Something Dark and Holy Trilogy: Character Analysis

Amazon.com: Wicked Saints: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 1):  9781250195661: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

Overview:

The book series, Something Dark and Holy (shortened to SD+H), is a dark fantasy trilogy written by Emily A. Duncan. The whole series revolves around a cleric by the name Nadya Lapteva. Her character is particularly interesting in the way she grows over the course of the series. Here’s some quick background information first. The series takes place in medieval Eastern Europe and follows Slavic mythology. Her country, Kalyazi, has been at war with Tranavia for centuries. The main difference between the two is that Kalyazi has clerics, individuals who can communicate directly with gods, while the Tranavians do not follow the gods and use blood magic. Nadya finds herself as the last remaining Cleric and last remaining hope to end the war. Fair warning, this will contain spoilers.

Wicked Saints:

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 2):  9781250195692: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the first book Nadya is a very timid girl. As the last cleric, she has been constantly protected and on the move. This, of course, leads to problems. In the first half of the book, she is separated from her countrymen and meets Malachiasz. He is a Tranavian who claims he was exiled from his country. Nadya sees him as a lost boy, pities him, and eventually agrees to travel with him. Malachiasz uses this story in order to gain her trust and lead her into the capital of Tranavia. Throughout this part of the novel, Nadya’s gods try to communicate with her and warn her. However, she ignores them. 

Around the middle of the novel, Malachiasz begins to show his true colors. However, Nadya is still too naïve and blindly in love with him. Nadya’s character continues down this path until the final chapter of the novel. In the last half of the book, Malachiasz admits he was never exiled. He only brought Nadya to Tranavia because she contained the power to turn him into a god. Nadya is absolutely torn and heartbroken with this betrayal. She not only lost the only boy she ever loved, but now her gods won’t even speak to her.

Ruthless Gods and Blessed Monsters

Amazon.com: Blessed Monsters: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 3):  9781250195722: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the second novel, it is revealed that Nadya has fallen into a deep depression. She was in solitude for nearly a year before she decided to try and track down Malachiasz; he now has the power of a god and was terrorizing her home country. Her depression disappears when she finally finds him and tries to work out problems. This is where Nadya’s character truly emerges. She gains strength, bravery and grows in power. She becomes her own character as she makes the discovery that her magic doesn’t come from her gods, but rather herself. By the end of the series her character is nearly unrecognizable from the first novel.

I highly recommend this series if you like a strong female protagonist and lots of character development. 

-Michelle L.

The Answers: A Novel by Catherine Lacey

The Answers: A Novel: Lacey, Catherine: 9780374100261: Amazon.com: Books

The Answers, a novel by Catherine Lacey, is a profound memoir of an ordinary/not-so-ordinary young woman’s forays into an ordinary/not-so-ordinary love.

Mary has been in pain her whole life- the result of an undiagnosed illness that has left her with crippling symptoms and a massive medical-bill debt. When she discovers a shady, New-Age alternative therapy called PAK-ing, that gives her the only relief from her sickness that she’s ever had, she’s determined to find any way she can to pay for it.

Which is where things get strange.

Mary finds a job listing that’s offered to pay her everything she needs and more- with a few caveats. The position involves being one of the many girlfriends of reclusive actor Kurt Sky, who is running an experiment to find what qualities actually lead to lasting romantic connections- in other words, to find what creates love. Each ‘girlfriend’ is given complicated directives in order to complete the experiment. However, the position may not be as innocent as it seems- Mary finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into something she’s not sure she understands.

I was completely hooked by this book. Once I picked it up, I just couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. It’s definitely a very liminal, intellectual novel- but if you’re a fan of those, like me, you’ll really love this book. What I enjoyed most was Lacey’s ease and mastery at writing morally-grey characters. Every person in this book is one- but Lacey so closely and excellently interweaves it with the real human experience that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a book, but that you’re in a hazy dream- watching this unfold in front of you. The novel is chock-full of nearly infinite new perspectives- a great read I’d recommend to anyone!

This novel contains some descriptions of sexual violence that may not be suitable for all audiences.

-Vaidehi B.

Film Review: The 33

The 33 is a movie based on a true story about an event that happened on August 5th, 2010. On this day, 33 miners got trapped under diorite. They were working in the San Jose gold and copper mine when the collapse occurred.

When the mine collapsed, the miners were forced to go to the refuge of 50 square meters of space. They had to survive on 3 days’ supply of food.

They were trapped in the refuge for 69 days. The Chilean Government sent ministers to help with the rescue. Many different companies, including NASA, helped with the rescue. The movie was very moving because it showed a group of everyday average people overcoming hardships. They came together and helped each other through the 69 days of pure fear and despair.

Citations:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11170852#florencio-avalos

-Ella Y.

The 33 is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue is the sequel to the first book, The Giver, also by Lois Lowry. However, this story does not follow the main character of The Giver, Jonas. Instead, Gathering Blue follows a new protagonist named Kira. 

Kira lives in a village in which its society does not accept those who have disabilities, such as Kira. Kira has had a damaged leg since birth and the society does not accept her. Recently, her mother died, leaving her with no parents,  giving her no protection from society. She is put on trial to be sent to the Field where the dead, disabled, or seriously injured are brought. In the end, the council decides that she will work as The Weaver. Her friend, Matt, helps in gathering her belongings and brings them to where Kira will stay. As her job, Kira repairs the robe of the Singer (another person given a special task), and over time, meets and befriendsThomas the Carver. As the story progresses, Kira, Matt, and Thomas grow close and together, and they uncover the dark secrets of the village. 

Gathering Blue was a good book and it has some similar elements as The Giver. Both books have a type of society that does not accept those who are not up to standard and each has a place for those kinds of people. There are many similarities between The Giver and Gathering Blue, but each book is its own book. As I followed Kira, I got to understand her want to be useful or wanted and I was able to see her growth throughout the book. And along with her, I got to find out more about the village and the secrets that are kept. I found Gathering Blue to be a calmer book than The Giver. It wasn’t as exciting and was more complex in its plot. The plot itself was a little boring, but I did find the small clues to secrets to be interesting. Although the plot wasn’t amazing, I did like the characters and their relationships. 

Kira was a very shy girl in the beginning, but still wanted to be able to stick up for herself. By the end of the book, she had grown into an independent and strong character, who was confident despite not being accepted into society. Thomas was a good friend to Kira, supportive and kind, but still made his own decisions. He wasn’t involved in the plot of the story too much, but he had a nice personality. Matt was a young kid, by the way he talks and acts; it was easy to see that. He didn’t have many manners and it was like he was living on the streets. He was a funny character but wanted to make Kira happy. He disappears midway through the book to go on an adventure, but comes back after acquiring something for Kira at a new village he had discovered. His personality was loud and ambitious and stuck out. 

Overall, Gathering Blue was a good book. Although it wasn’t as good as The Giver and wasn’t as exciting, it made for a good short read. I finished it in a couple of weeks, but I found it too short, without any real buildup. The plot was too calm and it felt like there wasn’t a climax; like it didn’t contribute to anything in the series except to introduce new characters. It felt like a filler book. Some of it felt rushed and I didn’t like the transitions into new parts of the story. Once I finished the book, I found that it ends in a cliffhanger. I have the third book of The Giver Quartet, The Messenger, and I’ll get to reading that soon. 

-Nicole R.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowery is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Geometry Dash

Geometry Dash is one of the best games out there. It is a very cost effective game being only $1.99 on the App Store. This game is very underrated in my opinion and should be more popular because of its seemingly infinite amount of replayability.

It has 21 main levels that come with the game. These are a good starting ground as they start off very easy and get pretty difficult in the end. Then once you hone your skills by beating these levels, you can go to the online section which has over 50,000,000 fan made levels. These can range from simple level builds to art masterpieces. People have made minigames inside of levels. The possibilities are endless. Anyone who plays this game should never run out of things to build and levels to beat.

How the game works is that there are a bunch of different game modes to choose from. The simple one is the cube (even though it is a 2d game). You just tap the screen to jump over spikes. Simple as that. Right? Not true at all. With the different game modes there are infinite challenges to overcome such as blind jumps and invisible gameplay. Next is how the game works. The levels are all made of a certain amount of objects. These can range from 1 to 1,029,093 getting laggier as the objects increase. The objective of the game is to avoid dying and getting to the end of the level. You jump and fly to avoid the spikes and to avoid crashing into a wall. Every time you die you need to start over at the beginning. Every. Single. Time. It gets really annoying very fast but that is the charm of this game. This game has the most bang for its buck in terms of replayability. That is why I would recommend this game for people who want a fun game to spend their time playing.

-Jasper D.

How Reliable Is Decision Making?

The coming to decisions based off observed patterns and past experiences is known as a heuristic. On the other hand, algorithms are step by step procedures that guarantee an outcome, and require lots of trial and error. Heuristics are often much more efficient than algorithms, yet they do not always guarantee a solution. For example, in a grocery store setting, an algorithm would be going up and down every single aisle looking for a specific item. Although there will always be a one hundred percent success rate, there is a lack of efficiency and most would not feel this as the best way to look for an item. A heuristic in this situation would be to look in certain labeled aisles that may contain the specific item that is being looked for. One type of heuristic that impacts decision making is the representative heuristic, or the judging of the likelihood of something by intuitively comparing it to particular prototypes. Although the use of this representative heuristic can make decision making quick, it may have a negative effect on the accuracy of such decisions. 

This is shown in the study Khaneman and Tversky 1974. This study attempts to prove the hypothesis that when people evaluate probability by representativeness, prior mathematically probabilities would be neglected. To do this, subjects were told to determine what the likely occupation of a certain person would be (engineer or lawyer?) based off of a description. However, this description would often have little to nothing to do with the occupation at all. To cope for this, the particpants were either told that there were 30 engineers and 70 lawyers, or that there were 30 lawyers and 70 engineers. Theoretically, the ratio of the participants’ guesses should be seventy to thirty because of mathematical probability. However, the study found that the participants of both groups had guesses closer to a ratio of fifty to fifty. Such shows that the subjects used to representative heuristic to make their decisions rather than using the probabilities given to them, causing decision making to become unreliable.

This study is useful in showing how the data does not match what one would expect based off the idea that the subjects were aware of the unequal amount of each profession. However, this does not directly prove that the representative heuristic is responsible for this distortion, as there is lots of room for error in the descriptions that the participants were given for each person. In the end though, the study still supports how decision making can become unreliable and cause errors.

-Jeremy L.

The Origins of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a widely celebrated holiday in the U.S. taking place every year on the fourth Thursday of November. In fact, 62% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving at home with their loved ones each year. But are we celebrating something that we don’t really know the full meaning behind? Thanksgiving is a time that most Americans can agree is spent being thankful, which is true. But the story of Thanksgiving involves much more than being thankful for all that we are given.

The story of Thanksgiving first begins in 1620, when a group of 102 religious separatists left their home in search of religious freedom. The pilgrims finally settled in Massachusetts Bay after 66 days on a ship named the Mayflower. From there, the pilgrims began to cultivate and establish the town of Plymouth. The first winter in America was brutal, and many pilgrims suffered from diseases such as scurvy. By March however, they were greeted by an English- speaking tribe of Indians known as the Abenakis. A member of one the native tribes, Squanto, taught the pilgrims how to use and respect the land. In November of 1621, the pilgrims had their first successful harvest and called for a celebration that included their native allies.

This celebration- now referred to as “Thanksgiving”- lasted for three days. Much of the menu of the first Thanksgiving is unknown, but historians rationalize that many of the sweet treats we enjoy at the table today- 400 years after the first Thanksgiving- were most likely not present in November of 1621. Most of the sugar necessary in making these sweets would have been in short supply after months on the Mayflower. Much of the meal, however, was made using native spices that local tribes had used for years before.

So the next time you are sitting around the dinner table with your loved ones enjoying turkey and stuffing, remember the first Thanksgiving, one of harvest and harmony.

-Roma L.

Cold Season, Fact or Myth?

Now that it is the cough and cold season, myths and misconceptions are constantly being spread about catching or dealing with a cold. Here, I am going to clear up some of these statements and help you differentiate between myths and facts of colds.

Facts about flu - Mayo Clinic Health System

“Going out in the cold or with wet hair will get you sick!” is a statement almost every person has heard over and again. But, in reality this overused statement is false. You are not more likely to get sick if you go out in the cold versus the heat. This is a common misconception since cold season is usually when it is colder. This is because when it is colder, people tend to meet others indoors, where colds can spread more easily.  Or they are closer to other people due to the cold, allowing viruses to spread through breathing and coughing quickly.

Another common statement heard around this time is “getting the flu vaccine will make you catch the flu!”. Again, this is another common misconception. This is a false fact that has been spread. It is not possible to get the flu directly from receiving the vaccine. Most people feel slight cold symptoms and soreness within a few days following the date of receiving the vaccine. But, this reaction is nowhere in comparison to the severity of the vaccine.

“Antibiotics will cure colds” is another “solution” many people hear in response to getting colds. But, this is not true. Antibiotics only fight bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds. Although in some cases colds lead to bacterial infections where antibiotics are useful, for general colds they are proven ineffective. On the other hand if you have a bacterial infection, antibiotics are very effective and the effects are significant.

Throughout time, ideas get spread although not always true. That is why it is always important to consult a doctor or trusted sources before acting rashly when you come down with a cold. Most importantly, trust tested and verified ways of treating specific colds when doing self-treatment.

-Lilly G.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Wow. As someone who spends hours having an existential crisis and constantly reads sad books to feel something. I think this book may have broken me.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab is an absolutely brilliant book, if you understand it’s simple complexities. However I will admit, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

The book is set around Adeline LaRue, an eccentric young women set on living her own life. No restrictions, no arranged marriages, and plain freedom. But in France, 1714 she’s forced to marry a man she doesn’t love. Desperate to escape she prays to the gods as her mentor, Estelle, taught her. However, she went against Estelle’s greatest warning. “Never pray to the gods that answer after dark.” A god answers Addie, granting her freedom and also immortality. The consequence, you might ask? She will live forever alone, without being remembered by anyone she’s seen or met. She will never leave a mark on the world.

When she turns to her village, no one remembers her. To them she is a stranger, a traveler, someone foreign and lost. But once she was a daughter, a friend, and now she is nothing. Desperate, she flees and decides to travel the world.

I’ll spare you the boring details because this book sadly has little to no plot. Instead you just watch a lonely girl wander the world, stealing to live, and slowly losing herself in the process. No one remembers her except for Luc, the god who cursed her. Who visits her every year on her birthday to try and claim her soul. But Addie hasn’t given up and refuses to die despite being alone.

But one day, in New York, March 13, 2014. The boy in the bookshop remembers her name. He remembers her. For the first time in hundreds of years, Addie hears the words, “I remember you.” Three small worlds, that tug Addie’s heart.

Because of all the people in the word who have forgotten Addie, the boy in the bookstore is someone special. Or at least- now he is to Addie. The rest of the story is a blur of tragic backstories, clothes tinged with alcohol, and running through the rain. Classic hopeless romantic tropes that may or may not have made me swoon.

But as I said before, this book will break you. Because what qualifies as love? Is it someone you have a connection with? Is it someone who you know everything about? Honestly who knows. However V.E. Schwab decided to write a triangle of sorts. It may be a love triangle between a god desperate to obtain her, a forgotten girl, and a boy who just wants to be loved. Or it’s just three “people” connected by horrible misfortunes. But none the less, it can only end in one pair.

So I have one question for anyone who wants to or has read this book. The same question I wondered after reading this book. Can you be manipulated into loving someone without knowing? And would you still love them?

–Ashley Y.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

RENT, the Musical

A playbill from the Original Broadway Cast of RENT.

RENT, the musical by Jonathan Larson, is one of my favorite musicals of all time. I’ve listened to a lot of musicals—and at this point, I can’t really name them all. But RENT makes it near the top of my favorites, because of its music, plot, and beautifully fleshed out characters. 

RENT tells the story of a group of starving artists living in Lower Manhattan’s East Village, from 1989 to 1990. During this period, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was wiping out thousands of people not only in the US, but all over the world. It was a devastating epidemic, and even today, around 35 million people have passed due to HIV/AIDS since 1981. This epidemic plays a huge role in the story of RENT, as different characters—Roger, Mimi, Angel, and Collins—are living with it, and one of them eventually passes away during the musical. 

The main characters include Mark, a filmmaker; Roger, his roommate and a musician; Mimi, a dancer at the local club; Angel, a drag queen and performer; Tom Collins, a professor; Maureen, a performer and actress; and Joanne, a lawyer and Maureen’s partner. All of them struggle to achieve their dreams, and this musical shows the struggle and the cost of wanting to achieve those dreams. RENT shows the discrimination and the stigma that surrounded HIV/AIDS during this time. This same stigma caused the real life deaths of so many people around the world. A disease that could’ve been stopped and prevented sooner, wasn’t, all because of discrimination. And the cost? Countless human lives. 

This is what Jonathan Larson set out to do when he wrote RENT. He lived in the same village the characters lived in, and he wanted to put out something that people could relate to. He based the experiences of the characters, especially the ones living with HIV/AIDS, on some of his own friends. Although, this was very controversial and experimental at the time. He wanted to write a rock musical, and those were rare—even never done before. It took him so many years and work to complete RENT and eventually have it produced and performed. The most heartbreaking thing about it all is that he passed away the night RENT was going to be debuted. He put in all his work, and never got to reap the fruits of his labor. 

But even so, RENT continues to be one of the most beloved musicals in the world, and a classic. So many productions have been performed around the world, and its been translated into so many languages. It also became a movie in 2005. The reason why RENT became so popular and beloved was because it was so real. You could feel the pain these characters were facing, you could relate to their loss, and you could relate to the joys they experienced together. The message RENT is trying to tell us is that no day is promised. No day is promised, and we need to cherish our lives with the people we love, and that is such a beautiful statement. 

No day but today!

Another Day, from RENT

-Claire C.