The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman

What would you do if your parents suddenly fell asleep and you could not wake them up?  Now personally, I would probably cry for half an hour than get up, watch TV and cook brownies from a box (the batter is the best). But thankfully that has not happened to my parents, unfortunately that did happen to the fair children of St. Polonius-by-the-Fjord. After eating the traditional bear liver, the parents and everybody over the age of 12 years, 4 months and 6 days, fell into a deep sleep. Immediately the mayor’s son took control and had every child take over their parents job, appointments and basically life. Jean Hubby, the main character and awesome older sister, and her little brother Micah suddenly live their parents’ lives. When Jean goes to the storage room to find some food, her job was working in a restaurant (it was not her mother’s job, find out why in the book), she stumbles across something that explains the Great Hibernation. Once again Tara Dairman wrote a treasure that had me whipping each page. Not only did she show diverse and hilarious characters, she incorporated real problems that people face every day. This book is a great read that I loved. I recommend this book to anybody and everybody. 

The Great Hibernation  by Tara Dairman is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Craftfully weaving suspense, fast-paced dialogue, and humor into this classic yet unique whodunnit murder mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole novel.

First published in 1926, Christie admitted that this was one of her favorite novels that she’s ever written, and its popularity quickly helped establish her title of The Queen of Mystery. Per usual with Agatha Christie’s books, I loved how the characters were all developed perfectly, their personalities growing almost life-like as the story and mystery went on. The first-person narrative and detailed descriptions ground you in the story, and the plot twists will have you reading until the very end.

Hercule Poirot, Christie’s famous detective, adds a level of wit and cleverness to this book like no other, challenging the reader to try and figure out exactly how his mind works, and solve the mystery along with Poirot.

This has definitely been my favorite Agatha Christie book I’ve read thus far due to the revolutionary breakthroughs it brought into the mystery genre, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.”

-Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  by Agatha Christie is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Capybara Video Evaluation

Capybaras are rodents that come from South America and thrive in tropical weather. They are considered to be the world’s largest rodent, and can weigh as much as an adult male. Do not be deceived by their size however, as they are very friendly! They love interacting with humans and even other animals; they have been known to interact and be social with dogs, birds, ducks, and other animals. Capybaras are very social creatures, and they thrive in packs of between ten and forty capybaras. The best part about capybaras is that they are very cute, and like all cute animals, there are a lot of online videos about them. Every single capybara video out there is amazing, but there are a couple that stand out to just be the best.

Back in September of 2014, YouTube user Crazy Cody’s Creatures uploaded a video titled “Capybara eating an Ice Pop“. As the title suggests, it is a 1 minute video of a capybara consuming a red popsicle. This video is great because the feeding process of someone’s pet capybara is documented, and a great angle of the feeding is shown. Not only is this video educational, but it is also very entertaining! The capybara eating the popsicle is very entertaining on its own, but half of the popsicle breaking and falling to the ground 24 seconds in just makes it so much more enjoyable. However, a main criticism of this video is that the video ends before the capybara finishes eating the popsicle. Because of this minor setback, I would rate this video a 9/10, would watch again.

Two years later, in December 2016, the same YouTube user uploaded a video titled “Capybara eating half a watermelon Full Video“. The video starts out with a minute-long time lapse of the entire feeding, followed by the feeding in real time. For nearly half an hour, the viewer gets to enjoy the sight and sounds of a capybara consuming a massive watermelon. That watermelon looks delicious!!! However, looks can be deceiving. Assuming that the video was uploaded shortly after it was recorded, it can be inferred that the Capybara ate the watermelon in a winter month. The problem is that watermelon is a summer fruit, and tastes best in the summer. Because of this, we know that the watermelon that the capybara ate in the video does not taste very good, which personally bugs me a lot and makes me sad. Consequently, I would rate this video a 3/10 because it violates ethical considerations through giving a happy capybara a sad meal 😦

The last video I will analyze today is a video titled “Capybara with mandarin orange on head みかんを頭にのせるカピバラ 伊豆シャボテン動物公園元祖カピバラ露天風呂 MAESTRO ZEN” from November 2018. It is a video of a group of capybaras swimming with oranges. This video is awesome because they decided to have the capybaras swim with a fruit that was buoyant, meaning that the oranges would not sink. If the oranges sank, then the capybaras would feel lonely and sad, since the fruit would likely drown. But since the oranges float, the capybaras are happy and content, which can be seen in their energetic swimming. Some would argue that they are swimming with a pretty poor tasting fruit. Although I personally would disagree, as oranges taste very good, it is evident that not a single orange is actually consumed by a capybara, so the orange-haters have no valid argument. Ending off on a high note, this video is a 10/10, and it is necessary for people to see this video some time in their life.

The Silent Patient Review

Author: Alex Michaelides 

Pages: 325

Genre: Thriller, mystery

The Silent Patient begins with a glimpse at Alicia Berenson’s picturesque life through her diary. This famous painter is married to a renowned photographer and lived the perfect life in a nice house in London. However, Alicia’s perfect life does not stop her from shooting her husband five times in the face when he returns from work. After this crime, she never speaks a word again. Five years later, psychotherapist Theo Faber finds a job opportunity at the psychiatric ward Alicia is being held and takes the job in order to examine Alicia with whom he has been entranced since her story stormed the press. Theo is determined to discover the events of that night as well as Alicia’s motive to brutally kill her husband. We get to follow him as he investigates personal aspects of Alicia’s life like her friends and family. However, each character introduces new information that makes her motive appear ever more convoluted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While it was a bit of a slow start as we hear about Theo’s life and mundane daily activities, the end is worth the wait. As the story continued, I too found myself anticipating the reasoning behind Alicia’s actions and definitely was not disappointed. There were a lot of hidden details throughout the book that made the resolution much more intense and mind-blowing. I would recommend this book to all readers, for while I do not particularly read many thriller novels, this one was very good.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le

(Phở is a flavorful Vietnamese soup that consists of thin rice noodles, tender meat, fresh herbs, and broth infused with cinnamon, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and black cardamom.)

This book perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being a Vietnamese-American growing up in America. From the food descriptions to the subtle references to Vietnamese culture, this book made me feel right at home while reading through Bao and Linh’s story.

Once upon a time, there were two phở restaurants across from each other. Within each one was a family, one with a daughter and one with a son. The families, the parents especially, were extremely competitive with each other, to the point where one might wonder if this competitiveness was natural. They often tried to outdo each other. If one restaurant decided to upgrade their flooring, the other restaurant would immediately have their flooring redone to make it look even better than the other restaurant’s.

Bảo Nguyễn, the son of two Vietnamese immigrants, works at his parents’ phở restaurant. He’s in his senior year of high school but has drifted, and continues to drift through life with no purpose or goal. That is, until he discovers that he can express himself through writing and journalism.

Linh Mai, the daughter of two Vietnamese immigrants, works at her parents’ phở restaurant. She’s in her senior year of high school as well, but unlike Bảo, has a goal in her life. She wants to pursue art in college, and eventually, as a career. However, one major obstacle prevents her from doing so: her parents. They believe that she’ll never be happy with that life because she won’t be paid as much as she would if she was to become a doctor or an engineer.

As you can probably guess from the title, their paths intersect and they fall in love. Loan Le wrote about all the things that make food, food, and it was so visually descriptive that I found myself craving a bowl of phở at 2am in the morning. Bảo and Linh have a forbidden love, in which they know they aren’t allowed to be in love with each other but they still are. This is because of the long history their parents have with each other, and the reason for the unnatural competition between the two restaurants. However, they find ways to make their love work out, with stolen kisses in the empty art room at school, texting with each other late at night, and going out on “restaurant reviews” that end up feeling more like dates.

I would recommend this book for anyone who likes rom-coms, or anyone who would like to learn about a bit of Vietnamese culture in an easily digestible YA novel.

In conclusion, I would rate this book a 10/10 because of the combination of the cute love story, the visually descriptive writing that allowed me to fully experience the book, and the overall great storytelling!

– Isaac M.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

I have been searching long and hard for a good summer read before school starts. The novel Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls fulfilled that way beyond my expectations. A coming-of-age story sporting a tragicomedy shows readers the arduous journey into adulthood and the fiery fireworks of first love. This fairly new read uses Shakespeare to question readers to ask peculiar questions to challenge ourselves. The novel’s main character, Charlie Lewis, is a 16-year-old teenage boy with rough family life. His parents are divorced, which forces him and his sister to bounce between households. Charlie is dealt the rather unfortunate cards, having to stay with his father, who is a depressed, drunk man for whom Charlie acts as a caretaker. Charlie’s friends act no more than strangers, and his grades are slowly degrading. Mistakenly, one day Fran Fisher comes bursting into his life. He soon gets wrapped into a theatre production of Shakespeare’s infamous Romeo and Juliet, in hopes of gaining attention from Fran. He is cast as Benvolio, Romeo’s fateful sidekick, while Fran is cast as Juliet.

Being involved in the production causes Charlie to see another side of him that he didn’t know existed. Hanging out with Fran causes him to look at life differently. David Nicholls manages to capture the perfect feeling of sweet sorrow in the endless troublesome journey into adulthood. A teenager such as Charlie who looked at life so cynically with nothing left to give manages to change throughout a few pages because of another teenage girl who shows him how life could be. Diving into the subject of first love,first night together perfectly shows readers the sweet sorrows that we will experience. While the novel has two separate stories happening at once, the first being the recollection of Charlie’s teenage life, the other being engaged to his soon-to-be wife; who is not Fran. Only when the first love has burned out, then you can look back and see the lessons you’ve learned and the feelings you’ve experienced.

This book is a perfect last summer read before the school year starts again. If you have a liking for coming-of-age stories, this book will most definitely exceed your expectations.

-Hannah R.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Set in the 1860s during the second half of the Civil War, Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women follows the lives of the four March sisters- Meg, Amy, Beth, and Jo. Throughout the story, the sisters are faced with several struggles that accompany the process of growing up and finding one’s place in society, especially in a state of poverty. When considering historical context, the novel provides a realistic perspective on battles of loss fought by several American families as their husbands and fathers were sent to fight in the war, as well as issues of independence and identity faced by many women in the 1800s. Another prominent character in the novel is the March family’s closest neighbor: Theodore Laurence, or Laurie, who is heavily involved with the March sisters from a young age and becomes a prominent figure in their lives.

While reading this novel, I found that the first half had a rather slow pace, making it hard to maintain interest for a long period of time, as many chapters seemed rather useless in developing the story line. However, having read the book in its entirety, looking back, I realized that as insignificant as some moments may seem, they were crucial in terms of character development, as these events have helped shape who the March sisters grew up to be in the end. Therefore, looking at the novel in this new light, I find that it has accomplished exactly what it intended to be: a story that shares not just one, but several small and personal, yet realistic struggles of a family living in uncertain times.

Out of all traits in this book, I find that the several themes of self-improvement, morality, and more would have the greatest impact on the reader. Many people may be able to connect, or relate to the lessons taught to the March sisters, and many others may be inspired by the messages shared regarding self-sacrifice and compassion for one’s family. I was also greatly pleased by the varying personalities of the four sisters, as they would all seem to approach the same situation in different ways. This shows the great impact the novel could have on several young girls, as it shows that there are multiple ways a woman may choose to approach her life, and none of the paths taken are inherently wrong.

Overall, Alcott’s original novel is a beautifully written, thought-provoking story that has had an immense impact on American literature through its vivid imagery, inspiring characters, and meaningful themes. I would recommend this classic to most people, especially if they are interested in American historical fiction.

– Aysha H.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

TV Review: Daredevil (2015)

I first saw the show last summer on Netflix before it moved to Disney+ this year. It has very good storylines and introduces audiences to the Marvel comic book character Daredevil and many of his allies and rivals. Played by Charlie Cox, Matt Murdock plays the superhero in a thrilling yet extremely violent TV series. Murdock is revealed to have a day job as a lawyer, working alongside his work partners Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) in the firm Nelson and Murdock. Murdock is also revealed to be blind after an incident occurred where chemicals flew into his eyes as a child, blinding him for life.

The firm only consists of the three members, however they take cases in exchange for payments in food and financial earnings in court. This ends up coming into conflict for Murdock, as he is forced to balance his life as a lawyer and a street vigilante similar to Batman who works outside of the law to protect civilians from robbers and consequences of corruption. His biggest threat is revealed to be a man named Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), a large and imposing man who aims to climb the ranks of New York and gain power and control for his own personal gain. Fisk’s aims often come at the expense of others, leaving people vulnerable and forced against their will to assist and take part in Fisk’s plans.

What I found most interesting about the film is the contrast yet similarity between Daredevil and Fisk. Both want to enhance New York in their own way and both use methods that conflict with the law to reach that end goal. Their quest often raises many questions towards morality. Also, both characters deal with mental trauma. Fisk ends up killing his father to protect his mother and even though his mother accepts him, he still deals with the trauma throughout the story. Similarly, Matt faced child abandonment as a child, with his mother leaving early in his life and his father getting murdered after refusing to throw a boxing fight for the purpose of making Matt proud. Even though both Daredevil and Fisk are different in the eyes of the audience, the similarities between the two are apparent with analysis.

However, what separates the two is their end goals. Although Fisk wants to improve New York, he aims to do so by destroying the city and “rebuilding”, which puts lives at risk and comes at a high price for many. Fisk reveals that he only cares about his power and role in the city, which contradicts his deception to the rest of the citizens of his good will through paid press and newspapers. On the other hand, Daredevil utilizes brutal methods, but refuses to take a life due to his devotion to Catholicism and only does so to help others at risk, such as hostages or other defenseless people.

Overall, this show was a very interesting watch and I believe that it challenges the true association of good and evil. Even though many believe that the two are about as separate as night and day, this show goes above and beyond to challenge that belief through Murdock, Fisk, and even later characters such as Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) aka The Punisher, and Benjamin Poindexter (Wilson Bethel). I strongly recommend anyone with Disney+ to give this show a watch.

Volunteering From Home for Animal Lovers!

Even though many more volunteer organizations are opening up as we approach the close of lockdowns across the country, volunteering from home can still be convenient for many of us looking to make a difference from the comfort of our own homes. Whether you’re looking to help out because you love animals, or just want service hours for school or approaching college applications, there are opportunities galore. Below, you can find a few opportunities for volunteering from home for animal lovers!

Hands holding the word volunteer illustration - Download Free Vectors, Clipart Graphics & Vector Art

1. eBird

eBird is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and is based around tracking avian data around the country, to better support threatened bird populations. Even if you’re a first-time bird watcher, the lab offers tons of incredible resources to make the experience fun and rewarding! Plus, you’d be contributing your data to the largest citizen-run data science project in the country. You can find them at https://ebird.org/home. (Full disclosure- I myself have not volunteered with this particular project, so I won’t be able to field any questions about it. Apologies!)

Pennsylvania eBird | Audubon Pennsylvania

2. Comfort for Critters

Comfort for Critters is an organization that focuses on providing comfort and care for abused animals in pounds and shelters across the country. If you can sow, knit, or crochet, you can help out by making blankets for the animals- if not, they have easy-to-follow tie blanket patterns on their website as well. When you’re done, you can mail the blankets to a shelter near you (they have a list of participating shelters on their website). You can also make or color cards for shelter employees and volunteers! Their website is https://www.comfortforcritters.org/volunteer-resources

Make a Mattress Blanket! | Comfort for Critters

3. Humane Society

The Humane Society has tons of in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities for older teens! The most popular position is a phone or text bank volunteer- if you choose this, please be sure that you’d be comfortable talking to strangers. Although the choices are a little bit limited, you can rest assured that you will have a real impact through your work with the Humane Society! Find them at https://www.humanesociety.org/volunteer.

Humane Society International | America's Charities

Best of luck in your volunteering endeavors!

-Vaidehi B.

Summer Adventures

When it comes to summer vacation, all I can think of is relaxing, traveling, lots of road trips, and just couple of months without having to worry about anything school related. Summer is a time to go out and have fun with family and friends. It’s to go explore and go on some adventures. I am one of those people who can’t just stay in my house during the summer. I love to go on adventures and to explore and see the some of the wonders of the world we live in. And of course with every adventure comes in food. I love to taste different types of food each country has to offer.

One of the best summer vacation that I’ve been to is going to Mexico. Recently for my birthday my parents gifted me a cruise to Mexico. Though the cruise was only there for less than 8 hours. We got to go explore different places and book an excursion in Mexico. It was the BEST! And the excursion that we book involves food. Actually it is all you do all day your Mexico. We get to try different authentic food from Mexico and explore at the same time. And of course we also get to buy souvenirs to bring home to remember the trip. Once back on cruise, again all you mostly do in a cruise is eat! For 4 days straight I had no chores, nothing to worry, other than to eat and have fun by enjoying all the cruise has to offer! Food in the cruise I was in was amazing. Especially “Guys Burger.” And then comes the disembarking process. The process I’m pretty sure a lot of people hate the most. Don’t you just hate it when vacation is over and you get back to normal? Yeah well me too!

Another best vacation that I’ve been to is traveling around Europe for 2 weeks. Me and my mom love to travel. It’s out goal to travel all the countries someday. When we went to Europe first thing we landed on London. There we visited family and we got to go around London. Funny thing is we actually got to see some of the Royal family because it was when HRH Kate and William were visiting a local hospital/charity where my godmother works. We didn’t get to meet then but we saw them. And next to our trip was Paris. It was short one because we tried to fit 5 different places/4 countries in the span of 9 days. We explored the city of Paris and got some yummy croissant and the best hot chocolate for breakfast. Then our next stop Brussels, Belgium. Where again we explored for a days and went to Amsterdam the next day. In Amsterdam we get to explore the city and the history of Anne Frank.

Up next was our trip to Italy. First up was Milan. In Milan we got treated with an amazing homemade Italian pasta. The pasta is made in front of you and it was amazing. Then next to our trip was Lake Como. In Lake Como we got to see the beautiful Lake and its beautiful view by taking a boat around it. Ended the night with an amazing street pizza. Yes it was pizza that they sell on the streets with their little cart. It was delicious. We have a family in Milan that told us about this trick. We spent not even half of the price you pay in a restaurant and the pizza was so much more delicious. And last to out our trip was Rome. We climbed up to the top of the St. Peters Basilica for a total of 551 steps.

Our Europe trip is definitely an adventurous one. I was hoping someday to visit all these places with a little more time than usual. And explore it more. I advised if your an adventures type of person is to go to Europe and explore the cities. Because in every corner especially in Italy you see something different. Most likely something exciting. With awestruck views. And the food. We cannot forget about food. The food that I really enjoyed the most was in Italy and London. And if your a cheese lover Amsterdam has a lot of really great and delicious cheese. It was a really good experience.

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself”-Danny Kaye

-Marielle E.