The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Although the name of this book originally had me skeptical, as soon as I read the first page I couldn’t stop. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a novel by Holly Black that was published in 2013. Its genres include Drama, Horror fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

This novel is about a girl named Tana and her journey to a Coldtown, where she is always one step away from death, or even worse, a vampire. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a heart-wrenching novel that was one of the most difficult to put down.

Tana’s world is centered around vampires, who are the apex predators. Without vampires, the news would be ‘boring’ and America, the only place where the spread of the vampires is somewhat contained, would have little to none to pride itself on. Coldtowns are where vampires or humans that are in the process of turning are sent. With boarded-up homes and bloodthirsty vampires rampant, the only way to describe the towns spread across the United States is… cold.

Although our current worries are far from turning into vampires, I find the characters in this book relatable. While trying to contain the virus known to them as vampires, today’s society works hard to contain Covid-19. Tara worries for her sister’s safety more than almost anything else, the same reason why I yell at my sister to put on shoes instead of flip-flops when going outside in the hopes that she doesn’t trip and fall.

As Tara is forced to journey into the deep center of a Coldtown, she makes friends, gets stabbed in the back, loses her sanity, and finds it again through the power of love and the undeniable fact that you are only as strong as you believe yourself to be.

-Apoorvi S.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel/comic that was adapted into a movie. The novel is an autobiography with true events that happened in the late 1900’s. The black and white panels of the novel can effortlessly grab the attention of any reader and make it entertaining.

Persepolis follows a young girl named Marjane who lives through the revolutionary changes in her home country of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The most interesting part is that the ongoing crisis and corruption is viewed from a child’s perspective despite how complex it is. In a way, the reader grows and learns more about the government and cultural contexts along with the maturing Marjane.

Satrapi does not fail in grasping the reader’s attention and making them feel the rollercoaster of emotions along with the main characters. The series visits very critical and mature topics during the late 1900s that the Iranians/Marjane face. Thus, more mature readers should be able to handle these topics. 

Satrapi’s series is emotional and very moving. The oppression and government conflicts can be seen as a parallel to our world today. Just like Marjane who speaks up against the corruption of her government to maintain her rights, many of us participate in rallies or protests to uphold our values. 

Similar to Marjane who is facing a revolutionary change in her nation, many of us are currently facing a new change in our nation as well. Before Marjane knew it herself, her world changed for the better! Thus, just like Marjane, we must find the will to stay strong, inspire others, and survive. 

Ultimately, Marjane’s spirit and growing perspective of the world around her is inspiring. This series is not only a best-seller but also studied in academic literature courses all over the world as a work in translation. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is struggling to pick up a book during quarantine or in their free time (ahem, I know that’s some of us). It also opens up your ideas of Iranian culture and Islamic politics during the 1900s. 

I also recommend it for anyone who wants to try a new format of reading: comic-style. The panels are very easy to read and the black and white colors are used in such a captivating way. In fact, I read this entire novel in one sitting. I definitely hope others feel the same way as well. 

-Zohal N. 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita: Nabokov, Vladimir: Amazon.com: Books

Most of the book is the confession of Humbert, a death-row prisoner, recounting the love story between a middle-aged man and an underage girl. The novel was initially rejected for publication in the United States and was first published in 1955 by Olympia in Paris. Finally published in the US in 1958, the book rocketed to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Lolita has been adapted into a film.

In the novel, Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged French immigrant to the United States, had a first love affair with a 14-year-old girl Annabel when he was a teenager. In The end, Annabel died early from typhoid fever, which led to Humbert’s transformation to a pedophile. He defined “goblin” as “nine to fourteen years old”. First abandoned by a wealthy widow, Humbert later falls for Lolita, the 12-year-old daughter of landlady Charlotte Haze, calling her a goblin. Unable to break away from Lolita due to the shadow of his childhood, Humbert marries his landlady and becomes Lolita’s stepfather in order to get close to the precocious and passionate little girl. The girl in the novel is Dolores Haze, or Lolita or Lo, as the Spanish-sounding nickname for the book’s title.

The landlady in her husband’s diary later found out his secret and was very angry that he cheated on her. Humbert later picks Lolita up from camp and travels with her, thinking that by drugging her in her drink he can unknowingly molest her. The drug had no effect on Lolita (because it wasn’t really a powerful sleeping pill), and instead, the next morning, Lolita flirted with Humbert and had an incestuous relationship. Humbert then informs Lolita that her mother is dead, and with no choice, Lolita accepts that she must live with her stepfather. Humbert takes Lolita on a father and daughter tour of The United States, using pocket money, beautiful clothes, and delicious food to control Lolita and continues to satisfy his desire for her. As Lolita grows up, she begins to dislike her stepfather and starts dating boys of her own age. She takes the opportunity of a trip to break away from her stepfather. Humbert searched frantically at first, but eventually gave up.

Three years later, Humbert receives a letter from Lolita. It says that she is married, pregnant, and needs financial help from her stepfather. Humbert gave her $400 in cash, a check for $3,600, and a $10,000 deed to the house that he had sold. He asked Lolita who is the man who took her away from, and Lolita told him that the man is Quilty who is a professor of performance at her school. She told him that she ran away from Quilty because she rejected Quilty’s request to her and the other boys for making pornographic films. Humbert begged Lolita to leave her husband and go with him, but she refused, and Humbert was heartbroken. He tracked down and shot Quilty. Humbert died in prison of a blood clot, and Lolita died in childbirth on Christmas Day 1950 at the age of 17.

-Coreen C.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.

The Wizenard Series by Kobe Bryant and Wesley King

When did magic and basketball meet? Floors moving uphill and downhill, mysterious writing on the wall, each person seeing a different vision than the next in the same place! Is there anything Rolabi Wizenard can’t change? Well, as Rolabi Wizenard tests a struggling basketball team’s commitment and desire, they find out how to handle fear and learn to overcome the biggest challenges! A team determined to win, The West Bottom Badgers start an incredibly long journey to the title, with Rolabi Wizenard as their coach! 

As each player faces their own challenges, they all have to find a way to come together as a team and compete for a championship! A team from The Bottom part of Dren is starting their adventure now. They have no time to waste, they just need to work hard everyday, and play while controlling their fears. Everyone comes from struggling parents, who can’t pay all their bills, but their hearts are bigger. Their desire to win is stronger! The main question is: Will all their hard work be enough?

As the West Bottom Badgers learn to work and hard and fight through fear, they start to unlock their true potential. Former bench players become stars and the whole team starts to look up. That is until they start the season. The season starts off very rough as they start off with 5 straight losses without a single win. Their hopes to win the championship, once as high as a mountain, start to plummet as each loss comes and goes. 

The Wizenard Series is a 2 book series with the first book being the same story in all the different parts of it, just from different perspectives. You get 5 different angles of the story with Rain, Twig, Cash, Peno, and Lab. The 2nd book is with Reggie, where you get a view of the first season with Rolabi Wizenard as head coach from the eyes of Reggie.

As everyone faces problems and challenges on the court, most of the kids also face problems off the court. Some sleep on the ground, some have to work hard into the night to earn the money their family needs, and some have lost family members. Well, after all, this is The Bottom. Once someone comes to The Bottom, they have a hard time leaving, and that is just like the situation everyone on this basketball team is in. Professor Rolabi Wizenard not only teaches these kids basketball, but he also teaches them life. Will they be able to apply what they have learned from him into their daily lives as they get older and try to get out of The Bottom with basketball?

I enjoyed reading this fabulous book, and I would rate it a 10/10. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

The first book: The Wizenard Series: Training Camp, the second book: The Wizenard Series: Season One

-Mert A.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This book is not for the faint of heart. It contains very graphic and mature scenes and themes, but nonetheless, it’s a beautiful book. 

Sadie tells the heart-wrenching story of a girl trying to get revenge for her sister’s death. It’s told through her own narration, and through a podcast following her trace. 

As a non-avid reader of mysteries/thrillers, this book was nothing like what I had expected. Although it could be a bit slow at times, what is lacked is made up of impact. This book hits so hard, and it’s important to recognize these types of actions as something that sadly is a part of society today. 

As you learn more about Sadie and what she’s been through, and the stories of the people she meets, you find everything that happens is the absolute worst things imaginable. Society is a gruesome and horrible place, and reading this book gave me biggest reality check I ever could’ve gotten.

The most horrible thing is, that these predicaments are what some people live in, it’s all they know, and that thought repulses me. The idea that people can relate to this piece of work is truly a reflection of the worst parts of society today. 

But all that aside, I highly recommend reading this book. Again, it gave me every sort of feeling imaginable and left me wondering about each and every one of the characters we had the honor of meeting. The podcast format for some chapters is such an ingenious idea and executed so well, I regret that I read the physical copy and not the audiobook. 

Our main character is the strongest and most resilient person I’ve ever read about. She has been through so much in her life, and as the book goes on and on, the situation gets worse and worse. Sadie is such a broken and mistreated character that everything she does, and everything she goes through is remarkable to me.

In short, if you want an impactful read, this is it.

If you’re struggling with anything that Sadie encounters or is going through in this book please reach out for help. You are not alone. 

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 

    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

    National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

-Asli B. 

Sadie by Courtney Summers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia Hall has everything other teenagers her age would want; a loving and relaxed family life, great grades, a charming boyfriend, and a supportive best friend. As a cello-prodigy, Mia awaits her soon-to-be acceptance letter to her dream university.

One snowy day, Mia and her family jam to their favorite songs in the car on the road. They had planned the perfect day-off. However, all goes wrong when an incoming car skids and crashes straight towards them. The moment stops and the reader waits eagerly, with palms sweating, to know what happens next through all of the author’s heart-wrenching details.

The novel follows Mia, in an out-of-body experience, as she has flashbacks on her life and loses the ones she loves. Her flashbacks are followed by heart-breaking scenes of her family and friends visiting her in a hospital while she is in a coma. The unspoken love between the Mia and her close ones makes the novel much more emotional.

The author’s style of switching between the past and present unfolds the significant purpose of a human life. The importance of sacrifice, family, love, death, and life all wrap up to tell Mia’s story. The conflict between choosing to fight endlessly to stay alive or fading away to the afterlife remains a mystery until the end.

Overall, this novel really opened my eyes and made me realize that life can change in an instant. No matter who we are, what we are going through in life, or where we are, death can take its toll. The author truly makes an important point about how fast life moves for the youth and the old. We should never take life for granted because this is all we have and there is only one shot at it.

Mia’s story emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. Our problem are just as big as we make them. However, just like Mia, our worldly problems are nothing in the face of death. Not all the readers of this book can realize that, but anyone who can relate will find its meaning. The novel, as well as the movie of If I Stay, moved me to tears and is one that sticks with you forever.

-Zohal N. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

As one of Hemingway’s many classics, The Old Man and the Sea retells the story of man versus nature. Hemingway writes the novel in such a way that makes the reader urge for more.

The story begins with Santiago, an aged and experienced fisherman who has been out on the sea for 84 days with no luck of finding fish to catch. He is viewed as a lonely outcast to the rest of society, and his own apprentice is told to stay away from him. Santiago is even labeled as a word that means unluckiness in his native language.

Santiago’s character can be seen in today’s world in people who are still waiting for a win or change in their lives. Many individuals are still on their journey to reach their goals in life just like Santiago. Suddenly, on the 85th day, a large marlin takes the bait on Santiago’s hook that is 200 yards deep in the water. The marlin is massive and unlike anything, Santiago has ever seen in his years of fishing. Through the next days and nights, the marlin holds onto the line, but it is too heavy for Santiago to lift.

From breaking his wrist to cramping his whole body and not being able to sleep properly, Santiago risks everything he has to catch the great marlin and lift his pride. Finally, the marlin is caught, but Santiago admires and feels like he built a brotherly relationship with the animal.

Santiago’s story reflects the human relationship with nature that is filled with admiration and struggles. His character is not defined by his defeat or “unluckiness”, but rather his determination. It takes courage to endure pain and hardships.

Hemingway uses such symbolism and words that the novel requires an analytical mind to read. Every small detail is impressively used to build the theme of the novel in the end. This book can be read by anyone as young or as old because everyone is eventually lead to the same motif about life.

-Zohal N. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This novel was one I was required to read for school, but despite my apprehension when I saw how big it was, it actually turned out to be a great story that was captivating and an incredibly interesting read. The novel follows two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, specifically Adam Trask throughout his life. It is set mostly in Salinas Valley, California, where the Hamiltons live.

Adam’s early life is told through a series of flashbacks, where we see the impact of his father’s military career and his half-brother Charles’ jealousy. Adam was always his father’s favorite, and Charles, wanting nothing more than their father’s love, abuses Adam. Adam spends his young adult years wandering after a short time in the military before coming home, and when he does come home, he finds that his father has died and left him and Charles a significant sum of money.

At the same time, a girl named Cathy Ames is introduced, and from the beginning, she seems morally corrupted at her core. She is able to manipulate her parents into what she wants, she manipulates her teachers, her peers, and somehow is able to heap blame for evil actions onto everyone but herself. As she ages, she only becomes more vicious, killing her parents in a fire and using people as stepping stones to get where she wants. This inevitably goes wrong; a man beats her almost to death when he realizes she’s using him, and she is left on Adam and Charles’ doorstep. Adam falls in love with her, blind to her faults, and they move to Salinas Valley, where they meet Samuel Hamilton, intertwining the two families. They have two children, and the rest of the novel follows the children’s lives. 

East of Eden is one of those novels that doesn’t really have a climactic point; it’s more of a biographical story, following the complex lives of a few select people. One thing that I learned when analyzing this book in school was that Steinbeck intended this to be his own version of the story of Cain and Abel, and each pair in the novel reflects this: Charles and Adam, Cathy and Adam, Adam’s children Cal and Aron. However, the age-old story evolves into something greater here. While Charles and Adam were an accurate reflection of the original story, Cal and Aron are able to change it; Cal is supposedly “destined” to be the evil brother, but he realizes his wrongdoings and fights hard to correct them and correct himself.

The novel is a story of self-improvement and the way that the characters evolved really struck me as I read. East of Eden isn’t just a story highlighting a snapshot of someone’s life; I was in awe of what a masterpiece it is, portraying the best and worst of human life, teaching valuable lessons while keeping the story engaging.

-Adelle W.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This novel tells of Jake Epping, a recently divorced teacher at his local high school, teaching some GED classes for extra money. One of his GED students, the high school’s janitor, Harry Dunning, writes a tear-jerking essay for his final, about how his family was killed by his alcoholic father and how he was crippled for life. 

A few years later, when Jake visits his friend, Al, at Al’s Diner, Al shows Jake a time portal in the pantry of his diner; Al, seems to have aged years within a day, explains that he had used the portal to travel back in time, and had lived years in the past before he developed cancer and had to return. 

The few rules to the portal are as follows:

  • Each trip to the past is a complete reset to September 9, 1958. Whenever you enter the portal, you’re undoing whatever you did the last trip.
  • Each time coming back from the past through the portal, no matter how long you stay, you come back two minutes after you left.
  • The past can be changed, impacting the future, but the past is also obdurate; it tries it’s very hardest to stop from being changed.

After Al shows Jake the ropes, he sends Jake on the mission that he had been unable to complete last time. From what Al has observed, everything bad in the world can be traced back to John F. Kennedy’s assassination; if Jake could stop the assassination, the world would likely be a better place. And if it wasn’t, he could always go back and reset it. 

Jake agrees to the plan, but adds a few elements of his own; he would drop by the Dunning household, and stop Frank Dunning from murdering Harry’s family. Then, he would wait until 1963, watching and monitoring the world around him, and stop Kennedy’s assassination.

The title of this novel definitely was the eye-catcher on the library bookshelf for me, in addition to its impressive size. The reality of life that’s starkly shown in this novel, contrasting the preposterous situation Jake enters into, is why I enjoyed it so much. He constantly feels the danger of discovery, injecting an underlying urgency into the story, but I also felt a wrenching desire for him to settle down when he finds a wonderful woman in a content little town where he could live a happy life in the past. 

There’s a sense of heroism to the story as well; armed with the knowledge of the future, Jake strives to do his best for the greater good of the world. However, the past is “obdurate;” he runs into so many obstacles when he tries to change things, ultimately causing more harm than good. It’s an excellent example of how good intentions do not necessarily bring good results.

-Adelle W.

11/22/63 by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

The sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep tells the story of adult Danny Torrance. Traumatized by the horrific events at the Overlook Hotel, he’s developed alcoholic tendencies like his father; however, when he settles in the town of Frazier, New Hampshire, Dan stops drinking and begins working at a hospice, helping dying patients pass on peacefully with his strong psychic abilities, or “shine,” earning the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

While he settles down, a girl named Abra Stone is born, and her shine is even more powerful than Dan’s. They sense and understand each other from when she is very young, all the way through most of her adolescence. 

They don’t see a need to actually meet until The True Knot, a group of people who feed off of shine, usually children’s, to keep themselves immortal, becomes aware of Abra’s immense power and comes for her. Dan and Abra together, along with a few friends in on the secret of the shine, work together to end The True Knot forever.

Dan’s character development was one of the first things that struck me deeply. No matter how much he swore to himself that he would never become like his father, he drinks and drinks, traumatized by the Overlook Hotel and afraid of his abilities. However, unlike his father, he realizes what he’s doing, and mends himself, using his abilities for good. 

Dan’s relationship with Abra was also an incredibly interesting element of this story. Despite never meeting before, the two psychics speak to each other like old friends when they actually meet, and Dan quickly takes on a fatherly role, helping Abra control her abilities. From the beginning, Abra is fundamentally good; though she makes mistakes and badly estimates some decisions, her actions are always for the betterment of others’ lives. 

After reading both this novel and The Shining, I would say that the sequel is more advanced and interesting than the original, although The Shining was crucial to setting the stage for Dan’s development and life. Doctor Sleep tells of the impact of psychological trauma, recovery from that, the use of power for good, and the development of family independent of blood relation. Some elements of the story are still chilling to the bone, as is Stephen King’s norm, but the novel overall develops the experience of life in addition to just the horror.

-Adelle W. 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive