Category Archives: Student Contribution

2016 Summer Reading Blurbs – Writing Semester, Ms. Davis

Ms. Davis asked her Writing Semester students to pick one summer reading book and write a short blurb in the style of Stephen King, Charlotte Bronte, or themselves. Please read their contributions, and enjoy their writing “masks”!

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A Blurb on Melancholy Play, by Sarah Ruhl

Written by Andrew Roberge in the Style of Stephen King

Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl was uniquely beautiful, intensively introspective, and unlike any piece that I had ever read. My reading experience was entirely cerebral, provoked countless life-altering thoughts, and left me with a mix of satisfaction, and a general feeling only expressible by the word “…What?” Melancholy Play follows Tilly, a bank teller; Frank, a tailor; Joan, a nurse; Lorenzo, a shrink; Frances, a hairdresser; and Julian, a talented cellist. The general plot of this play, similar to the waning effects of an acid trip, leaves the reader starstruck as it details the turmoil caused by the divinely attractive melancholy Tilly who suddenly becomes “violently” and “monstrously” happy. Every character in the play falls in love with the melancholy Tilly, and watches their life fall apart as “the result of her great happiness.” Playwright Sarah Ruhl alluringly shows the reader or audience the power and potentially great effects of unbridled emotion, examples of endlessly devoted friendship and lust, the effects of sudden dramatic change, and the powerful symbolism of the solitary almond. You’ll just have to read it to figure that last bit out. Trust me, this modern day theatrical masterpiece is worth a look.

A Blurb On Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose

Written by Gyan Maria in the Style of Stephen King

In this play, Rose lets the story do what I think all authors should do: let the story write itself and the characters do what they want. At the beginning of the play, each of the jurors takes on his own prejudices, his own decision for a verdict, his own life, and his own interest in the whether or not there is a reasonable doubt in the case. Then throughout the play, he lets the jurors influence each other through their personalities, until the original vote of eleven to one in favor of guilty had become twelve to none in favor of not guilty. Most of the influencing happens in two places: the bathroom or at a table in the main room. At the table, the jurors used mostly logic and evidence from the case to convince each other. The table is also where the reader could see the progression of change in vote. But in the bathroom, the jurors used much more personal means to convince each other. They would talk about their own and each other’s lives at home and at work as a way to connect, hoping to sway the verdict to what that juror thought was right.





A Blurb On If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

Written by Marion Conklin in the style of Stephen King

I find movies to be unintellectual forms of books. Directors of movies have an idea in their head of what they want you to feel when you watch a certain scene in a film play out on screen. For authors of books, it should be different. I do not expect or want all of the readers of my writing to have the same response from a passage as I do. People should have to think on their own, and ride the wave of uncertainty that is known as fiction, until they have finished the book. Throughout the entire novel they should be constantly thinking about the words that they just read, or about the story that is still to come. This is not the case in If I Stay, however, because the foreshadowing is overdone, and the suspense (or lack thereof) does not require thinking. In fact, just by the title the reader can figure out that Mia, who was in a terrible car accident, was going to survive.





A Blurb on Collected Poems, by T.S. Eliot

Written by Clay Wackerman in the Style of Clay Wackerman

Although I’m not quite cultured enough to fully understand all of Eliot’s poems, I sure can enjoy them. Even if I have no clue what he’s trying to get across, just the sound of the words was enough to make me feel something. He has a way with syllables and consonants that makes everything very pleasing to read aloud. His works are brimming with literary devices and historical references, but what really gets me is the imagery. In my head, I create these tiny realms, little spaces for my mind to wander. Each poem inspires a whole different world I can walk around in. Every poem evokes something beautiful, but the feelings were more abstract than simple love and darkness. Eliot combines emotions that are not often put together; some poems are whimsically fearful, and others pensively joyful, or fulfillingly broken. All these things arouse a sort of happy confusion inside the heart.

A Blurb on The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson

Written by Lucas Henderson in My Own Style

I loved reading The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson. In fact it was one of my favorite books of all time. I thoroughly enjoyed how the characters developed, and how gritty and (somewhat) realistic the story was. On top of that, I felt that all the characters were believable and essential to the story, including the supporting cast. One example of this is Lisbeth Salander’s caretaker/ guardian, Nils Bjurman. In the first book, he played an abusive and overpowering character, but in this second installment, Bjurman is finally submissive, for reasons I won’t ruin. How Salander deals with Bjurman’s new position in her life was realistic and it really struck me. Finally, the storytelling in this book is something I can only aspire to in my writing. I could not put this book down with all of the cliffhangers and exciting sequences. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

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A Blurb on Transfer of Power, by Vince Flynn

Written by Nikhil Etikela in the style of Stephen King

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my dad about hypothetical situations on a car ride to school. One thing that popped up was the idea of the White House and President being taken hostage by terrorists. As we were talking, my dad noticed and mentioned an interesting point – we weren’t considering this scenario from a terrorist’s eyes. Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power entertains the bad-guy perspective while still showing us the rational thinking behind each move that our country made without the president (who was locked up in a vault at the time and couldn’t communicate with the outside world due to a frequency jammer). Seeing the action play out from the terrorist Rafique Aziz’s point of view is very interesting; there is a thirst to get something done that most of us have never even considered, let alone felt. But behind all that drive and motivation is a very powerful mind, which planned to create and maintain a two-step advantage at all times. Everything was planned out so well, that when HRT and SEALs began flooding the White House, our terrorist escaped. It’s very intriguing to see Flynn create an insightful character out of someone who we would all brand an enemy.

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A Blurb On The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Written by Annie Banks in the style of Stephen King

Charlie. An interesting boy, stuck in the dark tunnel that adolescence is. But, I would bet my left hand and then some that if he somehow found a way to skip these years, his situation would be a whole lot worse. Back when I was in the midst of my teenage years, damn I was lost and confused. With all the babysitters outgrown, and no one to screw around with, David and I had nothing to do. All the fun was gone, but I must admit, by the end of this flat out awkward time, I did find the light. Charlie is a great kid. Despite his occasional usage of adverbs, I found myself to grow quite fond of him. In the end, he did gain perspective, but I gotta say, my teenage years were a breeze compared to his. He just about went through hell from witnessing Ponytail Derek physically abusing his older sister to experiencing the suicide of his only friend. The stuff he saw sure as hell messed with the kid; however, they did lead him to realize his aunt, Helen, raped him back when he was a youngster and this realization drove him to get help. If you ask me, his parents should have kept a closer eye on him. It would have saved him a boat load of trouble, but who gives a damn about what I think. All that said and done, Charlie’s therapy did help him, and now that he is feeling better, I think I could make a hell of a writer outta him. Between his letters and his essays for Bill, he must write close to 1000 words a day. That’s the first and most important step. With a little help from my memoir and the obliteration of adverbs, the kid has potential to go places.





A Blurb on Room, by Emma Donoghue

Written by Galen Smith in My Own Style

Over the summer I read the novel Room, by Emma Donoghue. What stood out to me among the many themes was the relationship between Joyce and her son,  Jack. The hardships that they endure are beyond what most people could imagine, yet their bond is only strengthened. As most mothers do, Joyce shields Jack from the real world, convincing him that the room they live in is all there is, therefore creating the fantasy that besides their kidnapper,  Jack and Joyce are the only humans living on earth. Instead of questioning this reality, Jack embraces it and uses it as an excuse to grow closer to his mother, finding comfort in their solidarity.  Jack, unlike other children his age, lacks interaction with anyone but his mother. She serves as his playmate, his cook, his doctor, his teacher, and everything in between. She is the only person that Jack has in this world, which forms a bond almost too strong for Joyce to handle. When they finally escape and are thrust back into reality, Jack yearns for the closeness to his mother that he had in ‘room’.  Joyce, however, does not look back and tries to introduce Jack to the other wonders the world has to offer besides her love. At first, Jack doesn’t understand and resents their escape and the independence that ensues, but eventually he accepts his role in the real world and the fact that he can love his mother while also living his own life.

A Blurb on Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich

Written by Jimmy D’Amato in My Own Style

One of the books I read this summer was Bringing Down the house, by Ben Mezrich. This book is about a group of men and women who are able to cheat the Vegas casinos for millions. These individuals are a group of M.I.T. students, supersmart “nerds,” who excel in mathematics. The game in which they “cracked the code” for is blackjack, one of the more simple casino card games. While the profit was huge, and these college students instantly became millionaires with, essentially, all the money they could ever need, the risk was high. Cheating the game is illegal, and if caught the consequences are huge. The students did not only figure out how to cheat the game, but also devised a whole system in which they would act as a team in the casinos. There would be designated “players” who played in the casinos and won all the money, while others had jobs including one to lookout for security and others to indicate certain things to do in game. I found the book very entertaining, and very exciting.

A Blurb on The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

Written by Olivia Conway in the style of Olivia Conway

The Red Tent follows Dinah, a character from the bible who’s story is often glossed over as a small part in the larger, more important portion about her father, Jacob, and her brothers. In the bible the story is that her brothers protected her honor after she was defiled by the prince of Shechem. What actually happened, in Diamant’s version of the story at least, was that they wanted to protect their family’s honor when they felt that the prince did not treat their sister the way they thought she should have been treated, even though he actually had feelings for Dinah and her own for him. This results in the deaths of the prince and all the members of family and staff being murdered in the night by the brothers. From here Dinah leaves home and makes a name for herself as a midwife in Egypt, using the practices taught to her by her mother and aunts from birth within the female sanctuary of the red tent. She eventually finds love again and rebuilds her relationship with her brother Joseph. When returning to her homeland with Joseph she realizes that while the men of Jacob’s tribe had forgotten all about her, her mother and the women of the tribe kept her story alive along with the vibrant practices that took place within the red tent.

A Blurb on Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Written by Helena Lyng-Olsen in the style of Charlotte Brontë

One can at times find lengthy books of knowledge to be rather dry, which is understandable when considering how passion can induce a writer to flood the reader with details piquant to the former but irrelevant to the latter. Nevertheless, in an exception to prior experiences, I came upon a factual book that sparked the mind and enlightened the conscience. I had purchased it a few months before when contemplating the contents of a shelf in back of a dimly lit bookstore; the voice and subject matter of the opening pages had spoken deeply to the events that have taken place in my life thus far. In the volume, the author eloquently weaves together a tale noting the societal preference for a dominant extrovert, an inclination evident in various spheres of professional and even adolescent life. Having thus described the circumstances in which her research, and our lives, takes place, she then explores various qualities, many to be lauded, that introverts possess; she alludes with care to the poignancy of the discrepancy between their role in society and their inherent ability. With the word count I am held to, along with the lengthy nature of my sentences, I am no longer able to continue; I shall now conclude this piece of writing, the scrap of my mind that it is.

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A Blurb on War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Written by Ana Sotelo-Emery in My Own Style

Leo Tolstoy pays great attention to detail in his character’s emotions, physical actions, facial expressions, language, and character development. He describes a character’s complicated emotions in a way in which you can understand their inner turmoil or thought process, and their transition from one emotion to another. He has a clear understanding of their character, and he makes it obvious to you through their thought process, even if their physical actions contradict those thoughts. He can describe the emotion of a character simply in the way they lift their lip, or in which language they speak to others. Through his detailed analysis of his characters’s thoughts and actions, you feel as if you know them, and through whatever hardship they endure and every happy moment they experience, you can see them evolving on the page, growing in character and in spirit.

David Barber’s Book Review

red handed

A Cover-Up

By David Barber

At first glance, Red Handed, seems like a simple but long comic book. However, it quickly dives into a deep story. Matt Kindt’s main character is Detective Gould, whom is seen as America’s best detective. Detective Gould gets compared to England’s own Sherlock Holmes because of his crime-solving talents. The book is set in the town of Red Wheel Barrow. It is Detective Gould’s ten year anniversary of work on the police force. As all detectives, Gould works on the crimes after they have been committed. This has lead to a drastic decrease in unsolved-crime. However, the murder-rate in Red Wheel Barrow has not changed. Red Handed describes and follows Detective Gould as if he is a superhero. Nothing gets by him. Over the years he has honed his skills and upgraded his technologies to compliment his job in an outstanding manner. On this his 10 year anniversary, he solves a number of seemingly unrelated crimes. Some of these crimes include; The Jigsaw, The Ant, The Forgotten, The Repairman, The Performance Artist, The Escape Artist, The Fire Starter, The Detective, and finally The End. Detective Gould has solved every murder case he has taken. These cases are not an exception to his impeccable record. Each case has its own story. Yet, by solving each case, Detective Gould sets up a deadly final attack. Matt Kindt delivers this book in a dramatic fashion. His way of illustrating the action grabs the reader’s attention. Kindt uses a mixture of the Sunday newspaper comics, a typical novel setup, and his own interpretations of comic books today to spin an intricate story. The language in Red Handed is simple and professional. None of the characters speak in slang. Along with that, the colors Kindt decided to use draws a lot of attention to certain actions on each page. I believe Red Handed would be suitable for ages twelve and up. It is not very violent or gory but has some themes that would be too much for younger children.

Justin Nitirouth’s Book Review

game of thrones


by Justin Nitirouth

Have you ever wanted to stray away from your boring, non magical world? Would you also like to read about dragons and the conquest for power to become the strongest person in the seven kingdoms? This is not your average fantasy story. In a world full of conniving families, and a seemingly neverending lore, A Game of Thrones is full of astounding detail and plot to keep you for hours at a time in one sitting.

A few main families are introduced to set the tone: House Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, and Targaryen. Each family has their own legacy, customs and traditions that they follow. Many of those families have had one of their members on the Iron Throne as the rightful king of the realm. Each time a new king is decided, the conquest for power grows among the factions. This may sound like a lot to handle, but this is only a glimpse of what George R.R Martin spews out in his book. Personally, I loved reading in depth descriptions about individual people from their own family. No single character is the perfect protagonist or antagonist; every character has their flaws. Like I said, A Game of Thrones is much more than mindless killing and sex and not just a mere fairy tale.

For the people who have neither seen the TV show nor read any of the stories by George R.R Martin, I would suggest reading the books first. As a reader, you can establish your own image of the characters instead of what a director sees in them. Based off of my own experience, the TV show has altered my perception of their appearances. Also, George R.R Martin can tell a bit too much information about things you may not want to read about if you are a mere Junior-Schooler. Without any context, here is an example:

After a while he began to touch her. Lightly at first, then harder. She could sense the fierce strength in his hands, but he never hurt her. He held her hand in his own and brushed her fingers, one by one. He ran a hand gently down her leg. He stroked her face, tracing the curve of her ears, gently running a finger gently around her mouth.

Do I have to continue? Seriously, read this book at your own risk if you are sensitive with any of the following: incest, rape, murder, sexism, graphic nudity, and possibly more. However, if you are willing to plow through the pages of sex and enjoy the everlasting lore about this fictional world with kings, queens, and the neverending realm of Westeros, please continue. George R.R Martin’s world of Westeros is so full of detail that it seems he has lived in it himself. I’m impressed with the way he keeps track of each little tidbit about many of the characters in the story, and I’m sure you will too. Sex and incest aside, I would highly recommend this book to those who were okay with reading what I listed with above. Once you take a glimpse at this book, you’ll have a hard time returning back to reality.

Zach Bloom’s Book Review


Red Bliss

By Zachary Bloom

One part botanist and one part mechanical engineer, astronaut Mark Watney is ideally suited to attempt to survive in a climate utterly and remarkably unsuited to him. When he is mistakenly left for dead, alone, on Mars, Watney must use all of his intellect and perseverance with the extremely limited resources available to him in order to survive. His initial plan, to plant potatoes in the HAB (Martian Habitat), in order to survive until the next mission lands, four years later, gets many-a-time complicated. Such obstacles as creating a suitable climate for crops in a confined space, while providing them with the necessary nutrients for their survival threaten Watney along the way. His own fecal matter being one of the integral resources in this process, The Martian refuses to balk from the unglamorous.

Weir boldly writes a book with a single character, told in small episodes of retrospective narrative, as Watney writes log entries detailing his struggles. This boldness is apparent from the first sentence.

I’m pretty much f*****. That’s my considered opinion. F*****.

There being a single character, the book sometimes feels claustrophobic, and Weir occasionally departs from Mars to Earth, providing us with some much-desired human interaction. Despite this occasional claustrophobia, The Martian is a success, finding true suspense through its log entry style, the very essence of a first person narrative. Weir is also unfalteringly hilarious, punctuating the grim and nearly insurmountable obstacles of Watney with a sharp wit.

There is a seldom-explored gap in science fiction writing, somewhere in-between the examination of foreign things function in our systems (think aliens coming to earth) and how we survive in foreign systems (think people exploring other planets). Weir fills that void perfectly, exploring the viability of our systems in foreign places. The Martian strikes a perfect balance, being based in hard science —Weir researched orbital mechanics and astronomy in order to make the book consistent with existing technology — while still being exciting and fantastical at heart. This book has enough science and thought provoking challenges to be enjoyed by hardcore science fiction fans, while still being unpretentious and funny enough to entertain

In Mark Watney, Weir gives us a character who matches his humorous wit with astounding competence. Again and again, The Martian has the brilliance of presenting seemingly insurmountable challenges to Watney, who, through blood and sweat, brilliantly devises sensible solutions. Hilarious, smart, resilient, and utterly human, Watney’s character is the cement of the novel. When a reader picks up The Martian, he makes a commitment to spend 369 pages trapped on Mars. Weir, mercifully, has given us the perfect companion.

Julian Markese’s Book Review


Sweet Sorrow

Julian Markese

I was enticed by this book simply because of its unusual format. Its the first thing I noticed. The novel switches from character to character each chapter; a bold literary choice, but if not used the book would not have had the same effect. Eleanor and Park is a labeled as a “novel for young adults” but it proves to be much more than that. The reader is plopped on a bus with Park, an asian highschooler. Sitting with his headphones on he notices an overweight redheaded girl. Fearing her imminent fate of bullying for her, he invites her to sit next to him. Day by day the two sit in silence.When they eventually speak both are thrusted into a whole new world.

The relationship begins with Eleanor peeking over parks shoulder to read his comic book. The relationship moves on from there, the two exchange mixtapes, flirt subtly and eventually hold hands. A seemingly unimportant action to most but to the two star crossed lovers it was ever important. Rainbow Rowell’s word usage and writing style makes the love seem almost unreal, the quote that most captured me came from Park, and it perfectly illustrates the love they share. Park says “(Eleanor) never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” Its impossible to not feel the emotion the two feel each other. Its not long after the two begin their love that Eleanor’s issues at home become a factor. The reader soon learns that Eleanor’s step father is abusive. She spends the entire novel trying to escape him, finding refuge with Park. Eleanor eventually cannot handle living with her stepfather anymore, I won’t give away what happens next.

Eleanor and Park is labeled as a novel for “young adults” but it’s much more than that. Anyone above the age of 12 would enjoy the read.The books format, use of language, and the complexity for the relationship lead to a book that extracts a variety of emotions.

Alison Cofrancesco’s Book Review


Sticks and Stones May Break You’re Bones and Apparently Words Can Also Hurt You

Alison Cofrancesco

“They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets. They said it was because she’s good with words. They’ll live to regret it,”

In an age filled with conspiracy theories and rumors of secret societies, Lexicon A Novel has certainly found its place. The story begins with Emily Ruff, a fifteen year old runaway, who survives through tricking tourists with table card games on the street. Noticed supposedly for her talent to persuade she is approached by a secret society, which she mainly agrees to join for a meal and a home. As we follow Emily’s story, we learn about a behind the scenes organization with members known as poets who are able to manipulate humans simply with their words. These poets learn methods of control based off of human personality types, and tailor their words to control each sect.

Intertwined with Emily’s story is that of Wil Parke, the only survivor of a mysterious natural disaster in a mining town called Broken Hill. He is apprehended by poets, who are particularly interested in his former home. Wil’s thread of the story mainly consists of action and escape, leaving the reader to figure out his significance to the poets and to Emily’s story.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the story is the imperfection of characters, as well as the development. Throughout the story Wil makes decisions completely based on instinct, many of which serve to make his situation worse. In contrast to how heroes are usually portrayed, he has poor natural instinct and reacts how the majority of normal people would, by panicking when put in terrifying situations. This makes it easy of the reader to connect with him.

Max Barry uses his story as a tool to evaluate the way that we use modern language for our own purposes. Throughout the novel, poets use their power of words over people to influence their decisions. This power corrupts the majority of them, even causing some conflict in Emily’s morality. If nothing else, Lexicon serves to evaluate everyday use of power present in our words. The “poets” are not magical or super evolved people. They are just particularly persuasive, a quality found in all people to varying degrees. Even the characters themselves often recognize that the rest of the world uses their methods, however unwittingly. By highlighting the use of words throughout the story, Barry is identifying the words we use as a very powerful tool, even though they are often overlooked as the main cause of manipulation or even corruption.

Along with interesting assertions about morality, this book is generally a fun read. I wouldn’t choose it for someone looking for heavy reading, but it is a really good read when you’re looking to de-stress and dare I say procrastinate during the school year.

Kaitlyn Modzelewski’s Book Review


Vive le Scandale!

By Kaitlyn Modzelewski

The Dreyfus Affair is likely an event you vaguely recall from your high school history class, and other than being another term on your study sheet, it probably meant little to you. In fact, it is one of the greatest and most sinister follies in European history–one that nearly got swept under the bureaucratic rug, had it not been for the interjections of one Colonel Georges Picquart.

The newly-appointed head of the French Secret Service, Picquart starts his new career with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. Spy work is dirty business; sifting through and reassembling private letters from the German embassy, writing weekly reports, and resealing confiscated letters are a few of his daily responsibilities. Those, and monitoring the progress and communications from Dreyfus’s solitary confinement on a small, French-owned island–a detail that sends Colonel Picquart down a dark, complex path of the sordid, underhanded work of the government. It begins as a minor investigation into a potentially traitorous letter from a lowly French Major Esterhazy to the German military; but as he wades deeper into the investigation, Picquart finds himself discovering the details of a government conspiracy to wrongfully accuse a man of treason–one Alfred Dreyfus. Picquart seizes the opportunity to bring the truth to light, but suffers the consequences of his conniving military higher-ups.

Robert Harris brings his highly qualified research skills to the art of historical fiction, and exacerbates the drama and disturbing tendencies of the French military in the late 19th century. The battle to clear an innocent Jewish man of his false charges, and uncover the greater conspiracy of the French Secret Service, unfolds masterfully in an engaging, and fast-paced manner. The lengths the French government will go to stifle justice is wrought upon the heads of Colonel Picquart and his counterpart, Alfred Dreyfus, as they are united under the injustice of their government. In the words of the Colonel himself: “There are occasions when losing is a victory, so long as there is a fight.”

Thomas Rosiello’s Book Review

american nations

The United States of Afghanistan?

By Thomas Rosiello

The recent War in Afghanistan was the longest war in U.S. history when it ended in December 2014. The treacherous and deadly conflict showed that what the world calls “Afghanistan” is not a nation with a shared culture and language, but is in fact a large and varied geographic area in which many different groups of people live, each group with its own culture and language. Many who had never heard the words before learned about the Pashtun, Uzbek, Turkmen, and other groups. Colin Woodward believes that the U.S. is similar to Afghanistan.  In his new book, American Nations, Woodward argues that there are 11 cultural regions that made and make up the United States, including Yankeedom, the Midlands, and the Far West.  Each is a distinct region with distinct ideas about religion, economics, and government. Historically, each of these regions lived peacefully and independently until governments looked to bring them together, and forced them to live with one another in a united government. Woodward explores how the conflicts between these regions shaped the United States and continue to do so today. He writes in his introduction, “our divisions stem from this fact: the United States is a federation composed of the whole or part of 11 regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another.”

Woodward traces threads in the history around the American Revolution, the Civil War, and other geographical divides and explains that these political conflicts all stem from the rivalry created between different cultures. He goes on to argue that without these wars, the different cultures would not have worked together and become the country that is the U.S., and that these cultures explain and shape the political landscape of the United States today.

Woodward has an intriguing point, and proves his point well with facts and logical explanations. By the end of the book you are convinced he is right, and that his hypothesis is also right that the current Mexico-United States border will change significantly by the year 2100. The book is consistently interesting but not as consistently engaging for the reader. What is an excellent historical argument lacks the writing style or other approach to make the book fun to read. This is a good book about political science, the formation of the United States, and generally about how cultures live together. For fellow Hopkins students who have taken Atlantic Communities 1 & 2, you find a very interesting perspective on the information we learned during those classes. But do not expect a page-turner; it is an interesting read, but not a gripping one.

Charlie Blair’s Book Review


Keep Your Demons on a Leash

By Charlie Blair

It’s common in today’s thrillers and mysteries that protagonists must “confront their demons” to reach their goals, but in Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects, her character is forced to utilize them. In Sharp Objects, a journalist tries to uncover the truth of two serial murders, but in order to do so she must fully face her own past for the first time. This produces a gripping page-turner of a novel that offers two points of suspense: piecing together the truth in the present, and discovering the unknown that took place decades before.

Camille Preaker has her demons, and she knows it. On her return from a stay at a psychiatric hospital, she resumes her job as a struggling journalist for the Chicago Daily Post. Her boss assigns her to cover what he believes could be a big break for the second-rate paper: a case down south concerning the murders of two preteen girls. However, this mourning town is Wind Gap, Missouri, which so happens to be Camille’s hometown; and, to be frank, she is not excited for the visit home.

Her arrival in Wind Gap gives Camille more than she signed up for, and she’s thrust into the stress of revisiting her strained family relationships, tensions with the detectives on the case, and the emotional burden that the case itself presents. As the case goes on and her time in Wind Gap lengthens, Camille finds herself torn between inhibitions and instincts. She knows about her issues that put her in the hospital, but she begins to feel that there’s more that she has repressed  seemingly beyond the point of retrieval. In order to uncover the truth about the two girls, she must recognize what she has so deeply buried in her own past.

In Sharp Objects, Flynn displays an incredible sense of control over a plotline. She knows what she wants to say – and she knows how she wants to say it. This book was increasingly difficult to put down as I went along. Flynn had moments of beautiful language, such as when she chose to describe Camille’s character while still retaining a weighty relevance to the story: “I could feel my thoughts blowing back on themselves, dirtied with old prejudices and too much insider knowledge.” Camille struggles with herself just as much as she does with the case at hand, playing a mental match of tug-of-war throughout the story between following her instincts and the limitations of her own inhibitions. This book is full of suspense as you try to solve, not one, but two mysteries, and it demands attention; for a debut novel, Flynn deserves it. She performs not only as an author but also as a master manipulator as she takes the reader for the ride of her design.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves a good psychological thriller or a slightly twisted protagonist, or who enjoyed Gone Girl. This probably isn’t suited for a squeamish audience, as it can be graphic or just plain uncomfortable at times… but then you’re probably not a psychological thriller fan, so take your pick: to read, or not to read Sharp Objects.

Katie Sargent’s Book Review


Clouded Judgment

By Katie Sargent

A suspended sentence is defined as a judge’s delaying the sentence of a person found guilty in order to allow said defendant to spend a period of time on probation. In this situation, the evidence has been gathered, the verdict decreed, and yet something holds the judge back from definitely convicting the guilty man. Something restrains him from that final measure: perhaps the lack of a clear image within his own mind – as if the case is an unfocused photograph. In his writing in Suspended Sentences, originally published in French, Patrick Modiano exudes the feeling of a judge not entirely convinced on his own judging. An autobiographical-esque collection of hazy memories and fragmented ideas, Suspended Sentences is like a dream.

It is a novel with moments of sparkling clarity; moments when the sun seems to pierce through Modiano’s foggy subconscious and render his mind open to his readers. Yet the majority of the piece, a series of three short stories, gives the reader the idea that although Modiano recalls his young life in Paris, he has not yet decided how he feels about it. In the first of the short stories, Afterimage, Modiano spends several months cataloging the entire inventory of an ornery aging photographer, simply because the man once took a picture of him and his girlfriend in a café. In the second story, Suspended Sentences, he tells the story of his unusual childhood raised by four women. The third features a disconcerting stranger Modiano meets on the street.

It is perhaps the sense of mystery in Modiano’s work that most intrigued me. I never seemed to learn quite enough about him or the people in his life from the memories he provided in his stories. Ideas were half-formed, convictions seldom made, and the narrator barely included dialogue in which he shared his thoughts. At one point, as he describes a television show in which an old friend appears, he states, “nothing remained except the fading echoes in my memory”: no inner reflection, no outward response. At times it was frustrating, but ‘suspended sentences’ was certainly an apt title for this book. Because while I am certain Modiano identifies with his memories (to include them in a memoir, how could he not?), I commend him on his ability to remove all emotion from the telling of them. He does not condemn those that were cruel to him in his young life, or portray them as villains to be dragged in the dirt for tainting his childhood memories.

No, with Suspended Sentences, Modiano provides the characters of his young life with a probation period. Likely he has passed judgment, but he does not force the judgment on his readers, readers who have no doubt come across similar experiences. This was a cleansing read: it reminded me of the ability of every human not to reserve initial judgment – being only human, after all – but to reserve oneself: to retain emotions until ideas are fully formed, and not as the fog in Modiano’s Paris.

Read if you like: descriptions of rainy French cities, photography, a breather

Don’t read if you don’t like: sad smiles, (initially) unfulfilling endings