Tuesday, June 25, 2013

           Although I am not keen on reading novels of fantasy or anything of the sort, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was interesting enough to keep my attention for the entirety of the book. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, lives in a world not so similar to ours. There are dwarves and elves, goblins and great wolves, enemies and allies both. Bilbo is not one to seek adventures but when his unexpected guests arrive, he is left with no choice. There 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, and a respected wizard named Gandalf. Bilbo is requested to travel with them in their journey to the mountain of Smaug, a magnificent dragon who stole the treasures of their very own families.

            Bilbo accepts with hesitance because he does not think he is fit for the job, but Gandalf insists he is the best robber around. As their adventure proceeds, Bilbo is found to be more and more useful. With the help of a mysterious ring that Bilbo finds and new friends they meet along the way, the dwarves and hobbit make it to the dragon cave. There, they are faced with the most important question they will face: how, exactly, are they to get past the dragon to their rightful gold?

            Tolkien’s imagination is undoubtedly fantastic. The world which he creates is realistic but at the same time is nothing we will ever see. There are plenty of creatures which are all described effectively, but it is quite confusing when they are all introduced. All of the dwarves are in fact brought in within a few pages, and there is no way to keep track of who is who. It was a very choppy introduction and because he did not ease into the story, I was lost for at least a couple chapters.

            Although I appreciate that Tolkien never runs out of plot, I think he also jumps around too much. All of the situations of the group tend to have a “but wait, there’s more!” ending. There is always a plot twist at the last minute and they evade any unwanted results. The author could have made the story more fluid by being less abrupt and expected.

            Overall, Tolkien is wildly creative but the plot was too frantic for me. You might enjoy this book more than I did if you like fantasy, and are not one for lengthy plots. If you read and like The Hobbit, I suggest you read the most-acclaimed book of Tolkien’s (and sequel to The Hobbit), The Lord of The Rings.  You may also enjoy Atemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.
Written by Geena Elghossain on June 23, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Although The Perks of Being a Wallflower is Stephen Chbosky’s first popular YA novel, the character and story he creates is masterful. Charlie has always been afraid of the world and too shy to make friends, but through his freshman year of high school he develops and resolves to change this.
            Charlie’s point of view begins to change when he meets his mentor and first real friend, his English teacher. This character is most known for the acclaimed quotation from the novel, “we accept the love we think we deserve.” As the year pursues, Charlie approaches his classmate Patrick, who along with his step-sister Sam, becomes his new best friend. 

            At the conclusion of Charlie’s year, the reason for Charlie’s timid nature is revealed to us. I loved how Chbosky executed this: the reader always knew Charlie had dealt with a traumatic experience in the past but we never were told what happened. Even the foreshadowing was very discrete—what exactly happened was completely unexpected.

Through Charlie’s changing life and new experiences, we are able to see him as a person. He is kind hearted and although he makes hurtful mistakes, he recognizes them and learns to take responsibility.

I think the most fantastic quality of Chbosky’s writing is his character development. We are given insight into his character’s motives and perceptions of life. This is seen not only in Charlie, but his friends as well. Where Sam is perfect in Charlie’s eyes, we are also able to see her flaws—she struggles with self-worth and never really fixes it.  Through all of their words and choices we can see their dynamic and whole personalities. I t is definite to say that Chbosky’s characters will never be ‘flat’. None of them are entirely perfect or entirely flawed; he allows us to see that everyone is a little bit of both.

I enjoyed this novel as well as the film. The casting for the film was exact to how imagined the characters, and the story line was carried out well. It certainly did the novel justice.

If you read and liked The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, I also recommend Looking for Alaska by John Green (which I have also done a review for), and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Written by Geena Elghossain on June 15, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

                Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult is an emotional page-turner following a small town after a shooting at their local high school. Picoult writes with a brilliant with a new take on this topic by following characters that are unexpectedly affected by the devastation. These people include the killer himself, Peter Houghton, and his grieving parents who never suspected a thing from their very own son. 
            It is amazing how Picoult is able to make the reader feel pity for the killer. Naturally a person looks at someone who murders as a horrible and evil person, but here we are forced to ponder a twisted statement: the murderer was somebody’s son too.  By allowing us to see into his past, Picoult enables us to feel empathy for him. He was bullied his whole life and never had any real friends except Josie Cormier, who abandoned him in high school.
            Josie was always a very smart and motivated student, daughter of Judge Cormier, her mother. Josie was friends with Peter as a child but in high school, leaves him for the popular crowd. She also gets a new popular boyfriend, who bullies Peter and fuels his anger.  Josie witnesses an important part of the shooting but apparently cannot seem to remember. This piece of the story ultimately has a big impact at the end, in which Picoult finds a conclusion that will shock even the most unsurprisable readers.
            Picoult shows the impact of the shooting on people who weren’t directly involved: Peter’s defense attorney, the other students, Peter’s loving mother and father, and Judge Cormier. The variety of different angles is at first hard to catch on to, but overall adds a massive amount of insight into the reality of the situation.
            I recommend this novel because of this insight. It  presents a concept that is simply riveting. It is a slightly longer read but if given the time is very doable. It’s shocking to me that this hasn’t become a movie because there is extensive and quality material which could make for a beautiful film. Non-readers would also be given the privilege of being able to experience the story. If you read and like this book, I also recommend My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. 

            Written by Geena Elghossain on June 8, 2013

Saturday, June 08, 2013

If you find me is a heartbreaking yet exciting story of a girl who is kidnapped by her mother and lives alone in the woods for 10 years, until she is located by her father.  As she adapts to modern living, and a non-abusive parent; she is also forced to reckon with the lies she grew up with as well as struggle to reveal her deepest darkest secret that might force her father to send her away.
I raced through this book, it made me cry and cringe but was so hopeful.......I cannot say enough about this, give it a try.

Chris Crutcher's newest novel is kind of a mixed bag.  It's a combination of his "traditional" high school story (lots of kids who bond together through shared adversities) alongside a creepy suspense novel.  It doesn't sound like it would work but it does.  Essentially the Period 8 kids are kids who use this period to talk to each other and deal with tricky life situations.  Then one of the group disappears, and suddenly nothing is the same.  Everyone is acting differently, and strange things start happening......can they figure it out in time?
I enjoyed this, although I did figure out the villian quickly, I don't know if others would have spotted it also or if it's just because I read so much.  If you are looking for a creepy story set in real world situations, this is a good one.

Shadow and Bone is an amazing story of war and lies set in a fantasy universe.  Allie finds out that she has powers when she and her group are trapped in "The Fold' (a dark impenetrable shadow unleashed by an evil magician).  Now she is taken from her life and thrust into the tricky life of royalty and politics.  She needs to learn to use her powers but she also needs to learn who she can (and can't) trust.  Will she figure it out in time?
I really really enjoyed this dark fantasy.  It was interesting and different and a very fast adventure.  I can't wait to read the next one.

Seems I was destined to read several suspenseful creepy books in a row....haha.....You Know What You Have to Do is an interesting look at a girl who hears voices.  She is pretty sure that this isn't normal, but thus far the voice isn't telling her to do anything she didn't really want to do.......until it tells her to start killing people.  Can she really get away with it?  Is she crazy?  Does she care?  These are all questions you'll be asking as you read this exciting and fun book.

Cricket is almost 18, and has a reputation of violence.  This doesn't bother him much, as he knows he only fights when he has to, but society doesn't agree.  He is worried about what happens after high school.  He lives in a catholic home for boys, and is the oldest one there, helping all the younger boys and protecting them when necessary.  But that isn't exactly a life goal, as he's pretty sure he won't be allowed to stay after graduation.  Should he become a drug dealer?  Should he just hire himself out as muscle?  Maybe professional fighting is the answer?  Or maybe he should just end it all.  Cricket is struggling with his future and then he starts to really connect with his crush.  Is it possible for Wynona to actually like him?  All of these questions come up when he writes a paper for English class "Write a letter to someone you don't agree with"...and his letter begins with "Dear Life, You Suck"  and ends with a promise to just quit living.  His English teacher challenges him to define why life sucks and in the process of writing this paper, he really starts to look at his life; what has happened to him and whether or not he wants to find a future.
I loved this book soooo much!  It made me cry and I wanted to reach through the book to hug Cricket.....or slap him as he made terribly bad choices.  This is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction; and doesn't mind an edgy character who isn't afraid to say what he thinks.  READ THIS!!!

Daybreak is another comic to add to the zombie genre of fiction.  It was actually pretty interesting as just a slice of life in a world where everyone is just struggling to survive in a world of zombies. 

I love history.  I found this and thought "hey, a history of multicultural America.....sounds good".  And it was.  It is a brief summary of the history, woefully not given enough attention in schools.  It is not an easy read.......but should be an essential part of any students education......also Takaki writes history very well.  This isn't a dull boring book of facts, but an engaging and sensitive look at racism and American life throughout our history.   A book not to be missed.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green is an incredibly captivating fiction novel. It follows Miles “Pudge” Halter in finding the purpose of his existence, and meeting new friends along the way who change his life forever. Miles was always a lonely, one-friend kid at his old school who never stood out. But when he decides he is tired of it, his parents allow him to go to the prestigious boarding school which his father once attended. Miles meets his best friend Chip when they are put together as roommates. Chip loves to have fun and break rules, but is incredibly smart and studious. Miles becomes incorporated into Chip’s group of friends and meets the beautiful Alaska, who Miles falls in love with quickly.
            Green’s presentation of Alaska is genius. She is fun and witty, but is also extremely depressed; the contrast makes a very realistic person whom readers can understand. She falls through a cycle which everyone goes through at one point or another, but the result is more extreme.

Spoiler alert!!! 

Skip to the last paragraph if you do not want to read the ending.

When Alaska leaves the dorm the night of her accident, the reader automatically knows something awful is going to happen. But Green leaves the reader as clueless as Miles and Chip are. Later the next day, they are informed of Alaska’s tragic death. It is as shocking to the person reading as it is to the characters.
            Miles and Chip go through extensive measures to find out what happened to Alaska, in attempt to find comfort in a devastating incident. Because they never figure out exactly why Alaska crashed her car (intentionally or unintentionally), and we are left to wonder with them. The reader misses her spunk as much as the characters in the book do.
            Miles’ strange obsession with last words foreshadows a bit into Alaska’s death. It is ironic and bittersweet that the only person Miles ever falls in love with dies, and he will never know her own last words. But they will never find out, and so the reader is left to wonder just the same.  The very last page sums up the book beautifully. He brings back this motif with Thomas Edison’s last words: “It’s very beautiful over there.” And Miles makes his final statement, saying in a sadly optimistic tone, that he hopes it is in fact beautiful.

Spoiler over:

            Throughout the entire book, Green does a wonderful job in making the reader see through Miles’ eyes and feel through his heart. I would recommend this book because it is a quick but worthy read. If you enjoyed this book, I also suggest you read the amazing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

Written by Geena Elghossain on June 1, 2013 

To Kill A Mocking Bird: Book Review by Abhiram Singireddy

Plot: Atticus Finch's endeavors to demonstrate the innocence of Tom Robinson, a black man who has been wrongly accused of committing a c...