Tuesday, September 30, 2008


One of the books I read this summer was Firestorm, by David Klass. Firestorm was one of our freshman summer reads and was incredibly popular both this year and last, so I wanted to give it a try. What I liked about Firestorm was its fast pace and action-packed scenes. I also thought that the dialogue was pretty believable, as was the main character Jack's preoccupation with girls (he is 18, after all!).
Jack is the star of the football team and is with friends at a local diner celebrating his most recent victory, when a strange man walks past him and his eyes start flashing silver. Jack tells his parents about this strange occurrence, which ends up changing his life forever: the strange man is from the future and has been sent back to track Jack down and destroy him. As Jack discovers, his parents are not his true parents, as he also has been sent from the future to try and save the world (yeah, kind of like in "Terminator"-- but I forgave the author this obvious similarity because the rest of the book is completely original). The rest of the novel follows Jack as he eludes shape-shifters and makes strange new friends (a talking dog and a beautiful ninja-girl), while trying to understand his past and come to terms with the present.
Firestorm is really exciting and original, so it is definitely a great read for anyone interested in a relatively easy, action-packed, sci-fi type adventure. It also has some fascinating ecological detail worked into the plotline, so you get a little information along the way. It did take me a while to get beyond the author's writing style, however, because he wrote the book almost entirely (it seemed) in sentence fragments. Short. Sentences. Make it exciting. Although sometimes. It drove. Me crazy. You get used to it after a while.
All in all, I definitely recommend Firestorm and give it a hearty
3 out of 4 bananas!

Monday, September 22, 2008

1984 (or, The ORIGINAL "Big Brother": not the game show kind)

The last book that I read this summer was 1984 by George Orwell. It's one of those classics that you'll find constantly referenced throughout your life, in literature, TV (witness the "Big Brother" reality show), movies, and in general conversation. I'd never read it, however, so I felt like it was high time to get on board with this classic, especially since I really enjoy novels of dystopia. It's important to know that 1984 was published in 1949, so Orwell was imagining life thirty-five years from his present time, when the world is divided into three regional groups (Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia) who are constantly at war with each other. Also, in this future society, Big Brother controls Oceania (the region of which Winston, the main character, is a citizen). Everything that Big Brother says is considered to be Absolute, unchanging Truth, so, when something happens that contradicts something Big Brother had said or done in the past, the past is ALTERED to reflect the new truth (although the new truth is considered to have ALWAYS been the truth). Confused yet? How can you change the past, you ask? In 1984, the past is altered by destroying newspaper articles, fabricating photographs, even eliminating people who may have borne witness to the earlier, contradictory facts. The citizenry is also terrorized and brainwashed by fear into refusing to remember contradictions in the leadership. Human memory becomes alterable, then, because absolute loyalty to Big Brother is the highest goal for all of the citizenry. Independent thought is considered Public Enemy #1, which sets the stage for the plot of this novel: Winston, the protagonist, has independent thoughts. Troubling independent thoughts. And the rest you'll have to read for yourself. 4 out of 4 Bananas

Monday, September 8, 2008

Three Cups of Tea: What Does Education Have to do with World Peace?

I'll admit it. I wasn't overly excited about reading Three Cups of Tea when I saw that it was a 2009 Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award contender because, although I admire those who commit their lives to humanitarian endeavors, sometimes their stories can be a bit treacly. I enjoy reading blurbs about humanitarian heroes in People magazine, but an entire do-gooder memoir? Luckily, I put my reservations aside and was rewarded with an absolutely stellar account of an unlikely hero and his tireless efforts to build school for impoverished Muslim children in the mountains of the Pakistani Himalayas.
Greg Mortenson had failed to climb K2, the most technically-difficult climb of any mountain in the world. He was descending the slopes when he took a wrong turn, got lost, and ended up spending several weeks in Korphe, a tiny village, where he saw students trying to scratch out their lessons in the dirt. Mortenson vowed to return with enough money to build a school for the children of the village that had hosted him so generously. The rest of the book describes the difficulties Mortenson had finding donors to help Muslims (he points out that everyone wants to help the Buddhist sherpas made famous by Mt. Everest) and explores why that is and why helping Muslims and Muslim countries is necessary in fostering world peace. He eventually found a donor and began to travel down the path that he will follow for the rest of his life.
Three Cups of Tea is important for all Americans to read, in my opinion, and that's not something that I say lightly. It forces us as a country to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what our priorities are and what we can do-- both as a country and as individuals-- to foster world peace.
4 out of 4 Bananas

Uglies: Read This Book!

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was one of my top three books of the summer. If you haven't read it already, pick it up as soon as possible! As I've mentioned a few times in this blog, I really enjoy books set in a dystopia/post-apocalypse/alternate future where life has taken a turn for the worse, usually because of something we humans have done to our environment or to each other socially. Uglies is an awesome example of what happens after society's obsession with beauty is taken to extremes.

Tally is an Ugly. She can't wait for her sixteenth birthday because, when you turn sixteen, you have the operations to become a Pretty. You have extensive plastic surgery to change the shape of your eyes, cheekbones, arms, legs, nose; your eye color can be changed, your hair straightened or lengthened, and liposuction will make you thin. Even more exciting, Tally will finally move to Prettytown, where her life will be nothing but parties, drinking, sex and fun 24/7. What's not to love? Then she meets Shay, who doesn't want to become Pretty. Through Shay, Tally meets a community of people-- all Uglies-- who are hiding in the Smoke and trying to live life as it used to be, without the debauchery and artificial beauty of Prettytown. Tally's beliefs are challenged in ways she could never have imagined, and in the end she is left with making a monumental and potentially disastrous decision. I can't wait to find out what happens in the rest of the series (Pretties, Specials, Extras).

I loved this book and thought that its social commentary on our obsession with beauty and perfection was right on. A must-read for anyone in high school. 4 Out of 4 Bananas