11/22/63 by Stephen King

This novel tells of Jake Epping, a recently divorced teacher at his local high school, teaching some GED classes for extra money. One of his GED students, the high school’s janitor, Harry Dunning, writes a tear-jerking essay for his final, about how his family was killed by his alcoholic father and how he was crippled for life. 

A few years later, when Jake visits his friend, Al, at Al’s Diner, Al shows Jake a time portal in the pantry of his diner; Al, seems to have aged years within a day, explains that he had used the portal to travel back in time, and had lived years in the past before he developed cancer and had to return. 

The few rules to the portal are as follows:

  • Each trip to the past is a complete reset to September 9, 1958. Whenever you enter the portal, you’re undoing whatever you did the last trip.
  • Each time coming back from the past through the portal, no matter how long you stay, you come back two minutes after you left.
  • The past can be changed, impacting the future, but the past is also obdurate; it tries it’s very hardest to stop from being changed.

After Al shows Jake the ropes, he sends Jake on the mission that he had been unable to complete last time. From what Al has observed, everything bad in the world can be traced back to John F. Kennedy’s assassination; if Jake could stop the assassination, the world would likely be a better place. And if it wasn’t, he could always go back and reset it. 

Jake agrees to the plan, but adds a few elements of his own; he would drop by the Dunning household, and stop Frank Dunning from murdering Harry’s family. Then, he would wait until 1963, watching and monitoring the world around him, and stop Kennedy’s assassination.

The title of this novel definitely was the eye-catcher on the library bookshelf for me, in addition to its impressive size. The reality of life that’s starkly shown in this novel, contrasting the preposterous situation Jake enters into, is why I enjoyed it so much. He constantly feels the danger of discovery, injecting an underlying urgency into the story, but I also felt a wrenching desire for him to settle down when he finds a wonderful woman in a content little town where he could live a happy life in the past. 

There’s a sense of heroism to the story as well; armed with the knowledge of the future, Jake strives to do his best for the greater good of the world. However, the past is “obdurate;” he runs into so many obstacles when he tries to change things, ultimately causing more harm than good. It’s an excellent example of how good intentions do not necessarily bring good results.

-Adelle W.

11/22/63 by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Carrie Meeber is from a small city who seeks to go to her sister in Chicago to have a better life. However, when she gets there she realizes the fact that her sister and her brother in law are in a very wretched condition together with their daughter. Unable to endure their apathy when she fails to secure herself a job, Carrie decided to leave. Before she even arrived in Chicago, she met Druet, a wealthy young man on the train who really likes her due to her beauty. So right after quitting her job at the factory, Carrie accidentally met Drouet around the street corners. He treats her a meal and often buys her beautiful clothing and jewelry which made her think in his favor. And thus, soon they were living together in a comfortable flat.

But it wasn’t soon when Drouet introduced Carrie to his manager friend Hurstwood. Lured by his gentleness and suave manner, Carrie fell in love with him and he with her. However, since Hurstwood was not in a relationship with his wife and his children, he lied to Carrie and said that he was unmarried. One day, Hurstwood under the influence of alcohol accidentally took ten thousand dollars from the cashier’s unlocked box and decided to flee to New York. He wheedled Carrie into escaping with him as well and so the two left for New York. However, life was not as easy there because everything was more expensive. After several unsuccessful attempts at finding a satisfactory job, Hurstwood depended on Carrie to earn and they again fell into the state of poverty.

Just then, due to her looks, passion, and aptitude for singing and acting, Carrie made a career in the theatre. She was well-liked by a lot of rich people and thus deserted Hurstwood. Although she regularly supported him somewhat, she severed the relationship at last when Hurstwood, due to his pride, stopped asking money from Carrie and suicided at last.

-Coreen C.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of my favorite books ever written. It was published in 2006, by John Boyne, and is set during World War II, at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. It is narrated by Bruno, the 9-year-old son of a Nazi Commandant. Bruno’s innocent perspective makes the novel absolutely gut-wrenching, as he has no idea what exactly is happening beyond the fence surrounding Auschwitz.

Bruno’s father has a high station in the Nazi hierarchy, and he is on very close terms with Fuhrer Hitler. In fact, Hitler has Bruno’s father move out of Berlin and to Poland so he can oversee tings at Auschwitz, much to Bruno’s dismay. The new house at Auschwitz is old and gloomy, not at all like his previous home in Berlin. With nothing to do except explore, Bruno makes a number of startling discoveries that, in turn, lead to a massive turn of events.

Overall, this book is a roller-coaster of emotions. Readers will laugh at Bruno’s adorable perceptions of things that we understand with ease, cry at the mistakes he makes because he doesn’t know any better. John Boyne expertly wraps the reader up in the plot, writing complex, dynamic characters that the reader can sympathize with. This book is just an amazing read, and if you’re looking for a novel that will enrich and educate as well as entertain you, your search has met its end.

-Arushi S. 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids is exactly its title.  I, however, found that I had a difficult time enjoying the book.  Because I am what you may call a “Do it Yourselfer” I like to develop my own practices and ways of going about things by experiencing the world for myself. I would rather teach myself how to paint rather than take lessons from a professional in order to develop my own unique style.

In the same sense, when reading, I analyze it my way. Foster may think that he is merely helping young readers learn to see the signs in literature that lead us to understand it for themselves (though had that been his true intention the title of his book might have been something like How to Read Literature For Yourself) but in reality, he is molding young minds to see literature as he does. The way that I see it, the more people who read this book, the closer we are to a dystopian thought process.

Literature is an art form, much like painting, music or drama, and should be treated as such.  Foster subtly suggests that it is, in fact, an equation that can only be solved one way, his way, such as a computer program. Of course, like anybody would, Foster denies this, claiming that he is only showing you that the signs exist. If this were true, he could have written a persuasive essay instead of a book about what these sights mean. Somebody reading this book is obviously struggling in the field of English. Does he really expect them to have the ambition to interpret the sigh an on their own? No, they will simply take his word for it. If Foster says pasta is a protein, they will blindly believe it.  Being an outspoken advocate for individuality, this book struck quite a chord with me.  I think that everyone’s own ideas are beautiful and that symbols don’t always mean one thing, that we should have conversations about what a work of literature means to us, not settle on one theme.  The quarrel over a scene’s outcome, not just accept the way it turned out to be morally correct if you feel that it is not.  We must stay true to ourselves and our view of the world based off of our morals, not let our minds be re-arranged to match others.  On a more positive note, I must amend Foster on the wide range of books, short stories, etc. in which he uses as examples to express his thoughts.  After reading this book, I found numerous new titles to explore.

If you are familiar with the works of Rick Riordan or John Green, you will find that Foster’s writing style and tone reflects there’s.  Perhaps this is for the audience he presumably is addressing, which the book recommends for 8 to 12-year-olds.  Some may be exasperated by my comparing of these authors to one who wrote a book aimed at that age group, so allow me to elaborate:  Foster writes in a laid back, childlike manner in order to appeal to the age group as Riordan and Green write in a laid back manner, because, well, the characters that tell their stories are still (to some extent) children.  I am not trying to poo-poo that style of writing, I am merely making a comparison.  If you are attracted to that style, you may find this book a refreshing alternative to the likes of Call of the Wild or Oliver Twist (not to cast shadows on those either).  

Calling all Hermiones:  You’ll have a field day correcting some of Foster’s mistakes about Greek Mythology.  I would not go as far to say that I know everything about everything when it comes to Greek Mythology, after all, there is probably still more crumbling under the weight of the ruins that lay atop them like a crown.  However, I know enough to know that Foster either got a few points wrong, or one of us took a wrong turn in our time machines back to Ancient Greece.  If you are a free thinker: never read this book, ever.  It is a waste of your time and your beautiful mind.  If you could use a little help in the good old subject of English, you may find this book informative.  Either way, like any book, take it with a grain of salt.  

-Ainsley H. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

The sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep tells the story of adult Danny Torrance. Traumatized by the horrific events at the Overlook Hotel, he’s developed alcoholic tendencies like his father; however, when he settles in the town of Frazier, New Hampshire, Dan stops drinking and begins working at a hospice, helping dying patients pass on peacefully with his strong psychic abilities, or “shine,” earning the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

While he settles down, a girl named Abra Stone is born, and her shine is even more powerful than Dan’s. They sense and understand each other from when she is very young, all the way through most of her adolescence. 

They don’t see a need to actually meet until The True Knot, a group of people who feed off of shine, usually children’s, to keep themselves immortal, becomes aware of Abra’s immense power and comes for her. Dan and Abra together, along with a few friends in on the secret of the shine, work together to end The True Knot forever.

Dan’s character development was one of the first things that struck me deeply. No matter how much he swore to himself that he would never become like his father, he drinks and drinks, traumatized by the Overlook Hotel and afraid of his abilities. However, unlike his father, he realizes what he’s doing, and mends himself, using his abilities for good. 

Dan’s relationship with Abra was also an incredibly interesting element of this story. Despite never meeting before, the two psychics speak to each other like old friends when they actually meet, and Dan quickly takes on a fatherly role, helping Abra control her abilities. From the beginning, Abra is fundamentally good; though she makes mistakes and badly estimates some decisions, her actions are always for the betterment of others’ lives. 

After reading both this novel and The Shining, I would say that the sequel is more advanced and interesting than the original, although The Shining was crucial to setting the stage for Dan’s development and life. Doctor Sleep tells of the impact of psychological trauma, recovery from that, the use of power for good, and the development of family independent of blood relation. Some elements of the story are still chilling to the bone, as is Stephen King’s norm, but the novel overall develops the experience of life in addition to just the horror.

-Adelle W. 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I read this book in eighth grade as a reading requirement and at first, I thought it was relatively childish and boring. Nevertheless, the more I read about it the more that I thought this is an amazing book. Through reading this book, I think the biggest thing that I learned is friendship, family and the gap between rich and poor.

Greasers and Socials are two rival groups, the former representing the poor and the latter rich. Although Greasers are poor, their friendship seems to be unwavering. Their relationship is not built upon any foundation of money, social status, or family background. But merely that we all share a similar interest and intend to achieve it. For one thing, if one Greaser is in danger, all the others would risk their lives to help. But for Socials, they would just run away afraid if their parents should find out they would stop supporting them.

The Socials seem like they are enjoying their lives and they despise the Greasers, but in my opinion, they in some uncanny way also want to be like them. They were born and raised in well-off families, the education they received requires them to be aloof towards anybody who isn’t on the same social level as them. However, I believe in some way they also want to make friends who really care about them and wouldn’t just desert them if their parents’ company went bankrupt or something like that. So deep down, I think there is a piercing desperation and loneliness both from the fake worldliness they have to confront every day and the neglection from their always busy and snobbish parents.

-Coreen C. 

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also free to download from Overdrive

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Although this movie released in May, I didn’t see it in theaters because the feedback wasn’t all that stellar. In fact, I only got around to watching it today, and only because my sister called in a favor I owed her.

Despite the mostly-negative feedback, I was kind of excited to watch it, since I’m a fan of Ryan Reynolds. I don’t know much about Pokemon, I must admit, and I have never played any form of it. All I know is the theme song and a couple of characters. However, even with my very limited knowledge, the movie was great.

It was a little confusing, and had a couple of plot holes, but nothing that couldn’t be ignored. Although it was not an Oscar-worthy piece of art, and the predictable plot and less-than-perfect CGI were questionable, I enjoyed it, and so did the rest of my family. It was funny and lighthearted, perfect for a family movie night of a laid-back night with friends.

The characters were dynamic, and the plot was cute, and predictable to a certain extent. Or maybe I’m just spoiled by the horrible plot twists gifted to viewers by Marvel. Either way, the movie managed to make it onto my good list despite a few flaws. If you are looking for an airy and light film to watch with a family of friends, or both, this may be it for you. It’s funny, dynamic, and has a really happy ending.

-Arushi S.