Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publication Date: September 30, 2004 (most recent)
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 180
Age Rating: Readers over 12
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       For this It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? (hosted by Teach Mentor Texts, Book Journeys, and Unleashing Readers), I chose to review one of the most well-known and popular novels of all time, The Great Gatsby.  This was the last book that we read in AP English this year, but I actually enjoyed reading it just as much as the novels that I read for fun (aside from the fact that we had reading quizzes!).

Gatsby quote       At the beginning of The Great Gatsby, young Nick Carraway moves to the East for a major lifestyle change, planning to enter into the world of business.  However, when he reconnects with his cousin, Daisy, he becomes unwillingly entrenched in the lives of the prosperous inhabitants of Long Island.  Nick soon forgets about his former ambitions and instead focuses on attending lavish parties hosted by his neighbor, Jay Gatsby.  Gatsby is full of mystery, and his friendship with Nick blossoms quickly.  Nick aspires to have a lifestyle similar to his neighbors until he begins to see how the passions of Gatsby and Daisy get in the way of their relationships with others.  Caught up in a web of affairs, love, and lies, Nick has to navigate these dangerous waters while avoiding getting sucked in himself.

       Of course, The Great Gatsby is a classic American novel, so it is definitely worth reading.  My absolute favorite part about the novel would have to be the connections formed between various characters.  Each time a new character is introduced into the novel, he or she plays a long-lasting role and pops up unexpectedly in various situations.  I also enjoyed how the novel was told through Nick's perspective because he aspired both to live the life of the rich and to stay down to earth at the same time.  He struggled while attempting to acclimate himself to the environment of the wealthy, which makes reading from his perspective most interesting.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby film from 2013
       I think that The Great Gatsby had a slightly disappointing but yet fitting ending.  Without giving anything away to potential readers, in my opinion, there really wasn't any other way the novel could have possibly ended.  There were so many loose ends that had to be tied up that F. Scott Fitzgerald had to end the novel with a bang to clear everything up.  When I finished reading, I felt a little let down after becoming so invested in events throughout the novel.

       All in all, I was certainly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby.  Although it was written almost ninety years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald created characters and a plot that are absolutely timeless.  Now, I can't wait to see the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio!

Happy reading,


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Publication Date: December 28, 2006
Publisher: Speak
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 221
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 10/10

Hi, Readers!

       Now that the school year is coming to a close, everybody will have more time to read.  This week's book review is about a book that is an absolute summer must-read.  Looking for Alaska, a novel by John Green (pre-TFIOS), is one of the most intense novels that I have ever read in my entire life.  Each and every page had a different thought about life that has made me view the world in a different way.

I go to seek a Great Perhaps       When Miles "Pudge" Halter decides to transfer to boarding school, he is searching for a "Great Perhaps".  He is not a popular kid, and he wants the opportunity to reinvent himself and find his niche.  As soon as Pudge moves into Culver Creek boarding school, he meets a few people that will change his life forever.  He gets to know his roommate, the Colonel, and his friends, Takumi and Alaska.  Pudge instantly becomes obsessed with the beautiful Alaska, and she represents adventure and mystery to him.  The group welcomes Pudge into their pranks and trouble-making.  However, when things go too far and a terrible accident occurs, they only have each other to turn to.  Throughout the novel, Pudge learns about life, love, and finding happiness when everything around him seems to be going wrong.

       This book was so good that it is difficult for me to put my thoughts about it in words.  Although I absolutely loved John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, in my opinion, Looking for Alaska is even better.  It is more relatable for high schoolers who are trying to figure out relationships and friendships.  John Green portrays a number of social issues in the novel, such as drug and alcohol abuse and broken families, in a deep and meaningful way.  I felt myself becoming more and more emotionally attached to all of the characters as the novel went on.

       My absolute favorite part about Looking for Alaska is that it is written from Pudge's perspective.  It gives insight into the teenage mind because Pudge wants to be liked by those around him.  He's certainly not perfect, and reading about Pudge's foibles and flaws makes the novel all the more interesting.  For instance, Pudge has an obsession with last words, and he has memorized thousands of the unimportant phrases that people say before they die.  His quirky habit quickly takes a deeper meaning and adds to the significance of the novel.

       The only thing that I was not a fan of in Looking for Alaska was how Pudge and his friends were avid cigarette smokers.  I realize that it is important to the story, but it seemed unrealistic that they could smoke every day and never get caught.  

       The novel is certainly geared towards a high school audience, and I would not recommend that anybody under ninth grade read it because it has some advanced concepts.  However, I think that everybody, both teens and adults, should eventually read this book because it has so many life lessons spelled out in a mere 221 pages.  Almost every page of the book has at least one quote about life that I wanted to write down and remember forever.  I hope that you take the opportunity to learn more about the world around you by reading Looking for Alaska.  

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Minders

Title: Minders
Author: Michele Jaffe
Publication Date: January 30, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Science fiction
Pages: 400
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 2/10

Hi, Readers!

       Usually I read every night before I go to bed, and I always look forward to what will happen next to my favorite literary characters.  However, I could not even finish reading Minders, by Michele Jaffe.  This book actually made me lose interest in reading.  I felt very apathetic towards all of the characters, and the plot line was extremely confusing and disjointed.  This book review is a cautionary warning, because although I'm sure that some YA readers would enjoy Minders, I cannot in good conscience recommend it.

       Sadie is a teenager who is very calculating and apathetic to the world around her.  For this reason, she is selected to participate in the Mind Corps Fellowship Program, where modern technology allows her to enter the mind of an inner-city male named Ford Winters.  She becomes immersed in Ford's world, and while forgetting her own, begins to discover the power of passion and emotions.  However, Ford is dealing with many issues in his life, such as fighting with his mother, getting over the trauma of his brother's murder, and protecting himself and his family from an evil threat called the Pharmacist.  As Sadie comes to know Ford so personally, she is unable to revert to her indifferent personality and she starts to fall for him.  But all along, Ford has no idea that Sadie exists, and she has to helplessly look on as Ford faces danger and trickery from all those around him.

       As I mentioned before, I did not finish reading this book (which is something that almost never happens!) because I entirely lost interest in the plot line and the characters.  For starters, Sadie is probably one of the most lackluster characters on the face of the earth, and author Michele Jaffe created her this way on purpose.  Sadie does not understand passion or true love until the very end of the novel, and it is not engaging to read about a character who is uninterested in life.  Plus, although she is the main character of the novel, she is neither involved in the action nor a strong female role model for the readers.  Next, Ford is a much more dynamic character, but he is entirely unrelatable.  He has suffered through so many traumatic events in his life, and he lives in such an exaggeratedly dangerous city, that even real life city-dwellers or adversity facers cannot relate to Ford's struggles.  Ford never catches a break.  Everything that could possibly happen to him, does.

       For the most part, I enjoy reading longer books because that means deeper character development, more action, and a thoroughly developed plot line.  However, Minders lacks all three of these characteristics.  As pertaining to the plot line, Jaffe attempted to create some interesting dynamics in the beginning of the novel, such as Sadie's relationship with the head of the Mind Corps Fellowship Program.  However, she throws all of these plot starters to the side when she focuses on Sadie living inside of Ford's mind, and I was left wondering what was occurring in the real world.  I wish that Jaffe would have included flashbacks from Sadie's life or jumps to what was happening at the Mind Corps laboratory instead of solely discussing Ford's life.

       To sum up, I was disappointed with Minders, and therefore, I cannot recommend it.  I apologize that my review for this week is such a downer, but there are better choices for a summer read.

Happy reading!