Wax by Gina Damico

This was an interesting read. Not one of my favorites. It had a good concept and plot but I got very confused while reading it. I was also confused on the bad guy in the story, the back story was a bit confusing to follow and it would jump from one scene to the next without a nice flow. However, I may be partially biased because I didn’t like the personalities of Dud. I just thought it was a bit ridiculous. But to give this book the benefit of the doubt, I need to read it when I’m more in the mood for a teen thriller.

I haven’t read anything else by this author so maybe I just didn’t like this book and some of her other works would be more my taste. I plan to reread this book in a year or two and hopefully my perspective has changed by then to something more open-minded than this review. Overall, I would only recommend this book to someone who is okay with crazy twists that don’t entirely follow the story or feel that they contradict the backstory already. Hopefully this isn’t too harsh, just an opinion on a book I read a while ago.

-Coralie D.

Wax by Gina Damico is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Drawing inspiration from classic Faerie lore, A Court of Thorns and Roses is an encapturing retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Feyre, a 19-year-old huntress, whose only goal is to provide for her family. However, everything gets turned upside-down when her cottage door gets ripped down by none other than one of the High Fae themselves, demanding retribution for the wolf she killed in the woods.

Swept into a world of magic that she’d only known in myths, Feyre must navigate the world of the Fae with caution all while keeping her hunting instincts alert- there are secrets that the Fae are keeping from her, and a blight that creeps towards her homeland – will she find out what lurks beneath the rose gardens and golden chalices, or succumb to the beauty of the magic around her?

Amazon.com: A Court of Thorns and Roses eBook : Maas, Sarah J.: Kindle Store

Honestly, my hopes for this book weren’t very high, but I was pleasantly surprised! While it definitely isn’t a complete 5/5 stars in my book, I loved reading it and it had me turning pages well into the night. As Beauty and the Beast retellings go, I loved being able to connect those parallels but also see what the author changed or mixed with Fae lore to make it her own. There’s a very colorful cast of characters and strong worldbuilding, which I especially appreciated.

Another thing I liked was that while the romance between Feyre and her love interest was a main point that drove the plot forward, espeicially towards the end, it didn’t seem to overpower the other aspects of the book, which was refreshing. That’s not to say the romance was bad, though; it was well-paced and filled with heartfelt moments.

Overall, I would say that this book is definetly worth the read! It’s also a series, so if you’re like me and tend to speed through books pretty quickly (and have a small obsession with romantic fantasies) this will be perfect for you!

-Luxy B.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Answers: A Novel by Catherine Lacey

The Answers: A Novel: Lacey, Catherine: 9780374100261: Amazon.com: Books

The Answers, a novel by Catherine Lacey, is a profound memoir of an ordinary/not-so-ordinary young woman’s forays into an ordinary/not-so-ordinary love.

Mary has been in pain her whole life- the result of an undiagnosed illness that has left her with crippling symptoms and a massive medical-bill debt. When she discovers a shady, New-Age alternative therapy called PAK-ing, that gives her the only relief from her sickness that she’s ever had, she’s determined to find any way she can to pay for it.

Which is where things get strange.

Mary finds a job listing that’s offered to pay her everything she needs and more- with a few caveats. The position involves being one of the many girlfriends of reclusive actor Kurt Sky, who is running an experiment to find what qualities actually lead to lasting romantic connections- in other words, to find what creates love. Each ‘girlfriend’ is given complicated directives in order to complete the experiment. However, the position may not be as innocent as it seems- Mary finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into something she’s not sure she understands.

I was completely hooked by this book. Once I picked it up, I just couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. It’s definitely a very liminal, intellectual novel- but if you’re a fan of those, like me, you’ll really love this book. What I enjoyed most was Lacey’s ease and mastery at writing morally-grey characters. Every person in this book is one- but Lacey so closely and excellently interweaves it with the real human experience that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a book, but that you’re in a hazy dream- watching this unfold in front of you. The novel is chock-full of nearly infinite new perspectives- a great read I’d recommend to anyone!

This novel contains some descriptions of sexual violence that may not be suitable for all audiences.

-Vaidehi B.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons is a Newbery Award-winning novel by William Pène du Bois.  A professor named William Waterman Sherman has been found floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  At the time of his rescue, he is surrounded by the wreckage of twenty deflated balloons.  He had departed three weeks earlier from his home in San Francisco, using a giant gas balloon to fly over the Pacific Ocean.  Somehow, he ended up in the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by twenty balloons.  When he finally arrives home, the people are anxious to learn what had happened to him.  They could not imagine how he could have circled the globe in only three weeks, and why he ended up with twenty balloons rather than the one balloon with which he began his journey.  So, the professor gives a speech to recount his amazing adventure. 

Professor Sherman explains that he had wanted to get away from the world, just so that he could relax for a time.  He decided to drift on a balloon over the Pacific Ocean.  Unfortunately, he crashed on the volcanic island of Krakatoa.  He was greeted there by a man in a white suit and bowler hat.  The man is part of a hidden community in the middle of the island.  As the professor was introduced to the community, he came to realize that this was a highly-sophisticated civilization.

I enjoyed reading about the inhabitants of Krakatoa, and about the professor’s adventures on the island and around the world.  His journey is interesting and exciting.  There were many whimsical and amusing elements to this story as well.  In a way this novel feels like a blend of truth and fiction.  The author seems to include some social commentary about the aristocrats living in Krakatoa, but for the most part this book is simply a playful children’s story.  It was a quick read but very enjoyable.  I can certainly see why this was awarded the Newbery Medal, and I would definitely recommend this book.

-Oliver H.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Amazon.com: Dragon Hoops: 9781626720794: Yang, Gene Luen: Books

Dragon Hoops is a graphic novel that follows the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons’ journey to winning the state championship. A graphic novelist, Mr. Yang, is also along for the ride. After losing in the state championship game for multiple years, the Dragons are fed up and ready to make some noise! Their roster is looking stacked, with Paris Austin and Ivan Rabb leading the way as the star players. 

The Dragons experience defeats and victories along their path to the state championship game. There are ups and downs, but they get through those negative moments as a team. 

Gene Luen Yang, the author of Dragon Hoops, wrote about a true story from his time at Bishop O’Dowd High School. Ivan Rabb, Paris Austin, Alex Zhao, and other players are actually real people and not just made-up characters!

I recommend this book to any sports enthusiast. As I read this book, I really enjoyed getting a graphic novelist’s perspective on the team. Since the book was written as a graphic novel, it was easier and quicker to read. Dragon Hoops is a very entertaining book, and if you are someone who enjoys reading graphic novels, you will definitely like this book!

I would give this graphic novel a 10/10 rating because it had a plot to it. It wasn’t like some graphic novels which are just meant to make people laugh and read for fun, but it had a purpose. Dragon Hoops was written to show us the way a high school sports team operates but in a more interesting and entertaining way.

-Mert A.

Dragon Loops by Gene Luen Yang is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive.

Stroop 1935 Study

Cognitive Psychology is the field of psychology that studies how the human brain works, specifically memory, emotion, and behavior. Within cognitive psychology contains the field of processing, which focuses on how the brain works to produce a response to some situation or dilemma, and interference, what factors may disrupt the ability to process.

A study that explores this is Stroop 1935, and it relates to a theory known as the Stroop Effect. The Stroop Effect relates to how a mismatch between the color of a word and the word itself may lead to a longer time to state the color of the word. For example, if the word “blue” was printed in the color red, it would take longer to identify the color of the word than if it was just printed in the color blue. This theory helps people understand how brain processing works, specifically if words and colors would be processed in different parts of the brain. In Stroop’s study, he aimed at determining whether or not a mismatch of the color of a word and the word itself had any effect in the time it took to determine the color of the word it was printed in. To achieve this, he constructed three lists of words. All of these lists contained words that were colors, but the color that the words were printed in varied. In one of the lists, all the words were printed in black ink, while in the other two lists, the ink color varied. The first of these other two lists contained words that were printed in the color that corresponded to the word. For example, the word “green” would be printed with green ink. The last list contained words that were printed in mismatched colors. For example, the word “Purple” would be printed in red. Once the lists were constructed, the subjects of this experiment, who were 14 males and 56 females, were ordered to either read the word itself (for the list containing only the words printed in black) or state the color of the word that it was printed in (for the other two lists where the words were printed in color) as quickly as they could. From here, the time it took to respond to the lists, whether they were instructed to read the words or state the color of the words, were recorded. The results of the study showed that it took a longer time for the subjects to state the color of the word or read the word when the color printed mismatched the word itself. In addition, the experimenters also observed that there were more errors when the colors were mismatched compared to if they matched. Because of this, the study concluded that the mismatch of the color did indeed have an effect on the time it took to process information about the words, and it also provided evidence that colors and words are processed in different parts of the brain.

-Jeremy L.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Disclaimer: There are two versions of Persepolis: the graphic memoir version and the literary memoir. The graphic memoir version is divided into two parts. I have only read the first graphic memoir book of Persepolis, not the actual memoir. Therefore, there’s still some of Satrapi’s writing that I haven’t been exposed to (yet). I will definitely try to find the second graphic memoir or the actual memoir soon, but for now, this review is based solely on the first graphic memoir.

Persepolis is both a graphic memoir and autobiography published in 2000. With the memoir originally written in French, Satrapi has received numerous awards for her work including the Cannes Jury Prize and the César Award for Best Writing.

The narration is written through the eyes of the main characterMarjane “Marji” Satrapi, the author herselfduring her childhood at the time of the Iranian Revolution. A series of small stories are written in the memoir based on her own experiences, portraying political upheaval and how her own family was affected by the Iranian Revolution, Iraq’s oppressive regime, and the Iran-Iraq War. Marji’s accounts mainly focus on her and her family who live in Tehran, as well as how they attempt to rebel against the regime and take part in Iranian history.

As a daughter of immigrant parents but of non-Middle Eastern descent, I felt like I could connect with aspects of this memoir all while still learning more about Iran’s history. The memoir is a beautiful representation of Islamic and Iranian culture from the first-hand perspective of an Iranian citizen. The illustrations themselves are unique and drawn to perfectly fit the memoir, making Satrapi’s experiences seem more significant.

Although it’s a graphic memoir, I highly recommend Persepolis to high schoolers more than elementary or even middle schoolers. Some topics and drawings can be graphic, making the memoir a difficult read, and there are often parts that simply cannot be taken lightly. However, the book itself is unique at being able to broaden readers’ perspectives on other cultures as a memoir, historical account, and comic book all at once.

– Natisha P.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Messenger by Lois Lowry

Cover image for Messenger / Lois Lowry.

Messenger, the third installment of The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry, was a great book. Like The Giver and Gathering Blue, Messenger does not follow the previous protagonists but instead follows a past character in Gathering Blue. Messenger ties in the previous books by incorporating the past characters from The Giver and Gathering Blue

Messenger follows Matt or now known as Matty. Matty had first appeared in Gathering Blue and now lives in a village that he discovered while on his first adventure trying to find something for Kira in Gathering Blue. He lives with The Seer, a blind man who was found out to be Kira’s biological father. These two live in the village Jonah, from The Giver, had created. In the new village, everyone is equal no matter the disabilities they have or injuries they come with. Soon, the village changes due to something unseen and they now want to close the village off from outsiders. Before that can happen, The Seer wants to bring Kira to the village to live with him and Matty. Jonah, also known as Leader, does not want to send anyone into the Forest since it had recently become too dangerous. Matty convinces Leader to send him despite it being dangerous and in the end, Matty goes into the Forest to bring Kira to the village. Going through the Forest the first time was alright, but once he began to head back with Kira, things became more dangerous, threatening their lives. 

Throughout the story, we learn the true powers of Jonah, Kira, and Matty. Jonah can “see beyond” allowing him to sense the dangers and view particular things. Kira can weave her threads into predicting the future, and Matty has the power of healing. Messenger ties in the past books of The Giver Quartet and creates more depth to the characters and introduces more lore to the series. 

This book was more enjoyable than Gathering Blue and is on par with The Giver. Messenger introduces more lore and gives more depth to new and previous characters. It has a good balance of excitement and calm sections. Through the calm sections, it builds and introduces characters to see and understand who they are now. Within the more exciting sections, it shows what the characters can do and what they have grown to be. It shows their struggles and what they must go through. When the book finishes, Matty is the hero, healing the area around him and the people around him and is named The Healer. This book shows the true character growth of Matty, Kira and Jonah from how they were in their previous books to what they are now. 

I enjoyed Messenger. The new characters and brought back characters were important to the plot and each had their own personalities and stories. The events in the story were intriguing and exciting. Once again, this book ended in a cliffhanger, but soon I will read the last installment of The Giver Quartet, Son. Lois Lowry has done a great job with this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

-Nicole R. 

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

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My Mom found this book in a book shop a little while ago. I had just finished reading the False Prince that was also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and I had been looking for another book in the same series. Since I enjoyed the False Prince, my Mom had given me this book and I had decided to read it. 

In The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Ani Mells has gotten herself in trouble and is encountering a series of problems. Ani is a River Person who is less better off than what their people would call, the “pinch worms”. Ani seems to have caught the Scourge; the sickness that has spread across the country of Keldan. It is highly contagious and supposedly incurable. Ani is sent to the Colony, where all the Scourge victims are put and to be left for their demise. Weevil, Ani’s best friend, and Della, a pinch worm, are all on the Colony together. During her time on the island, Ani finds something suspicious going on on the island, and she plans to get to the end of it and make everything better. 

This book was wonderful. At first, I was reminded of COVID since a big part of the plot was about a virus that was hard to cure. The farther I read, however, I realized that that wasn’t the case. The story had a huge twist at the end of the book that had a great build up. And throughout the story, there were more surprising events. They were definitely unexpected to me. There was great character development; especially from Ani. Ani’s confidence levels grew, and so did her leadership. But all characters had character development. Even the smallest of side characters had character development. 

I believe that this book was the second Jennifer Nielsen book I’ve read and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. It’s an enjoyable book that isn’t super long, so you can finish it quickly. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.

-Nicole R. 

The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

Cover image for This is where it ends / Marieke Nijkamp.

Sylvia and Autumn were in the auditorium with most of the school. Claire was running with her track team; they were excused from the assembly to practice. Tomás and his best friend (other than his twin sister Sylvia) sneaked into the principal’s office to look at a file.

Then someone pulled out a gun.

Although his attack only lasted fifty-four minutes, the boy with the gun would haunt them forever… This is Where It Ends is the terrifying tale of Autumn, Sylvia, Tomás, and Claire’s desperate attempts to survive a former student’s revenge on those who wronged him.

I would highly recommend This Is Where It Ends to anyone who loves suspense or thrillers. It’s told from four points of view, and all four had a reason to be afraid. It had a very satisfying ending, and while it didn’t end with everyone living happily, it was very believable and heartwarming. Marieke Nijkamp did an amazing job describing the relationships between family, friends, and more-than-friends. The fear people felt for their loved ones and the sacrifices they made were fantastic. And when each chapter only covers the span of a few of the fifty-four minutes, it’s incredibly hard to stop reading!

Overall, This Is Where It Ends was a very good book, and I would not hesitate to give it 10 out of 10 stars!

-Caitlyn O.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.