The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Although the name of this book originally had me skeptical, as soon as I read the first page I couldn’t stop. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a novel by Holly Black that was published in 2013. Its genres include Drama, Horror fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

This novel is about a girl named Tana and her journey to a Coldtown, where she is always one step away from death, or even worse, a vampire. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a heart-wrenching novel that was one of the most difficult to put down.

Tana’s world is centered around vampires, who are the apex predators. Without vampires, the news would be ‘boring’ and America, the only place where the spread of the vampires is somewhat contained, would have little to none to pride itself on. Coldtowns are where vampires or humans that are in the process of turning are sent. With boarded-up homes and bloodthirsty vampires rampant, the only way to describe the towns spread across the United States is… cold.

Although our current worries are far from turning into vampires, I find the characters in this book relatable. While trying to contain the virus known to them as vampires, today’s society works hard to contain Covid-19. Tara worries for her sister’s safety more than almost anything else, the same reason why I yell at my sister to put on shoes instead of flip-flops when going outside in the hopes that she doesn’t trip and fall.

As Tara is forced to journey into the deep center of a Coldtown, she makes friends, gets stabbed in the back, loses her sanity, and finds it again through the power of love and the undeniable fact that you are only as strong as you believe yourself to be.

-Apoorvi S.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Million Pound Note by Mark Twain

Man with a Million (1954) - IMDb

The Million Pound Note is a novella written by American writer Mark Twain and published in 1893. It tells the adventures of Henry Adams, an American boy who is an impoverished clerk in London. Two rich brothers in London made a bet to lend Henry an uncashable million-dollar note to see how he would wind up in a month. Instead of starving or being arrested, Henry became rich and won the heart of a beautiful lady. This article reproduces the satire and humor in the master’s novels with slightly exaggerated artistic techniques and exposes the money-worship ideology in the early 20th century.

At the beginning of the novel, Henry floats too far out to sea in his small sailboat. When he arrived in London, Henry had no one with him. After using up his last dollar, he was left without food and clothing. While Henry loitered hungrily in Portland Square, a child threw a pear with a bite thrown into the gutter. Henry stared hungrily at the muddy treasure, drooling. Just as the reader was nervous that Henry was about to grab the “treasure”, “Please come in” — just five short words, like a bolt from the blue, released the reader’s nerves. Henry’s life changed.

The young man in the novel is a true portrayal of Mark Twain. In Nevada, Mark Twain was a journalist in Virginia City, Nevada’s gold and silver region. Mark Twain was not immune to the gold rush, and he was sensitive to rumors and new opportunities. At that time, many miners who had discovered gold and silver mines were selling their shares in New York City to raise money, and Mark Twain invested all his savings, and even all his royalties, in buying silver mines.

-Coreen C.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel/comic that was adapted into a movie. The novel is an autobiography with true events that happened in the late 1900’s. The black and white panels of the novel can effortlessly grab the attention of any reader and make it entertaining.

Persepolis follows a young girl named Marjane who lives through the revolutionary changes in her home country of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The most interesting part is that the ongoing crisis and corruption is viewed from a child’s perspective despite how complex it is. In a way, the reader grows and learns more about the government and cultural contexts along with the maturing Marjane.

Satrapi does not fail in grasping the reader’s attention and making them feel the rollercoaster of emotions along with the main characters. The series visits very critical and mature topics during the late 1900s that the Iranians/Marjane face. Thus, more mature readers should be able to handle these topics. 

Satrapi’s series is emotional and very moving. The oppression and government conflicts can be seen as a parallel to our world today. Just like Marjane who speaks up against the corruption of her government to maintain her rights, many of us participate in rallies or protests to uphold our values. 

Similar to Marjane who is facing a revolutionary change in her nation, many of us are currently facing a new change in our nation as well. Before Marjane knew it herself, her world changed for the better! Thus, just like Marjane, we must find the will to stay strong, inspire others, and survive. 

Ultimately, Marjane’s spirit and growing perspective of the world around her is inspiring. This series is not only a best-seller but also studied in academic literature courses all over the world as a work in translation. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is struggling to pick up a book during quarantine or in their free time (ahem, I know that’s some of us). It also opens up your ideas of Iranian culture and Islamic politics during the 1900s. 

I also recommend it for anyone who wants to try a new format of reading: comic-style. The panels are very easy to read and the black and white colors are used in such a captivating way. In fact, I read this entire novel in one sitting. I definitely hope others feel the same way as well. 

-Zohal N. 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita: Nabokov, Vladimir: Amazon.com: Books

Most of the book is the confession of Humbert, a death-row prisoner, recounting the love story between a middle-aged man and an underage girl. The novel was initially rejected for publication in the United States and was first published in 1955 by Olympia in Paris. Finally published in the US in 1958, the book rocketed to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Lolita has been adapted into a film.

In the novel, Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged French immigrant to the United States, had a first love affair with a 14-year-old girl Annabel when he was a teenager. In The end, Annabel died early from typhoid fever, which led to Humbert’s transformation to a pedophile. He defined “goblin” as “nine to fourteen years old”. First abandoned by a wealthy widow, Humbert later falls for Lolita, the 12-year-old daughter of landlady Charlotte Haze, calling her a goblin. Unable to break away from Lolita due to the shadow of his childhood, Humbert marries his landlady and becomes Lolita’s stepfather in order to get close to the precocious and passionate little girl. The girl in the novel is Dolores Haze, or Lolita or Lo, as the Spanish-sounding nickname for the book’s title.

The landlady in her husband’s diary later found out his secret and was very angry that he cheated on her. Humbert later picks Lolita up from camp and travels with her, thinking that by drugging her in her drink he can unknowingly molest her. The drug had no effect on Lolita (because it wasn’t really a powerful sleeping pill), and instead, the next morning, Lolita flirted with Humbert and had an incestuous relationship. Humbert then informs Lolita that her mother is dead, and with no choice, Lolita accepts that she must live with her stepfather. Humbert takes Lolita on a father and daughter tour of The United States, using pocket money, beautiful clothes, and delicious food to control Lolita and continues to satisfy his desire for her. As Lolita grows up, she begins to dislike her stepfather and starts dating boys of her own age. She takes the opportunity of a trip to break away from her stepfather. Humbert searched frantically at first, but eventually gave up.

Three years later, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita. It says that she is married, pregnant, and needs financial help from her stepfather. Humbert gave her $400 in cash, a check for $3,600, and a $10,000 deed to the house that he had sold. He asked Lolita who is the man who took her away from, and Lolita told him that the man is Quilty who is a professor of performance at her school. She told him that she ran away from Quilty because she rejected Quilty’s request to her and the other boys for making pornographic films. Humbert begged Lolita to leave her husband and go with him, but she refused, and Humbert was heartbroken. He tracked down and shot Quilty. Humbert died in prison of a blood clot, and Lolita died in childbirth on Christmas Day 1950 at the age of 17.

-Coreen C.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Wait, Romeo and Juliet, that’s the one about love right?  Yes, my friend, that is the one about love, but also it explores so much more.  In the sixteenth century play, two rival clans, the Montagues, and the Capulets has a child, Romeo and Juliet, who fall helplessly in love with each other but are not permitted to be with each other and as a result of this, through an elaborate plan which backfires, ultimately each takes their own lives. 

On a surface level, it is a story about love. But deeper down is the story’s true motifs, rejection of stereotypes.  For example, when Romeo and Juliet come to the conclusion that they are from rival houses, this does not hinder their romance. They put their families’ differences behind them without even a thought. Juliet rebels against her father’s patriarchal control over her by refusing the arranged marriage he attempts to force upon her. Also, she is a renegade in the sense that she was ahead of her time in the ways of intellect. Juliet always thinks things through or has a plan. Her character beats the old fashioned notion of girls being simple creatures that act on a whim and can’t be logical into the ground.  Friar Lawrence breaks the mood by telling Romeo to buy illegal drugs. 

All around in this story, people are rejecting the stereotypes that others represent and rejecting the ones that they represent as well. Today, if we were collectively wise enough as a society to reject stereotypes, think of how much more in unison we would all be. Now, of all times, we should be looking past stereotypes. Over four hundred years ago Shakespeare wrote this revolutionary play about looking past stereotypes and some of us are too ignorant to get it through our skulls. Remember this, a stereotype is merely a figment of one’s imagination. The more you believe it, the more you put it in the forefront of your mind as you go through life, the more prevalent you make it. As the monster you thought was in your closet as a kid, the more you thought about it, the more real it seemed.  The more you see the stereotypes, the more of a monster you become.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It is in your hands to create a better world for all those who live in it”

Treat others how you would like to be treated.  Don’t be the monster in the closet that you were scared of as a kid. 

-Ainsley H

Romeo and Juliet, and collective works of William Shakespeare, is available for checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

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