Dessert First by Dean Gloster

The book Dessert First by Dean Gloster can be summed up in one word: beautiful. The story is about a teenage girl, Kat, who is struggling to hold everything together after her little brother Beep relapses with leukemia. With her father being distant and constantly at work, her mother uptight due to her anxiety, and her older sister’s rude remarks, Kat turns to online friends for support. And between all of this, she struggles to complete homework assignments and with her feelings towards her old best friend, who she feels betrayed by.

This book is truly something special which would make me laugh aloud, yet also induce tears. With her witty and sarcastic sense of humor and the sadness that plagues her, Kat seemed to spring out of the pages as a real person. The book very much regarded her journey, through her pain and the feelings that came with it–confusion, anger, sadness, hope, and love.

Eventually, Kat was able to find the silver lining. And as her brother Beep had said to her “Always eat dessert first”, as in to live life to the fullest, and to remember that even after the worst of times, life can be good again.

-Aisha E. 

Dessert First by Dean Glosteris available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

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Another masterpiece written by African American author James Baldwin revolving around the theme of homosexuality and bisexuality. At first I was really abashed by the outright description of the characters and the erotic actions they commit, but then I realized that here the message James Baldwin wanted to convey was the high sense of reality our world and society currently needs but avoids for most of the time.

This novel attempted to tell us that not all people are the same. Especially for those homosexual people, it is a stab in the heart when they realized their sexual preference and will face the problem of confiding and admitting this fact to their friends and family, which at the same time they have to prepare against any antagonism from any outside forces. They will be condemned for their difference, but that won’t stunt them from pursuing their passion and maintaining faith in themselves.

Hella and David loved each other. However, when Hella was away David falls in deep love with Giovanni and he returns this love. But then Hella comes back, and David numbs his true feelings but telling himself that he mustn’t leave Hella, which resulted in the loss and imprisonment of Giovanni. Nevertheless, Hella and David break apart at last and David can no longer reunite with Giovanni anymore as a criminal who will be sentenced to death for murder. This taught me a lesson-never deny your real identity and embrace it, for later on right after your denouncement of yourself you will never be YOU again, but merely a wandering soul residing in a live corpse sharing the same name.

-Coreen C. 

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Tomb by S.A. Bodeen

The Tomb by S.A. Bodeen is a science-fiction novel about fifteen year old Kiva and her discovery that her life is not what she thought it was. Kiva believed that she was being raised in Ancient Alexandria, and had spent the first twelve frolicking with her best friend, Seth. When they were twelve, Seth’s Father, who was the pharaoh in the ancient Egyptian world, caused Seth to become less involved in their friendship. However, three years later, Seth comes back to Kiva to tell her that their world is not what they think it is. This leaves Kiva confused and hurt; she finds out that Seth has died. However, this all is a sham because the world that is portrayed is actually a virtual reality. Everyone portrayed in the world is in a hibernation in a spaceship.

Kiva wakes up to learn about the Planet Earth and how it was impacted by an asteroid, making it uninhabitable. A lucky group of people were able to escape on the ships that were originally intended for escape in a natural disaster. She is on a smaller shuttle, which is on its way to a spaceship to get a spare part for another spaceship. She wakes up to find Seth, who explains everything that happened. His Father died in real life, and he was told about the artificial world soon after that. Initially, Kiva finds it difficult to connect with him, but the two of them reconcile their differences to save the ship while battling foes.

This book was a quick read, and almost felt like the beginning of a novel. A lot of it was devoted to building up the world of Alexandria, and once it shifted to the spaceship, almost half of the novel was done. Also, the characters did not have much growth and were mostly one-dimensional. There was a romance between Seth and Kiva, but it almost felt forced and done in order to move the plot forward. Even though it did that, the moving of the plot really did not go anywhere until the last few chapters of the book. Overall, the book was a quick read. If you are looking for an easy-to-follow science fiction novel, than this one for you.

The Tomb by S. A. Bodeen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall is one I have been reading for years and have yet to tire of. The series is about four sisters named Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. Shortly after Batty, the youngest, was born, their mother passed away, leaving their father to care for them. Mr. Penderwick is a botanist who throws out Latin phrases along with advice to his daughters. He can be quite lenient and unsure of his judgement, but he has his daughters’ respect and love. 

I love how each of the sisters is so unique and wonderful in their own way, and how Jeanne Birdsall writes from their perspectives is amazing. The sisters have such contrasting qualities, but these qualities compliment each other. Their father raises them with solid values, and though they make some mistakes, they are incredibly down-to-earth characters who find ways to solve any issues they have.

One aspect I find entertaining about their relationships with each other is the meetings they have, which are called “MOPS”, or Meeting of Penderwick Sisters. The sisters discuss problems they’ve noticed with their family or friends, and how they may be able to solve them. Despite their separate personalities and occasional arguments, the sisters are still so close and supportive of each other.

Rosalind is kind and compassionate, and is a wonderful older sister for her siblings. She is especially fond of her sister Batty, who is very attached to her. Her maturity and leadership results in her sisters looking up to her, even when she questions her own abilities.

Skye is adventurous and impatient with frivolity. Her relationship with Batty is entertaining to read about; Skye is uncertain with how to act with her younger sister while maintaining a tough exterior. 

Jane is a writer, with her mind constantly wandering, even during conversations (which tends to irritate Skye). On the Penderwicks’ trips throughout the series, Jane consistently manages to haul a stack of books with her. 

Batty is curious and shy, and she loves animals. Her sisters are protective of her, even if some of them pretend they aren’t. 

As the series progresses, the sisters grow older, and their changes in character are interesting to see. Though the plots of these books don’t revolve around a real villain or conflict, the stories are still so exciting, engaging, funny, and heartwarming. This really is a wonderful series, and the audiobooks read by Susan Denaker are amazing as well!

– Mia T.

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book vs Movie: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It’s a good book that bring to light bullying in middle school. Wonder is about a boy named Auggie Pullman. He’s been homeschooled all his life, and now his mother has decided to put him into public middle school. Of course, we know that middle school can be cruel. For Auggie, it’s a bit more than normal bullying.

Auggie was born with a facial deformity. Throughout his life, he struggled to accept this, often wearing an astronaut helmet when he went out in public. As expected, Auggie is bullied in his new school. He has one good friend who tends to stick by him. Just like in real life, and perhaps more for Auggie, he goes through ups and downs with his family and friends.

The book is very good, and shows how a family must always be there for each other. Auggie’s family is there for him throughout the book. It also shows that friends can be there to help too.

Now, the movie. I actually did not like the movie, I’m sad to say. Though I loved the book, I felt like Auggie was a jerk to his family, especially his mom. His mom is always so supportive of him and just wants the best for him. I just felt like Auggie acted like a brat who thought he could get whatever he wanted. This makes me sad, because Auggie is not like that in the book (in my opinion).

My interpretation of book Auggie was that, yes, he had his difficulties in school. And sure, he might of argued with his mom. But I think that it was the heat of the moment, and he always apologized in the end.

With movie Auggie, I felt like he yelled and screamed at his mom when he didn’t get his way. Then, he would run to his room and slam the door. When his mom came to comfort him, he would yell at her more, even though she was trying to make him feel better. And when he apologized, it sounded insincere.

In summary, I enjoyed the book, but thought that the movie was not enjoyable.

-Sophia D.

Wonder, both the book and film, by R. J. Palacio is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

TV Review: Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off The Boat is by far my favorite television show to watch. It is so funny and at least for me, very relatable. It also stars Constance Wu who is one of my favorite actresses. Every episode of this show is always something new but yet extremely funny and relatable in a new way. It is also a very family friendly tv show, unlike many recent shows so, it is something that everybody can watch and enjoy.

This show is about a Chinese family who moves from Washington D.C’s Chinatown to Orlando where, they know nothing about the culture. The mother in the show, Jessica Huang, is like your typical Asian mother and as the show progresses, you get to see how she immerses herself in this new culture. The sons Eddie, Emery, and Evan all have extremely different personalities and each act like the different types of kids that you see growing up.

There are five seasons of this show, but as it has gone on, it feels like it has lost some of the Asian culture that made it so enjoyable in the first place. It is still a really good show but, the first season is by far the best with each subsequent season seeming to progressive farther and farther away from the representation of Asian culture that was the basis of the show when it first started. Though, after having watched the new episodes that are coming out in season five, it seems that the show is starting to go back in the direction of Asian culture that made it so relatable in the first place.

The best part of this entire show, is the grandmother, who only speaks Chinese but yet is the funniest character in the show. She is just so unlike any other character I have ever seen represented in media. She is so superstitious while extremely American at the same time which makes her my favorite character.

Overall, this show is great and is perfect for families to watch. I love it, and would recommend anybody who just wants to watch something comedic to watch it.

-Ava G.

Film Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians, the movie everybody is obsessed with. And yes, it was nice to see a lot of diversity in a movie but, as a Romantic Comedy goes, it did not really have that many jokes. And the story line was just like every other Romantic movie that has every been made. Though, Constance Wu is a great actor and I was really excited to see her in something other than Fresh Off the Boat, I was just kind of expecting more.

As someone who is Asian, I could definitely appreciate the jokes that was in the movie because, most of them were pretty relatable. But, in my opinion there could have been more jokes. Because, even though it was labeled a Rom Com I feel like it was mostly just a romantic movie with a little bit of comedy sprinkled in. Which, was not the way it was advertised or talked about. From they way people talked about it, I was expected it to be super funny and I had really high expectations which where not met.

Overall, the story line was about a New York economics professor Rachel Chu who falls in love with Nick Young who is part of a super rich family for Singapore. Nick brings Rachel to Singapore to meet his family who does not approve of her. But, eventually she gets their approval and Nick proposes to her. This follows the typical Romantic movie formula and as someone who doesn’t really care for Romantic movies to begin with it kind of bored me. Though, I might have not liked it because it is not really a style of movie that I care for.

But, if you are someone who is into Romantic Movies, it is probably a great movie for you to watch. And it is still slightly funny, especially if you can get the jokes. So if you’re looking for a Romantic Movie to watch I would watch this one but, just don’t expect it to be that different from any other romantic movie.

-Ava G.