The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufmen and Jay Kristoff

A sci-fi romance filled with adventures, death, and societal issues, what else could you wish for? But seriously, this book/series paved the way for my entrance into young adult sci-fi and I can’t thank it enough. 

While reading this book I cried many a time, both out of anger, frustration, and despair. Needless to say, it was an emotional rollercoaster. So much so that I read every book in a day each and still somehow managed to get absolutely wrecked by them. The plot took so many twists and turns it was almost impossible to get bored. 

A summary of this complicated book is most simply put as, a boyfriend and girlfriend live on a planet, they break up, planet gets destroyed. Once planet gets destroyed they are on an evacuation ship where a plague runs rampant, an AI is trying to “save” the ship but really not, and thats only the least of it. 

Apart form its complicated plot which only explains the premise of the first book, this book is in such a unique format that it is a must read. I see that most people say the audiobook is incredible, but when you listen to it, you don’t get to experience the amount of effort and detail this book possesses through its interactive elements.

I have never seen a book quite like this. The images, the format of the words, is just impossible to describe. The next time you go to a Barnes & Noble, pick up this book and flip through it. Trust me, it is an enlightening experience. How the authors though of this format I will never know, but will forever be grateful for. 

The characters are perfect at adapting and reacting to the horrifying situations surrounding them. And as an extra bonus, they are very cute together. These characters sucked me into the world and what I believe to be the main factor of my emotional attachment to this book. 

Everyone must make space for this book on their shelves, because it is one of the best science fiction I have ever read, and there will never be a dull moment. 

-Asli B.

The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Amazon.com: I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, Book 1 ...

In a universe where extraterrestrial beings battle in a high-stakes war of life or death, nine aliens gifted with special abilities from the planet Lorien have come to Earth to hide from their otherworldly attackers, the evil Mogadorians. To protect them from being assassinated by the Mogadorians, the Loric receive a charm that places them in a numerical order, ensuring that they cannot be killed unless all that come before them have already been found. 

They caught and brutally murdered Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. Now, Number Four must escape the deadly Mogadorian assassins that are tracking his every move.

Adopting the alias of John Smith, Four must masquerade as John Smith, a normal human teenager, in order to protect himself and the future of the Loric people. However, just as John is beginning to become accustomed to life in Paradise, Ohio, his abilities manifest, drawing attention to him and his new home. If he wants to save himself and those he loves, John must master his Legacies before it’s too late, and everyone and everything John holds dear is cruelly snatched from him.

Fast-paced and thrilling, I Am Number Four fantastically kicks off Pittacus Lore’s Lorien Legacies series, making this a novel (and a series) a must read for fans of superhero-esque action and adventure scenes.

-Mahak M.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Amazon.com: I, Robot (The Robot Series) eBook: Asimov, Isaac: Kindle Store

I, Robot, a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov, tell the tales of artificially intelligent robots held in check by the Three Laws of Robotics, which are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;

2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

With these three simple directives in mind, Asimov successfully creates a world in which the behaviour of robots is governed, allowing the humans (and the reader) to watch as the robots evolve from their primitive origins to eventually reach ultimate perfection in a future where humanity is on the cusp of being rendered obsolete.

While not technically classified as a novel, the stories have been ordered in such a way as to preserve continuity. Within a frame narrative of an interview of a soon-to-be-retired division head of the U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men Corporation, “robopsychologist” Dr. Susan Calvin, stories are told depicting the key members involved in humanity’s development of a range of robots from infantile to hyper intelligent ones. An especially appealing part of the stories is that most of the characters are kept the same, and while it may seem dull to read about the same few people, the character development in each story produces well rounded characters that are interesting and realistic.

Of the 9 stories in I, Robot, my personal favorite was “Little Lost Robot,” in which Dr. Calvin and her associates lose a robot with a diminished First Law (meaning that it can harm humans), and they must find it again before it can escape to Earth and wreak havoc on the planet, resulting in a loss of support for the robot initiative. However, all the stories were definitely thought-provoking ones, and I would recommend the entire collection to all readers, sci-fi fans or otherwise.

-Mahak M.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is the first book in a riveting dystopian fantasy series with lots of adventure and plot twists. The book is set sometime in the future when Earth has been taken over by the Reestablishment, an evil organization that is destroying the world after baiting its people with empty promises. Our main character is Juliette Ferrars, a 17-year-old girl with a deadly power: her touch can kill. No one understands what’s wrong with her, including doctors, and she is shunned by everyone she knows because of her mysterious curse. After a terrible accident occurs, Juliette is sent to a mental asylum where she stays for nearly two years before her life drastically changes. She is discovered by Warner, the son of the supreme commander of North America. He knows about her powers, and he wants to use them in nefarious ways to benefit the Reestablishment. Juliette must escape her difficult situation and figure out who she really is to find safety in her dangerous world.

The Shatter Me books are probably the best books I’ve ever read. I think the elements of dystopia and fantasy are very well combined. There are characters with fascinating abilities trying to survive in and take back a world run by a cruel, evil organization. The plot is well-written and there are plenty of surprises that you definitely don’t see coming, especially in the fourth book when you learn that Juliette is not who you thought she was. The characters are well-developed and interesting, and I enjoyed getting to read from the point of views of different characters. I would highly recommend this series to anyone interested in the dystopian/fantasy genre!

-Kaitlyn S.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury - Wikipedia

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 — June 6, 2012) was born in Waukegan, Illinois, USA. He loved adventure stories and fantasy novels, especially the fantastic stories edited by Gernsback. When he was twelve, he was given a typewriter for his birthday. He began to practice his writing. As early as middle school, he took an elective course on how to write a novel. He began to contribute to several magazines in 1941, became a professional writer in 1943, and won the Best American Short Story Award three years later. He has written several novels, such as “Fahrenheit 451” is quite famous. But he is also known for his short stories, so far short stories published nearly 20 units, including the famous are: “The Martian Chronicles” (1950), “the Golden Apples of the Sun” (1953), “The Rocket” (1962), “Last Night of the World” (1966), etc. Bradbury is not only a world-famous science fiction writer, but also one of the leading grammarian in contemporary American literature. In addition to writing science fiction, he wrote screenplays and social fiction, and adapted the classic American literary work “Moby Dick” by Melville into a screenplay. He himself drew nourishment from the classics as well.

Bradbury is one of those rare writers whose work has changed the way people think. With over 500 books — including short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television plays, and poetry — he represented the pinnacle of American imagination. Once you read his work, his words will stick with you. His enduring appeal to both the old and the young proves once again that Bradbury was a true classic of the 20th century.

The works of Ray Bradbury are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Is it a kid’s book or all ages one?  Madeleine L’Engle’s classic (but not too classic) story A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children focuses on Meg and Charles Wallace Murry and their new friend Calvin O’Keefe through time and space on a mission to save Mr.Murry.  While some argue that this work of science fiction is aimed at youth, it is actually a timeless piece that will transcend time and space itself.  

A Wrinkle in Time tackles different scientific theories by putting them into play and describing them with simple words and emotions making them easily comprehensible.  For example, L’Engle talks about tesseracts or anything which is four-dimensional.  As the three heroes move through time and space, or tesser, L’Engle uses simple but effective words coupled by vivid descriptions of the event.  This allows readers to fully grasp the advanced scientific and mathematical concepts.  Some confuse L’Engle’s use of basic vocabulary as a way to aim her story at children.  While I am sure that she is pleased for children to read her story, this does not mean that A Wrinkle in Time is a kid’s book.  The use of base-level vocabulary simply makes these ideas accessible to everyone and not just rocket scientists.  

Moreover, L’Engle’s characters all deal with absent and neglectful parents, a theme which is definitely not aimed solely at children.  The Murray children practically grew up without their father who was kidnapped by the evil It.  Charles Wallace had not ever even properly met his father.  Calvin O’Keefe’s mother struggled to keep the house in proper sanitation and neglected her children.  While these ideas are important for children to understand, it is certainly not limited to them.  For all I know, reading about how these parent’s identities have shaped their children could give some parents a wake up call.  In any event,  the theme of unideal parenting is one that can resonate with any generation.

Further still, A Wrinkle in Time focuses more on timeless themes and morals than anything else meaning that it will withstand the test of time for all generations, not just children.  L’Engle’s’ story, though it is classified as science fiction, is largely about love and how it connects all of us throughout the universe.  From Meg’s sisterly love of Charles Wallace, Charles Wallace’s love of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, to Calvin’s love for Meg, love is all over.  Love is something timeless and will never fade away, and neither will A Wrinkle in Time.  

It almost goes without saying that any book which has obtained a Newbery Medal is fantastic, but Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a truly extraordinary work of science fiction. Though many declare that it is a children’s story, it is in actuality a story for all ages or anyone who likes scientific theories explained simply, themes about absent or neglectful parents and enjoys a good old fashioned story about the power of love.

– Ainsley H

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian: Andy Weir: 9780553418026: Amazon.com: Books

The year is 2035. Man has begun to reach for the stars, and begins to colonize the infamous Red Planet, Mars. Among a select few is botanist and engineer Mark Watney, who has been selected to travel to Mars on the Ares 3 mission.

Unfortunately, six days into what should have been the greatest month of Mark’s life and he finds himself living a nightmare.

After a dust storm forces the rest of his crew to leave Mark for dead, he finds himself trapped on the Martian surface with no way of signaling anyone, and is forced to somehow hold on long enough to await the arrival of the next Mars mission – which will land in four years’ time.

However, Mark probably won’t have time to starve, if the damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or simple “human error” don’t do the job first.

Armed with only his ingenuity, engineering skills, and a dark sense of humor that lightens every grave situation, Mark must somehow survive every hostility found on the red planet. 

Andy Weir’s The Martian is a trailblazer in the science fiction field, and Weir finds the perfect balance between accurate scientific details, action, and laugh-out-loud humor to keep the reader entertained. Once you pick up this book, it’s near impossible to put it down again, and I recommend it to all fans of science/realistic fiction, or just people looking for a good read.

-Mahak M. 

The Martian by Andy Weir is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I recently finished the newly-released prequel to the well-known Hunger Games series, written once again by author Suzanne Collins. I loved the original trilogy so much and consider them among my favorite books, so, as you can imagine, the idea of a prequel was very exciting. Originally, the Hunger Games series was set in a post-war, dystopian era in the country of Panem, and the setting in this book is no different, other than the fact that the events within it took place earlier in time. 

Panem is divided into twelve districts of people with the Capitol as the grand center and overarching control over all. The point of the Games is to allow each district to remember their overwhelming powerlessness against the Capitol, as every year two tributes from each district  between the ages of twelve and eighteen are reaped and then forced to fight to the death in a gruesome, twisted show of entertainment, similar to ancient gladiators, while the rest of the country watches them live on television. 

Now, contrary to popular belief, this book is neither about Haymitch or Finnick, who were both characters from the original trilogy who would have indeed had interesting backstories, but rather about another intriguing character: President Coriolanus Snow. Snow was never a central character in the original trilogy, so we know little to nothing of his backstory and character, other than the fact that he is considered the trilogy’s corrupt villain, in the form of the cold, menacing leader of Panem. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes explores Coriolanus as to what he was like as an eighteen year old Capitol boy. From the very beginning, you can easily see how this young man will inevitably rise to power. 

This book, though often going at a slow pace, gives you insight to what life was like before Katniss ever came into the picture, and before the Games were the lively, twisted events that they were, as Coriolanus is a mentor. Funny enough, Coriolanus ended up being the mentor of the girl tribute of District Twelve, Lucy Gray. This was much to Coriolanus’s dismay, as being part of the Snow family entails a sense of superiority and importance, and being given a tribute from poor and lowly associated District Twelve is nothing short of a slap in the face for him. 

The concepts this book presents are interesting, the plot featuring many twists and turns, and there many notable characters throughout the story.  You never quite know what will happen on the other side of the page. The story unfolds slowly, but with very sharp bumps in the road. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoyed the other three installments of the series.

-Aisha E.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Movie Review: Spectral

If ghost and ghost hunting is your thing, then I recommend the movie Spectral on Netflix. I will firstly say that the movie is PG-13, so please do not watch if violent movies are not your thing (contrary to the previous sentence). 

Basically, researcher Dr. Mark Clyne is approached by a military general, showing him a video from a fallen soldier’s goggles. Visible in the video is a mysterious, almost translucent apparition that had suddenly attacked the soldier, killing almost instantaneously. These “anomalies” were later named as Arratare.

These “ghosts” were invisible to the naked eye and were completely bulletproof, making even the strongest military weapons useless. 

Clyne is sent to Moldova (bordered by Romania and Ukraine), where the US military is currently deployed. Clyne and CIA officer Fran Madison begin to work with the Delta Force in order to come up with a plan to defeat the anomalies with weapons that actually had an effect. 

After further observation and a scary encounter with the Arratare, Clyne realizes that these anomalies are actually man made, meaning that there was a way to stop the anomalies before they kill anymore people. 

This movie has so many unexpected twists and turns (even though I may have given away some crucial information… sorry). 

I give this movie a 8.5/10, and totally recommend watching this movie to chase away the boring days of quarantine. 

-Phoebe L. 

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Amazon.com: Origin (9781595145963): Khoury, Jessica: Books

Origin is a wonderful read for any fan of science fiction and romance. Based in the depths of the Amazon jungle, you will get immediately swept into the world of labs and scientists. The main character Pia, is considered perfect, because she is invincible, one of a kind, and extremely smart. At 16 years old, the only people she knows are her family, a team of scientists, and the non-scientist residents on the secret facility called Little Cam. With five generations and a magical flower found deep in the Amazon jungle, called Elysia. But Pia has to be kept on complete lockdown and doesn’t get most types of entertainment, like books magazines, or movies, unless they are science textbooks, with blackened out paragraphs. She hasn’t even met anyone under the age of thirty. But this all changes when she’s able to escape Little Cam, and meets Eio from a local village. They start to fall in love, but the risk of deadly consequences grows more.

I own this book, and I’m really glad that I do. It’s one of my personal favorites to read over and over again. It’s such an amazing secret world to fall in love with. The first time you read this book, you’re constantly wondering what happens next, and if Pia will ever be free from all the restrictions.  I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a new read.

-Rebecca V., 11th Grade