All Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rowling, J.K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was a really good start to the Harry Potter series. I had been recommended to it a few times before reading it, and it was totally worth it. This book starts the series comprising of Harry Potter's adventures at Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. I liked how this book never really let me down with many exciting elements and details leading up to a huge climax. Although, it did seem to drag at the beginning. I didn't really like that, but once you get past Harry's life with his aunt and uncle, you will not be disappointed. This is a book to read if you are into fantasy, and action.

Reviewer's Name: Katie
Genres:
The Drawing of the Three
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While it took me a while to get used to The Gunslinger , I was able to dive right in with The Drawing of the Three as I continue reading this Dark Tower series. Personally, I think the simplicity of the story and the immediacy of the danger helped to hook me from the start. Unlike the first book in the series, The Drawing of the Three has a solid set of relatable characters that are introduced just fast enough to get used to their unique personal challenges. If anything, these individuals piqued my interest, and I’m curious to see where their story goes from here.

One aspect of this book I found to be extremely entertaining was the action sequences. When there were stakes on the line, and things had to happen, the resulting action in these plot-moving points was both intense and hilarious. Generally, I am not much of a fan of the “fish out of water” approach to characters, but King makes it work here with The Gunslinger traveling back and forth between the worlds to take advantage of our modern wonders that help him survive in the fantastical world of the Dark Tower.

I also have to give kudos to the narrator of this work, Frank Muller, as his voice acting brought every character to vibrant life via their accents and verbal tics. I had no doubt who was speaking as he wove the story through his reading. Although, the one qualm I had with this book was that one of the characters was a bit grating on the nerves. While this added some excellent conflict to the story, it was annoying having to hear their manic voice for as long as I had to. I’m just glad that they weren’t the first character pulled into the Gunslinger’s world. Otherwise, I don’t know how I could have kept listening.

A superior and straightforward story in the Dark Tower series, I give The Drawing of the Three 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Genres:
Roadwork
Bachman, Richard
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I wasn’t aware of Stephen King’s Richard Bachman pseudonym until I picked up this book to read on a whim. While it’s clear all of King’s technical prowess is still present in Bachman’s work, the “king of horror” gained a chance to write outside his genre. Of course, King has done this before with a few different books (like Hearts in Atlantis , The Green Mile , and The Dark Tower series), but writing under a pseudonym seemed to unleash an amount of cynicism I’ve hardly seen in King’s writing before.

Written in the early 1980s, Roadwork exhibits all the identifying marks of a cynic who has been over-saturated with consumerism. The need to have a job to support a family by buying a house that needs to be filled with the accouterments of modern living is a bit too much for some people. This is especially true for those who don’t quite meet the standard of the "American dream” in their own mind and have no other course other than to wallow in self-pity. By now, it’s practically a tale as old as the industrial revolution. Unfortunately, this means Roadwork doesn’t stand out much in my mind as an original story.

Perhaps Roadwork was one-of-a-kind back when King wrote it, but I doubt that was the case. Heck, the beat poets of the ‘60s and ‘70s certainly wrote about separating themselves from the toxic consumerism shoved down their throats. Roadwork almost felt like a “paint by number” novel that covered all the basic items in a story of this kind, checking each box until it reaches its obvious and inevitable conclusion. While it was nice to read something by Stephen King that wasn’t necessarily beholden to the fame of his name, I’m not sure if I would have read it if he wasn’t attached to it at all.

A so-so cynical work that is hardly original enough to mention, I give Roadwork 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
BlacKkKlansman
Stallworth, Ron
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As someone who lives in Colorado Springs and calls this town my home, I was intrigued by Ron Stalworth's story after watching the 2018 Spike Lee movie based on the undercover investigation into the local Ku Klux Klan. Sure, I didn’t live in the Springs during the period covered in this book, but I did have enough understanding of the town to know the locations referenced throughout. To think that I live close to some of the areas that could have been affected by cross burnings or other Klan events is a little eerie to me, mostly because it’s something I rarely think about.

For those who have seen the movie first, this book covers everything that made it to the big screen but also adds some details about other events not directly linked to the Klan (but were still relevant to the discussion of race in the area). I’ll admit that Colorado Springs is pretty white when it comes right down to it. However, there’s still plenty of diversity in this town due to the large military population that occupies Colorado Springs’ five military installations. I know some residents were offended that such a story about the Springs could exist, but the book puts quite a bit of it into perspective (the Klan only had a few dozen people in town).

Admittedly, this book was more of an eye-opener to how the Klan evolved from the violent organization from the reconstruction era of the Civil War to the "political” party that it is today. Sure, they are trying to make the focus more on racial segregation than straight-up genocide like they used to endorse, but it really comes down to old thinking in a new world. It’s like mixing different colors of Play-do: once they’re mixed together, they aren’t going to separate back out to the individual colors.

An eye-opening look into the evolution of the Klan, I give BlacKkKlansman 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Prentice Alvin
Card, Orson Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As I’ve been reading through the Tales of Alvin Maker series, I have found it interesting to see what big societal issues have been covered so far. While Seventh Son tackled religion and Red Prophet delved into politics and war, Prentice Alvin bit off a big chunk of racism and tried to address it in a way that’s half fantasy and half historical fiction. Sure, there’s still some semblance of the religion content present in this book that informs the racism dialogue. Still, these large issues end up taking a back seat to the more fascinating aspects of the titular character learning how to control his incredible powers.

In fact, this might be my favorite book of the series so far. It’s always more entertaining to watch a character come into the depth of their abilities, and Prentice Alvin has this in spades (both metaphorically and literally). While there weren’t many instances of Alvin directly being affected by a conflict that would require him to grow as a character, there were enough inevitable plot points that made me wonder how he would handle the situation. These twists helped to enforce the world-building that Orson Scott Card has excelled at for some time.

Perhaps the reason why I like this book as compared to its two predecessors comes down to how it focused more on the “magic” of this alternate history and less on the similarities to the American historical context. I’ve never been much of a fan of historical fiction, but I do appreciate explaining the events of the past through the lens of magical realism or fantasy. It’s likely why I’ll keep reading this series for the time being. At the very least, I’m curious how Alvin will grow from here, as he’s developed into a strong character who can basically do anything he wants.

A magical take on addressing the racism of America’s past, I give Prentice Alvin 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Cover
Lutz, Lisa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alexandra Witt doesn’t take a position as an English teacher at the not-that-illustrious- boarding school Stonebridge with the aim to turn the institution on its head, but that’s exactly what she does. After witnessing some distressing interactions between the boys and the girls at school, Witt encourages the women to stand up for themselves. The boys, of course, aren’t having that, and before they all know it,an all-out gender war is taking place at Stonebridge and all involved are hurtling toward an unhappy ending.

This was so much fun! First, the gender politics were spot on. This is definitely a book for the “Me Too” era. I went to a public school, but I can totally see a scaled down version of this sort of thing happening there, or, unfortunately, anywhere. Lutz handles some very sensitive topics pretty deftly, and creates engaging and authentic characters. Foreshadowing early in the book makes it pretty clear that things will end badly, and I found myself racing through the book to find out what happened. The end was pretty weak: the story, while not exactly grounded, felt believable until suddenly it felt like an episode of Riverdale or Gossip Girl or…pick any teen show on the CW, I guess.

TLDR: If you are looking for a suspenseful read with some feminist flavorings, you won’t go wrong here. Older teens will find a lot to like here as well. 4 stars – I really enjoyed it.

Thanks to Ballantine Books and Netgalley for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Swallows will be released on 13 August, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Hart, Rob
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Imagine a world where Amazon controls pretty much everything (its really not hard to do, right?). They are the only large employer, and they have managed to put just about every other retail company out of business. Most folks who need employment have to head to their nearest Cloud center (Amazon = Cloud), apply, and hope against hope they are accepted. This is the fate of our two main protagonists, Zinnia and Paxton. Paxton wants more than anything to keep his head down until he can get patent money for his invention, a business that was going well until Cloud forced him out of business. Zinnia’s reasons for working at Cloud are a bit more inspired (it would depend on your perspective) as she’s been hired to try to take Cloud down from the inside. As Paxton and Zinnia are thrown together, both will come to realize that the Cloud was more insidious than they thought and they’ll have to sacrifice more than they’re comfortable with the bring it down.

I read this book right after watching John Oliver’s sendup of this sort of corporate culture and dang, Rob Hart did his research. His version of Amazon matches quite closely with what Oliver presents as the actual version of Amazon. I mean, it’s not great. Its really fascinating to read this near-future take on what Amazon and their ilk could mean for our country and economy as, like I said, this is a future that is really easy to imagine.

The book takes turn between Zinnia, Paxton and Gibson Wells’ (think Jeff Bezos) narratives. The characters are believable and likable enough (save Wells, but that’s obviously intentional) that I was not overly fond of one perspective over the other and never found myself racing through one perspective to get to a different one. Nonetheless, the book ends up being a quick read. It was sort of John Grisham meets Brave New World, and I was not mad about it. It’d make a fantastic movie, and clearly someone agrees with me as the author thanks Ron Howard and Bryan Glazer in his afterword.

If you are looking for a quick summer read that’ll make you think (but not too hard), this dystopian thriller will suit your needs. 4 stars – I really liked it!

Thanks to Crown and Netgalley for the free eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Warehouse will be release on 20 August, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Brooks, Max
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Max Brooks is an agent of the United Nations, tasked with collecting the stories of those who lived through the Zombie War. Having broken out when a young Chinese boy was bitten while swimming, it spread through illegal organ and human trafficking, hidden by governments, until a massive outbreak occurs in South Africa, shining a light in a plague that would bring humanity to the brink of extinction. Max Brooks’ World War Z chronicles the stories of people from all walks of life, from military scientists, to blind old Japanese men, to astronauts aboard the ISS, and their stories of how they survived the terrors of the assault of the living dead.

Reviewer's Name: Ryan P.
Awards:
A Void the Size of the World
Alpine, Rachele
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

If there was one word to describe this book it would definitely be "yuck". It's like when Squiduard took over Spongebob's shift for a day and instead of a krabby patty he fried a boot. It has absolutely no plot. there is paranormal activity that we never figure out and we don't know what happened to Abby. If i could rate this a -10/10 I would.

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

A classic piece of literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a wonderful depiction of life along the Mississippi river and times past. Huckleberry Finn is a wild, adventurous, and self-sufficient young man who finds his way along the river with an escaped slave. Stealing, superstitions, and deception all describe the journey Huck Finn and Jim take together. They encounter rivaling families, con artists, and Tom Sawyer in their attempt to get north. Mark Twain paints a vivid picture of life in the South with slavery in a way that shows that not everyone believed the same thing. A truly fun and interesting story, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book that will interest even the most disinterested reader.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic book that most people have heard the title of. With a similar style to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Fahrenheit 451 takes the reader into a future where books are outlawed and the people of this alternate future are basically mindless robots. The people of this future have an intake of mindless media that even surpasses that of us currently. The main character is a firefighter but different from what we are used to. These firefighters fight with fire, burning houses and books if they are found since they are against the law. But soon after meeting a girl who does not conform to this society’s media consumption, the main character begins to rebel and go against the norm. Fahrenheit 451 is a spooky prediction of what the future will hold and after reading it, I can already see us as a society heading on this path. A truly incredible read, Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that cannot be missed.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
The Gilded Wolves
Chokshi, Roshani
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Gilded Wolves is an excellent adventure-mystery novel set in an alternate Paris that details the adventures of a team of misfits as they perform heists in an attempt to reclaim things they had lost. Each character is represented in the book with chapters from their perspective. This format allows for the reader to engage with the many different characters on a personal level by reading their personal thoughts and getting the details of their past that isn’t expressed in other parts of the book. The storyline of this novel is very interesting and keeps you hooked with the mystery and suspense. This novel is incredibly enjoyable and I would highly suggest it.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
The Girl in the Picture
Monir, Alexandra
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Girl in the Photo is of the mystery genre but nowhere in this book could I find anything mysterious. From the beginning of the book I wanted to throw it out the window. The writing is so overdramatized and so typical hollywood highschool that nothing in it could be called suspenseful.
The writing is simple, juvenile, and overly predictable that you can pretty much guess ‘who done it’ in the first few chapters. I would not wish this book on anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
Amber and Dusk
Selene, Lyra
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Amber Dusk is an interesting book about a girl trying to find her place in the world and coming out with more than she bargained for. In a world of magic and deception, the main character struggles in an effort to find where she belongs. Most of the book was very stagnant and slow, repeating the day to day of the main character. I enjoyed the concept and general theme of the book but I felt it wasn’t portrayed with as much action as the concept allowed for. Overall, Amber Dusk was a decent book but not the best I’ve ever read.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
Genres:
The Ruins of Gorlan
Flanagan, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The first installment of Ranger's Apprentice, the Ruins of Gorlan, is a fantasy-based book telling the story of a young orphaned boy, Will. Living in the Kingdom of Araluen, Will grows up in the time of a coming war. His journey starts once he is assigned to his job in the Kingdom, to which he will later become one of the most renowned and powerful characters.

As a start to a large series, the Ruins of Gorlan is a perfect set-up to the characters and plot. It introduces characters in a unique standpoint, without rushing to develop each character in the start. Will is a relatable protagonist to the audience, where he is equally balanced in regards to strengths and weaknesses. One aspect that is most enjoyable is the successful combination with fantasy into medieval times.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Inheritance
Paolini, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

With Inheritance being the last of the series, the book brings everything to an end to everything that we've experienced in Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr.
Eragon must do whatever it takes in order to take down Galbatorix, and his friend, Arya, is focused on taking down his greatest enemy, Shruikan. The two, along with Saphira, venture out to fight against their ultimate enemies for the final round in the hopes of gaining peace and stability.

Inheritance was a great book to the end of the series. It was a successful installment in the Eragon series, as it was able to show that everything in the past books was a great importance for the ending of the series as a whole.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Awards:
Brsingr
Paolini, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The war between Eragon and the corrupt King, Galbatorix, continues. Eragon and Saphira continue to persist against the rule of Galbatorix in order to overthrow him. With Eragon and Saphira being one of the few remaining Dragon Riders, they must push to the nation of Alagaësia to be successful.

Brisingr was a highly climatic and thrilling book. It was able to bring together components from both Eragon and Eldest, while also being able to recognize unique parts of Brisingr itself. For example, Brisingr was able to develop upon the characters to where we could see ourselves through their perspective and experience it in an exciting manner. Brisingr is very immersive, with its significance in describing the setting to a great extent.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Eldest
Paolini, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Eldest is a direct follow-up from the last book, Eragon. Eldest takes place three days after the final battle in Eragon. There, human resistance fighters alongside the dwarves and a clan called Varden, to which they defeated the swarm of enemies sent by the antagonist, Galbatorix. Gaining help from an elf, Arya, he helps Eragon and the dragon Saphira to defeat a trusted ally of Galbatorix, Durza.

Eldest was able to continue the story of Eragon, and add more components that increases the interest in the reader. For example, it diversifies the lore and universe of Eragon as a whole, leaving us more to read and study of. The character development from Eragon played a substantial role in the behavior of the characters in Eldest, with each of them having a unique personality.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Eragon
Paolini, Christopher
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Finding a blue stone by Princess Arya, the orphaned farm boy Eragon finds out that it is a dragon egg. Once the dragon, Saphira, had been born, Eragon is trained to become a dragon rider by his teacher Brom. His legacy would become a prophecy to free his people from the tyrannical ruler, Galbatorix.

Eragon was a well-written and well-paced book. The character development had a strong foundation, leading to relating with the characters. One of its most unique details in the story is originality and ability to emphasize upon fantasy, yet demonstrate it in a reasonable way. The things I enjoyed most from the book was the setting.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Nam T
Bad Luck
Bosch, Pseudonymous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Bad luck is an amazing book showing lots of humour, fantasy and fun.
Clay is playing a regular game of capture the flag at his camp, Earth-ranch which is on a volcanic island when the vog (volcanic smog) gets so thick that he can't find his way back to camp. Clay then finds his way to a cave that has art of dragons and a book telling their secrets. Clay then finds someone who washed up on shore because his dad pushed him off a cruise ship. The cruise ship then docks at the island saying they are looking for the kid but really looking for a dragon. Clay makes friends with the washed up kid and they find the dragon and make an alliance with it.

Reviewer's Name: Vincent D

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