May 15, 2013
2 by Melanie
Cut by Patricia McCormick
Reviewed by Melanie
I've read this book before. A troubled teenager is admitted to a mental hospital, where he/she starts to feel a sense of belonging among her fellow patients, thus giving the support our character needs to finally come to terms with their problems. I've read this book before, only under different titles. This plot has been recycled in YA fiction—but there is a reason why this storyline is popular: It's good. Even after reading two other books with plots almost parallel to Cut, I was still flipping pages, still wanting to see what happened to our heroine; before and after her admission to the mental hospital. Cut's a relatively short book, but no light reading. Just like the title, this book is intense. Even though I felt a certain sense of Deja Vu while reading, I enjoyed Cut and would suggest it to other readers.
Variant by Robison Wells
Reviewed by Melanie
It was Sunday afternoon. My family was watching the Superbowl downstairs. I was in my room, fighting to the death with a paintball gun. My sister ran upstairs, burst though my door and asked, "What's wrong? Why are you screaming?" I held up Variant and said, "I've found a new favorite book."
Do you have a survival kit handy? How about a paint ball gun? You're going to need it. In Variant, the action is fierce and the stakes are high. Escaping Maxfield Academy is all Benson Fisher has on his mind. There are no adults in this school; students split up in gangs in order to survive. Benson just wants to get out, but there's no easy way to escape, and when he learns the school's real secret, escape seems like a distant dream.
I loved it! I read most of it in one sitting. Not only was the setting (who doesn't love a corrupt boarding school?) compelling, but the characters were equally as interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially someone who, like me, is a sucker for a good plot twist. And trust me, this one's good.
3 by Sumin
Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence
Reviewed by Sumin
Lord of the Nutcracker Men is a book that'll let you experience the horror of war through a ten-year-old's eyes.
Johnny likes to play wars with his nutcracker men that his toy-maker father made. But when England is threatened in World War I, Father volunteers to go fight at the front line for his proud country. Johnny thought he'd be back in a few months or so, but war was tougher than he expected. Father did not come back for a long time. Because they missed each other a lot, they exchanged letters. Father's letters revealed the reality of scary war, and the nutcracker men that Father made were now weirdly turning sad and hurt. Johnny is worried that whatever happens during his own toy-wars actually come true in his Father's real war. It seems like the fate of Father and his other soldiers depends on Johnny.
I think the readers have to be at least in 3rd grade to understand the mood of war and all the sorrow in this book. The thing that I liked the most was how the author described the mood so well, and this book would be very boring if a reader does not feel all the moods. While reading this book, I felt like the dark, harsh feeling of war was pressurizing me, and after I finished this book, I felt as if I had experienced the World War I myself. I also felt like myself in the reality was being replaced by Johnny. That's how strong it was. Some people may like it, although some may not.
Reading this book was an interesting experience, and it can help you get the idea of what a war is really like.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Reviewed by Sumin
This is a book that caused me to deeply think about "life", and learn about China's background. The author, Pearl Buck, shows the meaning of being rich or poor, aging, and land through a Chinese man, Wang Lung in the story.
Wang Lung is a young farmer in the countryside in China. The story starts with the scene where he gets a wife, Olan. They have many children together, three boys and two girls. While Wang Lung's friends are gambling and playing, he and Olan worked hard, saved every penny, and when they got more money, bought more land. Wang Lung and Olan believed in the earth, and loved it — everything was coming from it.
But unfortunately, after a long drought, they lose a lot of money, and have to move to the city. In the city, they experience being the poorest ones, while right over a huge wall, there were rich people in rich clothes having parties. Then, they witness a big rebellion against the people in the rich house, and go back to the countryside with much gold and jewelry that they got from the house.
Wang Lung and Olan again work hard to become very rich. But as they keep getting rich, a reader might notice that Wang Lung wants to be more like that rich family in the rich house.
This lovely story taught me many things about the rich and poor society, and how a man lives through his life. The memories of Wang Lung, Olan, and the old countryside setting in China still stays in my heart, like old friends.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Reviewed by Sumin
This is a book that really made me feel the pain of Holocaust: The Diary of Anne Frank. Anne Frank, age 13, first gets her diary which she names "Kitty" from her father on her birthday. That's when she starts to tell Kitty the story of her life almost everyday about her sadness, anger, growing up, war situation, and her amazing thoughts about war and Holocaust.
Anne is an eager school girl in at the beginning of the diary, with so many friends and always being an excellent student. But then, after Nazis gained control of Holland, she has to attend a separate Jewish school. As the situation gets worse, her family decides to move into the "Secret Annexe" in the attic of a friendly German couple. She experiences boredom, hunger, and fear while in hiding, but still doesn't lose hope and keeps working on her studies and writing, until the Nazis finally discovered them and took them to the concentration camp. Anne eventually dies in the concentration camp.
Throughout the book, I was able to tell that she kept on changing. From the first few diary entries which were written before she had to go into hiding, I could tell that Anne was a very braggy, flirting girl — surrounded by a bunch of girls and boys, and kicking one boy after another. But since she got into hiding, she started going through lots of emotional problems from having no one to talk to, her mother not being the motherly "Mumsie", becoming a young lady, and being scorned at for being to talkative and having queer thoughts.
Anne's thoughts were especially moving to me because she had so many ideas and she was also experiencing many problems in adolescence, but she was in hiding in the Secret Annexe and she didn't have enough support that girls are supposed to get. Anne's mother, Mrs. Frank, although of course she loved Anne, did not show much love for Anne. She rather treated her daughters like friends, so she and Margot would laugh and talk, while Anne's chatter and imaginative ideas were ignored. Anne's diary was really the only thing upon which she could rely.
I think this book is very important and still is widely read today because it was actually written at that time period by a Jewish girl, the bright young girl Anne Frank whose future hopes were taken away by the time period back then. After reading this book, I even decided to start writing brief notes about what happened everyday.
March 18, 2013
Taking the Katy
Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey
Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.
Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore: 2010) 568 pages.
The romance of the "iron horse" is a core myth in American history—indeed, my own Amish grandparents rode the rails westward to try to homestead in eastern Colorado (they failed) and my father was a railroad hobo who hopped freight trains across the country in search of work during the Depression.
But there is, as it were, an underside to this part of our national myth, and that is the role that the railroads played for the racial minority communities. Those stories are being told in dribs and drabs, but now comes Theodore Kornweibel to give us an encyclopedic look at railroads in the African American experience. Kornweibel is a "twofer": he’s an emeritus professor of African American history (San Diego State) and he’s a train buff, so he’s well-placed to cover all the converging and diverging forces the railroads represented for African Americans from the mid 19th to the mid 20th centuries.
For black folks, the railroads were slavemasters, employers, Jim Crow, and freedom. And song and art. Kornweibel seems to have covered it all. From firemen, brakemen, and porters to passengers headed northward in Jim Crow cars during the Great Migration; from "Yellow Dog Blues" and "She Took the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride" to "People Get Ready"; from Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence to Sterling Brown and August Wilson, there’s a train running through it. And Kornweibel not only tells its story, but likely has a picture of it.
-Gene Miller, Takoma Park Maryland Library staff.
For those preferring shorter reads than Ulysses, the Friends also sponsor single discussions of shorter literary works.
Their April 9th discussion will focus on short stories by Ghassan Kanafani. Kanafani was a Palestinian novelist, short-story writer and dramatist. He was also a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 1972, allegedly by the Mossad. (Additional information )
"The main themes in his writings are uprootedness, exile and national struggle. He often used in his stories the desert and its heat as a symbol for the plight of the Palestinian people…Kanafani’s life and career as a writer was closely connected to the situation of the Palestinians, and his intense invoilvement in Palestinian affairs gave him a unique vantage point." [from Books and Writers]
Copies of the story collection, Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories are available in the Takoma Park Library. All are welcome to join the Friends Reading Group discussions, which are held in the Community Center at 7:30 p.m.