Book Review: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

When I picked up Chains, a historical fiction novel about a slave during the American Revolution, I did not expect the endearing story that awaited me. The Revolution is typically portrayed as a war battled for the freedom of the people; a truly revolutionary struggle of heroic bloodshed that a nation with redefined ideals of liberty was built upon. Thus, it was extremely intriguing when a different narrative about the Revolution was brought to light—that of a slave living in the colonies during the war.

After Mary Finch, owner of the enslaved sisters Isabel and Ruth, passed away; they were to be freed as was written in her will. However, when her money-hungry nephew Robert Finch arrives at the scene, he sells them away to Loyalists Elihu and Anne Lockton, who live in New York. Isabel and Ruth’s new owners have no disregard for their feelings, or even their existence as human beings. Treated cruelly, abused, and absolutely overworked, Isabel will do anything to grasp freedom and ensure the safety of her little sister.

Throughout the novel, Isabel meets many different people and learns lessons about freedom, power, and loyalty. These run directly against the common portrayal of the Revolution, as they reveal to readers new insights, such as the idea that maybe the two opposing sides of the war weren’t so different after all.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is a novel that dives deep into the past and explores a common narrative of a historical event from a not-so-common perspective. It is extremely well written and incorporates incredible figurative language, including the use of motifs, into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Chains, and would definitely recommend it to readers, especially those who enjoy historical fiction.

Happy reading!

-Lam T.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.


Investopedia is a website that provides financial advice about stocks. There are countless sources that teach you how to invest. Also, you can look to Investopedia for information about how stocks are doing, as it shows if they are falling or rising. 

However, all of these aside, my favorite resource on Investopedia is the Stock Simulator. This feature allows users to “purchase” fake stocks with virtual money. This way, beginners along with more advanced stock owners can experience the stock market without having to risk their own money. 

In order to play this Stock Simulator, you only need to create an account with Investopedia. After you get that taken care of, the website is free to access. To start off, you are given 100,000 dollars (buying power) to purchase whichever stocks you would like. But, don’t worry, Investopedia also shows you if a stock’s value is projected to increase or decrease, and whether you should buy or sell the stock. Fortunately, Investopedia provides this type of help on purchasing stocks, so you can choose the right stocks to virtually invest in on the website. 

Some stocks that I have found to be successful on Investopedia and in the Stock Market recently (as of November 2022) are the Goldman Sachs Group Incorporation share and the stock of Costco Wholesale Corporation. 

If you’re interested in purchasing a share in a stock in real life, I highly suggest you try Investopedia first to research a bit about it. You can learn how to manage your stock as well as how to choose stocks wisely. Also, purchasing the stock in Investopedia before you buy in real life can help show you the patterns of that stock. Enjoy trading stocks on Investopedia! 

My Thanksgiving Week


 Amy Leigh Mercree, a best-selling author once said, “Thanksgiving is a joyous invitation to shower the world with love and gratitude,” and I couldn’t agree more. Thanksgiving is a day to express gratitude for all the people and things in your life.

Thanksgiving is observed in various ways by many people. This year on Thanksgiving day, my family made lots of mouth-watering food, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, and ham! For dessert, we had bread pudding with ice cream a la mode. I know it might not sound like the traditional food most families eat on Thanksgiving, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

But to be honest, no matter what family meals, or fun traditions you attend on Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is truly an amazing holiday! It is a time to be thankful for what you have and spend time with your family. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is spending time with my family and enjoying the delicious food that we make together. On Thanksgiving, me, my sister, my mom and dad all work together to make an appetizing meal. Sometimes, I don’t just like to celebrate America’s traditional type of Thanksgiving, I like to mix in a little bit of other cultures as well. In our family, because we are part Chinese, we like to include that culture as well.

Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall

This charming series from Emily Bearn is a heart-warming and adorable read. Reading this series is like drinking a hot pumpkin spice latte in the fall. This book is a collection of three short stories that follow Tumtum and Nutmeg, two wholesome and benevolent mice living within a broom cupboard of Rose Cottage. As readers, we get to witness these two interact with the young, human children of small Rose Cottage, defeat their nefarious Aunt, battle rats, and enjoy their vast home within the cupboard. While Tumtum would rather stay in one of the 27 rooms of Nutmouse Hall and read, his wife Nutmeg can’t help but pity the human children of Rose Cottage whose mother died when they were little and whose father is struggling to support them. In the first short story, Nutmeg is determined to bring the children joy after learning that their father cannot afford to give them Christmas presents this year and Tumtum joins the cause just to be with Nutmeg.

As a child, I remember purchasing this book at a garage sale, its 512 pages intimidated me and the descriptive writing was far beyond my level. Recently, I picked this book back up after I abandoned it many years ago, deeming it too difficult. Reading this was like a beautiful trip back into childhood, equivalent to a trip to Disneyland or visiting your own elementary school. These stories are so heart-warming and devoid of drama or toxicity-it was like a cleanse. Although I typically read fantasy or historical fiction, these stories have a special place in my heart. It makes your problems seem insignificant as you turn the next page to discover how these tiny mice will defeat a human adult or make presents for small human children. If you are looking to enjoy a whimsical, children’s chapter book, this series is the one for you. I deeply encourage you to dive into the adventures of rational Tumtum and magnanimous Nutmeg to escape the world’s troubles and have a little fun.

Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Beam is available to download for free from Libby.

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

*this review may contain spoilers

First off, I would like to acknowledge that this book is a “sequel” to Armas’s The Spanish Love Deception so I would read that before reading this book. I LOVED The Spanish Love Deception which urged me to read this sequel. However, it did not live up to the hype and anticipation that was coming from this book.

It follows two characters, Rosie Graham and Lucas Martin who are mutuals between Catalina Martin. Rosie Graham is Catalina’s best friend while Lucas is Catalina’s cousin. They get in an awkward situation when Rosie decides to stay at Lina’s apartment while she is away on her honeymoon not knowing that Lucas was due to stay at Lina’s apartment as well. Instead of moving separate ways they learn to love being in one another’s presence and create a plan to simultaneously live in the apartment with one another.

Rosie has been struggling with her romance writing and looks at Lucas for inspiration for her novels. They begin a fake dating pact to help influence her writing but they end up falling in love for each other, I’m aware it is very cliché. They have one of the most romantic comebacks and have a happy ending.

The reason I said I didn’t really enjoy the book was because it didn’t exceed the expectation I had of Spanish Love Deception. Although I liked the characters, I didn’t feel bonded enough with either of them to fully enjoy the story. One thing I did like was that it was written in a dual POV so I got to see inside both the character’s thoughts and feelings about one another.

-Madison C.

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas is available to download for free from Libby.

Extended Play (EP) Review: You are Dreaming by Elliott Fullam

It’s only been a month and a half since Elliott Fullam released his debut album What’s Wrong and he’s back at it again with a 4 track extended play (EP) named You are Dreaming. Fullam does a great job further developing (and even expanding) the sound he created in What’s Wrong.

The cover of You are Dreaming

You are Dreaming goes beyond Elliott Smith meets Duster, especially with its instrumentation. Don’t get me wrong, he sounds somewhat similar to his influences in terms of vocals and production respectively, but Smith is much more original in this release. We can see this originality on the track “On and On”.

“On and On” features acoustic guitars, Fullam’s signature wispy vocals, a Duster-esque drum (in terms of production), and a keyboard. The addition of a keyboard especially differentiates him from his influences which are quite obvious if they’re listened to before or after listening to Fullam.

It’s a great thing that Elliott Fullam was able to release You are Dreaming. His original plan was to release a single but due to issues with Spotify, he ended up releasing an EP as an apology to his fans. The EP is a pretty good indie rock album. I give it a 7.9/10 as I find it to be somewhat of an improvement over What’s Wrong, but still quite similar to it. Give it a look; it’ll make your day!

The Final Gambit

This is the third book in the Inheritance Games series. The series follows Avery after she is revealed to have been left a large inheritance from a billionaire named Tobias Hawthorne. Prior to the reading of his will, Avery had no idea who he was. Avery is a teenager whose mother died and her father left, leaving her kind half-sister Libby to take care of her.

She met Tobias Hawthorne only once in a completely random, coincidental way, and has not seen him since that brief encounter when she was much younger. Although Tobias Hawthorne has now died, he leaves behind the majority of his money and possessions to Avery – along with some hidden games. However, he left everything to Avery with one condition: that she stay in Hawthorne House for one full year. Then, once she turns 18, the money and possessions will legally be hers, as long as she fulfills this condition. During this year, Avery will face many threats against both her own life and the lives of those she cares about. Meanwhile, the question remains: why Avery? Tobias Hawthorne had four grandsons: Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Xander. It was expected that Grayson would receive the fortune, not someone unknown like Avery. Even now, months later, Avery has no idea why she was chosen to receive the inheritance.

This is an exciting book with many puzzles and mysteries to solve. There were a lot of plot twists and I definitely was not anticipating the ending of this book. I really enjoyed reading this entire series. I would recommend this book to those who like adventure, action, and romance books.

-Peri A.

The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen follows the story of the Bennett sisters, whose mother desires nothing but to get them all married. Early on in the book, the family is introduced to a neighbor’s friend- a wealthy man named Mr. Darcy. The author beautifully develops the relationship between him and one of the oldest Bennett sisters, Elizabeth.

Jane Austen’s ability to realistically capture the struggles in a relationship is the quality I admired the most while reading this book. The author is able to eloquently show the obstacles one must overcome in order to find true love, such as pride, arrogance, and social class. While reading, I found myself at the edge of my seat, wondering what the outcome would be of the protagonists’ turbulent relationship. I also enjoyed how the novel shared the struggles of other family members as well, while still keeping the main focus on Darcy and Elizabeth.

I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in classics, or the romance genre in general, as this is truly one of the most iconic love stories of all time. Although it is difficult to adjust to at first, Jane Austen has an iconic writing style that demonstrates her creativity and elegance, giving her stories a tone that fully immerses readers into the same time period as their favorite characters.

-Aysha H.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

James and the Giant Peach is one of Roald Dahl’s most popular books.  The story is about a boy named James Henry Trotter, who is sent to live with his two horrible aunts after his parents had been killed by a zoo animal.  Life is miserable for James until an old man comes along and gives him a bag full of small crystals.  The man claims that the crystals contain more power and magic “than in all the rest of the world put together.”  Unfortunately, James accidentally drops the crystals on the ground under a peach tree and loses them.  To his surprise, a peach on the tree soon grows to an unnatural size.  The giant peach ends up as big as a house.

One night, James decides to sneak out of the house to inspect the monstrous peach.  Getting closer, he notices a hole on the side of the peach.  He crawls into the hole and through a tunnel until he reaches the pit.  The pit of the giant peach has a door cut into it.  James pushes it open and crawls inside.  To his surprise, seven oversized bugs are living inside the pit.  James is frightened at first, but he quickly grows accustomed to the strange creatures.  One of the giant bugs cuts the stem of the peach.  The peach rolls away with everyone inside.  James and his new friends set off on an exciting journey.

I like the character of James in this book, but to be honest, I like the bugs even more.  I especially like Centipede, Old-Green-Grasshopper, and Earthworm.  I think Earthworm is my favorite character of all.  Even though he often seems gloomy and pessimistic, he is very entertaining as he quarrels with the other bugs.  He usually fights with Centipede.  The interactions between the bugs are very amusing.

I have loved reading Roald Dahl’s books since I was very young.  This is one of the first books by the author that I read, so I still feel nostalgic about it.  I have ready many other Roald Dahl books, but this is still one of my favorites.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially if they have not had a chance to read one of Roald Dahl’s books yet.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.