To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, deserves every ounce of fame it has thus far received. Although the subjects that are addressed by the novel are shrouded by controversy, it addressed issues that needed to be addressed, such as racism and the crimes that can be committed under its name.

The novel is told from the perspective of six-year-old Caucasian Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the most reliable lawyer in her town, Maycomb. He takes on a case defending a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, and this sends the entire population of their town into a frenzy. Scout and her brother, Jem, experience the metaphorical splitting of the town as everyone takes a side. They are attacked and harassed for the actions of their father.

The plot deepens and thickens, unfolding with an uncanny message: racism is a real issue, and it remains as such, even though To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. In fact, Scout and Jem are attacked at night and nearly killed in retaliation of their father’s case. The town is violently over-involved in Atticus Finch’s case, and most of its citizens actually attend the trial for sport and entertainment. People are quick to take sides and are adamant and passionate about whichever one they end up on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also semi-autobiographical- Scout’s childhood is based loosely off of Harper Lee’s. However, Lee quickly became reclusive due to her book’s fame and all the attention it received. The novel was groundbreaking, but Harper Lee hardly did any interviews, book signings, or any public event of the sort. In fact, Harper Lee was barely involved in the making of the movie adaption of the novel, which became a box-office hit (it made over three times its budget!).

Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a magnificent literary tapestry, with intricately woven characters and artfully spun plots and subplots. It addresses issues that were relevant in its time and, some may argue, even more, relevant today. It is a novel that has affected people’s lives, in ways that are clear but also subconscious, and has educated many on the subject of racism amid the early 1930s.

-Arushi S.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Dessert First by Dean Gloster

The book Dessert First by Dean Gloster can be summed up in one word: beautiful. The story is about a teenage girl, Kat, who is struggling to hold everything together after her little brother Beep relapses with leukemia. With her father being distant and constantly at work, her mother uptight due to her anxiety, and her older sister’s rude remarks, Kat turns to online friends for support. And between all of this, she struggles to complete homework assignments and with her feelings towards her old best friend, who she feels betrayed by.

This book is truly something special which would make me laugh aloud, yet also induce tears. With her witty and sarcastic sense of humor and the sadness that plagues her, Kat seemed to spring out of the pages as a real person. The book very much regarded her journey, through her pain and the feelings that came with it–confusion, anger, sadness, hope, and love.

Eventually, Kat was able to find the silver lining. And as her brother Beep had said to her “Always eat dessert first”, as in to live life to the fullest, and to remember that even after the worst of times, life can be good again.

-Aisha E. 

Dessert First by Dean Glosteris available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Another classic I checked out from the library this summer. This book for sure is the most well-known piece of work of Stephen Crane. It talks about Henry Fleming, a soldier fighting in the Civil War in the Union side.

Unlike some of the other war novels, this book employed succinct and vivid language to portray the brutality, fear, cowardice, and bravery in wars. It explored the main character Henry’s flight from the war, the despicable excuse he found for himself, his gradual awakening of conscience, and finally his change into a courageous soldier who transformed into an unselfish and devotional citizen willing to die for his country.

Although it was relatively short, but every detail in a battle was explained. Such as the way how the soldiers fire using their rifles, how they travel on foot from one regiment to another, how they charge forward reluctantly and in horror when their lieutenant orders them to. It doesn’t really name any battles specifically, but it does a fantastic job of expatiating everything that could occur in a battle. My favorite character is surprisingly not Henry Fleming, the main character but his friend Wilson, who was a minor character without too much of a dimensional personality. But I was deeply touched when Wilson was willing to share his bed with Henry and feed him when he fled from the battle and came back later. There was a possibility that Wilson knew Henry was lying when he said he got shot in the head, and yet his altruism melted my heart. I believe that we all need a friend like this who understands our mistakes and forgives us silently whether we admit it or not.

-Coreen C. 

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Night by Elie Wiesel

The book Night by Elie Wiesel is an inside look at the holocaust through the eyes of a young Jewish boy. It is the real story of the author, which is why it is so astounding. I believe that his purpose for writing it was to shed light on how devastating the holocaust was, the concentration camps, and what it means to be broken as an individual. It is filled with so much pain and suffering, and yet that was what made it undeniably real. His life during this period of time was so horrible that he longed for death as opposed to the darkness of the world around him.

Without the basic human needs for food, water, shelter, and warmth, the spirit begins to weaken. This caused him to be angry at God and his initial strong beliefs to falter, which was heartbreaking, as now, without his family or religion, he was utterly and completely alone.

Though the book could be dark and upsetting due to its raw storyline, it was also very eye-opening for me, as I learned many new things about the holocaust and also perceived it through the eyes of a young boy. Although he endured the worst struggle of his life during that time and lost the ones he loved most, him telling his story can be an inspiration for people to never give up.

-Aisha E.

Night by Elie Wiesel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is a fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. The book is set in a world filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, magic, and all sorts of strange creatures, known as Middle-Earth. In The Hobbit, a company of dwarves, along with a wizard, attempt to reclaim their lost kingdom and gold, which have been taken by a dragon.

The book’s protagonist is a hobbit, a race similar to humans, but shorter than dwarves, named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lives a quiet, ordinary life inside his hobbit-hole, until one day a mysterious wizard named Gandalf the Grey and a company of thirteen dwarves show up at his doorstep, asking him to join their quest to reclaim their gold and slay the ferocious dragon Smaug. Bilbo initially refuses, but eventually gives in to temptation, and soon he, the dwarves, and wizard are thrown into an action-filled adventure.

The Hobbit mainly shows Bilbo’s growth and transformation into a hero as the dwarves are traveling towards their goal. Against obstacle after obstacle, Bilbo begins to prove his usefulness and worth, as he saves the dwarves from countless threats, from elven kings to deadly spiders.

The Hobbit is a great book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is filled with adventure and there is action at every turn. Overall, The Hobbit is a classic novel that should be read by everyone.

-Josh N. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

When by Victoria Laurie

Everyone knows that they will one day die, and yet we live our lives trying our best to ignore it, as death is a dark subject for most. However, the main character Maddie in the book When by Victoria Laurie, has no choice but to see death everywhere she goes. The death date of every person she sees is imprinted upon their forehead.  Living alone with her mother, money is tight, and so her mother arranged for her to earn money by telling clients who come to their home their death date.

One day a client comes in and Maddie informs her that her son’s death date is next week. Shocked and confused( as the woman had initially come in regarding the death date of her daughter who had leukemia) she leaves angrily. Of course, the woman’s son ends up dead upon the very date that Maddie predicted. After this, the FBI begins to suspect Maddie as well as her best friend Stubby for murdering the child. The book is a thrilling mystery that I enjoyed immensely, and it is the kind of book that kept me up late reading, anticipating what would happen next. 

Buried beneath the fast-paced storyline, however, is the question to the reader of what you would do if you knew the day you would die. It was something fascinating to ponder as I read, and even one of the characters in the book whom Maddie had told his death date to had turned his life around due to that. He wanted to make sure his family was supported financially and knew they were loved, as well as enjoy the last years of his life. And the meaning I found within the book as well was that death is not something to try to run away from, but rather something to remember every once in a while, to put everything into perspective and allow you to live life beautifully.

~Aisha E.

When by Victoria Laurie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Authors We Love: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle started life as a doctor, earning his Doctor of Medicine degree in Scotland, and practicing in the medical field for nearly twenty years. However, Conan Doyle is not known for his work in medicine, but rather for his incredible work in the literary field, which gave enduring gems to nearly every genre of literature.

Over the course of his lifetime, Conan Doyle created many different and complex characters for his stories. For example, his 1912 novel The Lost World stars the boisterous and occasionally insolent scientific genius Professor Challenger, whose radical opinions about strange locations and events are often proven true, much to the exasperation and secret admiration of his friends and his rivals. The title of this book may sound familiar, and it should – Conan Doyle’s work was the inspiration behind the movie Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Conan Doyle also dabbled in other genres, varying from quasi-memoirs to historical adventure to horror. The Stark-Munro Letters, which were written and published in 1895, are a thinly-disguised account of Conan Doyle’s early years in the medical field. Seventeen short stories feature Brigadier Etienne Gerard, a French soldier who tells the tales of his adventures during the war, which are engaging to any and all readers, even without an in-depth knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars. Additionally, in the short stories The Case of the Lady Sannox, The Brown Hand, and The Brazilian Cat, Conan Doyle harnesses his eye for the macabre to deliver quick but lasting packages of terror and mystery that the reader cannot easily forget.

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

 

Of all the products of Conan Doyle’s pen, perhaps the most well-known is the reclusive and eccentric yet brilliant consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, along with his less-intelligent comrade and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The first adventure starring the dynamic duo, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1886 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It was an instant national success, and it was followed by another novel, The Sign of Four, and twenty-four short stories.

 

 

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Eventually, Conan Doyle became tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes, who he believed was “standing in the way” of his greater works, so he killed off the great detective in 1893’s “The Final Problem.” However, public pressure convinced Conan Doyle to continue writing about Holmes, with a new novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and the resurrection of Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” In the end, Holmes and Watson are featured in sixty stories – all of which are beloved by both the avid crime critic and the casual reader. 

Sadly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930. Interestingly, his last words were spoken to his wife: “You are wonderful!” In the end, over the course of seventy-one years, Conan Doyle’s work has imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of all who read it, and “the father of the modern detective” will not be forgotten even in the farthest of futures.

-Mahak M.