Tag Archives: Adventure

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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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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This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Review by Alysa S. ’22)

This Tender LandThis Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book made me smile and frown and laugh at all the right times. I loved the protagonist Odie’s character development from the moment he undertook a journey of escape towards a better future to the day he returned home, and I also greatly enjoyed the incredibly strong theme of friendship present between the four main characters on the journey.

This Tender Land begins in the rural countryside of Minnesota, and I especially appreciate the author’s accurate historical representation of the Great Depression Era and its socioeconomic effects on the various demographics that we encounter throughout the journey. Although Odie is the main focus of the book, I enjoyed the visibly significant growth of each of the four characters. I think what made this book such a feel-good read was Odie’s relatability as a protagonist: he’s clearly unsure of himself and shoulders immense responsibilities at a young age, but his resilience and inherently caring nature cause me to gravitate towards his character and admire both his strengths and weaknesses.

Though This Tender Land seems occasionally juvenile in its storytelling (understandable from the young protagonist’s POV), for anyone who wants to experience an epic, cross-country adventure while learning a bit of 1930’s history through the eyes of a teenage vagabond stepping into the role of a young adult, this coming-of-age tale proves to be a satisfactory read. —Review by Alysa S. ’22

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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review by Anika F. ’21)

Gods of Jade and ShadowGods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At this point in my fantasy journey, it’s hard for stand-alones to impress me. Some are too short and don’t allow for enough world building or character development. Others are large tomes (like The Priory of the Orange Tree) that are pretty much a full series condensed into a brick. Similarly, Young Adult fantasy is not something I reach for, since I prefer the depth and nuance of New Adult or Adult novels.

Yet, somehow, Gods of Jade and Shadow, clearly both a decently lengthy stand-alone and a Young Adult fantasy, surprised me. While the characters and plot are interesting, what really drew me to the book was the descriptions and the storytelling. Silvia Moreno Garcia creates these lush settings with hints of magic, crossing the boundaries between our world and mythology.

Even if you’re not a big YA fantasy reader, I still think there’s a lot to gain from this book. It discusses racism and discrimination, feminism and misogyny, and the importance of charting your own path, even when your family holds you back. —Review by Anika F. ’21

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Scarlet Fields (review by Mr. Cracraft)

Scarlet Fields: The Germans, 1933-45Scarlet Fields: The Germans, 1933-45 by John Lewis Barkley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scarlet Fields is the American doppleganger to the French “The Price of Glory.” It is the simply-told tale of an American farm boy who fought a stutter to be accepted into the Army. He won that battle and was sent to France. He had a rather unique experience as he was assigned scouting duties due to his skills in the woods and countryside. He teamed up with a couple of Native Americans in his company and they all helped keep each other alive through some of the brutal fighting that occurred in the short few months the American Army was in action in France.

He was a modest man and tried to do his best in the war. Ultimately, he did pretty well, receiving the Medal of Honor from Black Jack Pershing, himself (who accidentally pinned it right through the skin under his blouse–this was back before it was a neck-hanger, apparently). Barkley got the award months after it was earned. In the closing days of the war, as both armies heaved and tumbled in no mans land in desperate attempts to force a conclusion to the war, Barkley, sent to scout, found himself right in the line with a company of Germans approaching. He grabbed a deserted German machine gun and climbed into a knocked-out French tank–and these were just little things, not much bigger than an over sized pickup truck– and got to work on the crowd. He gives no estimate of how many he killed that day, and his citation just says “many” but it must have been over a hundred. From his writing, I suspect he was embarrassed and a little ashamed for having sent so many men, even the enemy, to their maker.

He fired that machine gun until it overheated and froze up. Just as he was exiting the tank to make a run for it, he found a can of oil, so broke down the gun, oiled it, poured the rest in the water jacket and went back to work. He was shelled and one explosion flapped the tank tread onto the hull where it hit the protruding machine gun barrel sending the stock crashing into Barkley’s chin, knocking him out. He came to, tightened up the now-loose stock, and went back to work. It didn’t help that he had mustard gas burns on his head from an earlier battle.

Barkley had a hundred adventures before and after his MoH effort and the book is a wonderful read for a snapshot of life during that struggle.

After the war, Barkley returned home, was touted around America a bit, and settled right back in Missouri, where he spent the rest of his life, dying in 1966.Wonderful tale by a humble, honest man, the kind that fought out two wars for freedom before the turn of the century. John Lewis Barkley, you are remembered. I hope you are in the arms of your Valkyrie, and that Jesse and Floyd and Tom and Mike are all there sharing a fire-roasted chicken and a canteen of brandy. -Mr. Cracraft

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Song of Achilles (Review by Hita T. ’23)

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exiled from his father’s kingdom at a young age, Patroclus, the socially awkward son of Menoitius, finds himself in Phthia, where he meets Achilles, the son of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles is everything Patroclus is not; he is strong, handsome, the son of a goddess, and the pride of his father. However, in an unlikely twist of fate, their paths intertwine as Achilles befriends Patroclus and forges a bond between them. As they grow into young adults trained in warfare, medicine, and the arts, their friendship grows into something more, deeply displeasing Achilles’ mother Thetis, who despises mortals. To her, Patroclus is nothing but a stain on Achilles’ glory and fame.

Later, when Helen of Sparta, the wife of Meneleus and the most beautiful woman in the world, is kidnapped by Paris, the Greeks are summoned to protect her honor and attack Troy. Achilles follows the Greeks, driven by the idea of glory and being known as the Aristos Achaion, and Patroclus is forced to choose whether to stay behind or follow his best friend into the war. Patroclus tries to protect his friend from the prophecy that predicts Achilles’ death, but little does he know that fate has its own cruel way of claiming who it wants in the end…

Madeline Miller retells Homer’s Iliad in a way that paints the bond between Patroclus and Achilles in a different and more sensitive light. From the moment Achilles’ and Patroclus’ paths intertwine in Phthia, Miller has the reader hanging on each word as she draws one through the ups and downs of the two young mens’ strong friendship and romance.

On a more personal note, I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. I’m not a very emotional reader, but The Song Of Achilles hit me right in the feels. The pace was perfect, the characters were perfect, the plot was perfect — everything was just right. I strongly recommend this book to anyone; the reader does not have to know any mythology to read The Song Of Achilles. -Hita T.

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Rebel of the Sands (review by Anya W. ’20)

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1)Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A cleverly built, intricately weaved world sets the stage for our peek into the life of a desperate gunslinger in a world that has no patience for women with minds like hers, and no future for people born in places like her homeland. Hamilton seamlessly accomplished what must have been an incredibly difficult narrative feat: creating a character coldhearted enough to survive the vicious sands of her homeland, but also one human enough to still create interest and sympathy within readers. While quite a few cliche YA twists could be seen coming from a mile (or a couple chapters) away, Hamilton manages to overcome them in a page turner rife with themes not quite so common in her genre, from the fact that family isn’t always there for you, to the limits of humanity, and that kindness is not always the keystone to living.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee (review by Tasha M. 20)

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1)The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Henry “Monty” Montague embarks on a Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend, he expects a year of glitz, of parties and flirting, and just generally enjoying himself. He does not expect to be the target of a manhunt.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is easily the best historical fiction I’ve ever read. Without bogging the reader down with details, Lee weaves in a few key historical points. Additionally, the tone of the writing was perfect – right from the first page, I knew that Monty was part of the British aristocracy simply from the narrative style. The plot was engaging right from the start, accelerating beautifully right up until the end. I also appreciated the lack of an “epilogue” chapter that only serves to tie up loose ends.

Lee develops her characters spectacularly. I found myself invested in Monty’s growth from a devil-may-care attitude to someone who genuinely cared for the people he was close to. The romance was believable; Monty and Percy did fight as opposed to staying in a utopian love the entire time.
In short, The Gentleman’s Guide blew me away in every respect, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good fiction book. – Tasha M. ’20

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (review by Fiona W. ’21)

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Richard Mayhew is an average young man who lives in modern-day London with an average life and and average job. One day, he finds a ragged and bloodied girl dying on the side of the road that nobody seems to notice but him. He takes it upon himself to help her and learns that two assassins are chasing her, and a whole city resides underneath London that he never even knew about.

As I have been a fan of many of Neil Gaiman’s books, I hoped this book would not disappoint. And it didn’t. The character development of all the main characters was unique and fulfilling. The imagery of each scene made me feel like I was right alongside Richard. And the ending still had me in tears.

Gaiman mentions in the introduction that while he is not one to write a sequel, he would love to revisit the world of this book again one day. (And I hope he does, too). As someone who dislikes fantasy novels, this book changed my mind about the genre and I hope it may impact you, dear reader, as well. – Fiona W. ‘21

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Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (review by Sofie K. ’20)

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark, #1)Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After the hype and attention that Veronica Roth’s Divergent series received, I was very excited to hear about a second series in the works.

Cyra and Akos, like many YA novel characters, are two sides of the same coin. Separated by social class and the races of their people, the two meet when Akos and his brother are captured by the royal Shotet fleet, and delivered right to Cyra’s doorstep. Though Cyra is the sister of the tyrant that rules the Shotet people, she rebels against her family out of love for this new stranger. As if the plot wasn’t cliche enough, every person on this planet has a special power, or currentgift. Cyra has the power to cause excruciating pain to anyone she touches, which her brother exploits to get information. Akos, on the other hand, has to power to cancel out anyone else’s currentgift through contact. The characters conveniently balance each other out, obviously created for one another.

While the book’s concept was quite unique, the characters had little to no originality. Cyra and Akos reminded me of a reversed version of Tris and Four; it felt like I was reading the Divergent series all over again. Hopefully, the second book will give the characters their own personalities and develop their stories more. – Sofie K. ’20

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