The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

At the suggestion from a comment on this blog, I decided to read The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult. I had high expectations for the novel, as I read and thoroughly enjoyed My Sister’s Keeper. The novel did not disappoint.

The story follows Sage Singer, a baker who has shut herself away from the rest of the world. She goes to a grief group, but outside of that, she hides her face from the rest of the world. Even Adam, with whom she has a complicated relationship, may just be pitying her. And then she meets Josef Weber, a nonagenarian with a lingering German accent who has a mysterious request: For Sage to help Josef kill himself.

Why her? you may ask. They just met… Well, Sage’s family, except for Sage herself, is Jewish. And Josef… he swears he was an SS Officer.

What makes this novel touching is how the characters relate to one another. They each deal with their own internal struggle and it is incredible to watch them grow to trust one another, or to betray the other. I loved that the story was interrupted by an extensive account of a young girl’s experience in concentration camps, because it made the novel feel not only like a moral decision in the present day but relevant to how history proves to repeat itself.

This was one of the greatest stories I have read in a while. I strongly recommend this novel. It deserves a 10 out of 10.

– Leila S., 11th grade

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Get ready to clear your schedule because With Malice by Eileen Cook will keep you hooked and unwilling to put her story down. Yale-bound, 18-year-old Jill Charron’s life is turned around when she wakes up in a hospital bed with a big blank where the memories of the past six weeks should be. Learning that she was in a cataclysmic car accident, she is shocked when she learnt it happened in her dream school trip abroad in Italy. Struggling to recover from her injuries sustained in the accident, she is startled to discover her best friend of over ten years, Simone, is dead.

Furthermore, she discovers her affluent father has hired a top-notch lawyer because the car accident and Simone’s death are being investigated as a murder, and Jill is being accused of causing Simone’s death. Simultaneously recovering from her injuries, and dealing with the aftermath of the accident, Jill must piece together the glimpses of memories she has to figure out what really happened to her best friend.

As I read this book, I was completely enamored with the story, and I could not put it down. The concept of the story may not be unique, but it was told in a way that made it seem like it was. The way Jill was portrayed in the story was accurate and she seemed like a real person. The ending fell a little bit flat, but overall the story was engrossing.

-Anmol K.

With Malice by Eileen Cook is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

myladyjane_cynthiahandOnce upon a fantastical time, there was an alternate reality where a queen lived for nine days. Her life is described by the combined efforts of My Lady Jane authors:  Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.  There was once a time that all men were special, amazing creatures called E∂ians.  It was the ability to change into the form of an animal.  But, after some evolution of man, these abilities were hidden, and only sometimes found.  And, now in the 1530s, these E∂ians were either looked down upon or admired.

Lady Jane Grey, of the Tudor house, is to be married to a stranger.  And so is Gifford Dudley, son to the lord of the king.  The two are to produce an heir who will become the king of England. However, they are not fans of this arrangement.  There are rumors saying Gifford spends time with the ladies at night.  It is also said that the reason why Jane always has a book by her side is to hide her ugly face.  What sort of relationship is to develop if neither of them likes the other?  And, according to history, what does it matter, if the queen only has nine days to live?

At this point in the book when these most-talented authors rewrote history, the way it actually was, I was reminded of the song, “On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty.  Though the song title seems out of place in this context, the story is not dark.  However, the slipping into another reality is portrayed by the lyrics and is similar to the happenings in this novel.

This is one of the best books I have read in a while, and I rightfully give it a 10/10, for its originality, humor, and great character and plot development.  If you are looking for a funny, unique, fantastical and sweet novel, I would really recommend checking out My Lady Jane.

-Maya S., 9th Grade

My Lady Jane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Lumberjanes Series Overview

lumberjanesA summer camp for “hard-core lady types”, filled with bear-women, dinosaurs, alternate time dimensions, and a whole lot more crazy supernatural stuff, is the setting of Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes is a graphic novel series created by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen. Lumberjanes is chaotic and full of the unexpected, and it’s great. It follows five best friends, April, Molly, Mal, Jo, and Ripley, during their time at summer camp, which is way more magical (literally) then they ever could have expected. And for the most part, they just roll with it, which makes for some great adventures.

The characters, both main and supporting, are diverse and well rounded. There is a lot of representation going on in these comics, which is great, especially for an all ages comic. One area of representation that I was very pleased to see was LGBT+ because it’s largely absent from most all ages/kids media.

The supernatural aspect of the story is really enjoyable. It’s a bit random and not always super explained, but it’s always really fun and just seems to work. You never know what kind of supernatural antics will occur, but whatever they are, you know they will be enjoyable, even if they don’t totally make sense.

One thing that I think is a really nice touch is the way they work the Lumberjanes earning badges into the story. For each story arc (which lasts a few comics each), there is a page at the begging detailing a badge they are working on. The story somehow ties into that. It’s an interesting take on the idea of scouts earning badges because with the Lumberjanes, the requirements for getting a badge are never as straight forward as it seems.

Being a comic series, the art is an important aspect. And honestly, I have mixed feelings about this. Their isn’t a constant artist/style for the series, and while I’ve never read an issue where the art was bad, there have been some that just didn’t feel like Lumberjanes to me. Sometimes the art is fairly realistic, sometimes it’s more stylized, so it’s really a matter of personal preference whether or not  you like the art in a specific issue. Overall though even when I’m not  a fan of the art I still love reading the comics because the story and the characters are always great.

Lumberjanes has been around for a little while now, there are currently 33 issues of the main series comic, with the 34th being released later this month, as well as a spin off series and some one-offs. This may be a bit overwhelming for some new readers, but as far as comics go it’s not really all that much, plus it would be pretty great to be able to read that many back to back without having to wait.

Overall Lumberjanes is a really fun read that’s doing some great things in terms of representation and overall is something I highly recommend.

-Angela J.

Paper Towns by John Green

papertowns_johngreenWhen I first saw this book, I thought it was kind of weird. I didn’t suspect that the title actually meant something. But after reading other well-known John Green books, I decided to read it. I had heard a lot about the novel—it’s one of my friend’s all-time favorite books—but it was only recently that I gave it a chance.

To be technical, paper towns are “created to protect against copyright infringement” (307). Essentially, they are just made-up towns put on a map by cartographers who wanted to make sure no one plagiarized their design. An interesting idea, but it sounded fake to me. How wrong I was. In “Fun With Copyright Traps: 10 Hoax Definitions, Paper Towns, and Other Things that Don’t Exist,” Crezo pointed out that on the border between Ohio and Michigan, two cities were inserted: Beatosu (Beat OSU) and Goblu (Go Blue), both of which were made up to support the University of Michigan teams and later found out and forcibly removed!

Margo, and in turn Quentin and his friends, develop a fascination with these towns which leads them to leave their high school graduation for a wild adventure in search of Margo. Through all this, the reader learns subtle lessons about life–even if that sounds cliché, that is exactly what someone is left with after reading the book.

This book was fantastic. It’s one of those books that requires your attention. You can’t just read it and forget about it after. Compared to John Green’s other novels, this book certainly dealt with larger issues, but it was still touching in the way all good novels should be. This is the type of book I would love to read again in 10 years, just to see how I have changed and if I can find new meaning in the book. Overall, though, this is a 9 out of 10!

-Leila S., 10th grade

Paper Towns and its feature film adaptation is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow

lastplaceonearth_carolsnowThe Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow is about sixteen-year-old Daisy’s search for her missing best friend, Henry Hawking. Described as impish and ingenious, Henry has been Daisy’s friend ever since they started high school. After Henry misses a day of school, Daisy does not think much of it because Henry does not like going to school, and his parents let him stay home. He does not come for a few days, making Daisy suspicious.

She goes to the Hawking’s’ home, and in Henry’s room she finds a note saying, “Save me.” Determined to find Henry, Daisy ventures into the California wilderness using coordinates Henry had sent to her. She finds Henry, but it is not a happy reunion like she expected. The plot takes an unexpected twist, causing Daisy to have even more questions.

The plot line of this book intrigued me; it was the reason I picked the book of the shelf. Despite the great premise of this plot, it fell a little flat. Daisy was a great main character; she was the right balance of sarcastic and nice. Also, I admired how she was so willing to go into the woods by herself in order to save her best friend. The Last Place on Earth had a lot of potential, but it did not reach that potential. Even though the middle fell flat, the ending was not too bad. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a quick and entertaining read.

-Anmol K.

The Last Place on Earth is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

greenglasshouse_katemilfordWinter vacation. An inn for criminals. Two maps.  One massive adventure. Milo and Meddy, together.  This story begins with a young boy named Milo, returning from his last day of school before Christmas break.  It has started to snow, and he has finished his homework so he can have some fun, but some strange things start to happen.  He and his family, the Pines, live and work at an inn called the Greenglass House.  For a long, long time, it has been the temporary home of several harmless thieves, smugglers, and other suspicious criminals.  Winter is a slow time for the hotel, and customers are rare near the holidays.  However, this year it’s different.  Just as Milo shuts his math book, he hears the distant ring of the bell.  He and his mother, Mrs. Pine, rush outside to see a man trudging up the snow covered front steps.  The man introduces himself, and throughout the course of the afternoon, so do ten other guests, as he is the first of many to stop by this night.  Eleven in total arrive at the Greenglass House, while Milo is thinking this could quite possibly be the worst Christmas vacation ever.  Milo was miserable until a certain girl named Meddy comes to stay as well.

After just one day, Meddy and Milo seem to become the best of friends. Milo shows Meddy a map he found suspiciously left in a rail car.  It is quite a unique map. The two aren’t sure what it is showing, but they believe it is some kind of waterway.  This creates a curiosity in young Meddy.  In her attempt to cheer Milo up, she has an idea for a fun game they could play together.  The basic objective is to find out what the map is and whether treasure exists.  And you have to play while adopting fake characters.  They decide Milo will be a blackjack, the leader, clever and athletic, while Meddy will be incognito.  Milo’s new name is Negret and Meddy’s, Sirin.

They begin their quest in the attic where they find materials such as clothes for Sirin and necessities for Negret.  The game gets pretty fun until one morning, some of the inn’s inhabitants wake up to find they have been robbed.  The two friends put aside the game to search for the missing items.  At this point in the book, I thought of the song, Smooth Criminal, by Michael Jackson.  The tune and lyrics struck me as the smooth criminal in the story left no leading clues from his theft.  As the storyline develops, things start to get intense, violent, and secrets are out in the open.  At this point, I’m questioning whether the situations will be resolved and whether I would be able to hum Happy by Pharell Williams by the last page.

This story twists and twists into a whole new plot.  It changed so much that I vaguely remembered the beginning!  Kudos to Kate Milford on Greenglass House.  This well-written and heartwarming novel deserves 10/10 stars.

-Maya S.

Greenglass House is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library