Top Reads of 2016

Top Reads of 2016

Legend by Marie Lu

It was a book that had been on my reading list since it came out. However, I only just got around to reading it and couldn’t believe the adventure I’d missed. Lu tells an amazingly detailed story about a government soldier tracking down the most wanted criminal in the Republic. You can imagine what happens as the novice, June, and poor robber, Day, cross paths during her hunt. She falls for him on the street, unaware of his true identity, her target. She has to decide if avenging her brother’s death is more important than staying with this stranger she’s grown to love. Lu’s writing intrigues me because she focuses on small details that lead to the end of the story which most readers would find insignificant. This engages the reader to pay attention to the words they’re reading. I loved it so much, I just had to get the second book.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Like Legend, this book has remained on my list but I didn’t put it on priority. So when I found it at the Mission Viejo Library’s bookstore, I knew it was finally my time to discover the story. Hundreds of years into the future, this spinoff of the Cinderella takes place in a New Beijing in a world where androids are normal to help people with daily chores and sometimes cyborgs roam among the crowd. However, it isn’t easy when you’re not considered human and work as lowly mechanic. Especially when your stepmother and stepsister want nothing to do with you to begin with. When the letumosis disease, plaguing the city issues a cyborg draft, Cinder’s stepmother doesn’t miss her chance to sign up her daughter for an experiment no one comes back from. Not long after Cinder’s admission, the doctor finds there is much more to her than just a few missing parts. Meyer tells this dystopian story while still adding elements of the original fairytale, just like the rest of the books in her series.

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Paria Stolarz

I’ve done a review on this novel already, but I couldn’t help from mentioning it as it was a very memorable read for me. It was very different from most horror stories and took the word “nightmare” to a whole new level. Of course, this book ended with a cliffhanger and many unanswered questions, so I was ecstatic to find there was a sequel.

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

A high schooler, Liz, tells the story from her point of view behind a camera lens, a perspective of the world as she sees it. Her life takes an unexpected turn when her best friend, Kate, decides to shut her out without warning or reason, and everyone whispers rumors and accusations behind her back. Suddenly, her world is out of focus and she tries to make sense of it all while still holding onto her friendship. This realistic story is told through a series of poems, which makes the events even more enticing and easy to follow along. I had to finish this book in one sitting because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages without reading what came next. I would definitely read this book again.

Sabrina C., 11th Grade

Top 5 Fictional Schools I’d Like to Attend


image copyright Warner Bros.

1. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
After living in the wizarding world for the duration of the saga, who didn’t deny their muggle roots, and delude themselves into believing they possessed the ability to spell-cast? What if you could live in Harry’s world, where you would receive your attendance letter when you turn eleven and get shipped off on the Hogwarts Express for your first year (unless you’re a Squib, of course ) in September? My friends and I still reassure ourselves that our letters obviously got lost via owl post, and Dumbledore will make an exception when he discovers his tragic mistake… and we’re going on fourteen.
See also: Beauxbatons Academy of Magic or Dumstrang Institute of Sorcery

2. Camp Half-Blood from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan
Don’t want to be a wizard? How about the child of a Greek god? Your friends would be your family (literally, for all the gods have some relation to one another; therefore, their children do as well). You’d have the opportunity to venture into the mortal world and perform dangerous tasks for the gods (which you would hopefully succeed). Plus, who wouldn’t want to be a demigod? I definitely would.
See also: Camp Jupiter from the Heroes of Olympus series (for those with Roman deity heritage)

gallagher_girls13. The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
The girls who attend this school have reputations of rich, genius heiresses, but they’re really clandestine agents-in-training for the CIA, under cover. I would absolutely love to be trained in the art of espionage, and going to a school that specializes in just that? Now that would be awesome. 
See also: Blackthorne Institute for Troubled Young Men (I thought it was even cooler than the girls’ spy school! For those of you who have read the books, you know who the boys really are. Those of you who haven’t– read the books; you’ll find out.)

4. The Princess Academy from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Every girl (okay, most girls…) wanted to be a princess at one point in time, whether you idolized Snow White, or someone a bit more like Mulan. At the Princess Academy, competition and challenges prevail in order to discover the best fit for the throne; whether its testing your poise and composure in times of danger or your tolerance when it comes to the immature practical jokes of your classmates, the Princess Academy separates the arrogant from the strong, and the smart from the intelligent.

alphas_cover5. The Alpha Academy from the Alphas series by Lisi Harrison
The Alpha Academy is a school for the next generation of powerful, influential woman (sorry, boys!), “without any distractions from the mediocre world.” The girls are forced to compete — after all, there can only be one Alpha — for worldwide fame, fortune, and guaranteed success in life. The series was… okay… (not exactly my cup of tea) but being the fairly competitive person I am, I absolutely fell in love with the idea of a school where it is a part of your everyday life; a place where females are dominant, manipulation of your peers is seen as resourceful on your fight to the top, and smarts are valued, and never overlooked.

What Hogwarts house would you be in: Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, or Slytherin???

Who would be your godly parent??

What fictional school would you like to attend? 

Share in the comments!

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Contemporary Novels an Austenite Would Love

Hey guys! I’m a huge Austenite (as in Jane Austen; Wikipedia her if you don’t know who she is… then go live under a rock 🙂 …just kidding!) and so I thought I would put together a list of a few books that a Jane Austen-esque lady would read– as in no bad words, no PG-13 stuff. So I have ten books for this month. That leaves a book every three days for you people who pace yourself. (I don’t.)

mysterious_benedict_cover1. The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
Really good first book in this series. Read if you like travel, adventure, and no romance.

2. Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
A cute book about a girl in a small mountain village who finds out that she might have a shot at being princess. Chick-lit fantasy with a bit of romance.

3. The Mother-Daughter Book Club, by Heather Vogel Frederick
Super cute chick-lit for kind of younger audiences. I would recommend 6-8 grade.

4. When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
A really interesting book set in 1979 about time travel. It’s short but it’s definitely not a light read– this one will test your higher thinking skills

5. Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris
A good book for younger readers (or when you need a break from all those metaphorical books you read in English class) and has a sequel called Twice Upon a Marigold. They are really fun and lighthearted, but romance is a big theme– sorry guys.

6. Secrets of my Hollywood Life, by Jen Calonita
Awesome insight on what it means to be a celebrity “it” girl 24/7 and just wanting a normal life. Definitely chick-lit.

lightning_thief7.  The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (and any other book Rick Riordan has written…)
Riordan is a great author whose books appeal to ages 10-18, give or take a few. His books are all about mythology and are super lighthearted, with lots of appeal for both a male or female reader.

8. Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
An awesome book about a super genius 12 year old who always wins, when he wants to capture a fairy. This book is great for boys and girls, and I think all ages can appreciate Artemis’ cunning and… compassion?

9. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
Super cute book. I know all you girls that have read it are like, “I read that in the 3rd grade. I don’t want to read it again.” But trust me. It’s a super sweet book and it’s one of my all time faves.

10. Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
This five book series is awesome– about a brother and a sister that go on vacation to their grandpa’s house and find out he is caretaker for a magical wildlife preserve. It is really funny and sweet. I’d say that it’s gender-neutral and for all ages.

-Becka O., 8th grade

Top Five Books to Read this Summer

Summer Vacation. For many of us, these two words are magic. From about the second day of school in September to the last day of school in June, summer vacation is highly anticipated by most students. We look forward to the endless free time to do with as we please– and without reading assignments from English class, the ability to read what we wish too.

If you are looking for a summer reading book, here are my top five (Which I have read this last year when I probably should have been doing math homework):

revolution_cover1. Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly
A novel about a girl named Andi who finds a journal which takes her on a journey she would have ever expected. If you love: the French Revolution, music, Paris, or books that have strong, meaningful themes, then this is the book for you.

2. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
A novel about a girl living in Germany during World War II, told by an interesting and surprisingly sympathetic narrator. If you enjoy novels about World War II, stories about friendship, love, and compassion– if you are looking for a book that leaves a mark, a book that at the end of the story, haunts you after; then this is the book for you.

alice_wonderland_cover3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Despite being thought of as a children’s book, Alice in Wonderland is a very smart, very funny novel. It is especially entertaining if you read it aloud and with voices. If you like novels that play with words, that make you question things, that make you laugh, and if you are reading aloud and using voices, makes you sound ridiculous, then this is the book for you.

4. Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder
A novel about a girl who gets a letter from a strange, mysterious philosopher and begins to think in ways she never has before. If you enjoy philosophy, mystery books, or just thinking; if you have a high reading level and are at least fifteen; if you are looking for a book that may change the way you think about everything, then this is the book for you.

5. Your favorite book
Whatever it is, however long it is, you know you want to reread it. What better time is there to reread a book than during the summer?

For that matter, is there any season better for just reading than summer? I mean, without school eating up about seven hours of our day, we just may learn something new from the books we read this summer.

-Stephanie R., 11th grade

Book List: My Top 5 Favorites

Need some ideas for your summer reading? I’ve got some good ones! Here are my top five favorite books, and why I love them.


1. Turnabout, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Haddix has a way of making science interesting. I haven’t read any book like this with the concept of unaging. (See my full review of Turnabout here.)

2. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
Collins makes books with action so interesting you feel like you are in them. When I read this, the second volume in the Hunger Games trilogy, I was always on the edge of my seat.

caught_cover3. Caught, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This is another book by Haddix that has to do with time travel. The story gets confusing sometimes, but in the end it all makes sense with a surprise ending. Caught is the fifth volume of the Missing series.

4. Scorpia, by Anthony Horowitz
Horowitz packs a lot of action in his series about Alex Rider, a sort of teen James Bond. It’s amazing how everything fits. In this book, the fifth volume in the series, there is lots of danger, and it’s cool how the characters survive.

mockingjay_cover5. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
I loved the finale of the Hunger Games trilogy! Collins is a great writer, and I hope she writes more books like this. I was glued to this book, and absolutely couldn’t put it down.

-Sabrina C. 7th grade

Top Ten Rediscovered Classics

I rediscovered these classic books, and really enjoyed all of them! I thought I would share some of my favorites with you and maybe even persuade you to read them. This is my “Top Ten List of Classics,” counting down to my favorite.

pearl_cover1. The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck’s descriptive writing landed this book on my top ten list! This story is about a man named Kino who lives in poverty with his wife Juana, and his baby son, Coyotito. Kino is a pearl diver and one day he finds a giant pearl that changes his life completely. A story about greed and wealth versus generosity and humble living, this novella should not be missed!

2. Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
This novel is written in the perspective of a horse named Black Beauty. Black Beauty tells of his struggles and triumphs, from the time he was born to the time he retires from pulling taxi-cabs. My heart was moved both with Black Beauty’s cruel owners and with his loving ones. The author does a great job of putting everything in a horse’s view. A famous success, this novel is a great read for any animal lover!

3. A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Burnett creates the world of Sara Crewe, an orphaned girl who goes to live at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School while her father journeys with his friend to a diamond mine in India. However, unfortunate events leave Sara with no money, and the envious Miss Minchin immediately takes away all of Sara’s possessions and banishes her to be a maid at the boarding school. Truly reflecting the importance of friendship and kindness, this book shows what it takes for a young girl to stand up for what she believes is right. Continue reading

Top 10 Books To Read After Harry Potter

Whenever a review refers to a book series as “the next Harry Potter,” I start reading with impossibly high expectations. While these books aren’t as enchanting or inspirational as Rowling’s phenomenon, they are unforgettable just the same.

divergent_cover1. The Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth… because readers can relate to the main character’s conflicts, such as deciding between what your family wants and what’s best for you, and discovering the difference between bravery and stupidity.

2. The Twilight saga, by Stephenie Meyer… because of the memorable characters and unexpected plot twists.

3. The Delirium trilogy, by Lauren Oliver… because of its universal themes and unique characters, making for an unforgettable dystopian read.

4. The Gallagher Girls series, by Ally Carter… because the author was able to amalgamate teenage girls into a world of spies, romance, danger, and sacrifice.

stormbreaker_cover5. The Alex Rider saga, by Anthony Horowitz… because of its complex setting and captivating characters.

6. The Maze Runner trilogy, by James Dashner… because the author exhibits adventure and suspense in this narrative about values, curiosity, and life’s true meaning.

7. The Hush, Hush saga, by Becca Fitzpatrick… because of how readers are able to relate to the characters and their personal incentives.

matched_cover8. The Matched trilogy, by Allie Condie… because of how it is similar to The Giver. It takes place in a futuristic dystopian society, while telling a story of love, courage, and individuality.

9. The Percy Jackson series & the Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan… because the author takes Greek mythology and adds modern, unforgettable characters.

10. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins… because it teaches readers about life, loss, love, and bravery through the eyes of the strong, female heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

-Danielle K., 7th grade