Kamisama Hajimemashita (Kamisama Kiss) by Julietta Suzuki

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Cinderella got her stroke of luck by meeting her fairy godmother and loosing her glass slipper. Mulan got her stroke of luck by (in the movie) taking the place of her father. Monozami Nanami got her stroke of luck by getting homeless and chasing a dog away from a god.

After a little while, she doesn’t seem to think she’s lucky. Although she did get a house after her home was confiscated because her good for nothing father didn’t pay the bills, she did get the new place from a creepy man who’s scared of dogs and hasn’t been home for twenty years. Worse yet, he made her the new land god by kissing her forehead, and with that job comes a whole lot of responsibility, chores, and a handsome kitsune (fox yokai) familiar, Tomoe. Tomoe hates Nanami’s guts because she’s human and not spiritually strong enough to do a proper talisman. Add a tengu teenage idol, a swamp koi yokai who’s in love with a human, and an evil yokai running around, and this wacky manga adventure will keep you laughing.

This manga has over 130 chapters, and continuing. Although it is a comedy, it is steeped in Japanese yokai folklore, weaving kitsune, kappa, and tanuki into the plot. There is also some famous Japanese gods, such as the god of Yomi, Azanami. Additionally, this is a heartfelt romance, with relationships such as Nanami falling for Tomoe and others. Most importantly, this is a manga where the plot will keep you wondering what would happen next.

This is a must read if one wants a girly manga with romance, adventure, and comedy.

-Megan V., 10th grade

Rhetoric Rants

Everybody has an opinion, and everyone is entitled to it, therefore you should use it. Whether it’s a matter of drinking Coke or Pepsi or something huge like why there should be a woman president, you should always speak your mind. Someone might even agree with you, and if you make a convincing argument, they may even switch their beliefs based on how strongly you believe in your opinion.

I personally don’t have strong opinions about a lot of things, only those I’m very passionate about. In my English class, a unit was dedicated to learning how to write effective persuasive speeches or “rhetoric rants”, using rhetorical devices and certain propaganda techniques to convince your reader. I decided to write about dance, being something that I have been very passionate about for as long as I can remember. More specifically, I wrote about how many people refuse to consider that the art of dance can also be a sport. Being a dancer, it may seem biased to argue that it is both an art and a sport, but I added facts that support my case. After sharing this with some of my classmates, I got them to believe in what I was saying, and I felt very accomplished, so now I will share it with you and see if I can do the same.

Dance Is A Sport!

The biggest debate between dancers and non dancers is whether or not dance is a sport. People say it is not a sport, and that it’s an art. Others argue that it is both. I’m one of those people who argue that it’s both. People who are uneducated about dance are quick to judge and say that it is not a sport. They say this because it’s not like football or soccer or swim or any “regular” sport. To everybody who claims dance isn’t a sport, what defines a sport? A sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. In dance, you compete like in any other sport. Instead of playing on a field or in the water, you perform on a stage. You still accumulate points. Maybe it’s not the same because you’re being judged for those points but it’s just as hard to work to get those points. Dancers practice just as much as players do when they prepare for a game or competition. A sport requires exercise. You exercise in dance. You build muscles just like in any other sport. You sweat just like in any other sport. It takes all your energy just like in any other sport. It’s not easy to hold your leg to your head or balance on one leg for minutes while spinning or get up from the ground without using your hands. Sports are also apparently supposed to have uniforms. Well, dance has uniforms. A uniform is just an identifying outfit worn by the members of a given profession, organization, or rank. Your costume is your uniform, worn by everyone performing and competing. But why would clothes even define what’s a sport?  Many of these arguments can easily be proven wrong just as I have done. So tell me again how dance isn’t a sport? Pool is considered a sport. Chess is considered a sport. So is dance not considered a sport? In the end, dance is many things. Dance is an exercise. Dance is an art. And dance is a sport. A professional dancer, Shanna Lafleur, once said “It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer”. Dance is graceful like an art and athletic like a sport.

Any thoughts on my very informal but informative rant? Anything you’re passionate about and want others to know about it? Comment and let me know what you think.

-Sabrina C.

The Martian by Andy Weir

themartian_aweirThe Martian, by Andy Weir, is about to become a major motion picture. So, it’s time to look at the brilliant book behind it. This science-fiction novel is the tale of Mark Watney, a resourceful and humorous astronaut on a manned mission to Mars. When a dust storm whips up ferocious winds, a broken antennae flies through the air and impales him, separating Watney from the rest of his crew. When the storm clears, all that remains is Watney and the barren planet. The rest of his crew managed to evacuate the planet, but the entire world presumes Watney to be dead. By some sheer miracle, Watney survives. The rest of the book follows Watney as he ensures his survival until NASA can send a rescue mission. His story is told through his own logs, kept in case some space traveler in the future finds it.

The most appealing aspect of The Martian as a science-fiction novel is its realism. Instead of bringing in aliens or complete bogus technology to fill in the holes, Weir writes using real science and engineering. As a botanist and mechanical engineer, our protagonist relies on his wits to keep himself alive. Through careful planning, Watney uses the available materials to create food and water. He calculates how long each of his resources will last, and how he can replenish them. As a result, much of the book is filled with complicated science-related jargon, but all of it is scientifically accurate. He overcomes real challenges with real solutions.

Mark Watney’s distinct character also contributes to the book. He is both confident and careful, and analyzes problems with careful logic. He is also extremely humorous and vulgar, cracking jokes whenever he can. This lightens the mood of a harrowing survival tale. Watney lets us sympathize with his plight without sounding corny or scripted. All of his reactions to events are extremely realistic. Readers should take notice that Watney does swear a lot throughout the story. The F-word appears in the very first sentence.
The Martian is an excellent science-fiction novel that meshes excitement with realism. Readers with a love of technology will especially enjoy this book. The movie comes out in October, so you can read the novel before seeing the film.

-Philip X.

The Martian is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

testing_joellecharbonneauDo you like standardized testing filled with hours of questions you have to fill out with a number two pencil? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if wrong answers resulted in your death? Welcome to The Testing.

Set in a dystopian future, this is the life of Cia as she is chosen for the testing. She’s from a small town, but is very smart and wants to be a mechanical engineer. There are several stages of testing, the first few standard things that you’d expect: math, history, etc. A question about categorizing plants between poisonous and nonpoisonous really showcases the intensity of the testing. Everyone had to eat the plants that they categorized and nonpoisonous. If they were wrong, well, death ensued.

What I found disappointing was that this book did not feel original to me. Maybe I’ve just read too many dystopian novels at this point, or this book borrowed too many similar ideas (aside from written standardized testing as far as I know) to feel new to me. There is a mostly average girl from an underrated location who goes somewhere new to survive and prove her worth. The underestimated idea from district twelve as well as a physical aspect of wilderness survival reminded me of The Hunger Games. The idea of a test where anyone can die at any time felt like Divergent. And the ominous government hiding everything from the public can go back to almost any dystopian work.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good book. Cia is a strong female character who uses her brains and even weapons when the events call on her to defend herself. She has a love interest, but he’s not really the focus. I didn’t really feel that Cia was really interested in him too much either because the situation she’s in took precedence in the plot. If you aren’t sick of dystopias at this point and don’t mind a few repeated themes, go ahead and give The Testing a try.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

The Testing is available for download from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animalfarm_georgeorwellAnimal Farm, a novella by George Orwell, is an allusion to the Russian Revolution and certain events in World War Two. The book begins with a boar named Old Major talking to the animals about his dream about revolution. All the animals on the farm want to overthrow their horrendous leader; Mr. Jones. As a result, when the idea of revolution is introduced, all the animals agree. A couple days later, Old Major died. However, the revolution continued. Two pigs took control when Mr. Jones left the farm: Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon becomes power hungry and chases Snowball off of the farm. Over time, Napoleon becomes more and more corrupt and over the years he slowly changes the values of Animalism. At the end of the book, the animals can not tell the difference between the pigs and their so called better values and the humans that were ruling them before.

Having read this book as a homework assignment for school, I read it with a different approach and attitude. I put a lot of focus on what was happening and I analyzed the book much more than I would have if I was reading it leisurely. However, I believe this made the book more enjoyable due to the fact that I understood it better and I picked on interesting portions of the book that I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t put so much thought into it. As a result, my recommendation for any interested readers is to read this book with care and thought because it makes the book much more enjoyable. All in all, I thought that this was a very well written book and I would recommend others to read it!

-Melika R., 10th grade

Animal Farm is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360

Witch and Wizard

witchwizard_jamespattersonIn the book, Witch and Wizard by James Patterson, the government has been taken over by a group called the New Order. Laws have been passed that ban certain things like art and books. They are forbidden! In charge of this government is a person with the title of The One Who Is The One. Because of the new government ruled by The One Who Is The One, magic is banned.

Captured in the middle of the night, the Allgood siblings are arrested by the police from their parents. They have been accused for possessing magical abilities. Both of them are sentenced to be executed. Because they are still minors, they are taken to prison, where they discover a whole group of other kids like them. The siblings had no idea about their magical abilities, but as the story continues they practice and get more comfortable with it. After finding out their parents have been captured, they use their newly discovered power to break themselves out of prison. With an ending sure to surprise you, check out this book today!

James Patterson is a great author and I have read his Maximum Ride books. Knowing his great sense of writing, I expected Witch and Wizard to be just as great. The premise of the story was exciting, but as the story continued, it fell a little bit short of expectations. The plot had great potential, and the vast majority of it was executed all right. As the story continued and the protagonists discovered more and more of their powers, the plot left me wanting more. Overall, an okay book, but I strongly suggest it for people who are big fans of the magic genre.

-Anmol K.

Witch & Wizard is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, and Overdrive.

Owari no Serafu (Seraph of the End) by Takaya Kagami and Yamoto Yamamoto

Modern Japan (and the rest of the world) has been ravaged by a virus, leaving almost everyone above the age of twelve dead.

Monsters called the Four Horsemen of John have come into the world, eating humans they cross. Vampires, afraid that their food supply would be lost, have come out and made human children as their livestock.

Yu, Mika, and the rest of the children of the Hyakuya orphanage are livestock to vampires. This has been the case for four years: living in a city made by vampires that they can’t get out of. Yu hates it, but the person that he feels like is his brother, Mika, feels that by giving his blood, his family (the orphanage) can escape. Something goes terribly wrong in the plan, and Yu is the only one who escapes, vowing to get revenge.

Four years later, at the age of sixteen, Yu trains to be in the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, made up with Japan’s last humanity that fights the Vampires. But what if he meets new friends who can become his “family”, knowing that he is haunted by his past? And what happens when he gets a demon to wield, who tells him that he is not totally human?

This manga is wrapped in chaos, fear, and mystery, making it a very good plot to follow and keep readers on the edges of their seats. Additionally, there is a lot of unexpected comic relief, so this is not a serious manga like Attack on Titan usually is. The characters in this dystopia world seem very real, as though they were people the reader would know. Finally, the drawings are amazing; both action scenes and scenes of down time (school, suspenseful scenes, etc.) are well done and very thorough.

If anyone is looking for an action manga that is not too serious, this is one to read. However, although it can be found in Barnes & Noble, it can not be found in the Mission Viejo Library.

-Megan V., 10th grade