Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty

grammargirl_mignonfogartyAre you a grammar fanatic? Are you annoyed when people, including adults, mix up their grammar? Well, Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty, a book exploring the surfaces and depths of grammar and writing, is much more than a grammar book.  And more than likely, it is right for you.  It offers easy-to-understand rules of conduct to live by as a writer, or in your case, a blogger.  Throughout this book, easy lessons are explained through quick and dirty tips.  I learned everything from gerunds to objective versus subjective pronouns to complicated conjugations.

The basic definition of a gerund is a noun made from an action verb plus an ‘ing’ at the end.  Every gerund, without exception, ends in ‘ing’.  Gerunds are not, however, that easy to locate.  For example, a name of a profession counts.  Like, ‘Acting isn’t as easy as it looks.’  In this case acting is the gerund and is functioning like a noun, yet it sounds like a verb.  Here’s another one: ‘Her singing almost deafened me.’  Singing is the gerund because it is referring to the act of her singing as an object or an idea.  But, we’re not done yet. In most cases, gerunds need a possessive or objective pronoun much like some words need linking verbs. It can be pretty easy to make the mistake of saying ‘We didn’t know that was his singing.’ This sentence could mean we couldn’t tell if what he was doing was singing or if he was making some other noise.  That was a possessive pronoun, but to clarify the true meaning of these types of sentences, sometimes you need to use a possessive pronoun.  This is the correct sentence: ‘We didn’t know this was him singing.’

In sixth grade, your English teacher probably taught you about basic conjugation.  In addition to these, there are progressive and perfect progressive. Learning these are essential to speaking correctly and formally.  Progressive means that the action is ongoing, progressing, or will be progressing.  (You can see chart below for the progressive and the perfect progressive.)  Then, perfect progressive is when the action has progressed for a while before it ended or it will end.  Perfect progressive uses the words like ‘has been’ or ‘had been’.

I would definitely rate this book a 10/10 for its complete guide on grammar and tips to keep your writing in shape.  In addition to Grammar Girl, I also would recommend checking out some of Mignon Fogarty’s online resources as well.  She has a podcast, a website (, and several books for you to explore and love just as I did with this one.

– Maya S., 7th grade

Grammar Girl is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

PROGRESSIVE(also called incomplete and continuous) EXAMPLE MEANING OF SENTENCE
Past progressive Jack was walking. At some point in the past, Jack was in the middle of a walk, but we don’t know when he stopped or if he did.
Present progressive Jack is walking. Jack is in the middle of a walk.
Future progressive Jack will be walking. Jack will walk in the future– and walk and walk.  Who knows when it will end?
Past perfect progressive Jack had been walking. At some point in the past, Jack started walking and did so for a while, but now it’s over.
Present perfect progressive Jack has been walking. Jack started walking sometime in the past, and he is still walking.
Future perfect progressive Jack will have been walking. Jack will walk until a specific point in the future, and then he will stop.

The Remedy by Suzanne Young

remedy_suzanneyoung“I can’t remember who I am,” I say. “I’m not sure what’s real anymore.”

Actress. Imposter. Closer. Quinlan’s job is to step in and pretend to be whoever died to help families through the grieving process. She changes her hair, her clothes, and mimics them to the best of her abilities. She gives families the closure they need to keep going on with their lives despite the death of their loved one, but it is always only temporary.

Quinn is very good at her job. So good, in fact, that she can’t always tell her own past from the past of assignments. Quinn immerses herself so fully into her job that it’s hard to pull herself out. Especially on this new case. It’s the longest assignment to date, almost immediately after her last assignment. It might be too soon, but Quinn has no choice. She can’t say no to her boss when it’s her father.

“This isn’t my house. Isn’t my life. I let mine go and now I can’t find it. There’s nothing familiar to pull me back. I don’t know who I am.”

The only person who really gets Quinn is her mostly-ex-boyfriend Deacon. He was a Closer but quit a few months ago, around the time he quit on their relationship. Quinn still loves Deacon, but the last time she tried to let him back into her heart he shattered it. That makes twice where Quinn has felt him pull away. She isn’t sure if Deacon is worth risking her heart again.

Especially when her new assignment consists of consoling the decease’s boyfriend, Isaac. He’s cute, which may be part of the problem. The longer the assignment goes, the harder it is for Quinn to separate her own life from the assignment. It would be so easy to just forget about her life as Quinn and live happily in the dead girl’s world where she is treasured as a daughter and girlfriend. But throughout the assignment, Quinn can tell there’s something different about it.

Maybe it’s the secret about how her assignment died. Maybe it’s the mysteriously missing pages from the diary. Maybe it’s the dead girl’s friend who disappeared from existence. Whatever it is, Quinn is on the case. But the more she learns, the more secrets she finds. If Quinn isn’t careful, she might go so far into her role that she will lose herself in the process.

-Nicole G.

The Remedy is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer by G. Clifton Wisler

lincolndrummer_cliftonwislerThe American Civil War took place from 1861 to 1865 and pit the Northern and Southern States against each other, as shown in this novel by G. Clifton Wisler.  Boys from the age of 13 were enlisted to make money for their families.  There were a lot of economic problems at the time for the United States (who, due to the war, weren’t that amalgamated).  People were struggling to survive, and many barely even had enough food.   Since the war was to abolish slavery and the story is told from the side of Mr. Lincoln, there is little racism.  Willie, a young boy of the age of 11, had been working in his family’s business his entire life: mending clothes (mostly army uniforms).  But, he was always interested in war.  Willie didn’t realize any of the devastation and blood many encounter.

Much to Willie’s delight, an army general comes to town offering a modest sum of money for men to enlist in his regiment.  The general vaguely recognizes Willie and calls him over.  The man taught Willie a few of the drum patterns for the army calls some time ago and was impressed with Willie’s talent. The general gives Willie a couple coins.  As Willie walks home, he thinks what it would be like to be in the army, being a drummer.  When he arrives home and shows his mother the coins and asks, “Can I enlist to be a drummer?”  There is silence.

“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, I thought, accurately summarizes the reaction by Willie’s mother to his “whimsical” question.  They both disagree. They need a third opinion. Waiting, painstakingly, for his father to come home, Willie dreams of the Army and of the drumbeat of his own, courageous instrument. Then, after hours of discussion between his mother, father, and himself, the family settle on a plan whereby father and son would enlist together under the condition they must stick together.

However, when the father and son exit the train from their town, they are separated.  Willie has to live his life as a drummer mostly by himself.  Throughout the story, Willie sees death of his own friends, converses with a Reb, and takes a fall himself.  At the end of the story however, awarded with pride, I thought of the song “Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban because that is how Willie feels. He doesn’t believe himself to be a hero.  He thinks that his parents, the general, and his friends pushed him too hard, and he failed.  I would rate this book a 6/10 for its lack of power.  The story itself was good, but I wasn’t drawn in.

Maya S., 7th Grade

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

allquiet_erichremarqueSet deep in World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front follows young German recruit Paul Baumer as he details his wartime experiences from signing up for the war with his graduating class to fighting in the trenches of the unforgiving Western Front. The war novel was written by German war veteran Erich Maria Remarque, and was published in 1929 to the dismay of the Nazi regime. It tackles ideas of loss, hope, adolescence and growth, and provides an in-depth look in the human condition.

One thing I noticed right away was Remarque’s uncanny ability to describe the setting at which the book was taking place, whether at a training camp, the Western Front, or Paul’s hometown in Germany. The author detailed descriptions of the hardships in the trenches, from the gnawing rats to the constant pounding of shells above, is so well written that you can’t help but get immersed into the setting.

The characterization is also very well done in this novel. You get a good feel for the camaraderie between the characters in war, and how important that is to survive in such a harsh setting. Remarque also introduces the various characters very distinctly so confusion wouldn’t be an issue. He lists certain traits they have at first, then elaborates and expands on those traits as the story goes on and different events take place. A few examples include:

  • Katczinsky- the oldest of the group, a crafty man who is a master at finding food and supplies
  • Tjaden- a defiant young man who loves to eat yet is somehow incredibly skinny
  • Detering- a peat digger who misses his life at home, works well with animals

The characters all interact with each other in a realistic, believable manner for the time and dialogue is heavy with dialect and references. The character development is great, and is one of the major themes of the story. The impact of the war on the soldiers is apparent and is shown subtly through differences in actions and speech.

I felt that the pacing of the story was excellent for the most part as well. The story starts o ff near the battlefield, then switches between the trenches, training camps, or in other locations far from war. This keeps the setting fresh and doesn’t drag on in one specific location for too long, except the hospital chapter where I felt it was dragged on for a little too long.

The effect of the war on the soldier is a huge theme. Men in war lose all identity and the futures of the young recruits are ruined. PTSD plays a role along with various coping strategies and defense mechanisms soldiers use to compensate for the horrors of war.

Because of these, the story has a lot of dark and mature themes, coupled with explicit violence that makes this a story that none under the age of 13 should be allowed to read.  For anyone else though, this is a phenomenal war novel that analyzes human race as a whole, I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an insightful, historical novel.

-Ahmed Hussaini, 11th grade

All Quiet on the Western Front is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Axis360

Paper Towns by John Green

papertowns_johngreenMargo Roth Spiegelman is an independent young woman who makes her own rules in the game of life. She goes with her own ideas and does not take orders from anybody, including her parents. She always plays games with people, running away whenever she pleases and leaving clues for people to find her. It is all a part of this little game she plays with everyone she cares about, making them scared as she has fun. She is so determined to live by herself, the way she wants, so when she runs away again, it doesn’t scare her parents. It just annoys them to the point where they don’t care if she comes back. It’s when she goes missing for more than a few days that everyone starts to think she is not coming back. Her old friend from when they were kids, Quentin, tries to get into the life of Margo. He tries to think like she would in order to find her and get her back, before it is too late.

When I first found out about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. The storyline seemed so interesting to me, that a girl who runs away leaves clues for people to find her. But when I actually started reading it, my high hopes for the book weren’t met. All of the clues Q had to follow to find Margo were very confusing. As the reader, I was very confused and couldn’t figure out how the clues added up to finding her. It was all very complex, and sometimes that’s good when you’re reading a book, to have it be a little confusing to make you think. But this book was so confusing and difficult to read. I wanted to put the book down because it was too hard to think about everything while still trying to enjoy the story. I have heard of other readers loving this book, hanging onto every detail. In the end, it’s just a matter of opinion. Mine may not be the popular opinion, but this is what I thought of it. If you like mystery and adventure, you should definitely try to read this book. While some parts were confusing, some were also pretty funny and meaningful. One of my favorite quotes I will always remember is “she loved mysteries so much she became one”. John Green is a mysterious writer himself, so I do still look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

-Sabrina C., 10th Grade

Paper Towns is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360

Book vs Movie: The Hobbit


 Who loves J.R.R. Tolkien? (Come on Middle Earth fans, raise your hands).

Now, who has read the Hobbit book? How about seen all three movies? How about even both? I can tell you that I have both read and seen The Hobbit, and can personally tell you that they are NOT the same (as expected). However, there were some things that I was pleased and disappointed in for both the book and the movie.

Firstly, the first movie versus the first part of the book. This movie, subtitled “An Unexpected Journey,” was one that I was very impressed with. It followed the book extremely well (better than most movies) and those scenes that were added in, they were extremely funny and/or transitioned into an important scene better than the book explained it. In fact, I was very impressed when they incorporated the line that both one of the dwarfs and Gandalf say (“Out of the frying pan…and into the fire”), which is the title of the chapter that has the scene in the book. I was also happy when the movie makers also put in one of my favorite parts (the song) in the movie, and the scenes were very accurately dramatized. Although I hate the part of adding Orcs in (there are no Orcs in the book), it really accurately leads up to Lord of the Rings, which is what it’s supposed to do. However, Gladriel is not supposed to be the movie. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit before the Lord of the Rings books, but they were published the other way around. Tolkien also grew up in an all boys school, so he never was really around girls, and thusly never put them into his earlier stories. However, Gladriel does open up a scene in a later movie, so I’ll appreciate that. Also, in the book, the dwarfs seemed like they were parading around, so I’m glad that the movie makers changed it to the dwarves acting more secretive.

Next, second part of book versus the second movie, subtitled “Desolation of Smaug.” Many of the scenes do actually happen, although I greatly dislike the whole Kili and lady elf romance thing. First of all, there are no ladies in the book, and second of all, it wasn’t going to last because Kili dies at the end of the book. Also, the whole Gandalf going to the castle was made up, but it does make a lot of sense, explaining where Gandalf went and who was the so called Necromancer whose named popped up sometimes in the book. In the book, Gandalf just randomly says that he’s leaving, while in the movie, he’s actually got a purpose (although rumor says that the whole story of Gandalf going to the Necromancer’s place is actually a side short story that Tolkien just never published, along with some other fillers in the movies). But I also feel that some scenes were too overdrawn, such as Kili getting shoot with a poison arrow, and Legolas liking someone ( he also doesn’t show up in the book).

And finally, the third part of the book versus the third movie, subtitled “The Battle of the Five Armies.” Spoilers for those who haven’t watched it! Personally, after I watched the second movie, I was wondering how the movie makers were going to do a hundred pages in a two and a half hour movie, but it seems like they did. I’ll start with the things I liked. I liked how they really emphasized the dragon’s curse: greed. Especially with Thorin, who definitely has it in the book. Next, in the book, they just suddenly introduce Bard, and five pages later, he kills the dragon, whereas in the movie, they introduce Bard, and you get to like him, and then he kills the dragon, so I like the movie better. Also, the chapter in the book where Bard kills Smaug is titled “Fire and Ice”, but I didn’t get why it was called that until I saw the movie, where Smaug is raging fire over Laketown, which is in the middle of winter and has ice caps in the rivers. Also, I liked how they introduced Gladriel’s real side, because I never knew that about her (in case you guys are wondering, Gladriel’s usual look is magic; her real side is shown in the third movie, and she looks scary).  Finally, I liked that they used The Hobbit end scene with the Hobbits taking his stuff very well, and I also like how the battle was done, which is more explained in what I dislike.

Now for what I dislike: Although I like how they lengthened the battle and showed how the main characters who died in the book die (unlike the book, which gives the whole battle scene less than five whole pages), I dislike how they overextended it! The killing of Smaug only took twenty minutes, even though it was a whole chapter, whereas a five page battle scene took over an hour. Also, why did the orcs and trolls take two whole armies?! In the book, the five armies are the humans, elves, dwarfs, then on the other side, wargals and goblins. Although I liked it better as a battle for the strategic  placeholder (movie) then as a chasing after hobbits for invaded our territory (book), I want the five armies to stay the same, or at least bring back the goblins that you introduced in the first movie! Additionally on the too drawn out, we get it, it was a battle, at least SHORTEN IT! And finally, there is great part in the first movie where Nori and some other dwarfs bury treasure from the trolls in order to get it back later. This happens in the book, and in the end of the book, Bilbo and Gandalf do get back. I wish that they put that in the movie, maybe even by cutting down some battle time!

But anyways, if you’ve watched the movie and haven’t read the book, or vice versa, please do!

-Megan V., grade 9

Book Review: The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn

bar_code_tattooIndividuality Vs, Conformity

Identity Vs. Access

Freedom Vs. Control

These are things that Kayla will have to choose. Her entire world is changed with the bar code tattoo that is supposed to make your life easier and become your identity. She refuses to get one thinking how weird it is to be able to be scanned like a box of cereal and just be a bar code. She thinks nothing of it. Slowly, the bar code tattoo turns her into an outcast and her family falls apart. Both are linked to the bar code. She learns of the secrets of the tattoo and why it is so dangerous. Soon she has no choice but to run.

This is a book that is hard to explain. I found it easy to read but it has lots of meaning hidden in the lines of this book. It talks a lot about being like others and conforming to be like others and how people can be controlled. There is also the theme of trying to find oneself. There is not much development in the characters, which I wished for more of, but the main characters is portrayed as well. There is some more mature themes presented in the book so I would recommend it to older readers. If I had to give it a rating it would be 7/10. The Bar Code Tattoo is written quite well but lacks in several areas, including description and originality of plot.

This is only what I think, so read for yourself to decide.

– Sarah J., 9th grade