Book Review: Remarkable, by Lizzie K. Foley

remarkable_coverIn Remarkable, everyone is… well… remarkable. There is Angelina Mona Linda Doe, the famous architect, Anderson Brigby Bright Doe II, a famed author, Anderson Brigby Bright Doe III, who is remarkably good looking and can paint pictures so well they look like photographs, and Penelope Hope Adalaide Catalina, a math genius. With a family like that, you would expect Jane to be absolutely remarkable. But in fact, she is just a normal girl.

Jane doesn’t even have a talent for not having a talent. Her grandpa is so unforgettable that people often forgot he was there. So, even though the whole town goes to Remarkable’s School for the Remarkably Gifted, Jane attends the public school where she gets no attention and is, in fact, the only student in the public school. Until the Grimlet twins arrive. They get kicked out of Remarkable’s School for the Remarkably Gifted, so they end up in Jane’s class– and that is when things begin to happen.

This book was a coming-of-age book with a cute message, however, the story is definitely for a lower reading level than high school. It is a quick and easy read for some pages but I didn’t think the plot was amazing, or the character development was all that great, or that the story took much thought. It was just an average book. My little sister enjoyed it more than I did. There is nothing more to say than the world of Remarkable was entertaining, but the execution was average.

-Becka O., 9th grade

Event Recap: Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones Author Visit

ellen_hopkins_sonya_sonesLast month, Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones visited the Mission Viejo Library. They are two of my favorite authors so I was extremely excited to get to meet them. The event was held in the library’s Heritage Room and was very cozy. Several comfortable chairs were arranged around the room in a circle with Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones seated in the front. The night began with Sonya doing a spin to show off her skirt and then brief introductions.

Once introductions were taken care of, both authors read the beginnings of their new novels, Smoke and To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story, respectively. Both did an excellent job reading and really created an engaging experience. I had already read Smoke at the time of the event but hearing Ellen Hopkins read it out loud made me want to read it again. Sonya Sones really drew me into her story as well and I am looking forward to reading it.

Once the readings were done they spoke about book banning and also why they write. Both of them emphasized that while they never set out to write a book that would get challenged or even banned. However, they take the fact that they did get challenged as a bit of a compliment. Sonya Sones had an interesting viewpoint on the whole matter when she brought up that her books are on lists that include books by authors like John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway; when else is that going to happen? They view the banning of their books as something that shows that people are thinking about issues which they may not want to face, which is something they view positively. Both of the authors shared stories about getting letters from people who had read their books and really been touched by what they read.

The first portion of the night ended with a question and answer session. Some topics discussed were: the fact that the Crank trilogy was based on true experiences of Ellen Hopkins’s daughter; some memorable encounters with fans, Sonya once saw a kid reading one of her books in a store and had to prove to them she really wrote it, Ellen one sat next to a girl on a plane reading one of her books; and their view on book bannings.

The night ended with a chance to get books singed, buy books, and take pictures with them. They were both extremely kind and Ellen Hopkins even put up with signing seven of my books.  Overall it was a great experience to get to meet two of my favorite authors and even get some books signed, not to mention getting my picture taken with them!

-Angela J., 12th grade

Book Review: The Tainted Truth, by Cynthia Crossen

tainted_truth_cover“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”  This quote is from the Tainted Truth written by Cynthia Crossen, and if you think about it, this quote represents what we come across almost on a daily basis. Every day, we humans rely on the Internet and media extensively to get updated information.

This book is about statistics, and the fact that we get experienced with millions and millions of them every day. It goes into depth of how the media hides the real statistics and persuades our minds by advertisements. Crossen also discusses how different studies are performed, and how the media portrays it as something else to the public.

There are some very interesting facts in this book! For you insight-lovers, this is definitely a good pick for you. It shows you the tainted truth, literally, by uncovering what the media actually presents us with. Crossen describes how what we hear on the media, or read on the Internet is very much manipulated. Most of the surveys and polls that are out there for the general public are influenced and tweaked, without us realizing it. For example, “‘76% of independent microwave oven technicians surveyed recommended Litton,’ said an ad for the appliance company. The survey included only Litton- authorized technicians who serviced Litton and at least one other brand. Those who serviced other brands but not Litton’s were excluded.”This piece of text clearly tells the readers that the surveys that you are introduced to are usually biased.

Facts such as these are introduced and gone into depth in The Tainted Truth. It gives you a new perspective and way of thinking in your everyday life. The next time you watch an advertisement on the T.V., you will be wondering what tainted truth the media is hiding from you!

-Nirmeet B., 10th grade

Book vs. Movie: The Host

host_bookvmovieIf you lost everything, including your family, what would you do? If aliens came down and took over your planet, how would you survive?

Melanie Stryder thought she was alone, but she wasn’t. She had lived with her little brother, Jamie, since the invasion started. Soon after, she found another survivor, Jared Howe. It was hard to provide them with food and water, but she now had help. One night, Melanie went too far to get supplies, and she ended up risking it all. She had to escape the Souls who tried to take her. She decided to jump out a window, but only to be caught, after she landed.

Melanie woke up and found out what happened to her. Someone else was in her mind! Wanderer was the alien soul’s name. Both of them hated each other. When Melanie thought something, Wanda (her new nickname) had to tell the Seeker. Mel didn’t want Wanda to talk about Jamie, so she made Wanda run away. Mel formed a plan to find her family in the desert, but on the way, they ran into trouble. Their car broke down, and they ran out of water. Then, everything went black. They woke up to find someone giving them water. Mel recognized the face at once. It was her uncle! He led them to his cave and revealed a huge number of humans still alive! The only problem was that they didn’t like her because she was a Soul. They thought she was trying to lead the other Souls to them. Will they ever accept her?

I thought the book was better than the movie because the characters weren’t the same. Melanie and Jamie had such a strong relationship in the book, but in the movie, they barely saw each other. Also, when the author described the appearances of some characters, they didn’t look at all the same. Ian and Kyle were supposed to be identical twins, but in the movie, they looked very different. The book definitely got into more detail and really showed the characters’ feelings.

Do you like the movie better or the book better? I’d love to hear what your opinions are in the comments!

-Sabrina C., 8th grade

Music Pairings: The Fairyland series, by Catherynne M. Valente

This wonderfully-written small series starts out with a 12-year-old girl, September, living her own life with only her mother and her father away at war until one night she falls into another dimension where she meets the best of friends and starts the adventure that has been waiting for her since the day she was born.

girl_who1The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making

She woke up to world full of vibrant colors and rich foods with birds and all sorts of animals welcoming her to Fairyland.  She learns many things including an expedition of her own and also finds out things she might not have wanted to know.  September discovers the ‘enemy’ is just a mirror of herself.   She battles her own brains and wits.  Her time has run out in Fairyland.  She must return to civilization.

The perfect soundtrack for this scene would be Get Back by the Beatles because the song shows that life is not perfect, and sometimes you have to ‘Get Back to where you once belonged’. She returns to a place where there is smog everywhere, the food on her plate is not good quality, and where the birds sing a sad tired song instead of a skipping happy one in Fairyland.  Will September accomplish what she set out to do?  Would the final song be We are the Champions by Queen while the credits roll?

girl_who2The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

September has been waiting for almost a year to go back to Fairyland.  If this were a movie, I think as they start the movie when the producer and executive producer–and the other almost ‘annoying’ information is displayed that just delays the start of the movie–the song should be You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones because she was expecting that she was going to be able to go to Fairyland again in the spring.   But like it says in the song ‘If you try sometimes, you just might find… you get what you need!’  September got what was needed.  On the night of September’s 13th birthday, she was called into the delight of Fairyland.  Instead of Fairyland-Above, she fell beneath Fairyland where she went on another adventure, but this time without her normal friends.  She strived to get the one part of the puzzle that will satisfy her forever.  I picture the song We are Family by Sister Pledge connected with this scene for the emotion.  When she walked back home that night, she saw two figures talking under the porch light.  She ran toward them…

I would recommend these 10-out-of-10 novels to any middle grader who thinks they have a spark of adventure in them.

-Maya S., 6th grade

Book Review: Wooden, by John Wooden

wooden_coverWooden, by John Wooden with a foreword by Steve Jamison, is– well, in a way an autobiography of Coach Wooden’s life, yet this really isn’t considered an autobiography. To me, it’s a book on how to live a better life, during the good times of your life, and the tough times too.

Coach Wooden was the head coach at UCLA, and during his coaching reign he won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years and also won 88 straight games which still remains a record today for the Bruins. This story emphasizes Wooden’s feelings and his beliefs that he has carried all the way from his early childhood in a farm in Indiana.

He shares these beliefs with us in order to show how they work in life, and also why should we act in this specific way or form. This book is supposed to be a book in which you can reflect on your own life and see where your weakness are, and then well strengthen and also fix that specific weakness that you are having in your life.

This book I would surely recommend to every age. Coach Wooden has been a role model to me, and I am very sure he will be a strong example of a role model to you as well. The life of a remarkable, and humble hero– Coach John Wooden.

-Robert N., 10th grade

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan

will_grayson_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

On a cold night in Chicago, two strangers cross paths. The two teens, living in different cities, suddenly find their lives going in new and surprising directions that culminate in a brave change of heart and an epic high school musical sure to steal the hearts of its audience. This amazing story, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, was written by award winning authors John Green and David Levithan. Green has won numerous awards for writing young people’s literature and has a blog, Brotherhood 2.0, in which he encourages his readers “to fight to increase the awesome and to decrease the suck!”

An enticing novel about a boy, Will Grayson, meeting another boy who is coincidentally named will grayson, this story is about friendship and love, and it is written in alternating points of view.  Will Grayson narrates the story on the odd numbered chapters, while will grayson, whose name is never capitalized, narrates the story on the even numbered chapters. While these two have the same name, their lives are nothing alike.

The theme of this book is that friendship happens because of fate or destiny. Will Grayson says, “But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are” (260). This quote demonstrates that forming friendships is not a choice, but an inevitable existence. It is fated so you cannot escape from the people who are put into your life to be your friends.

Although the Will Graysons have the same name and age, their personalities are completely different. Will Grayson cares about his family and friends, but his friends easily manipulate him. will grayson, however, has quite an attitude even though he is small. He doesn’t care much about life and he treats people with very little respect. Tiny, who is also one of the main characters, is Will Grayson’s best friend. Will describes Tiny as “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay and the world’s gayest person who is really, really large” (3). Tiny momentarily fosters a romantic relationship with will grayson, who is also gay. Their short fling further affirms the theme that romantic relationships may not last, but friendships last an eternity.

I thought this novel was very well written. It does contain some words that are inappropriate for younger readers, but I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a realistic drama. I especially like this book because of the way it was written. The alternating points of view of both of the Will Graysons add to the meaning of the story because these characters have different perspectives on the same events. I love the way that the two different authors of the book collaborated to write such a magnificent piece.

Full of drama, friendship, and love, Will Grayson, Will Grayson brings up many of life’s tough truths. In one of the scenes, Will Grayson says, “Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does” (19). This is very sad, but also very true. Will Grayson, Will Grayson will leave you introspective and pondering your own relationships.

-Sarah K., 7th grade

Book Review: Her Majesty’s Wizard, by Christopher Stasheff

her_majestys_wizard_coverEveryone knows the qualities of a fantasy story: a hero, a dragon, a damsel in distress, an evil wizard, and people who can choose to be helpful or harmful to the hero. However, what happens when the hero is a couple of smidgens higher than useless in a world that he doesn’t know much about?
All that-and more-happens when Matthew Mantrell recites poetry that’s written an old piece of paper in a language that doesn’t exist. And so Matthew gets pulled into a world where reciting poetry performs magic. Since he has also promised Princess Alisande to help win back her kingdom from an evil sorcerer, he has to travel through an unknown land where evil clearly rules.
Her Majesty’s Wizard can be inappropriate for some audiences, especially for kids under 13, because there are some scenes of violence and women that try to take off their clothes. Also, this book goes into depth about the Catholic religion and emphasizes the fact that God exists. On the other hand, no one says any bad words because just saying “Damn” would bring an angel’s wrath upon you.

However, fans of famous historical events, such as the  Crusades, might love how Stasheff rewrites history, such as saying that Remus won instead of Romulus. Since there are also magic and dragons, fans of Eragon would like this book, too.

Besides historical references and having relations to other books, Her Majesty’s Wizard is written with:
  • Comedy, especially when Matt says something about his world that no one else knows,
  • Famous songs and poems, such as Greensleeves,
  • And some real life advice about love.
Finally, as an example for love advice, Stasheff writes when Matt meets a girl who doesn’t, “Matt felt his chest puffing out a bit; this was the first time in his life he’d really had a chance to impress a girl! Then he remembered what pride goeth before,” (Stasheff 49).
Whether you’re a history geek or devoted to religion, Her Majesty’s Wizard will capture your heart and always remind of its remarkable characters.
-Megan V., 8th grade

Looking Forward to The Fault In our Stars Movie

fault_in_our_stars_coverWe’ve all read and fallen in love with the book, but will the movie live up to our expectations? John Green’s bestselling novel The Fault In Our Stars is finally being made into a movie, set to hit theaters on June 6, 2014.

Award-winning actress Shailene Woodley has been cast to play the main character, Hazel Grace, and Augustus Waters is being portrayed by the actor Ansel Elgort, and although he isn’t as famous or well known as Shailene, he seems to fit the role just as well. And of course, many of us remember him from the Nickelodeon TV show “The Naked Brothers Band,” Nat Wolff is going to be playing Augustus’ best friend, Isaac. With this cast performing as the main characters, it’s sure to be a hit.

Not to mention author John Green has been tweeting his anticipation for the movie since it began filming. Updating us with pictures, videos, and tweets on set, it’s clear he is as excited as the rest of us.


I think The Fault in Our Stars will be quite similar to the Perks of Being a Wallflower movie. Although the two books are completely different, they both reached a wide audience and perfected the cast and movie and gave the fans of the book something to be happy with (which is usually very rare). All in all, the movie will no doubt be a success, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it.

-Sara S., 10th grade

Book Review: The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy

wild_girls_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

An insightful and erratic woman once stated, “Pay attention. Notice things and think about what you notice. Sometimes you’re writing about one thing and realize your actually writing about something else” (108). That contemplative and unusual woman is Verla Volante, one of the lesser-talked about, but very distinctive and important, characters, in the novel The Wild Girls, written by Pat Murphy.

The year is 1972. Joan and her average, mediocre four-person family have just traveled over 2000 miles across the United States, from the comfort of her cozy home in Connecticut to a new house in Danville, a small suburb just outside of San Francisco. Joan is almost sure she’ll disapprove of her new and ‘improved’ life, but soon finds makes a discovery that changes her mind.

The Queen of the Foxes, Fox, or just simply Sarah- Joan’s newfound friend is known by many names. When Joan encounters Fox, wearing war paint and ascending a tree in the forest behind her house, a friendship is formed immediately. Joan is fascinated by Fox’s ability to not care what other people think of her, and Fox supports Joan, or Newt, a nickname given to her by Fox, in helping her to find adventure- right in her own backyard. Fox lives near Joan- just her, and her writer father, Gus, who is just as strange as Fox, perhaps a bit stranger. When these two wild girls enter a writing competition at school- life takes them in directions they had no idea they could be taken. From a strange new writing camp to meeting with some old friends, these two wild girls are whisked away on the greatest journey that two friends could take.

The three main characters in this story- Joan, Fox and Verla- all have very interesting stories and opinions about certain things- but not all are dying to share. Fox is very opinionated- she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, as shown when she refused to dissect a frog in biology class. “I’m not sticking a needle into a frog” (60), she stated bluntly. But her opinion is usually only heard by her close friends, and family. Joan, on the other hand, is shy and quiet- at some times- but Fox really changes that as the story progresses. The characters also posses strengths, weaknesses, and fears. Fox isn’t good with people- especially people that want her to become something she is not. Joan is afraid of her father, more specifically her mother and father fighting. Which brings us to the conflict of the story.

A few conflicts are mentioned in this story- and not all are resolved. There are a few that are solved in the story. When Joan and Fox are straining to come up with an idea for the writing competition- BAM- it hits them. They then begin a magical story, starring the wild girls, with an evil prince, a kidnapped queen- you get the picture.  But a few conflicts do remain unresolved. Joan’s mother and father are constantly fighting at home. Her father is always arguing about money, and how everyone else is stupid, and claiming that he is smarter than every person. When Joan’s mother convinces him to try a marriage counselor, he is bitterly angry, saying, “I understand a lot of things. I understand that is cost me an arm and a leg to spend an hour talking with some quack about things we already know. I understand you’re spending money like it was water” (130).  Gus has some opinions on this topic- he believes that some people say they’re fighting about some things, when they’re really fighting about another.

I thought this story was very well written. I loved the way that the author, Mrs. Murphy, depicted the character’s emotions, and they were very real, and raw feelings. I also enjoyed the way that the story was written from Joan’s perspective. It probably would have made for a very different story written from Fox’s perspective, or even the third person’s perspective. I would recommend this book to all aspiring writers out there- even though it is a fairly easy read, is gives you some point of view about writing, and life in general. As Verla Volante once said, in order to broaden your perspective, and improve as a writer, “Drop a pebble in a pond. Watch the ripples spread. That’s what you want your writing to do” (288).

-Daisy S., 7th grade