Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens is a novel co-written by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Terry Pratchett. The combination of their unique styles creates an incredible story that is extremely difficult to follow. This is one of those books that can only get better with each reading, because the first time you pick it up, you have no idea what’s going on.

It follows about six distinct storylines, all of which interact throughout the story. The best of these is the tale of Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and angel (respectively) who have been on earth together since the Beginning. Literally, biblically, the Beginning.

Other characters include Adam, the antichrist; Dog, the aptly named Hellhound; a 1921 Bentley in perfect condition, a witch-hunter with a fondness for condensed milk, and a group of intelligent ducks.

Despite the fact that the book is nearly twenty years old, it has a really awesome cult following. There have been innumerable attempts to create movies, TV shows, mini-series, etc. about Good Omens, none of which have taken off. Aside from a podcast adaptation currently running on the BBC, the novel remains the only canon content in its universe.

There is something very special about this book. It’s funny and thought-provoking and a tongue-twister at times. It is definitely a Must Read, if only for the sake of enjoying a book that was written by two authors on different continents snail-mailing floppy discs across the Atlantic ocean because e-mail wasn’t fast enough yet.

-Zoe K., 11th grade

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Sometimes judging a book by its cover is an incredible thing. For instance, take a look at Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips: an orange background adorned by a marble Adonis in purple boxers.

I mean, how can you not want to read that book?

While it’s definitely R-rated in some scenes, this novel is a more crass Percy Jackson. I remember desperately trying to throw myself back into Riordan’s series in middle school, only to be entirely bored. I’m pretty sure my heart fully stopped during The Battle of the Labyrinth.

But it was no fault of the books! They had stayed the same, and I had merely grown out of them. I needed my fix of mythology from somewhere else.

Marie Phillips manages to recapture the magic of Greek gods and goddesses living in the modern world. London, England, Modern World, as a matter of fact. Crammed in a tiny house, a handful of minor deities work in satirical jobs amongst mortals, have startling amounts of sex, and are generally terrible to one another.

They rally against the loss of their power, feeling lost as the world slowly forgets about them.

This book is very British, in addition to being extremely funny. It is one which can jump-start a fading love for reading. I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have too delicate of sensibilities, and is looking for a quick romp through the lives of Olympians.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Craig is depressed. What could be funny about that? He cannot handle his work at Executive Pre-Professional High School. He throws up when he tries to eat, because, as he says, there is a little man pulling a rope that makes him regurgitate his food. He smokes pot with his best friend and has a huge case of jealousy over his best friend’s girlfriend. He meets regularly with two psychologists, or shrinks.

He knows basically all there is to know about his depression. He knows when the Cycling is starting up, how he hopes the Shift will come, but sometimes he experiences a Fake Shift. He just doesn’t know when the real Shift will come.

And then he experiences the lowest of lows and admits himself into the hospital.

Vizzini, having suffered from depression himself, presents depression in a way that is understandable to the lay person, and in a sense, relatable to teens who have the same issue as Craig: being over stressed and over worked at school. I enjoyed the simple way in which Craig looked at the world, but it was tough to read about the people he met in 6 North.

This novel is appropriate for most teens. It has been made into a movie, which may be interesting to watch, but I would definitely recommend reading it first.

– Leila S., 11th grade

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Book vs. Movie: Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

Image result for middle school worst years of my life bookMiddle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson is a good graphic novel. I feel that it is a great book for tweens and young teens.

I watched the movie with my friends, who have never read the books. They were shocked when the movie revealed something important, while I just sat there, knowing about this since the beginning. This probably altered my perspective, because when you have read the book first, you are comparing it to the movie the whole time. And more often then not, minor details from the book are changed for the movie and completely ruins the adaptation. Many minor details were altered, and I do feel that a couple changed how you look at the movie. Characters were not the same, and some were excluded. In the book, Leo passed away from meningitis when him and Rafe were toddlers.

In the movie, they state that Leo had passed about a year before from cancer. This can really change your perspective of the movie. In the book, you know that it’s amazing that Rafe can think of his brother like this through his imagination. In the movie, it’s just because Rafe is mourning. I feel that Leo is not thImage result for middle school worst years of my lifee same character in the movie that he is in the book. Also, what happened to Miller, or Miller the Killer? He was a huge part in the books as the school bully. In the movie, he only had a minor part and didn’t seem as threatening. Additionally, they did not have Jeanne Galleta and Georgia’s personalities correct. Jeanne is much more different, and defiantly does not sneak into his house. Georgia was way more of a brat, and did not feel sorry for her brother at all.

I would say that if you have never read the books, go see the movie! Maybe your younger sibling wants to go. Even if you think that this is a “kiddy movie,” it’s not. Half of the friends that went with me were high schoolers, and they enjoyed the movie as much as the middle schoolers with us. But for the fans of the Middle School series, I really don’t think that the movie is worth it. It is a humorous movie, but you might be disappointed.

-Rebecca V.

For reference, here is a comparison of Leo from the book and the film:

Image result for middle school worst years of my life book leoRelated image

That Time I Joined the Circus by J. J. Howard

thattimeijoinedthecircu_jjhowardThat Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard is about Lexi Ryan, a native New Yorker, forced to look for her mother after a tragic accident took the life of her father. Tracking her mother down to a circus in the middle of Florida, Lexi leaves New York on a one-way bus ticket to the location of the circus. Arriving at the circus, she soon finds out that her mother is not there. Despite her mother’s absence, Lexi finds a home for herself, and people who are willing to accept her and take her in. Settling and enjoying her time at the circus, Lexi’s world is thrown into turmoil when her best friend, Eli from New York, shows up at the circus. This debut of a book has humor, wisdom, and a great narrator.  

I have had this book for years now, and it is one of the novels on my shelf that I read over and over again. Despite reading it so many times, I am still intrigued by the storyline and the characters. Admiring how Lexi was able to overcome her various obstacles, I thoroughly enjoyed her character. As for the plotline, I did not really enjoy the fact that it jumped back and forth  from Lexi’s life before her Father’s death to her time spent at the circus. I enjoyed thoroughly the familial aspect among Lexi and the people of the circus; especially, Lexi’s friendship with the daughters of the ringleader was sweet.  Despite its title, there are many other elements to this amazing book besides the circus. I would recommend this book for those looking for a contemporary circus story.

-Anmol K.

The Devil’s Intern by Donna Hosie

It all started the day Mitchell died. Actually, just kidding. It all started when “Medusa”, Mitchell’s frenemy/sort-of-girlfriend died forty years ago in San Francisco. No, it probably started back in 1666, when Mitchell’s British friend (who received a pin in Hell because of that year) died in a fire. Actually, it should probably start during Viking times, when Mitchell’s other friend died in battle. Confusing? Well, this is a book about time travel. And death. And Hell.

Mitchell, being dead for four years, wonders why he died. He knew that he died because he didn’t look when crossing the street (and that kids, is why looking both ways to cross is very important), but he wonders what made him not remember. Now, he’s stuck in Hell because of it, with his every day life being an intern to the Devil’s Secretary in Hell. Amidst the crowdedness of Hell and his three best friends in tow, he learns of a time machine being stored right near where he works. And it was Medusa, after all, who gives him the idea to change his death. Along with his three friends who want to change their deaths too. But death isn’t so easily changed, as Mitchell and his friends soon find out by paying the price.

I love the humor in this book. Mitchell is the typical hero who tries to make everything awkward but messes up. Hell, at least the interpretation of it, is my favorite since Hosie purposefully makes it not like the stereotypical Hell. Sure it’s overheated a lot, but other than that, it seems like a regular Earth, with the exception of the Devil’s daily tantrums and the fact that Hell’s going bankrupt.

It is also well thought out. I’m pretty sure that there are a multitude of books where the hero tries to think about what would happen if a certain death didn’t happen (ex: Harry with Dumbledore), but there are few that actually go into the consequences (ex: Dumbledore would’ve still died, and instead died in a way he wanted), and I like how Hosie goes into it.

Overall, if you like comedy or time-travel, I highly recommend this book.

-Megan V, 10th grade

The Devil’s Intern is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Bliss Trilogy by Kathryn Littlewood

bliss_klittlewood*Note: the last two summaries may include spoilers to their previous book

Over the summer, I became engulfed in an intriguing book series, the Bliss trilogy. In the first book, Bliss, problems arise when the Bliss parents go on a baking retreat for one week. Their children, Thyme, Sage, Leigh, and Rosemary, the main character, are left with an unfriendly babysitter to take care of them and their magical bakery. The kids know they must protect the secret of the magical bakery while their parents are away. However, when the mysterious Aunt Lily arrives unexpectedly, things quickly get out of hand. Humorous turns of events create chaos when several enchanted recipes completely turn around the people of their hometown, Calamity Falls. Unsure of whom to trust, will Rosemary Bliss and her two brothers be able to save their home before it all comes crashing down?

In the smashing sequel to the first book, A Dash of Magic, nefarious Aunt Lily has stolen the Bliss family magical cookbook. Rosemary Bliss must defeat her mighty Aunt Lily in a baking contest, France’s Gala des Gateaux Grands, in order to save her family’s all-powerful cookbook. Along with an alliance of a talking cat and mouse, her great-great-great grandfather Balthazar, and her brother Ty, Rose encounters many close calls and wacky magical ingredients. A Dash of Magic is a thrilling book, which many Bliss fans will love.

Finally, the grand finale to the inspiring Bliss trilogy is called Bite Sized Magic. All Rose had ever wanted was to be famous, but after winning the Gala des Gateaux Grands, she realizes it is a lot more work than she imagined. She is soon kidnapped by the Mostess snack company, which uses kitchen magic for evil rather than good. They threaten her into perfecting their best selling (and most evil) recipes in a mere five days. To save her family and herself, and to defeat this wicked baking company, Rose must face one of her most fearsome challenges yet.

This trilogy is hilarious, wacky, magical, and fascinating, all rolled up into one series! I would recommend these books for all ages, although they might be overwhelmingly long for younger kids. Since I love baking and reading, I was thrilled when I received the first book as a gift from one of my friends, and I immediately bought the next two. I fell in love with the hilarious wit and charm included in each and every novel, and the incredible imagery made me feel like I was traveling alongside Rose, all the way from Calamity Falls to the majestic city of Paris. Her handsome brother Ty, sweet sister Leigh, comedic brother Sage, encouraging parents, and her crazy pets and grandfather all make the story that much more enticing. Readers will fall in love with all of the characters, the plot, and a sensational touch of magic while reading the outstanding Bliss trilogy!

-Alaina K., 7th Grade

The Bliss Trilogy is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.