Revisiting Harry Potter

If you are a teenager today, you have either read some or all of the Harry Potter series or you have seen the Harry Potter movies. Today, the novels gave way to a Universal Studios theme park, endless merchandise, and now a Broadway play. Why was this possible and why should you go back and read the series if you haven’t read the whole thing in its entirety?

The Harry Potter movies did not do the books justice, so if you enjoyed the movies even a tiny bit, you will thoroughly enjoy the books. The series begins with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It is not that this book is just easy to read. It is the longest book you will read in the shortest time. All of the series is like this, but the speed with which you will go through this book leaves you surprised and wanting more. The world is established, the characters are introduced, the reality that exists within the Harry Potter realm are all really well done in a super easy, accessible read.

You cannot stop at one book, nor should you read just a few and decide it is enough. There are seven titles, and you should read them all if you enjoy the first book. It is entertaining, intertwined, and really clever to stay with the series through the end. The titles go like this: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (called the Philosopher’s Stone in most other countries) (1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (5), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (6), and finally Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (7).

There is an eighth book of sorts that gave way to a play I saw on stage when my family traveled to London three years ago: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play is basically a 5 hour play and you can choose to watch it all in one day or over the course of two days as two regular length plays. We saw it over the course of two days and that was the right choice. Each play can stand alone and the stage, actors, dialog, and music are all made better if you have read the series. You won’t pick up all of the nuances if you have only seen the movies. You do not have to read this book before the play, in fact, this is one I would suggest to read after.

No matter your age, this series is one to go back to if you skipped it. If you are bored, there is plenty here to keep you entertained and reading.

-Preston v.

The Harry Potter series is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The dystopian fiction novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins serves as a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, and it narrates the story of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. It is set in Panem, the same setting as the Hunger Games trilogy and most events take place in the Capitol or District 12. Readers of the trilogy know that Coriolanus will go on to become President Snow, the main antagonist of the Hunger Games. I think that it was an extremely smart idea to write this book after the Hunger Games trilogy because it gives readers an extra interest and pulls to the book, especially with the very beginning.

The introduction of Coriolanus Snow is completely contradictory to readers’ views of President Snow, since he is shown as extremely rich and lofty in the trilogy, but he is introduced in the prequel as extremely poor; in addition, readers can clearly understand how important Coriolanus’s family is to him. As a big fan of the Hunger Games series, I do not recall any emphasis on Coriolanus’s family, except for his famous motto, “Snow lands on top!” (which is reiterated multiple times in this novel). The implication of Coriolanus’s love for his family (consisting of his grandmother known as Grandma’am and his cousin Tigris) is only strengthened throughout the book, and the pure irony of this description and portrayal of Coriolanus is extremely captivating to readers. 

I must mention that Coriolanus’s grandma insists on taking care of roses in a roof garden, and these roses make multiple appearances throughout the book. In the trilogy, roses also have significance in symbolizing the evil of Coriolanus Snow.

Moving on, Coriolanus is one of the 24 students selected to mentor tributes in the 10th annual Hunger Games, and he is matched with the District 12 girl named Lucy Gray Baird. Lucy Gray is a singer from the Covey in District 12. She seems extremely strange, with her optimistic outlook, her behavior at her reaping, and many other unusual qualities. The mentor of the winning tribute will receive a scholarship to attend the University, which Coriolanus needs, but he is highly doubtful of Lucy Gray’s capability to win. However, the two seem to acquire an extremely strong bond. 

In my opinion, the ingrained animal instincts in human nature is the most well established theme in the novel. Although the prime example of this theme is in the ending (and I believe that endings should never be disclosed in book reviews), it can be seen throughout the book, especially in the arena of the Games. The significance of 24 people locked into an arena and told to fight to their deaths is self explanatory in the theme of animal instincts in human nature. 

Another theme in this novel is the theme of morals. Again, the Hunger Games are completely immoral, and to readers’ surprise, the rest of the Capitol feels the same way.

This novel has an invigorating plot line, multiple twists, and amazing literary devices, and it is easily one of my favorite books I have ever read.

-Ayati M

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Overwatch Experimental Patch Notes

In a competitive game such as Overwatch that has a large esports scene and general
player base, balance changes are often necessary to maintain a healthy game state and keep players interested in the game through changes in gameplay. In Overwatch, balance changes in addition to hero pools(banning of certain characters for a set period of time) at the highest level have a massive effect on gameplay overall. In order to test these proposed changes, the player base has access to the “PTR,” or a server in which you can play the game with the new proposed changes before they are official. Doing this allows them to gauge player interest in the changes and whether or not they make it to the live patch (which is the version of the game).

As a team-based game of healers, damage dealers, and tanks, Overwatch requires an
innate balance between the three roles, as each role has two players playing that role for a
team of six. In previous changes, tanks and shields created by tanks were nerfed severely,
significantly boosting the power of “damage” heroes and those meant to support them. As a
result of previous changes, this experimental patch focuses on reducing the overall power of
those characters and the healers that enable them. While changes such as this may seem
initially good for the game and characters, certain changes can have many implications on
competitive play. In this case, one of the changes was made to the primary “sniper” character in the game, called Widowmaker or “widow” for short.

The changes included increased ammo cost and decreased scoped damage falloff. What this means is that not only does she have to reload more, but at a certain point her impact in the game has much less value. Widowmaker is one of the few characters to be able to kill many other damage-dealing characters instantly, making her a valuable asset on certain maps (areas of play). On certain maps, Widow is a mainstay and very powerful in enabling team plays by killing important low health targets such as most healers. By removing this ability on traditionally long maps, her impact in those games significantly decreases as she has to focus more on tanks rather than sniping from a distance, which rewards skill. Mirror duels between Widowmakers on each team are even mainstays on the few maps she is viable on, as taking out the enemy sniper gives you the freedom within the team. Instead, you enable the character to focus on closer targets and remove them from the game as there is less of a threat of an opposing widow, making these changes worrying for how the meta will develop as barrier shields have been considerably weakened.

Overall, I would personally not like to see these changes make it to the main game as many other characters have been weakened significantly in previous patches, and reducing
effective counters to such powerful characters can be unhealthy for the game overall.

-Benjamin L.

Resurrection

In A Tale of Two Cities, a historical novel which is written by Charles Dickens. Sydney Carton, one of the main character, achieved a form of resurrection by sacrificing himself. At the beginning of the novel, he used to be a drunken lawyer, lacking true care for others, but then Carton literally changes his characteristic. “I am the resurrection and the life says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believeth in me, shall never die” (Carton 372). Sydney Carton goes through several levels of spiritual renewal. His Christian sacrifice allows Charles Darnay to survive and thrive.

This selfless act and his good deeds for the world saves Charles’s life. He has never done anything good for anyone in his life, including himself. He shows his great love for Lucie. Later on, they exchange successfully. The moment when Sydney Carton stayed in prison alone gives rise to the sense of empty and fearful. “The door closed, and Carton was left alone. Straining his powers of listening to the utmost, he listened for any sound that might denote suspicion or alarm” (Dickens 417).

Sydney Carton saves Charles Darnay from being convicted and executed in England, agrees to switch places with him in the Conciergerie. Heavily religious language surround these resurrections which compare Carton’s sacrifice of his own life for others’ sins to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He proves the most vital character in the novel. He dies for love which fulfills the happiness for Lucie and achieves the value of his own life and spirit.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Spirit of Love

A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel written by Charles Dickens. The story happened in England and France since 1775 which occurs during a period of social unrest and turbulence. The forces that lead to the French revolution, clash with a group of people in England and lead to their fates irreversibly intertwined. The novel focuses on the resurrection through the setting of the French revolution. Thereinto, “Recalled to life” , the most significant part in each book, presents a prominent tale of resurrection. 

Lucie’s love renewed the spirit of Dr. Manette and her maternal of her necklace reinforces this notion of resurrection. Dr. Manette feels the warmth of home and the sense of security because of the existence of Lucie. As Lucie says, “If you hear in my voice any resemblance to a voice that once was sweet music in your ears, weep for it! If you touch, in touching my hair, anything that recalls a beloved head that lay on your breast when you were young and free, weep for it!” (Lucie, 54). In every detail of Lucie’s existence, she embodies compassion, love and virtue. Lucie can always gather her family together. Dr. Manette experiences the resurrection which he finds his memories through his daughter. He treats his daughter’s happiness as the most important thing in the world.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

 

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

Aside from the horror classics of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Call of Cthulhu” among one of Lovecraft’s most famous and known stories is “The Dunwich Horror”. The story is often criticized by scholars for being somewhat “formulaic” and for being the exception in Lovecraft’s ideas of an indifferent cosmos and humans being infinitely insignificant in the eyes of the universe.

Rather, the story is a classic battle between good and evil and is one of the few stories in which a hero is seen defeating the villain, although the triumph is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Without spoiling too much, since I heavily encourage people, especially horror fans, to read the story, the tale is of the terror that is Wilbur Whateley and his family.

Born to the deformed albino Lavinia Whateley, they lived in Dunwich. Mainly isolating themselves from the rest of the world, Wilbur was obviously something else. Reaching maturity by the age of ten and being an eight foot, misshapen being who caused dogs around him to go into frenzies, Wilbur was being groomed by his grandfather, Old Whateley, in what many townsfolk presumed to be dark magic.

Progressively, their house increases in size as Old Whateley and Wilbur add more floors and enlarge it, to accommodate for… something. They shy away from people but routinely go to the top of Sentinel Hill to chant in odd hours before hiding away. It all goes downhill when Old Whateley dies, and Lavinia mysteriously disappears.

Overall, while the story is very in line with further rounding the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole, it is quite different from Lovecraft’s typical stories. This is more focused on humans and despite how little the great cosmos thinks of them, they were able to vanquish the horrible monstrosity, although the true threat still lurks in the dark periphery that humans are not allowed to glimpse into.

It feels real, Dunwich feels real, the terror of what characters go through feels real. It is the unspeakable terror that desecrates a small town. It lurks in the night but is preceding something far, far worse.

Nevertheless, humans prevented what would have been a global disaster, even if it may inevitably be temporary. While the story may not necessarily be about this triumph, but rather that we will never truly know the extent and power to which beings beyond us possess, and how many people are willing to give their devotion and whole life to it.

This is one of Lovecraft’s more accessible stories if you will. It is weird, yet grounded in his unconventional reality, and is an interesting mix of science fiction and horror. He gives vivid descriptions of the area and surroundings, immersing you into it, allowing you to visualize what types of horrors will befall this tiny outskirt village.

It is not like his typical stories, it has appeal for larger audiences, is weirder and almost surreal than his bone-chilling horror and is among his more popular works. He makes many exceptions to his rules and theories on this universe and mythos he has created, and although “The Dunwich Horror” bends that, it is done so to a great effect. A wonderful tale is created in the process, and his pantheon of horrors is expanded.

-Farrah M.

Th Dunwich Horror and other tales from H.P. Lovecraft are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Recalled to Life

A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel written by Charles Dickens. The story happened in England and France since 1775 which occurs during a period of social unrest and turbulence.

The forces that lead to the French revolution, clash with a group of people in England and lead to their fates irreversibly intertwined. The novel focuses on the resurrection through the setting of the French revolution. Thereinto, “Recalled to life” , the most significant part in each book, presents a prominent tale of resurrection. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens examines the theme of resurrection through the character of Dr. Alexandre Manette and the event of rescuing Charles Darnay.

Dickens elaborates resurrection with the character of Dr. Manette, who stayed in Bastille and suffered the mental pressure for 18 years. In Chapter 2 Book 1 of A Tale of Two Cities, Mr. Lorry gives a message to Jerry which Jerry will transfer to his bank. “Jarvis Lorry states, Jerry, say that my answer was, ‘RECALLED TO LIFE’”(Dickens 14). Jerry Cruncher, the messenger, gets confused about this blazing strange answer. Jarvis Lorry’s answer reveals a surprising piece of information regarding Dr. Manette. In fact, Dr. Manette reappears in public which nobody knows whether he lived or died in the past because of such a long time. His eighteen-year imprisonment has constituted a sorts of death which makes “Recalled to life” indicates that Mr. Lorry brings him back to life from the “death”.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

“thank u, next” Review

Pop singer, Ariana Grande, released a new song called “thank u, next” on November 3. Though I’m not a huge fan of Grande, I love how her song is not only catchy but empowering and eyeopening.

Ariana became engaged to Pete Davidson not long after breaking up with singer, Mac Miller, in early 2018. Miller died in early September from drug overdose and though Ariana was engaged, she still felt the heavy pain from losing someone she once loved. Davidson and Grande broke off their engagement in October but, Ariana embraced the single life, singing about it in “thank u, next.”

In a society that encourages “clapping back” and stirring up drama, Grande’s song is refreshing and genuine. Rather than wanting to throw shade at her exes, Ariana wants to thank them for making her a stronger individual. They all hold an important and special place in her heart because “one taught [her] love / one taught [her] patience / and one taught [her] pain” and now, “[she’s] so amazing.” Without these past relationships, Ariana wouldn’t be the person she is today.

In my opinion, another important aspect of the song is Ariana’s focus on self-love and self-betterment. While her exes taught her love, patience and pain, she also taught herself love, patience and how to deal with pain, which ultimately made her a better person. Grande explains that she found someone else to love, referring to herself as that “someone else.” Grande promises that the self-love she holds for herself is “gon’ last” and she “ain’t worried bout nothing.'”

Self-love and appreciation is a noticeable trend among today’s youth. Feminists advocate strength and success without the aid of men. Mental health victims strive to put their health and progress first. Social media posts remind individuals (whether they are fresh out of a relationship or have been single for awhile) of their self worth and hype them up. Grande’s song advocates this confident self-love and explains that no one should feel ashamed for putting themselves first.

Grande reveals herself as a self-aware, vulnerable and mature artist through this song, which are rare qualities to find in modern day artists. She teaches listeners that not all relationships are meant to last but they all can teach important lessons. Heartbreak can be a negative or a beautiful part of life and Ariana believes that it’s up to the individual to make it positive.

-Jessica T.

Looking for music by Ariana Grande? Visit Hoopla for an extensive catalog of her music free to download with a Mission Viejo Library card. 

Book vs. Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantasticbeastsposterThe book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was originally just a textbook in the Harry Potter series and, in the series, written by Newt Scamander. So, Rowling took this textbook and wrote it up (as Newt) for all of us Muggles to read. Rowling also wrote the film adaptation’s screenplay based on the textbook

The book is almost like a encyclopedia describing many of the beasts and creatures in Harry Potter. It also has “notes” written by Ron, Harry and Hermione. It is really cool book and it teaches you a little more about the creatures in Harry Potter.

The movie, however, is a completely different script written by J.K Rowling. It is about Newt Scamander who comes to America to research the one beast he has yet to see. But, one of his creatures gets out of his suitcase which results in him using magic in front a Muggle. This act gets him summoned before the Magical Congress of the Untied States of America (MACUSA) where he meets Porpetina and Queenie, two ministry workers. These two girls, Newt, and the Muggle Jacob end up having to hunt around the city for all of Newt’s lost creatures. Their search brings them in confrontation with a mysterious magical entity that is wreaking havoc in the city. It is revealed that Credence, an orphan under the care of a vindictive, magic-fearing woman bent of rooting out magic, created an Obscurus which manifested out of his hate for his adoptive mother. Newt and his gang were able to calm Credence down and stop him from wrecking any more of the city.  Within all this havoc Percival Graves, an Auror, is revealed to be the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald is disguise. This movie is a really great addition to the world of Harry Potter and it really gives you insight of the wizarding world in America.

The book and movie are both really wonderful and very enjoyable. The only elements they share are the named character Newt Scamander and many of the creatures mentioned in the original book. So, there really is not that much to compare because they are so different, one being an actual story while the other is more of a textbook. In fact, the script of the movie was a totally new story line written by Rowling.  I recommend reading the book and watching the movie to anyone who has the time.

-Ava G.

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

MV5BMjM2MDgxMDg0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM2OTM5NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_Many aren’t aware of the book which inspired the movie series for Jurassic Park (see Jurassic World in theaters now!), and like most books, the original is better than the movie adaptation.

Michael Crichton’s vision of a utopian theme park gone wrong set a revolutionary example for all sci-fi novels to follow. Most of the characters in the novel are well developed and bear significance in the symbolism of their fates. However, I would have preferred a wider range of female characters as there are only two, with only one portrayed in a mature, positive light. Although most sci-fi novels are geared towards a male audience, it’s a huge bummer for female readers who do exist and do enjoy the genre. And while Dr. Strattler’s minimal role may have been a representation of the sexism faced by women in the scientific field, I think Crichton could have helped break the non-inclusive pattern within the genre.

I’m interested to know if this bothered anyone else who read the book, or if anyone agrees that there is a lack of female representation in sic-fi novels or movies?

– Sara S.

Jurassic Park, both the novel and film, can be checked out from the Mission Viejo Public Library. A downloadable version of the book is available on Overdrive