Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater

Lizard Music is another hilarious book by Daniel Pinkwater.  This one is about a boy named Victor from a town called McDonaldsville.  Victor’s parents are away on vacation and his older sister is out camping even though she is supposed to be looking after him.  Since his parents are away, he can watch television late at night.  One night, something strange happens.  The television begins to show lizards performing jazz music.  This is mysterious because nothing about lizards appears in the television guide.

Victor later finds a man known as “The Chicken Man,” with a trained chicken named Claudia who helps Victor discover where the lizards come from.  They set off for a place called Invisible Island.  This is where the lizards broadcast their own television channel.  Their island has been drifting toward Victor’s hometown, and the weather is just right for Victor’s television to pick up their signal.

I enjoy reading about Victor’s wacky tour through the island.  For example, he is introduced to the House of Plants.  The house has a tree called the Truth Tree, which shakes its leaves and emits a loud noise whenever someone is telling a lie nearby.  Victor also enters the House of Memory.  In this house, whatever Victor thinks about appears in the room.

This book is a favorite of mine because of its quirky and random humor.  Daniel Pinkwater is a very unique author but I think his books can appeal to a wide audience, as long as you are not looking for a serious read.

-Oliver H. 

Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Harry Potter: Pets

Among its enchanting world, characters, plot, and locations, the Harry Potter series possesses numerous pets that add charm to the books and, at times, contribute to the plot. From some perspectives, their importance to the story of Harry Potter may not seem of importance; however, some of these pets have invaluable parts, either in the story or their owners’ lives. Here are a few of these treasurable little creatures. Please note that there might be spoilers from books 1-6.

Hedwig: The snowy-white dignity of Harry’s loyal owl is one reason to admire Hedwig. She keeps Harry company when he is trapped at the Dursley’s house, and she delivers many important parcels to and for Harry throughout the series. One of my favorite moments with Hedwig is when she flies to Harry’s friends to make sure they remember to send him a birthday present.

Trevor: Even though his attempts at escaping are constant, I think Trevor really likes Neville Longbottom as his owner–he always seems to (however unwillingly) let Neville find and care for him. As with Neville, his dedication to his pet toad is admirable, for another boy might have long ago given up searching for a rebellious pet. Trevor’s relationship with Neville enriches Neville’s perseverant character and his ability to overcome difficulties–in his classes, with his grandmother–with resilience.

Crookshanks: Even though it is this ginger-haired cat that causes so much tension in Ron and Hermione’s friendship in their third year, Crookshanks proves his intelligence and dependability when he sees Sirius and Scabbers for who they are. Nearly all the other characters believe Scabbers harmless and Sirius a dangerous villain, but Crookshanks knows the truth about both–Scabbers is the danger, while Sirius is not. The courage and insight of Crookshanks shines in the third book so brightly that even Ron can no longer deny the loyalty of the cat.

Scabbers: It is true that Scabbers results in being Voldemort’s servant disguised as Ron’s (at first Percy’s) rat for many years. However, he does contribute admirably to some scenes in the series. On their initial trip to Hogwarts, Ron’s unsuccessful demonstration of a spell on Scabbers plays a part in the building of his friendship with Harry. Furthermore, Ron grows fond of the rat before he knows its true identity, and many games of chess and laughs in the common room no doubt occurred in Scabber’s presence.

BuckbeakStormy gray and confident, Buckbeak is a key player in Harry and Hermione’s rescue of Sirius. The hippogriff also saves Sirius from some of the loneliness of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place during Harry’s fifth year. Held dear by Hagrid as well, Buckbeak (or “Witherwings”) has the respect and appreciation of many characters who fight on the side of Dumbledore’s Order.

The pets named above are merely a fraction of the many that hold importance in the Harry Potter series. Their interactions with the characters–comforting, assisting, escaping–lead to a better understanding of the characters, while establishing the pets as individual characters themselves.

– Mia T.

Books set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded online for free from Overdrive

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Redwall is a series of 22 fantasy novels written by the late Brian Jacques.  The stories take place around a castle named Redwall Abbey in a land called Mossflower during a medieval period.  The main characters are animals with human-like abilities.  Most of the characters are woodland creatures that can talk and walk on their hind legs.  The good characters include mice, squirrels, otters, moles, and badgers.  The villains include rats, weasels, stoats, foxes and ferrets.  The books contain many epic adventures and are very enjoyable to read.

I have noticed a predictable pattern throughout the series.  Each book usually begins by introducing the main characters, including the main villain.  Then conflict arises between the good and bad characters.  Usually, the good characters are defending Redwall Abbey against their enemies.  Sometimes the heroes embark on long journeys or perilous adventures to defeat the villains.  By the end of each book, the bad creatures are defeated.  Though the books may seem repetitive and predictable, they are filled with surprising plot twists and many colorful personalities.

The first novel written in the series is simply titled Redwall.  The hero of the story is a small mouse named Matthias.  In this book, Matthias defends Redwall Abbey against the evil rat, Cluny the Scourge.  Matthias overcomes many challenges to save the abbey.  At one point he defeats the dreaded snake, Asmodeus, and obtains a legendary sword with which he fights against Cluny and his army.  This book is filled with action and suspense.

Another enjoyable novel in the series is Mossflower.  This book describes events that took place before the events of Redwall.  We learn about the history of Redwall Abbey.  A traveling mouse named Martin comes across a large and spacious castle inhabited by evil vermin led by tyrannical wildcats.  Martin finds a group of woodlanders who wish to overtake the giant castle and remove the dictators.  After finally succeeding in their mission and destroying the castle, they decide to build an abbey in its place.  The abbey is named Redwall because it was built with red sandstone from a distant quarry.  Redwall Abbey becomes the home of many good woodland creatures throughout the series. 

Perhaps my favorite book in the series is The Bellmaker.  This book involves a squirrel king named Gael who lives at Castle Floret.  The king is forced to flee from his home because of an evil foxwolf named Urgan Nagru.  As the story develops, heroic characters from Redwall come to the rescue to put an end to Urgan Nagru and his army once and for all.  This book may be my favorite in the series because of the gripping plot and fascinating character development.

The Redwall series is filled with adventure, action, and humor.  I enjoy reading each book because the stories are all woven together.  The characters come to life as we read about their exciting adventures from book to book.  These books may be written for young readers but I would highly recommend them to anyone.

-Oliver H. 

Brian Jacques’ Redwall series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

Complete with a foreword by Albus Dumbledore, illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and an A-Z list of magical creatures and their descriptions, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the perfect book for anyone wishing to delve a bit further into the wizarding world.

Written by J. K. Rowling as Newt Scamander, the main character of the movie series of the same name, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the textbook required by Hogwarts students in their first year. Though the information is expository, it isn’t dull, and J. K. Rowling adds humor and little remarks that make the text entertaining.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the handwritten notes by Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Scribbled conversations, games, comments, and jokes can be seen on the pages. The writing styles and voices of the characters are evident, and while reading them I imagined tidbits of conversations that weren’t included in the Harry Potter books.

I admire the factual style J. K. Rowling uses when she includes references to foreign ministries and remedies for injuries caused by certain beasts. There is even a short biography for Newt Scamander in the back of the book. Certainly, the imagination and thought put into this book makes it a fascinating addition to a Harry Potter book collection.

Other than enjoyment, another reason this might be a good book to read is that it provides information about creatures that appear in the movie series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and knowing about these creatures could enrich the experience of watching the movies.

-Mia T.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, tells the story of a not-so-great Chosen One with a tendency to set things of fire – Simon Snow, and his vampire roommate/nemesis – Baz Pitch. As secrets from the past are brought to light once again, Simon and Baz are forced to work together to defeat the evil Humdrum that has been plaguing the magical society in England. Filled with monsters, magic, and romance, Carry On is a thrilling adventure with twists and turns and a fast-paced plot that leaves readers hungry for more.

This book, in a nutshell, is Harry Potter crossed with Twilight, with Star Wars references. And not in a subtle way. Despite it being remarkably similar to these three franchises, Carry On, in my opinion, is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s fast-paced plot caused me to speed through the book in only a few hours. As soon as I finished it, I immediately opened it back to the first page and started all over again.

Carry On contains many well written and lovable characters. While they bear many similarities to characters from Harry Potter (Simon to Harry, Penny to Hermione, Mage to Dumbledore, and Baz to Draco), they are each distinct and unique characters, with fun and likable personalities that set them apart from the characters they are based on.

Another thing that makes this book so great is the LGBT+ representation. Both of the main characters are part of the LGBT+ community as well as some of the side characters, something that is not seen often in this genre.

There were some swear words, just a warning, but I felt that they helped make the dialogue feel more real and authentic. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love fantasy, if you love romance, if you love YA, then pick up this book immediately – you won’t regret it!

-Lauren R.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most infamous assassin. After her capture, she is sentenced to live out her days as a slave in the Endovier Salt Mines. She serves a year before Crown Prince Dorian Havilliard appears and offers her a chance to earn her freedom. She must compete in a brutal competition against murderers, assassins, and thieves to become the next royal assassin. The winner would be paid handsomely and after four years of service to the king, they would earn their freedom.

Celaena initially plans to escape, but soon finds reasons to stay. Her relationships with Prince Dorian and Captain of the Guard Chaol Westfall grow and soon lean to become more romantic. She befriends Princess of Eyllwe Nehemia Ytger, who seems to know more about Celaena’s hidden past than she should.

When contestants start turning up dead, ripped apart by some unnatural creature, Celaena scrambles to figure out who is behind the killings, and the mysterious Wyrdmarks that she finds all over the castle. And when the ancient Fae Queen Elena tasks Celaena with finding the evil that lurks in the castle, a much deeper, darker plot is uncovered.

What I love about this series is just how well thought out every single detail is. The first book has its own plot and just barely dips into the larger plot of the series. The second book lays the foundation for what’s to come. By the third book, it is a completely different story. The beginning of the series hints at the larger plot that is uncovered, but in a way that if you didn’t already know what was coming, it would just seem like extra details thrown in. Only when you realize the larger story do those details take on any meaning.

The series is epic and action-packed, along with just the right amount of romance. The incredible and complex world-building drew me in and left me wanting to know more about Erilea. I absolutely loved the characters in this series. There are so many, each with a distinct personality that makes many of them so likable, and each has a unique relationship with the others. There is not a shortage of strong female characters. All of the books in the series were hard to put down, and the last book was hard to finish. I fell in love with the characters and the world; it was hard to see their stories end.

I think it is safe to say that the Throne of Glass series is the best series I have read in a long time, and I would definitely recommend the series to anyone who enjoys action and fantasy.

-Lauren R. 

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again is a fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. The book is set in a world filled with elves, dwarves, orcs, magic, and all sorts of strange creatures, known as Middle-Earth. In The Hobbit, a company of dwarves, along with a wizard, attempt to reclaim their lost kingdom and gold, which have been taken by a dragon.

The book’s protagonist is a hobbit, a race similar to humans, but shorter than dwarves, named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lives a quiet, ordinary life inside his hobbit-hole, until one day a mysterious wizard named Gandalf the Grey and a company of thirteen dwarves show up at his doorstep, asking him to join their quest to reclaim their gold and slay the ferocious dragon Smaug. Bilbo initially refuses, but eventually gives in to temptation, and soon he, the dwarves, and wizard are thrown into an action-filled adventure.

The Hobbit mainly shows Bilbo’s growth and transformation into a hero as the dwarves are traveling towards their goal. Against obstacle after obstacle, Bilbo begins to prove his usefulness and worth, as he saves the dwarves from countless threats, from elven kings to deadly spiders.

The Hobbit is a great book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is filled with adventure and there is action at every turn. Overall, The Hobbit is a classic novel that should be read by everyone.

-Josh N. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library