Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tolog Review: Rebecca

by Daphne Du Maurier
reviewed by Riley Frey

Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, is full of mystery and romance with startling twists and turns. The suspenseful storyline keeps the reader engaged and wanting to know more. The book is told from the point of view of an unnamed heroine, and is related to the reader through a flashback. The storyline is mostly situated around Manderly, a large estate which Du Maurier based off her own home on the Cornish coast. 

The story begins with the narrator meeting her soon-to-be husband, Maxim de Winter, and shortly afterward going to live with him at Manderley. Upon arriving at the mansion, the new bride is shy and self conscious, and can feel the ghost of the late wife, Rebecca. The plot thickens as the narrator continually calls her Maxim’s love for her into question. The ominous housekeeper Mrs. Danvers was and continues to be devoted to Rebecca, which causes her to despise her new mistress. The housekeeper then does everything in her power to make the heroine feel as unwelcome as possible. As the heroine learns more about the tragedy that befell the late Mrs. de Winter, the situation begins to grow darker and darker.

The ending of the book ignites thought provoking questions about human nature and ethics. Events from the book make us ask ourselves if certain actions justify violence. Although the book has a slow start, the pace begins to pick up as more details are revealed. Overall, this book an exciting read with a dark plot that was a pleasure to read. 

Tolog Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
reviewed by Fiona Stayton

Eight very different people are happily traveling to a private island in the beginning of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. A judge, an adventurer, a doctor and a spinster among them, all have received rather mysterious letters of invitation, some to a holiday, others to a job. They do not know each other, they don’t seem to have anything in common beyond not quite understanding who is paying for their trip the mysteriously glamorous Indian Island and why. 

They soon discover the why, if not the who, and the answer may spell their doom.
In her most famous novel, Christie spins a story of suspense full of hair-raising moments and an ongoing mood of dread. When I first picked up the book, it looked like a burden to read. However, the minute I started reading the first page, I was hooked.

The novel begins by showing each point of view of the ten main characters. Six men and two women, all strangers, receive the same letter inviting them to go to Indian Island by someone with the initials U.N. and a last name that begins with “O.” Vera Claythorne, Emily Brent, Mr. Justice Wargrave, Captain Philip Lombard, General Macarthur, Dr. Armstrong, Anthony Marston and Mr. Blore are all greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Rogers when they first step onto Indian Island. 

Thinking they are going to be greeted by party lights and alcohol they are surprised when instead met by fear and suspicion. A record Mr. Rogers has been instructed to play announces that the now-ten occupants of Indian Island are not so different. Each character has a guilty secret, each has committed a crime, and that crime will now be avenged according to the creepy verses of the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians.”

While reading this novel, I got this sense as if someone was watching me and getting chills from every page I turned. I began to try and piece together the haunting question, who is U.N. Owen? While the frantic characters lived through the horrors Indian Island had to offer, I was experiencing it along side them. The individual commentary from each character expressing who they thought was Owen, along with the tension between the lightness of the rhyme and the actions it dictated, heightened the emotion of the novel.

One of Christie’s strengths as a writer is her ability to create a weird variety of very believable characters in a short amount of time. With just a few sentences she makes you see the stiff spine of Emily Brent, the watchful eyes of Justice Wargrave, and the nervous beauty of Vera Claythorne. The reader keeps waiting for someone to solve the crime before it’s too late, but Christie is as ruthless as she is skilled, and she carries her story through to the end.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tolog Review: The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
reviewed by Ellis DeJardin

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is the kind of novel that can make you cry, laugh, blush, smile, and shiver all at once. In this story, Kidd expresses feminine bravery, courage, love, and care.

The main character, Lily Owens, is a fourteen-year-old white girl living the segregated state of South Carolina. Lily is a well-balanced young girl: independent, caring, spontaneous, intelligent, and sentimental, and displays all these characteristics throughout the storyline of the novel. Lily was only four when her mother died, and from that moment on, she had been living with an abusive father and a sarcastic, African American housekeeper named Rosaleen. This story takes place in the 1960s, so the Southerners are still trying to accept the African Americans as humans, but this process comes with its ups and downs.

Sue Monk Kidd does an amazing job at captivating all senses and emotions of the reader from the first page, until the last sentence. From the beginning, the reader understands that Lily is a tough girl, because she explains her typical day: going to school, selling peaches, and kneeling on grits. Her brave personality becomes highlighted by her audacious actions. When troubled times strike at Lily’s home, her courageous and brave sides really take control of her mind. Through her adventures, Lily meets the Boatrights: August, May, and June. They are the three Boatright sisters who run a family honey business called Black Madonna Honey. Lily and Rosaleen take shelter in the Boatright residence, and is instantly introduced to the world of beekeeping. Lily also meets new people like Zach, a honeybee worker, Neil, June’s lover, and the Daughters of Mary, a religious group of women and one man that were formed through ancestry. Throughout the book, Kidd expresses feminine power and bravery as well. She speaks to the reader that women are capable of doing things they are thought not capable of doing, like owning their own business, starting a religion, and running away from home. But she goes further into detail about women empowerment through the Black Mary and her story of fighting until you can no longer be beaten. Through these new relationships and experiences, Lily discovers the true meaning of love, care, and dependence.

Tolog Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
reviewed by Catherine Doud

When Piscine Molitor Patel, known by others as ‘Pissing’ or ‘Pi’, gets stuck at sea when the boat he was on with all of his family sinks, you would think it couldn’t get any worse. If you thought the above you would be wrong. Pi, the main character of this novel, wasn’t just shipwrecked, on a lifeboat, with no family, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He also had the company of a 450 pound bengal tiger named Richard Parker constantly threatening his life for 227 days. The Life of Pi, is a most definitely interesting life.

In this story, our main character, Pi, lived in Pondicherry, India, where his father ran a zoo, which is where Richard Parker came from. He was very religious, but not in a way you might think. He was a Hindu… and had also been baptized a Christian and was a practicing Muslim. But when the Indian government was threatened, Pi’s father decided that they would sell all of their animals to other zoos in India and bring the rest over to North America, bringing Pi away from his three different places of worship. But, when the cargo ship they traveled in sank around early in the morning, Pi found himself soaked, cold, and in a lifeboat with dangerous animals.

But throughout the 227 days at sea, Piscine goes through a series of rough challenges that are somewhat unbelievable and majorly shape Piscine as a person. Pi’s journey shows his will to survive in seeming impossible circumstances and deeply shows the importance of religion and a god.

This book is very inspiring, and is “A story that will make you believe in God.” Whether it will persuade you into believing in God or not is up to you, but believing in a God really helped Pi survive.

Overall, I thought the book was really exciting and I recommend it if you have a lot of time on your hands for reading. The beginning of the book starts off slow, but Yann Martel, the author, went into great lengths of detail to make the rest of the story complete and It really made you want to keep reading. The book makes me see how precious our lives are and how easily they can be taken away from us, how lucky we are to have lighting, clothes, and fresh drinking water, and how these are really taken for granted. If you want a long novel with a lot of symbolism that is fun to figure out, Life of Pi is the book for you. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tolog Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
reviewed by Catherine Condit

The memoir, The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls is the moving recollection of her life as a child into her years as a young adult. Jeannette grew up in a dysfunctional family with three other siblings. Her father, Rex, while sober, was an imaginative and entrepreneurial man who sparked creativity in all his children. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and most of what little money their family had was used to pay for his excessive alcohol bills. Her mother, Rose Mary, was an educated woman with a free spirit. She felt burdened by her children, and made it very clear that she would prefer to paint for pleasure than to care for them. The four children had to learn to be self-sufficient at a young age. 

The strong sense of love in this broken family was surprising. Jeannette still held a deep connection with her family. After everything they did to her, she still loved them. The tone throughout the story was ironically light and honest in contrast to what was actually happening. When Jeannette Walls wrote this as an adult, she did not leave out any details. In my opinion, she did this because she did not want to write how horrible her life had been, but instead she wanted to explain to the reader what her life was like. As the narrator, she did not complain about her situation, nor did she say that she wished her life were different. 

The Glass Castle was an amazing book, but I would not recommend it to anyone before high school. There are intense ideas and subjects brought up in the story, which someone younger than high school would not be mature enough to understand. This story caused me to think how fortunate I am in life, and I was amazed how “normal” Jeannette ended up in life after the very difficult life she had growing up. The Glass Castle is one of the best books I have ever read, and I am sure that many people feel the same way as I do. 

Tolog Review: The Color Purple

The Color Purple
by Alice Walker
reviewed by Jinan Al-Marayati

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker was a wonderful novel that expressed the issues of racism and sexism, through the lives of two separated sisters, Celie and Nettie. It showed the torment and abuse that a black woman would have to go through, in Georgia. As a child, Celie was harshly mistreated by her father, which scarred her physically and mentally for the extent of her life. About nine months later, she had her first child at the age of 14, and her second child a year after. She was then forced to marry a man much older than her, and lived far away from her home. Unfortunately, she was abused for the majority of the time with her new husband, Albert. She also struggled to keep in touch with her sister, who lived in Africa. Nettie explained in her letters the difficulties of living in the dry lands, and the issues of major sexism. Nettie also shared how much she would stand up to the distraught men in her community. This taught Celie how to defend herself, against her horrid husband. Finally, Celie gained the courage to leave her spouse and began a new life. 

Alice Walker won The National Book Award and the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Award for Fiction in honor of this novel. In time, the novel was developed into a film and a musical, in the same name. Walker has stated that the book was based of off the stories that her grandfather told her. She was also raised in Georgia, in which the novel takes place. Walker bases the affects of racism off of her experience of growing up in the South, as a black woman. In this novel, Alice Walker explained the meaning of true victory: family and feminism. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tolog Review: Just Listen

Just Listen
by Sarah Dessen
reviewed by Paris Davis 

Just Listen, a novel by Sarah Dessen, tells the story of Annabel Greene, a girl who seems to have everything, but that’s only in front of the camera. When looking at Annabel’s family, all you see is a puzzle made entirely of pieces that fit perfectly, but if you look a little closer, you can see the small cracks and lines that show that the puzzle was made to appear that way. While Annabel’s family is dealing with her sister Whitney’s eating disorder, Annabel is dealing with the harsh reality of being a teenager. Annabel plays a girl in a commercial for Kopf’s Department Store who has everything, from popular cheerleader to straight “A” student, her character has it all, but Annabel doesn’t, she’s lost a friend named Sophie and at the same time can find no happiness within her own home.

In my opinion, Sarah Dessen is trying to say that there will be things in life that are not meant to work out or be perfect, but if you keep going there will be other things in life that will fill the hole of the things that ended up not going so well. Last year, I lost a friend who didn’t treat me, as a friend should. Sometimes I missed the good side of her, the one that was friendly and kind. As I moved on, I met other people and made new friends to replace the unoccupied spot of the girl I used to be friends with. Sara Dessen speaks to the readers through her book, giving messages and signs saying: things will get better.

If you ever find yourself fumbling to find a fictional romance novel, Just Listen is the way to go. While reading this book, it can often relate to times in your life because it’s about the grim reality of a teenage girl, who suffers the same things as many of us do. Although this book is somewhat long, being at a maximum of 371 pages, I would highly recommend it. While reading each page, it made me want to peek around to the next one just to see what would happen next. This novel is filled with unexpected events, leaving the reader wanting more. I’m done blabbering on about the book, so all I have now to say is to just read it!

Tolog Review: The Host

The Host
by Stephenie Meyer
reviewed by Morgan O. Close
The Host, by Stephenie Meyer, is thrilling book about this soul who travels to Earth in search of a new life in a new body. This book has many twists and turns and things that you wouldn’t expect. This novel is a sci-fi, love triangle type of book with many twists and turns that make you want to read more.
The Host captures all that you want in a science fiction novel. This story has aliens, known as ‘souls’, humans, and the occasional animal. It is not just science fiction, but it is a romance as well. It is based on the love that Wanderer has for her host body’s lover as well as another man she meets. Also, this story is filled with a supernatural way of looking at inner conflict in yourself and others around you. It shows how Wanderer is able to understand Melanie, Wanderer’s host, in a different way and is able to help be there for Melanie.
This novel is about this soul, Wanderer, who comes to Earth in looking for a new way of living. She has been to many other planets, around seven planets, taking new forms in every one. Wanderer has been everything from a flower to a bear. This is the first time though that she takes on a form of a human or something like an animal. She is put into this human, Melanie, who has been through some traumatic experiences. Melanie tried to kill herself after she was found by some of the hosts. Melanie was then saved and brought back to become a host for a soul, for Wanderer. When Wanderer was placed in Melanie strange things were happening. Melanie became very prominent and Wanderer was able to hear her, which wasn’t supposed to happen. Melanie was telling and showing Wanderer many things through her mind. Melanie showed Wanderer her lover, Jared, and her brother, Jamie. Wanderer was very scared and didn’t know what to do, but that is when Melanie got stronger and voiced her opinions very loudly. Melanie later had Wanderer help her find Jamie and Jared, which turned out to be a good thing, after some bad things happened first.