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Friday, May 17, 2019

Squirm by Carl Hiassen, review by Vivek Manthri

The Squirm by Carl Hiassen is a very well written adventurous tale filled with twists and turns. The main character Billy Dickens moves all around the country, but this time he spends his summer in Florida. He finds out that he has a relationship with the Crow Nation which is all the way up in Montana. He decides to fly up there, but shortly after he finds out that there is something going on which is a much bigger issue than he has ever faced. He starts his journey. Join Billy this summer in his super amazing twisted tale which involves Grizzly Bears, spy drones and deadly snakes. I would rate this book a 4.5/5 because it totally deserves it. All of this action put together in the Squirm by the Newberry Honor winner Carl Hiassen.

Anisha Nagaraj, thoughts on journaling & writing

I've never liked writing in school because I'm not interested in, for example, character development in A Separate Peace, and I just don't want to reread and revise something over and over, trying to adhere to grammar and formal writing. However, I like writing in my own journal. Anyone can do it. When I write for fun, I can write about whatever I want; mostly it's about some recent events and my thoughts, and I can vent my feelings. I write about almost everything, and I do it for two reasons. The first reason is to vent my frustrations and organize my thoughts. Many times when I write, it's because I'm super stressed or angry. Getting all of it down on paper clears my head and helps me focus on whatever it is I'm stressed about and getting it done (because usually the stress in an assignment from school). The second reason is to look back on the memories. I've been writing in journals since maybe fourth or fifth grade, probably even before that. I have countless random half-used journals lying around the house from when I was younger. Now I can look back at my exact thoughts and emotions on say, a specific day in fifth grade. It's a great feeling, flipping through an old journal, remembering times and people you had forgotten, reminiscing about the good old days when you didn't have to think about your future, cringing at your younger self, and reviving good memories. And seeing how much you have grown as a person is amazing. Writing about something embarrassing now will give you something to laugh at years from now. Writing something when you're happy and carefree now will give you good memories and nostalgia years from now. It's true that most of us don't have time to write everyday, including me, so I mostly time my journal entries around when something eventful happens. For example, some of my journal entries focus on things like my birthday, finals/midterms, meeting my friends, the beginning of the school year, etc. These are things I want to remember years later, both good and bad. You don't need to fill up your journal with day-to-day, routine things, and you yourself won't feel like writing if that's all you have to write about. If you do it right, you can write to organize your thoughts and save the memories for later on. After all, we can't time travel or relive our past, unless we write about it.

Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke, review by Aditri Chauhan

The gender bent retelling of Beowulf, The Boneless Mercies is a story by April Genevieve Tucholke that follows Frey, Ovie, Juniper, Runa, and Trigve, five young people looking for glory. Boneless Mercies are bands of women forced to kill people by their wish in order to make a living, and unfortunately, the former four girls do just that. Trigve is a man they found, dying, in a village completely destroyed by “The Winter Sickness”. Together they travel, tirelessly doing what they were born to do, or so they were told. The main character, Frey, is an insecure girl, who silently wishes for glory. When she hears of an undefeatable beast that is ruining the lands of Blue Vee on the other side of her country, Vorseland, she considers it an opportunity to gain fame. When she presents the idea to her companions, she is pleasantly surprised, and they set out to kill the beast. Their journey brings them many surprises, but they are all determined to escape the death trade and make a life for themselves. It is a story of self-empowerment and the power of womanhood, and is extremely difficult to put down.
This book was on par with some of the greatest bestsellers in the world, such as the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. I did not pick up the story with high expectations, but I was shocked on so many levels. Deeper into the plot, I found myself actively laughing, crying, and living with the characters. They were so relatable, and each one was very special to the actual story. Since the plot was not completely original, it may be seen as not good enough, but I personally thought is was absolutely perfect. There were very few coincidences driving the story and the plot was relatively realistic, especially the ending. Finally, the writing style was passionate and emotional, obviously showing the love the author had for the characters and setting. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the story was, and no matter how many words I use to describe it, they will always fall short of expressing my feelings for this book.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate this book a solid 4.75, which means I think it’s a really fantastic book! I seriously suggest that people who love fantasy or dystopian books, like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, read this book. It is a bit apart from the norm, but that is what makes it special. Even going into this novel with high hopes, you can’t be disappointed. The story is almost life-changing, and reminded me that, in my mind, “I am woman, wanderer, warrior.”  

Wizard's Dog Fetches the Grail by Eric Kahn Gale, review by Aditri Chauhan

The Wizard’s Dog Fetches The Grail by Eric Kahn Gale is a cute, entertaining, fantasy book
revolving around the theme of friendship and family. The Wizard’s Dog, Nosewise, travels with
his master, Merlin, his girl Morgana, and his boy, Arthur. Their greatest enemy, Oberon, is the
king of the Fae people, and his magical worms seem to have killed one of the greatest ladies
from the Fae court, Lady Nivian. She is Nosewise’s pack’s most trusted and powerful friend.
Seeing her stony body causes them a lot of devastation, until Oberon himself shows up,
offering them a way to bring her back. The Holy Grail, a magic cup that resides in the Camelot,
a kingdom in the Otherworld, has life powers strong enough to revive Nivian. The travel through
a portal into the Otherworld, where they are faced with many challenges, including greedy
queens, extreme weather, and numerous manipulative dreams.

Being a YA book reader, I didn’t have a lot to compare this more elementary level book to. It was cute,
but the emotions didn’t really hit me deeply like a lot of other books I read do.
It was more of a light read. The characters were lovable, though. They had interesting personalities
that a reader would be able to relate to. Also, since the book was written from the point of view of a dog,
it made it extremely funny because he was innocent and naive.
On the other hand, I wasn’t so fond of the plot. It went very slowly, and was slightly repetitive in places.
It did pick up near the end, but at that point, I was kind of dragging myself to finish.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about the characters, but in my opinion, the story was generally very slow.

On a scale of 1-5, I would probably give this book a 3, meaning it was alright.
For people who read majority YA books will find this book quite a bit under their usual expectations.
But younger audiences may enjoy this a lot because this is probably the kind of story they are used
to seeing. My 8 year old sister read some of it and thoroughly enjoyed that much,
so The Wizard’s Dog Fetches the Grail is most likely best for that age group.

Catwoman: Soulsteaker by Sarah J. Maas, review by Vanshika Agrawal

Catwoman: Soulstealer written by the author, Sarah J. Maas focuses on a character named Selina Kyle. It shows her struggles financially and physically throughout the novel at various events and also demonstrates of how she overcomes those obstacles. At the beginning, she is a fighter who is trying to earn money for her sister's operation. She has bruises all over her body and limps but still risks her life for her only family member's happiness. Her will makes her win everytime and she pursues this illegal way of income because of her sister's disease's operation. As the book progresses, a lot of interesting twists and turns take place. She meets the character Luke Fox who accompanies her on her adventures. She fights Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn with Luke to free Gotham City from horrible leaders when Batman was away.
  
This book was good but wasn't an attention grabber right at the beginning. It was slow to the plot but when it got there, it became interesting. I was lost a few times during the novel but the characters acted certain ways because of their helplessness which can be related to society. I have not watched any Batman series but this book was informative enough and I felt like I knew everything already. It was an exciting adventure to be a part of and how things unravel the way they do in this book.

I would give this book a 4/5 because of it's slow way through the plot. The novel did a fantastic job of introducing the characters as well as the setting. I would recommend this book to a person who loves action, suspense and a hint of the romance genre.

Vanshika Agrawal
Grade 9

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, Review by Priyanka Sarkhel

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl Review
by Priyanka Sarkhel (11th grade)


Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl is a psychological suspense novel made for young-adults.
The story follows Beatrice Hartley, narrating from her point-of-view, and her four best friends:
Kipling, Whitney, Cannon, and Martha. Following the mysterious death of Jim, Beatrice’s boyfriend,
these five friends reunite at Wincroft estate a year after graduation to recount the memories and
good times had when they all attended Darrow-Harker School.  
Beatrice, despite having drifted from her friends since leaving high school and dealing with the
grief of her boyfriend’s death, decides to revisit Wincroft in order to finally uncover the truth
behind what happened to Jim. Aware of the fact that her friends may know more than they are
letting on, Beatrice steps out of the comfort of her safe, Rhode Island home to pursue the mystery
that has haunted her for so long.
In a night of drunken hazes, the five friends leave a punk-rock concert in the pouring rain late
at night. When they return home, a strange man knocks at the door, calling himself The Keeper.
He tells them that time has paused, and the only way to press play is for them to make a daunting
decision.
This book was equal parts gripping as it was boring and repetitive. Pessl does a great job of
setting up the world the characters are in, but the basis of the story itself follows a Groundhog
Day pattern, in which the same day repeats itself over and over again. There are elements of sci-fi
and time travel that are thrown into this world, making it a bit more complex for the reader to
understand, but the way Pessl attempts to explain it was relatively decent, at least, for me it was.
However, to really understand what was going on, I had to re-read these explanations several
times, something that is really unappealing to me in terms of sci-fi.
I want to be able to easily understand how the world works the first time rather than having to
do extra work to really get it.
In terms of writing style, I felt that Pessl overused similes way too much. It’s one thing to mix in
some nice comparisons every now and then, but it’s another to compare unrelated things near
constantly that provide no deeper understanding whatsoever, but rather are there just because
they are. She wrote in a very romantic, poetic way that turned up empty and meaningless in the
long run.
The characters were stereotypical and unlikeable. Kipling, who is the gay character in this book,
is written in a very stereotypical and one-dimensional manner. The other characters all took the
place of high school cliches: nerd, rich brat, genius comedian. They too were boring characters,
lacking depth and dialogue. Even the protagonist herself, Beatrice, is almost just as stagnant and
flat. Overall, none of the characters in this book had an arc or a purpose. Basically, you end up
rooting for none of them.
In terms of pacing, this book is slow. You get nowhere very fast. While this is supposed to be a
thriller, mystery, suspense novel of sorts, there was very little thrill and very little suspense. I
lost the direction of the plot several times while reading this book, finding that I did not really
care about what was happening as much as I wanted to get to the end. I forgot about the mystery
Beatrice was trying to solve in regards to Jim’s death because in some parts, it felt as if that entire
plot point was shoved to the side. Then, all of a sudden, it was stuffed right back in our faces
towards the end of the book.
Amidst all of that mess, characters kept coming and going, leaving Beatrice alone most of the time.
It was hard to keep track of and was, frankly, annoying.
The climax felt anticlimactic, almost as if the entire story and uncovering all of the secrets the main
characters did were pointless because the truth isn’t really that intense at all. It was disappointing
to read, really.
While the book had potential, I did not enjoy it one bit. On a scale of 1-5, Neverworld Wake is a 2.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford; review by Isha Sajid

What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible
 by Ross Welford is about a girl who tries to cure her acne, but turns out to turn invisible. The writing style of the book is quite simple, so it would be interesting to younger readers. The story was written realistically, even though this would never happen to us. One of the problems of this book was pacing. They would stretch one simple event for chapters and chapters and it would not be as interesting. Another thing was that the book was very predictable. You could easily tell what was about to happen and there weren't any major twists  The author uses a lot of figurative languages for us to see what is happening in our minds which made it interesting. The book has a good storyline and it grabs our attention. I would rate this a 3.5/5, but younger people would enjoy this book.