About Zoe K.

have you ever felt like a plastic bag like you're really bad for the environment and target banned you

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Sometimes judging a book by its cover is an incredible thing. For instance, take a look at Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips: an orange background adorned by a marble Adonis in purple boxers.

I mean, how can you not want to read that book?

While it’s definitely R-rated in some scenes, this novel is a more crass Percy Jackson. I remember desperately trying to throw myself back into Riordan’s series in middle school, only to be entirely bored. I’m pretty sure my heart fully stopped during The Battle of the Labyrinth.

But it was no fault of the books! They had stayed the same, and I had merely grown out of them. I needed my fix of mythology from somewhere else.

Marie Phillips manages to recapture the magic of Greek gods and goddesses living in the modern world. London, England, Modern World, as a matter of fact. Crammed in a tiny house, a handful of minor deities work in satirical jobs amongst mortals, have startling amounts of sex, and are generally terrible to one another.

They rally against the loss of their power, feeling lost as the world slowly forgets about them.

This book is very British, in addition to being extremely funny. It is one which can jump-start a fading love for reading. I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have too delicate of sensibilities, and is looking for a quick romp through the lives of Olympians.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Island by Olivia Levez

The Island by Olivia Levez was my “Book Set in The Wilderness” for the PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge. Let me tell you, I was not emotionally prepared for this one.

This story is built on pain, suffering, redemption, and most importantly, survival. I have fallen in love numerous times with survival stories. The Book Thief and The Storyteller broke my heart one after another. A word of advice, do not read these in succession. They will wreck you.

But there is something special about The Island. Outside of Levez’ incredible and unique writing style – one which uses, actually uses, syntax – the story itself is exciting, quick, and witty. Frances’ internal monologue is sarcastic and hilarious, if not a bit abrasive.

In between the struggle to live on her deserted island in the middle of the sea, Frances recalls the pain of her modern life. There is a constant fear of death, of losing what little one has gained.

Though I have never come close to feeling my life was in this level of danger, there is still a deeply engaging in a story about someone fighting for herself, and only herself.

The pages practically turn themselves. The Island is an under the cover with a flashlight read; one you read through the night and into the morning.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

The Island by Olivia Levez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash

Like many others, one of my New Year’s Aspirations was to read more books. To help myself with this, I chose to do the PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge. Along with a friend of mine, I began to check books off the list.

My first read of the year was back in January, but I still find myself thinking about it in March. Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash was my “Book With a Red Spine,” and it has made its way onto my list of favorites.

Until I came across Tom Barbash’s work, I had never much gone for short stories, much less collections of them. There was always something deeply unsatisfying about their brevity. I found myself anxious and yearning for more after the final page was turned.

But Stay Up With Me was incredibly real and terrifyingly relatable. Barbash has the power to make a reader fall in love with his characters in just a few sentences. The people in these stories are complex – they have failings and flaws in addition to their successes. Each one grows as a person and learns in the short course of their time in your hands.

And just as you are invested, just as you have committed the little idiosyncrasies of these characters to memory, the story ends.

Each time, as you feel the power of the final line, you are forced to wrench yourself from the story. There is a forceful discomfort as you move on, a sense of loss when their names are not printed on the next page.

All those people you just learned about? They’re gone. Everything there is for you to know about them is contained in those last few pages.

Stay Up With Me is collection of heartbreaking tales. Love, loss, and everything in between – Barbash does it beautifully.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Passion For Reading

There was a time in my life when I talked about books as though they were sustenance, as though they were essential to my survival. I devoured stories and inhaled pages. I vividly remember checking out four, five, six books at time and somehow finishing them all before the two weeks were up.

Though that experience is shared with many people, a majority of adults fail to make time for reading.

I often wonder where that passion goes.

To most people, reading is thought of as a chore, or something for the forgotten bottom end of a to-do list. Reading is a fizzling New Year’s Resolution. Reading is a Barnes & Noble credit card but dusty shelves.

When people talk about getting back into reading, it is as though they are starting a new project at work, as though they are radically changing their schedules.

New units of time have to be carved out of a schedule, clearly labeled “READ” in blocky black lettering. Books fill shopping bags, along with all the obviously necessary accessories to reading – fancy bookmarks and clip on lights and slogan-laden tote bags – because now, you are a Reader.

There is something lost in this frenzy. In this sort of Oprah’s Book Club, unbroken-spine kind of reading, books are a status symbol.

I find myself in this rut occasionally. Rearranging and rearranging the same shelves with an obsessiveness, buying War and Peace and Les Miserables because they’re the sort of books a pretentious academic like myself should have.

I miss that feeling that all library-bound children have. That feeling that there were an infinite amount of words in the world, and if I only read fast enough, flipped enough pages, then I would be able to drink them all in.

So many people have a desire to read; to become that excited kid again. We want to be the one who’s not only Heard of That, but Read It. We want to know authors and quotes and have worn paperbacks to pass on to friends and family. We want to feel that love and intensity that stories used to inspire.

I truly believe that feeling is still inside every adult today. Maybe it’s buried under stress and deadlines and distraction, but it’s there.

All we have to do is find the right book.

-Zoe K., 11th grade

Find your right book at the Mission Viejo Library. Titles are also available to download through Overdrive and Hoopla.