The Travelling Cat Chronicles: A Book That Will Take a Bite of Your Heart.

A book by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel.

One of my favorite books, The Traveling Cat Chronicles, had me going through a roller coaster of emotions.

The book is about a man who finds an injured stray cat, bringing him to a vet and looking after the cat. After five years of living together, the man has to rehome the cat, visiting different friends, trying to find someone who will take care of this cat.

The reader goes through the story from the cat’s point of view, who definitely gave me laughs as I read the book. The sarcastic cat made me fall in love with this book and I enjoyed going through the owner and cat’s life.

The owner reminisces on some of his old, impactful memories which is certainly hard to read for those overly sentimental. As we go through the lives of both the owner and the cat, we see how attached and connected they are.

The end of the book had me drenched in tears, I had to close the book for a few minutes and stare at the ceiling with tears falling down my cheeks. The book was beautifully written and it was the first book that made me cry. I would love to experience the same feeling reading this book again, and having no idea what I’m getting into, and re-experience the same laughter and tears when I first read the book.

I loved how the author developed the characters and the relationships within the story, and at the end of the book, what was supposed to be a joyful ending, made my heart sink in inexplicable emotions.

It’s an easy read, short book, and highly recommended for anyone looking for a heartwarming book.

Don’t miss it! The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel, is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

– Preston L.

My 2023 NBA Playoffs Prediction

With one week left before the NBA Playoffs start in 2023, my excitement is through the roof. I can’t wait to see many different teams in the playoffs. This year, there are so many different things to watch for. However, I would like to first start off by establishing that I am a Golden State Warriors fan, so I may be a bit biased toward Steph Curry and my Warriors. 

With the regular season dwindling down and the play-in tournament having not taken place yet, I can’t state much about the matchups, but I will describe some topics I am certainly looking forward to.

Initially, before addressing the playoff teams, I would like to talk about how disappointing the Mavericks were this season (I’m sorry Mavs fans). Coming into the season, they had big expectations due to their appearance in the Western Conference Finals the year before. The Dallas Mavericks saw Jalen Brunson leave for the New York Knicks in the offseason. However, they were still staying afloat, drifting around the 4-6 seed range in the Western Conference until February. In February, a few days before the trade deadline, the Mavs traded for superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, with hopes that he would be able to take their team to the NBA Finals alongside Luka Doncic. However, this experiment failed, with the Mavs losing the majority of their games with Luka and Kyrie together and ultimately resulting in them falling outside the required seeding (1-10) to compete in the postseason. Nonetheless, the Mavs still have an incredibly bright future and I can definitely see them going far in the postseason next year, as long as they do well in free agency by adding some bench depth and defense. Even adding an older big man like Dwight Howard or Demarcus Cousins can do wonders for them.

With last year’s Western Conference Finals Runner up eliminated from postseason contention, the West is wide open for other teams to have a chance. The Denver Nuggets, a team that has been really good for a few years now, along with their two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, may see some playoff success this year as they have been able to snatch the one seed. The Memphis Grizzlies, the second seed in the West, are also going to see their chance to go further in the playoffs. The three-seeded Sacramento Kings have had an amazing year, ending their sixteen-season playoff drought. However, their lack of experience and the fact that they will either play the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, or the defending champion Golden State Warriors have me thinking that they’ll have a first-round exit. Those three teams who are in competition for the sixth seed have five superstars combined along with really good supporting players.

Despite all of this, the Western team to watch in my opinion is the Phoenix Suns. They have a star-studded super team with Kevin Durant at the helm. This team went to the NBA Finals in 2021 before losing in six games without Kevin Durant, so the addition of Kevin Durant has me scared for their potential. If the healthy Phoenix Suns play your team, watch out. You might be in for some heartbreak. 

The Golden State Warriors, my team, have had an up-and-down season. They started out struggling, even going 4-7 throughout their first eleven games. Then, Stephen Curry, the team’s superstar, and a generational talent, got injured twice throughout the season, missing a handful of games. However, as of recently, the Warriors have been playing inspired basketball and I’m excited to see how my team will do in the postseason. 

The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are two star-studded teams that both started the season with a lot of losses, but have found themselves throughout the last one and a half months of the regular season and climbed the standings. 

Now, moving to the East, I believe there are only three teams to pay attention to in the Eastern Conference. No disrespect to any of the other teams in the Eastern Conference, but these three teams are powerhouses that will be tough to defeat in a seven-game series. These teams are the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers, also the 1-3 seeds in their conference. The Milwaukee Bucks won the championship in 2021 and their team is only getting better every year, so I can definitely see them going deep in the postseason this year. Next up is the Boston Celtics, who went to the NBA Finals last season before losing to my Warriors. This Boston team is centered around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but they also have last year’s Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart along with some great supporting pieces like Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, Robert Williams III, and Al Horford. When they are at their best, they can be really difficult to beat. My last contender in the East has to be Philadelphia. They have struggled in the playoffs every year, usually losing in the first or second round, so I can’t necessarily trust that this is their year. Regardless of their previous struggles, this is a team with Joel Embiid, who is the MVP in my opinion, along with James Harden. If they will eventually win a championship together in Philly, I feel like this can be their best chance. 

With the NBA Playoffs starting next weekend, I’m incredibly excited to see how it plays out. Of course, I’m hopeful that my Golden State Warriors can do their thing and get another championship, going back-to-back. However, we must wait and see. On April 15, the NBA Playoffs will begin and I highly advise you to tune in if you have an interest in watching some amazing talent leave it all on the floor for a chance to win the 2023 NBA Championship. 

Album Review: The Queen Is Dead by the Smiths

British music during the mid-1980s was quite synth-heavy as new wave was the genre that defined the decade. However, a backlash against this style of music would occur which can be seen in bands like the Smiths. The Smiths came out of Manchester in the mid-1980s and released four pretty popular albums, including The Queen Is Dead, their best album in my opinion.

The album cover of The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead can simply be described as an indie or alternative rock album with its sound being a fusion of the rock music of the 1960s and contemporary post-punk music. It features Morrissey’s melancholic lyrics paired with his unique voice and Johnny Mar’s compositions. Many of the songs are fairly sad as demonstrated by “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a beautiful song about a man by his lover’s (or soon to be lover’s) side. The man wishes to stay by her side forever and even die beside her. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the Smiths’ signature song and one of my personal favorite songs of all time. With its synthesized strings, Morrissey’s voice, and Mar’s guitar, the song is just absolutely beautiful.

It would only be around a year later when the Smiths would break up. They would release another album not long after their breakup, but it’s not nearly as good as The Queen Is Dead in my opinion. The Queen Is Dead is a 10/10 album and you have to check it out!

A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine is a two book long series including the sequel A Desolation Called Peace.

A Memory Called Empire is a 2019 science fiction novel, the first book ever published by Arkady Martine. This book is based on the Teixcalaanli Empire and it’s neighbor Lsel Station.

The book follows the main character Mahit Dzmare, just 26 years old, and named ambassador to the mighty Teixcalaanli Empire. Mahit grew up on Lsel Station, (an artificial metal planetoid), next to a Teixcalaanli jump gate, allowing them to travel throughout the galaxy with ease. This book is found in the far future where Humans have expanded throughout the Milky Way and have grown different traits and looks. For example the people of Lsel Station are taller than the people of the Teixcalaanli Empire.

The people of Lsel Station have adapted a new way of conserving memory throughout the generations called a Imago machine. This gave young Mahit Dzmare access to her predecessor’s (Yskander Aghvan) memory. It would also allow her to use the decades of information gathered by her predecessors, creating long lines of knowledge. Allow though this tech would be incredibly useful to the Teixcalaanli Empire, they banned the use of neurological enhancements.

Into the story, we find out the Mahit only has the imago machine of her predecessor’s that was 15 years out of date, as well as learning that Yskander has mysteriously died. This would be followed be thrilling espionage, murder, and interstellar war to find out what happened to her predecessor had done in his 20 years in the Teixcalaanli Empire.

What I found interesting in this novel was how Martine had skillfully taken a dull topic and made into addicting action filled Young Adult book.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Album Review: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

Sometimes, we find our favorite songs in mundane experiences. Whether we get the recommendation of a lifetime from our friends, or we find a catchy song on the radio, the event is different for everyone. Still, we all have that one mind-altering experience with music. I first discovered Yo La Tengo through their heartwarming song titled “My Little Corner of the World.” After playing it on loop for hours on end, I finally listened to Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, and I was shocked to find that this was more than a series of simple folk songs.

Album Cover Art for I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One by Yo La Tengo

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One was released in 1997 by indie rock band Yo La Tengo. Most known for its various inspirations and genres, the album flips from acoustic folk-inspired tracks to glimpses of noise pop. For instance, tracks like “Autumn Sweater” and “The Lie and How We Told It” use catchy drums and blissful guitars to create homey, nostalgic tunes. Other tracks such as “Sugarcube” and “Deeper into Movies” use heavier guitars and distortions to take louder, rock-inspired approach. Despite these differences, Yo La Tengo masters each genre they tackle, and the end result is always interesting.

The most surprising track on I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One has to be “Center of Gravity.” Despite being the only bossa nova track of this project, it easily became my all time favorite song for its groovy percussions and different vocals. Still, each song in this project is different, so you never know what to expect once the track number changes. Yo La Tengo uses this unpredictable nature to their advantage. From beginning to end, I admired their musical variety instead of pushing it away. Even if you favor one genre over another, I guarantee you will find something to love about I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Give this album a shot!

Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques

Lord Brocktree, by Brian Jacques, is part of his popular Redwall series. This was the thirteenth book published in the series and it would be the first book chronologically. It is a prequel to Redwall, a fantasy novel based in a world of human-like woodland creatures. The story revolves around Lord Brocktree, the son of Stonepaw, the great Badger Lord. Brocktree is on a quest to find Salamandastron, the mighty mountain of the Badger Lords, where his father Stonepaw lives. Along the way, he befriends many creatures, including a young haremaid called Dotti, and a clever otter known as Ruff. These friends will prove to be vital to Lord Brocktree’s success.

Unbeknownst to Brocktree, Stonepaw is under siege by the army of Ungatt Trunn, a villainous wildcat who serves as the main antagonist of the story. Age has been catching up quickly to Stonepaw and his hare companions, so they are not able to defend themselves as well as they could in the past. Because of his ailments, Stonepaw is increasingly worried about the safety of Salamandastron. Brocktree and his friends must help Stonepaw to reclaim the mountain, so that they can restore peace to the land.

I enjoyed this book very much. The setting is vast and the storyline is highly engaging. Like other Redwall books, the characters are interesting and memorable. However, this book has some downsides compared to other books in the series. There are a few sections that seem too slow-paced, and some of the characters seem to have been a little less developed than they could have been. Still, the story is quite exciting and action-packed for the most part. This was the first book in the Redwall series that I read, so I have a certain feeling of nostalgia for it. Now that I have read other books in the series, I have a bit less regard for this one, but I still think that it is very good. I would recommend it to almost anyone, but I think some of the other books in the Redwall series are even better.

Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

TV Show Review: Running Man (Korea)

Running Man Korea is a reality-variety show from South Korea that started airing in July 2010. The show airs every Sunday evening in Korea, and currently has 645 episodes (as of March 12, 2023). This is the longest running Korean variety show as it has been going on for more than 10 years. The current members are Yoo Jae-suk, Jee Seok-jin, Kim Jong-kook, Ha Dong-hoon, Song Ji-hyo, Jeon So-min (joined on episode 346), and Yang Se-chan (joined on episode 346).

In some episodes of this variety show, there are no guests so there will only be the members who will complete certain missions and games in order to win the race. Then some episodes have guests that came from different work backgrounds, some are actors, comedians, pop idols, sport players, etc. Those who win the race will receive prices, while those who lose will receive penalties.

The first time I got to watch an episode of this show was when my sister introduced it to me in 2016. I clearly remember that I got super hooked on watching past episodes (with English subtitles) of the show online during the summer of 2017, and I still remember how I couldn’t stop laughing because of their jokes and how they complete the missions. There are even episodes wherein there is a “spy,” so they need to find out who it is. I stopped watching the show when school started that year, but continued to watch the newer episodes in summer 2021. After summer 2021, I stopped watching again when school started, but currently, ever since January of this year, I spend some of my break/free time watching the newer episodes.

I could say that from the moment I first watched the show until now, the thing that didn’t change was the fact that the members (as well as the guests) and the show overall never failed to make me laugh out loud. The show is evidently not scripted, so you will get to see genuine reactions and interactions of the individuals within each episode, especially whenever they carry out games. I have recommended this show to different people, and they all replied that the show never disappoints! Moreover, it has personally helped me brighten up my day, most especially when I suddenly feel down. For all the people who are fond of watching reality or variety shows, I highly recommend watching it!

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Murder at the Vicarage is Agatha Christie’s first mystery novel featuring the character of Miss Marple. The story is narrated by a local reverend named Leonard Clement in the seemingly quiet village of St. Mary Mead, England. This novel involves the mysterious death of Colonel Protheroe. The Colonel was generally hated by the local residents, so it was not surprising when it was discovered that he had been shot to death. However, the murderer’s identity remained a mystery. The police are baffled by the case until an elderly resident of the village decides to assist them. This unlikely detective is an elderly spinster named Jane Marple.

Miss Marple makes for an interesting character. She seems more like an observant neighborhood gossip than an actual detective. While Agatha Christie’s novels featuring Hercule Poirot may be more well-known, her Miss Marple books are almost as good, in my opinion. Miss Marple’s personality certainly differs from Poirot’s in many ways.  Hercule Poirot has a ridiculous moustache and is amusingly pompous. He is a professional detective who has achieved widespread fame for his work. Miss Marple is just an amateur detective. She is more elderly than Poirot and seems more like a nosy neighbor who happens to solve mysteries. However, she is just about as shrewd and intelligent as Poirot.

This book was certainly baffling and had me guessing at every turn. Various suspects confessed to the murder at different points in the novel, making it very difficult to guess the murderer. I enjoyed the relatively quaint setting of the story. Everything takes place in a small village, so the characters are well developed by the end of the story. Miss Marple turns out to be a very charming character, and she is surprisingly astute and perceptive. I would highly recommend this novel, as well as the other books by Agatha Christie featuring Miss Marple.

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie is available to download for free from Libby.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This isn’t the typical genre I read but I was essentially forced to for my English class. Surprisingly, I enjoyed reading this book because of the witty humor Adams uses throughout the book.

Following main character Arthur Dent and his sci-fi journey with best pal Ford Prefect and the countless adventures they go on and experience throughout the book. I would say the plot of the book was all over the place, like even after finishing the book I wouldn’t be able to tell you the main message that was conveyed. Adams jumps around A LOT throughout the book which makes it confusing but also ominous for readers to figure out what is going to happen next.

Like I mentioned earlier, Sci-Fi isn’t my preferred choice of genre but knowing I was able to effortlessly get through this book says something. If you want to try getting into Sci-Fi or something similar I highly recommend reading this book. The chapters are all typically pretty short so it’s an easier read. I hope to those that do end up reading this book that you enjoy this whimsical journey throughout the “Universe.”

-Madison C.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Your Words Have Power

What would we do without words? Words are powerful; They can inspire, motivate, and move us to action. They can also hurt, insult, and destroy. As teenagers, we are constantly bombarded with words from many different sources, from our peers to parents, teachers, or the media. Recognizing that our words have power and can influence us in how we communicate is important. We can see the power of words play out through books and movies. Numerous examples of films and books can resonate with us and strengthen the impact of words.

Dead Poets Society is one example of how words impact us. In this movie, an unorthodox English teacher inspires his students to be themselves and embrace their individuality. He encourages them to express themselves through poetry. Robin William, who played the teacher in the movie, tells his students to “carpe diem,” meaning seize the day and live life to the fullest. Through words, he profoundly impacts his students’ actions. They challenge the school district rules and go on to pursue their own passions. This movie is a compelling reminder that our words have power. Words of encouragement can inspire and move us forward to do great things that impact many lives.

The Hate U Give, written by Angie Thomas, also shows us how words impact how we think in a powerful way. Starr, a young girl in the story, witnesses the shooting of her friend by a police officer. The author uses words to shape our perceptions of others and strongly influences how we think about racism and prejudice. It encourages us to use our words to create positive changes in our world.

These are just a few examples of the power of words and how they shape our actions, thoughts, and interaction with people around us.

We are constantly bombarded with words from everyone and everything.

As teenagers, we have the power to use our words to bring positive changes to others and the world around us. Use words that encourage and inspire others rather than break them down. Stand up and speak out against hateful language and attitudes.

Our words cannot be underestimated. Words inspire, motivate, and move us to action. It can also hurt, insult, and destroy others. By recognizing the impact of our words, we can use them responsibly to create lasting and positive impacts. Doing so can create a more positive and inspiring communication culture in our society. Maybe, it can even lessen the chances of war.

The next time you have a conversation with someone, remember your words have power; what you say can uplift or tear a person down. You have the choice to inspire and encourage others so you can help create a better world. Choose your words wisely so you can inspire.

Bella H.