Monday, December 19, 2016

Tolog Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
reviewed by Chase Hayes

In Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, we are introduced to our narrator Susie Salmon who is brutally murdered in 1973 at the age of 14. She is walking home one normal day from school and decides to take a shortcut through a cornfield in her neighborhood because it was getting dark. A man she didn’t personally know, but recognized lures her into a manmade, underground shelter in the cornfield. He then rapes and murders her. Susie watches her family from her own heaven as they try to cope with her abrupt death and all the challenges they face. They spend a lot of time trying to solve who murdered her.

Sebold uses a lot of figurative language throughout the book to give us extra details and a deeper understanding of what she is explaining. Sebold does an excellent job setting the scene by using visual imagery when she says, “Large, squat buildings spread out on dismally landscaped sandy lots, with overhangs and open spaces to make them feel more modern" (Sebold 16). Sebold talks about Susie’s heaven and you get a very descriptive picture of what it looks like. When she describes situations, she does a great job of making you feel scared by using similes and verbal irony. As Susie’s murderer goes through all of his victims’ little knick knacks, Sebold says, “He would count them like beads on a rosary” (Sebold 126). You start to get creeped out as he slowly counts them all because they are his prized possessions, like he is proud of killing all of the women. Finally, when Susie’s murderer disposes of her remains a women jokingly asks, “What you got in there, a dead body?” (Sebold 52). This is ironic because she has no idea that there actually is a dead body in the safe, but the reader knows.

I loved this book so much and would totally recommend it for others. While reading The Lovely Bones, I could not put the book down because it’s very suspenseful and exhilarating. In each chapter something new and surprising gets sprung on you. Sebold makes me feel all the different emotions that the characters are feeling, to the point where I don’t feel like I am reading a book, but actually in the book. 

Tolog Review: The Martian

The Martian
by Andy Weir
reviewed by Katrina Manaloto

Self-diagnosed “space junkie” Andy Weir’s science fiction novel, The Martian, tells astronaut Mark Watney’s tale of survival. On America’s mission to Mars, Watney and his crewmates become the first people to walk on the red planet. Soon, though, Watney and his crew reach a deadly dust storm on their landing site, forcing them to evacuate. While the other four crew members escape unharmed, Watney is lost and mistakenly pronounced dead. However, Watney is, in fact, alive, stranded on Mars alone. All odds are against Watney surviving; a myriad of danger such as starvation, natural disasters, and miscalculations lies before him. Equipped with only his wits and limited supplies, Watney must find ways to communicate with Earth and live until the day of his rescue. Grappling with his isolation and fear of error, Watney lives under the likelihood of death but perseveres on his quest to survive, making every reader root for him the entire journey.

This compelling read unveils Watney’s triumphs and trials by alternating between a series of “Log Entries” in his perspective and descriptions of NASA and America’s role in the third person omniscient. By alternating between both perspectives, readers can both empathize with Watney’s personal struggles as an insider of the story and root for his safe return as a citizen. Readers will enjoy Watney’s drippingly sarcastic humor, optimism, and impressive ingenuity under pressure. A prime example of Watney’s goofy personality is when he says, “Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be ‘in command’ if I were the only remaining person… What do you know? I’m in command” (Weir 2). Along with his good traits, Weir constructs a well-developed main character in Watney by also displaying his flaws and fears. For example, Weir exhibits his most prominent fear of isolation when Watney states, “Mars is a barren wasteland and I am completely alone here. I already knew that, of course. But there's a difference between knowing it and really experiencing it” (Weir 75). Weir’s refreshing characters and method of storytelling left me utterly satisfied and wanting more. The suspense he was able to create through the prospect of Watney’s death kept me on my toes and craving to reach the resolution. I especially enjoyed this novel because it is the combination of both my interests in science and literature. Whether you are a literature lover, science geek, or somewhere in between, this futuristic yet captivating fictional narrative exceeds all expectations and provides a story that is out of this world.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tolog Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
reviewed by Emma Condit

A true story, the compelling novel The Glass Castle recounts the crazy childhood of narrator Jeannette Walls. Raised in a deeply dysfunctional family, Walls was forced to grow up very quickly and take on many of adult responsibilities. Jeannette and her three siblings, Lori, Brian, and Maureen, were raised by Rose Mary and Rex Walls. Rose Mary Walls did not want the responsibility of being a mother, and instead spent her time painting and promoting positivity. Rex Walls, an alcoholic, inspired his children yet often disappointed them.

Rose Mary’s positive outlook on life, which she took to the extreme, had a negative effect on her family because she never saw anything as a problem. Although the family spent years living as nomads in extreme poverty, often going without food, the reader discovers that Rose Mary was in fact quite wealthy and could have provided a stable life for her children, but chose not to. Her parenting style encouraged independence because she felt that “it was good for kids to do what they wanted because they learned a lot from their mistakes." When the Wells family moved to Welch, Rose Mary got a job as a teacher; however, on multiple occasions, she pretended to be sick and refused to go to school, and Jeannette, Brian, and Lori took on the role of parents and insisted that she be responsible and go to work. Despite her positive outlook on life, Rose Mary Walls did not set a satisfactory example for her children to follow.

Rex Walls encouraged his children to take risks and have fun. His general approach to parenting was “If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out to swim” (Walls 66). He forced his children to be extremely self-reliant. Rex Walls captivated his children from a young age by promising to build them a castle made out of glass. This idea excited and intrigued Jeannette, so she admired her father, despite the fact that he constantly let her down. Rex Walls often stole the hard earned money of his wife and children to buy liquor, and he frequently disappeared for days at a time. The Walls children seldom stood up to their father because they knew that there was no point in doing so, but the children still wished he would behave like a normal father. This is evident when Jeannette tells the reader, “I looked at Dad for what felt like a very long moment. Then I blurted out, ‘And why don’t you act like a dad?’” Rex Walls believed in his children but rarely followed through with his promises.

I found The Glass Castle truly fascinating because it vividly described a incredibly unstable childhood that I cannot imagine living. I am growing up in a nice house, I never go to bed hungry, I go to a very good school, and I have dependable, mentally stable parents. I was shocked to see how parents who claim to love their children can neglect them so much and repeatedly let them down. The fact that The Glass Castle is such a personal story made it all the more interesting to read. The book intrigues the reader because not only does it tell a true story, but because the author’s childhood did not derail her entire life. The Glass Castle is a very inspiring story about living a childhood full of obstacles, but still finding success. 

Tolog Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
reviewed by Emily Gomez

Stephen Chbosky beautifully portrays the life of teenager going through high school with an acute perception of his surroundings in his novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The author addresses sensitive yet relevant issues throughout his novel, such as depression, drugs and alcohol, sex, and relationships. The novel, written in the first person, gives the audience a clear account of what high school is like for some. Also, the author does not use the real names of the characters. This leads to anonymity amongst the characters and the audience. Chbosky details the life of Charlie, the main character, through describing his actions, but more importantly, his thoughts. As Charlie finds friends and experiences high school, he finds himself through understanding that he is unlike the kids around him. Therefore, his high school experience will be different, as well.

In the beginning, the reader ascertains that the book is a collection of letters written to someone when Chbosky starts with, “Dear friend” (2). By writing the novel in letters, it gives the audience the ability to understand the main character’s thoughts more clearly. Also, it leads to the question, who is this character writing to? Thus leaving the reader turning every page in order to find out. In addition, the author forms the plot around the first letter. Chbosky writes, “I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me” (2), to inform the audience that no one in the book is called by their real name. This statement, also, leaves the reader curious about why the author of these letters does not want the recipient to know who he is. Both of these examples shows that the reader is immediately left questioning the novel in the very first lines. By doing this, the author is able to keep the audience reading so he/she can determine who the book is meant for and why the main character does not want the receiver to know who he is. 

Through the questions Chbosky leaves the reader with, he produces an invigorating novel with new perspectives on the issues that teens face throughout high school. I would recommend this novel to those who are looking to understand others’ high school experience and what goes through some people’s minds over the course of those four years. Also, this book offers the audience the ability to question his/her own high school life. Chbosky provides the reader with the capability of interpreting the opinions of the main character.

Tolog Review: Our Town

Our Town
by Thornton Wilder
reviewed by Emilie Nunn

In Thornton Wilder’s renown three-act drama Our Town, Wilder takes the simplicity of the daily life of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, and illustrates the complexity of it. Set in the early 1900s, he opens the book in the morning of an ordinary day with the milkman delivering milk, making common conversation. As the first act continues, readers are given an intimation of who, essentially, the play centers around. The moment Wilder introduces main characters, Emily Webb and George Gibbs, Wilder shows the possibility of their romantic affection as young George gives interest to Emily and his future. As the story unfolds, Wilder expresses the true characteristics of the two main characters and their relationship. Emily Webb, portrayed as an independent, intelligent young woman, who always speaks her peace, finds herself falling in love with George Gibbs. Moreover, innocent, aspiring farmer, George Gibbs, reflects Emily’s emotions and falls in love as well. Another main character in the story, the Stage Manager, possesses omniscience, serves as the narrator of the play, and even takes the role of some characters and interacts with them.

In Our Town, Wilder possesses an artful, simplistic way of writing that helps the reader understand the plot and theme. He structures the book by dividing it into three sections each with individual topics. The first act was called the Daily Life, the following Love and Marriage. After introducing the names of the acts, the Stage Manager mentions the third act saying, “I reckon you can guess what that’s about.” (Wilder 48). Wilder focuses on key aspects of their lives, skipping a few years in between acts. He expresses the theme of transience of life through this because as most people, he skips seemingly unimportant days of the character’s lives. When recounting a memory, Emily contributes to this theme by rhetorically asking, “they don’t understand, do they?” (111), referencing characters forgetting to live in the moment and to cherish life since it only lasts so long. Wilder writes about daily life and ordinary days, but in reality, each day has its own significance and importance that many forget. Moreover, Wilder keeps a playful, yet knowledgeable, writing technique by incorporating the Stage Manager. The all-knowing character, the Stage Manager, maintains a witty attitude throughout the play, making it amusing for the audience. The Stage Manager keeps the audience engaged and informed by giving information on the current situation and making witty remarks. Constantly, he interacts with the audience making the play more personal to the reader. He’ll ask what the audience thinks about certain interactions and calls them “crazy” (63). This character is pertinent to the story and makes it quite enjoyable to read whilst keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

Tolog Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
reviewed by Olivia Pieterse

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein tells the story of an untimely friendship between “Verity,” a secret agent, and Maddie, a pilot. When “Verity” is taken prisoner by the Gestapo, she knows that she will most likely not come out alive. What the Nazis are in search of is her mission; if they do not receive what they are looking for, she will be forced to face a dreadful execution. Trapped behind enemy lines, Verity does not stand a chance. Eventually, the Gestapo gets what they want out of her, but not in the way that they intended. Maddie, a young female pilot who crash lands in enemy occupied France, meets “Verity” and the two instantly become best friends. Taking place during World War II, Wein emphasizes the sense of danger between this friendship. In the end, friendship causes the two to make the hardest decision of their life. Code Name Verity is about female friendship in the most bleak of settings.

The novel begins with “Queenie” also known as “Verity” in her cold and dark cell writing her confession for SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden, which is the narrative for part 1. Told through “Verity’s” eyes in a dreary isolated place, Wein reminds the reader that war is unforgiving. “Verity” continually calls herself a “coward,” (Wein 3) because she felt that she abandoned her country by conceding to the Gestapo rather than facing her punishment, death. In her confession note, she gives them “everything she can remember,” (Wein 3). It consists of her life with a young pilot named Maddie, the other protagonist in this story and all of their adventures and encounters. Maddie also faces a plight. In the story, the reader finds out that she has crashed her plane in enemy territory. The second half of the book tells about Maddie’s life as an enemy British pilot, living in foe’s territory. 

“Verity,” is an intelligent and beautiful young woman who is quite witty. She is a wireless operator, interrogator, and a spy. With her charm and quick wit she is able to persuade her way out of situations and is always thinking one step ahead of everyone else. She not only speaks English, but also French and German. “Verity” also known as Julie, is familiar with the cruelty of war and due to that, she get tasks done quickly and keeps herself on on her toes and is always aware of her surroundings. She is protective and cares about the ones she loves, which influences many of her decisions in the story. 

On the other hand, Maddie loves to fly and enjoys anything mechanical. She is a female pilot who is very good in the air and does not need a map when flying. Maddie whose code name is “Kitty Hawk” is also Jewish which is a challenge for her later in the book. These two women become close friends when they meet on an army base while saving a man’s life together.

Elizabeth Wein writes this story with many different literary techniques. She uses the motif of Peter Pan by having “Verity” describe von Linden as “Captain Hook” (Wein 5). This motif reappears again when “Verity” is reminiscing on a time when she and Maddie went to “Verity’s” parent’s home “Second to the right and straight on till morning,” (Wein 124). Wein also uses the power of flashbacks to help the reader understand the text and everything that led up to what is happening. By using Direct Characterization, Wein is clear and directly describes the characters. He also intrigues the reader by writing this book as if it we're a diary from the eyes of Julie and Maddie. 

I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the history of World War II, the empowerment of women, and watching a friendship grow through hardship at an unbelievable time in history. This book is not only interesting and captivating, but it is something that many people can relate to. The message it conveys on the importance of sacrifice and how sometimes the hardest thing to do in life is the right thing to do, is very relatable and I thoroughly appreciated that.