Books Over the Holiday

I have read 3 works of fiction so far, and the most impactful one is ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, because it presents a new idea on how the world we know is all formed by the improbable. The novel with the most creative use of language is ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie, because he uses self-deprecation in the novel to add humor but it also helps the reader understand the characters more. The one I would choose to write a literary essay on, which I am currently reading, is ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury.

Scythe Book Review

“Scythe”, written by Neil Shusterman, takes place in a utopian world where science and technology have advanced to the point where all disease, crime, and natural disasters have been virtually eliminated. Even death is reversible. To control the population, scythes would select someone to ‘glean’, a.k.a kill, every once in a while. The main characters are Citra and Rowen, two friends who will both eventually be chosen to become apprentice scythes. Their friendship is tested when they split paths to two different scythe mentors, one who teaches the ethical way to glean, while the other shares the enjoyment of mass gleanings.

You won’t be able to put this book down, with the vivid images Shusterman is able to create and the wildly twisting plot that is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in fantasy and science fiction.

Journal Entry #4

Justin Zhang



I was in shock when I first heard of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. How could Stalin side with this anti-Communist man, who has the audacity to call Russians an ‘inferior race’! Were we that desperate to find an ally to protect the USSR, even if that meant the Nazis?


Due to a ‘war scare’ in 1927 in which the government claimed that the USSR was under the threat of an attack by China and Britain, as well as Western countries wrecking the USSR industry, Stalin issued the first Five-Year Plan. As a result, Factory workers had to increase the output of their industry. Heavy industries like coal and steel were expected to triple their output. Surprisingly, many workers were exited and worked astonishingly hard to meet these requirements, others who weren’t so eager also had to work hard, as failure to meet these requirements resulted in punishment.



There was a rumor going around that a group of workers who called themselves the ‘shock brigades’ intended to set a good example for other workers were growing in popularity. They even worked on their rest days and took the extra time to take care of their machines. I initially thought of them as a joke as they were simply wasting energy and time. But when I heard that higher pay and better housing was awarded to these people, I was all in for it, and later became a part of what was called the Stakhanov movement. The Stakhanov movement was led by a coal miner named Alexei Stakhanov, he found out a new way to extract coal where he could cut up to 14 times more coal than usual. The government gave tremendous attention to this man, which in turn attracted more and more workers to join this movement. Workers who before felt like they were invisible in this massive country finally could make a difference. These people, Stakhanovites, were on the front of newspapers and awarded medals for their hard work; however, they were harshly treated by other workers and sometimes even murdered, consequently shutting down the movement in the late 1930s.


In 1936, the Party Central Committee went on a mission to rid the country of any Trotsky supporters. When party members were accused of supporting Trotsky, it often meant losing their jobs and arrest by the NKVD. For more important Party members accused, they were put on trial with maximum publicity, and the ones found guilty were shot. The purge quickly spread and started to involve the armed forces. A famous army general, Marshal Tuchachevsky, and several other Red Army generals were shot when they were accused of spying for Germany and Japan. By 1938, the great purge has affected the day-to-day life of citizens. No one knew who it was safe to talk to, and merely speaking of Trotsky could get you arrested. People sometimes used this to their advantage, as they could denounce anyone they disliked and get them shot. This time of fear was deemed ‘The Great Terror’.


On this day when Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with the Nazis, I fear for what the future has in store for Russia. I think back to the time when Russia was ruled by the Tsar, and every major event that took place for us to end up here. Bloody Sunday, The March Revolution, The November Revolution, The red and white war, Lenin’s death, the First Five-Year plan, The Great Purge, and finally the Nazi-Soviet Pact. We have progressed so far as a country, yet I feel like we have so much more ahead of us. All I can do is watch how Russia advances in the future, and hope this non-aggression pact Nazi will not ruin Russia.

Nazi-Soviet Pact