Event Recap: Lauren Oliver’s Requiem Tour


Boy, had I been missing out!

Ever been to a book signing? As surprising as it may be for some people, I had never been to one before. And boy, had I been missing out! But I was lucky enough to have had Lauren Oliver’s book signing at the Mission Viejo Library as my first ever. She was such an engaging speaker, full of funny comments and remarks that created a relaxed and fun vibe during her presentation.

Lauren Oliver started off by telling us about how she became a writer because she has had a “lifelong love of reading.” She explained how ever since she was little, she would read a book, completely fall in love with it, but then sadly it would have to end. (Know the feeling?) So, she would write short stories or sequels about the books she read, which I thought was pretty cool. I had never thought about doing that before. And yet it was interesting to hear that the first time that she wrote a complete novel was not until her senior year in college! Continue reading

A Journey Through English Literature

bookstack2I have long maintained an affinity for words, a love of reading and language itself. To a large degree, my passion has been sponsored by my education in the arts of literature and composition, a trend has persisted even to this, my sophomore year of high school.

Since last September, my classmates and I have chronicled English literature as it has developed throughout the ages. From  a linguistic standpoint, it has been extremely interesting to see the advances of our language in vocabulary and syntax, yet even more so the changes in storytelling and style have enthralled me.

As the year began, we delved into the ever-classic Beowulf. Though not as ancient as The Odyssey or tales of other archaic civilizations, the epic emanates a similar air of inhumanly heroics, which, although often unacceptable to modern audiences for its lack of realism, is enjoyable for its archetypal characteristics. As with many if not all of the works I will discuss, Beowulf is a true portal to another time, imparting on the reader the same awe which the people of old felt in experiencing the tale of this epic hero.

gawainMoving from the Danish isles to those of England, we next read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Marking the beginning of the presence of knighthood, the tale is one of many surrounding King Arthur and his Round Table. Exemplary in its symmetrical structure and symbolic usages, Sir Gawain most notably gives insight into the values and beliefs of the time. Yet these are perhaps the most outstanding qualities of the work; in reading Sir Gawain, one comes to understand the values of chivalric times, if not the plot, story, and other thematic elements.

From here we read a few books and the prologue of Chaucer’s immortal Canterbury Tales. As opposed to the anonymous composers of the retrospectively conservative aforementioned tales, Chaucer is revolutionary, a critic of the age’s corrupt church. This quality of subtle rebellion has resounded throughout history in various arts. Furthermore, in addition to providing an accurate representation of the social structure of England at the time, Chaucer’s writings, the Miller’s fabliau, the Pardoner’s allegory, are truly entertaining.

othelloShakespeare furthers the role and characteristics displayed by Chaucer in his tragedy, Othello: Moor of Venice. Novel in its portrayal of an African as its protagonist, the work explores racial and gender themes, and is notable for these characteristics. Yet most riveting is the tragedy’s antagonist, Iago, a deceitful and charismatic villain who, despite leaving his motives unstated, acts solely to rue Othello with such spite and  yet such cunning that the audience is singularly and wholly captivated.

Our penultimate novel then was Jane Eyre. Moving to the near-modern age, Ms. Brontë’s novel is romantic, a true pleasure in which to delve, except for its lengthiness. This faux-autobiography is unique in the lot of works that have been discussed for its first person perspective, which provides a unique look into character not seen previously. In many ways an aspersion of Victorian beliefs and customs, Jane Eyre resembles Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a tale of true romance, and though occasionally melodramatic, is enjoyable for this purpose.

As we now look to end our year with Darles Chicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, I believe I have come to truly appreciate English literature as a whole. The diversity of the genre’s development has been incredibly interesting to observe, yet textual analyses aside, I have become engaged in the stories and have transported myself to other times. Yes, the texts have been dense and at times dull, but overall this escapade has been well worthwhile.

-Sebastian R., 10th grade

Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

tom_sawyer_coverThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a great book to read for anyone who loves classic stories.  It is about a naughty boy named Tom doing a lot of mischievous tricks and risky adventures. He has a brother named Sid and a sister named Mary. Aunt Polly, who takes care of Tom, loves him even though he is a firebrand. Huckberry Finn, whose nickname is Huck, is Tom’s best friend as well as the partner in all of his adventures.

One of Tom’s crazy adventures is when he and his friend were in a graveyard trying to revive a dead person with a dead cat at midnight. Before they begin their process they see three men, Muff Potter, Dr. Robinson, and Injun Joe in the same graveyard. They quickly hide behind the bushes because they do not want to be seen by the three men. Instead, they witnessed Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson for revenge, and then Injun Joe accuses Muff Potter for the crime. So scared, Tom and Huck run to a shed and complete a blood oath that they will never talk about the crime scene to anyone or they will die and rot.

Besides going on adventures, Tom also likes to tricks the children to do his white washing (putting new coat of paint on his aunt’s fence) and trade his trinkets for the tickets that can be used to trade in for the Bible to impress the new girl, Becky Thatcher– when a student receives a Bible, it shows others that they had been a good student.

I think teenagers today are going to like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Even though this book is a classic, there are still some naughty teenagers and they might want to read about how kids were in the 1800s.

– Samantha S., 6th grade

Book Review: Turnabout, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

turnabout_coverTurnabout, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is a great book for those who are interested in the idea of living forever.

In 2085, two scientists come up with a way to make people live forever. They give a shot to someone, and it makes the person get younger every year. When they reach a certain age, they give them the cure, so they stay that age forever. The scientists first test it on animals, but then on humans. They inject it into fifty people who are around 100 years old. After they give it to them, they realize the cure will kill them. When two girls, Amelia and Anny Beth, hear the news, they run. Now it’s 2001, Amelia and Anny Beth are teenagers. They still have no idea what will happen when they reach age zero.

I think this book is great. It has something for everyone to enjoy. I would recommend it for people who are ready for a good book that will keep them on the edge of their seats.

– Sabrina C., 7th grade

Authors We Love: Meg Cabot

megcabot_avalonhighMeg Cabot is an author who writes specifically for adolescents, teenagers, and sometimes tweens. Being a #1 New York Times best selling author, her multiple series and works have accomplished numerous awards.

I have read all of Meg Cabot’s books. She is so amazing; Meg Cabot themes her books based on her past experiences. She states, “I hope readers will realize that they are not alone in feeling the way I did when I was in middle and high school- like a great big freak! Also that “normal” is not what you see on TV. Being true to yourself, and to your friends, is way more important than being part of the “in crowd.” I am living proof that it is possible to profit from being a middle and high school freak.”

Her method of writing truly inspires many teenagers across the nation. Some books of her that I specifically have enjoyed are: The Princess Diaries series, the Avalon High series, Jinx, the Underworld series, and the Airhead series. These books are truly fascinating, themed on regular teenage girls who go through different complications in their lives.

Avalon High, especially, is one of my all time favorites because of the techniques that Meg Cabot infuses into the series. She mixes history with modern day cultures, and makes a surprising twist. The series is based on the legend of King Arthur; this is a must-read! Also, particularly because I prefer the paranormal romance genre, the Underworld series is a marvelous collection. Truly, Meg Cabot is a wondrous author, and I am looking forward to her future works.

– Nirmeet B., 9th grade

Book Review: Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman

catherine_called_birdy_coverDo you ever feel trapped, like you can’t do anything you want? In Catherine, Called Birdy, this is exactly how the main character, Catherine, felt. The story took place in medieval Europe, where most marriages were arranged by the parents of both sides. However, some peasants were allowed to chose who they married, and Catherine thought that was unfair. Who knows what kind of suitor her beastly father will choose?

Throughout the story, Catherine kept a journal of her daily activities. At one point, she visited her brother in a monastery and was jealous that he was allowed to work away from home while she must stay home and do lady-like tasks. She felt the same way when her uncle visited and told stories about his crusades. But whenever she tried to have an “adventure” or not act like a proper lady, she got punished. What a dilemma…

Things got worse when suitors started visiting their manor to arrange her marriage. During these occurrences, Catherine tried to make herself as unlikable as possible. She seemed to get her wish, because for some reason or another, each marriage proposal didn’t work out. But one day, Catherine’s father decided she must wed. And she must wed the worst of the suitors yet: Shaggy-Beard, or so she called him.

It appeared she was running out of ways to get out of this predicament. By using the silver from his gift to her, she consented to marrying him. Will she succeed in living the life she wants or the life her father wants for her?

I rate this novel a 9 out of 10 and would definitely recommend it to others. It won the 1995 Newbery Honor Award, and I’m not surprised because of the rich details and engaging storyline of medieval life. I am interested in reading other books by Karen Cushman and would suggest others do the same.

-Leila S., 7th Grade

Event Recap: Oh, What a Beautiful Evening!

rodgers and_hammerstein

Composers Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

Although this blog is focused on teen literature, even the most avid reader takes their nose out of a book eventually, right? If you like the performing arts, there are many opportunities to appreciate a variety of arts and culture in Mission Viejo.

“Oh, What a Beautiful Evening! The Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” presented by the the singers of the Orange County School of the Arts and Timeless Melodies at the Norman P. Murray Community Center in January, was an enjoyable tribute to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, though not without flaws.

The selection of Rodgers and Hammerstein music was wonderful and the host presented each set of songs with an informative introduction. Unfortunately, as someone very familiar with the musical selections, I found that there were a lot of technical vocal issues in several of the performances. In addition, there sometimes lacked a balance between the singers in the group numbers as some were much louder than others, thereby making the performance sound out of tune.

Nonetheless, there were a few performers that were very talented and have a lot of potential. These singers filled their songs with emotion and heart and were a lot of fun to listen to. Overall, I enjoyed myself as I always get excited when I see singers with a lot of talent and potential, but I have to say the event was just mediocre as there was a lack of performance quality. Thus, although “Oh, What a Beautiful Evening!” was a mixed experience, there were a few stars that shined bright.

– Kiera C., 12th grade

Book Review: Little Blog on the Prairie, by Cathleen Davitt Bell

little_blog_prairie_coverIf you have ever experienced a power outage, or had your phone, laptop, or tablet die on you with no place to recharge, you are familiar with the excruciating torture of being disconnected from technology. How would you cope without smart phones, fridges, microwaves, or flushing toilets?

Meet Gen, an average teenager, who intends to spend her summer relaxing at Club Med and preparing for soccer team try outs in the Fall. Gen, who has been begging to have a cell phone for years, finally convinces her parents to allow her to have one, but there’s a catch. She must join the family at Camp Frontier, a historically themed ten-week “vacation” in the wilderness of Wyoming that promises the ultimate experience of living as an American pioneer of the late 1800s. Gen deals with the harsh reality of wearing petticoats, squatting in uncivilized outhouses, and must find ways to save her sanity in her new life on the prairie. Things may turn out to be OK after all when she manages to sneak in her cell phone to secretly update her friends on the horror stories of living on this (as the book states it) “Little Hell on the Prairie.”

Things continue to look up with the introduction of the cute guy named Caleb, who lives in the next clearing over. Her friends, who she has been regaling with stories through text, have been posting her stories in a highly popular blog on the Internet, gaining her an audience of huge proportions. However, Gen has more important things to worry about like churning butter, pulling weeds, or milking her cow.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, although the plot and character development seemed shallow. It was an easy read with a bit of romance between Gen and Caleb and moments that will leave you giggling. The story is good for a tween and teen girl audience, but more advanced readers may be frustrated. The idea of Camp Frontier seems far-fetched. What family would embark on a ten-week pioneer experience in the middle of nowhere? Also, it’s hard for me to accept how the short texts provided between of the narrative could fill up a whole blog that attracts lots of dedicated followers. The texts provided were amusing, but they didn’t paint the whole picture of pioneer life to the blog audience. I didn’t dislike the book, but many parts of the plot were not credible.

If you read Little Blog on the Prairie without thinking deeply, you’ll find it an entertaining light read. Although Gen may seem shallow at times, her reactions are very amusing and easy to relate to. The book’s content and language level suits readers 11 years old and up. I recommend this book specifically for tweens and teens.

– Sophia U., 10th grade

Event Recap: Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess Tour

On Friday, March 22, Mission Viejo’s City Hall was taken over by crazed book fans toting around tall stacks of books, sporting Shadowhunter runes, and failing to hide their excitement.

Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Maureen Johnson speak to fans in Mission Viejo

Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Maureen Johnson speak to fans in Mission Viejo

Authors Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan ran a little late because of the infamous LA traffic, but arrived at the scene with the knowledge that their fans were waiting anxiously. The atmosphere of the room was that of complete awe for Clare’s newly released novel, Clockwork Princess, its book trailer, the trailer for The Mortal Instruments movie, and for the great company of those who love the same story.

The Q&A portion of the event consisted of questions ranging from the creation of Cassandra Clare’s books to the production of the film adaptation of her first novel, City of Bones, releasing in August later this year. Fans were captivated by the stories that Clare told of her childhood. She mentioned that her storytelling past and her first computer at age 12 are what began her book writing career. Clare also discussed her inspiration for the Shadowhunters books: a tattoo artist friend. Clare would hear stories about tattoo symbolism and the people who lived according to them, which sparked her imagination, leading her to the question, “What if there was a race of people whose lives revolved around tattoos and their meanings?” And with that, the Shadowhunters of her novels were born.

Cassandra Clare also gave advice to aspiring writers, saying that there are “many small steps to a large goal.” Also, when asked whether Clare enjoyed “torturing her fans” by destroying their ships, pairings of characters created by the fans, she simply said, “What is the point of a ship if not to sink it?” And with that, the room exploded in uproar and applause.

Clare’s presentation was not one that anyone would regret attending, and being in the company of those who shared the same love only made it a more enjoyable experience. It was an absolute pleasure to have attended, as it was my first author event!

– Danielle G., 11th grade

Book Review: All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

all_quiet_coverAll Quiet on the Western Front is a novel about a young soldier’s life during World War I. Or we can say that this book records how a young man walks toward the battle field with proud and excitement to how he crushes to the ground with a tired heart that is harmed by the crying guns. He does not fight for his country, but for his life and the lives around him. However, just like many soldiers, he cannot and does not have the will to escape from something worse than death.

The novel is by Erich Maria Remarque, a German author who participated in World War I himself. Became a soldier when he was 19, Remarque was sent to the western front to fight with France. There he was wounded and sent to hospital, where he spent the rest of the war. During his time in the hospital, Remarque talked with lots of soldiers that were sent to be cured or to be left to death; his own experience with the stories that he heard from others led to his great works.

Why do people put themselves on the battle field? What is the reality on the front line? What happen to them each and every day? What is the thing everyone faces that is worse than death? What is WAR? From the perspective of the main character Paul Bäumer, Remarque showed the real meaning of war- it is a competition with death and a process of losing everything you had.

“We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial- I believe we are lost.”

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

Once All Quiet on the Western Front was published, it sold 2.5 million copies in twenty-five languages in first eighteen months. Although Nazi Germany burned the books before World War II and Remarque was exiled, his works still remained popular in both German and the world.

“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.”

– Wenqing Z., 10th grade