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

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

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A dark shadow looms over the seemingly-picturesque world of Alagaësia, where humans roam alongside elves, dwarves, and werecats – the wicked and powerful emperor Galbatorix, who rules with an iron fist. For nearly a century, the innocent inhabitants of this mythical land have suffered under the evil king, but all of that is about to change with the birth of a boy named Eragon.

Born as a simple, illiterate farm boy in a small village, Eragon was raised by his uncle alongside his cousin, unaware of anything beyond his home in Palancar Valley and, occasionally, the deep forest known as the Spine. It is in the Spine, however, that his life is changed forever when he comes across a peculiar sapphire-like jewel. After he sneaks it home, though, he quickly realizes that the “stone” that he found was actually a dragon egg, and that he was now a Dragon Rider, who were fabled peacekeepers, scholars, and healers during the Golden Age – the era before Galbatorix. 

Unfortunately for Eragon, being bonded with a dragon is one of the most dangerous occupations in Alagaësia, so he and his newly-hatched dragon, Saphira, are forced to flee from Palancar Valley with the help of Brom, the village storyteller who knows more than he tells, to find the mysterious rebel force which is known only as the Varden.

All in all, Eragon, written by Christopher Paolini, is an intriguing book containing new ideas imbibed with the same adventurous atmosphere featured in other popular series such as The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson. However, it can be said that the writing is rather childish, and so takes away from the overall excitement of the book. Nevertheless, while Eragon may not aspire to the same heights as Harry Potter, it is certainly a classic in its own right. 

-Mahak M.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Finale by Stephanie Garber

Caution: this review may contain spoilers from books one and two, Caraval and Legendary

The Fates have been released from the Deck of Destiny. Legend has claimed himself Elantine’s heir, and his coronation as emperor of Valenda is soon to occur. Scarlett and Tella’s mother has not opened her eyes since her imprisonment in a card. Legendary, the sequel to Stephanie Garber’s Caraval, has dressed the place behind the curtains for a final act: the finale.

While the first two books in the trilogy are told by single narrators (Caraval told by Scarlett and Legendary told by Tella), the two sisters take turns narrating in Finale. I thought the combination of Scarlett and Tella’s narration provided a wonderful balance to the story, for each sister has a unique personality and an individual mindset. The idea of the two points of view working together to build this final story also compliments the theme of sisterly love, which is present throughout the trilogy.

Finale focuses largely on the power of love when directed at someone and when used against beings who live off of fear. This story exemplifies how love–whether given gently like Scarlett or ferociously like Tella–may be the strongest force against enmity.

In Finale, Stephanie Garber expands upon certain objects and curiosities that previously appeared in the other two books. I was interested to learn more about Scarlett and Tella’s mother’s past, why Scarlett sees feelings in color, and how Scarlett’s magical dress originated.

I was a bit disappointed that Caraval is not played in this final book, but by no means did the story lack the magic and elaborate colors found in Legend’s game. Understandably, with the Fates running free in Valenda, the characters can no longer simply play a game (not that Caraval was really just a game).

Though Finale is filled with visited dreams, different kinds of magic, and unusual places, I still think my favorite book in the series is Caraval (though I usually tend to favor the first book). It could just be the initial magic of Caraval and Legend that makes the first book so compelling or the mystery of who is an actor and who is not. However, I’m glad I read Finale, as it expanded upon many elements of the magic and characters while also leaving some untied strings to the story.

– Mia T.

Finale by Stephanie Garber is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones, the first novel of A Song of Ice and Fire, is a fantasy novel by George R. R. Martin. It is considered an adult novel, with explicit scenes, so it should not be read by younger readers. The majority of A Game of Thrones takes in Westeros, a vast continent that spreads from a warm south to a freezing, mysterious north. In the north is a massive wall, manned by an organization known as the Night’s Watch, designed to keep an alien, zombie-like race known as the Others out, while the country’s center of power is in King’s Landing, a city in the South that contains the Iron Throne. Upon the Iron Throne sits the King of Westeros, who supposedly has the support of the seven Great Houses.

A Game of Thrones has three main plot lines. The first focuses on the fight for the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. Here, King Robert Baratheon and his Hand, Eddard Stark, attempt to keep Robert in power as they struggle to determine who is friend and who is foe. Robert and Eddard are surrounded by enemies, bystanders, and traitors, all while the country’s Great Houses wage war for control over the Iron Throne.

The second significant plot line is that of Bran Stark, Robb Stark, and Jon Snow. Bran Stark, Robb Stark, and Jon Snow are all sons of Eddard Stark, but Jon is an illegitimate son. While Bran and Jon defend the Wall from northern invaders, like the mountain men and Others, Robb Stark focuses on becoming the ruler of Winterfell, in place of his father’s absence.

Finally in the far east, upon another continent across the sea, is the plot line of Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of the Iron Throne’s previous king, who had been overthrown by King Robert. Daenerys and her brother Viserys Targaryen focus on reclaiming their rightful inheritance, as they begin to gain power in the east.

A Game of Thrones is a complicated mess, with main characters scattered throughout the globe. It can most similarly be compared to The Lord of the Rings, but with more complexity, more characters, and more explicit scenes. A Game of Thrones should only be read by a dedicated reader, or by a person who has the time, due to its length and large amounts of characters. Readers desiring a quick read should definitely not check out A Game of Thrones.

-Josh N. 

A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library