Series Review: Endgame by James Frey & Nils Johnson-Shelton.

endgame_jamesfreyA long time ago, they came. Founding humanity and then leaving, they said they would come back. They would come back for Endgame, the game that would shape humanity’s future. Civilization was divided into 12 lines. In each line, players are highly trained from each generation; this has been going on for thousands of years. Finally, the time has come to play and a player from each line has been chosen to Play. The game is simple:twelve participants compete against each other to find three keys hidden on Earth. The player to find all three keys before the rest wins protection from “The Event.”

In the first book, The Calling, the reader is introduced to each of the players. These characters exist all over the world and some decide to form alliances. The first book is all about the Players competing to get Earth key. The second book, Sky Key, continues where the first book left off and finds the players searching for the titular Sky key. The third book, Rules of the Game, is going to be released in October.

The books have non-stop action that will keep the reader engaged to the end. If the first two books are page-turners, the third one should be as well. Another great aspect of the book is how the chapters are written from the perspective of each character. By doing this, the authors give the reader deeper insight into the characters. Despite being highly trained and ruthless killers, each Player has his or her insecurities. Some may feel the book is too highly detailed, but these details make the book better. A mix of genres is what makes the book a great read for everyone.

Endgame by James Frey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

-Anmol K.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

lordoftheflies_williamgoldingLord of the Flies is an allegory by William Golding, following the robinsonade storyline of a group of schoolboys stranded on a tropical island. After the boys crash land on a deserted island, they form a mock government and mimic the society they once knew in hopes of being rescued. However, as priorities conflict among the leaders of the clan, a group of boys who wish to be savages, hunting and playing all day with painted faces, leaves the main society. Chaos and death ensues, and the once innocent boys become dark-hearted and desperate.

One notable element of Lord of the Flies was Golding’s seamless blending of metaphors and symbolism into an exciting adventure novel. Each boy on the island symbolized a certain aspect of mankind’s priorities, and their fatal flaws. For example, the protagonist, Ralph, symbolized democracy and order, and the antagonist, Jack, symbolized savagery. Other symbols were clearly evident throughout the novel, truly forcing the reader to contemplate both their meanings and their relevance on the island, that was closely mirrored to society in real life.

I personally loved this novel. Golding’s view on human nature, saying that humans are innately evil, and the pull towards savagery will always trump democracy, was refreshing in a world of overly optimistic novels. Although everybody loves a heartwarming novel about the triumph of good over evil, Golding’s opposite viewpoint was truly fascinating. I loved how flawlessly Golding was able to mirror the world on his fictitious island. Not only was the literary aspect of the novel amazing, it was fun to read. You’ll be hard pressed to put this book down once you start it!

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is looking for an exciting page turner of an adventure novel.

-Mirabella S.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

fantastic-beastsThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter appears to be undying, coming back in the form of new books, new amusement parks, and new stories that continue to grow in popularity. J.K. Rowling’s universe now travels to America for Warner Bros. latest movie: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. 

It’s the 1920s, and wizards in America are in hiding. All signs of magic must be kept on the down-low, especially with a Muggle (Or No-Maj, as the American wizards call them) group called the Second Salemers protesting magic in the streets. Tensions are high; a mysterious shadow-like creature is terrorizing New York, and wizardry is on the brink of being revealed to the public. The last thing New York needs is an awkward Hufflepuff carrying a poorly-sealed case full of beasts around town.

Newt Scamander, an ex-Hogwarts student and magical creature extraordinaire, arrives in New York City in the hopes of purchasing a rare beast. However, instead of obtaining a new creature, he accidentally lets his own loose in the city. He and his human friend Jacob, the Ex-Auror Tina her mind-reading sister Queenie must scour New York for the lost beasts, all while evading capture from the Magical Congress and keeping an eye out for the shadowy force attacking New York’s streets and buildings.

It wasn’t until I saw magic on the big screen again did I realize just how much I’d missed the Harry Potter universe. It was, well, fantastic to be brought back into a world of wands and wizards. Eddie Redmayne plays the perfect Newt Scamander, what with his nervous stature and lovable awkwardness. He devoted himself to the role, and the character really came alive for me. Tina (Katherine Waterson), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) were also very well cast and incredibly enjoyable to watch. When Jacob could’ve easily been reduced to purely comic relief, the film turns his character into a wonderful and loyal friend for Newt. Mr. Graves, a fitting name for a villain, was convincing, but I have to say that the Second Salemer family- the Barebones- was far more chilling and creepy.

I must say what stole the show were the visual effects. All of the CG and computer-animated magic and monsters were absolutely phenomenal. I was blown away by how real everything looked, and the sheer creativeness when it came to Newt’s beasts or his briefcase was outstanding. The finale in particular used today’s technology in its full potential, delivering visual effects so mind-blowing that I couldn’t bear to blink and miss a second of it. I predict an Oscar nomination, and hopefully a win, for the cinematography in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.

I highly recommend this movie to everyone, Harry Potter fans in particular. One of my friends, who has never really been a fan of the franchise, went to see it anyways and came out loving it. I want to go see it over and over, re-immerse myself in that world and see the magic again. The movie’s four upcoming sequels primarily seemed unnecessary, but I cannot wait for each and every one!

-Abby F.

Book vs. Movie: Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

Image result for middle school worst years of my life bookMiddle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson is a good graphic novel. I feel that it is a great book for tweens and young teens.

I watched the movie with my friends, who have never read the books. They were shocked when the movie revealed something important, while I just sat there, knowing about this since the beginning. This probably altered my perspective, because when you have read the book first, you are comparing it to the movie the whole time. And more often then not, minor details from the book are changed for the movie and completely ruins the adaptation. Many minor details were altered, and I do feel that a couple changed how you look at the movie. Characters were not the same, and some were excluded. In the book, Leo passed away from meningitis when him and Rafe were toddlers.

In the movie, they state that Leo had passed about a year before from cancer. This can really change your perspective of the movie. In the book, you know that it’s amazing that Rafe can think of his brother like this through his imagination. In the movie, it’s just because Rafe is mourning. I feel that Leo is not thImage result for middle school worst years of my lifee same character in the movie that he is in the book. Also, what happened to Miller, or Miller the Killer? He was a huge part in the books as the school bully. In the movie, he only had a minor part and didn’t seem as threatening. Additionally, they did not have Jeanne Galleta and Georgia’s personalities correct. Jeanne is much more different, and defiantly does not sneak into his house. Georgia was way more of a brat, and did not feel sorry for her brother at all.

I would say that if you have never read the books, go see the movie! Maybe your younger sibling wants to go. Even if you think that this is a “kiddy movie,” it’s not. Half of the friends that went with me were high schoolers, and they enjoyed the movie as much as the middle schoolers with us. But for the fans of the Middle School series, I really don’t think that the movie is worth it. It is a humorous movie, but you might be disappointed.

-Rebecca V.

For reference, here is a comparison of Leo from the book and the film:

Image result for middle school worst years of my life book leoRelated image

D. Gray Man by Katsura Hoshino

Allen Walker had been tossed around for most of his life. At just fifteen years old, he has faced the twisted Millenium Earl, watched his beloved Mana turned into the accursed Akuma, and has played so many poker games just to pay off his master Cross Marian’s debt. But finally, he can now become an Exorcist, the one and only group of people that serves to get rid of the Akuma and the Millemium Earl once and for all. Of course, so long as he can contain fully use the Innocence that inhabits his left hand and eye.

This is a really great story! Despite the fact that it goes on hiatus a lot because of the author’s health, I really enjoy the plot and how it can go from comedy to seriousness in a matter of seconds. There are also some very great fight scenes, with giant hammers and huge battles against the Akuma and the Noahs. Although there is no romance, there are still the important bonds of family and friendship that show how strong these bonds can be.

Additionally, I really like how there are not only physical battles, but emotional ones too, with one guy living with the fact that he is a vampire and another trying to hold on to the responsibilities of being a “Librarian.” Most importantly, I love how the author makes you fall in love with the characters. From one character loving his sister way too much to another being playful even though he is evil, each of the characters somehow worm their way into the reader’s hearts.

This manga, although still going on, is a very good recommendation for fans of action and fantasy.

-Megan V., 11th grade

The Martian by Andy Weir

Image result for the martian book

If you’re one of the ten people who didn’t see the movie, The Martian is a book about an astronaut who gets accidentally abandoned on Mars and his efforts to make his way home. In this perfect blend of Cast Away and Interstellar, Mark Watney (portrayed in the movie by Matt Damon) must survive adversity after an explosion strands him on the red planet. The story of his survival on Mars is told to the audience through daily logs. It feels as if Watney is talking directly to the reader. The Martian truly illustrates how anything is possible, no matter how terrible the odds, and that humanity’s greatest virtues is its ability to overcome.

The Martian is the first interesting science textbook I’ve ever read. I know that it’s technically not a textbook, but it pretty much is, just written in the first person and with a story. Andy Weir literally explained every single piece of the science in the book in detail. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just probably goes over the head of anyone not extremely interested in Science. I think I learned more Science from reading this book than I have in school for the past three years.

The book The Martian doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. In fact, it was almost cheated by the movie. Not that the movie was bad, actually it was really good and followed the book really well. The issue is that, because the movie was so popular and so good, a much larger group of people just watched the movie and forgot it was even based on a book. Even I saw the movie first, so the book felt more like a movie novelization. That said, it is still 100% worth reading, and I highly recommend.

-Evan G, 8th Grade

The Martian is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

ravencycle_maggiestiefvaterThe Raven Cycle series, by Maggie Stiefvater, finally came to a close this spring with the release of her fourth installment, The Raven King. After finishing the first book, titled The Raven Boys, this series quickly jumped high onto the list of my favorite books. The more I read, the higher it climbed. Stiefvater’s characterization and descriptive language is enthralling, bringing me to actually set down the book and relish over a line or two of pure perfection multiple times.

This series deals with magic, mystery, romance, but above all- friendship. The main cast of characters are deeply developed and intricate, and the story gives us a thorough look into their pasts, presents, and heck, even their looming futures.

Blue Sargent, the main female lead, is the only non-psychic in a family of seers, but she has the ability to amplify their clairvoyant powers. For this reason, Blue accompanies her Aunt Neeve on St. Mark’s Eve to go to an abandoned churchyard; St. Mark’s Eve is the day of the year when psychics can see the ghosts of the people who are going to die in the following year walk along the Corpse Road. Blue has never been able to see these ghosts- until tonight.

She asks this sole visible ghost his name- Gansey- and her Aunt explains that the only reason that Blue, a nonseer, would see a ghost is if he’s her true love- or if she’s the one who kills him. Gansey, very much alive, has spent the past couple of years researching the legend of the dead Welsh King Glendower. Legend says he was buried on a magical ley line, and whoever wakes him gets a favor. He and his best friends Adam, Ronan, and Noah devote their time to finding this sleeping king and recruit Blue into their questing court.

The series offers many twists and turns, oftentimes surprising me with a suspenseful showdown or a magical revelation. The more I learned about the characters, the more I loved them and feared for them as their stories grew darker and darker. The characterization stands out as the highlight of the series. Stiefvater chips away at the inner beings of each character until we have a roadmap of each one, pointing out their fears and flaws and tracing their dreams and desires. Out of the main five characters, Blue is the only female, but her family- who we spend lots of time getting to know- is overflowing with a cast of unique, quirky, and psychic women, giving us a wide array of female side characters. Gansey, Adam, and Ronan are my personal favorites; their dynamics are very complicated and interesting, and I anticipated the chapters written from their points-of-view most of all. Stiefvater’s imagination is abundant, and it is evident as she builds her world in the small town of Henrietta.

I have and will continue to recommend this series to any avid readers I come across, for it was a wild ride that I will never forget. The four books- The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue, and The Raven King– have secured their positions as some of my favorite books, and I hope they will continue to be recognized in the future as the truly captivating novels they are.

-Abby F.

The Raven Boys and the rest of the Raven Cycle novels are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.