Comparison: High School Musical vs. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Flashback: It’s January 20, 2006, you’re sitting in front of the TV, as the beginning credits play for the new Disney Channel Original Movie: High School Musical. Now fast forward 13 years (crazy isn’t it?), you have the Disney+ app opened on your device, about to play the first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Now, if you were a big fan of HSM like I was when you were younger, chances are, there probably was some speculation, wondering if the new HSM would be just as good as the original. In my opinion, I personally think that the new version is actually quite good. It’s not as good as the original, of course, but it isn’t a complete fail.

Basically, the new version is like a musical inside of a musical (if that makes sense). It’s kind of like in Teen Beach Movie, where the main characters were stuck inside of the movie, in the actual movie. It revolves around the kids who attend the actual East High School, and are putting on their own rendition of the musical itself. The characters of the actual show (Ricky, Nini, EJ, Gina, Big Red, Kourtney, etc.), then audition for the parts they want (Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan, Chad, Taylor, etc.).

So far, there have only been four episodes released, packed with tons of drama, comedy, romance, heartbreak, and of course, tons of singing. If you were a High School Musical fan when you were younger, the new version might be a little too young for you, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

-Phoebe L.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a dystopian, survival novel written by William Golding in 1953. Living through the bloodiest war in human history, Golding had witnessed humanity’s great capacity for inflicting cruelty and brutality on one another. This greatly influenced his pessimistic view of human nature; he believed that the natural human propensity is violent unless restrained by societal influence. The book opens on an island, now inhabited by a group of unsupervised British schoolboys that survived a violent plane crash. Some of the main characters are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, and Simon. Ralph and Piggy find a conch shell and call for an assembly of all the survivors on the island. The assembly results in the appointment of Ralph as chief. Ralph believes that maintaining fire on the island is the most important task, as it will signal to the outside world that they need rescue.

Meanwhile, Jack is focused on hunting. During this conflict, the boys find a mysterious creature called “the beast,” which they believe is following them, and planning to harm them. Simon tells the group that “the beast” may be them; that the human is the most dangerous animal on the island. As the debate on the existence of “the beast” continues, Jack and Ralph split into two separate tribes. Simon finds the head of a pig, left behind as a sacrifice to “the beast.” This head is the Lord of the Flies and gives Simon a vision. Simon is soon killed by Jack’s tribe, and as the conflict escalates, so is Piggy. Ralph is now targeted by Jack’s tribe and tries to fight them off as best he can. Just before Ralph is killed, a naval officer on a nearby ship reaches the island, alerted by their smoke signals, and rescues them.

This book demonstrates a zeitgeist held by many authors and philosophers during this time period. Golding’s use of British schoolboys as his characters shows that anyone, regardless of age or perceived innocence and civility, can surrender to the brutal proclivity living within all human beings. The boys are a mirror image of the warring adults surrounding them, and the island becomes a microcosm of World War II itself.

-Katie A. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

This little book of five wizarding fables is a perfect way to re-immerse yourself into the world of Harry Potter after reading the series. With writing from the brilliant Albus Dumbledore, illustrations by J.K. Rowling, and little facts about characters from the Harry Potter series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard could naturally belong on a book list underneath Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Following each story is a note by Albus Dumbledore, which provides a thoughtful and sometimes witty analysis of the story, a discussion of the wizarding world’s acceptance of it, and perhaps a humorous anecdote. Although Dumbledore’s notes are written academically, the evidence of his witty and brilliant character in his writing is exciting and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed reading Dumbledore’s note on The Fountain of Fair Fortune because it mentions Hagrid’s predecessor as professor of Care of Magical Creatures, Professor Kettleburn. Professor Kettleburn is briefly mentioned in the Harry Potter series, but in his note, Professor Dumbledore delves deeper into his character while telling a humorous story involving the Care of Magical Creatures teacher and students at Hogwarts.

Additional references to and historical information about characters from Harry Potter serve as a treat to those wanting an extra morsel of the wizarding world.

What I enjoy about this book are J.K. Rowling’s intricate and elegant illustrations of her (or Beedle’s) stories. I find it intriguing to see illustrations by the authors, as their depictions are most likely to be true to their vision.

Lastly, it’s fascinating how The Tales of Beedle the Bard not only a book of stories about the wizarding world but a book that actually exists in Harry Potter’s world, as it is first introduced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It almost appears like it was pulled from a Hogwarts bookshelf or a wizard or witch’s bedside table to be shared with the Muggle community.

Crafted with wit, magic, and a bit of the darkness you might find in a Grimm fairy-tale, these stories serve both as entertainment and as another taste of the wizarding world.

– Mia T.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Redwall is a series of 22 fantasy novels written by the late Brian Jacques.  The stories take place around a castle named Redwall Abbey in a land called Mossflower during a medieval period.  The main characters are animals with human-like abilities.  Most of the characters are woodland creatures that can talk and walk on their hind legs.  The good characters include mice, squirrels, otters, moles, and badgers.  The villains include rats, weasels, stoats, foxes and ferrets.  The books contain many epic adventures and are very enjoyable to read.

I have noticed a predictable pattern throughout the series.  Each book usually begins by introducing the main characters, including the main villain.  Then conflict arises between the good and bad characters.  Usually, the good characters are defending Redwall Abbey against their enemies.  Sometimes the heroes embark on long journeys or perilous adventures to defeat the villains.  By the end of each book, the bad creatures are defeated.  Though the books may seem repetitive and predictable, they are filled with surprising plot twists and many colorful personalities.

The first novel written in the series is simply titled Redwall.  The hero of the story is a small mouse named Matthias.  In this book, Matthias defends Redwall Abbey against the evil rat, Cluny the Scourge.  Matthias overcomes many challenges to save the abbey.  At one point he defeats the dreaded snake, Asmodeus, and obtains a legendary sword with which he fights against Cluny and his army.  This book is filled with action and suspense.

Another enjoyable novel in the series is Mossflower.  This book describes events that took place before the events of Redwall.  We learn about the history of Redwall Abbey.  A traveling mouse named Martin comes across a large and spacious castle inhabited by evil vermin led by tyrannical wildcats.  Martin finds a group of woodlanders who wish to overtake the giant castle and remove the dictators.  After finally succeeding in their mission and destroying the castle, they decide to build an abbey in its place.  The abbey is named Redwall because it was built with red sandstone from a distant quarry.  Redwall Abbey becomes the home of many good woodland creatures throughout the series. 

Perhaps my favorite book in the series is The Bellmaker.  This book involves a squirrel king named Gael who lives at Castle Floret.  The king is forced to flee from his home because of an evil foxwolf named Urgan Nagru.  As the story develops, heroic characters from Redwall come to the rescue to put an end to Urgan Nagru and his army once and for all.  This book may be my favorite in the series because of the gripping plot and fascinating character development.

The Redwall series is filled with adventure, action, and humor.  I enjoy reading each book because the stories are all woven together.  The characters come to life as we read about their exciting adventures from book to book.  These books may be written for young readers but I would highly recommend them to anyone.

-Oliver H. 

Brian Jacques’ Redwall series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Book Without Words by Avi

The Book Without Words by Avi is a strange, chaotic novella set in a medieval and gothic time period in an alternate universe.

An eccentric old man named Thorston has devoted his entire life to look for the two greatest secrets of life- the making of gold and immortality. Seconds away from a breakthrough, he keels over, dead. His servant, Sybil, and talking pet raven, Odo, decide that their only hope is to discover the two secrets and build a better life for themselves.

The ultimate theme of this book plays on human nature itself, as the two secrets themselves represent man’s greatest flaws- greed and the desire for immortality. 

This morally-charged storyline coupled with Avi’s odd, emotionless, and almost creepy narrating style makes for an intriguingly gruesome novella that turns the happy-go-lucky magic of youth into something curiously corrupted and cruel.

-Vaidehi B.

The Book Without Words by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Extraordinarily crafted and presented, Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, a young man plagued by memories of his experiences in an act of terrorism, the loss of his mother, and one piece of artwork that alters his life — and history — forever.

Deemed a Dickensian-style coming of age novel, for its poetic air and substantial length (771 pages, beginning to end), “The Goldfinch” recounts a large sequence of Theodore’s life from his point of view, as he moves from New York to Las Vegas and back again, and ages from thirteen to mid-twenties. The novel stretches broadly across a grand array of emotions, written in descriptive and illustrious sentences: orchestrations of edge and tension, raw reflection and self-discovery, dreamy chains of events.

Tartt presents a diverse and complex cast of characters accompanying Theo in his spiraling search for answers, including his informal guardian and (eventual) business partner Hobie and his risk-taking Ukrainian friend Boris. Each character — individual in their own stories, mannerisms, beauty — pulls new aspects into the course of Theo’s life and leads to the ultimate fate of the story.

Theo’s desire for control and hunt for resolutions to his long-standing questions remains central to the heart of “The Goldfinch.” Still utterly infatuated with Carel Fabritius’s painting, the namesake of the novel, Theo expresses his connection to the painting and the fact that it acted as a piece of joy, a piece of history that he had an impact on: “And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost…” (Tartt 771).

The Goldfinch is brought to a close in the midst of loose ends; what happens between the characters is still unclear, left at the hands of the audience to decide the character’s stories. And, after pages and pages of Tartt’s beautifully written masterwork, we can’t help but imagine our very own endings for the characters we’ve grown so fond of.

-Keira D.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is truly a conundrum. It is a story with intricately woven twists and turns. It is one of those novels where the true meaning of the plot is invigorating and the comments that Fitzgerald makes about the society in the 1920s are astounding. It was the first book I was glad to have read in an English class and not on my own. The nuance in the text adds to the story and having a teacher there to explain it all made the book more intriguing.

This is a book to delve into the world of the roaring 20s and for one to get lost in the madness of the time. It is one of those novels that is so exquisitely that it feels as if one is living in the story. Every minute detail of the picture is painted allowing one to see the world Fitzgerald is commenting on. One of the best parts of this book is how easy it is to lose one’s self in it. Reading this book feels like being transported back into time which is not only educational but also a great time passer. Reading this book feels as if no time is passed at all because it is so easy to start reading and then look up at the clock and see that hours have passed.

This story, focusing on a man Jay Gatsby and his extravagant lifestyle sorts through the lies, mistruths, and rumors that are constantly thrown around about him. Gatsby’s confidant, Nick Carraway helps balance the story showing the difference between the honest truthful citizen and the corrupt misleading money-hungry rich. Through these, to characters and the people that surround them, Fitzgerald tells his story. However, his story is a criticism of society more than anything. He portrays the disparity between the rich and poor.

The comments on society are the most interesting part of the book. It is so elaborate yet truthful that it makes one wonder. This wonder keeps one coming back to the story until the end. This story is one I would recommend to someone who wants an interesting read. I read that is for more than just fluff but instead has true meaning.

-Ava G.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Three Theban Plays: Tragedy, Tragedy, and more Tragedy!

Image courtesy of Britannica.com/biography/Sophocles

Oh, Sophocles–the man, the myth, the legend. According to my English teacher, he’s arguably one of the greatest playwrights of all time (don’t worry, Shakespeare, we haven’t forgotten you either). But personally, I kind of…yeah, okay, I have to admit it…despise plays (insert drop the mic gifs here). I mean, reading about two people yammering on in verse to one another for three hundred pages, versus being immersed in a totally epic duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort? I think the choice is obvious here, but who knows, maybe it’s just me.

So how do you get an anti-play person to read one? Answer: assign it for English homework! Now, English Honors as a freshman is pretty fun; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it so far. Then, well, the tables turn big time when the teacher straight up announces, “Class, we’re going to reading Oedipus Rex from Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays!”

English took a pretty big plunge down the “Favorite Classes List” after I heard that one.

I’d started dreading going to class, and all because of one dumb play. When you start enjoying Honors Algebra 2 Trig more than English, you know you’ve run into a serious problem, because I was always sort of a bookworm (where are my Percy Jackson fans at? Just checking).

Anyways, we started doing some background learning about Greek plays, especially tragedies. The Greek part interested me a little, since I’m a total mythology fan, but the Theban Plays looked pretty boring to me. I’d never read tragedies before–again, the awesome sword-fighting stuff in fiction books literally kills me, no pun intended.

So anyway, I pretty much figured out (with a considerable lack of enthusiasm, may I add) that the main characters of the play were this guy named Oedipus, who’s king of Thebes, his wife Jocasta, a blind prophet named Tiresias, Jocasta’s brother Creon, a Shepherd, a Messenger, and friends. So yep, boring.

I figured Greek tragedies, how tragic can they get? Probably a lot of death and stuff, but super tragic, as in “oh nooo, what a poor guy!” sort of thing? No way.

Ha…ha…nevermind.

I’m not really going to go into detail about what exactly makes Oedipus Rex tragic, because it’s, um, really tragic. But if you do read it, whether for fun or for school, let this be a warning that this sort of tragedy is unexpected. You might expect to feel sad or something along those lines (at least, that was what I was anticipating), but I ended up being…disgusted. Revolted. The whole, “WHAT?!” moment.

I know this is infuriating, but no, I simply cannot tell you the crux of this tragedy. If you’ve already read this particular play, good for you! We can be mildly–or highly–disturbed together! Just a side note, though: I’d only recommend this play for older readers, as the content gets pretty icky as the play goes on.

So after this whole ordeal? I actually think the Theban Plays are a pretty good read (collective gasp). I think I was too stuck up on my own definition of tragedy–the whole cliche, feeling depressed afterward, stuff like that. Nah, Oedipus Rex was more, “WHAT NO WAY DID HE JUST–NO, EW, ARGH, THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, HOW COULD–NO, STOP RIGHT NOW!”

But anyways, Sophocles himself wrote one rollercoaster of a play, which, yes, I would like to commend him on. The use of dramatic irony, keeping the audience in suspense as Oedipus’s life unravels and chaos falls upon the city of Thebes, is incredible. And, I have to admit, interesting.

Besides, Greek tragedies–despite all their horror–reveal important life lessons through the Chorus, our a group of singing, chanting men who represent the city’s citizens. Again, read the play for yourself to discover the ultimate moral; I’ll have to keep you in the dark again.

So if you do decide to read the Theban Plays, well, I wish you the best of luck. But for now, I’ve got a character analysis on Oedipus I’ve got to write, which I’m totally looking forward to…but anyways, happy reading!!!

-Katherine L

The works of Sophocles are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is a modern re-telling of The Iliad through the eyes of Achilles’ closest companion, Patroclus. After being exiled to Phthia, Patroclus, an awkward boy of a prince, finds his place living in the shadow of Achilles: “the best of the Greeks”. Achilles is strong, beautiful, destined to be a god. Together they make the most incongruent pair. Despite this, they form a steadfast friendship that grows into something much deeper, much to Achilles’ mother, Thetis’ dismay, who will do anything to ensure her son achieves his destiny of becoming a god.

Achilles and Patroclus grow into strong young men, masters of war and medicine under the watchful eye of their teacher, Chiron. News of the Trojan War forces the companions to return to Phthia where they learn of a terrible prophecy foretelling Achilles’ death in battle. Achilles, drawn by honor and glory heads to the war. Fearing the plans Fate has lain for his friend, Patroclus follows. Together they join the fight, waiting for the day Patroclus must surrender his friend to his destiny, never once questioning what Fate might have in store for him.

A devastatingly beautiful, painfully moving, tale of romance, war, and the whims of gods and Fate that explores what Patroclus really meant to Achilles, and the battle between immortal fame and the wants of the human heart.

-Lauren R. 

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner

Soldiers' Pay by William Faulkner · OverDrive: eBooks, audiobooks and videos for libraries

Soldiers’ Pay is the first book written by William Faulkner in 1926. The story revolves around Margaret Powers, a widow whose husband died in World War I. She met Joe Gilligan, a discharged soldier who was on his way to home. Together, they decided to send Donald Mahon, an aviator who was released from a British hospital because he was not only going blind but was also going to die soon. Sympathetic about his experience, the two decided that they were going to send him home and spend his last time with his father.

Donald’s father is a pastor. Originally, Donald was actually engaged to Cecily Saunders, a voluptuous girl who can’t accept Donald’s injury and scars when he came back to her. She secretly has a lover named George Farr, who is crazy about her, but Cecily merely treats him like a toy. Not remembering anyone, Margaret and Joe were the only people who could take care of him besides Emmy, the housemaid whom Donald took her virginity.

Eventually, Cecily broke the engagement and eloped with George. Margaret, seeing that Cecily never loved Donald, decided to marry him herself. In the end, after he died, Joe told Margaret that he has loved her all the time. Before Margaret left, she asked him if he will go with her and he said no due to his religion. Changing his mind shortly after, Joe did not pursue Margaret but decided to stay in the pastor’s house while thinking about his future.

-Coreen C.