Les Misérables Book Review Volume II: Cosette

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View the entire collection of 12 and Beyond’s summer book reviews (and more) here, and be sure to read my Fantine book review too.

Three hundred pages into the [full-length] novel, Les Misérables’ second volume, Cosette, still maintains its overall grandeur and elegance, and intertwines the same elements and perspectives that truly define the novel.

In this volume, a captivating tale is told of Jean Valjean’s escape from prison after being recaptured, and further proves Valjean’s righteousness as he rescues Cosette from her abusive caretakers, the Thenardiers, all the while under the pursuit of the inspector, Javert. 

At the strongest points in the volume, the story is suspenseful and exciting to follow, and takes the reader on an incredibly detailed and elaborate adventure, with no intricacy left out. The viewpoints and relations of all characters provide the reader with an omniscient comprehension of the events, which only serves to strengthen the magnitude of the volume’s impact.

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Dead Wake Book Review

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This post is the second in a series of Summer book reviews publishing to 12 and Beyond in the coming months. The full collection can be accessed here.

Of all the variety of literature that I’d been exposed to in Freshman English (ranging from Shakespeare’s sonnets to the satire Animal Farm), I’d yet to read a true nonfiction book this year.

But naturally, I’d resent having to read through one structured like a textbook, so I sought out one that was more of, well, an experience. And I found exactly that in Erik Larson’s Dead Wake.

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Les Misérables Book Review: Fantine

Related imageThis post is the first in a series of biweekly ‘mini’ book reviews publishing this summer to 12 and Beyond. Further editions concerning Les Misérables will be published soon.

Les Miserables has taken me on an incredible journey over the past several months, involving the play, the music, the movie, and of course, the novel that inspired it all.

I began reading Les Miserables back in November after we began preparing to play in the orchestra pit for my school’s performance. Unfortunately, the copy I purchased was an abridged version- a mistake I quickly regretted. And so, while I had made it quite far through my original copy, I eventually purchased a new copy (at left)- unabridged, of course, and *just* slightly longer. Thus, making it through only the first volume of several found within the novel itself felt like reading through the entirety of the abridged version, and took just as long. Therefore, this book review is dedicated only to the first volume of the novel: Fantine. More will follow.

I would consider it all to be worth it, though- all of the “fluff” that consists of Hugo’s writing, often criticized as unnecessary. But for a novel like this, you don’t want just the facts- you want an intricate, beautifully written narrative, as it was intended. In all, Les Misérables is truly sensational.

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All the Light We Cannot See Book Review

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Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is a novel that truly touched my heart, one comprised of endearment and compassion found in the most forbidding of times. Set in the midst of World War II, the French and Germans at endless battle, two characters, Marie-Laure and Werner, each face their own array of harsh struggles on opposite sides of the war, yet the desires of both military forces to attain (and retain) an object of myth and fortune only serve to intertwine and connect the inspiring stories of each.

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Lincoln In The Bardo Book Review



In brief, describe the plot of Lincoln in the Bardo.

Lincoln in the Bardo tells two separate stories: the story of young Willie Lincoln and his father, Abraham; and the story of a community of ghosts bound to live inside a Washington cemetery, and both cross paths throughout the entire book, which takes place over a single day. 

Lincoln in the Bardo is a fascinating story that winds its way through death, life, love, and freedom. It also winds it’s way through characters- the story is narrated by three main characters who bounce thoughts off of each other, while others interject thoughts along the way. 

In George Saunder’s version of life (and death, for that matter), a community of ghosts co-exists with humans, though restricted to the cemetery and forced to hide during the daylight. You might think these ghosts have superpowers, though- apart from the usual pass through objects, fly through air fanfare, these ghosts can insert themselves into humans (a very particular one, in this case), listen to their thoughts, and even convince them of acting a certain way by influencing their thoughts. 

But no, this isn’t a science fiction novel (not the way I see it). Lincoln in the Bardo takes place during the Civil War, and even interjects pieces of writing from the actual time period (from real life).

All the while struggling with commanding the Union Army, Abraham Lincoln must suffer through the premature death of his son, Willie. Passing away from fever at the age of 12, Willie’s death breaks the heart of Abe- and brings thoughts of doubt and self- regret. There was no hope anymore for Lincoln.

*By the way- in this review, I’m referring to Willie Lincoln as Willie and Abraham Lincoln as Lincoln.

As Willie is laid to rest at the cemetery, his new form (as a ghost) rises from his human body and is greeted by other ghosts, whom I’ll name later. This is nothing but usual. Well, that is, until Willie doesn’t, er, move on. His soul remains in the cemetery- and that shouldn’t be happening. 

In Lincoln in the Bardo, you’ll read about why this happened, how (and why) other ghosts also suffered similar fates, all the while being sucked into a constantly developing plot. As Lincoln struggles with the loss of his son, he revisits the cemetery late at night to visit Willie one last time. From there, a heartwarming story begins.

You’ll love reading about the unbreakable connection between Lincoln and Willie, and how they stayed with each other (if not physically) until the very last moment. Though Willie is constantly bombarded with hoards of ghosts so curious about the miracle that had occurred, three ghosts (the main characters) step through and work to help Willie accept this unfortunate turn of events and reconnect him with his father for a few last ‘words’, so that Willie would move on as he was supposed to (for one can only consume to the matterlightbooming phenomenon when one is mentally prepared, in most cases). 

These ghosts, who had never seen so much excitement in their (after)lives, are willing to team up together to convince Lincoln to revisit the cemetery, while allowing for Willie to re-enter his sick-form (you’ll understand what that means once you read the book) and hear his fathers last words to him. 

By doing this, they not only help Willie reconnect with his father, but they allow for the ghost community to begin to see the beauty in each other that was left behind, recognize the lives they once had, accept their fate and have hope in themselves, and realize, for once in their lives, that they. are. actually. dead.

I’ll leave you with that. But there’s so much more to it- you’ll want to read Lincoln in the Bardo, a novel by George Saunders.

Read on for more of my review, where I cover the characters, issues, my thoughts, and more on one of my favorite reads so far.

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A List Of Cages | Book Review

Image result for a list of cages“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”

In A List of Cages by Robin Roe, a compelling story is told of a boy named Julian who lost his parents at an early age and was taken in by the family of a boy named Adam. Several years later, Adam a Senior and Julian a Junior, they meet again only for Adam to realize the true reasons of what has held Julian back his whole life- thoughts of his dead parents, his uncle (I’ll get to him later), his friends, feeling left out, feeling trapped. 

The two create an unbreakable bond of friendship, and thank goodness they did. As Adam becomes suspicious of Julian’s home life, he begins piecing together information. And when one tragic event occurs after another, Adam is able to save Julian in several ways through this bond, as difficult as times might be. A List of Cages is the type of novel that centers around a generic lesson (friendship) but then turns it into so much more.

DISCLAIMER: My book reviews encompass the entire book, therefore the contents that follow will likely spoil major parts of the story. If you are interested in purchasing the book, please do so before reading further. To read more of this post, please click Continue Reading.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Book Review Part 2


First off, I want to sinImage result for harry potter 7 covercerely apologize for the amount of time it took me to push out this review. And I’ll admit, this is quite a bit shorter than the reviews I had published recently, while for this one I wanted to focus on my opinion and not a summary of content. And therefore, from the first word I write, I will spoil the entire book, so I suggest reading ahead with caution. Click “Continue Reading” to read the full review.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Book Review (Part 1)

“WordsImage result for deathly hallows cover are our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.

-Albus Dumbledore

Hello! Today, I will be reviewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. This book is the conclusion to the 7 book series, and one of my favorites. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet- I absolutely recommend that you do.

Because of the large amount of text in this book, I have split up my review into two parts. I’ll try to publish the second part as soon as possible!

The book begins when two death eaters meet in the middle of the night- Yaxley and Severus Snape. Having just returned after killing Dumbledore, Snape was prepared to update Lord Voldemort on Harry Potter’s status. As both entered the house of Lucius Malfoy, they were greeted by an unusual sight. The Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts was hanging from the ceiling. She would be dead by the end of the night. As Voldemort welcomed Snape and Yaxley into the room, he quickly requested when Harry Potter would be departing from Privet Drive. The reason for this was that, at the age of 17, any protection that had been placed on Privet Drive would expire- and Harry Potter would be vulnerable. What surprised me, though: Snape gave Voldemort accurate information on when Harry Potter would be leaving, and where he would be traveling to, despite being a part of the Order.

In the minutes following, Voldemort also revealed his plans for infiltrating the Ministry of Magic, and had already placed an Imperius charm on an employee close to the minister- Pius Thinknesse. This first step was one of many that would lead to the ultimate plan of killing Harry Potter.

Harry is bleeding. Not only did he cut his hand, trying to clear out his old school trunk, but also stepped on a full teacup that Dudley had left outside his door. In his effort to clear his room before he left the Durseley’s, Harry rummaged through several old copies of the Daily Prophet, and found the article he had been looking for- a pleasant obituary by Elphias Doge regarding the death of Albus Dumbledore. As heart-warming as the article was, it made Harry question how much he really knew Dumbledore. And, to make matters worse, the current Daily Prophet presented a new book by Hermione’s least favorite journalist, Rita Skeeter: The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. The book included an entire chapter dedicated to Dumbledore and Harry, and spoke about how treacherous their relationship was. The announcement of the book continuously worsened Harry’s day, and Vernon Durseley didn’t help either.

Now downstairs, Harry tried to explain to Vernon how they too would be vulnerable once the protections expired. While Vernon was insistent on refusing the Order’s protection, Dudley helped convince him otherwise. The group was soon joined by Deadalus Diggle and another member of the order, who would help with the transportation to the safe house.

After an awkward goodbye, the Durseleys left Privet Drive one last time, leaving Harry to wait for the Order’s arrival. When they did, though, Harry was devastated at the plan that had been put in place. The members of the order that were present that night (Mad-Eye, Fred and George, Arthur, Tonks and Lupin, Mundungus Fletcher, Kingsley, Hagrid, and of course Hermione and Ron) would  break up into pairs of 2, and one member would use Polyjuice potion to transform into Harry. Harry himself would be traveling alongside Hagrid, in the same motorbike he used on the night of Lilly and James’s death.

The moment the group ascended into the atmosphere, they were surrounded by death eaters. In an attempt to reach the safe house, Harry used an Expelliarmus spell. As this was Harry’s signature spell, he only caused Voldemort to come flying after him.

Both Harry and Hagrid would have been killed had they not passed through the boundary of the safe house at just the right moment. Worse, though, was that by the end of the night George would have a missing ear and Mad-Eye Moody would be dead.

After being transported to the Burrow, Harry, Ron, and Hermione began to discuss their plans for the upcoming school year. In fact- they would not even attend Hogwarts at all. Instead they would spend the year hunting Horcruxes in hopes of defeating Voldemort. Mrs. Weasley knew of the plan, and she kept all three apart while preparing for Bill and Fleur’s wedding that would be held at the Burrow. With Harry’s birthday coming up, and the realization of what he was to face ahead, Harry wasn’t sure how to feel.

That night, at Harry’s birthday party,  the Rufus Scrimgoeur paid the trio a visit. After pulling Harry, Ron, and Hermione into the living room of the Burrow, he announced that in his will, Dumbledore had entitled each of them distinct items that had found their way into each of their lives one way or another. The only thing was- none of them made sense. Ron got Dumbledore’a old deluminator, Hermione a set of children’s stories titled The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Harry the first snitch that he had ever caught. In addition, Harry was to be given the sword of Godric Griffindor- but the Ministry, seeing it as a historical artifact, decided to withhold it. Rufus was extremely suspicious as to why Dumbledore would choose these items to go to specifically three students, who Dumbledore hardly knew. Nevertheless, Rufus wasn’t able to prove anything. However, after Rufus left, Harry pressed the Snitch to his mouth, and the words “I open at the close” appeared.

The next day, the Weasley family began accompaning guests at Fleur’a wedding, a day that would quickly turn catastrophic. I loved this part- it was so suspenseful! At first, everything seemed normal, even despite the fact that Vikor Krum had dislike the triangular necklace that Luna Lovegood’s father was wearing. Soon after though, while Harry was sitting with Elphias Doge, they were joined by Ron’s Aunt Muriel. While Doge tried to defend Dumbledore in every aspect, but Muriel kept unraveling ‘truths’ about his past that again made Harry question how much he knew Dumbledore- and whether he should have ever trusted him in the first place.

The minutes that followed were total chaos. Within seconds, the place was swarmed with death eaters. Despite having to leave everyone behind, the three apparated to a Muggle town not far from the leaky cauldron. After changing, they ducked into a nearby cafe and began to speak about the night’s events. At mention of the word ‘voldemort’, two men immediately entered the cafe and sat at a table across from them. Now, you don’t find out about this until later in the story, but I albsoluty loved this little touch- it left the characters and the reader afraid of the ‘greater’ force behind them, for whenever the word ‘Voldemort’ is uttered, death eaters were automatically notified of their location. At that point, though, they only believed it was a trace. This important piece of the story would foreshadow something even larger and more horrible that would happen later on in the story.

Simultaneously, the two men pointed their wands at the trio, who responded with several spells and eventually altered their memory so that there was no trace of them ever being there. The group then travelled to the only safe place they could think of- Grinwauld Place. Of course, they knew that Snape could come in as well- but they were willing to take the risk. In fact, Harry was to find that there were several security measures put in place- even one that brought back a terrifying image of Dumbledore.

As they began to unpack, however, Harry’s scar began to hurt again. And, as he rushed to the bathroom, he saw an image of Draco being forced to torture one of the Death Eaters.

It was very hard for me to read this next part, but it was necessary to happen. After arriving at Grimwauld Place, Lupin arrived with news. After marrying Tonks, they decided to have a baby. Now, Lupin was ashamed of himself, and wanted to give the baby a peaceful life without a werewolf father, and so therefore proposed to help Harry with his mission. While I do feel hat Lupin should return to take care of his baby, I really felt like I was in Lupin’s shoes with the way Harry reacted to this- and it wasn’t for the better.

But what bothered me even more was, now that Voldemort had taken over the Ministry, the story of Dumbledore’s death was completely twisted. In the Daily Prophet, a sign read “Harry Potter: Wanted for Questioning About the Death of Albus Dumbledore”. It must have felt like a knife to his heart to see that. After all Harry had been through, I couldn’t help feeling terrible for him. For the next several pages after reading that, I was left with a peculiar feeling. I once again applaud J.K Rowling on her amazing writing skills- her books made me not only picture each scene, but feel the atmosphere and truly be able to put myself in another’s shoe.

Another thing that I was really glad happened was that Harry and Kreacher truly began to bond and be friends in this book. They were no longer treated like ‘vermin’. After sending Kreacher out to find Mundungus Fletcher, Kreacher began to feel more kindness towards Harry, Ron, and Hermione. In fact, Kreacher soon begins to clean the house and prepare breakfast for the trio. His actions really warmed my heart while reading. In addition, Kreacher no longer felt like he was a servant, and I felt that he had deserved this after many years of mistreatment.

In the end, Kreacher did bring back Mundungus for questioning about the real locket that was stolen by RAB (Regulus Black). Mundungus finally gave up startling news- the dreaded Professor Umbridge had purchased the locket. I guess I really should have expected this- but it was a real plot twist in the story.

While things soon began to quiet down, another Daily Prophet arrived stating that Severus Snape was to become Hogwarts headmaster. When I first read this book, I was absolutely horrified. However, I now feel bad for Snape. All he wanted- well, I won’t spoil that until it’s absolutely necessary.

Thanks so much for reading! Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this review!


The Boys in the Boat Book Response


Hi there! Over the summer, I was asked to write a book response on a nonfiction book, so I decided to read The Boys in the Boat. I recently completed my response, so I decided to share it in place of my usual Tuesday book review. Please keep in mind that this is not like my regular book reviews, as I will be covering topics such as the author’s main ideas, the author’s opinion on the topic, and text structure. The Boys in the Boat certainly tops my list for my favorite nonfiction books. I would certainly recommend that you read it.

The nonfiction book I chose to read this summer was The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The Boys in the Boat takes place in Seattle, and describes the rowing career of nine college students, particularly Joe Rantz. Amidst the Great Depression, these boys struggle to attend college and remain in the rowing crew at Washington University.

At the beginning of the book, the author describes a gray-skied day in Seattle, where hundreds of starving people with ragged shirts sat outside of the local soup kitchens waiting for them to open. Wall Street had fallen less than four years before, and the effects had quickly spread west across the country. Joe Rantz lived nearby in a town named Spokane, Washington. His father, Harry Rantz, had luckily found one of the few jobs remaining, and began working with automobiles. He and his wife, Nellie Maxwell, settled into one of three houses in Spokane and while Harry worked in his auto shop, Nellie taught piano at their house.

Joe, having been born in 1914, however, remembered a completely different and more harsh life in Spokane than his parents recalled. Most of Joe’s memories, though, began after Nellie quickly fell ill and died of throat cancer. Now at a loss of a job, Harry fled for Canada. Fred, Joe’s older brother, then left for college, leaving Joe to live with his aunt in Pennsylvania.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Book Response


Hi there! Over the summer, I was tasked with reading a nonfiction and fiction book, and to choose one of the many that I did read to write about. This post will be a little bit different than my normal book reviews, as during this I will be covering topics that include themes and Author’s Craft. While I will not be weighing the goods and the bads of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, I would certainly recommend this book.

The fiction book I chose to read this summer was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes place during World War 2, and follows a young boy named Bruno who travels away from his home so that his father could continue his high-ranking job in the Nazi Party. At his new home, Bruno finds something very interesting outside of his bedroom window- a tall, barbed wire fence that contained thousands of people who all seemed to be wearing the same outfit, a pair of striped pajamas.

Throughout reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I came across several themes that I believed were not only important inside of the story, but also life lessons that can be used in the real world as well. The first theme centers around equality, and how no matter where a person came from, what religion they believe in, or what they look like, everyone should be treated with equal respect. In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Nazi party decided to do just the opposite. The Nazis decided that Jewish people were a danger to the German country, and that anyone who did not have German blood should be punished. Bruno discovered this when he met a new friend, Shmuel, who lived on the other side of the fence. Bruno learned about how Shmuel, among thousands, were harshly treated by soldiers, were starved, and were often taken away- never to be seen again. While Bruno did not understand the full concept of what was happening, he felt great sympathy for Shmuel, and often brought him leftovers from his own hearty lunch. Bruno even went to the extent of disguising himself with his own pair of striped pajamas to spend the day with Shmuel, even at Auschwitz. That same day, however, Bruno truly got to understand and experience what the Jewish people really felt like, as he and Shmuel were ushered into a death chamber that would end both of their lives.

During Bruno’s time on the opposite side of the fence, the fact that, during World War 2, not everyone was treated with equal respect, rang clear. In part, the theme became clear through the author’s use of techniques. Two author’s craft techniques really stood out to me: irony and the use of characterization. One part of the irony that I found was that while Bruno’s father wanted to keep Bruno safe, he was so willing to end the lives of thousands of Jewish people. Just because Bruno and Shmuel were standing on different sides of a fence, Shmuel was treated as if he was the enemy, and Bruno’s father was the hero for removing Jewish people from German territory. The author’s characterization of Shmuel gave me a clear idea of how Shmuel felt about these recent events, and how he lost his father. Shmuel explained how jews were treated just because they didn’t have german blood, how just because they were Jews, they deserved to be starved and put to death. This devastated me, but also enunciated the idea that everyone should be treated with equal respect.

Another theme that I found in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas focused around the importance of friendship, and how with the close bond of a friend you can get through any tough times. At the beginning of the story, Bruno was very unhappy about moving away from his good friends and family. But as he began to visit Shmuel at the fence, he began to like the new home, now that he had a new best friend, and why he dreaded going back home to his old home. The day before he would leave, though, the theme really presented itself. After entering the other side of the fence and being encountered by soldiers, Bruno and Shmuel entered the death chamber. While neither knew that they would be facing their death, Bruno was conscious that he was holding Shmuel’s hand, and that no matter what happened, everything would one day be okay. Had they lived through the event, both would have been best friends for the rest of their lives.

The main piece of author’s craft that the author used to present this theme were again characterization and the use of minor foreshadowing. The characterization of the way Bruno and Shmuel felt about their relationship between each other, and how nothing could ever break them apart, no matter what happened. This was extremely clear when, out of the character of Bruno, he grabbed hold of Shmuel’s hand. Even though neither Bruno nor Shmuel survived Auschwitz, the author used foreshadowing to show that the close ties Bruno had with Shmuel would help Shmuel out of the horrific situation that he was in, and how he would one day take Shmuel back to his home in Berlin and be able to really interact with Shmuel for the first time. At one point in life, through the support of each other, everything would have been alright.

I really enjoyed reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and I loved how the author’s techniques and author’s craft, along with the use of important themes were able to positively contribute to the essence of the overall story.

Thanks for reading! My nonfiction response to The Boys in the Boat will be releasing soon.