1984 by George Orwell

All of my previous book reviews have suggested and encouraged readers to check out that specific novel, for it appealed to me; however, this time around, while I still recommend my audience to read 1984 by George Orwell, I cannot say I enjoyed reading it. Dystopian novels have never interested me, nor have they ever made me feel good after reading. A sense of uneasiness settles in my gut as I begin to think about the messages the author is voicing about our societies and worlds. 1984 is a dystopian novel, foreshadowing the downfall of our society if we allow political authority and sovereignty to fall into the wrong hands. Orwell, motivated to write after witnessing the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, demonstrates that dictators and despots threaten to plague our governments and therefore, our societies as a whole.

In the superstate Oceania, citizens are constantly supervised by the overruling government named the Party. The face of the Party is Big Brother, a man alluding to Stalin and his dictatorship. The Party hides behind totalitarian fear tactics: installing telescreens in every home and microphones in every corner, threatening to “vaporize” those disobedient citizens who turn against the ultimately powerful Party, brainwashing children into Junior Spies who ruthlessly turn in their rebellious parents and fixedly revering Big Brother. History, language, culture and lifestyle are all dictated by the Party. Laws ban politically rebellious words and replace them with the common language, Newspeak, which aims to suppress individualistic thinking and expression. The manipulation of history and human existence serve to fulfill governmental prophecies and create the illusion that the government is omniscient. The Party enforces acceptance and belief in hypocritical statements; this concept is called doublethink. Civilization’s purpose remains to serve the Party by obeying all laws, submitting to Big Brother as a faithful member and believing all slogans of the Party, no matter how contradictory they appear to be.

Winston Smith is portrayed as an average Party member on the surface but his ability to individually wonder and question the Party’s motives lead to conflict. He realizes he is not alone in his silent fight against the Party when he meets seemingly allies. The mysteries behind many concepts and characters illustrate the theme of appearance versus reality. I will admit this novel is full of plot twists, loss and betrayal, making for an interesting read. However, I will say that the ending disappointed me greatly.

Nonetheless, Orwell presents important ideas about our future as a society using allusion and foreshadowing channeled through various characters. As 1984 in my opinion is an important read but not a captivating novel, I rate it a 3/10.

-Jessica T.

George Orwell’s 1984 is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

Ever done something wrong, but then just totally put the blame on your sibling, or maybe an imaginary one? Of COURSE not, right? Just put that one out of your mind…

But what if that imaginary sibling became real?

Answer: Some really, really bad stuff would happen.

In C.J. Omololu’s thriller and mystery combined in one, The Third Twin is sure to leave you flipping the pages like there’s no tomorrow. If you’ve ever read Pretty Little Liars, or maybe you’re a fan of the TV series, this book is pretty similar, but with more of a haunting twist. Even the cover looks cool!

But anyways, everything started out as a joke. The main characters, identical twins named Lexi (Alexa) and Ava (they’re seriously identical, because you really can’t tell the difference between them at all), make up a third twin, Alicia, just for fun. Who forgot to take out the trash? Who totally smashed that new iPhone? Alicia! Duh. Lexi and Ava decided that that was a total no-brainer.

As they grew up, they used Alicia as a cover-up for doing things that they wouldn’t normally do in real life. Nobody needed to know about this secret Alicia. She only existed when they wanted her too.

Until Alicia becomes real. Now Ava and Lexi are up to their necks in hot water, and it may not seem like they can get away without some pretty hard consequences. Because a boy is found murdered, and all traces point directly at Alicia.

The girl who never existed.

Either Lexi’s sister, Ava, is the one responsible for this tragic accident…

Or perhaps Alicia is real.

-Katharine L.

The Third Twin by C. J. Omololu is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This book by Elizabeth Scott is unlike any book that I’ve read before. The book follows a girl named “Alice” who has been kidnapped by a pedophile, Ray. It shows her life five years after Alice has been kidnapped by him and all the horrible things she has to go through everyday.

I recommend this book only to readers who are able to read books like this. Some parts of this novel were definitely really hard. I really enjoyed reading this book because of all the intensity it had and suspense. I read this book in one sitting, I couldn’t put it down. Although this book is short, it contains so much. I couldn’t believe how much Elizabeth Scott had fit inside.

If you think you would be able to read this book, I would recommend trying it out. This story is one I will never forget, and for some reason this book made a really big impact on me. After finishing, I shut the book and just stared into space. There was so much to say about this story, so I hopped on to this blog and wrote about it.

-Kyndle W.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart

H.P. Lovecraft brought horror fiction into existence with his tales of eldritch monsters and otherworldly beings. Now, editor Ross E. Lockhart has compiled The Book of Cthulhu, a collection of short stories, as a tribute to the Cthulhu Mythos story cycle first created by Lovecraft himself. The book is an anthology of short horror stories with a variety of topics yet all containing the familiar dread of Lovecraft.

The unique genre is Lovecraftian horror, which features the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. Within his stories of the occult, Lovecraft was famous for using dread instead of shock and gore. Instead of trying to scare the reader through cheesy ghost stories or bloody axe killers, Lovecraftian literature creates feelings of insignificance, helplessness, and awe. A common theme is the insignificance of humanity. Humans are merely specks of dust in the vast universe, completely at the mercy of ancient or even ageless beings. Aliens and elder gods from different worlds and dimensions exist that could annihilate humankind on a whim. Lovecraft’s universe holds creatures so monstrous and beyond comprehension that even knowledge of them drives men to insanity.

The authors from The Book of Cthulhu continue Lovecraft’s tradition. The first short story, Andromeda Among the Stones, highlights the best aspects of Lovecraft. A family by the edge of the sea must sacrifice everything to guard a portal against the eldritch beings on the other side. Out of all of the stories in the anthology, this short story perhaps best embodies Lovecraft’s sense of awe and dread of the unknown.

My personal favorite story is A Colder War, set in the Cold War era. The world’s superpowers attempt to understand and harness the alien beings as weapons. These elder gods trivialize humanity’s nuclear arms and ultimately threaten to consume this world and other worlds.

The Book of Cthulhu is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read that will put earthly matters into perspective. Although the stories are sometimes hit or miss, each author offers their own style infused with Lovecraft, making it a varied and interesting anthology. The stories often require the reader to grasp the context very quickly, and it often feels as if the short stories are lacking exposition. On the other hand, this adds to the mysterious atmosphere that Lovecraft was so famous for. The anthology is a proper modern tribute to Lovecraft that will leave readers feeling a little tinier than before.

-Phillip X.

Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki

pandorahearts_junmochizukiOz Vessalius is fifteen years old, which means that it is time for his coming of age ceremony for the Vessalius family. Being the head of a powerful family, he doesn’t have to worry about in his future and his days are spent teasing his servant Gil, playing with his younger sister, and trying to woo the beautiful Sharon. That is, until he and Gil stumble upon a grave and Oz starts to have weird dreams about a girl in a twisted dollhouse who wants to kill him. The erratic Baskervilles send Oz into the “Abyss”, a prison thought only to be be a scary bedtime story. But why is the girl from his dream suddenly helping him get out of the Abyss? More importantly, when he finally gets out, has the world changed? Or did the Abyss change him?

Pandora Hearts is a completed manga series, with 104 chapters in 24 volumes and it’s a very worthwhile read. The series has very beautiful artwork, with each panel being a masterpiece and scenery that perfectly sets the tone. Additionally, characters are drawn in a way that perfectly suits their personalities. They have incredible backstories that lead the plot towards incredible twists and turns. The plot is woven well into the overall theme, from one scene about madness, to the next being completely comedic and the next being a thrilling action scene.

For Alice in Wonderland fans, it is nice to see many references to the book, with many scenes of madness, a character named “Alice”, and many characters having nicknames such as “Mad Hatter” or “B-Rabbit”. However, younger teens should be cautioned because some scenes of madness and action can be quite gruesome and twisted.

This is an amazing manga series, and I hope that everyone can take the chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Pandora Hearts is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Manga Introduction: Death Note By Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata.

deathnote_ohbaWhat if you were given the power to kill? Anyone you wished and no one could find out you did it? You could kill anyone by simply writing down their name and knowing their face. What if someone was given that power and decides to use it to enforce his own justice?

This is the premise on which Death Note is based on.

Light Yagami, a high school student, finds a notebook. Not just any notebook: a Death Note. It was dropped by a shinigami (death god) named Ryuk and grants the ability to kill anyone by knowing the name and face. Light first thinks of it as a joke, but soon comes to learn its true power. He decides “cleanse the world” from evil and become the world’s “god” using the notebook. He wants to create a world where people he deems are morally correct and good. Light becomes known as a “god” called Kira through killing those who commits crime both big and small. The killings attract the attention of a genius detective, who is only known as “L”. L believes what Kira is doing is wrong and need to be brought to justice. There begins their game of cat and mouse to see who is truly bringing justice.

Some quick facts

  • It was published in December of 2003 and ended three years later in May of 2006
  • There are 12 tankobon volumes (manga books).
  • Serialized (published) in Shueisha’s manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump
  • The Death Note manga has sold approximately 30 million volumes as of 2015.
  • A anime adaptation was aired from October 3, 2006, to June 26, 2007
  •  In 2007, the first three volumes of Death Note were on the American Library Association’s 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list.
  • On ICv2’s “Top 10 Shonen Properties Q2 2009”, Death Note was the third best manga in North America.
  • Won the 2008 Eagle Award for Favourite Manga as voted by UK fans.
  • According to a survey conducted in 2007, by the Ministry of culture of Japan, it occupies the 10th place among the best manga of all time.
  • Many Live Action Adaptations
    • Three Japanese films have been produced based off the manga, there is another that will be released this year.
    • An American film adaption which is currently being filmed (Rated R)
    • A Japanese live action drama was released in 2015
    • A musical adaption has been produced and had successful runs in both Korea and Japan.

This is a masterpiece of a manga. Certainly, one of my top favorites. The fundamental story does have a strong cultural base, so it may be slightly confusing to non-Japanese readers. It delves deeply into morality and what is justice. There is not a “good” and “bad” side but rather two sides who are battling each other to prove that their justice is the correct justice. Light and L are some of the best developed characters I have seen. There is two of what could be called arcs, both of which featured a suspenseful story that keep me reading.

I would recommended for older readers as it deals heavily with morality and death. It raises many questions, which would be harder for younger readers to understand.

I think it is fantastic but read it for yourself and decide.

-Sarah J.

Death Note is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

 

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

monster_naokiurasawaLet’s say that you’re a doctor. You have a choice to save either one of these patients: a ten year old boy who arrived at the hospital first, or the mayor of the city. You can only save one while the other will die. Who will you choose? Now, let’s say that you choose the child: congratulations, you have now unleashed a monster onto the world.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese doctor working in late 20th century East Germany, saved a ten year old boy named Johan Liebert instead of the mayor ten years ago. Because of that, he lost his trust with his colleagues, his fiancee, and his promotion. To top it off, the boy he saved had murdered two people before admitted to the hospital. Now, Dr. Tenma is a fugitive framed for the murders committed by Johan Liebert after seeing this monster again.

Throughout his run on his life, Tenma tries to figure out Johan’s past. And he must consider one question: if he knew ten years ago that the boy he wants to save will turn out to be a monster, would he save the mayor? And if Johan’s life were in his hands again, would he save him?

This manga is a very good psychological story. Dr. Tenma meets a bunch of so-called monsters along his run, and proves that all of them can be forgiven. For example, he meets a soldier and a young girl. The soldier had killed the girl’s mother, and worries that he would never be forgiven, as the girl never smiles or speaks to him. However, Dr. Tenma fixes this rift, and in the end the little girl holds the soldier’s hand as if he were her father. Additionally, we hear the police’s side of the story, and through their investigations even we start to wonder if Johan is just in Tenma’s brain or not.

Additionally, Urasawa accurately depicts the historical content and geography of East Germany and Czechoslovakia throughout the story: the beautiful city of Prague, the slums of major cities, and the brutality of the underground.

Urasawa’s characters are also incredible, and it is amazing what each of them does to get the job done: Johan’s insane plans, the detective that is chasing after Dr Tenma and what he thinks in order to chase after his patients, and the motivation of many, whether if it is chasing after Johan or living a daily life. The artwork is very beautiful, and you cannot tell it’s a manga from twenty years ago: each of the characters looks widely unique and well crafted. Additionally, the backgrounds are incredible, which each scene looking realistic as if you were there yourself, whether it was in a hospital room, a restaurant, or a prison.

This was a manga that made me just say “wow” at the end, and anyone into mysteries, action, psychological thrillers, or horror would be really hooked into this series.

-Megan V, 11th grade