All Book Reviews by Genre: Classics

The Giver
Lowry, Lois
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Giver, written by Lois Lowry, was about a boy named Jonas who is about to turn twelve. Jonas lives in a community where everything is the same and fair, because with any differences it can cause arguments. Because everything is the same, everyone gets bicycles at the same age, gets their job at the Ceremony of Twelve, and is only allowed to have one boy and one girl child in their "family unit". When the Ceremony of Twelve arrives, Jonas has no idea what job he is going to get, but lots of kids his age do. When the day finally comes, he gets told that he has the rarest and highest of honor job there is- he gets to see memories from a long time ago in history. The person training him, or as Jonas calls him, the Giver, gives him memories of a long long time ago when things were way more strange. Everything in his community is the same- that means no colors, animals, and everyone is treated the same.
The Giver shows him some very important memories, and Jonas sets out on a quest to show everyone these memories that he has. I really enjoyed this book, and it was not predictable. A thing that I enjoyed about the book is that it shows how Jonas started to change and act different, for the better, when the Giver gave him more memories.
Reviewer grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Riley C.
Mask and rose over a knife
Shakespeare, William
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

As is likely the case with many readers, I was assigned to study the play "Romeo and Juliet" in a high school English class. While it's true that I was led on to read the book out of obligation, I ended up forming some pretty spirited opinions on the novel. I definitely was not engaged in this read, but even still, am able to respect its excellence in the context of Shakespeare's time.

As a reader, you can tell that the language used is vastly different from that of the common, English vernacular. For this reason, it can sometimes be a challenge to understand what is going on in the plot, especially since the story is told through the lens of a play. Before attempting this read, I would certainly brush up on some basic play terms, to grasp a better understanding of the composition of such a work.

Another factor contributing to the difficulty of this read is Shakespeare’s use of Iambic Pentameter, a rhyming scheme ideal for sonnets where three sets of rhyming quatrains and two lines of rhyming couplets are alternated. I found it truly impressive that Shakespeare manages to devise these rhymes with so much detail and insight. To go through with reading this novel, I would have to suggest to understand the rhyming scene of Iambic Pentameter, as doing so allows you to come to terms with a greater appreciation for Shakespeare’s work.

I found the plot itself to be a bit too inconstant. While at first the novel seems somewhat believable, the ending turns totally wild and unpredictable. I don’t mean to critique Shakespeare’s work, as his play was truly revolutionary for its time, but to a 21st century teen, this novel may not be the most enjoyable.

In terms of the themes, the novel excels with powerful and proactive lessons.
Reflecting on the plot, and Shakespeare’s use of literary devices such as foreshadowing, can lead to meaningful conversations and analyses about life, love, and happiness.
Overall, I would pin my recommendation on this book, but only if you take the time to understand the niche delicacies of Shakespeare’s writing. At face value, the novel may not seem the most exciting or engaging to the reader, but by appreciating the literary masterpiece found in Shakespeare’s work, you’ll definitely enjoy the read!

Reviewer’s Grade Level: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ethan M.
Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus
Shelley, Mary
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

Frankenstein was a disappointment to me. As per the Romantic period, this novel used lots of scenes in nature to explain the characters’ emotional states. I do not mind a few good cries in a storm, but this novel borders on incessant outdoor melodrama. I decided to disregard both the plot and the setting in a vain attempt to enjoy the novel. I would only focus on the characters. As this was written by a female author, I looked forward to the female characters, which were awful. One, Justine, is a servant and seems only to exist in order to die. Elizabeth, who also seems to share this quality, is regarded as an object to be owned in a creepy incestuous manner by her cousin; she is apparently superior and virtuous only because of her noble birth. So, I dismissed the female characters to focus on the males, none of which were believable. Victor, his friend Henry, and his monster all were overly emotional, and they inspired no sympathy from me. With no likable characters and emotions running everywhere, I would only read Frankenstein if required.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Caroline J.
Beowulf: a New Verse Translation
Heaney, Seamus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Beowulf is a classic heroic epic written one thousand years ago; I read the version that Seamus Heaney translated into modern English. This translation was excellent, managing to balance the original style and rhythm with a clear and understandable tone. Beowulf is a traditional hero. As a result, some of the plot points are fairly predictable. Nevertheless, I would recommend this epic poem to anyone who enjoys Tolkien or other fantasy series. Reading Beowulf, it is easy to see where more contemporary authors got their inspiration.
Reader Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Caroline J.
Awards:
Candide
Voltaire
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Candide is one of my favorites. Though it does deal with real problems, it is an exceedingly fun read. This is thanks to the sardonic, sharp wit of Voltaire. Satire is executed beautifully in this book. If you pick up this book, chances are you will laugh out loud. I very strongly recommend Candide.
However, if you do read it, please be patient with it. Because Candide was written in 1758, some hilarious and important details can go right over the reader's head. But if you put in some time to understand what Voltaire is really trying to say, it will be worthwhile.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again
Tolkien, J. R. R.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Originally written for his children, J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novel “The Hobbit” is hailed among book critics as a remarkable, introductory-level fantasy novel. It manages to engage readers with an epic and timeless plot, while also avoiding the use of profane language and violent scenes.

The tale is set in Middle Earth, home to a number of human-like species including the Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves. Over the course of the novel, Tolkien provides a rich background of the history of these three species.
Namely, the majority of backstory is setup around the dwarves- who originally inhabited the “Lonely Mountain” and made their fortune off of mining gold. Their empire prospered until at last, a greedy, gold-seeking dragon named “Smog” wreaked havoc to their way of life.

Enter Bilbo Baggings, a middle-aged Hobbit settling down in the Shire. After he hosts a seemingly ordinary dinner party, his life is turned inside out, and the inner spirit of adventure is awakened with him. He joins in a quest to reclaim the dwarf home, and takes part in a number of adventures along the way.

I originally read this book after finishing the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. While it’s true that this novel is aimed at a younger demographic, it is certainly still an engaging read for older teens and adults. J.R.R. Tolkien embeds a number of rich storytelling devices into his writing, and it makes the read an absolute pleasure!

If you decide not to try this novel, I would suggest reading “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin. It is certainly not as child-friendly, and has some pretty gruesome scenes, but Martin’s writing makes up for many of the imperfections of Tolkien’s work. Overall, The Hobbit is most aptly suited for readers aged 8-12, and serves as a great introductory novel to fantasy literature. For older readers, I might suggest a different read, but all the same, and in spite of your age demographic, The Hobbit is truly a timeless masterpiece of literature and is worth giving a try!

Reviewer Grade: 10

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

Although it was a little hard for me to get into this book, once I did I was hooked. This book is about Scout, a 7 year old girl who is dealing with the hardship of her father having to defend a black man of rape in the 1940's. Along the way, Scout and her brother Jem meet Dill and they spend their summers together. Dill wants to get Boo Radley to come out of his house, and in the end, he does. With this book is the message to put yourself into others shoes to see how they feel. A classic book, great for anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Alex
the Count of Monte Cristo
Dumas, Alexander
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas is a fantastic whirl-wind of unforgettable characters and interweaving story-lines that left me awestruck and yearning for an even deeper glimpse into this world of treachery, romance, adventure, and mystery. This book is as deceivingly witty as it is over-flowing charisma and has nestled its way to a special place in my heart as one of my favorite novels of all time.

The novel starts out with a scenic over-look of an Italian waterway in Marseilles as it carries along a lofty ship named Pharaon with one passenger in particular who is unlike any other named Edmond Dantès. A dashing young and honest man dawning with potential who has just returned with news that will change the course of his life, and the lives of many others, forever. He is falsely accused of traitorous activity and is sentenced to life on a prison located on an island off the coasts of Marseilles forcing him to leave behind his family, his friends, and the love of his life Mercédès. This marvelous tale unfolds within the walls of this prison and among its outer-walls as Dantès attempts to make a dashing escape with a kind mannered preacher. But, this is only the beginning of his tale. As the life of Dantès unfolds, so does the life of the many others who have been lucky enough to fall into his life.

This novel is truly unforgettable as it follows not only the life of Edmond Dantès, but also the lives of his lover, best friend, family, and even his partners from his shipping company. Filled to the brim with treacherous plots, revenge, heartache, mystery, and pirating; it also contains young love, faith that knows no bounds, and families filled with the knowledge that blood truly is thicker than water.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to fall in love with not only a menagerie of unforgettable characters, but to a reader who is looking to fall head-first into a world that they will find themselves cherishing forever.

Many blessings and happy reading : ),

Reviewer Grade Level 11.

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

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee may strike your perception as a seemingly uninteresting story. The book tells the tale of two young children in a sleepy Alabama town, and at face-value, the plot does not garner much intrigue. However, I was in the same situation when I was required to read this book in the spring of my freshman year at high school.
Indeed, while at first the story seemed boring, as I continued to carry on with reading, every turn of the page immersed me ever further into Lee’s timeless story.

As a reader, you share the emotions felt by Jem and Scout, two young siblings, as they learn the nuances of life in the prejudiced American South during the early 1900s. Not only was their community weakened by the economic collapse of the Great Depression, but also sickened by the bitter contempt felt among whites and blacks.

In the beginning of the novel, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jem innocently play games with their friend “Dill” and enjoy life in Maycomb with their father, Atticus. During this time, they have little to no apprehension of the racial tension hanging in their society, but when their father, Atticus Finch, who works as lawyer, openly chooses to defend an African American in court, trouble arises.

Jem and Scout undergo a number of personal developments during the course of the novel. While at first, they carry with them a genuine and child-like innocence, the court trial their father has taken on exposes them to the racist indignity felt by their fellow community members. Jem and Scout struggle to balance their conflict between the social norms of Maycomb and the morals their father has instilled in them. With the trial’s end, Jem and Scout are lead to discover the imperfections of their society, and the ways with which they are forced to deal with them. As the reader follows along, they not only watch Jem and Scout change, but they too themselves are shaped through Lee’s captivating story.

Overall, I enjoyed most aspects of the book. Although some scenes I felt were a bit plain and unprogressive, these minor flaws were overshadowed by the powerful themes Lee expresses through the story. If you haven’t already read To Kill a Mockingbird, I would certainly give the novel a try. If not for the genuine enjoyment of reading the story, try this novel to feel the powerful emotions stirred from Lee’s literary masterpiece.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ethan M
The Velveteen Rabbit
Williams, Margery
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a dark book. I read it to Zoe thinking, "Aww, so sweet! It's about a much loved stuffed rabbit." I think Zoe burst into tears at least twice, making me question my parenting choices. But we (somewhat) bravely soldiered on, thinking that there has to be a happy ending. But nooooo, the ending was the saddest of all. Spoiler: Rabbit becomes real and can no longer be loved by the boy. Yeesh, English writers are not afraid to go there.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
The Tragedy of Othello
Shakespeare, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Shakespeare's Othello is about a Moorish general for the Venetian army, Othello, who falls in love with a Venetian lady, Desdemona. Unfortunately, Desdemona's father is very racist and sees Othello as vermin when he finds out they're in love. Being Shakespeare, this book is very tragic.

Though this play may have been well-written, I don't have much else good to say. The plot is extremely simplified, and the characters are infuriatingly stupid. This book is not a boring read, but it is also in no way interesting.

The characters are not very developed, relatable, or lovable. This dramatically stunts this play's ability to be tragic. Needless to say, I am not a huge fan of this book, but there were some good things about it.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
Book Review: The Little Prince
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I don't know, maybe it's because I was reading this out loud to my daughter, but I just don't see what all the hubbub is. It was heavy-handed to me. There were some sweet spots, but overall I was underwhelmed.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Ulysses
Joyce, James
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps the audiobook version of this
story isn’t the best way to digest it. While I did appreciate the Irish
accent of the man who read this book, there really wasn’t much of a chance
to re-read sections that were quite confusing. As a result, I have no idea
what this book is about or what it was supposed to convey. I had a loose
understanding that it was based on Homer’s The Odyssey, which helped make a
few connections here and there, but I honestly can’t say that this parallel
between the plots of the two stories is obvious at all.

Perhaps the weakness I perceive in this story is due to its status as one of
the great pieces of modernist literature. If that’s the case, then I’ll
admit that I don’t understand modernist literature at all. None of it made
any sense at all. I would almost wager, at times, that Joyce was merely paid
by the word, thus explaining the numerous times he just listed off the names
of people, synonyms of words, or just rambled on until he made a couple extra
shillings. Of course, it could be that I expected a story to be present
instead of a loose string of poetic and complicated words. Maybe that’s the
link it shares with The Odyssey: both are epic poems (but for my money, I’d
read The Odyssey again in a heartbeat instead of this).

This is also not to mention the controversial topics that Joyce covers in
this book. From sex to religion and back to sex again, I wouldn’t say I
agree with his opinions on anything. For years I’ve heard that this is one
of the great stories of literature, but I can’t say I’m impressed. None
of it was particularly inspiring (the parts that made any sense, that is) and
if he had a point to make, it was lost on me. Again, I might get more out of
Ulysses if I was able to read it instead of listening to it, but as it stands
I don’t have any interest in reading this lengthy piece of nothingness
after having had to listen to it.

A disappointing and confusing piece of “literature”, I give Ulysses 1.0
stars out of 5

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
Genres:
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Kesey, Ken
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As one of the few films in American history to win the “big 5” Academy
Awards (which are Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), I
was interested in the book that helped One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
attain its award-worthy status. I figured that if such a book could provide
such great content to win awards as a movie, it would certainly have artistic
merit in its own right. After all, many people posit that a book is better
than the movie it is made out of. I wanted to make sure that, at the very
least, it wasn’t any worse than the movie.

Perhaps the largest difference between the two versions of this story (I’m
not going to go into the live-theatre version, since I haven’t seen it), is
that the book has a very interesting narrator in the character of “Chief”
Bromden, whereas the film merely uses the camera to tell the story. Because
we get a glimpse into the mind of the deaf mute giant, he becomes not only a
subjective observer of the situation around him but also a vivid example of
what mental illness feels like. Instead of just focusing on the ways Randle
McMurphy bucks the stringent hospital system, we also get a sense of how
reality is filtered through a disabled mind.

As is usually the case with movie versions, I noticed a lot more content and
characters in the book version because it was likely these extraneous
elements were removed from the film for content and run-time issues. Still, I
wonder if the film would have had more of an impact on educating audiences
about mental illness if it included some of the Chief’s unique
observations. Either way, both the film and the book are excellent pieces of
art, even if it may be a little difficult to swallow at times that these
mental hospital practices have only recently been changed for the better.

An excellent book that spawned an excellent movie, I give One Flew Over the
Cuckoo’s Nest 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:
Stuart Little
White, E.B.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I read this book to my daughter at bedtime. It's very odd. I mean, humans give birth to a mouse and no one thinks it's strange? I know, it's part of the story, along with talking animals and the like. Also, Stuart Little takes off on his grand adventure and didn't say goodbye to his parents. As a parent, this thoughtlessness really disturbed me. They must've been so worried!

Really though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book again (I read it when I was young) and, more importantly, so did my daughter.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Island of the Blue Dolphins
O'Dell, Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is about a girl who lives by herself on an island. It's a story of empowerment, as the main character learns to live and thrive alone. She doesn't seem to let her circumstances get the best of her. I'd recommend this novel to young girls in particular as the narrator is a strong and capable girl.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Little House on the Prairie
Wilder, Laura Ingalls
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Such a classic. You might think that a book about frontier life on the prairie would be boring, but it's not. Well, I did skip a few places that detailed the construction of the cabin etc. Otherwise, it's relaxed in most places and downright exciting in others. The book is told from the perspective of the middle daughter, Laura Ingalls. I love that the author is writing about her family. Thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

To Kill a Mockingbird shows us that growing up can not always be as easy as it seems. Especially when you live in Maycomb, Alabama, and your father is a lawyer defending a black man. Scout grows up not knowing much about the real world it is not until the trial that turns the whole town upside down that she really discovers how the South is really run. I love how relatable the characters are to teenagers like us today. I love how simple the story line is and the literature is beautiful. It tells you simply how things should be, it states things blatantly through Scout's eyes. The only thing I did not like about the book is that at some points it was hard to follow the story line. Although the story is very simple it got more complex when reading further. I chose this book because I had heard from many people that this was an incredible book and decided to see for myself. The book itself did surprise me as it did have a rather twist ending that was rather unpredictable. The characters were extremely relatable, I could see that in certain situations I would have acted similarly. I would say that it is definitely one of the best book I have read this year or even ever for multiple reasons. It can relate to old and young and describes an issue that still exists today.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Sarah C.
And Then There Were None
Christie, Agatha
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I often have a hard time with mysteries, but And Then There Were None was classic, suspenseful and just plain enjoyable. The audiobook version was especially entertaining, perhaps because the original story was written as a play under an alternate (and controversial) title. The characters feel like they were the predecessors to the characters found in the game Clue. They are equally sinister and sympathetic. I am particularly intrigued with the connecting reason all of them have been brought to the island and the psychological effects of that reason. To the very end Agatha Christie teases your deductive reasoning skills. You always feel like you are on the cusp of finding out who the killer is, and then you're wrong! I was completely at a loss by the end. Thanks goodness for the epilogue. This is a timeless mystery classic.

Reviewer's Name: Danielle
Ethan Frome
Wharton, Edith
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a tragic love story between a poor miller with an ailing wife and his wife's cousin. Ethan Frome was a poor sawmill owner who got the mill from his father after he and his mother died.
While his parents were on their death bed a girl named Zeena came to help take care of them while Ethan ran the mill. Zeena caught his parents sickness and also fell ill. Ethan did not abandon her, instead, he married her. Not long after their marriage Mattie, Zeena's cousin, came to stay with them after her father death. Mattie and Ethan fell in love though they could not be together because of Zeena. Will Ethan and Mattie ever be together?

I would rate this book a 4 out of 5 because it is a extremely well written classic, though it is kind of slow and very depressing. I would recommend this book to people who like classic romance novels. Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle F.
Genres:

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