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.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible is a novel based around fear. Every action that occurs is due to the fear of punishment and fear of others. It appears completely outrageous yet parallel’s the red scare in the United States and even some of the fear-based racism occurring in today’s society over the coronavirus. There is much to be learned from this novel and the chaos that fear-based decisions create.

However, it is an interesting story with intriguing insights into human nature. The entire story is based on a lie given by a girl, Abigail Williams, who does not want to get in trouble. She and her friends were caught dancing in the woods, something banned in the Puritan society in which The Crucible was set in. Instead of accepting blame for her actions, she blames Tituba of witchcraft as a scapegoat. From this, society degrades blaming everybody of witchcraft for one reason or another. Though truly, not a single person was a witch. People were blaming each other for witchcraft as either a scapegoat for themselves or to get vengeance on a neighbor.

The courts, the people, and the church all believe the web of lies that have been created. Falling into complete hysteria. Nothing matters other than catching witches. They leave their children, their crops, their animals, and their society in ruins just to accuse one another of actions that did not occur.

This plot is intriguing because it mimics many aspects of current life and, though it is a play it is still easy to read. It attempts to teach society the lesson of not allowing hysteria to control life which, is something that today’s society needs especially with the fear of the coronavirus. It allows readers to really reflect on their own lives and see the faults in their own society.

This is a must-read for everybody. The message it gives is something that every human in today’s society must understand to help society reign in their senses and not let the world collapse with fear of the virus.

-Ava G.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Book Review: The Hairy Ape by Eugene O’Neill

Hairy Ape - Kindle edition by O'Neill, Eugene. Literature ...

The Hairy Ape is a classic drama of realism, expressionism and symbolism created by Nobel laureate Eugene O ‘Neill in 1921. The play consists of eight scenes. The work depicts in great detail the psychological process of people at the bottom of society from being happy and blindly optimistic to realizing their pathetic status in the society, reflecting the confusion and pain of laborers who lose their affiliation and find no way out in modern society with rapid industrial development. The author makes extensive use of expressionist dramatic techniques, such as the stream of consciousness, monologue, stage externalization of characters’ inner activities, non-line director’s instructions, etc. It is the foundation work of modern American drama.

The Hairy Ape describes the life of a seafaring worker. On a mail ship crossing the Atlantic, the firemen lived in the crowded forecastle. They were poor, irascible and eccentric. Yank the stoker was the most authoritative of them all. He had no family, no parents, no wife, no children, no relatives or friends. He lived in poverty and worked hard, but he did not worry about unemployment. He was uneducated, simple-minded, and confident in life. He did not feel at the bottom of society at all. He was always at ease, thinking that he was the foundation of the world and represented everything. His partners Paddy and Long disagreed. One day Miss. Mildred the capitalist came on board and called him a dirty beast. Yank’s pride had been hurt, and he was determined to take his revenge. After that, he unleashed his hatred by fighting in the street against a wealthy gentry, and was put in prison by the police. After he gets out, Yank tries to blow up Mildred’s father’s steel company but fails. After several rebuffs, he went to the zoo in great frustration, and poured out his heart to an ape in the cage. He opened the iron door and let the ape out. When he wanted to take revenge with him, the ape grabbed him, broke his ribs, and threw him into a cage. Inside the cage, Yank stood up painfully, looked around in bewilderment, and collapsed like a heap of flesh.

The big mail ship in The Hairy Ape symbolizes both modern life and ancient savage life. The play aims to explore the value of human survival, that is, to explore how people can be regarded as human beings, or how the contradiction between individuals and society can be resolved. The protagonist Yank is a symbol of modern people; he can not find a way out in modern life and wants to go back. But he couldn’t have gone back to his primitive life because he was a modern man after all and couldn’t have lived with a gorilla. In the author’s opinion, modern society makes people lose the essence of human being and makes people lose the universality of nature. In order to survive, people have to seek this kind of consistency. But when they have found it, they are of no avail but perish. The Hairy Ape reveals this embarrassing dilemma of modern people. The image of cages everywhere in the play is a symbol of this dilemma, and it also shows the author’s pessimistic mood about the future of human beings.

-Coreen C.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is truly a conundrum. It is a story with intricately woven twists and turns. It is one of those novels where the true meaning of the plot is invigorating and the comments that Fitzgerald makes about the society in the 1920s are astounding. It was the first book I was glad to have read in an English class and not on my own. The nuance in the text adds to the story and having a teacher there to explain it all made the book more intriguing.

This is a book to delve into the world of the roaring 20s and for one to get lost in the madness of the time. It is one of those novels that is so exquisitely that it feels as if one is living in the story. Every minute detail of the picture is painted allowing one to see the world Fitzgerald is commenting on. One of the best parts of this book is how easy it is to lose one’s self in it. Reading this book feels like being transported back into time which is not only educational but also a great time passer. Reading this book feels as if no time is passed at all because it is so easy to start reading and then look up at the clock and see that hours have passed.

This story, focusing on a man Jay Gatsby and his extravagant lifestyle sorts through the lies, mistruths, and rumors that are constantly thrown around about him. Gatsby’s confidant, Nick Carraway helps balance the story showing the difference between the honest truthful citizen and the corrupt misleading money-hungry rich. Through these, to characters and the people that surround them, Fitzgerald tells his story. However, his story is a criticism of society more than anything. He portrays the disparity between the rich and poor.

The comments on society are the most interesting part of the book. It is so elaborate yet truthful that it makes one wonder. This wonder keeps one coming back to the story until the end. This story is one I would recommend to someone who wants an interesting read. I read that is for more than just fluff but instead has true meaning.

-Ava G.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Last Time I Died By Joe Nelms

Image result for the last time i diedChristian Franco and Ella Franco are brothers and sisters, but the incident of their father murdering their mother and abusing her violently before destroyed the bond between them.

It wasn’t until Christian met his wife that he first relished the reminiscent taste of love. But as time slipped bypass his crude fingers that he realized the love he gripped it too tight that his wife was escaping because it choked her from it. He was once again abandoned by his family.

Struggling to cope, he depletes himself by testing experimental medicine from a former physician that now treats dogs bred to fight. This is a tragedy of one person’s life, but he was able to collect the pieces of his mom’s death and eventually muster them together as a complete puzzle. His life then lingered between comedy and tragedy.

-April L.

The Last Time I Died by Joe Nelms is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Heaven is for Real

I see myself more of a spiritual person more than religious one. Not that I don’t believe there’s a God or that there’s a higher power, I just feel myself being drawn to spirituality and the stories and tales behind it. My opinion and outlook on that has never really changed because I believed in it so strongly. Although it doesn’t make me narrow minded (that at least I’d like to believe). Because of my open mind, my sister convinced me to watch Heaven is for Real directed by Randall Wallace and written by Wallace and Christopher Parker.

The story begins with a young boy around age of 5 who goes into a risky surgery with a small chance of survival. During his surgery he tells of his near death experience and how he visited heaven and met Jesus Christ himself along with the Angels. Throughout the movie his father, the pastor of their town church attempts to convince others that his child really did see heaven and that Jesus is real.

To me, the movie portrayed hope and that a strong belief can do wonders for you. After watching the film, it made me look at religion differently and has changed my opinion heavily. It was a wonderful and eye opening movie and I would really recommend it to anyone.

-Leann D.

Heaven is for Real is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Pretty Little Liars

You’ve never seen any nastier fights or heard crazier drama than those done by girls. Lying, manipulative, and persuasive, we get away with pretty much anything. Which leads me to present one of my most favorite TV shows, Pretty Little Liars. The series was developed by I. Marlene King (based on the book series by Sara Shepard) that premiered June 8, 2010.

The main characters of the series are four best friends living in the small town of Ravenswood, Pennsylvania. The young women are connected to Alison Dilaurentis, the popular girl of them all. When she goes missing, the five girls split up at the same time the town is whipped  into a frenzy. Local papers and news channels go wild as they all ask the question, “Where is Alison’s body?” Almost two years after the disappearance, the girls reunite after Alison’s body is found and the signs pointing to murder. Everything but peace has settled on Ravenswood and the girls.

To make matters worse, an unknown stalker known only as “A” begins to torment the girls with secrets they only thought they knew through blackmail. “A” also harrasses them with information of Alison’s death and her killer. “A” is known only to the four girls because going to the police would only make matters worse, leaving them to be the only ones to figure out the murder of their beloved friend Alison.

Pretty Little Liars is a TV show is full of teen drama, crime thrillers, and most of all, mystery.

-Leann D.

Film Review: Gattaca

What if people had the ability of selecting the genes that their child would inherit? Of choosing only the best for their child, the genes that would produce the highest IQ or the longest lifespan? How would you feel if you, someone whose genes are random, were surrounded by people who are…”perfect”?

Vincent’s family didn’t program or alter his genes in any way. After testing his blood when he was first born, they knew that he would die early and had a very high risk of heart disease. Nevertheless, he pursued a career of studying space and the planets, despite his parent’s protests. He realized though, that he’d never be able to get a job with his own DNA. This is why he pretended to be Jerome: the perfect man, by “purchasing” Jerome’s DNA to use as his own.

Jerome’s parents did select his genes. He was “created” so that he’d have an exceptionally long lifespan, and so that he’d be very intelligent. But just because you choose the perfect genes for your child, it doesn’t mean they will be successful in life- it just means they have a better chance at success. In the movie, he said he’d walked in front of a car while he was sober. He must have done that purposefully- he was probably fed up with everyone and how they expected so much of him and chose, with a clear mind, to become crippled.

In the society of this movie, your success is based on your genetics- your DNA. If you don’t have what is considered the “ideal” DNA, you won’t even be considered as someone who is capable of working. On the other hand, if you possess what is considered “perfect” DNA, you wouldn’t even have to interview for a job, they’d hire you on the spot.

In my opinion, I think that this is very unjust. People should be viewed and assessed based on their talent and drive, not their DNA. DNA isn’t really something you can change- it’s what you’re born with. But people’s motivation and drive are things that they themselves control.

I’m also very skeptical on the idea of parents choosing their children’s genes. I think that however the child turns out, that’s how they were meant to be. Part of what makes us human is our mistakes, and by choosing only the most appealing genes for your child, the chance that they’ll make any mistakes will become nearly obsolete. Additionally, I think that if more and more people were to start hand-picking the genes that their children receive, people would become more and more similar. If people were to choose the genes for their children, they’d all probably choose the best possible ones, and if everyone did that, all children would be near perfect. There would be no more variety, and I think that our individuality is definitely something we should try to preserve.

Despite my uncertainty relating to some of the ethics that this movie brings up, I think that it’s very fascinating and thought-provoking, and definitely worth watching.

-Elina T.

Gattaca is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

TV Review: BBC’s Sherlock

Maybe we’re not all nearly as intelligent as Sherlock, but we can, at the very least, tune in and try to decipher and understand his thought process (even though we’ll most likely never succeed in this – his thought process is very complicated).

Sherlock Holmes has been acting as a consulting detective for the Scotland Yard Police Department in London for some time now, and has been very helpful in successfully solving many of their cases. He does, however, seem to lack the sort of emotion that most people have. In fact, he himself identifies as a sociopath. But this does not, in any way, inhibit his incredible ability of making amazingly accurate deductions and thinking far faster than even his own brain can follow. 

Because of his keen intellect and blunt demeanor, he comes off as a rude know-it-all to nearly everyone he meets. That is why it’s not surprising that Dr. John Watson, a veteran, is taken a bit off guard when he first encounters Sherlock and is asked if wants to share a flat despite the fact that he had only just met him. 

After getting over the initial shock of someone knowing so much about him by merely looking at him, John moves in with Sherlock at 221B Baker Street and promptly begins solving crimes with him. John turns out to be a very valuable asset in his contributions to investigations, but more importantly, Sherlock grows to care about him, which is most uncharacteristic of a sociopath. 

I think this is an excellent show, especially for people who like crime/mystery. It gives a unique, contemporary take by placing these original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in modern London, making it easier for people today to understand and relate to the familiar culture. It’s also got some really funny parts. The mysteries are always really well thought out, and I love how well and thoroughly they’re solved by Sherlock, John and Scotland Yard. I also like how there’s such a wide variety in the types of mysteries that they solve. No two of them are alike- they’re always very different so it never gets repetitive. 

This is an amazing, humorous, yet sophisticated show with great characters, intriguing crimes, and a suspenseful and thrilling story line that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. 

-Elina T.

Season One of Sherlock is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

TV Review: Riverdale

This is one of those shows I probably never would have watched had everyone not been raving about it. Well, maybe not everyone was raving. 

Riverdale is based off of the Archie comics, which I had never heard of before, so unfortunately can’t really tell you whether the show holds true to the source material. 

Anyway, the show takes place in a town called Riverdale (hence the name) which was a perfectly normal place. But a boy’s body, Jason Blossom, has been discovered by the rivers’ edge. As the city’s police begin investigating the case, Riverdale’s less flattering qualities start to surface. The town isn’t as perfect as it had once appeared to be. 

The show follows a group of students: Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Jughead Jones, and some of their other friends. As the shows progresses, the students begin uncovering secrets that bring them closer to discovering who killed Jason Blossom. 

Thus far, there is only one season – the entirety of which I watched in two days, which is pretty impressive because I don’t typically binge watch shows like that. So I actually really liked it even though I didn’t think I would. I love Jughead of course, and the other characters are pretty cool as well. Riverdale is one of those shows where you have to watch the next episode, and the episode after that, and so on, because you always have to know what happens next. That’s how it was for me at least. 

I actually heard mixed reviews about the show before I watched it, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I really liked it and can’t wait for the next season! 

The one thing I didn’t really like about it though (and it’s really not that important, it’s like this for practically any show/movie that takes place in high school) was that the actors are all in their twenties and they’re supposed to be sophomores in high school. Like I said, most people probably wouldn’t even be bothered by this, but I just thought I’d mention it. 

All in all, I thought I it was a great show. I really enjoyed it, and if you’re thinking about watching it, I’d definitely say give it a go!

-Elina T.