The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special: Review

My brother is the real Marvel fan of the family, but my mom and I watched the holiday special of Guardians of the Galaxy with him anyway. Although I’ve missed a good amount of Marvel films and the ones I have seen I forgot a bit about, the premise of this special was very clear and easy to understand. I had fun with it; it was mostly a comedy and mainly just a cheerful holiday film. 

Yondu, like the Grinch, ends up ruining Christmas for Peter Quill (not really). Set after Avengers endgame, Quill is sad without Gamora, Mantis makes up her mind to make Quill happy and to save his Christmas.  In order to do that, she and Drax make their way to Earth to get a Christmas gift; the one and only Kevin Bacon. Mantis and Drax take a fun trip to Earth while also successfully capturing Kevin Bacon. Quill is however not too pleased with the idea of human trafficking. Despite having not been too thrilled to have been kidnapped and taken to space, Bacon decides that he’s going to teach Peter and the rest of the people on Knowhere what Christmas is and what it’s all about. In the end, Peter didn’t really need to meet Kevin Bacon to be happy, but instead he and Mantis just needed to learn a little about who they are. 

I liked this special being only 44 minutes long; short and fun. It was mostly focused on Mantis and Drax, and I personally would have liked to see more of the other guardians but, Mantis and Drax are a great comedic duo and definitely had great moments. Despite being entertaining, some parts of the special were not what I expected and not my type of thing to watch. The middle of the film was pretty entertaining and the end was just as good. However, there were portions that were just not my kind of comedy and didn’t appeal to me, making me feel bored and awkward at some points. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out what audience they were trying to target, because some of the jokes and dialogue felt like they were for kids, but some scenes were more targeted towards teens. Even though there were some things I didn’t enjoy as much as others, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is really just a simple, feel-good film, something that should just be a quick watch along with other holiday shows and movies, and something to enjoy with your family. 

Overall, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special was fun to watch and had some good moments that got me to laugh, but it wasn’t my exact cup of tea when it comes to comedy. I still think it was enjoyable just not my type, but I would still encourage people to take a look at it and give it a try, because the acting is great, plot is nice and simple, and it is a good film to watch for the holiday season. 

-Nicole R.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Katheryn Stockett was the first book I had to read when I entered my freshman year. They gave it out as a summer reading assignment and now, we’ve been doing essays and connecting it to other stories we’re reading. 

The Help is a historical fiction novel, and is set in the 1960’s in Mississippi. Skeeter, a young woman straight out of college who aspires to be a writer, begins to interview and befriend the black women of her town in order to write about their lives in hopes to help them and show what they go through and the racism they face. Aibileen and Minny, two black women who work as the help, or housekeepers, in the town are the first two that Skeeter interviews and befriends. Despite their differences in society, they each work together to get other black women to help and create their book. As the story goes on, these three grow and learn more about themselves and others around them.

The book is told through three different perspectives. First is Aibileen, a black woman that is the help, or the housekeeper, of one of Skeeter’s friends. She is a hard worker and has been working for a long time as a help. She is kind and is the first person to help Skeeter write her book. Minny is another black woman who is Aibileen’s friend and the help of another one of Skeeter’s friends. Minny is stubborn and hot headed. She takes much more convincing than Aibileen to help with Skeeter’s book due to her distrust in white people, but she eventually comes around as the story goes on. Skeeter on the other hand, is a white woman, young and aspires to become a writer, despite what other people’s views of her are. 

This book was a fun read, despite having to write and take assessments on it. To be honest, I had fun writing essays on this book because I understood the story and the characters even more. Skeeter was one of my favorite characters. She broke the society norms, had her own dreams and goals, and really grew throughout the story. Two other characters I enjoyed reading were Celia and Johnny. Celia was Minny’s boss and Johnny was Celia’s husband. They were immediately different from all the other characters. Despite the time period and the fact they were white, they didn’t mistreat Minny and really cared for her. Like Skeeter, they were kind and weren’t racist like many of the other white people in their town. Treating others with human decency is a pretty low bar, but considering the time period, this is a pretty important and unusual thing to see. I’m glad Stockett included these characters, otherwise, it would have been very difficult to read this book. 

The plot overall was really good; each character had their own story and path with their own aspirations, needs, and problems. Aibileen has lost her own son and wants to teach young kids the right things while taking care of them, but also wants to become free to live her own life. Minny wants to care for her own children; wants them to have a good life. Skeeter wants to pursue her dreams although society is against her. Each character has their own set of issues they must overcome and their own story to complete while also creating their own story together, both within the story and plot wise.

The Help is a great book and would be a book I’d recommend if you were looking for one in this genre. Historical fiction is definitely one of my favorite genres but I’m sure that even if it wasn’t one of your favorites, it could still be a fun read.

-Nicole R.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Shakespeare by the Sea: Romeo and Juliet Review

This is my first time seeing something by Shakespeare by the Sea, and my first time actually seeing a show of the famous Romeo and Juliet play. Despite how famous the story of Romeo and Juliet is, I have never actually seen a live performance of it, until Shakespeare by the Sea came around. Shakespeare by the Sea is a nonprofit organization that performs theatrical plays for free in communities around California. Last year, they were not able to tour and perform and they have just started again this summer. I was really lucky in catching this show, as it was part of the 25th anniversary and the last tour with the original founder of Shakespeare by the Sea.

I hadn’t been interested in Shakespeare and had just come along to watch the play because my mom asked if I wanted to. There was nothing I had to do that day, and I had never actually seen Romeo and Juliet yet, so I had no reason not to go see it. I was not disappointed. It was your usual Romeo and Juliet play, following the original story, but I had plenty of laughs and it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of moments, especially in the beginning of the play, that made me laugh out loud and smile. They spoke in the old, english dialect, but I understood it just fine. The actors did an amazing job, in portraying their character, the emotion, and making it fun for everyone. The actors help set up the stage, perform the entire thing, and take it down afterwards. The entire venue is outside and they work and perform for over an hour. The actors and people who work with Shakespeare by the Sea are honestly so amazing and put in so much time and effort in it. 

Shakespeare by the Sea has sparked my own interest in Shakespeare and his works and I am so happy to have been able to see them perform. If you ever get the chance to see one of their performances, I highly recommend going because they work super hard for their productions, and it is completely free to watch them. It is super fun to watch them perform and if you do ever end up going to a performance, make sure to give them a donation for their dedication to performing!

-Nicole R.

Top Gun: Maverick Movie Review

Top Gun: Maverick, the long awaited sequel to the legendary Top Gun movie, has finally debuted after 30 years. Top Gun: Maverick once again stars Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, set 30 years after the first Top Gun movie. Top Gun: Maverick was extraordinary and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. I wasn’t exactly super attached to the first Top Gun movie, but  was encouraged by my family to see Top Gun: Maverick with them. I had watched it a day after the opening of the movie, not really knowing what to expect, but after watching the movie, it blew any expectations I had out of the water. The cast was full of great picks and the characters made an impact. The story had my attention immediately and never once lost me. I stayed attentive throughout the whole thing and couldn’t turn away easily. 

Top Gun: Maverick first introduces us to Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has now been flying and serving in the Navy for more than 30 years now, and is called back to United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, or better known as Top Gun. Maverick is asked to become an instructor for a group of Top Gun graduates to get them ready to go on a near impossible mission, which makes everyone wonder if anyone would even make it out alive. As the pilots train for the mission, Maverick rebuilds his relationships, and learns to accept the past by overcoming his fears. He does whatever is in his power to make sure that this mission and everyone’s life doesn’t blow up into smoke.

Top Gun: Maverick included something that I had never felt in a movie before. The suspense had my heart pounding in my chest, my mind unable to tell what would be coming next. Even the minor plot twists would either give me stress or relief. I felt incredibly attached to the characters and I felt as if I really knew them. Every second of the film is essential to the plot or to Maverick’s character, and it doesn’t ever feel as if there is a filler scene. Even if there had been a filler scene, it was filled with entertainment, leaving me in no way bored. There was tension and suspense, but there were also heartwarming times, heartbreaking times, and witty, humorous moments scattered throughout the film which developed the plot and developed the characters. 

Each character had their own special quality, whether it being timid, arrogant, confident, or funny, these are all qualities that can be found within each of the characters, old and new. Despite there being only two of the past characters, Maverick and Iceman (Yes, it’s really Val Kilmer!), they still hold their previous character’s charm and personality within them. The new characters are definitely not a let down, and are actually pretty interesting characters. I do, however, wish that we had more time to spend with each character and to learn about each of them a bit more. I would’ve liked a bit more insight with each character such as, who they are, relationships with each other and each of their backstories; just to fill in some plot points that I feel were missed.

I hadn’t been a huge Top Gun fan before this movie came out, but now you can definitely count me in when it comes to Top Gun. If I ever get to, I’d watch the original and sequel back to back just to get the full experience and to appreciate it even more. There are a couple of call backs from the first Top Gun movie so if you were thinking of seeing Top Gun: Maverick, I’d definitely recommend watching the first Top Gun movie to get the full experience. Top Gun: Maverick easily won a spot in my heart, making it an unforgettable movie for me, also placing the entire franchise in general on a higher pedestal than I had it on before. If you ever have the chance to see Top Gun: Maverick, I’d highly recommend that you do. It is an amazing movie, with amazing people in it, and I couldn’t be happier to have watched it. 

-Nicole R.

Review of Hamilton: Live at Segerstrom

Recently, Hamilton came and performed at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. My parents got my brother, themselves and me tickets to the last show on the final day of their tour. I’ve been a fan of Hamilton ever since my friends and cousins got me into it a few years ago. Ever since then, I’ve listened to the soundtrack, watched the animatics on YouTube, and even got Disney+ just to watch it. But nothing I’ve watched could beat seeing the show live. Seeing the full show in person was a completely different experience than from seeing it through a screen. 

For those who don’t know, Hamilton is a musical based around the life of Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the founding fathers of America. It goes through all his accomplishments and everything he took part in, such as the Revolutionary War and the makings of the financial system in America. However, the musical also shows everything that happened in his personal life, and everything he had done or failed to do. If you haven’t taken a look at Hamilton (the songs or the story or both) I would highly recommend you do.

Despite how many times I listen to the songs, none of the recordings will blow me away in the same way hearing and seeing it live will. All the visual effects and sound effects within the songs created a whole new sense and feeling. You could feel the vibrations of the effects throughout the theater allowing shivers to run through my body. Being able to see and hear all the effects and visuals in person made everything more intense. The actors did a great job, and for the most part, I could understand what they said (probably because I’ve listened to it so many times). The choreography was stunning, the different kinds of lighting was awesome and connected well with the scenes, and the acting was phenomenal. The actors really did an amazing job, and they were very fun to watch. What’s even more exciting when seeing something live, is the fact that no show is going to be the same. The night my family and I went, the cast was different from any of the other days they showed. I won’t ever get to know what the other shows were like, how the characters sounded or anything. I am only going to know what my show was like, which makes the experience feel even more special. 

Hamilton was great to listen to and watch through a screen, but seeing it live was a completely new and amazing experience and I couldn’t be happier to have been there to see it. Once again, if you haven’t taken a look at any of the songs or anything even pertaining to Hamilton, then I would highly recommend you do. It has an impressive soundtrack that somehow manages to tell the entire story, even without hearing the parts in between (especially since the story is told through the music). Even if the music isn’t your cup of tea, just try listening to it at least once. Now, if you do find interest in the musical and end up liking it, I would definitely recommend you to watch the next showing of it whenever they come to your area. Seeing this show live is something you wouldn’t regret if you already like the music.

-Nicole R.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Movie Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been out for a long time, but I wasn’t too interested in checking it out. Don’t get me wrong, it looked like a great movie, I just wasn’t interested in watching movies at the time. One day, my parents put it on and I decided to sit down and watch it. When I sat down to watch, I didn’t know what I was expecting. Marvel movies always have a way of surprising me. I usually have no idea what I’m in for when I start a Marvel movie. This time, Marvel introduced a completely new character to me. I had never seen or heard the name of Shang-Chi (despite him being in the Marvel comics), and I had no idea what the ten rings were. Despite these factors, I had a good time watching the movie.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows the story of Shaun. Shaun is a seemingly normal individual; he works as a valet driver with his best friend, Katy. Stuck in their teenage delusions, they continue to live their life normally, until a group of shady individuals attack them both on their bus to work. Shaun figures out that these individuals are a part of his father’s group, the Ten Rings, and he makes it his mission to go find his sister. In hopes to find and help his sister, Shaun and Katy go to China, only to get himself and Katy into more trouble. Him, Katy, and his sister have to deal with larger problems than just Shaun’s father’s organization, and along the way, they uncover more secrets. 

In the end, Shang-Chi was a great movie. I had a lot of fun while watching it; the action scenes were wonderful and well done, and there were times where they gave me a good laugh. Like most marvel movies, the music completely enhanced the scenes and made the action so much better. I enjoyed how fast paced the movie felt, and even by the end, I wanted more. The movie felt short, despite it being over two hours long. The fight scenes had remarkable choreography and had a great sense of timing. It didn’t feel too fast that I couldn’t understand what was happening, but it wasn’t too slow that it felt boring. The slow downs within the fights were a nice touch and gave me a little more time to breathe. However, I did feel as if there was more action than dialogue. Most of the dialogue was needed for the story to continue, and somewhat impactful. The dialogue was mostly to show who the characters were and to move the story. Every now and then, there would be some quips, and some small jokes that I would chuckle at, but overall, I felt as if there was more action than dialogue. But considering it’s a superhero action movie, it would make sense.

Although not knowing anything going into the movie, I found Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to be a great movie and I am quite excited to see these characters in future Marvel movies. I can’t wait until they interact with more characters from the Marvel universe, and to see what other problems they encounter. This movie is definitely a fun one to watch and I would recommend it to people who enjoy action and to even just try it if you don’t.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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.