Keeper of the Lost Cities: Everblaze by Shannon Messenger

Everblaze, the third book Shannon Messenger wrote for this series (and the first one with a heart-wrenching cliffhanger, might I add), was the book Sophie found out her enemies were closer than they seemed. It begins with Sophie getting a request from the Council to heal Fintan, the leader of the now-named Neverseen. Fintan used to be on the Council, but after the Pyrokisis “incident”( involving 5 Pyrokinetics and some Everblaze), he was banned. Sophie and Keefe then go to check on Silveny, the sparkly alicorn.

They happen upon a tracker in her tail and immediately rush back home. A few days after, Sophie’s Linguistics Mentor Lady Cadence figures out that the tracker had Arrowmark on it. Arrowmark is an ogre technology/bacteria that is a homing device for their weapons. All of the school had to then be tested, and Sophie’s hand skin needed to be melted off (very gross, sadly it happens more than once).

With the 9th/10th book (Stellarlune) coming out in November, I re-read this series a lot. Each time, a find more details and funny moments I never knew were there. I recommend everyone to start reading this series, it is great fun and a good way to spend your spare time.

-Izzy W.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Everblaze by Shannon Messenger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, is the first book in the Magnus Chase series. The book is connected to and placed in the same world Rick Riordan’s other popular mythological series Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, Trials of Apollo, Heroes of Olympus, and a few other books.

You might see some similar names in this book if you’re familiar with the Percy Jackson series. The Sword of Summer as you might expect is another mythological fantasy book this time about the Nine realms and the Norse Gods.

The book starts off with the main character Magnus Chase as a homeless guy, who dies. No, that is not a spoiler and is actually part of the title of the first chapter. By the way, The chapter titles can be very hilarious in my opinion at times. Anyways back to how the book goes. You have Magnus Chase who is a homeless orphan and ends up meeting his uncle. His uncle tells him of his godly heritage as Magnus is about to reach the age where monsters will start going after him. To not spoil the book that is as far as will go. I would recommend this book to any fantasy and mythology book lovers. It’s filled with action and world-building, however, be warned that it might take a while as it’s a 498 paged book.

-Luke G.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive/Libby.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying - V745: Faulkner, William: 9780394747453: Books

Set during the Great Depression, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying explores the nature of existence while also denouncing the nature of humanity. Acclaimed for its stream of consciousness writing and use of multiple narrators, the novel challenges conventional grammatical and thematic ideas by showing the instability and unreliability of reality. 

The Bundren family consists of Anse (the father), Addie (the dying mother), and their children: Cash, Jewel, Darl, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. The novel follows the Bundren family on their ill-fated journey from the (fictional) Yoknapatawpha County to Addie’s native Jefferson, Mississippi, ostensibly to bury her there as her last wish. In reality, each family member has a different, private reason for wanting to travel to Jefferson, and these desires come to light over the course of the novel.

In contrast to typical works of the time period, the Bundren family is shockingly dysfunctional. Each family member absolutely detests every other member, and, when faced with any problem, they will not hesitate to betray or place the blame on someone else. The lack of definitive parental influence only highlights this disparity between the ideal and the actual.

On a broader scale, As I Lay Dying investigates themes of mortality and inevitability. From Vardaman’s infamous statement when faced with his mother’s death (“my mother is a fish”) to Darl’s monologues on is and was to Addie’s narration of her story from beyond the grave, the novel considers the truth of life and death, and what it means to be alive, making it an interesting read.

– Mahak M.

As I Lay Dying by WIlliam Faulkner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Best friends to enemies, learning to adapt to new environments, and creating characters with unique personalities are concepts Soman Chainani effectively intertwined throughout his series, The School for Good and Evil. Sophie, a perfect young girl, and her best friend Agatha, the gloomy lone wolf, are brought into a world much different than their own. They find their fortunes reversed as they land in schools opposite of their personalities.

This series brings much thrill and excitement. Chainani takes you on an adventure full of twists and turns while creating a plot that is both complex and exhilarating. Personally, I enjoyed the different characters and how they were based off of popular fairytales. The description of each individual develops a unique image of them, and their actions throughout the story make them even more enjoyable to read. I also enjoyed the many details that Chainani included in his writing; it always made his work fun to read and easy to picture in your mind.

I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys plot twists, meaningful themes, and a hint of drama and romance. It’s perfect for those who love fairytales and using their imagination. It’s always been one of my favorite series to read, so I would most definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new book to read.

-Kaiya T.

The School for Good and Evil is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Libby.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter: Hawthorne, Nathaniel: 9781512090567: Books

The story is set in the early 1700s and centers around the intrepid Hester Prynne, who has had a baby, named Pearl, by a man other than her husband. She faces public humiliation and ostracization from her strict Puritan town, and is forced into exile into the forest at the edge of town. Her husband, Roger Chillingworth, is determined to seek revenge against the father of the child- who Hester stubbornly keeps a secret. As the entire town grows rife with rumors, it becomes clear that everyone in this story has something to hide.

I liked the book- Nathaniel Hawthorne described a very tantalizing story of love, guilt, and betrayal. Even though it was fairly easy to deduce just from the first few chapters who the father was, it was still an okay read. I would definitely recommend a simplified version to anyone younger than high school- the archaic English becomes very thick and complicated in many places throughout the story. Still, as a cornerstone of classic American literature, I would recommend that everyone read it at least once.

-Vaidehi B.

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

Game Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to run up and down walls and swing from building to building in Midtown Manhattan?  The Spider-Man action adventure game developed by Insomniac Games allows you to do that. Released by Sony Interactive Entertainment on September 7, 2018 exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and recently released for the PS5, Spider-Man allows the player a third person perspective of a superhero wandering around New York City, taking on missions and battling the bad guys.  With over 13 million copies sold, Spider-Man made it near the top of the list of most games ever sold for the PlayStation 4 version and it’s easy to see why.

I really enjoyed this game for multiple reasons. One of the reasons is because of the variety of unique suits. There are 47 different suits each with an ability that you can mix with any suit you want. With these suits you can dress up with some of the suits in the movies as well as some suits from the comics. You can also unlock suit modifications which give you additional abilities like reducing damage or increasing the time enemies need to spot you.

Another reason why I liked this game is because of the advanced combat system. Through the skill tree you can gain additional attacks and abilities giving you an infinite amount of combinations for defeating enemies. In addition to this, you can also unlock gadgets which can do various tasks to help you in missions and battles. An example of some of these gadgets are the electric web which allows you to activate certain electronic parts like a fuse box.

 My favorite part of this game is the massive replica of New York that you can swing from building to building and collect backpacks, open research stations, and stop crime. This scale replica of New York  includes many famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and Central Park. When you find backpacks, open research stations, or stop crimes you earn tokens which can allow you to buy new suits, gadgets, or suit modifications.

Overall, this is a great action-adventure game, rated T for teens, that most everyone would enjoy. I highly suggest you check it out. You can even borrow it from the Mission Viejo Library.

-Brandon G.

Marvel’s Spider-Man is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Ruth and her husband Derek Kettering have some problems. Van Aldin, Ruth’s father, suggests to her to divorce Derek. She agrees, but once she is on the Blue Train, she gets nervous that she may not have told her father everything she should have. Katherine Grey compassionately listens to Ruth and gives her sensible advice. However, the next day, as the Blue Train finishes its journey, Ruth is found strangled in her compartment, and also disfigured by being hit by something very hard after her death. Since Katherine was one of the only people to have interacted at all with Ruth, she is naturally now a part of solving the case.

Everything gets even more complicated when Van Aldin states that Derek would benefit from Ruth’s death by millions of pounds. Soon, they also find a letter from Ruth’s former lover, the Comte de la Roche, asking for her to allow him to see her rubies for his book on jewels. With two suspects already at the beginning of the investigation, who were both spotted on the train, and with Ruth’s largest rubies missing, the case is more confusing than ever.

Then, Hercule Poirot helps to investigate the case. With his keen observations, he is able to piece together an accurate summary of the scene and murder. 

I really liked this book because it was so mysterious and the ending was unexpected. There were a variety of characters included in the story, and all of them had different strengths and weaknesses, which also made the story more enjoyable.

-Peri A.

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Odysseus: A Character Analysis

The Odyssey by Homer: 9780140383096 | Books

Around 750 BCE, at the height of Greek civilization, a blind bard named Homer lived in Ionia, on the western coast of Turkey. Little is known about Homer, but his legacy lives on in his two great works – the Iliad and the Odyssey. While the former is formidable in its own right, it is in its sequel, the Odyssey, that Homer’s incredible craft is showcased. Detailing the adventures of Odysseus, the wily king of Ithaca, and his ten-year-long attempt to return to his country, the Odyssey explores lofty themes of human nature while remaining relatable to readers nearly three thousand years later. 

The poem can generally be split into three parts: immediately post-Trojan War, when Odysseus begins to set sail for home; the true odyssey, in which Odysseus must overcome many obstacles on his way back to his home; and the return to Ithaca, the chronicle of Odysseus regaining his rightful position as king. However, it is not the events of the poem that are worthy of note – instead, it is the behavior of the hero himself. Through the interference of the gods, whether to aid or hinder, Odysseus withstands harrowing experiences, all of which leave him a man and hero changed for the better. 

Odysseus is introduced to the audience as a god among men (in Ithaca, at least). However, this implies that Odysseus has never truly needed to better himself, making him vulnerable to hubris. Odysseus’ pride is justified to an extent, as seen when he and his crew are captured by the Cyclops, but Odysseus manages to trick the Cyclops and engineer their escape. However, just as they are about to sail away, Odysseus arrogantly stokes the rage of the Cyclops, not realising that the Cyclops he insults is the son of Poseidon, who then curses Odysseus. This is the catalyst for the change that Odysseus will undergo for the rest of the poem, because it makes it clear his pride will not serve him well in the future. 

In the ten long years between Odysseus’ departure from Troy and his arrival in Ithaca, Odysseus faces countless struggles that mold him into a character that is capable of overcoming his previously debilitating hubris. He meets characters who are equally as clever and wily as he is, forcing him to recognise people outside of himself. Famous characters who make an appearance during this arc are Circe, the wickedly powerful enchantress of the sea; Scylla and Charybdis, two sea monsters who devastate Odysseus’ crew; and Calypso, who successfully manages to trap Odysseus on her island for seven years. However, these experiences are mitigated by divine interference, notably via Athena and Hermes. 

By the final arc of the story, Odysseus has finally renounced his hubris and bowed to the will of the gods, while also being self-aware enough to understand his own worth. The situation in his country has deteriorated in his absence, and suitors of his wife, Penelope, have overrun the palace. Heeding the lessons of the past decade, Odysseus disguises himself as a poor beggar and wanders to the home of his loyal shepherd, Eumaeus, choosing to keep himself secret until he can determine who in Ithaca is truly loyal to him – a wise move, considering that the very next day, he is accosted by both one of his subjects and a suitor. By this point in his journey, Odysseus has learned how to let go of his pride with the knowledge that he will soon get his revenge. 

It is this that makes Odysseus a revolutionary hero: not that he is strong enough to kill all the suitors, but that he is clever enough to both withstand the abuse directed towards him while betraying nothing, and to trick the suitors into underestimating him until the fatal moment. Because of the way he handles the unfortunate situation he is in, although Odysseus does not fit the usual definition of a Greek hero (that is, all brawn and no brains), throughout his journey, he learns to be a more balanced heroic figure, which undoubtedly cements his status as one of the foremost heroes in literature for all time.

– Mahak M.

Homer’s The Odyssey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Mark of the Thief (Mark of the Thief, Book 1) (1): Nielsen, Jennifer A.:  9780545561556: Books

Knocking other people backward, disappearing and appearing out of nowhere, and protecting yourself and your friends with an invisible shield are all things that magic can do! So, when Radulf, the Roman general, comes around to the mines where slaves work, one naughty slave is told to fetch Caesar’s Bulla from a cave. Who is that slave? Nicolas Calva, who will not back down from anyone. Not even his masters! 

After Nicolas is let down into the cave where he needs to grab Caesar’s Bulla, he meets a griffin. This griffin is not an ordinary griffin, though. It is the griffin who guards the Bulla! As Nic tries to grab the bulla, he has to fend off the half-lion, half-eagle magical creature. 

Following his successful attempt of obtaining the bulla, Nic endures many struggles. Radulf, the general, is after him and he wants the bulla for himself. Roman soldiers are ready to capture him at every cost! 

This book is a thrilling ride that does not disappoint. Nic learns about friendship and trust throughout this novel, and a lot of the lessons that he learns can be used in our lives, too. 

Throughout his encounters with Caela the griffin, Nic learns how to care for someone else other than himself or his sister. After living in the mines for 5 years and not knowing life other than difficult days and starving stomachs, Nic was able to understand that there are things in life that are enjoyable, too. The bulla helped Nic get out of the mines, and as a result, Nic learned about the lives of the Romans. 

This novel is the first of a 3 book trilogy, so Nic’s journey is longer than just one book!

The author, Jennifer A. Nielsen did a great job making these stories really intriguing and exhilarating. This book is definitely one of my favorite books that I have read this year and I recommend it to anyone interested in stories about magic.

I would give this novel a 10/10 rating because of how the author added important lessons using events and characters. She did a great job of including plot twists to create excitement for the reader just as the story started to slow down. 

-Mert A.

The Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen is available from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Dune and its Iterations

Dune: 10 Biggest Differences Between The 2021 and 1984 Versions
Dune 2021 and Dune 1984

I love Dune or at least two versions of it. My love of it has led me to constantly talk about it, which has caused my friends to ask me what it’s about. It’s a bit hard to answer, I could say “Published in 1965, Dune is a space epic by Frank Herbet that went on to change the face of science fiction.” Or I could say “It’s like Game of Thrones, Lord of The Rings, and Star Wars had a baby, but with a lot more sand.” But if this fails, I use my last resort “The movie has Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet in it” which usually works. 

This is a good thing because I think the 2021 movie is by far the best way to introduce someone to Dune. The movie tackles the first half of the book and introduces you to the world, you learn about the Bene Gesserit witches, the secretive Fremen, the all-powerful Emperor, the powers of Paul Atreides, and most importantly you get to see the planet of Arrakis or Dune. It does all of this while showing you amazing visuals. Through both practical and CGI effects the planet of Arrakis is stunning, a wasteland beaming with possibilities, with hostile giant sandworms that attack anything that moves. The director, Denis Villeneuve does a masterful job staying true to the book whilst using incredible cinematography.

The book itself is a masterpiece of science fiction and world-building. It’s a massive book that’s absolutely jam-packed with details and interesting concepts. At some points, you feel like you’re reading a science textbook when learning about how “spice” is created, or how the Fremen stillsuits retain your body’s moisture. However, it keeps itself interesting by guiding you through the planet through the eyes of various characters. Whether it’s the main character Paul, his mother Jessica, or even the evil Baron Harkonnen, you are constantly interested in how the story is unfolding and what motives are shaping each character’s actions. 

Despite all this praise I have to discuss the awful monstrosity that is Dune (1984). Directed by David Lynch, Dune (1984) was the first attempt at transferring the behemoth book onto the big screen. It fails miserably, the intriguing characters become flat, the massive world seems small, and the science turns silly. All while the directing remains boring with the same transitions being used over and over. Granted it has some awful CGI that keeps it somewhat entertaining. Some scenes from the book remain but most of the movie seems to ignore the book entirely. To Lynch’s credit, the movie was plagued with issues and was supposed to be 2 parts instead of the 1 movie. But in my opinion, this still doesn’t make up for the absolutely awful translation of the book. 

If you want to learn more about Dune I’d recommend starting with the 2021 movie. If you love it like I did you’ll love the book. Be warned that both the book and the movie are long, they have to be in order to explain the world. Chances are the time will fly by while you read/watch it. But whatever you do, stay away from the 1984 version.

-Parker K