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Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Classics

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: 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:
Book Review: Shiloh
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shiloh is a sweet story about a boy's love for his dog. Well, Shiloh isn't actually his but is owned by an abusive neighbor. Marty's devotion and determination to save Shiloh is touching. The narration is spot on. Well done!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Hurston, Zora Neale
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book started off a bit slow and the vernacular was initially somewhat challenging to read, but once Janie meets Tea Cake the book explodes into a vivid account of life in the "muck." There were parts of the book that I couldn't put down. Hurston's prose is nothing short of voluptuous and the final paragraph was a triumph of the soul.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Little House in the Big Woods
Wilder, Laura Ingalls
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lovely book. It moves slowly and gently and paints a dream-like portrait of life in the woods in the 1870s. Nothing really exciting happens, but that's the beauty of it.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
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:
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:
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
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
Book Review: Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It had be a while since I first read it, but I found this book just as powerful as I did the first time, though perhaps for different reasons. Lenny's psychotic break was lost on me the first time, but now I was so disturbed I found myself reading those passages as fast as possible so I didn't have to linger on his pain and suffering. After all, how else could he react to what he had done? All he could do was punish himself the only way he knew how: Criticism from those important to him. So heart-wrenching. Meanwhile, George did what he had to do, but his spirit is broken as a result. A stark exploration of friendship and loneliness.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Slaughterhouse-Five
Vonnegut, Kurt
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"So it goes..."

You may be thinking that based on the title it is the fifth book in a series of horror novels, but I assure you that it is not. Slaughterhouse-Five is a very thought provoking and poignant anti-war novel that has elements of science fiction, including 4th dimensional time travel and aliens. It’s a nonlinear story that follows a man named Billy Pilgrim as he travels throughout different moments in his life, weaving back and forth through differing time periods. He travels from his time as a chaplain’s assistant in World War II to his normal life with his wife and children to being an exhibit in an alien zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.

By becoming “unstuck in time”, as Billy puts it, he is able to relive these moments in his life and reflect upon them more deeply. This book is one of the best representations of 4th dimensional time travel that I've come across, and if you ever struggle to grasp the concept of time as the 4th dimension, as I do from time to time, then this book will certainly help create a better understanding of it. The book centers around Billy Pilgrim’s experiences during the war and all of the atrocities that he has seen, culminating at the end with the Bombing of Dresden, a moment which influences the rest of his life.

By being told out of chronological order, the structure of the book drives the importance and impact of the moment rather than just describing what happens next and it creates a sort of puzzle that the reader must put together. It is full of satire, wit, and black humor that is vintage Vonnegut and is one of the strangest meditations on war and humanity. If you want an extremely thoughtful book that challenges your perspective, then I highly recommend Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey L.
Book Review: Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Reader beware, this is my favorite book. This is probably the fifth or sixth time I've read it. It's observant, subtle, and cleverly written. I come away with something new every time I read it. This time I felt for Elizabeth upon coming to the realization that her father was greatly to blame for the shortcomings of her three younger sisters. Oh, and Mr. Darcy's subtle devotion to her was more apparent to me this time around. It's easy to imagine the BBC version and characters while reading, but this book - like most books - is more richly constructed than the mini-series.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The War of the Worlds
Wells, H. G.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

At only a smidgen under two-hundred pages, this book appeared to be a concise and quick read. Surprisingly, my experience was quite the opposite. The War of The Worlds presents a typical scenario that many novels have sadly claimed. The initial third is gripping and chocked full of descriptors and entertainment; the second third is nearly pointless to the main plot; the concluding third wraps the story up, leaving enough aspects unresolved for the imagination to expand upon, but doesn't carry on the initial third's promise. Thus, leaving the reader confused and with a feeling of wasted time.

Initial Third:
After reading the beginning chapters a sense of urgency becomes the overlying theme. Peril soon engulfs the novel's setting as its characters realize the grave situation. The Author takes his time here by writing pages of description to meticulously set the scene. The story progresses to a small climax at the end of this third, which casts a shadow of high expectation on the other two thirds. This initial third is a marvel of a opener that brings honor to the class of classic English-literature.

Second Third:
If paper could speak to its reader it'd ask that they'd grip their new-found excitement and trudge through the muck. The majority of this third's viewpoint comes from that of a flat secondary-character with little importance to the story. This characters presence only delayed the objectives that the first chapter created. Their travels were hectic; slightly smile inducing at times. Taking this character shift seriously was difficult as the pages grew thinner and crucial answers were yet to be disclosed. The author even goes as far as giving a figurative apology for sidetracking the reader at this third's close; H. G. Wells' canny sense of humor makes an unexpected appearance here.

Concluding Third:
After hope for the story as-a-whole was drained, Wells restored the glorious successes of the initial third, but not fully. Excitement and intensity were brought back as the conclusion drew nearer. The story abruptly shifted to the round, main-character, again; swapping character who're in different settings is usually abrupt, so this isn't a true issue. This character goes on to see the conclusion, which wraps up most of the events and questions that the previous content created.

My Take:
I didn't find this novel to be terrible or great. It proved to me that it's a mediocre work glossed with wild literary technique and vocabulary. Wells' persistence use of over description dimmed the natural flow and appeal of his writing. There's little reason to use half a page or more to describe minute details. It would have been better if he spent the time to detail the larger picture, rather than tiny scenes. Character development was superb at first, but fell flat due to the second third's character shift. If the second third was omitted in its entirety and, then rewritten without the secondary-character's perspective the novel would be vastly improved. Wells wasn't an illiterate fellow with corn for brains. His derailing of the story added multiple perspectives and was most likely an attempt to add another dynamic. The incessant over-descripting showcased his incredible vocabulary while portraying him as an over confident writer. Paying closer attention to the plot and character development will lead to a better story than any amount of impressive vocabulary ever could. It's clear that H. G. Wells is a gifted and skilled writer, but this certainly isn't a jewel.

Reviewer's Name: Joe K.
The Wings of the Dove
James, Henry
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Would you like to read slower? Would you like to read a novel slowly, I mean in a good way, meditatively, obsessing less about the plot? That is probably my favorite thing about reading Henry James, especially his novel The Wings of the Dove. It is totally character driven. Yet what emerges out of this kind of storytelling is suspense and narrative curiosity, the usual cause and effect of a complex, satisfying plot grouped together with some choice
subplots.
Since it was published in 1902, with a story set fairly close to the time, it is a classic Victorian novel told in James’ very unique and, at the same time, typical prose of the era. This contrast is part of the fascination reading it. You feel it resting on Hawthorne but anticipating Joyce. (In no uncertain terms, the language is certainly nothing like the patchy prose of this choppy review!) The style is aristocratic, philosophical, contemplative. To describe it in one word, I would choose the word Consciousness. It’s so hypnotic at times you might wonder if it is really his brother William James the psychologist-philosopher whispering it in your ear.
And last: there is a raciness embedded in it but without the modern explicit details. You won’t feel like you need a shower afterwards.

Reviewer's Name: Trent
Genres:
Book Review: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories
Hemingway, Ernest
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I really enjoyed "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", "A Clean Well-Lighted Place", and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber". Overall, the subject matter was a bit too macho for me, but the writing, of course, was excellent.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Lord of the Flies
Golding, William
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jesus, this was a horror story! A bloodbath! A children's book! I was kinda hoping it would end differently, but the ending was still good. Especially the adult perspective at the end. Chilling.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Christie, Agatha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A classic whodunit. Campy but fun. I'm not really a mystery person, which is probably why I didn't give it 5 stars. I found myself getting bored with the whole process about 2/3 of the way through. But I really liked the ending.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Doyle, Arthur Conan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The epitome of classic mysteries. A thoroughly enjoyable whodunit. Generally, mysteries aren't my thing, but I very much enjoyed this book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn

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