The Dark Ascension Series: The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway

“The sky was glorious that morning, so blue and sharp that it looked like it could shatter, raining shards down on all of them, but instead it stayed in place while the rest of their world fell apart.”

We all know the story of Cinderella, enslaved by her evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters when her beloved father passes. She wishes upon a star, and, poof! Her dreams become true and she can finally escape from her horrible stepsisters to a land of charming royalty.

But before the two sisters became wicked, what changed them? They had a father who left them one day, a callous mother with a terrible temper, and a feeble stepsister unable to protect herself from their mother’s wrath. Scrutinized and criticized by even their own mother and villagers, the two sisters were misunderstood and abandoned.

Drizella, the older of the sisters, is a sensible young woman who is almost entirely sure that life is meant to be difficult and struggled through. It’s not like life is perfectly mapped out and lined up like the constellations that secretly fascinate her. Besides, a woman’s expected duties are pointless without learning anything new.

Anastasia is a dreamer who sees the world not for the cruelty and struggles it forces her to endure, but as a vast place to explore and even find romance in. Unfortunately, her sympathetic nature is muted by despair.

Though they are determined not to let evil lead them down a forlorn, empty path, can they remain hopeful forever?

I found this novel pleasant and a change of pace from the fantasy-fairytale books I usually read. I do remember reading another book—Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly—that was a more challenging read with a complicated storyline but had a similar idea to The Wicked Ones.

The stepsisters’ lives weren’t handed to them tied with a bow, it was paved through resentment and struggle. The reader can sympathize with the stepsisters and see their perspective and growth as characters.

Originally, I thought this book was simple and predictable, but it is really just a good novel to sit back and read. The fairytale sweeps you away and you can learn about the stepsisters’ detestable characters.

Through this novel of suffering and strife, the reader learns how the past of the stepsisters’ fostered the black-hearts that they have today.

The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway is available to download for free from Libby.

The Liar’s Crown Book Review

This novel was a quick read for me and is what I think a little confusing of a fantasy plot.

It is about two magical princess twins: Meren and Tabra. Tabra lives a royal life in the palace, enjoying all royal amenities, while Meren lives with her grandma hidden in one of the slums.

Meren is supposed to protect Tabra at all costs from King Eidolon, the evil king who has been alive for centuries. He is made out of shadow and sheds a new body every few hundred years to ensure that he lives and reigns forever.

When suddenly their grandma dies, Meren is taken by a shadow wraith (Reven), a mysterious man who is made out of shadows and has many dark secrets. They go through a long journey to get to his home which is apparently full of people he has saved and Meren realizes that he needs her help to save his people.

Of course, Meren falls in love with him along the way and figures out that he is not that bad after all. But, they hear news from her sister Tabra who has fallen into the trap of King Eidolon and Meren is intent on taking her place (since they are twins) and it is her duty to protect her. Oh yeah, forgot to tell you all, Reven thinks Meren is still Tabra.

Anyway, the plot just continues to get more confusing until Meren confronts Eidolon and she casts as Tabra to save her sister.

So, the book pretty much just ends with her marrying the King Eidolon and Reven trying to save her from his wrath (yes, there is a book 2).

Honestly, rating wise I would give this book a 5 out of 10. The plot was a little confusing and it just wasn’t as intricate as I wanted it to be. If you are looking for quick fantasy to pick up, it’ll give you a quick fun read.

Book vs. Movie: Detailed Differences from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Warning: There are spoilers ahead!

1. First encounter

  • Book: Peter Kavinsky’s first scene was when he rolls up his black Audi the time he saw Lara Jean after her small car accident and asked if she was okay, pulls over his car and climbs out inspecting her car.
  • Movie: Peter’s first scene was when Lara Jean was backing up her car in the school parking lot with her sister Kitty and almost ran over Peter.

2. Lara Jean’s letters

  • Book: Kitty sent the letters because she was mad at Lara Jean for joking about telling Josh that she had a crush on him.
  • Movie: Kitty sent the letters because she thinks that Lara Jean is lonely, so sending the letters would help her sister “find some romance.”

3. Confrontation about the letters

  • Book: Peter asked Lara Jean in the track field about the letter he got. Then the next day, Josh approached her at her locker and asked about the letter he received. She said that she already has a boyfriend so he doesn’t need to worry about what was written there, but then she runs up to Peter when she sees him in the hallway and kisses him.
  • Movie: When Lara Jean saw Josh walking toward the field track while Peter is asking her about the letter he got, she launches herself to Peter and kissed him on the track.

4. Fake relationship

  • Book: Peter suggested the fake relationship inside the room after their Chemistry class and to show that he is over Gen, his ex-girlfriend.
  • Movie: Peter suggested the fake relationship in front of Lara Jean’s house when he brought her home, saying that it will make Gen jealous which will help in getting them back together.

5. Ending

  • Book: It ends with Lara Jean writing a letter but only “Dear Peter” was mentioned, it ends on a cliffhanger which makes the readers unsure of what her decision about her feelings for Peter is.
  • Movie: Lara Jean wrote a letter to Peter saying she likes him and went to their school to personally say it to him as she read the letter out loud.

Book Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Growing up, I had always heard mixed feelings about the Twilight Franchise. My mom had told me that she read all of the books and loved them, but I felt as though they’d be cheesy. Yet, here I am, writing a review on the first book in the series.

Since 2020, I have read the first three books, and am currently on the fourth. I would have finished it a long time ago, but I get distracted very easily. Enough information about me, let’s get to my thoughts on the book!

I had no prior knowledge about anything in the Twilight universe. The only thing I knew was there was a girl who liked a boy who happened to be a vampire. In the first few pages of the book, I was hooked. The way Bella’s thoughts were organized in the book were so relatable to me.

She seemed like a very raw character to me and I loved seeing how she grew throughout the book. She is a very relatable teenage character to me. I see a lot of aspects of me in her character throughout the book.

Before I even read the book I knew I would love Edward’s character. I am always down to read a romance book, but with vampires? Even better! I love mystical creatures like vampires so it was non stop entertainment for me.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Ivies by Alexa Donne


“My life at Claflin has inevitably been easier, better, because of the company I keep. The Ivies opened a door, and I stepped through it.”

–Olivia Winters

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, UPenn, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Columbia. The eight Ivy League schools for five teenage girls set on attending these schools, by any means necessary.

The Ivies by Alexa Donne is an exciting murder mystery that follows Olivia Winters, a scholarship senior at Claflin Academy, as she navigates life under the wing of the Ivies—an elite, ambitious group of girls who eliminate all chances of competition to claim first place. But karma is real… and it’s coming to get them.

Donne’s approach to the life of a high school student is overwhelmingly perceptive. From the way the characters act to the way they talk, their personality is established within the first few pages of meeting them.

This novel breaks stereotypes that center around class and social privilege. For instance, Avery Montfort, a Harvard legacy student who at first seems conceited and arrogant, offers the reader a glimpse of her not-so-perfect life and the weight she carries.

Together, the Ivies work to sabotage other top college material students. Their conniving actions reveal the ugliness behind their riches. They demonstrate just how far people go to get what they want, including murder.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Ivies by Alexa Donne. My suspicions jumped from person to person; I never stopped guessing until the very end. Everyone should have the opportunity to meet these brilliant, but back-stabbing girls with twisted priorities.

The Ivies by Alexa Donne is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I first heard about this book from one of my close friends. We usually are into the same type of books, so I knew I had to read this. I went to the bookstore a few weeks later and purchased it. It wasn’t until a few months later that I actually began reading it.

I instantly fell in love with the book at the first page. When Finch’s character was introduced, I immediately connected with his psyche. The style of the writing is just one that I find myself relating to.

With every page turn, I became more and more invested in the story. The subtle romance between Finch and Violet that sparked in the beginning was so captivating. Usually books targeted towards young adult audiences don’t seem relatable to me, but this one was. When I am really invested in a book, I will finish it in less than a week. I finished reading this one in two days.

I feel as though any teenager/young adult who reads this book will relate to at least one part. This book was very inspiring to me as well. It made me feel less alone.

This book is honestly what gave me courage to fully open up to my school counselor. It helped me realize that it is okay not to be okay.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Crave Series: Book Review

This series is the first fantasy series that I read after I was able to finish my classical reading that was required for high school. I simply just wanted a quick and easy-to-read fantasy book to get back into reading the genre, and I was so glad I picked this series.

Simply put, the series revolves around a paranormal romance between two main characters, Grace and Jaxon which eventually leads them on a mission to save the world pretty much. Yes, it is one of those books that are pretty vanilla, but is still entertaining if you’re look for something to get your hands on really quick.

The first book starts with Grace starting a boarding school at Katmere Academy after her parents died in a car accident about six months ago. Her Uncle Finn is the principal of the school and Macy, her cousin, also attends there as well. Not even after a day at Katmere, strange accidents keep occurring and they are all targeted at her! However, as Jaxon, a boy with a mysterious and aloof aura around him keeps saving her, a romance suddenly sparks.

Later on in the series, she finds out what she truly is and why she is being targeted by all the paranormal creatures. There are also pretty major plot twists that you wouldn’t think are coming and honestly I was even surprised by some of them considering the amount of fantasy books I read!

Honestly, what I liked most about the book is the modernness of it all. It really relates to me because they include many of the famous TV shows, singers, actors that made it quite interesting. Grace is also a funny but brave character and makes many jokes along the way that are pretty amusing. I finished the first book in about two days and the second one in about three. I haven’t finished the third one yet, but there is looking to be a big plot twist up ahead so we’ll see!

This series probably should be for ages 14 and above since there are uses of cuss language and some minimal violence here and there.

– Aleena C.

Crave by Tracy Wolff is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book Review: Jane Eyre

To be honest, the book, Jane Eyre was a really complicated read with its dense sentence structure, its use of old English language, and difficult vocabulary. It is also difficult trying to connect with the history background of the 19th century.

Overall, Jane Eyre’s personality is very straightforward and she has an independent and hopeful attitude that I really enjoyed, especially since she went through so many hardships when she was young (such as being abused by her aunt, surviving at the strict and harsh Lowood School).

From the beginning of the book to the end, you can see a lot of maturation and moral growth from Jane Eyre. She became much more independent and was seeking for someone to be loved unconditionally. Jane seeks for a feeling of identity and worth in addition to romantic connection.

Ever since her parents died, she was looking for love in her aunt, she found none. In her teachers, she found none. Until, she met Mr. Rochester while being governess at Thornfield who she seemed to connect with and understand.

She finally began to feel that unconditioned love, until she found out on the day of her wedding that Mr. Rochester still had a wife. She fled to the countryside and eventually found that she had cousins (St. John, Diana, and Mary) and her Uncle who had passed away had left her a fortune.

She goes back to Mr. Rochester, only to find that he is blind and has lost one of his hands (Thornfield was burned down and he got injured trying to save everyone from the fire that his wife had caused). Rochester professes his love for Jane Eyre, and they live pretty much happily ever after!

This story is a great read if you want to feel the deep emotions and feelings that Jane Eyre narrates. It also helps you understand more about the hypocrisy and injustice of the 19th century social classes.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

*this review may contain spoilers

First off, I would like to acknowledge that this book is a “sequel” to Armas’s The Spanish Love Deception so I would read that before reading this book. I LOVED The Spanish Love Deception which urged me to read this sequel. However, it did not live up to the hype and anticipation that was coming from this book.

It follows two characters, Rosie Graham and Lucas Martin who are mutuals between Catalina Martin. Rosie Graham is Catalina’s best friend while Lucas is Catalina’s cousin. They get in an awkward situation when Rosie decides to stay at Lina’s apartment while she is away on her honeymoon not knowing that Lucas was due to stay at Lina’s apartment as well. Instead of moving separate ways they learn to love being in one another’s presence and create a plan to simultaneously live in the apartment with one another.

Rosie has been struggling with her romance writing and looks at Lucas for inspiration for her novels. They begin a fake dating pact to help influence her writing but they end up falling in love for each other, I’m aware it is very cliché. They have one of the most romantic comebacks and have a happy ending.

The reason I said I didn’t really enjoy the book was because it didn’t exceed the expectation I had of Spanish Love Deception. Although I liked the characters, I didn’t feel bonded enough with either of them to fully enjoy the story. One thing I did like was that it was written in a dual POV so I got to see inside both the character’s thoughts and feelings about one another.

-Madison C.

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas is available to download for free from Libby.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen follows the story of the Bennett sisters, whose mother desires nothing but to get them all married. Early on in the book, the family is introduced to a neighbor’s friend- a wealthy man named Mr. Darcy. The author beautifully develops the relationship between him and one of the oldest Bennett sisters, Elizabeth.

Jane Austen’s ability to realistically capture the struggles in a relationship is the quality I admired the most while reading this book. The author is able to eloquently show the obstacles one must overcome in order to find true love, such as pride, arrogance, and social class. While reading, I found myself at the edge of my seat, wondering what the outcome would be of the protagonists’ turbulent relationship. I also enjoyed how the novel shared the struggles of other family members as well, while still keeping the main focus on Darcy and Elizabeth.

I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in classics, or the romance genre in general, as this is truly one of the most iconic love stories of all time. Although it is difficult to adjust to at first, Jane Austen has an iconic writing style that demonstrates her creativity and elegance, giving her stories a tone that fully immerses readers into the same time period as their favorite characters.

-Aysha H.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.