Aru Shah and The End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The novel Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is a story about a young girl named Aru Shah’s adventure through Indian mythology. Aru is a somewhat mischievous girl. All of Aru’s classmates from her private school go vacationing at exotic locations, while Aru is stuck at the museum in her Spiderman pajamas. As a result, Aru also has a bad habit of lying. 

The story begins at the Museum of Ancient Art and Culture which Aru’s mom curates. One day, three of Aru’s classmates show up at the Museum’s front doorstep, not believing that the Lamp of Bharata is cursed. Aru makes the poor decision of lighting the lamp, and turns her classmates into frozen statues. 

With the help of an annoying talking bird, Aru discovers who her biological father and her soul’s father is. Both are quite astonishing! The talking bird also introduces her to a girl named Mini (short for Yamini) who is just like her. With Mini’s help, Aru fights off demons, collects the items needed to reverse the spell of the cursed lamp, and even buys some Oreos from a Costco in another dimension. 

What I enjoyed about reading this book were the consistent references and allusions to Hindu mythology. Similar to how the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is based on Greek mythology, this novel and its succeeding books are adventures based on Hindu mythology. I believe that both fictional and nonfiction books can teach readers something, and this novel is a wonderful example. With both humor, adventure, and an interesting plot line, I would recommend this novel to both children and adults!

-Ayati M.

Aru Shah and The End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

The novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a well-known classic, and it narrates the story of two migrant workers named George and Lennie. George and Lennie are best friends, and readers quickly realize that Lennie has a slight mental disability. Nevertheless, George and Lennie’s bond is one of the strongest of the literary world, and their story helps readers understand the lives of migrant workers during the Great Depression as well as the Dust Bowl.

Before reading this novel, I highly recommend doing some research on the Great Depression, for so many influential literary works have references or settings relating to the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, etcetera.

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck cleverly implements many literary devices to convey the story of these two best friends into readers’ hearts. Some of the most prevalent themes in the book include friendship, loneliness, dreams, and more. This book also has a multitude of significant symbols, as well as meaningful characterizations, clever allusions, foreshadowing and quotes.

Personally, I think that the best part of reading this book was the remarkable theme of loneliness. Almost every single character in the story contributes to the development of this theme. 

As I mentioned before, this story takes place during the Great Depression and allows readers to visualize life for migrant workers. These workers mostly travelled alone from place to place (hence the “migrant”). Through the dialogue and actions of other characters, readers understand that George and Lennie’s bond is remarkable, but very unusual, and the theme of loneliness is further emphasized.

The novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a phenomenal piece, and I would recommend this book to avid readers in high school and above.

-Ayati M.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The dystopian fiction novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins serves as a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, and it narrates the story of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. It is set in Panem, the same setting as the Hunger Games trilogy and most events take place in the Capitol or District 12. Readers of the trilogy know that Coriolanus will go on to become President Snow, the main antagonist of the Hunger Games. I think that it was an extremely smart idea to write this book after the Hunger Games trilogy because it gives readers an extra interest and pulls to the book, especially with the very beginning.

The introduction of Coriolanus Snow is completely contradictory to readers’ views of President Snow, since he is shown as extremely rich and lofty in the trilogy, but he is introduced in the prequel as extremely poor; in addition, readers can clearly understand how important Coriolanus’s family is to him. As a big fan of the Hunger Games series, I do not recall any emphasis on Coriolanus’s family, except for his famous motto, “Snow lands on top!” (which is reiterated multiple times in this novel). The implication of Coriolanus’s love for his family (consisting of his grandmother known as Grandma’am and his cousin Tigris) is only strengthened throughout the book, and the pure irony of this description and portrayal of Coriolanus is extremely captivating to readers. 

I must mention that Coriolanus’s grandma insists on taking care of roses in a roof garden, and these roses make multiple appearances throughout the book. In the trilogy, roses also have significance in symbolizing the evil of Coriolanus Snow.

Moving on, Coriolanus is one of the 24 students selected to mentor tributes in the 10th annual Hunger Games, and he is matched with the District 12 girl named Lucy Gray Baird. Lucy Gray is a singer from the Covey in District 12. She seems extremely strange, with her optimistic outlook, her behavior at her reaping, and many other unusual qualities. The mentor of the winning tribute will receive a scholarship to attend the University, which Coriolanus needs, but he is highly doubtful of Lucy Gray’s capability to win. However, the two seem to acquire an extremely strong bond. 

In my opinion, the ingrained animal instincts in human nature is the most well established theme in the novel. Although the prime example of this theme is in the ending (and I believe that endings should never be disclosed in book reviews), it can be seen throughout the book, especially in the arena of the Games. The significance of 24 people locked into an arena and told to fight to their deaths is self explanatory in the theme of animal instincts in human nature. 

Another theme in this novel is the theme of morals. Again, the Hunger Games are completely immoral, and to readers’ surprise, the rest of the Capitol feels the same way.

This novel has an invigorating plot line, multiple twists, and amazing literary devices, and it is easily one of my favorite books I have ever read.

-Ayati M

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

The fictional novel The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann begins on the day of the Purge, which is when all 13-year-olds get sorted into Wanteds, Necessaries, and Unwanteds. In the land of Quill, any form of art or creativity is a grave crime and is strictly prohibited. If someone were to violate this rule, they would be proclaimed Unwanted and would be killed. 

On the yearly Purge, Aaron Stowe is pronounced a Wanted, but his twin brother Alex is declared an Unwanted. When Alex is taken to his expected execution in a bus filled with other teenagers, he finds out that the Unwanteds have been hiding in the magical place of Artime. So, while Aaron earns himself a high government position, Alex enjoys this enchanted land where creativity is encouraged instead of punished. Plus, Artime has magic, so all the Unwanteds take delight in learning how to turn invisible and create origami dragons that fly. 

Although they are far apart, being twins, Alex and Aaron Stowe still share a link with each other. Soon, the dry land of Quill learns about the secret Unwanteds paradise, and launches into war. 

The battle between Artime and Quill is captivating, and although this book ends on a cliffhanger, it is easily one of my favorite novels. In my opinion, the best aspect of this book is the unique storyline, because it is unlike anything I have previously read. As a reader who prefers adventurous novels, I definitely think this book reaches my expectations, and manages to hold my attention cover-to-cover. The Unwanteds is part of a larger series with even more thrilling events, new characters, and unpredictable plot lines–perfect for your next reading spree.

-Ayati M.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.