Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt

This book had been sitting on my shelf with many other books I hadn’t had the time to read. I had started this book in the middle of the school year but hadn’t been able to finish it. So, I decided to pick it back up over the summer. 

Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt is set sometime in the 1970’s and follows the story of four young siblings, Dicey, James, Maybeth, and Sammy. On one summer day, the mother of the Tillermans abandons them. Dicey is the eldest Tillerman sibling at thirteen and acts as the leader of the four siblings as they make their journey to their relative’s place. Throughout the different parts of their adventure, they stick together as they meet many interesting people along the way, trying to find a home.

Homecoming is a good, simple book that I enjoyed. It wasn’t anything special but it had moments that I really enjoyed. There were some characters in the book that were fun to read about. The different interactions with each character gave each character their own personality. Sometimes, I wished we had more time with certain characters, but since the four siblings are always on the move, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with some of the side characters. Depending on the point of the story, there were some characters that were more notable than others, but I found that each character that interacted with the four siblings were all interesting and important to the growth of the characters. 

The book shows a very interesting story. I liked how there was a clear main goal for the characters and there were actual struggles the characters had to worry about that are an actual struggle people have to deal with. It makes you wonder what may happen next as the book makes you feel as if you’re traveling with them. There are many different scenarios that the characters go through that can create different kinds of emotions by reading about them.

Homecoming is a good book that discusses many different kinds of problems, including mental illness, and death. It’s a nice book about a family and their adventures and difficulties to find a place to stay together. I enjoyed the book and still have some scenes stuck in my head from it. Homecoming is only the first book of the seven-part series, the Tillerman Cycle. This is a great book and is definitely a fun read.

Homecoming by Cynthia Voight is available to download for free from Libby.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Cover image for The adventures of Tom Sawyer / Mark Twain ; with introduction and notes by H. Daniel Peck.

This year in my English class, we had to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a classic book written by Mark Twain. As you can imagine, we had to analyze it and do all the work alongside reading the book. Although the reading came with work, I ended up enjoying the overall story. Many times, people seem to lose interest in a book when reading it comes with work to complete along with it, but I try not to let that get the better of me and try to do the work after I’ve enjoyed the book. So far, my strategy has worked out well, from The Outsiders, The Giver, and now The Adventures of Tom Sawyer being all books I have now happily completed. 

The book features the fictional main character Tom Sawyer introducing his character as a very mischievous character with a big imagination. He often gets in trouble and loves to make his own fun. I had my own fun reading about his adventures with his friends, mostly Huckleberry Finn. Each of the characters had their own feeling to them that felt familiar to me, almost like I knew them personally. Twain depicts society and people quite well in this book and often satirizes things that happen in the world throughout the story. He creates lifelike characters, those that would act in a way real kids would, while still having parts that would seem unbelievable and unreal in the real world to make the story interesting. The way Twain words things about society shows his views and also the truth about society. 

Tom and Huckleberry Finn are both young boys that come from different parts of society and different lifestyles that yet, love to play and hang out with each other while trying out their superstitions and beliefs. On many of Tom’s adventures, Huckleberry Finn or Huck, is always the one who seems to stick with Tom and his ideas and beliefs. Both go on different adventures throughout the book and work together often. Each adventure leads to another and it all connects together by the end of the story. Despite their adventures starting off childish, it still managed to pull me in, wanting to find out what happens next. 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a great classic that I definitely enjoyed. However, this book does feature a certain dialect and language that would not be acceptable today, so if you ever get the chance to read this book, please keep this in mind. Otherwise, this is a great book and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested. 

-Nicole R.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier

This year for school, one of the required books to read for English was called My Brother Sam Is Dead written by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. When I first heard we were going to be reading this book, I was intrigued by the title. I thought it was a bit funny to have such an important detail in the title. I wasn’t super thrilled at first when we had to read it for English class but in the end, I enjoyed the book. 

My Brother Sam Is Dead is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the Revolutionary War. The story is told by Tim Meeker. Tim Meeker is a young boy who helps his parents at their tavern and looks up to his older brother Sam. Sam Meeker is a college student at Yale and is expected to have a bright future ahead of him. One day, he comes home from college and brings home the news that he has decided to enlist in the army to fight in the war. Not only is he fighting in the war but he is also fighting on the patriots side while the rest of his family and his town he lives in are loyalists. Sam and his father argue and their family is tearing apart. Now Tim must decide who to side with, his brother he looks up to, or his father he has obeyed for his whole life.

My Brother Sam Is Dead uses a lot of accurate historical elements making the story clear to understand. I ended up really liking this book. I was never really interested in historical fiction when I was younger but I guess my taste had changed. The characterization of each character was unique with Tim being unsure of his and everyone’s decisions and Sam being ambitious and righteous. The character development through Tim showed a boy who grew up. At the beginning he was a child but throughout the years, he had to grow up and fill other people’s shoes to help himself and his family. 

The characters I really liked were Father and Tim. Father was strict on his kids but there were parts in the book that showed he was still human and he could hurt. He cared about his family and just wanted them to be safe and happy. Tim was childish and wanted to prove himself but as he grew he became like his father filling his role. Tim became independent and successful by the end of the story, and lived his life.

I liked My Brother Sam Is Dead. I hadn’t expected much from this book but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it was a school required book, I had fun reading it and had some slight emotional moments in some parts of the story. I would definitely recommend this book to those who like historical fiction and even to those who don’t. 

-Nicole R.

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Messenger by Lois Lowry

Cover image for Messenger / Lois Lowry.

Messenger, the third installment of The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry, was a great book. Like The Giver and Gathering Blue, Messenger does not follow the previous protagonists but instead follows a past character in Gathering Blue. Messenger ties in the previous books by incorporating the past characters from The Giver and Gathering Blue

Messenger follows Matt or now known as Matty. Matty had first appeared in Gathering Blue and now lives in a village that he discovered while on his first adventure trying to find something for Kira in Gathering Blue. He lives with The Seer, a blind man who was found out to be Kira’s biological father. These two live in the village Jonah, from The Giver, had created. In the new village, everyone is equal no matter the disabilities they have or injuries they come with. Soon, the village changes due to something unseen and they now want to close the village off from outsiders. Before that can happen, The Seer wants to bring Kira to the village to live with him and Matty. Jonah, also known as Leader, does not want to send anyone into the Forest since it had recently become too dangerous. Matty convinces Leader to send him despite it being dangerous and in the end, Matty goes into the Forest to bring Kira to the village. Going through the Forest the first time was alright, but once he began to head back with Kira, things became more dangerous, threatening their lives. 

Throughout the story, we learn the true powers of Jonah, Kira, and Matty. Jonah can “see beyond” allowing him to sense the dangers and view particular things. Kira can weave her threads into predicting the future, and Matty has the power of healing. Messenger ties in the past books of The Giver Quartet and creates more depth to the characters and introduces more lore to the series. 

This book was more enjoyable than Gathering Blue and is on par with The Giver. Messenger introduces more lore and gives more depth to new and previous characters. It has a good balance of excitement and calm sections. Through the calm sections, it builds and introduces characters to see and understand who they are now. Within the more exciting sections, it shows what the characters can do and what they have grown to be. It shows their struggles and what they must go through. When the book finishes, Matty is the hero, healing the area around him and the people around him and is named The Healer. This book shows the true character growth of Matty, Kira and Jonah from how they were in their previous books to what they are now. 

I enjoyed Messenger. The new characters and brought back characters were important to the plot and each had their own personalities and stories. The events in the story were intriguing and exciting. Once again, this book ended in a cliffhanger, but soon I will read the last installment of The Giver Quartet, Son. Lois Lowry has done a great job with this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

-Nicole R. 

Messenger by Lois Lowry is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My Mom found this book in a book shop a little while ago. I had just finished reading the False Prince that was also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and I had been looking for another book in the same series. Since I enjoyed the False Prince, my Mom had given me this book and I had decided to read it. 

In The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Ani Mells has gotten herself in trouble and is encountering a series of problems. Ani is a River Person who is less better off than what their people would call, the “pinch worms”. Ani seems to have caught the Scourge; the sickness that has spread across the country of Keldan. It is highly contagious and supposedly incurable. Ani is sent to the Colony, where all the Scourge victims are put and to be left for their demise. Weevil, Ani’s best friend, and Della, a pinch worm, are all on the Colony together. During her time on the island, Ani finds something suspicious going on on the island, and she plans to get to the end of it and make everything better. 

This book was wonderful. At first, I was reminded of COVID since a big part of the plot was about a virus that was hard to cure. The farther I read, however, I realized that that wasn’t the case. The story had a huge twist at the end of the book that had a great build up. And throughout the story, there were more surprising events. They were definitely unexpected to me. There was great character development; especially from Ani. Ani’s confidence levels grew, and so did her leadership. But all characters had character development. Even the smallest of side characters had character development. 

I believe that this book was the second Jennifer Nielsen book I’ve read and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. It’s an enjoyable book that isn’t super long, so you can finish it quickly. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.

-Nicole R. 

The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue is the sequel to the first book, The Giver, also by Lois Lowry. However, this story does not follow the main character of The Giver, Jonas. Instead, Gathering Blue follows a new protagonist named Kira. 

Kira lives in a village in which its society does not accept those who have disabilities, such as Kira. Kira has had a damaged leg since birth and the society does not accept her. Recently, her mother died, leaving her with no parents,  giving her no protection from society. She is put on trial to be sent to the Field where the dead, disabled, or seriously injured are brought. In the end, the council decides that she will work as The Weaver. Her friend, Matt, helps in gathering her belongings and brings them to where Kira will stay. As her job, Kira repairs the robe of the Singer (another person given a special task), and over time, meets and befriendsThomas the Carver. As the story progresses, Kira, Matt, and Thomas grow close and together, and they uncover the dark secrets of the village. 

Gathering Blue was a good book and it has some similar elements as The Giver. Both books have a type of society that does not accept those who are not up to standard and each has a place for those kinds of people. There are many similarities between The Giver and Gathering Blue, but each book is its own book. As I followed Kira, I got to understand her want to be useful or wanted and I was able to see her growth throughout the book. And along with her, I got to find out more about the village and the secrets that are kept. I found Gathering Blue to be a calmer book than The Giver. It wasn’t as exciting and was more complex in its plot. The plot itself was a little boring, but I did find the small clues to secrets to be interesting. Although the plot wasn’t amazing, I did like the characters and their relationships. 

Kira was a very shy girl in the beginning, but still wanted to be able to stick up for herself. By the end of the book, she had grown into an independent and strong character, who was confident despite not being accepted into society. Thomas was a good friend to Kira, supportive and kind, but still made his own decisions. He wasn’t involved in the plot of the story too much, but he had a nice personality. Matt was a young kid, by the way he talks and acts; it was easy to see that. He didn’t have many manners and it was like he was living on the streets. He was a funny character but wanted to make Kira happy. He disappears midway through the book to go on an adventure, but comes back after acquiring something for Kira at a new village he had discovered. His personality was loud and ambitious and stuck out. 

Overall, Gathering Blue was a good book. Although it wasn’t as good as The Giver and wasn’t as exciting, it made for a good short read. I finished it in a couple of weeks, but I found it too short, without any real buildup. The plot was too calm and it felt like there wasn’t a climax; like it didn’t contribute to anything in the series except to introduce new characters. It felt like a filler book. Some of it felt rushed and I didn’t like the transitions into new parts of the story. Once I finished the book, I found that it ends in a cliffhanger. I have the third book of The Giver Quartet, The Messenger, and I’ll get to reading that soon. 

-Nicole R.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowery is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is the first installment of the Magisterium Series. The Iron Trials story introduces the main character, Callum Hunt. Throughout his whole life, he has been told the magic is bad and to stay away from it, despite his father being a mage. So when it’s time for Call to take the Iron Trials test to see if he can get into the magic school; the Magisterium, he tries to fail the test. And even though he does his best at failing, he still gets admitted to the Magisterium. Now the Magisterium is awaiting for him and he has to find his way through it. With the two other apprentices in Call’s group, Aaron and Tamara, they go through magic lessons, tests, and many different hardships throughout their first year at the Magisterium. 

The Iron Trial was an interesting and intriguing book. The three main characters in the book all had their own sets of personalities and different lives. Call was sarcastic and liked to talk back. He was always alone but liked being with friends. Aaron was kind and always tried to be the equal ground between everyone. He was loyal to his friends and stood up for them. Tamara was the smart one who knew more about magic than Aaron and Call did. She was independent and at first, very serious. As I read, I learned more about the characters and the different lives they live in. They were all very unique and great characters. Even the side characters were important to the story and stood out. Many of the characters had character development throughout the story which I really liked. There were a couple of plot twists in the story which were very relevant to the plot and changed a lot in the story. 

The Iron Trial is a fantasy book that wasn’t super long. The chapters were a good length and the book itself was a good length as well. At first, my expectations weren’t set very high and I thought it would be a normal magic book and that it wasn’t anything special. As I read, I found myself pulled into the story, wanting to find out what happens next. I finished the book in a few days and ended up enjoying the book more than I thought I would. The Iron Trial is only the first book out of five in the Magisterium Series. I enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy novel. 

-Nicole R. 

Iron Trials by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Wayward Son is a great sequel to Carry On; the first book of the Simon Snow series. The events of this book happen at a time very close to when the events of Carry On happened and will most likely only make sense if you have read Carry On first. Just like Carry On, Rowell has once again, done an excellent job. I definitely enjoyed this book, but didn’t enjoy it as much as Carry On. I did feel like this book progressed a lot slower than Carry On. Carry On gave us the back story and explained everything going on quickly. The plot moved forward faster than Wayward Son

Wayward Son continues to follow the four characters, Simon, who was formerly known as, ‘The Chosen One’, Baz, who is now Simons’ boyfriend, Penelope, Simons’ best friend, and Agatha, Simon’s ex-girlfriend who is making her life now in the states. Simon and Baz are having a tough time. Simon was the hero of the story and was supposed to live his happy-ever-after, but instead, he’s dealing with some of his trauma. Baz wants to be there for him and has a hard time figuring out how. Their relationship is slowly tearing apart so to help them all heal, Penelope brings them on a vacation to America with her. They plan to visit Agatha in California but this road trip across America turns into a rescue mission to save Agatha from vampires. 

We meet some new characters such as Shepard. Shepard was an interesting and unique character who became pretty significant in the story. He interacted with our characters and moved the plot. We also got to see a lot more of Agatha. She was no longer just the “main characters’ ex”, she instead became a real character and became very important to the rest of the story. 

Although Wayward Son was a bit slow and not as great as Carry On, it was still fun to read. It was mostly about their road trip and fixing their relationships in the beginning, but nearing the end, the characters get more external problems they have to solve and get rid of. But throughout the book, they all have many internal problems, like their romantic relationships, familial relationships, and how to start fixing things. All the characters are going through their own list of problems both internal and external.

Wayward Son was an excellent book.  The characters found and healed themselves throughout the book and went through many new experiences. I found out more about characters and met some new and interesting ones in the process. I enjoyed this book a lot even though it ended in a cliffhanger. But thankfully I won’t have to wait a long time since the third and final installment of the Simon Snow trilogy just came out this July ninth and I can’t wait to get the whole series to completely finish it and then re-read it later.

-Nicole R.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson is a fantasy novel, filled with thrills, twists and lies. The story is narrated from the point of view of the main character, Sage. Sage is a fourteen year-old orphan and thief. One day he is caught stealing from a butcher but is saved by a nobleman named Bevin Conner. Sage is then kidnapped by Conner to be used in his devious plan. Sage is to undergo training with three other orphans. They are forced to impersonate the long lost son of the late king; Prince Jaron. If they don’t, they will definitely be killed.

At first I saw the book as somewhat predictable, but as I continued reading, I found other twists and surprises in the story that you wouldn’t have been able to find out unless you read the whole book. I appreciated the main character; Sage. He was lighthearted, witty, clever, but sometimes rude and cheeky. He was sly but could be honest at times. I really enjoyed reading from his perspective and it really fit with the storytelling. I also enjoyed Mott. Mott was one of Conner’s assistants. He was loyal and kind, but had a tough exterior. He was smart and helpful. Many of the characters made impacts on the story, and they all had interesting personalities. The personalities of characters changed the story in different ways and I liked that they all had a sort of impact. At certain points in the story, I thought some things in the story were a bit far fetched and unrealistic but still enjoyable nonetheless.

The False Prince is a young adult and middle grade book with relatively short chapters and is a quick read. My expectations when beginning this book were low but as I continued reading, I really enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. I didn’t expect that I would want to finish the book when I had started reading, but I ended up finishing the book the same day I started it. The story captivated me and I couldn’t put it down.  After reading the book I looked into the series and found the Ascendance Trilogy. The False Prince is the first in the Ascendance Trilogy and I can’t wait to start reading the second book, The Runaway King.

-Nicole R.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Cruella: Movie Review

I ended up watching Cruella when my Mom told me to get off my phone and watch a movie instead. We ended up finding Cruella and watching it. To those who don’t know, Cruella is Cruella deVille’s backstory and there were a couple of unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming. Cruella deVille was originally just a part of Disney’s 101 Dalmations and acted as the villain for the movie. But since Cruella deVille became a pretty well known Disney villain, I can see why they made a whole movie dedicated to her. 

Cruella starts off in 1970’s London and follows a young girl called Cruella, or better known in the beginning of the movie as Estella, who has always been a bit different than the other kids. Never following rules, getting into trouble, always curious, but was definitely creative. But when the saying ‘curiosity kills the cat’ actually comes to mess up Estella’s life the repercussions leave Estella homeless, orphaned, and alone. Until she meets two boys, Jasper and Horace, and soon finds a new family among them. They turn into a band of thieves but of course, it was never the life they wanted; especially Estella. Estella had always wanted to become a fashion designer and when Jasper and Horace help make that happen, she is thrilled. But her new job ends up in twists and turns making the movie exciting. 

I enjoyed this movie and was thoroughly entertained. This movie is definitely not the best example for kids to act but it is definitely enjoyable and a movie for the whole family to watch. I’m sure everyone can enjoy a little Disney every once in a while, even more so now since it’s starring a villain instead of a princess. Movies starring villains are usually pretty different from what Disney’s usual theme is. This movie is definitely a lot darker than some other Disney movies but enjoyable nonetheless. 

For a Disney movie, I haven’t heard much talk about the movie. Cruella first came out May 28, 2021 and I haven’t heard too much about it even though it is a pretty good movie. Cruella, with 74% rating on rotten tomatoes, is a great movie that many are sure to enjoy. I would definitely recommend this movie for anyone wanting something to watch. Now streaming on Disney+, you can go watch it now. 

-Nicole R.