Andy Weir

On July 18th, Andy Weir, author of The Martian and Artemis, visited the Norman P Murray center. After his introduction, he talked about how he “accidentally “ became an author. As a child, his Father had many science-fiction novels on his bookshelf. Weir, reflecting on this, said  he was “doomed to become a nerd.” He read those novels, and fell in love with those books because of the extensive focus on science in them.

At 15, he was hired by Sandia labs to be an intern. There, he was introduced to computers and fell in love with them. His passion for writing also kept increasing at this time. When the time to choose a college came, he wanted to write, but “wanted regular meals,” so he chose to pursue software engineering. In college, he was in debt and was not able to complete his degree. Fortunately, the software industry was desperate for engineers, so Weir was hired. Eventually, he landed a job at aol, but was laid off. He had enough money from stocks to pursue his dream of writing, but was unsuccessful, and went back to software engineering.

In the early 2000s, Weir made a website to publish his stories on. He would publish longer stories, and post a chapter at a time. His fanbase loved one in particular: the one about a man stranded on Mars. Dubbed, The Martian, it rose to popularity among his dedicated core group of “nerd readers.” One day, he got an email requesting him to create downloadable versions of his writing. So, he proceeded to self-publish on Amazon.

Initially, he was hesitant about that because of the minimum purchase price because he always wanted his work to be free. However, people did not mind paying the price, and he had people who wanted to donate to him. He said he did not want any donations because he was comfortable in his life. People, however, “donated” to him by purchasing his ebook on Amazon. Eventually, it rose to do the top ten in the science fiction category on the Amazon bookstore.

From there, he was approached by an agent and The Martian was eventually published by Random House. Once it was released, it was #2 on The New York Times Bestseller List, and the movie deal was confirmed with 20th Century Fox. After the immense success of The Martian, Weir wrote Artemis. This novel is about the first human establishment on the moon, and it is in the perspective of a 26 year-old women, and how she is entangled within various struggles.

As a writer, Weir aims to write 1000 words a day, and states that the “hardest part of writing is writing.” For aspiring writers, he has three pieces of advice: 1) In order to be a writer, you have to write. Sitting there and thinking about your story is not the same as writing. 2) Resist the urge to tell your story to other people until it is done because it saps your own will to finish the story. 3) There has never been a better time to self-publish. Because of this, there is no need to spend so much money on an agent, and by self-publishing, one can see how their book does without any risk of losing money. Seeing Andy Weir was a great opportunity, and I loved hearing him talk about his life and writing. I can’t wait to see what will happen with Weir;s future works, and if there are more movies adapted from his work.

-Anmol K.

The works of Andy Weir are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Summer has been normal and boring for Harry Potter until right before the end. Dementors show up in his town and attack him and his cousin Dudley. Harry uses magic to fight off the creatures and, almost instantly, gets sent a letter from the Ministry that is requiring him to go to a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing it will be decided if Harry should be expelled from Hogwarts. At the hearing it is decided that Harry will not be expelled from Hogwarts. Once there, Harry notices a lot of strange things. Skeletal horses are pulling school carriages, but he is the only one that can actually see the horses. Also there is another new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Dolores Umbridge. There are also rumors that Harry and Dumbledore are going crazy for thinking that Voldemort is returning. The only people that stand by Harry’s side are Ron and Hermione. Harry frequently gets detention with Professor Umbridge for lashing out at the people that think he’s crazy. Professor Umbridge soon becomes Hogwarts High Inquisitor which gives her the power to sack teachers whenever she feels that it’s necessary. Because of Harry’s frequent detentions, Professor Umbridge decides to take away the things Harry loves most like Quidditch, Sirius Black’s letters, and the ability to visit Hagrid at his hut. In retaliation, Harry forms a defense group which he calls Dumbledore’s Army. Professor Umbridge soon finds out, and Dumbledore takes the blame. In doing so, Dumbledore has to leave Hogwarts to avoid being arrested. Harry frequently has dreams of dark corridors and locked doors, and his scar prickles very often. Harry then finds out that Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, was killed, and Dumbledore tells Harry the ultimate prophecy: If Harry doesn’t kill Voldemort, Voldemort will eventually kill Harry.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva

When I first picked up The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva at Barnes and Nobles, I was fascinated by the title. Truth to be told, I first saw Daniel Silva’s books at JFK International Airport when I was coming back to California from New York; and since I adore spy novels, I looked into the series that Silva wrote, found this novel, and decided to give it a read.

In my opinion, this book started out awfully slow. However, during the first half of the novel, the reader gains a thorough understanding of the main characters and the background information leading up to the climax. Even though the beginning was really slow and has little action, I still enjoyed getting acquainted with Michael Osbourne, his family, and his rivals.

This being a book report, I imagine now you, as the reader, would want to know what this novel is really about. However, I give no promises for spoilers. This novel is about CIA agent Michael Osbourne and his nemesis, Jean-Paul Delaroche. Now you might be wondering: why does Osbourne and Delaroche have such a bad history? Well, the shorter version is Delaroche shot and killed Michael’s past lover with him watching and Michael wanted revenge. So, when the perfect opportunity came, he grasped it and was extremely desperate to find the truth. It’s not exactly a pretty story but none of the important characters died, I promise. (Well, some people died, but, they’re not as important.) The mark of that assassin is killing his opponents by shooting them three times in the face and it is literally one of the coolest aspects of the book. Sure, it is bloody and disgusting, but I like how Delaroche has a personality and it would’ve been so dull if Delaroche didn’t have his style. This book has kept me on edge until the last page. What I find amazing is Silva’s ability to integrate so many plot twists and unexpected relationships that you’d never expect.

When I got to half, the plot twists got so intense that my mom had to break me out of my reading coma. I’d praise this book for the raw emotion that Daniel Silva’s characters bring to the table. It is a wonderfully written story and I would totally recommend it for the action and the formidable characters.

– Angela L.

Daniel Silva’s The Mark of the Assassin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica is the inspiring story of true friendship. Nate Brodie is a massive Tom Brady fan. Because of that and his arm he is often called Brady. He plays quarterback for his school football team in Massachusetts. Nate starts feeling a lot of pressure when his dad loses his job twice, his mother has to start working two jobs, and one of his closest friends named Abby McCall starts going blind. This pressure affects Nate on and off the field, but Nate soon realizes that his pressure is very little compared to others. Abby then learns that she may have to go to a special school for the blind, and this harms Abby and Nate’s friendship even more. Nate hears about a throwing contest held by the Patriots, Nate’s favorite team. Nate decides to go to the event and see if he could win. The night of the contest comes quickly, and before Nate knows it it’s time to leave for it. At the contest, Nate meets his role model Tom Brady and wins the throwing contest. The prize is one million dollars which Nate offers to Abby for a surgery that could fix her eyesight.

-Emilio V.

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

This movie is just like all the other sequels to Jurassic Park. After seeing all the other movies in the franchise and seeing the new direction of the movies especially Jurassic World, I did not have very high expectations for this movie. And after watching it, the movie was exactly what I had expected, a bad story line with a bunch of special effects.

Honestly, I had only watched the movie for the actions and the special effects and it didn’t disappoint. The best part of the movie was defiantly just watching dinosaurs destroy things and seeing things burn.

However as the story line goes, it does get annoying seeing the characters make the same mistakes that happened in every other Jurassic movie. The story was just like Jurassic Park 2, people get tricked to go onto the island to bring back dinosaurs and everything goes wrong. And every part of the story that isn’t just a copy of Jurassic Park 2 makes very little sense and is extremely predictable.

Overall the movie was just OK. It is nothing to go out of your way to see. I enjoyed watching it for the special effects but everything else was repetitive and nothing special.  But, if you want to watch a movie to see a lot of action without having to really pay attention to what is going on, it is the perfect movie.

-Ava G.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Taking place in beautiful Venice, Prosper and his little brother Bo are running away from their evil aunt Esther. They ran away because Esther is planning on separating the two boys, keeping Bo and sending Prosper off to boarding school. But, the two manage to escape and run away into the land that their mother always told them about, Venice.

Luckily, the Thief Lord, or Scipio, take them under his wing along with a few other children. The rugged band begin to steal valuable items to sell to make a living. A mysterious man, the Conte, asks them to steal a wooden wing for a very high amount of money. Of course, the children agree and start their hunt for the wing.

The novel follows Prosper’s struggles to take care of his brother while still trying to participate in the wing hunt. Deeper into the book, you realize that the Thief Lord is actually the son of a wealthy man, and has been stealing his own father’s money for the group! The children begin to distrust the Thief Lord and decide to steal the wing on their own.

What I really liked about this book was how independent the children were and how they could make a living by themselves. My favorite character was definitely Bo because he reminded me of myself; a reckless, teasing, little brother. My favorite twist is when you find out the Thief Lord is the son of a rich man because it is so surprising.

Exciting and surprising, The Thief Lord written by Cornelia Funke is an enchanting novel for middle school readers. It contains many twists and turns that will leave you wanting to read more. This is one of the best mystery novels that I have read and I am planning on reading the sequel when it comes out!

-Daniel C

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To touch, to see, to hear, are all senses given to us. What is not given to us, through birth, is the power to feel. Feeling is something humans pick up on through their surroundings and their journey through life. Being 15 years old, I have not begun to feel, until I had read The Little Prince.

Teaching us the lessons of ignorance through adults and helping us understand that keeping some part of an inner child is valid to survive through life, this story by the talented Antoine de Saint-Exupery, opens with a pilot who crashes into the middle of the desert and soon meets a blonde-headed boy, with eyes filled not with tears, but of innocence.

Realizing, he is stuck and has nothing better to do, the pilot begins to ask questions about this strange young boy, until it is revealed that this boy is from a planet far from here and is the prince of that planet (hence the title). As I read further into this book, I had realized that to repel misery from looking for you for company, that you should have a heart. Though some may argue that having a heart makes one more vulnerable, it also makes one get out of bed every morning, smile, and most of all find purpose in life.

As I have stated earlier, this book does teach to keep some part of your inner child, what I mean is that children normally have fuller, more giving hearts than adults, which is why they are so much happier. All in all, to live is to be happy and to be happy you need a heart, which is why I love this book so much, because I now know how to fully live my life.

-Kimi M.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

To begin Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Weasleys invite Harry to the Quidditch World Cup. At the game, Death Eaters, Voldemort’s servants, show up, and at the end of the match Voldemort’s sign appears above the field. Back at Hogwarts, Harry finds out that Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament. Even though Harry isn’t old enough to compete, he is still very excited to watch. The three competing schools are Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons. The goblet of fire chooses one student from each school to participate. For Hogwarts, Cedric Diggory is chosen, for Durmstrang Victor Krum is chosen, and for Beauxbatons Fleur Delacour is chosen. Oddly after all three are chosen, Harry’s name flies out of the goblet. Regardless of his age, Harry is the fourth participant. This angers Ron because he thinks that Harry did put his name into the goblet, even though he didn’t. The first trial of the tournament is to steal a golden eye from a dragon. Harry does this, and somehow it convinces Ron that Harry wasn’t lying to him. The second task is to retrieve an item from the bottom of a lake filled with mer-people. Harry doesn’t know how he will do this until the very last minute. Harry is now tied for first place. Someone at the school wants Harry to die, but nobody knows who it is. Because of this, Sirius Black returns to watch over Harry. The last trial of the tournament is to find the Winner’s Cup. During the trial, Cedric gets hurt and Harry helps him. They then decide to become joint winners. They find the Winner’s Cup, but when they grab onto it they get transported to a graveyard. Confused about their whereabouts, Cedric is killed by one of Voldemort’s servants, Wormtail. Harry sees Voldemort and just barely escapes with his life. Back at Hogwarts, Harry clutches Cedric’s body and cries for the loss of his friend. Harry soon finds out who the traitor in Hogwarts is. It was Professor Moody, the newly recruited Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry tells Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, but only Dumbledore believes Harry.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Set during the Great Depression, this novel follows the story of the Joad family on their journey from Oklahoma to California. We as the readers are able to truly see the hardships that many farmers faced during this time, both with difficulty in growing crops and in difficulty moving westward. Steinbeck narrates this novel in an interesting way, with every chapter about the Joad family being followed by “interlude” chapters that offer somewhat of a broader perspective of events happening throughout the nation. Though these interlude chapters do not directly have any relation to the story of the Joads, they are still quite important as they are Steinbeck’s way of voicing some of his opinions with what he saw in society during that time.

Throughout the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck really develops the theme of community and togetherness. Whether it be family, friends, or the nation as a whole, Steinbeck shows throughout the novel that people are better and stronger together, and that family is one of the most important things of one’s life. The loyalty of the Joads to one another, and friendship gained along the way help display this point that Steinbeck is trying to get across. Though the novel was highly controversial around the time it came out, it is an extremely important novel that gives an in-depth perspective of the Great Depression, and strongly pushes forward the importance of togetherness.

-Kobe L.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is stressful in the beginning. He is constantly being buried under piles of homework. He also learns that Sirius Black, a mass murderer, is out to kill Harry. Mr. Weasley makes Harry promise that he won’t go looking for Sirius and Harry agrees. At Hogwarts, Dementors have been stationed around the school to prevent Sirius from getting in. The Dementors, however, have a worse effect on Harry than any other student because of Harry’s past. Mr. Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, teaches Harry how to cast a Patronus Charm which is the only spell that works against the Dementors. Ron and Hermione are constantly arguing because Hermione’s cat keeps trying to eat Ron’s rat. Soon they altogether stop talking because Ron thinks that Hermione’s cat did eat his rat. A few days later Sirius Black breaks into Hogwarts, but is quickly captured. Then as it turns out, Ron’s rat is not only alive, but a real human that transformed himself into a rat to spy on Harry. The man’s name is Peter Pettigrew and he was spying on Harry for Voldemort. Pettigrew quickly escapes before Harry can stop him. Harry finds out that it wasn’t Sirius Black that lead Voldemort to his parents, but that it was Pettigrew. Sirius is actually Harry’s godfather. Harry hopes that he can live with Sirius instead of the Dursley’s, but Sirius has to hide from the Ministry. Professor Lupin turns out to be a werewolf, and it was Sirius that saved the kids from Lupin.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive