Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mimi and Totou’s Big Adventure – 10/10

My favorite book this summer was “Mimi and Totou’s Big Adventure” by Giles Foden. Normally my favorite books are first person throughout the entire book, switching characters but never the view. That is why history books aren’t always my cup of tea (British pun). The omnipresent story line, combined with an end I always know, makes the book more of a job to slug through. This book meets the two styles in the middle, combining vivid storytelling that could stand by itself, with excerpts in a first person view that make the characters alive. While dialogue is rarely exchanged, the book builds relationships between characters, negative or positive, that are deeper than most books. If you like history, but hate history books, then try reading this. The book starts in World War 1 with what should rightfully be the main character. He is a Han Solo type character, who in the first chapter is hunting wild elephant when he spots a German steamer patrolling lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika is a huge lake that is being disputed between the Germans and the Belgiums. The Germans only hold the lake due to the huge steamers that John Lee (Han Solo) had just spotted. Being a British man, Lee creates a plan to transport 2 ships to Africa, get them to the lake, and take down the German steamers. While the Lee doesn’t turn out to be the man who executes this plan, the story is great, and fully true, surprising me at how interesting history can be. Thus starts the journey to uphold the British tradition of having naval supremacy in any body of water, larger than a bathtub.

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Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom 7/10

Smiling through life is easy, but finding true happiness requires heart.  This is one of the many lessons Morrie demonstrates in Tuesdays with Morrie.  In this heartwarming story, Mitch Albom displays the close bond he had with his old college professor Morrie.  Years after Mitch’s graduation, Morrie was diagnosed with ALS, a devastating disease that slowly overtakes one’s voluntary muscle movement.  After hearing the news, Mitch visited Morrie every Tuesday, where he learned the keys to life from the wisdom of a dying man.

In many passages, I could sense and relate to the love Mitch expressed for Morrie.  Being a man who distributed unlimited care to friends even during medical struggles, Morrie became an inspiration in my life.  Not only was his story captivating, but his lectures as well.   Morrie’s numerous quotes sprinkled into the chapters were truly inspiring and relatable, covering various universal topics.

Along with quotes, every paragraph in the book was drenched with meaning.  Morrie’s messages taught me to appreciate the simplicities in life and to love endlessly.  Although the content of the book was extremely powerful, the author’s writing style was often bland, therefore I rated Tuesdays with Morrie as a 7/10.  This novel is perfect for someone looking for an inspiring story or someone trying to find their place in life.

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 9/10

In reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, I have witnessed a story that changed how I see life in general. It is a story of a young man who gets thrown into prison unjustly , and his escape as well as the revenge that follows. To describe any more in depth the plot of the book would give away more spoliers than I can count, so I am going to stick to speaking of the main genres that were enlisted in this novels creation. There is a copious amount of romance, which appeals to me, but there is also a lot of disappointment that comes with that love. Suspense is a strong point of the novel, one that was noticeably crafted with more than simply delicate care. Had it not been such a challenging read, one deserving of the name of classic, it is a novel that could, and I believe would, entertain the average teen reader. However, the novels challenging state is still present, so I would advise caution to those who do not find patience comes easily to them, to prehaphs put off the reading of The Count of Monte Cristo.

What intrigued me most about this novel was that it challenged my views on life. Before reading this, I had unconsciously formed a very black and white idea about the concepts, and to a certain extent, the rules of life. I had thought that there would only be one possible outcome in any situation presented despite different variables that may have been playing an ever present role in the story. I believed that bad was bad and good was good but this novel made me think and reconsider what it means to be good and bad and even ponder what rewards really are.

I would suggest this novel to any avid readers that are patient and enjoy being challenged to a great extent. Any future philosophers could also potentially have a very fun time with this novel, as would really anyone who enjoys a good story. This novel is brilliant in many different ways and I could rant about how much I loved it for hours, but as I mentioned before, it is a spoiler heavy plot. I would suggest that when you feel you are ready to enjoy such a classic novel, to pick this one up and give it a try.

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1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell is recognized internationally as one of the most famous dystopian novels ever written. It has had a significant impact on today’s modern culture, inspiring literature and media of all sorts. This influential novel follows the life of a man named Winston Smith, and his distrust in the dictatorial government. After a powerful revolution that claimed to be born from the conflict between social classes, a new governmental system arose from the ashes to set people in order. The leader, Big Brother, stripped his citizens of all privacy and individuality, believing that this will put all strife to an end. Not only did Big Brother limit people’s independence, he also toyed with literature and media so that all history pertaining to life before the revolution was eradicated. Also, he interfered with language as to restrict the amount of emotion and thought that could be expressed through words. People slowly became ignorant to how invasive the government was becoming because they could not express it through language and they had no history to compare the present to. Winston held on to fleeting memories of his childhood that were glorified by the innocence of youth. This kept him from falling under Big Brothers influence and striving for a better world. When an unlikely ally bands with him in an effort to rebel against the government, his world will never be the same.

 The ambiguity of the novel creates an almost sinister atmosphere to the language. Orwell choses precise words to create a beautiful range of speech that can depict the most horrifying and lovely of moments. Not only its the story truly captivating, but the sound of the sentences is astonishing. 

I would recommend this novel to readers who would love to explore the origins of dystopian literature. This book is dark, intriguing and very thought provoking. The characters are well written, making them deep and dynamic as the story progresses. As you read you’ll discover the secrets of Big Brother and what happens to those who disobey his leadership. 

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Marcelo In The Real World by Fransisco X. Stork, 8/10

Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco X. Stork is the captivating story of the narrator, Marcelo. Throughout his whole life, he has been able to hear music that nobody else can- which is an outcome of his Aspergers syndrome. To Marcelo, his differences have never been visible until his father forces him to take a job at his law firm in attempt to learn how the ‘real world works’. He learns to blend in until he finds a picture of an injured girl and feels the injustice and pain of the world for the first time.

One of the main techniques the author used throughout the novel was dialogue. In the beginning of the novel, Marcelo’s condition is not stated so the readers rely on the slow speech patterns in the dialogue to infer his condition. The use of  dialogue is also vital in the later sections of the book when Marcelo begins to adapt to the ‘real world’. When Marcelo uses phrases or slang he didn’t know before his internship, the reader can see the adaptations Marcelo has made to his environment and culture.

I would recommend this book to all high school students because of the eye-opening themes and thought provoking ideas. The author’s simple narrative style, reminiscent of popular authors such as John Green, makes the book easy for teens to relate to and an interesting read.

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Minaret by Leila Aboulela 10/10

The plot revolves around Najwa, a young woman living in Khartoum, Sudan with her very wealthy family and very Westernized lifestyle. After a tragic event forces her family into hiding she begins to search for what she believes in. As a young adult attending a university she often felt unfulfilled and empty. Wearing mini skirts and tight blouses she still felt jealous of the girls wearing tobes (a cloth that is fastened around the body) because of their spirit and confidence. Aboulela then switches to a later time in Najwa’s life. Najwa lost all of her money and worked as a maid but her life in comparison to her youth was portrayed in a limelight. Najwa was more spiritual and attended a Mosque. She seemed not only more fulfilled in the book but happier in general.

Najwa’s religion and life are interesting because they counter stereotypes. I loved the fact that Najwa realized that the materialistic aspects of life were not as important as being happy. Society now, has influenced many people to feel the need to change themselves for others and Najwa choice to become spiritual and specifically Islamic was really refreshing. Aboulela really made Najwa relatable. Due to 9/11 Muslims have been put under the bus and prejudged and It was very interesting and nice to see an average Muslim finally put under a good light. Aboulela shows how even if one makes mistakes on the course of life much like Najwa, it is whether one redeems themselves that really shows the true extent of a person and Najwa did just that. Even though turning to Islam stills doesn’t sit well with some people I believe that was not the message was. The moral of the story was that in the face of God and others it isn’t the mistakes that define you but how you react to those mistakes.

This book really can be relatable to all ages, more specifically I believe from ages 14 and up is pretty reasonable. Anyone who is up for a page turner and likes to explore different ideas on life should definitely pick up this book. Personally, I liked it because of the changes I saw in Najwa with her romantic life, morals, and view on life.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 6.5/10

It’s difficult to give details on this book without giving out the secret. Every summer a rich, white, elitist family goes to a fictional island near cape cod. The  summer Cadence Sinclair Easton turns fifteen, she has an accident. Unable to visit her family in Cape Cod, she finally returns. Cadence cannot recall her accident. Her whole family has completely changed and she has no idea. Cadence determined to figure out what happened that summer two years ago.

There is little to no character development throughout the entire book. This is quite disappointing and extremely boring, hence the 6.5/10.  When describing characters, E. Lockhart often uses nouns instead of typical adjectives. This is strange and unique. Confusing at first, you have to really process what Lockhart means through the noun selection. The book is written as if it is the saddest, most depressing book anyone will read. Lockhart’s writing style makes everything dramatic and reminiscent. We Were Liars has the same mood as the movie “Titanic”. You know something bad is awaiting, but you cannot believe it because the moment is so beautiful.

To be honest, this book is screaming to teenage girls everywhere. The main character is a teenager, the supporting characters are teenagers, which makes it somewhat relatable. I may have gave it away by telling you that there is a surprise, but don’t get hooked on surprises because there is only one. If you want to feel nostalgic about being a teenager, even if you are one right now, this is a great book for you.

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