Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

A couple years ago, I read this book, and, though it was good, I didn’t go on to read the other two books in The Grisha Trilogy. Recently, after reading and thoroughly enjoying Leigh Bardugo’s two-book Six of Crows series (I highly recommend this series!) and learning about the forthcoming Shadow and Bone TV series, I decided to pick up Shadow and Bone again–and I’m glad I did.

As a very brief synopsis, Shadow and Bone takes place in Ravka, a country divided into two pieces by a dangerous wall of darkness. The solution to this divide may lie with Alina Starkov, who finds that she has an ability that may enable her to eradicate the wall of darkness. While this ability makes her a beam of hope for those who wish to be rid of the darkness, it also puts her at risk–her power makes her very valuable, and, if controlled by the wrong person, it could be dangerous.

One thing I love about this book is that it takes place in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s other books. Even though Shadow and Bone has a different plot from her other series (Six of Crows), I enjoyed delving back into a world I was already familiar with.

In addition, one of my favorite aspects about Shadow and Bone is the characterization. Some characters are incredibly lovable; others are mysterious; some are fascinating or dangerous or a mixture of both. Because of their flaws and their complexity, I found many of the characters believable and well-rounded.

If you are planning on reading Leigh Bardugo’s books (which is amazing!), I would recommend reading The Grisha Trilogy before the Six of Crows series. Although they are not very closely related in plot (as far as I know; I have only read the first book in the trilogy so far), there are some references to The Grisha Trilogy in the Six of Crows series, as well as appearances from characters from the trilogy (if I had known this, I probably would have read the trilogy first).

I’m thoroughly enjoying reading Leigh Bardugo’s books. I highly recommend them to any fantasy lover, and reading Shadow and Bone is the perfect way to begin a journey into Leigh Bardugo’s rich and fascinating world.

-Mia T.

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

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

Crispin: The Cross of Lead is a Newberry award-winning novel by Avi. The story is set in medieval England.  The main character is an unnamed peasant boy.  His mother Asta is his only relation, so he is known simply as “Asta’s son.”  Life is difficult for him, especially under the command of John Aycliffe.  Aycliffe is a steward watching over Stromford Village while Lord Furnival is away.  Aycliffe is cruel and ruthless.  He accuses Asta’s son of a theft that he did not commit.  Forced to flee for his life, Asta’s son must escape the village.  Before the boy embarks on his journey, a priest finally reveals to him his name: Crispin.

I enjoyed this book. I found it to be fast-paced and enthralling.  I especially liked a character Crispin meets in his travels, named “Bear.”  Bear is a large, portly juggler who compels Crispin to become his assistant.  I liked how Crispin’s trust and friendship with Bear grew as they were pursued by Crispin’s assailants.  Crispin trying to avoid the people who accused him of theft was very exciting.  As a fugitive, he must keep moving to new places, which gave the book an adventurous and exhilarating feel.

I have also read the sequel to Crispin, and I look forward to reading the third book in the series.  The Newberry award seems well-deserved. The characters are well-developed and the story is quite gripping. Crispin is a fugitive throughout the book and his life is in constant danger.  I was excited to learn about Crispin’s true identity. I would definitely recommend this book.

-Oliver H.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events Review

I remembered reading this series in the fifth grade, so naturally, when I stumbled upon this series again on Netflix I had to watch it. Although it has been over years since I’ve read it, I was still able to make connections. This series is all about the orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire as they try to get to the bottom of their parents’ sudden death. On top of this, they have to escape the clever Count Olaf who is willing to do just about anything to get his hands on the kids’ fortunes. Every episode gets them one step closer to uncovering the big mysterious deaths, which I must admit is like nothing I’ve seen before, but also includes Count Olaf and his clever disguises. Unfortunately for the three orphans, Mr. Poe (the man who is in charge of getting them to a safe home) doesn’t always see eye to eye. 

At first, I did think the series was a bit repetitive, but a couple episodes later everything started to get interesting again. There are points where you feel as if the plot is similar in every episode and personally, I’d rather watch a show that continues the same plot. After continuing the series, I realized that the more I watched the more the plot would continue, rather than seeming like every episode was a new story. Regarding the ending, it’s like nothing I’ve heard of before, but I would have preferred more closure. Although the ending wasn’t what I hoped for, it’s still worth watching because the story behind their parents is super interesting! I would rate this show a 8/10!

-Kaitlyn Y.

The Outsiders by S.E Hinton

The Outsiders is a coming of age novel based in the 1960s and written by S.E Hinton. Told in the eyes of fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, who talks about his gang consisting of Darryl Curtis, Sodapop Curtis, Steve Randle, Keith Matthews, better known as Two-Bit, Dallas Winston, or Dally, and Pony’s best friend Johnny Cade. Sodapop or Soda and Darryl or Darry are Pony’s brothers who are all going through a tough time after losing their parents and having to deal with money issues and the Socs; an abbreviation of Socials, are the rich, peppy kids on the Westside who jump greasers which are the people on the Eastside, and the name of Pony’s gang. Even though all these troubles, this family of three has many friends to help them out throughout the book.

Pony is a bookworm, a movie lover and a daydreamer. Being the youngest in the gang, he grew up thinking that the Socs were all the same and there would be no way that their two groups, the Socs and greasers, can get along. And he goes along believing that but throughout the book, he finds that it isn’t like that. The only way Pony find out the truth is because of his adventure with Johnny. He and Johnny meet two Socs named Cherry and Marcia. After talking with them, he finds that they are different than what he had originally thought they were like. Cherry talks to him and proves that even if they are Socs, their life isn’t perfect, and they have problems like everyone else.

Later in the story, Pony and Johnny have to run away and hide out after a series of events leading to future events and problems. Through this experience, Pony grows stronger bonds with everyone and learns more about what their thought are and what everyone is going through. The same with everyone else. Even though not directly mentioned in the book, it is implied that the people around Ponyboy find out more about him throughout the story too. they grow closer with each other after each hardship they overcome such as their family problems and loss of others. These help the characters grow and realize different things.

In this novel, there are some topics that some may be uncomfortable with such as, alcohol, bullying, depression, death, etc. Even with these topics, this book is a wonderful masterpiece that shows different themes to teach the reader, has interesting characters that pull them in, great storytelling, and a magnificent plot. This book expresses different emotions through each character’s actions giving them a real personality where some people can relate to. It was a quick read, at least for me, and I loved it. It made me feel things that I haven’t gotten from other books. Overall, The Outsiders was an amazing and genuine book that I would recommend to anyone looking for something to read and is okay with the topics discussed inside of it.

-Nicole R.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Loot by Jude Watson

Loot by Jude Watson is about March McQuin, the son of the famous burglar Alfie McQuin. One night Alfie falls from the roof of a building onto the ground. As he is dying, he is able to say a last set of words to his son,”Find jewels.” However, soon March discovers that his father wasn’t talking about normal jewels, but his long lost sister Jules. They meet at an airport before March and Jules are sent to an orphanage that seems very much like a prison.

Once they’re at the orphanage, they meet up with two kids called Darius and Izzy. The four of them make a plan to break out of the orphanage. Once they break out, they go on the run while committing a series of crimes to look for a set of mysterious stones. March already has one of the stones. They are offered 7 million dollars to find and bring back all the stones. They must find the stones quickly, because there are multiple other people looking for the stones. March and Jules must find the stones before anyone else if they want to be able to live by themselves for the rest of their lives.

-E. Vargas

Loot by Jude Watson is avalable for checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is about two rival groups known as the Greasers and the Socs. The Socs, a group of rich kids with everything they could dream of, commonly pick on and beat up the Greasers. Ponyboy, the main character, learns to live with the Socs always breathing down his neck.

However, one day the Socs take things too far. While Ponyboy is at the park with his friend Johnny, Socs show up and beat them per usual. However this time, they hold Ponyboy’s head under a fountain. Johnny watches helplessly as he tries to figure out what to do. Finally Johnny gets out his switchblade and stabs the Soc that was drowning Ponyboy.

Terrified, the other two Socs flee in their car, and Ponyboy and Johnny go to find someplace to hide. They hide in an abandoned church until Johnny decides to turn himself in. His reasoning for this is that he hasn’t ever gotten in trouble with the law, and it was in self defense, so his sentence couldn’t be that bad. Before they can though, the church catches on fire and Johnny is injured saving kids inside the church. Johnny is sent to the hospital and treated for bad burns on his back. He dies, leaving Ponyboy with three last words as advice, “Stay golden, Ponyboy.”

-Emilio V.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive

Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance—a gardener, a once-orphan, an intellectual—is no ordinary twelve-year-old. Some would call her a genius. Willow’s great curiosity and knowledge help her understand aspects of the world, but sometimes keep others from understanding her. Her highly analytical and sharp mind alienate her from the majority of her peers, and Willow’s adoptive parents worry for her social life. When a tragic accident snatches away the two people who loved Willow the most, Willow is forced to adapt to a new life in which she doesn’t understand everything the way she used to.

On her path to find her new place in the world, Willow, once more an orphan, unintentionally brings together a Vietnamese family, an unmotivated counselor, and a taxi driver. She fills in the missing areas in the lives of these people, and they wish to return the favor. Counting by Sevens is a beautiful story of persistence, strength, metamorphosis, and the meaning of a family.

I read Counting by Sevens a few years ago, and recently read it again. This time around, I was able to appreciate and understand the story and its themes on a deeper level. The characters are all so unique and well-developed, and their metamorphoses catalyzed by the arrival of Willow Chance into their world are truly inspiring. Holly Goldberg Sloan exhibits a beautiful, flowing, and poetic narration which captures an incredible gamut of emotions. Her ability to convey such emotions through the complex characters she creates is amazing, and it contributes greatly to the essence of the story.

One thing I enjoyed most about this book were the intriguing metaphors that are sprinkled throughout the story. These perspectives and ideas of life are so clever and pretty, and they augmented the impact of the novel for me. The beautiful narration of Counting by Sevens combined with the strong, funny, unique characters build a touching novel of acceptance and the importance of both individuality and connections.

-Mia T.

Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Extrodinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

The book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict was inundated with adventure from beginning to end. The book had you on your seat’s edge throughout the entire story. This book was witty with great banter between the characters. There is the classic character, of a main bully, with his two friends who make the children’s life miserable. If, you are interested in fairy tales and a more whimsical story, this book is probably not the correct book for you. The story is about an orphan named Nicholas Benedict, who is a very bright boy known for being smarter than most adults. He is going to a new orphanage where he learns  that there is a mystery treasure to be found. He sets out on a hunt to find it, along the way he finds new friends. Unfortunately there are also obstacles to the treasure hunt adventure, his condition of narcolepsy, which has him falling asleep at odd times. The other obstacle is the fact that the head of the orphanage is also trying to find the treasure. It turns into a race to see who can find the treasure first. This book is for people who love to solve mysteries and enjoy the unlikely heroes, or the underdogs rising out on top. “The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict” is a wonderful read and I would say you are never to old to read it and enjoy what it has to offer.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

Crispin: The Cross of Lead is about Crispin, a poor boy who grows up shunned. Crispin grows up in Stromford, a manor run by Lord Furnival and the steward John Ayecliffe. After Crispin’s mother dies and he is charged with robbery, Crispin leaves Stromford to go to a different town. On the way he comes across a town in ruins. Looking around, Crispin sees a man in a Church. The man asks Crispin what he’s doing there and where he came from. The man soon claims Crispin as his servant after learning that he escaped from Lord Furnival. The two set off with Crispin not entirely trusting the man named Bear. As the two get to know each other more, they become friends. Soon Crispin learns that he has also been charged with the murder of Father Quinel. Then, in Great Wexly, Bear and Crispin find out that Ayecliffe is also in Great Wexly. Soon after, Bear is captured. He is taken to the Lord’s house. Crispin then decides to rescue Bear and leave Great Wexly. At night, Crispin sneaks into the Lord’s house and tries to find Bear. While looking for Bear, Crispin runs into Ayecliffe. Ayecliffe turns to call the guards, but then Crispin tells Ayecliffe something that makes him pale. He tells him that he is Lord Furnival’s son. Ayecliffe knows it’s true, but tries to dismiss it as a lie. Finally, Ayecliffe gives in and admits to knowing. Crispin uses this as leverage to make Ayecliffe set him and Bear free. Ayecliffe agrees to set them free, but right before they leave Great Wexly, Ayecliffe tries to go back on his word. However his attempt is stopped by Bear killing Ayecliffe. All the guards then back away in fear as Bear and Crispin leave Great Wexly free of any kind of obligations.

-Emilio V.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available as a free download from Overdrive

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

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The Fog Diver, written by Joel Ross, is a great book full of suspense and twists. It has a wonderful plot and intriguing characters.

What if the whole earth was engulfed in deadly fog? What if a great treasure was said to be hidden beneath the clouds? And what if you were the only one who could survive in that fog?  The main character, Chess, finds himself in such a dilemma. An orphan with special power, he is part of a ragtag scrapper crew. They hunt for items from old Earth to sell on the mountaintops while avoiding sky pirates and monsters.

Meanwhile, a tyrant named Kodoc hunts for Chess so he can use him to find the Compass, an ancient artifact said to  control the Fog. The team thinks that Port Oro, a legendary mountaintop, will be a safe haven for them, and attempt a journey. Along the way, they team up with pirates and gang kids. This book is full of friendship and action. I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a summer read.

-Joshua M, 6th grade

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library