Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the last installment of the Harry Potter series. J. K. Rowling  did an amazing job with this book. The first time I read this book, I couldn’t put it down and every time I read this book, it’s just as good as it was the first time.

In this final book, the wizarding society has finally been taken over by Death Eaters and Voldemort’s search to find and kill Harry Potter is at its prime. Fear is everywhere. Any witch or wizard could be killed or sent to Azkaban for doing nothing while Harry Potter and his friends Ron and Hermione are on the run.

Harry is trying to complete the task Dumbledore gave him before he died and end Voldemort’s reign forever. But trying to create a plan to do this isn’t easy, and Harry just wants people to stop dying for him.  And, finally, Rowling gives us explanations for the unanswered questions and cliffhangers she’s created throughout the series.

Out of the Harry Potter books, this is the only book that does not mainly take place is Hogwarts. So it is cool to see other parts of the world J.K. Rowling has created. However, a good amount of the book is just Harry, Ron and Hermione camping out in the woods.

It is also the darkest out of the Harry Potter books but, it doesn’t make it any less good. I admit this isn’t my favorite Harry Potter book because personally, I feel like the trio spent too much time in the woods where we instead could have been learning more what is going on and, some say this book is just to long to hold their attention the entire time. But, despite this, I would still wholeheartedly say that this book is definitely worth reading.

-Ava G.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

 

 

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Written by Robert Sharenow, The Berlin Boxing Club is the complete package. For those of you who love a good coming of age story mixed with a historical background, this one is for you. Even if you aren’t a fan of boxing, like me, this novel helps to show that such a sport as boxing teaches important lessons and can change lives.

Taking place in Nazi Germany (1934-1939), fictional teenager Karl Stern engages in boxing lessons with real life boxing champion, Max Schmeling, after being beaten up. Despite having Jewish background, Karl doesn’t sport a Jewish appearance, allowing him to find comfort and shelter behind the Berlin Boxing Club’s walls. Before he is discovered to be a Jew, boxing is his source of relief. His mentor and idol, Max, shows Karl what it means to be a proud German citizen while staying away from the political world. Karl gains confidence and strength physically and mentally. He learns how to defend himself and how to win and how to loose. He learns how to be humble and hardworking, all thanks to Max. However, as Max becomes more famous and the face of Germany, Karl looses his faith in Max. Karl wonders if Max is really who he said he was or if Max put on a mask for the entertainment world.

With a boxing future in focus, Karl encounters challenges he never would have expected to come across. Hitler’s reign becomes stronger and wider, polluting areas of Karl’s life such as school, home and boxing–his only escape. Troubles slowly consume the Stern family such as losing their family art gallery and home. Karl’s father is constantly angry and desperate to uphold his family while his mother battles with depression. His little sister also comes of age as she comes to terms with who she is and how Germany has changed. All around him, Karl’s life is like a whirlwind and confusion takes over his mind.

This novel focuses on the growing maturity of a Jewish teenager during the reign of Hitler. It gives a glimpse into life during this time period and showed me that all teenagers experience the same things. We all come of age, we all find adventure in romance, we all face problems and we all learn how to solve them. As a teenager, I believe that The Berlin Boxing Club is an entertaining and eye-opening read.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Gattaca

What if people had the ability of selecting the genes that their child would inherit? Of choosing only the best for their child, the genes that would produce the highest IQ or the longest lifespan? How would you feel if you, someone whose genes are random, were surrounded by people who are…”perfect”?

Vincent’s family didn’t program or alter his genes in any way. After testing his blood when he was first born, they knew that he would die early and had a very high risk of heart disease. Nevertheless, he pursued a career of studying space and the planets, despite his parent’s protests. He realized though, that he’d never be able to get a job with his own DNA. This is why he pretended to be Jerome: the perfect man, by “purchasing” Jerome’s DNA to use as his own.

Jerome’s parents did select his genes. He was “created” so that he’d have an exceptionally long lifespan, and so that he’d be very intelligent. But just because you choose the perfect genes for your child, it doesn’t mean they will be successful in life- it just means they have a better chance at success. In the movie, he said he’d walked in front of a car while he was sober. He must have done that purposefully- he was probably fed up with everyone and how they expected so much of him and chose, with a clear mind, to become crippled.

In the society of this movie, your success is based on your genetics- your DNA. If you don’t have what is considered the “ideal” DNA, you won’t even be considered as someone who is capable of working. On the other hand, if you possess what is considered “perfect” DNA, you wouldn’t even have to interview for a job, they’d hire you on the spot.

In my opinion, I think that this is very unjust. People should be viewed and assessed based on their talent and drive, not their DNA. DNA isn’t really something you can change- it’s what you’re born with. But people’s motivation and drive are things that they themselves control.

I’m also very skeptical on the idea of parents choosing their children’s genes. I think that however the child turns out, that’s how they were meant to be. Part of what makes us human is our mistakes, and by choosing only the most appealing genes for your child, the chance that they’ll make any mistakes will become nearly obsolete. Additionally, I think that if more and more people were to start hand-picking the genes that their children receive, people would become more and more similar. If people were to choose the genes for their children, they’d all probably choose the best possible ones, and if everyone did that, all children would be near perfect. There would be no more variety, and I think that our individuality is definitely something we should try to preserve.

Despite my uncertainty relating to some of the ethics that this movie brings up, I think that it’s very fascinating and thought-provoking, and definitely worth watching.

-Elina T.

Gattaca is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Imagine if aliens lived among us. Not the aliens you might think of immediately (like E.T.), but aliens who cloud blend in, who look just like us. We would never know, they could be anyone: your next-door neighbor, your own best friend.

John Smith, to everyone around him, appears to be a typical teenage boy beginning his sophomore year of high school in Paradise, Ohio. But in actuality, John Smith is but one of many of his fake identities. His real name, if you could even really call it that, is Number Four. He comes from a planet far, far, away called Lorien. He is one of the nine powerful children who were taken to Earth about ten years ago, before Lorien was attacked by another alien planet: Mogadore.

Before the nine children were sent to Earth, they were each assigned a number (one through nine), and a Loric elder cast a charm, making it so that, should the Mogadorians ever go after these nine remaining Lorien descendants, they would only be able to kill them in order of the their numbers. Thus far, numbers one through three have been hunted down and killed by the Mogadorians, and John Smith, who is number four, knows that he is next.

When I first heard of this book, and was told that it was about aliens, I honestly didn’t have very high expectations for it. That probably wouldn’t have been the case for everyone, I just don’t typically like stories/books that are about aliens. But, when I started reading it, I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop. Luckily for me, this is a series, and three of the books were out when I started. Now, there are a total of seven in the series, the most recent having come out last year.

I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this book that sets it apart from other stories about aliens. Maybe it’s because the Loric look like us? I really don’t know, but I do really love this series, and I love all the characters that are introduced later on in the series as well. Despite the fact that three different authors have contributed to this series (all under the pseudonym of Pittacus Lore), the story flows very smoothly, and I could never wait for the next book to come out.

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read this book, but it must be a lot because my copy’s falling apart (the only thing that’s holding it together is scotch tape). It’s definitely a great read, but don’t start unless you haven’t got anything planned for the rest of the day because trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.

-Elina T.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

TV Review: BBC’s Sherlock

Maybe we’re not all nearly as intelligent as Sherlock, but we can, at the very least, tune in and try to decipher and understand his thought process (even though we’ll most likely never succeed in this – his thought process is very complicated).

Sherlock Holmes has been acting as a consulting detective for the Scotland Yard Police Department in London for some time now, and has been very helpful in successfully solving many of their cases. He does, however, seem to lack the sort of emotion that most people have. In fact, he himself identifies as a sociopath. But this does not, in any way, inhibit his incredible ability of making amazingly accurate deductions and thinking far faster than even his own brain can follow. 

Because of his keen intellect and blunt demeanor, he comes off as a rude know-it-all to nearly everyone he meets. That is why it’s not surprising that Dr. John Watson, a veteran, is taken a bit off guard when he first encounters Sherlock and is asked if wants to share a flat despite the fact that he had only just met him. 

After getting over the initial shock of someone knowing so much about him by merely looking at him, John moves in with Sherlock at 221B Baker Street and promptly begins solving crimes with him. John turns out to be a very valuable asset in his contributions to investigations, but more importantly, Sherlock grows to care about him, which is most uncharacteristic of a sociopath. 

I think this is an excellent show, especially for people who like crime/mystery. It gives a unique, contemporary take by placing these original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in modern London, making it easier for people today to understand and relate to the familiar culture. It’s also got some really funny parts. The mysteries are always really well thought out, and I love how well and thoroughly they’re solved by Sherlock, John and Scotland Yard. I also like how there’s such a wide variety in the types of mysteries that they solve. No two of them are alike- they’re always very different so it never gets repetitive. 

This is an amazing, humorous, yet sophisticated show with great characters, intriguing crimes, and a suspenseful and thrilling story line that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. 

-Elina T.

Season One of Sherlock is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

He’s battled dragons, fended off numerous Dementors, and even faced He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named multiple times in the flesh. Harry’s been through quite a lot for a sixteen year old boy, and now he is entering his sixth year, nearing the end of his time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

This year is different though. As it is now known publicly that an infamous dark wizard is at large once again, the quest to defeat him once and for all has become ever more imminent. Dumbledore begins showing Harry what he knows about Tom Riddle’s past in the hopes that it will help him understand how this dark wizard must be defeated. However, much of it is speculation and guesswork based on the memories that Dumbledore has procured over the years relating to Tom. Unfortunately, a vital piece of information is still missing, and Dumbledore assigns Harry to retrieve it.

As if this were not enough for Harry to worry about, he still has to fulfill his role as captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and all the stress that comes with recruiting new members, cope with the increasing amounts of work they’re being assigned for classes, deal with Ron and Hermione’s intermittent bickering, and pursue his hunch about what Draco Malfoy might be up to.

As with all the other books in this series, I really love how J. K. Rowling so seamlessly intertwines so much humor and thought into such a complex story line. Though the danger of an extremely skilled and dangerous wizard is constantly looming about, Ron is still there eating and making snarky remarks, while dealing with his own problems having to do with girls. Hermione, too, is always there to keep Harry and Ron on top of their school work, and even often correcting their papers.

I think this book is amazing, as all the others are, and I’m always laughing out loud at what the characters do and think. I always have to tell myself before I watch a movie that has been adapted from a book that they can’t keep every single detail from the book and put it in the movie. It’s just not possible, especially with this book which is about 600 pages long. Keeping this in mind, I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie. I think that the director did a great job at choosing what to put in the movie and what might not have been as relevant (of course, being a huge fan of the book, I’m inclined to think that everything is relevant, but again, it would be impossible to keep every single detail). I think that the movie definitely sticks to the main story line and includes all the necessary information needed to understand the plot.

But the wish is always in the back of mind of being able to watch a Harry Potter movie in which every single detail from the books is preserved. Even if it were five hours long (or longer), I would still watch it – over and over again probably.

-Elina T.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Court of Thorns and Roses (series) by Sarah J. Maas

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is something I generally try to abide by, but if I’m being honest with myself, it doesn’t always work out that way.

If I were to go into a bookstore or library looking for a book to read, this definitely would not be one I’d consider choosing. (Now since I’ve read the series, the covers have kind of grown on me). Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have friends who love reading as much as I do who recommended this book to me.

The story follows a mortal girl named Feyre (fay-ruh) who lives with her father and two older sisters. Her town lives in fear of the immortal faeries who live beyond the forest and the invisible wall that separates the faerie realms from those of the mortals. They’re a poor family, and Feyre’s father, who is crippled, has given up hope and has stopped supporting his own family. It has become Feyre’s duty to go hunting every day to keep her family alive.

One day, while hunting, Feyre encounters a wolf, and shoots it. This proves to be a grave mistake, and Feyre gets taken off to Prythian (a realm on the other side of the wall) to live with immortal faeries. The immortal faeries she’d grown up fearing and hating.

I absolutely loved the first book! It’s based off of Beauty and the Beast, so the story is kind of familiar, but it’s also very different. The second book was even better! And don’t even get me started on the third one. I don’t know how many times I’ve read series were the first book is great, but it just goes downhill from there. I’m telling you, this series starts off great, and just gets better and better.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the individual characters because I might spoil something, but I’ll just say that Sarah J. Maas (the author) is so skilled at creating characters that readers will love and care about (this doesn’t even do her justice, you won’t really know until you read the series how amazing, funny, and lovable the characters are!). I also love how she describes the settings so vividly. I would do almost anything to be able spend time in Prythian (the world that this book takes place in) and hang out with all the characters!

So if you’re looking for a fantasy book filled with adventure, romance, humor, and emotion (I almost cried while reading the last book which is saying something because I practically never cry while reading), I highly, highly recommend this series.

-Elina T.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library