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.

1984 in 2019

I read the book 1984 a while ago at school and wrote a research paper. Thought I could share some of it.

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The concept of war is fascinating in itself. Does it cease to be dangerous when it is never-ending? George Orwell seems to think so, as the author of 1984, a book illustrating a dystopian, totalitarian world. In this society, a perpetual war creates infinite tension in its people. This technique is used to keep them satisfied and ignorant of the government’s true intentions. Orwell’s uncanny ability to predict the future in his book set in 1984 is extremely applicable to the constant state of war the United States seems to be in.

Is perpetual war actually applicable to 2019? The best answer comes from a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “If one counts the Cold War, the United States has been at war for virtually every year since 1941”. Because there are no direct benefits of perpetual warfare, this fact alone is shocking that we have been fighting wars for almost 80 years in a row.

The only reason it is valued by the government is that it can control the mindset of the masses, like those living in the totalitarian society of 1984. They believed “the essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent”. The government in this novel use the technique of continuous “battle” to control the resources available to common people, making their lives more difficult, and in turn, creating a nation constantly living in fear. In the world of 1984, war is more of an internal struggle, no longer battles of epic proportions.

It’s obvious that the Iraq/Syria and Afghan Wars, for example, are completely irrelevant to our goals as a nation. Not only is the United States constantly fighting others and draining its livelihood, but there are also real people behind the casualties of war that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Audiobooks for Shakespeare

My AP Literature class just started reading Hamlet by Shakespeare and I have come to realize how audio books can help. Like all Shakespeare plays, Hamlet’s language is difficult to read at best and sometimes people cannot understand what is going on in the story. My class read the first scene in school and my teacher played the audiobook while we read. This made it much easier to understand.

Not only are you able to grasp the tone of the situation as performed by the readers on the audio book, but voice inflection and use of the complex, old words allows for an enjoyable read. I went home and downloaded the audio book off of Amazon so that I could listen and read at the same time for homework, and it truly makes a difference.

The audio book downloads right to your phone as well so you can take it with you wherever you go. I use the Archangel audio book if anyone would like to know. I have never used an audiobook before, however I can say for sure that I understand Hamlet, and actually enjoy it as well now.

-Kyle H.

Want Shakespeare on audio? Downloadable titles are available on Overdrive and Hoopla.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I first read The Alchemist when I was around eleven or so. The book was confusing to me, and although I enjoyed it, I felt as if I was missing the bigger picture in some way. The book contained a lot of symbolism and themes that I was slightly too young to fully comprehend.

Revisiting this six years later, I understand this book to be more than a fantastical adventure across Africa towards untold riches and going through trials and tribulations to come out on top. It is deep and the message resonated with me after I finished reading it.

This novel is not about the practice of alchemy or the journey of a young man, Santiago. At least, not solely about either of those. The main idea, or theme, is how fear often controls people. The novel proposes the idea that everyone has what it calls a Personal Legend. A Personal Legend is a goal that the universe has put out for someone or a dream they want to accomplish. This is supposed to bring someone ultimate satisfaction for completing it and in order to continue living a satisfactory life and achieve happiness new Personal Legends are continuously set out after one has been completed. However, throughout the book examples are shown of people who are often too afraid to fulfill their Personal Legend, and thus find themselves stuck in an endless routine, or feeling empty as a result of the fear holding them back.

Although following your Personal Legend can come at a price, like Santiago losing all his money while in a foreign country, this is the universe testing people and seeing if they are truly strong enough or dedicated enough to keep going. It rewards people who push past obstacles or get up to continue trying even when they fall.

Coelho is trying to encourage the readers of the story to go out and experience their own adventures, fulfill their own Personal Legends, lest you fall into a cycle, doomed to dissatisfaction.

Santiago is someone we look at as a reflection of ourselves. He has a comfortable life living in a certain way without changing, but his life is stagnant. Until he makes that decision to look at signs being given to him and taking a leap of faith to begin his journey. At first, it does not go well. He goes to a foreign country, loses nearly all his money to a con man, and has nothing but the clothes on his back. However, he begins working for a crystal merchant, and over time gains money. Although he is deciding to go back to Andalusia, at the last minute he decides to continue his journey to completing his Personal Legend in Egypt. He faces many hardships, almost dying along the way, but eventually, he makes it back to Andalusia, where he finds treasures waiting for him.

The story as a whole is actually inspiring. It shows that achieving your goal is not easy, nor should it be. But it is rewarding seeing it through to the end, and the satisfaction of fulfilling a goal that you worked hard to achieve is (in Coelho’s opinion) the way to have a happy, good life.

-Farrah M. 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel is a terrifying story of the Holocaust during World War 2. Elie was born in Sighet, Transylvania. He lived a normal age until the day that he and his family were taken to a concentration camp formerly called Auschwitz. There he is separated from his mother and sisters. He is told to lie about his age and job in order to survive.

After he tells a guard about his age, he is led away with his father. Some days after, they are taken to Buna, a work camp. They work long hours and are very malnourished. Due to the harsh conditions, the Jews must look after one another. This behavior doesn’t last long, and soon all the Jews care about is that they survive. This pushes many of them to commit horrific crimes for extra rations of bread. They quickly lose faith in God and no longer pray. This brings on a worse despair. After some months of labor, the prisoners are soon to be liberated by the Russians. Because of this, the Germans decide to move the prisoners. They are forced to march through a snowstorm to another concentration camp called Gleiwitz. Once at Gleiwitz, they are crammed into cattle cars. All 100 prisoners that hadn’t died were tightly packed against one another. Most cannot take anymore pain and die on the train. Once the train stops at Buchenwald, only 12 prisoners get off of the train. Soon after arriving, Elie’s father dies of dysentery on April 11, 1945. After experiencing so much, this breaks Elie and he is transformed into only a skeleton of a man.

-E. Vargas

Night by Elie Wiesel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Gee, Caesar, What Should We Do About the Barbarians?

The love-hate relationship (one-sided) between Rome and the Germanic “barbarians” is very complicated yet very interesting. There are so many stories about Rome’s ransack of Germanic homelands and the heroic uprisings from the barbarians who almost took over the hub of the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, while the Germanic people wreak havoc in the city, surviving Romans gathered at the hill and was able to protect themselves with cunning deceits and its disciplined military, thus originated the meme — “when you bribe a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe…(you know that this is going to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r….or…maybe not)”. And this is how the Romans annexed the barbarian lands into their own provinces.

Over the time period 753 BCE to 476 CE, Rome’s relationships with foreign peoples reversed chronologically from a dominant power an unstable and declining empire. Rome’s change in power is directly relevant to its political shifts, which closely resembles that of a roller coaster — first it went upward. The escalation towards the peaks precedes the rapid downward gradient until it crashes to the ground. The early conquering of Germanic states was gory and violent, it laid foundation of enmity in the hearts of the barbarians. It raises up from the rules of the seven kings to a republic, around 500 BCE as Rome’s early expansion.

Then in 27 BCE, the establishment of the Roman Empire made way for a golden era of peace and prosperity, and that is when the roller coaster reached its peak. Rome’s superior power has become insuppressible, and the Roman Empire has had enough of bloodshed as well as warfare. As a turning point, Rome changed their approach to its conquered peoples, granting them Roman citizenships instead of treating them as war slave. In return, the subordinate provinces were willing to fight for Rome and acknowledged the Empire’s dominance and superiority (whether forcibly or voluntarily). Nevertheless, they fear Rome.

However, Rome entered its downfall in 5th century CE. The riders and citizens of Rome alike are screaming with shock and agitation against this quick turn of events. Along the downward slope, emperors came and died and was replaced by another, whether they were barbarians or natives, they could not survive the curse of the Third Century Crisis.

But who knew that a even greater danger was coming towards Rome amidst of this chaotic era?

The entrance of Attila the HUN, famous for his nosebleed, changed the relationship between the century-old nemeses. When previously, the two groups fought each other with contempt for their ill-treatments to each other “vanished” under Attila’s banners. The once glorious Roman Empire “bowed down” to the Germanic people and “humbly” asked for alliances to defeat the horrifying monster-from-the-east.  The Visigoths consented to Emperor Valentinian’s wish. The consent signified the decline of Rome’s military power, as it was insufficient to defend itself from the Huns.

Funny thing is, Emperor Valentinian’s sister Honoria once wrote a letter to Attila for help, as she expressed her love for Attila and her desire to escape from Rome. In return, she would give half of western Europe as her dowry. This scheme was uncovered by Emperor Valentinian, but it showed that Rome was not a unified state any longer, its internal instability helped the to ensure its faltering authority.

Eventually, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths few years after their “alliance”. The once omnipotent empire collapsed at the hand of its Germanic enemies.

-Kate L.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby is about 18 year old Mari Turner, and her quest to avenge her cousin, while finding herself. Mari cultivates a perfect life to her thousands of followers on social media. She posts inspiring messages and stories, but she does not practice what she preaches. On the inside, Mari is empty and can not keep up with maintaining this fake profile. So one day she breaks down and posts a video of herself confessing to what she actually thinks: she is not happy, and does not feel the inspirational message she spreads herself.

Quickly, it goes viral, and pretty soon afterwards, she faces major backlash and people calling her a fraud. In order to escape all of this, Mari proceeds to hike the John Muir trail. She is doing this to honor her cousin, Bri, who was an avid hiker and died in an accident while doing what she loved. Her and Mari had made the promise to hike the trail together when they turned 18, but Bri did not make it till then. Mari has never had any experience hiking, but she feels that she should complete the hike for the two of them. With Bri’s diary and her hiking boots, Mari proceeds to hike the trail to the best of her ability; but it is much more than a simple hike because it helps Mari to see who she is without the people of the Internet.

This book should be read by everybody because it can help teach us about ourselves. It tells us to take a step back and to be aware of what we value in ourselves. Kirby was able to depict the growth of Mari and she was able to let go of her grief while finding what she knows about herself. Simply put, this book can help people not only see the effects of negativity on social media, but how to be mindful ourselves of what we seek in life.

-Anmol K.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby is available fro checkout from the Mission Viejo Library