Authors We Love: Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness at arrivals for A MONSTER CALLS Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2016, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, ON September 10, 2016. Photo By: James Atoa

Twice Carnegie Medal Winner Patrick Ness was born in the United States, currently holding dual citizenship status while living in London. He attended the University of Southern California, graduating with a degree in English Literature. While having written books for all age groups and genres, he is most known for his young adult fiction novels, most notably A Monster Calls.

After working as a corporate writer for a cable company, Ness published his first novel in 2003, titled The Crash of Hennington. He also published his pivotal short story collection Topics About Which I Know Nothing the same year. His career took off with the publishing of The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in a young adult trilogy about a society where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. He was awarded the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for this novel. He continued headstrong with the Chaos Walking trilogy, publishing the next two books and a series of short stories in the same literary universe. He is currently working on a film adaptation of the trilogy alongside screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

A Monster Calls originates from the mind of Siobhan Dowd, and Ness was hired to write the story after her passing in 2007. With illustrations by Jim Kay, the novel’s tale of a boy struggling to come to terms with his mothers illness earned Ness the Carnegie Medal after its 2011 publication.

Patrick Ness has written numerous novels about defining the teen experience from non-stereotypical perspectives. The Rest of Us Just Live Here presents an ironic spin on the classic YA fantasy novel, instead focusing on the ordinary side characters while the powerful “protagonists” fight monsters in the background. He has also touched on science fiction with his book More Than This, showing a teenage boy’s journey through a strange world in which he somehow wakes up after drowning in the ocean. The novel is one of my favorites from the author, describing themes of life’s meaning, trauma, and the difficulties of growing up in a place where you don’t feel welcomed. Ness wonderfully defines his diverse character set, and is an expert of including representation of POC and LGBTQ characters without making those identities their defining traits. Instead, he writes diverse characters not for the sake of diversity, but for the sake of telling an important story that everyone can relate to. Other books by Ness include his adult novel The Crane Wife, and his new young adult story titled Burn. As one of my favorite authors, Patrick Ness has astounded me in the  diversity of his literary prowess. I have enjoyed reading all of his works, and would recommend them to anyone that has a love for reading. My personal favorite has been More Than This for several years, and I am currently rereading the Chaos Walking trilogy before the movie makes an appearance.

-Bailey L.

The works of Patrick Ness are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was, and still is, a well-renowned author known for his science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories and novels.

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury’s start as a writer began very early on at the age of 12. He had a fateful encounter with a carnival magician by the name of Mr. Electrico who proclaimed “Live forever!” to which Bradbury decided to never stop writing.

Soon after this encounter at age 14, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles. When the Great Depression hit, Bradbury couldn’t afford to attend college so he instead attended the local library three days a week for ten whole years to acquire his education.

Over the course of his career, Bradbury published thousands of literary works including 400 short stories and 50 novels. In addition to this, Bradbury has also earned dozens of awards including the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award, and the Pulitzer Prize Citation.

I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury in the 6th grade with one of his short stories titled All Summer in a Day. The story is about a group of students who live on the never-ending rainy planet of Venus that have never seen the sun with the exception of a young girl named Margot who only moved to Venus five years prior. As our class read through in monotone uninterested voices (as most children do), I remember sitting there in awe at his simple yet elaborate descriptions of simple things such as the sun or the rain, the fantastical world he created on Venus, and the development of the characters in only a couple of pages. I remember that being the first time a short story truly made me feel something, like a deep pit in my chest.

The second short story I ready from Ray Bradbury was A Sound of Thunder, a story about time travelers who have something in drastic in store when they arrive in the past and return to the present. It was in this short story that I was truly enamored by his descriptions of the dinosaurs which were so incredibly elaborate that I felt like I was standing right there in front of them. It was when I read this short story that I set my own goal of creating scenes of such immaculate sensory description.

Ray Bradbury was not only a spectacular author but a person with an incredibly inspiring story and a true passion for something he loved to do. If you’re looking for a good long read or a good quick read, this is an author that will give you something interesting to read for years and years on end.

-Elia T.

The works of Ray Bradbury are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is my absolute favorite author. Her ability to retell stories we’ve heard a million times is impeccable as her imagination reshapes these stories into something completely new.

Meyer was born on February 19, 1984 and began her passion for writing very early on. At age 14 she started off writing Sailor Moon fanfics on fanfiction.net (as most of us do, let’s be honest) under a pseudonym named Alicia Blade. In fact, if you’re interested enough, you can still log on to the website and read a younger Marissa Meyer’s works of fanfiction under the same pseudonym. In college, Meyer continued to pursue her passion for writing, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and a Master’s in Publishing later on.

I first discovered Marissa Meyer when I picked up her first series titled the Lunar Chronicles. In this series, she puts a futuristic spin on many of the classic fairy tales we’ve heard in our childhood: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. With cyborgs, robots, a few romantic side plots, and a classic evil queen, a crew of our fairy tale girls soon form to save not only the fate of their kingdom, but the world as well. This series was so well written and put me on an even bigger emotional roller coaster than the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series combined. I know that’s a big claim, but trust me on this one. Meyer did a fantastic job in her first series; the world building was spectacular and the characters were so easily lovable in their very own way.

I’ve also read one of Meyer’s standalone books called Heartless which is a backstory about how the queen of hearts from Alice in Wonderland became the way she was. Like the Lunar Chronicles, this book had me so emotionally invested that I forgot the queen of hearts was the bad guy! I remember rolling in my seat out of excitement when I got close to finishing the book because of how invested I was! So if you’re looking for a love story in Wonderland, I definitely recommend this book for you.

Meyer has also released another standalone book this year titled Instant Karma and wrote a trilogy about superheros titled Renegades in 2017 which are both definitely on my “To Read Next List.”

If you haven’t heard of Marissa Meyer, or if any of her books sound interesting to you, I definitely recommend you check her out!

The works of Marissa Meyer are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Jules Verne

Jules Verne was a French author, poet, and playwright. He was born on February 8, 1828 in Nantes, France. He was the author of many popular classics that are still read today by many people in the world. Unfortunately, his writing career didn’t start off as well as he would have wanted. His dad did not support Jules following his dream in writing. He wanted his son to pursue a career in law and become a lawyer. Jules Verne did not want to be a lawyer, he wanted to write novels! 

In 1856, Jules Verne met Honorine Morel at the wedding of one of his old college friends. They later got married in 1857 and had their first and only child in 1861. They named him Michel Verne.  Michel Verne later helped finish writing his father’s stories after Jules Verne passed away. 

Jules Verne is the author of Journey to the Center of the Earth has proven to be one of his most popular books. The story is about a scientist who believes that volcanoes in Iceland have a path that leads to the Earth’s core. So, the scientist and his nephew travel into the caves that led them into the Earth. They take a journey where they find ancient fossils and evidence of huge humans. Then, they make it to the surface by erupting out of Earth inside a volcano.  

He has also written another top classic called Around The World In 80 Days where Phileas Fogg makes a bet to travel the world in 80 days. He takes boats and races through the countries as he works to win his bet. Then, he meets a French servant named Passepartout, who helps him save a princess from India named Aouda. They take Aouda along on their journey around the world. Then, they race to the meeting with the people to see if they won the bet. 

Jules Verne is also the author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is about Captain Nemo and his submarine named Nautilus. He takes 3 passengers on his submarine and they go on an underwater expedition around the world. They face giant squids along the way that try to attack the submarine just like they have attacked ships from all around the world. Captain Nemo and his passengers try to survive the underwater attacks by the squid and try to escape! 

Jules Verne was the author of many popular books that are read by millions of people all around the world. His books have been translated into 140 languages and he is called the most translated author of all time. He gathered ideas and got inspiration for his stories while traveling around France and Europe. 

The French novelist isn’t just a very important and loved author because of his adventurous stories and new ideas, but his books are read because his adventures make readers feel like they are witnessing the adventures themselves. Readers keep coming back to read more of his books because of the ways how his stories make them feel. When I read Jules Verne’s tales, I loved reading because the books made me feel excited and kept me wanting to read more and more. 

Many of Jules Verne’s books were about traveling and exploring the world. In books like Around The World In 80 Days, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, are all books that include traveling whether it is on Earth’s surface, or underwater. He mainly wrote science fiction books combining world science and his creativity to make amazing stories filled with action and adventure. 

In 1886, Jules was shot in the leg by his nephew, and that bullet stayed there for the rest of his life. For several months, Jules had to rest and put his leg up. Fortunately, he was able to walk with a cane months later he was shot. Later when we was 77, in 1905, Jules Verne suffered a stroke and was never able to recover. He sadly died on March 24, 1905.

-Mert A.

The works of Jules Verne are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica

Ellison was born in Oklahoma city, Oklahoma, on March 1, 1914. He was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous American writer and poet of the 19th century, and his father wanted him to be a poet, too. He lost his father at the age of three and grew up in a poor family. He loved music, especially jazz, and decided to be a musician. After high school, he won a scholarship to study music at the Tuskegee Institute, a black college. Because of scholarship problems, he had to go to New York after his junior year of college. He originally intended to earn some money to continue his studies, but he ended up staying in New York, where he started his literary career with the help and influence of the famous black poet Langston Hughes and the novelist Richard Wright, among others. In his early years, he mainly wrote critical articles and published two collections of essays, “Shadow and Act” and “Going to the Territory”, which elaborated his views on literature, music and the political and social life of African Americans. In 1952, the novel “Invisible Man” was published after seven years of careful creation.

The novel described the psychological maturity of a black youth in a society full of apartheid and racial discrimination, which belongs to the genre of growth fiction. Apart from the overture and epilogue, the novel can be divided into three parts: life at a black southern college, experiences in New York’s freedom paint factory, and experiences in Harlem. The novel is a combination of realism, naturalism, expressionism and surrealism. It expresses complex and profound themes through seemingly simple plots, especially the use of a large number of symbols, so that the novel can be understood from different levels and perspectives. Although he did not publish the second part of the novel for various reasons, his creative activities never ceased. After he died, his literature executors published Ellison’s second novel “Juneteenth”.

Mr. Ellison has been criticized for his advocacy of racial integration, cultural diversity, his lack of direct involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Aesthetically, his main point is that “novelists should take moral responsibility for democracy”. His novels are devoted to changing the traditional stereotype of black people and reshaping their humanity. Ellison won the National Book Award in 1953 and 1965 and received the U.S. Medal of Freedom and was accepted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

-Coreen C.

The works of Ralph Ellison are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Nathaniel Hawthorne

10 Things You May Not Know About Nathaniel Hawthorne - HISTORY

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) is the founder of American psychoanalytic fiction and the first writer of short stories in the history of American literature. He has been called the greatest American romantic novelist in the 19th century. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts in the United States. His family believed in the Christian puritanism, and Hawthorne was influenced by puritanism. After graduating from Bowdoin college in 1825, Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he wrote and published dozens of stories and short stories. In 1839, Hawthorne worked in Boston customs for more than two years, and then entered the “brook farm”, where he was exposed to transcendentalism and got acquainted with Emerson and Thoreau, the representatives of transcendentalism.

Later, Hawthorne went to Salem’s customs office, where his work experience there has a direct impact on his writing “The Scarlet Letter”, which consolidated his solid position in the American literary world. Hawthorne was evaluated as a spectator of life, and his attitude to life determined his interest and insight into people’s inner and psychological activities. He was deeply influenced by the thought of original sin, and the original sin was passed down from generation to generation. His representative works include the novel “The Scarlet Letter”, “The House of the Seven Gables”, “The Blithedale Romance”, “Twice Told Tales”, and “Mosses from an Old House”. Among them, “The Scarlet Letter” has become the world literature classic where Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville and other literary masters are deeply influenced by it.

The works of Nathaniel Hawthorne are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Herman Melville

Herman Melville - Wikipedia

Herman Melville (1819-1891) was one of the greatest American novelists, essayists, and poets of the 19th century, along with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Melville, who received little attention during his lifetime, rose to prominence in the 1920s and is generally regarded as one of the highest figures in American literature. Maugham considered his Moby Dick to be one of the world’s top ten literary masterpieces, ranking higher than Mark Twain and others in its literary history. Melville is also known as the “Shakespeare” of America.

In “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, Melville, through the interpretation of Bartleby’s silent struggle, powerfully responds to the over-optimistic transcendentalist worldview and expresses his own different views. Transcendentalists believe that “god is merciful, and nature is an incarnation and symbol of god, as well as the embodiment of god’s mercy; The soul of man is divine, so man’s nature is good, and he is one with nature.” And for Melville, nothing is absolutely good or absolutely evil. Emerson’s transcendental optimism does not really help the development of individuals in a vast society. The power of individuals is small, unable to fight against the society. Emerson is only describing to us an ideal state of human life, which can never be reached, but a castle in the air, which is desirable but unattainable.

In addition, Melville was deeply influenced by biblical stories. Not only did many of the characters in Moby Dick take their names from the bible, but he was also influenced by the simple ecological views of the bible. In the bible, although nature is god’s tool to punish human beings, human beings have to overcome the harsh natural environment in order to survive outside the garden of Eden, but this does not mean that human beings have to conquer and transform nature in order to survive. In fact, the bible calls for careful control of nature, not unbridled conquest. In addition to giving man the right to rule the earth, god demands that man must protect and nurture nature which espouses most of Melville’s thinking and shaping of plot lines.

The works of Herman Melville are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Mark Twain

Mark Twain - Wikipedia

Mark Twain (November 30, 1835 — April 21, 1910) was an American writer and speaker, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whose pseudonym was “Mark Twain,” a term used by Mississippi River sailors to indicate the depth of water measured in a waterway.

When he was 12 years old, his father died, he had to stop school and go to the factory as a laborer. He worked as a pilot, miner and journalist on the Mississippi River. Gradually, he began to write some interesting sketches and began his writing career. Twain’s representative works include the novels “The Million Pound Bank Note”, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and so on.

Mark Twain is the founder of American critical realism literature. This genre was typical in novels, plays, prose, poetry and other aspects. In terms of content, his works criticized the unreasonable phenomenon or the ugliness of human nature, and expressed the strong sense of justice and concern for the common people. Stylistically, both the experts and the general reader agree that humor and satire are characteristics of his writing. He experienced the transformation from capitalism to imperialism in the early stage of the United States, hence his thoughts and creations were also reflected in the development stage from light humor to bitter satire and then to pessimism. In the early stages, he was good at bitter satire, but in the later stage, his language was more exposed and fierce.

The works of Mark Twain are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Lyman Frank Baum

Baum’s first novel as a novelist was Mother Goose in Prose (1897). The book is based on a story he told his own children and introduces Dorothy, the farm girl, in the final chapter. In the introduction to the book, he says his aim was to create modern fairy tales that would not scare children as the Brothers Grimm did. In 1899, his collection of stories, Father Goose: His Book, was published, and it quickly became a bestseller. One evening, while he was telling his sons a story, he had an idea he had never had before.

While trying to calm them down, he grabbed a scrap of paper he could write on and excitedly wrote it down. This is a story about the Emerald City, and is the original idea of the Oz adventure story. The book, illustrated and covered by W. W. Denslow, was published at Baum’s private expense in 1900 and sold 90,000 copies in the first two years. Within a short time of the publication of the The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, the author had received thousands of letters from young readers asking him to keep the story going.

Baum did, at the reader’s request, write a series of fairy tales based on his fictional “Oz,” such as “The Emerald City of Oz,” “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” and “The Hungry Tiger of Oz.” He has written 14 fairy tales in this series. It does not include a collection of short stories from the The Marvelous Land of Oz Illustrated, published in 1914, or 10 other quasi-Oz-fairy tales that are intimately connected with the people of the land of Oz. In 1901, the first of the Oz series was adapted into a musical, with Baum helping to write the screenplay and lyrics.

In 1914, Baum was on the set of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In the same year, he founded The Oz Film Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles (later renamed The Features Film Company), where he also directed films from 1914 to 1915. The well-equipped studio on Santa Monica Boulevard sits on seven acres. But the company went out of business and produced only two films about Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz  and The Magic Cloak of Oz. In the years since, however, the story of the O.Z. has been brought to the screen many times. The Wizard of Oz, played by 16-year-old Judy Garland in 1939, was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.

Authors We Love: Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Wikipedia

In the middle of the 19th century, Russian society was full of contradictions and crises. The tyrannical rule of the tsar and capitalism weighed heavily on the psyche of the people. Dostoyevsky’s novels mainly depict the misery, contradiction, hardship and desperation of people living at the bottom of the society, reveal the depravity and destruction of human nature and the split of human spirit in this pathological society, and show the darkness and filth of the Russian society under the shadow of the autocratic rule and the capitalist system. His novels depict the bullied and insulted, and try to show the misery of the characters hidden in the dark corners of the slums. Dostoyevsky describes people who are divided by themselves, reveals multiple personalities and shows the return of human nature. Dostoyevsky is an expert in psychological description. He is obsessed with pathological psychological description. He not only writes about the results of behaviors, but also focuses on describing the psychological process of behaviors, especially those abnormal behaviors, near coma and madness.

The characters’ abnormal thinking and behavior are exactly the characteristics of his works. The intensity of Dostoyevsky’s psychological description is in proportion to the bewilderment of his thoughts. Dostoyevsky mainly adopts a non – temporal narration in dealing with the timing of the novel. Because he preferred to choose the most intense, terrible and extreme events as the subject matter of the novel, and was keen to show people’s psychology in the crisis, the overall rhythm of the work was extremely unstable. In the description of characters, Dostoevsky broke the tradition of describing characters in Russian literature since Pushkin. He not only described their impoverished situation, but also revealed the soul of the characters, not only sympathizing with them, but also associating with them. The strong is a story element opposed to the weak, mainly referring to those who have money and power but disregard any moral principles. Their most important characteristic is to get their own way. The rescuer and the rescued are another pair of story elements in Dostoyevsky’s novels.

If the antagonism between the strong and the weak constitutes the first clue of the narrative of the novel and highlights the author’s humanitarian feelings, then the second narrative clue composed of the rescuer and the rescued reflects the author’s thoughts full of religious meaning, which is of more metaphysical significance in thinking about the way out of the society. The latter two narrative elements are gradually developed in his novels. The story element of the savior is the perfect Image of Christ in Dostoevsky’s novels, the embodiment of the supreme good. At the beginning of creation, the image of the savior appeared in the form of a kind of good behavior, namely self-sacrificing love. After his return from exile in Siberia, Dostoyevsky shifted his focus to religious exploration, and the rescuer began to appear in his novels as a concrete and sensible figure. His character gradually became full and distinct, and he was no longer confined to the scope of love, but had a broader social content. In the novel, this element is the external manifestation of the author’s thoughts, and the author mainly reflects his own religious ideal of salvation through it.

Therefore, such characters are flat and are the “mouthpiece” of the author’s thoughts, often giving people a sense of paleness. The rescued person is the most important story element in his novels. Compared with the rescued person, this kind of character image is more abundant. The image of the rescued first appeared as the image of the visionary in Dostoevsky’s novels. This image inherits the tradition of superfluity in 19th century Russian literature and has the characteristics of superfluity: dissociating from the society, holding a critical attitude towards the society and possessing the characteristics of thinker. So his novels end with the triumph of the savior’s mind. But as an artist, Dostoyevsky always triumphs over himself as a moralist. He was deeply aware of the social reality at that time when people still had no way out depending on religion. The contradiction of his thoughts makes the main part of the novel present an open structure, and the ending presents an open state in a closed form.

The foundation of Dostoevsky’s novels is binary opposition, mainly composed of four story elements: the strong, the weak, the rescuer and the rescued, among which a theme of “salvation” runs through. Secondly, the structure of Dostoevsky’s novels is inconsistent. The construction of elements in his novels mainly consists of three parts: the antagonism between strong and weak — the conflict between good and evil in the heart of the saved, and the conversion of the save and the saved. However, due to the mutual influence, interweaving and inhomogeneity of various contradictions, the novel is open and incomplete in content. The reason why Dostoevsky adopted such a structure pattern in constructing novels is closely related to his religious thoughts and perplexities. Dostoyevsky’s novels mainly adopt two perspectives: inner perspective and omniscient perspective. First of all, his novels mainly show people’s self-consciousness. All kinds of consciousness have a relationship of equal dialogue, so the first-person inner perspective and the third-person indefinite inner perspective are the perspectives often adopted in his novels.

This perspective reflects Dostoevsky’s religious confusion and exploration. Secondly, the omniscient perspective of Dostoevsky’s novels is mainly reflected in the beginning and the end of the novels, which has two functions: one is to serve the characteristics of the perspective inside the main body of the novels, and the other is to serve the religious thoughts of Dostoevsky, thus forming the characteristics of the closed form of the novels. In addition, there are some “meta-novel” narrative modes in Dostoevsky’s novels, which also convey the confusion in his religious thoughts, no matter for the narrator, the hero or the reader. Thus, we can conclude the perspective mode of Dostoevsky’s novels: the main body of the novels mainly narrates from the inner perspective, and the beginning and end of the novels often adopt the omniscient perspective. Dostoyevsky’s construction of the time mode in his novels is mainly reflected in the following aspects: first, he no longer places events in the process of time like traditional novels, and is keen to describe the process in detail; instead, he cuts time, adopts a non-temporal narration, and pays attention to the synchro meaning of time. Secondly, it is also reflected in the psychological time intervention in the novel. He always likes to put the characters in the two poles of contradiction and in the atmosphere of tension, so as to describe all the secrets of the human heart. Hence, the psychological time is much longer than the story time.

-Coreen C.