Review Crew Book Reviews by Genre: Fiction

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder book jacket
Jackson, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a surprisingly dark and complex book. The main character, Pip, decides to investigate a "solved" murder in her town from five years ago, one that she is very close to. She teams up with the alleged murderer's brother and slowly unravels a well-hidden mystery. The book's organization made an otherwise-complicated crime easier to understand. You would read a chapter, then Pip would summarize the findings in her capstone project diary entry. This information was backed up with occasional maps and diagrams as well. Although I did get lost at some parts with there being so many names, I appreciated there being enough suspects that it was impossible to figure out the mystery until the characters did. Pip was clever and eloquent, so her handling of this personal investigation didn't take away from the story. Not to mention her friends along the way, who were pretty well-developed side characters. If you think the pacing is slow for the first part of the book, keep going!
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Book Thief book jacket
Zusak, Markus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Book Thief starts in January 1939, in Nazi Germany. The main character, Liesel, was traveling on a train with her mother and brother when her brother suddenly dies. Liesel was only nine at the time, and the wound that was inflicted then, she would bear forever. At her brother's burial site, she stole a book for the first time, earning her the name "The Book Thief". Her story is told from the perspective of Death, who is depicted as an immortal being with feelings and a heart.

Liesel then traveled to Himmel Street, where she lived with her foster parents for the remainder of the book. Liesel made new friends, finds a family, and overcomes the grief caused by her brother's passing there. But most importantly, she discovered the power and impact of words there. The power of words is the central theme or message of The Book Thief.

Throughout the book, Liesel steals more books and becomes braver and more mature. Initially, she was a child who didn't know about all the beauty and ugliness in the world. But as the plot developed, she experienced more of the brutality of WW2 and found her role in her community. After she learned to read, she started to spread the love that was caused by words to her neighbors, by reading out loud during air raids. She also learned to love and understand people better.

The author, Markus Zusak, used the symbolism of colors to illustrate a picture of the world that Liesel lived in. For example, when Death described a scene, the sky was always a different color or texture. When describing a bloody battlefield, the sky was described as plasticky, to show the stillness and emptiness that was caused by the death of soldiers.

I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a thought-provoking and intense book. Liesel's and the other characters' lives were presented in a very relatable way, which will make readers question their own attitudes on life and the world.

Reviewer's Name: Nabhanya
The Wild book jacket
Laukkanen, Owen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the kind of book with so many cliffhangers, you can't find a stopping point. This is a book you'll want to read in one sitting but remember you have homework and have to reluctantly put it down. This is a book that makes your hands sweat and your heart beat faster. The vivid imagery and dynamic characters will make you feel as if you're there yourself. This is a book for adventurers. This is a book for the fearless. This is Underlined Paperbacks and this is The Wild.
When Dawn is sent to a wilderness boot camp for one to many bad decisions, she ends up in a situation her parents nor her ever expected. The people she meets there have bad decisions they are also living with and as the woods get darker, their pasts are revealed. Will they make it out of the camp alive? Is everyone there for the reason they claim they are?
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: McKenna
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde book jacket
Stevenson, Robert Louis,
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was alright. I had to read this for school once and actually quite enjoyed it. This is a great book for anyone who likes quick mystery reads. The plot is one that makes the reader want to continue reading! The book is about a mysterious doctor named Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll is a well respected man but awfully strange. If this sounds interesting I suggest reading it! Yes, it wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed the mysterious plot.

Reviewer's Name: Abigail
All Good People Here book jacket
Flowers, Ashley
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I am a big fan of Ashley Flowers from her career with audiochuck podcasts, so reading her first novel was a no-brainer. The story is about a journalist named Margot who returns to the small town in which she grew up to care for her uncle struggling with memory loss. However, the disappearance of a young girl at the same time causes Margot to reflect on the unsolved murder from her childhood, decades back. Like a true investigator, she sets out to solve both cases once and for all. Previous reviews had hinted at constant plot twists, and I definitely experienced that the whole way through. The case wasn't truly solved until literally the last page. Overall, Flowers' writing style is just as eloquent as her podcasts, with unique characters and eerie suspense. Although a few side characters, like the police officer Margot befriends, are pretty bland, more time spent on the Jacobs family character development seemed like the intention all along. And as soon as one plot twist had been announced, it was written off to make way for the next one quite suddenly. It felt as though some character explanations were still unfinished. Finally, though I hate to say it, such an abrupt ending was kind of unsatisfying. It was almost a five star book through-and-through, and just one more chapter could have done it. Nonetheless, I will recommend this book any day!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Old Man and the Sea book jacket
Hemingway, Ernest
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The story of Win and Loss, one of Ernest Hemingway’s most famous works, The Old Man and the Sea introduces us to a fisherman Santiago. He is old, but he has determination and a goal. He wants to catch his Big Fish. He does not give up even after eighty four days of failure and on the eighty-fifth day luck finally smiles at him. Big Fish is on the hook. Three days of confrontation between the fishermen and the fish reveal Santiago’s incredible inner strength and will power. But when he finally comes back to his hut, exhausted and barely alive, he’s left only with a skeleton of his dream and a poor illusion of a better life.
The deep symbols that the story contains can be interpreted in many different ways. Some of the readers may find the old man’s hunt as a waste of effort on a goal that is not worth risking his life. Others, however, will discover Santiago as their role model and an example of undefeatable human nature and endurance on the way to the dream. But this controversy and ambiguity is exactly what makes the book so unique and attractive to the generations of readers.
The language of the novella is typical for all Hemingway's books, simple and straightforward, however, this time the symbolic meaning is hidden under the coat of realistic story. It encourages the reader to think and reflect on the pages that he’s read and on his own life as well and find his own interpretation of the fisherman’s story.

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
The Hobbit book jacket
Tolkien, J. R. R.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you are looking forward to diving into the fascinating world of dwarves, wizards and elves and feel ready to fight evil wolves, man-eating trolls and a fire-breathing dragon Smaug, then The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is definitely for you. A warm children’s fantasy novel, which, however, will captivate the hearts of many adults, takes you to the atmosphere of fairy tales that you were listening to by the fireplace as a kid.
The main character, hobbit Bilbo, at first reminds us of ourselves. He, as all the hobbits are supposed to do, loves eating good food, spending time at home and making their houses cute and cozy. However, his routine crashed as a dropped pot, when a wizard Gendalf knocked at his door. Welcoming him inside, Bilbo could not even imagine that soon he would go on a true adventure all the way to the Lonely Mountain and save an ancient treasure from the claws of a furious dragon. On his way he will meet many different creatures, make friends and enemies, defeat mountain trolls, get captured by giant spiders, get into another captivity right after that, outplay Gollum in the caves and get the magical ring. But what is more important, Bilbo will turn into a brave warrior (what a shame for the entire generations of hobbits!) and a loyal companion.
The author's writing style and original universe makes it impossible to stay indifferent to the story. Kind and soft narration wraps you as an old blanket and keeps you cozy even in the coldest evenings. Younger readers, as well as their parents, will find many life lessons on the pages of The Hobbit, such as why it is important to make smart choices, appreciate your friendships and be ready to help those who are in trouble. The book is an awesome pick for both family time and independent reading.

Reviewer's Name: Oleksandra
Medea book jacket
Euripides
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Medea by Euripides is a play about a princess in Greek mythology. She is betrayed by her husband when he weds another woman and Medea vows to take revenge. She plans to hurt everyone who hurt her, but by doing this she puts people who did her no wrong at risk. Will she end up getting revenge and living out her days or will she join the same fate that she curses down upon? I recommend this book to anybody who is into Greek mythology or would like to get into it. This is a fast read of about 50 pages.
Jaala 12

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
Oedipus the King book jacket
Sophocles,
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Oedipus the King by Sophocles is a Greek play that follows the tragedy and downfall of this King. He is presented by a messenger that a disease has spread across his land and he needs to save his people. He sets out in search of this issue, but slowly comes to the realization that this something is a someone within his borders. What if this someone who needs to be eradicated is one who governs it? I would recommend this book to anybody who likes Greek mythology or the adventure genre.
Jaala 12

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
The Awakening book jacket
Chopin, Kate
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a fictional novel that questions what it is to be an independent woman in a male dominant society. Edna lives in the Creole society in New Orleans that values the idea of women being a housewife. Edna strays away from this ideal and attempts to break the boundaries of what women think and can do. Is Edna strong enough to break these barriers or will the barriers break her? I recommend this novel to anybody who loves twists and turns and what it truly means to be independent.
Jaala 12

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
We Hunt the Flame book jacket
Faizal, Hafsah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

We Hunt the Flame is about a girl named Zafira who is forced to take on the role of breadwinner after her father died. She is a strong-willed, independent character who gets dragged into a quest to find a rare item with incomparable power. While she has noble intentions, the prince, Nasir, takes on a role of assassin as he fights to find the artifact before she does. I really liked the slow-burn romance throughout the book, and how Zafira's personality doesn't change as she falls in love. Nasir's character arc is a really important lesson too, as he struggles with a need for approval from his father, and the cost of that approval. The other characters were really interesting as well. The author did a wonderful job of describing each personality, so even though there were a lot of characters, I never got confused between them. Near the end, a lot of the action did muddle what I thought would be an epic conclusion to the book, and the plot twists at the end were interesting but not necessary. It was obvious that the author wanted to set up a plot for the second book, but it felt forced. However, the characters were likeable, not predictable, so you might catch me reading the sequel!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
All the Light We Cannot See book jacket
Doerr, Anthony
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a historical fiction novel that is set in World War II. This book focuses on two characters Marie-Laure Leblanc and Werner Pfennig. Marie-Laure is a blind girl in France that relies on her father to help her live her life. Werner is a genius German who gets drafted by the Nazi’s to build and find the enemy with radios. These two conflicting worlds will soon crash into each other in the most heart wrenching way possible. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history or suspense.
Jaala 12

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
A Thousand Pieces of You book jacket
Gray, Claudia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is a science fiction and adventure novel that anybody would love. This easy read quickly starts off with our main character, Marguerite, jumping into an alternate reality chasing her friend who killed her father. She catches him, but before he slips out of her grasp, she is conflicted with the question if he really did it or not. This book mixes physics for any math lovers, adventure for any aspiring traveler, and just a little bit of romance that makes it difficult to grasp onto what is real or fake. I would recommend this book to anybody who is in a reading slump and needs a good pick me up.
Jaala 12

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
Small Admissions book jacket
Poeppel, Amy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Small Admissions follows Kate Pearson, right after getting brutally dumped at an airport by her handsome, French, almost-fiancé. After the prodding of friends and family, Kate takes up a job with private school admissions, and is quickly thrown in to a mess of angry parents, bratty kids, scholarship grants, and interview skills. Throughout her journey, Kate and her friends will need to learn to let go, keep going, and grow up.
I love Amy Poeppel's books because each of her characters is so wonderfully flawed that it's a love letter to changing even as an adult. Every character in this book has a lot of issues, ranging between codependency, independency, over-confidence, under-confidence, and all possible maladies in between. This was very annoying in the beginning, but it lended to the catharsis of character development at the end. I never knew I could get so invested in a middle-aged woman making one good decision, but 300 pages of horrible decisions will do that for you! The characters themselves are amazingly vibrant and likable despite their horrible choices. There were a lot of names to remember at first, but each soon became memorable in their own way. They also interacted wonderfully throughout the book. Even though some characters got more time to shine than others, watching them bounce off each other was so fun. In particular, the female relationships in this novel get a lot of time and development, which I appreciate. The writing itself was great, not a ton of prose but very smooth and concise. The themes were phenomenal, and carried through the entire piece. There's a throughline of learning to let go of things you thought you'd always have, and while this at first seems obviously related to Kate's break-up, it applies to practically every character in the novel. People have to let go of jobs, schools, belief, and people, and it really is a love letter to letting yourself change for the better.
All in all, despite some issues with the large number of initially annoying characters, this book is phenomenal! I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants great character growth, a solid story, and a lesson on letting go!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Perks of Being a Wallflower book jacket
Chbosky, Stephan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I chose this book because I had watched the movie and was curious as to how the book was in comparison. I found that both were great overall and I don't dislike one more than the other, but the book felt more mature than the movie. Overall I really did enjoy this book, the detail in the book was a great touch, as well as was relatable. Personally, I felt a connection to some of the characters having to leave for college and trying to get the best possible score on the SAT. There is only one thing I did not enjoy about this book though, which is that there is a lot of smoking. The smoking feels a bit excessive, especially when the book follows a freshman in high school, so the amount of smoking I feel like does not portray a true aspect of what that would look like in real life. I would recommend this book to an upper teenage audience since there are mature topics such as brief sexual scenes and smoking. I gave this book 4 stars since I felt like it was very well written and an enjoyable book to read; the deduction of one star was due to the portrayal of smoking. This is honestly a great read that I personally love, I would definitely recommend it!

Reviewer's Name: Ashley
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
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