Student Review:A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin (reviewed by Cameron M.)

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea is classic fantasy at its finest, and it’s one of my favorite reads in the genre. It follows the adventures of Ged, a wizard in the titular world of Earthsea, through the beginnings of his adventures. From his first exploits in sorcery on his small home island to the great university of Roke to high adventure across the islands and seas, Ged gains power, wisdom, and maturity beyond his years- though not without a cost or misadventures along the way. A Wizard of Earthsea has some of the greatest characters and settings I have ever encountered in fantasy: realistic enough to relate to and immerse in but fantastic enough to escape to and marvel at. LeGuin conjures images of dragons, magic, and heroes beyond compare, all while tying the novel down to the little, everyday struggles of a man making his way through a big, strange world. The characters are down to earth and while their conflicts may involve great dangers and struggles, their motivations are very real. Rivalries, pride, and self-discovery are prime motivations for Ged and his acquaintances, and they bring the characters’ struggles that much closer to reality. Despite this, fantasy isn’t for everyone, and if you’re looking for something gritty or romantic look elsewhere (though I’d still recommend giving it a try). A Wizard of Earthsea is high fantasy adventure at its finest, and I strongly suggest reading it whether you are a long-time fantasy fanatic, or just looking for something new to read. ~ Student: Cameron M.

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Student Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith (reviewed by Katherine B.)

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Want to read a detective novel, but too lazy for Doyle or Cristie? For a short, sweet, and heartwarming book, pick up Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Smith’s novel has all the elements of a great mystery- a first-rate protagonist, a compelling plot, and an unforgettable ending.

Mma Ramotswe, the story’s protagonist, is a middle-aged Botswanan woman who decides to start a detective agency after her father’s death. Mma Ramotswe drives from one mystery to the next, solving each through intuition and resourcefulness. Most of the mysteries are lighthearted and witty, but one is more serious. Gradually Mma Ramotswe uncovers more information about it, and eventually is able to confront a face of her country’s sinister problem.

Even though many chapters don’t feature much action (e.g., ‘Mma Matsuki Deals with the Mail’), The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is very entertaining. Mma Ramotswe comes up with a clever solution to each problem she’s given, which becomes even more interesting against the Botswana backdrop. The most mundane chores, like driving to meet a client, become infinitely more exciting when a snake glides up into Mma Romotswe’s car and she has to decide what to do about it.

Also, the novel is narrated with a very straightforward, understated voice. It says enough to provide humor and interest, without saying too much and impeding the flow of plot:

“’Have you been in my house before?’ he asked, knowing of course, that she had not. ‘Have you been to one of my parties?’
That was a lie as well, she knew. Mr. Patel never gave parties, and she wondered why he would pretend to do so.
‘No.’ She said simply. ‘You have never asked me.’
‘Oh dear,’ he said, chuckling as he spoke. ‘Then I have made a big mistake’”(99).

Although this isn’t all in the quote, this book is sad, sweet, funny, and beautifully honest- and the story’s simple, sincere voice captures this perfectly.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a cheerful, uncomplicated novel, or a painless mystery book. Despite its title, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency isn’t at all a girly book, and I recommend it highly to both girls and boys in search of a light read. ~ Student: Katherine B.

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Student Review: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (reviewed by Maria H.)

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, captures young readers’ interest by the characters for fighting for life and falling in love. Not only is this book a page-turner but also takes the reader on a journey through the life of a young girl with cancer. Hazel, one of the main characters, struggled with thyroid cancer that spread through her lungs since she was little. There is a tug of war that her parents win and make her go to a support group. At the support group she meets a young man Augustus close to her age that used to have cancer. Later on in the book Hazel and Augustus kindle a romantic and passionate relationship that leads to an intrigue with love. Reading more into the book, a relationship between the reader and the characters develop. The ending of the book has a little ironic twist to it. The Fault In Our Stars is a romantic novel with a tragic ending. This book gives the reader a sense that life comes with curveballs. I admired how the author kept the narrator Hazel herself. Hazel and Augustus were very believable because it was as if a girl told to story herself. In the very beginning when Hazel and Augustus meet each other he ignores that she has cancer and only admires how beautiful she is. In that point of the book I could already tell that Augustus had a true love for Hazel. The book connects to young readers as their journey through the book hopes to find love that lasts between Hazel and Augustus. I made a personal connection with the book because we both shared a tragedy. I would recommend this book to other readers because it captures a great interest. ~ Student: Maria H.

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Student Review: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte (reviewed by Sarah A.)

Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The only thing better than a wild, passionate love story, is one written in rich, beautiful language and by a woman with a fascinating history. One such story is found in Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, published in 1848, the year before her death at age thirty. This book is an intriguing page-turner with a startling plot and realistic characters who interact in surprising ways.

Bronte’s style throughout this book uses language similar to most writers of her time, with complex sentences and accents which are a challenge to decipher. The simple country setting of the story provides a smooth backdrop for the story’s drama involving Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, her lover, and their families. The characters are each complex and unique, with personalities that change as they age throughout the book. Catherine and Heathcliff are raised in the same family, though they are not siblings, and as they mature their shared struggles and desires bring them to realize their deep love for each other. When the two lovers meet at the climax of the book to finally proclaim their love for one another, Heathcliff exclaims: “‘Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you – oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?’” (197-8). Their love is so powerful, and the mysterious outcomes of their lives leaves the reader moved and somewhat remorseful.

I thought Wuthering Heights was a beautifully crafted love story in which every character’s fate was precisely realistic and touching. Any strong reader with a taste for old literature and engrossing stories should certainly pick up a copy of Wuthering Heights. ~ Student: Sarah A.

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Student Review: Proof of Heaven, by Eban Alexander (reviewed by Zachary R.)

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the AfterlifeProof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine the afterlife. What is it? Could it be like what we think it is? Or possibly could it be something else? There are very few people in this world who have experienced the afterlife and are back to share what it was like; one being Eben Alexander, the author of Proof of Heaven. Proof of Heaven is a novel about a man, Dr.Alexander, who suffered from a life-ending disease of Bacterial Meningitis. Eben was doing his daily practice of a neurosurgeon, and that disease of bacterial meningitis soaked into his brain and took over his body. He soon became ill and went into a coma. While he was in that coma, he went into his afterlife. He lived it, felt it, enjoyed it, and most of all remembered it. A couple days later, he miraculously came back to life and totally healed. Now, Mr.Alexander is able to explain what the afterlife was like and can give us valuable and essential information as to what to expect. As some might say that his information is invalid and not believable, since Eben doesn’t remember everything; the author really elaborates on how everything was. My favorite part about the book is how miraculous a recovery he had. Just from going from almost dead to writing and publishing a book is very inspirational. Eben Alexander is one of the only people to have this happen to them and the fact that he is a doctor is ironic. I believe that anyone who wants an interesting and inspirational read should consider this book. It was awesome! ~ Student: Zachary R.

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Student Review: Animal Farm, by George Orwell (reviewed by Caitlin C.)

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel is short, easy to read, and a classic, so I enjoyed it. Animal Farm by George Orwell is a fable about a farm that was taken over by the animals. Throughout the book the animals run into problems like betrayal and hypocrisy.

The book begins with the Manor Farm’s revolution and transformation into the “Animal Farm.” Although the point of the revolution is to have a farm that was run by animals devoted to equality, the pigs of the farm continually deceive the other animals into thinking of scenarios that are obviously untrue. The pigs even create a maxim that “All animals are equal/ But some animals are more equal than others”(148). Even though the pigs tell the animals lies, the animals are so naive they believe it.

Orwell’s style is very straightforward and simple to understand. Orwell never uses frivolous vocabulary or subtle symbolism that make the writing difficult to interpret. I like this book as a quick read because it allowed me to think about the morals and its reflection of politics instead of having to decipher text. Animal Farm’s plot connects to revolutions in countries around the world, but specifically to the Russian revolution that lead to the Stalin era. While simple to read, this book made interesting connections to real political situations that have happened in history.

Animal Farm is simple and a modern classic, so I recommend it. ~ Student: Caitlin C.

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Student Review: Timebound, by Rysa Walker (reviewed by Charlotte G.)

Timebound (The Chronos Files, #1)Timebound by Rysa Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Kate Pierce-Keller’s sick grandmother comes to visit with a strange glowing medallion, Kate just has to know more and wants to get to know her in the little time her grandmother says she has left. But when she begins to tell Kate about time travel, she thinks that her grandmother is insane. Kate does not know how drastically her life is about to change. This exciting, fast-moving book keeps the reader on the edge of their seat until the final word.

When Kate learns of a murder that takes place in the past, the medallion is the only thing keeping her in existence. Kate’s new-found ability to time travel is the only thing keeping her and her family a reality, and she is the only person who can fix the past. Will Kate risk her life to go back in the past to restore her family, only to lose her love and his memory of her?

Timebound by Rysa Walker conveys the lesson of being grateful for what you have, because it can quickly disappear. Kate becomes overwhelmed when her parents are suddenly taken out of her life. When she finds out, Kate snaps and says rudely, “I’m sorry. I was preoccupied with the discovery that my parents no longer exist (N/A).” While Kate does not know what will happen to her because of the sudden change in the past, she must be very careful. Knowing she could vanish just like her mother did, Kate and her grandmother worry about each other because they are all they have left.

I recommend this book for anyone (mostly girls) who enjoys adventure, excitement, and a little romance on the side. This book contains time travel, a killer, love, and mystery too. Thankfully, the end of the book does not leave you wondering- it closes very nicely. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next book in the series. ~ Student: Charlotte G.

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Student Review: Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen (reviewed by Michaela M.)

Along for the RideAlong for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever had to learn to deal with a parent’s remarriage and going to college stress at the same time? Or not have a normal childhood because you were always studying? In Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen, the story deals with many issues in an interesting mix of all the problems the main character Auden has to face. Auden is trying to have fun the summer before going to college. Her parents divorced when she was younger and her upbringing made her unable to deal with change. Usually Auden would study and do what her mother said, but when she goes to visit her father and his new family at his house on the beach, Auden changes. With the help from new friends and her love interest, Eli, she learns how to have fun and deal with the changes in her life. One particular scene illustrates the book’s primary message, “It all counts,’ Adam said again. ‘And the bottom line is, what defines you isn’t how many times you crash, but the number of times you get back on the bike. As long as it’s one more, you’re all good.” (325). The novel ultimately suggests that you should not worry about falling as long as you always focus on that one piece of strength that can get you started again. The book is multifaceted it and shows an interesting group of friends who befriend Auden. The book is a very interesting and fun summer teen book you should definitely read it. ~ Student: Michaela M.

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Student Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (reviewed by Benjamin A.)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sherman Alexie, the author, writes an amazing story. He creates an image of life very similar to high school kids in Newton, except for one thing, money. It is one of the most real, funny but at the same time extremely controversial due to the use of profanity and reference to sex. Overall, it was an absolute page-turner.

Arnold, the main character, begins the story by stating his condition. At birth he was diagnosed with an excess of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Basically, he had too much water in his brain. So, he has many physical problems and gets made fun of a lot.

During his first week of high school, Arnold is fed up with the fact that his school can’t afford books for everyone so he throws his book at his teacher and ends up breaking the teachers nose, resulting in Arnold being expelled and having to switch schools.

Arnold transfers to Reardan High School, a school completely the opposite of his old school due to the fact that it is made up of mostly rich white kids. Arnold clearly does not fit in financially. He soons develops a crush on the most popular girl in the school. She becomes his replacement for his best friend at the other school he went to named Rowdy. He tries out for the basketball team at his school and makes it. Before Arnold knows it he is playing his old school with his old pal Rowdy.

He then tells us about some crazy and weird situations that are funny but at the same time very very weird. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone but especially a high schooler because they can relate the best to it. ~ Student: Benjamin A.

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Student Review: Homeland, by Cory Doctorow (reviewed by Jared G.)

Homeland (Little Brother, #2)Homeland by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Homeland by Cory Doctorow is a great book for anyone looking for a David versus Goliath story. In this sequel to Little Brother Marcus is still recovering from being detained and tortured by his own government as a suspect after the terrorist bombing of San Francisco, he is a small person fighting a government who is completely ignoring the rights of its people. The entire economy of San Francisco is in a slump. Both of Marcus’ parents have lost their jobs and he has been forced to drop out of college because he can’t pay his bills. When a flash drive filled with secrets the government doesn’t want people to know is given to Marcus by a friend for safe keeping, Marcus doesn’t know what to do when the friend disappears. Meanwhile Marcus gets a job as the IT manager for a candidate for mayor who seems like he is going to fix things. Unsure of what to do with the data and unwilling to hurt his boss’s chances Marcus, with his girlfriend Ange and several other close friends,begins to sort through the secrets using their knowledge of computers to keep anyone from finding out, but somehow the information ends up leaked to the web. Homeland is a book that never gets boring with constant excitement that will keep you reading. ~ Student: Jared G.

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