Adult Book Reviews

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wilde, Oscar
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man untainted by sin and unworn by his years, or so he seems. The Picture of Dorian Gray follows Dorian after having his portrait done by a friend, and finding the painting, not his face, bears every mark impurity of evil and age. As a result, Dorian acts however he wants, knowing the outside world will still regard him as innocent and youthful, with no suspicions of his true character. The novel carries important themes of honesty, virtue, forgiveness, and sin. Highly recommended for lovers of period drama, mystery, and light horror. The book is also quite short which makes for a quick read.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
Genres:
Mansfield Park
Austen, Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As a young girl, Fanny Price is sent to live with her cousins the Bertrams at their large estate in Mansfield Park. The book follows Fanny from her childhood living at Mansfield into her early adult life. Although they are family, Fanny has no one to rely on. She is isolated from the world and finds comfort in reading. Austen most wonderfully masters the art of empathy in this novel, as the reader feels incredibly broken whenever Fanny is hurt or emotionally worn. Mansfield Park has been called controversial for the fact that Sir Thomas, Fanny's uncle, owns a plantation with slaves. Although this is wrong, it is an uncomfortable reality of the time that is era-appropriate. Besides this, Sir Thomas is not made out to be a good person worth emulation. This book is highly recommended for lovers of Austen or Jane Eyre.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
Wild Swans
Chang, Jung
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jung Chang recalls the experiences of her grandmother, her mother, and finally herself, all in distinct eras of China in Wild Swans. While the book is about Chang's family and the hardships they faced under changing authorities, the account is just as much about the consequences of ideologies, and how our loyalties shape who we are. Chang describes the brutalities of Japanese occupation, as well as the callous nature of China under Mao Zedong. The book is slow at first but becomes thrilling with the rise of Mao, and Chang's detailing of life under Communism. Highly recommended for those interested in learning more about China in the twentieth century.

Reviewer's Name: Lily
Awards:
The Happiness Advantage
Achor, Shawn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Happiness Advantage is a wonderfully helpful book. Through many staggering statistics, Shawn Achor proves beyond a doubt that a positive mindset is essential for success and well-being. In addition, Achor's seven simple practices are easy to implement and will have a drastic impact in your career and personal life. This book is also easy to read and quickly moves from point to point so as not to be too repetitive. Whether you are a student, well into your career, or are retired, this book can have a dramatic effect on your life. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
From Blood and Ash
Armentrout, Jennifer L.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

JLA is always a great storyteller, but in this series, she particularly excels in the world-building aspect. So much detail, such rich storylines, such well-developed characters. It is great for fantasy lovers, but still accessible enough for those not accustomed to reading fantasy. I recommend this book to everyone I talk to!

Reviewer's Name: Erin S.
Fix Her Up
Bailey, Tessa
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Travis, a once super popular baseball star gets hurt and can’t play baseball anymore gives up on life. Enter Georgie, a once Tom-boyish now super hot girl who has always had a crush on Travis (She’s also his best friend's sister) this roller-coaster of a book tells Travis and Georgie's adorable love story, and you can’t put it down. While definitely meant for an older crowd, this story will leave you smiling. Its characters are so cute, and you are just rooting for them the whole time. If you are looking for a more mature, rom-com book then you should check out this book!

Reviewer's Name: Rylie
Awards:
The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald brings the audience flying back to the roaring 20s. The roaring 20s where prohibition is in effect, there is a lot of money, and people are going to speakeasies. Throughout the Great Gatsby the reader sees the insides of the richer citizens of New York lives, which involves scandalous events, lies/cheating, and glamours parties. The story is told through the perspective of Nick Carraway about his neighbor, Jay Gatsby's life. Overall, the novel is very well-written and it keep me wanting to read more and more. I really liked the novel because it allowed me to see more into the roaring 20s rather than what a history books educates you on. Once you finish this book, you will be in complete and utter shock due to the surprise ending.
Reviewer grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Lana
Awards:
Mexican Gothic
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Noemí Taboada is a beautiful socialite who loves wearing opulent purple gowns, riding in a convertible and smoking French cigarettes. A woman of her station, as the novel relates, "was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting." Instead, this strong-willed, intelligent and brave woman seizes an opportunity not realizing it could lead to her demise. Neomi’s father receives a disturbing letter from his niece and recent newlywed Catalina. The frenetic message suggests a mysterious doom awaits Catalina, who may need psychiatric help and a divorce, a scandal the businessman wants to avoid in 1950s Mexico City. So Neomi negotiates her way into a chance to attend graduate school – rare in a country when women could not vote – in exchange for heading to the isolated High Place, a distant Victorian mansion once funded by now-depleted silver mines. Once there, she must find out if the letter is nothing more than “female hysteria” as Neomi’s father assumes, or something more sinister.

Moreno-Garcia does a wonderful job sprinkling in the antiquated language of classic Gothic horror to pace this atmospheric creeper while Neomi’s dread about the Doyle family and its hideous patriarch mounts, as does her dueling desires to stay and garner graduate school or flee for her own sanity. The oppressive feel of dead, rotting High Place hints at a history of violence, madness and even darker secrets as the 320-page novel’s protagonist soon finds out. Once there, she meets the drugged Catalina’s menacing and alluring husband, who worms her way into her dreams, which are becoming an evermore disturbing mix of lust and horror. Her only ally is the family’s youngest son, who seems a decent fellow, but hides secrets of his own. Follow along as the amateur sleuth learns more about High Place, its exploitive colonial past and its unique power as the novel – equal parts Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft –speeds toward a satisfying, albeit gory conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Best Horror

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Dark Sky
Box, C. J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Dark Sky is a masterfully crafted thriller that strings together webs and webs of suspense through character development and wit. The novel takes place in the expansive wilderness of Wyoming, where Joe Pickett, a normal game warden, must evade a killer after his and his client's heads. Box does an incredible job of building up his characters and leaving room for the reader to question certain decisions and traits. The way the author ties everything together for an eventual climax will leave the reader on the edge of their seat, especially when the build-up leads to a nail-biting cliffhanger. The setting is also beautifully used to expand on both the plot and scenic writing in general, as the author clearly knows the terrain and all of its attributes. Overall, I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good thriller.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
To Kill A Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel entirely worthy of its praise. The humor, subtlety of the impact left by the narration from a young girl's perspective, and incredibly real themes all fit together perfectly. The story is a straightforward read and combined with the intricate storytelling based on the author's own life, the topics surrounding race and justice feel meaningful. The story follows Scout Finch, a young girl, and her friends Jem and Dill while depicting their views on life in the South during the Depression. The juxtaposition of childish natures and mature outlooks on violence, prejudice, and societal struggles brought about by the narration stand out. Each instance of injustice and depiction of the imperfections of humanity in a struggling society tie the development of the characters and rise to the climax together well. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it is a fantastic, and rather light read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
Villette
Bronte, Charlotte
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Villette is an incredibly hard read. The novel follows Lucy Snowe in her escape from England. She reminisces on her life's story and the overall storyline is intriguing. The side characters play their parts well, and certain tragedies in the story do leave hard-hitting impacts. Nevertheless, the book is over four-hundred pages of intricate literature with an incredible range of advanced vocabulary. However, the complexity of the read does add a bit of fun to the book, despite drawing attention away from the story itself. Looking up advanced English and French vocabulary almost makes the novel a neat, theatrical dictionary. While hard to understand and read, it allows the reader to dive deeper into each character and develop them more on a personal level. Overall, I would only recommend this book to people looking for a challenging read and with time on their hands.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Tale of Two Cities is a grand novel by Charles Dickens that details the events of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, along with many other characters, throughout the beginning the middle of the French Revolution. The book starts off a little slow, but after getting through most of the exposition, the book turns into an undoubtable classic. The main characters are detailed thoroughly, and their motivations fuel their bond and the plot beautifully. The inner conflicts they face all fit into place like pieces of a puzzle over the course of the novel, which leaves the reader both satisfied and distraught at the same time. The sub-plots also tie the story together well, and the heroic ending is written perfectly. The setting of the French Revolution, romance, and character development throughout the story creates a captivating bond with the reader and always leaves one in a state of suspense. The themes relating to the greater scale of humanity and sacrifice also leave a lasting message. Although it is a decently long read, I would recommend A Tale of Two Cities to anyone as a must read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven
Stranger in Savannah
Price, Eugenia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Stranger in Savannah is the final chapter of Eugenia Price's Savannah Quartet series and fills the niche of a Southern historical romance novel.

The novel follows the Browning, Mackay, and Stiles families and does an excellent job of creating drama related to the buildup of the American Civil War. While I do not often read romantic novels and the like, Stranger in Savannah feels very realistic thanks to its historic references. The setting of the Civil war and the air of political tension gave life to the drama, however, the underlying themes and Mark Browning as a character were all the more captivating. The book also drew me in with each characters' ambitions being intriguing and thoroughly fitting in major and minor plot points surrounding the setting and cast of the quartet. Overall, the novel was a fitting end to the series, and I would recommend not only this book but the entire Savannah Quartet to those interested in thematic historical romance.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Foer, Jonathan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Was very reluctant to start book because I usually don't lean towards heartbreak stories. After reading it, its so much more than that. Its a book about a boy who thinks different than the most of us. The difficulties that this 9 year old boy faces with social interaction and phobias really keeps you intrigued. Oskar the nine year old boy is probably one of the most interesting protagonist characters I've ever met and you just have to read to find out why.

Reviewer's Name: Adan D.
Awards:
1984
Orwell, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

1984 by George Orwell is a phenomenal piece of dystopian literature that comments on the role of government and what freedom really is. The book follows the story of a lower ranking party member named Winston Smith who begins to defy the ideals of Ingsoc or "English Socialism" and the thought police. 1984 imagines what the world would have been like if the Axis powers in World War II had won/ if the war had never ended. I highly suggest this book be read along with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley because the juxtaposition between the two is fascinating. I recommend any reader who enjoys dystopian, philosophical, political, historical, or science fiction to read this book as it encapsulates all of those genres.

Reviewer's Name: Rowan K.
Awards:
The Midnight Library
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Matt Haig's unique novel The Midnight Library ponders the infinite possibilities of life. It is about a young woman named Nora Seed, who lives a monotonous, ordinary life and feels unwanted and unaccomplished. One night, her despair reaches a peak and she commits suicide. But the story doesn't end there--Nora gets a chance to experience various ways her life could've unfolded had she made slightly different choices. She finds herself in a place called the Midnight Library, which exists between life and death and is filled with books in which lie endless parallel lives she might've lived; she is given the chance to undo her regrets by trying out these lives, starting right where her alternate self would've been on the night she ended her life. While in the Midnight Library, Nora lives hundreds of lives and becomes hundreds of different versions of herself--some she'd never even fathomed--but she is faced with a difficult decision. She must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in order to live permanently in one of these 'ideal' lives, where they seem perfect for a time but, as she realizes, there are really new sets of challenges awaiting. Nora's exploration of herself is captivating as she attempts to discern what is really important in life.

This novel is very well-written and thought-provoking. Nora's emotions are deeply portrayed, and I was captivated by the depth of Haig's storytelling. While the concept is simple, it drew me in as a reader and encompassed so many different emotional experiences that come with life. I spent much of The Midnight Library reflecting on my own life and the decisions I've made, as well as looking to the future and imagining the infinite possibilities--this is a sign of a talented author. While I appreciated the depth of this novel, sometimes it took on a repetitive, almost pedantic tone when an important idea was already clear but kept being elaborated on--this was common when life lessons came up. There were also attempts to make Nora's life-jumping seem scientifically possible, with reference to quantum physics, and I didn't think this was necessary, as the focus was on Nora's life and personal growth. Overall, I very much enjoyed The Midnight Library. The character development, setting, and plot are engaging, while also discussing important themes such as mental health.

I would recommend The Midnight Library to teens and adults alike. It's a short, worthwhile read that will get you thinking and have you on the edge of your seat. And it may just awaken you to how much unlocked potential you have!

Reviewer's Name: Alexa
Outliers: The Story of Success
Gladwell, Malcolm
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Malcolm Gladwell takes a unique perspective on success in Outliers. Rather than focusing on the brilliance, innate talent, or incredible work ethic of successful people, Outliers concentrates on the advantages and unique opportunities surrounding the successful. Gladwell analyzes the culture, families, generation, and the upbringings of many successful people and groups of people from Bill Gates and successful New York lawyers to Canadian Hockey Players and airline pilots. Above all, Gladwell emphasizes that the truly successful do not do it alone, and Outliers encourages people to examine their own opportunities and advantages so that they too may become successful. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for everyone.

Reviewer's Name: John
Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave
Douglass, Frederick
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass illustrates Douglass's life during slavery in Maryland and his attempts to make it to freedom. This narrative demonstrates the horrific situations/events and the terrible way slaves were treated throughout the time period of slavery way deeper than the average history text book. The narrative is extremely informative about life's of slaves since it goes into specifics about slaves being born, their living quarters, amounts of food, the masters, etc. It is very difficult to relate to or know exactly how a slave was treated in this time period; however, this book allows readers to understand the hideous and fearful actions that were taken against these human beings. This narrative brought tears to my eyes and shocking expressions to my face when reading certain real events that took place. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was extremely well written because it allowed me to see more than what is taught in an American History class because Frederick Douglass goes so in-depth about his experiences in slavery throughout the narrative.

Reviewer grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Lana
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I devoured this book (a set of three novellas) in three days and really enjoyed it. Brandon Sanderson is such a creative author, and here's yet another book of his that doesn't fail to impress. It tells the story of Stephen Leeds, who creates hallucinatory "aspects" with certain specialties to help him compartmentalize his knowledge to learn things and master abilities. He uses their help to solve mysteries as a way to give himself a purpose. Stephen's cases were intriguing to follow, and his aspects were really fun characters to get to know and get invested in. Stephen himself felt rather flat at the beginning, but as I read further, I realized that was an intentional decision. Because of his aspects, his personality is contained in all of them, so without them, he's sort of empty. It was awesome to watch him grow in this.

The only reason I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 is because, as a set of novellas, the first two don't relate very much to the third, or to each other. I wish he had found a way to tie the cases into the finale more than he did. Otherwise, a great read, especially for a quiet weekend at home. I would definitely recommend!
Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Elanor
Stop Telling Women to Smile : stories of street harassment and how we're taking back our power
Fazlalizadeh, Tatyana
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In this anthology, Fazlalizadeh shares interviews with twelve women in cities all across America about street harassment and sexual objectification, and describes her efforts to use art to communicate the pain that these encounters cause. Many girls and women can relate to her descriptions catcalling and degrading encounters, and this book confronts these discussions head on, forcing them to the forefront of conversation and refusing to let you ignore them. It gives a voice to people that are often silenced, and demands that the reader confront their own silence on the issues she describes.

I read this book as part of a research project I'm doing on gender, and am currently working on a section on objectification, especially when it comes to women. This book summed up a lot of the common encounters and the dangers of the world they create for both women and men. It gave words to people who may not have felt like they had the words before. And coupled with the poignant illustrations and quotes on every page, the book is simply beautiful to read. I think everyone should hear these women's stories, regardless of gender. "Stop Telling Women to Smile" speaks to the powerful truth of the human experience. It refuses to gloss over the pain that many people feel while also offering genuine hope for a more inclusive and kind future grounded in mutual respect.

Reviewer's Name: Mercy

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