The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic fictional nation known as Panem, located in the midwestern United States. The novel’s protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, and she must survive a deadly competition known as the “Hunger Games.”

Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which is like states. Each district has a specialty; for example, Katniss is from District Twelve, which specializes in coal mining. Because of a failed rebellion years before, each of the districts is required to send one “tribute” to an annual event known as the Hunger Games, during which two tributes from each district, a male and female, all fight to the death to claim the glorious title of “victor.”

The story begins before the Reaping, an event that chooses the two tributes from each district by random. Katniss’s younger sister is drawn, but Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place, knowing that going means almost certain death. Chosen alongside Katniss is the male tribute, named Peeta.

Katniss and Peeta are both sent to the Capitol, a wealthy and powerful state that rules over all the districts and runs the Hunger Games for its own entertainment. Together with their coach and advisor, they begin to prepare for the Hunger Games, training and making alliances with other tributes.

I would recommend the Hunger Games because of the extreme suspense that the author creates while the tributes are fighting during the games. The story is touching, but it contains extreme violence, so I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers.

-Josh N. 

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring is the first novel in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The story is centered upon a magic ring found by Bilbo Baggins sixty years earlier during The Hobbit that must be destroyed. Bilbo has aged by the time of The Fellowship of the Ring, so with the advice of Gandalf, a powerful wizard, he passes the Ring on to his cousin Frodo and leaves for a “vacation.”

Years pass and Gandalf returns, and he discovers that the magic ring is no ordinary magic ring and that it is the ring of a powerful dark lord named Sauron. Gandalf tells Frodo that if the Ring were to fall into the hands of Sauron, he would conquer the world, and therefore it must be destroyed.

Gandalf sends Frodo, escorted by his friends Sam, Merry, and Pippin, to escort the Ring to Riverdale, an elven stronghold, where the fate of the Ring would be decided. Along the way, they face many threats, like the Ringwraiths, Sauron’s powerful servants. At Riverdale, it is decided that the Ring could only be destroyed in Mount Doom, a volcano near Sauron’s fortress where the Ring was forged in.

Frodo volunteers to travel to Mount Doom, and he is escorted by his friends, Gandalf, and some of the greatest heroes of Middle-Earth (the fictional world the story takes place in). The rest of the book is about the fellowship’s travels and adventures, and how they deal with problems and threats that they face on their journey to Mount Doom.

Ultimately, The Fellowship of the Ring is a good book, although it is quite long. I would recommend it to readers who love really long stories filled with action and adventure, like Greek epics such as the Iliad and Odyssey.

-Josh N. 

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front is a war novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The title is an allusion to a German army report that stated “All quiet on the Western Front” because there was no military activity that day. The novel is about German soldier Paul, who serves in World War I. As the war progresses, Paul begins to wonder what causes men of the same generation to fight one another, and he begins to wonder what future he will have after all the suffering he has seen.

The novel begins as Paul and his comrades line up for their meal. The men are joyful, for there is excess food, due to the fact that over half of their regiment had been killed on the Western Front. They speak of home and their past. However, as time passes, tragedies occur as one by one, Paul’s friends are taken from him. As Paul witnesses the suffering around him, he cannot help but wonder what about human nature causes men, who have no personal grievances against each other, to slaughter one another.

Paul soon no longer cares for anything. He longs for neither home nor peace; the only thing that matters to him is his comrades. He believes that his generation is lost, that they were irreversibly cut off from their past, that the war consumed them and prevented any hope of a future, and that they would be rejected by previous and following generations.

All Quiet on the Western Front reveals major themes about human nature and war, like what causes a soldier to kill another soldier, despite the fact that they have never known each other and harbor no grievances against each other. Overall, it’s a classic with many relevant themes and should be read by everyone; however, it does contain lots of violence and some inappropriate scenes.

-Josh N.

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

Book Review Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck’s classic novella Of Mice and Men is about two ranch workers, during the Great Depression. Both of these men are the exact opposite of each other: Lennie is large, but he loves touching soft things and he is mentally paired, while George is small but intelligent. Together, they travel from ranch to ranch, with the dream of owning land.

At the beginning of the story, the two arrive at a new ranch, after being chased out of their old one, since Lennie had done a “bad thing.” On this ranch, the two meet Candy, an old, physically disabled ranch worker, who greatly cares for his old dog, a parallel to George and Lennie’s relationship. George and Lennie realize that with Candy’s help, their dream of owning land and rabbits is obtainable until all their plans are disrupted by a flirtatious woman, the wife of their boss’s son.

Steinbeck’s novella portrays the theme that the best plans often go amiss, and that immigrants often come to America because of their hopes and dreams. Despite George, Lennie, and Candy’s careful planning, their vision fails to materialize, showing that nothing in life goes perfectly. In addition, Steinbeck’s novella shows that people often come to America due to the opportunities and lack of a rigid class structure. People often come to America because like George and Lennie, they have dreams of moving upwards socially, economically, and politically that they cannot accomplish in their current country.

Overall, I would recommend Of Mice and Men to students seventh grade and above, due to the dialect of the characters, author’s writing style, and strong language. It is definitely a classic, with universal and significant themes relevant in society.

– Josh N.

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

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a realistic fiction novel about two teenagers who suffer from cancer.

The story begins with Hazel, who is seventeen and suffering from advanced thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer limits her ability to interact with others, so she mostly stays home, watching television and reading. As a result, her parents and doctor believe she is suffering from depression, so she is forced into a cancer support group.

At this support group, she encounters Augustus Waters, another teenage cancer survivor who lost a leg. Hazel and Augustus instantly click with one another, discovering that they both love literature.

After the support group, Hazel introduces Augustus to her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction. The two are frustrated since the novel offers no closure; it ends in mid-sentence as if the author died. They continuously attempt to contact and meet the author, who lives in Amsterdam, which is the novel’s main plotline.

Over the course of the novel, both characters begin to bond with one another, discovering what they have in common, and their relationship eventually develops into a sad, but bright romance.

The Fault in Our Stars is a great novel, filled with slight humor and relatable characters, it is heartbreaking at the same time since it causes the reader to realize that real people suffer from cancer. The Fault in Our Stars opens the reader’s eyes to the world of cancer survivors and people who suffer from disabilities, which is why I’d recommend it.

-Josh N

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is a fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. The book is set in a world filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, magic, and all sorts of strange creatures, known as Middle-Earth. In The Hobbit, a company of dwarves, along with a wizard, attempt to reclaim their lost kingdom and gold, which have been taken by a dragon.

The book’s protagonist is a hobbit, a race similar to humans, but shorter than dwarves, named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lives a quiet, ordinary life inside his hobbit-hole, until one day a mysterious wizard named Gandalf the Grey and a company of thirteen dwarves show up at his doorstep, asking him to join their quest to reclaim their gold and slay the ferocious dragon Smaug. Bilbo initially refuses, but eventually gives in to temptation, and soon he, the dwarves, and wizard are thrown into an action-filled adventure.

The Hobbit mainly shows Bilbo’s growth and transformation into a hero as the dwarves are traveling towards their goal. Against obstacle after obstacle, Bilbo begins to prove his usefulness and worth, as he saves the dwarves from countless threats, from elven kings to deadly spiders.

The Hobbit is a great book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is filled with adventure and there is action at every turn. Overall, The Hobbit is a classic novel that should be read by everyone.

-Josh N. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm takes place on a mismanaged farm in England. The animals, upset with their treatment, prepare a rebellion to take over the farm. Once the farm is taken over, the animals attempt to validate their rights by painting seven commandments on the wall; these commandments are known as “animalism,” and they set the basic laws for the farm animals. These laws are: whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. no animal shall wear clothes, no animal shall sleep in a bed, no animal shall drink alcohol, no animal shall kill any other animal, all animals are equal, and whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. In addition, the farm, known as the Manor Farm, is renamed into Animal Farm.

Soon after the animals seize control of the farm, the pigs, the leaders of the farm, run into management issues. The two leaders of the farm, Snowball and Napoleon, can not decide how they want to run the farm; Snowball wants a windmill to be constructed in order to reduce work hours, while Napoleon believes a hard-working, simple farm is the happiest lifestyle the animals can work.

Day after day, the pigs become more human than animal, and they begin to slowly change the seven commandments, in order to manipulate and dominate over the other animals. For instance, the law “no animal shall drink alcohol” is changed into “no animal shall drink alcohol to excess,” and as time goes on, the pigs even begin to purge the farm of opposition to their reign.

Animal Farm reflects history since it shows even a government with the noblest intentions can be corrupted. Snowball represents the idea of capitalism, while Napoleon represents communism. Napoleon controls the farm through the belief that the animals are their own rulers, and that they are better off ruling themselves than they were under the reign of humans. The reality is that Napoleon is simply deceiving the animals with words and numbers, as the pigs slowly force the other animals into submission until the animals cannot differentiate pig from human.

-Josh N. 

Animal Farm is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive