Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Amazon.com: Lady Susan (9780486444079): Austen, Jane, Chapman, R. W.: Books

An evil mother tries to force her daughter into a harmful marriage. Mrs. Susan was selfish, cruel and manipulative. She abused her children, betrayed her friends, and threw her weight around in horrible ways. Her original marriage plot fails, and Jane Austen fails to punish her for the shame and self-knowledge that the reader expects until the end of the novel. This may be because she is a bit of a fan of this deceitful and dour-headed character herself. After all, Lady Susan wielded power primarily to destroy other people’s homes and to try to torture her own daughter. In this work, Austen seems to divide herself into two parts. On the one hand, she delightedly displays the vital energy of a gifted, Bohemian lady, while at the same time rejecting the sexiness and selfish desires of her heroine’s story.

Mrs. Susan hopes to find another school for her daughter unless she gets married soon. Sympathetic Aunt Catherine had no idea of Mrs. Susan’s intentions, but she suspected that Frederica had had other reasons for dropping out of school than, as her mother claimed, an impatient attempt to escape the teacher’s education. And she believes that if you neglect early education, it will be difficult for children to make up for it when they grow up. Frederica stayed. She had a piano to play, but her aunt seldom heard her play. Similarly, there are many books in her room. But, she says, as a girl who has been running wild for the past 15 years, she can’t read them and won’t. Of course, what she said might be true, and Jane would probably agree with that. However, in this novel, Jane Austen’s purpose is not to talk about educational theory, but to expose the cruelty and hypocrisy of Lady Susan.

From the perspectives of Mrs. Susan, Mrs. Vernon, Mrs. Johnson, Master Reginald and other protagonists, the novel reveals the characters’ relations and ugliness, good and evil, and embodies the writing characteristics of the coexistence of multiple morality and the echo of narrators and their voices.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

The sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep tells the story of adult Danny Torrance. Traumatized by the horrific events at the Overlook Hotel, he’s developed alcoholic tendencies like his father; however, when he settles in the town of Frazier, New Hampshire, Dan stops drinking and begins working at a hospice, helping dying patients pass on peacefully with his strong psychic abilities, or “shine,” earning the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

While he settles down, a girl named Abra Stone is born, and her shine is even more powerful than Dan’s. They sense and understand each other from when she is very young, all the way through most of her adolescence. 

They don’t see a need to actually meet until The True Knot, a group of people who feed off of shine, usually children’s, to keep themselves immortal, becomes aware of Abra’s immense power and comes for her. Dan and Abra together, along with a few friends in on the secret of the shine, work together to end The True Knot forever.

Dan’s character development was one of the first things that struck me deeply. No matter how much he swore to himself that he would never become like his father, he drinks and drinks, traumatized by the Overlook Hotel and afraid of his abilities. However, unlike his father, he realizes what he’s doing, and mends himself, using his abilities for good. 

Dan’s relationship with Abra was also an incredibly interesting element of this story. Despite never meeting before, the two psychics speak to each other like old friends when they actually meet, and Dan quickly takes on a fatherly role, helping Abra control her abilities. From the beginning, Abra is fundamentally good; though she makes mistakes and badly estimates some decisions, her actions are always for the betterment of others’ lives. 

After reading both this novel and The Shining, I would say that the sequel is more advanced and interesting than the original, although The Shining was crucial to setting the stage for Dan’s development and life. Doctor Sleep tells of the impact of psychological trauma, recovery from that, the use of power for good, and the development of family independent of blood relation. Some elements of the story are still chilling to the bone, as is Stephen King’s norm, but the novel overall develops the experience of life in addition to just the horror.

-Adelle W. 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King 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

School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

‘In the forest primeval, a school for good and evil, two towers like twin heads, one for the pure, one for the wicked, try to escape you’ll always fail, the only way out is, through a fairy tale’

These are the opening words of Soman Chainani’s first book in the School for Good and Evil series, also known as SGE to many fans. The first book, which is called The School For Good and Evil, has 488 pages, and can be found in the children’s section of the library.

This is one of my favorite books, and it holds deep meaning for me. When I first met my pen pal, this was her present to me. I have cherished this book and series, because it is a reminder of her, no matter how far apart we live.

We begin our tale in a small town. We meet Sophie, the epitome of a pretty pink princess. While she goes about her daily routines, including rigorous skin care, and primping and preening, we find out that there are kidnappings in this town, every year.

The villagers of this town have come to the conclusion that there is a ‘Schoolmaster’, kidnapping two children every year. At first, it seems as though there is no pattern to this kidnapping. Some years, two girls. Others, two boys. Sometimes, one of each. But finally, the villagers make the connection. One child is pure and good. The other is wicked and ‘evil’. The adults in the town didn’t know what to make of this. But, the children did. They found their old schoolmates in the pages of their favorite stories. These kidnapped children were becoming the heroes and villains of fairytales. And they were kidnapped to go train for fairytales at the Schools of Good and Evil

We find out that Sophie is pining to be kidnapped, to go to the school of Good. We also find that Agatha, her ‘friend’, is the perfect candidate to be kidnapped alongside Sophie, and attend the school of Evil.

Well, the hopes of Sophie and the assumptions of the villagers were correct. Agatha and Sophie were kidnapped by the Schoolmaster. But, as they are dropped off at the School for Good and Evil, some things did not go according to plan.

Agatha was dropped at the School for Good, and Sophie was dropped at the School for Evil.

Well, I won’t spoil anymore. I highly suggest checking this out at the library. Happy reads!

-Sophia D.

The School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani is available to download for free from Overdrive.

Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is the exciting third installment of the Serafina series, with Serafina and the Black Cloak and Serafina and the Twisted Staff being the first two. 

Serafina wakes up to a drastically different world from the one she remembers. An old enemy becomes a new ally, while other foes become more deadly.   If Serafina doesn’t expel the evil force that is seething with rage from past battles, all of Biltmore, (the enormous estate within the Blue Ridge Mountains) and its inhabitants, will be destroyed.  Serafina must band together with her friends, old and new, to put an end to the enemy who cannot be killed before he puts an end to everything they love.

I loved this book and I wish it wasn’t the last in this series. All the books are so unique compared to the typical books you see today. The way the author describes the setting of majestic Asheville, North Carolina, makes you feel like you’re really there. This is an amazing book topping off a great trilogy and I definitely recommend it!

-Kaitlyn S.

Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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

Hunger by Michael Grant

Hunger, written by Michael Grant, is the well written sequel to Gone. In the first book, everyone above the age of fifteen disappears. The other kids, fourteen and under, need to survive. But, when the kids have their birthday and turn fifteen, they have a choice. They could either step out of the FAYZ (the area where all adults have disappeared) or they could stay. In Hunger, Sam and his friends decide to stay, and now the kids are running out of food, water, and are on the brink of death.

I really enjoyed this book; especially because of how suspenseful and gruesome it is compared to the first novel. Even in the first chapter, a innocent boy dies to a swarm of mutated worms that burrow into his body. This was a thrilling start to the book and kept me on edge throughout the novel!

Beside food shortages, Sam’s evil brother Caine is back and wants revenge. In between books, Caine has been visiting a dark creature. It has been living under ground in a mine shaft waiting for someone to find it. In order to survive, the Darkness needs  radioactive substances. Caine goes to the power plant, takes it over, and then takes the Darkness its food.

In the climax of the book, Sam and his friends try to stop Caine and the Darkness. Surprisingly, Caine ends up betraying the Darkness and burying it in the mine shaft! Sam and Caine part ways and the kids discover a way to produce food by fishing and farming. I really enjoyed this book, especially with all of its surprising twists, deaths, and an all around great story line.

-Daniel C

Hunger by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Gone by Michael Grant

Imagine a world with everyone fifteen and older completely gone. Kids are fighting each other, food is running low, and some animals and children are mutating and growing powers. Gone by Michael Grant follows Sam, a regular teenager who lives in the FAYZ or the Fallout Alley Youth Zone.

The story follows Sam’s challenges of keeping everyone in control while at the same time, trying to hide his secret mutation. Surprising and shocking, Sam discovers that he can shoot light lasers out of his hands! Sam later finds out he has a brother that also has powers. But Caine, his brother, turns out to be evil! So, Sam and his group of friends have to fight Caine in order to keep their home town safe.

I really enjoyed this book because it emphasized how crazy the world would be if adults were gone. My favorite character by far was Sam because he was nice and had really cool powers! If I could choose one superpower, it would be super speed, like The Flash. Gone is a perfect book for middle schoolers and up. With a mix of mystery, thriller, and all around excitement, Gone is a book I would definitely recommend.

-Daniel C.

The Gone series by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Summer has been normal and boring for Harry Potter until right before the end. Dementors show up in his town and attack him and his cousin Dudley. Harry uses magic to fight off the creatures and, almost instantly, gets sent a letter from the Ministry that is requiring him to go to a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing it will be decided if Harry should be expelled from Hogwarts. At the hearing it is decided that Harry will not be expelled from Hogwarts. Once there, Harry notices a lot of strange things. Skeletal horses are pulling school carriages, but he is the only one that can actually see the horses. Also there is another new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Dolores Umbridge. There are also rumors that Harry and Dumbledore are going crazy for thinking that Voldemort is returning. The only people that stand by Harry’s side are Ron and Hermione. Harry frequently gets detention with Professor Umbridge for lashing out at the people that think he’s crazy. Professor Umbridge soon becomes Hogwarts High Inquisitor which gives her the power to sack teachers whenever she feels that it’s necessary. Because of Harry’s frequent detentions, Professor Umbridge decides to take away the things Harry loves most like Quidditch, Sirius Black’s letters, and the ability to visit Hagrid at his hut. In retaliation, Harry forms a defense group which he calls Dumbledore’s Army. Professor Umbridge soon finds out, and Dumbledore takes the blame. In doing so, Dumbledore has to leave Hogwarts to avoid being arrested. Harry frequently has dreams of dark corridors and locked doors, and his scar prickles very often. Harry then finds out that Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, was killed, and Dumbledore tells Harry the ultimate prophecy: If Harry doesn’t kill Voldemort, Voldemort will eventually kill Harry.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive