Monday, February 29, 2016

It's What I do by Lynsey Addario

by Kiana Summers

It was an okay book. I am very interested in photography and after Lynsey Addario visited our school and gave a presentation about her line of work I was intrigued. 

I thought it was boring for too long before anything interesting happened (which was only for a few pages) but then again, it was a memoir. There were some parts that were very captivating and really insightful and I just wanted to keep reading and sometimes even be in the moment with her. For instance, when she was interviewing rape victims in Darfur, Sudan, the stories were really moving because of the way they were written. Also, one of her near-death stories paired with the collateral damage made me realize life was really short and every action you take has consequences.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

American Sniper by Chris Kyle



by Cam Peddie

American Sniper is about American hero Chris Kyle, who served on multiple deployments in Iraq and tallied up the most confirmed kills in American history. The book is narrated in the first person and shares the story of Chris Kyle starting before he was recruited into the military. This is not your average war autobiography, as it is told by a man whose fellow servicemen called “The Legend.” Kyle’s youth seems to be just out of American folklore. He is from rural Texas and grows being a rancher and riding horses. The book immediately radiates a patriotic feel without using sappy imagery. The subtle and humble heroism of Kyle is something that grew on me as I read the book, as I would rather be shown than told about accomplishments and valor.

Throughout the book, Kyle faces many challenges. His military service is not one of these challenges. He views his service as his duty to his country and does not dwell on the emotional aspects of war. However, at home it is a different story. Kyle’s wife Tara understandably wants him home and safe but Kyle continues to feel obligated to serve his country deployment after deployment. This conflict is one of the central parts of the book and Tara’s letters to Chris demonstrate the raw emotion and concern they have for one each other. The book is told very factually and straightforward, which helps the reader understand the nuances of war. He goes into great detail describing his gear including all of the snipers he used.

The book certainly does not lack action, as Chris faces life or death situations page after page. Some of his fellow Seals are not so lucky to get out of Iraq unscathed. Chris’s compassion for his fellow servicemen is truly inspiring. He truly feels like they are family and the tight knit community of Seals seems to be unbreakable. If you are looking to learn about warfare and one of America’s greatest heroes, I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold



by Athena Ardila

This book was very interesting, sad, and emotional. Although the book had some really good ideas, I think that it could have been written better. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, it was well thought out and interesting. However, towards the end of the book it started to get a little weird. I didn't understand the ending . It seemed like a rush job, kind of like she just wanted to get it over with. The ending was strange, sort of that she didn't know how to end the book so she just decided to fast forward life and then leave it there. All in all it was a very interesting and strange book. I'm not sure if I would recommend it to a friend.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand



by Abbey Phaneuf

Unbroken tells the inspiring, true story of Louis Zamperini as he transforms from a troubled youth to an olympian triumphing at the 1936 Berlin Games. His real unbroken spirit shines through however, as he survives the horrific journey as a POW. After his U.S. bomber plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean and leaves him stranded on a raft for 47 days, he and a fellow American officer were eventually found and captured by the Japanese army. 

As a POW under the control of one specific Japanese officer, Louis is tortured and unbelievably mistreated. The graphic descriptions enable the reader to feel his emotions as he travels through a wide range of personal experiences, from triumph to despair. This book describes the horrors of war and the resilience and human spirit of one man to survive.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

the life-changing magic of tidying up by marie kondo



by Isabella DiPietro

If you’re the type of person that loses everything and your room is a mess, then this is the book for you. The author is a Japanese organizing consultant who works with hundreds of people and families to change their lifestyle for the better. In her book, she discusses how she approaches reorganizing and reshaping your life in the household and at work. She walks you through her exact process, telling you step-by-step how to approach the reorganization process. She talks through several examples of her clients which creates a nice connection for the reader. Additionally, she attacks each type of item and how to discard what isn’t necessary. Her main point is to keep only the things that “bring you joy.” It makes sense. Why wouldn’t you want to fill your house with only the things that you love.

The book is an easy read, and goes by fast. Additionally, the way the book is organized is that you can potentially skip around, and find specific items and how to organize them. I was already a very organized person, but still found great benefit from this book. If you are organized, don’t think that you don’t need to read this book. You will love it the most. On the other hand, if you aren’t vey organized and constantly find yourself losing things, then you need this book. You will get the most benefit and in the end will find yourself happy that you took the time to read it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Moon Palace by Paul Auster



by Katherine Tak

Paul Auster’s Moon Palace tells the story of Marco Stanley Fogg, a young man who graduates from Columbia University in New York City, as he tries to navigate his way throughout the world, despite the multiple hurdles that get thrown his way. It contains everything from family drama to romance to brutally honest personal narratives, through which the reader is able to learn much about themselves and the world around them. Throughout the book, Auster plays with the time frame and narration of the story. Although it is primarily narrated in the first person by Marco, Auster often writes in sub-stories which are told to Marco by other characters, and these stories take place at different points in time. As a result, the story is always finding new layers, as it jumps between the past and future. This is a good book for anyone who enjoys books about personal journeys and growth.

Moon Palace is similar to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher and the Rye, also about a young man learning about the world around him. The colloquial language Auster uses and relatively simple general plotline make Moon Palace an easy read. However, do not mistake this for being shallow. The hardships of each of the characters in this novel reveal a lot about the fundamental human condition, and a lot can be learned about oneself through them. On the other hand, if you tend to be bothered by stubborn characters and frustrated by hardship, this is not the book for you. The characters all have their fallbacks, qualities that make them seem unlikeable, especially in the beginning.

The only reason that this novel did not receive five stars was because the plot begins to drag towards the end of the book. A period passes when seemingly nothing is happening, but things start to pick up again after not too long. However, this minor drawback is no reason to avoid the book. The characters are each very different individuals, and they are very much human, sometimes showing parts of the human condition that we would sometimes like to ignore. They experience emotions that are relatable to most people, in some form or another, and through this connection, the story becomes about the reader to a certain extent. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a few hours and a a willingness for adventure.



Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino



by Zixuan Huang


For those who are interested in a duel between violence without justification and kindness without principles, for those who would like to see a dramatic reconciliation between the cruel and the kind-hearted sides of mankind, and for those who want to see a person who cuts everything literally in half after a cannonball tears him up, The Cloven Viscount is absolutely the thing. 

The plot is about the conflict between the evil and the good sides of Viscount Medardo of Terralba who is torn by a cannonball into two halves. Throughout a series of absurd and dramatic events, Calvino demonstrates a world where struggle makes humans human. This book contains some rather bloody or uncomfortable scenes which serve to develop the main ideas.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan



by Anisha Agarwal

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore is an odd novel, filled with vastly different, yet equally curiosity-driven characters. In some ways, the book was confusing, but in the best way; it seemed to span many different eras and genres, connecting Google and the internet with centuries-old cults. Throughout the novel, the world of technology is interwoven with the world of books.

In the novel, the recently unemployed Clay Jannon begins working at a bookstore that is open 24 hours a day. The bookstore is described as having incredibly high shelves, thousands of books, many unheard of, and almost no up-to-date technology. Very soon, he begins to notice a pattern in the types of people who frequent the bookstore--people who rarely buy anything, yet come on a regular basis to check books out. Clay's curiosity is the driving force behind the plot of this novel, and, with a slew of interesting and well-developed secondary characters, he very quickly finds himself in a world that seems imaginary, as though he has traveled in time.

I would recommend this book to those who would like to read a smart, somewhat cryptic novel, and can survive the unnecessary, disjointed romantic plot for long enough to enjoy the rest of the novel.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown



by Liz Kaye

Don’t be fooled by the simple title, The Boys in the Boat! This wonderful, complex book is about ‘boys’ who are heroically resilient and courageous both in the boat and in their lives. Set in the Depression in the state of Washington, the talented author Daniel Brown recounts the boys that comprised the crew team for the University of Washington. These boys were forced to grow up fast in difficult times. Brown centers the story on the engaging character, Joe Rantz whose story of grace in the face of poverty and poor parenting anchors the book. It includes the development of his relationship with Joyce Simdars, which is as touching and romantic as any romantic fiction novel could be. Brown’s characters are so appealing that you want to turn the page to find out what lies in store for them and root for their success.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan



by Helen Zhang

The Joy Luck Club tells the stories of four different Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters, who meet periodically in the Joy Luck Club to play mah jong, talk, and eat good food. It is divided into four sections, with four anecdotes per section, alternating between mother and daughter. The mothers tell stories of growing up in China, of the sexism they faced when subordinated to men, of losing themselves and finding themselves again, and of the culture and traditions of China. They worry that their daughters will never be able to understand some aspects of Chinese culture that were so important to them when growing up.

The four daughters also talk about the individual problems they faced in both their past and present lives. While they reject or push away the Chinese traditions and lessons of their mothers in trying to adopt a more American lifestyle, they ultimately rely on their mothers' words for support when faced with issues in their own adult lives. The novel is a classic story of cultural identity and assimilating to a new culture.

Personally, I really liked this novel because I am a 2nd generation Chinese myself, so I could relate very well to the daughters. I feel very conflicted with my cultural identity as well, and I believe that this story portrays the conflict very well. The stories were very compelling, and it was especially nice to read the stories of the mothers' childhoods, living in China in the 1900's. It is a relatively easy to understand and compelling novel that touches upon very important issues and has a lot of depth. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, as it increases cultural awareness and one's overall understanding of the world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown



By Jared Groff

I really enjoyed this book. Despite the fact that I have absolutely no interest in crew, the novel captivated me throughout. I especially liked how Brown focused on the backstories of the rowers, specifically Jim Rantz, a poor but ambitious young rower who was abandoned by his family at a young age. The concept of the book is stirring and can be applied to many aspects of life. The idea of a rag-tag group of young boys from troubled backgrounds taking on the rowing world run by elitists is uplifting. Even more so are the ideas of teamwork and persistence. The maturation process of the group of boys is beautiful to witness, as you can almost feel their collective struggle to live up to their potential.

The only complaint I would have about this book is that it is somewhat prolonged. However, I feel as if the length is warranted to some degree. The novel I believe is meant to feel monotonous at some points, as this was the nature of the boys’ progression from talented youngsters to undisputed world champions. This book is extremely inspiring, and I have found myself referring back to it in times of adversity as its lessons are so applicable to life’s trials and tribulations. The rowing itself and the plot of the novel are ultimately secondary to the message of teamwork and a drive for excellence. Overall the novel is a somewhat lengthy, but extremely engaging, highly motivational, and makes for an exceptional read.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand



by Abbey Phaneuf

Unbroken tells the inspiring, true story of Louis Zamperini as he transforms from a troubled youth to an olympian triumphing at the 1936 Berlin Games. His real unbroken spirit shines through however, as he survives the horrific journey as a POW. After his U.S. bomber plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean and leaves him stranded on a raft for 47 days, he and a fellow American officer were eventually found and captured by the Japanese army.

As a POW under the control of one specific Japanese officer, Louis is tortured and unbelievably mistreated. The graphic descriptions enable the reader to feel his emotions as he travels through a wide range of personal experiences, from triumph to despair. This book describes the horrors of war and the resilience and human spirit of one man to survive.