The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

Pretty much all his life, Call’s dad has warned him away from magic. During the trial to enter the Magisterium (administered to all those who may have the ability to do magic when they’re twelve), Call is supposed to mess up—and he does, but doesn’t expect the result. Instead of failing, Call is chosen to train under the most prestigious mage at the Magisterium. Taken away from his dad, Call learns about things his father never wanted him to know, making friends along the way and learning dangerous secrets about himself.

I really liked this book. The characters are each their own person with their own personalities, and the plot is intriguing. The book has really good world building, and the history narrated by some of the characters also reflects some of the characters’ personalities in how they deal with the knowledge of their pasts. There are parallels to Harry Potter, but I didn’t think it took away from the book—it was enjoyable as its own read.

-Aliya A.

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Copper Gauntlet by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

The second book in the Magisterium series picks up where the first left off. Summer vacation is almost finished, and Call is looking forward to going back to school, although his dad is dead set against it. About a couple of weeks before school starts, Call learns that Alistair knows something about him that he is prepared to take desperate measures to correct (the same secret that was revealed at the end of The Iron Trial).

Once he gets to school, Call realizes that his dad is up to something when it’s rumored that someone is trying to steal the Alkahest, a powerful copper gauntlet.  Everyone thinks that the perpetrator is intending to harm the Makar and destroy the Magisterium. Call, though, knows better. He sets out to save his dad with Aaron, Tamara, Jasper, and Havoc, which turns out to have pretty unexpected results as they uncover secrets kept from even the mages.

There is quite a bit of character development, especially regarding Call. He has changed since the first book, although he still retains his characteristic personality. Call struggles with himself now more than he had in The Iron Trial, especially now that he can detect all the signs about who he really is, while at the same time kind of being in denial about it. However, he does carry himself differently and becomes more confident than the first book, and is more open than he used to be, although he doesn’t always go to his friends for help when he needs it.

-Aliya A.

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede

Across the Great Barrier, by Patricia C. Wrede, is the second book in the Frontier Magic series. The novel is set in an alternate universe—the American frontier is being settled and explored, but there’s magic. Eff, a thirteenth child, has always considered herself unlucky, and therefore has never really tried learning her spells, but helps out at the menagerie where she takes care of magical and non-magical animals. Eventually, she crosses the Great Barrier, where the Professor finds something extremely interesting. This is a pretty dry run of it, but the book was more interesting, I promise.

When I picked this book up I didn’t realize that it was the second book in a series. Oops. Still, it was really good, and the author gave enough information about the main events from the first book that I could make sense of things. The book is told from Eff’s point of view, so it doesn’t go into too much detail about things that she doesn’t consider important, and spends more time on things that she’s interested in or that are important to her. I like this book because it has a good plot line and gives a new way of looking at the American frontier when it was still being settled. There were no Native Americans in the book, so I’m not sure if I missed something in the first book or if they just aren’t there. The end of the novel doesn’t give complete closure and pretty obviously sets it up for the next book because not everything gets resolved.

 

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Scottsboro boys, mainly through the eyes of a fictional reporter. The Scottsboro boys were accused of raping two white girls in 1931, towards the beginning of the Great Depression. There was hardly any evidence against them, and it was fairly obvious that the girls had accused the boys of rape because they were afraid of going to jail for illegally being on the train that they had been found on. Despite the lack of evidence, the state of Alabama was convinced of their guilt, and the boys were sentenced to the electric chair. Their deaths were put on hold because of more than one trial, as the Communist Party and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons tried to help them get free.

The book, as mentioned earlier, is mainly told through the eyes of a reporter, so although it is about the trials, it also includes a lot of her personal life. It also includes the point of view of one of the two girls who accused the boys of raping her.

I thought the book was very well written, and I especially liked the fact that the author mainly centers on the reporter. This parallels the protagonist’s thoughts that often, people forgot about the boys and focused more on the witnesses or the trial. Yes, there were many who thought (especially outside the South) that their sentences were evidence of racism, but no one really remembered the victims – they were more symbols than people, in a way. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical or realistic fiction.

Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress

Steal Across the Sky, by Nancy Kress, is a sci-fi book about the effect an alien race, the Atoners, have upon humanity.  Showing up in the not-very-distant future, they state that they have committed a crime against humanity, and ask people from all over the world to submit applications for the opportunity to go to space in order to witness their crime. A few dozen people are chosen, and of them, only about six come back to Earth having actually witnessed the crime. The story focuses mainly on four characters and how they deal with the revelation. When they had returned from space, those who had witnessed the crime inform their governments and people of what they had witnessed, and this although leads to radical and terrorist groups springing up, for the most part, it does not greatly affect the society that the characters are living in or how it runs. Interspersed throughout the book are ads and, at some point, an email, that take the scope of the story away from just the characters and show the Atoners’ impact on (mainly) the U.S..

Personally, I found that the book started off strongly, and at first I was going to stop reading, but I wanted to find out what crime the Atoners had committed. Then, after I found out, I kept reading because the author didn’t reveal what remedial action the Atoners had promised to take for their crime until the very end of the book. The one thing that really bothered me about the book was that the author never revealed why the Atoners had come to Earth and committed their crime, but otherwise, I thought the plot was unique and well-written.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until a bit after the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the War of the Pacific with Japan. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist. I do think the way it was written was appropriate, though, because it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids, while having to remember the things that happened.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II in the Pacific that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the war with the Japanese. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school and the war with the Japanese. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist, but it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids while at the same time remembering the things that happened, so I think that the way it was written was appropriate.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history and WWII.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library