Friday, April 29, 2016

Tolog Review: A Girl's Life Online

A Girl's Life Online
by Katherine Tarbox
reviewed by Skylar Bowyer

A Girl’s Life Online by Katherine Tarbox is an autobiographical narrative that follows a young Katie Tarbox through a very emotional and difficult time in her life. Katie Tarbox, a thirteen year old girl, does not fit in with people her age in her small suburban town. Katie finds her sister’s laptop and eventually logs onto an online chatroom that she begins to visit frequently. She talks to a few random people until she finds Mark, a twenty-three year old man who lives outside of Los Angeles. After only months of knowing Mark, Katie says, “When we were together, Mark wasn’t twenty-something. I wasn’t a thirteen-year-old. We were equals who didn’t really have ages” (Tarbox 50). When Mark and Katie are talking, there is no age barrier, they are just two people communicating. Mark is someone Katie relates to, he doesn’t judge her by her looks, but is more interested in what she has to say, he listens to her, understands her and in Katie’s eyes, is perfect. 

Mark and Katie begin to talk more and more and eventually exchange personal information. They then begin to send emails and talk on the phone with each other. Katie, who is an avid swimmer, goes to Texas for a swim meet and Mark offers to meet her there at the hotel. Although Katie is a bit nervous to meet Mark face-to-face for the first time after only talking to him through email and the phone, she is excited to finally meet the man who she has fallen in love with. “I was now about to meet the man I loved. He knew so much about me, but also very little” (Tarbox 91). However, when Katie and Mark meet, Mark is not the man young Katie imagined the love of her life to be, then things take a turn for the worst. 

This book was extremely interesting to read and I could not put it down. Throughout the book, the author, Katherine Tarbox, uses first person, giving the readers insight into her perspective of the events that took place, making it easier to relate to the author and understand the actions that she decided to make. The book was separated very interestingly as well. Each chapter was named by one word, for example “together” or “victim”, each corresponding with a time during her relationship with Mark. The naming of the chapters made it very easily to follow and gave each chapter a very dramatic effect. I also felt that this book was extremely relatable, especially to teenagers who are living in a world where technology and social media has become so prevalent in everyday life. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an interesting story that people everyday can relate to. 

Tolog Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle 
by Jeannette Walls
reviewed by Kathryn Gerhardt

The Glass Castle, written by Jeannette Walls is a riveting story about the joys of her childhood and the challenges she had to face while growing up. Walls begins her story as a three year old cooking hot dogs. Her dress ends up catching fire and she gets taken to the hospital. When her family does not have the money to pay for her intensive burn care, her father, Rex Walls, steals her out of the hospital and back to the trailer. She lives with her mother, her older sister Lori and her younger brother Brian. Her mother is a free spirit, completely engrossed in her paintings and other artwork while her father is an irresponsible drunk always running from authorities. As a child, Walls believed her father was remarkable and the smartest man she knew. She was given knowledge at a very young age of survival in the desert or any unforgiving terrain. She told to be fearless and to stand up for what she believes in. She and her family moved around often to avoid being found by the government. Her father would spin wild tales about running to escape the FBI or the Mafia to make these long journeys more entertaining for his kids. He told stories about wrestling sharks and saving cities. To his children he was a god. Often the family did not have enough money for food or for a home. Her dad would pick up odd jobs everywhere they went and some nights they would sleep under the stars. 

Walls recounts her life with a sense of adventure. She memorializes the love and deep sadness of her family throughout her story. Her family always seems to make the best of a bad situation. One instance after accidentally sending a piano through their house and into the backyard, Jeanette’s optimistic mother remarks, “Most pianists never get the chance to play in the great out-of-doors. And now the whole neighborhood can enjoy the music too”(Walls 53). The Walls family is always positive through the bad times. The positivity is much needed because of the extreme poverty of the family. Rex Walls was fearless. He never cared what others thought of him. He decided to teach the children a lesson about big animals and they aren’t dangerous unless you are foolish around them. He brings the children to a zoo and is able to gain the trust of a cheetah. He stares it down and finally is able to pet it through the bars. Jeanette then sticks her hand through the bars and her hand is licked by the cheetah. A guard comes over and kicks them out as Jeanette states, “I could hear people whispering about the crazy drunk man and his dirty little urchin children, but who cared what they thought? None of them had ever had their hand licked by a cheetah” (Walls 109). Jeanette and her siblings are taught not to fear things bigger than you. The dangers of the world are only as dangerous as u make them out to be. Walls expresses feelings of a sort of loving sadness. She and her siblings did not have a normal childhood. They often went hungry and homeless. They knew never to make close friends because they would never stay in a place more than a few months. Most of all they knew their parents loved them. Later in the story, their father, Rex Walls begins to go on a downwards spiral of alcohol abuse and starts putting his family in dangerous situations. Money gets even tighter than before and survival starts becoming much harder. Will the children be able to escape this life? Read The Glass Castle to find out.

Tolog Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
reviewed by Julia Powers

In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, the young and mischievous 11 year old Flavia de Luce is sent on a mission, undercover, to unravel the mystery of dead man lying in the cucumber patch of her backyard. How had it been done?—one of the main questions of the novel. Was it a fatal chemical thrown into a pie or simple fire of a gun?

The author introduces Flavia imprisoned in a musty closet with her hands tied behind her back and a gag lugged tightly across her mouth all thanks to her two older sisters Ophelia and Daphne. Easily escaping Flavia seeks vengeance against her seemingly truculent sisters by immersing oils of poison ivy, concocted in Flavia’s very own chemistry lab, into her oldest sister’s lipstick. Just after this scheme takes action Flavia hears a scream from the maid of the house. Flavia and her father, Colonel de Luce, were quick onto the scene where a Jack Snipe with a postage stamp stuck on its bill is found dead on their doorstep, draining the color from the Colonel’s face. This bird had not only been a warning sign for the oncoming death, but it also sets the novel’s plot into motion. As the story progresses Flavia becomes more and more independent, as she comes to only trust herself when narrowing down her suspects list to find the true convict.

The author not only submerges us into Flavia’s world by taking us along her various shenanigans, but uses Flavia de Luce to explore the assumed of work ethic of young women in the 1950s. This main character, a very capable and clever young girl, is often “enlisted to trot off and see that the water is boiled” (Bradley 34) when in the presence of a “man’s” work. All Flavia wants is to see that her father is not convicted for the reprehensible murder, and in turn she takes matters into her own hands and becomes a detective herself.

Along with Alan Bradley’s use of Flavia de Luce to exemplify the topic of women and their working capabilities, he also develops the novel with his stimulating use of imagery. In a scene where Colonel de Luce confesses his past and another brutal murder that had occurred thirty some years ago, the author gracefully sketches the mood; “A flash of lightning bleached every trace of color from the room, and with it a deafening crack of thunder” (Bradley 192). Bradley’s use of imagery enhances the suspense and mood throughout the novel.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is enjoyable for any to read. It combines the mischief of a young girl, the suspense of a mystery, and cunning ability of Flavia to solve the case. The author’s techniques propel the story forward for a true “page turner” effect. You won’t be able to put it down!

Tolog Review: Enrique's Journey

Enrique's Journey
by Sonia Nazario
reviewed by Krista Celo 

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario is a suspenseful, eye-opening novel about the dangers that South American children are faced with as they flee poverty in their home country to journey to the United States. Conveyed from the perspective of a young Honduran boy, readers are shown the underlying, harsh truth of the treacherous journey these children must face to reach the United States. Enrique’s journey exposes readers to the real-life and concurrent adversity concerning immigration into the United States. Nazario puts this current debate of immigration into perspective, and gives us a strong view of the migrant’s lives.

From the moment Enrique’s mother stepped off of the porch, Enrique is unaware that his mother is leaving their home in poverty-stricken Honduras, to find work in the United States. While his mother is away, Enrique begins to grow angry and miserable imagining a life where his mother is there. Enrique, determined to escape unbearable circumstances, decides he will follow his mother to the United States. However, Enrique and other Central Americans know that it is not as easy as embarking a plane. These migrants must ride atop trains waiting to maim or kill them, while keep watch for dangerous gangs, spiteful immigration agents, and bandits waiting to strike. Enrique takes us alongside him through his physical and emotional journey, as he endures horrendous and death-defying conditions to reunite with his mother.

Enrique’s Journey is a well-written novel, told through the perspective of Enrique, but including many perspectives to show readers the important, yet avoided, issue of immigration. Nazario gives readers awareness into the experiences of Central American families who have no choice but to live separately in order to survive. Nazario digs deep within her heart-felt writing through an in-depth look at immigration and its effect on families. I personally enjoyed this novel, simply because I was able to gain a different perspective on life and receive insight on immigration into the United States.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tolog Review: The Rosebush

The Rosebush
by Michelle Jaffe
reviewed by Kelly Carney

The Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe is a compelling book that focuses on the theme of never giving up. Jaffe starts the novel by surprise, with Jane lying in the hospital after being hit by a car and flung into a rosebush with a “broken rib, 103 thorn piercings, a concussion, a broken leg, and (hopefully temporary) paralysis” (Jaffe 48). Having no recollection of how she got there, she is scared, confused, and extremely overwhelmed. Struggling to move or talk, Jane comes to the devastating realization that she is paralyzed. Jane’s response to this is captivating and makes the reader feel like they are there struggling beside her. Jane slips into a state of loneliness as her eyes drift to the “several bouquets on the windowsill” (Jaffe 5) that remind her of her recent boost in popularity. 

Previously known as the nerd in her school, Jane never would have believed that she would become one of the three musketeers “at the top of the social pyramid” (Jaffe 15). Jane, having recently moved to a new school, was determined to be popular “because popularity meant being accepted” (Jaffe 17). Her determination inspired her to give herself a makeover and her popularity took off from there. She was able to woo her two new best friends Langley and Kate, and they insured Jane would be popular forever. Jane was as happy as she could be with her inseparable new boyfriend, David, and all her new friends. Jane thought everyone liked her, until she realized someone was out to take her life. 

The Rosebush is a mystery novel that describes Jane’s hunt for her predator. Surrounded by family, friends, and the police, Jane battles with recollecting all her memories from the night before. Jane has so many unanswered questions and struggles with her past rushing back into her memory all at once. After receiving different threats through messages and phone calls, her only support system starts to believe that she is hallucinating. Jane fights for what she knows is true and tries to piece together her friends’ different versions of that night. Jane must find who is trustworthy and loyal and is so conflicted that her biggest enemy seems to be herself. Jane pushes herself to find the killer before he comes for her again. 

Michelle Jaffe’s style of writing in this novel is intriguing and captivating. She truly embodies what goes through the mind of a teenage girl, making her able to connect with her teenage readers through her character, Jane. Michelle Jaffe’s tone is upbeat and hopeful with displays of sarcastic humor, even through the difficult and mourning times in Jane’s life. Jaffe made me realize how much I need to embrace every moment of life, because you never know what is around the corner. 

The Rosebush is a novel that would be loved by anyone who enjoys a book about mystery, determination, love, trust, and suspense that will keep them on the edge of their seat.