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

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

threemusketeers_alexandredumasThe Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, was written in 1844. Set in France in 1625, it takes place during the reign of Louis XIII, with Cardinal Richelieu as his advisor. D’Artagnan leaves his home in Gascony and goes to Paris to join the Musketeers. At an inn on the way, he gets into some trouble and has the “letter of recommendation” his father had written for him stolen. When he gets to Paris, D’Artagnan visits the captain of the Musketeers, but is not admitted due to the fact that he does not have the letter. As the story progresses, D’Artagnan meets the three musketeers that he is to be good friends with, and gets caught up in political intrigues, of which some he involves his friends.

I liked this book because I remembered learning about this part of history at school, so it was a bit more enjoyable because I knew the historical background of the political characters (like the King, Richelieu, Queen, etc.). I also enjoyed reading it because the characters had distinct personalities and were not flat, and they each had their own flaws. Although I did not remember the description of each main character and their lackeys that was near the beginning of the book, I realized their personalities as I read so it was nice to not have to continually refer to earlier parts of the book to remember which character was which.

-Aliya A.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Hoopla

The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield

bookofstorms_ruthhatfieldThe Book of Storms, by Ruth Hatfield, is a book that I found to be aimed towards middle school readers. The writing is not difficult, and though there are some clichés in the plot, it was a good read. The book starts off with the main character, Danny, who wakes up alone in the morning and finds that his parents are gone. Now, the reader learns that it is not unusual for his parents to be gone for the night, as they are often chasing storms, but also that they always come back the next morning. Danny attempts to do everything normally, just as he would if his parents had been there, even going to school. He hopes that they will be home when he comes back, but they are not.

After looking around his house again in search of his parents, Danny finds a notebook containing information that is to help him in the search for his parents. Outside his home, he finds a twig with which he finds that he can speak to plants and animals, including the neighbor’s cat .  Along the way, as he is trying to find his parents, he will face a powerful foe (who is kind of like the Devil, but the book mentions that it isn’t actually), whose intentions are not fully revealed until later on in the novel. This person is trying to get Danny’s “Taro” (his twig), for his ulterior motives.

I found the book to be interesting, mainly because I haven’t read another book with a plot or idea like it, although it could have been somewhat improved.

-Aliya A.

The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

TV Review: Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

maxresdefaultA Series of Unfortunate Events, released on Netflix, is taken from the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I watched the show, and, personally, I really liked it. I had read the books a few years ago, so I don’t remember exactly how similar the series and the books are, but the way that the Netflix series is set up was intriguing. The narrator (Lemony Snicket), is played by Patrick Warburton, and repeatedly breaks the fourth wall as he explains what is going on with the Baudelaire orphans. The children lose their parents, as they did in the books, and have an incompetent adult looking after them, something viewers will quickly realize after watching the children’s first meeting with them. Also similar to the books, Count Olaf is constantly trying to get the children’s’ fortune. The end of the show (if I remember correctly, it’s only eight episodes) ends on a cliffhanger, since it doesn’t finish the whole book series, but ends somewhere in the middle of the series.

Throughout the series, there were moments where I was face-palming myself or getting mad at the characters (mostly the adults), but overall I really liked the acting and the plot. Again, I don’t exactly remember how things went in the original series, but I thought that a lot of the acting personified the book characters. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone interested, especially if they’ve already read the books.

-Aliya A.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

johngrisham_runawayjuryThe Runaway Jury, by John Grisham, is a legal thriller. The book centers on a big tobacco trial, decided by a jury. The verdict the jury passes could have disastrous consequences on tobacco companies or potentially protect them from lawsuits in the future. There is one potential juror that both sides – the plaintiff and the defendant  – are concerned about, because they have no record of him whatsoever. He is, to them, an enigma. This juror, as it turns out, is extremely important in the jury’s decision although I realized it would be hard to see what was going on if I had put myself in one of the other juror’s shoes. As the main driving point of the book, this quote sufficiently encapsulates it: “Every jury has a leader, and that’s where you find your verdict.” With both the plaintiff and the defendant realizing the high stakes, both sides try to influence the jury, although this is illegal and can cause there to be a mistrial. In the end, most efforts do not affect the end decision, although there are some humorous events regarding the eventual effect of some of the attempts at trying to sway a juror.

I thought this book was well-written, and although I had not initially planned to read it, I’m glad I did. Grisham kept me guessing the whole time which way the jury was going to vote, and what the motives of the main juror, Nicholas Easter, were. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading thrillers, although there is less of a scary side to it than other thrillers I’ve read.

The Runaway Jury is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library