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

Image result for midwinterblood

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