Authors We Love: Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan was definitely one of my favorite authors.  He is the writer of the Percy Jackson series, the Heroes of Olympus series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Magnus Chase series. Riordan’s books take ancient mythology and weave it into modern-day stories of adventures.

The Percy Jackson series, which was his first series, revolves around a boy named Percy Jackson who learns that he is a demigod — a son of Poseidon. You follow Percy and his friends, Annabeth and Grover, as well as others, in adventures while learning about Greek Mythology. Placed in a world where Greek Mythology is fact, Riordan does a fabulous job writing this series. When you start reading, you aren’t going to want to put the book down. I think that this is one of the best series of books he has written.

The Heroes Of Olympus series is, in a way, a continuation of the Percy Jackson series. However, it adds new characters and involves both Greek and Roman mythology. This series was just as great as the Percy Jackson series and had me intrigued till the end.

The Kane Chronicles revolves around Egyptian Mythology and a brother and sister, Carter and Sadie. Though, out of all the series’ Rick Riordan has written, this is my least favorite, but it is still good. To me, it was just not quite as captivating as some of his other pieces of writing. I would still recommend reading it, though, because it still a really good story.

The Magnus Chase series is about a boy named Magnus Chase and Norse Mythology. It is a really cool series, especially because you get to learn a little bit about Norse Mythology — something that you really won’t know much about other than the fact that Thor and Loki are Norse Gods.

All of Riordan’s writings are a great way to not only get lost in a book, but to learn about ancient mythology in a new and exciting way. All of his books are pretty easy to read, but they can entertain you for hours. Overall, he is just a fabulous writer and I would recommend any of his books.

-Ava G.

The Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart

H.P. Lovecraft brought horror fiction into existence with his tales of eldritch monsters and otherworldly beings. Now, editor Ross E. Lockhart has compiled The Book of Cthulhu, a collection of short stories, as a tribute to the Cthulhu Mythos story cycle first created by Lovecraft himself. The book is an anthology of short horror stories with a variety of topics yet all containing the familiar dread of Lovecraft.

The unique genre is Lovecraftian horror, which features the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. Within his stories of the occult, Lovecraft was famous for using dread instead of shock and gore. Instead of trying to scare the reader through cheesy ghost stories or bloody axe killers, Lovecraftian literature creates feelings of insignificance, helplessness, and awe. A common theme is the insignificance of humanity. Humans are merely specks of dust in the vast universe, completely at the mercy of ancient or even ageless beings. Aliens and elder gods from different worlds and dimensions exist that could annihilate humankind on a whim. Lovecraft’s universe holds creatures so monstrous and beyond comprehension that even knowledge of them drives men to insanity.

The authors from The Book of Cthulhu continue Lovecraft’s tradition. The first short story, Andromeda Among the Stones, highlights the best aspects of Lovecraft. A family by the edge of the sea must sacrifice everything to guard a portal against the eldritch beings on the other side. Out of all of the stories in the anthology, this short story perhaps best embodies Lovecraft’s sense of awe and dread of the unknown.

My personal favorite story is A Colder War, set in the Cold War era. The world’s superpowers attempt to understand and harness the alien beings as weapons. These elder gods trivialize humanity’s nuclear arms and ultimately threaten to consume this world and other worlds.

The Book of Cthulhu is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read that will put earthly matters into perspective. Although the stories are sometimes hit or miss, each author offers their own style infused with Lovecraft, making it a varied and interesting anthology. The stories often require the reader to grasp the context very quickly, and it often feels as if the short stories are lacking exposition. On the other hand, this adds to the mysterious atmosphere that Lovecraft was so famous for. The anthology is a proper modern tribute to Lovecraft that will leave readers feeling a little tinier than before.

-Phillip X.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

With a plan to hide, paranoia to battle, and friendships to question, a group of five college students deal with the psychological punishment of murdering their sixth member: Bunny Corcoran.

The Secret History, by Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt, is deep, fascinating, and full of aesthetic-driven description. Richard Papen, a poor college student from California, transfers to Hampden College in Vermont in order to escape his old life. There, he can’t help but be entranced by a group of mysterious young adults that saunter around the campus disconnected from the rest of the student body. Belonging to the highly exclusive Classics major taught by Julian Morrow, those five students have a divine air about them that Richard can’t resist. Securing his spot in their class, Richard is dragged into much more than a new group of friends: relationships full of hidden truths, a wild secret to keep that he never saw coming, and brewing plot of even more horrible proportion. Join Richard as he learns what friendship with Henry Winter, Francis Abernathy, Bunny Corcoran, and the Macaulay twins really means.

From the overlying theme to direct references, Donna Tartt draws heavily from Fyodor Dostoyesky’s Crime and Punishment. Both stories deal with how a seemingly justified murder affects the murderer’s mental state, driving them to extreme paranoia and desperation for relief. Both books open with a murder, Crime and Punishment’s happening about 20% of the way in while The Secret History‘s is described in the prologue. While Crime and Punishment reads chronologically, The Secret History tells the reader about the murder first, then flashes back months before, carrying through the murder and on to what happens after. Having just read Crime and Punishment, the parallels stand out. Reading about a variety of characters’ reactions in The Secret History is far more interesting than that of the sole guilty soul in Crime and Punishment.

Donna Tartt’s writing style is beautiful, oftentimes bringing me to pause and reflect. I grew to care so much about her tragic characters, and her writing brought me to be truly shocked or pitiful or furious right when she wanted me to be. I couldn’t predict any of the twists this book offered, which is a sign of a well-written story. This new adult/murder mystery novel was thrilling to read, and it’s a story that will last with me for a long time. Thought-provoking, genius, and beautiful, The Secret History is well worth the read.

-Abby F., 12th Grade

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive and Hoopla.

Every Falling Star: the True Story of How I Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland

In utopian societies, life is perfect.  To young Sungju Lee, this was North Korea.  His father, an army general, was his greatest hero.  Someday, Sungju would fight in the North Korean army to beat the nasty Americans and cruel South Koreans.  In fact, when he was little, he and his father used to play a game with his father teaching young Sungju the ways of war.  North Korea would always win, for in Sungju’s mind, it was the best country in the world!  One of the strategies he used was a series of stones.  If a hideout was overtaken or deemed unsafe for the soldiers to return to, stones would be placed in front.  Little did Sungju know, this strategy would save his life.

One day, Sungju came home from school to find his parents packing up their things.  Sungju wondered if they were going to vacation to the ocean like he wanted.  But, instead they were going to the country.  Sungju then asked about where his dog would go while the Lees were on vacation.  His mother shamed him for asking, and Sungju felt bad.  He needed to be a good son so he could be in the regime and in the ranks of North Korea’s Eternal Leader, Kim II-sung.  As time passed and despite his complaints, Sungju would never return to Pyongyang.

Throughout the author’s heartbreaking story, I kept trying to push him forward.  I thought of the song “When You Believe” sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.  The lyrics speak of hope, and it was this hope which I was trying to infuse in Lee.  He endured many hardships at the tender age of 11 and suffered for five years before finally escaping the torment of his country.  Compared to other books highlighting political struggles and the impact on its citizens, this was one of the most compelling stories.  Unlike Chinese Cinderella, a deeply saddening story of a disowned little girl, everybody around Sungju loved him.  They were trying their hardest to make ends meet, but to say more would take away from Sungju’s story.

On a scale of 1 to10, Every Falling Star definitely deserves a 9 for its well-written passages and amazingly illustrated emotion.  Because Lee was not a native English speaker, when he came to the United States, he received help from Susan McClelland to lay out his story.  After finishing the book, I read an excerpt from him, saying that many of the characters’ (family members and brothers) names were changed because they were still living in North Korea.  This was done to protect them.  Please check out this book and be drawn into an intriguing story of overcoming life’s worst obstacles.

-Maya S.

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until a bit after the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the War of the Pacific with Japan. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist. I do think the way it was written was appropriate, though, because it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids, while having to remember the things that happened.

-Aliya A.

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Image result for we are the ants

We all love choices. Okay, sometimes we don’t because we can’t decide. But here is a choice that would get you thinking: Say you have a red button in front of you. Pressing it will save the world from a catastrophe. Not pressing it will destroy the world. Would you press it? I know I would, for the reason that I don’t want anyone to die, along with various other reasons that I could share with numerous other people.

Henry Denton would not press that button because he doesn’t believe the world should be saved. His brother got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of college. His grandma is getting worse with Alzheimer’s by the day, saying that Henry is dead. His mother is wasting away on weed. He is in a….questionable relationship with his bully. His boyfriend Jared, the boy who brought light into his life, committed suicide without any sign that he was depressed. He hasn’t been in contact with his old friend Audrey in over a year. Worst yet, school used to be fun, but instead of names like “f*g” that he would be okay with being called, he is called “space boy”, since he has been captured and probed by aliens, with no one believing him.

And these aliens, after probing him (not in the butt though), gave him a choice: press the red button, or let the world be destroyed. He is given 144 days to make the choice. And that’s when he meets Diego, a transfer student who is full of secrets, such as why he came to his first day of class and claimed he was a nude model.

To warn younger readers, this book is more on the mature side, as the main character is seriously depressed, among other more trigger themes.

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I wanted to read another book by Hutchinson, since I read The Deathday Letter (Another great book), and I was blown away, not wanting to put down the book until the end. It made me cry, and nothing makes me cry. I was deeply motivated by how the way Henry describes his life, making it interesting and dark at the same time, such as calling humans “ants” because there are 7 billion lives in the world, and every one of them is insignificant. Best yet, his way of describing things is very informal, such as calling the aliens “sluggers”, which makes the book almost as good as books like To Kill a Mockingbird, but set within the 21st century.

Additionally, Henry is not your typical protagonist. He is gay, which is something rare in any character. He is okay with telling people this, which is even rarer. While most people believe in justice, he believes in destruction.

Finally, without revealing too much of the book, I want to share the part I found interesting: After every couple of chapters, Hutchinson puts in what he thinks is going to be the apocalypse from a meteor to my favorite, virtual reality. And as time goes on and Henry starts to question if he should press the button, the theories get sillier. I feel that this greatly reflects how Henry feels about life in general, as he goes from wanting to know how the world is destroyed to not caring at all.

Once again, I really recommend this book if you are looking for something new and interesting to read.

– Megan V, 11th grade

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II in the Pacific that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the war with the Japanese. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school and the war with the Japanese. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist, but it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids while at the same time remembering the things that happened, so I think that the way it was written was appropriate.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history and WWII.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library