Film Review: Heaven is for Real

I see myself more of a spiritual person more than religious one. Not that I don’t believe there’s a God or that there’s a higher power, I just feel myself being drawn to spirituality and the stories and tales behind it. My opinion and outlook on that has never really changed because I believed in it so strongly. Although it doesn’t make me narrow minded (that at least I’d like to believe). Because of my open mind, my sister convinced me to watch Heaven is for Real directed by Randall Wallace and written by Wallace and Christopher Parker.

The story begins with a young boy around age of 5 who goes into a risky surgery with a small chance of survival. During his surgery he tells of his near death experience and how he visited heaven and met Jesus Christ himself along with the Angels. Throughout the movie his father, the pastor of their town church attempts to convince others that his child really did see heaven and that Jesus is real.

To me, the movie portrayed hope and that a strong belief can do wonders for you. After watching the film, it made me look at religion differently and has changed my opinion heavily. It was a wonderful and eye opening movie and I would really recommend it to anyone.

-Leann D.

Heaven is for Real is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Opera, Opera, Opera!

Would you pay $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton on Broadway, live?

I know few Orange County friends who love opera, let alone are willing to see one. This may be because Orange County has few operas. I’ve been looking! The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has some performances, but Costa Mesa is pretty far. Moreover, it only has concert performances (full shows done without staging or costumes in front of an orchestra).

Recently, I discovered my favorite opera, Carmen, broadcasted live for free on the Santa Monica Pier from the LA Opera. The LA Opera is the grandest local opera house, and witnessing something this professional live was moving. Dancers were hired from the depths of Spain for a genuine Spanish vibe, and costumes shimmered and poofed in all their Spanish glory. Tickets are at least $90 for a “cheap” theatre seat, in which performers can barely be seen or heard; free showings are unheard of!

My friends and I zoomed to the pier and fangirled over the huge stage and thick French accents. The music can be found in our playlists; we hummed along the whole time. The opera is risqué, funny, and dazzling. If more people had access to opera in Orange County, I’m sure we could love and appreciate it the way this crowd did on the Santa Monica Pier. It was so enjoyable!

The Live at the Met series is broadcasting full operas live from the Metropolitan Opera House in most Regal movie theatres. This is the best opera house in the country! I’ve never seen a bigger stage, and the cameras show so much detail I can see reflections in the characters’ eyes. Tickets are around $26, with over 10 operas this year! More than the average movie ticket, but very cheap compared to live tickets, often at Hamilton prices ($855+). Only internationally famous and experienced singers have been cast! If you’re an opera fan like me or are ready to behold these regal performances, please come and support the art by attending. Few people know about it, but more should.

This is the same as $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton live on Broadway, in the movie theatre!

The Orange County School of the Arts is also doing L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges in the spring, so look out for that!

Meanwhile, I will be hunting down local operas. I’m determined to find performances in Mission Viejo! Operas can be expensive, but I’m working on finding deals so teens can experience this difficult and powerful art form at an accessible price. I’ll keep you updated!

What local opera productions do you know of? Please comment to let me know!

-Jessica F.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

This is my favorite book of all time. It is about a girl named Skylar Evans who lives in the trailer park with her alcoholic mom and Josh Mitchell, a Marine come back from the war without a leg and demons in his head.

Personally, I had never read a book before I’ll Meet You There that made me feel so many emotions. I was torn apart by these beautiful characters as they struggle to find peace in their lives and find hope in one another. I cried, laughed, and screamed. The immense emotions I felt made me read this book again, and then again. And again.

If I could I would make everyone read this book. I received an insight into the mind of someone with PTSD. The short passages from Josh’s perspective made this book worth wild. I believed that I was there right next to Josh, watching the war around him tear men, who had become his friends, apart.

I cried more than I expected at the end of this novel. Sure, a happy or sad ending can be a tear jerker, but Demetrios wrote this young adult novel with a purpose, and boy did she achieve it. I see that there is still a battle to be fought against ableism when Josh is uncomfortable by the “special” treatment he receives for his injury. I see through Skylar’s eyes the poverty that has overtaken this country and makes it almost impossible for her to achieve her dream.

Overall, please read this book. It has an amazing, fun plot with serious underlying themes.

Read I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios!

-Sophie W.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

The Vampire Diaries

The teen drama Vampire Diaries was developed by Williamson and Julie Plec and is exactly what you need if you’re looking for thrills, drama, lust, love, and danger. I could go on and on!

The TV show begins with Elena Gilbert, an average high schooler with a little less than average problems. Losing both her parents in a car accident off Wickery Bridge in the town of Mystic Falls she feels that her struggles are over. That his, until new boy Stefan Salvatore begins to attend Mystic High the same class as Elena. It’s love at first sight and they soon get to know each other. Eventually secrets are unveiled and Elena comes to learn that her boyfriend, along with his brother Damon, are vampires–but not the only ones in Mystic Falls.

Their relationships is unsteady at first because of Elena’s fear and curiosity of the unknown. Which is understandable, it’s not every day your lover tells you they crave flesh and blood. She eventually learns how to cope although things are always kept interesting.

The teen drama keeps on your toes always questioning what’s around the corner in the scene to come. If you’re searching for something to crank up your day and your heart rate, I really suggest watching vampire diaries. You will not be disappointed.

-Leann D.

The Shibboleth by John Hornor Jacobs

This book completely and utterly blew my mind. In John Hornor Jacobs’ genius masterpiece, Shreve, a misunderstood teen, works his way through iron cages, both physical and mental. He has a power that he calls the Shibboleth, and he uses it to invade minds. However, multiple characters throughout the trilogy possess the same ability, allowing Shreve to observe the full extent of this power. Other characters have wide arrays of superpowers, some including telekinesis, flight, and hypnosis.

While all of these are great, what really stood out to me was the side characters without powers, and how realistic Jacobs made them feel. This aspect of the book brought a dark, yet almost familiar vibe, and I really enjoyed it. Overall, this book is absolutely fantastic for the teen level of reading, and if you like dark humor and sarcasm, this book is perfect for you. The characters and wording will get you hooked for sure. This is definitely a must-read, as well as the first and third novels in the series, The Twelve-Fingered Boy and The Conformity. Thanks for reading!

-Luke D.

John Hornor Jacobs’ The Shibboleth, and novels that make up the Twelve-Fingered Boy trilogy, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman

In September of 2012 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It started off as Stage 2 and was told it could be cured through treatment known as chemotherapy. Months had passed and although the radiation was harsh, she would show nothing but strength and determination to defeat her illness. Right when we believed things were getting better it took a turn for the worse and not only had her cancer increased, it had also metastasized to her ribs, her lungs, and eventually her brain. I lost my mother on October 4th, 2015.

Such a beautiful soul had finally been released to Heaven where she belonged after her excruciating battle with cancer. Since I was young, I had absolutely no idea on how to cope or even think about the future knowing my mother was no longer going to be apart of it. Believing nobody could understand the pain and loss I felt, I turned to no one for advice or comfort, until I came across the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. It explains stages of coping and all feelings tied with losing such an important part of your life. A mother’s nurturing hand shapes a woman’s identity and Hope Edelman guides us to acceptance and healing.

-Leann D.

Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

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eastofeden_johnsteinbeckEast of Eden, I ponder for a while and frown into the swirl not of an ordinary book, but I walk into a capricious hallway of life.

Adam Trask, his mother dead by suicide in a pond near their house, I know how that feels. The water in that pond from that on scours Adam’s accouterments cruelly into its abysmal bottom. He felt naked whenever his face is reflected on the surface of that limpid pond, but for it was obscured than ever before. Adam can never see through the veil that covered his mom’s death. Not a big deal, didn’t have much memory about her pretty face anyways. Cyrus Trask, his dad, a soldier who malingered from the war, was a tough man. His broken leg often riled him. The decrepit crutch is a clue to his cowardice, his obedient wife glued his gratuitousness against his masculinity, the jovial sky loses its blue smile thence. But he made his way into the philosophy and planning of military, he was chosen to assist the president and secretaries in the White House. He had a stupefying heritage of approximately five hundred thousand dollars. Although that wasn’t recorded as a pride within him, he was just redeeming and repenting the sins that he once thrust upon Adam to the holy God scowling at him. Alice was Adam’s stepmother, she was special in an ordinary way, doing her daily chores and taking care of Charles, Adam’s brother and him. Slowly, there was a subtle relationship built upon Adam and Alice, but as a mom, her narrow vision only incorporated her only son Charles who didn’t care as much as his mother than Adam did. She died in a murky corner shrouded by dust, and Adam was the only person that brought a broom. The gruff Charles was a brutal tyrant to Adam, but he exerted his sovereignty to serve Adam and loved him deeply. They quarreled a lot along with their life, but the huge farm that Charles inherited eventually was endowed to Adam, the only humane king died soundlessly, he was judicious but his sheer senses were unnoticed.

Samuel Hamilton, an Irish man who came to Salinas Valley in California as a magnificent craft man, blacksmith, heating contractor, and inventor. But his versatileness kept him poor with nine children. But the forge, the shoes and the machines that he invented always dance around him when he is working, the magic has worked. He was never friends with money, but friends with every neighbor and client who came to him. Sam was a tough man with a soft heart, his red mustache decorated him as a gentle giant, his fingers intercepted with crude soot which foiled him with authority and shrewdness. But Liza Hamilton, his wife was the person that not only conducted the shrewdness but she was able to use her strictness to criticize the shrewdness. Nobody ever blamed her really, because her inviting zeal and palpable discipline convinced every one of them who suspected her. And Tom, the toughest kid but his personality was the most babyish among all of the kids, I guess you can call him a precocious baby. William was the rich boy, Joe was the erudite scholar, Mollie was the beautiful girl and Dessie’s corpse became the precious soul of the family, just to mention a few of the remarkable kids. The other kids are memorable, they are too sacred to be mentioned. You just can’t refuse this glorious family with disgust except for one person.

Cathy Ames, a moral monster, she was enigmatic, her conscience never existed. Cathy wasn’t a normal human, she was like robots, very accurate and seems to obtain the power of mind-reading, nothing tortures her, except her own gnawing vanity. She established a supreme brothel, and once was a seditious whore. Cathy had once been beaten to hell, but her parents were being placed gently into the artificial fire by her. She seldom loved anybody, but a lot of people loved her and even worshipped her beyond their trembling spirit. A mom that left her two sons and shot her husband Adam is unforgivable, something unreasonable will happen, her body bargained with wealth. Cathy was castigated by God, she committed herself as Cathy Trask and left all the money to her son Aron. Her death was silent, some people even celebrated a little, but the person that she hated the most and injured the worse wetted the corner of his eye. Isn’t that sarcastic?

It was a century of racism back in the 1800s until somebody shut that lid and opened a new one. Lee was Chinese, he was born in America though, his father was one of the workers who was involved in building the Great Wall. Lee never engaged in the word “love”, but the impression that his parents had was deep. Women weren’t allowed in the process of the project, but the compulsion of clamping the family together ignited his mother in running into it and be with his father. She devoted her life due to the lassitude in the construction and gave birth to Lee, she was selfish, that’s all I have to say. Her grueling love and persistency abandoned the innocent Lee. He was a family pet to the Trask family, serving them pliantly and never complained about anything. In fact, Lee was smarter than all the humans that are on the earth breathing, he doesn’t breathe in oxygen, but in absolute wisdom. As time eclipsed by, the family pet transformed into the owner and send out bits of advice to the family, he was the actual father of Adam and his sons. During the point when he decided to leave, nobody attempted for retention, but he was the lonely dog without the cuddle of a sweet blanket. People that don’t wield their smartness properly are called a maverick, both good and bad. Sam Hamilton’s was the first and only person whom personality provoked Lee exhibited his yellow belly.

Twins are never the same. Cal was the darker one in every aspect. He wanted to be brighter to deviate the shameful appearance of his mom, but even his similarity didn’t gain any fond of both his parents. He is incredibly clever and a genial businessman with the ability to inhale all the profit that he could without any shenanigans. Aron was the boy with pale blue eyes that would drown you in the blue ocean and romp with the energetic dolphins. Abra Bacon lived as a voluptuous fairytale to the brothers. She acted like a soothing mother to Aron, since he had none, and played as a dainty princess to Cal. But then the church and the preacher became the dream of Aron and those were eminent enough to abet Aron to toss Abra aside. Aron joined the army like Adam did and martyred after Cal showed him their mother who changed her name to Kate as an omnipotent owner of a brothel. Cal wasn’t traumatized as bad as Aron, probably a little bit surprised only. If you keep swallowing absinthe then the taste of herbs will be mediocre, but munching chocolate will result in gnawing bitterness even in spinach. Abra turned to Cal and also won the countenance of Lee and Adam together, for her elegant parents were stone like and their daughter is only a sequin to them. Attractive kids get blemished psychologically a lot easier than undistinguished kids.

Adam Trask, I’ve got irresolution in me right now, is he the main character in this book? His life is soaked in extreme agony and performed as a pantomime of tragedy. Adam was forced to join the army by his father, he was being controlled like a pathetic marionette whom his family was diverted and he was tortured by Cathy cruelly. But he cherished Cathy in the very marrow of his bones. Many people around him died and their souls were reluctant to be in related with him. He could have averted the punishment by God, but only his ignorance and injustice treatment to Cal earned that despondent emblem. Adam Trask loved a lot of people, but barely anyone split their love and fed it to Adam. Even though you spray the fresh comedy on top of the reeking tragedy,  there will be one day when the comedy will rot and the irritated tragedy under will devour you.

-April L.

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library