“These Shallow Graves”, Review

Cover of book These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

“These Shallow Graves” is a novel by Jennifer Donnelly. Published by Delacorte Press, it is a young adult, romance, mystery, and historical fiction novel. It is a book of 488 pages, each of which is filled with suspense, emotion, and mystery that will keep you turning the pages with curiosity.

Set in the 1890’s in New York, the story is focused on Josephine – or Jo – Montfort, daughter of one of New York’s most successful businessmen, owner of a newspaper for twenty years and partner of a massive shipping firm. Jo is beautiful, rich, young, and popular. A 17-year-old, she will soon graduate school and marry Bram Aldrich, a fine young man from another wealthy and successful family, a friend whom Jo has known for a very long time. Jo, however, has other dreams for herself; she dreams of becoming a writer, just like Nellie Bly, her idol. At that time, though, it was deemed unacceptable for a young lady of her class to practice such a profession. Her determined personality and the need to know the truth will completely change the course of the story.

Jo’s life is perfect; but that is about to change. On September 17, 1890, Jo is at Miss Sparkwell’s School for Young Ladies, which is nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly, she is called to the office. Jo thinks that she is called to the office because of an article she wrote about the abuse of girl laborers at Fenton’s Textile Mill. Though Jo’s article could have been controversial, and a good reason to be called to the office, she soon learns that it is not about that; Charles Montfort, her father, is dead. According to Bram and Addie, he “was cleaning a revolver in his study last night and it went off”. That is when Jo’s life takes a dramatic twist.

Jo does not believe her father’s death was an accident- he was far too clever to clean a loaded gun. One day, after her father’s funeral luncheon, she decides to go to her father’s newspaper, to deliver a bequest from him. She meets Edward – or Eddie – Gallagher, a handsome reporter who, unaware of Jo’s background, says that her father committed suicide. Furious, Jo starts yelling, which attracts attention. This poor first-impression causes them to get to know each other better. Together, they discover the cruel reality of her father’s death, that it wasn’t an accident. How far will Jo go to uncover the truth?

“Be careful how deep you bury the past”.

Jennifer Donnelly has an excellent writing style. Through vivid descriptions, I was able to imagine the setting through Jo’s eyes, which was amazingly fascinating. The first page-and-a-half is a flash into the future. The book starts with Jo, Eddie, and Oscar, a character that Jo meets later into the story, digging up a grave. This introduction engages the readers. Also, there is a map of New York in the very beginning of the book, which helps readers understand events and where they take place better. It is a very fascinating book, and I constantly found myself saying “one more chapter”. I also like most of the characters’ personalities. Even though Jo Montfort is extremely wealthy, she acts very humble most of the times. It is a very well-written book, full of mystery, suspense, and interesting characters. It is very original and different, and I can say it is one of the best books I have read so far. The characters have unique personalities and are well-drawn, and what is socially acceptable in this story seems to correspond to the era.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense and mystery. Most of the events in the story are unpredictable, which is something that makes it appealing. I particularly enjoyed the ending of this book. Though I had my suspicions, it was different than what I had imagined. If you are sensitive towards references to subjects such as dead bodies, strange odors, and murders, I would question if this is the book for you. Overall, I would rate this book 5/5 for the interesting plot and the author’s writing style. +13.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi

poster from movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Review by TJ Lawrence

This movie has plot holes you could fly an X-Wing through, contagious stupidity on the part of some characters, two substantially weaker side plots, and about thirty minutes of unnecessary run time. However, it is also graced with gorgeous cinematography, well-thought-out character development, good acting, and a strong, engaging central plot. The verdict: The Last Jedi doesn’t measure up to expectations in many areas, but makes up for its weaknesses with impressive strengths. It’s flawed but fun and certainly worth at least one watch. 7/10

My personal likes and dislikes about the movie are below.

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What I liked:

Character development: Poe’s earlier characterization as a reckless pilot influences his decisions throughout the movie, skewing them toward good immediate results with no real thought for the tactical disadvantages of those results. He learns better through Leia’s chastisement for his early-movie sacrifice of the entire bombing fleet and the events that follow. Finn tried to run away from the battle. I was ridiculously disappointed in him until I realized that a) this fits with his characterization from The Force Awakens and b) he redeems himself later. I still think this decision made it a lot harder to sympathize with or root for him as a character, so the results were mixed. Kylo Ren’s internal tug-of-war and his eventual choice of sides fit in perfectly with his character. And don’t even get me started on Luke Skywalker and his heroic sacrifice—I will cry right here on this keyboard, I swear.

Rey, Luke, and Kylo: This plot was the best part of the entire film. The character clashes between Rey and Luke, Rey and Kylo’s Force connection, Rey’s seeming tilt toward the dark side, and Kylo’s absolutely awesome assassination of Snoke/fake turn towards the light…I could go on about this forever. It was amazing. If this plot had been the entire movie, I wouldn’t have complained at all.

Cinematography/Why is everything so pretty: The battle scene on Crait was so beautiful it made me want to go there, except that I didn’t really want to be in the middle of a battle anywhere. I loved the animation of all the animal life except that weird pink cow-thing. The CGI shields around the Resistance cruiser were impressive and laid to rest my consistent quibble—”why can’t I ever see the shields?” Admiral Holdo’s last flight scared me.

What I didn’t like:

Plot holes: If Admiral Holdo had just told Poe what the plan was, the entire last half of the movie could have been avoided. Come on, lady! I expected a little more maturity and rationality from a hero of the Resistance.

Plot-induced stupidity: See plot holes.

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Descendants 2 – Movie Review

Image result for descendants 2

Review By: Alyssa7128

Descendants 2 is a family friendly movie released in July 2017, 6 months after the original film. When Ben (who is now the King of Auradon) proposes to Mal, she crumbles under the pressure to be royally perfect, and returns to the Isle of the Lost. So, Evie, Jay, and Carlos help disguise Ben as a villain, so that they can successfully return to the Isle of the Lost to find Mal, and convince her to come back to Auradon, without being recognized. Mal is shocked to find out that Ursula’s daughter, Uma, along with her friends, Captain Hooks Son, Harry; and Gaston’s son, Gil; have taken her place as ruler of the Isle of the Lost. Uma was furious that she wasn’t selected by Ben to come to Auradon Prep with the other villain kids. So, she gathers her gang of pirates to help break down the barrier, between Auradon and the Isle of the Lost, and release the villains, who were trapped on the island for years, once and for all. Will Ben, Evie, Mal, Jay, and Carlos become heroes and defeat Uma? Or will Auradon fall and get conquered by Uma? Find out in Descendants 2.

Setting: The setting of Descendants 2 is Auradon Prep, and the Isle of the Lost.

Characters: Uma, Harry Hook, Gaston, Gill, Fairy Godmother, King Ben, Mal, Carlos Di Vil, Dizzy Tremaine, Jane, Lonnie, Price Chad Charming, and Doug

Songs: “Ways to Be Wicked, Whats’s My Name Chillin’ Like a Villain, Space Between, It’s Goin’ Down, You and Me, Kiss the Girl, Poor Unfortunate Souls, Better Together, Evil, Rather Be with You”

Pros for the Movie: I love Mal’s new haircut, and I love the music. It also has a very nice plot that is easy to follow along.

Cons for the Movie: When Uma splashed water into the boat at the end, a few seconds later Evie’s hair style changes, and her hair was dry, even though a few seconds before this Evie’s hair was soaked. Most people who watched the movie didn’t notice it, so I guess this doesn’t really matter!

Age Recommendation: Maybe 10 and up. It has a little bit of romance in it though.

Overall Rating: 10/10 This is a very good movie!

– Alyssa7128 7th Grade

The Year of the Hangman Review

Cover of the book The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood

Review by shipperprincess52

Stars- 2/5
Summary- In 1776, the rebellion of the American colonies against British rule was crushed.  Now, in 1777—the year of the hangman—George Washington is awaiting execution, Benjamin Franklin’s banned rebel newspaper, Liberty Tree, has gone underground, and young ne’er-do-well Creighton Brown, a fifteen-year-old Brit, has just arrived in the colonies.  Having been shipped off against his will with nothing but a distance for English authorities, Creighton befriends Franklin, and lands a job with his print shop.  But the English general expects the spoiled yet loyal Creighton to spy on Franklin.  As battles unfold and falsehoods are exposed, Creighton must decide where his loyalties lie…a choice that could determine the fate of a nation. (Goodreads. Been a while since I read this book and I didn’t like it so I didn’t want to write my own summary for this one.)

Thoughts- I didn’t like it. The characters weren’t interesting and there wasn’t really any action. Creighton was annoying and bratty, he didn’t know how to do anything on his own and that made him extremely unlikable. The whole thing was twisted and boring. It was practically a Revolutionary War AU Fanfiction. It’s the complete opposite of the real war. I really couldn’t stand any of the characters and the plot bored me to tears. (I won’t say anything about the plot just incase I spoil anything.)

Read it at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Age- 12+

“Message in a Bottle” Book Summary and Review

Cover of book Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks

Review by dancingforever27

In 1999, Message in a Bottle was mass-produced in an abundance of book stores. World-renowned author, Nicholas Sparks, narrates a love story between two unsuspecting love interests. This is a fictional romance story that debates fate and forgiveness, yet remains original and an easy read. Like all other stories written by Sparks, this novel takes place in the South of America in real locations.

The female lead is Theresa Osborne, a hardworking and determined woman. She previously has been divorced to a man unworthy of companionship, David, as he had an affair while they had a son to take care of. She has had a history of bad romantic relationships and some serious trust issues after figuring out his secret. Her friend and her husband, Deanna and Brian, have been focused on getting her out of this slump.

Theresa believes that her work in the city as a part of the columns in the Boston Times is too valuable to her life to be focused on dating. Her son, Kevin, alternates with both parents over summer, and he has just left to stay with David and his new wife, Annette. Currently, Kevin is spending a few weeks with his dad, and she believes she should be spontaneous and go to the beach for a few days. Her main focus for the trip is to relax and renew from these stressful situations she finds herself in such as taking care of Kevin, finding informative parenting text to write about in her column, being a single mother, and getting popularized for her work in the columns and later be featured in The New York Times.

While she was staying on vacation, Theresa notices a washed up bottle along the shoreline. Inside the bottle is a message on a scroll, one describing a romantic yet tragic love story. It seems to be understood that a man named Garrett loved a woman named Catherine very much. In a way, she has left him, most likely through death. As she reads a brief description of his passion for the missing lover, she cries of a longing for that type of relationship and informs her friend Deanna. She thinks that Theresa should release this into her column to find out who this poetic and adoring man is. This leaves Theresa with many questions about him, and she also has a few decisions to make based on that:

Questions about Garrett

  1. Where does he live?
  2. How can she meet him?
  3. What exactly happened between him and his previous lover?

Decisions to Make

  1. Will she listen to Deanna and publish the letter? If so, will she make it as personal as it was in the original print?
  2. If she finds out more information, will she try to find out where he is and meet him?

                                                                                 Find out more by reading the novel.

            I would rate this book an 8 out of 10 for the following reasons:

On the positive side of things, this story is a great romance with multiple layers of overcoming a devastating loss for Garret. Both characters are quite idealized by having great character. Each lead character are quite opposites. Theresa is a big-city woman with large dreams of being famous and well-known. Garrett loves to sail, is a rhythmical and romantic type of man, and is a classic type of southerner. These qualities allow for a constant struggle of how to work together and make their relationship progress.This works well to keep the reader interested, as they should keep attempting to predict and wonder about their future together.

On the other hand, it was tad bit frustrating to see Garrett use Theresa to get over Catherine, as it seemed. I also did not really see the two ending up together, nor did I really want them to because in no way would either one be happy giving up their lifestyle. This made them go through a constant struggle which was saddening to see them this way. Lastly, the secrets held between each individual of them led to the inevitable anger and fighting because of lying too much.


Ages 14 + for intimate scenes

Challenger Deep- Book Review

Cover of the book Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Review by laurae87

Caden Bosch thinks too much. As a fifteen-year-old struggling with schizophrenia and anxiety, life is one confusing mess of hallucinations and worried thoughts. With the growing concern of his family, Caden takes too many painkillers, eats too little, and paces around the house in a dissociated state. At school, his test scores are dropping, and his paranoia is rising. School becomes a place that triggers panic, so Caden starts skipping classes, and instead, walks around town. His “thought-voices” torment him and make him think unpleasant thoughts. Caden is slowly losing his grip on reality. His parents notice his unusual (and worrying) behavior and admit him into a psychiatric ward. There, he meets other teens who are battling their own mental illnesses. He slowly becomes friends with some of the teens, and tries to help them with their struggles, along with getting better himself. However, one situation that occurs is so shocking that Caden doesn’t know if he will be swallowed whole by the gaping jaws of schizophrenia, or if he’ll manage to get out alive. Will Caden have the courage and strength to battle his mental illness and win, for now? To find out and follow Caden through his journey, read Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. This novel is about courage, self-reflection, and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, psychosis, paranoia, mania, and anxiety. Challenger Deep lets people who have been there know that they are not alone in their struggles. In the last pages of the novel, Shusterman provides resources and help for those dealing with mental illness.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Cover of the book The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Review by fmarie0122

Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret.

Then, on his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.

One by one, Eddie’s five people illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is as inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.

My mom actually recommended this book to me and one day on a trip to the beach I decided to give it a shot. Through Eddie’s encounters in heaven his life is pieced together, and it allows the reader a deeper insight into the hardships that Eddie has experienced throughout his lifetime. All the people that he meets along the way played a part in his life and they had a story to tell, along with a lesion to be taught. With this Eddies is able to come to terms with what has happened in his life so that he can be truly at peace in heaven. This is a beautiful interpretation of heaven created by Mitch Albom and I would highly recommend that you give the book a chance.