The Secret Garden is a great choice for readers who like calm, adventurous stories. This novel is about a spoiled, rude, sour girl named Mary Lennox. Her parents don’t ever pay any attention to her as she spends her childhood being raised by servants and constantly changing tutors. When a cholera outbreak leaves many in her town dead, including her mother and father, she is sent to live with her uncle.
A private, secluded and upset old man, Archibald Craven takes Mary in. Mary no longer has everyone to do her bidding, and she must get used to not being the most important subject to every one. Although Mary tries to find out more about her mysterious uncle, his constant journeys away from the house and the timid servants keep her from discovering much.
I liked this book because not only is Mary trying to discover her real self, but there are always questions the reader wants answers to that come gradually throughout the story. As the story progresses, I enjoyed meeting different characters and seeing them develop during the story, especially Mary and one of her new friends.
The author is able to develop the plot very well so that the book is more enjoyable to read. While reading the book, I was faced with many interesting discoveries. I liked how the book doesn’t reveal too much about something until it actually happens or is discovered by the characters and doesn’t make it too hard to keep track of all the different characters, their actions, and their thoughts.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is a phenomenal book depicting the harsh life of 60s Hollywood Superstar, Evelyn Hugo. It’s a beautiful historical fiction, perfect for fans of old Hollywood icons. It’s plotline of scandals and fame are similar to those such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and even Anna Nicole Smith. If you recognize any of those names, this book will probably be your new ride or die.
Retired and tucked away from the public, Evelyn Hugo offers a once in a lifetime opportunity: A personal interview after decades of silence. This decision especially sends shockwaves when Evelyn chooses none other than Monique Grant for the job. Even though Monique is an underqualified small writer working at Vivant, Evelyn will accept only her. Monique accepts thinking this might be a huge break in her career and a distraction from her ongoing divorce.
Meeting Evelyn Hugo, one of Hollywood’s most treasured stars, is intimidating. She is a woman of beauty and charm. Known for her eye catching figure, gorgeous blonde hair, and killer eye brows. She was the 60’s IT girl. But time has taken it’s toll and Evelyn means business. Evelyn announces to Monique two things. First, this interview is actually for Monique to write a tell-all memoir about Evelyn’s life. No secrets, no lies, and any money made from the book will be Monique’s. Secondly, only Monique can know about it and it can only be released after Evelyn’s death. Unsure, Monique warily agrees and the story of Evelyn Hugo finally unravels.
The book immediately switches narratives to Evelyn and we see a the young thirteen year old, Evelyn Herrera. She is a gorgeous brunette Cuban girl living in a poor area of New York. Evelyn is also plagued with the burden of a dead mother and a deadbeat father. Spending years unhappy, she craves to escape and live out her dreams of being an actress. By age fifteen, Evelyn meets Ernie Diaz, a young man moving to California for work. Using her body and wits to her advantage, Evelyn manipulates poor Ernie Diaz into marrying her.
Everyday, Evelyn would sit at a popular café, while Ernie worked. Celebrities were known to eat there and eventually she was spotted by famous producer, Harry Cameron. From there here life rapidly changes. After manipulating numerous wealthy men and rebuilding her image. A gorgeous blonde, Evelyn Hugo is introduced to the world.
She beings to learn the industry overtime and chase her dreams. But sadly, it comes with a price. With Evelyn remarrying and divorcing for countless reasons. As while as struggling to find her own happiness through fame and the public eye. She becomes one of the most complex and human character, I have ever read. Even though, Evelyn isn’t written to be likeable or heroic with the book even stating, that she realizes she is a horrible person. I can’t help but relate to her vulnerability and bond with the beautiful writing. Her journey and the people she meets are so well written, that I was brought to tears.
Evelyn, even after her seven marriages, chases after her greatest love. A love which is forbidden, as this book tells of societal standards and sexualities. It teaches you, the meaning of love and it’s many forms. Your greatest love. Your purest love. Your motherly love. This book was an absolute heartbreaker. Grab your tissues and be prepared to stay up well past 3 am, because this is just a glimpse into the glamourous life of Evelyn Hugo. (Recommended 16+)
– Ashley Y.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library and can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.
I really enjoyed reading Little Women. It is one of my favorite books and a great classic.
This novel is about 4 sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy living in the 1860s. Meg is the oldest, Jo longs to be a successful author, Beth is quiet, shy, and kind, but loves music, and Amy, as the youngest, can be selfish sometimes and dreams of being an artist. Their mother, Marmee, takes care of them with the help of Hannah, their maid who lives with them. The father of these 4 girls is away at war.
They soon become friends with a rich boy who lives next door to them with his grandfather. Laurie is a boy who would rather not pay attention to his teacher (he learns at home) Mr. John Brooke.
The reader is introduced to many characters throughout the book, but the author develops them all so well, dedicating time and attention to each of them and their varying personalities.
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy face many troubles, have disagreements, worries, and are all worried about their father, Mr. March, who is away at the war.
Things begin to go downhill after a while; several of the March family members have near-death experiences. There are many different lessons included throughout this novel, and the many experiences of the family, especially the 4 sisters, help to develop those life lessons.
I liked how every character in the book had very different personalities, especially Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The author was able to create an amazing story with great characters. This enables the reader to be able to identify themselves with one of the characters in the story. There is also a natural feel to the story because it isn’t confusing to read or doesn’t skip a lot of things which happened to them. Every chapter is very interesting and enjoyable to read. I would definitely recommend you to read this book.
If you have already read this book and enjoyed it, Louisa May Alcott also wrote some sequels to Little Women, called Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
In modern society pop music appears to be the most mainstream and popular style of music to listen to. Especially in the younger generations artists such as Ariana Grande, Charlie Puth, and Billie Eilish are some of the most played artists. Though I personally like some pop music, most songs are overplayed and extremely repetitive to one another. As another option, I will be describing some of my favorite songs, artists, and genres to listen to.
Though it is quite underrated in the modern United States, jazz music is very satisfying. When studying or doing homework lyrics often distract students, but jazz is a great substitution. The music always contains great rhythms and crazy solos that leave you wanting to listen more. I personally have listened to jazz for many years and I know finding a place to start is one of the hardest parts. Paul Desmond’s “O Gato” is a bossa nova tune that is soft but yet addicting to listen to. Some of my other favorite players are Charles Mingus, George Bensen, Wes Montgomery, and Sonny Rollins. Their pieces have varying styles of jazz like bossa nova, big band, swing, and bebop. If you are looking for a nice upbeat song Charles Mingus’s “Moanin’” is a great tune to get your feet tapping. Though jazz is the backbone to all music today, it is often overlooked for more modern pieces. But if you analyzed songs today, they all have remnants of jazz written all over them.
My newfound favorite type of music as of now is japanese music. In modern society younger generations have been introduced to anime, a japanese style of television. Simurally this is how I began this new area of music. Without prior knowledge I would never see myself listening to Japanese music but now some of my favorite songs originate from openings and ending animes. My personal favorite artists are called RADWIMPS, lots of their songs are soundtracks to popular anime movies like “Your Name” or “Weathering with you”. Not only that but they have beautiful album covers that are card to ignore. Their songs included “Stick Figure”, “Cocoronoaca” , “Sokkenai”, and “Sparkle”. I would seriously recommend these songs, Japanese music in the United States is quite underrated and is not overplayed. Similarly they are great songs to listen to while doing work, since the lyrics are not in English and therefore can not distract you. If you are one of the many people that enjoy watching anime I would seriously recommend researching the openings and closings of your favorite shows as an introduction to Japanese music.
Lastly I would like to introduce some funk bands that I enjoy. Funk is one of those styles that is always there but never that popular or mainstream. As far as modern bands go, Vulfpeck is my favorite. They combine jazz and modern rock to create some funky tunes. My favorites include “1612”, “Tesla”, and “Back Pocket”. They have great bass lines and drums that just get your head bopping. Vulfpeck has great wind players along with a rhythm section that will blow your mind. Personally I believe that Vulfpeck’s live shows on youtube are even better than their studio recordings. If you ever need some music to vibe to when you feel down or lonely, never underestimate the power of funky music.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is my personal favorite Shakespeare play. I read it for class in the 10th grade. At first, I approached this play cautiously. I have never read, listened to, or watched a Shakespeare play in my life—but I presumed that the language would be difficult, and the topics uninteresting to me.
And wow, was I wrong.
As we read along, I found myself completely invested in Viola’s story—the way she turns herself into ‘Cesario’ to navigate high society, how she manages to get a Countess to fall in love with her, and how she manages to fool Duke Orsino into thinking she was a man. I was interested in the way she navigated her relationship with not only Olivia and Orsino, but with her gender, as well.
The reason why I became absolutely obsessed with this play was because how it tackled gender and sexual identity, though maybe not completely outright, but it’s there! You just have to read closely, and watch closely.
Viola dressing as a man, and turning herself into ‘Cesario,’ addresses gender fluidity in such an amazing way—and brings up so many possibilities for newer adaptations of Twelfth Night and so many more possibilities for actors playing Viola. In Shakespeare’s time, for example, all roles in his plays were played by men. So, in turn, Viola was played by a man, playing a woman, who was trying to pass as a man. A bit confusing, isn’t it?
This shows that… does gender actually matter in Twelfth Night? What is gender actually? A person’s gender identity is what that person makes of it, and Twelfth Night showcased this perfectly. People fall for Viola, and people fall for Cesario—no matter the gender, Viola’s self is what wins people over. Even in the end, Orsino tells Cesario (technically still Cesario), that, once he gets his old clothes—he can be Viola once more. It’s almost as if gender is something you can put on, then take back off again, a perfect explanation of gender fluidity.
“I am all the daughters of my father’s house, And all the brothers too—and yet I know not.”
Act II, Scene 4
As I discussed before, Viola’s gender fluidity allows for so many newer adaptation of Twelfth Night. A particular favorite of mine is Shakespeare in Clark’s Park’s production Twelfth Night, which, in the end, had Viola renaming themself to Vi, and forgoing gendered terms, possibly being nonbinary.
Taking these age-old plays and turning them into something relatable, modern, completely realistic in this day and age is extremely important. It’s how you get younger generations to read and analyze these works of literature and interpret them for themselves. Relating to Viola’s journey of self-discovery is exactly how I felt myself so connected to this play. Though, obviously, it is not a completely perfect dissertation on gender and identity, but I believe it made leaps, especially during Shakespeare’s time. People conflicts with identity, sexuality, and gender, didn’t just start in modern times. It has been happening for a very long time, it’s only recently we’ve been able to give these labels names.
Twelfth Night explores these themes in a great way, and relating to the characters makes this play so much more meaningful.
As a lover of fantasy, mystery, and thriller novels, reading a nonfiction book comprised of a newspaper report doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. However, Hiroshima was surprisingly different compared to other historical novels. Obviously, it’s based on a journal excerpt, but John Hersey managed to create a book from real-life situations of different survivors–all from a story-telling and personalized perspective. To say that the book was eye-opening or underrated would still be an understatement.
Published by The New Yorker, Hiroshima takes place in 1945 during World War II, with intricate descriptions of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and multiple remarks from traumatized survivors. Hersey focuses on six people specifically, recording what happened and how they felt both before and after the explosion. His writing was very smooth for a journal report; he wrote about completely different lifestyles diminished into pure survival to make each more comparable, almost like fictional characters.
As a forewarning, this book can get gruesomely detailed and saddening. Death lurks everywhere as the main character and it can become suffocating to read at times because it’s so overwhelming, especially when you know that this information isn’t fiction. Nonetheless, this novel holds such a big impact on its readers to this today, even when it seems so depressing.
I will admit that there are some parts where the book can drag in change in regards to the plot, albeit this book is genuine, not sugar-coated to make America look like the heroes compared to Japan. It wasn’t made to entertain, it was made to inform. John Hersey, an American journalist, managed to expose America’s wrongdoings and use his own experience of witnessing the aftermath as a lesson for future generations of our society.
Initially, the United States kept the Hiroshima bombing as a secret from the public, so it essentially revealed the horror and consequences of violence as a whole. The idea of innocent people wrongfully suffering from the hands of political views and ideology proves that the truth is much more terrible than fiction, but also much more valuable. This was a mistake in our history that Hersey wrote about to prevent such a thing from happening again–to look towards basic human decency instead of who’s right and who’s wrong.
No matter what genre one may interest in, this book is definitely worth reading. It stems from much more than a plot or pages of information, helping readers understand the heavy reality of our world.
The year is 1984. The world has been divided into three parts: East Asia, Eurasia, and Oceania. Though they are three distinct regimes, each rules with the same iron fisted totalitarianism. There is constant war between the three countries, and at any given time two nations are fighting against the other; as a result, food and other supplies are low, and the people are deprived of basic necessities. Speak (or even think) out, however, and you will be suppressed instantly, facing certain torture and death. This is the world crafted by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Winston Smith, a citizen of Airstrip One of Oceania (formerly known as London), is a member of the super-state’s Outer Party, working at the ironically named Ministry of Truth, where he and his colleagues tamper with historical records to reflect the current stance of the government. Despite the nature of his work, Winston dreams of the end of the Party and expresses his thoughts in a journal, putting him in danger of being arrested for “thoughtcrime.”
However, when he meets and falls in love with Julia, one of his co-workers, his acts of rebellion become more tangible, as the two of them begin a secret love affair that would cause both of their deaths should they be found out. Throughout this, Winston and Julia learn of a secret underground resistance force only known as “The Brotherhood,” which they hope to join in order to escape the suffocating rule of the Party’s nebulous leader, Big Brother.
Unfortunately, Winston and Julia are betrayed, and their struggle to find love and hope in the midst of a totalitarian regime ultimately comes to naught. Although the novel was published in 1949, the scarily accurate depiction of absolute state control has continued to haunt modern times with regimes displaying the same kind of totalitarianism as Orwell predicted in his groundbreaking novel. Few governments have reached the height that Nineteen Eighty-Four predicted, but if the world continues on its current path, that kind of totalitarian future may be much closer than one might imagine.
My parents are always raving about old sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Facts of Life or Friends. Sitcoms, in their day, were the perfect half hour to hour where family and friends could gather for a show and a laugh with little worry. They were children of the 70’s and 80’s, so I get it, but as a child of the 2020’s I prefer more action. Disney Plus’ WandaVision is a perfect marriage of our mutual loves. To add to its appeal, it comes from Marvel. The creators of Marvel have expertly woven pop cultural references from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000 television with Marvel action packed story telling. Not only that, but the writers take a deep dive into Marvel lore, providing excitement for everyone from the basic fan to the aficionado. This ended up being a show that our family watched together, something my folks would call “must see TV,” though I am so glad I live in an era when I can watch what I want when I want. Beware this review may contain spoilers
WandaVision begins as an idyllic 1950’s sitcom in the vein of The Donna ReedShow or Leave it to Beaver. We are the audience watching an hourly scheduled program, of which Wanda is the main character. How audiences found entertainment in these vanilla black and white comedies, I’ll never understand but, as pop culture goes, they reflect American values of the time. The first episodes keep in step with the idea of a 1950’s happy home where the husband goes to work and the wife stays at home in the kitchen. Weird, right? We see that Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) is blissfully married to Vision, a sentient robot created by Ultron to destroy the world but who is later reprogrammed to help the Avengers. Right away, the set up is a surprise because when audiences last saw this pair, Wanda is grieving the tragic destruction of Vision by Thanos at the conclusion of Avengers, End Game. Here, Vision is very much alive and functional. The couple is in love, recently married, and have moved to the perfect American small town, Westview, where they appear to be happily trying to fit in as “normal.” At first it appears their ruse is working but there is a very peculiar and eerie undertone that something is not right. As the sitcom transforms in rapid time from the 1950’s to the 1960’s we realize that not everything is as it seems in this little town, and by the time we reach the big hair and fluorescence of the 1980s, we learn that our protagonist has a dark secret and danger is lurking in a neighbor right next door. We also are clued into a concurrent present day storyline, in the outskirts of Westview, that threatens to collide with WandaVision’s tranquil and out of time-sync town.
What is particularly attention-grabbing is that past Marvel characters, who were seemingly peripheral to the ultimate Marvel storyline, make appearances in WandaVision and are integral to the movement of this story. You can’t help but almost cheer when they arrive on scene like an old friend you haven’t seen a while and remember how cool they are to hang with. I don’t want to give too much away except to say that Agent Woo has some amazing and quotable lines from this series. If you don’t know Agent Woo, do yourself a favor and revisit Antman. Oh and check yourself, you may not be a true Marvel fan.
Without a doubt there is a blurring of lines between good and evil in WandVision which the audience comes to understand as we learn how and why Wanda escaped to Westview. What is clear, however, is that actress, Kathryn Hahn, brilliantly sneaks up on you as the evil villain. She is suspicious from the start but the true nature of her back-story unfolds in a wonderfully diabolical manner, drawing from historical fiction dating back to the Salem witch trials of the 1690’s. She drives Wanda in the direction of her destiny as the Scarlet Witch. Hopefully, this is not the last we will see of Kathryn Hayn and her mischievous character in the Marvel Universe.
Lastly there is a deeper message about running from problems and pain in WandaVision and that message is delivered via the ridiculousness and lightheartedness of the sitcom. The sitcom is the perfect escape from the real world. Typically, it is funny, sometimes even cheesy. The basic sitcom plot involves the introduction of a problem that is most often resolved, with hijinks to boot, by the end of the half hour. Who wouldn’t want to hideout in that kind of easy-natured fun, at least for a while. Unfortunately, life is not a sitcom and even Wanda, with all of her powers, can only suspend reality for a brief time before her spell begins to bend and become vulnerable. The pain of her losing Vision, along with the pain of her other life struggles, can’t be resolved in a half hour sitcom and trying to bury it there hurts everyone around her. She has to embrace Vision’s lesson “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” In the end, Wanda emerges stronger, and more powerful and the audience is left to ponder her next move and also to ponder the ultimate question, “where will the Marvel Universe take us next?”
El Hijo is a top-down stealth game, following a small boy as he explores his western town. Players will go through each level getting past different obstacles and enemies, such as bandits, wild animals, etc. I really enjoyed play El Hijo, the graphics were clean, the gameplay was smooth and exciting, and it kept me entertained for a long time.
I really want to talk about the graphics in his game. With a clean and minimalist approach, the game felt fresh and exciting. It was very calming, and the relaxing music and nature sounds were a great touch. Here is a preview of the game:
I also liked the different character designs that helped add spice to the game’s look. For example, the main character has bright colored t-shirts and jeans, which allows him to pop out in the darker areas. As for the bandits, they wear all black, which allows them to blend into the darkness and surprise players at any moment.
The gameplay of El Hijo was exciting at certain points, and calming at others. The game started off peacefully, as you explored the church the boy lived in. Later on, you are being hunted and chased by bandits. I enjoyed both parts of the game, and I thought that this mix was really well done. The game kept me intrigued for a long time, and each mission had a different feeling to it.
I usually run into small issues in most of the games I play, whether it is the controls are weird, the game does not run well, etc, etc. But El Hijo did not have any mistakes. The game ran beautifully on my computer, the controls were super easy to learn, and there were no glitches or bugs.
With both thrilling and relaxing gameplay, beautiful graphics, and 0 bugs or glitches, El Hijo was an amazing game. I really think this stealth game is underrated, and I would love to see the game grow. I think adding more missions and dlcs to this game would be a great idea, and I can not wait to see what the developers add. I rate El Hijo a solid nine out of ten.