Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, written by Pierce Brown, was the last book that I finished before President’s Holiday. The story follows Darrow, a brave and loyal Red. Reds are the lowest “color” in the futuristic society of humans. The story follows Darrow’s adventures in becoming a Gold ( the highest ranking color) and destroying the rulers of the unfair Society form the inside.

Once a Gold, Darrow goes to an academy where all other Golds attend. There, they learn to fight, command fleets, etc. Darrow hopes to graduate, become a well known and trusted fleet leader, and eventually destroy the Society. At the academy, the students are split into houses, each named after a Greek god. Then all of the houses are put against each other in an all-out war; the winning house will then graduate. In the end, Darrow’s house wins, and one of the most powerful leaders of the Society decides to train him in becoming a fleet leader.

All in all, I thought that Red Rising was really good. There was a good mix of intense violence and strategy. The house wars reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Currently, I am reading the sequel to Red Rising and it seems really good! Overall, I would rate the book a strong nine out of ten and would recommend the book to any middle schooler.

-Daniel C.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is the second book from the 5th Wave series. This book focuses on everything that happens after the explosion of Camp Haven. Cassie, Ben, Dumbo, Ringer, Poundcake, Nugget, and Teacup are all holed up in an old hotel. They have nowhere to go and are running dangerously low on supplies. Ringer refuses to believe Cassie about Evan Walker and how he survived the explosion at Camp Haven.

Tired of staying in the hotel, Ringer and Teacup set off to explore and look for caverns to hide in. After they have been gone for an unusually long time, Ben starts to worry.  Then Evan appears and sends everybody into a panic not knowing whether they can trust him. Then they hear the sounds of a helicopter over the hotel, which makes their worries worse. As the helicopter goes farther and farther away, a child appears in the hallway. She repeats over and over saying her throat hurts. She is taken into a hotel room to get rest and once inside, they see that her throat is extremely swollen. They look inside her throat and find what has caused it to swell. The Others had inserted a bomb into her throat which would detonate when it detected carbon dioxide. They quickly take the bomb out of her throat and leave the hotel. Meanwhile, Ringer had been captured by Vosch and was being implanted with the 12th system. She kills the nurse who is taking care of her and escapes with Teacup.

-E. Vargas

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is about George Milton and Lennie Small trying to find a job and settle. The reason that this is such a difficult task is because Lennie has what seems to be memory loss. He constantly forgets what George tells him. He also doesn’t understand what is right compared to what is wrong.

[Editor’s Note: Spoiler Warning]

This book tells of George and Lennie trying to find work in Soledad. They go to a ranch and speak with the boss before being told when to start working. When they are shown where they will sleep, they encounter the boss’ son Curley. Curley immediately starts trying to pick a fight with Lennie. As soon as Curley leaves, George warns Lennie about avoiding Curley at all costs. Curley’s wife, who Lennie is attracted to upon seeing her, is also a big problem.

After working for some time and getting to know other ranch hands, George and Lennie believe that they may be able to finally buy a house just for them. However, one day Curley’s wife finds Lennie alone and starts a conversation with him. She tells about how she could have gone to Hollywood and about her hair. She lets Lennie feel her hair, and he starts pulling on it. Curley’s wife cries out in pain, so Lennie covers her mouth out of fear of getting in trouble. He pulls on her hair more and more until he accidentally snaps her neck. When Curley finds out he goes to kill Lennie. George gets to Lennie first, and painlessly kills him so that Curley wouldn’t shoot him and let him bleed to death.

-E. Vargas

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeanette Walls describing her turbulent childhood years, and how she and her siblings survived poverty and neglect against all odds. Her father was an alcoholic who she longed to trust, but who let her down time and time again. Her mother was an artist with her head in the clouds, with little grip on the realities of hunger and child safety. The Walls family lived a “nomadic” lifestyle, often voluntarily living without a roof over their heads. Despite the many struggles of their childhood, the Walls children became successful in life. They succeed in spite of their parents.

The tone of the novel is set when within the first chapter, Jeannette burns herself cooking food over an open flame (at age three) and her father subsequently breaks her out of a hospital. What follows are the many, some humorous, several depressing, exploits of Jeanette’s father Rex Walls. One of the main focuses of the memoir is Jeannette’s relationship with Rex, who cares for her deeply, but who can’t give up alcohol for his children. An ongoing question that the reader must ask is whether this love is genuine, and whether his stated care for Jeanette justifies his many flaws. Rex always promised his children that he would build them a house made entirely of glass- a glass castle. It is up to the reader to interpret whether this castle was ever intended to be built.

This book truly is a must-read. It is not simply a novel; it is a recording of real life. It is full of danger and emotion, and brimming with moments that will make you laugh, and (quite often) cry. If you are looking for a page turner of a success story, look no further.

-Mirabella S.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell

Image result for the king's fifthWhat would you do if you heard of a golden city? Attempt to find it? Destroy it? Ransack it? This is the question posed by Scott O’Dell in his book The King’s Fifth. In the book, we follow the adventures of Esteban de Sandoval, a young mapmaker who is part of an expedition to the new world.

While the party explores the new world, they encounter Indians, who are usually welcoming, but sometimes hostile. However, in almost every case, the party tricks or fights the Native Americans. They do this because they have heard of vast supplies of gold. The Indians think little of the gold, taking what they need but not much more, and wonder why the Spaniards are so devoted to the material. Later, they acquire a huge amount of gold, only to have most of the members of the expedition perish or depart. Sandoval, after commandeering the remainder of the group, ends up in prison for failing to give the King his share of the treasure.

Even though the adventures of the explorers are fictional, many of the themes are all too real. Spanish expeditions did, quite often, swindle and cheat Indians out of valuables, even resorting to violence if trickery was unsuccessful. They also traveled with no respect to the land, destroying forests and slaughtering wildlife. Another aspect that truly happened was the Spanish gold rush. Many crews and expeditions deviated from their purposes to search for cities of gold. Wild tales were told of people who ate from golden platters and wore gold clothing. In the end, Scott O’Dell’s book wonderfully gives a look into the exploration of early North America.

-Joshua M.

The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Image result for death on the nileMost murders are committed in one of two ways. The first is a crime of passion, of spur-of-the-moment violence, while the second is a crime of mediation, carefully thought out and carried out accordingly. Usually, a murder can be classified as one or the other quite easily, but what happens when the two run together and become a bloody mix of accident and intention, heart and brain? This is exactly the sort of crime faced by Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie.

Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective with a big brain and an even bigger mustache, is called to action once more by newlywed Linnet Doyle. After unceremoniously stealing her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort’s love, Simon, and marrying him, the wealthy young woman seeks protection from her rival in love.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Doyle, even Poirot cannot stop a crime of passion, and the next day finds Linnet Doyle lying dead with a bullet shot straight through her head. Jacqueline is obviously suspected, but when she is revealed to have an airtight alibi, Poirot is confronted with a seemingly endless selection of twists, turns, and backstabbers, leaving even him at a temporary loss of suspects. Luckily for Poirot (and the reader), the killer is uncovered, and the events behind the murder are so unforeseen that it is impossible for even the most dedicated reader to correctly deduce them.

Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie, is an extremely compelling novel that combines good writing, a neat plot, and a startling conclusion into four hundred pages of action and mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or any detective will not be disappointed by this intriguing Egyptian thriller novel.

-Mahak M.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

There seldom comes a rare time such as this where I discover a well-executed novel combining the art forms I love the most: writing and music. Author Aja Gabel’s stunning prose collides head-on with the novel’s subject, four entangled musicians in a string quartet who always choose each other despite the warring world each lives in. Featured in this quiet yet nostalgic tale are:

  • Jana, the determined first violinist with a stern face and high ambitions,
  • Brit, the orphaned second violinist whose love for the picturesque transcends all,
  • Henry, the prodigy violist who stays despite growing tendonitis and offers for a light-flooded future,
  • and Daniel, the embittered cellist, whose lack of money is made up for by his dark charisma.

There are times where Gabel’s beautiful wording seems to reverberate with vitality—you are caught up in the swiftness of Brit’s bow, the biting in Daniel’s words, the electricity passed along each measure of music. Without hearing a note, you’ll discover the triumph and the loss that comes with the reward of being in an ensemble.

Each member of the quartet vibrates on their own different frequency, but produce sound waves in the same key. The novel itself, while not full of action or climax, holds in it a quiet strength and the wisdom of its author. The flux of time and gravity on people is captured in such a specific and wondrous way that you cannot help but feel is magic.

You’ll find the way their comradery and friendship morphs over time to be bittersweet. You’ll root for them, cry with them, relate to their struggles. While revolving around adults and therefore carrying some adult themes, it’s a novel most people can find within their own selves: something aching and pulsing, something in the soul.

—Esther H.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library