The Martian by Andy Weir

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If you’re one of the ten people who didn’t see the movie, The Martian is a book about an astronaut who gets accidentally abandoned on Mars and his efforts to make his way home. In this perfect blend of Cast Away and Interstellar, Mark Watney (portrayed in the movie by Matt Damon) must survive adversity after an explosion strands him on the red planet. The story of his survival on Mars is told to the audience through daily logs. It feels as if Watney is talking directly to the reader. The Martian truly illustrates how anything is possible, no matter how terrible the odds, and that humanity’s greatest virtues is its ability to overcome.

The Martian is the first interesting science textbook I’ve ever read. I know that it’s technically not a textbook, but it pretty much is, just written in the first person and with a story. Andy Weir literally explained every single piece of the science in the book in detail. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just probably goes over the head of anyone not extremely interested in Science. I think I learned more Science from reading this book than I have in school for the past three years.

The book The Martian doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. In fact, it was almost cheated by the movie. Not that the movie was bad, actually it was really good and followed the book really well. The issue is that, because the movie was so popular and so good, a much larger group of people just watched the movie and forgot it was even based on a book. Even I saw the movie first, so the book felt more like a movie novelization. That said, it is still 100% worth reading, and I highly recommend.

-Evan G, 8th Grade

The Martian is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

ravencycle_maggiestiefvaterThe Raven Cycle series, by Maggie Stiefvater, finally came to a close this spring with the release of her fourth installment, The Raven King. After finishing the first book, titled The Raven Boys, this series quickly jumped high onto the list of my favorite books. The more I read, the higher it climbed. Stiefvater’s characterization and descriptive language is enthralling, bringing me to actually set down the book and relish over a line or two of pure perfection multiple times.

This series deals with magic, mystery, romance, but above all- friendship. The main cast of characters are deeply developed and intricate, and the story gives us a thorough look into their pasts, presents, and heck, even their looming futures.

Blue Sargent, the main female lead, is the only non-psychic in a family of seers, but she has the ability to amplify their clairvoyant powers. For this reason, Blue accompanies her Aunt Neeve on St. Mark’s Eve to go to an abandoned churchyard; St. Mark’s Eve is the day of the year when psychics can see the ghosts of the people who are going to die in the following year walk along the Corpse Road. Blue has never been able to see these ghosts- until tonight.

She asks this sole visible ghost his name- Gansey- and her Aunt explains that the only reason that Blue, a nonseer, would see a ghost is if he’s her true love- or if she’s the one who kills him. Gansey, very much alive, has spent the past couple of years researching the legend of the dead Welsh King Glendower. Legend says he was buried on a magical ley line, and whoever wakes him gets a favor. He and his best friends Adam, Ronan, and Noah devote their time to finding this sleeping king and recruit Blue into their questing court.

The series offers many twists and turns, oftentimes surprising me with a suspenseful showdown or a magical revelation. The more I learned about the characters, the more I loved them and feared for them as their stories grew darker and darker. The characterization stands out as the highlight of the series. Stiefvater chips away at the inner beings of each character until we have a roadmap of each one, pointing out their fears and flaws and tracing their dreams and desires. Out of the main five characters, Blue is the only female, but her family- who we spend lots of time getting to know- is overflowing with a cast of unique, quirky, and psychic women, giving us a wide array of female side characters. Gansey, Adam, and Ronan are my personal favorites; their dynamics are very complicated and interesting, and I anticipated the chapters written from their points-of-view most of all. Stiefvater’s imagination is abundant, and it is evident as she builds her world in the small town of Henrietta.

I have and will continue to recommend this series to any avid readers I come across, for it was a wild ride that I will never forget. The four books- The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue, and The Raven King– have secured their positions as some of my favorite books, and I hope they will continue to be recognized in the future as the truly captivating novels they are.

-Abby F.

The Raven Boys and the rest of the Raven Cycle novels are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

The Google Art Project

The Google Art Project is a vast collection of art and from different museums from all over the world that can be visited without leaving the house. There are many benefits to visiting this online museum, and while these benefits are very helpful, some could be improved.

As I was exploring the different features, I found many perks in visiting the Google Art Project. For example, I found a panel that grouped pieces of art by the artist, medium, art movement, historical events or figures, and places. This was nice because it allowed me to find many art pieces in a certain category. One of my favorite things while visiting this online museum was the zoom feature, which lets me see finer details, such as printed text and small, intricate designs left by the artist, I would not have otherwise been able to see had I gone to a regular museum. The drawback to this, however, was that although I could see the artwork in more detail, it took a long time to load when I wanted to zoom in very closely, so it wastes some time, too. Another helpful thing the museum has is virtual tours of some museums.

The Google Art Project, in making art and museums more accessible to the general public, allows people to appreciate art and history to a greater degree, and I believe that this is important in a society. While the Art Project could be improved and expanded, I think that it’s a good start in allowing more people who may not have the time or don’t live close to a museum to access artworks.

-Aliya A.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

bewarethewild_natalieparkerBeware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker is a paranormal novel about the mysterious shrouding of a swamp in the city of Sticks, Louisiana. The whole town knows to avoid the swamp; including Sterling, the protagonist. That changes when her brother Phin runs to the swamp after an argument. He never returns and instead, a girl named Lenora May claiming to be Sterling’s sister appears from the foggy swamp. Sterling does not believe Lenora May, but the rest of the town does not know of anyone named Phin; they only know of Lenora May. Realizing she is on her own, Sterling becomes more and more determined to go back to the swamp to find her brother. Despite the fact that no one knew Phin, Sterling discovers that Heath Durham, a boy from her grade can help her. Together, they set out to uncover the dark secrets of the swamp.      

This book has it all. From action to mystery, Beware the Wild encompasses many genres. With a great plotline, there were no missing details. Also, it was unique because the author was able to take the concept of a haunted swamp, and turn it into a great story that will invite you in and won’t let go until the last page. Sterling, the main character, was a smart and independent protagonist, whose love for her brother was her sole motivation to bring him back. With a satisfying ending, Beware the Wild is great for a quick read.

-Anmol K.

Taken by Erin Bowman

taken_erinbowmanIn the small town of Claysoot, enclosed by a Wall, lives a 17-year-old boy named Gray. Today is the day of his older brother’s 18th birthday.  However, in Claysoot, when a boy turns 18, he disappears. They all do. And, everybody just accepts it.  So, tonight, as it turns midnight, Blaine, Gray’s brother, will be Heisted.  But, Gray is not ready.  He is not ready for his best friend and brother to leave him.  He is not ready to see Blaine’s little daughter’s face when she sees her father will never come back.  But, how can Gray stop fate from happening?

Well, there is one thing.  But, anyone who has ever tried it comes back blackened and burned as a result of climbing the Wall.  Gray considered climbing over it, but always thought it to be too dangerous.  Instead, Gray spends his last day having as much fun as he can with his brother.  But, it didn’t feel real.  Every moment, he would think that just at this very time tomorrow, Blaine would not be there.  He would be gone.

Forever.

But, Gray had to accept it.  So, as he walked up to the stage during Blaine’s Heisting ceremony, he said his final goodbye.  At this point in the story, I was reminded of the classic Italian song, Time to Say Goodbye made popular by U.S. singers Bocelli and Brightman.  It’s heart wrenching chorus brings alive the emotion that Gray is feeling. As Gray gave his brother a hug, Blaine did something strange. He winked. This made Gray very confused, but the time had come for Blaine to be Heisted.  The ground rumbled, there was a flash and his brother was gone.

Forever.

Or so he thought… If this were a movie, here I would insert in the suspenseful tri-tone bum bom bam! to intensify the mini cliff hanger.  Read the book to find out what happens next!  I really enjoyed it!  And, I give the first book in this Taken trilogy a 9/10 for its intriguing dystopian literature.

-Maya S., 9th Grade

Taken is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Image result for fangirl bookFangirl….not a title that sounds like  your cup of tea? Well think again, because Rainbow Rowell’s brilliant and relatable novel encompasses a young adult’s perspective as she tries to navigate her first year in college. Cather, or Cath, is an incoming Creative Writing Major who already has a following for her work in online fanfiction, done so under a pseudonym. Snippets of her writings are also included between chapters to provide a balanced parallel and subplot. The novel also gives the readers some great insight on the online community, and how very real and important fan created content is to people.

Cath is beyond nervous as she goes off to college with her twin sister, Wren. Unlike Cath however, Wren is outgoing, daring, and a social butterfly. After Wren decides not to share a dorm with her sister, Cath is left to her own devices in navigating the new roommate, campus life, and her newfound independence. She is also quite witty, along with a few other characters in the book that provide many hilarious lines and nods pop culture. I personally identified with this novel, because of Cath’s introverted qualities, escapism in books, and social anxiety. In addition, Cath’s number one stress release is writing, as she gets lost into her world of writing about her favorite fictional characters. Her intense love for the book series Simon Snow, and the friends she made through it reminded me of how I feel that Harry Potter  shaped me into who I am, and it made me nostalgic for the midnight premiere excitement. I believe everyone can relate to that on some level, whether it be with a book series or movie, like Star Wars.

I recommend this book to anyone going to college soon, because it gave me some great understanding and insight on what to expect and look out for. I really loved how the author very subtly showed things the characters did, to foreshadow their true character. In summary, Cath’s first year in college is full of family drama, friend drama, writing career hurdles, inner conflict, and a potential romantic interest. Don’t miss out on author Rainbow Rowell’s unique voice!

-Ava K.

Fangirl is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Lights Out

lightsoutIn the spirit of Halloween, I chose to write about horror; one of my favorite subjects that will always intrigue me. Most times when I see a scary movie, it’s not as scary as I expect to be or the storyline just doesn’t make sense. Maybe it was the pitch black theater or the speakers amplifying every scratch and scream, but seeing Lights Out on the big screen made the story come to life.

Before watching it, I had heard that the film wasn’t good and that its scariest scenes were already revealed in the trailer. However, this didn’t seem to be the case as I was always jumping at the least expected times. While watching the horror story, I had to keep myself from closing my eyes or looking away.

On the subject of horror, I think it’s such an interesting topic to write about because not all horror stories have to be about murders or monsters. This leaves it to the authors to interpret and brainstorm their own horror stories that leave readers on a chilling cliffhanger.

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade