Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Mountaineer Jon Krakauer had a long-lasting dream, ever since he was a little boy: to climb the world-famous Mount Everest.

Into Thin Air is, as Krakauer puts it, not exactly an autobiography but merely his own account of what really happened on the peak of Everest in the terrible tragedy in 1996.

Many people died on the expedition to Everest, like renowned guides such as Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. It appalled me to see the harsh conditions in which the climbers labored through, the various health conditions they had to endure, and just how difficult the fact of breathing was at such a high altitude.

I really enjoyed reading this book; usually autobiographies are not my favorite genre, but this one blew me away. Krakauer is very meticulous in detail, and he describes everything that happened on that mountain very specifically. I really appreciated that; I felt like I was there on the mountain with him and the other climbers, and knew exactly what he was experiencing.

The way he also described the feeling of being stranded and blinded in the middle of the snow storm on top of the world was superb. I mean, I was grabbing the book and frantically flipping through the pages, wanting to see if everyone made it out okay. They didn’t, to my horror.

In fact, in this book, I learned quite a lot of things that I had never known about mountaineering before, like these spikes on a climber’s boots known as crampons to help grip the ice, or how the climbers had to do acclimatization exercises before actually attempting to ascend the mountain.

Throughout the book, many brave climbers prevailed, and the cost of sacrifice and loss was sorrowful. Even though I had not known these people previously, I felt bad for their untimely fate. But many were brave and loyal enough to go back and and try to save their fellow climbers, and many that are alive today from the incident of 1996 thank those courageous climbers.

I’d highly recommend this book to everyone; this is one of my favorite reads! From action-packed to intense scenes, horrifying terrors to unthinkable grief, and courage and loyalty of many climbers on Everest in 1996, this book is truly excellent.

-Katharine L.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Bar Mitzvah!

Recently, one of my friends, Zac, turned 13 and explained to me that he was holding something called a Bar Mitzvah. I wondered what that was, because I’d never attended one; I was expecting just a normal birthday party.

After doing some research, I realized that traditionally a Jewish child would participate in a coming-of-age ceremony at 13, called a Bar Mitzvah. I finally understood what the event was now.

My friends and I attended the Bar Mitzvah to celebrate with Zac, and it was such a great experience. There were two parts: The Torah, and then the reception later in the evening. The way the Bar Mitzvah is held is actually really similar to that of a wedding, with the long tables, DJ, dance floor, flower assortments, lights, etc.

I was very impressed in the dedication that Zac put forth in the ceremony. He memorized long Hebrew passages and sang songs to praise Jesus. The ceremony lasted about an hour, where he underwent many different spiritual rituals, like one particular flag-bearing. He did really well, especially while playing his guitar and reading his well-prepared speech. It was also very touching when his parents gave a speech and recognized him as a truly worthy son. Zac told us that he’d spent almost two years, and all that hard work and dedication really paid off!

Finally, the reception was very well put together. There was a lot of dancing (Zac got lifted and twirled up in the air on a chair), and it was all fun. There was ice cream, and three courses that were extremely tasty. The family put a lot of effort in the arrangements and the whole event turned out really well. I really enjoyed this event, and had the time of my life!

-Katherine L.

The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

Ever done something wrong, but then just totally put the blame on your sibling, or maybe an imaginary one? Of COURSE not, right? Just put that one out of your mind…

But what if that imaginary sibling became real?

Answer: Some really, really bad stuff would happen.

In C.J. Omololu’s thriller and mystery combined in one, The Third Twin is sure to leave you flipping the pages like there’s no tomorrow. If you’ve ever read Pretty Little Liars, or maybe you’re a fan of the TV series, this book is pretty similar, but with more of a haunting twist. Even the cover looks cool!

But anyways, everything started out as a joke. The main characters, identical twins named Lexi (Alexa) and Ava (they’re seriously identical, because you really can’t tell the difference between them at all), make up a third twin, Alicia, just for fun. Who forgot to take out the trash? Who totally smashed that new iPhone? Alicia! Duh. Lexi and Ava decided that that was a total no-brainer.

As they grew up, they used Alicia as a cover-up for doing things that they wouldn’t normally do in real life. Nobody needed to know about this secret Alicia. She only existed when they wanted her too.

Until Alicia becomes real. Now Ava and Lexi are up to their necks in hot water, and it may not seem like they can get away without some pretty hard consequences. Because a boy is found murdered, and all traces point directly at Alicia.

The girl who never existed.

Either Lexi’s sister, Ava, is the one responsible for this tragic accident…

Or perhaps Alicia is real.

-Katharine L.

The Third Twin by C. J. Omololu is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Book vs Movie: A Christmas Carol

What better way to spend the holiday season than to sit down next to the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, reading a holiday-spirited book? If that is the case, bear Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol in mind. If you’re more on the relaxing side, curl up on the couch and watch the movie. Both are great choices, but here’s some key differences between book vs movie.

Many Americans are familiar with the story of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heart is cold and inhospitable. But after encountering three spirits of Christmas, Past, Present, and Future, Scrooge becomes a changed man, brimming with joy for Christmas season.

The movie, which was released in 2009, is more lighthearted than the actual book, as often happens. When Charles Dickens wrote the book there weren’t many jobs, and lots of people were homeless and dying of hunger. However, when the movie was made, the economy was much better and people were more joyous. Scrooge’s father is also considerably more generous in the movie, leaving Scrooge meager amounts of money, while in the book, the poor lad is sent straight to a new Master named Fezziwig. In the movie Scrooge seems much younger than he actually is; in the book, he is around 70, weaker and frail.

Each in turn, the three Spirits show Scrooge a memory or a future, and these images haunt Scrooge, who begins to feel guilty. He sees his nephew Fred making fun of him; he sees his clerk, Bob Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim, die, the family mourning; and in the end, he sees himself on a deathbed, while others cherish the fact that he is gone….

Of course, movies tend to dramatize these events, making them more exciting. The scene where Scrooge is going to fall into his grave is very intense, and so is the music. But when Scrooge wakes up, his reaction in the book and the movie are very similar; he is giddy to be alive, and honors Christmas with a joyful heart.

Either way, both are full of action, love, and are sure to warm you up for this holiday season!

-Katharine L.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and its film adaptations are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Kino, the novella’s protagonist, is a young Mexican-Indian pearl diver married to Juana; they have a baby named Coyotito. Their lives seem rather peaceful, but their tranquility is threatened when a scorpion bites Coyotito. Juana tells Kino to go to town and get the doctor, but Kino and their neighbors tell Juana that the doctor will never come to where they live, so Juana decides to take matters into her own hands and sets off with Coyotito to the doctor. Kino accompanies Juana, and many members of the village follow them to see what will happen. At the doctor’s house, the doctor’s servant tells Kino and Juana that the doctor is not at home — in truth, the doctor is home but will not help Coyotito because Kino cannot pay the doctor as much as the doctor wants, but also because the doctor is prejudiced against Kino’s race.

Kino goes to work diving in the Gulf for oysters from his canoe; Juana tends to Coyotito in the canoe by applying brown seaweed to his shoulder, which is swollen from the scorpion’s bite. As Kino is collecting oysters on the ocean bottom, he spots a larger-than-usual oyster, collects it, and returns to the canoe. Kino does not want to open the oyster immediately, but Juana prompts him to open the oyster; when he does, he finds a pearl the size of a sea gull’s egg. Juana gazes at the immense pearl; she then goes to check on Coyotito and discovers that Coyotito’s shoulder is no longer swollen. Kino is immensely happy about both the pearl and Coyotito, believing that this a type of heavenly good luck.

However, the pearl twists Kino’s mind. As a man tries to take Kino’s pearl one night, Kino fatally kills the man, resulting in him as a wanted man.

Juana, Kino, and the now healthy Coyotito, have to make a run for it. They take Kino’s canoe, cast it into the water, and quickly sail off. They arrive in a heavily wooded area, which provides shelters. But there are riders upon horses keeping a close eye on Kino and his family, trying to find him and execute him. Kino and his family find a water hole, where they stop to drink and rest.

Kino, Juana, and Coyotito then hide in the cave and wait for an opportunity to escape back down the mountain. The trackers are slow in their pursuit and finally arrive at the watering hole at dusk. They make camp nearby, and two of the trackers sleep while the third stands watch. Kino decides that he must attempt to attack them before the late moon rises. Just as Kino prepares to attack, Coyotito lets out a cry, waking the sleepers. When one of them fires his rifle in the direction of the cry, Kino makes his move, killing the trackers in a violent fury. In the aftermath, Kino slowly realizes that the rifle shot struck and killed his son in the cave.

The next day, Kino and Juana make their way back through town and the outlying brush houses. Juana carries her dead son slung over her shoulder. They walk all the way to the sea, as onlookers watch in silent fascination. At the shore, Kino pulls the pearl out of his clothing and takes one last, hard look at it. He remembers what this pearl has cost him, and the hard journey he has gone through because of it. Then, with all his might, under a setting sun, he flings the pearl back into the sea, watching it sink, sink, and sink deep below the surface, never to be seen again.

-Katherine L.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

After discovering that The Hunger Games was my 7th-grade extra credit reading book and that I haven’t read it before yet ( say what?!), I decided now was a good time to pick it up and finally start on it.

Yeah, I know, how could you have not read the Hunger Games before? Face it, everyone’s probably pretty familiar with this book. You know of it, of course. It’s a famous book that almost everyone knows, just like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. 

Anyways, once I picked up this book, I found it impossible to put down. I read for two straight days and got it finished. And then I reread it. And reread it again.

I probably would recommend this book for older children, particularly because of a few violent scenes. But other than that, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who looks forward to action and thrillers.

Starting off with the famous Katniss Everdeen, the book takes place in District 12, her hometown. There are twelve districts, although there used to have been a 13th, which was destroyed because of their rebellion against the all-ruling Capitol, Panem. Because of this, the Capitol has ordered the event called the Hunger Games, where two tributes, a boy and a girl, are selected from each district (24 tributes total). They will be placed inside of an arena whose conditions can change with directions from the inventors of the Hunger Games, the Gamemakers. The whole point of the Hunger Games is for the twenty-four tributes to kill each other as a sport; the last tribute standing wins, leaving the arena with a life of luxury.

And the purpose of all of this? To prove how everyone is at the Capitol’s mercy, how they take the people’s children to watch them fight to the death.

From District 12, Katniss and the boy tribute, Peeta Mellark, are pitted against the other twenty-two tributes. They have no idea what the arena conditions will be like; the yearly Hunger Games change every year. All they know is that it will be difficult, and definitely lethal.

I have to say, Suzanne Collins, the author, was really suspenseful. Every fight scene, every page that she wrote, was filled with action from top to bottom. That’s what kept me hooked to the very last page. But even through all that, she also manages to weave in just the right amount of romance between Katniss and Peeta.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Catching Fire! I’m sure it’s as good as the first one.

But first, who will win the intense, action-packed Hunger Games? Because the tributes will either get out of there alive…or dead.

-Katherine L.

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a classic novel by William Golding. It begins on an island in the middle of nowhere where a group of boys have been marooned. Nobody knows their whereabouts, and neither do they.

However, this book is not just a typical story about survival. It tells of the darkest, deepest secrets of humankind, and how those ordinary, nice boys turned into completely different people under those circumstances. Into savages.

The first two boys introduced are the main protagonists of the story: Ralph is among the oldest of the boys, handsome and confident, while Piggy, as he is derisively called, is a pudgy asthmatic boy with glasses who nevertheless possesses a keen intelligence. Ralph finds a conch shell, and when he blows it the other boys gather together. Among these boys is Jack Merridew, an aggressive boy who marches at the head of his choir. Ralph, whom the other boys choose as chief, leads Jack and another boy, Simon, on an expedition to explore the island.

There is plenty of everything on the island, including food and drink. At first, all of the boys are reluctantly to kill, as what the huge decision would mean loomed upon them. But eventually Jack is the first one to make that move, and as he keeps on doing it, he becomes more and more comfortable with it.

Jack Merridew is one of the first boys to go savage, creating himself a group of savage hunters that kill and hunt for fun. The only ones that remain goodhearted are Ralph and Piggy, who’s glasses represent knowledge and wisdom. They know that the goal is to get rescued, nothing more.

But the question is: will these group of boys survive on this island? Or will they be doomed forever?

-Katherine L.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.