Christmas Movies!

Home Alone (1990) - IMDb

During the winter season, there are a plethora of different Christmas movies to choose from. Once I sit down to watch Christmas movies with my family or friends the hardest part is choosing which one to watch. There are varieties of different Christmas that appeal to different people. I will be breaking down my favorite Christmas movie of all time.

My personal favorite Christmas movie of all time has to be Home Alone. I have watched it over and over again since I was a kid. Starring Kevin McCallister played by Macaulay Culkin this movie is a comedy that will never grow old. Beginning with young Kevin who got in trouble and was sent to sleep in his family’s attic.

The following day Kevin’s family was going on their holiday trip, but they forget Kevin at home. Kevin thought his wish to have no family, since they were mean to him, had come true. Living up his solo life until 2 thugs come to try and rob the McCallister’s house. Kevin then sets up bobby traps and tricks to try and protect his house from the robbers. Kevin successfully fights them off multiple times, but the robber’s Harry and Marv will not quit. After many battle rounds Kevin was finally able to fight the burglars off permanently. Later on, Kevin befriends an elderly man, who was known to be a criminal, but finds out he is just a man who lost his connection to his son and feels lonely. After Kevin encourages him to make up with his son, he realizes that family is important along with the impact children have on their parents. During all these events Kevin’s mother was finding the fastest way home from Paris to make sure Kevin was safe at home. Once his whole family returns they get to spend the Christmas holiday together and realize the importance of family.

Though it may be a little cheesy, this movie remains one of the best Christmas movies. Not only is it a classic, but it is also a rollercoaster ride. The character development from a bratty kid to one that is able to spread joy and love. The action scenes are also a great laugh. We get to see a little boy beating up two full-grown men with his mischievous little tricks up his sleeve.

-Lilly G.

Home Alone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Is it a kid’s book or all ages one?  Madeleine L’Engle’s classic (but not too classic) story A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children focuses on Meg and Charles Wallace Murry and their new friend Calvin O’Keefe through time and space on a mission to save Mr.Murry.  While some argue that this work of science fiction is aimed at youth, it is actually a timeless piece that will transcend time and space itself.  

A Wrinkle in Time tackles different scientific theories by putting them into play and describing them with simple words and emotions making them easily comprehensible.  For example, L’Engle talks about tesseracts or anything which is four-dimensional.  As the three heroes move through time and space, or tesser, L’Engle uses simple but effective words coupled by vivid descriptions of the event.  This allows readers to fully grasp the advanced scientific and mathematical concepts.  Some confuse L’Engle’s use of basic vocabulary as a way to aim her story at children.  While I am sure that she is pleased for children to read her story, this does not mean that A Wrinkle in Time is a kid’s book.  The use of base-level vocabulary simply makes these ideas accessible to everyone and not just rocket scientists.  

Moreover, L’Engle’s characters all deal with absent and neglectful parents, a theme which is definitely not aimed solely at children.  The Murray children practically grew up without their father who was kidnapped by the evil It.  Charles Wallace had not ever even properly met his father.  Calvin O’Keefe’s mother struggled to keep the house in proper sanitation and neglected her children.  While these ideas are important for children to understand, it is certainly not limited to them.  For all I know, reading about how these parent’s identities have shaped their children could give some parents a wake up call.  In any event,  the theme of unideal parenting is one that can resonate with any generation.

Further still, A Wrinkle in Time focuses more on timeless themes and morals than anything else meaning that it will withstand the test of time for all generations, not just children.  L’Engle’s’ story, though it is classified as science fiction, is largely about love and how it connects all of us throughout the universe.  From Meg’s sisterly love of Charles Wallace, Charles Wallace’s love of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, to Calvin’s love for Meg, love is all over.  Love is something timeless and will never fade away, and neither will A Wrinkle in Time.  

It almost goes without saying that any book which has obtained a Newbery Medal is fantastic, but Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a truly extraordinary work of science fiction. Though many declare that it is a children’s story, it is in actuality a story for all ages or anyone who likes scientific theories explained simply, themes about absent or neglectful parents and enjoys a good old fashioned story about the power of love.

– Ainsley H

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway

Cat in the Rain - Ernest Hemingway - listen online for free

One rainy day an American couple visiting Italy stayed in their hotel. The husband was reading in bed and the wife was standing by the window looking out at the view when she came across a cat crouched under a dripping green table. In a spirit of compassion, the wife decided to carry the cat back to her room in the rain. But when she got down, the cat was nowhere to be seen. The wife returned to her room in great disappointment. A maid was standing at the door with a large tortoise-shell cat, which the landlord had given to her wife.

The novel comes to a screeching halt, leaving the reader with plenty of room for imagination. Cat in the Rain is one of the few short stories that reflect female consciousness. In this novel, the heroine does not have a name, but the author gives her different titles in different situations. This paper analyzes the desire and awakening of the female subject consciousness of the hostess princess in the patriarchal society from the perspective of appellation. It embodies Hemingway’s simple narrative style and implicit stylistic characteristics.

The novel was written in the early 1920s, when the status of women in the United States was undergoing great changes. The new women redefined their roles in the family and society. They demanded to be equal to men and no longer played the roles played by traditional women who were sheltered and subordinate to men. In fact, the new women are more like men, looking and acting like tomboys: they wear short hair, short skirts, play golf, drive cars, smoke, and drink like men. They are open-minded, enthusiastic and pursue fun. Cat in the Rain fully reflects Hemingway’s profound thinking on the status of women in the family and society under the background of that time.

Cat in the Rain is one of Hemingway’s few works with a female protagonist. In this novel, Hemingway delicately described their inner desires, anguish, needs, words, and deeds from the perspective of women, conveying the subordination of women in the patriarchal society and their strong desire to change the situation. Even with the gradual awakening of their self-consciousness and their struggle against the society, the theme of women in the works is more implicit, profound, and thought-provoking, implying Hemingway’s understanding and attitude towards women.

As a nameless woman in ordinary life, the American wife has no choice and no ability to choose between inner needs (desires) and external temptations during the journey of life, so she can only create an unreal world for herself to seek temporary satisfaction through whispering. The reason why women have a special liking for cats is determined by the specific aesthetic characteristics and perceptual requirements of women under the social conditions at that time. A woman and a cat are naturally linked by her natural maternal instinct and compassion. Cat in the Rain inspired the American wife’s desire to find the lost self, which was the inevitable result of women’s understanding and thinking about their own destiny.

-Coreen C.

Emma by Jane Austen

Amazon.com: Emma (Dover Thrift Editions) (0800759406487): Jane Austen: Books

Emma’s control of Harriet’s marriage cannot be said to be selfish. She did care and love Harriet, and throughout much of the book she is seen worrying about Harriet’s marriage and drawing inspiration from it herself. Out of an intolerable conceit, she fancied she knew the secrets of every man’s affections. As it turned out, she did it all wrong. But when she learned that Harriet was in love with Knightley, she suddenly discovered that she had always been in love with him. In a sharp turn of events, she and Knightley become husband and wife. She had objected to Harriet’s marrying Martin, and was glad that they were at last united. In Emma’s opinion, Martin was as unfit to be Harriet’s husband as Harriet was unfit to be Knightley’s wife.

Marriage should be matched by family, which was exactly the marriage relationship in the society at that time. The solution to women’s problems (including marriage problems naturally) put forward by Austen was serious, but her works added comedy color. At the beginning of the 19th century, sentimental novels were popular in England, and Austen’s realistic novels gave readers a fresh breath.

In her novel Emma, Austen tells most of the family trifles in ordinary life, and the author creates a female image with intelligence and independent thinking. Emma, the protagonist, demands the equality of men and women in the patriarchal society, and has her own clear views and values on marriage. It also reflects the feminist views of Austen to some extent. With her unique perspective of supporting women, Austen profoundly cut through the reality of the society controlled by men and the situation of women in social life. The author criticizes the unfair phenomenon of male superiority and female inferiority while affirming the social status of women. Therefore, to a certain extent, this novel has far-reaching social practical significance.

Film Review: The Secret Life of Pets 2

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) Final Poster.jpg

I know it might sound a little bit childish for some of the people out there, but The Secret Life of Pets 2 was definitely a very good movie for me. At least, in my opinion, the addition of more characters added more flavor to the movie as a whole. Not only was it funny, but it also portrayed the theme of family, love, friendship, and loyalty

To start off, family has always been a big thing throughout the two movies. It was first the introduction of Duke, and then Liam the son of the family. By overcoming jealousy and eventually falling in love with the new members of the family, Max has demonstrated what the firstborn of many families have gone through.

And as for love, it would be the next stage of family. For one thing, Max became overprotective over Liam and was unwilling to let him cross the street, run into people and different things, and go to preschool. It was not after when Max himself was trained by Rooster to save the little lamb hanging on a branch did he know how important independence is to a person.

Friendship has always been a big thing for the movie series. From Max saving Hu to Daisy fighting off the wolves, it’s all revolving around friendship. And again, through a series of adventures and dangers, the white tiger cub was saved.

Lastly, what I really wanted to mention in this movie is something people normally don’t pay attention to—the wolves. They might look very evil, malicious, and atrocious, but at the same time, they are very loyal to Sergei no matter what he does to them. I’m pretty sure they could’ve just run away since they weren’t chained anyways. Under the threat of killing them and not giving meals, the wolves still strived to complete their missions and obey every single command Sergei the circus owner gives. This way, I think that they resemble dogs for their loyalty but not amiability.

-Coreen C.

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

Image result for giovanni's room

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.