Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tolog Review: The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club 
by Amy Tan
reviewed by Kitty Fang

At the moment I closed the book, I laughed with tears. I felt sorry for what the characters in the book have gone through while I smiled for the happy ending. 

The Joy Luck Club tells stories of four immigrant mothers from China and their daughters who were born in America. The mothers came to America with the willing to get rid of their pathetic past and the hope for giving their kids a better life. They founded the joy luck club and played Mahjong, which is my favorite game and attracted me to read the book in the first place. The author did a great job talking about marriage and relationship between mothers and daughters.

I was always wondering how I should get along with my future daughter when I was reading the book. Waverly and her mother Lindo make me think of my own mother. Since I was little, my mom always makes comparisons between other kids and me. Every time I had to try harder and harder, trying to be outstanding. At that time I thought she just enjoyed the feeling of superiority, but I just realized that I was wrong. The reason why my mother compared me with others is the same as Lindo’s---- They are both proud of their daughters. There was so much misunderstanding between Lindo and Waverly, just as my mother and me. The book tells me that mothers and daughters should be understanding for each other. Now I think I have figured out the answer of the way to get along with my future daughter.
The second important theme is marriage. Marriage, the word seems to be distant to me since I am only 15. The first marriage of Lindo, which happened in ancient China, was unhappy. Women cannot choose their husband in ancient China. Indeed, how can a marriage be happy when the couples have never met before? I admire Lindo because she got out of that marriage by a trick and came to America and found her true self. I strongly disagree that wives are supposed to obey everything their husbands say. The book teaches me the right definition of love and marriage: Female and male are born to be equal. We women should have the courage to stand out for ourselves when it is needed.
Additionally, The Joy Luck Club talks about culture gap, Chinese tradition and so on. I appreciate the way the author plots. It is creative and attractive that the whole book is written in first person in different people’s views. The Joy Luck Club is such a great book that makes me want to read it again.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tolog Review: Outside Beauty

Outside Beauty
by Cynthia Kadohata
reviewed by Mia Valencia Chanler

Outside Beauty is a novel written by Cynthia Kadohata about four sisters who not only have a very close bond with one another, but also live in a very unique family structure. The story is told through the eyes of Shelby and because of this the vocabulary used is not as advanced. The four girls, Marilyn, Lakey, Shelby, and Maddie share the same mother, however, they are all from different dads. Helen, their mother, only truly cares about her looks and how to keep herself from looking older. She teaches the girls that beauty is really all that counts to men and the world, instead of how smart one is. Although this is not true and perhaps Helen is not a good role model for the girls, she shows them what it is to be brave and the importance of family. She does this by deciding the girls have to live with their biological fathers after a terrible car accident leaves her in the hospital. They are then sent across the country to stay with their real fathers until their mother is well again. But from their mother’s determined qualities she instilled in them, they will not let this bump in the road damage their pact together. They must now find a way to overcome this difficult situation to find themselves and one another. The love and companionship the girls have illustrates how a family does not have to be the traditional, “perfect” family in order to be considered a family. A family is people whom love each other unconditionally and would do anything to make him or her happy. The other stuff, when it comes down to it, does not matter. All that matters is their love.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tolog Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
reviewed by Alexandra Artura

“And Then There Were None” is a timeless novel about how a harmless getaway to an isolated island went terribly wrong. Written by Agatha Christie, it’s a suspenseful story that quickly became a classic and appeals to a variety of readers.

For the ten unsuspecting victims of a murder case, spending a week on Soldier Island was just the kind of vacation they needed. What they didn’t know was that this trip could possibly be their last. Each of the ten residents was invited by an unknown acquaintance to the mysterious island. When their host didn’t show up, they knew that something was amiss. All of a sudden, it seemed as though the guests were dying off one by one. Each death seemed to correspond with a line from a twisted nursery rhyme that hung in each of the bedrooms. As each guest had their life taken from them, each soldier figure on the dining room table went along with them. At first they thought of it as just a coincidence, but things fell into place and they realized that they might be murdered before they ever get the chance to leave the island. 

Agatha Christie is the author of many mystery novels, but this book is one of her best works. It keeps readers on their toes and in suspense throughout the entire story. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen next! She does an excellent job of moving the story along and connecting one event to the next. Even when you think you have everything figured out, she finds a way to turn the whole story around. I felt compelled to keep reading, and just couldn’t seem to put this book down. If you enjoy mystery novels that keep you engaged, then you should read “And Then There Were None”.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tolog Review: My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
reviewed by Mercedes De La Torre

Jodi Picoult’s “My sister’s keeper” analyzes just how precious life is and discusses the controversial idea about whether it is morally just for scientist to help a woman conceive a child to help save another. The story begins when Anna goes to see Mr. Campbell Alexander the “kid lawyer.” She states that she would like to file a lawsuit against her parents regarding her rights to her own body. Her sister Kate, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia at the age of two, needed a kidney transplant and Anna has decided that she should not have to give up her kidney, and that enough is enough. 

When Anna’s mother Sara first received the papers saying that she had been served she felt betrayed by her daughter and really couldn’t seem to understand why Anna would do this to her sister Kate. Throughout the book you can see how Anna and Sara’s mother daughter relationship strengthens. As the book progresses Sara becomes more understanding towards her daughter and ultimately realizes that it was Anna’s decision because it was her body and even though she loved her sister she knew things had reached their limits. This specific situation between Anna and her mother reminds me of many mother daughter relationships. Sometimes us teens feel as though our mom’s may not understand us and sometimes it may be hard for the mother to hear what were feeling because they mat not understand but one thing to always remember is that she will love you unconditionally. My mom always said that watching your child in pain is one of the hardest things a mother ever has to go through. When Kate was diagnosed with cancer at such a young age Sara’s maternal instincts kicked in and she was determined to do all that she could to save her baby. I feel that she was a bit too sidetracked in helping Kate in anyway she could that she may have not realized how it was affecting Anna. 

One thing I enjoyed but at the same time didn’t enjoy about Picoult’s choice I style of writing. For example, the very first chapter talks about how Anna goes in to see Mr. Alexander and it is written form her perspective but the very next chapter was from Mr. Alexander’s point of you. I enjoyed this because it was personal to exactly how each character was feeling in that specific situation but at the same time I felt as thought the book became repetitive and a bit slow. 

Overall, I truly did enjoy this book. It made me laugh, cry and wish I knew a boy as amazing as Taylor Ambrose all at once but most importantly made me value life. I realized how easy it can be to take the little things in life for granted but that we shouldn’t because things as simple as waking up and putting to feet on the ground could be someone’s dream out there somewhere in the world.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tolog Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
reviewed by Mattison Interian

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an amazing book filled with innocence, kindness, cruelty, love, and hatred. This best seller is a Pulitzer Prize award-winning book and has won over the heart of millions. Harper Lee won my heart over with Jem, Scout, Dill and Atticus by plunging me deep into who they were and the struggles they were experiencing in Maycomb. The book seemed to have almost two halves to it. One half of the book is consumed with Jem, Scout and Dill’s obsession with Boo Radley. The other half is mostly consumed with the trial of Tom Robinson. To Kill a Mockingbird addressed many controversial conflicts including that Scout was not treated well because of who she is, Tom was treated unfairly because of his skin color and Boo was judged because of his behavior.
Scout is a tomboy who refuses to act just like a proper woman after the Great Depression. She is constantly told that she needs to wear dresses and to stop going outside and playing with boys. Tom Robinson has the same issue; he was classified by his appearance and not by his personality. Tom Robinson was just being a good person and helping Mayella Ewell but when something goes wrong, the whole situation turns around and Tom could find himself locked up. Boo Radley never leaves his house, and in Maycomb, that causes rumors to start. Boo, whose real name is Arthur, has a few mental problems but he is still a nice person. He is viewed to be a monster who has become more of a myth than a person. They are all wrongly labeled and this creates many problems for them throughout the book.
Towards the middle of the book, everything takes a turn for the worst. Atticus is defending Tom in court and everyone is being mean to him and his family for defending an African American. Scout gets bullied even more for who she is and for what Atticus is doing for Tom. Can Scout stay strong and persevere through the tough times that she is going through or will she break down and believe the bullies? This book deals with being yourself and not caring about what others think of you.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Tolog Review: Twisted

by Laurie Halse Anderson
reviewed by Darcy Michero

A lot of teens think that if they have the perfect body, all their troubles will go away and life will be wonderful. This notion is shot down in Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel, Twisted. Tired of being a nerdy nobody, Tyler Miller, committed a “Foul Deed” during his junior year of high school and is on probation. He spent the summer doing physical labor as a part of his community service and has the muscles to show for it. Tyler has caught the attention of Bethany Milbury, the popular “queen bee” of the school, with his rebellious reputation. Unfortunately, his looks do nothing to improve his relationship with Bethany’s twin brother, Chip, who has bullied Tyler for years.

When Bethany invites Tyler to a party, he is ecstatic. But after a terrible incident happens there, the police come looking for him, and Tyler learns that he is the prime suspect. Even though Tyler has done all the right thing after the “Foul Deed” it continues to haunt him. The unforgiving principle banished him from his classmates, Chip’s crew beat him up, and his controlling father threatens him with military school. Tyler is at rock-bottom when he goes looking for his father’s gun. What will he do with it?

Twisted is a coming of age story that is both funny and sad. Laurie Halse Anderson reveals Tyler’s inner thoughts to the readers, which are sometimes humorous like when his hormones are roaring, and sometimes scary like when he has suicidal thoughts. Though some of the characters are stereotypes, others like Tyler’s sassy and supportive sister, Hannah, are refreshing. I think that many teenagers can related to Tyler’s struggle with the high school life and will love a glimpse inside his head. Overall, I really enjoyed reading about Tyler’s journey to maturity and manhood. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tolog Review: My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante
reviewed by Morgan Sarno

When Elena gets a call one day from her friend’s son saying that his mother, Lila, has disappeared, Elena is not surprised. Having known Lila for over sixty years, Elena knew that one day she would do this. Lila always overdid things wanting to be the best. Elena had known that Lila wanted to totally erase every particle of her existence. Anything that had some connection to her had gone missing when she disappeared. Elena thought that Lila was really overdoing things this time. Elena realizes that not even she has any reminder of Lila. All Elena has of her friend are memories. The story of their childhood together unfolds as Elena embarks on a mission to save the only thing she has left of Lila and out do her friend, as if they were children again, once and for all. 

Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend” transports you into a rough, blue-collar town in post-war Italy in the 1950s to witness the shifting friendship between Elena, a pretty, smart, and, well-liked girl, and the scrawny, feisty, troublemaking, but extremely intelligent Lila who is always one step ahead of Elena. The competition between the two began as innocent first graders when Lila and Elena venture to Don Achille’s apartment to retrieve their lost dolls. He was hated by adults for unknown reasons and considered the hoarder of all lost objects by children. Hand in hand, the girls dare to retrieve their dolls from Achille, something unthinkable for any child to do if they valued life. This begins the relationship that carries Elena through her difficult school career when she has no one to look to and loses motivation and keeps Lila sane from her manic, abusive family. 

Elena idolizes Lila. Elena pushes herself to the breaking point just to do better than her friend, who is hard to outdo since she is practically a genius. To Lila, Elena is a sanctuary where she can escape the threats of beatings from her harsh father and wealth-obsessed brother. Despite their love-hate relationship, they realize that in the end each girl needs the other otherwise they are miserable. 

“My Brilliant Friend” has the reader turning pages nonstop as you follow the twists and turns of two companions’ on-off friendship through the most lighthearted and the toughest times and a city being revived from the war. This is the first of three books in a series. Ferrante’s other two books in the series are “The Story of a New Name” and “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's Ok to Be Smart is my other new favorite thing

Tolog Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
reviewed by Emily Curley

Alice Sebold creates a world like no other in her novel “The Lovely Bones”. The reader grasps an understanding of a young girl named Susie Salmon. This includes the days before her murderous death and the elongated months after. Full of suspense, mystery, and crime this novel will leave the reader constantly wanting more.
The author begins the novel by giving the reader a clear understanding of Susie Salmon’s normal teenage life. Susie attends high school and is like any other ordinary teenage girl. She had friends, a crush, and for the most part enjoyed the life she knew so well. But just when the reader is led to believe there is likely a happy ending, a terrible misfortune occurs. Susie Salmon is murdered on December 6, 1973. A murder caused by someone thought to be a reclusive and worry free neighbor, Mr. Harvey. 

The murder creates a major shift in the small town of Norristown, Pennsylvania. While everyone is trying to accept the loss of a beloved child and friend, Susie is trying to accept the fact that she will no longer be present on earth, but rather present in heaven. In heaven, Susie witnesses the ups and downs that occur after her death and she constantly tries to send signals to her family and friends, pointing them in the direction of the murderer, Mr. Harvey. Through all her attempts, the reader experiences an emotional roller coaster ride filled with anguish and hope.

Words cannot express the level of suspense in this novel; lets just say I could never read this book without having nightmares. At times, I found myself jumping out of my seat, running out of my room, telling my parents the gory details about the death and eventual dismemberment of the main character’s body. If you like murder and mystery, I would highly recommend this book. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Maurice Sendak on Being a Kid

Tolog Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
reviewed by Christine Grimes

The book, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, is a general fiction and a mystery story. This was a good book to read because the beginning had a very good hook to it and all throughout the first chapter and even the second chapter as well. For example in chapter two it says, “ ‘Must go through with it, I suppose,’ and thereafter dismissed everything from his mind. Warm steaming water—tired limbs—presently a shave—a cocktail—dinner. And After—?” I would wonder what he has to go through with and what choice he is making. Even the title of the name of the book, And Then There Were None, sounds very interesting because you want to know what the situation is and what happened to the people who left or disappeared.

Eight complete strangers all were invited to go to an Indian Island. As all of the guests gathered all together, they hear a recorded voice that was accusing all of them of something horrible. Every day, something awful has happened to someone and you can’t imagine what it is. It is a mystery to find out who it could be and why there were brought on this island. Did something happen to all of the people who were there or was it just some of them? It will be especially good if you not only love to read mysteries, but are interested to find out what they were accused of and what happened to them. Also, like any mystery, the clues are very important and this book is no exception and need to be followed carefully.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tolog Review:The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan
reviewed by Leah Rassam

Family is a lifestyle. It involves your culture, the people that surround you, and what you believe in. The Joy luck Club by Amy Tan constructs the idea of what defines a family and what it represents.

Eight ladies tell stories of either living in China or living in America as a Chinese-American. The greater emphasis is on the symbolism of the relationship between a mother and daughter. The stories in the novel are written from the point of view from four mothers and their four daughters. The stories are not necessarily sequential. I would read one story in the middle of the book and then skip to the back and read a story there. Though the book is made up of different short stories, they are all connected through the same message of the importance of culture and relationships. It was interesting to read through the eyes of the mother and then again from the vantage point of the daughter. The novel can be related to fables. Tan makes a statement through each of her fictional stories that teaches a lesson, often one learned from her relationship with her mother. 

The book contains the culture and tradition of the Chinese and the Americans. It was well written and symbolic. The short stories within the novel connect and progress to form a message about the bond between a mother and a daughter. Although each family is Chinese, they have different ways of conversing with each other. Some of the mothers and daughters understand each other, while others do not. The stories from each pair of mothers and daughters are similar and have messages that relate to one another, such as the fact that some mothers and daughters do not communicate well, but still find ways to love each other. 

Everyone has his or her own belief system. This is constructed from numerous things, including religion. A daughter describes her experience with God. She conveys how her mother’s faith in God never falters until the day she loses her little brother. The mother carried a small Bible with her wherever she went. Then after the loss of the child she no longer read it, but rather used it as a shim to keep a table balanced. Everyday the daughter watched as her mom acted as if the Bible was not there. Secretly she knew her mother still thought about it because it was never dirty, even though it was on the floor. 

Amy Tan defines family through the relationship of a mother and daughter. The stories encompass examples that show cultural influences, a mother-daughter bond, and a belief system. No matter who you are or where you come from, these ideas of love are universal and can be felt by families all around the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tolog Review: Forgotten Fire

Forgotten Fire
by Adam Bagdasarian
reviewed by Monica Ng

In this world, everyone is struggling for survival. Everybody hopes to live happily in the world, but not everyone can be like that. People in the world have to work hard that they can survive. Some people are not lucky, perhaps they may be very poor or they have disease and they have no money to remedy, they need to work twice as hard as other people because they want to live. If you are a person who always protect by other people, may be one day you must have to exercise and challenge yourself to understand how to survive in the outside world. 

The main character in Forgotten Fire is Vahan Kenderian, who is the twelve-year-old boy at the beginning of the story. The story is written in the first person narrative, so that the author and narrator seem to be the same. The story is mainly about the boy lived in a happy home; because he was the youngest child in the family, so the members in the family were really care of him and the boy also believed his real world would be harmonious forever. In 1915s, at that chaotic time, the boy met a huge transition in his life that he lost his home and family. Everything was change for him, his life just like fell from heaven to hell. His mother helped he escaped from the control of soldiers with his friend Sisak but at the same time, that was the last he saw his mother. They left; he wonder in different places and he also met many different people. 

He overcame lot of difficulties and experienced things by himself. Through these things, he learned how to survive in the world and he created a strong spirit and tenacious belief for himself. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kurt Cobain on Identity

Tolog Review: Uglies

by Scott Westerfeld
reviewed by Natalie Burnham

Scott Westerfield’s science fiction novel Uglies follows a community where a person stays “ugly” until they are sixteen, when they then have a surgery to become “pretty.” More specifically, Uglies follows an ugly named Tally Youngblood, who only ever wanted to join her best friend Peris-who was older than her- in the pretty world. Only, things start to go askew when she meets Shay, an act-before-she-thinks ugly who starts to change Tally- in a rebellious way. When I first read this book, and I’ve read it about five times now, the first thing that came to mind was “This is our society, too.” Teenagers, usually up to about the age of sixteen (give or take a few years), are considered awkward, gangly, and ugly. Then, they “miraculously” change into adults, no longer awkward or out of place. But also, the novel highlights the idea of natural beauty, especially when an ugly falls in love with Tally herself- when she’s still an ugly. The novel talks a lot about the surgery, which is the equivalent to plastic surgery, with a lot more attached. But basically, the surgery is the same as plastic surgery today. 

My thoughts are, which then continues in the next book Pretties, what would actually happen if everyone was pretty? Or, maybe just the stereotypical, “Hollywood” beautiful? Even in their world, they find other ways to become superior or inferior to one another. That would happen in our society, too, because humans (in my opinion) fall to superiority and inferiority. The next book especially, but also the first, show ways that we don’t think about when we are thinking about how our society could change. Even if we all were stereotypically “perfect”, there would still be ways to separate people. 

But, either way, this book is one of my favourite books. The characters are very relatable, because they’re near our age, and feeling (obviously) out of place, and kind of going through similar situations- though their situations are a bit more extreme. The novel keeps you interested with romance, action, adventure, and friendship. I couldn’t put it down. Definitely recommend this book to anyone!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tolog Review: The Color Purple

The Color Purple
by Alice Walker
reviewed by Meiqing Gao

This great book which is not only describe a dark world, but also give people a newest, challenging and some different points of views. “The Color Purple” describe a black woman Celie who is not beautiful, intelligent, no characteristics and cowardly with a totally different world with us. Celie writes the letters to the God everyday about her daily through her lifetime. Through this process, she knows some new people and new qualifications; she is changing, she become a greatly, confidently and hopefully person, she get lover, friends, kinship and something she even cannot imagine before. I’m going to talk about some plots about her changes next.

Celie was the poorest woman in this world; she lost her self-esteem, her children and her sister Nettie because of her gutless. The first time she got the new thought is from Sophia. Sophia was an impulsive person, she knows how to reject things and speak it out, she has her own mind; however, Celie is afraid of refuse the things she doesn’t want and resist people. Sophia gave her a big influence because that’s an amazing thing she did not contacted before. Sophia has so much different with Celie. she hit back her husband and leaves him with fearless. She made a new point of view for Celie.

Shug Avery gave the second impact of her worldview, which is the most important part of the book. The author described Shug as a brave, critical and creative form. Celie and Shug fall in love and with a huge courage that regardless of the secular view. Celie learned a lot from this lovely woman, her views, her personalities, and also some feelings she ever felt before. Shug is a proud, beautiful woman for her. The last thing happened make Celie waked up with a powerful energy, she started to resist her fate; she leaved with S from Albert. Celie got her new beginning. She worked hard and got her happiness. The God is fair, she met her sister Nettie again and hade more friends, the property from her father got back and gained her lover. Almost everyone in this book realized the problems for themselves and changed in a good way.

At the ending of the story, they got happiness undoubted, readers felt relax and feel really delighted, for people in this story. This tory main theme is that feminist awaking and revolt, also tell as repressive and intolerant is everywhere, genders are not a problem for love as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blank on Blank is my new favorite thing

Tolog Review: The Help

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
reviewed by Julia Swart

Aibileen Clark has raised over sixteen white children, and counting, drawing energy from nowhere but the love in her heart. She is not the mother of these children; she does this for a living. No she is not a foster-mother, or a nanny, guess again. She is a black maid, living in Jackson, Mississippi in the year of 1962. For Aibileen, dealing with scowls and snide remarks from white ladies is perfectly normal and she deals with these situations quite well, her friend Minny, however, has some room for improvement.

Though Minny possesses many talents that are ideal in a maid (good cook, hard working, etc.) she also possesses an attitude that is less than desirable, and has caused her to lose job after job. At last Minny finds a job that right off the bat seems too good to be true: double the pay of her last job, no kids around to mess things up, and cooking for no more than two, but as Minny becomes more acquainted with her employer, she finds that the life of her boss may not be as perfect as it seems.

Eugenia, or Skeeter, Phelan is in her early twenties and more greatly educated than most of the women in that day and age, and nothing could be more unfortunate in the eyes of her mother. As implied Skeeter was blessed by brains and not beauty. With her frizzy, curly hair, boney frame, and height that leaves her towering over most people, she isn’t exactly desirable in the wife department. None of this matters to Skeeter it seems though, as her heart is lost in writing. Though her first job of writing a Miss Myrna column isn’t all that glamorous, it does open more than one squeaky door to success.

In The Help, Kathryn Stockett weaves together individual stories of the lives of these and many other women throughout the book, allowing them each to narrate their own tale. From the first page of the first chapter, we are placed in a time capsule and flashed back to Jackson, Mississippi during the tumultuous era of the sixties. The Help is a book that comes full circle and will leave you laughing out loud one moment, and weeping tears of sadness the next. It will draw to your attention how prejudice tore apart family and friendship, and that sometimes the hard times are the only thing that can reveal who our true friends are. This novel radiates the idea of equality, and exudes the impression that you must either accept what you can’t change, or change what you can’t accept.
The Help ties in humor with something that was once a far more serious issue. It is an easy read for anyone who decides to pull it off the shelf, and it is a novel that I hope will remain on bookshelves for years to come. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Santa Teresita Book Drive - something NEW!

This year, the Santa Teresita book drive is a little different.  Yes, you can still donate your gently used books from home (and we hope you will!).  But this year you can also choose books from our Santa Teresita Amazon Wish List, created just for this purpose.  We want to make sure that students of all grades receive exciting reading material, and we've noticed that in the past the donations don't always include enough books for the older students.  Books purchased through the Amazon Wish List will be sent directly to the FSHA Library, where we will package them for the Christmas Party at the end of the semester.  Now with just a few clicks and a few dollars, you can help make sure every student at Santa Teresita has something wonderful to read this winter.  Thank you in advance for your generous donations!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tolog Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
reviewed by Maya Mercade

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a novel about literally what the title states, the life of Piscine Molitar Patel, also known as Pi. Pi grew up with his family in India’s Pondicherry district where they owned a zoo. He was born and raised a Hindu, but later on in his teenage years he decided to become a follower of Christianity and Islam. After facing issues with the Indian government, Pi’s family was forced to sell their zoo. His father brought Pi’s family and some of the animals along with them on a cargo ship going to Canada.
While aboard the ship, a few days into their journey to Canada, they experienced rough waters and storms in the middle of the ocean. The ship sank and Pi, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger were the only survivors that luckily had a lifeboat to keep them on. Now Pi ventured on a new journey with these animals, but things as expected the animals got hungry and the hyena ate the zebra and the orangutan and the tiger ate the hyena. The tigers name was Richard Parker and since Pi had experience with animals having grown up in a zoo, he was able to gradually train Richard Parker not to eat him.
Pi was now stuck with nothing else in his life but a Bengal tiger because all his family was gone and he was stranded in the middle of the ocean. While continuing Pi’s journey with Richard Parker they came across another man who happened to be a castaway too. The castaway that they came across tried to eat Pi but Richard Parker ate the man before he was able to reach him. Time had gone by and they had finally swept up in Mexico. Because Pi was suffering from dehydration and starvation, he began hallucinating and basically went mad. Richard Parker took off into a nearby jungle leaving behind Pi without any goodbye.
Pi was taken to a hospital in Mexico and was being treated. While still in the hospital, Pi was interviewed by two men. He told the men his whole story about his family’s zoo, the ship sinking, being stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger, and washing up to shore in Mexico. He also explains to them the same story but without any of the animals. The investigators preferred the one with the animals. So the book ended off with you having to think which story was true, but Pi said that you have to “believe in the better story”.
I thought this was an interesting book, going through Pi’s journey with him and seeing everything that he endeavored. The end threw me for a loop and it left me with a lot of questions after. I liked how it ended though because it gave me chance to think of my own personal view on the rest of the story. I recommend this book for anyone interested in reading about an adventure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tolog Review: King Dork

King Dork
by Frank Portman
reviewed by Claire Villegas

Tom Henderson, a quirky, brainy, oddball narrates King Dork and tells a story like no other. At the beginning of the book, Tom is just your average, dorky high schooler trying to make his way through his sophomore year with his only friend, Sam Hellerman by his side. The two friends live for their imaginary band and plethora of names they have come up with.

When Tom comes along a box of old books from his dead father, including his copy of The Catcher in the Rye, an abundant amount of mysteries are introduced. Tom’s father’s books are just the beginning. Whether it be a secret code in the books, meeting new girls, dealing with his hippie step father, being forced to go to therapy, or discussing theories with his only friend, Tom seems to find himself in the middle of interlocking mysteries, which he hopes can lead him to find the answer to his father’s death.

I really enjoyed King Dork for its witty characters, satire humor, and unpredictable plot line. Frank Portman really kept you awake with the amount of twists and turns this book contains. All of the mysteries made the story even more exciting, and it was hard to put the book down. I would have to say one of my favorite parts about this book were the characters. I absolutely loved the way Tom and Sam were so intelligent and analyzed every little situation and event in their lives so deeply. Furthermore, their humor, dependent on sarcasm and clever remarks, made the book absolutely hilarious and kept me laughing. Overall, I loved this book and everything about it, from the plot twists to the dorky characters. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tolog Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
reviewed by Claire Grimes

“Speak” is the type of book that makes you want to keep reading. “Speak” is about this girl named Melinda, who is a teenager going into high school feeling excluded from her old friends from middle school. Something happened over the summer before high school that now all of her friends are ignoring her and giving her mean looks. You will have to read the book to find out what actually happened that summer. The reason why Melinda does not have a voice of her own is because theirs something she is trying to hold back and move on from. The title of this book relates to Melinda by not having a voice. It demonstrates the struggles throughout high school through friends, family, and teachers and the environment around her school. For example, at home there is this isolation between her parents and her because her parents are so busy with their work life and their lives that they do not even seem to notice the depression of their own daughter. The Horn Book starred review stated that this books is “an uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last.” For example, in the beginning of the book, it lists ten lies that teacher tell you in high school. One of the lies is that the football team will win the championship this year, which the school can not guarantee, which is funny to me. The book “Speak” informs parents and students what it could be like in high school if you are alone or as Laurie Anderson, the author, described Melinda as “an outcast.” The title of this book also reminds us that we all need to use our voice in order to speak up, or to express our feelings towards one thing or another that is important to that one person. But you will have to see how Melinda becomes someone who uses her voice by reading the book. I hope that you enjoy the book as much as I did. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tolog Book Review: The Host

The Host
by Stephenie Meyer
reviewed by Courtney Rasic

Stephenie Meyer’s The Host is a dramatic, love-capturing novel, which will keep you longing for more and more of the eye-opening events that are embellished through the great writing of the author. This book is exceedingly recommended in my terms of opinion, contribution to the unbelievable turn of events, the unexpected encounters, and the unruly, passionate desire for love. The intriguing storyline of this novel, will introduce you to Melanie Stryder and Wanderer who are both occupants of the same, one body, Melanie is “the host” and Wanderer the “soul”. In the story the Host, Meyer digs deep inside to expressively reveal the true inner workings, feelings, and longings of the human race. “What was it that made this human love so much more desirable to me than the love of my own kind? Was it because it was exclusive and capricious? The souls offered love and acceptance to all. Did I crave a greater challenge?...Or was it simply better somehow? Because these humans hate with so much fury, was the other end of the spectrum that they could love with more heart and zeal and fire?” 

In a world where humans are to be extinct and have been taken over by an enemy species who use the human body to store their “souls” inside the human body, “the host.” Meyer expresses the indecisiveness very passionately and extensively between the “soul”, Wanderer and the “host”, Melanie Stryder. In my own opinion, Meyer is portraying to her readers the difficulty of listening to your heart, but still using your mind, in times of life difficulties or struggles, our minds tell us differently than our hearts. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a mature human: the overwhelming emotions and too vivid memories. The struggles depicted through every thought written, and expressed on every single page gets you more intrigued into the strangeness and curiosity. 

Meyer writes in a specific way that will get you anxious for every moment to happen, yet never see coming. The author wants you to read and hear the two sides between Melanie and Wanderer from what they think, desire, and what they disagree on altogether. What I loved the most was how the plot was strange and curious, never predictable to the point that the readers will be bored by a predictable conclusion of the story, it kept me on the edge of my seat, and unaware of what I was going to read next. This fictional novel is infused with riveting romance and is overwhelmingly emotional. The intensity of every word page to page, will refuse you to put the book down because the strength of how the author expresses the narrator’s thoughts and deep feelings lead you on to desperately know what will happen on forth throughout the novel. The extremity is addicting more than ever, to the extent that you can’t get enough.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tolog Book Review: Speak

by Laurie Halse Anderson
reviewed by Jacqueline Gevorgian

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson demonstrates the struggles of high school featuring Melinda Sordino as the main character who is a freshman, outcast, loser and complete social reject. This book completely captures the essence of the average public high school that includes the nerds, jocks, outcasts, and cliques. Melinda bears a huge secret and is in deep depression, and with her parents constantly arguing she faces challenges everyday by herself. She says, “I am alone, no one even asked me what happened,” this quote describes exactly how she is facing the world, alone and quiet with no one to rely on. As she goes through high school she learns that she does have a voice and begins to speak up and learns she is important and worthy. 

This book is about a young individual who starts out as a normal happy girl and later becomes terribly depressed, ostracized by her friends and ultimately hopeless. As the book goes on you see this transformation of her becoming less and less depressed as she fights through her problems and begins to speak out about her assault instead of staying quiet.

Laurie Halse Anderson does an excellent job portraying the struggles that many people face. This book has many morals, not only that everything can always get better but also that you should never judge a person based on who you think they are. 

Melinda was just seen as “that girl who called the cops and ruined the party.”` No one actually knew why she busted the party but they assumed that she did it to ruin their fun, and they judged her for that. After ruining the party she begins to withdraw herself from her friends because they began to ridicule her. She was judged for all the wrong reasons. 

Anderson’s moral in the book is to never judge a person based on their actions. This book is extremely inspiring. It doesn’t only educate but it teaches readers to understand other individuals and what their circumstances are.  Speak can have you laughing or ready to get yourself a tissue box, but it is definitely a must-read. Since being published in 1999 Speak has won over 10 national awards and has been translated into sixteen different languages.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tolog Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
reviewed by Ashley Bouchakian

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a profound piece of literature that has been appreciated for fifty-four years. To Kill A Mockingbird is an enduring tale of a child’s point of view of a very trying time. The story dates back to The Great Depression in Alabama in a small fictional town known as Maycomb County. The setting of this novel, which took place in the south, is fitting and appropriate for the story that is told because of the racial injustices and inequality that occur in this book. The story starts off with a six-year-old girl named Scout who is outspoken, superiorly intelligent for her age, and acts with the best intentions. Scout lives with her father, Atticus, and her older brother, Jem. Her brother, Jem is a ten-year-old boy who is rather brave and intelligent. Atticus Finch is the father of both Jem and Scout who sees everything logically, is well-spoken, and in general is a good and moral person.

Her father raises them to view everyone as equals, including African-Americans. Scout and Jem befriend a boy named Dill who is younger than Scout. Dill, Scout’s friend, is a creative story-teller throughout the novel and is very ingenious when it comes to lying. 

Meanwhile, Atticus takes the trial of Tom Robinson. Tom, a kind-hearted, illiterate African American, is falsely accused of raping a young woman named Mayella Ewell. This was a rather scandalous and dangerous trial as a white man defended a black man.

This book is essential to the time period as it shows how racial injustice was present at the time of The Great Depression. Also, it shows how relevant equality is to our society. Throughout the book, readers experience a sense of shock, happiness, sadness, and in general appreciate the book as a whole and as it is well-written. In the beginning of the story, the tone at times is humorous and childlike. As the story develops, it becomes more serious, somber, and dark. Throughout the book, symbolism is expressed from the characters to the title of the book. The book displays prejudiced scenarios and the various forms it can take. This is a classic novel that transcends generations and time. Everyone should experience this heart throbbing novel, as it shows the struggles that racial inequality causes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tolog Book Review: Feed by MT Anderson

by MT Anderson
reviewed by Lauren Risha

Today, the Internet is the pinnacle of almost everything around us. We use it in all aspects of life; from education and learning to social networking and self-expression. I personally had always viewed the Internet as something we have complete control over; until I read the novel Feed by M.T. Anderson. Anderson creates a world where the Internet is not just around us, but also inside us—literally. His concept of “feeds”, or the personalized software inside his character’s heads, shapes his novel into a unique and thought provoking read that is able to change the reader’s perspective about the industrialization of technology around us. 

Anderson’s story follows Titus, a teenage boy who, after having his feed hacked, begins to see the reality of life on his deceivingly utopian Earth. He is exposed to the light of this truth when he meets Violet—an exceptional, revolutionary girl who experiences the hacking with him. Together the two not only try to navigate through a high-tech adolescence, but begin to face bigger problems when Violet’s feed starts to malfunction. Their journey of survival, acceptance and romance brings together Anderson’s intricate themes in one eye-opening book.
The world the writer creates is one that I thought was extremely interesting. He takes stereotypical ideas of the future—such as flying cars and vacations on the moon—to the next level. His concept of a family unit deconstructs what some families are becoming today to the point where I was able to see every flaw of the modern household. 

Anderson demonstrates the power large corporations have, and what happens when those businesses begin to overpower the industry. The mind-to-door commerce he writes about really got me thinking about the fast pace of his society, and how ours is catching up pretty quickly. As Violet’s feed begins to cause her medical problems, I found myself asking; to what extent will we as a society go to ensure our companies make money? When will the automation of the world be enough to us? Are we really willing to destroy the nature around us in order to have more control over our own lives?

After finishing this book, I was certainly enlightened with new ideas of what is to come ahead. The author does a fantastic job of relating his world to our modern world, which I, as a teenage reader, really appreciated. I thought this was an extraordinary book that is filled with unusual themes and concepts, but still has the classic components that base a story. You will surely enjoy this novel if you are looking for a refreshing perspective on life and its many technical flaws. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

JRP/SRP: Video Contest

Are any of you juniors or seniors working on J/SRPs on immigration, human rights, or the environment?  If you are, you might want to think about entering the contest detailed below.  The Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center is inviting high school juniors and seniors to enter 3-5 minute videos on these topics.  Take a look!

Who wants to create a Maker Community with me?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

NEW in the FSHA Library

The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.
Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.
shelved in General Fiction
synopsis from

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NEW in the FSHA Library

Faking Faith by Josie Bloss

Dylan Mahoney is living one big unholy lie.

Thanks to a humiliating and painfully public sexting incident, Dylan has become the social pariah at her suburban Chicago high school. She's ignored by everyone--when she's not being taunted--and estranged from her two best friends. So when Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's immediately drawn into their fascinating world of hope chests, chaperoned courtships, and wifely submission.

Blogging as Faith, her devout and wholesome alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the online group's queen bee. After staying with Abigail and her family for a few days, Dylan begins to grow closer to Abigail (and her intriguingly complicated older brother). Soon, Dylan is forced to choose: keep living a lie . . . or come clean and face the consequences.

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis from

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NEW in the FSHA Library

...then i met my sister by Christine Hurley Deriso

It's not exactly easy living in a shrine to your dead sister. Since birth, I've known that everyone loved Shannon. She was perfect--beautiful, smart, talented. And me? Not so much. My parents always expected me to live up to her greatness. But I could never measure up to her, so why even try?

This summer, I've started reading the journal Shannon kept just before she died . . . and suddenly nothing is what I thought it was. The more secrets I learn about Shannon and our family, the more everything changes. And as it turns out, facing the truth is no cakewalk, either.

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis form

Monday, September 29, 2014

NEW at the FSHA Library

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacityinsouciance,karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of MiraclesThe Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.

shelved in General Fiction
synopsis from

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My JRP/SRP Proposal

Ok, here it is.  My initial proposal for research. Mr Buxman has already identified several areas where I need to be more clear/thoughtful/focused/or unbiased.  So I'm glad I have another few days to tweak things before I submit this for the SRP, haha!  Please feel free to comment as you see fit!

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy
Junior/Senior Research Project
Research Proposal
Nora Murphy

Please briefly describe your idea for research here:

Angola Prison in Louisiana is one of several plantation prisons in the American South.  After the Civil War, Major Samuel James purchased and consolidated a number of plantations on the land where the prison now resides, running the farm using the labor of convicts leased from the state.  His operation was shut down in the 1890s when the state purchased the land and established the Louisiana State Penitentiary.  Today the prison is run by Warden Burl Cain.  It is the largest prison in America.  76% of the inmates are Black.  71% are serving life sentences.  Prison staff live on site in a community called B-line; many of these staff members are from families that have worked the prison for multiple generations.  The prison has a golf course, a gift shop and visitors center, and twice a year it stages a rodeo for nearly 10,000 spectators.  It has been called the bloodiest prison in America, and has been cited for excessive use of solitary confinement and a high rate of prisoner abuse.

Angola is not the only plantation prison, and plantation prisons are not the only problematic correctional facilities in the US.  The cultural context of slavery weighs heavily on Angola and the consequent implications for racial politics in this country are grave.  During the reign of our first African-American president there has been some discussion of “post-racial America”, or an America without racial tension and prejudice, as if this electoral achievement erased the dark mark slavery and Jim Crow left on our social systems.  The contrast between post-racial America and reality of Angola prison could not be more stark.  

I am interested in exploring the racial tension surrounding the American prison system, specifically plantation prisons like Angola.  I would like to examine the possibility of stripping away the cultural context to see if Angola is like or unlike other large prisons in America.  I plan to consider the ways in which the legacy of slavery in our prison system was solidified in the writing of the 13th Amendment, and how the link between servitude and punishment has been cultivated in our prisons.  I am curious about how these topics are perceived differently by those who are in close proximity to racially charged communities like many in the deep south.  Finally, I plan to discuss the problems inherent in claims that ours is, or could be, a post-racial society.

Please include a list of four questions for investigation here:

  1. Can the prison plantation be stripped of its cultural context in order to examine it alongside more “typical” American prisons?  Is it only the perceived context of slavery that makes Angola appear to be different from other non-plantation prisons; is it in fact similar to other prisons in its racial makeup, use of punishment, religious fervor, and so on?

  1. How is the plantation prison perceived by those who live in regions in which they exist?  Is the plantation model more acceptable/invisible to those who are geographically mired in the racial legacy of slavery? Does the plantation model increase our distaste for the prison system because of its link to slavery, and if so, what then is being overlooked about the problems of our correctional institutions in general?

  1. How are references to post-racial America problematic in light of the existence of plantation prisons?  When many of the policies in place in our prison system in general appear to be directly linked to attempts to cling to pre-Civil Rights and even pre-Civil War structures (e.g. restricted access to information, predominantly white prison staff, etc.), how does the criminal justice system fit into the theoretical framework of ‘post-racial America’?

  1. What is the relationship between criminal behavior and servitude that persists in the American mindset? How have state or federal courts relied on the language of the 13th amendment to support/uphold prison systems like Angola?  

Research Plan

List search terms and phrases that you will use to explore your topic:

plantation prisons, prison rodeos, cultural geography, legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, 13th Amendment, plantation nostalgia, exploitation, post-racial theory,

List primary source types you intend to examine here.  Make sure to indicate how you will attempt to locate these sources (e.g. museums, films, collections of poetry):
In your wildest dreams, if you could get your hands on any primary sources you wanted, what would they be?  If you can imagine them, we can look for them.

  • memoirs or interviews with prisoners from Angola
  • documents related to the writing of the 13th Amendment
  • prison music - spirituals and blues - that are reminiscent of slave spirituals and work songs
  • press releases from Angola re: allegations of poor treatment of prisoners
  • original data collection idea - survey students from Metairie Park Country Day in New Orleans AND Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy - to gauge responses to plantation prison imagery, factoids, etc.

List possible sources of secondary information (e.g. specific databases, libraries) you intend to explore:
If/when we say YES to your proposal, what will you do next?  Where will you begin your research?

  • demographic data on American prisons (use of solitary, prisoner assault, racial makeup, number of life sentences, length of terms)
  • books about the “new Jim Crow” theory of american prisons
  • Questia and Jstor searches on plantation prisons and correctional politics
  • additional sources collected in my diigo library

Please indicate whether you need highly specialized research assistance, and what that might be.


What sources did you consult in order to do your background research on the topic?  You do not need to include formal citations here.  Simply give us an idea where you got your info (Wikipedia is OK, talking to teachers is OK too).

In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance by Wilbert Rideau

Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow" - 2013 George E. Kent Lecture

Prison Is The New Plantation

Broncos and Boudin: The Angola Prison Rodeo

Angola Prison Rodeo

Slavery Haunts America’s Plantation Prisons

36 Years of Solitude

God's Own Warden