Adult Book Reviews

Treasure Island
Stevenson, Robert Louis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is an amazing book filled with suspense and action to no end. It follows the story of a boy named Jim Hawkins, whose life takes a turn after buccaneers turn his quiet inn life upside down. He is whisked on a voyage after learning of a "treasure island". After overhearing a conversation between some of his most trusted friends, Hawkins has to find a way to fix the voyage-and stay safe! Treasure Island is filled with twists and turns that will certainly keep you on edge for the whole book! Check it out, you'll definitely enjoy it.

Reviewer's Name: Gemma
Awards:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Really Good.

Reviewer's Name: Leeann
A World Out of Time
Niven, Larry
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I’m starting to realize that science fiction in the 1970s might need to stay there. While there was a lot of progress in the genre past the golden era of the 1950s, many of these books are unfortunate snapshots of a time that has not aged well. Similar to Ringworld , I found A World Out of Time to rely heavily on the sexism that runs rampant through 1970s sci-fi. Additionally, while the hard science presented in this book was generally plausible, the way it was presented was so dry and dense as to make it more of a Ph.D. thesis than an entertaining read.

On the plus side, A World Out of Time explores many scientific ideas that were well ahead of its time. Aside from the normal sci-fi tropes of mind implants and artificial intelligence, this book also deals with climate change in a way that hasn’t been felt until now. Granted, it blames this extreme change of the Earth’s environment on the sun and less on the humans who inhabit it, but the thinking about what would happen to our planet if such a thing were to happen was thorough enough to be believable.

Despite these forward-thinking ideas, A World Out of Time treats sex and drugs as inconsequential parts of life in the future. It’s clear the culture of the 1970s influenced this part of the book, but it feels so outdated compared to today’s standards that it was difficult to read without rolling my eyes. Sure, it’s probably less prominent than the pulpy science fiction stories that came before it, but the fact that the author felt these things needed to be included tells me more than I need to know about him.

A dry hard sci-fi novel that hasn’t aged that well, I give A World Out of Time 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Awards:
Stories of Your Life and Others
Chiang, Ted
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After reading Exhalation , I found myself in search of more stories by Ted Chiang. This led me to Stories of Your Life and Others. Partly because this collection included many of Chiang’s earlier stories, not all of them were great pieces of literature like the ones in Exhalation. I could tell that Chiang was still trying to find his voice as a writer as he explored many science fiction topics common to the genre. While not all of the stories are fantastic, there are enough good ones to warrant reading this collection.

What’s a little disappointing is how some of the ideas Chiang explores in this book are truly interesting topics, but the execution of these stories feels a little too erudite for the common reader. I appreciate Chiang’s later ability to humanize these ideas (as shown by my love of Exhalation), but he just wasn’t quite there yet with these early works. Still, there are a handful of award-winning stories in this book, including “Tower of Babylon” and “Hell Is the Absence of God.” Chiang’s ability to combine science and religion is second to none, and these stories prove as much.

One story in this book stands out from the rest. It makes sense that “Story of Your Life” was the titular choice for this book. For those unaware, the movie Arrival (2016) is based on this short story (and is a pretty close adaptation). Even if you only read “Story of Your Life,” I think you’ll get something out of this collection. It is by far the most approachable of these stories, and it deserved all of the awards bestowed upon it when it was originally published in the late 1990s.

A good collection of Ted Chiang’s early works that contains a few sparkling gems, I give Stories of Your Life and Others 4.0 stars out of 5.

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

One of the things I like about James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series is how these books focus on the crew of the Rocinante. Many hard sci-fi writers try to show how smart they are by making it obvious how much math they did to explain how their sci-fi universe works. While The Expanse certainly has these moments, they’re fit in between the human drama that follows James Holden and his crew. Trouble seems to follow them wherever they go, and in Caliban’s War, they’re pulled into a political conflict that spans the solar system.

I appreciate how an overarching plot with the protomolecule connects Leviathan Wakes to Caliban’s War. While the first book in the series took some time ramping up into having a cohesive collection of characters, Caliban’s War uses all four members of Rocinante’s crew in a new way that felt more interesting. Of course, this book also contains my favorite “character of the day” with Chrisjen Avasarala as the U.N. ambassador. Her calculated political ambitions were fun to watch as they unfolded, and she tried to keep on top of all the chaos that was happening.

Caliban’s War also benefits from plenty of action and tense moments. What could easily be confusing and hard to follow was well written and engaging. My heart was racing as these exciting sequences took the political drama and made it explode in a way that was both expected and fun to read. Ultimately, the emotional connection to the characters—both continuing from book one and exclusive to this book—is what made everything click for me in this novel. Granted, I would have liked a little more continuity between the two books by bringing over more characters from Leviathan Wakes. Still, sometimes a long-running series has to focus on bite-size stories instead of carrying a huge and unwieldy plot throughout.

An exciting, political, and action-filled hard sci-fi gem, I give Caliban’s War 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Stone Sky
Jemisin, N. K.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with The Stone Sky. It took me some time to get used to the way the author wrote the Broken Earth trilogy, but by the end of the second book, The Obelisk Gate , I had bought into the premise. The fact that this book had a lot to live up to with the foreshadowing presented in the second book might be why I’m disappointed with the result. After all, I was looking forward to some epic moments involving the moon, which didn’t seem to materialize for me. Now that I’ve finished this trilogy, I’m starting to wonder if the reason it didn’t quite fully click for me was because I was reading it via audiobook. There seemed to be a lot that I missed that would leave me confused about who the characters were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Perhaps if I had dedicated time to focusing on these audiobooks instead of listening while I was doing other things, I would have liked the series more. As it stands though, I probably couldn’t tell you what the point of this book was without going back and rereading it.

Ultimately, the Broken Earth trilogy is well written. The language might be a little too poetic at times and the fantasy setting introduces a lot of terminology that was difficult to keep track of, but I can see the appeal of it. The magic system is truly unique, even if the explanation for its origins made less sense than if it was just an unexplainable magic force. I do appreciate that most of the loose ends were wrapped up and either explained or made into moot points by the series’ conclusion. And while the resolution of this trilogy felt a little cliché, at least it provided an ending that most would come to expect from this type of sub-genre.

A pretty good trilogy wrap-up that might need a second read-through, I give The Stone Sky 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Song of Achilles
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the story of Patroclus and Achilles and what their lives were like. They meet each other at a young age and soon become fast friends. They go to train with the Centaur Chiron in the mountains, but soon the call of war comes knocking. Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, has been kidnapped and taken to Troy. This causes the heroes of Greece to rally together to fight, including Achilles. Achilles desires the promise of glory, so he joins, and Patroclus, who can't bear to leave him, follows. This war will challenge of how far some will go for the promise of glory even at the cost of love. This book is told through Patroclus' perspective and gives a unique inside into what the Trojan War was like.

I've heard amazing things about this book, and I was not disappointed when I sat down to read it. Both of these characters were so lovable, I soon became invested in the story. I didn't know a lot about the Trojan War other than the wooden horse. I loved learning more about the history while following the boys' lives. This story was an emotional roller coaster for me. Be prepared to shed some tears and yell if you hop onto this wild ride. I loved this book so much and would recommend it to many. Every character had depth and played an impacting role in some way. It was beautiful. Here is one of my favorite quotes: "He is half of my soul, as the poet say." Song of Achilles.

-10th

Reviewer's Name: Alyson
Awards:
Transcendent Kingdom
Gyasi, Yaa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

There was no sophomore slump for author Yaa Gyasi, who lit the literary world ablaze with her searing debut novel, Homegoing (2016). That work of historical fiction was deeply personal and her exceptional contemporary follow-up Transcendent Kingdom (2020) draws upon her experiences growing up with Ghanaian parents in in northern Alabama. This powerful and emotionally raw novel centers on Giffy, a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the connections between depression and addiction. Her brother was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal, deeply religious mother is bedridden. Dad left long ago. Giffy hopes science will find the why behind the suffering. But she still hungers for her childhood faith and struggles to find a balance between religion and science, hope and despair, living and inertia. It’s a personal journey with a conclusion that will leave you with hope, if not a clear answer.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The Guest List
Foley, Lucy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Those longing for an Agatha Christie-style yarn with red herrings that keep you guessing (incorrectly) will enjoy this mystery by Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party. This whodunit – by the end you may ask yourself who wouldn’t? – uses alternating points of views to reveal small, important details about each character. Those alternating chapters provide arguably understandable reasons to kill the eventual "victim," whose identity remains as murky until the end as the weather enveloping the isolated island off the Irish coast. Is the victim or murderer the Bridezilla? The reality TV star groom? The depressed bridesmaid? The jilted former lovers? Just how many of them are there? Or was it the jealous best friend? This modern tale evoking And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express, may make you wonder if Christie, if she were alive, would have considered revenge porn as a motive for murder.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The Henna Artist
Joshi, Alka
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Escaping from an abusive marriage, 17-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s city of Jaipur. There she becomes a highly requested henna artist and confidante of the wealthy women of the upper class, all while keeping her own secrets buried. This eloquent story of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society transitioning from the traditional to the modern provides a window into a lush society marked by stark class divides. Those divides make her vulnerable to gossips and threaten to upend lower-caste Lakshmi’s hopes of a comfortable future. Years of work could be ruined after her husband tracks her down and puts her in charge of a younger sister Lakshmi never knew she had. It is then that Lakshmi, flaws and all, rises to the challenge. She scrambles to lift up those she loves and cares for in this moving story of self-discovery and familial love.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Genres:
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Morris, Heather
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Lale Sokolov is a well-educated charmer whose proficiency in languages lands him a privileged, albeit odious job as The Tatowierer – the tattooist – whose way to survive means marking his fellow prisoners forever as they enter Auschwitz-Birkenau. One of them is a terrified young woman, Gita, whose gaze grips his heart immediately. Discovering love at first sight gives the Slovakian Jew the reason he needs to survive against near-impossible odds.This work of historical fiction does not flinch away from the horrors of The Holocaust, but manages to balance the inhuman horror with a story of love, hope and survival shared decades later by an aging Lale. Sokolov’s deteriorating memory in his final years and Morris’ admitted dramatic embellishments prompted deserved criticism concerning historical accuracy. But those moments do not detract from the novel’s central messages of survival as resistance, faith, and the power of love and compassion.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Profiles in Courage
Kennedy, John F
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book contained a lot of wisdom from a president’s point of view and was a very useful insight into his perspective. I appreciated the many different stories about many different historical figures and their trials, however, i did notice a strong bias against others and their perspectives. If i was to recommend this book to someone else, I would advise them to be careful about taking every word he says to heart, as he doesn’t phrase things from a neutral perspective. Overall i enjoyed the book, but it should be read by people looking for insight, not as an entertaining or exciting book. Though it may not have been thrilling or suspenseful, overall it was really good.

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey
Sophocles I: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus
Sophocles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Very good.

Reviewer's Name: Shafa
Awards:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an exceptional novel filled with mischief, fun, and excitement. Huckleberry Finn is a young teenage boy who just ran away from his civilized, structured life in search of something adventurous and new. After leaving on a raft, he meets a slave, Jim, who slipped away from his home. Huck and Jim set out on a rafting journey down the river to make a new life and find Jim’s family. Along the way, Huck is conflicted between turning Jim, the runaway slave, in, or letting him reach freedom. As they go along, he discovers his true self and makes his decision about Jim. Filled with fun stunts, mishaps, and laughter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an amazing classic you’re sure to love.

Reviewer's Name: Gemma
Circe
Miller, Madeline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a book everyone should read once in their life no matter their age. It is about an immortal witch named Circe banished to an island to be forever alone. This is because the greek gods fear her powers. The book follows her life as she grows as a woman and learns what it means to live. It was very empowering to see her grow so much in the span of 300 pages. At first, I was not excited to read this book, but it very quickly surprised me. Quickly I was led into Circe's world and couldn't pull away. It has everything I love growth, love, loss, change, and a well-written story. I was angry when Circe was suffering and happy when she found joy. One should read this book especially if into greek mythology, but never fear for those who know nothing about it can follow along. It was amazing to see Circe meet characters from her point of view including the well-known Odysseus and her time spent with him. It was well written and showed what it truly means to live.
- 10th grade

Reviewer's Name: Alyson
The Liar's Wife
Hayes, Samantha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Liar's Wife begins as the typical waking up, going to work, and returning home without any excessive excitement. This however all changes from one accident. This nearly fatal accident leads the main character, Ella, into a situation that she cannot escape from or rather who she cannot escape from. Her past and her work colleague start to meddle in her present situation in several ways that only can be told through the pages of this book. Who is the man that claims so boldly to be her husband?

Reviewer's Name: Savanah
Venom. Vol. 5, Venom Beyond
Cates, Donny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In Venom Vol. 5: Venom Beyond, Eddie Brick meets a few foe, Virus!
This is the fifth volume of Venom by writer Donny Cates. After the events of
Absolute Carnage and Venom Island, Eddie Brock wants to find out more about
his son Dylan's powers, so he looks to The Maker, AKA Reed Richards from the
Ultimate Universe. But when the mysterious Virus shows up, Eddie and Dylan
fall through a portal into a new world! And on this world, there are new
enemies, such as Codex! I liked this volume, and thought the alternate world
version of Annie added some interesting ideas to the story. If you liked
Absolute Carnage and Venom Island, then there is a good chance that you might
like this volume! This collected edition collects issues #26-30 of Venom, and
the Venom story from FCBD 2020. This volume deepens the Venom lore and sets
the story up for King In Black.

Reviewer's Name: Camden
The Immortal Hulk. Vol. 5, Breaker of Worlds
Ewing, Al
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In this volume of The Immortal Hulk, the battle between the Hulk and General Forteen ends! Now that Rick Jones is back, he knows where to find Shadow Base Site B, so Jones, McGee, Red Harpy and the Hulk launch an attack! One of my favorite things about this comic was Joe Bennett's artwork. While this volume is a little creepy and violent, you'll probably enjoy this volume if you are a fan of The Immortal Hulk by All Ewing. This volume, collecting issues #21-25, concludes the first half of The Immortal Hulk.

Reviewer's Name: Camden
Book Review: The Color Purple
Walker, Alice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I loved this book. Celie, Shug, Nettie, and Sofia were such strong women, facing a hard life and rising above it. Celie in particular has cemented herself in my mind as one of the great female protagonists in all of literature. I love how she didn't let her circumstances squash her spirit. I learned so much about a wide variety of things in this book. I learned a lot about Africa in the 30s leading up to WWII and the desecration of the tribal land by the English. I learned about the treatment of African American women by African American men and about their resilience and bravery. I loved the ending. Perfect.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is about a futuristic society that revolves around conditioned people. People are made by machines that condition them emotionally and physically for a certain job. Since people are conditioned to perform certain tasks they are happy and content. This book follows Bernard who actively questions the system and is unhappy. Throughout the book, it brings up the question of whether it is better to have an orderly and perfect society or for people to have emotions and free will. Aldous Huxley does a wonderful job of building a world where individuality is erased. The book was an interesting read and would give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia

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