Book Review: The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass

frederick_douglass“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

When my AP Lang class was assigned to read The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, I thought it was going to be difficult to get through, but after only reading the first chapter, I was captivated by Douglass’ writing style.

As it was an autobiographical narrative, there wasn’t any plot, but in order to engage the reader as well as to demonstrate his impressive self-taught writing skills, Douglass uses deep rhetorical language to really get to the reader. He takes the horrific atrocities of slavery which he experienced and lays them all down in order for the reader to better understand this dark time in human history. The book is a fast read, and can easily be finished in a couple of days, at most.

“In a composite nation like ours, as before the law, there should be no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no white, no black, but common country, common citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny”

-Sara S., 11th grade

Series Introduction: The Heir Chronicles, by Cinda Williams Chima

heir_chroniclesHave you ever wanted to be able to see the future? To be able to do magic? Fight with magic swords? Talk people into giving you things, heal the toughest of wounds and illnesses, or take power and energy out of other people?

The ones who can are called the Weir. They have five guilds, all with separate powers and abilities. The sorcerers can heal any wound and can work with amulets and other material magic. Enchanters can talk people into giving them anything, or even doing something for them. Warriors are the brawn of the guilds and the weapon wielding Weir. The seers can see into the future, and can sometimes control it, too. Wizards, the most powerful of all, shape magic with words and have enslaved the other guilds into obeying them and giving them authority.

This four book series, which includes The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir, and The Enchanter Heir, are stories of how these guilds battle against one another and fight for equal power amongst all the guilds. The main characters include Jack and Ellen, who are warriors, Will and Fitch, who are AnaWeir or non magical, Linda and Jonah, who are enchanters, Leander, Seph, Jason and many others who are wizards, and Madison, who is an elictor. Elictors draw magic out of other people to use it themselves or to stop their opponents.

I am currently reading the fourth book of the series, The Enchanter Heir, which is about a young enchanter named Jonah. I haven’t gone too far into the book now, but right after I finish writing this I am going to go and read it. If anyone has read these books please post a comment below about which guild you would be a part of or if you liked these books!

-Kyle H., 8th grade

Authors We Love: Lauren Oliver!

lauren_oliver_headshotLauren Oliver has become one of my favorite authors already, and I’ve only read two of her books! Her writing style is so intriguing; I literally cannot put her books down. I read both Before I Fall and Delirium over the summer, and both made me smile and made me cry. In her writing, Lauren Oliver makes the reader contemplate many interesting questions such as: What happens after death, or rather, what could happen after death? What if love was a disease? Would you take the cure? I found that after reading chapters upon chapters of her work, my mind happily became consumed in her book worlds. Lauren Oliver will help you identify yourself through reading her novels and you too will be left wondering.

before_i_fallBefore I Fall is the story of a popular girl named Samantha Kingston who hasn’t a care in the world. However, the story behind this one is that Samantha died on one particular day. This story is told through the perspective of Samantha given more chances to relive that one day, and it truly shows the value in second chances. Each time she gets to relive her last day, Samantha makes kinder and more impactful decisions to benefit those she hardly would have glanced at before. I loved how every chapter started the same, as if Samantha really was waking up to her alarm for the first time, even if it was the sixth or seventh time. It was fascinating to read the perspective of someone who can finally see their life clearly, because they have no blinders to protect them. They see their life as a whole, and therefore can make wiser choices. A famous saying that works perfectly with the theme of this story is: “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty” –Billy Wilder. Oliver poses the question: What would you do if you had second chances to live?

delirium_seriesOn the opposite genre spectrum, Delirium is a dystopian themed trilogy starter about a girl named Lena who lives in a society where love is considered a disease. Young adults are cured of the disease at the age of eighteen and then they are matched with someone for life, void of attractions to each other. All her life Lena has not questioned the decision of her elders that love is dangerous, until a few months before her eighteenth birthday when she meets a boy and ultimately falls in love with him. Suddenly all that Lena thought was good for the citizens becomes evil, and she must learn to identify with herself.

Oliver writes brilliantly, accurately portraying the confused and headstrong teen while showing their sensitive sides as well. I fell in love with Lena and Alex because they aren’t perfect. So many couples in literature have these magical fairy tales that just aren’t reality, so it’s so fresh to have a pair who have flaws. The real testament of their love is how they stay together despite the society security and Lena’s family against them. I find it so inspiring to read about “What ifs.” It’s one of my favorite types of books to read because they make you think beyond the characters into imagining what you at first thought to be impossible become possible.

Lauren Oliver is an incredible author for young adults because she writes to pose questions, not answers. She opens your mind to possibilities, and just like every good author, she transports you to another era, time, place, and world. I would absolutely love to see both of these books be made into movies so long as the directors and actors stay true to the books’ messages. If they try to turn it into a perfect Hollywood romance or emotional bologna, then it will do injustice to the thought-provoking genius that is Lauren Oliver. Lastly, I believe that characters with imperfections are so important to give to readers because they prove that it’s okay to not be perfect.

Please leave me a comment if you have any recommendations of books I would like that are similar to Lauren Oliver’s writing and your thoughts on my post!

-Kelsey H., 11th grade

Book vs Movie: Percy Jackson

percy_book_movieI think this is the best place to say “The books were better than the movies” because I am going to talk about the Percy Jackson series. That saying works best with this series because the books were the best books I have ever read and the movies… not so much.

If I had not read the book and I saw the movie, then I would have thought that it was a cool story and a good movie overall. But since I read the book first, I had a 10/10 rating in my hand and a less than 10/10 rating on the screen. The movie makers aren’t even going to make a third movie because they aren’t making a profit on them.

The books are written in the perspective of Percy Jackson, which is hard to do when you’re writing, and gives a whole lot more description about what is going on. First off, in the movies, there was no description as deep as the description from the books and they left out huge things from the books that the storyline barely made sense. They also added things from the last book that totally ruined what the second book was about!

But I am not just here to criticize the movies; I am also here to talk about how AMAZING the books were. You’ve got action most of all that is really cool to picture in my mind. The description is really great because I am able to visualize and make a movie in my head about what is happening in the book! My head movies are better than the movie theater movies even! (I wonder if the director even read the book…)

Also, the Heroes of Olympus series is just as good. All these books aren’t some of those “and they lived happily ever after” stories; these books actually make you think and enjoy and relate to the characters. I know I am not the only one that is waiting for the next Heroes of Olympus book that just came out and I also know that I am not the only one who is really excited for it!

I know this Book vs. Movie post is kind of late, since the books have been out a while and the movies too, but I have just recently been reading them and watching them again. I am sorry for those of you who turned 13 and did not get chased by monsters to Camp Half Blood, but those of you who are not 13 yet, don’t lose hope! If anyone, and I am sure there are a lot of you, feels the same way about these books and movies, or if you don’t, please leave a comment below!

-Kyle H., 8th grade

Book Review: Jack Templar, Monster Hunter, by Jeff Gunhus

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00040]Jack Templar is just an ordinary 13 year-old boy.  His biggest concerns in life are girls, growing pains, and trying to keep decent grades at school.  The day before his 14th birthday, Jack wakes up astounded to find that he has gained superhuman strength, not unlike Peter Parker in the Hollywood Spiderman film.  That morning in his garage, he lifts a 48lb dumbbell with one hand. Then, on the way to school he makes an easy slam  dunk. He also impresses his crush by beating up a bully in front of the school.  He is definitely loving life!

Then, disaster hits!  His school Principal turns into a bat creature and threatens him.  He then bumps into a 3,000 year old vampire and goes on to save a strange girl from being killed by a troll.  As the day goes on, he finds himself fighting for his life against spirits, demons and monsters galore.

This exciting book reveals the author’s point of view about survival of the fittest and how friendship conquers all.  Gunhus also shows how some sacrifices are worth making and some aren’t.  This epic novel causes the reader to think about other possibilities, about how many things go unnoticed in the world.  There is a whole civilization of monsters in his story that has gone unnoticed by the human population.  It makes fun of how many little details or big happenings occur without anybody ever knowing.

I would recommend this book because of the main character’s realistic reactions and the overall authentic tone of the story even though it is make believe.  It is appropriate for all ages since it is pretty clean considering it is a book about hunting monsters. I absolutely loved it!

Evan G., 6th grade

Book Review: Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

shadow_and_boneShadow and Bone is Leigh Bardugo’s first book, and a stunning success.

The story is about an orphaned girl named Alina Starkov. Her only friend, Mal, keeps her company as they grow up, playing in and around the property. When the magicians called Grisha come to test children for powers, the two are found to be perfectly ordinary, and must serve in the King’s First Army of commoners.

Years later, a troupe of soldiers and Grisha prepare to travel through the Shadow Fold, a deadly and strip of land created by the magic of the ancient Black Heretic. The swath of land is a cut of stifling darkness, slashing through the land. Within the regions, there are swarms of terrifying winged demons called Volcra, making travel deadly. When Alina and Mal’s troupe is attacked, Mal is brutally injured, and Alina unknowingly calls upon a storied and legendary power hidden within her.

With lancing beams of blinding sunlight, she drives away the monsters, then promptly passes out. As the first Sun Summoner in generations, Alina is doomed and destined to become far greater than the scrawny and average peasant she used to be.

From the scenes Leigh Bardugo paints, we readers picture a vast, fairytale version of Russia. From the intricate descriptions of palaces to forests, every page seems dreamy and enchanting. This story is a unique use of the “Finding inner greatness” theme. It’s amazing how smoothly and quickly the storyline develops, how a typical child is whisked off to a world of broader horizons. Alina slowly becomes accustomed, and grasps the full scope of things that a commoner could never understand. The Grisha magic is both revered and powerful, including mastery over fire, wind, darkness, even the ability to destroy human flesh. These make for a thrilling and action-packed scenes necessary for great fantasy books. In addition, Shadow and Bone includes a haunting romantic side, in which Alina is torn between her childhood love, Mal, and the land’s most powerful magician, the Darkling.

With that, I implore you to read this mysterious fairytale. A movie is supposed to follow soon, so you’ll have that to look forward to also. Cheers!

-Phillip X., 9th grade

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige

dorothy_must_dieDorothy Must Die is yet another crazy twist on a classic story.  We all know the beloved story of The Wizard of Oz.  We all know Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West.  But now Danielle Paige tells us what happened to Oz after Dorothy left and why Dorothy must die.

The story’s new heroine is named Amy Gumm and she would like to be any place but Kansas.  Amy’s life is in a shambles.  Her once loving mother now wants nothing to do with her and she is constantly bullied at school by a crazy pregnant girl.  So when news of a tornado coming to her home town, Amy simple shrugged off the news.  Well, you what happens next.  Amy gets whisked away to Oz.  But when she gets there it is nothing like she ever imagined.  Oz was no longer filled with happiness and magic.  Taken in by the Wicked, Amy’s new job is to kill Dorothy and to possibly restore Oz.  But before she can kill Dorothy, she must get rid of the Scarecrow,  the Tinman, and the Lion. She quickly realizes the words Good and Wicked no longer matter because the Good are Wicked and the Wicked are Good.

This story is not one of my favorites but it is a fun read.  I personally really like the books that take classic tales and change it to be a newer version.  This was not my favorite but I really like how the author made the beautiful land of Oz become so ugly and sad.  She was really able to change the classic story into something completely different but still keeping the (almost the same) characters we love.  I love the story and movie of the Wizard of Oz so when I saw this book I had to read it.  It definitely changes the way you have seen and imagined Oz.  There is a lot of gruesome alterations to the classic characters.  You probably should watch the Wizard of Oz movie if you aren’t familiar with this story before you read Dorothy Must Die. If you like stories that are the twist of classic tales then you should check out this story.  This is a series so check out the sequels if you do end up liking Dorothy Must Die.

-Erika T., 9th grade