Student Book Reviews

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    Student Book Reviews

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    From 2010/2011 School Year:

    Title: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
    Author: David Sedaris
    Reviewed by: Patrick Kallas, 11th grade

    The first thing I thought about this book was that  it was a little childish book with no real value except a quick and easy read with some philosophic merit, however, it became a witty and thought provoking book that provided an insight into human life. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is an anthology of short stories written by David Sedaris, writer of When you are Engulfed in Flames, inquiring on the daily lives of animals to create an allegory of human life. All of the animals have different personalities and several of them are involved in each of the sixteen short stories to show the lunacies of our daily activities. If you’re not interested in the intellectual merits of this anthology you will still have an interesting and witty read with plenty of moments that will give the reader a chuckle or two. I would suggest this anthology to anyone interested in humorous or intellectual inquiries.

    Title: The Historian
    Author: Elizabeth Kostova
    Reviewed by: Molly Spater, 12th grade
    With the workload and extracurricular activities of the average student, starting a novel the size of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is intimidating. I fell into this category when I first got my hands on the novel. However, this feeling evaporated by the end of the first page. The Historian takes the reader on a chilling journey through Europe. The story is mainly told from the perspective of the sixteen-year-old daughter of a college professor, Paul. One day while in his study she finds an old, handmade book with a woodcut dragon on the cover. This event sets the plot in motion as the history of the book and the history of the narrator’s past are revealed. This novel is personally one of my favorites. Not only did it terrify me at parts, but it kept me captivated through all 656 pages of it. I even began to believe in Vlad Tepes, aka Dracula, as I was absorbed deeper and deeper into the plot. This fear subsided as the weeks went by after finishing the novel, but my feeling of adoration for the complexity and engrossing plot line will never leave.

    From 2009/2010 School Year:

    Title: All the Pretty Horses
    Author: Cormac McCarthy
    Reviewed by: Molly Spater, 11th grade

    “In style and scope, All the Pretty Horses, a work of stoicism and singular beauty, is a breathtaking reading experience.”

                                        --From the citation for the National Book Award

     Captivating from the first page, the style and essence of this novel is beautiful. The lack of quotation marks and use of vague pronouns creates a novel that cannot be read with half-presence. I found this only adds to my affection towards this book. The tale of young cowboy John Grady is written with the classic transition from adolescence into adulthood theme. The plot traces Grady and his “old pardner” Rawlins as they make their way from their ranches in Texas to live and work in Mexico. As an unexpected runaway joins their pack, their path is inevitably set towards a range of troubles. This novel was indeed a “breathtaking reading experience”.

    Title: Welcome to the Monkey House
    Author: Kurt Vonnegut
    Reviewed by: Molly Spater, 11th grade
    To say the least, I am a diehard Vonnegut fan. His comical flavor makes you laugh while you are sent spiraling into a distressing circle of thought about the dark truths of human society. Welcome to the Monkey House is no exception. Composed of twenty-five short stories, each one is equally brilliant and expertly written. Each story comments on different aspects of the twisted world we all inhabit. Ranging from Tom Edison’s dog to dynamopsychism, this satirical stew will leave you craving more.

    Title: Blood Raven: The Dawn of War Omnibus
    Author: Cassern S. Goto
    Reviewed by: Patrick Kallas, 10th grade
    I finished the Warhammer 40,000 novel, Blood Raven: The Dawn of War Omnibus, many months ago and even now I find it intriguing and philosophically engaging. It not only introduces the reader to an interesting plot and realistic characters, but also makes them think that even the infallible Space Marines have their faults. In the book the main character Gabriel Angelos, the captain of the Space Marines, finds himself following the foretold path set by the mysterious Eldar race and battling the fierce Orks and villainous Alpha Legionaries. As he travels from planet to planet he learns of new views on the life he is living and of his faults from slight psychic capabilities to emotional breakdowns from memories of his home world burning. The one-thousand page novel, made up of three books, is well worth the time investment and is a fantastic novel for any Warhammer Space Marine Player to base an army off of. The book makes you feel like you are really down with the Space Marines in the fight for the universe. With great action sequences, it is a must read for all science fiction and action fans.

    Book: In the Country of Last Things
    Author: Paul Auster
    Reviewed by: Molly Spater, 11th grade

    The country had crumpled. Human corpses and waste were being burned for fuel. Theft was so common; it was no longer a crime. In the book, In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster, Anna Blume travels from a still functioning society to the country in ruins. The novel is written as a letter from Blume to a childhood friend. Anna left the safety of her world to journey to the disastrous country in search of her brother William, who was sent there on a journalistic mission. She writes about life in the disintegrated country and all her experiences in it. Auster’s dark novel shows frightening parallels to our world now and to what it might become.

    From 2008/2009 School Year:

    Title: Gears of War: Aspho Fields
    Author: Karen Traviss
    Reviewed by: Patrick Kallas, 9th grade

              I have read many books during my school years but none have been more enjoyable than Gears of War: Aspho Fields by Karen Traviss. Ms. Traviss is known for writing many Star Wars novels including the Republic Commando series. This book is the prequel to the well known Gears of Wars games and will not disappoint readers. It drops you right into battle with Marcus Fenix, a quiet yet strong team leader, and Dominic Santiago, Marcus’s childhood friend who would put his life on the line to save Marcus.

              Along the way Marcus and Dominic encounter an old friend, Bernie Mataki, who they hadn’t seen since the end of the Pendulum Wars. She knows the secret of how Dominic’s brother, Carlos, perished in the Battle of Aspho Fields and is pressured by Dominic to reveal the secret. Under constant hindrance from Locust incursions, underground aliens, the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks of their young days and of the battle of Ashpo Fields as told by Bernie. Marcus wants to keep the truth a secret because he is ashamed of his past actions.

              Gears of War: Aspho Fields’ morals of friendship and loyalty are very well demonstrated through this novel’s excellent plot. This book is a must read for sci-fi and Gears of War enthusiasts alike. If you are compelled to learn the secret of Carlos’s death pick up this book for all the answers.

    From 2007/2008 School Year:

    Title: Wolf by the Ears
    Author: Ann Rinaldi
    Reviewed by: Odalis Suarez, 12th grade
    Half of her life is missing, her father is non-existent, or is he? This book captures the life of one of the slaves of Thomas Jefferson, and her attempt to discover her true father. Her physical features are not similar to the other slaves, and Jefferson’s ultra care and kindness for her has played a major role in her investigation. Is Jefferson her father?

    From 2006/2007 School Year:

    Title:  Speak
    Author:  Laurie Anderson
    Reviewed by:  Rawan Al Jamal, 10th grade
    I enjoyed the book Speak. It was a very interesting book, it kept you guessing until the end. Many can relate to the character, yet many can’t. It is a very fun book to read. I would recommend it to any of my age who likes to read.

    From 2005/2006 School Year:

    Title:  Lord of the Flies
    Author: William Golding
    Reviewed by: Alex Kosztowny, 12th grade
    Only a handful of the English classes have this book as part of the curriculum. However, this book deals with important themes about survival, trust, dependence, and especially, savagery. All readers should keep their sights on this novel; it’s graphic, action-packed, and suspenseful. Also, there is appeal in the beautiful setting and loyalty issues.

    Title: Nostradamus and His Prophecies
    Author: Edgar Leoni
    Reviewed by: Alex Kosztowny, 12th grade
    The Holocaust, 9/11, the war in Iraq…all were foretold and predicted over 500 years ago by the prophet Nostradamus. Critiques and analyses are included in this edition, they are, however are vague enough to lead to self-discoveries and re-evaluations of what we know about the past, present, and future.

    Title: Criss Cross
    Author: Lynne Rae Perkins
    Reviewed by: Alex Kosztowny, 12th grade
    This novel is the 2006 Newbery winner based on linguistic creativity alone. The characters are flat, static, and too abundant.  No plot ever surfaces. Those in search of dynamic protagonists, an exciting story, or some kind of realization or epiphany, beware!

    Title: Queen's Own Fool
    Author: Jane Yolen
    Reviewed by: Jessica Stolle, 12th grade
    The beauty of this book is that it paints an agreeable portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots. Through the eyes of Nicola, her “fool” who is more of a friend, we can watch Mary’s struggle to do the right thing in a society where status is everything and power the ultimate goal. In the end, the best part of the story is the friendship that develops between a queen and her lowliest subject.

    Title: The Geography of Girlhood
    Author: Kirsten Smith
    Reviewed by: Alex Kosztowny
    From the screenwriter who helped create hit movies such as Legally Blond and She’s the Man comes a story as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Penny always is in the shadow of her older sister, is always getting into trouble, and is constantly searching for friends, acceptance, and self-discovery.

    Title: Queen of Cool
    Author: Cecil Castellucci
    Reviewed by: Alex Kosztowny,  12th grade
    Libby, a high school trend setter, becomes uninterested in her title as the queen of school. She decides to intern at the L.A. Zoo and finds new friends, new outlooks on life, and the meaning of being cool. This enjoyable book is a quick read and entertaining. It is ideal for teenagers in Los Angeles who like reading young adult literature about places they have been to.

    Title: No Shame, No Fear
    Author: Ann Turnbull
    Reviewed by: Jessica Stolle, 12th grade

    This book is absolutely amazing. The settings, characters, relationships, and conflicts are well developed. The main character, a teenage girl, Susana, has faith, integrity, and courage enough to be an inspiration to anyone. Her humility, patience, and maturity in dealing with difficult circumstances is refreshing. Plus, for all girls out there, she falls in love, providing a great romance as well. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history and romance.