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.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Jacob used to believe in his grandfather’s stories. Stories of children who could lift boulders, be invisible. Stories of his grandfather fighting monsters, those that will one day be after him. Not anymore. Jacob doesn’t believe in them now that he’s in high school. The monsters? WWII nightmares of the Nazis. The children? Those photos were obviously faked.

He didn’t believe in them again until he saw a monster with tentacles killing his grandfather. But that couldn’t have been real, right? No way monsters were real, just like everyone said around him. But the more he dug into his grandfather’s stuff, the more he believed his grandfather.

He found out that his grandfather used to live on an island off Britain. He convinced his father to go there, and found that his grandfather’s stories were true. A land stuck in 1940, where every day is paradise, and no one ever dies. A place that can hold “peculiars”, children with powers, and keep them safe. And he met an invisible boy, a girl who could fly, and a pretty girl who could control fire, all who knew his grandfather. But he soon learned that if the children are real, the monsters must be too.

I really liked this book, and the sequels after it. Not only did Riggs create a remarkable tale just from looking at pictures, but adding the pictures made the characters seem more real. Jacob is your typical teenage boy, so he has a very funny side, especially when talking to the peculiars about the modern world, such as about email. Additionally, the plot is very well done and intriguing, with well depth ideas about the consequences of time travel and relative nature of crazy.

The powers of the peculiars are also all very interesting, with Hugh’s bees and Howard’s prophetic dream power. Also, there is also a bit of a feminist theme, as the leaders of the Ymbryne are all women, with men not having the ability to be leaders, which is the opposite as of on Earth. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes the idea of women being in power above men, time travel, craziness, fantasy, or historical fiction.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Girl is Murder & The Girl is Trouble by Kathryn Miller Haines

girlistrouble_kathrynmillerhainesThe year is 1942. The setting is New York City. Iris Anderson isn’t any normal teenager. With her dad in the detective business and her mom long gone, she has to fend for herself in her new school. But, as she grows older and starts to meddle in her dad’s business, things aren’t what they seem. Her dad was a naval officer who lost his leg during the attack on Pearl Harbor. But, now he is a private eye, specializing in missing persons. Her mom? She committed suicide six months ago. Iris left behind her rich, affluent life and is now in a dirty public school.

The Girl is Murder

A boy who attends Iris’ school ends up being the subject of a case her father is working on. Naturally, she investigates further. The kid is part of a group of gangsters she met on the first day of school. But how does she get close to them? She makes them her friends; but to do this, she lies. It is not long before they find out Iris’ true identity, and things get complicated.

The Girl is Trouble

girlismurder_kathrynmillerhainesThis book begins as the situation Iris’ and her classmates is nearing a resolution. Iris asks her dad if she can work with him. He puts her on her first case, but it ends up being bogus. Iris’ father can’t trust her, but there is something bigger at hand: her mother’s death. One day as Iris was checking around the house, she notices the safe is open. When she kneels down to close it, pictures of a dead body slip out. Iris doesn’t know what to do next.

The two-part murder mystery series by Kathryn Miller Haines is one that I enjoyed. When I thought I had solved the mystery, the plot turned itself around to be something completely different. So, kudos to Miss Haines, for she developed a character who is rather unpredictable. I would definitely give these books a rating of 10/10!

-Maya S., 8th grade

The Girl Is Trouble and The Girl Is Murder are available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

savingamelie_cathygohlkeIn a cruel world that was once ours in the 1940s, there lived a young woman by the name of Rachel Kramer.  Getting increasingly tired of hearing of her father’s genetic research to create the “perfect” Nordic race for which Hitler strived,  Rachel meets up with her childhood best friend, Kristine.  While the two catch up, they discuss their past life.  Kristine has courted a German SS officer, Gerhardt Schlick.  They even have a four-year-old daughter, Amelie.  However, Kristine tells Rachel with anguish that Amelie is deaf.

A couple days later, Rachel and Kristine find each other again at a banquet dinner also attended by Rachel’s father  and Gerhardt Schlick.  Through all of the presentations and lectures about eliminating the Jews and creating a pure society, Kristine caught the speaker say something about eliminating “imperfect citizens.”  As he continued, Kristine thought about her own child, Amelie.  She was disabled!  What would happen to Amelie if the German soldiers found her?  Kristine became worried and confided in Rachel about her dilemma.  However after a heartbreaking incident, the two are separated.  It is now up to Rachel to carry out Kristine’s plan.  Rachel and her new found friends attempt to save Amelie, much like the title predicts.

I would rate this daring, twisting, and exciting adventure a 10 out of 10.  Its painful story provided a glimpse of life in Germany during WWII and the plan to perfect the Aryan race.  Though devastating, frightening, and uplifting all at the same time, Amelie’s story is quite the historical fiction thrill.

-Maya S., 8th Grade

Saving Amelie is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

imgladididit_cynthiaweilThe Big Apple.  Summer.  1963.  JJ Green. The Music Business.  Room for adventure.

JJ Green, a 16 year old girl, is one to speak her mind.  It has always been her dream to write songs, but there is a slight problem. There are three unbreakable rules in the Green family:

1. The Greens always eat breakfast together.
2. The Greens always negotiate instead of arguing.
3. The Greens always become lawyers.

As I read these first few pages, a song automatically popped into my head: “We are Family” by Sister Sledge.  The Greens were happy family, and especially in the 1960s, families stuck together. This song portrayed the scene of family life perfectly. But JJ shies away from these rules, for her wish is to become a songwriter.  Behind her parents’ back she applies for a job at the music business where her ‘disowned’ uncle works.  He calls it the place where songs are born.  Her parents call it the place where dreams are lost. On the contrary, Bobby, the producer, loves JJ’s talent and hires her as an intern for the summer.  When JJ finally shares her exciting news to her unenthusiastic parents, they are furious. Reluctantly, after tireless debates, they sign the paperwork, but they still are not approving of JJ’s decision. Her parents, then, make a deal: If JJ doesn’t get a song recorded by the time school starts in the fall, she will work as a lawyer. JJ doesn’t feel threatened by this arrangement at all.  At this point I thought of the song, “One Way or Another” by Blondie.  Somehow, somewhere, sometime she will get a record.

However, when the time comes to actually write the song, JJ’s fingers stop.  Her creative juices halt.  Her mind goes blank.  This may be a lot tougher than she set out for it to be.  Until she meets Dulcie Brown, her life flashes before her eyes, of thoughts of the deal with her parents. She cannot live the rest of her life as a lawyer; it just won’t do.  Dulcie, a negro jazz singer with an amazing voice, now a custodian at for the producer, can help her through this rough spot in her career. But things take a wild turn. Although a beautiful song is written, JJ’s heart is broken.

I would rate this book 5/5 stars for its originality and incredible authencity because it was written by an actual songwriter, Cynthia Weil.  I loved the historical fiction aspect as well as her unique style of creative writing.

-Maya S., 7th Grade

I’m Glad I Did is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

scarletletter_nathawthorneI recently read the classic novel The Scarlet Letter. I really enjoyed the dramatic story of Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl as they live in a strict Puritan society. Nathaniel Hawthorne was clever in his symbolic elements to highlight the importance of such things like the scarlet letter itself, her daughter Pearl, and Mr. Dimmesdale among others.

To give a brief description of the story: The novel opens with a woman named Hester Prynne being publicly scorned after her release from prison. The reader is informed that she was convicted of adultery and as punishment must wear a scarlett letter “A” sewn onto the breast of her dress. She is holding her daughter in her arms who we later find out is named Pearl. As the story progresses Hester and Pearl face challenges for being outcasts of their society. But Hester’s love for her daughter and her strength in character get them through along with the help of a sacrificial man (whose name I will not reveal because no spoilers!) The story ends dramatically but you will have to read to find out!

I loved how Hawthorne ended the book because he brought closure with a tiny cliff hanger that perfectly balance the other out. My favorite character is Arthur Dimmesdale-the adored priest of the town who saves Hester from having to give up her daughter. His charm and genuine heart carry off the pages and into the hearts of the readers. The dreary character of Robert Chillingworth gives an eerie vibe to the story when he sets out for revenge against his wife and her mysterious lover. The story and the characters come together in this Puritan society through love, revenge, and more, and it is definitely one of my favorite required reads so far.

All in all, this twisted love triangle story is a classic for a reason. I love the writing and though the vocabulary is tricky at parts, this book is definitely recommended by me!

– Kelsey H., 11th grade

The Scarlet Letter is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.