Review Crew Book Reviews by Genre: Contemporary

The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

TW: A main theme of this book (and thus the review) is suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest finding a different book.

“The Midnight Library” is a story about Nora Seed, whose life has not gone how she’s expected. Worse yet, she feels as though it’s all her fault and her regrets weigh heavy on her. One night she decides to end her own life, but she wakes up in a library with her elementary school librarian. That’s when she gets the opportunity to live the lives she could have led if she’d made different decisions.

As the story goes along, we see many of Nora’s alternative lives. Some of them are just as disastrous as her regular life (her best friend dies, her husband cheats on her). Others are nearly perfect, but can’t be truly satisfying when she didn’t create them. I was glad that some of the alternate lives were good, otherwise it would have seemed like Nora’s original life was simply the lesser of two evils. All of them are interesting to read about. Another interesting aspect of the book is the library itself. The author knows when to reveal information and when to keep things vague.

There aren’t many characters to keep track of. Nora is the main character, and the reader gets a good sense of her interests and aspirations through her various lives. Her friends and family all get a decent amount of depth as well, though they’re not in focus most of the time.

I can’t pretend that I really resonated with the message of the book. I would have preferred if it focused a bit more on the good things that could happen in Nora’s future rather than the good things that happened in her alternate lives. However, that could be a problem exclusive to me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. It’s a fast read and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
What You are Looking For Is in the Library book jacket
Aoyama, Michiko
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"What You Are Looking For Is in the Library" is a book about a library connected to a community center and the unusually perceptive librarian, Sayuri Komachi. The book is told through five stories of people . Along with the books they came for, Mrs. Komachi gives them an unrelated book and a felt gift. This leads them to discovering new perspectives on their problems and their lives.

All the characters in this book are delightful. Since there are five stories, each with a different main character, it would take too long to go over all of them. However, the standouts for me were Tomoka, Natsumi, and Mrs. Komachi herself. Tomoka was relatable in her struggles, but also had a proactive nature that made her likeable. Natsumi has an interesting story about motherhood that isn't seen much in modern media. And of course Mrs. Komachi tows the line between mysterious and friendly in a charming way. Every once in a while there will be a character that appears in multiple stories, and the crossovers are pleasant without being distracting.

The stories themselves are all quite simple. Someone receives insight after reading a book, usually talking with friends and neighbors as they decide on their life's path. Though they're all quite short, none of them feel incomplete or rushed.

I would recommend this book for people looking for a comforting read or a story about the power of books.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Spanish Love Deception book jacket
Armas, Elena
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lovable characters, an amazing plot, swoon-worthy chemistry, and a captivating writing style, what more could one ask for in a rom-com narrative? Like seriously. And those beautiful ideas are immaculately expressed in The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas. This book stole my heart—a truly well-done teaser love story. From the first page, Armas unfolds every parcel of the story with perfection, leaving just enough time before uncovering another equally interesting idea. The classic enemies-to-lovers trope is perfectly applied as mysterious and stone-cold Aaron meets open and bubby Catalina. At first, the motives are questionable; you’ll find yourself asking, “why would Catalina be soo adamant about finding a fake boyfriend to bring home for a wedding?” and if she hates Aaron with that much ferocity, “why did she put that aside and take him?” But as the plot unfolds, everything makes sense in a kinda sick way, and motives come to life. And through it all, Aaron and Catalina could not be more wholesome. They frankly stole my heart. It is honestly an emotional rollercoaster that I wish would never end. When it finally did, it was perfect.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
The American Roommate Experiment book jacket
Armas, Elena
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

What is a better way to start a relationship with someone, your best friend’s cousin, than calling the cops on them? Answer: There is none, especially if it's a rom-com novel—the perfect first encounter. This is what happens to Rosie Graham when she unexpectedly comes across Lucas Martin, her best friend’s cousin, “breaking into her out of town friends apartment” and calls the cops. New flash, he was not breaking in; he had a key, but little did she know that this was the start of an excellent relationship and a well-written, feel-good book because everyone needs a decent, feel-good book in their lives, right? Well, at least for me, that book is not The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas. I mean, yes, technically, the novel is a feel-good book, but it is also so much more. It's about overcoming your past and moving forward. It’s about loving yourself and supporting others. It’s about allowing yourself to rely on others. The American Roommate Experiment is an emotional rollercoaster bundled up into 400 pages. That made me feel anywhere from devastated to ecstatic, to awe, to hate, and to love in a single chapter.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas as much as its prequel, The Spanish Love Deception. I found the plot too slow, even for a slow-burn-type book, and overly stacked with tropes. While I enjoy a good friends-to-lovers trope, in this case, I found it extremely frustrating, and generally, I found that Lucas and Rosie lacked the necessary chemistry. I mean, water and oil have better chemistry. Both Lucas and Rosie would, in my opinion, make better friends than lovers, and the romance piece felt like an afterthought in the plot and their relationship. It is still a well-written novel with fascinating characters and a well-needed message. I adored the character development that progressed but found the romance part severely lacking. The best way I would describe The American Roommate Experiment is a modern feel-good comedy, and if that is what you’re looking for? Great. It is a perfect read, but don’t go looking for a romance novel.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Love, Theoretically book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Okay, so the plot may be a little silly. A desperate adjunct physics professor, Elsie Hannaway, makes up for her pathetic paycheck by becoming people’s fake girlfriend. Does she enjoy her jobs? No. During the day, she deals with pathetic and entitled college students who couldn’t care less about physics. At night, she people-pleases to make enough to live. All while living in a probably rat-infested apartment. Whoever said academia was easy? And when she finally might get an actual well-paying job at MIT, she runs into Jack Smith, the older brother of her favorite client. Who may or may not think she works at a library?

That being said, the classic enemies-to-lovers trope and the quirky, witty characters complement the plot perfectly. The chemistry between Jack and Elsie is palpable. Frankly, Love, Theoretically, brings out the uncontrollable laughter and wholesome feelings everyone needs. However, this is definitely not my favorite Hazelwood book, and out of all the protagonists of her other books, Elsie just didn’t make the same spark. Throughout the whole book, Elsie needs constant approval from those around her, and despite being a wonderful, smart person, she lacks self-esteem. And I mean, I get it; some people have trouble with self-esteem, but Elsie’s people-pleasing tendencies are taken to too much of an extreme. And Jack, the most wholesome, caring person, sends mixed signals the whole book. The “you don’t like me” phase was too drawn out and, at times, annoying. Still, I enjoyed the light, pleasant read like always.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
All In book jacket
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

All In is the third book in The Naturals series. It takes place in Vegas instead of Washington D.C. and is actually focusing on a main secondary character instead, Sloane. The Naturals investigate a series of murders that take place in casinos around Las Vegas and learn that they may run deeper than they thought.

I really liked this book in the series. I liked how we got a story focusing on a secondary character instead of just focusing on Cassie like in the first two books. However, this book was longer than the other books and got a little bit boring in some parts, which is why I rated it a three stars. It was a really good and interesting story though and I’m looking forward to continuing the series!

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Eight Hundred Grapes book jacket
Dave, Laura
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Eight Hundred Grapes" by Laura Dave is an exceptional novel that effortlessly earns a well-deserved 5-star rating. Set against the picturesque backdrop of a California vineyard, the story intricately weaves together themes of love, family, and self-discovery. Laura Dave's storytelling prowess shines through, creating a narrative that is both emotionally resonant and utterly captivating.
The vineyard setting adds an extra layer of charm and uniqueness to the narrative, creating a vivid backdrop that complements the story's themes. The novel explores the complexities of family dynamics, the choices we make, and the impact these decisions have on our lives.
What sets "Eight Hundred Grapes" apart is its ability to balance romance, drama, and introspection seamlessly. Laura Dave's writing style is engaging, pulling the reader into the lives of the characters and making the book difficult to put down. Overall I found "Eight Hundred Grapes" to be a literary gem, offering a rich and satisfying reading experience that warrants the highest praise.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Turtles All the Way Down book jacket
Green, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Turtles All the Way Down" is a young adult novel written by John Green. The story follows the life of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old girl dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Aza, along with her best friend Daisy, becomes involved in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a billionaire named Russell Pickett. As they investigate, Aza also navigates the challenges of her mental health and relationships.
In my opinion, "Turtles All the Way Down" is a compelling and emotionally resonant novel, earning my rating of 3/5. John Green brings depth and authenticity to the portrayal of Aza's struggles with OCD, providing readers with a unique and empathetic perspective. The exploration of friendship, love, and the complexities of mental health adds layers to the narrative. The book's strength lies in its realistic characters, poignant storytelling, and the author's ability to address important themes with sensitivity. While some may find the pacing or plot elements challenging or dull, the overall impact and the way it tackles mental health make it a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Love & Luck book jacket
Welch, Jenna Evans
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

"Love & Luck" by Jenna Evans Welch follows the story of Addie, who, while traveling through Ireland, discovers a guidebook. As she embarks on a journey with unexpected companions, the novel explores themes of love, friendship, and self-discovery against the picturesque backdrop of Ireland.
In my opinion, "Love & Luck" failed to live up to expectations, earning a 1/5 rating. Despite the appealing premise, the execution fell short, making the overall experience less than satisfying. The narrative struggled to capture the my interest, and the characters lacked depth or development. Additionally, the storytelling or pacing issues contributed to the feeling that the book wasn't worth the time I invested.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
An Abundance of Katherines book jacket
Green, John
2 stars = Meh
Review:

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green revolves around the quirky and intellectually gifted protagonist, Colin Singleton, who finds himself in a cycle of heartbreak. Having been dumped by 19 girls, all named Katherine, Colin sets out on a road trip with his best friend, Hassan, in an attempt to overcome the repetitive pattern in his love life. Along the journey, the novel explores themes of self-discovery, friendship, and the complexities of relationships. Green weaves in mathematical concepts and footnotes, adding an intellectual layer to the narrative as Colin attempts to create a formula predicting the duration of romantic relationships.
In my opinion, the novel falls short in execution. The heavy reliance on mathematical discussions, while unique, can be overwhelming or dull for readers not inclined towards that subject. The repetitiveness of the plot, with the central theme of Colin's romantic struggles, becomes a hindrance, making the story feel stagnant at times. Despite some moments of humor and insight, the overall experience may leave readers desiring more depth and variety in the narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Love Hypothesis book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Let’s be real for a second: if you want a snarky and admirably catchy writing style and you’re not adamantly opposed to romance novels, you arguably have to read at least one of Ali Hazelwood’s books. For this reason, I’d highly recommend The Love Hypothesis. This charming, witty, romantic comedy follows Olive Smith as she navigates the treacherous path of a Stanford biology graduate program and complex relationships within her department. It is a classic enemies-to-lovers and grumpy meets sunshine trope, as Olive and Adam pretend to be a couple to appease her roommate and his family. The relationship between Olive and Adam is unbelievably wholesome and will fill your heart with warmth and happiness. Additionally, all of the characters in the story are simple yet relatable, so you won’t find yourself drowning in unnecessary information. While the plot is easy to predict, the snarky and witty writing style of Hazelwood transforms this romantic comedy into a master piece. That being said, the plot is still immaculate, with a perfect ending that will rip your heart in two. Chefs kiss.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Better than the Movies book jacket
Painter, Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Better than the Movies is a young adult rom-com about Liz Buxbaum. The story centers around Liz’s senior year and her crush that just moved into town. It’s also centered around her neighbor, who tries to help Liz get her crush to ask her to prom. I think the author did a good job at talking about Liz and her emotions. Most of the story is Liz being a rom com lover like her mom who passed away. She tries to make her life like the romcoms she and her mother enjoyed together. The romance in this book was cute, but I also enjoyed how Lynn Painter kept it solely around Liz and her emotions about her mom and senior year. The coming of age part was very realistic while also playing out kind of like a rom com that Liz loves so much. So I thought that was a clever twist.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Love on the Brain book jacket
Hazelwood, Ali
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Love on the Brain is stacked full of misunderstandings. When Bee Königswasser gets her dream job at NASA, she is ecstatic, except when she realizes her archnemesis, Levi, is her co-worker. So, who does she blame when her equipment stops working? Or when the staff ignores her? Levi. Through all of Bee’s misadventures, the reader is pulled along seamlessly and introduced into the narrative with an enviable writing style.

So here’s an equation: Romance plus STEM equals?

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Far From the Tree book jacket
Benway, Robin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway is a exploration of family, identity, and the bonds that tie people together. The book follows the interconnected lives of three siblings—Grace, Maya, and Joaquin—who are all separated and discover each other's existence and embark on a journey to understand the meaning of family. Benway skillfully intertwines the perspectives of these three characters, creating a narrative that unfolds with genuine emotion and authenticity. The story delves into themes of adoption, acceptance, and the profound impact of family connections on one's sense of self.
Awarding "Far From the Tree" a rating of 3/5 reflects my appreciation for the novel's engaging storyline and the author's adept portrayal of complex family dynamics. The characters are well-developed, and their individual struggles and growth are compelling. However, at times, the narrative can feel slightly formulaic, with certain plot points following predictable trajectories. Additionally, while the exploration of adoption is insightful, some aspects of the story may feel a bit too neatly resolved. Despite these minor critiques, Benway's ability to craft a touching narrative around the theme of found family makes "Far From the Tree" a solid and emotional read, deserving a 3 star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
It Ends With Us book jacket
Hoover, Colleen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"It Ends With Us" by Colleen Hoover is a real and effective novel that explores the story of Lily Blossom and Ryle Kincaid. This book very evidently gives off the message, that it is okay to not be normal. To be scared to make tough choices. I think of this book as Hoover's courageous attempt in relation to her personal life to share awareness about abuse and harassment. I believe reading this novel will help change many lives that have been held under similar circumstances. This narrative will help teach people that sometimes, moving on or letting go is the best decision you can make for yourself. I felt proud when Lily was able to make extremely hard life-changing decisions to prioritize herself and her happiness. She is a character to admire and love. Hoover has derived so many layers to each character which adds depth to the story as a whole. Colleen Hoover’s subject is heartbreaking, but in our lives, it’s become such an ordinary deal that we naturally begin to avert our eyes easily from such content.
Love has no boundaries, but your health does. Real love should not end in excruciating pain. Taking your chances will only result in you getting used to the affliction.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
All Your Perfects book jacket
Hoover, Colleen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"All Your Perfects" by Colleen Hoover is a deep, emotional novel that delves into the complexities of marriage and the impact it has on the physical and emotional well-being of its characters. The story primarily revolves around Quinn and Graham, a couple who were once so deeply in love but find their relationship strained by the challenges of infertility, putting their marriage to the test. Colleen Hoover's narrative represents a tale of love, loss, and resilience, exploring the ups and downs of this couple's journey.
I give "All Your Perfects" a solid 4-star rating because the book shines in its depiction of the many struggles people face in maintaining a healthy, thriving marriage. I love how it addresses the issue of infertility, shedding light on how it can strain even the most loving relationships. This novel also doesn't shy away from the emotional toll this takes on the characters, which makes it a relatable and thought-provoking read for those who have faced similar challenges. Hoover's writing is very engaging, and she masterfully captures the depth of the emotional agitation that couples may tend to experience when dealing with such issues. This novel clearly excels in its portrayal of human vulnerability and the strength it takes to navigate the complexities of love and marriage, making it a compelling read.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Upside of Falling book jacket
Light, Alex
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In "The Upside of Falling" by Alex Light, readers are treated to a heartwarming and charming YA contemporary novel. This story revolves around Becca Hart, a high school student who, in an unexpected turn of fate, fake-dates Brett Wells, the most popular boy in school. Although the trope and theme may sound familiar, Light's storytelling immerses it with a fresh and engaging twist. Becca and Brett's journey through the ups and downs of their "pretend" romance is filled with humor, relatable characters, and a delightful exploration of the complexities of high school relationships.
I give "The Upside of Falling" four stars for its simplicity, like a cute, short Wattpad (where it was originally published) story. Alex Light's writing style is refreshingly light and accessible, making it an delightful read for fans of YA romance. The story's direct and endearing approach to love and self-discovery is very enjoyable, and the characters are relatable and easy to root for. This book's likable and uncomplicated narrative is suggestive of the online stories many readers adore, making it a perfect choice for those seeking a sweet and heartwarming escape into the world of high school romance.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
Awards:
The Fault in Our Stars book jacket
Green, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" is a heartwarming and pleasant YA novel that explores a variety of themes like love, illness, and essence. This particular story follows the narrative of Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who battle cancer and embark on a journey of love and self-discovery together.
I rate "The Fault in Our Stars" 3 out of 5 stars for its easy readability, enjoyable narrative, and the extremely important message it conveys about cancer awareness through Hazel's and Augustus' characters. It is an incredibly nice, short book to read, particularly for audiences who are young adults. However, compared to some of the other books I've read, it doesn't delve as deeply and lacks the complex storytelling that I often seek while reading. While it certainly has its lovely positives that I enjoyed, the book, in my opinion, falls a little short in terms of depth and construction, which is why I choose to give it a 3-star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
To All the Boys I've Loved Before book jacket
Han, Jenny
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To all the Boys I’ve loved Before is a coming of age novel. Lara Jean Covey writes love letters whenever she has a crush so intense she doesn’t know what else to do. She has five in all, and keeps them all in a blue hatbox for her eyes only. Until by accident someone sends them out and her life spirals out of control

This was an interesting take on love letters as she only wrote them to get over a crush and not to confess her feelings. I enjoyed Lara Jean’s personality throughout the book and liked the supporting characters as they developed. This book is a good focus on grief and letting go as her older sister is off at college and now she’s the woman of the house since her mom died years prior. I feel like I could connect to Lara Jean a lot as she is scared to try new things and makes a realistic approach on growing up.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
We Were Liars book jacket
Lockhart, E.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

We were liars is a young adult drama/thriller. It’s about the seemingly perfect Sinclair family and their summer private island. Cadence Sinclair is the heir to the Sinclair fortune and going to the island during the summers is what she looks forward to during the year. However, after an accident and two summers missed on the island, Cadence returns with little memory and a suspicious feeling.

This was an overall good book to read. It got a little slow at times, but it was not predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat. I will say I was expecting a predictable ending but the plot twist completely blew me away! It’s also not very long and a quick read but with a lot of emotions. E. Lockhart did a good job at making me feel things. I laughed, I cried, and had more than one jaw dropper. I would rate it a 3 just because it got a little boring and confusing, but I would recommend!

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cara