Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, is about a young girl named Esther who has a difficult time finding herself while she is away from home with a number of other girls trying to launch a career of some sort. She goes back home and things seem to spiral downward from there. Her depression worsens and she is sent to a psychologist for therapy. I don't want to spoil the book but she does end up receiving rather strong treatment at different facilities and it goes on from there. I picked up this book after reading a few intriguing quotations on a blog; I thought that I would be able to relate to it easily. "I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo." Right at the start, there's a melancholic tone that settles in between the lines and pulls you in and doesn't let go. Halfway through the book, I felt a sense of deja vu creep upon me. I finally figured that this reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye and was not surprised when others agreed. It could be said that this is the female version of that book but I think both books just have a deeper insight into the everyday or not so everyday happenings that occur once you turn 18 and grow on from there. It's a trip inside the minds of two young adults; it touches base with what we are afraid of, it digs down deep. It is extremely depressing so if you don't bounce back fast, I don't recommend it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will probably reread it one day in the future. 5/5.

-Reviewed by L.G., grade 11.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, is about how there was strict social order in Holland. It was rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servant, and everyone knew their place and would not dare get out of line. A sixteen-year-old girl, Griet, becomes a maid at painter Johannes Vermeer's house to help support her family. She thinks that her role as a maid is simple: do the laundry, housework and take care of the six children. She even feels that Vermeer's perceptive mother-in-law is fond of her because she gets him to paint faster. However, that no one expects is that Griet's quiet and shy manner, quick perceptions, and fascination with her master's painting draw her relentlessly into his world. Their growing intimacy starts rumors at the market; and when Vermeer has no choice but to paint her wearing his wife's pearl earrings, the gossip escalates into a scandal that completely changes Griet's life. This book shows how life in Griet's eyes was. From working as a maid to how the choice of marriage was up to her father. This book shows how work in Delft was not the easiest and the poor would have to work hard to get enough money for food on the table. Furthermore, this book describes that life can drastically change at any given time. This book made me realize how hard and different life was back in the days and how easy we have it right now. Girl With a Pearl Earring was an astonishing book that gave me a clear and brief image of Delft. It taught me that the life of a maid was not the easiest and once you become a maid, you have to make sacrifices. I would highly recommend this book to readers to show them how life now is much easier than how it was a couple of centuries ago.

-Reviewed by J.T., grade 9.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, is told in the eyes of Miranda Evans, the typical 16-year-old. Her father's wife is pregnant; her older brother, Matt, is in college; and she is stuck at home with about a million homework assignments from her teachers. She is a typical 16-year old. But her life does have a complete back flip when a meteor hits the moon. Suddenly, good grades aren't something to worry about anymore. Miranda faces a new era, where humanity's goal is to just survive.

I love this book for so many reasons. The whole situation seems so makes you think it could happen to us. Pfeffer found the way to take a living hell and put it in the eyes of an average teenager. And the results were pretty fantastic. Also, Miranda, the main character, seems like a tree dimensional human being. There are books where the main character just feels emotions or says things, but never really has a reason for them. Miranda isn't like that at all, and her character adds to the story's situation. it's a great read, but be prepared for loads of depressing moments.

-Reviewed by anonymous, grade 9.

Monday, June 20, 2011

1001 Cranes, by Naomi Hirahara

1001 Cranes, by Naomi Hirahara, is a tale about 12-year-old Angela Kato and her parent's divorce. Her parents ship her off to her grandparent's house in Gardena, a town near Los Angeles, to work on her grandparent's 1001 cranes display while they cope with their problems. At first, her disgust toward Los Angeles' environment prevents her from making friends in the neighborhood, but she comes to enjoy her stay and is able to live above troubles at hand.

This wasn't my favorite. It was as if the author was trying to take a boring story and spice up the moments to make it more interesting, but none of it worked. It does have a moral, and you can see how it gets there, but some of the side details leave you thinking "What?". I do like how this book has incorporated Japanese culture, and it makes the story more interesting. This book only gets two-and-a-half stars from me.

-Reviewed by anonymous, grade 9.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan, is the first book of the Kane Chronicles. Carter Kane had been living on the road with his Egyptologist father. Sadie Kane had been living with their grandparents. The brother and sister had lived separate lives ever since their mother died, six years ago. On Christmas Eve, the family spent some time together at the British Museum, but not a nice, peaceful, relaxing time. Sadie and Carter's father summons a strange man, who traps their father and destroys everything in room. The two siblings start their quest to search for their father, and discover how many more secrets their parents have hidden them from, about themselves, the world, and the gods of Egypt. What I liked about The Red Pyramid is how it is different from the Percy Jackson series, but still partially linked to it. The book is focused on the Egyptian gods, the House of Life, and the kinds of chaos the monster Apophis can create, but the book also makes references to the Percy Jackson series. In one paragraph, Amos, the Kane kids' uncle, talks about how Manhattan has other gods, how it's best that the magicians and Egyptians gods stay away from them. As he says that, he glares at the Empire State Building. In another part, Thoth discusses how the Greeks confused him with Hermes. He also implies that if you've ever met Hermes, you'd understand why that was offending. This book was also written like a recording, which affected it a little, just enough to make it interesting. If you ever were a fan of Rick Riordan's other books (meaning the Percy Jackson Series,) you probably would like this series as well.

-Reviewed by anonymous, grade 9.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stepping on the Cracks, Mary Downing Hahn

Stepping on the Cracks, by Mary Downing Hahn is about two young girls, Margaret and Elizabeth, whose brothers have both gone off to fight in World War II. While at school, they experience problems with the school bully, Gordy. One day, they follow him into the woods and discover a secret about him. They jump to conclusions and develop an even greater feeling of hate towards him. After Gordy finds out that Margaret and Elizabeth saw him in the woods, he threatens them and makes them promise not to tell anyone what he has been hiding from the world, family, and most especially, his abusive father. Over time, they learn to like Gordy more because of what they learn through his secret.

This story has changed and questioned my view of war and of the human race so many times throughout the story because of the power and message it sends to the people who read it. It also makes ask yourself about bullies or people in your life and why they do the things they do. I have found there is almost always a reason for their actions. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction or want to read a book that keeps surprising you with every page you turn.

-Reviewed by Ceina, grade 9th.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Sable Quean, by Redwall Abbey

The Sable Quean is a book about Redwall Abbey. It is one book among a lot of others by Brian Jacques. Zwilt the shade is a weasel who is an expert at moving swiftly and stealthily. He takes orders from Vilaya the Sable Queen, but he has a command of 200 Ravangers, a group of vermin. Buckler is a young hare who has already mastered swordsmanship. Lord Brang is the Badger lord of Salamandastron, the legendary mountain where fighting hares and badgers alike live. He sends Buckler and his fat friend, Diggs, on a journey to Redwall Abbey to deliver new bell tower ropes that Brang had made. After Buck had made this trip, then he would be allowed to visit his brother who lived near Redwall. On the way to Redwall, they rescue a young shrew made from a couple Ravangers. Her name was Flib, and the fox and stoat were trying to kidnap her on Zwilt's orders. Flib was a shrew and had a younger sister and brother, Midda and Borti. Both who had been kidnapped by Ravangers, however, there were a lot more than just the two of them. Buck, Diggs and Flib continued on the journey to Redwall. They met up with Log a Log Jango and Oakheart, who were shrews as well. However, Oakheart and Log a Log Jango's children were missing and they planned to head to Redwall for assistance in finding their young. Meanwhile, at Redwall, a group of Ravangers waited outside the gates for any kids to come out so they could kidnap them. The group had split into groups to watch the four gates of Redwall. A rat named Globby snuck over the ramparts against orders and stuffed himself in the kitchen until he passed out. In the morning he was discovered by Redwallers, and they kept him to find out how many others like him were around. They cut down the tree that Globby had climbed to get over the walls, and later found that two other Redwall children had been kidnapped. They went to interrogate Globby, but Globby had escaped and was hiding in the dormitories. A squirrel named Tollum went to the attic and swung down into the dormitories and his Globby in the neck. However, Globby had a knife and stabbed Tollum before he died. In the meantime, the captured young ones had been digging a tunnel in the dungeon where they were being kept. Axtel, a warrior mole, was looking for a place to dig. He started digging and suddenly the ground collapsed. He found Flib and a couple of mole babies in the tunnel and got them out, but the tunnel collapsed before he could reach the others. Later, he dug through the rubble and reached the rest of the young ones. He got a few of them out, but then had to retreat because he got wounded in his paw. Buck, Diggs, and the shrew crew had reached Redwall, and Buck found out from Clarinna, his brother's wife, that his brother and nephews had been killed by Zwilt the Shade and a bunch of Ravangers. Buck swore revenge and then organized a search party for the missing children. They found Axtel and the few he had manages to rescue and took them safely back to Redwall. Then they organized another rescue party to get the remaining children from Brockhall (the place they were being held). For the meantime, the rest of the young were relocated to a cave where they couldn't dig. However, one of the kids found a secret tunnel in the cave, and they took a couple lanterns and went down the tunnel while the guards were asleep. They encountered an underground lake and a blind pike. They slowly made their way through the lake and ran down another tunnel because they could hear Ravanges following them. They met crazy hedgehog named Triggut, who helped them escape the Ravangers, but they took them hostage himself! Zwilt, Vilaya, Dirva (Vilaya's assistant), and the Ravanger mob chased after the young, but found that they couldn't hunt them down. Then, Vilaya challenged Zwilt's command. Zwilt killed Dirva first and then faced Vilaya with her poison dagger. Zwilt stabbed Vilaya before she could poison him, and she passed out. Before Zwilt could behead her, a supporter of Vilaya stepped between the body and Zwilt and said she could bury Vilaya. Zwilt then marched toward Redwall planning to take the Abbey by force. Meanwhile, Buck and the rescue party raided Brockhall, but found it deserted. They went outside and found that the Ravangers were heading to Redwall. They went headed toward Redwall with all haste, but accidentally left behind Diggs. Diggs had met up with another badger, Ambrevina they went downstream on a makeshift raft and suddenly found the rest of the young ones and Triggut. They rescued the young ones and left them with a trustworthy water mole, while they headed to Redwall. Zwilt had snuck into Redwall though the back and encountered Diggs (who just got there). Zwilt cut his ear off, but then had to face Buck, who had sworn an oath of vengeance. Who will defeat the other? And will Redwallers be able to defend their home from two hundred Ravangers? Find out. I think this book was very good. It wasn't predictable and had a few twists. This book is for people who like fantasy or adventurous books, or even for people who like animals.

-Reviewed by K.C., grade 9.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

H.I.V.E., by Mark Walden

H.I.V.E., a young adult book by Mark Walden, is about Otto Malpense and friends, who get enrolled into H.I.V.E., or The Higher Institute for Villainous Education, by force and by parent enrollment from all around the world. They are all young "Alpha" prodigies who are being educated in the ways of evil. This is a very interesting story because this follows the "bad guys" as the protagonists. All of the students have some something criminally advanced as children and they get sent to H.I.V.E.. Otto and his new friends arrive and, they feel as if the school is not just a place to learn, but they perceive it more like it is a prison. They learn, have fun, face bullies and suspicious teachers, but all the while the friends plan their departure with great care and secrecy. While the master plan is being built up, the students Otto, Wing, Laura, Shelby, and Nigel bond and find out about each other's past. The headmaster has a secret, his boss has a secret, Wing has a secret, everyone has some secret in the school and every other person is prying to get the secrets out of the unknown.

I would surely recommend this book to anybody trying to escape the stereotype and also wants to experience some action, mystery, science fiction, and a bit of comedy. I really enjoyed this story but the writing style was average and the reading level is not too high so if you are looking for a challenge book, look elsewhere. Other than a few quirks here and there, this book was truly fun and it pulled me in until I finished the whole thing. H.I.V.E. is a page-turner you won't want to stop reading.

-Reviewed by M.K., grade 9.