The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore by Kate Maddision

incrediblecharlotte_katemaddisonThe sixteen-year-old daughter of Queen Victoria’s surgeon should be a mild-mannered and polite. That is what everyone in Her Majesty court’s thinks. Even so, Charlotte Sycamore has a price on her head and labeled the Robin Hood Surgeon for stealing medicine for the poor. One day, she is bitten by rabid dogs but not just any type of dogs. Mechanical dogs. Then starts the race against time to find a cure for this disease and the master of the dogs.

The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore is classified as an alternative history and steampunk story. It was this fact that instantly drew me to the story. There is a love story, which I think was not very well combined with the main conflict. The love story does take away some of the excitement presented in the book. One good thing is it does contain a very strong female main character, who goes beyond the norms of a “Victorian heroine”. This fact adds a lot to the story. Most of the story seems to have the theme of Charlotte trying to decide what she should do with her life. It is a choose between following her heart or conforming to the court. In her heart, she wants to be wild and free but the court expects her to marry who they choose and lead a quiet life. There are moments where Charlottes makes decisions that do not lead to great results and she learns from them.

To give this book a score, it would be 8/10. There could have been some changes that could have positively added to the story’s plot but overall it is still a very good read. I would recommend it to those trying to find a good steampunk novel.

– Sarah J.,

Made For You by Melissa Marr

madeforyou_melissamarrMade For You is a book that grabbed my attention right away and didn’t let it go until the end. It wasn’t necessarily the best book I’ve ever read, but it one was of the better ones in a while. This being said I really don’t know how to describe it. Its components are similar to a lot of teen books; romance with a hint of mystery. The thing that really garbed my attention though, was the darker nature of the plot. At the end of the second chapter the main character, Eva, has already had an attempt made on her life by someone know only as Judge. It was this chapter that really made me want to continue reading, his motivation for the murder attempt is what I found really intriguing, in fact his thoughts throughout the book were what I found most inserting. In my opinion Judge is easily the stronger character in the book, and my personal favorite, not because I was rooting for him to succeed but because I thought he was extremely well written and one of the more interesting characters out of a lot of books I’ve read.

But enough about Judge for now, it’s what happens after Eva walks up from his murder attempt that things start to get weird. Eva wakes in the hospital with the ability to see people’s death’s when the touch her. It is because I of this plot point that I have a hard time describing this book. This power, if you want to call it that, is very interesting and a driving force behind the plot. I thought it was very well thought out with limitations and other flaws that made it more believable. Except for one thing, we never really find out were the power came from. We find out it’s flaws and how it works, but not once is the source of the power mentioned.. As much as I loved this book, and I really did, this was a huge problem for me. I loved the story, and as mentioned early Judge’s character was very interesting, but I really feel like this was an attempt to add fantasy twist to what was other wise a book that bordered on realistic fiction that fell a little short of the goal. Honesty for a while I thought that maybe the whole thing was just in Eva’s head, or that maybe the hit and run had activated some kind of dormant magical ability, but at the end of the book I still didn’t have an answer.

Now this doesn’t mean that Made For You isn’t worth the read, I really think it is, I just think it has some flaws that should have been addressed. As a whole though the plot is very interesting, the characters and unique and three-dimensional with interesting motivates driving their actions, and a very interesting reveal at the end of the book pertaining to Judge’s identity, all of which make this a very solid read. One thing to keep in mind is since one of the driving points of the plot is an attempted murder their is some violence that may make younger readers uncomfortable, but high-school aged readers (and mature middle-school readers) probably won’t have a problem with it, as their are only a few short scenes. If you are looking for something that isn’t quite like anything else then I highly recommend giving Made For You a read.

Made For You is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Flyte by Angie Sage

flyte_angiesageThis sequel to the first book in the Septimus Heap series begins with a new foe that seems strangely familiar… ***SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST BOOK***  Boy 412, or Septimus Heap, as Aunt Zelda helped him to discover, is living a normal life as Marcia’s apprentice, or as normal as a wizard can get. Then one day, on a day that Marcia gives him to spend as he likes, he decides to visit Jenna in the Palace. Then suddenly Simon Heap appears and kidnaps Jenna! And, nobody will believe Septimus that Simon has kidnapped Jenna, making it difficult for him to do anything. How will he be able to get Jenna back? What does Simon want with her? That, until you read the book, is a secret that only the readers know.

I loved Flyte just as much as I loved Magyk. The escapades of Septimus and Jenna always are able to make me laugh, and those of a new(ish) character too, Beetle. Beetle is a worker at the Manuscriptorium, a place where they keep books and other things. He became friends with Septimus after they discovered their common interest in Magyk. Beetle is a bit weird, but that’s another reason that I like him. And, he has more in store for him in the five books to come (currently available in the library).

New character aside, there’s lots of other things that I like about Flyte. It has a lot more Magyk than in the first book, a big plus for me. It also links a lot of new stuff back to the first book, like a hidden room in the castle that might have something to do with Aunt Zelda’s cottage (hint, hint). I would give this book a 10 out of 10 because it’s an awesome book and because Angie Sage did a great job of bringing her characters back for a brand new adventure.

Flyte is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Spintered by A. G. Howard

splintered_aghowardIt all started with the rabbit hole.

Of course, Alice falls down it and finds herself in the bizarre world of Wonderland. But what would happened if when she came back, something wasn’t the same?

Skip two centuries to Alyssa Gardner, the descendant of Alice Liddell and inspiration for Lewis Carroll. She just wants to live a normal life with school, artistic desires, and Jeb, a cute artist. But the curse of the Liddell family that causes their girls to go crazy (including her mom) and the strange power to hear the voices of plants and insects keeps Alyssa’s life anything but normal.

That’s when she gets a call from the boy of her dreams (literally) to help save Wonderland and fix everything her ancestor messed up. If she does, she’ll be from her family’s curse, and her mother could be saved. But Wonderland is not how it seems through Lewis Carroll’s innocent perspective.

This book, along with the other two of its series, is amazing. It’s full of humor, including the comical fights between the two edges of the love triangle Alyssa somehow gets sucked into, a sarcastic characters, and the events Alyssa has to face in Wonderland.

I actually didn’t personally like Alice in Wonderland. However, when I read this book, I liked it way better than the original. And for those of you who like horror, all I’m going to say is that one of the author’s inspirations was Tim Burton. Additionally, there are small details that lead to very interesting and well thought out plans, which made the book even cooler. And of course, the classic secret keeping, in which secrets blew my mind and were ones I didn’t figure out before. Finally, the author puts the classic story into her own words, with characters the reader will recognize by name and be intrigued with.

All in all, this is one book that should be read!

-Megan V.

Taking Flight by Michaela and Elaina DePrince

takingflight_michaeladeprince“There’s not a mother in this world who would watch her child,
Cry in the street stand and watch her weep
There’s not a mother in this world who wouldn’t give
Up her own life for the life of her child”

-Abdulla Rolle, an established international nasheed writer and artist

The story of Michaela DePrince is one that I will never forget. Between its heartfelt message, its bittersweet moments, and its heart wrenching beginning, the hope of this little war orphan could keep an entire country motivated in such crisis.

A little girl by the name of Mabinty lived a pretty joyous life in a small, poor town in South Africa. Her father worked in the diamond mines while her mother stayed home to help educate Mabinty, for it was unlikely that this tiny girl would get married because of her appearance of white spots covering her neck, arms, and legs. She was considered a devil’s child because of this condition, for only the devil would give birth to such a wretched creature. Under her parents’ tutelage, by the age of 3 Mabinty could read Arabic and speak 5 languages. However, one day news came from the diamond mines that the rebels attacked and Mabinty’s father had been shot. To make matters worse, her uncle, who lived next door, deceivingly took over the girls along with all of Mabinty’s college savings. Then, afflicted by sickness and mistreatment, Mabinty’s mother died. Mabinty was promptly taken to an orphanage because her uncle, believing her to be the devil’s child, knew he wouldn’t get a good deal in marrying her off.

At the refugee orphanage, there were nannies, but not the Mary Poppins type. This type worked only to earn money for their household. They played favorites out of the 27 little war orphans. The beloved number one child would receive the best meals and first choice clothing. However, number 27 would get the smallest portion to eat and the last picked clothing. Mabinty was number 27. Her time at the orphanage was awful, but she still tried to bring her own light to it. She made a friend though with Number 26, whose name was also Mabinty. Number 26 cared for her much like a mother would. She would read to Mabinty when Mabinty couldn’t sleep. Number 26 would sing to her when it was raining or if Mabinty was sad. One day a wind pushed a magazine against the orphanage gates. On the front cover was the picture of a woman in a beautiful costume standing on her tippy toes. But what intrigued Mabinty was the fact that the woman looked overjoyed to be in this position. She ripped off the cover and stuck it inside the only thing that was hers, her underpants. Mabinty later learned from Teacher Sara(h) that the woman was a ballerina. So Mabinty would stretch and flex every day, mimicking the positions of the ballerina, hoping that someday she would become a ballerina.

Time passed and the children of the orphanage learned they would be adopted by American families. Twenty-six of the children had assigned families, but nobody wanted a spotted child. Incredibly, Mabinty and her best friend, number 26, were adopted together. Upon meeting her new mama, 4-year old Mabinty searched the hotel room for pointed shoes or a pink dress or tiara but found nothing. Since she spoke very little English at that point, she pulled out of her underwear the picture of the ballerina and showed it to her new mama. Her mom smiled and said she would dance. Mabinty and Number 26 wanted new American names. Mabinty became Michaela DePrince and number 26, Mia DePrince. Michaela and Mia, once settled in their new homes, both started ballet and dance classes. And, by age ten Michaela was in an upper class, dancing five times a week. Michaela DePrince is an inspiration, and this book follows her fight against all odds. The song at the beginning of this post really describes the whole book, and to me, the meaning of life. This was an amazing book, and I really encourage others to explore more about Michaela DePrince through this book, her movie, TED talks, and inspirational videos.

“Oh people of the world
Can we spare a little justice can we spare a little peace
For the children of war
Oh people of the world
Can we spare a little love can we spare a little prayer
For the children of war”

-Abdullah Rolle

 

-Maya S., 8th grade

Taking Flight is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bravenewworld_aldoushuxleyDo you sometimes wish you did not have parents? Would you like to have free time to do whatever you wish? Would you rather not choose a favorite color?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe you should move to the utopian society pictured in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

But on the other hand, maybe not…

The setting of this novel is a society where all people are decanted rather than born. Before they are ‘born,’ they are predestined to their position in society. For the Epsilon Semi-Morons, this means having their intelligence and growth stunted or even being part of a Bokanovsky Group, where one will have at least 50 identical twins. For an Alpha Plus, this means becoming an individual, because these are the people who will grow up to be World Controllers.

The people in the novel are encouraged to take part in whatever activities bring them pleasure, including erotic play. Additionally, there is soma, the drug that brings the person away from the problems of the world, in something called a soma-holiday. There is no such thing as God in this world; they worship Henry Ford. Their calendar system is based off the invention of the Model-T Ford.

One day, however, in this seemingly perfect world, Bernard Marx and his girlfriend for the week go to a savage reservation in New Mexico, where life is still going on as it was before this civilization developed. His girlfriend, Lenina, is revolted by the fact that people here have their own children, that they can grow fat, and that people get married and stay dedicated to one person their whole life! Here, Lenina and Bernard meet John and Linda, two people with surprising ties to civilization. The decision to bring them back to their society, as expected, causes conflict.

My favorite part of the novel was how thought out this futuristic society is. Though to me, it is very disgusting, and I would definitely not want to live there. It seems very realistic that it might occur even today, thought the novel was written in 1932. Also, though sad, the very end of the novel was poetic and very eloquently written.

I would definitely recommend this book to older teens. Some of the ideas and descriptions in the novel are certainly for older audiences. Additionally, I found that there was a lot of vocabulary that was new to me, and I had to keep looking up new words, so that is something to consider. But if you do decide to read this book, you should enjoy it. It is a very fascinating novel.

-Leila S.

Brave New World is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

invisibleman_ralphellisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison is an amazing novel that takes you through the experience of being an African American man in Ellison’s day. The theme of invisibility is key throughout the novel. For example, in the beginning of the novel the narrator gets his own electric power for his underground home. The electrical company is confused because they do not know the source of the electricity loss in their company. The narrator is thus invisible to the company but is still getting away with taking electricity for his home. Therefore, we can see that invisibility allows an individual to perform actions that may not be caught, since no one suspects them.

Also shown extensively throughout the novel is the imagery of sight and blindness. For example, Reverend Homer A. Barbee in the novel is blind. Brother Jack gets a glass eye and the narrator is overcome with blindness through many instances in the novel when he is giving a speech and he is blinded by either the thick wall of the white men’s smoke or the stage lights. This novel is a great insight for readers to really witness what types of struggles that African American individuals had to go through in Ralph Ellison’s days. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a must-read novel for one to be informed about how African Americans felt while living in America.

-Nirmeet B.

Invisible Man is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Axis360.