Starsight by Brandon Sanderson (Review by Varun F. ’24)

Starsight (Skyward, #2)Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson, is the sequel to the incredibly popular young adult science fiction novel Skyward. Starsight expands on the universal adventures of pilot Spensa and her journeys to protect her home planet, Detritus. Although Skyward was an engaging and overall exciting read, Starsight falls short.

Starting with the positives: Brandon Sanderson does not lose his direct writing style and stunning visual imagery of action scenes and new environments that Spensa finds herself in. Spensa’s character remains intriguing, and M-Bot and Spensa’s interactions are still hilarious.

I found Starsight’s plot to be overly complex, with many new characters that aren’t explored fully. While reading the book, I found myself flipping back and forth through the pages to remind myself of who each of the characters were and what they looked like. Unlike that of Skyward, the plot of Starsight feels half-baked, and the ending is anticlimactic and mainly serves to introduce a cliff-hanger for Sanderson’s next novel in this series, Cytonic.

While I certainly enjoyed parts of this novel, I found myself confused about the tangled plot and excess of characters for the most part and was disappointed by the ending.

View all my reviews —Review by Varun F. ’24

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (Review by Ritu B. ’24)

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad OnesAtomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever wished that you could overcome an addiction to your phone? Or start studying for that math test a week early instead of cramming it all in the night before? Well, to make a big change, you must start with many small changes, which is one of the many lessons I learned from Atomic Habits.

Overall, the book talks about how to create good habits, break bad habits, and achieve more with less effort. No gimmicks involved, just careful structuring of your environment, an intentional shift in your mindset, and the right routine.

Atomic Habits is one of the most approachable and reader-friendly books I’ve ever read. When you open up this book, you will quickly (and happily) notice that it is not written in the style of the great American novel. Rather, it has a conversational tone and is filled with bullet points, charts, and diagrams to break up blocks of text and emphasize key takeaways.

Additionally, the rules that the author outlines are simple enough that you can start implementing them into your life right away. For example, I implemented the first rule of making a bad habit invisible by putting my phone under a blanket and far away from my desk, which has reduced the number of times I pick it up while working.

I highly recommend Atomic Habits to anyone looking to be successful in life. —Review by Ritu B. ’24

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Our Favorite Mysteries!

We are so excited about “Books with Barsky”! This is a fun new opportunity on campus—hosted by the venerable head of our Upper School, Mr. Barsky—to gather, gush, and discuss books we’ve read on the pre-decided theme or genre.

In honor of the chosen genre of mystery for our first meeting on December 9th, we’ve compiled some of our favorite twisty, crime-solving-keeps-you-guessing-till-the-end books. Apparently we are fairly loyal to the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie, but we have other recommendations as well… Happy solving!

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson was fast-paced, exciting, and engaging. -Anoushka C. ‘26

I am currently reading A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and I really like the plot sequence and the protagonist. -Alana B. ‘26


The A.B.C. Murders. One of the funniest murder mystery books I’ve ever read. -Ritu B. ‘24

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I loved the plot twists and the raw, horrifying narrative that Flynn presented throughout the book. -Hita T. ‘23

I loved Devil In the White City because it captured glamour and grit all while staying true to nonfiction. -Paulina G. ‘23

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is classic Agatha Christie and, moreover, details a thrilling story (those who know, know). -Rupert C. ‘23

Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie. I was cautious about venturing beyond Poirot to a standalone Christie novel, but this is such a compelling, self-contained mystery with a plot twist and writing voice I’ll never forget; part of the fun, even, is figuring out which characters to trust—and they all have a stake in what truth may come to light—when there’s no omniscient detective, twirling his mustaches, separate from the action. -Trisha I. ‘24

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I enjoyed it because I have a bad habit of trying to guess the twist in a novel and despite this habit I can confidently say that I never could’ve predicted the truth. -James B. ‘24

Fictional Characters & Favorite Songs (By Layla M. ’25)

A melody sings just as profound a story as the written word speaks. Here are a few fictional characters paired with songs that I feel tell their stories, related by either emotion or physical experience. I tried not to reveal too much plot in case you haven’t read some of the books.

“Money” by Pink Floyd & Napoleon of Animal Farm by George Orwell 

“Money” describes the greed that Napoleon learned from humans, but with some extra funk and a killer saxophone solo that’s dirtier than pigs.

“No Surprises” by Radiohead & Charlie Gordon of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

In “No Surprises,” a bell chimes the main riff in thirds throughout the entire song. The simple melody is placed in thirds like a child’s lullaby, which creates an innocent, sweet mood that contrasts with the song’s lyrics of giving up by death. After gaining a normal intelligence, Charlie realized the cruelty he mistook for friendship and his childhood’s traumas. At the end of the book Charlie was just as isolated by his intelligence as he was beforehand. I felt Charlie’s sadness in his mental passage from cradle to grave in this song.

“Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd & Watney of The Martian by Andy Weir

Similarity: Space / Space

“Dark Necessities” by Red Hot Chili Peppers & the society of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This song’s bass is so clean, almost like the sterile lives of Fahrenheit 451’s world. As for the message, there’s a dark side to the sanitized version of reality.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure & Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Imagine thick, saturated drums with gated reverb punctuated by jangling guitars. Drench whatever you thought of in synths, and that is what I would make the soundtrack to Eleanor and Park in movie format. Somehow, in my mind, the lushness of 80s music translates to Park’s falling head over heels for Eleanor.

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman & Lennie and George Of Mice and Men by Ernest Hemingway

“Fast Car” carries hope of renewal and escape, like Lennie and George’s dreams of starting their own farm.

“Jeremy” by Pearl Jam & the Creature of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The bullied becomes the bully in both “Jeremy” and Frankenstein. I guess what goes around comes around, and it comes back a whole lot worse.

I hope that this article will inspire you to consider giving some new music a listen or new book a read. If this post inspired you to make your own character/song pairings, leave ’em in the comments!

–Layla M.

Creep by Eireann Corrigan (Review by Varun F. ’24)

CreepCreep by Eireann Corrigan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Eireann Corrigan’s Creep is a horror novel revolving around the haunted 16 Olcott Place, and its written in a first person point of view from a neighbor of 16 Olcott Place, Olivia.

Let’s start off with the positives. The characters, albeit one-dimensional, are likable and tend to make realistic decisions during the story. The first-person perspective is easy to relate with, and the descriptions of 16 Olcott Place are incredibly illustrative. In addition, Corrigan’s writing style, with frequent uses of foreshadowing, work perfectly within this novel.

When I picked this book up from the library and read through the quick summary on the back of the cover, I expected the novel to have supernatural themes. I was intrigued by “the Sentry” and his mysterious notes, but my excitement was sadly unjustified. The book had no supernatural elements at all, and the only point of conflict between the antagonist and protagonists was at the end of the book. Due to these two elements of the book, I didn’t feel like I was reading a horror novel at all, as it lacked the much-needed scare factor.

I have nothing against this novel, but I certainly won’t be recommending it in the future.—Review by Varun F. ’24

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Announcing the Winners of The Second Annual FanFiction Contest!

This year we had a fantastic turnout consisting of imaginative, fantastic, beautifully written pieces. We are so honored by those who opted to share their passion and talents with us. Thank you to all who submitted their writing. Without further ado:

First Place ($50 Barnes & Noble Gift Card)

 Anatomy by James B. (Frankenstein)

Second Place ($40 B&N Gift Card)

 想いよひとつになれ – Feelings, Become One by Silver (“Love Live! Sunshine!!”)

Third Place ($30 B&N Gift Card)

 A Most Dangerous Squid Game by Jason S. (“The Most Dangerous Game” x  “Squid Game”)

Fourth Place ($30 B&N Gift Card) 

The Man by Jessica W. (The Raven)

These Violent Delights (Review by Sriya B. ’22 )

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TW: gun violence (major), gore (major), transphobia (moderate), racism/xenophobia (minor).
I picked this book up because someone told me it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but they didn’t tell me it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s crime-run Shanghai about star-crossed ex-lovers putting aside the blood feud between their gangs to prevent a monster from terrorizing their city.

Between the ruthless gangs, the rekindling of first love, and the dramatic ploys of various nationalities trying to gain control of Shanghai, this story delivers on so many fronts.

I can definitely see how this follows Romeo and Juliet, but at the same time, it feels entirely different. It’s the perfect kind of retelling, with the right balance of new and original. Chloe Gong successfully took a beloved classic and retold it with new culture, queer representation, and modern themes surrounding misogyny and racism, while also staying true to the core themes about love, loyalty, and betrayal.

The writing, while slow and long-winded in some areas (I might have lightly skimmed here and there), has beautiful descriptions and quotes you’ll want to write down and remember forever. As someone who has been reading a lot of YA romance lately, coming back into fantasy was a bit of a shock, but the way Chloe Gong navigated the multiple POVs and plot without confusing me was amazing. Of course, this way of ornate telling might not be your cup of tea, but I recommend you give it a try anyway! Oh, and the ending had me running to the library to get the sequel.—Review by Sriya B. ’22

If you like this book, Sriya also recommends The Gilded Wolves and An Ember in the Ashes.

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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Review by James B. ’24)

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

TW for the book: Drug Overdose, Murder, Sexual Assault

As Leigh Bardugo’s debut into Adult Fantasy, Ninth House is a stunning dark thriller that takes place on the modern day Yale campus. Be aware that this book may make you question your college apps however, as there is much murder and magic afoot.

The book follows Galaxy (Alex) Stern, a freshman with an unusual ability, through various timelines as she attempts to piece together the details of an oddly familiar murder and figure out how it relates to her mentor’s disappearance. You see, Alex is by no means qualified to study at Yale, but has rather been enlisted by a governing body that oversees the activities of the university’s ancient secret societies. It is through her ability to see ghosts, called Greys in the book, that Alex is recruited as Lethe House’s new Dante, serving under the previous Dante, now Virgil, Daniel Arlington. From a hospital bed after being found overdosed on the scene of a brutal killing, to controlling the magical powers of several groups of entitled rich kids at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Alex Stern must fight for her life and the promise of a better future.

For the record, I wanted to like this book so badly, and even having finished it I still want to. The world-building is incredible and Leigh Bardugo once again proves that somehow she can still create new magic systems as well as lovable morally-grey characters. Alex Stern had potential to be among my favorite characters I’ve read in fantasy; she’s dynamic, persistent, and brutal while also remaining very human (ever when she is very much not). This book had all the makings to be a favorite and somehow it all just fell flat.

I am by no means a slow reader, but Ninth House took me months to conquer. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of hard-hitting action, but the back and forth between timelines quickly became dizzying. I found myself frustrated that another segment had gone by without answering my biggest questions, and even once they were answered, it didn’t feel satisfying. One of my biggest red flags for a book is whether it makes me question if I, the reader, am reading it incorrectly somehow. Too often I felt I was slipping off the hook, like the line itself was too taut for me to think about anything else.

Having said that, there are some truly gorgeous scenes in this book that stand extremely well on their own, and I think it is worth reading if you have the patience for a lot of unanswered questions. Just be sure to prepare yourself as Ninth House does explore some intense topics that might be upsetting, and that I was frankly unprepared for. —Review by James B. ’24

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Review by James B. ’24)

The House in the Cerulean SeaThe House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea is a comforting tale of an orphanage for magical children, although it isn’t an orphanage because no one goes there to adopt. What initially appears to be a light-hearted criticism of the corporate machine becomes a bright story of found family and finding your place in a world who would very much not like you around.

Most remarkable about the book is the ease with which it builds the world around the story. From only the first few pages you already know that this is a world in which magical creatures are not uncommon, but oppressed. Magical children are abandoned in “orphanages” overseen by a corporate giant. Our protagonist is Linus Baker, a caseworker at DICOMY given a top secret case by the Extremely Upper Management. It is on this case that Linus meets Arthur Parnassus, the Headmaster of an orphanage housing the six-year-old anti-christ, Lucy. It is this boy as well as many others that, despite the fact that they aren’t human, teach Linus about humanity.

I very much enjoyed this book, although I was under the incorrect pretense that it was a Queer romance first and adventure second. The romance is there, but it is far overshadowed by the odd but lovable found-family and delve into everyday oppression. Each child earns their own heart-warming spotlight, and as V. E. Schwab’s testimony on the cover says, it is indeed like being wrapped in a big gay blanket.

I don’t have any specific complaints about the book, as I’m aware that I went into it with the wrong idea of what it would be, so keep in mind that while there are elements of romance, I would not call it a romance. Either way, it’s a very fun title to add to your shelf and the characters are extremely well-done. Even though I found it underwhelming, I will be reading more T. J. Klune in the future because I fell in love with his style. —Review by James B. ’24

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2022 FanArt Contest Results!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our first ever Book Blog Fan Art Contest! From Genshin Impact to Dream to Spiderman and beyond, our team greatly enjoyed viewing all the entries, and we were so impressed by all the talent. Without further ado, below are our winners and Honorable Mentions. You can view all other entries here!

First Place: Nia’s untitled entry for Chainsaw Man

Fan art for Chainsaw Man by Nia

Second Place: A’s entry “A Final Song” for The Untamed

Fan art for The Untamed series by A

Third Place: Kevin Z’s entry “Rocky!” for Project Hail Mary

Fan art for Project Hail Mary by Kevin Z

Honorable Mentions

Most FANtastic: Dr. Harley’s entry called “Cool in Class”

Literal “fan art” by Dr. Harley

Most Likely to be Mistaken as a Webtoon: yeehaw 🤠’s entry for Kizuna Ai: “hello, world 2022”

Fan art for Kizuna Ai (inc.) by yeehaw 🤠

Excellent Use of Collaboration: yeehaw 🤠and yeehawh’s entry for Hololive and Nijisanji: “tokomachi radio”

Fan art for Hololive and Nijisanji by yeehaw 🤠 and yeehawh

Once again, a huge thank you to all the talented artists who submitted their fan art, and congratulations to these winners!