Manga Review: Loveless, vol. 1, by Yun Kouga

loveless01_coverLoveless is an… interesting manga. The story follows a sixth grader named Ritsuka whose brother is murdered before the book takes place. Some time later, a college student, Soubi, approaches him, telling him repeatedly that he loves him and that he knew his brother.

The middle of this manga is slow and kind of boring, but the start and end are very well done and kept my attention. It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s cute, and it’s engaging. The protagonist, Ritsuka, has a lot of emotional trauma which makes for an interesting character. Soubi has a lot of mystery around him and I hope it is revealed later, because that in my opinion is a great angle and I want to hear more about his life.

Note that there is some mature content in this manga. Though there is only one brief kiss between the two characters, there’s a certain amount of sexual tension between Soubi and Ritsuka that makes this story far more adult then most other manga series aimed at the same age group.  

Overall, if you can get through a couple awkward scenes, the first volume of Loveless has a lot of great concepts and I loved it. I give this manga an 8/10. The story is great and enjoyable, characters are lovable and frankly I can’t wait for more.

-Cameron S., 12th grade

Book Review: Love’s Image, by Debby Mayne

loves_image_coverThis is a great love story with some very powerful messages:

  • Beauty is not only skin deep.
  • What’s on the outside of someone is not as important as what’s  on the inside.
  • Have faith and never ever give up.

My great-aunt read it and thought I would like it. She was right.

Model Shannon McNab has been in a terrible car accident that wounded her face. Left with a long scar as a reminder, she knows that her career as a model is shot and her self-confidence has flown out the window. Her boyfriend leaves her because he no longer finds her attractive.

When one of her friends takes her to a singles group at church, Shannon is apprehensive about going at first. It is there that she meets Judd Manning, a kind, funny school teacher who makes Shannon smile once again. He makes her believe that she might be able to find someone who doesn’t judge her by her scar and will love her the way she is. She begins to feel better about herself again and falls in love with Judd.

As her scar fades over time, her love for Judd and God grows. She is confident again and finally happy, having found the true meaning of her life and believing that everything does happen for a reason.

This novel is definitely a favorite of mine and a real feel-good story. It shows how to have faith in God, other people, and yourself.

-Lauren B., 12th grade

Book Review: Matched, by Ally Condie

matched_coverThis book is a definite must-read that keeps one glued to the pages.

In a very controlled society, Cassia is getting ready for the biggest day of her life, the Match Banquet. Her best friend Xander, also has his Match Banquet, but after a little mix-up with who her match is, she finds herself debating over who she loves.

Once Xander’s face shows up on her card, Cassia is sure that they are the perfect match. But when another boy’s face shows up on the screen for a second she finds herself debating who she is truly meant for. Cassia finds herself falling in love with this other boy, Ky– which upsets the Society and puts herself and Ky in danger.

As Cassia begins to discover her true self, she finds herself caught up in life-threatening secrets and daring choices. At the same time she is trying to save the one she loves, while she keeps her family safe.

Matched is the first volume in a trilogy. Find out what happens to Cassia in the sequels, Crossed and Reached.

-Jenna R., 7th grade

Ebooks vs. Print Books

kindle2The ebooks vs. print books debate has created a controversy dating back to when electronic books were first invented.

Electronic books were created alongside the computer and the Internet. One of the oldest publishers of ebooks, Project Gutenberg, began in the 1970s and is still operating today. They publish works that are public domain which means that they are no longer copyrighted and are therefore available to the general public at no charge. An example of writing deemed public domain is the works of William Shakespeare.

Ebooks were originally intended to be subject or genre specific. They were also originally intended to be educational. Ebooks gained popularity in the late 1990s but were used primarily in libraries. Nowadays, ebooks are used by a wide array of people virtually anywhere. There are many devices suited for ebooks such as Kindles and Nooks.

I know that we live in the age of technology but I personally prefer the written word. I am a bibliophile! I cherish books. I love their scent, the texture of their pages, and their physical presence. To me, an ebook cannot compare. Ebooks are more accessible, but I enjoy searching for print books themselves. It is the romantic qualities of books that makes it hard for me to accept ebooks. There is just a special something about real paper books that I cannot articulate and that ebooks cannot emulate. I understand that this is the age of technology and that books can and most likely will become an antiquity but Johannes Gutenberg did not invent the printing press in vain!

I will always appreciate books, no matter how archaic they become. It scares me that the printed word might cease to exist because as an aspiring writer my dream is to see my stories live in ink and that dream might not come true. However, it’s important to remember that the vitality of books is their content– so regardless of the format you prefer, the importance is always placed upon the reading itself.

So read on, however you will!

-Sarah B., 11th grade

Book Review: Carpe Diem, by Autumn Cornwell

carpediem_coverAfter a careful search in the library, I rediscovered a book I read a few summers ago.  Carpe Diem revolves around sixteen-year-old Vassar Spore, an academic overachiever. Her life goals include graduating high school with a 5.3 GPA, (“the new 4.0”), attending the prestigious Vassar women’s college (which she was named after), marrying a PhD graduate, and receiving a Pulitzer Prize. To reach all of these goals her next two summers have been completely planned out with Advanced Placement courses and extracurricular activities.

Suddenly, all of her meticulous planning is flipped upside-down when her eccentric, bohemian Grandma Gerd demands that Vassar spend the summer backpacking through Southeast Asia with her. Her usually-conventional parents agree to let her go after being blackmailed by Grandma Gerd, who threatens to tell Vassar about “The Big Secret.” Vassar is abruptly thrust into a completely different world filled with dirt, pests, and people from all walks of life. While traveling, she learns about LIMing (Living in the Moment, as coined by Grandma Gerd), and meets a Malaysian cowboy/bodyguard, named Hanks. And as stated in the book’s summary, “Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: She’ll never be the same again.”

I really, really enjoyed reading Carpe Diem. At first, the plot seemed predictable: a serious student learns there is a lot more to life than just books. Cornwell, however, exceeded my expectations and developed Vassar into a much deeper character. Vassar prepares meticulously for challenges. She changes into someone willing to live in the moment, taking things in life as they come. I sense that Cornwall draws on her love for Southeast Asia and her own experiences traveling abroad to describe Vassar’s misadventures.

This story offered me a valuable lesson. I am also a hardworking student in high school and go to great lengths to focus on school, grades, and getting into college. Rereading this book made me step back for a while and think about my real priorities. Once in awhile, I want to drop everything and “just LIM it!”

Rereading this book triggered my own memories of traveling abroad and domestically, experiencing new and novel things, taking in new cultures and mindsets, and expanding my perception of things. This book was also a valuable read because it broadened my interest and knowledge about Southeast Asian culture and travel.

I recommend Carpe Diem for readers who enjoy stories of adventure, exotic cultures, and travel, seasoned with lots of laughs. This book was enjoyable all the way through, with a balance of humor and seriousness to satisfy any reader. Based on the reading level, I would recommend this book for readers aged ten and up, though the content is acceptable for precocious readers who are under ten years old.

-Sophia U., 10th grade

Event Recap: Newhart Middle School Book Club

bookstack2Last month, students from Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo met to discuss Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (see my book review here).

The night opened with an exciting game of Pictionary with a twist, using key objects from the book as clues.  These words ranged from Peregrine, to airplane, to psychiatrist (that was a hard one!). After several rounds, the final score –  Boys: 12, Girls: 10!

After the game, everyone sat down to discuss different aspects of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  A few questions that brought the most discussion were:

  • What kind of atmosphere did the house in Wales have?

Answers were varied:  Some described the house that was bombed, the house that Jacob explored, as “creepy and mysterious.”  Others described the original, occupied house in 1940, as “predictable and carefree.” A discussion ensued about how the repetition of the loop day made for a predictable life for the peculiar children. Nevertheless, when the students challenged the accepted set of laws for time travel, the group became collectively mind-boggled!

  • Which peculiar child had the trait you would most like to posses?

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A majority of the group would have preferred to either to levitate or to see the hollows, since that would keep you safe.  When the group was asked “Who would want to have a back mouth?” most did not wish to have that trait.  However, one student did reply that a back mouth would be helpful if someone had you in a headlock, because then you could just bite the pursuer and escape!

“The next book in this series comes out in January (2014), but it doesn’t have a title yet,”  Mrs. Wendehost said at the conclusion of the meeting. And who will read it?? That is up to the students at Newhart Middle School to decide, if they wish to be part of the Newhart Book Club in the future.

About the Newhart Middle School Book Club

Mrs. Michelle Wendehost is a sixth grade teacher at Newhart Middle School. During her first year at the school, she and another teacher started this fun book club. That was six years ago, when they used to read and discuss two books at each meeting. The other teacher left, and Mrs. Wendehost now leads this group on her own; however, is frequently accompanied by parents who join their middle schoolers for these lively discussions. Mrs. Wendehost’s most memorable book club meeting was when they read Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. A large group of girls came to discuss this book.  And so did one boy, who said his mom made him read the book.

And what is Mrs. Wendehost’s overall goal for the Newhart Book Club? To get kids to realize reading is fun and to read more often!

-Leila S., 7th grade

Book Review: Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

enders_game_coverIn my nearly fifteen years of life, I have read a good deal of literature. I can recall from my unconscious the many titles I have read without great difficulty, yet there are a few novels that, upon recollection, produce a certain nostalgia the others lack. One of these is Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

In retrospect, I find it problematic to discern the source of my enthrallment with this work. Neither Ender’s Game nor its author will not be remembered as comparable to Shakespeare, Twain, Tolstoy, or the writings of that lot, but it I believe it is a fundamental piece of literature to the young adult of this age.

I read Ender’s Game in some of the most jubilant and prosperous days of my life thus far, a circumstantial factor that likely influences my opinion of the work. Yet I feel that almost any reader would be able to connect with and place himself or herself in the context of Ender’s Game as easily as I did. Continue reading

Book Review: Pulse, by Patrick Carman

pulse_coverBy the year 2051, nearly the entire US population is divided among two primary territories: the Eastern State and the Western State. The world is in panic about global warming, and scientists are desperately searching for ways to save mankind.

Those who don’t live within the State’s protective walls live upon the debris and ruins of our former country. These small, aligned communities are strictly governed by the States, who despite their formal requests, refuse to supply them with anything more than food and clothing. However, the States do distribute Tablets to the outsiders, which soon become the core of their survival. Everything: school, entertainment, shopping, communicating — even drugs — are all experienced on these Tablets, which are very similar to the electronic tablets we have today, only slightly more advanced.

The resisters of society are strongly encouraged to move to the States, for it increases their population and strengthens their power, two things considered to be necessary in overcoming the hardships of the current. Many resisters feel compelled to make the switch, but are hesitant with the knowledge that once you step foot inside the States’ boundaries, there’s no going back.

Among the resisters is a girl named Faith Daniels. At the beginning of the story, she attends a high school whose number of students is rapidly dwindling, and lives a repetitive, tedious life. She, too, sees it as inevitable, but refuses to give in, knowing that moving to the States would require her to surrender her freedom and trade it for sanctuary, something she was unwilling to do. This I admire her for: not sacrificing her freedom, even though it seemed like the easy way out.

When Faith’s classmate, Dylan Gilmore, reveals that she has a “pulse” — a telekinetic ability in which she can move objects using her mind — everything gets a lot more complicated. Together, Dylan (who also possesses the pulse) must track down a group of evil, telekinesis masterminds who turn inanimate objects into deadly weapons in their greedy search for influence, prosperity, and utmost power. Someone must stop them from corrupting the world’s leaders, and ruining the slim chance of survival they have managed to obtain. Dylan and Faith set out to do just that, and must unleash the full power of their newfound talents in order to do so, meanwhile discovering things about themselves — and each other — that will change them forever.

One unique aspect of this novel was the point of view chosen by the author. It was written from third person omniscient, meaning that the reader can tell what every character is thinking at any given point in the story. I feel that the author took a big risk by doing this, however the results are positive for the most part. Another important part of this story was its philosophical and complex world building, which plays a large role in the unraveling and revelation of the plot. This book is the first in a trilogy of the same name, and I am looking forward to seeing how the saga concludes.

When this book was released, there was an abundance of negative and offensive reviews. But honestly, I loved this book and was able to connect with the characters fairly well. Although Faith is consistently volatile and rash throughout the story, she is also brave and stands up for what she believes is right. I stumbled across this book randomly, but I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories of dystopian societies and/or supernatural abilities.

-Danielle K., 7th grade

Light Reading: Two Short and Sweet Book Reviews

little_blog_prairie_coverDo you love Laura Ingalls Wilder? Think it would be fun to live life out on the prairie? Well, think again.

In Little Blog on the Prairie, by Cathleen Davitt Bell, Gen is furious when she finds out that her mom has signed her up for a summer long family camp where they all get to pretend that its the year 1890. Sounding fun yet? To add to the delights of raising chickens, using an outhouse, and fighting with your
little brother, this prairie has a Nellie Oleson style mean girl.

When Gen sneaks her phone in and texts her friends, they think that this little life on
the prairie would make a great blog. But when things blow up big-time, Gen has to admit that the prairie has actually grown on her a lot, and she can’t bear to leave.

This is an excellent book full of twists, turns, inevitable drama, and a boy with a leather necklace. Try Little Blog on the Prairie for some LOL entertainment.

selection_coverThe Selection, by Kiera Cass, a dystopian book about a princess competition is… hard to rate. I can’t honestly say that I loved it, but this book definitely had some very interesting parts.

America Singer (cool name, huh?) is chosen to be in the selection: thirty-five girls all competing to catch the eye of Prince Maxon, the awkward, naïve, and kind of sweet future ruler of Illea. Even though America still can’t get over her ex-boyfriend who dumped her right before she got involved in the competition, and there are some pretty catty competitors to fight off, fiery America won’t go down without a fight.

I think The Selection is pretty good piece of dystopian lit, even if it may not hold a candle to The Giver. It definitely falls into the category of chick lit, though… sorry, guys!

-Becka O., 8th grade

Event Recap: Lauren Oliver Author Visit

laurenoliver1Back in March, I went to the Lauren Oliver book signing event at the Mission Viejo Library. When she got there, the first thing she did was introduce herself and talk about her life as a writer.

She then explained what inspired her to write. Her
father influenced her a lot. She started writing at the early age of nine. She said she used to write fan fiction, which is a short story about a book you like.

In middle school, she started to write her own stories. In her freshmen year, she attempted to write her first novel. In her senior year of college, she finished her first novel– a different one than she started in high school.

She then earned a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. She also learned to write from working as an editor for Penguin Books. As she edited, she learned to write. After she talked about that, she described her books and read a few pages of her latest novel, Requiem, to us.

laurenoliver2Later, she took questions from the audience. Some of her favorite authors, when she was a kid, were Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, and
J.K. Rowling.

Someone asked how she comes up with titles and names for characters. She said she keeps a list that appeals to her. She also does not believe in writer’s block. She feels it’s just an excuse not to write. Her
advice to writers is to read a lot and write a lot. Also, to practice all the time and don’t get stressed.

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While I was there everyone in the audience seemed to be very excited. Some people even dressed up as characters in her book. When she signed my book she was asking me questions about reading. Lauren is very nice and funny. I’m so happy I got to meet such an amazing author.

-Sabrina C., 7th grade