Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons

Darwin's Blade: Simmons, Dan: 9780380973699: Amazon.com: Books

This book contains some mature sexual descriptions that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons is an action thriller about Dr. Darwin Minor, an accident investigator with a dark past. His life has been more or less normal for the past decade- but as a series of increasingly improbable accidents crop up around California, he finds that he may be in too deep.

This book is typical, incredibly cliche suspense thriller- complete with the FBI, the Russian Mafia, guns, copious violent (albeit creative) death, and cars. Still, I did enjoy it. Even though it didn’t really live up to the ‘thriller’ part, I thought it was overall a pretty good read- and a nice break from the typical material I have. Still, quite a few pet peeves of mine made an appearance in this book. There were several points where I almost put the book down for good- because I really didn’t want to read a four-page description of physics equations or Vietnam or the mechanics of guns and cars or what felt suspiciously like Philosophy 101. The depth of detail about these frankly mundane and unimportant plot devices was mildly interesting, but for the most part, extraordinarily irritating.

As such, I would only recommend this book to slightly more intellectual readers. Some of the plot does require significant brainpower to understand- more than I, as a casual reader, would have liked. Also- be ready to face a macho, almost-forced version of romance. Still, if you’re looking for a comforting-in-its-outlandishness type of crime novel, you really can’t go amiss with Darwin’s Blade. Just be prepared to skip a few pages.

-Vaidehi B.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Tower of Nero – Book Review

The Tower of Nero is the final installment of Rick Riodan’s most recent series called The Trials Of Apollo. In the last book, Apollo travels with his 12-year-old master/companion Meg, who is the daughter of Demeter. They both get jumped by an old friend of Meg’s, Lu. Lu helps them escape from the Germani, who were sent by Nero to capture them. They then get the 2nd line of Apollo’s final prophecy. It tells them to go to the place of the “7 layer dip” (Percy Jackson’s house). Turns out Percy isn’t home, and Lu, Apollo, and Meg instead just stay the night and plan to go to Camp Half-Blood in the morning. They take a ride on the Gray Sisters Taxi and make it (barely) to Camp Half-Blood. Meg went off to the Demeter cabin, Lu decided to go explain what happened to Nero, and Apollo gets a visit by Mr. D and his son, Will, before promptly collapsing.

As not to spoil the ending of this fantastic book, I’ll have to stop the review here. But, If you appreciate mythology books (or just fantasy books), I highly recommend reading this series. It is packed with many emotional moments and fun easter-eggs from his other books.

-Izzy

The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Comparing Series: Shatter Me Series vs. The Cruel Prince Series

The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi and The Cruel Prince series by Holly Black are both amazing fiction book series. The Shatter Me series consists of 6 books and 5 novellas while The Cruel Prince series consists of 3 books.

The Shatter Me series involves the main character, Juliette, who has the ability of the touch of death. Meaning that whoever she touches dies. We follow her through her challenges of finding herself and struggling with being wanted. As a child Juliette was neglected for being they way she was. Throughout the series she finds connections with many characters and she truly finds meaningful relationships. The series has a big plot twist that no one expects in the last 3 books. Each book keeps you wanting more. The first 3 books are in Juliette’s POV while the others are in multiple POVs.

The Cruel Prince series follows a human named Jude. She wants to live in the High Court of Faerie instead of the human world. To live at the court she has to trick the cruel prince named Cardan. Cardan is the youngest prince and he and Jude hate each other. Jude throughout the series finds out she is good at defying people and causing bloodshed. Later in the series Jude becomes the brain behind all of Cardan’s decisions and finds she is a powerful political leader. She has to maintain order in Faerie and keep everything under her control.

In both series there is a powerful female character that is in charge. Jude and Juliette have to maintain order and to do so they have to face many challenges. They overcome their troubles and do what’s better for society instead of themselves. Jude and Juliette learn to sacrifice their own happiness for the better of society. Being powerful rulers, they need to be selfless and Jude and Juliette show this trait throughout the series. Both series also have major plot twists towards the end of the series.

The series have their differences as well. The Shatter Me books are more science fiction while The Cruel Prince series is more fantasy with non-human creatures. The Shatter Me series is focused around overthrowing the corrupt government controlling everyone and everything. They have laws restricting the people in the series and the main character’s main goal is to make the world return to normal. The Cruel Prince series has non-human creatures that are cut-off from the human world. They are separated and the main character, Jude, is a human trying to maintain peace in the non-human world. So, though both series are fiction, they are different types of fiction.

Both series still reflect the same messages. The main characters learn to form relationships with the people they love, showing the message of not having to be alone forever. You will find people that respect you and want to be a positive influence on your life.

Both series were a 5/5 star rating and I definitely recommend reading them!

-Kaitlyn D.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a short, yet classic allegorical novella of dystopian and political fiction. The book takes place on Manor Farm, a large farm where animals constantly feel oppressed by humans. Their anger towards the human race motivates them to rebel against rulership by kicking their farmer out of the farm and running the farm on their own. In Animal Farm–where all animals are supposedly equal–the lives of the animals turn upside down when pigs and dogs begin to rise in power through manipulation and propaganda. Throughout the novel, there’s a gradual progression where the pigs of Animal Farm begin to resemble humans both physically and psychologically.

Although this novel can be a fictional book for children, adults and teens are able to look past the plot and truly understand the story’s meaning. I, myself, am grateful to have read this at an older age so the themes are more prominent and prevalent to real life. Considering that George Orwell himself was a democratic socialist, the novel was a direct form of criticism towards communism, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and two infamous dictators–Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Orwell also includes various ways in which the ruling class ridicules and manipulates the working class. The working class is often seen giving up energy and resources for the benefit of the ruling class, yet they’re brain washed into feeling content with their lives, believing that all their hard work is contributing to the farm as a whole.

After reading the novel, I was amazed by Orwell’s writing. I’ve never read a novel which thoroughly portrays the political maneuvering of totalitarianism. The message woven into the book was strong and clear, yet also written in a disturbing manner that will stick to readers for quite a long time. Personally, I enjoy these heavy topics, so it’s interesting to see Orwell’s light twist on the topic so the novel seems more kid-friendly. I also admire the author’s creativity when writing the book. It’s rare to see a writer eloquently convey a revolution. However, it’s more unique to see an author write an ironic revolution that comes back in a full circle and leaves the characters in the same position as they started. The symbolism of personified farm animals surprisingly pushes the plot forward as well, allowing readers to understand and connect with the characters more than humans ever could.

Would I ever recommend this to a child? Definitely not. I believe that it’s important to understand the true message of the novel, regardless of how dark the message may be. Even though many of us don’t live under a totalitarian regime or a communist society, it’s important to understand how we as individuals play a role in our current society and political system. Are we idly standing by, waiting upon others for a better future? Or are we making our own decisions for the future we want to achieve?

– Natisha P.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Flip the Script by Ed Orgeron

Ed Orgeron, LSU’s football coach, led the team to a national championship in 2019. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy to get there. Coach O, now in his 60s, had a troubled start to his career at different universities like Ole Miss. He had to fight through his addiction to alcohol and he had to flip the script of the way his life was going. Instead of staying at rock bottom, he decided to climb the ladder, one rung at a time, to make his way to the top. He persevered to stop his addiction to drinking and alcohol. This book is an autobiography about his life, written by Coach O and about Coach O. 

If you have an interest in football or want to become an athlete or coach one day, I suggest reading this book. Not only does it have many important lessons inside, but it also is fun to read and learn about the inside of the locker room during those games and events that you might have seen on TV. For me, it was cool and interesting to be able to learn about Coach O’s journey to becoming one of the best coaches in all of college sports. 

The book talks about Coach O’s early career in coaching and how he had many different jobs at different universities. He was a defensive line coach (DLC), assistant head coach (AHC), assistant strength coach (ASC), as well as a head coach (HC) throughout his coaching career. He is still the head coach of LSU, but he played a role in the pasts of the University of Miami, USC, University of Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, and other universities. He also was a part of the New Orleans Saints coaching staff at one point in his career. That is why this book is a perfect book for athletes looking to play in college and professionally. This book shows what coaches in different levels of the sport look for and care about! 

I give this book a 10/10 rating. It shows Coach O’s insights on college and high school football players as well as coaching. He explains how to coach and Coach Orgeron talks about the different ways you can connect to players. If you want to be a coach, this book can be a big help to your career and you can learn from one of the best coaches out there in Coach Ed Orgeron. You can learn how to recruit, talk to players, and how to handle the media. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning from not only an experienced coach, but also a very experienced person.

-Mert A.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

The novel The Cousins is written by Karen M. McManus, whose prior works are One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep A Secret, to name a few.

It begins with the introductions of our main characters, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story, the grandchildren of the infamous Abraham and Mildred Story- despite the fact that they’ve never met them before, after their parents were disinherited. However, when they receive an invitation to work at her island resort over the summer, refusing is unfathomable, a chance to get back into her good graces. But when they arrive at the island, as stranger and stranger things happen, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah realize that all is not what it seems. The Story family has a dark past, and the cousins will need to uncover them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I expected, since I enjoyed McManus’ previous books. From the eerie mantra repeated throughout this novel, “Family first, always,” to the questions and plot twists, The Cousins continues to keep you wondering until the final reveal.

Kelsie W.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Son: An Ambitious Ending, or a Massive Misstep?

Written 19 years after the first book, Son is the fourth and final book of the “Giver Quartet” by Lois Lowry and it undoubtedly had a weight to live up to. As with each book in the series, the audience is thrust into a world of questions. Only unlike its predecessors, Son has answers.

The story follows a girl named Claire as she fights to be reunited with her son (hence the book’s name). She lives in the same community as Jonas from The Giver. Because of this community, she gives birth to a son that she is banned from being with. While she originally tries to be with her child, the events that end “The Giver” drastically affect her as she winds up in a new colony, with no memories but her name. It is here that she is taken in by a village elder and nicknamed “Water Claire.” She steadily gains her memories, particularly those relating to her lost son, and gains her strength. The village is surprised that she has never seen mammals, pets, or even seasons. But she’s surprised that the village doesn’t have any knowledge of written language, electricity, or medicine. While she does enjoy her time in the village and builds connections with several characters, she eventually embarks upon a daring climb to meet with an old villain and makes a dangerous bargain to be reunited with her son. This part of this story is amazing, particularly Claire’s relationships. She’s a remarkably well done and relatable character, risking everything just being reunited with her son. Lowry is truly the best at creating mini-worlds filled with enjoyable and believable characters.

However, from this point onward the story starts to unravel. We get to see the colony her son lives in and his relationship with old characters like Jonas and even Kira. Yet unlike my previous praise, these characters don’t have that powerful relationship or believable attitude. Then we get to see her son’s battle against an old villain, but it’s just weak. Claire climbing a mountain carries more weight than a battle against an embodiment of evil. I don’t understand what happened, it was as if Lowry had a single day to write the ending of the book. It failed to be as powerful or emotional as any of the previous books when it desperately needed to, resulting in a book that is three-fourths fascinating and enjoyable and a final stretch that’s remarkably bland and an overall disappointing end to a wonderful series.

-Parker K.

Son by Lois Lowry is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers

“Once there were two towers side by side. They were each a quarter of a mile high; one thousand three hundred and forty feet. The tallest buildings in New York City.” In honor of September 11th, I want to share one of my very first books, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. This is the true story of Philippe Petit, a tight rope walker from France, who accomplished this impossible feat. In August of 1974, he walked between the Twin Towers of and the World Trade Center, without a safety net!  

It took Philippe Petit six years of planning for his world famous walk in the sky. With the help of some friends, he used a bow and arrow to shoot the cable across the two buildings. With thousands of people watching on the streets below, Philippe walked and ran across the 120 foot cable wire. While the words tell the story, the illustrations are the very best part!  The pictures really help to capture the size and strength of the towers and their symbolic meaning.   

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is a story of hard work and bravery. Philippe Petit shows us how one person’s incredible dream can come true.  I recommend this book to readers all ages and hope it inspires others to reach for their own impossible dreams. On the twentieth anniversary of September 11th, this book remains a tribute to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The skyline of New York City looks really different today. However, Mordicai Gerstein’s illustrations of the Twin Towers will help generations of kids to remember.

Today the 9/11 Memorial Museum honors all those who lost their lives on September 11th. There is an exhibit that remembers Philippe Petit and his famous walk. I hope that anyone visiting New York City will check it out!

-Austin S.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

Jessie Burton: The Miniaturist

Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.

The Miniaturist, written by Jessie Burton, begins with a conclusion, which sets the scene for some confusion, though is soon explained over time. Furthermore, although the prologue is written aside from the rest of the book, it is, nonetheless, significant. 

Burton writes The Miniaturist in present tense, which is suitable for the storyline. Plus, as most modern literature is written in past tense, this difference plays a major role in the enjoyment of the work. In hindsight, the tense chosen intensifies tension, depth, and pace. It feels as though you read “a movie,” with each scene similar to that of an act, a continuous moment of time. 

Now, onto its plot. Nella (our main character) is an outsider. Johannes, her husband, doesn’t seem to have much interest in her. Marin, his sister, is distinct and stern, a woman in charge rather than complicit. Their servants (Cornelia and Otto), too, are more open and harsh than the average servants/maids. Though only when Johannes gives her a replica of their home does she somewhat feel accepted. However, even then Nella confronts trouble, for as soon as she takes interest in ‘the miniaturist’ (a craftsman who creates miniatures), an unknown woman begins to watch her, as though she weren’t there. 

Later, when Johannes comes to the decision to take Nella to a feast at the Guild of the Silversmiths, Nella must confront her vulnerabilities, together with the tension and competition aroused by other traders. In addition, a notable confrontation occurs in this scene; Nella meets the Meermans, who have tasked Johannes with the storage and sale of their sugar. As the Meermans have a supercilious nature (which is soon shown in their behavior, dialogue, etc), further questions emerge, those which at first have no answers. 

I must take note of the major twists that happen throughout the book, some of which might seem uncomfortable to some readers. Therefore, make sure you’re fine with topics such as marriage, race, servitude, illicit romance, etc. They’re important to the storyline and atmosphere! 

That takes me to a theme I’d like to go into. A portion of the book is dedicated to what it means to be a wife, as Nella finds a hard time fitting into her role (I won’t explain – it’d be a spoiler!). In the process, she questions the necessity of childbirth and the hidden potentials she has as a woman; talents and opportunities she’s missed because of the church’s (and society’s) view of women. Though this is a common theme, it’s a nice refresher to have every now and again, notably because parts of it are quite prevalent to modern times. 

One aspect I admire is its ability to make us examine. For example, the suspense and distrust between newer and older characters is never rushed, off-kilter, or unreasonable. In fact, its stable pace makes room for realism, characters that behave and act as we might, even if the era and context varies from our own. It’s a rare and difficult element to integrate, but one that, at length, drives this work to be a (possible) classic. 

In short, The Miniaturist warns to handle misfortune with caution, as it might lead to continuous trouble … 

-Emilia D.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

November 9 by Colleen Hoover was an amazing book that I read on November 9th. Colleen Hoover is one of my favorite authors and she is known for her plot twists and extraordinary romance books. This book broke me and put me back together again.

The book follows Fallon, an actress that suffered major burns from a fire accident, and Ben, who aspires to be an author. November 9th is the date that the accident Fallon suffered from happened. Fallon is about to move to New York, when she meets Ben she spends the day with him and they get to know each other. They immediately have a connection that most people never find. Fallon mentions that her mother told her not to fall in love until she is 23. So, when she’s about to leave they make a promise to meet on the same day every year until Fallon turns 23; no contact information just that one day.

“You can’t leave yet. I’m not finished falling in love with you.” Ben said this to Fallon and it is one of those quotes that I will always remember. Ben puts his heart on the line and admits how he feels. The fact that they had to part ways and not see each other for an entire year is beyond devastating.

They reconnect every year like nothing has changed. The book is split up into 7 November 9ths. Each one leaving you with a cliffhanger that makes you want to keep reading. Fallon and Ben’s relationship is a one in a lifetime kind of thing and it makes you think. How far will they go to have a happy ending? Those last few November 9ths were an emotional rollercoaster. But, the book does have a happy ending.

A quote I find powerful at the beginning of the book that foreshadows backstory that is revealed at the end of the book was, “One of the things I always try to remind myself is that everyone has scars, A lot of them even worse than mine. The only difference is that mine are visible and most people’s aren’t.” It really reveals how much emotion was put into this book.

Fallon and Ben have a love story for the ages. Everything between forbidden love and betrayal. Imagine loving someone and only seeing them one day out of the year. It has a powerful message about how most love is fictionalized while in reality love isn’t perfect. You want the other person to have fun and live their life but it breaks your heart that they are doing it without you. Is loving someone so much worth sacrificing your own happiness to see them be happy? Is love worth waiting for? These are the things I thought about while reading this book.

Overall, this book was a solid 5/5 stars. Definitely one of my favorites!

-Kaitlyn D.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover is avaialbe to download from Overdrive.