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Classics

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Author: 
Fitzgerald, Scott F.
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The classic tale of "The Great Gatsby" follows Nick Carraway, a newcomer to the city, who discovers the lavish and intoxicating life of Jay Gatsby, his next door neighbor. Nick soon becomes entangled in a net of secrets and deception that involves his friends Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. After hearing so many incredible things about "The Great Gatsby", I came into the story with high expectations. Unfortunately, they were not really met. While the story is undeniably powerful, it lacks in some areas. I found all the characters extremely unlikable. There was no one to really root for. In addition, there were parts of the story that seemed to drag on for far too long. I found myself asking, "When is something going to happen?" at several points. All in all, I didn't hate this story, but it definitely wasn't my favorite classic to read. Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gillian P.

Book Review: 1984

1984
Author: 
Orwell, George
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

1984 is a timeless classic about a dystopian future where war is constant and you are constantly watched and carefully studied by an ominous force called the Thought Police. Everyone is expected to completely devote themselves to The Party (the ruling government) and believe everything they say. If the Thought Police detects the slightest amount of dissonance in a citizen, they disappear and, according to The Party, cease to exist - and never existed. One party member, Winston Smith, has been rebelling against the Party in thought only for years. Now, he finally gets enough courage to stand up for what's right. Will Winston be able to stop the tyrannical rule of The Party or will it all be in vain? Find out in 1984!

Reviewer's Name: 
Mckenna R.

Book Review: Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies
Author: 
Golding, William
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

A group of boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash. With no adult supervision, the boys are free to do whatever they want. At first this is something to celebrate. However, as their time on the island grows, the boys learn the challenges of staying alive. Eventually, some of the boys become complete savages and complete chaos reigns the island.
Lord of the Flies is full of symbolism and is at some points very difficult to understand. To follow the story, much inferring is necessary along with a fairly advanced vocabulary. I personally did not enjoy the story very much.
However, some readers may disagree. I do not recommend this book for anyone that is younger than high school.
Reviewer Grade:9

Reviewer's Name: 
John B.

Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four
Author: 
Orwell, George
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Okay, let me just say this: All you poser dystopian teen novels 'breaking the rules' with scandalous gratuitous plot elements better just step back. Nineteen Eighty-Four, the granddaddy of all dystopian novels, just handed your butt to you. This book isn't kidding around. Danger, insubordination, illicit sex, graphic torture, this book has it all. It's not for the weak of heart. And the ending is so powerful and heart-wrenching! The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars from me is the lengthy political and philosophical treatises that appear a few times in the book. I get it, this is the quiet power behind the novel and the part that is dissected by academia. But I'm not an academic, so it didn't do it for me.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Pensées

Pensées
Author: 
Pascal, Blaise
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

While I do enjoy and appreciate the ease of which I can listen to an audiobook and absorb the content of a variety of books, there are always a few books that don’t translate well into the format. Sure, I might have my qualms about the narrator’s pronunciation, volume control, or other technical issues. However, this is the first book where the rating I’m giving applies explicitly to the audiobook version, and not necessarily to the book’s contents. The difference here is that the audiobook version of Pascal’s Pensées doesn’t allow the reader enough time to adequately absorb the content.

If I were to classify this book, I’d probably say it’s closer to a listing of complaints/observations that would work better on a multi-year “item-a-day” calendar than in an audiobook format. The majority of Pensées is a series of proverbs by Blaise Pascal, a name that most scientists will recognize. The fact that he so thoroughly analyzed the theology of the Bible and came to the conclusions that he did perhaps speaks volumes about scientific atheists today who have not done nearly as much research on their spiritual beliefs. There are plenty of gems of wisdom in this book; it’s just that the audiobook format doesn’t easily allow the reader to dwell on them for more than a moment.

Perhaps when I have a little more time to fully appreciate Pascal’s Pensées, I’ll sit down and read it. Fortunately, since it’s in the public domain, this book is free to read on Project Gutenberg. Until then, though, I can’t recommend people read the audiobook version of this text.
If I manage to physically read this book in the future, I’ll likely give it an adequate rating, but as it is right now, I only have the audiobook version to go off of.

A book of proverbs you should read instead of listen to, I give Pensées 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

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.

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