Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

phanOriginally published in French, The Phantom of The Opera is a Gothic romance novel that tells the story of the young and talented Swedish singer Christine Daaé and the struggle between Raoul de Chagny, the Viscount of Chagny and Christine’s childhood friend, and Erik, otherwise known as the Phantom of the Opera, to attain Christine’s love.
Throughout the book, the readers can see time and again the burden that is laid upon Christine by her crazy “lovers.” To quote the narrator:
Then Christine gave way to fear. She trembled lest Erik should discover where Raoul was
hidden; she told us in a few hurried words that Erik had gone quite mad with love and that he had decided to kill everybody and himself with everybody if she did not consent to become his wife.

As the title suggested, Erik is the main character of the book, but Christine is no doubt
the character that has to sacrifice the most. She has to mediate the jealousy of both of her lovers and keep them and their egos from exploding, She is a genuinely kind woman who is willing to suffer in order to protect the feelings and interests of others and does not take her frustration out on anyone but herself.

It seems at many points that the Persian, a rather mysterious character coming from
Erik’s past is the main character. He is the unexpected hero, saving himself, Raoul and Christine, successfully convincing Erik to leave Christine alone and saving the day. However, the Persian is not treated with the kind of appreciation and love he deserves. In many theatrical and filmic renditions of the novel, the Persian was omitted entirely. Raoul, on the other hand, remains a stubborn, spoiled and selfish young man. He obtains what he wants at the end of the book, but only at the expense of other people’s life, sacrifice of love and emotional and physical turmoil.

Reviewed by Nghi L. ’18

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The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

story Continue the story of Elena and Lila in Elena Ferrante’s, The Story of a New Name. Follow the story and see how new hardships affect their friendship and lives. Watch as family businesses, school, abusive cheating husbands, jobs, money, and so much more work to tear these two friends apart.

As the two friends’ paths separate they lose their close connection but always seem to come back to each other. Lina is now married to a rich abusive husband and lives an unhappy life until she meets Nino, whom Elena loves. Lina and Nino spend the summer together without Lina’s husband finding out who unbeknownst to everyone else is also cheating on Lina with another girl from their town. Lina finishes her schooling, leaves everything known to her to pursue her academics in college, on a full scholarship. She disapproves of Lina and is saddened by Nino’s fondness for her best friend so she cuts ties with both of them.

In college, Elena feels very out of place and felt that she, “would always be afraid: afraid of saying the wrong thing, of using an exaggerated tone, of dressing unsuitably, of revealing petty feelings, of not having interesting thoughts.” As someone coming from a very different background then everyone at her college she struggles to be accepted. She hides her accent and tries to seem more than she feels she is. She chooses to stay quiet in order not to accidentally say something that she thinks people would not approve of.

Elena Ferrante keeps readers engaged with her way with words that really make the reader think. By using issues that the reader can connect with when she conveys ideas that as normal people growing up can and may experience. Through Elena (the character), Ferrante teaches readers life lessons–some good and some not so good. In the story Elena struggles with being accepted but ultimately says, “I am what I am and I have to accept myself; I was born like this, in this city, with this dialect, without money; I will give what I can give, I will take what I can take, I will endure what has to be endured.” This teaches people how to believe in what and who they are and to always accept themselves because you can’t change the past.

Reviewed by Sarah C. ’18

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

grayThe novel, “Between Shades of Gray,” by Ruta Sepetys is about a young girl named Lina, who is taken away by the Soviets, along with her family. The story takes place during World War II, and highlights the horrible experiences people had because of Stalin. Lina, her brother, and her mother are taken away one night by the soviet police and are thrown onto a train with a lot of other people who were taken captive. This was just the start of a long, hard, journey they were about to face. The author does a great job at immediately capturing the reader’s attention. Within the first couple of pages I was drawn to Lina and had sympathy for whatever was going to be ahead of her.

Lina keeps a journal where she writes everything down about her life. The journal gives the reader an inside look into her life, and we are able to witness all of her feelings. The journal adds a great touch to the book because it separates the reader from the rest of the story and provides information on what Lina’s life was like before she was captured. One of her journal entries talks about an instance when she and her mom were out shopping. Her mother says to her, “The boys are having their day and we’ll have ours.” This quote stood out to me because it showed how great her life was and how close her mom and her were.

I chose this book because I really enjoy reading about historical fiction. In particular, I like to read about World War II. I would highly recommend this novel for anyone who is interested in historical fiction, especially World War II. It does a great job at highlighting a whole other part of World War II aside from what was going on with Hitler and the Nazis. It is different from many other World War II books because it is about what Stalin did, not Hitler. The author wrote this book because her past family was captured by the Soviets. Although it is fiction, she did a lot of research and based her story on a lot of real experiences.

I believe that the stories that are told in this novel are very important for people to know. This story gave me a different perspective on life and led me to realize how important family is. It is a truly touching story that showed me how good I have it, and taught me to not take my life for granted because things can change in an instant.

Reviewed by Caroline G ’18

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

hundredTo read One Hundred Years of Solitude is to be thrust into a vivid tale of loss, love, nostalgia, and memory that spans over a century. The novel follows the rise and fall of Macondo, a mystical South American town founded in the early 19th century by José Arcadio Buendía. The fate of Macondo is tangled within that of the Buendía family, a family of dreamers and revolutionaries who the reader follows through five generations. Márquez beautifully weaves together a story that is simultaneously hypnotically whimsical and heartbreakingly real, a story that depicts humanity at its glittering highs and disturbing lows.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is not only Márquez’s most acclaimed work; it is also regarded as one of the best pieces of literature from a Latin American author and as the foundation of the genre magical realism. When I picked up the novel, I did not know of its reputation. I simply chose it off the library shelf one day and opened it to a random page, as I do with many books. The first sentence I read was gorgeous, filled with beautiful imagery and poetic rhythm – every sentence in the book proves to be similarly poetic. Márquez beautifully takes images of dissimilar feelings or visions and brings them together in harmony, such as a character who feels “protected by [a] supernatural light, by the sound of the rain, [and] by the feeling of being invisible”. Due to the descriptive nature of Márquez’s writing, however, the novel is not a simple read. Towards the end of the novel, there is one sentence that covers over three pages of text. The book is comprised of descriptions after descriptions of everything from the weather to the innermost thoughts of the characters, interrupted occasionally by a rare quotation. The people of Macondo rarely speak, preferring the silence of the hammock where they take their siesta.

Márquez manages to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and the impossible into the mundane. The novel is filled with mystical happenings that are made to seem perfectly normal. One character is able to survive off of nothing but dirt for months, while another floats up to heaven with the laundry one day and is never seen again. Early in its history, Macondo is struck by an “insomnia plague”, and those infected are unable to sleep and gradually lose their memories of people and everyday objects. The plague causes a state of wakeful dreaming, in which people see “not only… the images of their own dreams, but some saw the images dreamed by others”. The words of One Hundred Years of Solitude rise off the page, intriguing the reader’s imagination with tales of the impossible.

Towards the middle of the book you may feel as though it will take one hundred years to finish. You will begin to drown in the never-ending stream of Aurelianos and José Arcadios (the Buendía family tradition is to name newborn children after their ancestors – there are twenty-two Aurelianos and five José Arcadios in total, which can make the characters difficult to distinguish). You will grow weary of the repeated mistakes and misguided loves passed down through generation after generation of Buendía. Yet, just when you are about to collapse, your will to continue in the same state as the aging Buendía house, Márquez will once again enchant you with his beautiful imagery. Márquez’s words will raise your spirits along with Remedios the Beauty as she is lifted up to heaven by “a delicate wind of light” and “[waves] goodbye in the midst of the flapping sheets that rose up with her”. You will find yourself unable to lift your gaze from the gorgeous words, and you will grow closer to the novel as you find your own nostalgias reflected within its pages. Once you have read the last lines and have set the chronicle back on the shelf, the story of the Buendías and the people of Macondo will not leave your thoughts or heart.

Review by Tara F. ’18

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

coverIs it possible to fall in everlasting love in a single moment? Is it possible to beat the best sword master in the land? Does this book even exist? The answer is yes and no. William Goldman introduces us to his novel, The Princess Bride(a real book) as an abriged version of , The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (an imaginary book). The Princess Bride is set in the country of Florin, which is just as imaginary as the author S. Morgenstern. We are introduced to a common girl named Buttercup, who is soon to be the most beautiful woman in the world. However, this causes some problems because she is also soon to be the most coveted woman in the world. Despite this she lives on her family farm with “farm boy,” who she becomes infatuated with, which took her nothing more than a glace to realize. This is when the action and plot starts to speed up. The Princess Bride by William Goldman has anything and everything you could ever want in a book, sword fights, passionate love, and humor to make you laugh through the all pages.

With unexpected twists, turns, deaths, and revivals you will never know what Goldman will come up with for the next page. The book creates romantic scenes and by the end makes fun of it with statements like, “True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.”

This book is filled with in depth and hilarious characters to push the plot along. Buttercup, one of the main characters, is not aware of her beauty and does not care much about her appearance, but as the Goldman says, “How could someone care if she were the most beautiful woman in the world or not. What difference could it have made if you were only the third most beautiful. Or the sixth?” Each character has a paradoxical characteristic, whether it be a peaceful giant who knows more than the know it all who in fact does not know it all.

           The Princess Bride is a satirical love story, but done in a way where you still care for the characters. The language used is easy to read and follow, with sarcastic remarks placed perfectly. If you want to laugh while still being captivated by an action packed love story, I recommend this book, a unique take on a simultaneously classic but exceptional love story.

Reviewed by Emma R ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

coverAs frustrating as this book was to read, with the coupling of a dizzying layout of the story and an endless character list, never before have I been so satisfied to complete a novel. The complexity of the plot lends itself perfectly to the story that it is relaying. In Wuthering Heights, Brontë masterfully entices her reader to persevere through thick language by carefully crafting a novel that captures every element of the imagination.

While this is no Nicholas Sparks novel, it does have all the makings of such a love story; a brooding lead character and a doomed romance. The story begins with a Mr. Lockwood renting Thrushcross Grange from Heathcliff, who lives in a home called Wuthering Heights (hence the title). None of the people living in this house are very welcoming, neither Heathcliff nor his daughter-in-law nor the strange boy that does not say much are kind or well mannered. As he stays the night at Wuthering Heights, he “dreams” that a ghost, who identifies herself as Catherine Linton, is trying to gain entrance to his room through a window. Upon his return to his own home after that strange night, Lockwood is told the story of Heathcliff and the Earnshaws from his housekeeper (who narrates most of the story), Ellen, who also worked at Wuthering Heights. So begins the tale of Heathcliff and Cathy’s complicated friendship-turned-love story.

Wuthering Heights chronicles a love so strong that not being able to be with her lover caused Catherine descend so far into despair that she cannot go on with her life, which is explained through her haunting of Heathcliff; as “the murdered do haunt their murderers.” Through Brontë’s beautiful metaphor and evocative language the reader gains insight into the true meaning of love to the two main characters and what happens when true love is forbidden. Comparing her current husband to the ever changing foliage of a forest, Catherine compares Heathcliff to the steadfast rock beneath, “a source of little visible delight… He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being” The narrative allows the reader access to an insider view to this romance, as both Heathcliff and Catherine seek out comfort and advice from Ellen, who narrates the tale. The remainder of the novel is full of ghosts, revenge and impossible love, most of this occurs through Heathcliff’s wish to get revenge on Hindley Linton and to reunite with Catherine Linton, the girl who “burned too bright for this world.”

Rarely does a book’s roundabout chronology and seemingly never ending expanse of characters entice one to read just one more page (which in the case of reading this novel often turning into just one more chapter.) More often than not when faced with such a challenge, one tends to coast throughout the remainder of the book hoping to eventually make sense of the story. Never before have I willingly created a timeline of events and a family tree connecting the characters simply because I wanted to understand the story and avoid missing a single detail. With each turn of a page a new twist or turn in the plot was unearthed, creating an engaging tale of love and revenge, that I never wanted to end, though I was happy when things seemed to be (relatively) resolved.

 

Reviewed by Meg B ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

coverAs a 21st century, romanticist, I’ve only every read Young Adult romance novels released in the 21st century. So, picking up Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, a mythological novel written in 1956, was something I felt that I wouldn’t have enjoyed.  After reading the first few chapters, I was hooked.

Till We Have Faces is a remake of Cupid and Psyche’s story, told through the perspective of Psyche’s half-sister, Orual. It tells the story of Orual and her beloved half-sister, Psyche. Psyche meant everything to Orual. They both shared a deep, unconditional love for each other that they lacked with other members of their family, and their kingdom. So, when Psyche was ordered to sacrifice herself to appease the Gods, there was no hesitation in trying to save her. But after finding out her sister hadn’t died, but is instead living happily with an unknown man and refuses to come home, Orual is shocked. C.S. Lewis’s take on writing the book through the sister’s perspective is very interesting. He makes the character’s choices and actions very realistic; there was no shame nor regret in the way he had written Orual’s perspective. Through Orual’s character, he was able to show readers the entire spectrum of the dark side of human nature: jealousy, ignorance, anger, and selfishness etc. One part in particular that I felt was human, was when Orual described her feelings for Bardia, her love interest, “My love for Bardia (not Bardia himself) had become to me a sickening thing. I had been dragged up and out onto such heights and precipices of truth, that I came into an air where it could not live.” I really liked how C.S. Lewis’s expresses her one-sided love with Bardia. It captures the unhealthy part of love, rather than an idealistic love that many authors tend to describe.

I think that everybody should read this book because it explores the type of love one can have and how there is a fine line between a healthy love and an unhealthy love. Overall, it’s just a great read that captures you once you begin. With many of C.S. Lewis’s books, he tries to incorporate themes that relate to Christianity, but this one doesn’t reflect it at all. So, if you’re not into the religious scene, and like themes such as sacrifice and love, then this book could be the one for you.

Reviewed by Iliyeen Z. ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

 

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

coverA Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks is an unexpectedly mysterious love story that left me feeling various emotions with every page I turned. Contrary to the normal story he writes, this one did not have a typical climax point or ending. The main character, Miles, is a mysterious man who has a young son, Jonah. Their lives are changed forever when Miles’ wife Missy was struck by a car while running on a bend in the road. But who committed the crime? Missy was left dead without any witnesses or any knowledge of who killed her, a hit and run. This event not only affects Miles’ past and present, but it severely affects his future in a very unexpected way. The tone of this story has an underlying sense of doubt and struggle throughout, even during the seemingly happy parts. This consistently left me on my toes as I was questioning whether or not the story was going to unfold as expected because of the obvious foreshadowing of tragedy that was entangled throughout the story, “Maybe he suspected something, maybe he’d simply been around long enough to know that fairy tales seldom came true”

This story is a mystery and a romantic novel combined into one, which creates a captivating way for the story to unfold. In the beginning of the book, Miles falls in love with his son Jonah’s second grade teacher, Sarah. Sarah and Miles have a connected past that they could never have foreseen nor avoided, and neither of them know it. As Miles continues to investigate the crime that unfolded in the bend in the road it reveals more and more information than Miles may even want to know and all of it may not be true. The intertwined themes of mystery and romance make the book a more interesting and deep romance novel that goes further than the surface of a love story. Miles is a single father raising a young child who is struggling in school and needs maternal love. He works a job that has demanding hours and causes him to be up all nights depriving Jonah of a normal childhood. The added stress and distraction of not having the closure of who killed his wife haunts him and effects his life in every way. “There is something terrible in the moments after waking up, when the subconscious knows that something terrible has happened but before all the memories flash back in their entirety.” The love Miles finds with Sarah seems to take some of the pain away until an uncovered secret changes the relationship for both of them.

The term “ a bend in the road” comes up often in the book. This seems to be a metaphor symbolizing either an unfortunate event, a tough conversation, or a general twist of events. It symbolizes how things can go wrong and not always as planned but it is not the end, it is just a twist in life. This metaphor adds depth to the story as it hides underlying meaning to the seemingly simple sentences.

This would be an exceptional novel for anyone who is skeptical about romance novels because it is much more than a modern romance, but a story about love mixed with the struggle between personal conflict and doing what is right for other people around you.

Reviewed by Olivia C ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

 

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

cover            Do you want a change in your usual book themes? Do you like to visualize the story in front of you? If so, A Dog’s Purpose should be next up to read. It is a story of one dog as Toby, Bailey, Ellie, and Buddy. With each life comes a new purpose, such as giving unconditional love and saving people.

What separates this novel from others is that it is told from the dog’s perspective; it is written in first person. This stylistic choice is what drew me into reading the book. What’s funny is that dogs cannot write so we are taken into the creative mind of the author, W Bruce Cameron. He succeeded in writing some very plausible ideas that dogs can be thinking while keeping them humorous and appealing to the reader. One of the common thoughts of the dog was concerning cats, “I wondered briefly if cats also came back after death, then dismissed the thought because as far as I had ever been able to tell, cats do not have a purpose.”

The novel starts with Toby, a wild dog who fumbles through life and learns the hierarchy of the pack. Next comes Bailey, with the classic golden retriever life with his loving family and his boy to protect. The third reincarnation is Ellie who becomes a police dog, and the final life is Buddy who is left to find his own path.

My experience with dogs helped me to be more drawn into the novel because I have experienced many of the events that occurred from the snuggling to saying farewell. This book is however, for dog lovers, cat lovers, fish lovers and even if you are not a fan of pets.

While it is a quick, easy read, it will leave you happy inside and it will make you wonder what the next dog you see is thinking. I recommend this book to everyone but prepare for the tears (both happy and sad) and an unforeseen ending.

Reviewed by Liliya F ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

coverHow would you feel if you had to live every day in fear of the love of your life being deployed in a war struck country? Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is one of my favorite books of all time. Sparks pulls you in and takes you on an emotional roller coaster by making you fall in love with the main character, John Tyree, a United States Military veteran. As you are falling in love with John, he is falling in love with the other main character of the book, Savanah Curtis. All love stories contain heartbreak, but this book in particular has you grabbing multiple boxes of tissues. Sparks pulls in his readers only to leave them in despair in the middle of the novel. John and Savanah’s love is easy and carefree, making this book an easy and pleasurable read for almost all audiences. As a result of the September 11th attacks, John re-enrolls in the military to fulfill his need to serve his country. When John leaves, Savanah has second thoughts about the long distance relationship and sends a letter beginning with “Dear John,”.

What I love about many of Sparks’ novels is that they are very realistic; they don’t always end in a happily ever after. John and Savanah’s relationship was nowhere close to “ideal”. In one scene in the book, Savanah suggests that John’s father might have Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder resembling autism. As one can imagine, John did not take this diagnosis very well and put up a wall for some time, shutting out Savanah. Sparks also uses figurative language throughout his novels. In one instance, Sparks writes, “The initial feelings associated with love were almost like an ocean wave in their intensity, acting as the magnetic force that drew two people together.” If this doesn’t scream romance, I don’t know what does.

If you are looking for a story that has a happy romantic ending, I suggest staying away from this book. But, if you are ready to steer away from the stereotypical romance novel and let your heart be vulnerable, this is the book for you. To find out what happens between John and Savanah, I strongly suggest getting lost in this tear jerking novel.

Reviewed by Madison H ’17 for Literature of the Millennium