Dragon Bones by Lisa McMann

The last book I finished before my winter break was Dragon Bones, part of the The Unwanteds Quest Series written by Lisa McMann. The story follows two young twins, Thisbe and Fifer. Thisbe has been captured by the evil Reviner and must be rescued. The story follows both girls, switching perspectives and showing the reader the struggles of both girls.

The climax of the story is when Fifer gathers a group of her friends, who try to find and rescue Thisbe. Everything is going as planned until the gang encounters the Reviner. Alex, Fifer’s brother and lead wizard, starts to fight the Reviner but is quickly overrun. Eventually, Alex is killed and because he is the lead wizard, once he is gone, all of the magic the group used no longer works. Without their magic, Fifer’s group loses all their fighting ability. They quickly lose their confidence and are forced to retreat, leaving Thisbe behind. Little do they know, Thisbe and a friend of hers that she met while captive, had already escaped and are trying to survive until help arrives.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. I like how the author switched perspectives between the two twins, so you could see what was going on in each of their lives. The ending was cliche and expected, but that was the only problem I had with the book. I would rate this book a strong eight out of ten and would recommend the story to middle schoolers.

-Daniel C.

Dragon Bones and the rest of the Unwateds Quests series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This month, I read To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee. The story follows Jean Louise (Scout), a young girl who loves to explore the world and her town, Maycomb. She also has an older brother named Jem Finch and a father, Atticus Finch, who is an attorney. The story follows Jean Louise’s daily life, leading up to a big case her father is working on defending Tom Robinson, who was accused of a crime he did not do.

This story takes place in the 1930 during the Great Depression. Racial tensions also ran high in the South during this time, which added to the story. During Atticus’ closing statement to the courtroom, the story becomes very intense. Atticus is by far the most convincing lawyer in Maycomb but he is defending an African American against a white person. Back then, colored people were thought of as property, not people, and they did not command any respect. Atticus’ client loses the battle, and the reader really feels how biased the court, and the South, was during that time

This part of the book was my favorite, because even though Atticus knew his chances of winning were slim, he still gave it his best effort. I also liked the segment just before the defense was presented, when a group of men were about to kill Tom. Before they have a chance to do it, Scout stops them. As the fight is about to start, Scout recognizes one of the men. She introduces herself and tells the man to say “Hi” to his son, Scout’s friend. After that, the man calls off his friends and they leave. This scene really moved me. It represents how everyone is human and shares common ground. When Scout asks the man to say “Hi” to his son, the man realizes that he has a family, just like Atticus or Tom. If he killed Tom, he would never be the same, and his family would always look at him differently.

Overall, I thought this book was very moving. It had a great mix of comedy, suspense, and dramatic impact. I would definitely recommend this to eighth graders and up.

-Daniel C.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Mission Viejo Haunted Escape Room

This Saturday, October 27, 2018, my friends and I went to the Mission Viejo Library escape room. I had never gone to an escape room before, and this was a great introduction. In the escape room, our group had to solve various challenges to figure out how to open the padlocked large box. In the box, there was a cure which would save us from the witch’s curse. This backstory helped motivate us to break the locks.

The first key that we found was under the lamp, which opened a smaller box. In that box, we found a battery and a key. We didn’t know what to do with these, so we started looking around and discovered that one of the books on the shelf was fake. It turned out there was a lockbox inside. We used the key we found earlier and opened the lockbox. Inside was a blacklight flashlight which we then put the batteries in. We walked around the room and looked at everything with the flashlight. We found a padlock with three different locks. One lock had different letters it that was opened by various cards we found on the table. Another padlock was solved through different highlighted numbers on a piece of paper that we found taped to the wall. Also taped to the walls were clock hands pointing in different directions that matched the third padlock. When we unlocked the final set of locks, we were finally able to open the box!

I really liked the spiderwebs and skeleton decorating the room as well as the scary music because it gave the whole atmosphere a scary vibe. Overall, this was a fun and challenging experience, and I am looking forward to doing more escape rooms!

Variant by Robinson Wells

Variant, written by Robinson Wells, is a well-written mystery/ thriller novel. The book follows Benson Fisher, a foster child who grew up in Pittsburgh. In the story, Benson applies to a private school and gets in! But this is not a regular school. Even though this school is very nice, has good food, and nice people, it also has no teachers or gangs, and the school is completely isolated from any outside world interactions.

When I first started reading this book, I immediately thought it was really good. Wells introduces you to the characters, the school, and the story easily and naturally. I also loved all of the twists and turns in this book; they definitely add to the storyline.

Benson begins to get used to life at the school. He has new friends, eats great food, and even begins to like a girl, Jane. But, just as life is beginning to become comfortable, it goes downhill. One night, Benson and Jane decide to go out for a walk. During the walk, the two get attacked from behind and Benson is knocked out. When Benson wakes up, he finds Jane’s beaten body. Worse yet, she turns out to not even be human but an android!

When I first figured this out, I was so shocked! I did not expect this twist at all and when it came, it blew me away! Because of all the twists, I never knew what was coming or what to trust. This was a major factor in why I liked this book so much.

After this major twist, Benson cannot stand his school and tries to recruit people to escape. The small group of rebels all tries to escape but only Benson and his friend Becky succeed. The book ends with an injured Benson and Becky left alone in the forest.

I enjoyed this book so much and really look forward to reading the sequel. My favorite character is Benson because he is always loyal and never gives up. Thrilling and exciting, Variant is a great novel for eighth graders and above.

-Daniel C.

Variant by Robinson Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Hunger by Michael Grant

Hunger, written by Michael Grant, is the well written sequel to Gone. In the first book, everyone above the age of fifteen disappears. The other kids, fourteen and under, need to survive. But, when the kids have their birthday and turn fifteen, they have a choice. They could either step out of the FAYZ (the area where all adults have disappeared) or they could stay. In Hunger, Sam and his friends decide to stay, and now the kids are running out of food, water, and are on the brink of death.

I really enjoyed this book; especially because of how suspenseful and gruesome it is compared to the first novel. Even in the first chapter, a innocent boy dies to a swarm of mutated worms that burrow into his body. This was a thrilling start to the book and kept me on edge throughout the novel!

Beside food shortages, Sam’s evil brother Caine is back and wants revenge. In between books, Caine has been visiting a dark creature. It has been living under ground in a mine shaft waiting for someone to find it. In order to survive, the Darkness needs  radioactive substances. Caine goes to the power plant, takes it over, and then takes the Darkness its food.

In the climax of the book, Sam and his friends try to stop Caine and the Darkness. Surprisingly, Caine ends up betraying the Darkness and burying it in the mine shaft! Sam and Caine part ways and the kids discover a way to produce food by fishing and farming. I really enjoyed this book, especially with all of its surprising twists, deaths, and an all around great story line.

-Daniel C

Hunger by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Gone by Michael Grant

Imagine a world with everyone fifteen and older completely gone. Kids are fighting each other, food is running low, and some animals and children are mutating and growing powers. Gone by Michael Grant follows Sam, a regular teenager who lives in the FAYZ or the Fallout Alley Youth Zone.

The story follows Sam’s challenges of keeping everyone in control while at the same time, trying to hide his secret mutation. Surprising and shocking, Sam discovers that he can shoot light lasers out of his hands! Sam later finds out he has a brother that also has powers. But Caine, his brother, turns out to be evil! So, Sam and his group of friends have to fight Caine in order to keep their home town safe.

I really enjoyed this book because it emphasized how crazy the world would be if adults were gone. My favorite character by far was Sam because he was nice and had really cool powers! If I could choose one superpower, it would be super speed, like The Flash. Gone is a perfect book for middle schoolers and up. With a mix of mystery, thriller, and all around excitement, Gone is a book I would definitely recommend.

-Daniel C.

The Gone series by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Taking place in beautiful Venice, Prosper and his little brother Bo are running away from their evil aunt Esther. They ran away because Esther is planning on separating the two boys, keeping Bo and sending Prosper off to boarding school. But, the two manage to escape and run away into the land that their mother always told them about, Venice.

Luckily, the Thief Lord, or Scipio, take them under his wing along with a few other children. The rugged band begin to steal valuable items to sell to make a living. A mysterious man, the Conte, asks them to steal a wooden wing for a very high amount of money. Of course, the children agree and start their hunt for the wing.

The novel follows Prosper’s struggles to take care of his brother while still trying to participate in the wing hunt. Deeper into the book, you realize that the Thief Lord is actually the son of a wealthy man, and has been stealing his own father’s money for the group! The children begin to distrust the Thief Lord and decide to steal the wing on their own.

What I really liked about this book was how independent the children were and how they could make a living by themselves. My favorite character was definitely Bo because he reminded me of myself; a reckless, teasing, little brother. My favorite twist is when you find out the Thief Lord is the son of a rich man because it is so surprising.

Exciting and surprising, The Thief Lord written by Cornelia Funke is an enchanting novel for middle school readers. It contains many twists and turns that will leave you wanting to read more. This is one of the best mystery novels that I have read and I am planning on reading the sequel when it comes out!

-Daniel C

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library