Film Review: The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is an inspiring and emotional movie based off of the true story of Stephen Hawking, the well-known physicist. Stephen, played by Eddie Redmayne, is a very bright young man who is working towards a doctorate in physics at Cambridge, the most prestigious school in England. He meets Jane Wylde, a beautiful and kind arts major, and though they may have seemed like an unlikely couple, they grow to be very close. 

However, not long after he meets Jane, he learns that he has motor neuron disease, a debilitating disorder affecting the use of his muscles. He is told that he has but two years to live. Being an ambitious man, Stephen continues his work toward a PhD, and though he wasn’t previously able to decide upon a major, he finally settles on time. 

Initially, Stephen pushes Jane away, not wanting to hurt her, but she persists, wanting to spend as much time with him as she can. The two get married and start a family, and though it is very difficult for Jane, having to take care of Stephen and their children, she’s a very strong woman who loves her family and does all in her power for them. 

This is definitely one my favorite movies; I think that the story is fascinating, moving, and inspirational. The movie was very well-made and the acting was phenomenal. It’s truly remarkable how much Stephen Hawking was able to accomplish despite his disease. I feel as if many other people with his condition would simply loose hope and give up, but Stephen, a brilliant mind, continued to develop his theories and share them with the world. 

-Elina T.

The Theory of Everything is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a thrilling mystery that follows a professor of symbology at Harvard University named Robert Langdon. While traversing the roads of Paris, Robert and his companions stumble across mysteries and codes to crack. To add to the mayhem, they’ve got the French Central Directorate of the Judicial Police and later on, the British police to worry about.

Jacques Sauniere, renowned curator of Le Musée du Louvre in Paris, has been murdered by a Catholic monk named Silas, and the Direction Cnetrale de la Police Judiciaire (France’s detective and security service) has discovered something highly unusual about his body. There is a symbol written across his chest and his body is positioned in a peculiar manner which mimics Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. They also find that Sauniere has left a cryptic message on the museum floor around him.

Robert Langdon, who is in France on business, is called in by Bezu Fache, a DCPJ captain, on the pretense of helping to interpret the strange symbols and aspects of the crime scene. Langdon explains to Fache that the pentacle written on Sauniere’s chest must be an allusion to goddess worship, as Sauniere was well-versed in this subject. Shortly after, Langdon is made aware that he is Fache’s prime suspect for the case. Sophie Neveu, a police cryptographer, is the one who secretly tells him this, and helps him to escape the Louvre. It turns out that Sophie has her own motivations and, with the help of Langdon, begins decoding the message the curator left.

This book has been on my reading list for a while now, and I’m so glad I finally came about to reading it. I found it very fascinating as much of it pertained to actual religious groups like the Priori of Sion and Opus Dei. I don’t really know much about groups like these, so it was interesting to hear about them and their beliefs. I also really enjoyed the codes and how they were broken. Throughout the book, Langdon explains certain meanings behind symbols, and I found that particularly intriguing. Much of the book focuses on goddess worship and feminine versus masculine roles. Today, this is a very sensitive subject, but it’s interesting to see how male and female roles have evolved throughout history.

This book is full of twists and turns, and is definitely something I would consider re-reading. The artwork and religious groups discussed in this book are accurate, so I actually ended up going back and looking at some of the paintings that were brought up. I was surprised to notice things that hadn’t previously come to my attention.

I would definitely recommend this book–it’s an absolutely riveting read.

-Elina T.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

We’ve all heard various accounts of how life was like in the Nazi concentration camps; how millions perished in the gas chambers and how fear pulsed through all of the prisoners’ veins day and night. However, rarely do we hear about how everyday life was like for a prisoner in a concentration camp. Sometimes, it’s the smaller things, the things that seem to be less significant, that are really the most horrible. I’m not at all implying that the gas chambers weren’t horrible, they were unequivocally inhumane, but some of the things that Viktor Frankl describes in this book seem just as bad, and, in some cases, even worse. 

Viktor Frankl, a Viennese man, was taken captive initially to a concentration camp in Auschwitz. As a liberated victim, and through his knowledge and understanding of human psychiatry, he has been able to give a very accurate and detailed account of his time and experiences as a prisoner. 

He describes three stages of a prisoners’ mental state: shock, apathy, and coping with depersonalization after liberation (if they were lucky). As he explains each stage in detail, he gives anecdotes, which really helped me to gain a clear understanding of the psychiatry behind it all. 

What really struck me by surprise as I was reading this book was how utterly unjust it was for those who were held captive in the concentration camps. Of course, I knew prior to reading this that the prisoners were treated unfairly, but I suppose I never fully comprehended the extent to which it went. 

At the beginning of the book, Frankl recounts the first time he’d entered the camp. He recalls an SS guard standing by the gate who examined each prisoner carefully, deciding whether they’d be capable of the strenuous labor they’d be subject to if they were admitted to the camp. Anyone who appeared weak in any way was immediately sent to the gas chambers. This need to be “fit” plagued the prisoners throughout their time at camp as, at any time, if someone were to sustain an injury or grow ill, they’d be deemed “incapable” and were promptly sent to the chambers. This was but the first of many horrors that Frankl would encounter at the camp. 

Additionally, Frankl discusses logatherapy, a form of psychiatry, which can loosely be defined as “finding a will to meaning”. He describes it in the context of a concentration camp: along with a lot of luck, the one thing that kept Frankl alive at Auschwitz was his life’s work pertaining to psychiatry. 

I thought that this book was a very fascinating read. I definitely learned a lot more about how life was like in concentration camps, and the section on logatherapy also intrigued me–some of the concepts he discussed really made me think hard. This is a very powerful and inspiring book–Viktor Frankl is an extremely strong and willful individual. 

-Elina T. 

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow: the Chosen One, the greatest Mage the world has seen, and possessor of an exceeding amount of magic. Who would expect a boy of such prestige to be an orphan? Simon is told time and time again that those with magic flowing through their veins don’t give up their children–magic simply isn’t dispensable. So why is Simon Snow, legatee of such a copious amount of magical power, a foundling?

At the age of eleven, Simon is taken from the care home he’d been dwelling at by the Mage, a powerful and esteemed man who holds the position of headmaster at Watford, a school for people who possess magical blood. As Simon is the only orphaned student, the Mage cares for him, and makes sure that every September, after a summer spent at a care home, Simon gets safely to Watford.

In Carry On, Simon is entering his eighth and final year at Watford, which proves to be quite tumultuous. The year starts off ordinarily enough. Simon strategizes with his best friend, Penelope Bunce, about how to best defeat the Insidious Humdrum, an absurd yet aggravatingly quick-witted and bothersome creature who has seemingly atrocious intentions. He had, in previous years, made multiple attempts at castigating the magical world and Simon Snow in particular.

Simon, Penny (Penelope), and Agatha (Simon’s girlfriend) continue to speculate upon the different threats and issues that the Humdrum’s actions have caused, but their efforts thus far have led them nowhere. After an unsettling encounter with a departed soul, Simon ends up forging a shaky, yet advantageous truce with his roommate, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch, a bitter and austere boy who has done nothing but provoke and nag Simon at every chance he gets. However, despite the facade of icy forbiddingness he puts forward, Basil may have trouble keeping his true feelings for Simon in check.

Simon Snow and his story was originally introduced in Fangirl, another phenomenal novel by Rainbow Rowell, as a fictional series that Cath (the protagonist in Fangirl) is obsessed with. Small excerpts of Simon Snow are featured in Fangirl, but Rowell thought that it deserved its own book, so that is the reason for which she wrote Carry On.

I entirely adored this book. I fell in love with the characters (Baz is my favorite!), and I fell in love with the world Rowell created. I extol how significantly she strayed from her normal style of realistic fiction and how she was able to create such a vivid and enticing world. Another thing that I enjoyed about this book was how Rowell switched perspectives so that the reader could get a clear and full picture of what was going through each of the characters’ minds.

This book was such a compelling and fascinating read, and I will definitely read it again in the future. The characters are all very endearing, and I loved the relationship between Simon and Baz: sworn enemies who have united against an evil cause. Will their truce only heighten their hatred toward each other, or will it bring them closer together?

-Elina T.

 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, is a fantasy novel with both medieval European history and mythology from all around the world woven into it. The story follows Sophie and Josh Newman, two normal teenaged twins spending the summer in San Fransisco while their parents work at an archeological dig in Arizona. Little do they know that their lives are about to be changed forever. 

Sophie and Josh experience one shock after another as they come to realize that the world is full of magic. But not the type of magic we think of straight away. In their world, it is believed that, over time, the human race has neglected the full use of all of their senses. When people are Awakened, when the full extent of the capacities of their senses are activated, what they have the ability to do seems like magic. 

But magic isn’t the only thing that they discover to be true. Famous historical figures, like Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle, are still alive and have been living on this earth under different aliases for hundreds of years. And even more intriguing, the twins find that figures straight from fairy tales and myths roam the earth. 

Sophie and Josh are dragged into a thrilling and dangerous chase when they unwittingly witness the Book of Abraham the Mage being stolen from Nicholas Flamel. This book, the Codex, contains the recipe for the Elixir of Life, and without it, Nicholas and his wife will age rapidly and perish within the month. But the book also contains another spell. A spell that could compromise the liberty of the human race. Sophie and Josh must assist Nicholas in retrieving the book, else risk the existence of the world as they know it. 

What I admired most about this book was that it introduced mythological characters, creatures, and places from from a variety of different countries. In the world that Scott has created, all of these mythological figures live in the same world and interact with one another. I also enjoyed the historical content that Scott weaves into the story. European history has always piqued my interest, what with all the drama and their heavy belief in the gods. This book provided a sound union of history and mythology and was a very compelling read. 

This book is definitely not monotonous, and in fact is very fast-paced and filled with adventure. It was also easy to relate to the main characters (the twins) and what was going through their minds as their eyes were opened up to the world of magic before them. I enjoyed this book very much, and look forward to reading the remainder of the series. (There are five more books: The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer, The Warlock, and The Enchantress).

-Elina T.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, and the rest of the books in the series, are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

My Favorite Fictional Characters!

Sodapop Curtis from The Outsiders: After I finished reading the book (The Outsiders), I was absolutely obsessed with it! I loved all the characters very much, but Soda is, by far, my favorite. He’s kind, funny, friendly, and most importantly, he’s a good brother. He protects and stands up for Ponyboy, and does everything he can to help Darry to pay the bills.

Fred Weasley from Harry Potter: (*Spoilers!) Don’t ask me why it’s Fred and not George cause I have no idea why. I do love George too, but for some reason, while I was reading the series for the first time, I decided that Fred was my favorite character. Mind you, I had decided this before I had finished the series, so I was completely heartbroken when he died in the seventh book, as I’m sure everyone was. I just love the twin’s constant bantering and jokes. Despite the fact that I’ve read the series a million times, they never fail to make me laugh.

Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus: I think it’s safe to say that this is the only series wherein my favorite character is the main character! I love Percy so much! In a way, I grew up with him as I read the books, and I think that really helped me grow to love him even more. Percy is so endearingly humorous, likable, and just… a fun guy! Even though he’s a very powerful demigod and his father is Poseidon, he acts, for the most part, like a normal teenaged guy.

Newt from The Maze Runner: (*Spoilers!) A Glader, and second-in-command to Alby, Newt is kind yet firm, and grows to be a good and loyal friend to Thomas. Perhaps not as fiery as Minho, Newt brings a more leveled personality to the story and is a very prominent character whom I grew to love and care about while reading the series. I was devastated when Janson (a.k.a. the Rat Man) read out the list of munies and Newt was not on it. It was very sad to see him lose his sanity, but I think he did contribute a lot to the team, and was sorely missed.

Azriel from A Court of Thorns and Roses: Quiet, dark, brooding, and mysterious, he doesn’t talk much, but when he does speak up, everyone pays attention because they know that whatever he has to say is important and significant. He’s an Illyrian warrior! Skilled in combat, he would make a deadly enemy. But he also has a sweet and gentle side. He’s very caring and respectful and enjoys having a laugh with his brother, Cassian, once in a while.

-Elina T.

Luna Lovegood Meets Rolf Scamander

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I absolutely love Luna! She’s one of my favorite characters. I also really loved the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so I decided to write out a scenario in which Luna and Rolf (Newt Scamander’s grandson) meet. They do actually meet and end up getting married, but this is an idea that I had of their first encounter.


“Oi!” 

Luna crept forward, gently pushing away some leaves to reveal a young man dashing about. It appeared as if he was searching for a lost possession. 

“Come back here!” He moaned, poking half-heartedly at a knot in a rather gnarled-looking tree. 

He jumped backward immediately, gasping as a flock of birds flew angrily from a branch far above. Luna peered past the shrub she was crouched behind, watching the figure before her as he restlessly ran his hands through his wavy auburn hair. After a few more minutes of searching through the underbrush and surrounding trees, the man sat on the forest floor, and reached out to bring a case toward him. 

Luna squinted-she hadn’t noticed the case before. She watched curiously as the box rattled slightly, as if something was trying to get out. The man simply sighed, leaning forward, and resting his arms on his case. 

Suddenly, Luna felt something tugging at her patchwork bag. 

“Oh!” She exclaimed, immediately clapping a hand over her mouth. 

Her protuberant eyes widened as she watched the man look up, jump to his feet, and pull out his wand. 

Thinking quickly, she decided upon revealing herself. She stood up, pulling the squirming creature from her bag. 

The man stopped short at the sight of her, tilting his head to the side as if deciding whether or not to trust her. 

“Who-?” 

“I’m sorry,” Luna said quickly, maneuvering around the shrub, and holding out the niffler. “I was out collecting freshwater plimpies, and thought I heard something. Is this yours?” 

The man nodded. “Freshwater plimpies prevalent around here?” He asked, stowing his wand back into his coat, and taking the niffler from Luna’s hands. “Thank you, by the way,” he added, indicating the niffler. “He’s always getting into trouble.”

“It’s quite alright,” said Luna, smiling serenely. “And yes, they are. I come down here to collect them every weekend. There’s a stream just down there,” she pointed back in the direction she had come, then looked at the man’s face more closely. “I feel like I’ve seen you before.”

The man, who had crouched down and unlatched the case, paused, studying Luna’s face, his sage-green eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed. 

“Well, I did go to Hogwarts. I’ve been out for a few years though,” he said, remembering he still had the niffler in his hands, and gently placing him into the case. 

“Oh! I went to Hogwarts as well. I was in Ravenclaw,” Luna exclaimed. 

He nodded slowly. “I thought I recognized you! What’s your name?”

“Luna Lovegood,” she said, holding out her hand. 

“I’m Rolf. Rolf Scamander,” he said, grasping her hand. “Pleasure.”

“Likewise,” replied Luna. “Oh, watch out!” She crouched down, catching the little niffler who had made another wild attempt at escape. 

Rolf shook his head, his wavy hair dangling just above his eyes. “He’s always doing that,” he said, once again taking the niffler from Luna and putting him into the case. 

“Hold on,” said Luna, rummaging through her bag and fishing out a few golden galleons. “Here you go!” She held the shiny coins out to the niffler, who nimbly plucked them from her outstretched palm and retreated back into the case. 

Rolf grinned and looked up at the peculiar girl. “Thanks Luna.” He straightened, clutching his case, which was now securely latched shut. “Need any help with the freshwater plimpies?” 


-Elina T.