Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

Complete with a foreword by Albus Dumbledore, illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and an A-Z list of magical creatures and their descriptions, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the perfect book for anyone wishing to delve a bit further into the wizarding world.

Written by J. K. Rowling as Newt Scamander, the main character of the movie series of the same name, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the textbook required by Hogwarts students in their first year. Though the information is expository, it isn’t dull, and J. K. Rowling adds humor and little remarks that make the text entertaining.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the handwritten notes by Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Scribbled conversations, games, comments, and jokes can be seen on the pages. The writing styles and voices of the characters are evident, and while reading them I imagined tidbits of conversations that weren’t included in the Harry Potter books.

I admire the factual style J. K. Rowling uses when she includes references to foreign ministries and remedies for injuries caused by certain beasts. There is even a short biography for Newt Scamander in the back of the book. Certainly, the imagination and thought put into this book makes it a fascinating addition to a Harry Potter book collection.

Other than enjoyment, another reason this might be a good book to read is that it provides information about creatures that appear in the movie series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and knowing about these creatures could enrich the experience of watching the movies.

-Mia T.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula (Bram Stoker) eBook by Bram Stoker | Rakuten Kobo

The creation of the horror image and the gloomy atmosphere in the novel is realized by spreading the devil world centered on Dracula, making the readers like a horror drama staged in the dark and dirty old castle. At the beginning, the novel presents a series of mysterious and dramatic images, such as a remote old castle, a desolate night, a sudden werewolf, and a strange bat.

The unknown smoke and other images serve as background factors to arouse readers’ memories and impressions of the grim and horrible scenes, so as to present a terrifying world to readers. This technique was also widely used in 19th century Gothic novels. On the one hand, it introduces the characteristics and identity of Dracula, on the other hand, it also employs these images to expand readers’ imagination and enhance their understanding, which sets a tone of terror and panic for the whole novel.

The existence of Dracula and the perception of his image are the self-perception of human eyes or psychology and the vivid description and presentation of the current social mentality. Jonathan’s visit and familiarity with the castle actually started the contest and struggle between good and evil, and at the same time hinted at the subtle relationship of conquest and resistance between the British Empire and the colonized countries at the end of the 19th century. The novel presents the reader with a strange and deviant world. In such a world, the reader is as anxious as the monster is terrifying. Dracula represents a strong possessiveness and a desire for racial invasion. He tried to invade London from far away eastern Europe, and while women were sleeping, he controlled their consciousness and drank their blood to reproduce his own race, expand his territory, and dominate the British Empire.

At the same time, the women who had been sucked into the blood were transformed into social outliers. They broke away from the male authority and were no longer bound by traditional concepts and customs, and freely expressed their likes, dislikes and desires. They possessed the characteristics of the new females emerging in the British society at the end of the 19th century, which was not recognized by the mainstream population at that time. The image of Dracula’s attempt to overturn the harmonious and orthodox order of British society was the accumulation of capital in the British Empire. The shadow of colonial expansion and self-portrait are the reverse of imperial colonial rule. At the same time, Dracula’s whole scheme is a symptom of the waning British empire’s fear of its own political future, a looming fear of the vassal states that are rebelling against colonialism and the rising powers that are gaining momentum.

Wings by E.D. Baker

Tamisin Warner was always a bit different from everyone else. She had sparkly freckles that she called spreckles, pointy ears, and always danced outside when the moon was full.  Ever since one fateful Halloween, she had been able to see strange human animal hybrids no one else could.  Jak, a new boy at Tamisin’s high school, seems to realize Tamisin is different and knows more about her than he lets on.

However, when actual fairy wings emerge from her back, Tamisin sets out to find the answers to who she truly is with Jak by her side.  Tamisin encounters many mysterious, magical creatures and strange new places during her journey and isn’t prepared for what the answers to her questions hold…

I enjoyed this book very much because it was set in present day but was still mysterious, magical, and whimsical all at once.  It’s interesting to read from both Tamisin and Jak’s point of views as you get to learn about both characters’ background stories and their seemingly separate worlds that are actually intertwined.  This is another great book that is reminiscent of a fairy tale by E.D. Baker!

-Kaitlyn S.

Demigods and Magicians by Rick Riordan

This is another amazing book by Rick Riordan!  Rick Riordan writes about many different mythologies such as Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian. This books features Percy and Annabeth, a couple who are involved with Greek mythology and Sadie and Carter Kane, siblings who are involved in Egyptian mythology.  This isn’t a conventional book in that it is composed of three short stories and a sneak peek of one of his books about Norse mythology, The Hidden Oracle. 

The first story is about Percy and Carter meeting and their unusual fight against an enormous petsuchos, the gigantic crocodile son of the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek. The boys fought and were confused when they first meet as they figured out that more than just one mythology was real. They defeated the monster but felt as though they’d opened a door that wouldn’t be closed.

In the second story, Annabeth meets Sadie and they join forces to stop the past, present, and future from joining together so the Egyptian god of the Underworld, Serapis, can rise.  Annabeth eliminates the god’s future so he can’t exist anymore.  The girls exchange cell phone numbers and agree to contact each other only in emergencies.

In the third story, Percy, Annabeth, Carter, and Sadie all fight a long battle against Setne, an Egyptian magician who came back from the dead to try to mix Greek and Egyptian powers to try to turn himself into a god. After the four defeat him, they decide to keep everything to themselves and stay in contact.

I loved reading the sneak peek because it interested me enough to go check out the full book, which I loved.  There are more books in the series and it’s a great read.

All in all I enjoyed this book a lot.  It answers those questions you sometimes think about, like ‘what would happen if the characters in my two favorite book series met?’  I definitely recommend this book; although it helps to read the series about Percy and Annabeth and the series about Sadie and Carter beforehand because they help you understand the characters and their story.

– Kaitlyn S.

Demigods & Magicians by Rick Riordan is available at the Mission Viejo Library

Plague by Michael Grant

Image result for plague michael grantImagine a world in which everyday people gain supernatural abilities. A world without any adults or rules. A world where animals are starting to mutate horribly. A world surrounded by an impassable barrier, stopping anyone from entering… or getting out. Welcome to Michael Grant’s FAYZ, or Fallout Alley Youth Zone.

Every human above the age of 15 have disappeared, leaving the kids in a world that’s theirs for the taking. In this fourth installment of the Gone series, Drake has returned, bringing with him a terrifying concept of the perfect killing machine: beetles. They start off as invisible threats, but the true horror begins when you see a small pair of mandibles poking through the inside of your skin. They slowly begin to grow and emerge from your body, secreting a numbing liquid as they do so. When incubation is complete, they burst from inside you and eat your remains.

As if this and Drake weren’t bad enough, kids are coughing up a lung… literally. A plague is wiping out the population of Perdido Beach, a sickness that nothing can heal. Tensions are high as the fight for survival sweeps up some new faces and old, exposing new problems, and new solutions.

-Luke D.

Plague by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero, like the other Percy Jackson books, is a fantastic read about Greek and Roman mythology that’s impossible to put down.  It’s the first book in a trilogy called the Heroes of Olympus.

The story is about Jason, a demigod of Zeus who can’t remember his past, Leo, a child of Hephaestus who has a secret power of fire, and Piper, a demigod of Aphrodite with a way with words.

After an incident at the Grand Canyon with a satyr and a few storm spirits, the trio is brought to a demigod camp called Camp Half-Blood by Annabeth, a distraught demigod whose boyfriend Percy went missing a few months earlier.

At Camp Half-Blood, Jason, Piper, and Leo are chosen to go on a quest to find Hera, the queen of the gods, and free her with what little information they received from their camp Oracle, Rachel Dare, in form of prophecy.   Along the way, they face many monsters back from the dead and different Greek gods, including King Midas and Aeolus, the weather god.  Is Hera freed and the prophecy fulfilled? That remains to be seen by you!

The story doesn’t end with this book, so I definitely recommend reading the other two and the Percy Jackson series that is set before these books.  This series is hilarious, masterfully written, and a great way to learn about Greek mythology!

-Kaitlyn S.

Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

TV Review: Stranger Things Season 2

My father and I have always wanted to watch Stranger Things but we never had the time for it. When we finally had the time we watched the first season. Lucky for us at the time, the second season was at least one week away.

The second season was really cool. You could really see the character development in everyone. The thing I liked about this season was that it answered my questions that I had.

I like how Stranger Things uses a lot of Dungeon and Dragons references in the episodes. I just hope that the next villain for season 3 is another Dungeon and Dragons villain.

This season also continues with the adults in the show being completely oblivious. If you thought it was funny that Mikes dad had no idea what was happening last season, then you are in for a treat. Season two also introduced a character named Maxine who is actually a main character in the season. I feel like she is going to have a bigger role in season three.

My favorite character in the whole season was probably Dustin. He was very funny when they were in danger and always made a big commotion about everything. I hope that Dustin remains this way and never changes. I also liked how sometimes Hopper would just dive into the situation and not think of it first. It made it look like he was very committed to what he was doing. He didn’t care what the odds where he just wanted to discover what was going on.

Another thing I liked about season two was that the 1980s in Hawkins, Indiana were so real. I can say that for myself because my father lived in Indiana in the 80s. Another fun element they did again was hire actors from the 1980s. I hope they keep doing that in more seasons.

Another thing was that since Will was back he had a lot more screen time. The season also showed how Mike and Will are really good friend. They would go to the end of the earth for each other.

I would recommend Stranger Things season two for anyone who saw the first season and liked it.

-Max U.

Film Review: Kong Skull Island

Kong Skull Island was about a government organization called Monarch that discovered an island. This island was believed to have very mythical things such as giant animals.

The head of Monarch wanted to go to that island but of course they needed a team of scientists and a military escort. This all took place after the Vietnam War just as the Americans where pulling out. They also needed someone who could help them find their way around the island, which was Tom Hiddleston character. They also got a war photographer who would take pictures on that island.

There plan was to drop seismic charges across the island so they could map the island. The only problem with that was they where attacked by Kong. In addition to that, they woke up the skull crawlers who are the real bullies of the island.

The commander of the military escort Colonel Packard was really mad at Kong because Kong killed most of his men. One of my favorite things in this movie was the attachment to Colonel Packard and his men. I mean he will go so far for his men that he would take on a giant ape just to get revenge. After the several crashes everyone was split up in different sections of the island. One of Packard’s men was on the other side of the island. Now this was just one guy. They could have made left him on the island to die but, they went for him because that was the man he was.

I thought Samuel L Jackson was a great antagonist in the movie. He didn’t seem like a bad guy. He just wanted to get revenge on a giant ape who killed them. I thought he played his role right in every way.

We were also introduced to John C. Reilly’s character who has been stuck there since WWII. He was a very funny character and he knew a lot about the island. Since he was been isolated from the world he had a lot of funny questions about history and sports.

The cool thing about Kong Skull Island was that it was all attached to the last Godzilla movie. They are going to try to make a universe out of the next movies which i thought was pretty cool.

I thought this movie was great and is a must see.

-Max U.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

After reading her Six of Crows miniseries, I realized Bardugo had written a precursor trilogy introducing the Grisha world.  Naturally, I wanted to know more about world of Ravka and its beginnings.  If you are new to Six of Crows or Leigh Bardugo, both this trilogy and the Crows duology are standalone novels that can be read with or without the other.  Now, let us dive into the murky waters of the Unsea.

In an alternate-type of history, magical people lived among the common folk.  They were called Grisha.  Much like events in our own past, such as the Salem Witch Trials or religiously-driven peoples running riots, the Grisha were unliked and even killed by some.  However, as they began prominently displaying their powers in Ravka, their home country, people started to treat the Grisha as royalty.  Ruled by the Darkling, a mysterious leader flanked by highly regarded Grisha officials, everything in Ravka was alive.  Except for the Shadow Fold, an equally mysterious stretch of forlorn land, its light diminished to nothing, and its only inhabitants being vulture-like creatures.  This is where Alina Starkov’s story begins, as an orphan girl tested for Grisha powers.  She and Mal, her best friend (also an orphan) trek together through the Shadow Fold and find a force a lot larger than the both of them.

Leigh Bardugo has a talent for writing and creating a darker story, all the while still building and breaking crucial moments as another novel may. If you are new to both Bardugo and these series, I would definitely recommend checking them out, and if possible, starting with the prequel trilogy.

Maya S.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library