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All Book Reviews by Genre: Classics

The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien, J. R. R.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A stout story, a rich song, a tale for all times. Tolkien heard the gorgeous music of narrative, with all its valleys and hilltops, with all the grit of the fight, all the glory of overcoming, all the long, drawnout parts of day-in and day-out small faithfulness. He heard a musical narrative and he composed a symphony. But like all great masterpieces, one’s affections and tastes must be enlarged and strengthened to enjoy wine this strong. Such a stout story is not for the faint in heart. In an era where our literary sensibilities are cheapened by bland paperback fiction, reality TV, inane tweets, texts, and Facebook posts, we are a society easily pleased by cultural fast food, and we often can’t appreciate with the robustness of a story told this well. There are answers in this story to questions we’ve never thought to ask. This story explores places in the heart we’ve never thought to search, depths of the human soul we’ve never considered worth pluming. If we don’t resonate with this story it is because there is much that the author wants to tell us that we are not yet ready to hear.

Search the world over, and I don’t believe you’ll find another piece of fiction as epic, as moving, as heart-transforming, as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. What sets the literary genius of Tolkien above most other authors of fiction is his ability to make his imaginary world shine with such brilliance that the affections of the heart will come to love its shores, its stories, its struggle to stay in the light. Story is one thing that cannot be faked by a shallow writer. Either an author has within him an tale of inspiring beauty, of struggle, of overcoming, of fighting and conquering, of living and dying for what one believes in—or he does not—and what comes out instead is flat, bland, one-dimensional.

But if one is willing to be a patient learner, one can have one’s mind and heart expanded by being a slow and thoughtful reader. If your heart does not sing by the end of the book, if you do not have a new resolve to overcome the evil in your own heart, if you are not transformed to live for truth and beauty by the end, then I wonder that you have a pulse.

The only precaution I give you is the peculiar feeling of sharp disappointment that will pang you as you read the last line of last volume, knowing that the book is over and there will never be another like it. The only solace I allowed myself was the thought that soon my children will be at an age to appreciate it and I can relive the volumes through their imaginations. Be prepared to mourn for the series' finitude even as you enjoy every brilliant page.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Tolstoy, Leo
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death.”

This short story was a moving reminder to me of the potential that a narrative has to move the soul to understand things that propositional truths have failed to convey.

All Ivan’s life, the realization that he would someday die was something that he believed theoretically, but he could never quite make the fact real to himself. Other people would die, yes, but the reality that he would someday have to die, and also perhaps suffer some before death took place, had no reality to him, no real meaning, no authenticity to his mind.
Until…one day he found that he was in fact dying.

This came as a deranged shock. He had never truly considered the matter seriously. What was happening seemed strange, foreign, out-of-place. He continually tried to deny the fact that he was dying, but a gnawing pain in his side, that daily grew stronger despite being seen by all the top doctors, was his constant reminder that death, his very own death, was real and imminent.

Much of this short book relates mundane details of Ivan’s life: how he met his wife, his occupation, the people he spent time with, and what gave him joy in life. But rather than these details being tedious, they fascinated me because they showed how the small, seemingly insignificant choices of a man’s life are what make a man. And every line of this story is full of meaning as it leads up to a definite point, like any great work of fiction ought to do.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death.” Ivan’s story draws one in because Ivan is not a “bad person,”
by society’s standards. He keeps only the best society, he follows all the rules of decorum, he does not commit crimes or murder or steal. His conscience never bothers him. He is faithful to his wife, provides for his children, and makes sure that everything in life runs smoothly and quietly.
He rarely raises his voice, and he suppresses his anger whenever his wife makes a scene. He sees himself as the perfect gentleman.

But pain has a way of bringing to the surface what lies deep within a man’s heart. And it is not until the pain reaches a fever pitch, that Ivan, for the first time in his entire life, is able to see clearly what has been true his entire life.

I highly recommend this short book!

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Genres:
The Scarlet Letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rich with symbolism and human feeling, the compassionate author leads us to consider deepest plumes of human sentiment. We are artfully led by the hand into the inner corridors of human hearts, where we are taught to stare down passion, shame, despair, revenge and finally courage.

First, we are compelled to walk around in a world where there is no forgiveness. We are removed from the fresh and life-giving promises of scripture to a stale and unrelenting universe, a universe in which once you have sinned in certain ways, you are branded for life. Hawthorne’s world takes the world of Jesus and turns it upside down. Where Jesus welcomed the repentant prostitutes and the reformed tax collectors and had his very harshest words for the proud, exacting Pharisees, in Hawthorne’s world the town’s peoples’ sins of unforgiveness and pride are smugly overlooked.
Hawthorne’s world does to us what all good fiction ought to do: it causes us to shudder. We feel instinctively the cruelty of the sentence placed upon the young woman and the baby, although we acknowledge her sin. This should lead us to praise our God for the forgiveness and grace that is so freely offered us in scripture. As the Pharisees ask Jesus what they should do with the woman caught in the act of adultery (and where, I always wonder, is the man?), we should know his response: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7

Yet we come to appreciate the large-heartedness of Jesus all the more as we come to live in the world of Hester Prynne. Hawthorne, understanding the longing that we all feel to be welcomed and loved unconditionally within a society of people, haunts us with the solitary and scorned life Hester Prynne is relinquished to. As we sink deep into the mire of her forlorn pit, our hearts should soar all the more with the blessed promises of our great God:
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph 2:12,13

As we walk around in Hester Prynne’s world, we know what it would be like to be separated from Christ, to be alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, to be cut off from the promises of God. And yet we rejoice, because we know by faith that Hawthorne’s world is a skewed, twisted world, bearing no resemblance to the true community of faith.

Hawthorne’s character Dimmesdale is as unlike to Christ as nearly any man can be. Dimmesdale’s portrayal of failed manhood is so epic, I can scarcely think of another rival in literature. Here we see a man so small, so petty, so devoid of the smallest scrap of courage or courtesy, that he sits back passively allowing a woman to not only care for, love, and instruct his child alone, but also do so while laboring under the unrelenting sorrow of his shame. He sees this woman daily scorned, reviled, despised, belittled, made an object of while he walks around enjoying his position of influence and respect in others’ eyes. The fact that his sin daily eats away at him till his health is completely deteriorated does not make him any less pathetic in my eyes. No, he is the more pathetic for it. For he shows none of the manly dominance over human affairs that God gave to Adam when he blessed him and gave him dominion over the world. Instead, Dimmesdale is a peon, a victim of circumstance, a shadow of man, resigned to say simply “come what may,”
devoid of action and refusing to take responsibility at every turn.

What a striking contrast to our mighty savior. It is the man Jesus Who in all things takes the initiative. Jesus takes the shame for sins He never committed. Jesus stands up and takes our punishment. Jesus bears all our sorrow and our shame. Jesus, though perfect, identified himself with the lowly, with sinners and allowed himself to be crucified in the most undignified and hideous fashion, next to violent criminals. Jesus, instead of leaving a woman to lonely sorrow while he enjoyed respect, became a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. (Is. 56)

Is the Scarlet Letter a book for today? Why else does abortion flourish today except that we are plagued with a generation of Arthur Dimmesdales walking our streets? We have everywhere men who will not take responsibility for their actions and protect the children they have carelessly fathered.
Instead, they take their women to the clinic in the shadows and leave them to the abortionist scalpel, which brands hearts with a letter so hot and scarring, only the red-hot blood of Christ will heal.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Middlemarch
Eliot, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Few novels have the ability to do several things at once, and do them well:
invoke a strong sense of place, bring characters to brilliant light, create a plot that intrigues, and allow all three of these elements to weave together into a pattern that is simultaneously beautiful, heart-breaking, and resonating with every day life. But Middlemarch achieves these things effortlessly. A small, provincial village, with all its petty pursuits, its bickering, its politics, but also its small acts of heroism, soon has the reader feeling as if he knows this place to well; it could almost be his home.

The real draw of the book however is the depth to which each character becomes known to the reader, known better than we know our friends, and maybe better than we know ourselves. Only a master novelist can peel back the layers of a character's mere actions and reveal the motivations of the heart.
She doesn't just show us unhappy marriages, she shows us why they are unhappy. Pettiness and self-absorbtion consumes some, kindness and devotion are what others live for.

I highly recommend this piece of superb literature for its insight into the relationship of the sexes, and how things can go wrong, and how things can go right. She doesn't shy from the ugliness of relationships, while also showing how much good can be done to one whose heart is devoted to goodness.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, Charles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Profound human love and the most repugnant savagery, horror and redemption, a heroine and a grotesque revenger, two families with dark secrets, two cities, all in the backdrop of the bloodbath that was the French Revelation. In reading it, be prepared for the "Best of Times and the Worst of Times."

Like all great stories, the brilliance of this tale is its ability to not only intimately draw us into the tangled lives of these characters, battered by the historical tyrannies of their time, but to use their story as a parable to understand the human narrative as a whole. Perhaps this is why Dickens believed this book to be his magnam opus; perhaps he felt like it was his clearest statement of what he believed.

The struggles of a small family open the reader's eyes to understanding the larger struggles of humanity in general. We learn not only about the turmoil and violence plaguing France at the time of the French Revolution, but the sin and darkness plaguing our human race. Through this story, we understand principles which will prove true for all times and all places. Dickens writes that the evil cruelty of the French aristocracy gave birth to something according to its kind, the French Revolution, as all things since beginning of creation have produced according to their kind. Evil begets more evil.
This is the story of humanity.

But redemption and resurrection echo throughout the novel as well. Darnay had a mother, who, though an aristocrat, once sought to make restitution for the something incredibly cruel her heartless husband had done. This woman is mentioned only once briefly in the whole book, but her influence on her son Charles Darnay profoundly changed the course of Darnay's life and the whole book.

Even Dickens' style of writing is a reflection on the truth of real life. For instance, every single scene in the book is important to the story, although for the first half of the book, the reader can't figure out how it will come together. But at the end, as everything is revealed, the reader can think back and see the purpose for each scene. Similarly, as we walk through life, we rarely understand the purpose for the various scenes we find ourselves in.
Although we will never understand completely until heaven, there are times when it is all brought together and we see the purposes behind puzzling circumstances.

In typical Dickens style, this book is written to tug at your heart strings.
But this is not done in a manipulative or sentimental way, but in the most straightforward way possible: by giving an often newspaper-sounding account of the events that take place in each scene. Yet any reader with a pulse will be profoundly moved in numerous scenes. How does he do this? By focusing his accounts on the human element, the true purpose behind any story. Woven through every page in this book is the message that every human being counts.
Collectivism, sacrificing the individual for the group, is shown to be barbaric.

Another stroke of genius is Dickens uncanny way of portraying evil. Madame DeFarge becomes in the book everything that she hates. The reason she got to be the way she is, was because of something terrible that was done to her sister and brother by the aristocracy when she was still young. And yet, at the end of the novel, it is said of her that as she puts men and women to death, she cares nothing that they may be innocent, or that they may leave behind a bereft sister or brother or wife. She only cares that more and more people die, and she is never satisfied.

In a pre-Flannery O'Connor style, Dickens leaves the reader no room for false hopes in the goodness of humanity. He wants to take your false hopes and hit them out of the ballpark never to be seen again. If there's one thing that this story was supposed to shatter, it is the myth that man is getting better and better, and the solutions to his sin is minor. Redemption is possible, but the price is higher than any of us imagined.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
How Green Was My Valley
Llewellyn, Richard
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It would be extravagant for one to expect to come across such a book more than a handful of times in a lifetime. It is while reading a book like this that I am suddenly overcome with a desire to read less books, and to read only quality books and to read them more carefully. I would trade many stacks of books for this one pearl. I wonder that I have wasted so much of my time on so much drivel, when something so compelling was waiting to be read. I wonder that libraries and book stores are so crammed with piles of worthless pages, and stacks of pages, when buried beneath them all is a such a forgotten gem.
For every now and again comes along a writer who pulls back the veil from mundane life and reveals the mysteries and the wonder that we had forgotten were lurking all along. We are children again, humming along through the pages of this book, who see afresh the every day grandeur of a small mountain village, a loving family wading through pain and brokenness, sifting through the ideas of Marxism and socialism, trying to cling to tradition and faith.
We see a father and and his sons who love each other dearly but disagree fiercely; we long to live amongst the quaintness of tight-knit village living, but are revolted at the devastation caused by gossip and bitterness.
We become the young boy who is subject to grotesque treatment at an English school on account of the differences of dialect between the English and the Welsh. (This is so perplexing to Americans! Furthermore, the English treat the Welsh as though they are uneducated, uncouth barbarians, when in fact, the young boy taught himself advanced trigonometry while recovering from an illness, with the help from his older brother, a coal minor and an advanced mathematician himself.) But everywhere is beauty and freshness: the loveliness of the Welsh valley, the spirit of home and happiness, of merry-making and festivities. Not only does the Welsh valley echo with the clear song of joy and rejoicing, but the pages themselves ring with the notes of celebration that draw our eyes upwards from our shuffling feet, from looking at the day in and day out, to see brightness, clearness, the dawning of warmth, the tender meeting of souls, the sweetness of unbreakable family loyalties. These soul-swelling scenes are contrasted by the gruesome discovery of the ways of the world.
Only a few writers are given the vision to see and portray reality in all its starkness and splendor. Only a few know how to paint the picture only as they really see it, without any pretense or agenda. Only a few have the courage to detail all they see: the gruesome, the lovely, the perplexing; to look and to keep looking, and to record what they see in all its fullness.
Llewellyn blazes a trail for us all, to not only see, but to say; to not only know, but to tell. And in the telling, one comes to know more. We enter a small Welsh village 100 years ago, but we leave understanding our own spot on the planet a little better. We meet the Morgans but after having met them, we know our own friends, family, and neighbors, yes, even our own selves, a little better.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Dracula
Raven, Nicky
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an adaptation to Bram Stoker’s novel, which was designed to make it an easier read for teens. The art is amazing, but the book did not hold my attention very well because the plot is slow to start. I recommend the age to be 13+ because of the word choice used. It is more of a teen/adult book. The book is in 3rd person which makes it easier to connect with the characters because you can get everyone’s perception of the story.
Beware Count Dracula!

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
The BFG
Dahl, Roald
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is so awesome it's probably my favorite book. It has so much detail that you can imagine exactly what this BFG is going through. Over all i love this book.

Reviewer's Name: Delaney
Awards:
The Pearl
Steinbeck, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Perhaps one of the lesser-known of Steinbeck’s works, The Pearl still exhibits his concise and emotionally-powerful storytelling. More along the length of Of Mice And Men than The Grapes of Wrath , Steinbeck doesn’t waste much time arriving at the central conflict of The Pearl, using realistic characters and settings to weave his story. Some might find the characters in this story to be mere stereotypes, but I would almost argue that they’re the archetypes that have aided good storytelling for centuries. The fact that people today could easily find themselves in similar situations merely speaks to the timeless nature of the story itself.

Somewhat of a deviation from the depression-era settings of some of his previous works, Steinbeck uses the natural beauty of the island setting to contrast the ugliness present in the hearts of its inhabitants. Granted, the antagonists of the story are the inherently-greedy colonialists who are trying to take advantage of the indigenous population, but even a treasure as highly valued as the eponymous pearl can turn an islander’s mind to thoughts of evil. The Pearl is undoubtedly a story about the evils of materialism and wealth, even if a significant amount of money could make a poor person’s problems disappear.

There is palpable tension in the plot of The Pearl, especially as the story progresses toward its heartbreaking ending. The fact that Steinbeck can do so much with so few words merely speaks to his genius that has stood the test of time. If you were forced to read any of Steinbeck’s works for school and were turned off by having to analyze his prose to death, I would suggest you give his writing another try with this story. Even if you don’t like The Pearl, at least you didn’t spend much time reading it.

A tight and expertly-written Steinbeck story, I give The Pearl 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:
Anthem
Rand, Ayn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I really enjoyed the book Anthem because of the dystopian future theme that was present throughout the book. The book Anthem follows the life of Equality 7-2521, who finds he is set apart from everyone else in his society.
This society that Equality lives in is structured around the opinion of the majority. Equality is intellectually advanced and strong, both are qualities that his society frowns upon since everyone is meant to be considered “equal” there. I strongly recommend that you read this book if you are a fan of similar books, such as The Giver and The Hunger Games, that focus on future societies.
Reviewer Grade= 9

Reviewer's Name: Hanna N.
The Old Man and the Sea
Hemingway, Ernest
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I did not enjoy reading The Old Man and the Sea mostly due to the format it was written in. The Old Man and the Sea is a book that focuses on one of an old man’s most memorable fishing trips where he attempts to kill massive a fish larger than his very ship. One of the main reasons why I did not enjoy reading this book is because of the fact that all of the main characters have names that are revealed throughout the story, but they are never used by the narrator figure. For example, throughout the entire book, Santiago is only referred to as “the old man” by the narrator, even though his real name is known early on in the novel. I also found the book to have a dull plot, focusing on descriptive writing rather than events that occur within the story. Even though I did not particularly enjoy reading this book, there is a lot of symbolism and descriptive writing throughout the novel, which some people may enjoy.
Reviwer Grade= 9

Reviewer's Name: Hanna N
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing story with important underlying themes. I really enjoyed this book. I read To Kill a Mockingbird on my own and then in class, which only made me appreciate the book more. The book explores controversial issues such as prejudice, racism, what it means to be a woman/lady, and growing up, which are all still relevant in today’s society. However, this is not a book for people who enjoy eventful/plot driven stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is more of a character-driven story (in my opinion). Harper Lee’s usage of symbolism, language and setting add to the enjoyment of the book. I could not recommend this book enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is a thought-provoking and classic book that everyone should read before they die.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
A Wrinkle in Time
L'Engle, Madeleine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Meg Murry is an outcast. She feels that she doesn't belong anywhere -- not at school, and especially not among her family of accomplished scientists and visionaries. But, when three strange women appear and offer to help her find her missing father, she is whisked away to another world. With the help of her brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin, she works to find her father and save Earth from impeding evil. I originally read "A Wrinkle in Time" back in middle school, but decided to reread it before seeing the film, and found that I loved the book just as much as I did the first time around. The writing is charming and clever. The worlds are vast and imaginative. Meg and her brother Charles Wallace undergo compelling character arcs and discover their true purpose along the journey. I have nothing negative to say about this amazing story. To anyone who loves fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, rich characters, and interesting plots, go read this book!

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Book Review: Oedipus at Colonus
Sophocles
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Oedipus at Colonus is part of Sophocles’ Athenian tragedies trilogy called the Oedipus plays. Oedipus at Colonus picks up after the events of Oedipus Rex and follows Oedipus’ life after his exile from Thebes. He starts off wandering in strange lands with his daughter, Antigone, trying to find out where they are. A citizen tells them that they are in Colonus, a sacred Athenian city. The King of Colonus, Theseus, comes to see Oedipus, and Oedipus asks Theseus if he can take refuge in Colonus in exchange for eternal prosperity for his city. Oedipus’ second daughter, Ismene, arrives and informs them that Oedipus’ two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, are planning to go to war with each other for the throne. Oedipus asks for refuge in Colonus, as he knows his sons will come for him due to a prophecy that was told: The city that Oedipus is buried in will forever have good fortune. Oedipus promises that if Theseus offers him his trust and protection, he will bring fortune to Colonus by being buried within its confines. Theseus agrees and him and Oedipus form a great bond. With Oedipus’ death nearing and the conflict in Thebes increasing; Antigone, Ismene, and Theseus must figure out how to solve the situation of Thebes as long as ensure Colonus’ security. I love Sophocles’ Oedipus plays because it connects history with tragedy and makes for one of the most revered plays for its age, dating back to 401 BC. I read the plays using the Dover Thrift Editions as their translations are the easiest for me to grasp and understand.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Genres:
1984
Orwell, George
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Although the year 1984 has long since passed, the reality created in Orwell’s novel 1984 contain aspects that our society is beginning to show. 1984 follows a society where the world is ruled by 3 superstates: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia, each of which have a totalitarian english socialism government. The government of Oceania has surveillance on every citizen through monitors called telescreens that enable them to hear and see what every person is doing and every citizen is required to have a telescreen in
their homes. This enables them to see if the citizens are committing “thoughtcrime” and if they are, the thought police kidnap the person and erase them from existence. Winston Smith is our main character with a quiet rebellion against the totalitarian government of Oceania. He believes that he is an individual and should be allowed to have his own freedom. As Winston tries to avoid being erased from existence and maintain a romance with the love of his life Julia, the government slowly closes in on his treason. This is one of my favorite novels and a masterpiece by Orwell as it shows how a society with a controlling government creates fear and false order for the citizens. Aspects within the novel are present in our own government today, so who is to Orwell’s predictions aren’t slowly but truly becoming a reality.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
The Cask of Amontillado
Poe, Edgar Allan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This isn’t a full length book but rather a short piece of writing - the first I read of Poe’s but by far the most entertaining. The piece is set in an unnamed Italian city during the Carnival season and depicts the protagonist, Montresor, inviting Fortunato, a former friend, to a wine tasting in his cellar. Fortunato previously insulted Montresor and this invitation isn’t one of forgiveness, but revenge. The language isn’t difficult to understand as most pieces from the 1800's are and there isn’t any research needed to be done beforehand in order to read this piece. The Cask of Amontillado possesses a dark, morbid theme which is entertaining depending on the audiences interests, for example, if increasingly horrifying character behavior is something that surprises you. I felt a range of emotions from suspicious to terrified throughout the piece and if there are any audiobooks you can get your hands on, that definitely assists in terms of establishing a more realistic setting. When I listened to the audiobook, echoes of their voices and droplets of water dripping from the ceiling of the damp cellar were included to contribute to an overall eeriness.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wilde, Oscar
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I read this novel on a whim - I had never read any of Wilde before and did not know too much about him as an author apart from the fact he was put on trial and imprisoned during his life. The Picture of Dorian Gray was thoroughly surprising and unexpected. Dorian Gray, at the beginning of the novel, is perceived by Basil Hallward as an individual worth obsessing over, he is infatuated with him and without knowing Dorian yet, the reader is too.
But then the reader is introduced to him physically and I realized he isn't all that. He's almost pompous but somehow clever and he's beautiful. Both Basil and his friend Lord Henry Wotton are influenced to see him more positively by that but I think the fact that Dorian is not tangible to the reader allows us to see him for who he truely is. According to Lord Henry, beauty is worth more than genius is, depicting which friend he prefers over the other. I wanted to sympathize with Basil because he was more sensitive than the others and I felt pity for him as I realized he was not a character anyone particularly cared immensely for. I preferred Basil over both Henry and Dorian because Henry's beliefs appeared rather traditionalist and were more controversial than common and the fact that Dorian was supposed to be a character without any fault was already a warning for me. Honestly, from the title, I did not know what direction the novel was going in from any point during the reading. To clear a few things up, Basil is an artist who paints a portrait of Dorian because he appreciates him in a more aesthetic manner than others who enjoy his company but the portrait appears to change into something more demonic as time goes on symbolizing how awful Dorian was becoming as a person. I mean, I needed to stop reading for a few minutes because I could not believe how little Dorian cared for others but I will admit that the absurdity of it all was entertaining. There is a lot of murder in this book which definitely makes the novel more interesting but then I guess I should also mention not get too attached to some characters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Charlotte's Web
White, E.B.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While it may be considered a children's book, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White lives up to its name as a classic. The simple story provides for a light and easy read, while still providing an elegantly woven story. The characters, while not super developed, are jocular and entertaining, and still preserve the sort-of dramatic side of the book. The friendly relationship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig soon turns into a matter of life and death, allowing for many twists and turns throughout the book. Though simple, the book also has several deeper meanings (I won’t spoil them), allowing for speculation among its audience. The fun in discovering what E.B. White could have meant in just one of the book's lines may very well be the entire hook of the story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter what their age is. There’s always fun to be had in a book, whether it be hidden or minuscule.

Reviewer Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
Double Indemnity
Cain, James M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This classic piece of noir does what some might consider impossible: making an insurance salesman interesting. Of course, planning to commit insurance fraud makes the scenario much more interesting, even if it follows some of the basic tropes of the genre. Because the story is so short, only lasting just over three hours of audiobook reading, I feel the movie adaptation was able to include everything that made this story so engaging. I do think the ending was improved in the film, though, as the story’s ending felt a little disjointed from the narrative.

What made Double Indemnity so enjoyable was how the main characters were so sure they’d get away with the crime they were about to commit. The details of the fraud were so thorough that the reader is almost convinced that nothing could go wrong. When the aftermath starts to unravel, that’s when the story began to get interesting. Suddenly, all the little things you’d never think of started to rear their ugly heads and tear the crime apart. If anything, Double Indemnity proves that, no matter how well you plan a crime, there is always something that is bound to go wrong. There are no perfect crimes.

While I enjoyed the revelation of the family’s backstory after the crime was committed, the one element that was a little uncomfortable was how the main character altered his amorous intentions from the mother to the daughter. It felt kind of creepy how he was justifying a 15-year age difference, even if she was a year past the age of consent. Maybe that was part of the point, though: prove that none of the characters were above reproach. They each had flaws that made them unlikeable in some fashion.

A short and tightly-written noir classic, I give Double Indemnity 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Brothers Karamazov
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As is usually the case with Russian literature, The Brothers Karamazov is a daunting read. These thick tomes are usually on lists of books you should read, but picking up such a large volume and consuming its contents can be quite intimidating. Even the audiobook version (which I used for this review) clocks in at almost a full work-week of listening to get through it all.

Still, those who manage to take on this herculean task are likely to be rewarded with an engaging story that covers a wide variety of topics to include (but not limited to) religion, marriage, communism, fatherhood, and (of course) brotherhood.

Having already read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I found The Brothers Karamazov to be more along the lines of Law & Order. His former book was a tight and well-paced examination of guilt, even in the face of necessity and wealth distribution. The Brothers Karamazov, however, took a while to set everything up in order to provide an engaging examination of a murder. The first third of this book seemed to be a little bloated with details that never really panned out, but once the real action sets in, get ready for an exciting philosophical ride.

Of course, The Brothers Karamazov is mostly a vehicle for Dostoyevsky to explore some fundamental ideas. These ideas permeate the human condition so thoroughly that he can ask the hard questions in a natural and realistic context. Through conversations with the Devil, as well as arguments in court, Dostoyevsky invites the reader to consider what true fatherhood really is. Furthermore, especially in the context of communism and religion, we are posed with the timeless question: are we our brothers’ keepers? Even today, these questions elicit some challenging answers from society.

An excellent follow-up to Crime and Punishment, I give The Brothers Karamazov 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
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