1Q94 by Haruki Murakami

A mesmerizing collision of sci-fi and dystopian fiction, 1Q84 is a different take on the classic to George Orwell’s 1984. This book really caught my attention because it was written by a Japanese author, which is something unique from anything I’ve written because of how it was translated from Japanese to English! Taking place in Tokyo, Japan in the fictionalized year of 1Q84, which obviously is based on 1984, this rich story explores mature themes of violence, romance, and underlying dark motives. If you know about 1984, you’ll definitely see similarities between these books as they both involve organizations putting people under surveillance to discover parts of their life.

1Q84 revolves around the perspectives of 3 different characters: Masami Aomame, a 30-year-old woman who is a very meticulous assassin who goes by “Aomame”, Tengo, a writer who also works as a math tutor, and Ushikawa, a strangely unattractive man who is hired to investigate Tengo and Aomame when introduced in the 3rd part of the story.

I want to emphasize that this book is not for the faint of heart and the young reader, as there are many topics explored that should be read by older audiences. Anyways, despite the fact that there are many complications that involve violence and even brainwashing, I found this story quite interesting because it actually ended up being an eventful journey of a one-of-a-kind love story that involves rekindling past relationships. This book is truly different from anything I have read, and while writing this I found it a bit hard trying to put my thoughts into words because it is such an indescribable story. It’s one of the most, I guess, “adulty” books I’ve read and I feel like reading this has really broadened not only my reading preferences but my reading ability!

So, if you are looking for a strange book unlike anything you have read before or to expand your reading capabilities, definitely go check out 1Q84!

-Julianne T.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

My Love for Spirited Away

Spirited Away.

My favorite Studio Ghibli movie.

The first Studio Ghibli movie I’ve ever seen.

Your beautiful music, extraordinary characters, breathtaking visuals, transported me to a world that I wish I could stay in for the rest of my life. You make me cry, laugh, smile, blush, and drag my cursor across my laptop to restart the entire movie all over again. It’s a story of compassion, romance, humor, and so much more to me that just animations on a screen.

Chihiro, one of the main characters, is someone that I love dearly in this movie. To be honest, she actually sort of annoyed me when I first met her; she had an annoying voice and was a bit clumsy. But as the movie progressed, she underwent this amazing character development that warms my heart every time I see it happen. She goes through homesickness, young love with a boy named Haku (which is the CUTEST thing by the way), fear, and so many more events that shape her into the person that she becomes at the end of the movie.

Though there are quite a lot of fantastical elements to follow along (which can be confusing in many cases), it blended beautifully into an intricate storyline that was still able to appeal to my young self. There are creatures that make you wonder what it would be like to live in a world with them, from talking frogs to even a giant baby! Many have unique abilities that range from magic to being able to consume large amounts of food.

All in all, Spirited Away is a movie that I think everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. I, for one, have seen it at least 5 times and never get tired of it at all. It is more than just a movie, it is a lesson, an emotional rollercoaster, an immersive experience that provides you with such detailed insight into the world of Spirited Away. I envy Chihiro as much as I envy every other character who has the privilege of being able to forever live in this universe, and not a day goes by when I don’t wish I lived in such a mysterious world.

But for now, I guess watching the movie on repeat will have to do 🙂

-Juliannae T.

Spirited Away is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Why Avatar: The Last Airbender Deserves All the Hype it Gets

February 21, 2005.

The day that the legendary TV show Avatar:The Last Airbender (A:TLA) debuted on Nickelodeon. Now, you might be thinking, what’s so cool about a kid’s cartoon show? But, from it’s beautiful cultural representation to how it introduces mature themes in a lighthearted way, I can say with 100% certainty that A:TLA has forever made its mark as one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

I’m sure that all of us have heard the iconic intro of A:TLA one way or another:

“Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished.

A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang, and although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone.

But I believe Aang can save the world.”

To provide a brief summary, this TV show takes place in a world divided into four different nations that are based on elements of the world: Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. In this universe, there are people who are called Benders, who are able to control and manipulate the element of their respective nation. And as you probably read from the opening, the Avatar is a person who is able to control all 4 elements. Aang, who is an airbender and happens to be the last one of his kind, is discovered in an iceberg (along with his amazing sky bison, Appa) by Katara, a waterbender, and her brother Sokka, who are members of the Southern Water Tribe. The Water Tribes take inspiration from Inuit, Yupik, and Sirenik Eskimos (which can be seen in their attire and their living conditions), and waterbending is a clear parallel to the Chinese martial art Tai Chi!

Because Aang was discovered to be alive, since it was widely believed that the Avatar had died (because Aang was trapped in that iceberg for 100 years), Zuko, the prince of the Fire Nation, along with his wise Uncle Iroh are on the hunt to find the Avatar and reclaim Zuko’s honor. To provide some background, during the time when Aang was in the iceberg, the Hundred-Year War raged on, allowing the Fire Nation to take over many parts of the world. The Fire Nation is a very well done portrayal of real-life imperialism, and firebending takes inspiration from the Northern Shaolin martial art.

Along the way, they encounter many different types of people, including a talented earthbender named Toph, a skilled warrior named Suki, and Azula, Zuko’s younger sister who is a firebending prodigy and a manipulative mastermind, along with her two friends, Mai and Ty Lee.

Of course, the things that I have described in this review is only a brief summary of this show and only scratches the surface of what this show has to offer. It explores how to live with the loss of loved ones, with Katara losing her mother to the Fire Nation, understanding inner turmoils when deciding your identity, which is shown in Zuko’s beautiful character arc, and even dealing with other historical events, such as underground brainwashing and corrupt governments. Yet, despite the various themes and dark occurrences that this show goes in-depth about, A:TLA still manages to capture the attention of viewers from all ages, while still having a detailed, well-written plot intertwined with the illustration of various cultures. I really cannot stress enough how much I love this show, and being able to rewatch it on Netflix after years and years of not remembering it was an amazing experience for me. So please, if you haven’t seen this show, I am urging you to watch it, and I hope that you too can embark on this journey as Team Avatar works together to save the world!!

Yip yip!

-Juianne T.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

It’s not very often that you find a book that you think about on the daily. A book whose plot is so intricate and thought-provoking that its messages are imprinted into your brain. But The Alchemist is just that. A beautiful combination of fantasy elements intertwined with real-life lessons, this is definitely worth reading for those looking for a far-from-cliché book.

This book follows the journey of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd, with a dream that ironically keeps him up at night. In order to decipher what he believes to be a prophecy, he encounters many different people who give Santiago their own two cents. One of the most memorable meetings is with a man named King Melchizedek, who brings up this idea of a “Personal Legend”. In the words of the king, it is “what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their personal legend is. That theme is weaved throughout the book, and continues to fuel Santiago’s thirst for knowledge and adventure, and through his ups and downs of finding love and struggling through failure, he discovers the treasure his dream has been showing him.

The Alchemist is unique in the sense that it allows the reader to really immerse themselves into Santiago. They can easily relate and absorb the lessons Santiago receives along the way, rather than just skimming over them. Though this story is only a little over 160 pages (and I wish it was longer), there is so much wisdom packed into every page of this story.

As an avid fantasy and science-fiction reader, I was a bit wary starting this story. But, I believe the valuable teachings within The Alchemist are worth reading and knowing about, no matter what type(s) of genre(s) you enjoy! After all, anyone could use a little bit of enlightenment. 🙂

-Julianne T.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Relevance of The Hate You Give

If you’ve been on any type of social media, or practically any corner of the internet, you are probably aware of the current Black Lives Matter movement and its impact. As a current activist writer, it only felt right for me to talk about this subject which I am very passionate about. So, I wanted to write a little something about one of my favorite books that address racial injustice – The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Its story follows the journey of a Starr Carter, a black 16-year old high schooler who witnesses her best friend, Khalil, become a victim of police brutality.

Reading this book and subsequently watching the movie made me feel incredibly emotional and break down into tears. It was a truly heartbreaking experiencing Starr’s inner turmoils and the fear she had about speaking out, and it highlighted the vast difference between privileged and underprivileged communities. This story was filled with all sorts of obstacles for Starr, from having to hide Khalil’s motives due to underlying gang conflicts, to deaingl with a racist friend who was insensitive and misinformed. As the story progressed, it was infuriating reading that the police officer who killed Khalil was not going to be prosecuted. However, this led to many protests that demanded justice for Khalil, a perfect parallel to current events that have been occurring all across the country, and all around the world.

Though, in the end, (spoiler alert for those who want to read it!), Khalil’s murderer does not end up being prosecuted, Starr still fights to keep his legacy alive and remains active in the fight against racism. Similar to today, people are continuing to fight for those who have not gained justice for being killed due to the prevalence of xenophobia. However, recognizing the importance of this book and the lessons and information it contains about our society can lead you one step closer to understanding how you can help raise awareness and demand change, especially in a world overrun by oppression. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!!

Helpful link for those who want to find ways to contribute: https://blacklivesmatter.carrd.co

-Julianne T.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.