Book Review: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

narnia_coverThis story is about four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, exploring an enchanted world called Narnia through a magical closet.

One day while it was raining, they were playing hide-and-seek, and Lucy found the old room with the wardrobe. Suddenly, she heard Susan coming and she climbed into the closet. She walked deeper into the closet and felt something cold at her feet. Then she discovered Narnia. The magical place was in the season of winter, and she met a fawn, Mr. Tumnus.

When she came out of the closet, she did not notice that no time had passed. A few weeks later Lucy and her brothers and sister entered the wardrobe, and they could not believe that they were looking into the world of Narnia. When Lucy showed the others Mr. Tumnus’ home, it was destroyed by the White Witch. During their exploration in the forest, they met Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. As the beavers and children were talking about the Stone Table and Aslan, a powerful lion, Edmund sneaked out to find the White Witch’s house… and you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens!

I honestly loved this entire book because as I was reading it, I felt like I was actually in the story. This book was very interesting and I think that everyone will like it. Also, if you love adventure and magic, this is the book for you.

-Samantha S., 7th grade

Book Review & Playlist: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, by Pseudonymous Bosch

bosch_cover2The truth is. . . if you are reading this, it is too late!  Now members of an unknown society in an unknown neighborhood in an unknown town, Cass and Max-Ernest’s adventure is all about the gift of sound and Cass’s oddly shaped ears.  The first book in this series, The Name of This Book is Secret, is about smells, hence The Symphony of Smells.  If this wonderful series of books by Pseudonymous Bosch was made into a film, this story’s beginning should start with the song ‘Secret Garden’ by Bruce Springsteen.  After the first chorus of “Secret Garden,” it should fade away to the opening scene of Cass’s dream.

The story starts out with Cassandra experiencing a bad dream.  She has a field trip to the tide pools, and Cass and Max-Ernest are supposed to meet Pietro, but some kids get in the way.  They finally see a ship with a familiar man staring back at them.  At this point in this story’s movie, “Message In a Bottle” by The Police reflects the panic the characters feel at that moment.  Oh no!  It is the Midnight Sun (a group of evil alchemists who are the antagonists).  The crew assures them it is not really the Midnight Sun and everything is fine until they begin hearing familiar voices… Cass and Max-Ernest are once again in the Midnight Sun’s grasp.

This story engaged me from the beginning.  There were many times I was expecting  something to occur when just the opposite did.  As was the case with the first book, I would recommend this hard-to-put-down novel for all ages.  In the movie version, “Fooling Yourself” by Styx should close the film. This song shows how many times Max-Ernest and Cass made mistakes and put themselves in harm’s way but always using cleverness to overcome obstacles.

-Maya S., 6th grade

Book Review: Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway, by Wendelin Van Draanen

sammy_keyes10While walking into class one day, Sammy accidentally slams the door on her teachers beloved bird. Instantly killing it, Sammy runs into the nearest closet, with the bird, and hides there for the entire class period. Later that day, after leaving the dead bird hidden in the closet, Sammy hears that Heather, her worst enemy, has been blamed for the bird’s death. Even though Sammy knows that Heather didn’t kill the bird, she notices that Heather has been acting guilty anyway. What could Heather have possibly done to act so guilty? And will Sammy tell her teacher that she killed to bird or will she leave Heather to take the blame for her?

A suspenseful novel with tons of humor, Wendelin Van Draanen has written a book that will keep you on your toes the entire time. If you like a relaxing yet interesting read then is the book for you.

I almost forgot– this Sammy Keyes book happens to be the last of the series. The first book is Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief and the second book is Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man, so make sure you read these to understand Sammy and her archenemy a little bit better.

-Marilyn J., 8th grade

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

abundance_of_katherinesAn Abundance of Katherines is a young adult fiction novel written by one of my favorite authors of all time… John Green.  It follows the life of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who has been dumped 19 times… all by girls named Katherine.  After graduating from high school, Colin and his best friend Hassan decide to take a spontaneous road trip to help Colin get over his recent breakup.

Now, if you have read Green’s more popular works like Looking For Alaska or The Fault in our Stars, you may be worried that this book will also be slightly depressing.  That’s what I thought anyway.  Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this book was simply a funny coming of age novel and not a depressing romance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love The Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska, but An Abundance of Katherines was a nice break from Green’s more dramatic novels.  Colin’s sarcasm and lack of social skills add to the book’s lighthearted nature, while at the same time help to deliver a clear and fascinating message.  (I won’t spoil that message for you because it’s pretty much the whole point of the book.)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone interested in coming of age novels, or anyone who wants a book that is able to cheer them up in one page.

-Amanda D., 11th grade

Book Review: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

brave_new_worldDystopian novels are my favorite kinds of novels. The author usually creates a “what-if” world that follows a certain idea and looks like a utopia, which is a perfect world. However as readers, we can clearly see how negative and horrible the situation is.

This novel presents the readers a world of total “happiness.” People take soma, a kind of drug, to forget the uneasiness in life and to feel pure happiness. There is no family and children are artificially made, and during this process, people intentionally damage some children’s brain to make them stupid. Therefore the people in this society are divided into five different level based on their IQs, which Alphas do the intellectual jobs while Epsilons do the simple and dirty jobs because they can’t understand anything more. A young boy John comes from his “wild” hometown with knowledge about the Bible and Shakespeare to this New World, which has no religion, no high art, and no intellectual world; technology’s good, but creativity is bad; soma and sex define happiness and meaning of living—so how will John react to this “perfect” world?

Brave New World is a very heavy piece of reading that I would recommend for high school students; personally, I was introduced to this book at a book club with a teacher during my 8th grade. The story involves GREAT numbers of allusion and symbolism that refer to many different literature works and scientific knowledge, so if you want to really understand things beside the main story line, research is necessary. Well, at least based on personal experience, this book basically can be used on ANY SAT essay. Yes, I know you may want to know this.

This book is definitely a 10 out of 10. The great structure and the complex ideals that expressed in the book are very profound, and the story line is also interesting and unexpected.  You can read it hundreds of times and still get new understanding from it every time you read it. This is a treasure chest you have to open during your lifetime, so do it now and put it on your shelf right now!

-Wenqing Z., 11th grade

Book Review: My Brother is a Big Fat Liar, by James Patterson

my_brother_coverGeorgia Khatchadorian’s big brother Rafe had a knack for getting into trouble, and when she attends the same school that he did, everyone thinks that she is just like him! Georgia has her mind on proving them wrong, but it is not going to be easy. With the constant threats of Mini Miller and the Princesses, it is going to be pretty hard to get things done. There are also other things thrown into the mix to make things even harder, like dances and teachers that get angry just hearing the word “Khatchadorian.”

This hilarious book by James Patterson is a companion to the Middle School series. Showing previous characters from the series in a different light, and introducing new ones, in my opinion, the cast of characters is just perfect. There is Rafe, who from Georgia’s point of view is absolutely evil, Mini-Miller, who is trying to get revenge on behalf of his big brother, Miller (read Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life) and Missy Trillin and the Princess Patrol, who try to make Georgia’s life as terrible as possible.

There are also people who try to help Georgia, though. Some of these characters include Sam, who is kind if like Georgia’s first crush, Rhonda, who is dangerous in a good way, and Jeanne, who isn’t as bad as Georgia first thought she was.

Feeling down, looking for a good laugh, or simply have extra time on your hands? Read this book. You’ll probably bust your guts out laughing.

-Linna C., 7th grade

A Look at A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

christmas_carol_coverThe following essay was originally written for a 7th grade English class.

Can one person hate so many things? Well, if know a man named Ebenezer Scrooge, you would have found out that he is that kind of person. In Charles Dickens’s play, “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge finds a chance to change. During the play you are taken to the past, present, and future Scrooge. Also, Marley gives some key advice to Scrooge that helps him to turn into a genuine man. Slowly, through the conflicts of the play Scrooge realizes the error of his ways on Christmas Day. Dickens points out to the audience that the message is, be happy no matter what, because goods shouldn’t bring you happiness, love should.

“‘But nonetheless they do sing….. Fifteen shillings a week and they do sing.’” (p.635)
This quote represents the message of the whole play, be happy with what you have and don’t be greedy. Money shouldn’t bring you happiness, love should. When this quote occurs in the play, Present is telling Scrooge how thankful the Cratchits are for what they have, which isn’t much. This next quotes represents how ungrateful Scrooge is, of course before he transforms. “‘You will be wanting the whole day tomorrow?……. It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair.’” (p. 607) In this quote Scrooge is talking to Cratchit, he is giving his opinion on how much he wants Cratchit to come the next day and how much he opposes him not choosing to doing that. This last quote represents the change of Scrooge’s personality by the end of the play. “‘I’ll raise your salary…. to assist your struggling family’”(p.653) This quote represents the change of Scrooge’s personality. The message is clearly evident by these quotes.

Dickens’s play “A Christmas Carol” is about how Scrooge massively changes by the end of the play. He turns into a genuine man from a man who couldn’t care less. The message is very clear from this play. It is to be thankful for what you have and not always be wanting more. Dickens’s play send the message that being bad is never good, which should affect the whole world. Because it’s true.

-Satej B., 7th grade

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

fault_in_our_stars_coverAs the second of John Green’s books that I have had a chance to read, The Fault in Our Stars did not disappoint. Written from the perspective of the 16 year old Hazel Lancaster who is diagnosed with a type of terminal thyroid cancer, it recounts her experiences in falling in love with the 17 year old Augustus Waters, an amputee who is recovering from osteosarcoma, after their chance meeting at a Cancer Kid Support Group.

Although this book is about cancer and the two main character’s experiences with it, it is not a “cancer book.” It is not a book of just tragedy, or a book of just recovery or regret. Instead, The Fault in Our Stars holds valuable insight to the perspectives one would not usually attribute with those who are fighting cancer or another terminal disease. In stark realism to other stories of its type, Green portrays Hazel and Augustus struggling together with observations about the fragility of life, the importance of humor, and the wisdom of death (or the looming threat of it); finally in the end, each reaching their own conclusions about what these subjects signify within their lives.

Green has lived up to every expectation, and has even surpassed some of those I held while beginning to read this book. Even with just two paragraphs into the book, it delivers an incredibly insightful observation cloaked within Green’s down-to-earth writing style:

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)”

Green writes with an incredible tenacity creating characters that are intensely fleshed out, vividly real, complex, and beautifully illustrated, transporting the reader into the shoes of both Hazel and Augustus, allowing for empathizing and connection with them on all levels. His ability of description also lends itself to create beautiful illustrations of the locations that play important roles within the story line making it easy for the reader to imagine themselves in the both the far reaches of where their favorite writer resides in Amsterdam, and in the closer homes or even bedrooms of the characters.

Despite the somewhat distant subject matter of these two teens fighting against cancer, Green manages to pull in the readers with the incredible points of realism and relatedness that they can hold with the characters. He also provides the perfect balance of humor and tragedy, the intense humor within the first half of the novel only serving to make the luminous final pages even more beautiful and heartbreaking. Ranging from the parts of incredible insight, to the intense humor and comic relief, to the final parts of tears and heartbreak, Green continues his winning streak, making this book one of my new favorites. Through the experiences of the characters you will learn a lot about yourself, and also be able to face topics that may have never shown up on your radar before, and in the end leave with a humbling story of love, friendship, and loss.

-Sophia U., 11th grade

Book Review: My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier

Z917SchBroSam2upMy Brother Sam is Dead is a fascinating historical fiction by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier, and is a story about a family torn apart over the American Revolution.

The story all starts when the oldest brother, Sam Meeker, comes home unexpectedly from college- Yale to be exact. He gives the family news that the patriots have defeated the “lobster backs” or the British. The Meeker family is loyal to the king and do not think that the war would do any good. However, Sam has a different perspective on this.

Tim, Sam’s younger brother, admires Sam greatly. When the brothers are outside together doing chores around their family’s tavern, Sam tells Tim his plan to steal their father’s gun in order to fight. Tim protests, but he can do nothing to stop Sam. That night, Mr. Meeker and Sam have an argument about the war and Sam runs away from home. One day, near winter, Tim’s father says that this year Tim will be going with him to Verplanck’s Point with him to trade the cattle. On the way there cowboys almost rob them, but a rescue team comes just in time. On the way back however, Tim’s father gets kidnapped and Tim almost does too, but he luckily outsmarts the cowboys. When Tim gets home he immediately becomes more responsible and takes charge of the tavern the family owns. When Sam comes home to visit them a couple months later, he advises Tim to butcher the cattle’s meat and hide it before the patriots steal them. One night when Sam is visiting the tavern again, two patriots try to steal the cattle. Sam chases after them, but gets framed for stealing them.

The question everyone is asking is, what will happen to Sam? I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the American Revolution. It is an interesting read and it gives you a new perspective on the revolution. It will be one of the best historical fictions you have ever read!

-Melika R., 8th grade

Perfect Holiday Break Reading: The Shopaholic Series, by Sophie Kinsella

shopaholicOk, can I first say what fun reads all of these books are?! I came across the film version of Confessions of a Shopaholic during an airplane flight to Europe this summer. It was one of the free movies listed and though it was extremely cheesy, I thoroughly enjoyed it! That’s when I decided to try reading the book. After I finished it and loved it, I found out there was a whole series‼ My book taste is kind of all over the place because I love The Hunger Games, for example, but then I also love what I call “fluffy” reads like this series (that means that the book is about some girly subject like shopping! and dramatizes little conflicts like addictions to shopping!) Sophie truly has a gift for portraying spoiled, rich New York girls as protagonists.

I don’t know what it is about Kinsella’s writing style that makes her books so enjoyable! Whether it’s the comical events that a grown-up woman bring upon herself like hiding her shopping bills from her boyfriend or stuffing her face with carrots to prove her little girl eats them! I laugh every page at the obscurity of Rebecca (better known as Becky) Bloomwood Brandon’s shopping addiction and her way of “dealing” with the issues she causes.

While Becky is irresponsible and constantly in denial with her obsession for shopping, her boyfriend/fiancé/husband is cool, calm, and collected. He is responsible, hardworking, and obviously very forgiving if he’s willing to live with a girl who breaks his credit card every day! I think Luke Brandon is adorable, but a little stupid. I mean, who wants to have to deal with Becky? She wastes money, hides bills from you, and ignores your wishes (such as buying giant wooden giraffes while on their honeymoon.) However, she’s just one of those people that you have to still love and read more about despite her serious lack of self control.

I love picturing the fun and crazy hubbub of the New York life, and learning about how irresponsible Becky is makes me feel like a seriously good girl‼ And honestly, how cute are Luke and Becky?! They’re perfect for each other, so I forgive them! Every girl needs a Luke in their life…someday that is!

To sum up, Kinsella transports you to both England and New York, and gives you such a fun read…especially during the holiday break! I definitely give a thumbs-up to all of her books, and I can’t wait to read more books from her! Sophie is such a young and fresh author who understands what girly girls need in their book lists‼ I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys novels about shopping, fashion, and fun! Post a comment telling me what you think about this series! Happy Holidays to all!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade