Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in certain countries, is the first book in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The book is about a young boy named Harry, who lives with his abusive relatives, but one day, a giant named Hagrid arrives, telling Harry that he’s a wizard an celebrity. Hagrid introduces Harry to the magical world and other magical sites in London, like Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron.

At Hogwarts, a school for magic, Harry befriends Ron, his first friend ever, and the book-worm Hermione. As Harry is beginning to adapt to his new magical life, he becomes stuck in the middle of a mystery: a magical object has been transferred to Hogwarts’s dungeons, and Harry and his friends believe that someone is trying to steal it. As the school year progresses, Harry struggles to deal with his past, and he his friends face countless of challenges as they try to solve the mystery; they fight a troll, see a mysterious figure in the woods, and play chess on a gargantuan, animated chess board.

In conclusion, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a great beginning for the Harry Potter series. The book is an interesting novel to read, and its sequels only get better.

-Josh N. 

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Told in third person from the perspectives of Izar, the adoptive son of a wealthy and avaricious owner of the oil company Ocean Dominion; and Coralline, a gentle mermaid who is an assistant at an apothecary, The Oyster Thief is a world of juxtapositions, of mermaids and men, water and fire.

When he is young, Izar’s adoptive father tasks him to invent underwater fire so that Ocean Dominion can scour the ocean floor for treasure while destroying the settlements of merpeople in the process. As is evident from this plan, the people at Ocean Dominion regard merpeople as lesser than humans–even monstrous. In contrast to Izar, Coralline is an apothecary whose goal is to heal and care for other merpeople.

Sonia Faruqi switches between the two characters to show how their lives run both parallel to and in contradiction with each other until their storylines meld together into one. The Oyster Thief touches on the concepts of true love and why people are not always how they seem. Coralline with her healing and Izar with his destruction seem natural enemies, yet they grow steadily closer to each other as the story progresses. I liked how Izar and Coralline’s actions are contrasted with each other by how differently each reacts in a similar situation.

The underwater world Sonia Faruqi builds is very well thought out; the merpeople’s food, customs, currency, and so forth are all considered, which makes the story more realistic. I thought the story was well-researched: for instance, species of algae and sea creatures, the physics of the underwater world, and scientific explanations for anomalies that occur (such as underwater fire) are specified. The incredibly logical explanations of the world help make the novel believable and sophisticated.

I did think that sometimes too much time was spent explicitly contemplating ironies or thematic concepts in the story that usually are interpreted by the reader, and many words are also spent giving a specific reason for a character’s actions. However, the novel’s concept is quite intriguing, and the many contrasts in the novel do lend themselves to a lot of irony that might require explanation.

I particularly enjoyed the characterization of the muses Pavonis, Altair, and Nacre (a muse is basically a merperson’s chosen companion, such as Coralline’s shark friend, Pavonis), as they are very developed and lovable characters.

In The Oyster Thief, Sonia Faruqi exemplifies how even the most contradictory matches–Izar and Coralline, poison and medicine, fire and water–can combine to form something healing and possibly incredible.

– Mia T.

The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, written by Pierce Brown, was the last book that I finished before President’s Holiday. The story follows Darrow, a brave and loyal Red. Reds are the lowest “color” in the futuristic society of humans. The story follows Darrow’s adventures in becoming a Gold ( the highest ranking color) and destroying the rulers of the unfair Society form the inside.

Once a Gold, Darrow goes to an academy where all other Golds attend. There, they learn to fight, command fleets, etc. Darrow hopes to graduate, become a well known and trusted fleet leader, and eventually destroy the Society. At the academy, the students are split into houses, each named after a Greek god. Then all of the houses are put against each other in an all-out war; the winning house will then graduate. In the end, Darrow’s house wins, and one of the most powerful leaders of the Society decides to train him in becoming a fleet leader.

All in all, I thought that Red Rising was really good. There was a good mix of intense violence and strategy. The house wars reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Currently, I am reading the sequel to Red Rising and it seems really good! Overall, I would rate the book a strong nine out of ten and would recommend the book to any middle schooler.

-Daniel C.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry

The Little Prince, known as Le Petit Prince in France, is a best-selling novella by French aristocrat and writer Antoine de Saint Expéry. The narrator, a pilot who crashes in the Sahara Desert, is repairing his plane as he is approached by a young boy, the little prince. The prince claims to come from an small asteroid, where he lives with a rose that he loves dearly, and the little prince wants to explore the universe..

The prince first asks the pilot to draw him a sheep, but the pilot is not able to draw a satisfactory sheep for the prince, so he merely draws a box and tells the prince that the sheep he desires is hidden inside. Over the course of a week, while the pilot fixes his plane, the little prince recounts his interesting life story. The prince says he has visited six planets on his journey, which each housed one person: a king, narcissist, alcoholic, businessman, lamplighter, and finally, the last planet had a geographer. The prince also tames a fox, which teaches him that important things can only be seen with one’s heart, not one’s eyes. The book has quite an interesting end: the prince supposedly commits suicide by letting a snake bite him, but claims that he is returning home to his asteroid. The prince finally tells the narrator that it will look like he has died, for his body is too heavy to bring with him. However, the next day, the pilot is unable to locate the little prince’s body.

Ultimately, The Little Prince is a very interesting and touching story with deep lessons behind it. The six people the prince met on the planets each represent a different negative aspect of society, and the reader is left to conclude whether the prince returned home to his rose or died. The Little Prince can be enjoyed by all people of all ages, and it has a different meaning and interpretation for everyone.

-Josh N.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry  is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

Dragon Bones by Lisa McMann

The last book I finished before my winter break was Dragon Bones, part of the The Unwanteds Quest Series written by Lisa McMann. The story follows two young twins, Thisbe and Fifer. Thisbe has been captured by the evil Reviner and must be rescued. The story follows both girls, switching perspectives and showing the reader the struggles of both girls.

The climax of the story is when Fifer gathers a group of her friends, who try to find and rescue Thisbe. Everything is going as planned until the gang encounters the Reviner. Alex, Fifer’s brother and lead wizard, starts to fight the Reviner but is quickly overrun. Eventually, Alex is killed and because he is the lead wizard, once he is gone, all of the magic the group used no longer works. Without their magic, Fifer’s group loses all their fighting ability. They quickly lose their confidence and are forced to retreat, leaving Thisbe behind. Little do they know, Thisbe and a friend of hers that she met while captive, had already escaped and are trying to survive until help arrives.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. I like how the author switched perspectives between the two twins, so you could see what was going on in each of their lives. The ending was cliche and expected, but that was the only problem I had with the book. I would rate this book a strong eight out of ten and would recommend the story to middle schoolers.

-Daniel C.

Dragon Bones and the rest of the Unwateds Quests series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Siren Song by Anne Ursu

The “Siren Song” in the Cronus Chronicles Series is a very enticing book. It does have an unusual main character that still worries about things like popularity and looks and friends still has a legal of uniqueness to herself. The supporting character has a bit of a smaller part in this book than in the first book. The difference in the “development” of the main character is that she has a crush in this new book.

The book is mostly based on the Greek mythology but puts the gods in a negative light of being indifferent to the human race, and are the main obstacle standing in the way of the main character. In relation to the book before it I would say they hold the same weight in being entertaining but perhaps the first one has a stronger plot. Some books might want if you enjoy this book is Percy Jackson, The Oracles Of The Delphi Keep and Keeper of the Lost Cities. The book also had some very funny instances or scenes, so this made the book funny and gave it a comical ring to it all. Through every page that you turn this book becomes more enjoyable and excited, I for sure recommend the Sirens Song.

-Tonantzin L.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, the boy who could fly and never grew up. But do you know how Peter Pan came to be?

Peter and the Starcatchers is the prequel and background of Peter Pan.  It begins one morning in England where two ships are being loaded on the same dock with very different cargo to journey to the remote island of Rundoon. The first ship, a top-of-the-line frigate called the Wasp, is to be loaded with the most precious and powerful treasure on Earth, by orders of Lord Leonard Aster on the authority of the Queen. Then there’s the other ship, the Neverland, a slow, busted-up old ship that will hold an identical trunk full of sand, Molly Aster (Leonard Aster’s thirteen-year old-daughter), and a bunch of orphans that are going to be sold to King Zarboff.  But, at the last second, Captain Slank, captain of the Neverland, switches the trunks so his ship has the treasure.

That treasure is starstuff, and the Asters are Starcatchers, people who try to keep starstuff away from evil people who would use it to do wrong. Peter is one of the orphans on that ship, and when he finds out about the starstuff that shouldn’t be on the Neverland but is, he and Molly become friends and work together to protect the starstuff.  But after a violent storm that shipwrecks everyone on an island occupied by the Mollusk people, will they be able to keep away the starstuff from sailors, pirates, and the Mollusks, and get back home to England in the end?

I decided to read this book because it’s the play I’m a part of at my high school and I thought it would be fun to read again.  This book gives so much depth and background to Peter Pan’s story and it’s a great fantasy adventure book. I’d recommend this to those who love the story of Peter Pan and want to know more!

-Kaitlyn S.

The Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library