Are They Worth It or Not….

All over TikTok or Pinterest, people constantly post new “hacks” or “finds”. Like many others, I tend to get interested, want to try it out myself, and await results. I won’t lie, some of these new trends are really not it. But on the other hand, others are actually beneficial.

To start off, I want to talk about the Apple pencil. To be completely honest when I first heard about it I thought it was one of the stupidest new Apple products to be released. But, I have changed my mind. This product is worth the money for high school students taking many classes at the local community college along with actual college students. Using it with an iPad is a life changer. I personally use the app “Notability” but “GoodNotes” is another excellent choice. With these apps, you can take all of your notes digitally and organize them into their own sections. There are tools to copy and paste images, highlight, change pen style and size, and much more. It makes note-taking easier and honestly a lot more fun. I also use Notability to download a monthly planner to keep track of my life.

Up next is the fabric tape clothing hack. This has totally saved my closet. Since I am short, a lot of pants I buy are so long that they drag on the ground. I love the style so I really do not want to get rid of them. I first saw fabric tape on TikTok and thought I should try it out. I was a bit skeptical if the take would actually hold for a whole day but I was pleasantly surprised when it lasted the whole 90-degree school day. There are many brands but I use the Scotch Double-Sided Tape. This stuff is very sticky and durable. I put the pre-cut thin pieces at the edge of my pants and then fold them inside. This way, if you do not like the cuffed pant look you can still shorten your pants.

Bare but Better by Kiss

Lastly, I am going to share one of my favorite beauty hacks. I love either getting or doing my own nails all the time. The only problem is that it can get very pricey when I get them done and it takes a long time if I do them myself. Instead, when I am feeling lazy, I buy fake nails from Target or Walmart. The trick is to not buy press-on nails. Rather, buy ones that include nail glue. This makes the nails stay for a much longer time as if you were getting acrylic nails. Simple file your nail beds a little, brush off the dust and then glue them down without using too much glue. The fake nails offer many cute designs that look like real nails.

These finds of mine are all over the spectrum of different themes, but they are the trends I use the most. The internet can really provide great ideas and I have taken advantage of many while also facing some failures along the way. 

Top Gun: Maverick Movie Review

Top Gun: Maverick, the long awaited sequel to the legendary Top Gun movie, has finally debuted after 30 years. Top Gun: Maverick once again stars Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, set 30 years after the first Top Gun movie. Top Gun: Maverick was extraordinary and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. I wasn’t exactly super attached to the first Top Gun movie, but  was encouraged by my family to see Top Gun: Maverick with them. I had watched it a day after the opening of the movie, not really knowing what to expect, but after watching the movie, it blew any expectations I had out of the water. The cast was full of great picks and the characters made an impact. The story had my attention immediately and never once lost me. I stayed attentive throughout the whole thing and couldn’t turn away easily. 

Top Gun: Maverick first introduces us to Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has now been flying and serving in the Navy for more than 30 years now, and is called back to United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, or better known as Top Gun. Maverick is asked to become an instructor for a group of Top Gun graduates to get them ready to go on a near impossible mission, which makes everyone wonder if anyone would even make it out alive. As the pilots train for the mission, Maverick rebuilds his relationships, and learns to accept the past by overcoming his fears. He does whatever is in his power to make sure that this mission and everyone’s life doesn’t blow up into smoke.

Top Gun: Maverick included something that I had never felt in a movie before. The suspense had my heart pounding in my chest, my mind unable to tell what would be coming next. Even the minor plot twists would either give me stress or relief. I felt incredibly attached to the characters and I felt as if I really knew them. Every second of the film is essential to the plot or to Maverick’s character, and it doesn’t ever feel as if there is a filler scene. Even if there had been a filler scene, it was filled with entertainment, leaving me in no way bored. There was tension and suspense, but there were also heartwarming times, heartbreaking times, and witty, humorous moments scattered throughout the film which developed the plot and developed the characters. 

Each character had their own special quality, whether it being timid, arrogant, confident, or funny, these are all qualities that can be found within each of the characters, old and new. Despite there being only two of the past characters, Maverick and Iceman (Yes, it’s really Val Kilmer!), they still hold their previous character’s charm and personality within them. The new characters are definitely not a let down, and are actually pretty interesting characters. I do, however, wish that we had more time to spend with each character and to learn about each of them a bit more. I would’ve liked a bit more insight with each character such as, who they are, relationships with each other and each of their backstories; just to fill in some plot points that I feel were missed.

I hadn’t been a huge Top Gun fan before this movie came out, but now you can definitely count me in when it comes to Top Gun. If I ever get to, I’d watch the original and sequel back to back just to get the full experience and to appreciate it even more. There are a couple of call backs from the first Top Gun movie so if you were thinking of seeing Top Gun: Maverick, I’d definitely recommend watching the first Top Gun movie to get the full experience. Top Gun: Maverick easily won a spot in my heart, making it an unforgettable movie for me, also placing the entire franchise in general on a higher pedestal than I had it on before. If you ever have the chance to see Top Gun: Maverick, I’d highly recommend that you do. It is an amazing movie, with amazing people in it, and I couldn’t be happier to have watched it. 

-Nicole R.

Book Review: Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Impossible Views of the World, by Lucy Ives, centers around protagonist Stella, an assistant curator at a prestigious New York art museum, in her quest to solve a twisted American history mystery.

“The day Paul Coral vanished, it snowed.” Thus opens the novel. We quickly find out that Paul was one of Stella’s coworkers, mysteriously gone missing. Stella is assigned to take over his position, but finds, on his laptop, a mysterious manuscript from the 1800s that draws her deeper and deeper into a mystery unfolding over a century and a half.

I would give this book a 7/10. I really enjoyed the plot, and I liked the way the mystery part of the story ran in parallel to Stella’s own journey of self-discovery re: her relationships with her ex-husband and her mother. However, Ives seems to have used a thesaurus on every word in this book. The language is often murky and difficult to understand- even I, as someone who enjoys reading slightly more dense and prose-like writing, had trouble understanding phrases in certain parts. It was a bit of a slog, but worth it for the most part!

-Vaidehi B.

To Kill A Mockingbird

To be honest, I was definitely hesitant to begin reading this book. I thought it would be like one of those really slow books with little to no plot. This book definitely proved me wrong. 

Among the main characters are Jean Louise Finch (also known as Scout), and her older brother Jeremy Finch (Jem). Their father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer, and their mother died when Scout was very young. Another major character in this book is Charles Baker Harris, but he is simply called Dill. Dill visits Maycomb and his aunt during the summertime. To Kill A Mockingbird takes place in the town of Maycomb, Alabama.

Despite the ideals of that time period (the early 1900s) Scout frequently gets into fights. This only increases when the boys in her class begin to tease her for her father’s most recent case. He has taken on the difficult case of defending Tom Robinson. The issues of racism are brought up in this book frequently, especially in Tom Robinson’s court trial. Mayella Ewell, a 19-year-old girl, and her father have falsely accused Tom of trying to rape Mayella. Atticus must try to prove that Tom did not do anything to Mayella, but it is challenging because there were no witnesses besides Mayella Ewell, Tom, and, Mayella’s father Bob Ewell. It is especially challenging because the majority of the town is already on the Ewells’ side despite not liking them much, simply because of Tom’s race. They, and Bob Ewell, go as far as threatening Tom, Atticus, and Atticus’s children Jem and Scout.

I think that despite some portions of this book being as unfair and upsetting to read as they were, it is a book that everyone should read as it provides another important perspective.

-Peri A.

To Kill A Mockingbird  by Harper Lee is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Perfection. Perfection is used to describe something that is flawless. When I think of perfection, I think of AP Calculus BC, Raising Canes Texas Toast, Allen Kessinger, and so much more. Every category has its own perfect thing. In movies, it is hands down Finding Nemo. Finding Nemo is the perfect movie, and Squirt is the perfect character. In names, I think Finn is a really nice name. But I think literature takes the cake for the most perfect item: Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Jeff Kinney was born in 1971. Back then in 1971, kids were reading novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Although these literary pieces are very good and have a lot of significance, the world was yet to experience the pure bliss and perfection of Jeff Kinney’s soon-to-come creation.

Come 2007. The class of 2025 was born (they are sophomores now by the way), the AP US History curriculum stops, and the most amazing book was released as well. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a diary of a wimpy kid. Such wimpy kid is named Greg, and well, objectively speaking, he is far from wimpy. Greg is a Chad. He is smart, handsome, tall, drippy, and loves his mom!

Despite Greg being the main character, I think it is fair to say that he is only the second-best character in the book. This is because Rowley exists. If Greg is a Chad, Rowley is a giga-Chad. Rowley is smarter, more handsome, taller, drippier, and loves his mom even more than Greg could ever imagine. Solely thanks to the creation of Rowley, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is perfection. Be like Rowley!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Album Review: Illegally Acquired Cheese by Ralphie and the Flies

At school, I was informed that one of my peers had recently released an album with his band Ralphie and the Flies. I was intrigued by the news and decided to check out their debut album, Illegally Acquired Cheese. I was not disappointed by the work and was rather quite impressed.

An embed of Illegally Acquired Cheese

Illegally Acquired Cheese has 12 songs on it, containing a variety of influences and genres from disco to rock to electronic music. One such piece is “blåhaj (where have you gone?)”, my personal favorite from the album.

It is stylistically very similar to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” with disco considerably influencing the song. The production is also quite similar. Either way, it stands up on its own with the vocalist having a strong voice and the saxophone being a nice touch on the piece.

Another great song on the album is “Alien” which recalls electronic video game music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It is an energetic, fun song that anyone can get into. That has to be my second favorite piece on the album after “blåhaj (where have you gone?)”.

Illegally Acquired Cheese is definitely worth a listen with its variety. While it’s not one of my personal favorites, it’s still a fun, self-aware album. I rate it a 7.4/10. Go check it out when you have a minute. It’ll be worth it.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

This story takes place in a private school called Niveus Academy where only the prestigious and elite kids go to. Two students named Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo look forward to their senior year in the school as they were both selected to be Senior Prefects, something that puts them both in a position of being valedictorian. But soon, their year starts to take a dark turn when someone named Aces exposes secrets to everyone online about the two of them that could destroy their perfect plans for college and their futures in total. At first, the entire thing seems to be a silly prank but then it evolves to the endangerment of these two children’s lives as they battle to expose Aces and get their lives back to normal. But who exactly is Aces? And why do they target Devon and Chiamaka?

Contemporary is usually not the genre I would like to read but books such as Ace of Spades became an exception for me. I heard a little bit about this book from my friends and Tiktok before actually reading it and it exceeded the expectations I had about it, which I taught would be impossible. This book is not for everyone as it has some very triggering language and scenes that turned my stomach. But this book has shown me a new outlet to how the world could be and how some people in this world need to fight just to exist peacefully in this world. The plot twists that occur in the middle and the end of the book captured my attention and I couldn’t put the book down for hours at a time. I believe that everyone who can read this book should as it explains many complexities within life and within our society as well. I would say that this book is one of my favorite reads of this year!

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Film Review: Suits

Taking place in New York, the TV show covers the life stories of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), two people working as lawyers under the changing firm first known as Pearson Hardman. Harvey Specter is a lawyer and a junior partner at the firm at the start of the story, looking for an associate to work with as part of the firm policy. On the other hand, Mike Ross is a Harvard student interested in learning law with an eidetic memory and a great chance of success, but becomes expelled from Harvard after his friend Trevor (Tom Lipinski) accidentally sends a college test to the daughter of the head of the college, which becomes public and creates controversy. Destroyed by the news, Mike finds himself bouncing from jobs until he finds his way into a meeting with Harvey, which changes his life forever.

When Harvey first meets Mike, he develops doubt over illegally allowing Mike to take a job as a lawyer, a job that he had no legal qualifications for. However, Mike ends up impressing Harvey at the meeting with his knowledge of the Barbary legal handbook and also beats Harvey in finding loopholes in a law. Harvey questions Mike on why he isn’t a lawyer, and Mike tells Harvey the story about Trevor, as well as his dreams to be a lawyer getting ripped away. Not wanting to spend more time interviewing prospective associates, Harvey gives Mike the job and has Mike take a tour of Harvard to learn everything there is to being a lawyer.

On the first day of work, Mike receives a tour from a paralegal known as Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) and meets the head of the associates, Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman). Mike quickly learns of all the expectations he has in his job, and Harvey gives him a case to work on for him despite his promise to Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), the managing partner of the firm, to work on it by himself. Both Mike and Harvey experience struggles, with Mike nearly bailing on the job altogether and Jessica showing her disappointment in Harvey for breaking his word, however they both end up working together well and win the case. Even though the two had a rocky start, they grow their bond and become great friends throughout the show. Plenty happens with the two over the span of 9 seasons, but all I can really say without giving too much spoilers is that the dynamic of the two makes this show interesting.

I first found out about the show from my family, and even though I initially had no interest in the series, I gave it a try and it turned out to be a very interesting show for me – and I have recommended it to several friends who have enjoyed it in the past. Even though it mainly revolves around legal drama, the show was amazing while it lasted for 9 seasons. I would recommend anyone – whether they turn out to enjoy the show or not – to watch the show and give it a chance, just like how I ended up doing.

Suits is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Nightfall by Shannon Messenger

Nightfall is the sixth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cites series (which is currently 8.5 books long), and the events come as a definite surprise to anyone who has read the other five books before it.

In this book, the main character of the series, a powerful young elf named Sophie Foster, has to rescue her human parents from a Neverseen hideout called Nightfall. (The Neverseen are a deadly rebel group that formed in the Lost Cities, and they always seem to be out to get Sophie and her friends.) But Sophie knows that the Neverseen might be using her parents as a diversion to distract her from the larger issues at hand, so, no matter how painful it is, Sophie is forced to look at the bigger picture and accept that the threat looming over her human parents might not be the problem she needs to focus on. She helps her friend, Keefe Sencen, with the issues he has with his mother, Lady Gisela, (who also happens to be a leader of the Neverseen) and attempts to figure out the identity of the prisoner who escaped from the Lumenaria dungeon in the previous installment of the series. But all of these issues seem to come together in the end of the book, when Sophie and her friends (Tam and Linh Song, Biana and Fitz Vacker, Keefe Sencen, and Dex Dizznee) and her foster father, Grady Ruewen, enter Nightfall. There, they encounter some members of the Neverseen and discover who their new ally is–the former prisoner of Lumenaria.

While all of this was going on, they also had to deal with another enemy, one whose alliance with the Neverseen hit extremely close to home. Alvar Vacker, the older brother of Fitz and Biana, was found abandoned by the Neverseen in one of their old hideouts, bleeding to death. They had discovered that Alvar was a member of the Neverseen in the earlier books, but they’d never have guessed that the group would leave him for dead. He doesn’t give any information in his interrogations except for one, crucial detail, which readers will find out in the beginning of Flashback.

The reason why I love this novel is because of all the plot twists and the fact that the characters have realistic personalities. Their problems kept me rooting for them the whole time the book was in my hands, and the storyline stuck with me for a long while after I’d finished. This book (and the series it belongs to) is a magical read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the fantasy genre.

Nighfall by Shannon Messenger is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Authors We Love: Dr. Seuss

Going into my first years of school, I was always skeptical of reading. I mainly enjoyed playing with video games or even toys when I was a young child, but I never really found books interesting. I would often find myself wanting to do something else, which distracted me from developing an interesting in reading or even learning how to read. However, my parents introduced me to Dr. Seuss, and his books ended up creating that interest that I greatly needed growing up.

Known for his books such as The Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss mainly wrote children’s books with illustrations meant to grab the young reader’s attention. Since many people in their younger ages – including me – found plain text in books boring to look at and read for as long as a given book could last for. The fact that Dr. Seuss made reading interesting with the illustrations created interest and motivation to read that was not found prior to that. Without Dr. Seuss, many would probably have no interest in reading books and would struggle in finishing many school assignments that involves heavy reading and analysis of the text.

With Dr. Seuss, I found reading to be fun and looked forward to every story that he had to tell about some of the characters. Even though I have not read Dr. Seuss in a while, I vividly remember the joy I found in hearing my parents read the stories to me before I went to bed. The joy he brought with his books made me interested in reading and even though many of us feel like we are too old to read it anymore – I know I certainly feel that way at times -, I also feel that sometimes it is important to look back and remember some things that made up our childhood and how it made us who we are today.

Several titles by Dr. Seuss are available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They are also available to download for free from Libby.