Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, written by Pierce Brown, was the last book that I finished before President’s Holiday. The story follows Darrow, a brave and loyal Red. Reds are the lowest “color” in the futuristic society of humans. The story follows Darrow’s adventures in becoming a Gold ( the highest ranking color) and destroying the rulers of the unfair Society form the inside.

Once a Gold, Darrow goes to an academy where all other Golds attend. There, they learn to fight, command fleets, etc. Darrow hopes to graduate, become a well known and trusted fleet leader, and eventually destroy the Society. At the academy, the students are split into houses, each named after a Greek god. Then all of the houses are put against each other in an all-out war; the winning house will then graduate. In the end, Darrow’s house wins, and one of the most powerful leaders of the Society decides to train him in becoming a fleet leader.

All in all, I thought that Red Rising was really good. There was a good mix of intense violence and strategy. The house wars reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Currently, I am reading the sequel to Red Rising and it seems really good! Overall, I would rate the book a strong nine out of ten and would recommend the book to any middle schooler.

-Daniel C.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Film Review: Aquaman

I recently went and saw Aquaman, and walked into the theater with the mindset that it would be just like all the other Marvel movies, super dark, a lot of action, a little storyline and some comic relief. And, this movie finally broke that formula though, it wasn’t necessarily anything that seemed that original. But, it was more of a fluff movie than some of the other recent and extremely dark Marvel movies that had been coming out like Avengers. So, it was nice to have something different that was slightly less dark with a little more storyline.

In essence, the movie seemed pretty typical. A forbidden love between two worlds with a child that has to bring the two together. And, of course, the child at first does not want to but, in the end, decides to try to save the day. So, the storyline is pretty much predictable. Though, the actions scenes where cool and the special effects throughout the entire movie were extremely well done.

This movie is the perfect movie to go and watch and turn your brain off. It is entertaining without much substance. But it provides a nice break to just stop thinking. I would suggest as a movie to go out and see with your friends and family to just have some fun. Since it is more of a light fluffy movie than a typical dark Marvel movie, you can finish the movie and not have that air of darkness and instead, it leaves you with a happy humorous mood. So it is great to just have some fun.

-Ava G.

School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

‘In the forest primeval, a school for good and evil, two towers like twin heads, one for the pure, one for the wicked, try to escape you’ll always fail, the only way out is, through a fairy tale’

These are the opening words of Soman Chainani’s first book in the School for Good and Evil series, also known as SGE to many fans. The first book, which is called The School For Good and Evil, has 488 pages, and can be found in the children’s section of the library.

This is one of my favorite books, and it holds deep meaning for me. When I first met my pen pal, this was her present to me. I have cherished this book and series, because it is a reminder of her, no matter how far apart we live.

We begin our tale in a small town. We meet Sophie, the epitome of a pretty pink princess. While she goes about her daily routines, including rigorous skin care, and primping and preening, we find out that there are kidnappings in this town, every year.

The villagers of this town have come to the conclusion that there is a ‘Schoolmaster’, kidnapping two children every year. At first, it seems as though there is no pattern to this kidnapping. Some years, two girls. Others, two boys. Sometimes, one of each. But finally, the villagers make the connection. One child is pure and good. The other is wicked and ‘evil’. The adults in the town didn’t know what to make of this. But, the children did. They found their old schoolmates in the pages of their favorite stories. These kidnapped children were becoming the heroes and villains of fairytales. And they were kidnapped to go train for fairytales at the Schools of Good and Evil

We find out that Sophie is pining to be kidnapped, to go to the school of Good. We also find that Agatha, her ‘friend’, is the perfect candidate to be kidnapped alongside Sophie, and attend the school of Evil.

Well, the hopes of Sophie and the assumptions of the villagers were correct. Agatha and Sophie were kidnapped by the Schoolmaster. But, as they are dropped off at the School for Good and Evil, some things did not go according to plan.

Agatha was dropped at the School for Good, and Sophie was dropped at the School for Evil.

Well, I won’t spoil anymore. I highly suggest checking this out at the library. Happy reads!

-Sophia D.

The School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani is available to download for free from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The book is in correlation with the Russian Revolution. Each main character of the book represents real people or a group of people during that time. For example, a pig named Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin and is the main “villain” in the book, and so on.

The book is really interesting to read especially if you have an interest in the Russian Revolution but want an easier way to understand the story. It takes what let up to the Revolution and the Revolution itself and used simpler characters and situations to make the even make more sense.

I had a fun time reading this book because, in order to help us understand the book better, our teacher had different tables in the class represent different animals on the farm so what animal you were depended on where your normal assigned seat was. Every day we had English, there would be a “happening on the farm”. That meant like, if there was an animal who died in the book, that table would be “dead” too.

This really motivated me to read the book in order to see if there would be anything interesting that could happen in the classroom/farm.

Once again, if you are interested in the book Animal Farm, I strongly recommend reading it.

-Phoebe L.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Typically, I don’t enjoy reading nonfiction. I’d rather immerse myself in a fictional world and befriend imaginary characters. However, Bryan Stevenson (a renowned lawyer), really blew me away with his work Just Mercy.

In this book, he recounts many of the cases him and his nonprofit organization, EJI (the Equal Justice Initiative), have taken on. His work focuses on the injustices and flaws of our country’s justice system, such as the death penalty, incarceration and the juvenile justice system. The book’s plot is centered around the case of Walter McMillian, a black man falsely accused of a murder he didn’t commit and placed on death row, but includes a number of other cases Stevenson took on. Throughout the book, Walter McMillian’s conviction is totally turned around and Stevenson describes the long, difficult fight to free a black man in Alabama.

Stevenson represented a wide variety of victims, including women and children. Along the way, he includes many facts and statistics about the cruel, seemingly unconstitutional or immoral rulings and laws passed in the 1800s-2000s. These facts surprised, outraged and educated me. He discusses how white judges and law enforcement officials in southern America did everything in their power to oppress African Americans, how children were subject to unforgiving punishments and how these injustices didn’t only hurt these individuals, but everyone around them.

Stevenson does an excellent job incorporating his own emotions and thoughts into nonfictional accounts. By doing so, Stevenson makes his work interesting and easy to follow. However, the book is an emotionally taxing read. He discusses cases and victims that suffered horrendous abuse, mental illnesses and punishments. There were times I had to put the book down and I would be in a state of disbelief or sorrow.

The autobiographical work is heartbreaking, yet encouraging. It is motivating to know that there are people like Stevenson who work to defend helpless victims against the power of the State and country. It is empowering because now, I feel more aware and educated about the country I live in and its response to crime. It’s an important read, especially for young people. I definitely recommend this book to everyone because of how eye-opening and powerful it is.

-Jessica T.

Just Mercy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

End of Watch by Stephen King

Only a mind like Stephen King could catalyze such strange, thrilling storylines and concepts as those presented in his 2016 novel, the third and final installment of the Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch. I admit, I began reading the novel blindly with no background on the previous two installments of the series but was appeased by the fact that King was extremely articulate in giving background on the origins of the trilogy, which easily made End of Watch a more enjoyable and smooth read.

End of Watch features a diverse array of characters, centering on retired Detective Bill Hodges as he juggles monumental health issues and an even more monumental case: a large stretch of suicides sharing a single common link, a handheld video game console with a strangely hypnotic effect. Hodges and his makeshift team — his current and former partners, Holly Gibney and Pete Huntley, and his lawnboy-turned-friend, Jerome — follow the sinister paths taken by Brady Hartsfield, the culprit of the so-called “Mercedes Massacre” that King created for the first book of the trilogy, Mr. Mercedes.

Through pages of suspense and moment after moment of action and mystery from King’s wild imagination, to the saddening farewell of the final pages, End of Watch brings the classic Stephen King “stranded in the murk” feeling, leaving us wandering stone-blind and never knowing when the next plot twist or mind-bending connection will strike. The premise made for King’s legendary style without a hitch and makes us consider the possibilities before swiping to play a video game again.

Upon closing the final curtain and concluding my journey with the characters in the book, I was struck with two very different realizations: the frightening reality of suicide cases across the globe and the authentic ties between friendships. Every character had a unique interaction with each other, which only made the story even more realistic, and consequently, all the more chilling.

So be careful next time you play a new game of Fishin’ Hole — or read a Stephen King novel — you might find it hypnotizing.

—Keira D.

End of Watch by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive