The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

With a chilling and intriguing beginning, Neil Gaiman instills a desire to keep reading. It’s one of those books that you almost cannot put down once you start. Gaiman’s unique plot line and incredible writing skills create such a vivid image in your head, it’s like you’re standing right there, in the middle of a graveyard.

Starting off with the gruesome death of a family, Gaiman automatically begins his book with an adventure. The story only gets better when the reader realizes the family’s baby slipped away unnoticed by the killer and ventures out the front door to, where else, but a graveyard. Gaiman writes with a dramatic, ominous tone and paints a picture of the dark sky and lonely graveyard. After a suspenseful scene, the baby is hidden by the intrigued spirits of the yard in the nick of time. A problem begins to rise when residents of the graveyard debate if the child should be taken in or not. Soon it is revealed that the human child will be adopted by the spirits and granted the Freedom of the Graveyard. The baby is introduced with a new name, Nobody “Bod” Owens, and the novel unwinds to reveal Bod’s adventures within the graveyard premises. Surely with the hundreds of ghosts to the mysterious man who lives on the borderline of life and death, Bod would be safe. But Gaiman’s novel doesn’t rest on safety and support; rather it’s the complete opposite.

Gaiman spins off into a wonderful journey starting from when Bod is at the young age of four. The graveyard holds many thrills and Bod makes no hesitation to jump right in. He befriends fellow humans and goes on reckless adventures, specifically to the grave of a Sleer: a snakelike creature who is the oldest creature in the graveyard and guards precious treasure. Bod also has a tendency to get himself into trouble; this is a result of his curiosity and mischievous personality. He literally falls into a death trap when he falls through a ghoul gate. He is transported into the Underworld and is on the brink of death before he is rescued by an unlikely soul. The young protagonist continues to stumble through life inside and outside of the graveyard. He encounters near death, celebratory dances, risky friendships and lasting memories until the end.

Neil Gaiman uniquely twists the themes of love, home, safety and family by setting his story in a graveyard, a place normally acquainted with death, gore, horror and dullness. Bod realizes that life is always changing and there’s always more to discover. The reader learns along with Bod, runs side by side Bod in his adventures, fights evil alongside Bod and ultimately, falls in love with the graveyard as Bod does.

-Jessica T.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive and Hoopla

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

“In my hefty elf sack, your nightmares now keep. Better think twice before falling asleep.”
-The Nightmare Elf

welcometothedarkhouse_lauriestolarzThis chilling, nightmare-filled story takes place when seven fans of the famous horror film director, Justin Blake, enter an online contest. They are required to write about their worst nightmare, and the winners get the chance to stay at his legendary B&B, Dark House, featured in his movies. The fans also get to meet the famous man and sneak a look at his upcoming movie. Delighted to find they have won, the horror hopefuls, Ivy, Parker, Shayla, Frankie, Garth, Natalie, and Taylor, set out to have the scare of their life. Spending a weekend in the Dark House appeals to most of them like a vacation home, filled with effects that make the house really seem haunted and mysterious. However, their fun and games take a twisted turn when they are taken to an abandoned amusement park. Embodying the spirit of Blake’s movies, the park is like his own movie set with his wildly creepy characters running around. The seven lucky winners discover they must face their worst nightmares and survive them if they want to be set free.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. It’s description of horror and thrill left me wondering about my own nightmares. I knew I sure wouldn’t last one night in that house, not with its scare tactics and lonely halls. Stolarz uses her characters’ different perspectives to create this nail-biting world. As a big fan of horror stories, I was really anxious to see how the ending wrapped everything up. I have to say I was a little disappointed that I was left with so many unanswered questions, but overall the plot line was very intriguing.

I encourage readers who like to be scared to give this book a try. I know some horror stories are a gamble because it doesn’t end the way the readers hope. But Welcome to the Dark House is definitely one of my favorites and I would love to read it again.

-Sabrina C, 11th Grade

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

Image result for attack on titan volume 1

We’ve had zombie apocalypses. We’ve had alien races kidnapping us. There have been so many dystopian stories, from Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games to Divergent and The Walking Dead, in which human civilization is destroyed by some outside thing forcing humans to learn how to survive.

However, get prepared for giants eating humans.

In Attack on Titan, humanity has dwindled to an overall population of two thousand, kept safe behind three walls that separate themselves from the titans. However, Eren Jaeger’s life changes when the outer wall gets broken down by a muscle bound titan, a giant that eats humans. His mom gets eaten by one, in which he and his friends spend the next couple of years trying to get in the Survey Corps as a means of revenge against the almost impossible to beat titans.

Of course, he hates titans. So what happens when he becomes one himself?

Although this series is very popular in both the anime community and among non-anime lovers, I did not like it much. The artwork is not the best, but you can tell Isayama works really hard on each chapter. However, it is the plot that I enjoy. From the twists and turns to the corrupted politics being played in the background, it is easy to enjoy for someone who doesn’t like action. However, there is a lot of gore, as it is not just Eren’s mom who gets eaten. I will recommend it for any dystopia fan and for anyone interested in action.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Hunt Trilogy by Andrew Fukuda

thehunt_andrewfukudaAnother world of fantasy is combined once again with modern science-fiction. Andrew Fukuda’s three book series (The Hunt, The Prey, and The Trap) adds a little more suspense, imagination, and creativity to the bestselling genre. Just think of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend, The Maze Runner, and the Twilight series blended together into 960 pages of extraordinary story.

Seventeen-year-old Gene wakes up every night before going to school, frightened of his true identity being revealed. Once dawn arrives, everybody calls it a “day” to sleep, unless they want to be burned alive by the scorching sun of daylight. As you may have guessed, this is a story about a race of vampires. They are classic vampires that despise sunlight and water, have super strength and speed, fangs to bite down on the rawest meats, and most of all, a delectable craving for the blood and flesh of humans. Of course, Gene is a human out of the millions of vampires around him, and little does he know about the cat-and-mouse game he is about to take part in.

With a Hunger Games-like setting of participants being picked into joining a Heper Hunt, also known as a human hunt, Gene and a few others are chosen to hunt humans and eat as many as possible to be crowned the victor. Obviously, Gene is the only one who cannot eat someone of his own kind. During the training sessions before the hunt, Gene goes unnoticed and is able to communicate with the humans that will be eventually eaten by the vampires. He finds answers to his many questions and is even more curious about the history of the two races. Is there something missing from the evolution of humans and vampires?

The Heper Hunt is only a part of Andrew Fukuda’s trilogy, and he takes you into an amazing world of vampires, similar, yet quite the opposite to human society today. This is a plot that will keep you reading until the ultimate finale that holds all of the unanswered questions. I would recommend this book to ages 13-16 and give it an eight out of ten for its shocking conclusions and mysteries.

-Riley W.

Andrew Fukuda’s Hunt Trilogy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

welcometothedarkhouse_lauriestolarz“In my hefty elf sack, your nightmares now keep. Better think twice before falling asleep.” -The Nightmare Elf

This chilling, nightmare-filled story takes place when seven fans of the famous horror film director, Justin Blake, enter an online contest. They are required to write about their worst nightmare, and the winners get the chance to stay at his legendary B and B, Dark House, featured in his movies. The fans also get to meet the famous man and sneak a look at his upcoming movie. Delighted to find they have won, the horror hopefuls Ivy, Parker, Shayla, Frankie, Garth, Natalie, and Taylor set out to have the scare of their life. Spending a weekend in the Dark House appeals to most of them like a vacation home, filled with effects that make the house really seem haunted and mysterious. However, their fun and games take a twisted turn when they are taken to an abandoned amusement park. Embodying the spirit of Blake’s movies, the park is like his own movie set with his wildly creepy characters running around. The seven lucky winners discover they must face their worst nightmares and survive them if they want to be set free.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. It’s description of horror and thrill left me wondering about my own nightmares. I knew I sure wouldn’t last one night in that house, not with its scare tactics and lonely halls. Stolarz uses her characters’ different perspectives to create this nail-biting world. As a big fan of horror stories, I was really anxious to see how the ending wrapped everything up. I have to say I was a little disappointed that I was left with so many unanswered questions, but overall the plot line was very intriguing.

I encourage readers who like to be scared to give this book a try. I know some horror stories are a gamble because it doesn’t end the way the readers hope. But Welcome to the Dark House is definitely one of my favorites and I would love to read it again.

-Sabrina C, 11th Grade

Film Review: Lights Out

lightsoutIn the spirit of Halloween, I chose to write about horror; one of my favorite subjects that will always intrigue me. Most times when I see a scary movie, it’s not as scary as I expect to be or the storyline just doesn’t make sense. Maybe it was the pitch black theater or the speakers amplifying every scratch and scream, but seeing Lights Out on the big screen made the story come to life.

Before watching it, I had heard that the film wasn’t good and that its scariest scenes were already revealed in the trailer. However, this didn’t seem to be the case as I was always jumping at the least expected times. While watching the horror story, I had to keep myself from closing my eyes or looking away.

On the subject of horror, I think it’s such an interesting topic to write about because not all horror stories have to be about murders or monsters. This leaves it to the authors to interpret and brainstorm their own horror stories that leave readers on a chilling cliffhanger.

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade

Stranger Things: A New Netflix Phenomenon

stranger_things_logo

Once a new TV show permeates every form of social media, I take it as a sign I should get around to watching it – both to join the chaotic mess of fans and to avoid the ever-growing list of spoilers. Stranger Things, Netflix’s new original TV series, has taken the world by storm, and after watching the entire first season in two nights, I have been fully swept away in its winds of success.

Stranger Things is an eight chapter story about young boy, Will Byers, who goes mysteriously missing after a game of D&D with his quirky gang of friends. The town goes on high alert trying to find the boy, while a strange and, quite frankly, disgusting monster lurks in the shadows and awaits its next victim. The only one who has any semblance of understanding as to why the monster is stalking the small town is Eleven, a girl of few words and many powers. As Sheriff Hopper traces what he believes to be Will’s tracks to the suspicious government organization in town, Eleven teams up with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas to search for Will on their own.

The show walks the line between horror and sci-fi, using the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana as a setting for a supernatural hotspot, including an alternate dimension, telekinetic powers, and the monster that’s been nicknamed “The Demagorgon.” The pacing can feel slow at times, but it gives the show lots of room for character development and raw emotion.

The actors give stunning performances that truly convey their characters’ internal struggles, whether it be a desperate mother grasping at supernatural straws to find her son or a lab experiment runaway hiding from her manipulative “Papa.” The show’s comedic relief, which is mainly circumstantial and dialogue-related, is found mostly among the group of middle schoolers Mike, Dustin, and Lucas as they search for Will and coax Eleven into helping. They’re nerds, scientists, and adventurers-in-the-making, and I fell in love with them immediately. Eleven’s reactions to everyday phenomena always got me to crack a smile, too.

However, the show’s comedic moments are few and far between. A large portion of the show is suspenseful and emotional. Stranger Things‘ main theme would have to be trust and faith. The boys must earn Eleven’s trust in order to gain her help, and Eleven must earn their trust so that they won’t suspect her of being the “Lando” in their story, as Dustin would say. Joyce Byers, Will’s mother, needs someone to trust her as she tries not to lose faith in the supernatural signs her son sends her. The show relies heavily on its characters and their relationships with one another, whether it be family, friends, or even lovers. Fear and desperation can bring together the unlikeliest of people, and Stranger Things has more than enough fear and desperation to provide these opportunities.

The directors, the Duffer Brothers, have brought about a new pop culture sensation that is steadily increasing in popularity. If horror, sci-fi, and supernatural are your buzz words for a good show, Stranger Things is right up your alley. I enjoyed every minute of this series, and I eagerly anticipate Season 2 (coming next year).

-Abby F.