Book Review: The White Album by Joan Didion

White Album (FSG Classics): Didion, Joan: 8601405596765: Amazon.com: Books

The White Album by Joan Didion is a epistographical novel covering the turbulent period from the 1960s-1970s. Spanning topics including the Black Panthers, the Manson murders, and even the collapse of her own marriage, the book critically examines the meaningless experience of existence and the atomization of society during this time period.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” reads the opening line of the book. From that instant, I was hooked. I’ve been reading Didion’s oeuvre for more than a year now, starting with Slouching Towards Bethlehem as a required reading my junior year of high school. That book changed my life, and The White Album did not disappoint either. Her perfectly restrained emotion, her clarity of thought, and her perceptive insights combine to lend meaning to even some of the most senseless experiences of the 60s- such as the Manson murders. Didion even details, with the delicate removal of writing a grocery list, her meetings with Linda Kasabian, key witness in the Manson trial. She speaks of the short silk dress she wore to her wedding- and in the next sentence, mentions a similar white dress she herself purchased for Kasabian to wear on the first day of her testimony. The compassion she reserves for some is replaced with acrid disdain for others- Doris Lessing is described as someone who “does not want to ‘write well.’ Her leaden disregard for even the simplest rhythms of language, her arrogantly bad ear for dialogue- all of that is beyond her own point.” Even Huey Newton, a key leader of the Black Panthers is not spared- she describes him as “someone for whom safety lies in generalization.” She relates every experience with the utmost honesty and provides a matte-glass window into the experiences of our country’s, and her personal, pasts.

I would recommend this book to anyone, really! I’m a huge Joan Didion fan 🙂

-Vaidehi B.

The White Album by Joan Didion is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Summer I turned Pretty- TV Series-

The Summer I Turned Pretty (TV Series 2022– ) - IMDb

Warning Major Spoiler Alert!!!

The Summer I turned Pretty series came out just last month and it has been a big hit. Though the summer I turned pretty started out as a book by Jenny Han, who wrote To All the Boys I’ve loved Before which is on Netflix, and now her next book which is the Summer I turned pretty is also now a series on Amazon Prime. And without a doubt became the most talked tv show during this Summer. Even before Season 1 of the Summer I Turned Pretty became a show on Amazon prime, they renewed the show for it’s second season because they know that this series is gonna be a best one and they predicted right!

This film stars were mostly new actors and the main actor is Lola Tung who plays Belly in the series and book. Another one is the Fisher brothers Conrad and Jeremiah played by Chris Brinley and Gavin Casalegno. Belly’s brother Steven played by Sean Kaufmen. Lastly, the parents (mothers) who are best friends Laurel Fisher and Susannah, who is played by Rachel Blanchard and Jackie Chung.

The Summer I Turned pretty is a story about Belly and her family ever since they were young have spent the summer at the Fishers’ house at Cousin’s Beach. Ever since then Belly has a crush on the oldest Fisher Conrad. Then when she turned 15 she finally got a glow up. Then the time comes when they were going to the beach house. From here Conrad changed from being sweet to Belly to not caring about her. So now Belly’s feelings gets all mixed up when she figured out that Jeremiah (Conrad’s younger brother) likes her. At the debutante ball instead of Conrad asking Belly to be his escort Jeremiah did and they continued with their relationship. But then during the dance Jeremiah is no where to be found so Conrad steps in and became Belly’s dance partner. As the dance was going on, Jeremiah is actually at the beach and found out that her mother is dying. The story ends with Conrad and Belly at the beach talking and they kissed.

I really like the series because they added details that weren’t in the book, like the deb ball. It was really cheesy at the end but then it was amazingly filmed and the added details made the film better. And also the story line at the book and the series was on point and was really good. This series is definitely a 10/10 for me and I am also excited for the next one. I don’t know if it’s just me but, I like to read the book and then I also, like to watch the movie or series because I want to see it visually and to compare it. If it’s the same thing with few added minor details or if they totally changed it. But overall I would recommend this for the other people to watch. Especially if you love to watch Summer romance.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Album Review: What’s Wrong by Elliott Fullam

A friend of mine told me a guy on TikTok named Elliott Fullam announced he released his first album on his 18th birthday, September 2, 2022, saying it was for fans of artists like Mazzy Star and Elliott Smith, both of which I love. Naturally, I decided to check out his debut album and I was impressed with its quality.

Fullam’s debut can be described as Elliott Smith meets Duster. Fullam took Smith’s guitar and vocal work off albums like Roman Candle and meshed it with Duster’s lo-fi production aesthetic to create an incredible work of indie rock. The best example of this is the opening track, “Dolonia”, which is, in my opinion, the best track on the album.

The album cover of What’s Wrong by Elliott Fullam

Starting off the track is a beautiful set of arpeggiated, lush guitars. A few seconds in, we hear Fullam’s wispy Elliott Smith-like vocal work. Fullam’s vocals focus on a girl named Dolonia. Fullam’s lyrics aren’t nearly as important as his delivery of them. He sings them in a beautiful, yet haunting manner that leaves me with chills as I listen to the song.

While at times I feel like Elliott Fullam’s debut is a little too derivative of Elliott Smith’s music, he has definitely created a unique, quality work, something the majority of 18-year-olds can’t say they’ve done. Fullam’s debut is a 7.6/10 as it’s a good album in its own right, but not at the level of the other Elliott; he definitely will be in due time. Go check out his album; you won’t regret it!

Book Review: The City of Ember: The First Book of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember: The First Book of Ember is the first book in the city of Ember series, written by the author Jeanne DuPrau. The City of Ember is a 270-page science-fiction book. The book follows two main characters Lina and Doon. As is the custom in their city they were given jobs at 12. The city of Ember is falling into decay often having blackouts, giving citizens the fear of it forever being dark. The two main characters however learn the secret of their city and what lies beyond. However, greedy villains try to survive by themselves letting the rest die.

What makes this book so interesting is how it tells us what we might be causing in the future. It tells of a city hidden away from the world human life died. Technology keeping the city down starting break fail. It has a message to our present world on how dangerous we can be with how little regard humans have for the health of the world and nature. However, the book also teaches us hope, that there always good individuals trying to save our world and people. The book is about growing up and learning the dark secrets of their world, and trying to stop them. With puzzle solving the conflicts and problems are often solved with ingenuity rather than force. The book is placed in a city built by people who thought that a nuclear war was inevitable and created a safe haven hidden from the rest of the world before everyone on the surface died.

I would recommend this book to anyone 12 and over who is interested in dystopian, science fiction, or how humans survive Nuclear war. It’s a great book with interesting ideas, and can get you thinking more than the difficulty of the book would be expected.

Luke G.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Rise of Gru Movie

Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, and Despicable Me 3 all follow similar storylines where the main character Gru and his minions fight other super-villains, whether it’s for the safety of the world or for selfish reasons. However, in the newly released movie Minions: The Rise of Gru, there’s a different plot where 11-year-old Gru is trying to prove that he can be a successful supervillain. After being rejected by the Vicious Six villain group, Gru steals their most valuable treasure and becomes their target. When an independent supervillain, Wild Knuckles, finds out about Gru and his robbery, he kidnaps him with the hope that Gru’s minions will pay him the ransom of the special jewel, which is also the treasure Gru stole. 

This movie was, and probably will be for a very long time, the funniest movie I have ever seen. Having the minions in the movie already guarantees some high-level comedy, but the way the movie was planned to include silliness every few minutes constantly kept me laughing! 

Not only was this movie hilarious, but it was also a great movie in general. There were numerous plot twists, but also some sad moments, which were followed by humorous ones. In this movie, Gru, despite being a youngster, showed his potential to be an incredible super-villain (which he eventually achieved in Despicable Me). Also, after partnering with Wild Knuckles, Gru learns how to be a true villain and discovers his aspirations for his career. 

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoyed the Despicable Me series. However, you don’t need to have watched the previous Minions movies to enjoy this movie. If you like to laugh, I suggest you give this movie a try! You won’t be disappointed!

Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt

This book had been sitting on my shelf with many other books I hadn’t had the time to read. I had started this book in the middle of the school year but hadn’t been able to finish it. So, I decided to pick it back up over the summer. 

Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt is set sometime in the 1970’s and follows the story of four young siblings, Dicey, James, Maybeth, and Sammy. On one summer day, the mother of the Tillermans abandons them. Dicey is the eldest Tillerman sibling at thirteen and acts as the leader of the four siblings as they make their journey to their relative’s place. Throughout the different parts of their adventure, they stick together as they meet many interesting people along the way, trying to find a home.

Homecoming is a good, simple book that I enjoyed. It wasn’t anything special but it had moments that I really enjoyed. There were some characters in the book that were fun to read about. The different interactions with each character gave each character their own personality. Sometimes, I wished we had more time with certain characters, but since the four siblings are always on the move, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with some of the side characters. Depending on the point of the story, there were some characters that were more notable than others, but I found that each character that interacted with the four siblings were all interesting and important to the growth of the characters. 

The book shows a very interesting story. I liked how there was a clear main goal for the characters and there were actual struggles the characters had to worry about that are an actual struggle people have to deal with. It makes you wonder what may happen next as the book makes you feel as if you’re traveling with them. There are many different scenarios that the characters go through that can create different kinds of emotions by reading about them.

Homecoming is a good book that discusses many different kinds of problems, including mental illness, and death. It’s a nice book about a family and their adventures and difficulties to find a place to stay together. I enjoyed the book and still have some scenes stuck in my head from it. Homecoming is only the first book of the seven-part series, the Tillerman Cycle. This is a great book and is definitely a fun read.

Homecoming by Cynthia Voight is available to download for free from Libby.

Throne of Glass: Book Review by Izzy W.

Celaena Sardothein, the infamous Adarlan’s Assasin, was beginning to crumble from the ruthlessness of Endovier’s salt mines. Celaena didn’t remember her parents, nor really cared. For as long as she could remember, she had been raised by Arobynn Hamel, the man she had trusted since she was adopted. He trained her to become the world’s greatest assassin, and then stripped it all away. On her last and final mission, she and her partner Sam were supposed to overthrow a crimelord, but it was a trap. Arobynn had planned Sam’s death and framed Celaena for his ruthless murder, letting the crimelord go off free. That day had shaped Celaena for the rest of her life. It had fueled her when she snapped, going only an inch away from the walls that guard Endovier.

After almost an entire year in Endovier, a carriage arrived to take Celaena out of the mines. They had told her she was to compete in a tournament to become the King’s Champion. Although she hadn’t liked the King, she still went with them. Upon arriving she got introduced to the Captain of the Guard, Chaol. Chaol was to become her personal bodyguard and kept her from leaving.

Throughout the tournament, Celaena discovered many things about herself, the castle around her, and the magic she thought was buried for 10 years. I highly recommend any fantasy readers to read this series. It is a lot like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Sword of Shanara’, two very important books in the fantasy genre.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

High School Sports

As a senior going into high school, I have taken many opportunities to reflect upon prior high school years, from freshman year, to sophomore year, to the most recent junior year. Even though I have admittedly faced plenty with school, such as homework, tests, and balance with my personal life, I will admit that sports has had a massive impact on my high school experience. Going into freshman year, I had my own club sport and highly debated on whether or not I should do a sport or deal with another round of PE during high school. As a last minute decision due to a recommendation from a friend, I decided to try out for the cross country team and made it on thanks to a decision from one of my coaches.

Although the first semester of my freshman year did not end well due to an early injury that year affecting my first cross country season and feelings of disconnection from a friend group, I grew dedicated to the sport after my recovery and the following Track season that year, despite being cut short due to the coronavirus, had some kind of payoff for me after my injury. However, the lockdown ended up with a disconnection between me and the rest of my team. Although sophomore year did face some setbacks due to the ongoing pandemic, I did end up racing during Track season that year, notably going sub 5 minutes in the 1600m and sub 11 minutes in the 3200m, as well as making more friends on the team. After that year, I had goals to Varsity letter next year in both XC and Track.

During my junior year, I was under plenty of pressure on myself, as well as mental stress balancing heavy schoolwork, personal life, and sports. My XC season was definitely my most successful season yet, as I went 16:16 in the 3 mile race during Sea View League Finals and had the best race of my life that race alongside two of my best friends and teammates, creating a great memory. Following League Finals, my team qualified for CIF, and I had my second favorite race at CIF Finals at the hilly Mt. Sac course with a time of 17:12. Although my Track season did not top my XC season, I did have some good races, such as going under 4:50 in the 1600m and improving by 30 seconds in the 3200m with a time of 10:20.

Even though I had plenty of success throughout my sports career, the truth is that I could not have done a single part of it without my teammates. I ran with them everyday, talked with them, and shared plenty of moments and memories with them to the point where I can honestly say that they are a significant part of my life. Even though we have had struggles and arguments like a team normally does, we have come together and found success last year and look to continue our success to even greater lengths this upcoming year. High school sports has made a huge impact on my life and I’d highly recommend anyone to take high school sports and gain that experience.

A Damsel in Distress by P. G. Wodehouse

A Damsel in Distress is a humorous novel by P. G. Wodehouse.  The book appears to be set around the time of the publication date, which was 1919.  A young American composer named George Bevan feels empty and discontent with his life.  While visiting London from his native New York, he is thrust into a tumultuous chain of events when a young woman by the name of Maud Marsh enters into his life.  This mysterious lady appears one day and asks George to hide her from her brother Percy.  George falls in love with Maud, and he tries to find out where she lives.  However, the girl’s aristocratic relatives disapprove of George, and prevent her from leaving their castle.

I found this novel to be extremely entertaining.  I have always enjoyed stories like this, with a relatively small cast of characters.  This allows the author to focus on character development.  I consider P. G. Wodehouse to be one of the best at doing this.  He is very skillful at developing funny and interesting characters.  All of the characters are humorous in their own way, and the dialogue between them is very enjoyable to read.  For example, Percy Marsh is quite pompous and self-important, but his inept schemes against George always fail miserably.  Reginald (“Reggie”) Byng always seems to be upbeat and cheerful, even though he often gets pushed around by his overbearing relatives.

This novel was an amusing read from start to finish.  P. G. Wodehouse has great command of the English language, and his characters express themselves in ways that are delightful to read.  The story takes many funny twists and turns, but eventually arrives at a satisfying conclusion.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a fun and lighthearted story.

Cons of the new bell schedules

In many school districts in California, a new policy has been put into place: school must start before 8:30 AM. Although schools are still permitted to have classes before this time, the time spent in these classes do not count towards the 70000 hours of school each school must have in a year. This change has been especially prevalent in the SVUSD. Schools like Laguna Hills and Trabuco Hills are getting out even as late as 3:45 PM. Although on the surface, starting school later seems like a good idea, it turns out that it isn’t.

The most obvious effect of this is that school ends later. For those who are involved in extracurriculars after school, it makes scheduling after school extremely tight, and some after school activities may even be cut into. These scheduling conflicts can be extremely inconvenient and can interfere with people’s lives outside of school. On top of that, it will encourage students to push their routine later. This will case students to go to bed later and do activities later at night, and therefore wake up later in the morning.

Another effect of this is that classes, especially for the schools that have block schedules, are way longer. Because the state of California requires a certain number of hours that schools need to have in session per year, not counting classes that start before 8:30 means that schools need to have classes that last longer and go later. As a result, students can become more tired and less focused. However, it is worth noting that these longer classes can have benefits, especially in an AP environment, as it simulates the AP testing atmosphere more.

In the end though, pushing school back to 8:30 was a poor change for the students. I write this from the perspective of a student, which is worth noting because I don’t know what it is like from the teacher’s perspective. It is what it is though. Sad face.