Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices Book 2) by Cassandra Clare

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TMI fans, here is the next book in the installment!

Emma is struggling with her love for Julian, and so, unknown to him, has begun a fake relationship with Mark. Mark himself is struggling whether to love his past, Kiernan, or his future, Christina. Christina is struggling with Diego and Mark. Diana finds a love interest of her own. Kit “Herondale” is struggling with his new name and the legacy of it, while also finding some new friends with the twins. We also see some TMI characters like what we saw with Lady Midnight– Clary is unsure of whether to marry Jace or not, and Alec and Magnus play a big role in helping Julian, Emma, and the gang with issues such as the concern of Downworlders with the Clave. The Clave itself is being as stupid as always, as there are many Downworlder haters there. Oh, and did I mention that we haven’t seen the last of Malcolm?

Of course, Cassandra Clare still works her comedy within the story, as shown when Ty is amazed that Kit knew about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, even though Kit laughs at how did no one in the Shadowhunters knew who they were.

Additionally, there are, of course, secrets providing twists and turns to the plot, especially when the Blackthorn family finds out a secret of Julian’s.

However, despite all of the positives and the things I was happy with in the sequel, I was quite disappointed with a few things. First of all, Magnus and Alec appear a little too much in the book, making the spotlight go to them instead of the Blackthorns. Secondly, one can’t read the book without reading the TMI series. Robert Lightwood references what happened with Michael Wayland, making the context only relevant if one read what happened to him back in The Mortal Instruments. Additionally, the issue of Malec, one making immortal and the other not, is referenced too, making it necessary to read The City of Heavenly Fire. It is also required to have read The Infernal Devices. Kit is asked whether he is going to be a Jace, Will, Stephen, or a Tobias, requiring the necessary background information in order to understand. Additionally, we meet a ghost named Jessamine Lovelace, and if one hasn’t read The Infernal Devices, one does not know what she is all about.

However, despite all of these negatives, it is quite an enjoyable  book, one worth reading.

Megan V. Eleventh Grade

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens is a novel co-written by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Terry Pratchett. The combination of their unique styles creates an incredible story that is extremely difficult to follow. This is one of those books that can only get better with each reading, because the first time you pick it up, you have no idea what’s going on.

It follows about six distinct storylines, all of which interact throughout the story. The best of these is the tale of Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and angel (respectively) who have been on earth together since the Beginning. Literally, biblically, the Beginning.

Other characters include Adam, the antichrist; Dog, the aptly named Hellhound; a 1921 Bentley in perfect condition, a witch-hunter with a fondness for condensed milk, and a group of intelligent ducks.

Despite the fact that the book is nearly twenty years old, it has a really awesome cult following. There have been innumerable attempts to create movies, TV shows, mini-series, etc. about Good Omens, none of which have taken off. Aside from a podcast adaptation currently running on the BBC, the novel remains the only canon content in its universe.

There is something very special about this book. It’s funny and thought-provoking and a tongue-twister at times. It is definitely a Must Read, if only for the sake of enjoying a book that was written by two authors on different continents snail-mailing floppy discs across the Atlantic ocean because e-mail wasn’t fast enough yet.

-Zoe K., 11th grade

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla.

Magical Girl Raising Project by Endou Asari

Welcome, pon! My name is Fav, pon!

I am called a cyber fairy. My masters, from the land of magic, came up with a brilliant plan to help save the world by using a famous social game, pon! We will use the social game to find “magical girls”, those given special feminine bodies to help save the world, pon!

We allow boys, girls, and even animals so long as they have the aptitude to believe in magic, pon! Of course, they will be turned into girls whenever they want to use magical powers, pon!

What magical powers, you ask, pon? Well, I just transformed a girl named Kyouki into the magical girl “Snow White”, who can not only run fast, jump high and be super strong, but can also “hear the voices of those in distress.”

Of course, the magical powers all depend on the person, pon. Snow White had always wanted to be a magical girl, even though she had previously thought that they were only in anime and manga. When she became a magical girl, she wanted to save people, hence her power, pon! But there’s girls who believe that ninjas and cowgirls are the best magical girls, pon!

But unfortunately, the magic in the Land of Magic is running out because there are too many magical girls, pon. So, there will a test; those who cannot collect enough magical candies every week will be eliminated, pon!

Oh? You want to know what I mean by eliminated, pon? It’s like it sounds! The losing girl will lose her magical girl powers, which essentially means taking a part of herself away from her, which means that she will die, pon!

Of course, if one girl dies before the week is up, no one will be eliminated, pon!

Oh, and I heard that there will a light novel of the events to come is coming out on June 20, so I know that these girls will provide a great psychological and gruesome tragedy that readers will enjoy, pon!!!!

Er, I mean, it will be a light novel (novella with a few manga-like pages) of sixteen girls who discover the true meaning of magical girls and friendship through enduring tests and experiencing each one of them losing their magical girl powers.

Bye for now, pon!

-Megan V, 11th Grade

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

startouchedqueen_roshanichokshiBeautifully illustrated from the first line, Chokshi’s fantastical The Star Touched Queen shows the path an Indian queen who finds her way to the light.  Through thick and thin, obstacles and triumphs, Mayavati searches from hiding behind her own shadows to grasping the stars that lay above her.  My favorite part of the novel was the writing style, especially the amazing imagery used when describing the young queen’s journey.  Mayavati, a very dynamic character, grew along with the words throughout the tale.  At the start, when her story was a routine of palace life and a shameful astrology, the vocabulary chosen was more ominous.  However, there was always a light, a small hope, which rose and fell as Maya (for short) ventured through the times.  And, upon reaching the final few chapters, the writing climaxed to a breath of new life.

At the same time the queen was a strong, ferocious, and gallant leader, she was still the vulnerable seventeen-year-old introduced at the start of the novel.  This clashing of alternate personalities describes teenagers very well.  So, it always brought me back to the song “Vincent” by Don McLean.  The piece, emotional and ballad-like, tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh.  The first line, “Starry, starry night” is a reference to one of his most famous paintings.  But, it also ties in well with Mayavati’s destiny.  The two are both artists:  one, an illustrator of life and the other, a storyteller.

I can usually sense when a book is an author’s first publication.  However, in Chokshi’s case, the novel was very well written, and she was able to truly capture the life of the characters.  In addition, I have no doubt her second book, released in March of this year, will be no different.  It will be in the same universe, but delving more into characters briefly introduced in The Star Touched Queen.  This first book; however, was one of those novels which olds a special place and one I will definitely read again.  So, if you are intrigued, check it out!

-Maya S.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Magnus Chase: The Hammer Of Thor by Rick Riordan

magnuschasehammerthor_rickriordanRick Riordan has done it again: with the second installment of his retelling of Norse mythology, he brings out the laughs and slightly more mature elements that add the modern world to the books. All in all, these elements add to a tale that is fun to enjoy and interesting to read once again.

First, the laughs. We see Thor again, with more arrogance and goats. We get more sass from Jack, and Sam hilariously trying to find her way through her to be marriage and her Valkyrie job. There are many new characters and Riordan rewrites old legends in his way, including one where Thor had to wear a dress.

Finally, for the mature elements, we have to remember that usually, these books are meant for 8-12 year olds. However, with his more recent books, Riordan has tapped into the LGBTQ community, like when he revealed in Percy Jackson: Heroes of Olympus series that Nico was gay and the introduction of a (literal) gender-fluid kid named Alex. While this stuff may be mature for some people of this age group, I am quite happy that the author is bringing them up front, especially as loved main characters, and not putting them on the back burner like most YA authors of this time would.

All in all, it was a worthwhile sequel for this series, and even a wonderful book for those new to the Riordan fandom, even if not many have heard of the legends of Norse mythology.

-Megan V., 11th grade

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

harrypotterchamberofsecrets_jkrowlingHarry Potter, ready to head back to Hogwarts after another long summer at the Dursely’s, gets an ominous message from a house elf named Dobby that he should not return to school. He returns to what he believes is just another year at Hogwarts but when messages written in blood are found on the wall declaring the Chamber of Secrets had been opened, students are petrified, and a mysterious voice that only Harry seems to hear, the entire campus is left in fear. This perplexing plot snatches the reader’s attention as Ron, Harry, and Hermione slowly find pieces to this puzzle.

In the midst of all this, Harry find a journal from a student named Tom Riddle which shows him the last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened. According to this, Aragog, a spider Hagrid had care for, was the result of the attacks. This is what really left me puzzled. Why would Hagrid let his arcomantula hurt the students? He was always nice to all the students and never would want to harm any of them. So, obviously the trio had find out what really happened on that day. Hermione, being the brains of the group, figured out what was down in the Chamber of Secrets and learned how to find it only to be petrified.

Harry, Ron, and the clueless Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gildroy Lockhart, all head down to the chamber. A rock slide separates them leaving only Harry to fight the beast hidden away in the secret room along with young spirit of Voldemort. By a miracle from Godric Gryffindor, he defeats Voldemort and his basilisk before being rescued to safety by Dumbledor’s pet Phoenix, Fawkes.

A wild ride of twists and turns, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets keeps you captivated through the very end. It is an amazing sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and a great piece of writing from J.K Rowling.

-Ava G.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

steeplejack_ajhartleySteeplejack by A.J. Hartley is a fantasy novel telling the tale of 17-year-old Anglet Sutonga, who lives in the city of Bar-Selehm; the story is a loose representation of South Africa with the rich whites and the poor blacks. In her Lani family, she is the third daughter; the Lani people hold the tradition of having the third daughter being cursed. Despite that belief, Ang continues her employment as a steeplejack. After finding the boy who was supposed to be her new apprentice dead, Ang feels responsible to investigate his death-even though she had never met him.

After the Beacon, an important symbol for the city of Bar-Selehm, is stolen, tensions escalate across the city. Regarding the murder of the apprentice, the politician, Josiah Willinghouse, hires Ang as a private investigator to look into his death. While investigating, Ang discovers a complicated layer of events that are all connected to each other. Uncovering the various truths about her city, Ang is able to bring the connection to light and make sense of all that is going on.

Having a slow start, the novel picked up the story and gripped me with the mystery. Ang is good at recognizing and making connections that make sense at the end of the novel. Speaking of the main character, I felt like she had a great personality and was relatable. Also, another great aspect of her was how she persevered, despite the difficult times she had to face. I liked the ending because it was unexpected, and it was not lacking. Overall, a great read, there is a sequel coming out for those who enjoyed this first book.

-Anmol K.

Steeplejack is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library