Movie Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is a Studio Ghibli classic, one based of a book of the same name. The gorgeous animations, lovable characters, and peaceful vibe of the movie make it one of my favorites. Howl’s Moving Castle follows a young woman, Sophie, who works as a hat-maker, content with a boring life. One day, a witch comes into her shop and curses her to look like an old lady. Sophie decides to seek out the feared witch Howl and his moving home, and gets caught up helping him resist fighting in the war sweeping the nation.

The movie’s director, Hayao Miyazaki, was influenced by his anger about the United State’s invasion of Iraq, and included many anti-war themes in the film. I also enjoyed the fact that the movie depicted old age in a positive light. Being seen as an old woman helped Sophie be stronger and bolder in standing up for herself. In many ways, Howl’s Moving Castle has many deeper meanings.

From the luscious green hills to the dark war scenes, Howl’s Moving Castle is truly a gorgeous animation. The characters are all very interesting as well, with Calcifer, the sarcastic fire demon, to Markl, the young apprentice with much to learn, and of course, Howl, who is much more than just a vain wizard.

-Kelsie W.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon tells the story of Eragon, a young man living in the quiet Palancar Valley, far from the eyes of the Empire. Eragon’s world is turned upside down when he finds a strange-looking rock in the dangerous Spine-which turns out to be a dragon egg. When the wicked King Galbatorix comes sends his monstrous servants called the Ra’zac to find him, Eragon must escape with his dragon, Saphira, and an old storyteller, Brom. While on their journey, Brom teaches Eragon and Saphira the ways of the Rider and how to use the ancient language to command magic. On the way, Eragon, Brom, and Saphira meet new friends and foes-and uncover new secrets.

Eragon is an incredible read that I would highly recommend. Paolini’s style of writing is extremely impressive, with his descriptions and imagery. The characters are very interesting as well, with Eragon thinking more on his feet, and Saphira being the voice of reason. The intricacy of Eragon and the different backstories, plot twists, and connections just add to the magic of Eragon.

I would recommend Eragon to anyone who enjoys long books about fantasy, magic, and mythical creatures. Eragon is part of a series, with three other books-Eldest, Brisingir, and Inheritance.

-Kelsie W.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

American Royals by Katharine McGee

The book American Royals is about what would happen if America had a monarchy instead of a democracy. American Royals focuses on four girls- Beatrice, next in line for the throne, Sam, who only sees herself as the spare, Nina, a common girl thrown into the spotlight, and Daphne, who will do anything for the throne.

All four of them go through hardships during the book as well. Beatrice is forced to choose between her duty and her happiness, and Sam struggles with always being in second place. Daphne, on the other hand, spends the majority of the book plotting to take back what she sees as rightfully hers. Finally, Sam is thrown into the spotlight, after her relationship with Jefferson, the prince, is revealed. Beatrice, Sam, Daphne, and Nina must face problems and conflicts head-on all while keeping their perfect image and facing the general public’s fluctuating. opinion on them. 

I enjoyed the book very much, especially the four different perspectives for each of the girls. It definitely makes you wonder what would happen if America did have a monarchy, and whether it would be for the better or for worse.I would recommend American Royals to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction and romance novels. There is also a sequel to American Royals, which is called Majesty

-Kelsie W.

American Royals by Katherine McGee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Melora “Lore” Perseous is done with the Agon and it’s bloody aftermath. Years ago, after her family was killed, Lore refused to take part in the Agon, which instructs the gods to become mortals for a week, allowing any mortal hunter to kill a god and recieve their power, who then becomes the leader of their ancestral family. After years of this, the only original gods that remain are Athena, Artemis, Apollo, and Dionysus. During a street fight, which is how Lore makes her money, a familiar face from her childhood shows up, warning her of danger. Lore shrugs it off and returns home, only to find a deathly injured Athena at her doorstep. With no other choice, Melora is dragged back into the ruthless world of Gods and Goddesses, to stop a power hungry new god with ambitious plans for the world.

I loved ‘Lore’ and enjoyed reading it, although I admit that it can be a bit confusing if you’re not a bit familiar with Greek Mythology. Melora’s perseverance and bravery is definitely to be admired. With the different characters and personalities, the author makes it hard to find any boring part. Athena, who’s a frightening and self-assured goddess, Castor, Lore’s childhood friend who will do anything to keep her safe, Van, an uptight and serious young man, has one goal: keep Castor safe. Finally, Miles, Lore’s friend who knows nothing of the Agon but is determined to help. Alexandra Bracken’s ‘Lore’ seems almost reminiscent of ‘The Hunger Games’ with it’s bloody tournament, brave and loyal protagonist, and male counterpart, who’s kind and devoted. I highly recommend ‘Lore’, for those who enjoy Greek Mythology, ‘The Hunger Games’, fantasy, and action with a bit of slow-burn romance.

-Kelsie W.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems is the third and final book of the series Crazy Rich Asians, which looks at the powerful families of Singapore and their insane shenanigans. Rich People Problems takes place two years after the evens of ‘China Rich Girlfriend’, and Nick and Rachel are happily married and living in Manhattan, when Nick gets a call from his mother, Eleanor Young, that his grandmother, Su Yi is in the hospital from a heart attack and that Nick should come and make up with her before she dies. Nick, after being estranged from her for years after Su Yi refused to let him marry Rachel, feels guilty and decides to see after encouragement from Rachel. Meanwhile, the entire Shang-Young clan goes out to visit Su Yi to get in her good graces and hopefully be put in her will. Eddie Chang, who believes that he has a shot of inheriting Tyersall Park, Su Yi’s home, refuses to let Nick see their grandmother, in fear that Su Yi will change it again. Meanwhile, Astrid Leong, Nick’s beloved cousin, is re-engaged to Charlie Wu, while facing roadblocks such as her scorned ex-husband, Michael Teo, and Charlie’s ex-wife, Isabel.

Rich People Problems is hilarious, and probably my favorite out of the trilogy, seeing the entire clan pay attention to Su Yi only when they want her money. The ending is unpredictable, and the different characters and personalities make it an extremely interesting read. I highly recommend reading Rich People Problems for those who like realistic fiction and humor.

-Kelsie W

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up is probably one of the books that I’ve read the most during quarantine. “we all looked up” tells the story of the entire world having two months- two months to live, two months until the asteroid would inevitably collide with Earth. We All Looked Up follows four main people, Peter, Eliza, Andy, and Anita. Peter, the stereotyped jock, wants to become a better person and make an impact. Eliza, the typical shunned rebel, finds companionship in others, one being Andy, a person who’s only passion seems to be music. Finally, Anita, who’s parents put immense pressure on her to be the best, finds peace in singing.

I enjoyed We All Looked Up because it felt real and not sugar coated. We All Looked Up covered many topics, such as suicide, but also didn’t have to have a miracle ending to be a good and entertaining read. We All Looked Up feels raw, capturing the emotions that are experienced during intermediate/high school, the fear of growing up, the drama that can happen, and the fear of the unknown. I highly recommend We All Looked Up to those who enjoy realistic fiction and young adult novels.

-Kelsie W.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us is Lying is about four high school seniors, who are all quite stereotypical people in a high school, the jock, Cooper Clay, the prom queen, Addy Prentiss,  the “nerd”, Bronwyn Rojas, and the delinquent, Nate Macauley. However, when the four of them meet in an unfair detention, along with Simon Kelleher, the self-proclaimed “omniscient narrator” and person in charge of the gossip app named “About That”, which talks about the school’s gossip, although only using initials. 

However, the detention quickly turns into a crime scene when Simon dies due to a peanut allergy, with all the epi-pens in the nurse’s office mysteriously gone. All four of them are later questioned, when the police find that Simon had drunk a large amount of peanut oil prior to his death. They all deny knowing anything, though. Later, all four students are separately called to the police station and told that before his death, Simon had queued up a post which details each of their secrets- Cooper used steroids for his baseball performance, Bronwyn stole tests, Nate is dealt drugs, which violates his parole, and that Addy had cheated on her boyfriend. With the police putting pressure on them, and more and more media coverage, the four of them band together and take the investigation upon themselves. 

The novel is very interesting, and I thought that there were many plot twists and it’s quite fun to try to piece together the mystery as more and more information is revealed. It’s also enjoyable to see the different characters grow as people, seeing Addy become her own person, and see Nate and Bronwyn grow closer together. I definitely recommend One of Us is Lying for those who enjoy murder mysteries and those who enjoy piecing together different pieces of information throughout the book.

-Kelsie W.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive