Books Series to Read This School Year

This year we might have a lot of time on our hands because we may be doing online classes. So here are a few book series that I think you will be able to enjoy.

My first choice would be Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, by Rick Riordan. This series is about Norse mythology, the main character is Magnus Chase who is killed and goes to Valhalla where he lives on a floor in a hotel with a bunch of unique and funny neighbors. Until he finds out about a quest for the Sword of Summer. In the first book which is The Sword of Summer, it is very entertaining and hilarious.

My second choice would be The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. This series is about four children named Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan who are taken away from their parents because of a war. They are brought to an elder man’s house and they discover a wardrobe that teleports them to a different place. They meet many different creatures that they befriend and go on adventures. This series is definitely worth your time.

My third and final series that I recommend is A Series of Unfortunate Events. If you like happy endings and happiness I do not think you should read this. This series is about three children named Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire whose parents die in a fire. They are sent to live with a rude and selfish actor named Count Olaf. He is after the Baudelaire fortune and will stop at nothing to get it. In this series accompany the Baudelaire children barely escaping Count Olaf and his evil theater troupe. This series is one of my favorite book series, and if you end up reading it, hopefully, you will enjoy it as well.

In conclusion these are my top book series to read this school year.

-Veronica S.

Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill The Bride by R. L. Stine

Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill The Bride is the perfect balance of mystery and horror. Two sisters separated by decades, will they all come to the same terrible fate or will the curse be lifted?

I am not an avid reader when it comes to thriller/horror mystery, but this was an exceptional case. The different pockets of time threw me off from time to time, but there was always a plot twist that would grab me back in. This book oddly shows extreme forms of family problems and toxic relationships, which sadly seems to apply more now than ever in a society.
As you venture further into the story, you realize how much sorrow and anger there is in the world, and how the stories between the sisters paint an ugly picture. This story made me think about if such a horrid tale happened in my family, it gave me chills and a reality check. The tragic truth is jealous and acrimony weaved throughout this tale is what some people experience every day. The poor decisions we make based on an unjust prejudice make me gag.
Aside from that, I highly recommend this book. It was a thrilling adventure that taught me a small lesson along the way. Reading some parts of the book aloud assisted my understanding of the character’s thoughts and emotions throughout the book.
There is no true main character because the baton is passed off between two similar girls almost a hundred years apart. However, the issues and emotions they faced were extremely related, and it relates to most of us today. Even though the extremity is not on the same level, we all have had our shares of lethal relationships and moments of inflamed passion, that lead to disastrous events.
Long story short, an electrifying drama that will keep you up late reading it.
-Coralie D.
You May Now Kill The Bride by R. L. Stine is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Relevance of The Hate You Give

If you’ve been on any type of social media, or practically any corner of the internet, you are probably aware of the current Black Lives Matter movement and its impact. As a current activist writer, it only felt right for me to talk about this subject which I am very passionate about. So, I wanted to write a little something about one of my favorite books that address racial injustice – The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Its story follows the journey of a Starr Carter, a black 16-year old high schooler who witnesses her best friend, Khalil, become a victim of police brutality.

Reading this book and subsequently watching the movie made me feel incredibly emotional and break down into tears. It was a truly heartbreaking experiencing Starr’s inner turmoils and the fear she had about speaking out, and it highlighted the vast difference between privileged and underprivileged communities. This story was filled with all sorts of obstacles for Starr, from having to hide Khalil’s motives due to underlying gang conflicts, to deaingl with a racist friend who was insensitive and misinformed. As the story progressed, it was infuriating reading that the police officer who killed Khalil was not going to be prosecuted. However, this led to many protests that demanded justice for Khalil, a perfect parallel to current events that have been occurring all across the country, and all around the world.

Though, in the end, (spoiler alert for those who want to read it!), Khalil’s murderer does not end up being prosecuted, Starr still fights to keep his legacy alive and remains active in the fight against racism. Similar to today, people are continuing to fight for those who have not gained justice for being killed due to the prevalence of xenophobia. However, recognizing the importance of this book and the lessons and information it contains about our society can lead you one step closer to understanding how you can help raise awareness and demand change, especially in a world overrun by oppression. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!!

Helpful link for those who want to find ways to contribute: https://blacklivesmatter.carrd.co

-Julianne T.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Fictional Food and Illustrations: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Nearly a year ago I wrote a post about my fascination with fictional food and its function within books (“Fictional Food: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”). In the post, I discussed a few food items mentioned in the first Harry Potter book and how they contributed to the mood of certain scenes, the relatability of the characters, and the complexity of the story overall.

Here, I’d like to revisit some of the delicious food from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that I included in that post (along with unmentioned items), this time with some illustrations to accompany them. I hope you enjoy this visual feast :).


At the beginning of chapter 2, Harry finds himself at the zoo with Dudley and his friend, Piers Polkiss, to celebrate Dudley’s birthday. While a visit to the zoo in itself is an unprecedented treat for ten-year-old Harry, Harry’s good fortune seems to persist: at the zoo, “The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice lolly. It wasn’t bad either, Harry thought” (Rowling 33). The treats for Harry didn’t stop there. When Harry and the Dursleys ate lunch at the zoo, “Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory wasn’t big enough, [and] Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first” (34). I guess some good can come out of the spoiling of Dudley Dursley. 

Chocolate ice creams, ice lollies, and knickerbocker glories are left behind when, overwhelmed by the persistence of the letters inviting Harry to attend Hogwarts, Uncle Vernon pulls his family on a wild excursion to “Shake ‘em off,” during which the Dursleys and Harry spend a night at “a gloomy-looking hotel” where they eat “stale cornflakes and cold tinned tomatoes on toast for breakfast” (50). At this same meal, the hotel owner informs them of a surplus of letters addressed to Harry with the exact number of the room he is staying in. At this point it looks as if, despite Uncle Vernon’s admirable efforts, it’s going to be a bit harder than he thought it would be to “shake ‘em off.”

Despite the apparent futility of his efforts, Uncle Vernon does try harder to escape the Hogwarts letters. His determination culminates in Harry and the Dursleys spending a night in a hut on a rock, stranded by turbulent waves and a storm of wind and rain. Did Uncle Vernon think this through? Not thoroughly. Though, to his credit, he did bring some rations: “a packet of crisps each and four bananas” (53). The insubstantiality of this meal makes the next food that enters Harry’s mouth extra delicious.

After Hagrid enters the hut (by breaking down the door) and deduces that Uncle Vernon is not going to offer him tea or a drink (or anything, for that matter), he takes a number of objects out of his coat, including “a copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, [and] several chipped mugs” and proceeds to cook the sausages over the fire. Soon, Hagrid offers “six fat, juicy, slightly burnt sausages to Harry, who [is] so hungry he ha[s] never tasted anything so wonderful” (57, 58).

While Harry meeting Hagrid is a defining moment in itself, Hagrid’s sausages may be the first tasty food offered solely to Harry out of kindness and care. This is one of Harry’s first tastes of a world where he is regarded as important and admirable and not as a messy-haired nephew who ought to be hidden in a cupboard under the stairs. 

The delights of Hagrid’s generosity continue when he buys Harry “chocolate and raspberry [ice cream] with chopped nuts” in Diagon Alley (89). Whenever I read this part, this ice cream sounds so delicious, and I marvel at the fact that the simple inclusion of these little details makes the story so much richer and entertaining. Where Hagrid bought these delectable desserts is not stated, but I think it’s reasonable to guess that they were crafted by Florean Fortescue, the owner of an ice cream parlour where Harry spends much of his time two summers later.

Once at Hogwarts, Harry enjoys more food with Hagrid at Hagrid’s cabin, though perhaps it’s not as tasty as the ice cream in Diagon Alley. On Harry and Ron’s first visit to Hagrid’s, Harry introduces Ron while Hagrid pours “boiling water into a large teapot and [puts] rock cakes onto a plate … The rock cakes almost broke their teeth, but Harry and Ron pretended to be enjoying them” (154). Although Hagrid’s rock cakes are not the most scrumptious or easy-to-eat delights, I think they’re still endearing and fitting to the story—Harry and Ron don’t visit Hagrid for the food. Plus, maybe if you soaked the rock cakes in tea or milk they would make a delicious treat (or at least a softer one). 

Here’s an illustration of the steak-and-kidney pie served at Hogwarts the night Professor McGonagall discovers Harry’s talent as a Quidditch Seeker (I’ve accompanied it with some pumpkin juice, though it’s not mentioned in the book). By the time Harry’s done telling Ron the news that he has been made Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Ron has “a piece of steak-and-kidney pie halfway to his mouth, but [he’s] forgotten all about it” (166). We know a piece of news is important when it makes Ron forgets about food.

In his state of excitement from unwittingly finding himself on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Harry probably does not forsee the state of his nerves on the morning of his first match. While “the delicious smell of fried sausages” pervades the Great Hall, Harry does not even want to eat the “bit of toast” Hermione tries to coax him to eat. His appetite is probably diminished further when Seamus reminds him that “Seekers are always the ones who get nobbled” while “pil[ing] ketchup on his sausages” (200). 

The last two illustrations are inspired by Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts:

“Harry had never in all his life seen such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce—and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table … Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey” (220).

After a “happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight in the grounds” with the Weasleys and a chess game with Ron, Harry enjoys “a tea of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle and Christmas cake” (221).

I really enjoyed illustrating these dishes and treats from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which wouldn’t have been possible without J.K. Rowling’s detailed and generous descriptions. I loved learning about new kinds of food when I looked up pictures and descriptions of Yorkshire puddings, rock cakes, steak-and-kidney pie, chipolatas, trifle, and flaming Christmas puddings for reference (if you’re interested and haven’t seen a flaming Christmas pudding, I would suggest looking up an image—they look so cool!). I hope these illustrations were entertaining for Harry Potter lovers and food lovers alike!

– Mia T.

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Amazon.com: Origin (9781595145963): Khoury, Jessica: Books

Origin is a wonderful read for any fan of science fiction and romance. Based in the depths of the Amazon jungle, you will get immediately swept into the world of labs and scientists. The main character Pia, is considered perfect, because she is invincible, one of a kind, and extremely smart. At 16 years old, the only people she knows are her family, a team of scientists, and the non-scientist residents on the secret facility called Little Cam. With five generations and a magical flower found deep in the Amazon jungle, called Elysia. But Pia has to be kept on complete lockdown and doesn’t get most types of entertainment, like books magazines, or movies, unless they are science textbooks, with blackened out paragraphs. She hasn’t even met anyone under the age of thirty. But this all changes when she’s able to escape Little Cam, and meets Eio from a local village. They start to fall in love, but the risk of deadly consequences grows more.

I own this book, and I’m really glad that I do. It’s one of my personal favorites to read over and over again. It’s such an amazing secret world to fall in love with. The first time you read this book, you’re constantly wondering what happens next, and if Pia will ever be free from all the restrictions.  I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a new read.

-Rebecca V., 11th Grade

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Amazon.com: War and Peace (Vintage Classics) (9781400079988 ...

This book centers on the Great Patriotic War of 1812 and reflects major historical events from 1805 to 1820. Taking the experience of Bezuhov, Rostov, and Kuragin as the mainline, it connects many events and characters in the alternating description of war and peace. The author cross-described the two lives and two threads of “war” and “peace”, forming an encyclopedic magnificent epic. The basic theme of “War and Peace” is to recognize the just resistance actions of the Russian people during the war, and to praise the patriotic enthusiasm and heroism of the Russian people during the war. But the tone of his work is one of religious benevolence and humanitarianism. He opposes war and sympathizes deeply with the suffering of all sides.

Andrei, Pierre, and others have experienced a tortuous and dialectical development process in their pursuit of ideals and truth. The different mental manifestations of the Russian troops in different battles, such as panic, calmness, and passion, combined with the distinctive individual psychological motivations of each bearing in the specific war, melted and formed the spiritual atmosphere in every corner of the battlefield. Morale is the key to win or lose in a war. The novel War and Peace has both the magnificent color of epic novels and the depth of expression in its insight into the psychology of characters and even the entire nation. The work focuses on a panoramic overview of social life, realizing the epic aesthetic ideal of the creative subject and transcending the work itself. War and Peace powerfully exposes and criticizes the decadence of the upper-class society. In the critical autumn of their motherland, they are still fighting for power and wealth, leading a life of luxury and dissipation and shamelessness.

-Coreen C.

In 27 Days by Alison Gervais

The novel is about a young teenager who goes back 27 days in time to save a classmate from committing suicide. The teenage girl named Hadley never knew the boy named Archer who took his own life but felt compelled to help save his life. She goes through a lot in order to get closer to this boy. She uncovers secrets about him and learns more about herself.

I love this novel for multiple reasons. The first is that the story is very compelling and the characters are relatable. Many people have been through traumatic experiences and would probably feel the pain Archer was going through. People are lonely all of the time and no one seems to notice. I relate to Hadley, the girl who tries to stop the boy from committing suicide. She is a very compassionate character who goes out of her way to help this classmate that was a stranger not too long ago. I truly felt like I understood her feeling of emptiness when he was gone, guilt for not trying to talk to his freshman year and dedication to saving him from taking his own life where people cared about him and needed him.

The second reason is because suicide is a prevalent issue that needs to be addressed in 2020. This novel shows the importance of looking for suicidal signs and the possible ways people can help prevent others from taking their own life. Many people are very lonely and need to have someone to talk to. I think that this novel is an example of what could happen if we as a society were more inclusive.

-Ellie B.

If you or someone you know has discussed or thought about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game is a short novel by Ellen Raskin.  This book has won several awards, including the Newberry Medal.  The story is about a millionaire named Samuel W. Westing.  Sam Westing was known as an eccentric man who loved games.  He left behind a very strange will.  According to the will, his vast fortune would be inherited by the person who could win a perplexing game he had devised before his death.

The will only allowed certain people to play the Westing game.  They were not the kind of heirs typically included in a will.  The game participants seemed to have no relation to each other, but they all had some kind of connection to Sam Westing.  According to the will, he had actually been murdered by one of his heirs.

The people all seem confused that they were selected to play this game, but each of them wants to win the Westing fortune.  The game involves various clues that arouse suspicion in each other.  As the game unfolds, the heirs discover many surprises, and realize that Sam Westing’s game is more dangerous than they had supposed.

I have read this book several times, even though I have already learned the surprise ending.  I still enjoy reading this book for its suspense and humor.  I also like reading about all the different characters, and their unique personalities.  The story is very clever and full of surprises.  This book is very engaging and I think you will have a hard time putting it down once you start reading it.

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

During quarantine, many of us have been searching for ways to distract ourselves from all the issues going on in the world right now. For me, the best distraction has been reading. I have always had a list of books that I am going to read “at some point,” but never actually got around to reading until now. One of those books was a friend’s recommendation: Bill Clinton and James Pattersons’ The President is Missing.

The President is Missing tells the story of a fictional President Jonathan Duncan, and his attempts to stop a cyber-terrorist attack from fictional terrorist leader Suliman Cindoruk. Duncan had attempted to negotiate with Cindoruk in order to make peace but later faced impeachment trials because of this collusion and its implications. Duncan meets two informants from Cindoruk’s group, but one of them is assassinated during the meeting. Duncan is forced to flee with the remaining informant, Auggie, to a safe house. There, he learns that Auggie and his colleague Nina created an extremely dangerous computer virus called Dark Ages for Cindoruk, but later fled to the US to help halt its use in cyber warfare. The virus is released the next day and the Los Angeles water treatment plant is sabotaged, thus contaminating all the water in the area. This is when Duncan and his staff find out that the true function of the Dark Ages is to contaminate all food and water supply in the US and use technology to sabotage everyday society. Duncan and his colleagues at the Pentagon race to figure out the disable code for Dark Ages, and his vice president is suspected of leaking the confidential information used for the virus. At the last minute, Duncan’s chief of staff correctly guesses the code word and the country is saved from Dark Ages and the impending cyber-terror attack. The person who leaked the confidential information and helped orchestrate the terrorist attack with Cindoruk is caught (no spoilers!) and the country is saved. 

This story is an epic work of fiction and is a perfect book to read during isolation. The story is incredibly intriguing and will keep you guessing until the very final page. Stay safe and keep reading!

-Katie A. 

The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The One by Kiera Cass

Caution: May contain spoilers from The Selection and The Elite.

While I would consider The Selection series to be more lighthearted than other dystopian YA novels, the third book, The One, certainly introduces more darkness to America’s tale. Nevertheless, it still possesses Kiera Cass’s quirky and imaginative flair that pervades the first and second books.

As both the Selection within the castle walls and the rebel situation outside escalates, they seem to blend together into a far more complex issue than America had imagined possible. Rebel attacks increase as protest rages against the Selection and the continuation of the monarchy and Maxon struggles as his decision grows closer–a decision through which he may not be able to please both his father and his heart.

It seems that as the books have progressed the characters of the Selected have been able to grow more detailed. While America’s character bursts from the pages of the first book, many of the Selected were not as openly described, and understandably so–imagine describing and reading about 35 different characters who might not all play a large role in the story!

However, since only 6 of the Selected remain, we get to explore these characters in more depth, which I found interesting and enriching to the story. By explaining their motives and backgrounds, Kiera Cass allowed the other 5 girls to become more than just America’s competition. I particularly enjoyed a scene where the remaining Selected talk in America’s room without enmity.  With the escalation of the dangerous situation, they are able to look beyond their more frivolous squabbles.

One aspect I admire about America is that true to her decision in the first book, she remains true to herself. Though she wavers at times, especially as the competition becomes intense and when she is intimidated by the king, she consistently chooses what she feels is true to her values and herself, even if by doing so she could diminish her chances of being the One.

The One, full of romance and action; rebellion and choices; politics, love, friendship, fear, and humor, pulls the Selection and the first half of the series into a dazzling, glittering finale.

– Mia T.

The One (and the rest of The Selection series) by Kiera Cass is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive