Even Recap: San Diego Comic Con International 2019

On July 18-21st, the San Diego Convention Center hosted its biggest and arguably most fun event of the year: Comic Con. And this year, for the first time, I was fortunate enough to attend. SDCC is acclaimed for is fantastic Hall H panes, its fabulous stands of fan-made art and official merchandise, its booths of magical colorful posters and pins. Over 150,000 people attend this legendary event this year, and, as one of those lucky people, I’m going to tell you how it went down.

Now, while SDCC actually occurs in July, tickets are bought in early November and December, and are extremely difficult to get your hands on. The actual Convention takes place at the San Diego Convention Center and the Marriott next door to it. It consists of hundreds of rooms and halls in which the legendary panels and game shows are hosted, including the magnificent Hall H. On the ground floor, the huge event hall takes up the majority of the space, and this is where you will find various stands, official and fan-run, selling anything and everything fan-related.

I myself didn’t attend many panels, only 2, but both of them were fantastic. I spent most of my time doing two things: loitering around the official Marvel booth, and wandering around the event hall. Even so, it was an amazing experience. Although tickets can be expensive, I honestly think the experience is worth it if you’re a fan of anything present at the Con. And there is no shortage of options, either. The booths and panels range from superhero to anime to video games. It’s truly a place for all kinds of people to come together and celebrate the one thing they all share: obsession.

Overall, I couldn’t have had more fun at SDCC 2019. It’s truly one of the most entertaining events of the year, and I’m super excited to attend next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that… But in all seriousness, if you’re a superfan of almost anything at all, I recommend going to SDCC.

-Arushi S.

Recommended Fantasy Series

Something about becoming engrossed in a book series is so wonderful. Although I enjoy stand-alone books as too, I love reading a series and knowing that there’s a book after the one I’m reading; another story that immerses me back into the world and its characters. Comfort and familiarity come with following fictional characters into different books on their exciting and (usually) dangerous journeys. While reading a series, I also know which book I should read next, which saves me time that might have otherwise been spent browsing up and down the shelves in the library trying to find a title or a cover that looks as if it might hold an interesting story (although I don’t think browsing the shelves of libraries is necessarily a waste of time). For anyone looking for familiarity, wonderful characters, or just a series to become immersed in, here are some fantasy book series that I recommend.

The Books of Bayern (quartet), by Shannon Hale
First Book: The Goose Girl
I mentioned the first book in this series in a post about exploring new genres, but it’s such a wonderful fantasy series that I wanted to add it here. This series is based in a fairy-tale-like world, but I think it’s great for older teens too. It might be because of Shannon Hale’s entertaining and lovable characters and her style of writing that I haven’t recently found many book series as rounded as I find her Books of Bayern series.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (six-part series), by Michael Scott
First Book: The Alchemyst
I have not read this whole series, but I’ve read and enjoyed the first couple of books. I would recommend this series for slightly older teens, and it is an excellent choice if you like stories that include mythology and history. The story is set in the real world, but is filled with a combination of mythological and historical beings. The protagonists, twins Josh and Sophie, give readers a relatable perspective as they discover a magical world. These books are filled with adventure, interesting characters, and detailed settings that add a realistic sense to the fictional elements.

Septimus Heap (heptalogy), by Angie Sage
First Book: Magyk
The Septimus Heap series is set in a fictional world containing wizards and bogarts and magic (who could have known?). One of my favorite parts about this series is the characters. There are so many of them, and though the books center around certain characters, the storylines of many side characters are incorporated throughout the series. I enjoyed reading the little additions Angie Sage makes at the end of the books, which give background or extra information on some of the characters. The books are humorous and filled with adventure and little details that make them even more enjoyable to read.

The Dragon Slippers Series (trilogy), by Jessica Day George
First Book: Dragon Slippers
Please don’t be discouraged by the title; it might not peak everyone’s interest, but this is a wonderful fantasy series that, like the Books of Bayern, I’ve had trouble finding a series as intriguing as. The Dragon Slippers series takes place in a fictional world in which dragons have hoards that don’t all contain gold and, despite what humans think, can be benign. With well-rounded characters and thankfully non-corny talking dragons, Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers series is a series that I highly recommend.

– Mia T.

Authors We Love: John Green

OK, nerdfighters, it’s time to talk about John Green. As one of the most celebrated authors in the genre, John Green has published five young adult novels, of which four have been nominated for an award and three have won in their respective category.

So what is it about his writing that makes us fall in love with the characters, the situations, the settings? While I can’t say for sure, there always seems to be a haunting realness to the stories he tells, drawing us in and allowing us to feel as if the characters are people in our own lives and that we are a part of their story.

The voice that Green takes on as he writes makes for startling accuracy, capturing the teenage spirit and creating lifelike characters to play out the situations presented in his stories. Something about the characteristics of each person and the adventures they embark on makes them seem more connected with us, which is truly one of Green’s greatest gifts.

In Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, the tight-knit cast of characters all vie for an answer about life, existence, and the spirit of searching for one’s self, ultimately a concept that burrows itself into the process of growing up. The universal ideas that Green writes about are things that are very closely linked to the human spirit as a whole, connecting the readers and the author in one group together.

And, of course, the nerdiness. Green brings his own interests into the books that he writes — things like Star Wars, music, and knowing the last words of famous figures throughout history. Though they seem trivial, small things like this give more depth to the stories and make the characters so much more realistic and believable.

If ever in pursuit for something thoughtful and charming to read, turn to YA’s John Green. The characters, the emotions, the heartwarming, and the sad. It’s all there — all you have to do is open to the first page, and consequently, open up your heart to a new world.

—Keira D.

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

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

This chilling horror novel, set in the small town of Ludlow, Maine, captured my attention from the first sentence and kept it until the very end. It tells the story of Dr. Louis Creed and his family when they move from Boston to Maine. Louis, Louis’ wife Rachel, the Creed children, Ellie and Gage, and Ellie’s cat Church, settle into this new environment with mixed feelings.

From the first day they’re there, they experience strange occurrences and frightening events; on Louis’ first week at his new job as director of campus health services at the University of Maine, a student named Victor Pascow is brought in, severely injured. He says his last words to Louis specifically, warning him about the “pet sematary” that the story revolves around. 

Louis’ awareness of the pet cemetery prompts chilling dreams of Victor Pascow and the cemetery. This, combined with Rachel’s severe anxiety about death due to the traumatizing death of her sister as well as the family’s overall discomfort with moving, makes the family dynamic strained, quick to argue. 

The Creed’s neighbor, Jud Crandall, explains, after much prodding, the pet cemetery is known throughout the town to raise pets from the dead. In fact, when Church is hit by a truck speeding on the highway near their home, Jud takes Louis to the cemetery, showing him how to bring the cat back. However, the cat comes back different than he was before; he acts differently, and even his fur is coarser to the touch. 

Months later, when Gage suffers the same fate as Church did, the pet cemetery comes up as an option for Louis to get his son back, despite the horrifying consequences that his actions would bring. Louis comes back again and again to the thought of the cemetery, and he eventually makes a decision that destroys his life forever. 

Stephen King is a master at creating an aura of unease with his storytelling. The “pet sematary’s” involvement in the story builds with every chapter, making the book impossible to put down but also frightening to the core. The depiction of real human relationships and interactions between Louis, Jud, and the other characters are interwoven beautifully with the underlying horror, making it seem like this story could happen to anyone of us, wherever we are. 

Understandably, this book might not be for everyone; it has a tendency to spark nightmares and frightening thoughts for those unaccustomed to thriller novels, and even for those who are. Due to the amount of gore and unforgiving description of the worst parts of life, this book is likely not suitable for younger readers. However, for fans of horror like me, or those readers who are just in the mood to be scared, this novel is, in my opinion, one of the best written novels in the horror genre. 

-Adelle W.

Pet Semetary by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

All right–first things first. THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME AND SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THESE FILMS.

Second things second. Avengers: Endgame has surpassed Avatar and is now the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide! So, cheers to that! But all that aside, Marvel recently released its final movie for 2019, a beautiful sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, and that’s going to be my main focus.

Firstly, allow me to express my insurmountable appreciation for the titles for the last two Spider-Man movies, and explain the symbolism behind them. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker has been recognized as Spider-Man by Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, and he’s being given the resources to become the hero he was always meant to be. He’s harnessing his powers, bonding with the beloved Mr. Stark, and his superhero alter ego is giving him an excuse to get even closer to his best friend, Ned. His powers and alternate persona are allowing him to become more comfortable with himself and his surroundings. The movie, at its core, depicts his homecoming, his arrival at where he was always meant to be. I just find that beautiful. Cut to Spider-Man: Far From Home. Not only is Peter literally far away from Queens (as he’s touring Europe), but everything he thought he knew is being refuted. Tony Stark, his mentor and father figure, the man who metaphorically brought him home in the previous film, is dead. The original Avengers are all either dead or retired. The world is in the midst of a rebirth, dealing with the aftermath of the Snap and the tentative formation of a new team of superheroes. Peter Parker isn’t just an Avenger-in-training anymore. He’s a legitimate hero, and he is beginning to realize that he has a brand new set of obstacles to maneuver. He has, at no fault of his own, strayed far away from the home he built for himself in Homecoming.

Enter Mysterio (played by the marvelous Jake Gyllenhaal). He seems like the perfect new leader of the Avengers, the perfect new hero for this broken Earth. His story is barely plausible, but nothing is unbelievable to the citizens of a planet whose population was just cut in half, then restored. He claims to be from another universe when his true intentions are to steal away Tony’s legacy from Peter. Spider-Man himself is gullible enough, after the falling-apart of his world, to willingly hand over Tony’s tech to Mysterio.

The world proceeds to fall apart yet again, this time at the hand of a false hero who the world mistakenly trusts. Peter has to come to the rescue, all by himself this time, only for Mysterio to throw one final punch. Even though he’s dead, the villain manages to get a video of himself onto the screens in Times Square, stating that Spider-Man is the real villain, and revealing the masked hero’s identity.

The movie is an emotional roller coaster. The audience feels everything Peter does, and that’s where the true beauty of the film lies. This movie is an artfully crafted masterpiece, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I ardently recommend it.

-Arushi S. 

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most infamous assassin. After her capture, she is sentenced to live out her days as a slave in the Endovier Salt Mines. She serves a year before Crown Prince Dorian Havilliard appears and offers her a chance to earn her freedom. She must compete in a brutal competition against murderers, assassins, and thieves to become the next royal assassin. The winner would be paid handsomely and after four years of service to the king, they would earn their freedom.

Celaena initially plans to escape, but soon finds reasons to stay. Her relationships with Prince Dorian and Captain of the Guard Chaol Westfall grow and soon lean to become more romantic. She befriends Princess of Eyllwe Nehemia Ytger, who seems to know more about Celaena’s hidden past than she should.

When contestants start turning up dead, ripped apart by some unnatural creature, Celaena scrambles to figure out who is behind the killings, and the mysterious Wyrdmarks that she finds all over the castle. And when the ancient Fae Queen Elena tasks Celaena with finding the evil that lurks in the castle, a much deeper, darker plot is uncovered.

What I love about this series is just how well thought out every single detail is. The first book has its own plot and just barely dips into the larger plot of the series. The second book lays the foundation for what’s to come. By the third book, it is a completely different story. The beginning of the series hints at the larger plot that is uncovered, but in a way that if you didn’t already know what was coming, it would just seem like extra details thrown in. Only when you realize the larger story do those details take on any meaning.

The series is epic and action-packed, along with just the right amount of romance. The incredible and complex world-building drew me in and left me wanting to know more about Erilea. I absolutely loved the characters in this series. There are so many, each with a distinct personality that makes many of them so likable, and each has a unique relationship with the others. There is not a shortage of strong female characters. All of the books in the series were hard to put down, and the last book was hard to finish. I fell in love with the characters and the world; it was hard to see their stories end.

I think it is safe to say that the Throne of Glass series is the best series I have read in a long time, and I would definitely recommend the series to anyone who enjoys action and fantasy.

-Lauren R. 

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser

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This is a relatively long novel written by the all-known American author Theodore Dreiser. It talks about Jennie Gerhardt, a poor but strikingly pretty girl who fell in love twice with two men and their story from thereon. At first, because Jennie and her mother were working at a luxurious hotel, she was working there as a laundry washer and there met the brilliant Senator Brander who fell in love with her gradually over a short period of time. Despite the huge age gap between the two of them, they got along fine and it was Senator Brander who assisted this starving family living in Ohio after witnessing the condition of their life and home. Although Jennie’s father, Mr. Gerhardt strongly expostulated against this man who is old enough to be his own brother, his daughter did not listen and thus she was pregnant when Senator Brander died after promising to marry her.

Thus Jennie met another man named Lester Kane who came from a very rich family of carriage business based in Cincinnati. Due to her pulchritude and intelligence, Lester Kane quickly fell in love with Jennie. They lived together for a short period of time before Kane knew Jennie’s daughter, Vesta’s existence. He really wanted to give up Jennie at this point but found her too attractive to do so. Moreover, their relationship at first was gossiped by the neighbors who discovered that they weren’t married after all. What’s worse, when Lester’s sister Louise found out about all of these, she spilled this all to Lester Kane’s father, Archibald, who forced Lester to leave Jennie, but to no avail and thus passed away with a small will left to Lester for his punishment.

Overall, I think this book stuns me as the social gap between the rich and poor widens in America over the years and still remains unchanged. It’s so miserable how the children cannot choose their own course of marriage and HAVE to marry into their own level. So slowly, the conception of social status is imbued in their minds and they themselves can’t even seem to persuade themselves that this person is whom they really love but that they don’t have enough money, therefore, should be relinquished as a potential spouse.

-Coreen C.