About Ava K.

High school senior with a passion for fiction reading and writing :)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Just as I was giving up on the monotonous plots and characters of many current YA novels, Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, reminds me of how truly fantastic YA books can be. Six of Crows is the first book in its duology, followed by Crooked Kingdom. Bardugo wrote this series after The Grisha Trilogy, which is set in the same world. However, one does not need to read the trilogy beforehand (I did not), as they center around different characters and places.

My favorite part of this book is that it is set in a different world that has been so beautifully fleshed out by the author, including unique countries, cultures, and languages. Another cool part is that the band of six are so diverse and provide a wide variety of representation in race, sexual orientation, and both physical and mental disabilities. The group live in a buzzing city called Ketterdam (taking inspiration from the city of Amsterdam). This 1800s type city is right next to the sea is filled with merchants, cargo ships, gang claimed territories, and thieves. Speaking of thieves and gangs…

Six of Crows story follows a gang (literally) of antihero teenagers, each with their own bitter backstory. Kaz Brekker aka Dirtyhands aka Bastard of the Barrel is the leader of the gang called the Dregs. He is mysterious, cold, and delightfully sarcastic. Despite Kaz’s limp in his leg, no one in their right mind would dare cross him or his cane. Next is Inej aka The Wraith. But don’t let her small frame fool you, as she the deadliest and sneakiest one on the team. Right hand man and life of the group is Jesper. The only thing stronger than his sharpshooting ability is his gambling addiction.

Thirdly, we have Nina, a Heartrender Grisha, meaning she has special abilities that can manipulate others’ bodies. However, if Nina lived in our world, she’d be an A-lister actress for sure. Any group of fighters needs a brooding muscle man, and Matthias sure fills that part, no matter how reluctant he might be. And last but not least, we have bright young merchling, Wylan, who is new to the heathen street life, but becomes an incredible asset.

These crooked youngsters embark on an insane mission that’s filled with humor, struggle, suspense, emotions, and wonderful fight scenes. The opening scene with Inez is my favorite scene as we get to see two gangs in a “parley” meeting. It is so intriguing and thrilling, specifically with how we see it from Inej’s bird’s eye view. The amount of detail that Leigh Bardugo put in her writing and characterization is truly spectacular and I recommend this book 100%!

-Ava K.

The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Creative Writing: Adventures in Ilvermorny Part 2

This is part two of a short story about some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). These characters are entirely made up by me, and my descriptions of Ilvermorny are no doubt very different from what J.K. Rowling’s are. Enjoy!

Cyrus shook her hand, “Well then Jane….?

“-Ingram, Jane Ingram”, Jane affirmed.

“Jane Ingram, are you a first year too?”, Cyrus questioned, “Because I’m stressed beyond belief.”

Jane nodded. “Yea, but I bet you have more of an idea of what’s about to happen. My mom’s a Muggle-born and so she thought it would be best if I was raised without magic until Ilvermorny, like her. Supposedly it will make me appreciate magic more, but I just feel like I’m ten steps behind everyone else.”

Cyrus waved a hand. “Nah there will be plenty of Muggle-borns who just found out about magic weeks ago. That’s not even the issue, its not like Eyla and I get our wands any sooner than everyone else. What’s nerve wracking is the sorting. Eyla is set to be a Wampus, but I’m not really sure where I’d fit”. Cyrus shrugged, looking a little embarrassed to have just shared this with a stranger.

Jane smiled sympathetically, “My mom says the carvings never lie. They know you better than you know yourself.” Jane’s smile slowly turned into a quizzical expression. “Wait did you say that Eyla is a first year too? She’s as tall as many of the 7th years!”, Jane exclaimed a little too loudly.

Eyla, in hearing her name, turned to face Jane again. “Yea, and that’s what’s going to get me to be the first female admitted onto the Quidditch team as a first year”, Eyla announced proudly. “Although, I do wish Ilvermorny had basketball, the one thing I will miss from living so close to muggle cities”, she stated mostly to herself, while sighing.

A smooth woman’s voice on the crackling intercom abruptly interjected the conversation.

“Ladies and gentlemen we are now boarding flight 934 from Miami to Massachusetts, repeat, we are now boarding flight 934 from Miami to Massachusetts”

 

TV Review: Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixThe first season of the new Netflix show, “Series of Unfortunate Events” was released! I will be reviewing the season as well as comparing it to the books, however I will let you know when I will delve into the spoiler sections.

Firstly, I would like to say that when I first heard that Neil Patrick Harris was going to play Count Olaf, I was a little nervous. Excitingly however, I think he did a great job portraying him, as he and the character are theatrical. Of the Baudelaire children I believe that Louis Hynes (the boy who plays Klaus) best portrays the character as it is in the book series, however I do like them all. The sets of Count Olaf’s house, Uncle Monty’s House, and Aunt Josephine’s house were all exactly how I had pictured them. Count Olaf’s troop characters including the Hook Handed Man and the Powder Face sisters were all there, as well as a few new characters that have added a more diverse dynamic. The format of doing two episodes to encompass each book worked out quite well. The base plot of the novels was consistent with the series, although there were minor changes and perspectives from other characters which was interesting to see. And as a fan of the books, I was delighted to see that Lemony Snicket’s narration of the series and character was included, as he has monologues directed towards the audience. I am happy to see that the creators did not shy away from the woeful darkness the story has, and embraced it instead.

This next section will be a SPOILER for the season, so if you haven’t watched it yet please go watch!

The biggest plot twist of the season, book fans didn’t expect this either, was the long running subplot of the Baudelaire parents trying to get home to their children. At first I was upset that the creators had the parents remain alive, but then came to terms with the notion that perhaps the creators would kill off the parents before the children ever knew they survived the fire. This concept was actually a theory of the book fans, in which the Baudelaire parents actually survived, but the children never knew, and they did not get reunited. However, as we know from the twist in the finale, the “parents” that were shown were not Baudelaires after all, but Quagmires. I loved that the creators made us believe they were the children’s parents, and in the end show us that they had never specified they were Baudelaires. This creates a smart introduction to the Quagmire twins/triplets, as we already know their backstory. It is a great use of the omniscient perspective that book readers didn’t get to see, creating exciting new details for book readers, without changing the plot. And lets not forget that ending musical scene! If someone had told me beforehand that they would be singing at the end, I would not be happy about it, but it really flowed in an odd and mystical sort of way.

So what did you guys think about the adaptation? Let me know!

-Ava K., 12th grade

Creative Writing: Adventures in Ilvermorny Part 1

In the spirit of learning more about the magical world in the U.S. with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I decided it would be fun to write a little short story on some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). Enjoy!


      Jane had been dressed, packed, and ready to leave since 4:30 this morning. And while waiting for her mother to get ready to take her to the airport, she had brushed her teeth six times and continuously rearranged her chestnut bangs until she gave up in a huff and left them down. Jane was going to Ilvermorny for the first time, something she had been dreaming of the entirety of her eleven years. It was also the first time she would be without her mother, the first time she would leave Florida, and her first time going on an airplane. There was a lot to be nervous about.

     When Jane and her mother finally got to the airport, her mother knelt down and looked into her daughter’s matching honey colored eyes. Her eyes became glossy as she whispered, “Jane, don’t worry about a thing Ilvermorny is going to be the best times of your life, and I can’t wait to hear which House you get into. Don’t think you have to be a Pukwudgie like me, because all of the houses are wonderful. Don’t forget to write darling, I’ll see you soon!”. Jane felt herself get teary eyed as well and was only able to nod and hug her mother one last time before she turned towards the terminals.

      Her ticket, unlike other tickets, had a shimmering red and blue Ilvermorny stamp which was invisible to No Maj’s. As her mother instructed, Jane promptly pressed the stamped ticket onto the oddly shimmering wall at the end of all of the terminals. Before Jane had time to worry that it wouldn’t work, the shimmering wall glowed more intensely and like a magnet, pulled her onto the other side. With a slight yelp, Jane was on the Ilvermorny terminal going from the Miami to Massachusetts.  

      Witches and wizards from ages 11 to 17 sat, ran, and laughed in the terminal, waiting for boarding. Jane chose a seat in the corner and watched all of the kids, trying to see if she could tell what house they were in. She guessed that the small framed, black haired, 15 year old looking boy listening to music was a Horned Serpent. Jane looked over at a tall girl chatting loudly, wearing a basketball tee, and speculated that she must be a Wampus, when suddenly the girl caught her eye and said, “What? Have you never seen a witch before?”.

      Startled, Jane just looked at her blankly. A boy who had similar red hair to the girl, looked over to Jane and said reassuringly, “Don’t mind my sister, she’s just being a jerk because she’s nervous”. The sister immediately interjected with, “I’m am not! I just….hope my roommates aren’t lame…”. The boy rolled his eyes at his sister and holds his hand out to Jane, stating, “I’m Cyrus, and this is my sister Eyla”. Jane hesitates before shaking the boy’s hand and firmly replying with, “Jane”.


To be continued! (P.S.) Many of these Ilvermorny descriptions will be false as there is little information about how Ilvermorny operates and really looks like. Thanks for reading!

-Ava K.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

selection_coverHave you ever wondered what it would be like if The Bachelor and The Hunger Games were intertwined? Well look no further, because Kiera Cass’s The Selection series delves into a dystopian universe, a reality set in America’s future, with 35 young women competing to win Prince Maxon’s heart.

This story is set in the nation that used to be the United States, and is now called Illéa, which was established after China took over the country following World War IV. The nation, specifically the royal palace, is currently undergoing rebel attacks fueled by the unfair caste system placed upon the people.

To lift the nation’s spirits and to honor tradition, the royal family hosts the Selection; where the king’s son, Prince Maxon, goes through the process of choosing a wife from the 35 selected women from all over Illéa. Participants get a boost in social status and access to luxurious palatial living until the Prince chooses his princess. To have a shot at royalty is a dream shared by all young women in Illéa. All except the tenacious America Singer. America, unlike her mother, is not too thrilled at being expected to throw herself at the, no doubt snobbish, prince.

Nevertheless, being chosen for the Selection is not only an honor, but provides generous financial compensation to the woman’s family. And with America’s family being level five out of eight in the caste system, they would greatly benefit from her selection.  As level fives, America’s family is dictated to work either as musicians and artists in order to make a living, which provides an unsteady income. To complicate the issue, America would be leaving behind her secret boyfriend of two years, Aspen. Aspen is level six in the caste, therefore America’s mother would hardly condone a marriage between the two, as it would convert America herself into a six, into a life of poverty.

Is Prince Maxon a self-absorbed snob like America believes he is? Will America end up a princess or marry Aspen despite the hardships they will face? Are all of America’s dresses at the palace as beautiful as the one on the cover? Well, I cant spoil everything! I can say, however, that although this series might seem like a cliché Young Adult novel, it has great characterization, a relatable flawed protagonist, and is an overall exciting read. So pick up a copy and you can get lost in the palace drama like I did!

-Ava K.

The Selection series by Kiera Cass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download free from Overdrive and Hoopla.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Show?

seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixIf you have never read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, you are missing out on an incredibly unique and amazing book series. This series is what made me fascinated in books as a child because it has such an alluring plot and intriguing narration. The story follows three bright young children named Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who have recently been orphaned due to a fire in their mansion.Violet, the oldest Baudelaire, is fourteen at the start of the series and is known for the signature black ribbon in her hair and scrappiness in inventing. Klaus, her younger brother is twelve and has read more non fiction books than all of us combined, and therefore is knowledgeable in many topics. And last but not least, we have Sunny, a mere baby who has an insane talent of biting. Because of the children’s large inheritance, a sinister man named Count Olaf hunts these children down throughout the series and continuously conjures up plots to steal their fortune. These poor siblings are left to constantly move from one home to another, forced to always look over their shoulder.

Although this is a children’s series, it is evident from the summary that interwoven are themes of survival, tragedy, and woe, which allows it to be a series that can be enjoyed by all generations. Don’t be alarmed however, because this series does not leave you depressed and solemn, but rather fascinated by the twisting plot, and heart-warmed by the Baudelaire children. There are thirteen books, but most of them are thin enough to easily be finished in a day or two, so do yourself a favor and pick up A Bad Beginning, which is the first book, and you will not be disappointed.

In 2004 there was a movie made about this series, encompassing the first three books, however it did not continue on. Excitingly, Netflix has announced a TV show of A Series of Unfortunate Events, in cooperation with Paramount Pictures. This show is said to have a slightly darker atmosphere than the series, due to the fact that the book series’ original fans are not children anymore. I have linked the newly released trailer to the TV show, which stars Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire, Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire, Aasif Mandvi as Uncle Monty, and many more.What I love about this cast is that the actors who play the Baudelaire orphans are around the same age their characters are, rather than being an 18 year old playing a 14 year old, which many book to screen adaptations do. The first season drops on Netflix THIS January, Friday the 13th. For fans like me who have been waiting for more than a decade, this is pretty monumental.

I would love to hear who else is excited about the Netflix reboot, so comment away!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Image result for fangirl bookFangirl….not a title that sounds like  your cup of tea? Well think again, because Rainbow Rowell’s brilliant and relatable novel encompasses a young adult’s perspective as she tries to navigate her first year in college. Cather, or Cath, is an incoming Creative Writing Major who already has a following for her work in online fanfiction, done so under a pseudonym. Snippets of her writings are also included between chapters to provide a balanced parallel and subplot. The novel also gives the readers some great insight on the online community, and how very real and important fan created content is to people.

Cath is beyond nervous as she goes off to college with her twin sister, Wren. Unlike Cath however, Wren is outgoing, daring, and a social butterfly. After Wren decides not to share a dorm with her sister, Cath is left to her own devices in navigating the new roommate, campus life, and her newfound independence. She is also quite witty, along with a few other characters in the book that provide many hilarious lines and nods pop culture. I personally identified with this novel, because of Cath’s introverted qualities, escapism in books, and social anxiety. In addition, Cath’s number one stress release is writing, as she gets lost into her world of writing about her favorite fictional characters. Her intense love for the book series Simon Snow, and the friends she made through it reminded me of how I feel that Harry Potter  shaped me into who I am, and it made me nostalgic for the midnight premiere excitement. I believe everyone can relate to that on some level, whether it be with a book series or movie, like Star Wars.

I recommend this book to anyone going to college soon, because it gave me some great understanding and insight on what to expect and look out for. I really loved how the author very subtly showed things the characters did, to foreshadow their true character. In summary, Cath’s first year in college is full of family drama, friend drama, writing career hurdles, inner conflict, and a potential romantic interest. Don’t miss out on author Rainbow Rowell’s unique voice!

-Ava K.

Fangirl is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library