The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember is a dystopian novel. Although it takes place in the future, the mysterious Builders of the city from a couple of hundred years ago have greatly restricted their technology. Instead of phones, they have Messengers who run from place to place delivering messages. They have no movable lights or cars; the only light in the entire city comes from the many lamps lining the streets and in their homes, and they can only walk or run to places. 

When creating the City, the Builders knew the people would eventually need to emerge from their new home – after 200 years, to be exact. They created the Instructions and locked it into a box with a timed lock, to be passed down from mayor to mayor, set to open when those 200 years had passed. Yet, when the seventh mayor became sick and desperate for a cure, he brought the secret box, which no one but the mayor knew about, to his own home. Unsuccessful in opening it, and passing away soon afterward, he became the last to know of its existence. 

The story then skips to around the year 240 (in years of Ember), where the lights have now begun to flicker and sometimes temporarily go out, and their food, supplies, and resources are beginning to quickly run out. 12-year-old Lina re-discovers the now-open box. However, since her little sister Poppy ate some of the paper message contained inside, she struggles to make sense of it. She and Doon, her former friend and former classmate, set to work attempting to decipher it and save Ember from the imminent permanent darkness.

I usually don’t like dystopian stories, but The City of Ember was actually an enjoyable book that contained logical puzzles throughout.

-Peri A.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

12-year-old Julia wakes up one seemingly normal Saturday morning to find that the Earth’s rotation has begun to slow. As the days stretch longer and longer; gravity has been altered, birds’ behavior has oddly changed, and human behavior has shifted. Julia’s world has been shaken up in itself—the gap between her parents has begun to widen, and she has noticed strange behavior in her friends.

As the entire globe experiences an unexpected catastrophe like nothing they’ve ever known, Julia navigates shakily through her conflicted family relationships, weakened friendships, curious first love, and emotional isolation from the world around her. She struggles to understand the changes taking place at a large scale, to the Earth; and at a smaller scale, to her life and the relationships within.

I thought The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker was all in all a beautiful, magical, enchanting story. A majority of this novel’s scenes did capture me in their gorgeously crafted moments. However, the story was mostly anticlimactic, with many obvious foreshadowings that led up to no major event at all. The ending was also extremely disappointing and slightly confusing, and I didn’t enjoy it since there was no satisfaction.

Nonetheless, if you are seeking a thought-provoking read to simply contemplate life and how temporary it is, The Age of Miracles is the book for you.

“It’s never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass—it’s the ones you don’t expect at all.”

-Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

-Lam T.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King is the fifth book in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo.  At the time this book was written, it would have been the last book in the series.  However, Jenny Nimmo later decided to write more books to continue the saga.  In this book, Charlie Bone is on a mission to finally discover the identity of his father.  Throughout the series so far, Charlie Bone has wondered about his father.  Charlie had been told that his father died, but the circumstances surrounding his death were mysterious.  In this book, Charlie is determined to find out the truth about his father.

Other than the main character, Charlie Bone, my favorite characters throughout the series are Lysander Sage and Tancred Torsson.  These two characters do not disappoint in this book, either.  I really enjoyed reading about how they used their magical powers to help Charlie, and that they always remained loyal to their friends.

I also enjoyed a part in the story when another of Charlie’s friends, named Olivia, helped him to obtain a magical mirror.  After a battle against mysterious dark forces, Charlie is able to use the mirror to learn the truth about his father.

It was very satisfying to finally learn more about Charlie Bone’s father.  This book is exciting and action-packed, and I enjoyed reading it very much.  I would recommend it highly to anyone.  This book seems like a fitting conclusion to the series, even though the author went on to write more Charlie Bone books after this one.

-Simon H.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

So Far So Good by Ursula K. LeGuin

So Far So Good: Le Guin, Ursula K.: 9781556595387: Books

Written over the last four years before her death, Ursula LeGuin’s (1929-2018) So Far So Good is a fascinating study of nature, aging, the past, and the end.

I’ve been reading LeGuin’s oeuvre for quite some time now- and this final book did not disappoint whatsoever. I have previously expressed admiration for her variations in vocabulary and style while still maintaining a crystal-clear theme; nowhere in her works was this more prominent than in So Far So Good. The subject matter is far more narrow in this book than it is in others, limited to only discussions of her past and the nature that surrounds her in her present- which I suppose is in keeping with her approaching the close of her life.

However, even with this narrow subject matter, LeGuin does not disappoint. Her vivid, lush imagery, and adept skill at painting landscapes was clear as day in this book- her musings about the afterlife and the ancestors also never fail to captivate and spark thought. I would highly recommend this book, and this author, to anyone looking for a meditative, easily digestable, and quick poetry read.

-Vaidehi B.

So Far So Good by Ursula K. LeGuin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray is an influential novel written by Oscar Wilde.  The story revolves around the eponymous character, Dorian Gray.  Early in the story, Dorian is an impressionable young man.  His friend, an artist named Basil Hallward, has painted a portrait of Dorian.  Basil is almost worshipful of Dorian’s innocence and natural beauty.  Lord Henry Wotton, known as Harry, is an associate of Basil.  Harry persuades Basil to introduce him to Dorian.  Immediately, and against Basil’s wishes, Harry begins to exert an evil influence on Dorian.  Dorian becomes preoccupied with his own youthful appearance.  He develops an intense desire to remain youthful forever.  Dorian wishes that his portrait would grow old, while he remains young.  In a mysterious way, Dorian’s wish is granted.

I consider this book to be a cautionary tale about the consequences of selfishness, conceit and other sinful behaviors.  Dorian’s descent into a life of evil was saddening to me.  I felt disappointed that he would fall prey to Harry’s false and immoral philosophies.  The manner in which Harry influences Dorian is very cunning, and seems to be a very accurate portrayal of the manner in which one might be deceived by hedonistic philosophies.

The tone of this novel is rather dark and gothic, so I am not sure that everyone would enjoy reading it.  I personally found it to be quite intriguing and instructive, even though it seemed eerie at times, especially at the end.  This could be considered a very tragic story, but I think Oscar Wilde teaches some valuable lessons in this book.  I would recommend the book to most people, although some people may find it to be a bit creepy.

-Oliver H.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP by Mirin Fader

Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP is a book that details Giannas Antetokounmpo’s rise to greatness. 

In 2008, if I told you that a skinny Nigerian kid living in Greece was going to become the face of the NBA and win 2 MVPs, would you believe me? If you said no, you would agree with the majority of people. However, if you said yes, would you stick with your answer if I told you that this kid had illegal immigrant parents, and he had to sell on the streets every day to get his family food to eat? If you would still say yes, you would have predicted the rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Giannis had to go through many struggles as a kid. He would go with his mom to sell sunglasses for a couple of euros each just to try to get food on the table. Sometimes, he would have to go to sleep with a rumbling stomach, imagining the food that he wasn’t able to eat. He would always try to smile, so his brothers wouldn’t start to worry. His family would get evicted a lot, and they would have to move to a different apartment often because they couldn’t pay the rent. However, basketball was a way out. Giannis would forget about all of his worries when he was on the court, playing his heart out. He would dream of playing in the NBA and having his family all with him along the journey. 

Giannis’s childhood was difficult, but he worked hard and didn’t complain. His story should be a lesson to all of us: Anything is possible as long as you put in the effort and work extremely hard. His childhood shows us that we should never count anyone out based on their circumstances. 

The author, Mirin Fader, did a great job including interviews and quotes from people who played a role in Giannis’s childhood. His mom, brothers, and former coaches all had quotes in this biography of Giannis Antetokoumpo. 

While reading about Giannis’s rise to stardom, I was not able to put the book down. It was so intriguing to read about the struggles that he faced and overcame to get to where he is today, and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Giannis Anteokounmpo. Also, anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about the challenges that some people face would find this book interesting, too. 

-Mert A.

Exoplanets and the Transit Method

Have you ever wondered about exoplanets? Exoplanets are the planets outside of our solar system.

There are multiple methods used by astronomers to discover exoplanets. One of them is called the Transit Method. As planets orbit their stars in a mostly circular way, exoplanets will always pass in front of their own star (at least, to our own perspective). During a planet’s transit around its star, its effects will be somewhat similar to an eclipse. The amount of light given off by the star that is visible from Earth will decrease until the planet completes its transit. Using the data like the drop in the star’s brightness and how long the transit was, astronomers are able to make various calculations. Not only are they informed of the exoplanet’s existence, but they also discover the exoplanet’s distance to its star or how long its orbit takes. More than 3000 exoplanets have been discovered using the Transit Method to this date. 

Still, though, there will always be mistakes in using this method as well as any other methods. There may be unseen details or simply missed periods of light differences by astronomers’ telescopes and graphs. There may always be unobservable celestial objects in our universe that may remain undiscovered. All we can do is try to discover as much of it as we possibly can.

I think it is very important that we discover more about this infinitely large universe we live in before other galactic clusters move out of our observable universe. This will eventually happen, as the universe is constantly expanding at an accelerating rate, moving an increasing amount of celestial objects out of our observable universe every moment.

-Peri A.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, is part of his Chronicles of Narnia series.  This was the fourth book published, but it would be the sixth book chronologically.  At the beginning of the story, two children named Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole have managed to escape from some bullies at their school.  They find a mysterious door that is usually locked, but is now unlocked for some reason.  Desperate to hide from the bullies, the children decide to enter through the door.

To their amazement, the door leads to the enchanted land of Narnia.   This world is ruled by Aslan, the great lion.  Even though there are kings and queens in Narnia, Aslan rules over them all.

Aslan has a special task for Eustace and Jill.  Prince Rilian has gone missing.  His father, King Caspian the Tenth, has no other heir to the throne.  Rilian was presumably kidnapped by the evil Queen of the Underland.  Eustace and Jill are tasked with finding Rilian and bringing him safely home.

My favorite character throughout the series is Aslan, but in this book, I was also very fond of Puddleglum, the Marsh-wiggle.  Puddleglum tends to be quite pessimistic and glum, but he is more high-spirited than most other Marsh-wiggles.  He becomes very helpful to Eustace and Jill during their quest.  One of my favorite parts in the story is when the children and Puddleglum arrive at the house of Harfang, home to a great family of giants.  They later learn that the giants are secretly planning to eat them, so they must devise a plan to escape. 

This is one of my favorite books in The Chronicles of Narnia, mostly because of Puddleglum, and also because of the wonderful action, adventure and suspense.  This book is also highly symbolic and teaches important lessons.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

-Simon H.

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

One of my favorite books by far, Jara Dairman did an excellent job on her amazing book, All Four Stars. Jara’s spectacular book is about a young chef named Gladys. Gladys is a near perfect chef except for one thing, she is not allowed to cook. After a… misfortunate incident with a blowtorch, crème brûlée and her family’s curtains, her parents banned her from the kitchen. In this beautiful book, we follow Gladys as she adventures through life without cooking, trying to survive the 6th grade, making new friends and even writing gourmet reviews for New York’s most important newspaper, the New York Standard.

The mouth watering descriptions of food and spunky personalities in this book get people off the couch to make fancy pastries and leave us erupting in fits of laughter. With each chapter I felt more and more connected to Gladys up to the point I read a sentence in first person on accident! In conclusion, All Four Stars is a spectacular book that should be in every young chefs, or food lovers, hands. Don’t forget to read the rest in this marvelous series.

-Isa M.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

In the fictional novel The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull, Kendra and Seth Sorenson are back at their grandfather’s house, which is actually a sanctuary for mythical creatures. To begin the story, Seth makes friends with some satyrs, and together they steal some treasure from small, fairy-like creatures called nipsies. Seth and the satyrs notice that some of the nipsies have turned dark, as if they had been infected with some type of evil. It turns out that is the case, and the plague that has been spread is the conflict of the book. 

Although the reading level of this book is comparatively lower, the story, literary elements, and character development are surprisingly advanced. Higher-level readers can find strong themes throughout the pages, and since the story itself is fantastical and enjoyable, The Grip of the Shadow Plague is a very fun read! It is part of a much larger series called Fablehaven, and all of the books of this series are centralized around the mystical adventures of Kendra and Seth. I would give this book a 5/5, and I would recommend it to readers of all ages.

-Ayati M.

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow by Brandon Mull can be downloaded for free from Libby.