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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Breathing Underwater

Breathing Underwater, by Alex Flinn, is a book about a young teenager named Nick, who is under a restraining order from his ex-girlfriend. The book follows Nick as he looks back on his abusive relationship, and as he goes through Family Violence class. In the process he goes from wanting his girlfriend back, to accepting his mistakes and working to change them.

Breathing Underwater is most defiantly not suited for anyone under high school age. It deals with some more mature themes and subjects, ranging from abuse to violence. It does tell a good story though, and the mature parts do not get in the way of the great plot line. Alex Flinn crafted Nick to be a well rounded character, and the growth that he experiences from beginning to end of the novel is great. I think that the way that Alex Flinn portrays the conflicts between the characters brings a lot of life to the novel, as well as make the novel the much more personal.

Even though Breathing Underwater does have a lot of conflict and mature themes, the wonderful story gives these conflicts a much different light. Alex Flinn's novel Breathing Underwater is a great book for High School students and adults alike, and is a great quick read for those looking for a novel with a great story.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Loser, by Jerry Spinelli, is about boy named Zinkoff. He is the odd one out on the playground, at school, and around the neighborhood. He laughs at the wrong things, answers the wrong questions, and looks the wrong way. Most everyone has a name for him, Zinkoff is just too busy to hear it. The book follows Zinkoff from first through 6th grade as he is the butt of jokes and scorn. Eventually though, Zinkoff has his moment to shine, and performs admirably, as the old names transform into a new name, "hero".

This is another book that I have not read in awhile. Though I know the basic story line, I am not sure how well the book affected me when I first read it. I think that it is a good story, a little scrambled in some parts, but overall a good book. When I was reading it, I remember feeling lost during some events of the book, but it never got to the point where I could not pick up the story as it continued. The overall implications of the story are deep, so younger readers may have more trouble grasping the deeper meaning of the story.

I am going to recommend this book as a book for reading with a child. This way they can understand the story, as well as the deeper meaning, and with an aid of an adult, they can get much more out of the book.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dillon Dillon

Dillon Dillon, by Kate Banks, is the story of a young boy named Dillon Dillon who is trying to find himself during a summer trip by a lake. When his parents give him a red rowboat for his birthday with his name painted on it, he asks them a fateful question. "Why did you name me Dillon Dillon?" With the answer to that question comes a truth that Dillon is not ready to accept. He escapes to the lake in his rowboat, he discovers and island and meets a pair of loons through which he discovers his true identity.

I read Dillon Dillon a while ago. When I read it then I do not think that I understood the book in its fullest sense. Whether this was a lack of knowledge or wisdom, I do not know, but when I have read the book again I have gleaned deeper and deeper meaning from its pages. This is something that occurs often with my books, but something that I noticed more than usual with Dillon Dillon. It is not a very long book, and the underlying story is very strong, which allowed me to read the book at a younger age. However, I think that it takes a more mature person to understand the book on a deeper and more meaningful level.

For this reason, I recommend Dillon Dillon as a book for children, but also as a book for high school students and adults. The older ones are the people that may get the most out of the book, but the story can satisfy younger readers also.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, is set in France during the time of the French Revolution. It follows Lucile Mannete and her father and husband. The book tells of the bloody events that led up to the French Revolution, as well as the executions of the royal family and other nobles. A Tale of Two Cities is another book that I read this year and school, which took away some of the enjoyment that I think I would have found from reading this book.

I felt that the book was well written, but the writing style of Charles Dickens made it hard to follow the story. In this regard, reading it with a class was very helpful. However, reading it with a class made the book less enjoyable because it took away some of the personal meaning that I think I could have taken away from it. A Tale of Two Cities is a very deep book, which can be interpreted in many different ways, but when read with a class, some of the more abstract interpretations are set aside.

I think that A Tale of Two Cities is a good classic, but as classics go, some of the other ones that I have read have given me more meaningful stories. But, I am not sure whether this is because of the book, or because I read it with a class. I would suggest that A Tale of Two Cities be left in the classroom, due to the fact that it has very hard language, but if you want to glean deeper meaning from the book, then it might be better to read it on your own.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Rule of Four

The Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, is a book about four students, and good friends, at Princeton. The story takes place towards the end of the school year as one of the four friends is hard at work on his term paper about the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (unpronoucable, I know). When a diary is discovered that is thought to be the missing piece to the puzzle, another student of the book is found dead. The four friends must work together to solve the mystery of the book once and for all.

I found The Rule of Four to be slightly predictable. It has been compared to the DaVinci Code, and is similar in the fact that in both books people are trying to uncover mysteries that are much bigger than themselves. Unlike the DaVinci Code, I felt that The Rule of Four lost some of its momentum as it reached its climax. I thought that it was slowly building up to a great finish, and then it lost alot of its steam. Even though there was a surprise ending, I thought that it came too late to make much of a difference to the story, almost as if it were added as an afterthought.

So if you loved the DaVinci code, and you are looking for another fairly suspenseful novel, then The Rule of Four is a good read, otherwise you might want to pick up another book.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, is a book about human nature and companionship. The book follows two men George and Lennie as they work towards their dream of owning an acre of land. George is a quick and shrewd man of which Lennie, a man of tremendous size and the mind of a child, is a polar opposite. They have traveled far together and George always looks after his companion. When they land a job on a ranch, they meet others who become part of their dream to own land, but Lennie's loyal obedience to the things that George has taught him makes trouble for the pair.

This too was a book that was required reading at my high school, but one that I did not enjoy as much as To Kill A Mockingbird. Even though it was a well written story, I felt that I could not connect to any of the characters, which made it hard to dive into the book in the way that I normally do. Even though I can see how this book is a good choice for High School discussion, I do not think that it would be something that I would have read outside of school. It did work well as a discussion piece, and the somewhat controversial nature of the ending led to some great debates and discussions which is something that I do not see come out of all books.

So even though it may not have been my first choice as a personal read, Of Mice and Men is still a good High School or Book Club read because it offers great topics for discussion and debate.

Friday, May 25, 2007

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird , by Harper Lee, is one of the great American anti-racist novels. It is told from the perspective of Scout, a young girl who lives in Maycomb, Alabama. She and her brother face many challenges as their father defends and African-American in a case against a white woman. Scout and Jem try to separate right from wrong in an area where there is a very fine line between the two. As the case escalates Scout and Jem have to face increasingly difficult challenges to choose the right path.

I read To Kill A Mockingbird for school, and found it surprisingly enjoyable. Harper Lee brings life to the little town of Maycomb in a way that has given this book international acclaim. I really enjoyed this story of moral conflict because it gave a perspective on rural life in the south that many people do not see. The racial nature of this book did not diminish its message, and I did not feel that at any point it came across as though it was "preaching". It did however bring to light the racial segregation of the south and the way that blacks were treated. I felt that this is good for high school students and adults alike.

I feel that To Kill a Mockingbird is a great read for high school students, and I agree that it is a good choice for high school literature.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Yesterday, I posted a review about The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini's first book. I finished his second book yesterday and really enjoyed it. What follows is my review, I hope you enjoy it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, is a book about two specific women in Afghanistan; however, it is a book about all women in Afghanistan, and the struggles that they face everyday. Khaled Hosseini, captures the struggles of these women, the same way that he captured the struggles of his main character in The Kite Runner. A Thousand Splendid Suns, goes from the 1980's, all the way to 2003, and not once does it let you go. I read the whole book in essentially one sitting. The horrors that the women in the book face are almost beyond belief. They have to face their angry husband, and a world that is extremely unkind to women.

I felt that they way in which Khaled Hosseini captured the suffering of the two women was what made the book so enchanting. Despite the hardships that they had to face, he showed that they could still find love and friendship. The way that Khaled Hosseini showed that despite the abuse that their bodies and minds took, their spirits were still capable of achieving great heights. It is this realization that made the book so great for me.

A word of warning, A Thousand Splendid Suns is for adults and high school students. There is alot of violence and other adult themes. However, I do not think that this should turn away any perspective readers, but I do believe that it is for older students and adults.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a great novel, and is possibly even better than The Kite Runner. If you are looking for a novel that shows how the human spirit can survive even when faced with hardship, then look no farther than A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Kite Runner

The author of The Kite Runner, came out with another book titled, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I am looking forward to reading his new book, and hope that you enjoy my review of his first book, which is a wonderful novel.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, is a book told in two parts. The first is about a young boy named Amir, who is carefree and innocent. But after he witnesses an atrocious deed done to his friend, Amir turns into a recluse and insomniac, and drives his friend out of his house. As Amir and his father, struggle to escape the growing violence in Taliban ruled Afghanistan, Amir does not forget the horrible wrongs that he has done.

In the second part of the book Amir is grown and has a wife, when he is visited by an old acquaintance of his father. Amir is told that there is a small boy who is living in Afghanistan who needs his help, and Amir embarks on a journey to save this boy. As Amir travels through Afghanistan, he sees firsthand the horror that he barely escaped.

The Kite Runner is a clear view into the horrors that people face everyday in Afghanistan and the middle east. It is a clear and concise novel that not only offers a great view on the politics that go on in Afghanistan, but it also has a wonderful heartwarming story about a boy's mistakes and his struggle to right them. Khaled Hosseini also escaped from Afghanistan when he was a boy, and the feelings of fear that he breaths into his novel, make it seem almost real. The Kite Runner, is a great book for high school and adult readers, which gives you a no frill view into the horrors and struggles that people face in in our world today.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Summerland, by Michael Chabon, is a novel about a young baseball player who is roped into a mission to save a fantasy world called Summerland. The young protagonist Ethan Feld, is a clumsy, slightly dorky boy who's father is an inventor. Ethan plays baseball with little enthusiasm, and searches for something that will help him make sense of his life. This "something" comes in the form of an agent, who takes Ethan to Summerland, where he is expected to become the hero of a group of little people called Ferishers. Ethan and his friends go off on their quest to defeat Coyote and his followers, and save Summerland.

I felt that the story of Ethan Feld and his friends was well written, even though it was slightly simple. The story had a fairly predictable plot line, but all of the main characters were very well developed. Therefore, even though the plot may have been simple, the story did not become boring because it was carried by its characters. The fantasy elements of the story were wonderful and well thought out. The different creatures, both good and evil, were described in loving detail, which added a charm and life to the book which you may not find in other fantasy books.

I recommend Summerland, to middle-school age students, who are looking for a nice fantasy book to use for reports. Because of the simple nature of the plot, this book is well suited for book reports and the like. Summerland is a good read, and a great book which mixes fantasy and baseball in a way that I have never seen before.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel, is a book about a young boy named Piscine, Pi for short, who is both a religious enthusiast and the son of a zookeeper. He and his family are sailing with their animals from India to North America. The ship sinks, and Pi manages to climb aboard a life boat, only to find that his companions on the life boat are a hyena, orangutan, a zebra, and a Bengal tiger. Soon, all but Pi and the tiger are dead, and Pi is left in a horrible situation, where he must use his knowledge and fear to keep him alive every day.

Life of Pi, cast as an adventure story, is more about the way that people react when faced with less-than-ordinary situations. The book throws Pi into various challenges, the first of which is staying alive on a small boat with a Bengal tiger. Stranded in the Pacific ocean, Pi has to keep himself alive using both disgusting and comical tactics. This book brings up fundamental questions about the way the world acts and how people think, and the final twist gives you twice as much to think about. If you are looking for a thought provoking adventure novel, look no further than Life of Pi.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Soloist

The Soloist, by Mark Salzman is a book about a former Child Prodigy named Renne Sundheimer. As a young boy, Renne was a wonderful concert cellist who astounded and entranced his audiences. However, by the age of 18 his gift deserts him, and after suffering through his 20's becomes a teacher at a University in Southern California. The novel, told from Renne's perspective, follows him as he takes a young Korean boy named Kyung-hee, under his wing. The boy reminds Renne of himself, Kyung-hee has extraordinary talent, but is unresponsive and impassive. As Renne trys to make Kyung-hee open up, Renne becomes involved in a court case, the trial of a young man accused for the brutal murder of a Buddhist teacher. Renne now has the added pressure of making the right decisions both in the Jury room, and in his classroom.

As the novel progresses, it becomes not so much a story of a failed musician, but a story of a man looking for himself. The experience that accompanies his time as a Juror helps him to come to terms with his inner demons. Also the help of his young student comes into play as Renne realizes that he does not need to be a concert musician to be happy.

I found the book deeply moving, and thought-provoking. I felt that Mark Salzman, did a wonderful job capturing the thoughts and feelings of Renne. I believe that the story has truths which we can all use and relate to. However, I felt that the way in which the Buddhist religion was portrayed in the novel was fairly degrading. Even though I understand the literary aspect of the portrayal, I felt that it was nonetheless unnecessary. This aspect of the novel did not diminish the skill that Mark Salzman used when bringing Renne's story to life. This masterful telling of a man finding himself is not to be missed by the musical enthusiasts as well as those looking for a good solid novel.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five by the late Kurt Vonnegut, is an anti-war novel about a time traveling soldier named Billy Pilgrim. In the novel Billy Pilgrim becomes a prisoner of war in Dresden, which is eventually bombed towards the end of the war. The book details the struggles and hardships of World War 2 in a way that makes even the most unbelievable actions seem real.

Though the book can be choppy at times due to the way Billy Pilgrim travels through time, the story has a strong direction, and never completely loses its focus. If told by a lesser author, the story of Billy Pilgrim would not have become the sensation that it has. However, because of Kurt Vonnegut's mastery of language, and the subtle but powerful way that he delivers his message, this book has become a classic anti-war story.

As a soldier who survived the Dresden Bombings, Kurt Vonnegut's view of the situation is both moving and powerful. A true example of how an authors work can live on after his passing, Slaughterhouse is a must read for any fan of historical fiction or anyone who has an urge to read a moving novel.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Bean Trees

I just finished reading The Bean Trees by Barbra Kingsolver a book about belonging and the love that one can find in the most unlikely places. The book starts out as a girl named Taylor Greer sets out to escape from the small town in Kentucky where she grew up. Taylor heads west in her '55 Volkswagen in hopes of finding an adventure. However, when she stops because of problem with her car, she is given a young Indian baby, and is thrown into the world of motherhood. And when Taylor's car finally breaks down near a small town in Arizona, she learns that even in the desert you can find a life of love and happiness.

Barbra Kingsolver is a wonderful author who captures the trials and triumphs of Taylor as she struggles to give her adopted child a good life. This book is one of the best I have read this year because it offers a great insight into the way that humans interact with each other. On the outside this is a book about a mother and a daughter, but the deeper you delve into the story, the more you realize that this is a book about humanity and the human condition. The deeper truths that this book revealed are what made it all the more enjoyable for me, and hopefully for you too.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Battle of Jericho

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper is a story about a young high school student who is recruited to be in the most prestigious club on campus, the Warriors of Distinction. The book follows Jericho as he goes through the challenges of initiation week, and is forced to make a distinction between right and wrong.

The Warriors of Distinction offers fame and popularity to all of its members. However, joining the acclaimed organization comes at a high price. Pledge's are forced through a series of challenges that test their mental and physical strength. But as the tests become more harrowing, and more dangerous, Jericho is forced to find a place to draw the line. How can he choose between popularity and belonging; and righteousness and self-acceptance. Is it even possible for Jericho to make a decision that will not haunt him for the rest of his life?

Told by master storyteller Sharon Draper, The Battle of Jericho is a classic clash between ideals. As the story unfolds, one can discover truths about peer-pressure and high school popularity that allow one to see the world in a new light. I highly recommend this Corretta Scott King Award novel to high school students of all ages, hopefully it will help you shed some light on your own high school experiences.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Alchemist

The Alchemist is a internationally acclaimed book by Paulo Coelho is about a boy named Santiago who goes on a journey in search of treasure. While on the outside, this book is a simple fable about following your dreams, when you delve deeper into the novel, you find advice on many more subjects ranging from ideas about the human heart to thoughts on how to obtain happiness. The story starts as a quest to find a treasure buried near the pyramids; however, by the end of the book, Santiago has not only found his treasure, but also his true love as well as a deep understanding of how the world works.

The book starts when Santiago, who is living his dream as a shepherd, meets an old king has a dream about a treasure buried near the Pyramids. From there he seeks guidance from a gypsie woman, a king, and finally an Alchemist. During his journey he learns about Personal Legends, or one's destiny. He learns how to listen to his heart, and discovers the treasures within himself.

Paulo Coelho is an extraordinary story teller, and his tale of finding one's destiny will have you enchanted until the final page. He offers you a new view into the way the world is structured, and his book will have you searching for your own Personal Legend and the way to become truly happy.

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