Thursday, October 20, 2016

Student Review: The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

Kiera Cass, a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author, wrote a series of books that are thoroughly enjoyed by many teen girls. The story is seen through the eyes of a girl, American Singer, who thinks she knows what love is, but is confused when she is forced to think about it. The plot of the books relates to the events occurring in the well known television series, “The Bachelor.” The similarity of a guy hoping to find his true love, the competitors creating enemies and allies, and the viewers picking favorites. The writing so exquisite, you feel all the emotions along with the girls and start taking sides as soon as the competitor’s themselves do.

These books known as the Selection Series, is a series composed of three main books, 2 sequels, and a couple novellas. The triad goes through a love story most wish for, but only some can have. The books being so successful, there have 3.5 million copies worldwide, and translated in 32 different languages. The Warner Brothers have seen these books so promising, they have bought the rights to create a movie following the love story of an underprivileged girl who competes for the heart of one prince, Maxon Schreave. I hope they follow “to a tee” the narrative Cass composed.  

The story falls in the future where war has separated the United States and a caste system is put in place. The caste system is there to keep the royalty higher than the peasants. It dictates what your profession is, who you are to marry, and overall your social status. America Singer, the main character, is a five out of seven, a low rating. Her hidden love, Aspen, is a 6 rating. The time has come for the prince to choose a spouse and most of the girls are eagerly awaiting the chance to fill in an application. America, despite what her boyfriend says, doesn’t want to enter.  Her family finally persuades her, saying there is no chance of her being picked, but still secretly hoping she would. As the drawings begin, the Singer’s sit around the TV. When America’s name is called to be one of the 35 competitors, a wave of emotion hits the house. When she is escorted to the palace she meets her best friend along with her possibly worst enemy. The story then winds around a love triangle of a girl who has to find the meaning of true love. Who will she choose?

The first three books were hard to put down, and if it weren’t for library wait lists, I would've read all in one week.  I love how Cass orchestrated the love triangle with hidden love. The first book began with a great start and it kept continuing forward as America and Maxon’s relationship deepened.  There were moments when I was angry with Maxon’s, Aspen’s, or America’s choices. The weeks I read the books consisted of long rants with my friends who enjoyed these books just as much as me.

Some might say that the books are too romantic or too girly, however I thought the books had a perfect amount of love with a lot of suspense and anticipation. Also, people might think it unrealistic that a girl wouldn’t change her personality just to please the royalty or the country.  However,  I think it's a good way to express that girls can still be strong in relationships, and that they shouldn’t conform to the world.

If I were to say my least favorite part, it would be the 2 sequel books. They were well written, but lacked a certain sense of anticipation as it goes through the same process for a princess who hates the thought of falling in love and giving her heart to someone. Though the end is a nail-biting finish, they weren’t nearly as interesting as the previous novels.

Overall, the Selection Series was a great read, especially if you are looking for a complicated love story and a plot that is great for summer nights, rainy days, and anywhere in between.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Student Review: The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

The Titan’s Curse is a book about Percy Jackson and the Gods of Olympus. The book starts during a winter storm while Percy’s mom drives him, Annabeth, and Thalia to Westover Hall to meet their friend Grover who has found two demigods Bianca Di Angelo age 12 and Nico Di Angelo age 10 but there is a manticore at the school, Mr. Thorn. And there is also a dance going on at the school, and while the dance is going on Mr. Thorn takes the Di Angelos out of the gym where the dance is being held, and Percy follows. As Percy catches up with the Di Angelos,  Mr. Thorn takes him by surprise and captures him. Afterward, Thorn takes Percy, Nico, and Bianca outside, and while Thorn is taking them Percy calls for help by using his empathy link with Grover. A little bit afterward Grover, Annabeth, Thalia, and the Hunters of Artemis that popped out of the woods along with Artemis start attacking the manticore. After the fight, Thorn escapes by jumping off the cliff taking Annabeth with him and mysteriously disappearing out of nowhere. After that, Percy, his friends, and the Hunters of Artemis go back to camp half blood while Artemis goes off to hunt an ancient monster. Once Percy, his friends, and the Hunters of Artemis get back, they get a quest from the Oracle Of Delphi and she says:

“Five shall go west to the goddess in chains,
One shall be lost in the land without rain,
The bane of Olympus shows the trail,
Campers and Hunters combined prevail,
The Titan’s curse must one withstand,
And one shall perish by a parent’s hand.”

Afterward, Percy and company leave on their heroic quest.
The third book in the Percy Jackson series captivates the reader and keeps them on the edge of their seat, making them want to read more and more. This book series is about adventure and friendship. It is also like Rick Riordan’s other book series: the Red Pyramid series in which the Kanes try to save the world and their father from the evil egyptian god Set. The Percy Jackson series is also like the Lorien Legacies series in which John the main character must save his home planet Lorien and Earth with help from his friends and by using his legacies. In that way he is like Percy Jackson who must save the world with help from his friends and the powers he got from being Poseidon’s son, and he must also bear the weight of the prophecy that will decide the fate of Olympus. So, in conclusion, the Titan’s Curse is a continuation of the Percy Jackson series and is an excellent read.

Student Review: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

This book gave me some sense of what’s going on around the world. It centers on a boy named Ishmael Beah who was a boy soldier in Sierra Leone when the War was going on. It talks about how he felt when he saw his family die around him and his time as a boy soldier. I really liked the book; it gave me such a good picture of what was going on and left me wondering about how Ishmael survived and escaped such a traumatic event that caused thousands of deaths.

At the beginning, it shows how everything was pretty and peaceful. Although as quickly as it paints the picture of peace it’s quickly all destroyed by soldiers coming into his town. As all of this unfolds it makes you feel horrified as he describes the people around him once they escaped from the attack on how people have lost their families and their mourning, and Ishmael misses his family and wants to try and find them again. As he tries to make it out alive so much happens to him, and it just keeps getting worse for him. Through the book, it really shows a grim place as people don't trust each other stab each other in the back just to survive the type of world they live in.
After finishing reading this book I thought it was a really good book because it shows things that some people didn’t know what happened in Sierra Leone. It does a really good job of showing just how bad it was over there when the war was going on. This book really talks about some haunting imagery, but things needed to be talked about so people can acknowledge what’s going in the world, and this book does exactly that by talking about what happened over in Sierra Leone.   
By Seth W.

Student Review: The Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare

The Shadowhunter series by Cassandra Clare mixes the fantasy elements of Harry Potter with quick wit of Jennifer L. Armentrout and romance like Sarah J. Maahs. This brilliant world produces serious thoughts masked under layers of humor and unlikely situations. Shadowhunter Chronicles contain four series: one currently being written, another started, and two completely finished. The setting is in New York where vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons, and people with angel blood are masked from the rest of society by Glamours. These series contain all genres in a single roller coaster like world with sharp twists, surprising turns with anticipating climbs and heart wrenching drops.

The world starts with City of Bones, the first book in The Mortal Instruments Series. Clary Fray and Simon Lewis enter the Shadowhunter world unknowingly when Jace Wayland meets them at the Pandemonium Club. Clary can see past these Glamours the Shadowhunters put up, and soon learns that she herself is one along with Jace. Through time, Cassandra introduces Jace’s family and friends, and the entire Shadowhunter world, mainly including Alec, Izzy, Jordan, Mia, and Magnus Bane. They obviously love each other like family, but cannot help but bicker constantly. For instance, in the first book when the Shadowhunters meet Clary, “What's this?" he demanded, looking from Clary to his companions, as if they might know what she was doing there."It's a girl," Jace said, recovering his composure. "Surely you've seen girls before, Alec. Your sister Isabelle is one.”  Together they fight against chaos from demons and other supernatural elements. Next, this world takes a rewind to the 1800’s with William Herondale, Jem Carstairs, and Tessa Gray. It includes saving the Shadowhunter’s main home, dealing with the spreading of drugs in London, and one of the best love triangles I have ever read. The interesting part of the Infernal Devises, that series’ name, is how the main characters in that series are the ancestors of the ones in The Mortal Instruments. Fast forwarding into 2007, you meet Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, the two kids who have an everlasting parabarti bond that is soon to be ruined as soon as they fall in love in the first book, leaving a mess for them to clean up single-handedly.

Even though I love almost every single part of these books, I will say there are some things that I would change. First, I would shorten a lot of the books. The first two books in the Mortal Instruments are frankly, dull. Characters are being introduced constantly and a world is being brought up all around us. At times it is hard to pay attention to the plot of the book when you get distracted by the small nuggets of gold placed precariously throughout it. Of course, that is imperative to do in a book. If there was no world building then this series would be trash. Also, I felt like Cassie added a few things that were unnecessary, and then took away a few things that I thought were necessary. For instance, in the last book when the squad is traveling in Hell, you get to know every little thing about their travels. But, you get no point of view from the antagonist, which leads to getting bored with where the book is going, and leads to less character development in evil characters. But, Cassie needed to do that to leave curious holes so she could fill them in later.

Cassandra Clare has a speciality for ripping people’s hearts. She developed this skill writing various fanfictions at a young age for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. She started off writing her own series in 2004, starting with City of Bones. She has collaborated with several other authors, mainly Holly Black, and has written a elementary-age series called Magisterium. On her ‘free writing’ time, she writes short stories about Simon Lewis, one of the main characters in Mortal Instruments, and tells about his experiences in the Shadow world. The enjoyable thing about reading Cassie’s work is how all of her books tie together, even the ones not in the Shadow world. Characters will be mentioned from other series, or random events will happen that already happened in her previous work. The Mortal Instrument books have been turned into a movie, receiving a whopping 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, it completely flopped and no other movie was made. In early 2015, they attempted again and made it into a t.v. show by the name of Shadowhunters. This got waaay more success and season two is coming this January, exciting fans everywhere.

This entire world I believe is fabulous. The writing style that Cassandra Clare possesses is absolutely intriguing. These books contain different points of view from main and side characters, making for an intensely powerful way of reading. The plot twists in this series is the main talent Cassie has. She makes you fall in love with different aspects of a book and then rips away your hopes and dreams in a single sentence. She changes your opinion of bad guys constantly. At first you are scared, then excited, frustrated, sad, and then happy with them. By the end of it all, you actually feel for the bad guys, a thing that doesn’t usually happen in books. She makes you think good guys are bad guys and the other way around. Granted, it gets frustrating sometimes. My favorite characters were the ones that were plotting to rule the world, which was fun, yet entirely heartbreaking. One of my favorite lines from the series is spoken by Jace Wayland. It says, “To love is to destroy.” It is very relevant throughout the series because every time Jace shows affection, he immediately masks it through sarcastic answers and neglection of his friends. But then again, Jace cannot help but be a romantic, saying: “And I'm suppose to sit by while you date boys and fall in love with someone else, get married...? And meanwhile, I'll die a little bit more everyday, watching.”

Love is what carries these books, and that is why relationships in these books are so strong. Whether it is the relationship between mother daughter, father daughter, father son, and daughter son, everything is intensely dramatic and heartbreaking in its own way. This world brings to light family situations that I had never thought of before. For example, Clary’s mother is single and has to raise a teenager but also is dealing with starting a new relationship. Clary’s father left her with iffy siblings and a troubled past that Clary has to sort through. The love (or hate) everyone has for each other is unreal, creating an unbelievable bond between the characters and then yourself and the characters.

Gathering all my thoughts about this series has been quite hard. After reading the entirety of this world about seven times, I can say with all my heart that this is my favorite series of all time. Not only has this series provided insane entertainment for me, and birthed some of the best quotes of all time such as, “Usually I'm remarkably good natured. Try me on a day that doesn't end in y.” On a more serious note, it has also shown me how hard people’s lives can be, and I’m just not exposed to it. They make you think more deeply than you would assume of a YA fantasy book. Such as quotes like,“There is plenty of sense in nonsense sometimes. If you choose to look for it.” These books with leave you hungry for more, and i swear that by the end of it, you will be asking for seconds.
by: Aubrey S.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Student Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

High school. First day, freshman year. What are you? Nervous? Excited? Terrified? We’ve all been there. High school is a time where people learn about themselves and life, and that is the case in particular with Charlie. Charlie is an incoming freshman to his high school, and he’s scared that he won’t make any friends, he’ll do poorly in his classes, the whole shebang. The book follows Charlie through freshman year. Every bad and good teacher, all the friends, enemies, parties, drugs, and relationships.

Let me be honest, Perks wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The entire book is written in a journal format, addressed to a “friend”, and always signed, “Love always, Charlie”. The journal starts out poorly written, and as the year progresses, so do Charlie’s letters. Charlie deals with a lot of crap, and he doesn’t hold anything back from the reader. He talks about the first time he was stoned, the first kiss, his first love, his first good book. He delivers everything to the reader plainly, which is very refreshing.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone with an open mind. Those people who are not open to some secular things might find the book difficult to read, but the message of friendship and hope are a beautiful thing to discover throughout the many pages.
Reviewer: BF

Monday, February 25, 2013

Student Review: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

Chances are you’ve seen a stray cat before. They seem to be everywhere. Parking lots, housing developments, even the woods, especially the woods. In Erin Hunter’s novel Into the Wild, the reader gets a new look on all of the “feral” cats that roam the woods.

Into the Wild follows a housecat named Rusty. He has a good life with his house folk, but wonders about what might be out in the woods beyond his garden gate. One evening, he decides to venture out, and finds a group of cats that offer him a place among their ranks. He drops the name Rusty and takes Firepaw, an apprentice warrior of ThunderClan. Firepaw learns the ways of the forest and makes friends and enemies, like any hero must. And he also learns of a dark secret in his clan’s political system that may be the downfall of the entire forest, for all four of the clans.

Into the Wild is a great read. Granted, it’s aimed at an audience that is a bit younger than the average high schooler, but the plot, characters, and situation are timeless, even if it all comes from a group of cats. But the fact that the characters are cats melts away and they simply become characters. It’s an amazing thing when a character is all you think about, and the fact that the character has a tail and walks on four legs seems to drop out of your mind. Into the Wild is an amazing read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wouldn’t mind getting lost in a story that’s a pretty easy read.

Reviewer: BF

Monday, February 4, 2013

Student Review: Blood Red Horse by K. M. Grant

Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant

 In the middle ages, a war horse was a knight’s most valued possession, more so than his armor or his sword. Amor could be replaced, swords could be sharpened, but a good war horse took years to train properly and longer still to find one. A knight without his horse was nothing, and that horse belonged to him and him alone. On the battlefield of the second crusade, a good horse was the difference between life and death.  Hosanna is too small to be a war horse, but Will choses him anyway. Hosanna is the perfect horse, fleet and graceful, but the battlefields of the crusades test even the very best, and horses are easily captured. Passed from hand to hand, sword to sword, Hosanna becomes a central part of the stories unfolding all around, beloved by all, but always given up, always passed on. For there are greater things than one horse in war, except to Will, who keeps searching for the horse that defined his childhood.

This book is a surprising and heartfelt historical fiction about the horrors of war in the second crusades and the beliefs that bind people together and tear nations apart. I enjoyed this book, and its comprehensive view of all sides and perspectives without bias. It does not glorify the war, it merely depicts it. I enjoyed how the story moved between different characters in different situations because of the war. What I did not like about it, however, was that the action was slow in places and how the story arcs were not consistent. Overall, however, it was a very engaging book, and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

 Reviewer: ER