Classics

Book Review: The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps
Author: 
Buchan, John
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

It’s weird to think that stories like The 39 Steps have only been around
for 100 years. Perhaps their ubiquity in modern action thrillers has made me
numb to their “man on the run” plotline, but I didn’t find this book to
be as interesting as I had expected. Sure, it’s short, but how many of its
twists and turns were merely repeating the same way of escaping the main
character’s pursuers time and again? And perhaps that’s the main issue I
have with this book: the main character seemed to be too skilled at eluding
capture for it to be believable.

I know the “wrong man” trope that thrusts an ordinary person into these
kinds of circumstances isn’t as realistic as it could be, but when Richard
Hannay just happens to know exactly what to do at each instance, I wonder how
“ordinary” he really is. Don’t get me wrong, the chase is exciting,
it’s just oddly convenient for the protagonist. Of course, maybe I was
already ruined by having seen Alfred Hitchcock’s version of this story in
The 39 Steps (1935), which added in elements of romance and changed some key
plot points.

In the end, The 39 Steps still stands as one of the originators of its genre.
Even if the style has morphed and evolved over time, it’s essential to
recognize where it came from and what its early influences were. If you’re
interested in the history associated with the genre, then this book for you.
Heck, if you have a few hours to kill in an airport or waiting room, this
book might be the ticket. Just don’t expect much out of it other than some
slightly-entertaining distraction.

A basic, if perhaps unbelievable story, in the early action-thriller genre, I
give The 39 Steps 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: 
Lee, Harper
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is an examination of racial tensions and living as someone who defies the social norms to do greater good. It follows a small family that consists of a father and his two children. The father, a lawyer, becomes the first white man in his time and area to defend a black man in court, alienating himself and his family from the rest of their society (because he did what was practically unspeakable in the town's eyes). A fascinating series of events ensue, in which the children grow up learning what it feels like to feel prejudice and can thus empathize with the struggle that colored people around them face. The father must sacrifice his social standing and endure hatred and threats because he chooses to defend the truth, rather than the race. All in all, I would recommend this book not only for its complex and very interesting plot, but also for its analysis of racism and human nature in regards to the greater good and a sense of humanity. Themes of empathy and sacrifice then escalate the plot to its famous and unexpected finale. It is worth the read even only for the father's speech in court towards the end of the book, where he makes his case in favor of a colored man. I would give this book five out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Molly Q

Book Review: The Odyssey

The Odyssey
Author: 
Homer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This epic poem is one of the most fascinating pieces of literature I have ever read. Following the story of Odysseus, it is an epic journey where gods and mythical monsters try and impede his journey home. There is mythology intertwined with adventurous storytelling, and the style of writing, while obviously more difficult than modern writing, is not too challenging that it makes the poem hard to read. I would recommend reading it for both its historical significance and because of how interesting the story itself is. While it will take some time to get through, the story, I believe, is worth the time. The monsters that Odysseus encounters barter with him and tell him stories that deepen the plot; his interactions and relationships reveal mysteries and provide new motivations or points of interest.

Everything is complexly interconnected and it does take a bit of historical context or background knowledge to understand all parts of the story, so it is an undertaking. However, the fantastic and timeless story is entirely unique. I would give it five out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Molly Q

Book Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest
Author: 
Wilde, Oscar
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Over the years, I have been assigned to read a multitude of books and plays for English classes - some of those writing pieces I have never committed to and read thoroughly. This year in AP Literature, The Importance of Being Earnest was assigned and was not amongst those writing pieces. In many of the English classes I have enrolled in, there are numerous books or plays - especially Shakespeare - that I have read which might be interesting but the diction is archaic. The words and phrases are not used modernly and therefore, what is written is difficult to understand in the absence of translations or SparkNotes. Despite being published in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest was an easy read because the play is easily humourous.

The play pursues wealthy and bored protagonists, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, as they court two women, Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, pretending to be men named Ernest. Their “Bunburying” depicts the theme that idle hands indulge in mischief. Jack, who resides in the country, introduces a devious and unruly brother named Ernest who resides in the city so that he can be reckless in one place while also being arguably mature in another. Algernon pretends to have to check in on a pale and sickly fellow named Bunbury when he is introduced to responsibilities or events he does not desire to participate in. Eventually, upon hearing of Cecily Cardew, Jack’s ward, from Jack, he pretends to be Ernest as well. The two characters utilize their separate versions of "Bunburying" for their own pleasure rather than for being productive, depicting their own values of dishonesty and deceit.

The characters are self-concerned which is unfortunate because during the 1890s, the time in which this play is set, the Victorian Era endured multiple widespread conflicts including overpopulation, poor sanitary conditions, child labor, and religious insecurity - none of which are mentioned by any of the four characters.
Ultimately, the theme of the play may be applied to the modern era which permits The Importance of Being Earnest to be more relevant when you compare the Victorian upper class to, for example, the Kardashians or other celebrities.
The humorous aspect of the play was Oscar Wilde’s use of epigrams, or clever and paradoxical expressions. Predominantly delivered by Algernon, my favorite of the epigrams was “The amount of women who flirt with their own husbands is scandalous. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.”

Additionally, this play is a short read with only about 75 pages.

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella W

Book Review: The Giver

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

Jonas knows only his community and the rules; he doesn't know what lies beyond. With the government watching everything and deciding job assignments based on the citizen's personality, little does Jonas know that his job will impact his community and himself for the rest of his life. With sad, happy, and overall crazy interactions with dreams, Jonas increases his knowledge about his communities past. With still secrets unshared, Jonas looks for answers and his method will shock you! This book will keep you on the edge of your seat and will engage you with the characters and plot line.
Reviewer Grade: 9th

Reviewer's Name: 
Aiden F

Book Review: Heidi

Heidi
Author: 
Spyri, Johanna
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

It was very engaging. With young energetic Heidi and her best friend Klara, it pulls you in and engages with life lessons and memorable quotes. With grandmother and Heidi up on the mountainside, they share poetry, hymns, stories, and love. With Heidi's loveable attitude and glow of Christ everywhere, she tries to turn grandfather's grumpy attitude to a loving, caring grandpa. This book is worth reading and engaging for ALL ages.
Reviewer Grade: 9th

Reviewer's Name: 
Aiden F

Book Review: American Psycho

American Psycho
Author: 
Ellis, Bret Easton Ellis
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

American Psycho is a bitter, biting satire about consumerism, and the dark side of the American Dream. The story follows Patrick Bateman who works on Wall Street. He is charming, handsome, and rich. He is also a murderer and a psychopath. We follow him as he falls further and further down the rabbit hole as he becomes more consumed with wealth and money. The satire is biting, the humor dark, and Patrick Bateman feels like a real character that is both relatable and hated by the reader at the same time. This book is amazing. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a great book to read.

Be prepared for some shocking scenes, though!

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: 
Dumas, Alexandre
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is amazing. The story follows the tale of Edmond Dantes and his quest for revenge against the three men responsible for his incarceration. It is a very simplistic concept, but upon reading the novel one will find a book filled with characters that live and breathe, action that is relentless, and many subplots threaded throughout the novel in intricate ways. The book, while extremely long, is entertaining all the way through. The ending is satisfying and ends the book well. I would recommend this book for anyone who is a fan on action novels, or revenge novels.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Reviews: One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: 
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the tale of the rise and fall of the fictional Colombian town Macondo, and the stories of the Buendia family that inhabits the town. The novel is stellar. The characters feel alive and breathing -- they all have different motivations, desires, and weaknesses.
The reader truly begins to feel a connection with these characters as the novel progresses, and that's what makes the novel so good -- if you didn't know the town was fake, you would think it was a real place. The novel pioneered the genre of magical realism, which is a novel with a realistic view of the world that includes magical and surreal elements. The inclusion of magical realism elements in the story is what makes the book truly unique and fun to read. However, it is a very dense book, and can become very confusing very easily. If you can get past the often confusing nature of the novel, you will find a very rich and rewarding reading experience that I would recommend for anyone to read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Peter C

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Author: 
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Great Gatsby is the story that is narrated by Nick Carraway, an old neighbor of Gatsby. Taking place in 1922, Nick tells his story of when he has just moved from the Midwest to West Egg in Long Island to become successful and gain fortune as a bond salesman.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a exemplary book taking place during the Jazz Age. The novel was well written. It was simple, intriguing, clever and witty. Contrary to the deep story/plot line, the writing made it interesting and neither too boring nor extremely emotional. In addition to this, the overall fate upon the Gatsby, Carraway, and Daisy has a strong connection to the reader that allows them to feel the concept of tragedy.

Personally, this is one of the best books/novels. It is a great work of fiction that perfectly crafts the story and the Jazz Age of America.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Nam T

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