Fall!

It’s almost the first day of fall (September 22, specifically) and there’s no better way to kick off this wonderful season than giving you some tips to have the best time ever. Autumn 2018 is definitely going to be one for the books!

When I think of fall, football games, pumpkin patches and other outdoor activities come to mind:

-Show some school spirit and spend a Friday evening at your school’s football stands with your best buds to cheer on your home team! If you’re not a huge football fan, no worries. . .

-You can head on over to a pumpkin patch with your family or friends! Have a competition to see who can pick the biggest, oddest or most colorful pumpkin and definitely snap a few photos for social media.

-And if you’re into the spookiness fall has to offer, find some brave friends and walk through a haunted house or maze–if you dare.

Now, what’s fall without tasty treats?

-First of all, pumpkin spice lattes are now back in season and personally, I believe fall practically wouldn’t exist without these warm cups of goodness.

-Actually, pumpkin, cinnamon, and vanilla anything is ideal. Whether it be scones, muffins, pie or even pumpkin pie frozen yogurt, satisfy your sweet tooth craving and dig in!

-Or if you’re into baking, look up some fun DIY recipes to bake and share with your family. They’d appreciate your effort and thought–and they’d enjoy the deliciousness of fall flavor!

Lastly, I wouldn’t be writing for this blog if I didn’t have any book recommendations. Grab your fuzzy blanket, light a candle and get reading.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. A heartwarming novel about a young girl in seemingly miserable situation who crosses paths with the adorable Winn Dixie, a lovable dog who lights up her life.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Written by the “Queen of Mystery” herself, this novel keeps you on your toes until the last page. (As do many of her other books–check them out!! They make for a great nighttime read.)

The Fault in our Stars by John Green. An oldie but a goodie. Who doesn’t like to read a teenage romance novel every once in awhile? Green’s unique love plot dances in and out of humor, sorrow and everything in between.

Even if you’re bogged down with schoolwork, SATs or college applications, try giving yourself some personal time to relax and enjoy all autumn has to offer! I hope this post could give some inspiration to have some fun during the last few months of 2018!

-Jessica T.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

This book was one I randomly picked up mainly because the cover art was interesting and seemingly had nothing to do with the synopsis. (I later discovered that the tent on the cover was intricately woven into the plot, which took me by surprise.) The story line intertwines the lives of three girls from three time eras: Adri from 2065, Catherine from 1934 and Lenore from 1919.

2065: Futuristic Adri is prepping to take a one-way trip to Mars in hopes of finding a feasible way for human life to prosper there. As she trains for her flight, she stays in Kansas at her distant cousin’s house. Here, she finds a journal and letters of a girl that lived there over one hundred years ago, thus leading to a puzzle of the past that Adri is determined to solve.

1934: Living in Kansas during the treacherous Dust Bowl, fear and unpredictability of the future sinks its claws into Catherine’s family and lover. She must overcome all odds and find the strength to do what she deems right to save the person she loves the most. Even if it means running in the opposite direction of everyone’s advice and never looking back.

1919: Lenore struggles to recover from the impact of World War I and the loss of her brother by keeping her chin up and sending letters to her best friend. She decides to move to America in hopes of finding a better, happier life but obstacles make her journey nothing less than arduous.

I thought there was no possible way these three girls could have anything in common, especially if they’re all from drastically different time periods. However, Jodi Lynn Anderson found a clever way to link them all together, while highlighting the balance between family and friends, fate and adventure. All the pieces clicked into place seamlessly and made for a beautiful plot.

Midnight at the Electric was one of those books I couldn’t stop reading and once I finished, I had to take a minute to gather myself before continuing on with life. I definitely recommend this book to those who want something mysteriously intriguing but also touching and easy-to-read!

-Jessica T.

The Joy of Summer

Summer is more than just a season to me. To me, it’s the anthem of teenage freedom, the epitome of happiness, the release of stress. Every year, summer gets better because I learn to enjoy it more. From the outrageous heat to the cooling ocean, from late nights out with friends to weekends with family, summer is the season I live for and thrive in.

The heat wraps its arms around me when I step outside and although I relentlessly complain about the warmth, I am ever so grateful for the sunshine. The bright light pours down on me, leaving my skin sunkissed and my hair lighter. The long days under the sun feel like an eternity of bliss. It’s tangible happiness that makes me both long for the coolness of fall and desire to soak up every ray. Finally, after twelve hours of light, the sun bids the world goodnight and paints an incomprehensibly beautiful sunset. The pink and orange mix with the blue and purple on Mother Nature’s canvas, leaving me in awe and wonder.

A true blessing of summer is the liberty of swimming in the ocean for hours. The waves of Laguna Beach save me from the scorching heat and free me from all my responsibilities. Shocking coldness sends chills up my body but once I jump in and plunge my head under the salty water, it’s as if everything is right in the world. The ocean is a huge basin of excitement that allows me to float on your back, dive under the waves or ride them to shore. It’s calming and exhilarating, addicting and tiring all at once.

The beauty of this season is the joy of being with my loved ones. There’s nothing better in the world than making last minute plans to ride the trolley and hit the beach with my best friends or drive down to McDonald’s late at night to grab ice cream with my family. Adventure is everywhere and summer enables me to share those adventures with anyone at almost any given time. The long days and late nights are memories I will never forget or trade for anything.

Happiness can never be stripped from me and my smile seems to be etched into my face. I am joyful, I am energetic, I am forever in love with summer. And I hold onto these feelings and memories throughout the school year, reminding me that it’s only a matter of time before summer 2019 begins and I get to experience summer all over again.

-Jessica T.

Stress to Service

Stress:

Google says it’s “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”

According to psychology, it’s “uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes”

And students agree stress is “AP exams, finals, CIF games and oh, those two projects I won’t be starting until the night before”

In the wee hours of the night, students strive to obtain the intense desire for success

And the wee hours of the night cook the perfect atmosphere for boiling stress.

A child, a baby: a mere fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old

Persisting, working, sweating like a mule until their transcript shows all gold.

Who can expect a student to sleep eight hours a night but juggle five hours of work?

The expectations, I’d say, are more than enough to irk.

Every year the college acceptance rates drastically drop

And little boys and girls suddenly forget what it means to take a break

and just stop.

Tell me why students who sacrifice their health and sleep

Are still expected to be a lively teen and not weep.

Convince me that students are making the right decisions

In cheating on tests, just to get the “A” and fulfill their college envisions.

Persuade me that the education system is treating their students right

and brainwashing us to believe that a score of 5 is what makes us bright.

Let’s start to encourage using our passion and our voices

To stand up and help society make the right choices.

To be politicized and involved while we’re youthful, proud, and loud.

Time is running out, we can’t wait around.

Third world countries await our kindness, shelters demand our service, feminists deserve our support.

In all due respect, that is more important and influential than a chemistry lab report.

-Jessica T.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This was yet another book assigned to me in my English class this year. Surprisingly, contrary to the other books our class has read, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Typically, I have a strong repulsive reflex to gore and all war related subjects. The discomfort my stomach feels and the immense sorrow I feel for fallen soldiers weighs my heart down. Remarque’s novel did just that but to my surprise, this book is one I’d read again.

Nineteen year old Paul Baumer narrates the daily lives of him and his German companions as they experience the horrors of World War I. Technological and warfare advancements such as trench warfare, tanks and poison gas pose serious threat to these inexperienced young boys. Paul gives a detailed account of the inhumane living conditions and terrific attacks where every man’s life is on the line and chance is the determining factor if one lives or gets blown up. A reader gets to meet and befriend all of Paul’s closest companions: Kat, Tjaden, Kropp, Kemmerich and others that Remarque reveals are the only people in the world that can understand and love Paul. Together they flirt with girls in attempt to regain their innocence and connection of the world they left behind and together they fight to survive, not only to keep themselves alive but to stay alive to support and comfort each other. There are humorous moments and there are melancholic moments that all coalesce to make Remarque’s masterpiece.

Like many war novels, the conditions and experiences sound absurd to civilians back at home. However, while majority of war novels glorify the bravery and heroism of soldiers, Remarque’s novel takes an opposing standpoint. War is not beautiful nor adventurous; war is a slaughterhouse that takes souls, strips them of innocence and leaves them fearful and desensitized. I love that Remarque chooses to focus on the negative effects of war and admonishes society for our constant exaltation of combat. Young children in our society have minds filled to the brim of the same ideals that Paul and his friends were taught in grade school. Their teacher, Kantorek, pounds patriotism into their young minds and shoves the hungry desire for glory down their throats. But the brutality of war destroyed any want to serve their country and gain homage back at home; Remarque desperately wants society to recognize his pleas of reducing war glorification.

The loss of innocence and the admonishing of war glorification is only two of the numerous themes depicted in this work. There are touching themes of friendship and there are heart wrenching themes of the Lost Generation that make the reader reflect on humanity and the value of life rather than spurring the reader into an acclaim of warfare. Remarque’s work is bittersweet, providing immense catharsis but an unsettling question in the back of one’s mind. Is war worth the pain? Are those who survive wars really surviving if they come back home only to suffer from PTSD and detachment from a life they once lived? There is no other book I’d recommend to a reader who wants a gripping but thought-provoking read.

-Jessica T.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is availalbe for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I just finished reading this book early in the morning, shortly before 1 am and to put it simply, I am still in awe as I write this. I’ve never read a book that was so casually written yet so beautiful and articulate. While writing in letter format may seem improper for a published book, the style of writing produces a personal touch that is key to the novel.

Stephen Chbosky follows the coming of age story of a young freshmen boy, who goes by Charlie. Charlie is writing to an anonymous friend and refuses to use real names of people in his life as to protect their privacy. This friend and these letters are Charlie’s source of comfort and security as he adventures through life, beginning high school without a close relationship to his family members or friends and ending his first year with new best friends. This book touches on topics that people are sadly to afraid to talk about such as depression, abuse and the difficulties many teens face as they grow up. It’s incredibly relatable and emotionally touching; you can feel Charlie’s heartbreak and you can almost touch his strong passion for those he learns to love. You can sense the bittersweetness pouring out of the pages, you can laugh at Charlie’s dry, innocent humor. Chbosky ensures a roller coaster of emotions while providing in depth insight to the simplistic yet so complex teenage mind.

I will warn that some scenes or conversations are explicit; I know many high schoolers have been exposed to these topics but some aren’t comfortable reading about it. If that applies to you as a reader, then I don’t suggest checking this book out. However, if you are still curious and unfazed, I think this is an important read because it shows teens out there that they aren’t alone in whatever they’re struggling with, no matter what it is. It also comforts them in knowing that there are kind people in the world that are willing to befriend them and help them solve their problems in a positive way that changes them for the better. Even if the road is bumpy and painful, the destination always proves to be worth the drive if one keeps pushing on. Chbosky attempts to explain that while the teenage years are full of hardships and confusion, everyone finds their way sooner or later. And until one reaches that point of self-confidence, the journey there is a learning experience that shapes you into the person you will be out in the “real world”.

-Jessica T.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

1984 by George Orwell

All of my previous book reviews have suggested and encouraged readers to check out that specific novel, for it appealed to me; however, this time around, while I still recommend my audience to read 1984 by George Orwell, I cannot say I enjoyed reading it. Dystopian novels have never interested me, nor have they ever made me feel good after reading. A sense of uneasiness settles in my gut as I begin to think about the messages the author is voicing about our societies and worlds. 1984 is a dystopian novel, foreshadowing the downfall of our society if we allow political authority and sovereignty to fall into the wrong hands. Orwell, motivated to write after witnessing the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, demonstrates that dictators and despots threaten to plague our governments and therefore, our societies as a whole.

In the superstate Oceania, citizens are constantly supervised by the overruling government named the Party. The face of the Party is Big Brother, a man alluding to Stalin and his dictatorship. The Party hides behind totalitarian fear tactics: installing telescreens in every home and microphones in every corner, threatening to “vaporize” those disobedient citizens who turn against the ultimately powerful Party, brainwashing children into Junior Spies who ruthlessly turn in their rebellious parents and fixedly revering Big Brother. History, language, culture and lifestyle are all dictated by the Party. Laws ban politically rebellious words and replace them with the common language, Newspeak, which aims to suppress individualistic thinking and expression. The manipulation of history and human existence serve to fulfill governmental prophecies and create the illusion that the government is omniscient. The Party enforces acceptance and belief in hypocritical statements; this concept is called doublethink. Civilization’s purpose remains to serve the Party by obeying all laws, submitting to Big Brother as a faithful member and believing all slogans of the Party, no matter how contradictory they appear to be.

Winston Smith is portrayed as an average Party member on the surface but his ability to individually wonder and question the Party’s motives lead to conflict. He realizes he is not alone in his silent fight against the Party when he meets seemingly allies. The mysteries behind many concepts and characters illustrate the theme of appearance versus reality. I will admit this novel is full of plot twists, loss and betrayal, making for an interesting read. However, I will say that the ending disappointed me greatly.

Nonetheless, Orwell presents important ideas about our future as a society using allusion and foreshadowing channeled through various characters. As 1984 in my opinion is an important read but not a captivating novel, I rate it a 3/10.

-Jessica T.

George Orwell’s 1984 is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive