The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

hunger_games_coverThe Hunger Games contains very important characters by the names of Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Prim. Katniss in my opinion, was the most dynamic character in this novel. She transforms from a very obscure girl whose sole job is to simply take care of her mother and younger sister Prim to being a “hero” and a victor, alongside with fellow competitor Peeta. Katniss volunteers for the 74th Hunger Games in her sister Prim’s place.

The Hunger Games is focused primarily on action, but partially romance as well. The plot was very well thought out and written as it maintained suspense throughout the entire novel. There were many instances where Katniss and Peeta were almost murdered by other rivals during the games and whether or not they would survive long enough to win this horrific competition.

I really admired the fact that Collins put a ton of emotion into these characters for their willingness to survive and take care of their loved ones which would make the readers actually care about them. The ending was redemptive as Katniss and Peeta were both able to win the Hunger Games.

The style of this novel was rather easy to read. Adjectives I would use to describe Collins’ style would be distinct and understandable as this book didn’t use much complex, long words and did not use much of short, simple words as well. Overall, I would without a doubt, recommend The Hunger Games because it puts readers on the edge of their seat as the story becomes more intense and suspenseful and even makes the readers actually care about the characters.

-Matt J.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla.

The Unfortunate Decline of Anna Seghers

annaseghersFame. Money. Glory.

For most prominent celebrities, authors, or personalities, the former nouns are essential to their ways of life. However, what happens after a renowned author loses all of their fame and glory?

Anna Seghers, one of the most important German woman writers of the 1900s, definitely knew the answer to that. Before her untimely death, Seghers wrote many outstanding novels during World War II. Her most popular novels included The Excursion of the Dead Girls, Transit, and The Seventh Cross.

Laden with beautifully-developed symbols and leitmotifs, each of her novels condemned Fascism, especially German Fascism under the influence of Adolf Hitler. Although Seghers herself lived in Fascist Germany for a while, she despised any form of Fascist totalitarianism. Her novels are a clear indicator of her anti-Nazi sentiment. Her novels were loved by many people all around the world. Citizens of Allied countries (during and after World War II) read her works fervently as they also fought against Fascism in Europe.

It was near the end of Seghers’ literary career that she started to lose both fame and glory. Although she fought against totalitarianism in Germany, she soon became a part of the Soviet Communist party while in exile. Simultaneously, Seghers condemned Nazism and preached the tenets of Communism.

After Hitler’s death and the end of the war, Seghers resided in the Soviet-controlled part of Germany. She tenaciously stuck to Communist beliefs, even after Stalin’s infamous show trials, where more people were killed than during the Holocaust. Almost immediately, all of her avid readers in the West were lost. Her American and liberal German readers lost interest in any of her other works. Anna Seghers went from a literary “hero” who fought against Fascism to a “traitor” who only carried on totalitarianism.

Seghers became a “spiritual” follower of Communism, taking part in Soviet politics and condoning the deaths of millions of people. Never again were her books ranked as national best-sellers. After her literary decline, Seghers only published two more novels; however, they did not receive any recognition at all. It was not a matter of how well her works were written; rather, it was a matter of what her novels stood for.

Anna Seghers was a phenomenal author; there was no doubt about that. However, it was what her novels preached that led to her gradual decline. Seghers’ unfortunate tale leads us to a very important conclusion: Individuals must always fight against tenets of evil and fight for tenets of good.

-Elaha N.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

johngrisham_runawayjuryThe Runaway Jury, by John Grisham, is a legal thriller. The book centers on a big tobacco trial, decided by a jury. The verdict the jury passes could have disastrous consequences on tobacco companies or potentially protect them from lawsuits in the future. There is one potential juror that both sides – the plaintiff and the defendant  – are concerned about, because they have no record of him whatsoever. He is, to them, an enigma. This juror, as it turns out, is extremely important in the jury’s decision although I realized it would be hard to see what was going on if I had put myself in one of the other juror’s shoes. As the main driving point of the book, this quote sufficiently encapsulates it: “Every jury has a leader, and that’s where you find your verdict.” With both the plaintiff and the defendant realizing the high stakes, both sides try to influence the jury, although this is illegal and can cause there to be a mistrial. In the end, most efforts do not affect the end decision, although there are some humorous events regarding the eventual effect of some of the attempts at trying to sway a juror.

I thought this book was well-written, and although I had not initially planned to read it, I’m glad I did. Grisham kept me guessing the whole time which way the jury was going to vote, and what the motives of the main juror, Nicholas Easter, were. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading thrillers, although there is less of a scary side to it than other thrillers I’ve read.

The Runaway Jury is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Catcher in the Rye

catcherintherye_salingerThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger tells the tale of a 16-year-old-boy named Holden. Like every teenager, Holden has issues trying to find out who he is and what he wants to do with his life. Having been kicked out of four private schools, Holden has to face the wrath of his parents. His parents, especially his mother, are distressed because they had lost Holden’s younger brother, Allie. Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield feel the best way to take care of Holden is to send him away. Throughout the novel, Holden is talking to a psychoanalyst and is recounting various anecdotes of his life. As the story is told, the layers of Holden Caufield are revealed.

As I was reading the first three chapters, I did not like the character of Holden Caulfield at all. He seemed like this obnoxious guy who hated anything got to do with life. As I continued with the story, I started to sympathize with him because of his struggles as a teenager figuring out if adulthood is really what it seems to be. I have had those feelings, and I started to discover that much of our internal dialogue is the same. J.D. Salinger was very talented to have written a novel that is typical of the teenage mind. Although most people have read it as a requirement for school, it is a read for anyone struggling with the transition to adulthood.

-Anmol K.

The Catcher in the Rye is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Creative Writing: Adventures in Ilvermorny Part 1

In the spirit of learning more about the magical world in the U.S. with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I decided it would be fun to write a little short story on some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). Enjoy!


      Jane had been dressed, packed, and ready to leave since 4:30 this morning. And while waiting for her mother to get ready to take her to the airport, she had brushed her teeth six times and continuously rearranged her chestnut bangs until she gave up in a huff and left them down. Jane was going to Ilvermorny for the first time, something she had been dreaming of the entirety of her eleven years. It was also the first time she would be without her mother, the first time she would leave Florida, and her first time going on an airplane. There was a lot to be nervous about.

     When Jane and her mother finally got to the airport, her mother knelt down and looked into her daughter’s matching honey colored eyes. Her eyes became glossy as she whispered, “Jane, don’t worry about a thing Ilvermorny is going to be the best times of your life, and I can’t wait to hear which House you get into. Don’t think you have to be a Pukwudgie like me, because all of the houses are wonderful. Don’t forget to write darling, I’ll see you soon!”. Jane felt herself get teary eyed as well and was only able to nod and hug her mother one last time before she turned towards the terminals.

      Her ticket, unlike other tickets, had a shimmering red and blue Ilvermorny stamp which was invisible to No Maj’s. As her mother instructed, Jane promptly pressed the stamped ticket onto the oddly shimmering wall at the end of all of the terminals. Before Jane had time to worry that it wouldn’t work, the shimmering wall glowed more intensely and like a magnet, pulled her onto the other side. With a slight yelp, Jane was on the Ilvermorny terminal going from the Miami to Massachusetts.  

      Witches and wizards from ages 11 to 17 sat, ran, and laughed in the terminal, waiting for boarding. Jane chose a seat in the corner and watched all of the kids, trying to see if she could tell what house they were in. She guessed that the small framed, black haired, 15 year old looking boy listening to music was a Horned Serpent. Jane looked over at a tall girl chatting loudly, wearing a basketball tee, and speculated that she must be a Wampus, when suddenly the girl caught her eye and said, “What? Have you never seen a witch before?”.

      Startled, Jane just looked at her blankly. A boy who had similar red hair to the girl, looked over to Jane and said reassuringly, “Don’t mind my sister, she’s just being a jerk because she’s nervous”. The sister immediately interjected with, “I’m am not! I just….hope my roommates aren’t lame…”. The boy rolled his eyes at his sister and holds his hand out to Jane, stating, “I’m Cyrus, and this is my sister Eyla”. Jane hesitates before shaking the boy’s hand and firmly replying with, “Jane”.


To be continued! (P.S.) Many of these Ilvermorny descriptions will be false as there is little information about how Ilvermorny operates and really looks like. Thanks for reading!

-Ava K.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

sixofcrows_leighbardugoIn the dark, murky alleyways of the merchant town of Ketterdam, a story begins to unfold with a crazy team and a perilous heist.  And, it all starts out in one of the biggest gangs, the Dregs.  Kaz Brekker, a cripple and the head of the Barrel, the hangout of the Dregs, is back at it again.  He receives an offer from Van Eck, a powerful merchant, describing a mission to kidnap a certain scientist.  And, not being able to resist the pile of money, he starts to pick out his team.

First, there is Inej, a young woman who has been traded in trafficking but whose freedom has been purchased.  Now, she serves as The Wraith, a great climber and spy.  And, though she is the right-hand (wo)man to Kaz, there may be other reasons she is joining the mission.  Inej’s character reminds me of the song, “Selecter” from James Bond.  The whole mood and rhythm of the song matches Inej’s outlook to each task she is given.  Next, Jesper, is a trick-shooter who cannot seem resist a game of poker.  His back story is slowly revealed as the heist unfurled.  Then, Matthais and Nena, a pair with an unknown story, have to work together once again, even as memories emerge from their past.  And, last, the newest member to join the gang, and the most cultured of them all, is Wylan.

If this novel was turned into a film, a leitmotif for it could be Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” for its strong espionage-like quality of music.  Due to the heist, whenever situations get tense, this theme would pop into my head.

Six of Crows was a crazy whirlwind of a book including an unforgettable heist.  The novel was entirely riveting between the obstacles they overcame and how each character grew.  I enthusiastically  give a 9.8/10 to this Leigh Bardugo story.  The only point deduction was the confusing introduction, which only proved to be a small bit useful later in the journey.  Be sure to check out this novel as well as the recently published, Crooked Kingdom (second in the sequel), as well as the Grisha trilogy!

-Maya S., 9th grade

Six of Crows is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Top Reads of 2016

Top Reads of 2016

Legend by Marie Lu

It was a book that had been on my reading list since it came out. However, I only just got around to reading it and couldn’t believe the adventure I’d missed. Lu tells an amazingly detailed story about a government soldier tracking down the most wanted criminal in the Republic. You can imagine what happens as the novice, June, and poor robber, Day, cross paths during her hunt. She falls for him on the street, unaware of his true identity, her target. She has to decide if avenging her brother’s death is more important than staying with this stranger she’s grown to love. Lu’s writing intrigues me because she focuses on small details that lead to the end of the story which most readers would find insignificant. This engages the reader to pay attention to the words they’re reading. I loved it so much, I just had to get the second book.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Like Legend, this book has remained on my list but I didn’t put it on priority. So when I found it at the Mission Viejo Library’s bookstore, I knew it was finally my time to discover the story. Hundreds of years into the future, this spinoff of the Cinderella takes place in a New Beijing in a world where androids are normal to help people with daily chores and sometimes cyborgs roam among the crowd. However, it isn’t easy when you’re not considered human and work as lowly mechanic. Especially when your stepmother and stepsister want nothing to do with you to begin with. When the letumosis disease, plaguing the city issues a cyborg draft, Cinder’s stepmother doesn’t miss her chance to sign up her daughter for an experiment no one comes back from. Not long after Cinder’s admission, the doctor finds there is much more to her than just a few missing parts. Meyer tells this dystopian story while still adding elements of the original fairytale, just like the rest of the books in her series.

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Paria Stolarz

I’ve done a review on this novel already, but I couldn’t help from mentioning it as it was a very memorable read for me. It was very different from most horror stories and took the word “nightmare” to a whole new level. Of course, this book ended with a cliffhanger and many unanswered questions, so I was ecstatic to find there was a sequel.

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

A high schooler, Liz, tells the story from her point of view behind a camera lens, a perspective of the world as she sees it. Her life takes an unexpected turn when her best friend, Kate, decides to shut her out without warning or reason, and everyone whispers rumors and accusations behind her back. Suddenly, her world is out of focus and she tries to make sense of it all while still holding onto her friendship. This realistic story is told through a series of poems, which makes the events even more enticing and easy to follow along. I had to finish this book in one sitting because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages without reading what came next. I would definitely read this book again.

Sabrina C., 11th Grade