Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tolog Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray
reviewed by Francesca Legaspi

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a story about a 16 year old girl named Gemma Doyle, who has the ability to wield magic and use it to escape to a magical, mysterious place called the realms. After her mother is “murdered” by a sorcerer named Circe, Gemma is forced to leave India, her home, and travel to London so she can attend boarding school called Spence and learn how to behave properly. After her mother died, Gemma’s world was turned upside down when she began to have visions that she couldn’t tell anyone about since she didn’t understand them herself. Gemma hopes that by attending Spence, she can learn how her mother really died, as well as learn to understand herself. Upon arriving at Spence, Gemma encounters 3 girls named Felicity, Ann, and Pippa, who, will come to help her understand her power and what her purpose is. 

Although each of the girls are viewed by everyone at Spence as perfect and incapable of having flaws, the girls soon bond and learn that each of them holds a secret and a desire that they want more than anything else to come true. The story focuses on the girls’ adventures as Gemma takes them all into the realms after learning what her power is and how to control it from reading the diary of a girl named Mary Dowd, who supposedly died many years before in a fire, alongside her friend, Sarah-Reese Toohm. She and her friends are determined to make their lives better and attain their desires by forming their own group, which they name “The Order”. The girls pass in and out of the realms where they each use the magic within it to fulfill their desires during their time there. Each time Gemma passes through, she is able to speak with her mother and continues to learn more about how dangerous her power is and why she mustn’t use it outside of the realms until she is deemed ready. However, Gemma thinks that she is ready to use her magic since she so badly wants to fulfill the wishes of her friends and herself, even if it goes against her mother’s wishes.

The more Gemma passes through the realms, the more she learns of the dark secrets of the original Order, the sins of Mary Dowd and Sarah, why her power is feared by others, and why she must be careful in the ways she uses it. Gemma’s curiosity turns out to be both her most helpful and detrimental quality throughout the story. As she continues to learn more secrets and unlock the truth about who she is and who her mother really was, Gemma learns that she has to make certain decisions that could change her life and the lives of her friends forever. 

What decisions does Gemma make? Does she learn the truth about herself? What happens to her friends when they encounter Circe? Read this suspenseful and thrilling novel to find out!

Tolog Review: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
by Julia Alvarez
reviewed by Megan Koehler

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez is a moving book about change. The book, beginning the 1960’s and ending in the 1970’s, tells the story of the Garcia family and their move to America. It shows the struggles of the four Garcia girls and their transition from being rich in the Dominican Republic to being poor immigrants in the United States.

The story begins the girls’ dad, Carlos, getting in trouble with the Dominican government after he tries to overthrow its dictator. He is forced to leave the country in order to keep himself and his family safe. However, he cannot leave his family behind, so with his wife and four daughters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia in tow, he moves the family to New York City. The girls have trouble adjusting to life in America, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents documents the troubles they have, starting with their first day of school in America to their first loves. Transitioning from being rich to poor was very hard for them, and they were surprised by the somewhat harsh way that Spanish-speaking immigrants were treated in the United States. The girls are unsure of their identity, and are stuck in the middle of being Dominican islanders or English-speaking Americans.

This book was a heart-warming but sad tale of what it was like to be an immigrant in America. I enjoyed this book; however, it was confusing at many parts because in each chapter the story changes and sometimes the chapters will not correlate to each other. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history or drama. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tolog Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
reviewed by Charlotte Collins

In 1933 in Maycomb County, Alabama, life is good for six year old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. She is about to start Kindergarten, has a ton of good friends in the neighborhood, and her only care in the world is finding out more information about her mysterious neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley. All of that changes the minute her father, Atticus, a lawyer, takes the case of Tom Robinson, an African American man accused of rapping a white woman. Suddenly, her whole world changes, and she begins to see a whole new side off of the world she thought she new. 

Lee shows an interesting perspective on the injustice of the justice system in 1933 by telling the story through the eyes of a child. Scout, who is only six at the beginning of the novel and is ten by the end, does not see the world like an adult. She does not fully understand what is going on, giving her a sense of innocence, which seems to fade by the end of the story. Lee uses incredible metaphors throughout the book to help the reader to see farther and farther into the story. 

To Kill a Mockingbird
is a wonderful story about the loss of innocence and the realization of the faults of the world. It is somehow funny, serious, and just a little sad. It pulls in serious issues, but shows them from a very unexpected perspective, a six year old girl. It is one of the best books I have ever read, and I recommend that no matter what kind of book you like, you pick up this book and give it a chance to amaze you. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tolog Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
reviewed by Ava Manson

The shocking beginning of The Lovely Bones leaves a reader with immediate curiosity. Alice Sebold’s novel features the murder of Susie Salmon, a 14 year old girl in the 1970’s, whose life abruptly ends in December of 1973. After a brutal death, she watches over her family in her Heaven for many years, observing their pain, sorrow, and happiness as they must return to their lives without her. Filled with emotion and drama, this novel emphasizes the importance of family, love, and gratitude. 

Along with Susie’s perspective from her Heaven, this story follows the personal journey of her sister, mother, father, boyfriend, and even her killer. The tragic event ends up emotionally changing her friends and family as they figure out how to cope. Her father has the most obvious difficulty with the loss of his daughter, becoming depressed for a long period of time after the murder. Lindsey Salmon, Susie’s sister, also struggles for a while, trying to understand herself as she grows up with the absence of a sister. Her mother also changes as a person after her death, not being able to manage the pain of losing someone so close to her. 

Personally, I loved this book, and was automatically hooked on it after reading the first chapter. Susie and her family are very relatable characters, even with their unique situation. I think that being the same age a Susie Salmon gives me a great perspective on the novel. I can reflect on the major themes in it, since I am familiar with the same themes in my own life. I highly recommend this book because the touching story of Susie Salmon is one that entertains, mystifies, and teaches with the lesson of appreciating life. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tolog Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See 
by Anthony Doer
reviewed by Mila Mendoza

All the Light We Cannot See is set in during World War II, specifically in the city of Saint Malo, France. Although it initially seems like a typical boy meets girl story with a historical fiction twist, this assumption could not be farther from the truth; Marie-Laure and Werner don’t know each other (or do they?). Marie-Laure, a blind young French girl lives a content, stable life in Paris with her father, a museum locksmith. Eventually they are forced to escape the city to Saint Malo, where Marie-Laure’s great-uncle lives. Werner Pfennig is a German orphan boy who is uncannily good at engineering, and he attends a Nazi military training school. Eventually, Werner goes into the field; ending up in Saint Malo. This book follows the journeys of the two on their way to Saint Malo, and how they continue living upon arriving.

Because of the writing style, I have mixed opinions on this book. Author Anthony Doer intrigues the reader by frequently flashing forwards and backwards in time; but it also creates confusion. I love how the book begins with the future and shows how the characters reach that point, but the author repeatedly makes time changes. I personally became confused on multiple occasions, making the reading less enjoyable. On the other hand, he also uses incredible imagery on practically every page. Appealing to all the senses, the author talks about the smells, sounds, and texture of everything Marie-Laure comes across. Especially since one of the main characters is blind, the scenes he creates are vivid and powerful and easily transport you to the world of All the Light We Cannot See.

This book is a historical fiction novel set in the Nazi era that instead of commenting on the Germans’ choices, it scrutinizes the choices of the individual characters. Becoming power hungry, losing hope and bravery, and protection are seen throughout the book. Crucial to the plot is the Sea of Flames diamond; allegedly the beholder himself is immortal but all his loved ones die. The diamond and those who crave it are just examples of Doer’s thoughts regarding how people lose themselves in the face of tragedy. I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and doesn’t mind a long read.

Tolog Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray
reviewed by Marta Maynes

A Great And Terrible Beauty is an amazing novel filled with magic, Victorian-Age traditions, and powerful women. Written by Libba Bray, A Great And Terrible Beauty takes us inside an exclusive, all-girls preparatory academy in 19th Century London, where magic and secrets lurk in every corner. 

The novel is written from the viewpoint of sixteen-year old, Gemma Doyle. After her mother mysteriously dies in India, Gemma is sent to Spence Academy in England to continue her education. Gemma immediately gets an eerie vibe from the school and constantly feels like someone is watching her. While she tries to put these feelings in the back of her mind, she is inundated with new friends, new traditions, and a rigorous study schedule. 

Gemma sees visions of the future, and they all mysteriously come true. Gemma is confused on what to make of the visions. She wonders if they mean anything! It’s not long after Gemma discovers the powers she has, that she learns that she is in fact being watched by a young man. But why? Does she need to close her mind from seeing the visions?

At Spence, Gemma’s magical powers unfold as she discovers pieces of information from her and her mother’s past. Gemma’s powers can grow even stronger if she accepts her destiny. Will she accept her fate? 

Reading A Great And Terrible Beauty will have readers enthralled with excitement and at the edge of their seat. The relatable characters develop a connection with the reader and have them wanting answers. Readers will not want to put this book down!