And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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If  A Thousand Splendid Suns shows how the situation of Afghanistan affects women and Kite Runner shows how the situation of Afghanistan affects children, then the more recent book by Khaled Hosseini shows how the situation of Afghanistan affects families. The story moves from a boy who gets separated from his sister and moves from person to person as the story of the boy and his sister continues until the sister is able to meet him again around fifty or sixty years later. However, the stories do not  focus on just this narrative, but also others that show how life affects ourselves- a man who meets another man in love with him, the daughter who does not realize how “good” her life is, a man who meets and becomes friends with a girl whose life was ruined. As we travel from not only Afghanistan and the United States, but also Paris and Greece, we see how lives around the world affect each other.

I usually love novels by Khaled Hosseini; after all, I really did love A Thousand Splendid Suns. However, I will admit that this was not his best novel. Does this mean that it was a terrible novel? No way! Jumping narratives may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it wasn’t for the fact that the characters knew each other, most of the chapters seem like stand alone ones. However, I do not like the fact that most of the chapters are stand alone, as some of them do not seem to have any kind of resolution. However, they do teach very important lessons that anyone can learn, such as being considerate of others, as everyone has a story.

Despite not being as good – in my opinion- as his other two novels, I would definitely recommend reading this book.

-Megan V

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is available at the Mission Viejo Library.

 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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Imagine being caught in a prison like setting, treated by people who should be treating you better. You often see things that shouldn’t be there more than often because of it. Believe it or not, this was the setting for a mental hospital in the 1960s, which is where One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest is set, with the narrator Chief Bromden. He is just trying to stay under the radar, not trying to leave the hospital despite its abuses. That is, until he meets McMurphy who teaches him and the other men in his ward how to live.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If you have watched the movie, it is quite different, as the narrator in the movie is McMurphy while in the book it is Chief, in which we find out from the beginning that Chief is pretending to be deaf and dumb instead of in the middle like in the movie. Despite knowing this, Chief and McMurphy are still enjoyable characters. McMurphy is very charismatic and like the best friend in our school that we all know who manages to make the teachers mad by laughing in the back of the class and making fun of their lessons. Additionally, we see Chief as he goes through a period of growth in his life, as we as the reader see how he changes because of McMurphy, and I see this change as something amazing, and it is remarkable how much Chief changes from the first page to the last page.

Additionally, Ken Kesey has a very interesting view of motion, especially around this time. This book was made during the 1960s, just fresh out of the fifties and its idea that women should stay in the home and do domestic work while the men did the “real” work. However, the women are not as sweet as they are often portrayed in other media to be. In fact, one of these women is actually considered as the main antagonist of the novel, seen as the devil by the men. From a different perspective, seeing them in this novel shows how human women actually are, which we would not usually see in a novel of this time. For example, we see how one of the women are considered mean to their husband, but only because they have been treated as a child by their husband.

Also, surprisingly, the book is very funny. For example, Kesey makes fun of every single little thing in the novel, from playing hooky to pranking the head nurse.

However, it should be noted that Kesey wrote the book to protest the real life situations that were happening to people in mental hospitals at the time, even if they were not really mentally ill. From this, he was pushing a real life problem unto us, the readers, in hopes that it would change. It may not change, as it could be happening today too, but I really appreciate an author who at least tries to make a change with a very good book.

Overall, this book was very enjoyable, and I will encourage everyone to read it.

-Meagan V.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Have you ever thought about the future- what you plan to be and how you plan to get there? Well, unfortunately, this book puts a sad twist to the future and paints it in a gloomy way.

Willy Loman, your typical, average man, is down on his luck. He isn’t getting enough salary even though he has been with his company for 35 years, despite his brother in law being in a different company for the same length of time, and somehow is so much richer than him. While his son hates him, Willy sometimes blames it on his son’s laziness, and the other times the fact that his son is working too hard and doesn’t know what he wants.

So what does he do? Well, he’s a traveling salesman, so he sells the only thing he has left. Guess.

There are a couple of things to note about this novel. First, it’s a play, so the dialogue is easy to stand out, and one can know who’s talking. And thankfully, unlike Shakespeare’s plays, this play is only two acts long, which was just over a hundred pages in the copy I had, so it was easy to read.

Second, the theme. I won’t even talk about the fact that the author considers the American Dream fading, or even his interpretation of capitalism. No, I will instead talk about the other characters. Willy’s wife, Linda Loman, is down on her luck too, as although she gives Willy everything, including her undying loyalty no matter what he does, he still treats her without love. The son that hates Willy, Biff, is just a man like us teenagers (except he’s 34) that tries to talk to Willy, but gives up because Willy wouldn’t listen to him. And Willy’s second son, who is often forgotten about by Willy, has to face abandonment issues not only from his father, but from his mother too, in which not even him saying that he was getting married made them happy.

Overall, Miller claims that we all know a Willy Loman, and although his story ends in tragedy, it does not have to be this way for us.

-Megan V, 12th grade

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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Mariam and Laila- Two women, born years apart and having incredibly different lives. One grew up in extreme poverty as an illegitimate child, while the other went to school and dreamed of making a difference in the world. However, both are affected by the power changes in the Afghani government, including when it started to regulate women’s lives in the late 1990’s. When they finally meet each other, their world changes despite having no initial relation to each other in the first place.

I found this book to be very well written. It was easy to read, especially compared to books such as Shakespeare. Although there are some terms in another language, they are often translated or not as much importance, but still keeps the feeling that you are in a faraway land.

On top of that, Hosseini keeps the atmosphere of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, very well. He describes food from there, yet also references places such as the Bamiyan Buddhas in order to keep this atmosphere, which is done very well.

The characters themselves are amazing. The book is in two different points of view, which are between the women, and one can see how different they are, yet wanting the same things in life.

However, the book does get into what Afghanistan is facing now. The book takes place over forty years, so it is easy to see how Afghanistan changes under local rulers to the Soviets and to the Taliban. Especially under the Taliban, we see how women’s lives are changed for the worst. However, we also see the abuse of women by their husbands even before the Taliban, which can also be very depressing. On the other hand, without any spoilers, I can guarantee that the ending is very satisfying, so it is important to stay all the way until the end!

Overall, I highly recommend this novel, and encourage others to read it.

Megan V, 12th Grade

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa

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The world has been hit by six meteors. This has made most of the world uninhabitable except for a very small coast. However, this coast is also unstable too, and any creature that we consider living lives in the ocean.

Humans do not exist anymore.  The only creatures that live on the coast are animated gems. No really, imagine people made of amethyst or topaz running around and instead of eating food they photosynthesis, which is perfect for living on the coast.

This is the setting for Land of the Lustrous, where Phos (Phosphophyllite) and 27 other “gems” live an immortal life in peace and relaxation. Well peace and relaxation except for the fact that people from the moon come and attack them every three days or so, trying to take them back to the moon forever. Since they are basically defenseless when broken and alive when it happens, there could be a chance to rescue them, but it is slim. Hence, the gems, along with their strong leader “Teacher”, train and patrol every day in order to be ready to fight against the moon people.

Everybody except Phos at least. On the Mohs scale, Phos is the weakest at 3.5, and breaks easily no matter the method. However, she still tries to fight despite not even being able to hold the lightest sword. Throughout the story, she still tries her best to change.

The first thing to notice is that the art, compared to other manga, is very plain. The manga artist is obviously very new at drawing, and some of the pictures look like the reader could draw them. However, to make up for it, the character’s design looks perfectly like each of their respective gems, in which one can tell that Diamond has shiny hair.

For geology lovers out there, each of the gems correspond accurately to their real life counterpart. Besides from aesthetics and Mohs scale, for example, I learned about the gem Cinnabar, which has mercury in it, because the character Cinnabar has poison that looks like Mercury coming out of her.

As for story, there is all types of genre, with the exception of perhaps romance. It is very comical, especially at the beginning, whenever Phos messes up, and the world that they live in looks like another planet despite being Earth, also making it dystopia. Additionally, it is a coming of age story perfect for those who feel like they don’t belong, as Phos feels that she is useless, which leads to very dark choices such as losing her memories on purpose, which is perfect for goth fans out there who think that this is just a cute, silly story (hint: we find out later that it is not that cute).

I hope that you will give yet another good manga a try!

-Megan V, 12th Grade

The Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Roseblood by A. G. Howard

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From this beloved author we were told how Lewis Carroll wrote the stories wrong: how Wonderland is actually not a child’s world, but one of twisted madness, Tim Burton like worlds, and hot guys who wear hats and vine like tattoos. Now, get to learn that we also have a beloved opera that has been written wrong.

Enter into a world based in France, where the school Rune Germain has transferred to has its own Phantom of the Opera. Rune’s life is complicated: she was almost killed by her grandma, nearly killed a boy by kissing him, and on top of all that, her voice was cursed, causing her to let out faint sounds every time she sings. Meanwhile, young Thorn lives with a man named Erik, who is the phantom of the opera and has mask covering the burnt portion of his face. Thorn must do what Erik says, even if it is wrong, for reasons kept secret. What happens when Rune and Thorn’s destined fates cross? A lot basically, and not all of it good.

I love A. G. Howard as an author, especially with her Splintered series. That was why, since I saw the book at the library, I immediately picked it up and started to read it. The cover and colored ink on the inside looked very similar. Although not the same madness like tone that the Splintered series was written in, the mystical feel suits a archaic opera like time. The plot twist is also very interesting.

However, the book disappointed me in various ways too. For example, A. G. Howard, like always, expects you to remember the mysterious boy that appears in the girl’s dreams, the one that only appeared for one sec in the beginning and was not memorable enough. Additionally, compared to the Splintered series, she tells the story really fast. This is also more of a preference, but I didn’t like the way she told the story. She told the story through both Rune and Thorn’s point of view, and while both are important to the story, I feel as though it muddles things up. However, that is more personal. All in all, it was still a very great story and I would recommend it to everyone who wants to read it cause of the author, supernatural elements, or the like.

-Megan V, 12th Grade

Roseblood by A. G. Howard is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Magnus Chase: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

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For fans of Rick Riordan, as I have been for the past 7 or 8 years, welcome to the last installment of his Norse mythology series: The Ship of the Dead. At first, I was very surprised that this series was a trilogy, but then again, the Kane Chronicles were also a trilogy, so the five book per series might be only for anything involving Percy Jackson as a main character. Nonetheless, it is still a great sequel to the next chapter of the mythology series.

Speaking of Percy Jackson, we see him again in the first chapter as he teaches Magnus some tricks while at sea. Aside from the story, we get to see Percy and Annabeth as regular teenagers going to college, and Magnus realizes that if he doesn’t stop Ragnarok, they won’t get the happy ending they deserve, which is a huge eye opener when we had always seen Percy and Annabeth  being the ones shouldering the burden.

Additionally, we have the regular humor, such as with chapter titles like “I inherit a dead wolf and some underwear” and of course situational humor from Magnus himself. Additionally, each of the characters get their own backstory, development, and ending fit for them. We learn how Mallory and TJ die, each of them receiving their own development, and even a hope for the future- such as even though Mallory and Halfborn may break up once every decade, they still love each other.

Each character also teaches a lesson that is not only reflecting of Norse mythology, but also is different and unique compared to regular heroic events (a symbol that I see as part of Riordan’s growth as an author)- Hearthstone teaches us that anger is not always the way to win, Mallory shows that heroes are not always good, Magnus wins with a battle of wits rather than brawn. Additionally, there are some events that although hilarious and frustrating, symbolize the true nature of the gods, and Riordan was clever enough to depict it. Most importantly, there is a relationship that is revolutionary just as Nico and Will’s was, but I feel more in great development and satisfying.

However, I do have to wonder about Magnus’s newfound power, as I don’t believed it was ever explained, but there is hope for the future. I have never read the Apollo Trials, as I’ve been putting it to the side as I never really liked Apollo (who did?) but there are many sinister hints of the future of that series, and it may come that Magnus and the others may appear in that series, although we have never seen the Kane siblings in a very long time.

Overall, I really enjoyed every moment and cannot wait for the future of the series!

-Megan V., 12th Grade

Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive and Hoopla