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Classics

Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: 
Twain, Mark
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Huckleberry Finn is a rebel against school, church, and the respectable society that wants to civilize him. Therefore, after faking his own death, Huck embarkes on a raft journey down the Mississippi River along with Jim, a runaway slave. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel full of shenanigans, adventures, schemes, and pranks in addition to deep contemplation that gives some great advice. This adventure is truly a classic and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or older since there is something in this book for all ages.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B.

Book Review: Animal Farm

Animal Farm
Author: 
Orwell, George
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Animal Farm is a dystopian novel about a farm overrun by the farm animals. The animals revolt and create their own hierarchy, which poses an overarching metaphor for humanity. Like many of Orwell’s books, this book exposes the flaws of mankind in an allegorical manner. I chose this book for its dystopian nature, and it did not disappoint. It is artful in its satire, and Orwell takes a clear stance on tyranny. This is among the best dystopian books I have read.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J

Book Review: Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce
Author: 
Cain, James M.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

It’s almost uncanny how timeless the story of Mildred Pierce remains to this day. I could easily see a similar story set in 2009, immediately following the housing crash—instead of following the Great Depression. Of course, this also is an unsettling reminder that many societal structures haven’t changed much since the 1940’s. The patriarchal society that existed then still exists to an extent today, which is troubling because of the increased difficulty women have in trying to get ahead in life, especially after something like a divorce or bankruptcy. The fact that the titular character was able to overcome these limitations speaks to her talent as much as to her luck.

The most noticeable differences between the Hollywood version with Joan Crawford and the source material of this book mainly come down to the amount of suggestive/objectionable material within it. This is likely due to the book’s slightly more pulpy origins, combined with the Hays Code that was prevalent in Hollywood at the time. In fact, the plot almost seems modern, despite its 1940’s roots. The women in Mildred Pierce were certainly more in control of their destinies than we’d like to think, given the era in which they lived.

While the basic rags-to-riches story is inspiring and does lead to some interesting character growth, the constant conflict between the main character and her daughter or husband or lover is what really drives the plot along. The only difference between how Mildred acts at the beginning of the book and how she acts at the end comes down to the simple accumulation of life experience. If she had encountered the kinds of problems when she was barely scraping by, she wouldn’t have reacted in the same way as when she had built a restaurant empire on the one skill she had: hospitality.

A story about a strangely modern woman who overcame patriarchal limitations, I give Mildred Pierce 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild
Author: 
London, Jack
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I chose to read this book because it was cheap at the bookstore, and I am so glad that I read it. I have not read many realistic adventure books, but it is my new favorite genre. The Call of the Wild centers around a hard-working, strong dog named Buck who is tragically sold into hard labor. This book evokes sentiments from utter despair to immense joy, and Jack London’s writing style is simple yet eloquent. I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: The Alchemist

The Alchemist
Author: 
Coelho, Paulo
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

To be honest, I only really bought this book because it came heavily recommended from the manager of the bookstore I was at. He claimed it was a book you could read over and over again, and get a new message from every time. But about a quarter of the way through, I admitted to myself it was an average book. It didn't have spectacular or eye-opening writing, and the plot was okay I guess. Essentially, it's about a young shepherd who meets a 'king' in a marketplace in Spain. The king convinces him that there is a Personal Legend everyone has in this world, and the universe conspires to help you achieve it. All throughout this book, Santiago (the shepherd) follows omens, prophecies, and recurring dreams in the hopes of finding a treasure by the Egyptian pyramids. On the way, he helps a crystal merchant, meets an English man who aspires to be an alchemist, the love of his life, and eventually the alchemist himself. In the end, he finds himself, the woman he loves, the treasure of a forgotten pirate (cliche! Boo!), and he accomplishes his Personal Legend. It was okay, but really generic writing and not a very interesting plot. Who knows? Maybe the message will change when I read it again. But I rather doubt it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Siddhartha

Siddhartha
Author: 
Hesse, Hermann
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Siddhartha is a tale of a young man who lives many different lives, from a Brahmin's son to an ascetic to a wealthy merchant. He does this all to find inner peace, or nirvana. I liked this book because of its style of narration. I have learned about Buddhism before from textbooks, but this style of information is so much more interesting. Siddhartha has many character flaws, but he eventually manages to wash them away in the cycle of time. Reading this book is a very introspective experience that everyone should have.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Author: 
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Great Gatsby is a classic set in the Roaring Twenties. It exposes the flaws in the very ideals that built America--wealth, beauty, and the American Dream. The tone of this book is despondent, and every character is tragic in one way or another. Indeed, this is a book of many emotions, some even gut-wrenching. My favorite aspect of this book is how Fitzgerald uses fiction to talk about very real issues. I strongly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: The Brothers Karamazov

Book Review: The Brothers Karamazov
Author: 
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I enjoyed listening to this book. The narrator was fantastic. I found I had to look up plot summaries to really get what was going on (thank you, wikipedia). The nicknames alone were confusing. I suppose that's to be expected with a novel this complicated. It seemed like every character in the book save Alyosha were selfish, immoral, and in a few instances downright depraved. This made it somewhat of a chore to listen to in some parts of the book as I couldn't root for anyone. But I enjoyed the epilogue, which ended on a positive note.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress
Author: 
Bunyan, John
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I distinctly remember my parents reading this book to me when I was a child. Decades later, I decided to re-visit it and read it for myself. I don’t know if it was an abridged version or a simplified re-telling appropriate for kids, but this was not the book I remember from my childhood. Sure, the action bits were still there, like the fight with Apollyon, the Slough of Despair, and the suicide discussion in Vanity Fair, but there was way more dialogue than what I recalled of the story. Not to mention the verbiage/wording seemed more along the lines of a King James Bible than of a fantasy setting.

Sure, I’ll concede that, for 1678, this was a groundbreaking piece of fiction, and perhaps the first piece of successful fantasy ever written, but it hasn’t aged entirely as well over the years when compared to its source material. There are undoubtedly little lessons and morals present here, but they are often buried between and among diatribes from the primary and supporting characters. Furthermore, I was only loosely aware that there was a “Part 2” to the main story of Christian’s journey. After reading the journey of Christiana and her children following in Christian’s footsteps, I can see why I never heard that part when my parents read it to me: there wasn’t much new material in it.

When I picked up this book to read for myself, I was trying to confirm that I could use it as a framework for my Slumberealm trilogy. After reading through it, I realized the apparent references to concepts, ideas, and people is more indicative of the style I used for The Fluxion Trilogy . There’s not a lot of subtlety in the character names or destinations present in The Pilgrim’s Progress. I suppose that’s part of the charm of such an allegory, though.

A groundbreaking piece of fantasy that hasn’t aged well over time, I give The Pilgrim’s Progress 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Author: 
Twain, Mark
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Mark Twain's beloved nineteenth-century novel is a thrill. Tom Sawyer is the story of a boy that everyone can relate to. From being bored in Sunday school to playing pranks on the teacher to running away and playing pirates, Tom Sawyer is full of boyhood adventures. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is filled with comedy, warmth, and youthful innocence. However, below the surface, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is about young boys facing the cruel adult world. This novel is truly a classic and can be enjoyed by all ages, especially upper elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B.

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