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All Book Reviews by Genre: Classics

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
Genres:
Stuart Little
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Stuart Little, by E. B. White, is quite the fascinating tale of an adventurous mouse on a quest to find his beloved, lost friend. The book is endlessly entertaining, and Stuart the mouse hooks the reader with his various shenanigans. Rather than developing the side characters, E. B. White strives and succeeds at focusing on peculiar Stuart and amusing the reader. The side plots also fit very nicely into the main story. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, as it is a quick, easy, and wondrous read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a 'meh' romance novel. While I may not be a big fan of the genre (which is why I personally find it excruciatingly boring), the book exceeds in describing how relationships were the main influence of wealth and power in Britain around the 1800s. Jane Austen also gives each character an 'okay' backstory. Other than that, the book struggles to keep the reader interested. The characters are bland, their relationships have a very poor development, and some of the well-developed side characters just leave without any sort of sentimental goodbye. The book just seems to be a monotonous lecture with all of the uneventful dialogue, and overall, the book just doesn’t seem to capture the reader. I would maybe recommend this to some hardcore fans of romance, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There’s a reason they had to call the movie, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Book Review: Sounder
Armstrong, William H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I've been on a children's book about dogs kick lately. I started with Shiloh, went to Where the Red Fern Grows, and ended with Sounder (I may read Old Yeller too). Sounder is the winner of the Newbery Medal, but it was the least powerful book out of the three. I almost feel like I may have read an abridged version of the book. The characters weren't well developed and there wasn't really a sense of desperation and overt class stratification that the book's summary promised. Overall, it was underwhelming. I'm being nice and giving it 3 stars instead of 2.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Don Quixote
Cervantes, Miguel de
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Written in 1605, and translated in at least 50 languages, the novel Don Quixote has often been considered the father of western literature. And for good reason. Coming in at around over 900 pages, this novel is an amazing read. This book follows the hilarious journey of Don Quixote and his portly sidekick, Sancho Panza, as they travel around Spain searching for adventures. I would suggest this book to anyone who enjoys long novels, humor, or anything like Princess Bride.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a rather peculiar adventure tale filled with all sorts of oddities and misfits. The story begins with the main protagonist, Alice, as she follows the White Rabbit into the infamous rabbit hole. In Wonderland, or so it seems, she meets several creatures all with the strangest backstories and personalities. The story is carefully crafted so that much of the book confuses the casual reader. A great concern for detail is needed to understand the novel and its full meaning. The book shares the complexities and hardships of growing up, in which the Lewis Carroll absolutely nailed. He also shares his negative opinions about the British government through the main antagonist, the Queen of Hearts, who is meant to be a high and powerful monarch, but never does anything. Overall, the book is a great read and it is certainly entertaining to spend some time to pick out the many small details hidden in the book. 8th Grade.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
1984
Orwell, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

1984, written by renowned author George Orwell, a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair, follows the protagonist Winston Smith set in what Smith believes to be the 80s in London. In fact, Smith is not sure of anything anymore, definitely not the exact year or what happened to his family or who the mysterious dictator called Big Brother is or who his state is at war with. Eurasia, right? No, must’ve been Eastasia... All Smith knows are the mottos of each of the ministries that form the government in Oceania, where London is. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. He is told what to think, what to say, and what to do for nearly every part of his life. His government banks on strict organization and dire consequences for disobeying the rules. 1984 is an interesting read that set the bar for dystopian novels, defining inefficient governments from real life examples.
The novel is more realistic being inspired by Orwell’s hatred for totalitarianism and the events of World War II. I recommend 1984 to anyone curious about examining different types of societies, their standards and how those effect the population. The novel is fairly political and examines rebellion, although not as face paced as typical young adult reads. 1984 allows for an in depth examination of the character’s internal conflicts, Winston is one of the more detailed and complex protagonists because there are many parts where he cannot he sympathized with due to his lesser characteristics. The setting is clearly presented in a more world-building way than just giving out straight information. I was especially pleased, surprised, curious, and angry throughout the progression of the story.
Overall, I did enjoy this book more than most others, but the fact that Winston does not form any significant relationships until the second part and is the primary person talking, I was relatively bored during the middle chapters.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Awards:
Brave New World
Huxley, Aldous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Among one of the first Dystopian genre novels ever published, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World questions the extent at which technology could potentially control society. Set approximately 632 years after the creation of the Model - T, a World State now controls society with the intent on eradicating personal thinking and individual creativity. With a new system called the Bokanovsky process, the World State utilizes the idea of Henry Ford’s assembly line to produce thousands of nearly identical embryos that will grow up to work for the State. All embryos are conditioned to be in one of the 5 castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon; with Alphas destined to control the World State and Epsilons to perform menial labor. When Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, and John decide that something is wrong within this “perfect” society, they take it into their own hands to expose the World State and stop this flawed Utopia. Huxley’s novel, written in only 4 months, is phenomenal because it challenges the ideals of the limits to which technology can override nature. With the novel being published in 1932, Huxley questions practices that were uncommon and unrealistic back then, but are slowly becoming a reality now as our society leans more and more towards technological innovations. I recommend this novel to high school readers, especially those interested in the Dystopian genre, since this is a perfect example of a Dystopian Utopia.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Oedipus Rex
Sophocles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The hero isn’t always epic and won’t always have a happy ending, sometimes he may face a tragic event and meet his downfall. Sophocles Athenian tragedy Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, is a phenomenal play written and first performed around 430 B.C. The play follows the story of Oedipus, a man who became the King of the city Thebes by solving a riddle and defeating a sphinx that was threatening the city and then marrying the queen of Thebes, Jocasta. One day, when Thebes is suffering from a catastrophic plague, Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to an oracle to find out how to stop the plague. Creon returns telling Oedipus that the plague will cease if the killer of the previous king, Laius, is found and exiled. Little does Oedipus know, he is Laius’s killer. Before Oedipus was born, a prophecy was told to Jocasta that her son would kill his father and marry his mother, and so she sent her son out to be killed in the mountains. That boy was Oedipus, and as the prophecy stated, he has returned to Thebes unknowingly to fulfill that prophecy. I love this Greek play by Sophocles because it is one of the first pieces of literature that tells the story of the “tragic hero” and his downfall. I recommend this play to all, but more advanced readers as the translation is also a bit complex.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Adams, Douglas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is witty, genius, and an example of common English humor: dry, but hilarious.
Seconds before Earth is blown away to make way for an intergalactic freeway, Arthur Dent discovers galaxies and planets, lightyears beyond his own. He hitches a ride with his best friend, Ford Perfect. Ford is a cleverly disguised alien, who has been stranded on Earth for the past 15 years as he writes a revised guide to the galaxy. Arthur and Ford happen to hitch ride with the most disagreeable and intolerable creatures, the Vogon. They are then discovered and thrown into the soul-sucking abyss of space. Seconds before they suffocate, Ford and Arthur are picked up by a recently stolen ship, stolen by the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his girlfriend, Trillian. The ship is on an improbability drive, which is why they crash land on a long believed mythical planet, called the Heart of Gold.
The planet was in a hibernation-like state, and has only just awoken recently. Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod explore while Arthur meets Slartibartfast, who explains that the Earth was a test, run by mice, to discovery the Question of Life, since they know the answer is 42. However, Earth was destroyed seconds before test completion. Trillian, Zaphod, and Ford are captured by the mice and kept in a dream-like prison. That is, until Arthur is brought to the mice and the group is reunited. The mice explain that they are interested in harvesting Arthur’s brain as organic evidence.
So, naturally, the group manages to escape in the knick of time, avoiding both the mice and the galaxy police, who are searching for Zaphod.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T.
Awards:
The Trumpet of the Swan
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is a fun adventure as we go with Louis to repay his father's debt. We visit a small pond in Canada, Camp Kookooskoos, Boston, and even a zoo! This book is full of love, kindness, and adventure!

Reviewer's Name: Aubrey
Awards:
Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows
Rawls, Wilson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is so well written that it didn't matter that I had nothing in common with the narrator and no interest in hunting. In fact, I felt sorry for the coons. This is a story of love and devotion that had me enthralled, especially in the second half. The ending, while a bit contrived, was still beautiful.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:

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