Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye (book review)

The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, is a story about struggles, loss, and the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. The protagonist, 16-year-old Holden Caulfield, has just been kicked out of yet another school, and he's wondering where to go next. He doesn't officially get sent home until Christmas vacation a few days later, so he decides to take off on his own. Holden heads to New York City and stays at a series of cheap hotels, calling up and meeting various acquaintances from his past, all the while scorning the "phoniness" of the adult world in which he is immersed. Finally Holden realizes he has to go home eventually, and that he will inevitably have to face the consequences when he does. So he heads back to his house to visit his little sister, Phoebe, but stalls when it comes to meeting his parents. Hastily, Holden decides that he will run away, out to a place where no one knows him and he can start a new life, but an unexpected show of love and innocence will convince him to stay.

This book was very good; the central characters were for the most part complex and well-developed. Holden himself was a very interesting character; he felt real. He wasn't perfect at all, but his flaws made it more possible for the reader to feel connected to him, and it made him much more interesting to read about. The other characters who appeared throughout the book had varying personalities; none of them, except for perhaps Phoebe, were very complex in regards to their character, but then none of them except for Phoebe played a very central role in the book. The plot itself was intriguing and different, and it was interesting to meet all the various characters Holden experienced and to see how he interacted with them. The ending was perhaps what I liked least about the whole book--it wrapped up the book abruptly and didn't provide many actual answers. Also, I would have liked to see the conversation between him and his parents, which wasn't shown. But don't let this deter you from reading the book; it's heartwarming, sad, and exciting all at once, and it will definitely keep you reading.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (book review)

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a true story about the meat we eat and where it comes from. From tuna to turkey, Foer covers it all in this shocking book about the stuff we put on our plate. When one thinks about where meat comes from, many visualize a family of farmers out in the country, with rolling fields of wheat and a red barn in the background. The truth is that these family farmers are essentially an "endangered species" now, being pushed out of business by enormous, greedy multinational corporations with one thought: money. Money is what runs the meat industry now, not concern for the workers, the animals, the environment, or the health of consumers. But this system obviously can't last; eventually it is going to fall. And it's up to us to determine how many others--animals, workers, and consumers--will fall with it.

This was an amazing book, one of the best I have ever read. It wasn't an easy book to read; there were many sad and difficult scenes, and it is obvious how horribly the animals are treated. This book gives a convincing argument for vegetarianism, both from a moral standpoint but also for health reasons--is this really what we want our children eating? But even if you don't plan on becoming a vegetarian, this is a great book that should be added to everyone's library.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Omen of the Stars: The Fourth Apprentice by Erin Hunter (book review)

*SPOILER ALERT for earlier books in this series*

After the sharp-eyed jay and the roaring lion, peace will come on dove's gentle wing...

This is the prophecy that Dovepaw, a young apprentice in ThunderClan, has received from her ancestors. A member of one out of the four clans of warrior cats living by the lake, Dovepaw has always thought that she was just a normal cat...but she's about to find out that she's very wrong.

After the shocking death of his sister, Hollyleaf, young warrior Lionblaze is struggling to overcome the personal demons that haunt him. His whole life, he has found out, is nothing but lies. His family is not who he thought they were; his father, a warrior in rival WindClan, wants nothing to do with him. And yet he still has one thing: the mysterious prophecy that claims he and his brother, Jayfeather, hold the power of the stars in their paws.

Jayfeather is fighting to live up to the role of ThunderClan's only medicine cat after his mother, Leafpool, left her position when the web of lies she had spun was unveiled. There have been many times in his life that he wished he were simply a normal cat, but now this feeling is even fiercer. His powers are dark, allowing him to peer into the secrets of any cat he wishes. And now the ancient warrior spirits warn him of a storm brewing in the distance, something that will determine the fate of every Clan cat alive...and those yet to be born.

As a horrible drought pushes every cat to the limit of their survival, Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw will struggle to uncover the secrets of their immense powers, powers stronger even than those of their warrior ancestors in the stars.

This was a great start to the next arc in the Warriors series, building up suspense while tying together the shocking events of the last arc. This book is guaranteed to please any fan of the Warriors series and leave them hungry for more!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dawn of Fear (book review)

Dawn of Fear, by Susan Cooper, is the story of three young boys, Derek, Peter, and Geoffrey, living in a small town outside of London during World War II. For them, air raids are a fact of life, and they happen almost daily. Derek views them as exciting but distant. They are dangerous, but not to him. He, Peter, and Geoffrey are working on a hidden camp in the woods by their neighborhood, and it's taking up all their time and attention...until a fierce attack by a rival neighborhood gang leaves them shocked and angry. And after they carry out a dangerous plan to get revenge on the gang, Derek leaves feeling unsettled, and with new feelings on the war and on fighting in general. And then, one night, after a particularly vicious air raid, his life will be changed forever...

This was a great book! It was very fast, but also very meaningful. There was plenty of action, and the ending was very moving. It was a great war book, but different from many others, focusing on the life of a boy on the home front and how the war affected his life. I would recommend it to readers of all ages!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Saddleback's Illustrated Classics: The Call of the Wild (book review)

Saddleback's Illustrated Classics: The Call of the Wild, transforms this classic survival story into a graphic novel format, allowing the story to take on a whole new level through vivid full-color illustrations. The Call of the Wild is the story of Buck, a gentle, protective dog who watches over the house of a wealthy judge in Santa Clara Valley. But his life changes forever when he is kidnapped and sent to the frozen north to work as a sled dog for men who want to strike it rich in the Klondike gold rush. Although life is harsh and only the toughest survive, Buck manages to find friendship and love in one man, John Thornton, who becomes his new master. But Buck soon finds that he can't ignore the twitch in his blood, the primeval yearning to be free, the call of the wild...

This was a good book, very fast. The pictures were vivid and full-color, and although the characters, especially humans, weren't as well-drawn as they could have been, they were still good, and for me they weren't enough to detract from the book's character.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery (book review)

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by Russell Freedman, is the story of the wife of one of the most beloved presidents of all time, Franklin D. Roosevelt. But Eleanor Roosevelt herself was a powerful force in the world of politics. She was a champion of civil rights, women's rights, and much more. She traveled the world to learn about ordinary citizens and the problems they were suffering from, then did something about those problems. By the time of her death in 1962, she was just as loved, if not more loved, than her famous husband. This was a very good biography of Eleanor Roosevelt; it was in-depth but easy to understand and very quick to read. The book was descriptive but it wasn't filled with excruciating details, and I would recommend it to readers of all ages who are interested in learning about Eleanor Roosevelt's life.

Monday, February 01, 2010

28 Stories of AIDS in Africa (book review)

28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, is a moving collection of true stories about the raging AIDS epidemic across Africa and its personal effects on the people who live there. From orphans to grandmothers caring for more than a dozen children, from sex workers to truckers to nurses and doctors, men, women and children all across the continent are affected by AIDS. Some of the stories end happily, others not so much.  This book is extraordinary in that it personalizes the AIDS epidemic and makes its readers sympathetic toward the people mentioned in the book. It will inspire you, fill you with hope when you read of those who survived and make you cry when you hear of those who didn't. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject...and to anyone in general.