Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

To me, this book is a bit like a fantastical version of Ocean’s Eleven. Of course, the plot of Six of Crowns is quite different, but, like Ocean’s Eleven, it involves a witty cast of characters who each possess a unique skill; a seemingly infeasible heist; and incredible twists unveiled with the air of a magician’s flourish.

Among the many inhabitants of the beautiful and expansive world of Six of Crows, there are Grisha, people born with special powers (such as the ability to heal, to control water, or to manipulate materials). These powers can be used for great good. However, towards the beginning of the novel, news of a dangerous drug called jurda parem, which enhances a Grisha’s ability, begins to surface. Not only does the drug enable Grisha to cause terrible destruction with little effort, but it is also highly addictive and dangerous to the Grisha themselves.

Kaz Brekker, nicknamed “Dirtyhands” for his apathetic and ruthlessly practical actions, is offered a mountain of money should he succeed at an unfeasible heist: stealing the scientist who created jurda parem from the nearly impenetrable Ice Court in Fjerda. He promptly assembles a skilled team, each chosen for their expertise in a certain area.

What I loved most about Six of Crows was the characters. The six main characters are each vividly developed and unique in their own wonderful way. In addition, their conversations with each other are entertaining and witty.

The characters take turns narrating the chapters, so we get a glimpse into the minds of each of the characters at different points in the story. Reading from each character’s perspective was really enjoyable, as each character has a different way of thinking. I liked how we were able to learn about each character’s thoughts and vulnerabilities–information that other characters may not perceive. Nevertheless, although she gives readers peeks into each character’s mind, Leigh Bardugo still manages to conceal information from readers–and reveal it in with incredible, unexpected plot twists.

I found the chapters narrated by Kaz Brekker–the leader of the group; a boy whose past is so nebulous and whose emotions are so imperceptible to others that some view him more as a legend than a teenager–particularly interesting; they give readers an understanding of this outwardly hardened and indestructible boy.

What’s interesting about this book is that none of the characters would call themselves heroes. They each have their own motive, and some of them don’t even get along. However, as the story progresses and as we gather little shards of each character’s past, we begin to understand them, and we learn what path led them to a future in which they would attempt one of the most dangerous and inconceivable heists. Though they are not obvious heroes, they do heroic things: they fight for each other, save each other, and care for each other. And despite being hardened by their pasts, they still manage to act like regular, bantering teenagers at times.

I will warn that there are several violent fights, and I could have done with less violence (however, this coming is from someone who used to be frightened by The Lion King). Nevertheless, this book, its world, and its characters are so vivid, intriguing, and compelling that I would, without a doubt, recommend it for YA and fantasy lovers.

– Mia T.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is available from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Quiz: Which Fictional World Would You Live In?

Fictional worlds–from the rich and expansive Grishaverse to the extensive landscape of Middle Earth to the modern world of Percy Jackson to the incredibly detailed Wizarding World–are wonderful destinations for readers to travel to every so often. In fact, many of these worlds are so rich and detailed that it requires no great effort to imagine oneself living in them. The following quiz will give you an idea of which fictional world you might belong in, if you could live in one. This is in no way meant to be an affirmative test; I simply thought it would be a quick, fun activity for book lovers.

Included Worlds: This quiz includes only four of the multitude of incredible fictional worlds: Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse (from Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows); J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World; J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth; and Rick Riordan’s world of Percy Jackson.

How to take it: It’s pretty simple; please look at each question (there are 7) and choose the letter that answers the question best for you. Somehow record your answers, on paper or in your head. When you’re done, you can look at the answer key to discover which of the four fictional worlds you might belong in!


The Quiz

1. Which location would you want to visit the most?

a. New Zealand; b. Scotland; c. The United States; d. Russia

2. Which drink do you think you would enjoy the most?

a. Mead; b. Butterbeer; c. Nectar; d. Kvas

3. What is your favorite mode of transportation?

a. Pony or horse; b. Broomstick; c. Flying ship; d. Carriage or boat

4. What is your preferred form of communication?

a. Moths; b. Owl; c. Iris messages; d. Messengers

5. What is your preffered form of magic/fighting?

a. Traditional weapons (swords, bow and arrow); b. Magic spells; c. Special abilities inherited from my parents; d. Control/manipulation of elements

6. Which body of water do you like the most?

a. Rivers; b. Lake; c. Sound (i.e. Long Island Sound); d. Oceans and canals

7. Where would you most like to live and train?

a. No place in particular; b. Hogwarts; c. Camp Half-Blood; d. The Little Palace


Answer Key: Your potential fictional home depends on which letter you chose the most.

  • Mostly “a”: Middle Earth
  • Mostly “b”: The Wizarding World
  • Mostly “c”: The world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians
  • Mostly “d”: The Grishaverse

Thank you for taking this quiz! These are all wonderful fictional worlds–and of course, they are only four out of of many incredible universes. I hope you enjoyed taking this quiz!

-Mia T.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Dannie Kohan knows where she will be in five years. Or at least she thinks she does. Her path seems clear, realistic, achievable. In fact, she basically has her life planned out by the year, and so far her plans have worked.

However, the night of December 15, 2020, Dannie has a vision of the future exactly five years from the present–something more solid than a dream, and something so vivid that her logical, corporate lawyer-oriented brain cannot pass it off as a mere fragment of imagination. What frightens her is that the future she sees is farther from her planned version of the future than the earth is from the sun.

The rest of the book takes place primarily in 2025–during the months leading up to the vision of the future that Dannie saw on December 15, 2020.

What I particularly liked about this book was the setting. Dannie lives in New York, a little star in a thriving, pulsing sky of skyscrapers and fashion and business. The fashion, the food, the language, and the references were all relatable to today’s young generation.

I also loved Rebecca Serle’s voice. The book is full of beautiful, flowing words interluded with sharp, short sentences brimming with emotion. Her descriptions–of food, characters, emotions–are incredibly detailed and vivid, and I think they add so much richness to the book.

Lastly, the characters. From determined, rational, detail-oriented Dannie to joking-but-serious and caring David (Dannie’s boyfriend) to spontaneous, beautiful, loving, and imaginative Bella (Dannie’s best friend), the characters of In Five Years are all so endearing in their own ways. I loved how realistic they seemed–from their aspirations to their worries, their strengths to their flaws, their language to their quirks.

If you enjoy books that you just can’t stop reading until you’ve finished them, I would highly recommend this book. It’s fascinating to see all the pieces of Dannie’s vision enter her real life, to turn page after page wondering what will happen–wondering if Dannie’s vision will really come true.

I would recommend this book for older teens and adults, as it is a romance with characters in their early thirties. In addition, there are some intense parts when Dannie faces loss and heartbreak.

I think In Five Years is a beautiful, sad, inspiring book that will leave readers with a multitude of emotions and thoughts about how they live their lives. The story might also make readers think twice if anyone were to ask them where they see themselves in five years.

– Mia T.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Creative Writing: Forest Kitten

This is a little creative writing piece exploring imagery and setting. I hope you enjoy!


A snowy white kitten slinks through the grass that sparkles with pearls of dew in the soft dawn light. Droplets of water slide from the gently bent grasses onto the cat’s fur and sit like tiny gemstones on its pallid coat. Thin sprigs of thyme and sage brush rustle lightly at the disturbance of the soft, padded paws. 

As the cat swiftly shoots beneath an overhanging heliotrope bush, the cluster of little purple flowers dips and showers his pale pink nose with dew. Green eyes determined, the cat continues his flight through the underbrush, shaking off the glimmering droplets that shine like lost diamonds on the forest earth behind him. The woody scents of damp bark and soil lose prominence as the cat reaches a thin creek whose crystalline body streams like liquid glass over stones smoothed and mossy due to years, perhaps eons, of running water. 

After leaping from the soft muddy bank onto a weathered stone protruding from the center of the stream, the cat pauses to lick his left paw before jumping delicately to the other side. The only thing to indicate his crossing of the river are small prints on the surface of the river stones where his padded paws lifted the frost that curls over the gray and dusty pink surfaces. 

When he reaches a wall of dense ivy, the cat slows and dips his head beneath the dark leaves. The vines of ivy sway and rustle for several moments as the cat crawls towards the meadow beyond. Then the vines are still, and the only bits of white left visible in the forest are the reflections of dewdrops on leaves and some star lilies dusted with frost.

– Mia T.

The Hufflepuff Common Room

One could safely say that Harry, with his handy Marauder’s Map, adventurous spirit, and knack for getting into trouble, explores much more of Hogwarts than the typical student does. In fact, he manages to enter both the Slytherin common room (with the help of Polyjuice Potion and a few of Gregory Goyle’s hairs) and the Ravenclaw common room–as well as his own cozy Gryffindor common room–within the span of the series.

However, although he develops friendships with a few Hufflepuff students, Harry never enters the Hufflepuff common room. And as a result, the readers never see it, either.

Thankfully, the world of Harry Potter is so richly imagined and developed that it extends beyond the books. Unsurprisingly, a vividly descriptive article on the Hufflepuff common room can be found on the Wizarding World website, written by J.K. Rowling herself (If you’re a Harry Potter lover, I encourage you to check it out–it’s very interesting to learn about the mysterious common room and to read J.K. Rowling’s thoughts on it).

Though the method used to enter the Hufflepuff common room is rather simple (tapping a barrel to the rhythm of the founder of Hufflepuff’s name (Rowling)), and although the room lies low in comparison to the towers that house the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor common rooms, I think I would choose to live in the Hufflepuff common room above the others if I had the choice.

The Hufflepuff common room seems so cozy and bright, with “patchwork quilts,” “[a] colorful profusion of plants and flowers,” and “[s]mall, round windows [that] show a pleasant view of rippling grass and dandelions, and, occasionally, passing feet” (Rowling). Despite being so low in the ground, the Hufflepuff common room still seems cheerful and warm. I love how the majority of the decorations are plants; they add so much vibrancy and homeliness to the room, and I think the constant presence of nature would create a joyful and peaceful mood. In addition, the circular structure of the room reminds me of a cozy little hobbit hole.

The common room “feels perennially sunny”–the perfect atmosphere for keeping your spirits up while studying for exams, relaxing with your classmates, or recovering from a particularly cold and difficult Potions class (Rowling). Imagine leaving the stuffy Divination classroom or a particularly wearisome History of Magic lesson and entering a warm, inviting room lit with golden sunlight and lively plants. The environment itself, I think, could be an instant mood-lifter.

Lastly, the Hufflepuff common room lies right near the kitchens, in case you want to pay the house elves a visit.

Where else would you want to spend your seven years at Hogwarts?

– Mia T.


Works Cited

Rowling, J.K. “Hufflepuff Common Room.” Wizarding World, Wizarding World Digital, 2 Mar. 2020, http://www.wizardingworld.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/hufflepuff-common-room. 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This is probably one of the most unique and intriguing books I’ve read in a while. It’s part mystery, part romance, and at times almost seems like poetry. But my favorite part of all was the characters. They weren’t glamorous or flawless or bound to change in extraordinary ways. They were real, believable, and witty in a realistic, teenage way.

As a surface-level explanation of the story’s premise, Harris Sinclair is rich. He has three daughters and each has her own children. He prides his family for being Sinclairs. The family (the father, his daughters, and his grandchildren) spends every summer on Harris’ private island. Cadence, the narrator and the daughter of the eldest daughter, spends most of her time on the island with her cousins Mirren and Johnny and their friend, Gat. The four of them call themselves “the Liars.” But one summer Cadence is found on the shore of the island with a head injury and no memory of what happened before. Every time her mother tells her what happened she forgets and the doctors say she’ll have to remember on her own. What ensues is a struggle for Cadence to understand herself and that summer on the island. On her return to the island two years later, she gradually stitches together fragments of memories into a traumatic event she wanted to forget but which she has to acknowledge to move on.

I was fascinated by the intricacy of the story, the flashes of memories Cadence has that gradually build up into a story from two summers ago. The story unfolds for readers at the same pace as it does for Cadence–I don’t think I could guess what had happened until Cadence realized it herself–something I found very compelling.

Though the story does center around a mystery, the mystery doesn’t always seem like the main focus. To me, it was more like an underlying question beneath themes of corruption, greed, friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance.

While these themes are recurring and common, I would argue that they way they are conveyed is not. The story is not like a fairy tale, and Cadence sees this too.

As smaller chapters inserted between chapters of narration, Cadence writes variations of those age-worn fairy tales that always seem to end the same way. I thought of these as her way of explaining her situation and family and trying to make sense of them. However, as she finds, and as readers find too, life might not be compatible with a fairy tale.

I think something that makes the novel rather unlike others is that the characters are not made to fit in one box. For instance, Harris, the grandfather, can be pushy and discriminatory, but he can also be thoughtful and loving. He’s not that evil witch whose actions seem purely malevolent or that fairy godmother who always smiles. He doesn’t fit a role, as a regular human probably wouldn’t either. Similarly, Gat, Mirren, Johnny, and Cadence have the conversations and awkward moments that you would expect from teenagers. They’re not necessarily flawless or consistent.

Lastly, there is some language and dark content, and I would strongly suggest this for older teens (in fact, if I had known what would happen in the book I might not have picked it up. But this is coming from a reader who still enjoys re-reading some of her childhood fantasy books. I only did pick it up because it was chosen for a book club, and then it intrigued me more than I had expected).

– Mia T.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Fictional Food and Illustrations: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Nearly a year ago I wrote a post about my fascination with fictional food and its function within books (“Fictional Food: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”). In the post, I discussed a few food items mentioned in the first Harry Potter book and how they contributed to the mood of certain scenes, the relatability of the characters, and the complexity of the story overall.

Here, I’d like to revisit some of the delicious food from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that I included in that post (along with unmentioned items), this time with some illustrations to accompany them. I hope you enjoy this visual feast :).


At the beginning of chapter 2, Harry finds himself at the zoo with Dudley and his friend, Piers Polkiss, to celebrate Dudley’s birthday. While a visit to the zoo in itself is an unprecedented treat for ten-year-old Harry, Harry’s good fortune seems to persist: at the zoo, “The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice lolly. It wasn’t bad either, Harry thought” (Rowling 33). The treats for Harry didn’t stop there. When Harry and the Dursleys ate lunch at the zoo, “Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory wasn’t big enough, [and] Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first” (34). I guess some good can come out of the spoiling of Dudley Dursley. 

Chocolate ice creams, ice lollies, and knickerbocker glories are left behind when, overwhelmed by the persistence of the letters inviting Harry to attend Hogwarts, Uncle Vernon pulls his family on a wild excursion to “Shake ‘em off,” during which the Dursleys and Harry spend a night at “a gloomy-looking hotel” where they eat “stale cornflakes and cold tinned tomatoes on toast for breakfast” (50). At this same meal, the hotel owner informs them of a surplus of letters addressed to Harry with the exact number of the room he is staying in. At this point it looks as if, despite Uncle Vernon’s admirable efforts, it’s going to be a bit harder than he thought it would be to “shake ‘em off.”

Despite the apparent futility of his efforts, Uncle Vernon does try harder to escape the Hogwarts letters. His determination culminates in Harry and the Dursleys spending a night in a hut on a rock, stranded by turbulent waves and a storm of wind and rain. Did Uncle Vernon think this through? Not thoroughly. Though, to his credit, he did bring some rations: “a packet of crisps each and four bananas” (53). The insubstantiality of this meal makes the next food that enters Harry’s mouth extra delicious.

After Hagrid enters the hut (by breaking down the door) and deduces that Uncle Vernon is not going to offer him tea or a drink (or anything, for that matter), he takes a number of objects out of his coat, including “a copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, [and] several chipped mugs” and proceeds to cook the sausages over the fire. Soon, Hagrid offers “six fat, juicy, slightly burnt sausages to Harry, who [is] so hungry he ha[s] never tasted anything so wonderful” (57, 58).

While Harry meeting Hagrid is a defining moment in itself, Hagrid’s sausages may be the first tasty food offered solely to Harry out of kindness and care. This is one of Harry’s first tastes of a world where he is regarded as important and admirable and not as a messy-haired nephew who ought to be hidden in a cupboard under the stairs. 

The delights of Hagrid’s generosity continue when he buys Harry “chocolate and raspberry [ice cream] with chopped nuts” in Diagon Alley (89). Whenever I read this part, this ice cream sounds so delicious, and I marvel at the fact that the simple inclusion of these little details makes the story so much richer and entertaining. Where Hagrid bought these delectable desserts is not stated, but I think it’s reasonable to guess that they were crafted by Florean Fortescue, the owner of an ice cream parlour where Harry spends much of his time two summers later.

Once at Hogwarts, Harry enjoys more food with Hagrid at Hagrid’s cabin, though perhaps it’s not as tasty as the ice cream in Diagon Alley. On Harry and Ron’s first visit to Hagrid’s, Harry introduces Ron while Hagrid pours “boiling water into a large teapot and [puts] rock cakes onto a plate … The rock cakes almost broke their teeth, but Harry and Ron pretended to be enjoying them” (154). Although Hagrid’s rock cakes are not the most scrumptious or easy-to-eat delights, I think they’re still endearing and fitting to the story—Harry and Ron don’t visit Hagrid for the food. Plus, maybe if you soaked the rock cakes in tea or milk they would make a delicious treat (or at least a softer one). 

Here’s an illustration of the steak-and-kidney pie served at Hogwarts the night Professor McGonagall discovers Harry’s talent as a Quidditch Seeker (I’ve accompanied it with some pumpkin juice, though it’s not mentioned in the book). By the time Harry’s done telling Ron the news that he has been made Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Ron has “a piece of steak-and-kidney pie halfway to his mouth, but [he’s] forgotten all about it” (166). We know a piece of news is important when it makes Ron forgets about food.

In his state of excitement from unwittingly finding himself on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Harry probably does not forsee the state of his nerves on the morning of his first match. While “the delicious smell of fried sausages” pervades the Great Hall, Harry does not even want to eat the “bit of toast” Hermione tries to coax him to eat. His appetite is probably diminished further when Seamus reminds him that “Seekers are always the ones who get nobbled” while “pil[ing] ketchup on his sausages” (200). 

The last two illustrations are inspired by Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts:

“Harry had never in all his life seen such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce—and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table … Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey” (220).

After a “happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight in the grounds” with the Weasleys and a chess game with Ron, Harry enjoys “a tea of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle and Christmas cake” (221).

I really enjoyed illustrating these dishes and treats from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which wouldn’t have been possible without J.K. Rowling’s detailed and generous descriptions. I loved learning about new kinds of food when I looked up pictures and descriptions of Yorkshire puddings, rock cakes, steak-and-kidney pie, chipolatas, trifle, and flaming Christmas puddings for reference (if you’re interested and haven’t seen a flaming Christmas pudding, I would suggest looking up an image—they look so cool!). I hope these illustrations were entertaining for Harry Potter lovers and food lovers alike!

– Mia T.

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

While re-reading the fourth Harry Potter book, I found myself enjoying the story just as much as I had the first, second, third, etc. times–maybe even more so because I was picking up on details and nuances in the plot that I hadn’t noticed before. After finishing the book, I sat down and watched the movie again, which I enjoyed also. However, as much as I admire the film, there are so many scenes, subplots, details, and even some characters from the book that don’t quite make it into the movie.

In this post, I thought I’d discuss some of these aspects, as well one part in the movie I enjoyed. In no way is this meant to criticize the movie or the book, both of which I admire very much. Hope you enjoy it!

*A little note: this post is more of a commentary on the aspects of the book that did not make it to the screen :). It also contains spoilers!


While the movie jumps to the journey to the Quidditch World Cup, book-Harry doesn’t have it quite so easy. Or at least, the book expands upon his time at the Dursley’s.

In the book, an over-stamped letter, a blasted-open fireplace, and a Ton-Tongue Toffee help chronicle Harry’s “rescue” from the Dursley’s house by the Weasley family (on the topic of Ton-Tongue Toffees, Fred and George’s desire to open a joke shop was not included much in the movie, so the trick wands and Canary Creams are treats solely from the book).

Once at the Burrow, Harry meets Ron’s two eldest brothers, Bill and Charlie, for the first time. While Charlie is mentioned in the movie by Hagrid, the faces of these characters did not make it into the movie.

Fast-forwarding to the Quidditch World Cup campsite, the movie doesn’t introduce us to a few of the fascinating characters and scenes we come across in the book. The book gives us an update on Oliver Wood, who had completed his last year at Hogwarts the previous year (congrats, Oliver!); an introduction to Seamus’ mother and her shamrock-covered tent; a scene with dear old Archie, who refuses to change out of his flowered nightgown; and an introduction to Ludo Bagman.

Though his blue-eyed innocent face doesn’t make it to the screen, Ludo Bagman does give the book an interesting subplot. His losing bet with Fred and George and his ensuing inability to pay the twins back lead to his suspicious attempts to assist Harry in the Triwizard Tournament. This and his history with the Ministry also make him a suspect for the danger that seems to be lurking at Hogwarts throughout the story. While the movie completely leaves Ludo and his subplot out, I think the subplot adds so much richness and intrigue to the book.

An interesting little scene we miss in the movie is when Mr. Ollivander inspects each of the Triwizard Champion’s wands. We get to learn the wand cores and the type of wood of each wand, and Harry also gets a clue that resurfaces in the seventh book: Krum’s wand was made by Gregorovitch, who Harry dreams about three years later.

One place found solely in the book is the Hogwarts kitchens, which I find so fascinating–they provide an explanation for the magically-appearing food on the tables at Hogwarts. Additionally, the introduction of the kitchens addresses the presence of house elves in the castle, who, along with cooking delicious meals, clean the common rooms and keep the fires going. While it is unfortunate that the kitchens did not make it into the movie, it’s understandable that creating them, along with all the house elves working there, would be an enormous undertaking, also taking into account that the scenes that take place in them aren’t particularly necessary to the larger plot that the movie tells.

On that note, no house elves are seen on the screen for the fourth movie–not Dobby (Harry is helped by Neville for the second task rather than his elf friend) and not Winky, who added to the subplot with Mr. Crouch and his son. Subsequently, Hermione’s organization to support the rights of house elves–S.P.E.W., not “spew”–does not appear in the film either. While I would have enjoyed seeing the mismatched socks Dobby makes for Harry and Hermione’s valiant effort at promoting S.P.E.W., I also understand that sitting for seven-plus hours in front of a TV screen isn’t the best for one’s health.

As a side note related to the absence of house elves in the film, the movie, unfortunately, doesn’t introduce us to the Quidditch team mascots, leprechauns, and Veela; Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts (perhaps we should be thankful) and nifflers; or the sphinx Harry meets in the maze.

Another subplot unique to the book is Rita Skeeter’s. Although her embellished journalism does appear in the movie, its scope is larger in the book–which we discover (with the help of Hermione) is due to her ability to turn into a beetle. Additionally, because Rita Skeeter’s juicy journalism does not single out Hagrid for being a half-giant in the movie, Harry’s Care of Magical Creatures class does not meet Professor Grubbly-Plank, nor does it meet the pure white unicorns Professor Grubbly-Plank opts to have them work with instead of the Skrewts.

One part of the book that I loved was after the third task in the hospital wing when Mrs. Weasley hugs Harry like a mother. It’s so endearing how Mrs. Weasley cares for Harry so much, even with seven other children to love as well. By sending Harry hand-knit sweaters for Christmas, chocolate eggs for Easter, and coming to watch Harry compete in the third task as his “family,” Mrs. Weasley truly steps up as the motherly figure Harry needs.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the scene in the movie where Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss the Yule Ball. While a similar scene takes place in the book, it does not involve Professor Snape’s attempts to get Harry and Ron to focus throughout the scene, which culminate in him forcing them to look at their paper. I also like how Fred asks Angelina to the ball in this scene (in the book he did so by yelling across the Gryffindor common room).

Phew! That was a pretty lengthy review–thank you if you read all the way (and I understand if you didn’t!). I realize this post is more about pieces found solely in the book that I enjoyed, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same.

There are so many little details and subplots that make the Harry Potter books so deep, intricate and comforting to read, and though the movies may lack the same details out of necessity, I still thoroughly enjoy them. I also love how the movie script pulls many of the lines straight from the book.

Ultimately, the movie slides over many well-loved subplots, characters, and details as a result of its fast pacing and need to capture an audience for a short amount of time. But this doesn’t make it any less interesting. Both the book and the movie are entertaining and enjoyable, as I hope they are (or will be) to you!

– Mia T.

The One by Kiera Cass

Caution: May contain spoilers from The Selection and The Elite.

While I would consider The Selection series to be more lighthearted than other dystopian YA novels, the third book, The One, certainly introduces more darkness to America’s tale. Nevertheless, it still possesses Kiera Cass’s quirky and imaginative flair that pervades the first and second books.

As both the Selection within the castle walls and the rebel situation outside escalates, they seem to blend together into a far more complex issue than America had imagined possible. Rebel attacks increase as protest rages against the Selection and the continuation of the monarchy and Maxon struggles as his decision grows closer–a decision through which he may not be able to please both his father and his heart.

It seems that as the books have progressed the characters of the Selected have been able to grow more detailed. While America’s character bursts from the pages of the first book, many of the Selected were not as openly described, and understandably so–imagine describing and reading about 35 different characters who might not all play a large role in the story!

However, since only 6 of the Selected remain, we get to explore these characters in more depth, which I found interesting and enriching to the story. By explaining their motives and backgrounds, Kiera Cass allowed the other 5 girls to become more than just America’s competition. I particularly enjoyed a scene where the remaining Selected talk in America’s room without enmity.  With the escalation of the dangerous situation, they are able to look beyond their more frivolous squabbles.

One aspect I admire about America is that true to her decision in the first book, she remains true to herself. Though she wavers at times, especially as the competition becomes intense and when she is intimidated by the king, she consistently chooses what she feels is true to her values and herself, even if by doing so she could diminish her chances of being the One.

The One, full of romance and action; rebellion and choices; politics, love, friendship, fear, and humor, pulls the Selection and the first half of the series into a dazzling, glittering finale.

– Mia T.

The One (and the rest of The Selection series) by Kiera Cass is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Elite by Kiera Cass

Caution: This review contains spoilers from book one, The Selection.

One aspect of this book that I liked is that it follows the first book, The Selection, almost seamlessly. When reading a sequel, I usually find that it takes me several pages or chapters to “get back into” the story, and I appreciated that The Elite begins more or less where The Selection ends.

America Singer is left with a position as one of 6 remaining Selected girls (known as the Elite), and a choice between her dearest Aspen and the charming prince Maxon.

I found this book to be darker than The Selection, with an expansion on the situation with the rebel attacks on the castle, Illéa’s history, and the conflict created by the caste system. As tension rises within the dwindling group of Elite, as the danger of the rebels becomes far more apparent, and as America discovers more about the founding of Illéa, the Selection no longer seems like a frivolous game.

I was a bit disappointed in the shift in America and Maxon’s friendship, though it might have been expected given the need for conflict in the story. The understanding and casual words that passed between the two of them in The Selection morph into a complicated, less transparent relationship as America’s feelings for Maxon become more apparent.

Because of her growing desire for Maxon’s heart, America grows mistrustful of him and the other girls, and she begins to make decisions that seem less measured than those she made before. I liked how America was kind and helpful to the girls in the beginning of the Selection, but in this book, as her feelings for Maxon grow, she begins to see them more as opponents. Though she maintains her courageous and strong character, America allows herself to be pulled further in to the competition, meaning more uncertainty and distrust.

Additionally, I did feel like some of the conflict between Maxon and America might have been unrealistic; if they truly loved each other, wouldn’t they trust each other more and be able to express their thoughts to each other? Nevertheless, I realize that America and Maxon are both filled with doubt and worry about the decisions set before them (for instance, America debates between Maxon and Aspen: princess or Six?), and are no doubt unsure of many things–even each other.

What I admired about The Elite as well as The Selection was that Maxon did not appear like some two-dimensional character. Despite his privileged position, he is still influenced and pressured by his father, and he feels great responsibility in his choice for a princess–he feels he must not only consider his own happiness, but that of his future people and his father as well.

If you enjoyed The Selection and are eager to follow America’s story further, this is the perfect book! Additionally, it leaves off with 4 Elite … Maxon’s decision draws closer with the close of the second book.

– Mia T.

The Elite by Kiera Cass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive