Thursday, September 19, 2019

Twelfth night by Shakespeare, A Review by Raheem Ahmad

Twelfth night Book Review by Raheem Ahmad
Twelfth Night is a comedy made by Shakespeare. It takes place in Illyria. It starts with Duke Orsino, a nobleman who is lovesick for Lady Olivia. Meanwhile, on the coast of Illyria, a storm caused a shipwreck and Viola, is swept onto the Illyrian shore. She believes her twin brother Sebastian is dead. Viola heard of Duke Orsino and wanted to work for him, so she dresses as a man and takes the name Cesario and goes to work in the house of Orsino. While Viola works for Orsino she realizes she falls in love with him. Orsino send Cesario to deliver a love message to Olivia, Olivia realizes she fell in love with Cesario. And so the love triangle begins; Orsino is in love with Olivia who is in love with Cesario (Viola) who is in love with Orsino. Meanwhile, we see the other members in Lady Olivia’s household; Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, his friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the lady of the house, Maria, the jokester Feste, and Olivia’s steward, Malvolio. Sir Toby, Maria, and Sir Andrew don’t like Malvolio’s actions (he tries to spoil their fun) so they play a prank on him. Maria writes a letter saying to do foolish things Olivia “likes” and M.O.A.I is her lover. Malvolio finds the letter and he thinks Olivia is in love with him. On the Illyrian shore, Sebastian is lost and assumes Viola is dead. His caretaker, Antonio, follows him around eventually leading to Duke Orsino’s domain, even though Antonio and him are old enemies. Sir Andrew sees Olivia’s attraction to Cesario and challenges him to a duel. Moments later, Sebastian shows up and Sir Toby and Sir Andrew mistakenly think he is Cesario. Olivia arrives and warns them not to fight him. Thinking he is Cesario, Olivia asks him for marriage. Antonio is in jail and begs Cesario for help, thinking she is Sebastian. Malvolio’s gone crazy (for Olivia’s love)  and they decide to put him in a dark room. Feste dresses as “Sir Topas” and pretends to examine Malvolio. Later on, Malvolio writes a letter to Olivia asking to be released. Finally, Cesario and Orsino make it to Lady Olivia’s house, Olivia welcomes Sebastian as her new husband, thinking he is Cesario. Cesario realizes her brother is alive and they reunite and Orsino falls in love with Viola and asks her to be married to him. Sir Toby and Maria secretly get married and Malvolio is furious of what they have done to him. 
My thoughts on the book:

I would give this book 9.5/10 stars because it is a great plot and lots of humor. The plot has a great start that is easy to understand at first but then it gets hard to catch up. With all the confusion and the events to note, it’s a pretty hard book to understand, which is why I would deduct .5 points for the rating. The humor is very nice. When I read the play I even laughed at some of the things that the characters were doing. I would recommend you read this play because it has some entertainment and good interesting themes and quotes to read and learn about. People that like to read Shakespeare’s comedies and can follow a complex plot. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Book: Inferno by Dan Brown Review by Sanchita Dighe

Book: Inferno by Dan Brown                                                              Review by Sanchita Dighe

Inferno by Dan Brown was an amazing read that captivated my attention! It is quite similar to the other Dan Brown books, as it contains the same character, Robert Langdon, and is full of history and symbology references. However, it’s a completely new adventure that will grab the reader into a whirlwind of emotions. 

The book begins on a mysterious note, as an unknown person is shown to be killing themselves by jumping off a building. From there, the story gets complicated. The main character, Robert Langdon, is depicted to have landed in the hospital due to some violent injuries, and he has no memory of what had happened prior. When a sudden gunfight causes Langdon to realize he may have been involved with something dangerous, a doctor from the hospital, Sienna Brooks, helps him escape. 

With the help of Brooks, Langdon manages to discover the presence of a biomedical canister hidden within his jacket. Alarmed, he calls the US Consulate. While they wait for more instructions, Sienna tells Langdon that the canister seems to only open with Langdon’s touch. Langdon finds a tube inside, filled with a fluorescent chemical. They find out that there is a projector with the tube. Langdon and Brooks connect the messages inside the tube to Dante Aligheri, a poet who had redesigned the people’s version of hell. However, before Langdon can come up with a plan, armed men start shooting at the house, thus showing that the US Consulate itself is against Langdon. Langdon and Sienna both manage to escape. 

Throughout the course of the book, Langdon and Sienna tackle problems and solve the various puzzle pieces to figure out exactly what the opposing side has planned. Brown also adds the perspectives of other characters, which I found interesting, as some of the other characters mentioned seemed to have villainous motives. When the final goal of the opposing side is shown to be a “plague” that would destroy the entire world, Langdon and Sienna race against time to prevent this from happening. 

This book was extremely entertaining to read. It had the perfect amount of thriller and suspense, but it also discussed the problem of overpopulation and how some people believe ending the human race is the cure for it. It was very disconcerting at times to read the parts where the mastermind of the operation, a man named Bertrand Zobrist, talked about how a plague was the best thing that could happen to a growing world. It was scary to consider that people actually believed this, and although I know overpopulation will eventually bring about the downfall of this world, I cannot support a mass killing. Yet one could argue that Zobrist and the people who supported him were partially right, but the way they went about solving this problem was wrong. This book made me realize that ethics is a very complex and heavily debated concept. The characters were also developed with fascinating arcs, since I could not consider a single person, truly right or wrong. There were right ideas even in the wrongest person, and wrong ideas in the rightest. For example, Zobrist was considered the villain in the book, but his main goal was to save the human race in the future. His plan to do so was wrong, but his motive was complex. It was definitely intriguing to see the convoluted personalities of the characters. 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes thrillers and a bit of history mixed with suspense! If I were to give it a rating, I would give it a 9/10 for a compelling concept and lovable characters. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton reviewed by Nina Soukhanovskii

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. 

A Quote to Consider:
“With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of the other marriages about him were: a dull association of material and social interests held together by ignorance on the one side and hypocrisy on the other.”
Meet the Main Characters:
Newland Archer: He is a young lawyer who marries May Welland. He tells herself that he is in love with her, but he ends up falling in love with the Countess Olenska instead. Throughout the novel, he is faced with the dilemma of staying faithful to wife or following his heart.
May Welland: She is a beautiful young girl who gets married to Newland Archer. In the novel, she is portrayed as innocent and clueless. She is what society wants her to be because she has been raised knowing that her sole purpose is to get married and then stay in her husband’s shadow. She has no personality of her own. 
Countess Ellen Olenska: She is May’s cousin, raised in Europe and married to a Polish count. She comes to America in hopes of escaping a life that she does not want to live. She is the complete opposite of May because she is portrayed as independent and lively. Like a free spirit, she turns a blind eye towards society and chooses her own path in life (seen when she leaves her husband behind).
In the beginning of the novel, when the readers meet Newland, he is engaged to May and is perfectly happy with the outcome of his life up until that point. He insists on the fact that he is in love with May and that she is everything that she should be. The readers see that he is very happy with his decision to marry May and that his life seems to be running smoothly. 
However, when Newland meets May’s cousin, Ellen, he begins to doubt whether he made the right choice. All of a sudden, he finds himself comparing May to Ellen as he realizes that he is, in fact, in love with Ellen for her personality and not May. 
May, however, is not as ignorant as she seems. She notices the tension, and questions whether or not there is another woman in Newland’s life. Although she does not directly ask about his relationship with Ellen, she definitely suspects something. Newland, his heart belonging to Ellen but his mind to May, presses May until she agrees to wed sooner. 
And so, Newland’s life is set. As much as he wishes he could just forget about Ellen, she seems to come up every now and then, making him desperately wish for the colorful marriage that could have been. Instead, his life with May is dull and boring. Although he does not despise her, whatever he once felt for May is gone. His marriage is just like all of the other marriages, loveless. 
But the novel is not over just yet. There is still more to figure out as Newland, May, and Ellen each explore their own opportunities to live their life to the fullest. Will Newland give up on his quest to keep both women in his life? Will Ellen return to Europe, back to the life she once ran away from? Will May step in between the two?
Read the novel to find out!
My Thoughts & Rating:
Overall, I would give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. The plot had a lot of intriguing turns that I didn’t expect, and the character were developed and described very well. The novel does have a few slow parts towards the middle because Newland has a lot of time to himself to think, but it picks up by the end. Don’t give up on this novel half-way, it’ll be worth it in the long run. I would recommend this book to all readers, though I think readers who enjoy the genre of classical literature would enjoy this book the most.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review of Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich; reviewed by Siddhi Patel

Siddhi Patel

Book Review: Bringing Down The House (by Ben Mezrich)

The book Bringing Down The House by: Ben Mezrich appears to be a novel at first
glance, but is actually a true story all the way through. This nonfiction New York Times
Bestseller is truly one of a kind, and I have never read a book that even compares to the action
filled “plot” of this one. Bringing Down The House is the story of how six M.I.T. students made
millions of dollars off Las Vegas. These students, originally part of a local blackjack club,
mastered the art of playing blackjack. Blackjack is a card game that can be played to an
individual’s benefit through the use of mathematics and probability. Card counting is a method
used to keep track of the types of cards in a deck (high or low). There are multiple ways to count
cards, but the students at M.I.T. formed a rather simple one, where cards 2-6 are +1, and cards
10-Ace are -1. By keeping track of the count, they knew it was time to bet higher when the card
count was positive. This fairly simple system was accompanied by words that signaled the card
count. For example 1 = tree, 2 = switch, glove = 5, sweet = 16 and so on. These may seem
random at first, but they were mnemonics.
The six students formed their own team and traveled to Las Vegas every weekend to
play in the casinos. They set up a system, with different identities and personas to blend into the
casino’s atmosphere, in addition to a simple coded language, only understood by them,
accompanied by various body signals to communicate. To start off, the 3 main roles assigned in
every shift of playing were the “spotters”, “gorillas”, and “big players”. “Spotters” would keep
track of the card count and then signal a “gorilla” or “big player” to come to that particular table
when the count was good. “Gorillas” would blindly trust the “spotters” from earlier, usually acting
extremely drunk, and place high bets every round. The “big players”, aka “BP”, would count
cards while betting correctly as to not raise suspicion, but earn the largest sum of money. At the
same time, they would also be playing a different persona and interacting with the other players
to blend in.
Personally, I found this book extremely fascinating. This book demonstrated that nothing
is impossible in the real world. While reading this, I could hardly believe that this had actually
happened not that long ago in the 1980s-1990s. I am sure that technology has improved and
casinos have caught onto what happens at blackjack tables by now. However, that just makes it
more fascinating as to how six students used their brains to make millions rapidly. I would give
this book a 10 out of 10, as it is truly one of a kind. This book is not filled with unnecessary fluff,
but has the perfect balance of action. I would recommend this non-fiction book to anyone who is
looking to read something new for a change.

Review of Spiderman: Far From Home by Raheem Ahmad

Spiderman: Far From Home is something that excites me because it’s an action movie with an interesting plot. The movie features Tom Holland as Spiderman. Tom Holland is a great actor! I say he’s the best Spiderman actor so far. Tom Holland looks like he’s the appropriate age for Spiderman and Peter Parker. Spiderman gets his powers as a teenager, so it’d be best if we get to see a young guy who takes the role. Sure, Toby Maguire was in high school during the 2000s as Spiderman, but Tom Holland looks perfect to play a high school student/superhero. Another reason why Tom Holland is the perfect Spiderman is because Peter Parker is a bit goofy and has a sense of humor. The 2000s movies of Spiderman overdid it and made it melodramatic. On the other hand, Tom Holland knows what he’s doing. Back to the movie, the film takes place in Ixtenco where Nick Fury and Maria Hill fight Earth Elemental. It’s nice how they added these two characters in the movie. I’ve liked S.H.I.E.L.D throughout watching these superhero movies because it was another thing you can worry and pay attention about. Fury calls Peter Parker who is in Europe with his friends. Peter ignores the call. This scene where Parker ignores Fury’s calls reminds me of this show that used to air called: Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. That was the first Avengers series I watched. In the show, Nick Fury (and Later Maria Hill) try to convince some of the Avengers to become a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. S.H.I.E.L.D would call, follow, and even try to destroy the Avengers to try and make them registered for S.H.I.E.L.D. When Fury calls Parker it reminds me of how the Avengers ignored S.H.I.E.L.D and when Parker receives  the calls, he ignores it. Parker is still upset about Iron Man's death. Iron Man helped him and even let him join the Avengers which is why he is distraught about his death. Another fact about the movie is, it follows the events of Avengers: Endgame and focuses on Spiderman/Peter Parker. Compared to other marvel movies, Spiderman’s movies are the best. Here are the other movies; Thor: The Dark World, the tone was off and the villain wasn’t at all remarkable (villain was the Dark Elf). Iron Man 2, the villains were let-down and the movie wasn’t as good as the first one. Avengers: Age of Ultron; the characters and plot connections makes it a bit messy at times. The Incredible Hulk; the movie didn’t feel like a MCU movie anymore and Hulk doesn’t even remember what happens to his girlfriend. And finally, Captain America: The First Avenger; the movie has a nice start but the second half doesn’t live up the first. On the other hand, Spiderman Far From Home does a great job as a sequel to Homecoming as well as events that follow Avengers: Engame. Far From Home also includes one of the best MCU credits scenes. 

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.