My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier

I was assigned to read this in my Social Studies class. Since we where learning about the American Revolution it was a fitting read for this topic.

The book was about Tim Meeker. His brother Sam Meeker was enlisted in the American Revolution. The only problem was that his family disagreed with him. The Meeker’s were Tories which meant they where on the side of the British. The whole story is about how the war affects people.

I thought the first part of the book was a little boring. But just like all great books they pick up in the end. That is exactly what this book did. At the end of the book I realized it was a true story. Most of the things in the story where real.

Early in the book Tim was a young boy. In the first chapter he got so excited when he was going to milk Old Prue which was a cow.  Since his brother did it he thought it was so cool when he saw Sam do it. Of course it wasn’t as cool as he thought it was. I thought this sequence showed how little brothers always look up to there older brothers.

Later in the book Tim was working in the family tavern and sometimes he would get unsurprising visits from Sam. Sam wouldn’t come all the time of course. He would just come once or twice in about two years.

When you picked up the book from the start to end you could really see how much Tim progressed from a child into a adult. You could really see him take charge after his brother was gone off into the war. Another main theme in the book was violence. Readers are really opened up how the war just doesn’t affect the soldiers it affects everybody.

The town of Redding (which is the town Tim is from) is affected a lot because they have a lot of cattle and the soldier need it because there hungry.

-Max U.

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy was written by Dante Alighieri who grew up in Florence, Italy during the Middle Ages. During this time, there was great political tension, especially between two groups. The first was for the papacy and they were called the Ghibelline. The other, which Dante was a member of, demanded of independence from the Church, and they were called the Guelph. After the Ghibelline fell, the Guelph broke into two separate sectors: the white Guelph and the black Guelph. Although initially the white Guelph were triumphant, the black Guelph returned not long after and exiled many of the prominent white leaders, Dante among them. While in exile, a vision came to him, and this is when he wrote The Divine Comedy.

There are three parts to the Comedy. It begins with the Inferno, which is probably the most widely known. The second book is called Purgatorio (Purgatory), and the third: Paradiso (Paradise). At the beginning of the poem, Dante describes how he has lost his way, and is lost in a figurative “dark wood”. Luckily, Virgil, Dante’s symbol for human reason, approaches him and explains that the only way he may return to the true way is if he makes the arduous journey through Inferno, Purgatory, and finally, Paradiso. Virgil acts as Dante’s guide through Inferno and Purgatory, but Beatrice (a character which represents divine love to Dante) leads him through Paradiso.

This book was interesting for numerous reasons. For one, I had never before read anything remotely like it. The comedy is formatted in stanzas, each with three lines. Coincidentally, there are thirty-three cantos (Italian for chapters) in each book, and there are three parts (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradiso). There are many other elements in this book which revolved around the significance of the number three which was very interesting.

This book is packed with symbolism, analogies, and allegories. It was a bit difficult to wrap my head around some parts despite the fact that the writing itself wasn’t very extensive. I found it extremely interesting to think that all of this had come in the form of a vision to Dante. There is so much detail, and so many little complexities, which it makes it difficult to imagine how he could’ve recalled all of it in such illustrious detail.

This book was originally written in Italian, and there are many different translations, which all differ slightly depending on the translator and their take on Dante’s work. The version I read was translated by John Ciardi. I found this version very helpful as it had summaries at the beginning of each chapter, which really helped me to better understand the story.

Despite the fact that it is called The Divine Comedy, it’s not actually a comedy. The poem describes Dante’s journey through the three books as he found his way back to the true path. This book is fairly well-known, but I know few people who have actually read the entirety of it. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I still thought it was a very intriguing read.

-Elina T.

Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Image result for cannery row bookMack and his boys are living in the flophouse that they bought from Lee Cong, a Chinese grocery man with a pair of judicious eyes. Except for some special occasions, they just stay home and play with their dog, Darling, a puppy who was never housebroken. Their favorite thing changed from drinking whiskey to catching frogs for their best friend Doc.

Doc has always been a genial man who never gets mad at anyone, except for Mack. His friendliness doesn’t necessarily mean that he is stupid, in fact, he is very shrewd.  The only time that he was roiled was when Mack tried to give him a party, but because it was such an orgy that Doc’s house was almost broken into pieces. And Mack received a few punches and a lot of kicks as a gift back from Doc.

Having friends like Mack and the boys really is a wonderful thing, even though they ruined your house the intention was good. But I know that Doc must have been lonely for many years since he never got married until he met the girl laying on the beach. At last, I really liked the part when they had another party for Doc, though the results are exactly the same. Mack and his boys are all tall like giants, but they are all children inside the heart of Doc.

-April L.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Films of Character: Local Hero

The state of being one; oneness. That is the definition of unity and nowhere is it more prominent than in the city of Mission Viejo. From the Teen Voice blog to the Community of Character Committee, Mission Viejo embodies what it means to unite its citizens. Every month, the Community of Character Committee chooses an important character trait to focus on. This month’s theme was unity, January’s theme was perseverance, and March’s is integrity. For each character, the committee chooses what events to host that encompasses the idea.

The movie screening this month, Local Hero was about an oil company looking to buyout a coast of land perfect for an oil refinery. The company sent a businessman to represent them and make a bargain with the locals. The townspeople were ecstatic about the idea of so much money at their fingertips when the deal was said and done. What the locals did not understand was that they could’ve been rich but not have anywhere to call home, or they could’ve kept living their lives, just as content as they were before. However, there was a problem when the town found out that Ben, a beach hermit owned the whole beach. No matter how much money the oil company offered him, Ben did not give it up – the beach was his home. In the end, Ben ended up being the hero because he kept the town from their infectious feelings of greed.

In the film, the townspeople showed unity by trying to bargain as one. While Ben was still a part of the community, he stood his ground and didn’t let a little bit of money change his opinions. So why is unity important? It’s important because we are stronger together, as a whole, as one. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” In any successful community, it is imperative that the citizens are united.

-Brooke H.

Local Hero is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Films of Character: Local Hero

Image result for local hero aurora borealisAfter viewing Local Hero, February’s movie that was shown at City Hall, adjacent to the Mission Viejo Library, I realized that even though some movies may have been made many decades before and have a distinct feel, they still remain contemporary and topical to this day. Local Hero is one of these such movies.

The 1983 movie Local Hero chronicles the journey of a business negotiator, “Mac”, who works for the fantastically rich Knox Oil and Gas headquartered in Houston, Texas. He is sent to a small village in Scotland by the sea by his boss, Mr. Happer, because he suspects that there is a ludicrous amount of oil that could possibly be hidden offshore. His job is to buy the strip of coast, as well as the land four miles inland, which means that the local community would be uprooted.

The reason why Mac is sent there is because he supposedly has Scottish blood due to his “Scottish” last name, MacIntyre, even though he is actually Hungarian. On his way to the village that is a far cry from the hectic city life that Mac is used to, he teams up with Oldsen, who is actually Scottish. Once they arrive in the quaint village filled with many interesting characters, they are surprised to find that the community is actually secretly willing to sell their houses and relocate, possibly due to the many millions of dollars that Mac is offering.

But one thing stands in their way: Ben Knox, a loner that lives in a hovel by the sea, has lived there his entire life and refuses to leave, saying that there is no other place in the world where he can make a living, and nobody to take care of the land.

Things get more complicated as throughout his stay, Mac and Oldsen discover more and more about the area and how beautiful the nature is, begin to fall in love with the local Scottish community, and are soon doubting that buying the land in order to exploit it would be a good idea.

With a surprising plot twist at the end that reveals who the titular character really is, Local Hero has one of the most genuine and well-paced plots that I’ve ever encountered for a movie in its era.

With breathtaking cinematography, decent acting, and a surprisingly remarkable plot line, Local Hero shows that you don’t need a fast-paced plot line, famous actors and actresses, out-of-this-world story, or exceptional special effects to be a classic.

-Michael Z.

Local Hero is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Roseblood by A. G. Howard

Image result for rose blood

From this beloved author we were told how Lewis Carroll wrote the stories wrong: how Wonderland is actually not a child’s world, but one of twisted madness, Tim Burton like worlds, and hot guys who wear hats and vine like tattoos. Now, get to learn that we also have a beloved opera that has been written wrong.

Enter into a world based in France, where the school Rune Germain has transferred to has its own Phantom of the Opera. Rune’s life is complicated: she was almost killed by her grandma, nearly killed a boy by kissing him, and on top of all that, her voice was cursed, causing her to let out faint sounds every time she sings. Meanwhile, young Thorn lives with a man named Erik, who is the phantom of the opera and has mask covering the burnt portion of his face. Thorn must do what Erik says, even if it is wrong, for reasons kept secret. What happens when Rune and Thorn’s destined fates cross? A lot basically, and not all of it good.

I love A. G. Howard as an author, especially with her Splintered series. That was why, since I saw the book at the library, I immediately picked it up and started to read it. The cover and colored ink on the inside looked very similar. Although not the same madness like tone that the Splintered series was written in, the mystical feel suits a archaic opera like time. The plot twist is also very interesting.

However, the book disappointed me in various ways too. For example, A. G. Howard, like always, expects you to remember the mysterious boy that appears in the girl’s dreams, the one that only appeared for one sec in the beginning and was not memorable enough. Additionally, compared to the Splintered series, she tells the story really fast. This is also more of a preference, but I didn’t like the way she told the story. She told the story through both Rune and Thorn’s point of view, and while both are important to the story, I feel as though it muddles things up. However, that is more personal. All in all, it was still a very great story and I would recommend it to everyone who wants to read it cause of the author, supernatural elements, or the like.

-Megan V, 12th Grade

Roseblood by A. G. Howard is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I just finished reading this book early in the morning, shortly before 1 am and to put it simply, I am still in awe as I write this. I’ve never read a book that was so casually written yet so beautiful and articulate. While writing in letter format may seem improper for a published book, the style of writing produces a personal touch that is key to the novel.

Stephen Chbosky follows the coming of age story of a young freshmen boy, who goes by Charlie. Charlie is writing to an anonymous friend and refuses to use real names of people in his life as to protect their privacy. This friend and these letters are Charlie’s source of comfort and security as he adventures through life, beginning high school without a close relationship to his family members or friends and ending his first year with new best friends. This book touches on topics that people are sadly to afraid to talk about such as depression, abuse and the difficulties many teens face as they grow up. It’s incredibly relatable and emotionally touching; you can feel Charlie’s heartbreak and you can almost touch his strong passion for those he learns to love. You can sense the bittersweetness pouring out of the pages, you can laugh at Charlie’s dry, innocent humor. Chbosky ensures a roller coaster of emotions while providing in depth insight to the simplistic yet so complex teenage mind.

I will warn that some scenes or conversations are explicit; I know many high schoolers have been exposed to these topics but some aren’t comfortable reading about it. If that applies to you as a reader, then I don’t suggest checking this book out. However, if you are still curious and unfazed, I think this is an important read because it shows teens out there that they aren’t alone in whatever they’re struggling with, no matter what it is. It also comforts them in knowing that there are kind people in the world that are willing to befriend them and help them solve their problems in a positive way that changes them for the better. Even if the road is bumpy and painful, the destination always proves to be worth the drive if one keeps pushing on. Chbosky attempts to explain that while the teenage years are full of hardships and confusion, everyone finds their way sooner or later. And until one reaches that point of self-confidence, the journey there is a learning experience that shapes you into the person you will be out in the “real world”.

-Jessica T.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.