The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Have you ever been to the circus? Were you blown away by the trapeze artists and the animals who jumped through impossibly small hoops? Well, imagine a circus which operates solely on magic. A circus composed of people with real magical abilities. People who can actually make themselves disappear; people who can create wonderlands made of ice. Now imagine that this circus opens at sunset and closes at dawn; it is only open at night. What I’ve just asked you to imagine is called the Le Cirque des Rêves — the Circus of Dreams.

Even as a young child, Celia Bowen had extraordinary talent. Her father, Prospero, is a renowned and boastful magician who enters into a competition of sorts with a mysterious Mr. A.H–. Prospero teaches Celia the art of magic, specifically illusions. Mr. A.H– chooses an orphan boy as his protege: Marco Alisdair. He takes a different angle with him and reveals to Marco the art of magic through texts and glyphs.

Celia begins performing at Le Cirque des Rêves as the illusionist, while Marco takes a more subdued role as assistant to the proprietor of the circus: Chandresh. Very little of the competition is revealed to the two competitors. In fact, the only thing they know for sure is that they are involved in a competition and that giving up is not an option. Neither knows anything about their rival, much less who it is; nor do they know much about the rules or endgame. As one might expect, as the story progresses Celia and Marco begin falling in love, and neither is aware of the consequences that this might entail.

Even before I had begun reading this book, I had fallen in love with it. The cover is beautiful, and I feel as if it fits very well with the themes of the story — mystery and magic. The way in which this story is written was interesting, and I believe it too added to the mystery and fantasy behind it all. It is written from the prospective of a whole array of different characters including Celia, Marco, Prospero, Mr. A.H–, Chandresh, a German clockmaker, a boy who is completely enamoured by the circus, and other circus performers (including the contortionist: Tsukiko, and twins called Poppet and Widget).

This was a great and fairly quick read. Erin Morgenstern does a beautiful job lacing themes of fantasy, magic, and mystery into her words. This book took me to a completely different world filled with magic and wonder. I’d give anything to visit Le Cirque des Rêves

-Elina T.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa

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The world has been hit by six meteors. This has made most of the world uninhabitable except for a very small coast. However, this coast is also unstable too, and any creature that we consider living lives in the ocean.

Humans do not exist anymore.  The only creatures that live on the coast are animated gems. No really, imagine people made of amethyst or topaz running around and instead of eating food they photosynthesis, which is perfect for living on the coast.

This is the setting for Land of the Lustrous, where Phos (Phosphophyllite) and 27 other “gems” live an immortal life in peace and relaxation. Well peace and relaxation except for the fact that people from the moon come and attack them every three days or so, trying to take them back to the moon forever. Since they are basically defenseless when broken and alive when it happens, there could be a chance to rescue them, but it is slim. Hence, the gems, along with their strong leader “Teacher”, train and patrol every day in order to be ready to fight against the moon people.

Everybody except Phos at least. On the Mohs scale, Phos is the weakest at 3.5, and breaks easily no matter the method. However, she still tries to fight despite not even being able to hold the lightest sword. Throughout the story, she still tries her best to change.

The first thing to notice is that the art, compared to other manga, is very plain. The manga artist is obviously very new at drawing, and some of the pictures look like the reader could draw them. However, to make up for it, the character’s design looks perfectly like each of their respective gems, in which one can tell that Diamond has shiny hair.

For geology lovers out there, each of the gems correspond accurately to their real life counterpart. Besides from aesthetics and Mohs scale, for example, I learned about the gem Cinnabar, which has mercury in it, because the character Cinnabar has poison that looks like Mercury coming out of her.

As for story, there is all types of genre, with the exception of perhaps romance. It is very comical, especially at the beginning, whenever Phos messes up, and the world that they live in looks like another planet despite being Earth, also making it dystopia. Additionally, it is a coming of age story perfect for those who feel like they don’t belong, as Phos feels that she is useless, which leads to very dark choices such as losing her memories on purpose, which is perfect for goth fans out there who think that this is just a cute, silly story (hint: we find out later that it is not that cute).

I hope that you will give yet another good manga a try!

-Megan V, 12th Grade

The Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Image result for city of emberLina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in the city of Ember.  A city underground, but they can still live normally as a human. Lina lives with her grandmother and her little sister Poppy, and Doon lives with his father, who is an inventor.

But political corruption seems to enshroud the city of ember by inserting a rapacious mayor in them. He was a fat guy who stored all the delicious food such as canned peaches, meat, and sweets. While his citizens only eat squash and vegetable soup. Corns could be a very luxury type of food and can be eaten only during festivals.

I thought that this book has such an amazing setting and the adventure that Lina and Doon planned to save their city of very exhilarating to me. I cried so much when Lina’s grandma passed away, that means all the burdens are on Lina’s shoulder. And that also makes me glad for living above the ground in a cozy house with my family.

-April L

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King’s Cage picks up where Glass Sword left off. Mare is now Maven’s prisoner, and will be for six long, torturous months. Although Maven wasn’t born a monster, and his mother is dead, he continues on his path while at the same time being completely aware of it–and in some ways, even choosing it. Although Elara is gone, Maven still makes his own barbaric decisions in order to keep his power. He alienates his court, and most of the Silvers at court can see that he’s unstable and his reign is weak.

During her imprisonment, Mare learns that Maven harbors feelings for her, but in a twisted way–he’s more or less obsessed with her, continually demonstrating how his mind is still affected by Elara’s manipulation.

The first part of the book was slow–it was basically just Mare’s imprisonment, but it makes the second half of the book make more sense, because it sets up the characters’ growth. We also learn more of Maven’s background and the reason for the Lakelander war (which I thought was kind of obvious, but it was interesting watching the characters’ reactions to the knowledge).

There were also two new points of view: Evangeline and Cam. Regarding Cam, I felt like she was put in to give a contrast to Mare in certain ways, but it was kind of obvious. Evangeline shows a surprising side of her that we haven’t seen before, as we were never able to read from her point of view. I thought it was interesting, and it gave some background into her house and why her parents make the decisions they do.

-Aliya A.

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Image result for the phantom tollboothIn this story, Milo can’t focus on leaning like the other kids can. One day, by accident, Milo drove his electric car and was transported to the Land Beyond where he met Tock, a dog that has a clock on its stomach. Together, they planned an adventure to explore Dictionopolis, the world of words.

I am a student who feels like being decapitated when I go to school, it’s real torture. And I really wish that I can enter this type of fantasy with my dog. But it’s also unrealistic, only recreational because a kid needs the care of his parents and without going to school, he can’t survive in this cruel society.

King Azaz, who presides Dictionopolis, assigned Milo and Tock a new mission, to rescue the two princesses Rhyme and Reason. When they left, a new companion joined them and he is the helpful but querulous Hombug. From their they will head to Digitopolis, there will be many dangers lying ahead waiting for the advent of Milo and his companions. But righteousness will also vanquish evilness.

-April L

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Magnus Chase: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

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For fans of Rick Riordan, as I have been for the past 7 or 8 years, welcome to the last installment of his Norse mythology series: The Ship of the Dead. At first, I was very surprised that this series was a trilogy, but then again, the Kane Chronicles were also a trilogy, so the five book per series might be only for anything involving Percy Jackson as a main character. Nonetheless, it is still a great sequel to the next chapter of the mythology series.

Speaking of Percy Jackson, we see him again in the first chapter as he teaches Magnus some tricks while at sea. Aside from the story, we get to see Percy and Annabeth as regular teenagers going to college, and Magnus realizes that if he doesn’t stop Ragnarok, they won’t get the happy ending they deserve, which is a huge eye opener when we had always seen Percy and Annabeth  being the ones shouldering the burden.

Additionally, we have the regular humor, such as with chapter titles like “I inherit a dead wolf and some underwear” and of course situational humor from Magnus himself. Additionally, each of the characters get their own backstory, development, and ending fit for them. We learn how Mallory and TJ die, each of them receiving their own development, and even a hope for the future- such as even though Mallory and Halfborn may break up once every decade, they still love each other.

Each character also teaches a lesson that is not only reflecting of Norse mythology, but also is different and unique compared to regular heroic events (a symbol that I see as part of Riordan’s growth as an author)- Hearthstone teaches us that anger is not always the way to win, Mallory shows that heroes are not always good, Magnus wins with a battle of wits rather than brawn. Additionally, there are some events that although hilarious and frustrating, symbolize the true nature of the gods, and Riordan was clever enough to depict it. Most importantly, there is a relationship that is revolutionary just as Nico and Will’s was, but I feel more in great development and satisfying.

However, I do have to wonder about Magnus’s newfound power, as I don’t believed it was ever explained, but there is hope for the future. I have never read the Apollo Trials, as I’ve been putting it to the side as I never really liked Apollo (who did?) but there are many sinister hints of the future of that series, and it may come that Magnus and the others may appear in that series, although we have never seen the Kane siblings in a very long time.

Overall, I really enjoyed every moment and cannot wait for the future of the series!

-Megan V., 12th Grade

Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive and Hoopla

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Pretty much all his life, Call’s dad has warned him away from magic. Every child who has the slightest chance of being able to practice magic is summoned to the Iron Trial when they’re twelve, but often under different guises—like auditions for dancing, etc.—so most people who don’t have a background in magic don’t know that magic is real. Call has to go, otherwise (and this is implied) the mages will force him to go through the trial anyways.

During the trial to enter the Magisterium, a magic school, Call is supposed to mess up—and he does—sometimes without even meaning to—but the results are unexpected. Instead of failing (which he technically did), Call is chosen to train under the most prestigious mage at the Magisterium. Taken away from his dad, Call learns about things his father never wanted him to know, making friends along the way and learning dangerous secrets about himself.

The Magisterium series is a fantasy written in a collaboration between Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. I really like both authors, so I was stoked when I found out they wrote a book together, and I wasn’t disappointed. Each character has their own personality, interesting backstory, and the plot is intriguing. There is great world building, and the history narrated by some of the characters also reflects their respective personalities in how they deal with the knowledge of their pasts. There are parallels to Harry Potter, but I didn’t think it took away from the book—it was enjoyable as its own read.

-Aliya A.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.