The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter, a historical romance written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is known as an American Classic. 

It begins with a narration to the reader, a token of awareness and readiness to start the tale. In addition, the description of the prison suggests that the exposition will either begin or end with this as its conclusion. Nonetheless, the first few chapters serve to build upon atmosphere, symbolism, and the emergence of theme (which I’ll mention often throughout this review). 

To sum up what first occurs in The Scarlet Letter, Hester, our main character, is accused of adultery and is forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her bosom. As Hester begins to adapt to this reality, she wonders about the value, weight, and depth of sin. In other words, she questions whether she’s the only “sinner” in town, as she concludes that she can’t be the only one to have ever been ungodly. Thus, Hawthorne awakens the need to call out religion’s insincere role and the impact it has on communities. 

Moreover, Hester births a daughter as a result of the affair; Pearl. This newborn, described as “elf-like” by the narrator, is a symbol that takes an important role. As Hester stands charged with an unholy crime, Pearl is hence a product of that “sin.” Therefore, she is another representation of the “A” that is woven into Hester’s clothes, a more intimate, organic consequence derived from Hester’s mistake. Furthermore, Hawthorne points out that though Pearl acts with an appropriate demeanor as anyone her age (rambunctious and childish), her actions are “defiled” by the perspective that she’s a demon, a misdeed due to her mother.  

A quote that carries great elements of figurative language is somewhat in the middle of the rising action, when Hester takes Pearl to the town’s church leaders in order to convince them not to seize her daughter. As she waits for them to address her, the narrator notes that “the shadow of the curtain fell on Hester Prynne, and partially concealed her” (102). It’s implicit to readers that they should be able to make a connection between Hester’s sin and what the “shadow” from the curtain could mean – a form of taint within her, driven by human imperfection and fault. As a result, such examples illuminate Hawthorne’s ability to craft not just specific scenes, but also the smallest details that have a chance to foreshadow what’s to come next. 

I would also like to take a quick note on the language used, which can have an impact on a reader’s perspective of the era. To illustrate, phrases such as “thee” and “thy” hint at old English, those which were common in Shakespeare and in poems similar to Beowulf. Therefore, take the time to make sure this doesn’t make a major difference on your experience; if it does, re-read certain passages or write short annotations as possible interpretations of what’s addressed, said, or argued. 

Thus, The Scarlet Letter’s conclusion, though not the most fortunate, is one of redemption, and demonstrates that characters and readers alike can learn from mistakes within the consequences that impact our futures. Thence, coupled with Hawthorne’s expertise and style, allows this text to serve as a book worth its time. 

-Emilia D.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Favorite Book Quotes from 2021

I read 78 books in 2021 and here are some quotes that stuck with me.

In, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab wrote, “Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?” This book had so many moments that just made you think about life and what it truly means to have people you love. Addie had to live her life without those meaningful relationships, battling the thought that she isn’t good enough to be remembered.

“She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him.” ― Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows. Kaz and Inej have battled their demons throughout this book and had to learn how to love again. Inej and him have had such a complicated but incredible partnership for the ages. Their love goes farther than just words.

Leigh Bardugo wrote in her book, Crooked Kingdom, “I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way.” If there was one word you had to use to describe how I felt while reading this scene it would be devastated. Matthias and Nina’s love for each other will forever stay, even after death. They are the definition of soulmates.

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”― Colleen Hoover, It Ends with Us. This book was an emotional rollercoaster taking us through the pain Lily survived. She was so strong, surviving an abusive relationship that shattered anyone who read this book into a million pieces.

“We’re more than our mistakes. We’re more than what people expect of us.”― Marieke Nijkamp, This Is Where It Ends. Mistakes don’t define who we are. We grow from them and become a better version of ourselves. People expect you to be perfect when in reality no one is. We are the only ones allowed to define ourselves and who we are on the inside.

“But there’s comfort in knowing that when your plans fall apart, you can survive. That the worst thing imaginable can happen, but you can get through it.”― Jenn Bennett, Starry Eyes. This quote hit me hard because I am a planner and I don’t like to leave things up to fate. But, it made me realize that I can get through it and survive even if all your plans fall apart.

“For so many years I lived in constant terror of myself. Doubt had married my fear and moved into my mind, where it built castles and ruled kingdoms and reigned over me, bowing my will to its whispers until I was little more than an acquiescing peon, too terrified to disobey, too terrified to disagree. I had been shackled, a prisoner in my own mind. But finally, finally, I have learned to break free.”― Tahereh Mafi, Ignite Me. Juliette found herself throughout this series and learned how to truly be herself without the doubt of not being enough.

Holly Black in, The Queen of Nothing, wrote, “Maybe it isn’t the worst thing to want to be loved, even if you’re not. Even if it hurts. Maybe being human isn’t always being weak.” Jude battled her thoughts of hating being human. She grew to know that being human doesn’t mean you’re weak and that you’re allowed to love.

“I’m starting to wonder if this is what being in love is. Being okay with ripping yourself to shreds, so the other person can stay whole.”― Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis. Love means sacrifice. Sacrificing yourself for someone else, someone you love.

“The difference between the ugly side of love and the beautiful side of love is that the beautiful side is much lighter. It makes you feel like you’re floating. It lifts you up. Carries you.” ― Colleen Hoover, Ugly Love. Some parts of love are beautiful but some are ugly. The beautiful side can consume you and make you feel like it’s worth it to get through the ugly side to find the beautiful side.

In November 9, Colleen Hoover wrote, “One of the things I always try to remind myself of is that everyone has scars,” she says. “A lot of them are even worse than mine. The only difference is that mine are visible and most people’s aren’t.” Some scars are visible and show other people the pain that you’ve survived. The scars that aren’t visible are shown when people open up to another person they trust. Both kinds of scars show how strong each person is to survive and get to this moment.

She wasn’t a robot or a disabled autistic girl. She was herself. She was enough. She could be anything. She could make herself into anything. She could prove everyone wrong.” ― Helen Hoang, The Kiss Quotient. Stella doesn’t let autism define her. She alone knows that she is enough and can do anything she dreams of.

Every single one of these books have really changed me and the way I look at love and life.

-Kaitlyn D.

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

The Ruins of Gorlan, written by John Flanagan published on November 1, 2004, is the first book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The series is made up of a total of 11 books. There is a sequel series of 5 books as well and also one other series that take place in the same world and has some connections and some of the same characters, as well as a few others. In total the three series make up a total of 26 books, so if you enjoy it there is plenty to look forward to.

The book takes place in a medieval-like Europe-like place, with some fantasy of some monsters showing up. The story is set around 15 years after a large-scale war. The book focuses on an orphan Will, it is unknown who either of the parents is but assumed the father is assumed to have died in battle. He lives in an orphanage that the lord runs for children whose parents died in the war. Now that he is 15 he is expected to learn a job or become a farmer. Failing to become get into knight school and become a warrior in his father’s image. He instead gets chosen by an unexpected person. He learns the skills of a ranger in a mysterious job.

This book while slow at the begging as it sets up the story for the series does eventually pick up and bring in some action. It is more about Will learning the skills of his position and surviving. It is nicely written and one of the best of its kind. If you give it a chance past halfway you’ll get to the point that you can’t stop if you like this type of book. I give this as a great recommendation to anyone who likes medieval-era with slight fantasy types of books.

-Luke G.

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Film Review: Fellowship of the Ring

Want some action? Adventure? Fantasy? This movie has all of those elements! The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of 3 movies that tell the tale of the full Lord of the Rings stories. This movie was inspired by the book The Fellowship of the Ring which is one of the Lord of the Rings novels. This series is the sequel to The Hobbit, so I would suggest you read that book and/or watch the movie before you watch the “Lord of the Rings”. 

The movie starts with Gandalf traveling to the Shire to visit Bilbo for his  111th birthday. Yes, 111th!! To celebrate this special event, the hobbits of the Shire organize a party. Bilbo, who has missed the mountains a lot, decides to leave the Shire with a prank where he becomes invisible using the ring. Gandalf urges Bilbo to leave the Ring for Frodo, but the ring never leaves a good impact on anyone and Bilbo struggles to part with it. 

As Sauron gains power over time, it is up to Frodo to destroy the ring in the place it was created: Mount Doom in Mordor. Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin Took, and Meriadoc Brandybuck all travel together as they escape Black Riders and Ringwraiths. Also, they have to be careful about a former friend who has turned into a foe. Who? Saruman the White, who once was one of Gandalf’s sorcerer and wizard friends. Gandalf the Grey barely escapes his death as Saruman builds an army of Orcs in Isengard.  A small group with Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Gandalf the Grey, Frodo the Hobbit, Samwise Gamgee the Hobbit, Merry and Pippin the Hobbits, and Aragorn and Boromir the men form the Fellowship of the Ring. They battle orcs everywhere they go, but their connection and fierce combat skills help them through their battles. 

One of my favorite quotes in this movie is from Samwise Gamgee. He repeatedly states, “ I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. ‘Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.’ And I don’t mean to.” This quote shows what loyalty and friendship are all about. When Frodo is all alone heading to Mordor, Sam decides to stick with Frodo even though he knows that death is most likely behind this journey.

In this movie, sacrifices and teamwork are crucial for Frodo and the Fellowship to reach their goal: To destroy the ring. Even though they have to depart at times, their friendship always shines daylight even through the darkest hours. 

This movie is one of my favorite movies so far because it has action and adventure which I always seek in a movie. The teamwork and friendship that are constantly shown throughout this movie are incredible and inspiring. I rate this movie a 10 out of 10 and I would recommend it to everyone who likes adventure and fantasy movies. 

Also, you can watch and read the other Lord of the Rings movies called The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Enjoy!

Fellowship of the Ring is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Spider-Man No Way Home: Movie Review

Hi! This review may contain minor spoilers for the movie Spider-Man No Way Home, but I will try and contain them from just inside the trailers so if you haven’t seen those you should definitely check them out before reading this. Thanks!

Spider-Man movies have been around for a long time, starting back in the 2000s with Tobey Maguire and in 2012, Andrew Garfield. Now, with his debut in Captain America: Civil War, everyone has been dying to see Tom Holland play everyone’s friendly neighborhood superhero. With two amazing movies already available to stream, No Way Home has a lot of fans on the edge of their seats, waiting for the release date on December 17, 2021. Two trailers have already come out, with the first reaching a world record of 355.5 million views in just 24 hours. The trailers included lots of things for fans to talk about, like the new black and gold suit, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and Rhys Ifans’ Lizard returning on the big screen as Spiderman’s villains in the movie.

In the trailer, we see Peter Parker’s life after Mysterio reveals to the world that he is Spider-Man. His life is turned inside out, and everyone seems to hate him. Because of this, he decides to go to Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum to find help, and Dr. Strange offers to erase everyone’s memory of who Spider-Man really is. Turns out this would mean his friends and family, so Peter tries to stop it, but in doing so ruins the spell and brings villains from different universes into his world. He finds out they all died fighting a different form of Spider-Man. Now he is faced with a choice: Send the villains back to die, or save them but destroy the multiverse in doing so.

I myself have already seen the movie, and I definitely recommend it. The movie is full of funny moments and hilarious dialogue between the characters, and it has a great plotline. The villains are great, especially with the original actors coming back to play their roles in the movie. Along with being funny at parts, it is a serious movie and has some very sad parts that I didn’t see coming. It is funny and emotional, and I can’t wait to see what Sony has planned for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Zendaya’s MJ, and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. The CGI is amazing and Jon Watts did a great job of directing this film. If you have the chance to see this movie and are a Spider-Man fan, don’t miss it even if you aren’t a fan.

Overall, it is a great movie and I can’t wait to see what else Sony and Marvel include for Spider-Man-related movies in the future. Spider-Man No Way Home is definitely one of my top 5 favorite movies, so anyone reading out there should definitely see it. As of now, it is only in theatres so remember to stay safe! Thank you for reading!

-Brandt D.

OCDaniel by Wesley King

Daniel has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), but he doesn’t know that. He just thinks he is crazy. He avoids writing certain numbers, and he has a ‘Routine’ which takes him hours to do, just before bed. His “Zaps”, as he calls them, are sudden feelings of problems that need to be solved immediately. Most of all, he hides that he gets Zaps from everyone he knows. He gets Zaps from writing certain numbers, or sometimes not flicking a light switch enough times. Also, he hates football – which his dad makes him play. He plays as the backup punter (so he is basically just the water boy) and spends most of his time during games arranging the water cups strategically. However, he is surrounded by people who love football, from his best friend to his older brother and he feels like he has to continue playing.

One day, he receives a message from someone who calls themself  “Star Child”. As he gets further into this mystery, he finds himself now scared for much more important things than the feelings he gets for Zaps.

I like this book because I think that a lot of people can relate to the feeling of having to do something right or otherwise terrible things will happen. About 2.2 million adults (which is about 1% of the total U.S. population) have OCD. 

I think OCDaniel, Daniel’s story, gives the reader little insight into the life of someone with OCD and helps us understand what they are going through.

-Peri A.

OCDaniel by Wesley King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Free Periods in School

Class schedules can be something that make or break how good someone’s year can be. If they have a list of really hard classes all in a row, they can get really stressed out. On the other hand however, if someone has classes that are of no challenge to them, they could often find themselves getting bored. 

I’ve found something out my senior year with my schedule. When I entered this year, I was originally in 7 classes and 4 of those were APs. I decided that math wasn’t the class for me, and bumped down to just 6 classes total, 4 APs. This was the first year that I have ever had a free period. Now that I’ve realized just how useful those can be, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

With my free period, I am able to get homework done as well as hang out with friends and help my favorite teachers. Not only that, but when I’m done with my work, I can take naps. Now while that isn’t the best use of time, those naps are always helpful in keeping me awake when I have practice. 

My free period this year has made me happier overall. Now that I can get most of my work done in school, after practice I have much more time to relax when I get home. I highly recommend if you can take a free period, do it. It is much better for both mental health and overall stress. With a slightly less packed schedule and more free time after school, I am able to connect more with friends and family as well as catch up on much needed sleep. 

School schedules often cause stress that really shouldn’t be there. So the next time you have to plan a schedule, try to squeeze in a free period so that you also have time to catch up on sleep, with friends, and just overall try to improve stress levels.

-Danielle B. 

TV Review: Hawkeye

I always felt like Hawkeye was one of the more overlooked characters in the MCU. However, this series reveals a lot more about how the events of Avengers: Endgame affected Hawkeye. I enjoyed watching this series because it had a lot of action and was generally really intriguing. I wasn’t expecting a lot of the events which took place in the series.

It starts with Kate Bishop secretly following her mother’s fiance, Jack Duquesne (her father died in the 2012 New York attack led by Loki) to a black-market auction. The auction includes items from Hawkeye’s former identity as the Ronin. As the event is soon attacked, Jack takes Ronin’s sword and Kate grabs the Ronin suit. She claims to the attackers that she is the real Ronin. After seeing the headlines concerning the Ronin, Hawkeye finds Kate and they eventually end up trying to clear the name of the Ronin.

However, during his time as Ronin, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) made a lot of enemies. One of those enemies, the daughter of a man he killed, is looking for revenge, and she won’t stop until she gets it. Additionally, Yelena is also on a mission to get revenge on Clint for “killing” her sister Natasha (Black Widow). Like the majority of people, she doesn’t know what actually happened on Vormir. Suddenly, for Hawkeye, a simple holiday vacation with his family turns into a dangerous mission.

This series was really enjoyable, and I am looking forward to the next installment of the MCU. If you are a Marvel fan or someone who likes action movies or series, you will not want to miss this series.

-Peri A.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons

Darwin's Blade: Simmons, Dan: 9780380973699: Amazon.com: Books

This book contains some mature sexual descriptions that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons is an action thriller about Dr. Darwin Minor, an accident investigator with a dark past. His life has been more or less normal for the past decade- but as a series of increasingly improbable accidents crop up around California, he finds that he may be in too deep.

This book is typical, incredibly cliche suspense thriller- complete with the FBI, the Russian Mafia, guns, copious violent (albeit creative) death, and cars. Still, I did enjoy it. Even though it didn’t really live up to the ‘thriller’ part, I thought it was overall a pretty good read- and a nice break from the typical material I have. Still, quite a few pet peeves of mine made an appearance in this book. There were several points where I almost put the book down for good- because I really didn’t want to read a four-page description of physics equations or Vietnam or the mechanics of guns and cars or what felt suspiciously like Philosophy 101. The depth of detail about these frankly mundane and unimportant plot devices was mildly interesting, but for the most part, extraordinarily irritating.

As such, I would only recommend this book to slightly more intellectual readers. Some of the plot does require significant brainpower to understand- more than I, as a casual reader, would have liked. Also- be ready to face a macho, almost-forced version of romance. Still, if you’re looking for a comforting-in-its-outlandishness type of crime novel, you really can’t go amiss with Darwin’s Blade. Just be prepared to skip a few pages.

-Vaidehi B.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Game Review: Andy’s Apple Farm

Andy's Apple Farm (Video Game) - TV Tropes

Andy’s Apple Farm is a horror game where you, a beta tester, play Andy’s Apple Farm.

In the game, you play and try to win back your house keys. However, the only way to get back your keys is to play games with the characters Margret the Mole, Claus the Clock, Felix the Fish, and Melody the Moon. As you play the game, it’s very obvious that everything is not as it seems.

The art style for the characters’ sprites looks similar to something a child might draw. While exploring or playing the minigames, everything is pixelated. Occasionally, you might come across glitches or things that don’t seem like they belong, but you don’t need to worry because they’re supposed to be there. The graphics help with creating an unsettling feeling within the game.

There is a secret plotline to Andy’s Apple Farm that can be unlocked by doing something very unique, which is not listening to the game and using glitches. One of the ways to unlock certain secrets and scenes is to do the minigames in the wrong order. However, there are other ways to unlock the secret plot.

Andy’s Apple Farm is a great game with interesting lore and unique gameplay. I think that Andy’s Apple Farm is something that might inspire more indie horror games in the future. My rating for it is a 8.5/10

-Nicole M.