Monday, January 21, 2019

In Cold Blood

Image result for in cold bloodContributed by William, gr. 12, Jan. 2019

The non-fiction book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is a meandering tale describing the brutal deaths of four innocent souls and the exploits of their deranged murderers in the American mid-west of 1959.

I found it to be a dull story with an extensive portion of the text that seemed to  be used simply to set the stage for the resolution. While the ending made for an interesting psychological tale depicting the results of abuse and trauma, for me,  it could not make up for the disappointing introduction.

I personally would not recommend this book to my friends; however, someone who has a deep interest into  psychological stories may find it interesting.  My main issue with the story was the writing style. It was often difficult to determine which of the many characters’ perspectives the author was writing from and I found the descriptive details to be excessive;  the build-up to the resolution took 200 pages. This is a book that I will not be reading a second time.

The Dogs

Image result for the dogs strattonContributed by Cassandra, gr. 12, Jan. 2019
The Dogs is a psychological thriller. It is about a mother and son who have who have been on the run for years. The son’s dad is a psycho who has been hunting them. When they move to a new place, the son, Cameron, starts to see and hear things that don’t seem to be possible.

What I like about the story is that events aren’t predictable;  nothing unfolded as I expected it to. For example, it has a plot twist waiting at the end that readers likely won’t think  happen.
 I recommend this novel to Grades 9-12 students, particularly to anyone who’s into horror and thriller stories.             

A Clockwork Orange

Image result for a clockwork orange book
Contributed by Griffin, gr. 12, Jan. 2019

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is dystopian fiction set in the not-so-distant future, depicting the dark and twisted escapades of the troubled teenager Alex and his friends. The book is a fascinating and disturbing study of free will and morality; its modest length keeps the story moving and the reader engaged throughout the majority of the book.

The novel is told entirely from the perspective of its protagonist. Alex. The story describes Alex and his friends, or “droogs”, as they commit violent and disturbing acts of delinquency until eventually being arrested. Burgess’ unique slang “Nadsat”, which he invented specifically for the novel, gives the protagonist a unique voice which helps establish a somewhat alien feeling to the setting. I particularly enjoyed the philosophical questions posed by the book regarding free will, and the unique and sadistic perspective which Alex provides as a narrator.
I would recommend this book for grades 11 or 12 students; reader discretion is advised, as it is full of brutal violence including rape and torture. The descriptions by Alex, however, are somewhat lighthearted and childlike, so the tone of the novel is not exceptionally dark. For those willing to endure the disturbing brutality and unique vernacular, A Clockwork Orange will make for an unforgettable and thought provoking read.

Into Thin Air

Image result for into thin air

Contributed by Alexei, gr. 12, Jan. 2019

I enjoyed reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and highly recommend it. This true adventure story tells of the tragic and deadly 1996 season on Mount Everest from the author’s perspective, providing a comprehensive, mostly unbiased explanation of the attempted ascent and subsequent descent of Everest by multiple expeditions.

 Krakauer was naturally intrigued by Mount Everest in his earlier years as a climber, but he is given the opportunity to climb the tallest mountain as a journalistic venture, writing an article about the commercialism of Everest. The process of summiting Everest is thoroughly explained, detailing the acclimatization journeys up and down sections of the mountain, the several points of interest (and peril) such as the Hillary Step and the Khumbu Icefall, and the hired Sherpa people endemic to the region’s critical role in allowing alpinists to reach the peak. However, the oncoming disaster mentioned in the beginning of the novel contributes to an ominous anticipation that some of the mountaineers are to never return.

I would recommend this book because of how the author describes the events on Mount Everest. The depiction of the utter exhaustion and delirium one can feel with little oxygen powering your movements and the thin line presented between resolute ambition and reckless self-importance were particularly thought-provoking to me. Those who enjoy reading true stories in a unique setting or just have a general interest in mountaineering or Mount Everest would find enjoyment in this non-fiction book.

A Confederacy of Dunces

Image result for a confederacy of duncesContributed by Griffin, gr. 12, Jan. 2019

A Confederacy of Dunces is an exceptionally clever and humorous novel which tracks a large cast of characters, including the absurdly obnoxious and obese Ignatius J. Reilly. I enjoyed the book for its dry humour and clever plotlines, even if it did seem to drag a little at times.

The plot follows several inhabitants of 1960s New Orleans, mainly focusing on Ignatius as he indignantly embarks on a string of political misadventures. The extensive web of characters and plotlines, while at first seemingly unrelated, all come together for a glorious and hilarious finale. Although I found the novel to be extremely funny and entertaining, it did feel as though it started to slow down significantly near the middle. It more than makes up for this, however, with clever comedy and unique characters.

I would recommend this book to grades 9-12, as there is nothing overly offensive or inappropriate in its content. A Confederacy of Dunces would make a great read for anybody looking for a longer book with unique characters and dry, ironic sense of humour.    

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Image result for brain on fire cahalan

Contributed by Jade, gr. 12, Jan. 2019

Brain On Fire is a memoir by  Susannah Calahan, a New York Post journalist whose life took a sudden and unexpected turn into madness. This novel illustrates Calahan’s seemingly unbelievable journey as she starts to lose herself due to a mysterious disease. Through the narration of Susannah, the audience can experience a roller coaster of emotions since the book also explores the topic of the importance of family and love.

 Susannah is twenty-four years old and  is beloved by others,financially independent, and successful in her job. Everything seems to be perfect for Susannah until her behaviors start to change. Numerous doctors try to diagnose Susannah by assessing her “psychotic” symptoms, but no precise conclusions are given. Due to her sudden illness, maintaining relationships becomes more difficult as people around her must adapt to this life-defining change.  

The novel resembles a detailed journal which consists of photos and personal notes from different people involved, giving the reader a diverse perspective on the situation. In my opinion, this novel is a quick and easy read as Calahan’s diction is extremely clear and engaging although the book contains medical jargon that may be difficult to comprehend. I found this book to be informative; I Iearned many new things about Susannah’s disease and would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in psychology and neurology.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Contributed by Jade, gr. 12, Jan. 2019

Stolen by Lucy Christopher is a fascinating non-fiction novel that was written as a letter from a 16-year-old girl to her kidnapper. The story explores the topic of Stockholm Syndrome which is one of the most intriguing human psychological conditions. It also illustrates the theme of isolation as the main character is forced to adjust to her new environment.

The story follows the journey of 16-year-old Gemma Toombs, starting from the moment she encounters the 24-year-old attractive men named Ty at an airport in Bangkok then  to when she is kidnapped and brought as a prisoner to  in the Australian outback and then where she experiences emotional changes under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome. Through the perspective of Gemma, the reader will obtain a deeper understanding of this condition through the compelling character development.

In my opinion, there are some portions of the book that feel stagnant and repetitive,   but overall the tension is maintained for the audience. I would recommend this book to grade 10 and 11 students since it is a moderately quick book to read with an easy-to-understand writing style. This story can also appeal to anyone who is invested in the topic of human psychology.