Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Catching A Good Read

This Thanksgiving break, free time was copious. A twenty-six hour round trip to Colorado left me with more time than I knew what to do with. I knew better than to waste it though, so I spent most of it sleeping and more importantly, reading. Before I left for the five-day trip, I picked up a book I had my eye on for a while and that I knew was a great American classic, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The story was interesting to me due to the reoccurring themes I noticed; as well as a compelling plot. Finding a single genre for The Catcher in the Rye was difficult but I researching and finding out it is a coming of age book in which the main character progresses from childhood to adulthood, however, in the story, he is more already in the middle of being a teenager.

Holden Caulfield is a teenage boy who is telling a story about a series of unfortunate events that occurred to him around a Christmas weekend. Holden begins the story by almost immediately painting the ostracization he put himself through during a rivalry football game between his school, Pencey, and Saxon Hall. Holden is atop a distant hill where he could "see the whole field from... [and] could hear [the fans] yelling... because practically the whole school except [Holden] was there." (Salinger 3). The loneliness is felt from this short quote which continues to echo throughout Holden's story. For Salinger to so quickly incorporate a theme of forlornness, he foreshadows the consequences of Holden's lack of ability to find someone whom he can talk to consistently. Holden's awkward attempts at intimacy with people typically lead to unfulfillment. This quote planted the idea in my head that Holden's self-alienation will lead to more problems down his road. A perfect example of this is when Holden arrives at a hotel and orders a prostitute from a pimp named Maurice. When the prostitute, Sunny, shows up and wants to get intimate, he shies away and tells her "Don't you feel like talking for a while

Friday, October 13, 2017

Believing in not believing

I've believed from the start of this blog assignment that I could finish reading this book in less than three weeks & I did. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is a story revolving around a young boy named Pip who, as he matures, sets the goal that he will one day become a gentleman and marry a girl he has sought after for years. This story fits the AP- Recommended Classic category and I feel I couldn't have picked a better book. Over the course of about three weeks, I have spent about 30 minutes every day of the week reading this story. I have recently begun to narrow down my list of history-related nonfiction stories to about two or three.

Near the beginning of the book, a young girl named Estella catches the eye of Pip, who is poor orphan under the care of his abusive sister, and throughout the story, he attempts to sway her into falling in love with him. Unfortunately, she has been raised since the age of three to break men's hearts. Estella, in a display of accidental cold-heartedness, allows Pip to give her a kiss on the cheek after Pip wins a fight. However, Pip feels as if "that the kiss was given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might have been, and that it was worth nothing" (94). The idea that it was a kiss out of pity was implanted into Pip and thus is ashamed that she looks at him as a lower person. This ignites a cause for self-improvement within him and he begins a journey to become worthy of Estella's love. Pip, even as an adult, continues to strive to become a gentleman and he finds himself doing almost anything he can in order to do so. Four years into an apprenticeship with his brother-in-law, he receives a fortune from an anonymous benefactor and is to "come into a handsome property ... be immediately removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a gentleman-in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations" (137)  Dickens uses this sudden change in the plot as a way to propel the idea that Pip has great expectations of himself that he now has an opportunity to achieve. The words Dickens uses creates a negative connotation around where Pip financially is prior to receiving the fortune; which further fuels Pip's strong desire to become a gentleman. Pip assumes that the benefactor is the mother of Estella and that she plots to prepare him for marriage however he later discovers that it was an ex-convict, named Magwitch, that he had previously helped live. Later on in the story, Magwitch is put to death and due to the felony that he was convicted of, his assets were forfeited which caused Pip's great expectations to dismantle. This change in the plot creates an environment perfect for Dickens to make Pip have different views on life. Pip begins to realize that money and education aren't the only things that make someone a gentleman. Pip, thinking to himself, began to realize that "For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted, wounded, shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe" (423). After going through the social classes, from poverty-stricken to elite, Pip begins to realize that lack of money and education don't mean more than social conscience and morals. Dickens visualizes this by showing how Pip's brother-in-law is someone he looks up to despite not being in an elite social class.

Does social class equate to happiness? Well, according to this story told by Charles Dickens, it's no. The saying goes, "Money can't buy you happiness."; this is only to a certain extent according to a study done by CNBC.
This graph reveals that as income increases, how valuable people perceive their life as increases as well. However, it is only at a certain point that this spike occurs as, before that, life evaluation and lack of stress is still minimal pre-80K income. In the way Pip perceives his life, he isn't truly happy until he realizes that money won't necessarily mean he will be happy in his life and he discovers that one's morals and kindness elevate them to a new level of bliss.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Barnes & Noble Classics. 1861

Monday, January 9, 2017

Morality at its finest

The new year began and as the saying goes, "New year, new me!" I plan on reading even more despite this semester ending and no longer having an English class. Initially, my reading goal for this year was ten books but after achieving that I set it to twelve, after reaching that as well I am finishing the semester with 13 books being read since school started. The final book I read this semester and that I will be blogging about is The Adventures Of HuckleBerry Finn by Mark Twain. This story is a sequel to the well -known story, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Huck Finn is the narrator of this story which takes place in Missouri and begins with him being taught how to be civilized by two sisters. At the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck receives a significant amount of money in which his father is trying to take from him so decided to fake his own death and to escape. On this adventure, he encounters many scenarios in which his morality is questioned. Huck encounters a runaway slave named Jim. They team up and Huck promises to not turn in Jim despite always being told that lying and stealing is wrong. Coming across a group of people, Huck as an internal crisis and wonders whether or not to turn him in. Huck paddles away and Jim remarks "Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white genlman dat ever kept his promise to ole Jim." (262) He begins to realize sometimes a friendship is worth breaking a few rules. In my life, I have had situations where I preserved a friendship instead of doing what is "right." Everyone has different morale's but sometimes it's better to pick the option that can preserve relationships that will benefit you in the future. I've had to make the decisions of telling on my friend and me going off without punishment or me not admitting anything and taking a punishment. I just about always choose the latter and that's what Huck does in this story. Instead of turning over Jim, he lies and says it's his father who has Small Pox. This, in turn, saves Jim but causes the people to be suspicious.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Disorder Of Life

December 16th is the day I finished my tenth book of the semester! On my last blog, I talked about how I had reached my goal of ten books and have expanded it to twelve and I have already reached that target as well! As of late, I have been spending more time with my family going out to see Christmas lights and visiting my relatives homes. Despite the less amount of free time I have, I have still managed to complete two books which were Loot by Jude Watson and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon. In this post, I will be talking about the latter and how it changed how I perceive life.

Christopher John Francis Boone is a fifteen-year-old boy who is mathematically gifted and struggles to make social connections due to his apparent autism. He is raised by his single father, Ed Boone, as his mother died of an apparent heart attack. Christopher discovered that the dog from the house across him, who was named Wellington, was brutally murdered with a pitchfork and he sets out to solve the case of who the culprit may be. Christopher see's everything logically and cannot seem to be able to connect to anyone on an emotional level which causes him to be blind to all the problems and social issues around him. The first person view in which the stor is told in causes the reader to be unseeing to the problems as well. In the middle of the story, we find that his mother had actually left his father after he had found out that she had an affair with him. Christopher's father kept this hidden from him but while trying to solve the case of who had killed Wellington, letters written by his mother were found and he uncovered the truth. The intricacies of the social and emotion lives of people Chrsitopher knows become more evident and Christopher has to deal with the disorders of life. He breaks down the complexity of emotions by trying to explain "sometimes we get sad about things and we don't like o tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don't know why we are sad, so we say we aren't sad but we really are." That is one single emotion that he is discussing. Often times as humans, we forget how we take emotions for granted. The fact we can feel all these things should be counted as blessings. This book showed me that it is better to feel sad or confused than nothing at all. Despite Christopher's mental disorders, he recognizes that having the ability to feel emotions is complex, yet oddly satisfying and it is something that no one should take for granted.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Back To The Future Part 4?!

Currently, I just finished my eighth book of the semester called TimeRiders so I completed my goal and I have expanded it to 12 books for this semester. I have made even more time for reading as I don't have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning every day due to football finally ending and I no longer need to go to practice. I have made time to read and I don't exactly time it, I just read until my eyes get tired. I don't read on weekends because I am always out during the night and I feel I make enough time during the weekdays. I failed my goal of completing a horror book in honor of Halloween but I think it's okay because I read other books I absolutely enjoyed and didn't lose sleep over being scared. I plan on continuing to read thriller books but I plan on eventually branching out to other genres.

Time Riders is a story that is about an agency dubbed "The Agency" that's the main goal is avoiding time travel from destroying the future and changing the timeline that is meant to be. The first story has the characters Liam O' Connor, Maddy Carter, and Sal Vikram. These three heroes attempt to go back in time and find people trying to change time and how it is supposed to be. Even the most minuscule changes can cause enormous changes in the future which is the main the premise behind the Butterfly effect. This story proves how time is fragile and how every decision you make affects your future. When the agency is first getting debriefed on their first ever mission the leader of the group talks about how "Time Travel is a terrifying weapon, far more powerful than anything ever before conceived... mankind just isn't ready for that kind of knowledge. We're like children casually playing with an atom bomb." When they go back in time to stop evil doers, they make sure to leave no trace of them being there because even the slightest thing left could change the past. The group going back in time teaches them valuable lessons of life and how fragile it really is. They witness Adolf Hitler's tiny decisions that completely changed the outcome of WWII such as being persuaded to invade Russia instead of a different country. This story shows how every decision you make in your life will impact your future no matter how small that decision is. I learned to take advantage of every second I have in my life because any wrong choice could end it in a blink of an eye and I won't have a chance to redo it again. There are no second chances when it comes to living and dying and this story depicted that perfectly. The future has yet to be written and our choices impact how our story may continue or how it might come to an abrupt end.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Do Right. Fear Nothing.

So far my reading is going pace and I am currently on my fifth book of the semester, Crazy Dangerous.  My reading time is improving as I have had more time on weekends and finally full flow into the school year. I have figured out my schedule entirely and have made plenty of free time which I use for reading. Typically, I am reading about 20 minutes before I go to sleep and sometimes, even more, depending if I am on a good part of the book. Most of the books I read are of the thriller genre but due to it being the month of October, I want my two next books to include horror in them which I am excited for and I am already searching for the two. I have read very few Stephen King books so I am planning on having at least on of those horror books to be one by him.

  Crazy Dangerous is a story about a preacher's kid named Sam Hopkins who has a mundane life trying to make it interesting by getting involved with the wrong people such as thugs and car thieves. As he's finally getting accepted into the group of thugs he one day sees them harassing a girl named Jennifer who goes to his school and decides to stand up to them. He realizes that this girl is crazy and is having hallucinations and visions about demons and death. When one of these visions becomes true, Sam beings to worry about these being prophecies but Sam's father shoots the idea down claiming it was just a coincidence. Although, when Jennifer begins to tell Sam she see's "so many dead", he beings to trust his gut and get to the bottom of what is going to happen. "Do Right. Fear Nothing." (66) This is exactly what Sam does when faced with the dilemma of letting the thugs beat up Jennifer or to allow her time to escape by picking a fight he will definitely lose. Sam chose the latter and he slugged one of the three thugs right in the face. Despite being outmatched 3:1 and being a third of the size of each of the thugs, Sam didn't back down and really feared nothing and did the right thing. The punch gave Jennifer just enough time to run and escape. The power of the phrase "Do Right. Fear Nothing." was so powerful that it caused Sam to get over his rational fear of punching someone 3 times his size. Throughout the story, it's evident that Sam kept true to this saying and when deciding what to do in certain situations he referred back to this phrase multiple times.  Had Sam Hopkins not found this saying on a statue, would he have still made the choices he had? Common sense leads me to believe that he wouldn't have since he had to refer back to that quote multiple times before coming to a decision and even then he would doubt himself. If the quote was reversed  and it was "Fear Nothing, Do Right" would Sam have instead focused more on appearing fearless more than being right?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

No Clemency For Ricardo Klement

The progress on my reading and achieving my goal is going great! I'm beginning to get use to my school schedule and I have made even more time for reading so I should be able to finish books a lot quicker and get to enjoy them more, making reaching my goal even easier! This change came a few days ago and ever since I have nearly doubled the amount of pages I read. Before I start reading and picking up where I left off, I think of my goal of reading 8 books this semester. Due to my recent visit to the library, I have picked up a new book called Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan. The book revolves around a boy named Sam who is trying to help his friend Jennifer get rid of her demons and to stop a prophecy told by the demons in her head. The reason I picked up this thriller is because I have just finished my nonfiction book, The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb which is a non fiction book that tells the story behind the operation of catching one of the major organizers of the Holocaust.

    This book shows the meticulous undertaking of bringing Adolf Eichmann to trial and to act as a reminder of the horrors committed by the Nazi's. In Chapter 12, after having Eichmann captured, the Mossad agents are asking questions to the man and he truly believes that he "did nothing wrong.. just followed orders." (144) The quote brings the question of the thought process Eichmann had while committing the crimes that he did. While I absolutely do not agree or support any of the atrocities the Nazi's committed, it causes me to wonder how committed they we're to completing their goal and what went through their head while being told to do such horrendous acts. I believe the author is trying to get the readers to realize the magnitude that the Holocaust had on those affected. This mission to bring Adolf Eichmann to trial serves not as revenge, but as a remembrance to the genocide. I pray that the Holocaust never be forgotten or repeated.