We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

The newly-released sequel to Hafsah Faizal’s best-selling We Hunt the Flame is here, and it’s every bit as amazing as the first book, filled with the same spellbinding prose and darkness, as well as the characters who are dealing with the aftermath of their stay in Sharr.

We Free the Stars picks up right where We Hunt the Flame left off, with Altair captured by the Lion of the Night and the rest of the group aboard a ship, sailing their way to Sultan’s Keep, where they will be forced to confront Nasir’s father.

Zafira, after accidentally binding herself to the Jawarat in the previous book, is now dealing with the repercussions, as the Jawarat is a voice in her head that never seems to stop whispering, putting her on edge. She also continuously battles feelings of purposelessness now that she is stripped of her identity of the Hunter, with the Arz now gone and her father’s cloak long shunned.

Kifah remains as bold, hopeful, and action-oriented as ever, set on following through with their mission to return the hearts of each Sister of Old to their designated minarets across Arawiya. Nasir, on the other hand, finds that he is finally beginning to slowly melt away his hardened shell as he begins feeling and caring again, no longer the cold, lethal Prince of Death that all once feared. 

Something notable about this book is that, rather than the story being told solely through the eyes of Nasir and Zafira, Altair’s perspective is added to the mix, allowing for more angles to the story and more information about his and Arawiya’s past to be understood. 

This book is also considerably longer and more action-packed and heart-wrenching than the last; filled with much battle and loss, love and hope. 

All in all, though, this book ends this enthralling duology on a good note, but never shies away from the realistic fact that even with victory, heavy loss often still follows.

-Aisha E.

We Free The Stars by Hafsah Faizal is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: JK Rowling

Arguably one of the best writers of modern times, Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born in Bristol, England on July 31, 1965. Better known as JK Rowling, she is the author of the famed Harry Potter series. Harry Potter is definitely in my top five favorite book series, but the story of JK Rowling is just as captivating.

Growing up in Gloucestershire with her younger sister, JK Rowling loved books. In fact, she wrote her very first book about a rabbit when she was just 6 years old. She went to school at Wyedean Comprehensive School, and later attended the University of Exeter where she studied French and Classics.

The idea of Harry Potter first occurred to Rowling on a delayed train to London in 1990. Throughout the next couple of years, Rowling planned the next few books of the series.

After many rejections, Bloomsbury Publishing House finally accepted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The novel became a bestseller, and its movie was made in 2001. 

In 2012, the digital platform “Pottermore” was released, which sparked a new craze of Harry Potter in the digital world. (Seriously, who hasn’t taken the House Sorting Quiz on there?)

As for her personal life, JK Rowling married Jorge Arantes in 1992 and had a daughter, Jessica, in 1993. J.K. Rowling has been married to Dr Neil Murray since 2001, and they currently live in Edinburgh with their son and daughter.

The impact of the Harry Potter series is one of  high importance. Before Harry Potter, children’s literature sales were dropping, due to the fact that children were not reading very much. With the publications of the Harry Potter books, children became very interested and excited to read! 

Plus, in the midst of a global pandemic, JK Rowling launched “Harry Potter at Home” in March 2020, which allowed more people around the world to enjoy Harry Potter while they stayed at home through videos of celebrities reading the books out loud as well as the ebook and audiobook becoming free.

If you are reading this post, I’m sure that you are aware of the wonderful possibilities and opportunities that open up to children every time they flip the pages of a new book.

Of course, we cannot forget some of JK Rowling’s other works, which include Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as well as a crime fiction series called Cormoran Strike, which Rowling wrote under the pen name of Robert Galbraith.

As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I believe that JK Rowling’s work is truly magical. The details of her books are so vivid; I can easily visualize myself walking through the Great Hall and watching first-years get sorted into their house. I have seen dragons and mermaids; I have heard the chugging of the Hogwarts train and the voice of Headmaster Dumbledore addressing the school. In my opinion, the most admirable quality of the books is that readers of all ages can enjoy them, as new generations continue to discover the magic of JK Rowling’s works. 

-Ayati M.

The works of J. K. Rowling, including biographies, are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Every place you’ll ever find yourself in is more than meets the eye. This is the central idea of Leigh Bardugo’s new novel The Ninth House, a supernatural fantasy about the life of Yale student Alex Stern. The story follows Alex through her freshman year of college, recruited by a secret society at the university known as Lethe. This society supervises 8 other organizations across campus, each of them specializing in a certain magical concept through rituals and other supernatural events. Lethe has been interested in her for most of her teenage life due to strange occurrences in police reports that reveal her secret; Alex was born with the power to see “Grays”, the ghosts that fail to pass over beyond “the Veil” and wander the living world. As someone who can see them, Alex plays an important role in protecting the societies from supernatural interference with their business. She studies the ways of Lethe and magic under her mentor Darlington, and receives help from grad student Dawes and Dean Sandow. However, life as a college recruit is not an easy path, and Alex must learn to navigate her struggling GPA and avoid suspicion from her roommates, all while keeping the existence of magic and the Nine Houses a secret.

However, life gets turned even more upside down when Darlington disappears and a random girl is found dead on campus. Concerned about the societies’ potential involvement in both cases, she goes out to solve the mysteries in a collection of twists and turns. As the murder investigation unfolds, people are tossed in and out of the scapegoat role, even some of the people she trusts most. At the novel’s conclusion, everything is made clear through shocking revelation that leaves its readers yearning for a second installment in Stern’s universe.

This book took me a little bit of time to get into. Being a “New Adult” book, it was a large jump in detailed writing from the book I had just read. However, once I sat down and committed to reading, I found soon enough that I couldn’t put the book down. The characterization of Alex fascinated me, and became more enthralling as her past is revealed. The interwoven stories between the world of the living and the dead and the world of Lethe and Yale as a whole make for an interesting story. I am looking forward to the next installment, hopefully to come out late 2021 or early 2022.

-Bailey L.

The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Revisiting Harry Potter

If you are a teenager today, you have either read some or all of the Harry Potter series or you have seen the Harry Potter movies. Today, the novels gave way to a Universal Studios theme park, endless merchandise, and now a Broadway play. Why was this possible and why should you go back and read the series if you haven’t read the whole thing in its entirety?

The Harry Potter movies did not do the books justice, so if you enjoyed the movies even a tiny bit, you will thoroughly enjoy the books. The series begins with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It is not that this book is just easy to read. It is the longest book you will read in the shortest time. All of the series is like this, but the speed with which you will go through this book leaves you surprised and wanting more. The world is established, the characters are introduced, the reality that exists within the Harry Potter realm are all really well done in a super easy, accessible read.

You cannot stop at one book, nor should you read just a few and decide it is enough. There are seven titles, and you should read them all if you enjoy the first book. It is entertaining, intertwined, and really clever to stay with the series through the end. The titles go like this: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (called the Philosopher’s Stone in most other countries) (1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (5), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (6), and finally Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (7).

There is an eighth book of sorts that gave way to a play I saw on stage when my family traveled to London three years ago: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play is basically a 5 hour play and you can choose to watch it all in one day or over the course of two days as two regular length plays. We saw it over the course of two days and that was the right choice. Each play can stand alone and the stage, actors, dialog, and music are all made better if you have read the series. You won’t pick up all of the nuances if you have only seen the movies. You do not have to read this book before the play, in fact, this is one I would suggest to read after.

No matter your age, this series is one to go back to if you skipped it. If you are bored, there is plenty here to keep you entertained and reading.

-Preston v.

The Harry Potter series is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

TV Review: Legend of Korra Season One

The Legend of Korra was one of the most anticipated animated sequels for its time, given that it is the successor to the widely popular Avatar the Last Airbender. The show had a lot of expectations on its initial release and after rewatching it years later, I would say that, overall, it is actually a good show even with the harsh criticism from devoted fans.

In general, I would still recommend watching the show given that it is still an entertaining show like its predecessor and still has quality animations. I still enjoyed watching the fights and scenes overall but it felt like the story was lacking compared to the previous show.

The characters were still appealing overall, with few exceptions, and the world itself was well built and introduced an interesting dynamic that was engaging and different from the original show.

Some complaints I had were that many characters and their stories felt rushed and incomplete, with the finale of season one being very anticlimactic compared to any of the other finales in the previous show, although it is understandable given that the show was created under the pretense that it would only have one season and 12 episodes compared to the vast size of the previous seasons of Avatar. Overall the story and characters still meshed together in spite of this and the episodes were exciting up to the finale.

Overall, I would still rate the show highly given the conditions of the show, regardless if
the expectations were initially high. I think that initial expectations and comparisons between the show and its predecessor played a major role in the reaction of the fans, although if looked at as an independent show, it is still high enough quality overall to be rated well and is still a good watch.

-Benjamin L.

The Legend of Korra is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers is the sequel to Mary Poppins.  The story picks up just a few months from when the original book left off.  The Banks’ house is in complete disarray.  Mary Poppins had deserted the family without notice.  They had hired other nurses to take Poppins’ place, but none of them lasted long.  One nurse, for instance, had been spat at by young Michael Banks and quit immediately.  Michael fought with his sister Jane, little twins John and Barbara quarreled, the kitchen flue caught fire, the cherry trees were devastated by frost, and so on.  Mrs. Banks does not know what to do.  In despair, she sends the four children to the park so she can have some peace at home.  Jane and Michael decide to fly a kite to entertain John and Barbara.  As they pull the kite back in, to their astonishment, they see Mary Poppins herself holding the string and gliding down with the kite.

Within moments, Mary Poppins is already ordering the children around.  Much like the original book, Poppins assumes a stern and haughty attitude.  However, the children enjoy many new adventures in this sequel.  I enjoyed reading about their magical ability to fly above the park holding just one balloon each.  I also liked reading about the day they met an interesting man named Mr. Turvy.  The day happened to be the second Monday of the month.  Every second Monday, mysterious things happen to Mr. Turvy.  He flips upside-down, he finds himself outside when he wants to be inside, and he even feels sad though he normally feels happy.  This quirky episode is strange but I found it to be quite amusing.

Mary Poppins is as scornful as ever in this book.  She displays a short temper and even intimidates the children.  On one occasion, for example, we read: “Mary Poppins, in her fury, seemed to have grown to twice her usual size.  She hovered over him in her nightgown, huge and angry, waiting for him to reply.”  Poppins also proves to be quite vain.  For example, as she passed by a glass window, “Mary Poppins gave a little conceited nod to her reflection and hurried on.”  She also seems to be dishonest with the children.  After almost every adventure, Poppins denies that she had anything to do with it or that it even happened at all.

I began to wonder if all the tumult in the Banks’ household was caused by Mary Poppins herself, so that the family would appreciate her more when their situation magically improved.  Whether or not my conspiracy theory is correct, everyone still seems to love Mary Poppins by the end of the story.  Despite her periodic rude comments to the children, they seem to enjoy her company as much as ever.  The main reason for this may be that many exciting and delightful adventures seem to follow Mary Poppins wherever she goes.  These adventures make the book charming to read, if you can look past Mary Poppins’ less-than-perfect attitude and behavior toward the children.

-Oliver H.

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister is the second book in the Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo.  The main protagonist is a boy named Charlie Bone who possesses a special power.  Charlie can hear what people are saying inside photographs.  Charlie is not the only person to possess magical ability.  He attends a school for the gifted called Bloor’s Academy, where other students appear to have special powers of their own.  Charlie discovers that the evil Bloor family in charge of the academy has been plotting to harm some of the students, including himself.

I enjoyed reading about the development of Charlie’s powers in this book.  It becomes easier for him to hear what people are saying in the pictures he sees.  However, he does not fully realize the strength of his power yet.  One day at school, Charlie is surprised to meet one of his ancestors, named Henry Yewbeam.  Henry looks the same age as Charlie, but he was born over 90 years ago.  Henry had teleported through time using a mystical marble known as the Time Twister.  Charlie needs to protect Henry from the Bloor family, who would consider Henry an enemy.  This book is very suspenseful, as the Bloors become increasingly suspicious of Charlie.

One of my favorite characters in this book is Ezekiel Bloor.  Ezekiel is a cranky old man living at the academy.  He seems to hate everybody.  He has an old connection to Henry that creates a very intriguing background to this story.  I enjoyed the mystery and suspense of this book.  It was fascinating to read the story as it unfolded through different time periods.  After reading this book, I was anxious to read the next book in the series.  I highly recommend it.

-Oliver H.

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Magician by Raymond Feist

Countless tales of the struggle between good and evil in Medieval times have been told. But it takes a true artisan to delve into not only fanciful creatures but other worlds as well. Raymond Feist does this masterfully.

This book is a classic in the realm of fantasy and adventure. It has been captivating readers for more than 30 years. After reading it, I understand its appeal. The author creates parallel universes that are enthralling. A rift opens in the Kingdom, and they are attacked by the Tsurani. The Tsurani have no metal in their world, however, they are rich with magicians. These magicians are powerful and wreak havoc wherever they go. There are also many Kingdom characters who are instrumental in the survival of their world. We watch as they grow and change throughout the course of the invasion transforming to meet each challenge. There is no lack of adventure.

Don’t be put off by the length of this book (841 pages!) It will draw you in and keep your attention as you live their story. Sometimes, it is hard to keep track of all the characters, but the resolution ties all the strings together at the end and makes it worthwhile.

I recommend this book if you are someone who enjoys fantasy, adventure and doesn’t mind conflict. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Also note, that this is the first in a series of many books that continue the Riftwar Saga.

-Elijah Y.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Do you believe in destiny? No matter what your answer is, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman will cause you to rethink it.

Full of adventure, fantasy, science-fiction and giant talking bears, The Golden Compass details the quest of a little girl named Lyra on a search for her best friend Roger. What she doesn’t know is that the fate of the world as she knows it rests in her hands.

 Throughout her journey to save her friend, Lyra receives help from a myriad of dynamic and likable characters, including a witch named Serefina, the pilot of a hot air balloon, and an armored bear, among others. She is also never without her daemon named Pantelimon, who serves as a companion and protector, and can change into the form of any animal he wants. Every person is born with one, though adult daemons do not change form.

Though the main character of the story is a little girl, it is far from a simple children’s book. The Golden Compass questions compelling topics about humanity, fate, and the possibility of alternate universes that would pique the interest of anyone with an inquisitive and imaginative mind. The book has been described by some as too controversial for the new ideas it presents. However, I believe it is important to educate oneself on the thoughts and ideas of others, even if one does not always agree with them.

All that said, the writing itself is descriptive and filled with detailed and immersive imagery illustrating each scene clearly and artfully. The characters are diverse, interesting and relatable, and if I could sit down and have lunch with all of them I would.

Each page of The Golden Compass was engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is different from any book I have read before and does not fall under one category. Pullman seamlessly combines fantasy, science-fiction, friendship and adventure all into one, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

-Charlotte H.

The Golden Compass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

This little book of five wizarding fables is a perfect way to re-immerse yourself into the world of Harry Potter after reading the series. With writing from the brilliant Albus Dumbledore, illustrations by J.K. Rowling, and little facts about characters from the Harry Potter series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard could naturally belong on a book list underneath Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Following each story is a note by Albus Dumbledore, which provides a thoughtful and sometimes witty analysis of the story, a discussion of the wizarding world’s acceptance of it, and perhaps a humorous anecdote. Although Dumbledore’s notes are written academically, the evidence of his witty and brilliant character in his writing is exciting and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed reading Dumbledore’s note on The Fountain of Fair Fortune because it mentions Hagrid’s predecessor as professor of Care of Magical Creatures, Professor Kettleburn. Professor Kettleburn is briefly mentioned in the Harry Potter series, but in his note, Professor Dumbledore delves deeper into his character while telling a humorous story involving the Care of Magical Creatures teacher and students at Hogwarts.

Additional references to and historical information about characters from Harry Potter serve as a treat to those wanting an extra morsel of the wizarding world.

What I enjoy about this book are J.K. Rowling’s intricate and elegant illustrations of her (or Beedle’s) stories. I find it intriguing to see illustrations by the authors, as their depictions are most likely to be true to their vision.

Lastly, it’s fascinating how The Tales of Beedle the Bard not only a book of stories about the wizarding world but a book that actually exists in Harry Potter’s world, as it is first introduced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It almost appears like it was pulled from a Hogwarts bookshelf or a wizard or witch’s bedside table to be shared with the Muggle community.

Crafted with wit, magic, and a bit of the darkness you might find in a Grimm fairy-tale, these stories serve both as entertainment and as another taste of the wizarding world.

– Mia T.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.