Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tolog Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
reviewed by Charlotte Collins

The very first paragraph of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones leaves the reader shocked, intrigued, and concerned. The story begins as a first person narrative in the perspective of fourteen-year old rape and murder victim, Susie Salmon. Susie is portrayed as the everyday, typical girl; she is not too smart and not too popular, thus giving the reader a sense that she could be anyone. Within the first chapter, the reader learns all about Susie untimely demise, including the fact that her killer is her neighbor, Mr. George Harvey.

After her death, Susie looked over her family from heaven. She watched the aftermath of her death and observed the lives of her mother, father, sister named Lindsey, brother named Buckley, her boyfriend named Ray, her classmate named Ruth, and even her murderer, George Harvey. Susie watched while her friends a family struggle to solve the mystery of her death and to move forward with their own lives after she is gone. Sebold uses a lot of foreshadowing and irony in The Lovely Bones

I loved the book. Once I got past the initial shock of the subject matter, the story was fantastic and captivating. It was one of those books that you could not put down. It was what I would call a reverse mystery because the reader knows who the killer is, but the characters, aside from Susie and Mr. Harvey, do not know who killed Susie. The reader gets to watch all of the confusion that followed the unexplained and unexpected death of Susie Salmon. I think Sebold created a masterpiece that explores many themes including family, time, death, and even the supernatural. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the kind of story that you cannot put down or anyone who enjoys drama.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tolog Review: The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath 
by John Steinbeck 
reviewed by Kathryn Gerhardt

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, follows the story of a family from Oklahoma and their migration to California. The touching story takes place in the 1930’s during the time of the great dust bowl. The bank forced many families off of their farms and all they have ever known. Of these families included the Joads. The story begins when Tom Joad, the main character, is released from prison on parole after killing a man in self defense. He returns home only to find that his relatives and neighbors have packed their belongings and set off for the fertile land of California. With the help of a retired reverend and his wit Tom sets off to find his family. 

Tom locates his family living in very tight quarters at his uncle John’s house. He discovers that while he has been gone for four years many things have changed. His father informs him that the bank forced their family and all of their neighbors off of the land they have lived on for generations. The tenants were unable to pay their rent because dust had destroyed the crops. The Joads decided to make the thousand mile journey to California. People from all over have received news that California is the promised land with good wages and bountiful food. To Tom’s mother, the new land seems too good to
be true. After tragedies along the way, the journey raises the question; is California really worth it?

I would recommend this book to anyone with a love for family and history. I would not recommend this book to anybody under high school. It is a challenging read but worth every word. Steinbeck captures the heartbreak of losing family and the joy of new life. The story is one of love and death. Through everything the Joad family was there for one another. Steinbeck proved through this story that there is nothing more valuable than that of family.

Tolog Review: The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M. Cain
reviewed by Grace Tighe

The Postman Always Rings Twice, is one of James M. Cain’s best works of fiction. James M. Cain is the author of many 20th century horror mysteries. In The Postman Always Rings Twice you will be filled with suspense and confusion, not knowing who to trust and what will happen next. I enjoyed questioning and analyzing this story to finally form my opinion of what happened. James M. Cain gives the reader two sides of the story and allows them to portray the story in their own way. If you are a fan of books that will leave you questioning the entire story and even more, then this is the perfect book for you. 

The story starts with Frank Chambers finding himself at the Twin Oak Tavern in Southern California. Frank had previously hitched a ride in the back of a truck from Mexico. Here Chambers eats a meal however declines to pay saying a friend he is meeting will pay for it all. Chambers also tells the owner that if his friend does not arrive he will still be unable to pay for his meal. Mr. Papadakis who is the owner of the Tavern agrees to this then offers Frank a job. Frank then notices a beautiful woman named Cora, the wife of Mr. Papadakis. After seeing Cora, Frank agrees to work at the Tavern. Cora and Frank immediately like each other and form an aggressive yet loving relationship. With few options of how they can continue their affair, Cora and Frank think up the worst. 

James M. Cain uses an unreliable narrator leaving the reader questioning the whole outline and outcome of the story. At first our narrator, Frank Chambers, comes across as a average man who is always on the move, however his later actions and events from his past question how reliable his word is. Cain’s story will have you full of suspense until the very last page. The reader will be left questioning if Chamber’s actions are ones based on love or wondering how true his love was for Cora. Cain’s complex storyline is not fully shown until you find the true meaning of the title. The title, The Postman Always Rings Twice, is not meant to be taken literally but to serve the purpose that doing something once is just not enough for everyone. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tolog Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle 
by Jeannette Walls
reviewed by Julia Powers

The memoir The Glass Castle follows the struggles of young Jeannette Walls, our author. She grew up in a life of poverty; from running out of hospitals without paying the bill to living in a leaking shack in Welch, West Virginia, without plumbing or electricity. Although this life doesn’t offer our main character much, she grows in unexpected ways throughout the novel. She and her other siblings eventually escape destitution but her parents are forever trapped in it. In the first couple of pages, Jeannette is riding in a cab in New York City “wondering if she was overdressed for the evening” (Walls 3). She glances out the window to see her mother on the street, rummaging through the trash, probably looking for something to eat.

Jeannette Walls was raised a tough and independent little girl from birth. We follow her from the age of three where she is making herself a hotdog in her favorite pink dress. Soon enough the flames that were boiling water, jump onto the cotton fibers, scarring the whole side of Jeannette’s body. She is rushed to the hospital, and a few weeks later her father, Rex Walls, scrambles out of the hospital with his favorite daughter in his arms, skipping the bill and forcing the family to move out of town once again. They travelled from a small town to the desert, to her mom’s house in Phoenix, and then to Welch with other places along their journey as well. Several events in The Glass Castle show how Jeannette was forced to grow up too quickly. In a desert town she was molested by the neighborhood pervert and for her tenth birthday all she asked for was that her father stop drinking. As they moved to Welch, and as Jeannette progressed through high school, she itched to get away from her family. Her older sister, Lori had gone to New York after her high school graduation and Jeannette soon decided she would move in with Lori after her own graduation. The struggle of having an alcoholic father who couldn’t hold a job and a nearly deranged mother helped to shape Jeannette into what she would later become. 

The Glass Castle is a novel about unfinished plans for a better life. Jeannette’s parents sketched out all sorts of blueprints in each of the towns they lived in hoping for a better life. A glass castle was what Jeannette and her dad wanted to build when she was young. But throughout these failed ideas, Jeannette drew up her own dream of how she wanted her future to be. It would be the opposite of how her parents lived and the biggest difference between Jeannette’s dreams and those of her parents is that they came true. When things got tough she didn’t simply up and leave like her parents did. She put effort both in her life and in her future, and remembering the past, she continues to drive forward in that cab in New York City.

Tolog Review: The Help

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
reviewed by Kelly Carney

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a historical fiction novel that portrays the civil rights issues taking place in the 1960’s. The story is funny yet heartbreaking and shares different perspectives through the many colorful and interesting characters. During this time, colored women are raised to become the help, or maids, for white families. The Help focuses on a group colored women in Jackson, Mississippi who speak up even though they have been taught to keep their mouths shut. This is a lighthearted novel about a serious topic that was both educational and fun to read. 

Aibileen is a respectful colored maid who is raising her seventeenth white baby for Elizabeth Leefolt. Miss Leefolt is not as prejudice towards her help as her friends, but will do anything to stay popular. Their harsh and cruel group leader, Hilly Holbrook, does whatever she can to make sure that her husband gets elected for Senator. Miss Hilly will go to extremes in order to find the worst in everyone and is always out to stir up trouble. She believes that her colored help are way beneath her and accuses them of stealing. Miss Hilly goes so far as to insist that all help need a separate bathroom because they carry diseases that are only harmful to the white pigmentation. She roomed with her best friend, Skeeter, in college not aware that Skeeter would one day turn behind her back. Miss Skeeter just graduated and is an aspiring journalist. After being rejected from her dream job at the New York Times, the head editor gives her advice to write about something that she firmly believes in. The only job that Miss Skeeter can secure is at the local newspaper writing a column on housekeeping. Having had a maid all her life, she turns to Aibileen for answers to her reader’s questions. She and Aibileen soon form an unlikely friendship and she gets and insight on how the help are treated by their bosses. This inspires her to write a novel that consists of stories from servants around the black community, including Aibileen, about their experiences as help. They take many risks, including their lives, to share their stories with a white lady. As her book develops she continues to form bonds with the colored community. Miss Skeeter is willing to risk everything in order to tell their stories and fight for their dignity.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tolog Review: The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
reviewed by Sophie Johnson

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a thriller about a symbolist, Robert Langdon, and a cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, who team up to compete in the race for the holy grail. Robert Langdon is both a professor and an author who has written books about the mystery of the holy grail, Mary Magdalene, and the sacred feminine. Their journey starts with the murder of Sophie’s grandfather, Jacques Saunière, who was the curator of the Louvre and, secretly, the grandmaster of the Priory of Sion. The Priory of Sion is a very powerful secret society that guards the location of the Holy Grail. The race to find the grail includes a mysterious fringe catholic sub cult based on Opus Dei, who are intent on using the grail for evil purpose. 

The holy grail is thought by many people to be the cup that Jesus drank from, at the last supper, but a wise man called Teabing, who has researched the grail his whole life helps Robert explain to Sophie that the grail is not a cup but in fact documents that are thought to prove that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child. This information is considered to be very dangerous and the decision to release the grail’s information to the world could have unpredictable effects. It is a big controversy for christianity and other religions. The grail’s information could go against christianity’s faith and teachings. For these reasons the society have kept the grail hidden. 

On the night that Saunière was killed he left clues that brought Sophie and Robert together. At the crime scene, which was in the Louvre, Saunière left codes and messages that began Sophie and Langdon’s hunt to finding the grail before it can fall in the wrong hands. As soon as they begin the grail hunt they discover that they are being chased by the French police lead by Captain Fache. Fache believes that Landon killed Saunière and blasts his and Sophie’s images all over France making it very hard for them to travel anywhere. With the help of Teabing’s smart mind and powerful privileges the trio have quickly made progress in discovering the route to the grail’s hiding place. 

But Fache isn’t the only person following them. A psychotic albino monk called Silas from Opus Dei, led by Bishop Aringarosa, follows their every move and plans to steal the grail as soon as it is discovered. Silas will do anything to please Aringarosa and their leader, who is known as “The Teacher”. Opus Dei extremely desires the grail because its contents hold unthinkable power. But, it must not land in Silas’s hands because his actions have proven his intentions to be dishonorable. As the race to find the grail gets to a climax, Robert and Sophie travel to many historical places in England, and it all causes a surprising turn of events that no reader would ever imagine.