Night by Elie Wiesel

The book Night by Elie Wiesel is an inside look at the holocaust through the eyes of a young Jewish boy. It is the real story of the author, which is why it is so astounding. I believe that his purpose for writing it was to shed light on how devastating the holocaust was, the concentration camps, and what it means to be broken as an individual. It is filled with so much pain and suffering, and yet that was what made it undeniably real. His life during this period of time was so horrible that he longed for death as opposed to the darkness of the world around him.

Without the basic human needs for food, water, shelter, and warmth, the spirit begins to weaken. This caused him to be angry at God and his initial strong beliefs to falter, which was heartbreaking, as now, without his family or religion, he was utterly and completely alone.

Though the book could be dark and upsetting due to its raw storyline, it was also very eye-opening for me, as I learned many new things about the holocaust and also perceived it through the eyes of a young boy. Although he endured the worst struggle of his life during that time and lost the ones he loved most, him telling his story can be an inspiration for people to never give up.

-Aisha E.

Night by Elie Wiesel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is a fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. The book is set in a world filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, magic, and all sorts of strange creatures, known as Middle-Earth. In The Hobbit, a company of dwarves, along with a wizard, attempt to reclaim their lost kingdom and gold, which have been taken by a dragon.

The book’s protagonist is a hobbit, a race similar to humans, but shorter than dwarves, named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lives a quiet, ordinary life inside his hobbit-hole, until one day a mysterious wizard named Gandalf the Grey and a company of thirteen dwarves show up at his doorstep, asking him to join their quest to reclaim their gold and slay the ferocious dragon Smaug. Bilbo initially refuses, but eventually gives in to temptation, and soon he, the dwarves, and wizard are thrown into an action-filled adventure.

The Hobbit mainly shows Bilbo’s growth and transformation into a hero as the dwarves are traveling towards their goal. Against obstacle after obstacle, Bilbo begins to prove his usefulness and worth, as he saves the dwarves from countless threats, from elven kings to deadly spiders.

The Hobbit is a great book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is filled with adventure and there is action at every turn. Overall, The Hobbit is a classic novel that should be read by everyone.

-Josh N. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

When by Victoria Laurie

Everyone knows that they will one day die, and yet we live our lives trying our best to ignore it, as death is a dark subject for most. However, the main character Maddie in the book When by Victoria Laurie, has no choice but to see death everywhere she goes. The death date of every person she sees is imprinted upon their forehead.  Living alone with her mother, money is tight, and so her mother arranged for her to earn money by telling clients who come to their home their death date.

One day a client comes in and Maddie informs her that her son’s death date is next week. Shocked and confused( as the woman had initially come in regarding the death date of her daughter who had leukemia) she leaves angrily. Of course, the woman’s son ends up dead upon the very date that Maddie predicted. After this, the FBI begins to suspect Maddie as well as her best friend Stubby for murdering the child. The book is a thrilling mystery that I enjoyed immensely, and it is the kind of book that kept me up late reading, anticipating what would happen next. 

Buried beneath the fast-paced storyline, however, is the question to the reader of what you would do if you knew the day you would die. It was something fascinating to ponder as I read, and even one of the characters in the book whom Maddie had told his death date to had turned his life around due to that. He wanted to make sure his family was supported financially and knew they were loved, as well as enjoy the last years of his life. And the meaning I found within the book as well was that death is not something to try to run away from, but rather something to remember every once in a while, to put everything into perspective and allow you to live life beautifully.

~Aisha E.

When by Victoria Laurie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Authors We Love: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle started life as a doctor, earning his Doctor of Medicine degree in Scotland, and practicing in the medical field for nearly twenty years. However, Conan Doyle is not known for his work in medicine, but rather for his incredible work in the literary field, which gave enduring gems to nearly every genre of literature.

Over the course of his lifetime, Conan Doyle created many different and complex characters for his stories. For example, his 1912 novel The Lost World stars the boisterous and occasionally insolent scientific genius Professor Challenger, whose radical opinions about strange locations and events are often proven true, much to the exasperation and secret admiration of his friends and his rivals. The title of this book may sound familiar, and it should – Conan Doyle’s work was the inspiration behind the movie Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Conan Doyle also dabbled in other genres, varying from quasi-memoirs to historical adventure to horror. The Stark-Munro Letters, which were written and published in 1895, are a thinly-disguised account of Conan Doyle’s early years in the medical field. Seventeen short stories feature Brigadier Etienne Gerard, a French soldier who tells the tales of his adventures during the war, which are engaging to any and all readers, even without an in-depth knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars. Additionally, in the short stories The Case of the Lady Sannox, The Brown Hand, and The Brazilian Cat, Conan Doyle harnesses his eye for the macabre to deliver quick but lasting packages of terror and mystery that the reader cannot easily forget.

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

 

Of all the products of Conan Doyle’s pen, perhaps the most well-known is the reclusive and eccentric yet brilliant consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, along with his less-intelligent comrade and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The first adventure starring the dynamic duo, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1886 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It was an instant national success, and it was followed by another novel, The Sign of Four, and twenty-four short stories.

 

 

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Eventually, Conan Doyle became tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes, who he believed was “standing in the way” of his greater works, so he killed off the great detective in 1893’s “The Final Problem.” However, public pressure convinced Conan Doyle to continue writing about Holmes, with a new novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and the resurrection of Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” In the end, Holmes and Watson are featured in sixty stories – all of which are beloved by both the avid crime critic and the casual reader. 

Sadly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930. Interestingly, his last words were spoken to his wife: “You are wonderful!” In the end, over the course of seventy-one years, Conan Doyle’s work has imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of all who read it, and “the father of the modern detective” will not be forgotten even in the farthest of futures.

-Mahak M.

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

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This is perhaps my favorite story written by the short-lived but legendary author so far. It even surpasses his most well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe because despite my great interest in the Civil War, the main character in this story touches me the most: Maggie Johnson.

Unlike her common name, Maggie is not a common girl. Just by reading the description of her family, it was pretty easy enough to tell that she detested her family. Her mother, father, and brother Jimmy all had their own life going on. They blame the obstacles in life on her. Mary Johnson, her mother drinks and fights and curses after their father passed away. Jimmy seemed unwilling to acknowledge his family as he thought it as a burden and a disgrace to his life. And Maggie was no different. Since from a young age, her violent reactions including how she trembles and hides under the table show her extreme fear for the people she’s supposed to love the most-her parents. Everything changed when Pete came.

Because of her childhood trauma, Maggie craved more than ever to find a man who is well educated and rich, mainly to save her from her diabolical family. Pete was Jimmy’s friend, I could tell he was being like a casual friend to Maggie by taking her to see plays and eat at luxurious restaurants since he owned a saloon. However, Pete was not a person who holds a serious attitude toward love or relationship, he was simply a player. And this is when Maggie gets really hurt by his rudeness later on when they met Nell, Pete’s old sweetheart. From this point on, Maggie’s imagined glorious life starts to deteriorate.

Moreover, Mary Johnson couldn’t forgive Maggie’s not coming home every night since Pete came along. In my opinion, Mary is very absurd for her requirement for Maggie as a pious daughter when she doesn’t even qualify a single bit to be a mother. Her daughter is an adult, so it’s her right to stay wherever she wants if she doesn’t feel like going home today. Besides, the wrecked condition of the house and her manner toward Maggie, of course, disengages her desire to return home after a grueling day at the clothing factory she works at.

Lastly, this story mainly just reflects how the death of our protagonist at the end proves parental failure to be a severe issue a lot of the children face even in our present society.

-Coreen C. 

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Black Like Me, a memoir written by John Howard Griffin, tells the true story of Griffin’s time spent in the segregated south in the 1950s as a black man. Griffin, however, was not biologically black. In fact, he was a white journalist with a focus on racial equality- a white man who wanted to experience the truth of black life in a land supposedly “separate but equal”, a sugar-coated line which people knew even then to be a lie. In order to truly understand the plight of African Americans in the southern states, Griffin chemically dyed his skin black using pills normally reserved for treating vitiligo. With black skin and a deep-rooted curiosity, Griffin ventured into the south. What he found horrified him, and became the subject of his memoir.

In Black Like Me, Griffin addresses the dehumanizing conditions which were caused by segregation in the American south. Most people are aware of the immediate impacts of segregation. Black people and white people were physically separated from each other, barred from drinking from the same water fountains, using the same bathrooms, eating at the same restaurants, or even using the same seats on the bus. It served as a barrier, keeping black men and women from attaining education, or those with education from obtaining jobs which could provide livable wages. These are things taught in school, considered to be common knowledge. What fewer people are aware of, however, is what Griffin portrays to be the true result of segregation and racism: the very denial of the right to humanity. When no person affords you even the slightest common courtesy when people deem it unnecessary to look at you on the street, when you need to work hard each and every day to prove to the white man that you mean him no harm- what does that do to a human’s spirit? According to Griffin, the true horror of segregation is the degradation of humanity which naturally ensues from it. The result is a book that is hard to read without taking on the pain of the oppressed- a reaction which is not only desired by Griffin but which makes this book a truly unforgettable, essential read.

There is no specific demographic which I would recommend this book to. The truth is, everyone should read it. It is one of those once in a lifetime books which makes you think just as much as it immerses you in its story. Further, if you enjoy this book and would like to read another like it, I would highly recommend Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (I wrote a review about this book, too).

-Mirabella S.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Event Recap: Symphony In The Cities

On Saturday, July 27th, the City of Mission Viejo hosted The Symphony in the Cities at Newhart Middle School. I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the symphony, being stationed at the “Instrument Petting Zoo.” I helped teach children how to play a variety of instruments, including violin, viola, trumpet, flute, and a few types of percussion instruments.

Although it was an extremely hot, the even was really fun. There were horse drawn carriages, bountiful stands and booths for entertainment, and ice water so that everyone stayed hydrated. The entire event was free (excluding ticket costs) and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra also performed at 7 PM.

All of the volunteer coordinators were super knowledgeable and kind, and they answered any questions we had. It was extraordinarily well-organized, and the kids loved our booth! (At least, they seemed to.)

Additionally, the Symphony was an incredible opportunity for me to make friends. The volunteers are my booth and I all got super close throughout the course of the extreme heat of our 4-hour shift. We are actually making plans to volunteer at more evets like this already!

Overall, Mission Viejo’s Symphony in the Cities was a really fun, albeit boiling, event. I enjoyed volunteering and teaching children about one of my passions, and I loved watching the orchestra perform. I ardently recommend this event, and if you didn’t go this year, you should plan to go in 2020. It really is a treat!

-Arushi S.