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Posts Tagged ‘Summer Reading’

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – A Review

Posted on July 3rd, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

one flew over the cuckoo's nest

Title/Author: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Read by: Anna, Teen Central Librarian

Summary: In Nurse Ratched’s ward of the mental hospital Chief Bromden is a patient pretending to be deaf and dumb for the last twenty years. When a new patient, Randall Patrick McMurphy, walks through the door, swaggering larger than life, Chief watches him begin the hard task of rallying the other patients to challenge the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched with fishing trips, alcohol, gambling, and even women. Along the way, however, Chief realizes that McMurphy isn’t just challenging the other patients, but Chief as well.

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre/sub-genre: Classic Fiction

Diversity: Yes.

Relatable characters: Yes.

Would I recommend this to others?: yes.

Personal thoughts: This is not for the feint of heart. It’s a very dark book covering some dark topics, some that are only hinted at, while others are blatantly spelled out. That being said, I loved this book. Along with Chief, I was able to watch the men slowly regain their personalities, regain the right to be human against a nurse who sought complete control over them, which was a beautiful thing to see. The ending came as a huge surprise I wasn’t expecting, and yet, I found it oddly fitting for these characters. While it was published in 1962, I also think it’s still very relevant in today’s world. I highly recommend it.

The Illustrated Man – A Review

Posted on June 23rd, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

the illustrated man

Title/Author: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Read by: Anna, Teen Central Librarian

Summary: In the arcane designs scrawled upon the illustrated man’s skin swirl tales beyond imagining: tales of love and laughter, darkness and death, of mankind’s glowing, golden past and its dim, haunted future. Here are eighteen incomparable stories that blend magic and truth in a kaleidoscope tapestry of wonder–woven by the matchless imagination of Ray Bradbury.

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre/sub-genre: Science-fiction

Diversity: Yes. For example, one story, “The Other Foot”, deals with the interplanetary segregation of blacks and whites.

Relatable characters: Yes.

Would I recommend this to others?: yes.

Personal thoughts: I enjoyed reading each story and was very glad they were extremely short as I don’t think they would have been as enjoyable had they been longer. However, I did feel as if I was meant to learn a lesson with each story, which Bradbury has done with his work before, so I wasn’t too surprised. For example, there were a few about what would happen if books were banned and one about perseverance when you feel as if all hope is lost. I think the one that really stood out for me, though, was the very last one entitled “The Rocket”. The outcome of that story was not what I was expecting at all, and so heartwarming, compared to the others. It was the perfect way to end the book. If you enjoy science-fiction, I highly recommend this collection of short stories set in the future when interplanetary travel has become “the thing to do”. When reading this, you very quickly realize that just because it’s the future and we can travel to other planets, that doesn’t mean our human problems have gone away.

The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk – A Review

Posted on June 10th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

harvey milk

 

Title/Author: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts

Read by: Anna, Teen Central Librarian

Summary: In 1977, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. This book chronicles his short life, telling in detail how an outsider won over a city and changed lives for the better, all before he was assassinated eleven months after his election.

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre/sub-genre: LGBTQ Non-Fiction

Diversity: LGBTQ and minorities from a variety of other countries.

Relatable characters: Yes.

Would I recommend this to others?: YES. If you’re at all interested in LGBTQ history, or outsiders who defy the odds, you’ll enjoy this book.

Personal thoughts: What I liked best about Harvey Milk was that he was an average, everyday person who decided he could make the world a better place by running for city supervisor, an elected political position, in San Francisco. He put in hours of hard work to meet the people, going out to bus stops and cafes every day, bars at night, wherever he could meet people and find out what they wanted fixed in their city. He had a great sense of humor, and loved telling jokes wherever he was. This book helps to show his personality, the hardships he went through to get where he was at the end of his life, as well as the gay political climate of the era around the country, which wasn’t very good at the time. I found the writing style to be easy to read, though sometimes it was hard to remember who a specific person was because multiple people had the same, or similar, names. (But that’s real life for you, right?) I almost cried at the end, knowing what a great guy he was and knowing he wasn’t going to survive. That did make it a hard read. I’m still amazed that the birthday party held in his honor just a few months after his death brought 20,000 people to his neighborhood to celebrate his life! If a guy can do that, he must have been great.

My Summer Reading List for 2015!

Posted on May 29th, 2015 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff, Teen Services

Every summer I like to challenge myself to read eight books I wouldn’t normally read within the months of June, July, and August. Some of the books have been chosen by Boston schools as either previous, or current, summer reading books and others are books I’ve been interested in for awhile but haven’t gotten around to reading yet. There is always a mix of fiction and non-fiction. As I finish each book, I  will post a review here on this blog (and here on our Bibliocommons catalog: Summer Reading 2015) so that everyone can see what’s going on and determine whether or not something on my list will be of interest. So, without further ado, here is my personal summer reading list for 2015:

 

FICTION:

 

the illustrated man

 

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

 

The tattooed man moves, and in the arcane designs scrawled upon his skin swirled tales beyond imagining: tales of love and laughter darkness and death, of mankind’s glowing, golden past and its dim, haunted future. Here are eighteen incomparable stories that blend magic and truth in a kaleidoscope tapestry of wonder–woven by the matchless imagination of Ray Bradbury.

 

 

 

 

one flew over the cuckoo's nest

 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

 

In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.

 

 

caine mutiny

 

The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

 

The novel that inspired the now-classic film The Caine Mutiny and the hit Broadway play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Herman Wouk’s boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life-and mutiny-on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was immediately embraced, upon its original publication in 1951, as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of World War II. In the intervening half century, The Caine Mutiny has become a perennial favorite of readers young and old, has sold millions of copies throughout the world, and has achieved the status of a modern classic.

 

 

Monkey

 

Monkey: A Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en

 

Probably the most popular book in the history of the Far East, this classic combination of picaresque novel and folk epic mixes satire, allegory, and history into a rollicking tale. It is the story of the roguish Monkey and his encounters with major and minor spirits, gods, demigods, demons, ogres, monsters, and fairies.

 

 

 

 

 

bel canto

 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

 

In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. His hosts hope that Mr. Hosokawa can be persuaded to build a factory in their Third World backwater. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

 

 

 

 

NON-FICTION:

 

harvey milk

 

The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts

 

Known as “The Mayor of Castro Street” even before he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk’s personal life, public career, and final assassination reflect the dramatic emergence of the gay community as a political power in America. It is a story full of personal tragedies and political intrigues, assassinations at City Hall, massive riots in the streets, the miscarriage of justice, and the consolidation of gay power and gay hope.

 

 

 

when I was a soldier

 When I Was a Soldier by Valérie Zenatti

 

What is it like to be a young woman in a war?
At a time when Israel is in the news every day and politics in the Middle East are as complex as ever before, this story of one girl’s experience in the Israeli national army is both topical and fascinating. Valerie begins her story as she finishes her exams, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves for service with the Israeli army. Nothing has prepared her for the strict routines, grueling marches, poor food, lack of sleep and privacy, or crushing of initiative that she now faces. But this harsh life has excitement, too, such as working in a spy center near Jerusalem and listening in on Jordanian pilots. Offering a glimpse into the life of a typical Israeli teen, even as it lays bare the relentless nature of war, Valerie’s story is one young readers will have a hard time forgetting.

 

 

beowulf

 

Beowulf by Unknown; Translated by Seamus Heaney

 

The national bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award. Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the classic Northern epic of a hero’s triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed in the exhausted aftermath. It is not hard to draw parallels in this story to the historical curve of consciousness in the twentieth century, but the poem also transcends such considerations, telling us psychological and spiritual truths that are permanent and liberating.

 

 

 

 

The Odyssey – A Review

Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

The Odyssey

The Odyssey by Homer

Read by Anna/Central Teen Room

The word “odyssey” means a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc. The origin of this word stems from the epic poem Homer wrote depicting the long journey home of King Odysseus, known as The Odyssey. A whole twenty years prior to the start of the epic poem, Odysseus took soldiers to Troy in order to fight in the Trojan War. The trip should have been easy. He should have returned straight home to his wife and son on his native lands of Ithaca, but thanks to Zeus and the other Gods, the return journey was fraught with dangers and troubles. It took him ten years to get home, and lots of cunning to escape the fantastical creatures and Gods and Goddesses who wished to detain him. He went down into the darkness of the Underworld to talk with those who had died during the Trojan War. While he was known to be one of the best fighters in war, he fought a cyclops, not with swords, but with cunning words and actions. He told his men to lash him to the mast of the ship in order that he might hear the sirens call to him to turn the ship into dangerous waters bent on his destruction, but so that he would be able to do as they wished. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife was besieged with suitors who were eating her out of house and home, taking no cares in how many pigs and cows they slaughtered for their daily feasts and ignoring their own flocks. They each yearned for her to take another husband while it was assumed King Odysseus had been killed at war or on his return journey home. Queen Penelope held her ground and would neither wed another man nor send them away, leaving her son, Telemachus, to deal with them as best he could until his father could return home.

When I decided to reread this for my summer reading list this year, (I originally read it in 10th grade English, I think.) I decided to listen to the audio version for several reasons. Reason one being the long and unfamiliar names. When I read them in my head, I often change the pronunciation because I’m never sure what it should be. Having a narrator read to me, means the pronunciations will always remain the same. And reason two, the narrator was Sir Ian McKellen. Yep, that really awesome British actor who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and other great, well known characters. What better guy could you get to read the story of Odysseus? I ask you, and I doubt you’ll come up with one. If you do, you’ll have to let me know who it is. I found his voice was perfect for telling an epic tale. While he didn’t read it as more modern narrators will, giving different voices and accents to different characters, it wasn’t hard to determine who was speaking at all. I highly recommend this just for Ian McKellen’s voice alone. If this is something you have to read for school, the audio book just might help get you through it.

On one hand we have this amazing audio book, but on the other we must consider the epic poem written by Homer, that is so much more than just a plain old poem. It literally is an epic fantasy. It includes many Gods and Goddesses, a cyclops (a giant with one large, round eye in the middle of his forehead), sirens (sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing),  a centaur (one of a race of monsters having the head, trunk, and arms of a man, and the body and legs of a horse), and many other characters Odysseus must fight against to win his freedom and be able to finish his journey home. While most of the story is told by different characters telling the story to others, it is certainly not boring by any sense of the word. Unless, of course, you aren’t into poetry, fantasy, adventures, and a little violence. (There are some pretty bloody battles that get depicted in this epic, especially toward the end.) If, however, these are things that do interest you, I urge you to check out this book, either in audio or in print. Minus any notes, appendixes, and introductions, the poem is roughly 400 pages and the audio book is around 13 hours. While that may seem like a long book, because it’s in poem format and because there are a lot of action scenes, the story seems to move at a quick pace for the most part. There’s a reason The Odyssey is continually reprinted and translated after it was initially written in either the late eighth or seventh century B.C. I really enjoyed rereading this, and getting myself reacquainted with the story years after my first reading, and I think you’ll like it too.