Category Archives: Classic

Student Review: Foundation and Empire, by Isaac Asimov (reviewed by Timothy L.)

Foundation and Empire (Foundation, #2)Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Empire is an intriguing exploration of the sociopolitical effects of failure when victory seems inevitable. The book is the second book in the Foundation Novels, continuing the story of the First Foundation. In the book, a brilliant psychohistorian, Hari Seldon, founded two communities 300 years ago to pull the galaxy out of an inevitable dark age, and left various pre-recorded messages to ensure their success. However, in Foundation and Empire,, an unforeseen problem occurs when a mutant known only as The Mule is born. He demonstrates an uncanny ability to sway even his staunchest of enemies to his cause, and is bent on conquering the First Foundation. The main focus is on Bayta and Ebling Mis, a young woman and a psychologist, respectively, who are racing to find the Second Foundation so that it can save the first. All the meanwhile, worlds are falling to The Mule’s regime, and many more falling to despair and lost hope. Even the First Foundation, whose victory was foretold, is about to fall. Much of the book explores what this entails for the people in the Foundation, particularly the emotional impact. Asimov’s writing is a unique style compared to slightly more modern literature. The story is told from several perspectives, but all are spoken in Asimov’s unique voice. Any reader who enjoys sci-fi and story over appearance would enjoy the Foundation Novels, but should read the first book, Foundation, before reading Foundation and Empire. The galaxy Asimov has created, while immersive, is by no means the most diverse in sci-fi, to the point of being a bit cliché compared to modern sci-fi. Nonetheless, the Foundation Novels remain a wonderful work of science fiction, and are a must-read for any fan of sci-fi with an appreciation for good story.~ Student: Timothy L.

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Student Review: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton (reviewed by Reagan V.)

The OutsidersThe Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading The Outsiders by S.E Hinton you won’t want to even walk outside anymore. The Outsiders shows real world problems that could occur through a fictional story. I felt that The Outsiders is a terrific book, one of my favorites, because of all the action and real life events that occur in it. The Outsiders is about a kid named Ponyboy, who is a part of the lower class gang called the Greasers that have a major problem with the upper class gang the Socs. We see the gangs’ acts of violence when the Socs gang up on Ponyboy and Ponyboy said, “I was bewildered. I killed him. I had a switchblade and I was scared they were going to beat me up” (173). The action is a little gory but is really good, and the book has a great story line. If you like realistic action or just are into retro based things, then this a book for you. This book always leaves you wanting more, no matter where you stop in it. The Outsiders will make you want and not want to live in that time period to do all the cool stuff that happens and all the bad. ~ Student: Reagan V.

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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: 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: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (reviewed by Yuval L.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered by many to be amongst the finest American novels. The novel relates the story of teenager, Huck Finn, and a runaway slave named Jim, who sail a raft down the Mississippi River. Both of these characters seek freedom in different ways. Their journey in some respect alludes to the adventurous development of a young American nation in its quest for freedom.
Huck runs away from his abusive father who is trying to get his hands on a treasure he found. His father kidnapped him but he does not return home, because it was starting to get “rough living in the [widow’s] house all the time” (2). Huck’s quest to escape from civilized society may be viewed as an analogy to the American break from the rigid social structure of Europe. In some way, this trip down the Mississippi River can be analogous to the American movement for independence and freedom. Just like the colonials, Huck escapes civilized life by going into unknown territory. This may be one reason that this book has become so popular.

Like many of its contemporary American classics, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reflects an anti-racist spirit. Huck’s companion for the trip, a runaway slave, is also seeking freedom. In some strange way, they found freedom by process of seeking it. The final destination of their trip is not as important as the actual time and experience Huck and Jim share on the raft. Their day to day is unpredictable, and they are accountable to no one. Life on the raft is free. I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys reading the classics. ~ Student: Yuval L.

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Student Review: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (reviewed by Adam R.)

The Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Times of strife and suffering, while terrible, also reveal powerful lessons about the human spirit. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a brilliantly written novel which gives an interesting insight into life for lower-class Americans during the Great Depression. The book follows the exodus of the Joads, a family of Oklahoma farmers, as they are forced to leave their land because of the emergence of industrial farming techniques and travel to California in hope of a better future.

The story alternates between the travels of the Joads and short vignettes about life during the time. Steinbeck switches between beautifully crafted descriptions of imagery, and the colloquial slang spoken by the farmers, showing his talent for writing in different styles.
Primarily, the story teaches that, “If you’re in trouble or hurt or need – go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help” (514). Throughout the book, hard-working farmers are shown in a positive light, while wealthier, powerful individuals are shown as uncaring and harsh. This lesson, along with many others that are taught, shows that, ultimately, when the novel was written, its purpose was to protest against the changes which were occurring in America at the time. While the story’s context makes it more interesting from a historical viewpoint it also causes certain issues to be portrayed in a simplified manner.

The Grapes of Wrath is a thought-provoking book and a classical piece of literature, but it should be read with some prior knowledge of the story’s context. ~ Student: Adam R.

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Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved CountryCry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Paton’s classic, Cry the Beloved Country, is one that will stay with me for a long time. His simple, lyrical prose, beleaguered yet dignified protagonist and rich portrayal of South Africa combine to create a tragic tale of human struggle and loss. Zulu Stephan Kumalo is a humble Christian pastor in rural South Africa who is forced to travel to the bewildering and intimidating city of Johannesburg to search for his sister and son who have stopped writing home with no explanation. Kamali loses much more than he finds on this ill-fated journey during which the reader is exposed to the racial tensions and consequences of apartheid era South Africa. Despite facing tragic loss and shame, the tender-hearted Kumalo’s faith in humanity is restored by the selfless acts of a few key characters, both black and white. Religion is central to understanding this book, but it stops shy of preachiness. The prose is as spare as can be, boiled down to the bare essence of its intent. Poetic. Lilting. Haunting. It takes some effort to get into its rhythm, and to get past the lack of quotation marks in the dialog, or the unpronounceable African names and titles, but it is well worth the time. Before you know it, you’ll be lost in the mist on the veld, crying yourself for Paton’s beloved country. ~ Ms. Dimmick

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Student Review: A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway (reviewed by Andrew H.)

A Farewell to ArmsA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a vivid story of drinking, sex, love, murder, and loss, set in a country torn apart by war. Frederick Henry is an American ambulance driver in the Italian army during the First World War. He and his friends spend their days drinking, picking up prostitutes in the town, poking fun at the local priest, and collecting the dead and wounded after a battle. They live the indulgent lives of real men, against the backdrop of death and suffering. Henry’s central struggle begins with his love affair with Catherine Barkley, a beautiful English nurse. Henry continually tries to bid “a farewell to arms” to be with Catherine but he is always dragged back into the war. Day after day of slaughter and terror drive the men into brutality and despair, and they turn on each other. Only Henry’s passion for Catherine keeps him sane, though their “love” is ill fated. I only withhold the 5th star because Catherine’s weak, submissive portrayal ruined the relationship. She would always ask, “you do love me don’t you, and you never loved anyone else?” I never believed the main characters were in love. I recommend Farewell to lovers of the indulgent party life, for Hemingway’s vivid portrayals of joking and drinking with the soldiers, and of “loving in the hot night in Milan.”  I also recommend the book to anyone who liked Lord of the Flies, or similarly gritty books where ugly human nature is exposed by violence. I heartily recommend the book for its vivid, natural prose: when you open the book, it’s like walking through a door into a room of real people. The words transport you. ~ Student: Andrew H.

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Student Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (reviewed by Katie R.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The true definition of friendship is not based on the color of your skin or social class, but instead on what you share in common. Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is about friendship and adventure between Huck, a young runaway who lives with his aunts, and Jim, a slave on Huck’s family farm. Huck and Jim run away from society by traveling down the Mississippi River, both hiding their identities so they won’t get caught. What makes this novel interesting is how they deal with their hardships they encounter along their journey. One of which is where they abandon their raft to avoid getting hit from a steamship. By doing this, Jim and Huck are forced to give up their housing and transportation for the sake of their survival. Throughout the book, superstition comes up frequently because Jim is very superstitious and believes everything that happens is a sign. For example, “Jim said you musn’t count the things you are going to cook for dinner, because that would bring bad luck. The same if you shook the tablecloth after sundown” (55). Jim believes that everything he does has a meaning and consequence following it. In the end Jim is free from slavery and Huck is free, turning down many offers of a family. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys adventure, friendship and slight humor. ~ Student: Katie R.

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Student Review: White Fang, by Jack London (review by Cam Y.)

White FangWhite Fang by Jack London

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

White Fang is not a book about love and happiness. Many scenes in the book are very descriptive and show the terror that White Fang instills into other animals. This book is about morality, redemption, and brutality. When White Fang kills something the author describes it really well by telling what White Fang did and how he killed it. It then describes the dead animal and the blood. White Fang is half wolf half dog born in the wild of the Yukon. He later on gets caught by natives and is held in captivity by them. They take him in as their pet and all of the other dogs don’t get along with him because he is a wolf and the feud the two animals have. White Fang starts getting used to it but a couple months later he was sold away for alcohol by the chief of the natives. After that White Fang becomes a fighting dog trained to kill other dogs. He was treated badly and was not cared for by anybody making him hate. He later on fights a pitbull and wins but is badly hurt. After that he is taken by a loving family who cares for him. They want to change him into a good animal and not dangerous. This book tells the reader what things can happen and how attitudes change if in the right or wrong environment.–Student:  Cam Y.

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