Biggie by Derek Sullivan

biggie_dereksullivanEvery boy dreams of throwing a perfect game in baseball at least once. So does Henry ‘Biggie’ Abbott, but there is only one problem. Even though Biggie’s dad, Aaron Abbott (who left the family when Biggie was little), and stepdad, Jim ‘The Lazer’ Kaczor, were professional baseball players years back, Biggie is not built for the sport. He’s a high school junior and weighs over 300 pounds. Early in the book, Biggie despises athletics and having his dad’s last name, all he wants is to be left alone to maintain his straight As. But after pitching a no hitter in a high school P.E. wiffle ball game, Biggie discovers he has an “unhittable pitch,” and sets out with his younger stepbrother, Maddux, to be the first person in his town’s history to throw a no hitter.

Baseball isn’t Biggie’s only problem. There’s also a certain girl that he is in love with, but the same girl steals from the gas station where he works – right in front of him. And although it’s hard to believe, Biggie’s problems still are not over.

Although this novel sounds quite cliche, it is hard to put down. Biggie is quite a page turner, and the author, Derek Sullivan, manages to throw quite a few curve balls into the plot. Biggie is a novel not only for sports lovers, but for young teens everywhere. I would recommend this book for teens ages 13-16. As school comes to and end and summer is right around the corner, with baseball season in full swing, I believe that this novel will not be a strikeout.

-Will R.

Biggie is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Disney_BigHero6_Poster_BaymaxThis past weekend, I got a chance to see Big Hero 6, a Disney movie about a 13 year old robotics prodigy named Hiro, who, after his brother, Tadashi, dies in a freak accident, is left with Tadashi’s health care robot, Baymax. After Hiro’s microbots (little robots) are stolen, and it is discovered that they are being used to do evil, Hiro and Baymax, with the help of Tadashi’s college friends, set out to find the man responsible for Tadashi’s death and the microbots’ evil escapades.

At first, Big Hero 6 may seem like a basic kid’s movie- a battle between good and evil. However, Big Hero 6 carries some more subtle, deeper messages. One of the themes of the movie is the message of the power of friendship. Big Hero 6 shows that by working together, even the biggest of problems can be solved. The movie also leans away from gender bias. Two of Tadashi’s friends are girls, and they are equally important and smart as the boys in the movie. Big Hero 6 also sets up a diverse cast of characters, characters of different races and from different backgrounds.

Big Hero 6 shows that decisions made in the quest for revenge and in anger are never good. When Hiro tries to get revenge from the man who killed Tadashi by taking out Baymax’s health care chip and leaving in his fighting chip, things go wrong. The movie also supports the idea of innovation and robotics, two things that can help society.
The main message in the movie is that those who are loved can always be remembered. When Tadashi dies, Hiro does not think this way. However, Baymax shows him that loved ones can always be remembered. This causes Hiro to think differently about things.

This movie is great for people of all ages, go see it as soon as possible.

Two series of books that I recommend to those who liked this movie:

  • The Moomintroll series, by Tove Jansson. Although these books may be hard to find, the Moomintrolls have the same kind of cuddly appearance and personality as Baymax.
  • Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz. Just like Big Hero 6, these book are packed full of action and adventure.

-Will R., 10th grade

Book Review: Endgame: The Calling, by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

endgame_callingThrilling, suspenseful, page turning. Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton is all that it promises to be.

If you are younger, do not let the size of the book intimidate you, as this book is almost impossible to put down. Full of action, the novel is written from the perspective of a different “player” every chapter. Even if you are like me, someone who is not a fan of books written in this way, your opinion, like mine, will change with this novel.

Taking place in the present, the book follows the storylines of twelve “players,” those older than thirteen, younger than 20. All are highly trained killers, “as deadly as any soldier on Earth.” Put together, these players represent every trait, from kindness, to stupidity, to evil. These twelve are specially chosen descendants of the twelve ancient lines, and must fight to the death for their people’s survival. Whichever player first finds the three keys, each hidden on a different spot on the Earth, this player earns survival for themselves and the rest of their line when the world comes to an end. Everybody else on Earth will die.

In my opinion, Endgame is the new “Hunger Games” series, so for those who loved Suzanne Collins’ series, the Endgame series is a new must read. Also, for those avid readers out there who want to try Endgame, you should be warned, I was literally not able to put the book down, so before picking up this new novel, make sure you have plenty of time to read. Endgame is definitely worth your time, and I am already looking forward to the second book in this thrilling series.

-Will R., 10th grade

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

unbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a fascinating biography/novel that tells the story of young boy named Louie Zamperini who begins life as somewhat of a troublemaker; stealing and fighting. But, despite these difficulties, he becomes a running sensation. Louie works his way to four minute miles, and then is given the opportunity to run in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where even Hitler himself takes notice.

But Louie’s athletic endeavors take a detour as he is sent off to fight in WWII as part of a fighter plane’s crew. Louie’s plane crashes, and Louie survives on the open ocean for several weeks living off practically nothing until he is captured by the Japanese and put into a POW camp. 

Unbroken tells the horror stories of life for Louie and other American soldiers inside Japanese camps as they are tortured and starved to death. The POW camp passages portray humans who  have no regard for other human life. Louie watches his friends and countrymen become sick and die. In turn, he becomes sick and waits for death himself. When Louie is transferred to another prison camp, his experience becomes even worse. He meets Matsuhiro Watanabe, a prison guard who takes extreme delight in beating prisoners, and singles Louie out constantly. When the Allies finally win the war, Louie is a changed man. He has become affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, and cannot be around anything that reminds him of the war or the POW camps. He soon develops drinking and marital problems.

Louie believes he can end his problems by killing Matsuhiro, who has fled after the war. However, events take a suprise turn.

This novel was sad and horrifying. Louie’s story is an amazing one of hope, sorrow, survival and redemption, and Ms. Hillenbrand is able to thoroughly express these thoughts and feelings on paper.

-Will R., 10th grade

Something for Everyone: 5 Top Summer Reads

Are you bored out of your mind this summer? Feel like spending the day watching movies or playing video games? Instead, give one of these books a try, and you’ll be instantly entertained.

huck1) Huck by Janet Elder

Huck is a true story that is not only for dog lovers but for anyone looking for a heartwarming read this summer. Huck, a toy poodle, is bought for Michael, a young boy, while his mother is going through breast cancer treatment. When Michael and his family go on vacation and leave Huck with family members, Huck runs away. The story line follows Michael and his family through their ups and downs, times of both joy and sorrow, as they search all over New Jersey for their beloved dog. Through the family’s searches, it is revealed how kind people can really be.

divergent_cover2) The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth

The Divergent series is a great series for bringing on a long car or plane trip, or for just reading at home, as it can keep you easily entertained. Divergent takes place in a dystopia that is divided into four sections/clans as a result of a war, and follows a girl named Beatrice through her teenage years, first as she moves out of the clan in which she grew up; then as she becomes involved in another war that will wipe out two clans. Divergent and the rest of the books in the series can really make time go faster, and is nearly impossible to put down.

hokey_pokey_cover3) Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli

Everything about Hokey Pokey, Jerry Spinelli’s latest book, will remind you of summer. In a land where grownups don’t exist, boys and girls hate each other, there is no school and only playtime, every kid is under twelve, and the hokey pokey man (think snow cone in the shape of a cube) comes every day, live three friends; Jack, the “leader” of the hokey pokey land boys, and his two companions, Dusty and LaJo. Only there are a few small problems. Jack’s beloved bike has been stolen by a girl, and Jack is becoming too old for hokey pokey land. This book will bring out the inner kid in you, and you will be reading it over and over all summer.

captain_bluebear4) The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers

This is a book that is not very well known; however, the Washington Post accurately captured its essence when it deemed the book “Equal parts J.K Rowling and Shel Silverstein.” This book is perfect because it won’t take up a lot of room in a suitcase, but it will take up plenty of time on the plane ride during your summer vacation. The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear is about a blue bear named Bluebear (what else?) who goes on all kinds of adventures during his 13 1/2 lives and has a talking encyclopedia in his head. Bluebear begins his life in a nutshell in the sea with minipirates, and from there goes through all kinds of adventures, such as living on an island with every kind of food growing on it; think pizza plants and chocolate milk streams. The island later turns out to be a carnivorous monster. Bluebear also becomes a professional liar, along with many other things. This book is fun and playful, and is for all ages. Just like the rest of the books on this list, The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear is something to read over and over all summer.

eragon_cover5) The Eragon series by Christopher Paolini

The Eragon series has plenty of books to keep you entertained for a few weeks, and is a great series for fantasy lovers. Even if you have already read the Eragon series, it is great to reread. Eragon is a young boy who discovers a “magical stone” that turns out to be an egg holding Saphira, or dragon. Eragon then continues to learn to become a dragon rider and how to trust Saphira in order to defeat the evil king that rules Eragon’s kingdom. Like The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, the Eragon series is great for teens age 12 and up.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: Russian Roulette, by Anthony Horowitz

russian_roulette_coverFor the fans of the famous Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz has come out with a new thriller, Russian Roulette– which is perhaps even better.

For those who haven’t heard of the Alex Rider series, Alex is a teen spy who works for M-16, the British FBI. He is sent on numerous missions to help stop plots of Scorpia, a group of illegal weapons and drug dealers, as well as assassins. If one has read the Alex Rider series, they know of the infamous paid assassin working for Scorpia, Yassen Gregorvich, who has appeared in many of the Alex Rider books. Yassen is a very complex man, and acts in strange ways, such as saving Alex’s life when he is supposed to kill him.

Russian Roulette is about Yassen’s background, and how he comes to Scorpia. The book begins with Yassen as a young child, living in a small Russian village. One day, he is forced to escape alone after he learns that his parents made nuclear weapons, and that they are now being hunted down. Yassen has to go to Moscow, to find a “friend” of his parents’ who will look after him.

Unfortunately, Yassen discovers that nobody is really what they seem. After many twists and turns in the plot, Yassen escapes from Russia with members of Scorpia, and ends up in Italy. Yassen then learns not only how to shoot a gun, but about using polite manners, conversing in current events, and appreciating top brands, all in the interest of blending in to the crowd. In the final stages of the story, the plot twists once again.

For anyone who loves action novels, this is a must-read. Even though it is not a new Alex Rider book, it maintains Horowitz’s reputation as a top-notch author of thrillers. I would give Russian Roulette a 9.5 out of ten. Because of some minimal violence, I would recommend this book for ages 13 and up. Anthony Horowitz and his novels are never a disappointment.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: The Lives We Lost, by Megan Crewe

lives_we_lostThis month, I am reviewing the sequel to The Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe. The book, The Lives We Lost, begins when the main character, Kaelyn, and her friends discover that the deadly virus that starts with “flu-like” symptoms has spread far past their small quarantined island on the East Coast, and has now reached the rest of America, and possibly the world.

Kaelyn subsequently finds a vaccine in her late father’s lab that she heard him talking about before he died. She knows that she must set out to find someone who can replicate this vaccine to save humankind as we know it. However, as Kaelyn and her friends set out, they realize that the journey they are taking is long and dangerous, and the few people who are not infected with the virus will do almost anything, even kill innocent kids, to get their hands on the vaccine.

This is a great read, especially for teens who enjoy apocalypse and dystopian novels. Due to the content of the book, I would only recommend it for kids ages 13 or 14 and up, but even though the book can be graphic, it is a page-turner.

Both The Lives We Lost and its predecessor end with cliff hangers foreshadowing another book in the series. While I wish that Ms. Crewe had added another hundred pages or so and just finished the second book instead of leaving the reader hanging, I am looking forward to reading the third in the series.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: Struck by Lightning, by Chris Colfer

struck_by_lightning_coverIn the recently released book Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer, high school senior Carson Phillips has big dreams, unlike others in the small town of Clover. Carson wants to attend Northwestern University and, then become a journalist for the New York Times. There is one problem: Carson has not yet gotten accepted into Northwestern yet.

In the book, Carson, along with maintaining the school newspaper and his writers club, needs to submit a literary magazine in order to get into his dream school. However, nobody in the high school likes Carson, or writing, and the only way Carson can get people to submit papers for his magazine is to blackmail students in his high school.

This book follows the storyline of a boy who struggles with life; both in school (with his college challenge)and outside of school (with his grandmother who has Alzheimer’s, his only parent mother who is a dysfunctional alcoholic, and his father, whom he never sees).

This book is well written and very engrossing. I literally picked it up and did not put it down until I had finished. This is a read for both boys and girls; however, I would recommend it to people who are at least 14. This a great new book that should be on every teen’s 2014 reading list.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: The Five Ancestors: Out of the Ashes – Lion, by Jeff Stone

lion_coverIf you have read the Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone, about five cousins with five different types of animal Kung Fu, Tiger, Snake, Monkey, Dragon, and Crane, who have to fight for their lives to save their kingdom from their evil brother who knows Eagle Kung Fu and his army, then you are in for a real treat. Jeff Stone has released a new series that follows the Five Ancestors– however, the new series takes place in the 21st century and it is called The Five Ancestors: Out of The Ashes. So far, Mr. Stone has written two books for this series: Phoenix and Lion. Lion is the book I will be reviewing.

Lion is a continuation of Phoenix, containing all of the same characters that are in the first book: Ryan Vanderhausen, Phoenix, Hú Dié, and Ryan. In the book Lion, Ryan is trying to get rid of an evil powder called dragon bone that his uncle experimented with in the previous book, Phoenix. Dragon Bone makes Ryan stronger, yet it can paralyze him if he does swallow some of it everyday. Also, Ryan and his friends are invited to train on road bikes with Ryan’s cousin, Peter, in California. However, an evil man named DuSow, and his accomplices want to get their hands on Ryan’s supply of dragon bone to make themselves more powerful.

Overall, this series is turning out to be just as good as the first series of the Five Ancestors, and I am really looking forward to reading the next book. However, I made the mistake of reading the books out of order, and I accidentally read Lion first. Make sure you do not do this, as the book will be very confusing if you read it out of order. This book series is a must read and I recommend it for any age, however it is geared more toward the male gender in my opinion.

-Will R., 9th grade

Book Review: Ostrich Boys, by Keith Gray

ostrich_boys_coverWhen their best friend, Ross, accidentally bikes in the path of an oncoming car and gets hit, Blake, Kenny, and Sim are devastated. At Ross’ memorial service, when no one seems to be incredibly sad, Blake, Kenny and Sim become angry; first spraying graffiti on their History Teacher’s house, and then another classmate’s house, in retribution for the way those people had treated Ross in life. Now, the three boys turn off their cell phones, steal Ross’ ashes, run and the story’s narrative is set.

In Ostrich Boys, by Keith Gray, the three protagonists start from their hometown in England, and escape from their parents, taking Ross’ ashes with them to give Ross a proper burial in Ross, Scotland. On their journey, the boys learn how to accept each other, and experience many heart pounding and exciting moments, only to find the FBI looking for them, and to uncover a shocking truth.

Ostrich Boys is one of those books you will want to read just by glancing at the front cover and title. Although this book is not on the popular radar, I would definitely recommend it. However, this book is probably only for teens 13 or 14 and older. Ostrich Boys is a find and one you will likely enjoy.

-Will R., 9th grade