Mystery

Book Review: The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps
Author: 
Buchan, John
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

It’s weird to think that stories like The 39 Steps have only been around for 100 years. Perhaps their ubiquity in modern action thrillers has made me numb to their “man on the run” plotline, but I didn’t find this book to be as interesting as I had expected. Sure, it’s short, but how many of its twists and turns were merely repeating the same way of escaping the main character’s pursuers time and again? And perhaps that’s the main issue I have with this book: the main character seemed to be too skilled at eluding capture for it to be believable.

I know the “wrong man” trope that thrusts an ordinary person into these kinds of circumstances isn’t as realistic as it could be, but when Richard Hannay just happens to know exactly what to do at each instance, I wonder how “ordinary” he really is. Don’t get me wrong, the chase is exciting, it’s just oddly convenient for the protagonist. Of course, maybe I was already ruined by having seen Alfred Hitchcock’s version of this story in The 39 Steps (1935), which added in elements of romance and changed some key plot points.

In the end, The 39 Steps still stands as one of the originators of its genre. Even if the style has morphed and evolved over time, it’s essential to recognize where it came from and what its early influences were. If you’re interested in the history associated with the genre, then this book for you. Heck, if you have a few hours to kill in an airport or waiting room, this book might be the ticket. Just don’t expect much out of it other than some slightly-entertaining distraction.

A basic, if perhaps unbelievable story, in the early action-thriller genre, I give The 39 Steps 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Something in the Water

Something in the Water
Author: 
Steadman, Catherine
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Great book! I really enjoyed the entire story line. It had me guessing until the big reveal. At times I wanted to yell at Erin "Girl! just walk away from it all and stop being so nosy!" I think Catherine Steadman created well developed characters. I wanted to know more about each of them. Maybe she will borrow from Tana French and some of the characters will get their own books. (Seriously, I am dying to know what the next favor is!). If you like page turners combined with mystery, this one is for you!

Reviewer's Name: 
Melissa M.

Book Review: Doll Bones

Doll Bones
Author: 
Black, Holly
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Doll Bones" by Holly Black is about three friends who go on a journey to return a haunted doll to her grave after taking it out of one of their mom's china cabinets. Zach, Poppy, and Alice play a role-play game in which the doll is "the queen'. The doll is made from a young girl's bones and her wishes are to be returned with her family at the grave site so all three of them go on an extensive journey to do so. In the process Zach, Poppy, and Alice meet strange people which leads them to almost give up.

I would recommend this book. "Doll Bones" was really fun to re-read and was just as exciting as the first. Originally, I read the book for Battle of the Books in third grade but I read it again because I liked it. I couldn't relate to the characters however I think other people could. "Doll Bones" is not predictable and was not the best book I have read this year despite it still being a good book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Oriana O.

Book Review: Private Down Under

Private Down Under
Author: 
Patterson, James
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I listened to Private Down Under as an audiobook. This was the first James Patterson book I've ever read/listened to. I can't wait to delve into even more; I was instantly hooked. I finished another in less than a week. I wasn't sure what to expect, but after the main characters, a male and female who work for a private investigating firm, I anticipated somewhat of a romance. I was pleasantly surprised that was not what it was. Craig Gisto is launching "Private", an investigating firm, when almost instantly three cases land in their lap.

I was so anxious to find out how the cases unfolded that I found myself sitting in my car waiting for the end of each chapter. More than that, I dug out the CD player from the garage so I could end my evenings listening. Each case had it's own twists and turns, each with their own level of suspense. They were not able to be "solved" by the reader until the author gifted you that information. There were a few gory details, but nothing most adult readers will squirm at. The tone was pretty serious, with moments where I may have emitted an audible gasp. I truly appreciated how they had a native Australian read this book, considering the locale. The reader did a great job adjusting his accent to the characters he was speaking for. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to discovering more of what Mr. Patterson has to offer.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kristina

Book Review: One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying
Author: 
McManus, Karen M.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Five students walk into detention one day, but only four make it out alive.

One of Us is Lying follows the gripping story of Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper as suspects in the murder of Simon Kelleher. Each of the high school students have secrets that they would do anything to protect, so how far would they go to make sure they’re kept out of the spotlight?

I liked this book because it delved into the personalities and thoughts of each individual suspect to keep the reader guessing who did it until the very end. Overall, One of Us is Lying is a surprising and engaging book that was hard to put down. I especially liked how each perspective of the characters was described in depth so that the audience was not left out of the storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves murder mysteries and young adult fiction.

One of Us is Lying is a teenage-take on themes as dark as murder and depression, and although other writers are unsuccessful in developing such deep plots for a younger audience, Karen M. McManus writes with an enjoyable voice that establishes her story very effectively that, additionally, is targeted well toward a young adult audience. So, if you’re wanting to sit down and unravel a complex and grounded mystery, you should check out One of Us is Lying.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: 
Anya G

Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Author: 
Larsson, Stieg
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Now that I’ve finished the third book in this series, I realize it falls into the “trilogy conundrum” of having a strong, standalone first part, followed by two sequels that rely on each other to finish out the story. Heck, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest should have just been Part 3 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since it completed the story arc started back in book one. I had my suspicions this book would continue from the exact moment where The Girl Who Played with Fire ended. After all, there were a ton of loose ends, and the story ended abruptly.

Part of my issue with this book was that it was primarily tasked with tying up all the subplots from the first two books. However, it still felt like it needed to spend time on new storylines that didn’t add much to the overall plot and were only there because the main character wasn’t able to do anything interesting. I also didn’t particularly like how some of these story elements concluded, as they felt unfulfilling (the resolution of the conflict with Lisbeth’s father stands out in particular). Overall, these two qualms made the book drag on longer than I think it should have.

There were still some positive elements in this book, including the trial of Lisbeth Salander. In fact, this coup de grace was by far the most entertaining section of the entire trilogy. I also appreciated the tension created early on when Lisbeth was in the hospital, as well as the action in the Epilogue that tied up the very last loose end of the trilogy. In the end, I still think this trilogy was a good read. It’s just that its final volume
felt a little bloated and distracted at times.

A mostly satisfying conclusion to the original Millennium series, I give The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Storm Front

Storm Front
Author: 
Butcher, Jim
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Strom Front serves as a stellar introduction to the exciting world of Harry Dresden. The first book in a long series of great books, Storm Front showcases Butcher's writing prowess. The story is full of interesting characters, well developed story, gritty mysteries, and the overarching wit of the main character. Storm Front is at once entertaining, humorous, and occasionally touching. It is one of those books that somehow becomes glued to your hands and only relinquishes them upon arrival at the back cover.
Overall, the book will most definitely be an enjoyable read and make picking the next three to four books to read an easy choice (although I recommend not attempting more than a few in a row for the sake of variety).

Reviewer's Name: 
Evan

Book Review: Four Dead Queens

Four Dead Queens
Author: 
Scholte, Astrid
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

This book was not for me, but I think a lot of young adults will really love it. The following is essentially a laundry list of my issues. First, the worldbuilding was pretty weak. The fours quadrants are fairly reminiscent of those in Divergent, but they rarely interact and the farming sector basically works on Amish rules while the technological sector has holographs and advanced biosuits and all sorts of stuff. It does not make a ton of sense. And neither does the “queenly law” or really anything to do with the rules the palace or kingdom operates under – it all seemed pretty transparently created to serve the story that was written. Moving along. The characters really left something to be desired. Most were one-dimensional. The main character, Keralie, couldn’t make a good decision if her life depended on it and falls squarely into the snarky and ostensibly clever thief trope. We do get to hear from the queens a bit, but as I knew they’d end up dead and we only spent a little time with each of them, I didn’t find that it added to the story. And, of course, there is instalove between Keralie and our extremely boring male lead, Varin.

Some components of the book are pretty enjoyable. I think the premise is really cool (if executed poorly). The first queen’s murder took me a bit by surprise, and was deliciously gruesome. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I quite liked the last 50 pages or so – the author, a debut, clearly has some really great ideas. Unfortunately, they didn’t come together in this book, though I’d try another book by this author pending favorable reviews.

TLDR: Readers who loved The Red Queen and Divergent will probably enjoy this one as well. I couldn’t get past the weak characters and worldbuilding, but I think a lot of readers will likely devour this one nonetheless. For me, it was just ok. 2 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and G. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Four Dead Queens will be released on 26 February.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Author: 
Bellairs, John
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Do you like mystery stories with a bit of payback! well then this is the book for you. and the best part is this book has ghosts and magic! so please read about this epic quest to find the one clock that was once lost long ago. Magic!

Reviewer's Name: 
Chess

Book Review: The House with a Clock in its Walls

The House with a Clock in its Walls
Author: 
Bellairs, John
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

There is evil afoot in this book about a fat young boy whose parents both died in a car accident leaving him to live with his strange uncle who lives in a mansion with secrets. An uncle being driven insane by a clock's incessant ticking countered by a strange neighbor who makes excellent chocolate chip cookies. The adventure is just beginning. Into a cemetery, are the dead rising? A car chase all across the county and an eclipse of the moon. A house that grows defenses? Windows that change on their own? Read this book and find out not just what the evil is, but to determine which is better, the book or the movie?

Reviewer's Name: 
Rachel

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