Book Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders is a book my school assigned me to read earlier in September, so I thought I would review it after finishing it. It follows the perspective of Ponyboy, a 14-year-old boy part of a gang of poorer families on the East side of town known as greasers. The greasers have a rivalry with the West side of town kids, known as the Socs, which is short for socials. The Socs are rich and have nice cars and clothes, which is one of the reasons the greasers despise them. Early in the book, Ponyboy is jumped and beat up by the Socs, and readers are exposed to the violent nature of both groups through jumpings, memories, and fights between the two groups of people, who seem to be polar opposites. Ponyboy is friends with a gang of greasers consisting of his brothers, Sodapop and Darry Curtis, and his friends, Two-Bit Mathews, Dally Winston, Johnny Cade, and Steve Randal. Throughout the book, Ponyboy and the gang get into heaps of trouble, relying on each other for help in the darkest moments of the book. One of these relationships is seen between Johnny and Ponyboy, who have always been best friends and support each other throughout the book. As the plot unfolds and both greasers and Socs are injured or killed, Ponyboy begins to realize the two groups might not be as different as everyone thinks.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but The Outsiders is a very good book. It has emotional moments that impact the characters’ lives in very detailed ways, a very good plot that is easy to follow, and really likeable and dislikeable characters, which makes the book, in a way, feel very alive and real. What makes it so intriguing is that this book is based on real-life events from when the author, S.E. Hinton, was a high schooler in the 90s. In fact, the book was written by her at the age of 15! It makes you wonder how such a good book can come from someone only a year older than me. The Outsiders is full of deep meanings behind everything, and without giving too much away, is pretty sad. The whole idea of two social groups, one poor and one rich, both thinking they are right and the other side is in the wrong, is really interesting and is explored thoroughly by Ponyboy throughout the book.

While it does mention some inappropriate topics for kids 12 and under, such as underage smoking, gang violence, characters from broken homes, and death, I think it should be suitable for anyone 13 or older. For anyone who is looking for a deeper book that still has a great story and characters, I would definitely recommend The Outsiders. That’s all for this review, so I hope you enjoyed it. Happy or reading!

-Brandt D.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Film Review: Top Gun: Maverick

When I watched the first Top Gun a few years ago, it was really good, especially because of the sadness and excitement that came with it. However, I was blown away after I saw Top Gun: Maverick. This review may have some slight spoilers, so read at your own risk. Enjoy!

Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel to the movie Top Gun, which came out in 1986, and starred Tom Cruise as young pilot Pete Mitchell, aka Maverick, and Anthony Edwards as his friend Goose. Maverick takes place a while after the events of Top Gun and explains where Maverick currently is in his life, and how he is dealing with the death of Goose.

Maverick (Tom Cruise), having stayed a Naval Captain while his friends from the pilot program Top Gun rose in ranks, is introduced as a test pilot for a new scramjet plane project. He gets a call telling him to return to Top Gun as a trainer for a new batch of pilots enrolled in the program. One of these pilots, Rooster (Miles Teller), is his late friend Goose’s son. Maverick sees Rooster and it only reminds him of his best friend and everything they did together. Goose, however, isn’t best friends with Maverick and holds a grudge towards him as Maverick had pulled Rooster out of the program before to protect him. As Maverick starts teaching the class and preparing them for their new mission, a dangerous and risky test of skill that only a crazy pilot would be able to fly, tension between Rooster and Maverick grows, and stakes rise even higher.

I absolutely loved this movie. It was mind-blowing how they pulled off a sequel to a movie almost 30 years later, and a good sequel at that. The original Top Gun movie didn’t need a sequel, at least not in my opinion, but now that I’ve seen it, I am so happy they made it. It was filled with thrilling action scenes, amazing cockpit views of the flights, and it was just a roller coaster of action and emotion. Not to mention the actor choices. Miles Teller was a great choice for Rooster, and with Tom Cruise returning as Maverick, things only got better from there. The movie also introduced some new faces like Hangman (Glen Powell), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Bob (Lewis Pullman), Payback (Jay Ellis), and many more. Also, the pure skill of the piloting was amazing! Some of the flying scenes inside the F-18 cockpits were real and seeing how Tom Cruise has a piloting license, it amazes me how skilled these actors really are.

Overall, this movie was great, and I would highly recommend watching it, but only if you’ve seen the first Top Gun. So, next time you’re looking for a good movie to watch, try watching Top Gun: Maverick. You won’t regret it. Thanks for reading!

-Brandt D.

Book Review: Torpedoed by Deborah Heiligman

Recently, LRMS had a school Book Fair. I wanted to support the school, so I bought a book called Torpedoed by Deborah Heiligman, published in 2019. It details the true story of the sinking of the SS City of Benares, or the “Children’s Ship” during World War II. As I like survival novels and historical nonfiction/fiction books, I thought this book would be pretty good, and it was.

The book takes place in the 3rd person point of view, retelling the stories of different people related to the tragic sinking of the ship. Relying on the memories and interviews of survivors of the sinking ship, Deborah was able to capture the feeling and mood of the entire story very well, and it allowed me to imagine exactly what everyone was going through on the ship.

Now, let me get into what the story is all about. Like I said before, it tells the story of the sinking of the SS City of Benares, which was a large boat assigned to take CORB children from England to Canada, and then to America so they would be safe from the war. CORB was a program in which children were sent by their parents away from England so that they would be far away from the bombs and gunfire in their country. Most of these CORB ships delivered the usually hundreds of children that boarded them safely, but the City of Benares has a tragic story. While it was carrying children, it was also carrying government officials, meaning that it was highly targeted as it was on war business. Now, during this time, large ships like the Benares were being torpedoed by German U-boats because of their size and what they could be holding. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to the Benares. On September 18, 1940, a German U-boat shot a torpedo at the Benares, sinking it and killing many people, including children.

While it is a very sad story, it is interesting to read about, especially in Torpedoed. The author did a great job with the writing and tells about all the actions of many different people aboard the sinking ship. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves survival novels such as the I Survived series. Another thing I love about this book is that it doesn’t use fictional characters. These characters were actual people on the ship who survived to tell the tale.

Happy reading!

-Brandt D.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is the first book in its trilogy by James Dashner, published in 2009. It follows the main character, Thomas, who wakes up with no memory in a strange elevator. He only remembers his name and does not know where he is. The elevator doors open, and he is exposed to an entirely new world. Thomas immediately meets new people that are trapped in his new abode, they are all teenage boys who work every day out in the Glade, an area with foliage and farms that is surrounded by a huge, stone Maze. He befriends a few of the boys, Minho, Newt, Chuck, and Alby who introduce him to everything and explain where he is. All the boys have the same backstory: They were placed in an elevator and brought down here, with no memory of their former lives except for their names.

They are surrounded by the Maze, an intricate labyrinth with moving doors and large stone walls that are impossible to climb over. There is seemingly no exit, and the boys have been trying to escape from the maze ever since they got there. While there are many jobs that keep the little community they have formed going, the most important of them all is the Runner. Runners are sent into the Maze during the day to try and map out an exit but to no avail. Runners also have the most dangerous jobs, as if they cannot find their way back to the entrance before night they are trapped in the Maze with horrible, stinging monsters called Grievers whose sole purpose is to kill the boys. Thomas’ only goal is to become a Runner, and as the Maze closes one night when his friends Minho and Alby do not return, Thomas runs into the Maze after them.

He saves them and is quickly promoted to a Runner. However, strange things begin to happen around the Glade. A girl named Teresa arrives in the Box with their last shipment of supplies, and Thomas befriends her quickly. He is the main suspect of these happenings, but his friends must learn to trust him in order to solve the puzzle of the Maze.

I loved this story. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and the ending was phenomenal, even though it was a cliff-hanger. I had to read the entire trilogy, and all of the books were amazing. I would definitely recommend checking this one out, as it has some great plot points as well as surprising twists. The Maze Runner is filled with turns that will make you want to read every chapter. One reason I like this book so much is because of its amazing descriptions. How everything was described allowed me to imagine the story and picture all the characters, especially the Maze and the Grievers inside.

If you are looking for a good read that has a great story, then you should check out Maze Runner. After reading, I checked out the next book in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, right away. This book may not be for everybody, but if you enjoy adventure and science fiction, then you should read The Maze Runner. Thanks for reading my review!

-Brandt D.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Movie Review: The Batman

Where to begin? There is so much to talk about with this movie! Batman is one of DC’s most well-known heroes, and one of the darkest. His storylines are filled with crime, mysteries, and murder, with amazing plots and great illustrations. But let’s talk about the topic of the day: the movie.

At first, I have to admit, I was skeptical. Robert Pattinson, the actor who plays Batman/Bruce Wayne, is a great actor, no doubt about it, but it was hard to see the man who played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the Dark Knight. However, I was blown away. The movie was incredible, and I think he did an amazing job at playing Batman. Director Matt Reeves wrote a great story, and it fits together pretty well for a 3-hour movie. Though a bit confusing at times because of all the past references to Gotham’s past, the movie is filled with intense fighting, suspenseful scenes, and overall phenomenal acting by Robert Pattinson and Paul Dano (Riddler).

At the start of the movie, we see the mayor of Gotham watching the election on his tv, and talking on the phone. The Riddler, a darker and more sadistic version of the green-clad puzzle maker you may have seen in the comics, is revealed to have been there the entire time and murders the mayor. Leaving behind a set of clues for Batman to follow, the Riddler goes on to kill members of the police force and other high-ranking officials who are “corrupt” and don’t stay loyal to the citizens of Gotham. Teaming up with Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) and Commissioner Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Batman solves the puzzle and uncovers an underground operation that could spell the end for the entire city.

As I said before, I really enjoyed the movie and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire thing. I think the directing, acting, and storyline are great, and can’t wait to see the movie again. I would definitely recommend this movie to any DC fan, or just anyone who knows a little bit about Batman. Thanks for reading!

-Brandt D.

Spider-Man No Way Home: Movie Review

Hi! This review may contain minor spoilers for the movie Spider-Man No Way Home, but I will try and contain them from just inside the trailers so if you haven’t seen those you should definitely check them out before reading this. Thanks!

Spider-Man movies have been around for a long time, starting back in the 2000s with Tobey Maguire and in 2012, Andrew Garfield. Now, with his debut in Captain America: Civil War, everyone has been dying to see Tom Holland play everyone’s friendly neighborhood superhero. With two amazing movies already available to stream, No Way Home has a lot of fans on the edge of their seats, waiting for the release date on December 17, 2021. Two trailers have already come out, with the first reaching a world record of 355.5 million views in just 24 hours. The trailers included lots of things for fans to talk about, like the new black and gold suit, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and Rhys Ifans’ Lizard returning on the big screen as Spiderman’s villains in the movie.

In the trailer, we see Peter Parker’s life after Mysterio reveals to the world that he is Spider-Man. His life is turned inside out, and everyone seems to hate him. Because of this, he decides to go to Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum to find help, and Dr. Strange offers to erase everyone’s memory of who Spider-Man really is. Turns out this would mean his friends and family, so Peter tries to stop it, but in doing so ruins the spell and brings villains from different universes into his world. He finds out they all died fighting a different form of Spider-Man. Now he is faced with a choice: Send the villains back to die, or save them but destroy the multiverse in doing so.

I myself have already seen the movie, and I definitely recommend it. The movie is full of funny moments and hilarious dialogue between the characters, and it has a great plotline. The villains are great, especially with the original actors coming back to play their roles in the movie. Along with being funny at parts, it is a serious movie and has some very sad parts that I didn’t see coming. It is funny and emotional, and I can’t wait to see what Sony has planned for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Zendaya’s MJ, and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. The CGI is amazing and Jon Watts did a great job of directing this film. If you have the chance to see this movie and are a Spider-Man fan, don’t miss it even if you aren’t a fan.

Overall, it is a great movie and I can’t wait to see what else Sony and Marvel include for Spider-Man-related movies in the future. Spider-Man No Way Home is definitely one of my top 5 favorite movies, so anyone reading out there should definitely see it. As of now, it is only in theatres so remember to stay safe! Thank you for reading!

-Brandt D.

A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is a novel written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843. The book follows a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge, who owns a business and is obsessed with money. The story takes place on a cold Christmas Eve. While Scrooge is sitting in his shop counting money, and his clerk, Bob Cratchit, is copying letters in the side room, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, walks in to invite him to his annual Christmas party. Scrooge refuses and is rude, spitting out “Bah! Humbug!” to Fred as he wishes him a merry Christmas but Fred still keeps a merry mood. Scrooge also gets visited by two other men asking him to donate some of his large amounts of money to help people in need. Scrooge responds “Are there no workhouses?” which goes to show that Scrooge doesn’t care about the poor.

As Scrooge enters his house, he suddenly sees the face of his old partner, Jacob Marley, on his knocker. It vanishes, and scrooge dismisses it. However, as he gets into bed the Ghost of Marley floats through his door in chains of moneyboxes and iron. Marley, wishing to save Scrooge from his fate, tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three other spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come.

As the book goes on, the spirits visit his house and teach him the importance of others. Past makes him see his old mistakes, Present makes him see what others are going through and how to give compassion, and Yet To Come shows him what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. Scrooge holds the meaning of these things in his heart and is deeply moved by Bob Cratchit’s son who is crippled, and as Christmas Day dawns he gives money to those in need and shows kindness to his nephew and the Cratchit family. He treats the crippled boy Tiny Tim as his own, and as the years go by holds Christmas dear to his heart.

A Christmas Carol is a Christmas tale that is filled with themes of kindness, family, redemption, and the joy of the holiday season. The book is filled with many characters with completely different personalities. The miserly Scrooge, the kind but poor Bob Cratchit, the thoughtful young Tiny Tim, and the three ghosts of Christmas. While it isn’t an adventure book or action packed, it is very good and filled with inspiring themes for readers. I enjoyed the book, and I feel that many other people will enjoy it too. The book itself is a bit wordy and slow at some times, but mature readers will be able to read this book and understand its deeper connections.

All in all, I liked this book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to sit down and read a nice holiday tale. Happy Holidays!

-Brandt D.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol–along with every variation–is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Film Review: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

First of all, let me just say that Venom, the 2018 prequel to this movie, was pretty good considering it was the first real Venom movie marvel fans have ever gotten. It had a strong antagonist, protagonist, and had a central problem of the movie. But Venom Let There Be Carnage blew me away.

The movie was really well directed and I couldn’t wait to see it. Featuring Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, and Naomie Harris, the movie follows Eddie Brock and his symbiotic parasite Venom as they uncover the story of local serial killer Cletus Kasady.

Along the way, Cletus picks up a symbiote of his own and becomes Carnage, the main antagonist of the movie. I feel that Carnage had a strong reason to do what he did and was overall a really good villain in the movie compared to the original villain of the Venom movie, Riot.

I liked the fact that Venom and Eddie kept arguing throughout the movie and even splitting up for part of it, because it shows just how much they need each other for survival, and really brings forth a comedic aspect to their relationship.

The villain and hero in this movie are based on the original Marvel comic books and having read some of those I can say that these characters fit their original molds pretty well. However, in the comics Carnage is more evil and crazy, and I think that they could have incorporated his nature from the comics better into the movie, even though this would have required a more serious viewer rating.

The fight scenes in this movie were way better than the original Venom movie, and I just think that this movie was a really great addition to Eddie Brock’s storyline and I think that Andy Serkis did a really great job of directing this movie. It had funny moments, serious moments, and was just really good in general.

So, overall, this movie is really great, and I definitely recommend that you check it out. Hope you enjoy it!

-Brandt D.