Tag Archives: war

Student Review: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (reviewed by Alyson S.)

The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book I read was The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. The book is about Amir, a boy in Kabul and his servant Hassan. Amir is having trouble connecting with his father (Baba) and spends most of his time writing. Amir is jealous of Hassan’s relationship with Amir’s father and tends to tease Hassan on the fact that he is illiterate. After a traumatizing experience between Assef ( a bully) and Hassan, Amir and Hassan’s relationship is never the same. Amir sees the incident, but doesn’t say anything. Amir and Baba have to go to America because of the fighting going on in Afghanistan. Amir grows up and becomes a writer and gets married. Amir receives a letter from Rahim Khan (Baba’s friend) and has to return to Kabul in relation to Hassan’s son. Some topics the book covers are guilt, redemption, and father-son relationships. I think that other people should read this book because it conveys strong messages and reveals some truths about society. Readers that should avoid this book are children because the book has some mature scenes and messages that children would not understand or are ready for. Readers that would enjoy this book are mature adults who enjoy stories that are dramatic and have powerful messages.~ Student: Alyson S.

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Student Review: Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card (reviewed by Jayesh R.)

Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet, #1)Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is an excellent novel, full of suspense, conflict, and surprise. It takes place far in the future, after Earth has been attacked numerous times by intelligent and strange beings from a distant solar system. After years of defending their planet, the humans are preparing for a final attack against the aliens to end the war forever. Ender, a compassionate yet vicious child, is chosen out of millions, on account of his brilliance, and put through a series of vigorous tests to prepare him to be the commander of the fleet, nearing the aliens’ home planet with each passing year. He must prevail against malicious challenges, put before him to prove that he will be the most intelligent and resourceful commander that ever lived. Ender’s Game expresses the value of relationships of those you love, the importance of perseverance, and the fact that the world is not fair, and you have to the best you can with what you have.

This book is one of the best science fiction books I have ever read because of its unforgettable plot, which contains many mysteries and adventures, unlike most other books I have read. I recommend it to those interested in a fantastic book full of action and a deep meaning. Readers who dislike futuristic novels and science fiction would not enjoy the book as much as others. Overall, Ender’s Game is a magnificent novel, and everybody should bring its story into their lives. ~ Student: Jayesh R.

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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: A People’s History of American Empire, by Howard Zinn (reviewed by Dan B.)

A People's History of American EmpireA People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As we all know, America is the land of the free, a land of wonder and pure accomplishments. It is the only country in the world that has never done wrong without a good reason. Or at least that’s what our political leadership wants us to think. In reality, America is a country like any other. It does good and it does bad, and if you’ve ever decided to read one of Howard Zinn’s books, you’re definitely not reading for the good. But that does not mean this book is bad. In fact, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire is a thought-provoking collection of some of America’s darkest secrets.

Journeying through its past, readers will learn of the accomplishments America does not want you to know, and the reasons for which said deeds have been pushed so far out of our view. Illustrated in the simplistic design of Mike Konopacki’s brilliant cartoons, every page is rich with flavor and emotion. The book starts with its training wheels ripped off, with Zinn putting his views at the forefront of this text, and they are quite interesting.

With our story starting at the beginning of the 21st century, we find Zinn outraged by the 9/11 bombings of the time, but not for the reasons one would normally expect. He didn’t curse the bombers or scream for some war of revenge. No he screams for a different reason altogether. He screams instead at the United States’ refusal to learn from their past. He screams, in all the honesty of his mind, that, “[The U.S. Government] learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the [war and terrorism] of the 20th century!” (3). Zinn, of course, was commenting not on the bombings themselves, but instead the address President Bush would later give, an address that promised the bombing of the very same terrorists who bombed us. And with that, the horrors of the 20th century started once more.

“But what horrors?” You may ask. “World War 1? 2? Afghanistan?” You ask again, and while you are correct in some ways, you still misunderstand. It’s not the wars themselves that caused the 20th century’s terror. No, it was much more. The true horror of the 20th century was caused by its leaders. In particular, it was its drunk leaders. Leaders so drunk on their own power and ambitions that they would do anything to climb the social ladder. Massacres and sabotage of innocent populations was but a small fraction of their misdeeds. They were the true horrors of the 20th century, and if you wish to learn more, about America, about secrets or about the 20th century in general, then this book is for you. But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself and discover A People’s History of American Empire. ~Student: Dan B.

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Student Review: A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah (reviewed by Jeana K.)

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy SoldierA Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Long Way Gone is a heartbreaking story of a young boy named Ishmael Beah who is unexpectedly caught in the middle of a civil war in Sierra Leone. When he is just twelve years old, Ishmael and his older brother, Junior, leave their hometown to go to a nearby village to partake in a talent show with their friends, but little did they know that they would not be able to return. A group of rebels attack and destroy Ishmael’s hometown while he is away, and the rebels plan to ransack the village Ishmael is at too. Among confusion, violence, and fear of war, Ishmael, his brother, and his friends were forced to wander from village to village in search of food and shelter. For days the terrified children walked aimlessly, starving and desperate, and trying to make sense of what had happened and was happening. Ishmael, now separated from his brother was recruited into the army as a child soldier. He fights fiercely constantly killing people and taking drugs, until he is sent to the rehabilitation center. There he struggles to understand his past and ease off his dependence on the drugs. The captivating story of A Long Way Gone is filled with so many emotions that is conveyed so well by the sorrowful or angered tone. Through the detailed imagery, this book creates an effect where the reader truly feels and sees the loss and terror of the wars. While reading A Long Way Gone, I was full of sympathy and tears putting myself in his shoes. The beginning of the book was full of action and emotion which got my attention. Near the end, the plot was less exciting but still definitely worth reading. Beah illustrates an unbelievable amount of violence, blood, and death that he saw and felt. A Long Way Gone portrays the sufferings and hardships of the children during the civil war in Africa.
~ Student: Jeana K.

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Student Review: Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir, by Joseph R. Owen (Reviewed by : Isaac M.)

Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin ReservoirColder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir by Joseph R. Owen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a page-turner that you will not want to put down. Told from the perspective of second lieutenant Joseph Owens, readers will gain a first hand knowledge of what war was like during the Korean War.

Starting in California, Owen’s and his mix of 200 regulars and reserves spend a few vigorous weeks training to prepare for the war in Korea. Over a span of six months Owen watches his young men harden into a true Marine rifle company. They endure combat through the hot and filthy rice paddies of Korea and the ice-cold mountains, where they suffer from horrific frostbite as temperatures drop to -30O F. They adapt to the military life where there is little sleep and constant fear of death. The men learn to deal with brutal wounds and to move on from deaths of their fellow soldiers.

Owen’s precise descriptions of the battles and the actions really bring the story to life. One also learns great details about the weapons that are used and the specific jobs and responsibilities of military officers. Readers feel the many hardships the marines endured; from weeks languishing aboard a Japanese transport, suffering from dysentery to long days and nights battling in sub zero temperatures with little to no sleep and frozen rations. The cold was as much an enemy as the Chinese soldiers they fought (their dedicated enemy fought in high top sneakers and were sometimes found frozen to death in their caves).

I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it for anyone interested in history due to it’s personal, enthralling, and informative style.~Student: Isaac M.

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Student Review: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy SoldierA Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah (Reviewed by: Katelyn L.)

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy SoldierA Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Long Way Gone is former child soldier Ishmael Beah’s reflection upon the years during which he was forced, initially against his will, to fight the rebels in Sierra Leone. Merely twelve years old when his world was turned upside down by an attack on his home, the ensuing events reshaped the course of his entire future in such a way that has enabled him to tell them to us today.

Rarely do I read nonfiction, and rarer still do I enjoy it, but I found Beah’s story so engaging that I read the entire book in one sitting. Aside from an unsatisfactory ending that left me wanting to know more, his writing is clear and straightforward, which I appreciated because his choice to keep things simple made the facts — which in this case came primarily in the form of memories — more accessible to me as a reader than if he had used more convoluted language. It also helped that his viewpoint on the war is a firsthand one, which I feel magnifies the impact of the events that he describes; the knowledge that they come from personal experience makes them more powerful than if the memoir had been written from an outside perspective.

All in all, A Long Way Gone is almost brutal in its honesty, but the bluntness in Beah’s prose effectively conveys the injustice in his premature loss of innocent; at first unable to face the death all around him, he is able to kill without flinching by halfway through the book, a transformation both shocking and riveting, yet believable. What is most remarkable to me is how compelling the journey is; although I would ordinarily be quick to assert that there is no excuse for killing anyone, I found myself caught up in each of the incidents Beah went through to make him act the way he did to his situation, and his reactions were surprisingly relatable.

Reading A Long Way Gone, I was also struck by one of the greatest tragedies of war: the loss of humanity that occurs in people, especially children, who would otherwise have turned out very differently. While I have always been aware that the people affected by war are more than a statistic or casualty to read about in the news, the unforgettable story of just one made me realize that the true scope of any tragedy is greater than I could ever imagine; Beah’s particular set of circumstances is one of millions more, each of which has equal weight, and the sum of all those experiences is simply too great for the human mind to comprehend. Even if, years down the track, the reader don’t remember exactly what it was that happened to him, the understanding of this fact is, I think, the most important takeaway from the book.~ Student: Katelyn L.

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Student Review: The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom (reviewed by Paola S.)

The Hiding PlaceThe Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hiding Place is a true story during WWII and shows us that faith is a powerful thing that can be used in times of hardship.

Corrie ten Boom is the daughter of a watchmaker in Holland who lives her life simply, assisting around the house and the watch shop until she reaches 50 years of age. Once the German’s take Holland, her responsibilities change. Without warning she becomes the head of the underground in Haarlem, Holand, finding desperate Jews places to hide and creating a family of those in need in her own home, the Beje. All the while her family is very religious, Bible readings both in the morning and before bed is a norm and looked forward to by all.

One day the home is raided by German soldiers and her sisters Betsie and Nollie, her older brother Willem, her Father Casper ten Boom and herself are arrested along with other workers from the underground, yet her Jewish roommates are not found in the safe room.

From there on the story follows Corrie as she is sent from one prison, to a camp and then another living in terrible conditions and fighting off various diseases, the whole time using her faith to forgive others, preach from a small Bible that God loves all of those who are imprisoned as she is and lets her be thankful for the things she has. Although she loses some family members along the way, she is released ten brutal months after her arrest and welcomed home. She then opens a rehabilitation center for those scarred from long periods of time in the prison camps, always emphasizing the love that God has for us.

It is a biography that is well worth reading and although it is nonfiction it seems like it could be a fictional story, using facts to improve the plot and inform the reader without us [the reader] knowing. I highly recommend this story if you are at all interested in World War two, faith or simply want a good read.~Student: Paola S.

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Student Review: Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, by Mitchell Zuckoff (reviewed by Jacqueline L.)

Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IILost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

New Guinea, a mysterious, uncharted land in the 1940’s, was a Dutch colony. Twenty-four soldiers were sent to explore and sight-see the island, especially focusing on a valley known as “Shangri-La”, located in an unexplored jungle. This extravagant trip soon turns into a nightmarish fight for survival when their plane, The Gremlin Special, crashes. Only Margaret Hastings, a Women’s Army Corps Corporal, Lieutenant McCollom and Sergeant Decker survive. After scavenging the island for resources and treating wounds, the soldiers encounter New Guinea’s indigenous people notorious for being cannibalistic headhunters and America’s enemy: the Japanese. Mentally and physically weak, the trio is saved by American military parachuters.

Although this is a very real account of the survival story of these soldiers, Zuckoff was able to seamlessly play within the strict realm of non-fiction. Michael Zuckoff used extremely detailed imagery to create a tropical, paradisal setting to contrast the disastrous chaos that was going to ensue for the protagonist and her colleagues. The irony of such a bad thing happening in such a beautiful place added to the story and made the plot seem even more calamitous than it already was. Also, the author introduced the main characters in a lot of depth and provided parts of their past that brought them to the military which made them more relatable.

At first glance, an extreme war narrative doesn’t seem like it would be engaging, however, Zuckoff uses details to keep the reader interested and provides details about the main characters that make them much more accessible to a twenty-first century reader. I would highly recommend this book to any reader.~Student: Jacqueline L.

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Martyrs’ Crossing, by Amy Wilenz

Martyrs' Crossing (Reader's Circle)Martyrs’ Crossing by Amy Wilentz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a political story with a human touch. A young Palestinian-American woman raised in Cambridge returns to her homeland to marry a Hamas activist, while her academic father watches from the safety of Harvard University with a mixture of pride, guilt and horror as her life spins out of control. Marina’s husband is incarcerated in Israel for involvement in a terrorist plot and their toddler dies a needless death while awaiting checkpoint authorization to cross the border to access urgent medical care for his asthma. The political drama that ensues as a result of his preventable martyrdom reveals both the absurdity and humanity that exists on both sides of this age old conflict. The writing is poignant and the story is gripping at times, though the overall tone is depressing and somewhat fatalistic. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the book, but I was moved by it and came away with a deeper understanding of the complexities of the volatile situation in the Middle East. ~ Ms Dimmick

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