood. Agnieszka is chosen to her surprise, but her interactions with the infamous Dragon are almost boring - they share a typical, overused trope in a love-hate relationship that frustrates the reader. The two are also locked away in the tower where there are minimal outside interactions from any other characters for almost the entire first half with the exception of one of Agnieszka‘s bedridden friends. I found that the last half of the novel was the most interesting because that was when other characters from the faraway capital were introduced and the scenes were more fast-paced. Because the world building aspect in the beginning was making me impatient, the problem was that later when Agnieszka returns to her village, I spent a long time away from there that the characters and their relationships were hard to remember and I personally did not care for them. There were definitely characters I met in the last half that I empathized or was absolutely lucid with and I did enjoy all the plot twists because, of course, they were unexpected and added some excitement to Uprooted. Overall, the beginning takes off one star for me due to the inaction and some common young adult tropes were utilized, but I loved most of the characters and the plotline anyway regardless of the latter.

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella W
Awards: 

Book Review: In Other Lands

In Other Lands
Author: 
Brennan, Sarah Rees
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In Other Lands follows young Elliot Schafer as he tumbles through a wall (well, his teacher bribed a weird lady to let him through the wall, but whatever) into another land at age 13. He's given the opportunity to go home or go to magic school, and, like any bright young kid who has ever read, like, any book ever, he decides to go to magic school. There, he befriends golden boy warrior Luke and stoic elf warrior Serene (our fearful nerd Elliot decides to take the council course as he is deathly allergic to exercise and also, killing), and the book follows their exploits throughout the duration of their time in school.

Ok, so, that synopsis does not even begin to do this book justice. I will be forcing this into the hands of any person that walks into the teen center that says that they have even a remote interest in fantasy. Because this was so good. The best thing I've read so far this year for sure (and I've already read like 20 things this year, so that's not nothing). Anyway, on to actual information about the book.

Elliot is kind of a jerk. On purpose. But his jerkiness is mostly hilarious, and a lot of the book is his witty, spot on assessments of himself, the world, and the people around him. Luke and Serene are equally nuanced as characters and are quite lovable despite their flaws. One of my favorite parts of the book was that elf culture has the same messed up gender roles and sexism that we humans do...but the male and female roles are reversed. It makes not just for some of the most hilarious passages that I've ever read, but also serves as probably the most effective argument against said gender roles being a part of any society. It was, quite frankly, brilliant. For example: “Do not have a catfight, boys, even if it is that time of the month,” said Serene, and when she saw them staring at her, she explained: “You know—women shed their dark feelings with their menses every month? But men, robbed of that outlet, have strange moodswings and become hysterical at a certain phase of the moon?”

Insanely great egalitarian commentary aside, this was an excellent coming of age novel. The relationship and friendship between our three main characters is complex, but they all love each other and grow so much together throughout the book. And at the end of the day, this book is not really about other lands, it's about the peoples that occupy them. As an added bonus, it demonstrates that communication and shared experiences amongst peoples could almost always lead to peace. In doing that, it also effectively skewers nationalism.

I really liked the romance in the book, but you figure out Elliot's end game partner (yes, Elliot is bisexual!) at about 50% of the way through the book. They don't actually get together until the end and its one of those situations where you want to knock their heads together and yell COMMUNICATE DANG IT at them until they realize they like each other and just make out or whatever. Speaking of which, there is a lot of sex in this one. It's mostly off camera, but the one scene that makes it in is really sweet.

I obviously loved this book. If I were to try to compare it to something, it's most like Carry On by Rainbow Rowell in that it's kind of a love letter to classic fantasy (it's more Tortall to Carry On's Harry Potter) that then transcends the original source material. It's quirky enough that it won't be for everybody, but I think a lot of readers will love it. I just purchased my own copy. Like, without waiting for a Goodreads deal. It's that good. Or, in PPLD parlance, it was Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome! 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza
Author: 
Hutchinson, Shaun David
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Elena is not your average teen. As the only human proven to be birthed as a result of parthenogenesis (you might know this as a “virgin birth”), she’s been hearing voices from signs and inanimate objects. But things are about to go to the next level. One day, at work, the Starbucks Siren tells her to heal her crush, Freddie, who looks fine. But then, a kid they know comes out of nowhere and shoots Freddie. Then he disappears into the sky in a flash of light. And Elena DOES heal Freddie. And then, somehow, things get even crazier as the Siren tells Elena she has to keep healing people (which leads to more disappearances) or start the apocalypse.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of unique, quirky books that are more than a little strange (I call them wonderfully weird), and so this one was right up my alley. Elena is an extremely likable character, and we get to listen to most of her thought processes as she thinks about the mundane (her crush, her relationship with her ne’er do well stepfather) and the existential (why she has the powers, and should she use them?). The supporting cast is also pretty great: Freddie, the popular art student who didn’t even know Elena’s name before she got shot, was probably my favorite character. After getting killed, she really doesn’t care so much about what people think of her, and as a result her commentary was extremely snarky, sometimes hurtful and almost always spot on. Fadil, Elena’s best friend, was a good foil as the devout teen, but he also served to demonstrate a powerful male/female friendship. Because of the philosophical nature of the book, the plot takes a backseat to character development and metaphysical conversations. I probably highlighted more in this book than I have in any other in recent memory. The downside to this, though, is that the plot sags a little in the middle and the ending left me wanting a bit more as a lot of plot lines were left dangling.

Another big selling point of the book for me was that the premise immediately made think of this show called Wonderfalls which is a bit of a cult classic from the early aughts. Later on in the book, it’s pretty clear that the author had likely just binged all of Bryan Fuller’s early shows like Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and yes, Wonderfalls as this book contains elements of each of those shows, and there is a straight up name drop of a location that delighted me to no end. If you are a fan of Bryan Fuller’s properties (including recent hits like American Gods), this is a read you should definitely pick up.

If you like to think about the ethics and the big questions – why are we here, what matters, how can you decide the value of one life over another – then you will love this book. It’s a wonderfully weird thought provoking read, and while it’s not perfect, the diverse, likable cast and philosophical quandaries make it something of a rare gem of a book. 4 stars. I really liked it.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for the eARC, which I received for review consideration.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Review: If you have any pets, I recommend removing them from the vicinity!
This novel, coming in at around 400 pages, is a very chilling read. You follow an ordinary family in a not so ordinary town as they attempt to deal with the realization that anyone buried in the cemetery behind their house horrifyingly comes back to life. This all starts when they bury their cat, and they then find it beck in their house. This book is very good, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes horror, thrillers, or maybe people who like zombies.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

ReviewCrew: IT

IT
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Review: This book is incredible. One of the scariest novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading is also one of the longest. In this book you follow the journey of seven characters - all brilliantly well rounded and fleshed out, if I may add. You alternate between their experiences during childhood and adulthood of facing and fighting the demonic and supernatural clown, Pennywise. I recommend this book to fans of horror and Stephen King, or anyone who enjoys a long read of a good book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Review: The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings
Author: 
Sanderson, Brandon
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Review: This book is amazing, period. Sanderson has created a truly living, breathing world with his debut novel in the Stormbringer Archives series, and I believe that this novel deserves a spot next to the classics of Tolkien and Robert Jordan. The book follows the separate journeys of multiple characters across the world of this universe; however, even though the different tales seem separate, they all end up interconnecting and melding into one truly grandiose story. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Lord of the Rings and such, fantasy enthusiasts, or anyone who is simply searching for a good book. However, the length of the book, being over one thousand pages long, may put some people off, but if you give this book the time and dedication that it truly deserves, you will be rewarded with an amazing experience.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Review: The Iron King

The Iron King
Author: 
Kagawa, Julie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Review: The book The Iron King by Julie Kagawa tells the story of Megan Chase and her quest to rescue her step-brother form the Iron King. Megan was a normal girl, she was shy, unpopular, and smart. She lived in a small town with her family and only friend, Robbie, until one day, her step-brother is taken by the Iron King to the land of Nevernever. She and Robbie decide to face the challenges that Nevernever has to throw at them. Will Megan rescue her step-brother or die trying? I would rate this book a 5 out of 5 because it kept me in suspense and I enjoyed its many twists and turns. A good friend recommended this book and I loved it so much that I'm reading the rest of the series. I would recommend this book to people who like exciting fantasies.
Grade 9 Age 15

Reviewer's Name: 
Gabrielle F

Book Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: 
Carroll, Lewis
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a rather peculiar adventure tale filled with all sorts of oddities and misfits. The story begins with the main protagonist, Alice, as she follows the White Rabbit into the infamous rabbit hole. In Wonderland, or so it seems, she meets several creatures all with the strangest backstories and personalities. The story is carefully crafted so that much of the book confuses the casual reader. A great concern for detail is needed to understand the novel and its full meaning. The book shares the complexities and hardships of growing up, in which the Lewis Carroll absolutely nailed. He also shares his negative opinions about the British government through the main antagonist, the Queen of Hearts, who is meant to be a high and powerful monarch, but never does anything. Overall, the book is a great read and it is certainly entertaining to spend some time to pick out the many small details hidden in the book. 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L

Book Review: Story Thieves

Story Thieves
Author: 
Riley, James
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Story Thieves, by James Riley, is an adventure novel that deals with a book-ception type of concept. Owen, one of the two main protagonists, meets Bethany, the other main protagonist, while he catches her mysteriously disappearing into books. He agrees to keep her power a secret on one
condition: he gets to visit his favorite Kiel Gnomefoot series. They both go on a quest through several books to try and find Bethany's missing father, but end up messing up the book series. The duo encounters all sorts of baddies, and the many plot twists keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
The uncomplicated storyline keeps the plot straight forward and allows for good development of the characters and settings. The novel is a pretty entertaining read, and I would recommend it to people who just like a good, solid, and basic adventure novel.
Steven L, 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L

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