Want by Cindy Pon

Vividly conjured from bestselling author Cindy Pon’s colorful imagination comes an alluringly dark society set in near-future Taipei, where sickness and pollution plague its inhabitants. A thriller spun into sci-fi, the book depicts a story about a group of teens who try their hand at changing their society for the better by toppling the empire of the rich minority.

With stunning prose dripping with imagery so powerful it induces incredibly lifelike images, Pon does a brilliant job highlighting the stark contrast between the privilege of the rich and the scraps the poor pick up behind them, illuminated by its futuristic setting. It’s a story about division, unity, and vigilante justice, highlighted with an ever-so-sweet touch of friendship and romance. The novel does a brilliant job of conveying a message that today in society we like to turn a blind eye to: the manipulating and unorthodox methods used in business to make money. Creating a problem to sell a solution. Eradicating those who try to stand in the way. It’s the harsh truth we always knew existed.

There are so many reasons this novel stands distinctly apart from others for me. For one, it hits close to home: the Taiwanese heritage runs in my veins as potently as it does in the novel, with its allusions to language and culture exposing the often overlooked traditions of the Taiwanese. And then, of course, the characters, so different from one another and yet sharing both a powerful bond and a common goal, become comrades on the way along the journey.

Finally, Zhou, the main character, has a voice that stays with you long after the turn of the last page. “I was going to become what I wanted to destroy,” he says bitterly, of trading his street-rat identity for esteemed upper-class socialite.

Ultimately, Want reflects, in its intrinsic essence, humanity’s inevitable tendency to divide itself, whether by wealth, race, gender, religion, sexuality, or pure hate. It’s a powerful message to recognize those who cannot speak for themselves because we do not listen.

Here’s to hoping that that message is amplified throughout the world, throughout time, and proclaimed as a lasting testament to human nature, so that we ourselves can be bettered.

-Esther H.

Want by Cindy Pon is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also free for download from Overdrive

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Just as I was giving up on the monotonous plots and characters of many current YA novels, Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, reminds me of how truly fantastic YA books can be. Six of Crows is the first book in its duology, followed by Crooked Kingdom. Bardugo wrote this series after The Grisha Trilogy, which is set in the same world. However, one does not need to read the trilogy beforehand (I did not), as they center around different characters and places.

My favorite part of this book is that it is set in a different world that has been so beautifully fleshed out by the author, including unique countries, cultures, and languages. Another cool part is that the band of six are so diverse and provide a wide variety of representation in race, sexual orientation, and both physical and mental disabilities. The group live in a buzzing city called Ketterdam (taking inspiration from the city of Amsterdam). This 1800s type city is right next to the sea is filled with merchants, cargo ships, gang claimed territories, and thieves. Speaking of thieves and gangs…

Six of Crows story follows a gang (literally) of antihero teenagers, each with their own bitter backstory. Kaz Brekker aka Dirtyhands aka Bastard of the Barrel is the leader of the gang called the Dregs. He is mysterious, cold, and delightfully sarcastic. Despite Kaz’s limp in his leg, no one in their right mind would dare cross him or his cane. Next is Inej aka The Wraith. But don’t let her small frame fool you, as she the deadliest and sneakiest one on the team. Right hand man and life of the group is Jesper. The only thing stronger than his sharpshooting ability is his gambling addiction.

Thirdly, we have Nina, a Heartrender Grisha, meaning she has special abilities that can manipulate others’ bodies. However, if Nina lived in our world, she’d be an A-lister actress for sure. Any group of fighters needs a brooding muscle man, and Matthias sure fills that part, no matter how reluctant he might be. And last but not least, we have bright young merchling, Wylan, who is new to the heathen street life, but becomes an incredible asset.

These crooked youngsters embark on an insane mission that’s filled with humor, struggle, suspense, emotions, and wonderful fight scenes. The opening scene with Inez is my favorite scene as we get to see two gangs in a “parley” meeting. It is so intriguing and thrilling, specifically with how we see it from Inej’s bird’s eye view. The amount of detail that Leigh Bardugo put in her writing and characterization is truly spectacular and I recommend this book 100%!

-Ava K.

The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

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.

Authors We Love: Tahereh Mafi

taherehmafiThe abstract noun “freedom” incites hope for oppressed prisoners; the matrimonial vow “I do” begets tears in the eyes of lovers; and a pastor’s statement “Amen” generates evangelical zeal in a Christian crowd. Above all other human capabilities, the power of the written word reigns as the most impactful. As an author who acknowledges the power of the written word, Tahereh Mafi ranks as one of the best authors in both children and young adult literature.

With her eloquent writing style, Tahereh Mafi crafts her words as masterfully as a blacksmith forges metal. It’s no surprise that her Shatter Me and Furthermore series rank as high as the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series (after all, Ransom Riggs, the author of the latter series, is her husband!).

In each of her novels, Mafi pours every ounce of her heart and soul. She even states that most of the characters in her novels reflect certain aspects of her life, generating more meaning into them. Tahereh Mafi’s plotlines simply just don’t tell stories; they reflect on modern-day society, they empower people of different backgrounds, and they become personal stories for younger generations to relate to.

The following excerpt from Shatter Me serves as one of Mafi’s most popular quotes:

“I only know now that the scientists are wrong.

The world is flat.

I know because I was tossed right off the edge and I’ve been trying to hold on for 17 years. I’ve been trying to climb back up for 17 years but it’s nearly impossible to beat gravity when no one is willing to give you a hand.”

The previous quote resonates well with many of her readers, and it has been circulated so many times that there are now altered forms of the quote. Despite these changes, many young readers empathize with the speaker of the quote, for the metaphor of hardship as a heavy force is quite accurate. Both younger and older readers can agree that Tahereh Mafi’s rendition of life in her novels parallels to the plights of reality.

Both younger and older readers can agree that Tahereh Mafi’s rendition of life in her novels parallels to the plights of reality. In fact, her dystopian novel Shatter Me resonated so well with many readers that it is now moving on to the big screen. However, the whole novel simply cannot be portrayed in the 2-hour time frame of a movie, so it will be ad0pted as a TV show. Mafi’s eloquence in writing and her brilliant storyline can soon be seen on one’s TV screen, for she will also be one of the show’s producers. Fans all around the world cannot contain the excitement as they blog about their dream cast.

Whether it is through the medium of print or through the medium of film, Tahereh Mafi never fails to impress readers with her skills. Regardless of the time periods, situations, and characters in her novels, Mafi crafts fictional worlds with her outstanding language, leaving any onlooker in complete awe.

-Elaha N.

Books written by Tahereh Mafi are available to checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Show?

seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixIf you have never read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, you are missing out on an incredibly unique and amazing book series. This series is what made me fascinated in books as a child because it has such an alluring plot and intriguing narration. The story follows three bright young children named Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who have recently been orphaned due to a fire in their mansion.Violet, the oldest Baudelaire, is fourteen at the start of the series and is known for the signature black ribbon in her hair and scrappiness in inventing. Klaus, her younger brother is twelve and has read more non fiction books than all of us combined, and therefore is knowledgeable in many topics. And last but not least, we have Sunny, a mere baby who has an insane talent of biting. Because of the children’s large inheritance, a sinister man named Count Olaf hunts these children down throughout the series and continuously conjures up plots to steal their fortune. These poor siblings are left to constantly move from one home to another, forced to always look over their shoulder.

Although this is a children’s series, it is evident from the summary that interwoven are themes of survival, tragedy, and woe, which allows it to be a series that can be enjoyed by all generations. Don’t be alarmed however, because this series does not leave you depressed and solemn, but rather fascinated by the twisting plot, and heart-warmed by the Baudelaire children. There are thirteen books, but most of them are thin enough to easily be finished in a day or two, so do yourself a favor and pick up A Bad Beginning, which is the first book, and you will not be disappointed.

In 2004 there was a movie made about this series, encompassing the first three books, however it did not continue on. Excitingly, Netflix has announced a TV show of A Series of Unfortunate Events, in cooperation with Paramount Pictures. This show is said to have a slightly darker atmosphere than the series, due to the fact that the book series’ original fans are not children anymore. I have linked the newly released trailer to the TV show, which stars Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire, Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire, Aasif Mandvi as Uncle Monty, and many more.What I love about this cast is that the actors who play the Baudelaire orphans are around the same age their characters are, rather than being an 18 year old playing a 14 year old, which many book to screen adaptations do. The first season drops on Netflix THIS January, Friday the 13th. For fans like me who have been waiting for more than a decade, this is pretty monumental.

I would love to hear who else is excited about the Netflix reboot, so comment away!

Ashes to Ashes by Melissa Walker

Image result for ashes to ashes by melissa walkerCallie McPhee is prepared to have a great summer. She has her boyfriend Nick, her best friend Carson, and a new BMW. Even though her best friend is still obsessed with ghosts, and Nick seems a little bit off lately, Callie knows that she is going to have a great summer before her junior year. Except when tragedy strikes while Callie is speeding and distracted by a phone call from Nick. This isn’t the summer she imagined.

Callie wakes up in something called the Prism, where she finds out she’s dead and is assigned a Guide named Thatcher. Callie isn’t a “normal” ghost, and develops a rebellious streak. She wants to live a little by hanging out with the “bad” group of ghosts and haunt on her own. But when the poltergeists, the bad group, starts turning more dangerous, Callie must figure what’s right. She has to watch her father, friend, and boyfriend go through different types of grief, and sort out her new feelings for Thatcher. When the poltergeists go past a boundary that Callie didn’t know was possible and Thatcher feared, they must do the impossible. Will the poltergeists stop? Read the book to find out.

I thought Ashes to Ashes was a great paranormal romance novel. Once you read this book, you have to know what happens next in the sequel, Dust to Dust. Ashes to Ashes makes you think a lot about ghosts. I will recommend this book to anyone who wants a good paranormal romance book.

-Rebecca V.

Ashes to Ashes is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Reeling Through the Roaring Twenties: A Bright Young Things Series Review

brightyoungthings_annagodbersenFLAPPERS, FRINGE DRESSES, JAZZ, AND DECADENCE!

The year is 1929. Eleven years have passed since the First World War. No longer is there any grief or sorrow among the former disillusioned youth. Instead, there is an air of decadence and desire among them.

New York, the cultural capital of the era, is ruled by the Bright Young Things. This new generation of young women chase their dreams, defying the traditional patriarchal society that once stifled their passions.

Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur, inspired by the culture of New York, escape their Midwestern town for the lights and ardour of New York City. However, the two girls leave much more behind than just their old homes. Ms. Grey, raised as an orphan by her authoritarian aunt, escapes from an untimely arranged marriage to find her infamously wealthy father, Dorian Grey. Ms. Larkspur, on the other hand, escapes her extremely religious family to become the next Broadway Babe.

All Cordelia wants is to be part of a wealthy, loving family, and all Letty wants is to see her name in flashing lights. However, the two girls soon find out that their positions are ones that many girls fight for-and will even kill for. The girls find themselves in a city much more glamorous, yet equally dangerous than they have ever dreamed of. Only with the help of the young flapper Astrid Donal do these girls finally assimilate into the rich culture of the metropolis. Raised differently than the other two girls, Ms. Donal seems to epitomize perfection–she is wealthy, beautiful, and her lover is Cordelia’s greedily rich brother, Charlie. Despite Astrid’s perfect life, she faces her own plights in New York. Together, the Bright Young Things endure through the harsh circumstances of the city.

Love, drama, illegal ventures, and decadent thrills soon become an everyday part of the girls’ lives.

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Personal Notes from Reading The Bright Young Things Series by Anna Godberson:

  • The book is FULL of words to expand your vocabulary. A majority of the words are SAT-level words! (For reference, the SRI reading level of the books range from 1070-1250, which is a very high lexile range)
  • The book covers are to DIE FOR! Each book comes with a visual photograph of the character. Their style of clothing and their beauty astonishes me to this day. I never pass the Young Adult section of the library without picking one up and gazing at it
  • It saddens me that these books are so underrated! Everytime I check their availability statuses at the library, none of them are ever checked out. It’s not that they are unpopular books, it is just that they are overshadowed by Godberson’s more popular series, The Luxe. 
  • I encourage all teenagers and young adults to read these books. Not only do you get to expand your vocabulary, but you also get to learn about the Roaring Twenties. It goes well with The Great Gatsby (a novel that most high school honors and AP students are required to read!)

-Elaha N.

The Bright Young Things series of novels are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.