The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

As someone who has been reading American and European-written novels my entire life, the only times I’ve gotten close to experiencing Asian literature were through mangas, movies, and TV series. After reading The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa–a Japanese-written book translated into English–I was opened to a new type of writing style that readers don’t often see in American or European novels. However, that doesn’t make this novel worse than others.

Published in 1994, The Memory Police is a close parallel to 1984 by George Orwell, in the sense that both take place in a dystopian society where the government constantly watches over its citizens. Although both emphasize the dehumanization of totalitarianism, Ogawa wrote her novel differently. Her story begins on a small island where objects disappear routinely, causing people to forget that such things ever existed. Those who try to remember are caught by the police. Those who do remember are taken away only to never return, creating a government-fearing society. The protagonist lives on the island as an orphaned novelist. When she discovers that her editor remembers a long-forgotten object, she keeps him hidden in her home while the Memory Police search for him. As the novel progresses, a fear of forgetting is expressed through her writing as a way to preserve the past.

Considering that this novel was translated from Japanese to English, I’m grateful that the translator was able to keep the same amount of tension and emotion from Ogawa’s writing. Although the protagonist isn’t some fearless character fighting to overthrow the government like in American literature, that only makes her more realistic and more relatable. She isn’t trying to do anything unreasonable–she simply wants her editor and herself to survive. I admit the plot could seem dull to some readers who focus on the action, but I enjoyed the psychological development of the protagonist’s mind. There’s so much depth to her personality and her thoughts which can connect to today’s world. That fear of losing everything–including yourself–is clearly shown in Ogawa’s novel, and I applaud her for her writing.

In essence, I thought the book was a definite read, but only because it appealed to me. The only issue with this novel–along with many other books–is that there’s a limited amount of readers who would be interested. To those who think this novel focuses on characters trying to change a dystopian world: it isn’t what it seems. This book was more psychological than I assumed, with less action or romance. The protagonist doesn’t necessarily stand out amongst the citizens. Instead, the author is trying to show the perspective of a typical person living in a dystopian society. To me, that’s the beauty of this novel. In reality, the novel fits best with analytical readers who want more than just the plot.

-Natasha P.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

From Lukov with Love remains one of my favorite reads ever. I just finished re-reading this masterpiece. Mariana Zapata is a genius and amazing author.

This book is about a girl named Jasmine Santos who ruthlessly trained and trained for figure skating. She never made it very far in competitions as a single skater so she was determined to try pairs. But still, she has trouble succeeding in competition.

She gets offered an opportunity of a lifetime to skate with the great Ivan Lukov who has won many championships. Except, there’s one issue. She hates Ivan for teasing her all her life. He is Jasmine’s best friend’s brother.

Jasmine agrees to this arrangement. She and Ivan still hate each other but have to fake it for the sake of skating. Through banter and nicknames Jasmine and Ivan try to coexist. Slowly they start building a friendship and maybe don’t hate each other as much anymore. 

They are training for the championships and are determined to win gold. But, one day Jasmine lands wrong and her ankle is all messed up. She spends weeks recovering from the injury. They were behind in training but still picked up where they left off.

They ended up winning the championship and each other’s love. Jasmine and Ivan have each other’s hearts and are perfect together.

“I love you so much, I spend all day with you, and it still isn’t enough for me. I love you so much, if I can’t skate with you, I don’t want to skate with anyone else. I love you so much, Jasmine, that if I broke my ankle during a program, I would get up and finish it for you, to get you what you’ve always wanted.”

The book also reflects on the importance of family and friendships. Jasmine really finds herself by the end of the book and she realizes that it’s important to love yourself for who you are instead of comparing yourself to others.

“You are who you are in life, and you either live that time trying to bend yourself to make other people happy, or… you don’t.”

Though the book was a slowburn and the characters didn’t get together until the very end of the book, they still showed romantic elements and how much Ivan and Jasmine loved each other.

“I believe in you. In us. Regardless of what happens, you will always be the best partner I’ve ever had. You’ll always be the hardest working person I’ve ever known. There will only ever be you” -Ivan.

Jasmine and Ivan are everything to me and I will love them and this book forever. 5/5 stars.

-Kaitlyn D.

Brotherband Chronicles Book 1: The Outcasts by John Flanagan

The first book of the Brotherband Chronicles The Outcasts by John Flanagan, is a 434-page book set in the same world as the Ranger’s Apprentice. The book follows Hal and his crew of outcasts a group of Skandians. As Skandians are usually big and strong and Hal and his are not set aside and with nobody wanting to be with them they are outcasts from everyone else. The group of outcasts form the team the Herons. Using their skills they fight against the other teams at sea, As they fight other teams to win glory and a chance to prove themselves.

The story introduces many new terms about boats and sailing for those who are not familiar and it might take some time to get used to some of the new words and remember what they mean. However it does not take away from the book but helps it as it uses accurate sailing terms. The book is great for those who love reading the underdogs who use their skills and smarts to win when they are not expected to. Its set in the same world as the Ranger’s Apprentice and has some connections so any fans of that series should read this book as well.

Overall the book has a good storyline and sets the foundation for the sequels that come after it. The book has lots of background helping readers understand character’s motives, and is well written. With tales of friendships, smarts, action its book many can enjoy.

-Luke G.

Brotherband Chronicles Book 1: The Outcasts by John Flanagan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket

The Ersatz Elevator is the 6th book in the Unfortunate Events series by Daniel Handler, pen name Lemony Snicket. Published in 2001 the book tackles the problems of wealth, the phoniness of pop culture, and the necessity of arguing. Similar to the previous novels it does this whilst exploring the lives of the Baudelaire orphans as they are passed to yet another guardian, who inevitably turns out to be a disappointment. 

The book immediately starts with the children meeting their new guardians, Jerome and Esme Squalor. They quickly learn that Esme only cares about what’s “in” and what’s “out” or what is popular and what is not. Lucky for them, orphans are in, thus they are allowed to stay in the roughly 76  room penthouse. Jerome on the other hand is an incredibly kind man who doesn’t care about popularity, but also hates arguing. To the point that he does whatever Esme says even if it involved eating salmon, a food he despises. Inevitably their enjoyment in the penthouse is short-lived after they spot Count Olaf, who is once again attempting to get his hands on the orphans and their fortune. From this point onwards the book is filled with mystery, adventure, and emotion. 

The book is by far one of the greatest in the series, as it walks the fine line between fiction and reality. It teaches the Baudelaires about the failings of adults and why the world is as bad as it is. Yet it also teaches them about how important it is to be brave, even in the face of total darkness. As well as expanding upon the mystery that has been growing throughout the series. You are left asking even more questions, and wondering why the Baudelaires are in the predicaments they are in. 

-Parker K.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies is one of many novels written by Julia Alvarez. Although it’s not as well known, the book serves as an impactful demonstration of woman empowerment and fighting for justice in an unjust government. All of the characters have their own unique personalities, a connection between fiction and history.

The novel is a work of historical fiction, therefore most of the characters are actually real people. Taking place in the 1960s, three sisters have been reported dead at the bottom of a cliff. The fourth sister, Dedé Mirabal, lives to tell the tale of the three heroic activists. Based on Dedé’s story, the sisters who passed were the primary opponents of General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a dictator of the Dominican Republic at the time. Throughout the novel, the perspectives of all four Mirabal sisters are portrayed as they grow older. From secret crushes to stashing guns in their own homes, the sisters depict the horrors of living under Trujillo’s oppressive regime, but also their interpersonal conflicts with the people they love.

There are multiple themes within this novel, such as racial, gender, and economic injustices, political conflicts, and finding courage in the face of adversity. As a woman myself, it’s always fascinating to see literature with underlying tones of a fight for gender equity and equality. Considering that the books I’ve read throughout my entire life were primarily written by male authors, this was definitely a breath of fresh air. It’s even more inspiring when readers realize that this novel is a work of historical fiction, that these characters have actually faced similar abhorrent situations in their lives. I applaud Julia Alvarez for being able to turn a book filled with many heavy themes and subjects, into a novel that’s light and heartfelt for young adult readers.

There’s a perfect balance between the plot and various themes of the novel, therefore the content is not too heavy for readers to understand. The only thing the book truly lacks would be plot twists and events that would drag the reader into the novel itself. Nonetheless, I highly recommend others to read this book, especially if they’re interested in historical political conflicts or female activism.

-Natasha P.

In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Curtain by Agatha Christie

Curtain by Agatha Christie is the last book in the Poirot series.  Captain Hastings, Hercule Poirot’s old and trustworthy friend, visits him in a hotel known as Styles.  Styles is significant to them because it was there that Poirot first met Hastings.  Poirot is much older now and can only get around with the help of a wheelchair.  However, his mind is as sharp as ever.  A series of events leads Poirot to believe that something dreadful is about to happen at the hotel.

I very much enjoyed reading about Poirot and Hastings meeting up again, after many years of absence.  Still, the tone of the novel is quite foreboding.  It becomes clear that Poirot’s intuition is correct, and that tragic things will occur as the story unfolds.  Similar to other novels in the series, the story is filled with intrigue and mystery.  However, this novel is longer than most of the others in the series.  The plot includes many twists and turns, and is full of surprises.  The ending was especially surprising to me, more so than any other book in the series.

In a way this is one of the saddest books in the Poirot series, but I enjoyed it immensely.  This is certainly one of Poirot’s greatest cases, and it is his last.  This book definitely kept me guessing throughout.  I would recommend reading other books in the series before reading this one, especially The Mysterious Affair at Styles.  The reunion of Poirot and Hastings becomes more meaningful, having read about their previous adventures.  This is a bitter-sweet story, and is a must-read for any fan of the great detective Poirot.

-Oliver H.

Curtain by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Favorite Book Quotes from 2021

I read 78 books in 2021 and here are some quotes that stuck with me.

In, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab wrote, “Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?” This book had so many moments that just made you think about life and what it truly means to have people you love. Addie had to live her life without those meaningful relationships, battling the thought that she isn’t good enough to be remembered.

“She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him.” ― Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows. Kaz and Inej have battled their demons throughout this book and had to learn how to love again. Inej and him have had such a complicated but incredible partnership for the ages. Their love goes farther than just words.

Leigh Bardugo wrote in her book, Crooked Kingdom, “I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way.” If there was one word you had to use to describe how I felt while reading this scene it would be devastated. Matthias and Nina’s love for each other will forever stay, even after death. They are the definition of soulmates.

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”― Colleen Hoover, It Ends with Us. This book was an emotional rollercoaster taking us through the pain Lily survived. She was so strong, surviving an abusive relationship that shattered anyone who read this book into a million pieces.

“We’re more than our mistakes. We’re more than what people expect of us.”― Marieke Nijkamp, This Is Where It Ends. Mistakes don’t define who we are. We grow from them and become a better version of ourselves. People expect you to be perfect when in reality no one is. We are the only ones allowed to define ourselves and who we are on the inside.

“But there’s comfort in knowing that when your plans fall apart, you can survive. That the worst thing imaginable can happen, but you can get through it.”― Jenn Bennett, Starry Eyes. This quote hit me hard because I am a planner and I don’t like to leave things up to fate. But, it made me realize that I can get through it and survive even if all your plans fall apart.

“For so many years I lived in constant terror of myself. Doubt had married my fear and moved into my mind, where it built castles and ruled kingdoms and reigned over me, bowing my will to its whispers until I was little more than an acquiescing peon, too terrified to disobey, too terrified to disagree. I had been shackled, a prisoner in my own mind. But finally, finally, I have learned to break free.”― Tahereh Mafi, Ignite Me. Juliette found herself throughout this series and learned how to truly be herself without the doubt of not being enough.

Holly Black in, The Queen of Nothing, wrote, “Maybe it isn’t the worst thing to want to be loved, even if you’re not. Even if it hurts. Maybe being human isn’t always being weak.” Jude battled her thoughts of hating being human. She grew to know that being human doesn’t mean you’re weak and that you’re allowed to love.

“I’m starting to wonder if this is what being in love is. Being okay with ripping yourself to shreds, so the other person can stay whole.”― Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis. Love means sacrifice. Sacrificing yourself for someone else, someone you love.

“The difference between the ugly side of love and the beautiful side of love is that the beautiful side is much lighter. It makes you feel like you’re floating. It lifts you up. Carries you.” ― Colleen Hoover, Ugly Love. Some parts of love are beautiful but some are ugly. The beautiful side can consume you and make you feel like it’s worth it to get through the ugly side to find the beautiful side.

In November 9, Colleen Hoover wrote, “One of the things I always try to remind myself of is that everyone has scars,” she says. “A lot of them are even worse than mine. The only difference is that mine are visible and most people’s aren’t.” Some scars are visible and show other people the pain that you’ve survived. The scars that aren’t visible are shown when people open up to another person they trust. Both kinds of scars show how strong each person is to survive and get to this moment.

She wasn’t a robot or a disabled autistic girl. She was herself. She was enough. She could be anything. She could make herself into anything. She could prove everyone wrong.” ― Helen Hoang, The Kiss Quotient. Stella doesn’t let autism define her. She alone knows that she is enough and can do anything she dreams of.

Every single one of these books have really changed me and the way I look at love and life.

-Kaitlyn D.

Comparing Series: Shatter Me Series vs. The Cruel Prince Series

The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi and The Cruel Prince series by Holly Black are both amazing fiction book series. The Shatter Me series consists of 6 books and 5 novellas while The Cruel Prince series consists of 3 books.

The Shatter Me series involves the main character, Juliette, who has the ability of the touch of death. Meaning that whoever she touches dies. We follow her through her challenges of finding herself and struggling with being wanted. As a child Juliette was neglected for being they way she was. Throughout the series she finds connections with many characters and she truly finds meaningful relationships. The series has a big plot twist that no one expects in the last 3 books. Each book keeps you wanting more. The first 3 books are in Juliette’s POV while the others are in multiple POVs.

The Cruel Prince series follows a human named Jude. She wants to live in the High Court of Faerie instead of the human world. To live at the court she has to trick the cruel prince named Cardan. Cardan is the youngest prince and he and Jude hate each other. Jude throughout the series finds out she is good at defying people and causing bloodshed. Later in the series Jude becomes the brain behind all of Cardan’s decisions and finds she is a powerful political leader. She has to maintain order in Faerie and keep everything under her control.

In both series there is a powerful female character that is in charge. Jude and Juliette have to maintain order and to do so they have to face many challenges. They overcome their troubles and do what’s better for society instead of themselves. Jude and Juliette learn to sacrifice their own happiness for the better of society. Being powerful rulers, they need to be selfless and Jude and Juliette show this trait throughout the series. Both series also have major plot twists towards the end of the series.

The series have their differences as well. The Shatter Me books are more science fiction while The Cruel Prince series is more fantasy with non-human creatures. The Shatter Me series is focused around overthrowing the corrupt government controlling everyone and everything. They have laws restricting the people in the series and the main character’s main goal is to make the world return to normal. The Cruel Prince series has non-human creatures that are cut-off from the human world. They are separated and the main character, Jude, is a human trying to maintain peace in the non-human world. So, though both series are fiction, they are different types of fiction.

Both series still reflect the same messages. The main characters learn to form relationships with the people they love, showing the message of not having to be alone forever. You will find people that respect you and want to be a positive influence on your life.

Both series were a 5/5 star rating and I definitely recommend reading them!

-Kaitlyn D.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a short, yet classic allegorical novella of dystopian and political fiction. The book takes place on Manor Farm, a large farm where animals constantly feel oppressed by humans. Their anger towards the human race motivates them to rebel against rulership by kicking their farmer out of the farm and running the farm on their own. In Animal Farm–where all animals are supposedly equal–the lives of the animals turn upside down when pigs and dogs begin to rise in power through manipulation and propaganda. Throughout the novel, there’s a gradual progression where the pigs of Animal Farm begin to resemble humans both physically and psychologically.

Although this novel can be a fictional book for children, adults and teens are able to look past the plot and truly understand the story’s meaning. I, myself, am grateful to have read this at an older age so the themes are more prominent and prevalent to real life. Considering that George Orwell himself was a democratic socialist, the novel was a direct form of criticism towards communism, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and two infamous dictators–Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Orwell also includes various ways in which the ruling class ridicules and manipulates the working class. The working class is often seen giving up energy and resources for the benefit of the ruling class, yet they’re brain washed into feeling content with their lives, believing that all their hard work is contributing to the farm as a whole.

After reading the novel, I was amazed by Orwell’s writing. I’ve never read a novel which thoroughly portrays the political maneuvering of totalitarianism. The message woven into the book was strong and clear, yet also written in a disturbing manner that will stick to readers for quite a long time. Personally, I enjoy these heavy topics, so it’s interesting to see Orwell’s light twist on the topic so the novel seems more kid-friendly. I also admire the author’s creativity when writing the book. It’s rare to see a writer eloquently convey a revolution. However, it’s more unique to see an author write an ironic revolution that comes back in a full circle and leaves the characters in the same position as they started. The symbolism of personified farm animals surprisingly pushes the plot forward as well, allowing readers to understand and connect with the characters more than humans ever could.

Would I ever recommend this to a child? Definitely not. I believe that it’s important to understand the true message of the novel, regardless of how dark the message may be. Even though many of us don’t live under a totalitarian regime or a communist society, it’s important to understand how we as individuals play a role in our current society and political system. Are we idly standing by, waiting upon others for a better future? Or are we making our own decisions for the future we want to achieve?

– Natisha P.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City (novel) cover.jpg

Hollow City is the second installment of the wildly popular series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, authored by Ransom Riggs. There are mild spoilers for the first book ahead- I would highly recommend reading the first book before reading this review! You can find a review for the first book here.

Hollow City picks up where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (the first book) left off. Jacob and his friends are in a boat, heading for the mainland, desperate to escape the wights that had been chasing them and restore Miss Peregrine to her human self. Along the way, traveling in and out of time loops, constantly on the run, they discover new and exciting things- including a menagerie filled with peculiar animals, Gypsies with a peculiar son, and the firsthand experience of the impact of World War II on England. However, the wights chasing them are getting closer and closer- and ymbrynes around the world are fast disappearing, falling victim to the wights perverse experiments. The children head to London, hoping to find the last remaining ymbryne- and save the world as they know it.

I really enjoyed this book! While it is an action and adventure book, I liked the way it dealt with very real themes, such as the devastating impact of World War II on England and all of Europe. Even while dealing with heavy subjects, the book had some well-timed humor that really helped add to the depth. It was packed with twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. Overall, I would highly recommend this book- in fact, this entire series! I’ll be starting the third book later today- I’ll keep you posted 🙂

-Vaidehi B.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.