The Road By Cormac McCarthy

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Anyone who has read Lord of the Flies, or seen the Walking Dead television show, knows that when the world comes to an end, people are going to do whatever they can to survive (ie cannibalism, children killing other children). This is the same with The Road- people shouting “You would have done the same!” as they try to steal and murder each other. But wouldn’t it be just nice if even in this dystopian world, everyone was nice to each other?

An unnamed father and son travel down a road to the sea and try to survive amid the thieves and not knowing who to trust. We don’t fully know what caused the world to be like this- earthquake? extremely hot temperatures? But we do know that rations are limited and they must keep traveling in order to survive. The father always seems to try to resort to a dark side- giving up food for his son, trying to kill everyone who crosses them- but the son keeps him on the road- noticing when the father tries to give the son bigger portions, begging the father not to kill anyone.

All in all, it is a very pleasant story to read, especially since it gives a theme that man will not fully go down the evil side even when there is no hope. However, there are a few writing styles that will turn a few people down. First of all, there are not quotation marks- whenever the character speaks it is either its own separate paragraph or embedded in another paragraph, which makes the reader go back a couple of times in order to figure out who is talking. Additionally, most of the book is written in camera style- the story’s plot moving along because of dialogue, not because of what they thought. This narration is often considered boring by some readers.

However, the story is beautifully written to me, with a compelling message and a heartfelt plot. It is also a quick read compared to some other books. For those who are looking for a twist on the dystopian genre, it is a worthwhile read.

Megan Villagracia, Eleventh Grade.

The Road By Cormac McCarthy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart

H.P. Lovecraft brought horror fiction into existence with his tales of eldritch monsters and otherworldly beings. Now, editor Ross E. Lockhart has compiled The Book of Cthulhu, a collection of short stories, as a tribute to the Cthulhu Mythos story cycle first created by Lovecraft himself. The book is an anthology of short horror stories with a variety of topics yet all containing the familiar dread of Lovecraft.

The unique genre is Lovecraftian horror, which features the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. Within his stories of the occult, Lovecraft was famous for using dread instead of shock and gore. Instead of trying to scare the reader through cheesy ghost stories or bloody axe killers, Lovecraftian literature creates feelings of insignificance, helplessness, and awe. A common theme is the insignificance of humanity. Humans are merely specks of dust in the vast universe, completely at the mercy of ancient or even ageless beings. Aliens and elder gods from different worlds and dimensions exist that could annihilate humankind on a whim. Lovecraft’s universe holds creatures so monstrous and beyond comprehension that even knowledge of them drives men to insanity.

The authors from The Book of Cthulhu continue Lovecraft’s tradition. The first short story, Andromeda Among the Stones, highlights the best aspects of Lovecraft. A family by the edge of the sea must sacrifice everything to guard a portal against the eldritch beings on the other side. Out of all of the stories in the anthology, this short story perhaps best embodies Lovecraft’s sense of awe and dread of the unknown.

My personal favorite story is A Colder War, set in the Cold War era. The world’s superpowers attempt to understand and harness the alien beings as weapons. These elder gods trivialize humanity’s nuclear arms and ultimately threaten to consume this world and other worlds.

The Book of Cthulhu is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read that will put earthly matters into perspective. Although the stories are sometimes hit or miss, each author offers their own style infused with Lovecraft, making it a varied and interesting anthology. The stories often require the reader to grasp the context very quickly, and it often feels as if the short stories are lacking exposition. On the other hand, this adds to the mysterious atmosphere that Lovecraft was so famous for. The anthology is a proper modern tribute to Lovecraft that will leave readers feeling a little tinier than before.

-Phillip X.

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

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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