Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, tells the story of a not-so-great Chosen One with a tendency to set things of fire – Simon Snow, and his vampire roommate/nemesis – Baz Pitch. As secrets from the past are brought to light once again, Simon and Baz are forced to work together to defeat the evil Humdrum that has been plaguing the magical society in England. Filled with monsters, magic, and romance, Carry On is a thrilling adventure with twists and turns and a fast-paced plot that leaves readers hungry for more.

This book, in a nutshell, is Harry Potter crossed with Twilight, with Star Wars references. And not in a subtle way. Despite it being remarkably similar to these three franchises, Carry On, in my opinion, is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s fast-paced plot caused me to speed through the book in only a few hours. As soon as I finished it, I immediately opened it back to the first page and started all over again.

Carry On contains many well written and lovable characters. While they bear many similarities to characters from Harry Potter (Simon to Harry, Penny to Hermione, Mage to Dumbledore, and Baz to Draco), they are each distinct and unique characters, with fun and likable personalities that set them apart from the characters they are based on.

Another thing that makes this book so great is the LGBT+ representation. Both of the main characters are part of the LGBT+ community as well as some of the side characters, something that is not seen often in this genre.

There were some swear words, just a warning, but I felt that they helped make the dialogue feel more real and authentic. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love fantasy, if you love romance, if you love YA, then pick up this book immediately – you won’t regret it!

-Lauren R.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in certain countries, is the first book in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The book is about a young boy named Harry, who lives with his abusive relatives, but one day, a giant named Hagrid arrives, telling Harry that he’s a wizard an celebrity. Hagrid introduces Harry to the magical world and other magical sites in London, like Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron.

At Hogwarts, a school for magic, Harry befriends Ron, his first friend ever, and the book-worm Hermione. As Harry is beginning to adapt to his new magical life, he becomes stuck in the middle of a mystery: a magical object has been transferred to Hogwarts’s dungeons, and Harry and his friends believe that someone is trying to steal it. As the school year progresses, Harry struggles to deal with his past, and he his friends face countless of challenges as they try to solve the mystery; they fight a troll, see a mysterious figure in the woods, and play chess on a gargantuan, animated chess board.

In conclusion, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a great beginning for the Harry Potter series. The book is an interesting novel to read, and its sequels only get better.

-Josh N. 

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

‘In the forest primeval, a school for good and evil, two towers like twin heads, one for the pure, one for the wicked, try to escape you’ll always fail, the only way out is, through a fairy tale’

These are the opening words of Soman Chainani’s first book in the School for Good and Evil series, also known as SGE to many fans. The first book, which is called The School For Good and Evil, has 488 pages, and can be found in the children’s section of the library.

This is one of my favorite books, and it holds deep meaning for me. When I first met my pen pal, this was her present to me. I have cherished this book and series, because it is a reminder of her, no matter how far apart we live.

We begin our tale in a small town. We meet Sophie, the epitome of a pretty pink princess. While she goes about her daily routines, including rigorous skin care, and primping and preening, we find out that there are kidnappings in this town, every year.

The villagers of this town have come to the conclusion that there is a ‘Schoolmaster’, kidnapping two children every year. At first, it seems as though there is no pattern to this kidnapping. Some years, two girls. Others, two boys. Sometimes, one of each. But finally, the villagers make the connection. One child is pure and good. The other is wicked and ‘evil’. The adults in the town didn’t know what to make of this. But, the children did. They found their old schoolmates in the pages of their favorite stories. These kidnapped children were becoming the heroes and villains of fairytales. And they were kidnapped to go train for fairytales at the Schools of Good and Evil

We find out that Sophie is pining to be kidnapped, to go to the school of Good. We also find that Agatha, her ‘friend’, is the perfect candidate to be kidnapped alongside Sophie, and attend the school of Evil.

Well, the hopes of Sophie and the assumptions of the villagers were correct. Agatha and Sophie were kidnapped by the Schoolmaster. But, as they are dropped off at the School for Good and Evil, some things did not go according to plan.

Agatha was dropped at the School for Good, and Sophie was dropped at the School for Evil.

Well, I won’t spoil anymore. I highly suggest checking this out at the library. Happy reads!

-Sophia D.

The School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani is available to download for free from Overdrive.

Dragon Bones by Lisa McMann

The last book I finished before my winter break was Dragon Bones, part of the The Unwanteds Quest Series written by Lisa McMann. The story follows two young twins, Thisbe and Fifer. Thisbe has been captured by the evil Reviner and must be rescued. The story follows both girls, switching perspectives and showing the reader the struggles of both girls.

The climax of the story is when Fifer gathers a group of her friends, who try to find and rescue Thisbe. Everything is going as planned until the gang encounters the Reviner. Alex, Fifer’s brother and lead wizard, starts to fight the Reviner but is quickly overrun. Eventually, Alex is killed and because he is the lead wizard, once he is gone, all of the magic the group used no longer works. Without their magic, Fifer’s group loses all their fighting ability. They quickly lose their confidence and are forced to retreat, leaving Thisbe behind. Little do they know, Thisbe and a friend of hers that she met while captive, had already escaped and are trying to survive until help arrives.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. I like how the author switched perspectives between the two twins, so you could see what was going on in each of their lives. The ending was cliche and expected, but that was the only problem I had with the book. I would rate this book a strong eight out of ten and would recommend the story to middle schoolers.

-Daniel C.

Dragon Bones and the rest of the Unwateds Quests series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

The death of Harry Potter’s godfather, Sirius Black, has made Harry more grown up than ever before. Now he feels that he has to put an end to Voldemort’s reign of terror, even if it kills him. Dumbledore picks Harry up before the end of summer to go on a mystery errand. The errand is to get Horace Slughorn to teach again at Hogwarts. Back at Hogwarts for Harry’s sixth year, he is extremely excited. He is now the Quidditch team captain. However, Harry also finds out and is gloomy that Professor Snape has achieved his longtime goal of being the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry has also started taking private lessons with Dumbledore to learn as much about Voldemort as he can. Hopefully this information will help if Harry ever comes face to face with Voldemort. Early on in Harry’s Potions class he acquires a mysterious book that used to be the Half Blood Prince’s. The book tells Harry everything he needs to know about potions. Harry’s sudden knowledge amazes everyone. He also grows a suspicion that Draco Malfoy has replaced his father as the leader of the Death Eaters. Harry, throughout the year, keeps a close eye on Draco just in case. Ron and Hermione see this idea as a far stretch, but Harry feels like something has to be happening with Draco frequently leaving school grounds. As the year continues, Dumbledore tells Harry that he may be able to go on a special mission to destroy a horcrux. A horcrux is an item that contains a part of Voldemort’s soul. Destroying them makes Voldemort weaker. When Harry and Voldemort leave on their mission to destroy the horcrux, Draco sneaks Death Eaters into the school, and a battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters takes place. Harry and Dumbledore return after getting the horcrux, but they are trapped on the Astronomy Tower. On the Tower, Draco disarms Dumbledore and Professor Snape kills him. Dumbledore’s death had a massive impact on Harry, but it helped him to see what he had to do.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

In the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry knows that he will soon have to battle Voldemort. Now that Dumbledore is dead Harry knows what he has to do to defeat Voldemort. He goes to find and destroy the horcruxes with Ron and Hermione. The journey is tough and eventually Ron and Harry get into a fight and Ron decides to go home. Devastated, Harry and Hermione visit Godric’s Hollow to try and find a horcrux. They come way too close to being caught by Voldemort. A few weeks later Ron decides to rejoin the quest to find the horcruxes. His timing couldn’t have been better as he arrives just in time to save Harry’s life. They find another horcrux and destroy it with Gryffindor’s sword. After destroying the horcrux, they learn about three items known as the Deathly Hallows. If a person has all three, that person becomes a master of death. Harry realizes that he must find all three in order to stop Voldemort. As Harry’s journey continues he realizes that he is the last horcrux. This means that Harry must give up his life in order to destroy Voldemort once and for all. Harry meets with Voldemort in the woods and Voldemort kills Harry. Harry then sees what appears to be King’s Cross Station but all white. He can also see Dumbledore. Dumbledore gives Harry the choice of going back to the living world to defeat Voldemort or moving on. Harry knows what he must do so he returns to the world. Voldemort is shocked to see Harry alive and tries killing him again, but this time with all horcruxes destroyed, Voldemort is too weak and he is defeated by Harry Potter.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Summer has been normal and boring for Harry Potter until right before the end. Dementors show up in his town and attack him and his cousin Dudley. Harry uses magic to fight off the creatures and, almost instantly, gets sent a letter from the Ministry that is requiring him to go to a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing it will be decided if Harry should be expelled from Hogwarts. At the hearing it is decided that Harry will not be expelled from Hogwarts. Once there, Harry notices a lot of strange things. Skeletal horses are pulling school carriages, but he is the only one that can actually see the horses. Also there is another new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Dolores Umbridge. There are also rumors that Harry and Dumbledore are going crazy for thinking that Voldemort is returning. The only people that stand by Harry’s side are Ron and Hermione. Harry frequently gets detention with Professor Umbridge for lashing out at the people that think he’s crazy. Professor Umbridge soon becomes Hogwarts High Inquisitor which gives her the power to sack teachers whenever she feels that it’s necessary. Because of Harry’s frequent detentions, Professor Umbridge decides to take away the things Harry loves most like Quidditch, Sirius Black’s letters, and the ability to visit Hagrid at his hut. In retaliation, Harry forms a defense group which he calls Dumbledore’s Army. Professor Umbridge soon finds out, and Dumbledore takes the blame. In doing so, Dumbledore has to leave Hogwarts to avoid being arrested. Harry frequently has dreams of dark corridors and locked doors, and his scar prickles very often. Harry then finds out that Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, was killed, and Dumbledore tells Harry the ultimate prophecy: If Harry doesn’t kill Voldemort, Voldemort will eventually kill Harry.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive