Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II in the Pacific that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the war with the Japanese. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school and the war with the Japanese. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist, but it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids while at the same time remembering the things that happened, so I think that the way it was written was appropriate.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history and WWII.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida

picturebride_yoshikouchidaPicture Bride, a novel by Yoshiko Uchida, is the story of a teenage girl named Hana who is sent to America. She carries a picture of a man she has been arranged to marry but has yet to meet. Traveling an ocean away from her once noble Japanese family, Hana is promised that in America, she will live a life of comfort with her merchant husband, Taro Takeda. Hana is devastated when she finds not a successful merchant in San Francisco, but an impoverished shopkeeper who can barely provide for himself. However, despite her many trials, Hana and her husband learn to be happy in a marriage that seemed doomed to fail. San Francisco was not kind to Japanese immigrants in the mid-twentieth century, and Hana soon found herself faced with racism and hardships, all leading up to the one event that would change her life: the Japanese internment camps.

This novel has become one of my all time favorites, not only because of the wonderful writing style that Uchida uses, but because of his portrayal of Hana Takeda. Hana shows us rare insight into the mind of a young immigrant woman. Forced into a situation that she cannot control, Hana learns to adapt to a society that seems out to get her from the moment she sets foot on its shores. In her time period, women’s rights, especially those of an immigrant woman, were stifled. Hana was expected to be a homemaker and a mother. Graceful and dignified, Hana dares to quietly go against the norms of her culture and become an independent woman who struggles to adapt to a foreign nation and values.

-Mirabella S.

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

threemusketeers_alexandredumasThe Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, was written in 1844. Set in France in 1625, it takes place during the reign of Louis XIII, with Cardinal Richelieu as his advisor. D’Artagnan leaves his home in Gascony and goes to Paris to join the Musketeers. At an inn on the way, he gets into some trouble and has the “letter of recommendation” his father had written for him stolen. When he gets to Paris, D’Artagnan visits the captain of the Musketeers, but is not admitted due to the fact that he does not have the letter. As the story progresses, D’Artagnan meets the three musketeers that he is to be good friends with, and gets caught up in political intrigues, of which some he involves his friends.

I liked this book because I remembered learning about this part of history at school, so it was a bit more enjoyable because I knew the historical background of the political characters (like the King, Richelieu, Queen, etc.). I also enjoyed reading it because the characters had distinct personalities and were not flat, and they each had their own flaws. Although I did not remember the description of each main character and their lackeys that was near the beginning of the book, I realized their personalities as I read so it was nice to not have to continually refer to earlier parts of the book to remember which character was which.

-Aliya A.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Hoopla

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf

watchthatendsthenight_allanwolfBeautifully crafted, Wolf’s words hit close to home in this lyrical story of the Titanic. The wealthy. The refugee. The captain. The iceberg. The voices on the ship which went down. Allan Wolf, along with a writing team including Angela Dawe, Laural Merlington, and Natalie Ross, have created another view of the tragedy which occurred on April 15, 1912 aside from its Hollywood adaptation.

Starting with the iceberg, Wolf creates a feel of the circle of life, as well as the known aura of foreboding death.  However, the scene quickly switches to the maybe-naive, maybe-ignorant lives of the humans boarding the boat.  There is a father and two sons, a Lebanese refugee immigrant, the rich, the con-artist, the crew, and 2,228 others.  Throughout all of the introductions of the book, I thought of an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Daydreams”.  The subtle light strings with the hint of suspense in the undertone of the bass line imitated the tone of Wolf and his co-workers.  I really enjoyed this style of his writing, for he developed each character, fictional and not, as if it had a rich library of history books published.  However, as some writers would take several chapters to illustrate this, Wolf masterfully sculpted it into a few pages of lyrical prose.

The journey the reader takes across the 480 pages start and end with the iceberg itself.  Every few voices, the iceberg would appear, as if the reader needed a reminder of its unquestionable existence.  With it, I always would think of a leitmotif of Host’s “Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age—The Planets Suite”.  Its dark and brooding sound, especially as you reach the bridge, reminds me of the sad truth of death.  Wolf’s writing about the iceberg paints these notes into the reader’s mind.  And, as the distance between the ship and iceberg becomes narrower, I think of the Holst’s piece, growing louder and louder as if in an unheeded warning.  And, as his piece ends, the fate of the ship does as well.

The Watch That Ends the Night was one of the best books I have read in a while, and it was due to the amazing writing and imagery the authors weaved into it.  I would recommend this to any reader seventh grade and up.

-Maya S.

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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

Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick

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Eric Seven is just a normal reporter, reporting in the near future about an island that has no children, but everyone is healthy and never ages. How then is he involved in an obscure sacrifice despite never having set foot on the island? And why does he recognize Merle, a pretty young woman that he soon falls for?

Seven Erics. Seven Merles. All because of a promise to live seven times, yet sacrificed each and every time. A tale of love and tragedy that is thousands of years old.

At first, this book was confusing. However, Sedgwick only makes it confusing in the first story, writing six more short stories and an epilogue that ties everything together to properly explain the first story. Each short story also presents different kinds of love and how far one is willing to go for it. For example, one story talks about love when both people are the same gender, and the lengths one of the women goes just to see her love again. Another story shares how a man sacrificed his life to save another man, all for a stranger’s daughter that he never met.

This book is also one for fans of historical fiction. Each story takes place in some part of famous historical events twinged with fantasy, from vampires in the dark ages to a family that wants to be neutral in World War II. This book blew my mind with how incredible it was written, and I hope that you can have a chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Midwinter Blood is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Reeling Through the Roaring Twenties: A Bright Young Things Series Review

brightyoungthings_annagodbersenFLAPPERS, FRINGE DRESSES, JAZZ, AND DECADENCE!

The year is 1929. Eleven years have passed since the First World War. No longer is there any grief or sorrow among the former disillusioned youth. Instead, there is an air of decadence and desire among them.

New York, the cultural capital of the era, is ruled by the Bright Young Things. This new generation of young women chase their dreams, defying the traditional patriarchal society that once stifled their passions.

Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur, inspired by the culture of New York, escape their Midwestern town for the lights and ardour of New York City. However, the two girls leave much more behind than just their old homes. Ms. Grey, raised as an orphan by her authoritarian aunt, escapes from an untimely arranged marriage to find her infamously wealthy father, Dorian Grey. Ms. Larkspur, on the other hand, escapes her extremely religious family to become the next Broadway Babe.

All Cordelia wants is to be part of a wealthy, loving family, and all Letty wants is to see her name in flashing lights. However, the two girls soon find out that their positions are ones that many girls fight for-and will even kill for. The girls find themselves in a city much more glamorous, yet equally dangerous than they have ever dreamed of. Only with the help of the young flapper Astrid Donal do these girls finally assimilate into the rich culture of the metropolis. Raised differently than the other two girls, Ms. Donal seems to epitomize perfection–she is wealthy, beautiful, and her lover is Cordelia’s greedily rich brother, Charlie. Despite Astrid’s perfect life, she faces her own plights in New York. Together, the Bright Young Things endure through the harsh circumstances of the city.

Love, drama, illegal ventures, and decadent thrills soon become an everyday part of the girls’ lives.

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Personal Notes from Reading The Bright Young Things Series by Anna Godberson:

  • The book is FULL of words to expand your vocabulary. A majority of the words are SAT-level words! (For reference, the SRI reading level of the books range from 1070-1250, which is a very high lexile range)
  • The book covers are to DIE FOR! Each book comes with a visual photograph of the character. Their style of clothing and their beauty astonishes me to this day. I never pass the Young Adult section of the library without picking one up and gazing at it
  • It saddens me that these books are so underrated! Everytime I check their availability statuses at the library, none of them are ever checked out. It’s not that they are unpopular books, it is just that they are overshadowed by Godberson’s more popular series, The Luxe. 
  • I encourage all teenagers and young adults to read these books. Not only do you get to expand your vocabulary, but you also get to learn about the Roaring Twenties. It goes well with The Great Gatsby (a novel that most high school honors and AP students are required to read!)

-Elaha N.

The Bright Young Things series of novels are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.