Book Reviews by Seniors – Volume I

Book Reviews by Seniors - Volume I

Seniors , Contributors

One of the Greatest Leaders of Our Time by Prince Collins

Considered the second most influential leader of the Nation of Islam after Elijah Muhammad. Inspired Muhammad Ali to join the NOI. Became a civil rights leader. Conquered drug addiction. Turned his life around after going to prison and inspired many people with his speeches and writings. These are all achievements of the one and only Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley is a book everyone needs to read.

The story of Malcolm X is one that is captivating and inspiring and makes it difficult to put down once you start reading. The book starts off talking about Malcolm’s early childhood life and his family. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska and later on his family moved to Lansing, Michigan where they experienced a lot of racism and violence. After his family gets separated, Malcolm moves to Boston with his sister, Ella, and becomes involved in urban nightlife. He spends some time in Harlem and returns to Boston. Malcolm becomes a house burglar and eventually gets sent to prison. During his time in prison, he converts to the Nation of Islam where his quest for civil rights begins. Malcolm was able to go from a life of crime to a life of inspiring others. After Malcolm’s time in prison and his transition to human rights activist, he says, “We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” This quote is captivating because it shows Malcolm’s passion for equality and love among the human race. 

The book is also written in a very honest and casual tone which makes it feel more engaging and relatable. It feels as if you are sitting with Malcolm face to face and watching him tell his story. Readers will appreciate the raw, descriptive nature of how the events in his life are described. One of the quotes that best shows Malcolm’s passion for what he believes in is, “I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda…I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against.” This quote stated by Malcolm himself is a representation of everything he fought for. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything which makes it difficult to not support him on his journey for equality.

Everyone needs to learn about Malcolm X. After reading this autobiography, it inspired me to go after what I want and not just sit back. Change doesn’t happen without action. I guarantee you will become inspired after learning about Malcolm’s story. Reading this book is a no brainer.

The Power of Hope: Why we are still here by Jack Campbell

The definition of nihilism is “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.” The philosophical belief that life has no real meaning is a daunting thought that we rarely want to consider in our everyday busy lives. However, Mark Manson’s, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope uncovers a thought-provoking and blatantly put review of the sh*t storm world we live in. When a writer sits down and devotes, God knows how long into why we don’t kill ourselves after one bad day is a fascinating review of the human psyche. 

When you open this book from the first page to last, I consider this book a series of mini-essays – more precisely a map with at least 200 hundred pins all pinned in different directions but all in the same country. This is what makes Masons’ book great because it is a collection of scattered thoughts and concepts of the human brain, all fitting just like a thousand-piece puzzle. One of my favorite parts of the book is how the author initiates every notion up with a real-life background story providing the reader with an example to settle their prejudice. When writing about fitting in with society, Mason writes, “The constant desire to change yourself then becomes its own sort of addiction: each cycle of “changing yourself” results in similar failures of self-control” (33). I find his writing and messages so thoughtful and real that while reading, I yell out aloud, “YES!”.

To continue, the style he uses in his book is similar to water in the middle of winter, getting past the cold and harsh language is the key to enjoying this novel. Mansons’ writing style and word choices give the sense as if he was a teenager talking to his friends with brash language and a swear word between every other breath. Once you break the harsh ice on top of the water, underneath is fresh and clear, similar to his content. An example on the first page of his book, he includes the classic generic hero fairytale, “but this is not a story of hope. This is a story of everything being completely and utterly fucked” (1). However, Masons writing style and choices does not give justice to his content. As a reader, once you decipher the language, there is an inspiring and hopeful spark that the world is not a depressing waste of time. 

In short, this book is a fascinating look at the human psyche. The author’s dynamic approach to entering though-provoking concepts was evident at all times. This book is for anyone who wants to learn more about themselves or why we do what we do.

What is the Meaning of Life?? by Andrew Dully

Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the weirdest book I’ve ever read, and that’s what makes the book so good. The book is filled from cover to cover with all kinds of wacky space hijinks. Through the use of witty humor and surreal sci-fi technologies, Douglas Adams paints a hilarious picture of the future. Don’t forget to bring a towel as we embark on an interstellar review of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy!

For me, one thing really carried this book for me. Humor. Now as a funny guy, I love myself some comedy. What separates the novel from most other comedy is a clever combination of surrealism and playful banter. First is the surrealism. This is best seen in an exchange between the two main characters, Arthur Dent the earthling, and his alien scientist friend Ford Prefect. Arthur and Ford are rescued by a ship powered by a machine called the Infinite Improbability Drive. When they use the machine, Dent tells Prefect, “there’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they’ve worked out.” This quote is secretly genius because it’s referencing the infinite monkey theorem which states that if you give a monkey a typewriter, it will eventually write Shakespeare, but the odds of it happening are so low that it might as well be impossible. What this quote does instead is flip this theorem on its head by saying that it’s absolutely possible for an event this crazy to actually happen, and there are countless instances of Douglas Adams flipping convention on its head and making hilarious chaos.

The next best part about the humor is the style in which it’s presented, most commonly meta-humor with a willingness to embrace the insane. This is best seen during an anecdote referring to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is the title of an encyclopedia that is a separate entity from the novel of the same name. The anecdote states, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a very unevenly edited book and contains many passages that simply seemed to its editors like a good idea at the time.” The real genius of this quote comes from the fact that you don’t know which book it’s referring to. Is it referring to the book in-universe, or did Douglas Adams throw in a subtle jab to his editors? Truly one of life’s greatest mysteries.

Overall, this book is absolutely hilarious and I would recommend it to anyone who loves sarcasm and sci-fi as much as me, but the odds of that are extremely low. Also, if you’re searching for the meaning of life like all of us, it’s 42.

A Review of Another Riordan Masterpiece by Braman Cronin

I was immediately ensnared in the story from the opening paragraph. Magnus Chase, Book II, The Hammer of Thor, by Rick Riordan, captures interest immediately. The opening chapter packs background story and comedy into an action full superhero tale. Immediately Riordan established his tone and his characters. Introducing characters seamlessly while including enough action to keep me interested is often hard. Riordan does this perfectly. He establishes the personalities of every character through dialogue and body language descriptions. It allows me to visualize perfectly what  is going on in the story making it feel like a blockbuster movie in my mind. I appreciate the way he utilizes comedy throughout, as to further character developments. Everyone feels real and tangible including the mythological beings.

The narration follows Magnus Chase and continues his story, set in the Percy Jackson universe. Magnus Chase is a cousin of Annabeth Chase, a primary character in the Percy Jackson universe. After defeating the world wolf of Norse Mythology, Fenris, Magnus returns to a “somewhat” normal life. Normal, involves frost giants, gods, and the armies of the dead. The novel tells about norse mythology and justly so, it has some darker plotlines than the average Riordan novel, but even the darker parts have sarcasm and comedy. Take for example, this sentence, “massacre these mortals, feed on their flesh, and take their souls”. In classic Riordan fashion, the novel prioritizes the adventures of the characters to explain the mythologies. This develops characters heavily.

The style of Magnus Chase the Hammer of Thor draws parallels to all other books of Rick Riordan. It is most similar to the Percy Jackson series, in its sarcastic first person narration. Just take a look at any of the chapter titles; they are full of puns and blatant sarcasm. Chapter 20 is named: In Case of Demonic Posession, Please Follow Illuminated Signs to the Nearest Exit. If that is not sarcasm in a sentence`, then I don’t know what is. The constantly progressing story feels like a superhero comic but with more depth. The plot feels like something magical, but the characters feel genuine, which, in a story about Norse Mythology, is perfection.

Overall I liked this book. I would say it is a 7 or 8 out of 10. Not perfect, but certainly a read that I would visit again. I liked the adventurous plot and the actiony chapters. The novel is a perfect read for quarantine when all we need is a hero to keep us inspired. Even if that hero is a dead teen from Boston, living in Azgard. I think this book is a great entertainment read and I recommend it to anyone wishing for something to read as a way of holding off until theatres open and we can all go see the next blockbuster.

The Ones Left Behind by Moira Buckley

Reimagine your life as a nine year old. You were probably outside playing with friends, busy only caring about your soccer game. Now imagine yourself as a nine year old in the 1920s with no family after immigrating to America from a forgein country. You’re put on a train with fellow orphans to be taken across the country until you are picked to be someone’s family– or more likely someone to work for with the promise of shelter and occasional meals. This was the situation for Niamh and many others.

Although I haven’t yet finished Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train, I am enjoying the book. Orphan Train follows the lives of two different girls who led two very different lives. Both Molly and Niamh are orphans; Molly’s story is told as a slightly troublesome teenager in 2011 while Niamh’s experience is as a nine year old in 1929. The author does a nice job of showing how despite the family situations these girls are forced to be a part of, they are actually the ones in control of who they call family. After being forced to leave her second home in Niamh’s young life she finds a friend in her teacher. The two recover a few of her personal items, like the handmade gloves a seamstress, Fanny, from a previous home risked her job to give Niamh. Niamh never had good relationships with her adoptive “mothers” but women like Fanny and her teacher always acted as a mother towards her. Pieces of information like this show the unique situations these girls are put into, adding to the quality of the book. 

Another compelling reason to read this novel is because of its nontraditional structure, as it switches between the two girls’ lives frequently. At first I thought this would make it hard to follow and I would lose interest or forget about details in one of the characters lives. This however was not the case, and the constant switching actually made the novel a more interesting read. Both girls experience totally different lives, but with the back and forth stories it’s easy to draw parallels between their experiences, making the novel more exciting. Towards the middle/end of the book you start to see the actual connection between the two characters when, (spoiler!) the reader finds out that the old woman Molly is working for is actually Niamh. I found this really satisfying when Molly’s story finally recognized the plot in Niamh’s story. These overlapping stories were one of the book’s most interesting aspects. 

In short, this is a good book. There’s nothing majorly exciting or any insane plot twists but it’s well written and will definitely keep you interested.

A Supermarket Like No Other by Noah Cichowlas

An ordinary man turned murderer at the beginning of the book. Perhaps one of the more dramatic ways to start a book, Bobby Hall doesn’t hold any punches when writing his book. I think this says a lot about Logic (Bobby Hall), his songs are always sure to throw you for a loop, but even though I knew this, the beginning still surprised me.

I think that the content is where the book really thrives. I think Logic is not afraid to sweep a reader off their feet with quick transitions. These open the door for some excellent action sequences, but also some sweet romance. One example of a quick transition is in the passage A second ago I was surely headed to jail for assault, and now I found myself in the middle of a job interview”. These transitions are a strong way to always keep the story moving. This leads to a stronger book overall.

I think the style is one of the strongest aspects of Super Market. Logic has always been known to have a certain tonality when making music, but that same approach he takes with his music is seen here in his book. I think that Logic has taken a lot of steps to write himself into the main character, Flynn, which I personally see as a negative thing because writing yourself into the main character can often restrict the writer in what emotions and such the main character expresses. In one of the first chapters of the book Logic describes the assistant manager of the supermarket Flynn was hired to work at. In his words “Like most drones in our society, Ted never did what he really loved”. This line sounds like it’s straight out of a Logic song. In his song “Last Call” for example Logic says “or you driving home from work, pissed off at your boss. Just, man, just please do what you love in life”. I think the similarities in these two lines are astounding. Both of these quotes are talking about people who are pissed off at their boss, and the wording is very similar.

Overall, Supermarket by Bobby Hall is a great book to read when you have some free time. It is always sure to keep the reader engaged, and it isn’t afraid to hold any punches. I’d give the book a 6/10 overall, but I’d still suggest that everyone read it because it is an enjoyable experience.

The Iliad Book Review by Robert DeAngelis

The Iliad is a story that has been a classic for thousands of years, and though it tells a story from an ancient view, its unique writing style, emotions, and fantastical elements can still interest readers today. Those who enjoy ancient Greek literature, the ancient world and its history, classical legends, and even fantasy novels could all find something to enjoy in this epic.

The story details the Trojan War from both sides of the conflict—the Achaeans and the Trojans. The war is coming to a close after many long years of fighting, and great battles are described with the tides turning back and forth between each of the combatants fiercely fighting for victory. Famous Greek heroes are important characters, such as Achilles, Odysseus, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Ajax, and Hector, and Greek gods take part too, with Athena, Apollo, Hera, and Zeus taking sides in the conflict. The story uses close detail and relations with others to describe characters, and being a poem, The Iliad has unique writing styles, expressing them through repetition and its detailed character descriptions. When describing Athena it writes, “Soaring home to Olympus, she rejoined the gods aloft in the halls of Zeus whose shield is thunder.” In this passage the description of Athena includes Zeus and characteristics of him, because he is her father. Many times characters in The Iliad are described by their family, important actions or titles, or by a unique identifying personal trait. Additionally, the story also repeats lines or even whole passages, like when messengers repeat their message to the recipient, or when someone’s predicted fate is repeated. This has the reader recall past events and mark them as important information. All of these writing styles may seem strange or outdated to modern readers, but they do add to the themes of the poem.

Though The Iliad is thousands of years old, it may appeal to those who like modern fantasy novels due to its themes and character interactions. When Agamemnon challenges Hector to a duel, Apollo says to Hector, “‘Have all Trojans and Argives take their seats, and you, you challenge Achaea’s bravest man to duel in bloody combat to the death. It’s not the hour to meet your doom, not yet. I heard a voice of the gods who live forever.’” Apollo mentions gods and fates, and brave fighters and famous titles, which are all things that are parts of stories that are read today.

The Iliad is an old story, but its classical themes and emotions have a timeless power to engage readers of any era. It may not be for everyone, but it surely has the ability to surprise modern readers with stories of gods, men, and war.

Passion for Fashion? by Victoria Adusei

“I’d heard from a friend of a friend, an editorial assistant at Chic magazine, that every now and then the accessories get to meet their makers in those very elevators, a touching reunion where Miuccia, Giorgio, or Donatella can once again admire their summer ‘02 stilettos or their spring couture teardrop bag in person”. Fashion, happiness, and uncertainty have all come together in one book to show us that we have the capability to be versatile.  The Devil Wears Prada is about the relationship between the fierce and icy Miranda Priestly and her new assistant Andrea. Miranda is in charge of one of the most prestigious magazine companies, Runway, and through her relationship with Andrea, they both have lasting moments of emotional progress. I wasn’t able to finish the book, unfortunately, but from where I am right now I know enough to tell you why it’s essential that you get a copy.

Andrea’s experiences when she moves to New York City all make the book more relatable to the everyday reader. One morning she wakes up with a hot flash and says, “I lay in silence, trying to come to grips with my imminent death when snippets from the night before came back to me. A hot-pink drink in a martini glass… A toast, a gulp, another toast… it was just a hangover” (30). I really liked how down to earth this moment was when I was reading. Her thoughts racing and her coming to an understanding of why she felt so sick is something I literally do every day. I mean I’m underage so of course, I don’t know what a hangover feels like but she can’t be the first nor the last person who’s ever woken up this way thinking it was the end. 

Lauren Weisberger’s way of describing the clash between Andrea’s and Miranda’s worlds  provides a great perspective of both sides of the spectrum. Starting with Andrea, “I’d heard of Prada and Louis Vuitton, and maybe even Gucci but I sure didn’t own a single stitch of it”. Then with Miranda “…Within minutes, every PR account exec and assistant working at… Versace, Fendi…would be messengering over every skirt… Miranda Priestly could conceivably find attractive”. Andrea’s world is filled with simplicity whereas Miranda’s is filled with the complications of the high fashion world. This clash ends up working out for both of them in the end when Andrea decides to stay and work for Miranda. 

I think everybody and their mother should The Devil Wears Prada read multiple times. Even though I didn’t finish, this book impacted me and I hope it impacts you too.

When does she die? by Gianni Eisenhauer

Amy Gumm has a tough life: her mom’s drug addict, her father left them, she lives in a trailer park and has been bullied her whole life with nobody taking her side. All she’s ever wanted was to get away from this but when she’s tornadoed away to Oz it’s not the escape she expected. When she first landed in Oz she thought, “Well, I had wanted to be gone. I’d wanted it for as long as I’d known there was anywhere to go. I wanted other places, other people. Another me. I wanted to leave everything and everyone behind. But not like this.”  She was happy that she got away from all the bad things in her life but she was upset how far from home she really was. In my review I’m going to talk about what I liked about this book and what I didn’t like. 

It feels like the book is very dragged out to allow for the following books to have more content. Before Amy can kill Dorothy she has to be trained to fight and use magic, the plot kind of stops briefly to allow for this training which doesn’t have much depth and just all of a sudden turns a country girl from Kansas into a warrior. After her first few fights, Nox, the boy who’s training her, says You’ve gotten so much better. It’s not just the magic. It’s the rest of it. I don’t even think you know you’re doing it. The way you move; the way you think on your feet. You’ve gotten so good so fast. You’re a natural, you know.”  After this quote it’s just accepted that Amy doesn’t need more training even though her fights have seemed subpar to what you expect from a queen killing machine. I think the author should have made these fights much higher quality and should have shown that Amy really was making progress. 

Despite the fact that the book moves a little slow I thought that the author’s writing was fantastic; she really brought these characters and the setting to life. She uses very specific detail when describing characters to give you the perfect image, like when she describes Dorothy’s new look: “Instead of farm-girl cotton it was silk and chiffon. The cut was somewhere between haute couture and French hooker. The bodice nipped, tucked, and lifted. There was cleavage. Lots of cleavage.” Throughout the book the author uses great detail like this to really allow your imagination to see what she envisioned the characters to look like. 

In short if you’re looking for a new twist on oz and want to read a series then i highly recommend it but if you just want to read one book then this isn’t for you. 

Feasible Fantasy by Max Onffroy

Dragons. Knights. Mages. Elves. Some of the first things you think of when you hear fantasy. As a historical fiction writer C.F. Iggulden chooses to shatter those expectations in his first fantasy novel: Darien Empire of Salt. This novel follows 3 unlikely heroes (Arthur, Nancy, and Elias) discovering the extent of their magical ‘knacks’ in Darien, a land ruled by 12 royal families, and how their stories, with the hopes of making it a better place to live, merge into one. The book exposes you to a myriad of golems, mages, magical items, while also emphasizing science, reflecting a world more like historic times than fantasy. 

Iggulden’s emphasis on beliefs and themes makes this book worth reading. Like many of the poor in Darien, Nancy began the book not believing in magic due to the fact that only the rich families have access to such luxury due to its rarity in the land. Nancy along with the poor believed “‘magic’s a game – for children and the gullible… you have streets of fakery – and I grew up on the other side of the city, where we don’t hold with such things.’” This unique aspect of Iggulden’s fantasy sets us in a land where people do not believe their land is different from ours, making the book’s focus on love, family, revenge, and power more than magic.

Having written many historical fiction novels, C.F. Iggulden never fails to provide an entertaining description to even the most bland places, making the novel a fun experience to read. Such as when he describes a tomb in the desert: “It lay exactly as it had before, slightly raised from the horizontal line like a brewer’s delivery hatch, looking almost like a white mouth made of scrolled stone in the black sand all around it.” Iggulden really makes the tomb itself pop in the barren desert showing the reader the importance of it, as well as growing anticipation of what is inside. To add to this anticipation, Iggulden frequently cuts the scene to one of the other characters to build excitement that never disappoints when brought back. If you enjoy adventures, along with a little bit of trickery and strategy, Darien is a good escape into a land of feasible fantasy.

I would recommend reading this book for entertainment purposes and to give your imagination new directions to flourish, and as an added bonus the series is at 3 books and is growing so there are more adventures to come.

I’ll Give You the Run Down by Androniqi Danga

Betrayal between siblings. Familial love and secrets. Twins. All of which you’ll find in the young adult novel, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Although not a romance novel, this novel still gives readers a look into the romantic lives of both Noah and Jude, making the story even more interesting.

First off, the alternating perspective of the novel gives readers a look into the lives of both Noah and Jude and helps readers really understand how much they have grown apart and have lost the connection they shared at the very start of the novel. The novel starts off in the perspective of Noah when he is 13 years old and then jumps to Jude’s perspective when she’s 16 years old, giving readers the sense of how much has changed between the twins. From the very first change in perspective, readers can notice a shift in the personalities of the twins, specifically Noah. Jude even mentions this change in character in her “chapter” where she states, “The worst thing that could ever happen to Noah has happened. He’s become normal.” This makes readers want to find out what will happen and whether or not their relationship will go back to what it was. This deep look into their lives gives readers the chance to really understand each character almost immediately. 

Nelson also brings the content to life and makes sure that there is imagery present in every detail in the novel, which makes the readers not want to put the book down- and yes, this did happen to me on multiple occasions. Nelson gives readers some of the best imagery making sure readers are visualizing almost every detail. This is clearly seen in sentences like the following that Nelson writes, “This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders. Things don’t really turn out like what you think.” Even just from this quote, I’m sure you guys can get the sense of how much Nelson really connects the reader to the novel and makes it seem as though they’re right there in the story, watching it all play out. 

If you’re looking for a great read over the summer or while you’re stuck at home during quarantine, this novel is a must. Nelson does an excellent job of writing a novel that teens will not want to put down. It’s not your typical romance novel that focuses solely on love but instead provides a look into a different kind of relationship and the change that has occurred, making the even better and harder to put down. 

A War of the Individual by Andrew Stahovec

For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway is, simply put, a complex and realistic depiction of a man fulfilling a self-imposed obligation to his country. Hemingway is unsurprisingly verbose, and spares no expense in taking the time to illuminate the reader on a character (be that supporting or central). The reader is launched into the Spanish Civil War through the first-person account of Robert Jordan, an American who’s gone to aid the guerrilla fighters in the mountains of Segovia. The plot is centered around blowing up a Fascist-owned bridge, to advance the guerrilla offensive. Much of the novel is based around Jordan’s account of the events that transpire throughout, but in short bursts, we get pulled away to live through the eyes of an auxiliary character — and these are the moments that truly make For Whom The Bell Tolls a standout classic. 

Put simply, Anselmo, Robert Jordan’s presumed right-hand-man, is not only the ‘angel on the shoulder’, but one that we get to pick-apart through deliberate dialogue. Anselmo is a devout Christian without a religion from the moment the Roman Catholic church backed the Fascist regime. He is the first to volunteer to help Robert Jordan destroy the bridge and the first to cry when he sheds the blood of enemies. That’s what is so fascinating about Anselmo; Hemingway captures the internal conflict so perfectly painfully, that it’s hard to look away.  He’s a juxtaposition of Pablo, who sees the killing as entirely sensible. Very early on, we get a gem from Anselmo in the way of this quote, “But with our without God, I think it is a sin to kill. To take the life of another is to me very grave. I will do it whenever necessary but I am not of the race of Pablo.” This contrast shows how diverse Hemingway’s characters are, but also how unaffected they are by one-another’s opinions. Anselmo is his own person, proudly so, and does not feel tempted to be compromised by the war raging on around him. 

Hemingway spends every off-moment filling it with background info so the reader never ends up in a surprising scenario. His wordy character dialogue is difficult to digest at times, but oftentimes a welcome relief from the lull of first-person thought processes, and yet by the end Hemingway leaves us with a few simple thoughts that truly hit home. For instance, when Jordan’s back is up against the wall and he faces mortal danger, he muses, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.” It’s a solemn thought, coming from a character who was endlessly poetic about his thoughts about the war. 

Sometimes Hemingway will lead the reader on a long and arduous path, just for the reward to be a simple, one-liner that all the pages in the world could not be worth. That’s a lesson that needs to be taught time and time again too. In the face of war, difference of opinion, and a powerful romance, sometimes the most powerful words aren’t the ones that’re delivered in sonnet form, but the ones that’re surprise remarks. The simple sentences are the ones that color the space in-between.

Old Yeller by Peter Tonna

There are not many people who hear the title Old Yeller and respond negatively. Just like thousands of other students, critics, or just avid readers, I was shocked with the power and style of this renowned novel. While attempting to spoil as little as possible, I would like to explain the genius behind the timeless american classic known as Old Yeller.    

The Author, Fred Gibson, wastes no time getting to the moral of the story, with the first few pages narrated by the main character, Travis Coates, from the future, showing the change in thinking over the course of the novel for this dynamic character. The story of Old Yeller is written so simplistically that a child could understand it, yet it is so moving and entertaining that adults can still enjoy it. The book was written for all audiences, and it’s clear the Author does not want to muffle the power of the story he wrote with large, unnecessary words. The styling choices in Old Yeller are somewhat strange, but arguably make the story more meaningful. Within the first few pages, the author already spoils the ending to his story. I believe this addition makes the book more exciting to read, just to find out how the characters progressed over the course of the book. 

My favorite part of Old Yeller was seeing Travis Coates, after his immediate hatred for the Yeller dog, transform into a strong love and bond with the animal. I love how the author spoils the ending of the book in the form of Travis claiming how much he loved Old Yeller, just to soon go into how much Travis hated the dog when it first showed up. (Quote: Travis kicking Old Yeller on the doorstep). Old Yeller was a skinny, stray dog, and for that reason, Travis believed he would never have any loyalty or respect for the family. I love how that original attitude is morphed over the course of the book, and ends with the grand finale of Francis having to put his new best friend out of his misery. 

While it may not be the most complex or advanced book to read, Old Yeller is a timeless american classic and is loved by most who read it. The reader is helped to experience every change the characters go through, and feel every emotion that is portrayed through Fred Gibson’s writing. I would heavily encourage anyone who is looking for a new book to read to try out Old Yeller.

Look Back, Walk Forwards by Laila El Samra

What if I told you that the knowledge that you’ve worked hard to attain and experiences you have gone through is something you must unlearn? Throughout our lives, our experiences, both big and small, continue to shape who we are and how we function. Some of these habits become so ingrained in our minds and are more often than not subconsciously unhealthy outlooks. By reading Humble the Poet’s book on how to improve my self and life, I have been able to more deeply open my mind. Being able to reflect on our pasts is a healthy habit to form. It is never too late to start your journey of self-improvement. There is a lot we can unlearn. 

I read Unlearn by Humble the Poet. As he says in the first chapter, there is not a concrete plot to this book. There is more of an overarching theme and lessons that he provides through stories and anecdotes from his life. I first heard about Humble through a famous YouTuber named iiSuperwomanii (Lily Singh). They are friends, and he was always on her vlog channel, so I watched some of his poetry videos on his own channel in middle school. I remembered that I thought Humble was very inspirational and when I found his book in the Self Help section of Sora, I knew I had to read it. I chose this book because I want to better myself as a person, and I believe it will be a good tool, not only in helping me refocus my life and open my mind to the world, but also helping me dig deeper within myself and unlearn some unhealthy habits.

What has surprised me so far is the connections and how much I have been able to relate to this book. It made me realize that at the end of the day, even though people are so different, we all go through similar experiences and emotions; our overarching human nature is universal. A specific lesson I can draw out is that in life we are our own worst enemy and any bad situation that we don’t have control over we can make 100x worse. This was reiterated when he said, “Life doesn’t start after the obstacles; life is the obstacles.”

I enjoyed the tone of the author and how short the chapters are because it gets the message directly across. This is helpful because it allowed me to stay focused and engaged throughout the book’s entirety. My favorite chapter is about patience because it reiterates the importance of not rushing into things, especially relationships. A quote I enjoyed is, “Love when you’re ready not when you’re lonely.” In the fast paced lives we live, I believe it is important to sit down and self reflect with books, such as this one, in order to help further understand ourselves and in turn the world around us. I think the kind of reader who would enjoy this book is someone who is looking to improve their lifestyle at any age. The intended audience is young adults and anyone who will enjoy short yet direct advice which can make them think beyond what they already know, but also think back on lessons they might have already learned all in front of them in one book.