Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices Book 2) by Cassandra Clare

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TMI fans, here is the next book in the installment!

Emma is struggling with her love for Julian, and so, unknown to him, has begun a fake relationship with Mark. Mark himself is struggling whether to love his past, Kiernan, or his future, Christina. Christina is struggling with Diego and Mark. Diana finds a love interest of her own. Kit “Herondale” is struggling with his new name and the legacy of it, while also finding some new friends with the twins. We also see some TMI characters like what we saw with Lady Midnight– Clary is unsure of whether to marry Jace or not, and Alec and Magnus play a big role in helping Julian, Emma, and the gang with issues such as the concern of Downworlders with the Clave. The Clave itself is being as stupid as always, as there are many Downworlder haters there. Oh, and did I mention that we haven’t seen the last of Malcolm?

Of course, Cassandra Clare still works her comedy within the story, as shown when Ty is amazed that Kit knew about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, even though Kit laughs at how did no one in the Shadowhunters knew who they were.

Additionally, there are, of course, secrets providing twists and turns to the plot, especially when the Blackthorn family finds out a secret of Julian’s.

However, despite all of the positives and the things I was happy with in the sequel, I was quite disappointed with a few things. First of all, Magnus and Alec appear a little too much in the book, making the spotlight go to them instead of the Blackthorns. Secondly, one can’t read the book without reading the TMI series. Robert Lightwood references what happened with Michael Wayland, making the context only relevant if one read what happened to him back in The Mortal Instruments. Additionally, the issue of Malec, one making immortal and the other not, is referenced too, making it necessary to read The City of Heavenly Fire. It is also required to have read The Infernal Devices. Kit is asked whether he is going to be a Jace, Will, Stephen, or a Tobias, requiring the necessary background information in order to understand. Additionally, we meet a ghost named Jessamine Lovelace, and if one hasn’t read The Infernal Devices, one does not know what she is all about.

However, despite all of these negatives, it is quite an enjoyable  book, one worth reading.

Megan V. Eleventh Grade

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

What is your wish? Gold? Immortality? Fame? Whatever it might be, you can have it!

So long as you’re willing to pay the price for it. How about sacrificing your first born son to get gold? Dying every time you got hurt in exchange for almost immortal like powers? Or even killing a whole town to gain fame!

You see, with alchemy, you can gain anything you want, but the rule of alchemy is that for everything made there is an equal amount that must be given back. Water is needed to instantly make ice, trees in order to make paper. And brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric have just learned the hard way that in order to bring their dead mother back to life, Edward must sacrifice a leg and Alphonse his whole body. And then, Edward sacrificed his arm to put his brother’s soul upon a suit of armor.

Now, Edward and Alphonse have vowed to get their bodies back, or at least Al’s trying to get his back, as Ed wants to keep his leg as a reminder. They travel the world as “dogs of the military”, Ed with a fullmetal arm and leg, and Al in his armor body. Of course, they have heard of the Philosopher’s stone, the stone that defies the rules of alchemy, but they vowed never to use it. And it was good that they did so, as some evil is distributing fake Philosopher’s stones.

This manga is legendary, and deserves the credit it has. It has been rated by many manga sites as one of the top three mangas ever, and, although it is not the best art, the story is amazing. Not only does the manga have some high depth philosophical elements, but it also has some very good tragic and comedy moments, including the most well known death scene in anime and a ferocious mini panda that considers weak humans worse than food.

Additionally, I love that while it goes over how far one is willing to pay for their wishes, it also gets into immortality. For example, the story gets into how two different people crossed a huge desert just to get immortality. Furthermore, there is even one guy who has immortality, though never really wanted and is now faced with the burden of people calling him a monster, seeing people he loves die before him, and the great sin of what he did to gain immortality.

Not only is this manga well known, it was made by a woman. It is extremely rare for action manga to be created by a women, and I can only think of seven other women who can say that they have written a famous action manga, with only two of those rivaling this amazing woman. So, feminists, rejoice by reading a manga that is not only made by a woman, but features a female role model who is in the military and the other women in the manga are not content with just “waiting”.

Finally, the spacing and ending for this manga is incredible! This manga ended a while ago, but I can think of no better way to end the story. I did read Beezelbub, which ran shorter than Fullmetal Alchemist and had a pretty good ending, but I finished reading it feeling that there could have been more the author could have touched on. I have also read Bleach and Naruto, both longer than Fullmetal Alchemist, but Naruto had an okay ending and Bleach had an ending that is to not be spoken of. However, Fullmetal Alchemist was perfect in this regard. Not only did it tie in stuff from the first chapters, such as us meeting the same characters from chapter one near the end, but Ed and Al get their bodies in a way that best suited the characters. The villains died in such a way that the reader feels satisfied, and everyone gets an ending that not only shows what they’re doing in the future, but also shows so much hope for them in the future. This way was really perfect, and I can see no flaws (other than the fact that I felt that one of the very good villains died way earlier than the rest of the very good villains, but that was it).

Once I again, even for non manga lovers, if there is any manga you should read before you die, it is this one.

Megan V,

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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We all love choices. Okay, sometimes we don’t because we can’t decide. But here is a choice that would get you thinking: Say you have a red button in front of you. Pressing it will save the world from a catastrophe. Not pressing it will destroy the world. Would you press it? I know I would, for the reason that I don’t want anyone to die, along with various other reasons that I could share with numerous other people.

Henry Denton would not press that button because he doesn’t believe the world should be saved. His brother got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of college. His grandma is getting worse with Alzheimer’s by the day, saying that Henry is dead. His mother is wasting away on weed. He is in a….questionable relationship with his bully. His boyfriend Jared, the boy who brought light into his life, committed suicide without any sign that he was depressed. He hasn’t been in contact with his old friend Audrey in over a year. Worst yet, school used to be fun, but instead of names like “f*g” that he would be okay with being called, he is called “space boy”, since he has been captured and probed by aliens, with no one believing him.

And these aliens, after probing him (not in the butt though), gave him a choice: press the red button, or let the world be destroyed. He is given 144 days to make the choice. And that’s when he meets Diego, a transfer student who is full of secrets, such as why he came to his first day of class and claimed he was a nude model.

To warn younger readers, this book is more on the mature side, as the main character is seriously depressed, among other more trigger themes.

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I wanted to read another book by Hutchinson, since I read The Deathday Letter (Another great book), and I was blown away, not wanting to put down the book until the end. It made me cry, and nothing makes me cry. I was deeply motivated by how the way Henry describes his life, making it interesting and dark at the same time, such as calling humans “ants” because there are 7 billion lives in the world, and every one of them is insignificant. Best yet, his way of describing things is very informal, such as calling the aliens “sluggers”, which makes the book almost as good as books like To Kill a Mockingbird, but set within the 21st century.

Additionally, Henry is not your typical protagonist. He is gay, which is something rare in any character. He is okay with telling people this, which is even rarer. While most people believe in justice, he believes in destruction.

Finally, without revealing too much of the book, I want to share the part I found interesting: After every couple of chapters, Hutchinson puts in what he thinks is going to be the apocalypse from a meteor to my favorite, virtual reality. And as time goes on and Henry starts to question if he should press the button, the theories get sillier. I feel that this greatly reflects how Henry feels about life in general, as he goes from wanting to know how the world is destroyed to not caring at all.

Once again, I really recommend this book if you are looking for something new and interesting to read.

– Megan V, 11th grade

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Magical Girl Raising Project by Endou Asari

Welcome, pon! My name is Fav, pon!

I am called a cyber fairy. My masters, from the land of magic, came up with a brilliant plan to help save the world by using a famous social game, pon! We will use the social game to find “magical girls”, those given special feminine bodies to help save the world, pon!

We allow boys, girls, and even animals so long as they have the aptitude to believe in magic, pon! Of course, they will be turned into girls whenever they want to use magical powers, pon!

What magical powers, you ask, pon? Well, I just transformed a girl named Kyouki into the magical girl “Snow White”, who can not only run fast, jump high and be super strong, but can also “hear the voices of those in distress.”

Of course, the magical powers all depend on the person, pon. Snow White had always wanted to be a magical girl, even though she had previously thought that they were only in anime and manga. When she became a magical girl, she wanted to save people, hence her power, pon! But there’s girls who believe that ninjas and cowgirls are the best magical girls, pon!

But unfortunately, the magic in the Land of Magic is running out because there are too many magical girls, pon. So, there will a test; those who cannot collect enough magical candies every week will be eliminated, pon!

Oh? You want to know what I mean by eliminated, pon? It’s like it sounds! The losing girl will lose her magical girl powers, which essentially means taking a part of herself away from her, which means that she will die, pon!

Of course, if one girl dies before the week is up, no one will be eliminated, pon!

Oh, and I heard that there will a light novel of the events to come is coming out on June 20, so I know that these girls will provide a great psychological and gruesome tragedy that readers will enjoy, pon!!!!

Er, I mean, it will be a light novel (novella with a few manga-like pages) of sixteen girls who discover the true meaning of magical girls and friendship through enduring tests and experiencing each one of them losing their magical girl powers.

Bye for now, pon!

-Megan V, 11th Grade

Magnus Chase: The Hammer Of Thor by Rick Riordan

magnuschasehammerthor_rickriordanRick Riordan has done it again: with the second installment of his retelling of Norse mythology, he brings out the laughs and slightly more mature elements that add the modern world to the books. All in all, these elements add to a tale that is fun to enjoy and interesting to read once again.

First, the laughs. We see Thor again, with more arrogance and goats. We get more sass from Jack, and Sam hilariously trying to find her way through her to be marriage and her Valkyrie job. There are many new characters and Riordan rewrites old legends in his way, including one where Thor had to wear a dress.

Finally, for the mature elements, we have to remember that usually, these books are meant for 8-12 year olds. However, with his more recent books, Riordan has tapped into the LGBTQ community, like when he revealed in Percy Jackson: Heroes of Olympus series that Nico was gay and the introduction of a (literal) gender-fluid kid named Alex. While this stuff may be mature for some people of this age group, I am quite happy that the author is bringing them up front, especially as loved main characters, and not putting them on the back burner like most YA authors of this time would.

All in all, it was a worthwhile sequel for this series, and even a wonderful book for those new to the Riordan fandom, even if not many have heard of the legends of Norse mythology.

-Megan V., 11th grade

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

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We’ve had zombie apocalypses. We’ve had alien races kidnapping us. There have been so many dystopian stories, from Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games to Divergent and The Walking Dead, in which human civilization is destroyed by some outside thing forcing humans to learn how to survive.

However, get prepared for giants eating humans.

In Attack on Titan, humanity has dwindled to an overall population of two thousand, kept safe behind three walls that separate themselves from the titans. However, Eren Jaeger’s life changes when the outer wall gets broken down by a muscle bound titan, a giant that eats humans. His mom gets eaten by one, in which he and his friends spend the next couple of years trying to get in the Survey Corps as a means of revenge against the almost impossible to beat titans.

Of course, he hates titans. So what happens when he becomes one himself?

Although this series is very popular in both the anime community and among non-anime lovers, I did not like it much. The artwork is not the best, but you can tell Isayama works really hard on each chapter. However, it is the plot that I enjoy. From the twists and turns to the corrupted politics being played in the background, it is easy to enjoy for someone who doesn’t like action. However, there is a lot of gore, as it is not just Eren’s mom who gets eaten. I will recommend it for any dystopia fan and for anyone interested in action.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.