Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle – as if you didn’t know the story

wrinkle_in_timeThe title is kind of weird, isn’t it? What kind of time has a wrinkle? In this book by Madeline L’Engle you get the wonderful combination of sci-fi and fantasy that is so hard to find.

Meg Murry’s father was on a mission for the president when he disappeared. No one knows where he is, least of all his family. Meg’s mother misses him dreadfully. Her brothers Dennys and Sandy have stepped up and become the family patriarchs. Her brother Charles Wallace is four years old and much smarter than she is. Meg herself is failing in school and feels awful all the time. However, things change when Charles Wallace meets Mrs.Who, Mrs.What, and Mrs.Which who take them and a boy named Calvin on an adventure through time and space to rescue their father from the terrible planet he is imprisoned on.

This book is absolutely amazing and it really is a classic. Sci-fi isn’t usually my thing but I have made an exception for this one book due to the fabulously written and extremely human characters. The language and the content have caused me to fall totally in love with this book and it has been one of my favorites from a pretty young age. If you have already read the book, there is a book called When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead which has a similar idea and takes a little bit of a more modern view while alluding to A Wrinkle in Time frequently. And if you like Madeline L’Engle, try some over her other books like A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

-Becka O., 8th grade

Book Review: Midnight for Charlie Bone, by Jenny Nimmo

charlie_boneImagine having a unique talent which nobody else has, and you have the choice of using it to save the world! Written by Jenny Nimmo, this novel, Midnight for Charlie Bone, tells a story about a young boy who thinks he is a normal person with a normal life who has a normal friend. However, when Charlie starts to hear voices from the people in various photos and pictures, his life suddenly changes and becomes very complicated.

Charlie Bone is then forced by his wicked aunts to attend Bloor’s Academy for talented students in the areas of music, art, or drama. He is like some other children at this school who have an endowment of magic, and he is descended from the Red King, a ruler from the past with unimaginable powers. Myths say that these descendants would each possess one of those magical endowments, and that is why Charlie is able to hear people in non-motion images. One day while visiting a book store, he stumbled upon a mysterious, metal case containing something that might save the bookseller’s daughter and family. In order to do this though, he needs to find the courage to stand up to the Bloor family, whose evilness is lurking behind the doors of their academy.

Jenny Nimmo is an extraordinary author who writes several fantasy books for children and young adults. This series, Charlie Bone and the Red King, has a total of eight amazing novels, and I am currently reading the third book, Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy.

I think Charlie is the perfect character, since he has the right personality and characteristics for this series. What makes him so special in the book is that he has a knack for getting in trouble, but he can somehow always get away with it, whether it is having friends help or by using his brain to get out of tough situations.

My recommendation for this book would be to anyone between the ages of ten to sixteen who like to read about fantasies and mysteries. I would rate this novel a nine and a half out of ten, because it drew me into the story, as if I was part of the setting. This would be a good book for you Harry Potter fans out there, for this series depicts a war of good versus evil.

-Riley W., 6th grade

Series Review: The Last of the Jedi

last_jediI, for one, love the six Star Wars movies, and I am really excited about the new ones yet to come from Disney. That’s why, while at the Mission Viejo Library, I found a whole new Star Wars book series: The Last of the Jedi.

This series takes place in between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which is my favorite, and Episode IV: A New Hope. Now, I am not going to spoil anything too much about the two movies or the book series, but I will start off my “summary” by saying this: it is awesome!

As of right now I am on book 7 out of 10 known books, there might be more, and I love the storyline! It is about Ferus Olin who is trying to get the Jedi back together. He is successful at times, and others not so much, so it really keeps the reader on edge of what will happen next.

Also, familiar characters are in these books such as Darth Vader, Obi Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine, and Grand Moff Tarkin. The author, Jude Watson, has taken many small details of the Star Wars films and put hints of them throughout the series, so if you want to read this series, I suggest watching the movies first. Although the books explain things well, you won’t get a single word of it until you see the movies.

If anyone has seen the movies and loved them like me, hopefully all of you, or read the series, then leave a comment so that I can see other thoughts about the books!

-Kyle H., 7th grade

Book Review: The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra Goodman

other_side_islandThe Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman is about a brave girl named Honor, born in the eighth year of Enclosure, living in a society controlled by the Earth Mother and her Corporation. Every family on island 365 lives peacefully and follows the rules– except for Honor’s. They sing songs, ignore curfew, and do not pray to Earth Mother. Families are only allowed to have one child, but Honor also has a younger brother. Despite her great effort, Honor has great trouble trying to fit in with the other girls at her school.

At her school, she befriends a boy named Helix who is very knowledgeable about the island and he reveals to Honor that the people who are not “normal” disappear and never come back. Honor has a constant fear that her parents will be caught and taken, and she and her brother would be orphans forced to live at school– and one day, she discovers that her parents are missing. She is scared and lives alone with her younger brother at her home. Eventually she is discovered and is forced to live at school. The girls in her class no longer accept Honor because of her orphan status.

Honor and Helix, both trying to escape from school, devise a plan to escape during a great storm, which happens every couple of years. After the storm comes, only Honor escapes and she runs away from the school. To see if she makes it to her parents, you  need to read this book with a shocking ending!

I found this book very interesting and unique among other dystopian novels. I really liked the surprise ending and found the whole book really interesting. I finished this book in one day because it was so good and I could not put it down. Recommended for anyone with an interest in dystopian novels, The Other Side of the Island is for ages ten and up.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Short Stories And What They Could Be

Short stories are somewhat out of style. Who cares about a short book when there is a full length novel to read? Recently, however hard they are to find, I have discovered their appeal. They encompass a moment of a character’s life, a scene that can be taken out of context of the overall story that gives a glimpse at an author’s style, the situation the characters are in, and who those characters are.

life_before_legendWhat that short story is can vary. There are the prequel stories that give background to the full story. Life before Legend by Marie Lu shows June and Day back when they were twelve, giving insight on the great characters they would grow to be. This kind of short story could be read before to discover the series or read after when you just never want it to end. Or in the middle, like I did.

grim_short_storiesSometimes short stores are collected together into a book, linked together by an underlying common thread. Grim, written by way too many authors (this is by no means a bad thing), contains all sorts of twists on fairy-tales, some darker, using the bare minimum from the source, while others are an inventive retelling, staying true to the fairy-tale it came from. The best part of a collection of short stories is the variety. Even if you don’t like one author or story, a few pages later, there’s a new one. There is the flip side, of course, when it ends too soon, but I think that’s kind of the point. They aren’t supposed to have a satisfying ending; the taste of potential always makes you want more.

free_fourAnother possibility short stories present is insight into another character’s mind, especially from first person point-of-view novels. Free Four: Tobias Tells the Story takes, obviously, the perspective of Four (or Tobais, but I’m going with Four) from Veronica Roth’s Divergent in the knife throwing scene. I don’t want to ruin anything by saying anything else about it. These types of short stories give other characters a chance for the reader to see their thoughts and mindset for a change. It’s nice to know how other character think and perceive the same situation differently.

Just like full length novels, some short stories are better than others. Find something that interests you and give short stories a chance. They won’t take long to read.

-Nicole G., 10th grade

Book Review: Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

“‘Most of humanity’, he said, ‘have eyes that are so caked shut with the dust of deception they will never see the truth, no matter who tries to save them'”

eat_pray_loveEat, Pray, Love is a memoir written by Elizabeth Gilbert which captures her journey across what she calls “the three I’s.” After a messy divorce with her first husband, Gilbert decided to take a journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia. In each of the three countries she made a specific goal; in Italy, to eat and learn the culture surrounding Italian food, in India, to learn about spirituality (hence the word pray), and finishes her year abroad in Indonesia, where she will experience love. I loved the book, and although it starts off slowly, you will fall in love with the book once her trip begins.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life”

-Sara S., 10th grade

Book Review: Looking for Alaska, by John Green

looking_for_alaskaIn the novel Looking For Alaska by John Green, you learn the true lesson of always looking out for your friends.

A boy named Miles leaves his boring life in Florida to seek his Great Perhaps. He decides that to do so he must go to boarding school. When he gets there, he meets his roommate the Colonel. The Colonel introduces Miles- who is now nicknamed Pudge- to a girl named Alaska. Pudge describes Alaska as the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life.

Pudge and Alaska spend a lot of time together and go through great adventures. Alaska has a lot going on in her life and one night she storms off and gets in a car accident. After the accident, Pudge and the Colonel go through great efforts to try and figure out what happened to her that night.

By the end of the book, Pudge believes that he has found his Great Perhaps. In this book, you capture the message to hang on to every moment and to always make every moment count. Pudge and the Colonel embrace that message after the accident. I would recommend this book to anyone above the age of 13. In the end, this was a great book and it was heart-warming.

-Melika R., 8th grade

Book Review: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, by Josh Berk

dark_daysHow can a fat, deaf, high school boy be the new Hardy Boy? Well somehow, Will Halpin somehow manages to do it.
With his friends Hardy Boy-loving Devon Smiley and ex girlfriend Ebony, Will Halpin (or as he is known on IM, Hamburger Halpin) must find out who killed the somewhat popular football player Pat- whether it was the depressed prom queen, the sexy math teacher, or Pat’s jealous friends. Along the way, Will wants to see if he could find the ghost of coal miner that he was supposed to be named after.
While this book is a good mystery for teens, whether you like Nancy Drew or not, the mystery isn’t the main point of the book, since the murder doesn’t happen until halfway into the book. If I had to say what the main conflict is in the book, I would say that it’s the internal conflicts that happen inside of Will. All throughout the book, Will tries to find himself, since his old deaf friends hate him, his new classmates don’t want to be friends with him because he’s deaf and friends with weird Devon, he wants to confess to the beautiful Leigha and the hot police chick who knows sign language, and he’s trying to find out why his parents have never told him that he was named after a deaf coal miner.

All in all, this was a great book. It was super hilarious, it had a great mystery that actually made you think, there were references to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and makes you think differently of other people, whether they are popular or weird. However, there are a few things to take note of. Some of the content is slightly inappropriate, the characters find out some not so nice histories of other people, and the murderer’s motive is just plain sad.
Even so, I suggest that you give this book a try.
-Megan V., 8th grade

Book Review: Alanna: The First Adventure By Tamora Pierce

alannaThe first book to a incredible saga of books in the mythical Kingdom of Tortall starts with a girl wanting to become a knight. 

Alanna of Trebond is determined to be a knight but her father, who doesn’t care about her goals, wants to send her to a convent to learn how to be a noble lady. Without her father’s knowing, she and her twin brother, Thom, switch places. Thom, who wants to learn magic was going to be sent to become a knight, so he gladly goes to the convent, which is where he could learn magic. That is only the beginning of Alanna’s adventures.

The First Adventure is the first book of the Song of the Lioness series written by Tamora Pierce. This is the first book that started the series of adventures in the mythical Kingdom of Tortall.

This story is about Alanna’s journey of pretending to be a boy named Alan so she can become a knight. This first book is all about her Page years. She encounters plenty of other pages during training from Raoul of Goldenlake, Gareth of Naxen the Younger, Francis of Nond, Alexander of Tirragen, and Crown Prince Jonathan of Conte– some who become her enemies, and others who become her best friends. She meets and befriends the young King of Thieves, George Cooper, who becomes a important ally. Alanna has to cope with a magical power that she doesn’t want, while her suspicions of the prince’s magic filled cousin, Duke Roger, become increasingly larger. 

The first of an amazing series,The First Adventure has a strong female protagonist who deals with life and troubles like anybody else. Filled with action and adventure as Alanna methodically- sometimes dangerously- goes through her first training years disguised as a boy. This I would recommend for older readers as well as the rest of the series. This book and series does deal with maturing of girls, due to the aging of the main characters. The book also contains some rather strange and maybe creepy creatures. There is also a touch on the subject of love and the difficulties between family.  This is what I think, but read it for yourself!

I’ve reviewed two other books written by Tamora Pierce: Battle Magic and First Test.

– Sarah J., 8th grade

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

robinson_crusoeThis book is super awesome. I had to read this book for a school assignment so I automatically thought that it would be boring. But I was in for a big surprise! Its a little slow at first but once you get into it, it gets really exciting.

Young Robinson Crusoe doesn’t want to live the life of his father, a church clergy, so he decides to run away. As he embarks on his journey to wherever life takes him, Robinson’s ship gets devastated by a huge storm. He makes out alive along with the others but is stuck on a small harbor for some time.He later receives help from a Portuguese captain who soon becomes one of his greatest friends. Things seem to go well for Robinson until he is caught and enslaved. In his bondage, Robinson devises a plan to escape and free himself from slavery.

We all know what the book Robinson Crusoe is famous for, right? Well, a short while later, Robinson faces his greatest challenge yet. He goes on another ship where he yet encounters another storm, except that this one actually destroys the ship. He is stranded on an island which he barely manages to come to. With no food or provisions, Robinson Crusoe must fight nature and himself. He comes across many “friends” of both animal and human. But also encounters enemies– the cannibals that rule the island.

Will he survive? Will he ever get off this wretched island? To find that out, you are just going to have to read the book. I hope it gives you the same impression that it gave to me. Enjoy!

-Christina B., 7th grade