Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval, by Stephanie Garber, begins with Scarlett Dragna, who lives on a secluded isle with a cruel father who uses his daughters’ love for each other to control them. Whenever Scarlett does something wrong, her father punishes her sister, Donatella (Tella), instead. Scarlett banks her and her sister’s safety on her upcoming arranged marriage to a count whom she has only conferred with through letters. 

For years, Scarlett has written to Legend, the mysterious master of Caraval, hoping that he will bring his extravagant performance to her isle. Finally, when Legend writes back with three tickets to Caraval (which will be taking place on a magical island this year), Scarlett thinks she Tella would be better off not going. However, Tella has other ideas.

Far more bold and far less of a worrier than her protective sister, Tella and a strange sailor, Julian, conspire to bring Scarlett away from their father to the island where Caraval will be that year. When Tella suddenly disappears, Scarlett, who would do anything for her sister, begins to find that Tella has a greater part in Caraval than Scarlett had known. The only way Scarlett knows of that will reunite her with Tella is to win Caraval.

Caraval is Legend’s once-a-year performance which takes place over the course of five nights. Ticket holders can choose to either watch or play the game. The year Scarlett plays, the stage is a village, where the audience members who have chosen to play the game stay. Each night, Caraval fills with magic and illusions, and the players search for clues to guide them to the final prize. Scarlett finds herself in a performance where reality is blurred; it becomes difficult to differentiate the real people from actors who are simply playing parts in the game.

With Stephanie Garber’s beautiful descriptions and elegant characters, Caraval is one of my favorite young adult books. I particularly enjoyed reading from Scarlett’s perspective because her personality is not necessarily standard of a fantasy novel’s heroine, but her love for her sister motivates her throughout the book. By the end of Caraval, she has noticeably grown. Scarlett also describes senses and feelings with color, and the vivid imagery that results is magical. 

The story of Scarlett and Tella is continued in Legendary, which is written from the perspective of Tella. 

Caraval’s fantastic characters, vivid descriptions, and unanticipated turns make the book so difficult to set down. Stephanie Garber’s exquisite writing is a wonderful gift to read, and I highly recommend Caraval.

– Mia T.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Dragon Bones by Lisa McMann

The last book I finished before my winter break was Dragon Bones, part of the The Unwanteds Quest Series written by Lisa McMann. The story follows two young twins, Thisbe and Fifer. Thisbe has been captured by the evil Reviner and must be rescued. The story follows both girls, switching perspectives and showing the reader the struggles of both girls.

The climax of the story is when Fifer gathers a group of her friends, who try to find and rescue Thisbe. Everything is going as planned until the gang encounters the Reviner. Alex, Fifer’s brother and lead wizard, starts to fight the Reviner but is quickly overrun. Eventually, Alex is killed and because he is the lead wizard, once he is gone, all of the magic the group used no longer works. Without their magic, Fifer’s group loses all their fighting ability. They quickly lose their confidence and are forced to retreat, leaving Thisbe behind. Little do they know, Thisbe and a friend of hers that she met while captive, had already escaped and are trying to survive until help arrives.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. I like how the author switched perspectives between the two twins, so you could see what was going on in each of their lives. The ending was cliche and expected, but that was the only problem I had with the book. I would rate this book a strong eight out of ten and would recommend the story to middle schoolers.

-Daniel C.

Dragon Bones and the rest of the Unwateds Quests series is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

This amazing rom-com movie was released through Netflix on August 17, 2018. Normally, the thought of a romantic movie makes me cringe, but when I first saw the trailer for the movie, I was immediately hooked.

This movie is based on the book series To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before written by Jenny Han. I personally have not read the books (but planning to read them later). This story has everything from romance, to comedy, to the important lessons every teenager should know not only life but love as well.

The movie is about a girl named Lara Jean Covey. She is half-American and half-Korean. Her mother passed away when she was young, so her father raises her and two other sisters (one older, one younger) by himself. Basically, the main plot of the story is that Lara Jean has these five letters. She writes them when she has a crush, “..so intense, [she] doesn’t know what else to do..” One day she finds that all the letters have been sent out… all FIVE of them!! The recipients of the letters are Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo (a dreamboat may I add), who is the hottest boy in school, John Ambrose from Model UN, Lucas from homecoming, Kenny from camp, and Josh, the boy next door (who is her older sister’s boyfriend).

The rest of the movie is just about how she handles the whole situation, and the lessons she learns along the way. I totally recommend this movie. It is an amazing movie with an Asian lead– which you don’t see very often.

Jenny Han’s novel, To All the Boys I Loved Before, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Taking place in beautiful Venice, Prosper and his little brother Bo are running away from their evil aunt Esther. They ran away because Esther is planning on separating the two boys, keeping Bo and sending Prosper off to boarding school. But, the two manage to escape and run away into the land that their mother always told them about, Venice.

Luckily, the Thief Lord, or Scipio, take them under his wing along with a few other children. The rugged band begin to steal valuable items to sell to make a living. A mysterious man, the Conte, asks them to steal a wooden wing for a very high amount of money. Of course, the children agree and start their hunt for the wing.

The novel follows Prosper’s struggles to take care of his brother while still trying to participate in the wing hunt. Deeper into the book, you realize that the Thief Lord is actually the son of a wealthy man, and has been stealing his own father’s money for the group! The children begin to distrust the Thief Lord and decide to steal the wing on their own.

What I really liked about this book was how independent the children were and how they could make a living by themselves. My favorite character was definitely Bo because he reminded me of myself; a reckless, teasing, little brother. My favorite twist is when you find out the Thief Lord is the son of a rich man because it is so surprising.

Exciting and surprising, The Thief Lord written by Cornelia Funke is an enchanting novel for middle school readers. It contains many twists and turns that will leave you wanting to read more. This is one of the best mystery novels that I have read and I am planning on reading the sequel when it comes out!

-Daniel C

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

An Appointment With My Brother by Yi Mun-Yol

This novella, An Appointment With His Brother, talks about the unseen interaction between North and South Korea. Basically what happens is, the protagonist’s father defected to North Korea, which is unusual because it would normally be the other way around. The protagonist finds out years later that his father had a new family. Since the father lives in North Korea, visiting each other is nearly impossible. However, one day he learns about the boundary line between North Korea and China. People would cross the border with the help of a broker and essentially escape. So the main character attempts to meet his father but ends up having An Appointment With My Brother instead. Once they meet each other, they talk to each other about their lives and compare them. They come to a realization about their lifestyles after talking–their lives weren’t as different as they thought.

There was a lot learned from this story, things that aren’t usually revealed in the news, and only something that those people know. Even though the book was difficult to understand, the underlying theme and message are important to one’s everyday life. Reading this book allowed me to put the prejudice views aside and really see the true events that occur instead.

-Phoebe L.

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

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eastofeden_johnsteinbeckEast of Eden, I ponder for a while and frown into the swirl not of an ordinary book, but I walk into a capricious hallway of life.

Adam Trask, his mother dead by suicide in a pond near their house, I know how that feels. The water in that pond from that on scours Adam’s accouterments cruelly into its abysmal bottom. He felt naked whenever his face is reflected on the surface of that limpid pond, but for it was obscured than ever before. Adam can never see through the veil that covered his mom’s death. Not a big deal, didn’t have much memory about her pretty face anyways. Cyrus Trask, his dad, a soldier who malingered from the war, was a tough man. His broken leg often riled him. The decrepit crutch is a clue to his cowardice, his obedient wife glued his gratuitousness against his masculinity, the jovial sky loses its blue smile thence. But he made his way into the philosophy and planning of military, he was chosen to assist the president and secretaries in the White House. He had a stupefying heritage of approximately five hundred thousand dollars. Although that wasn’t recorded as a pride within him, he was just redeeming and repenting the sins that he once thrust upon Adam to the holy God scowling at him. Alice was Adam’s stepmother, she was special in an ordinary way, doing her daily chores and taking care of Charles, Adam’s brother and him. Slowly, there was a subtle relationship built upon Adam and Alice, but as a mom, her narrow vision only incorporated her only son Charles who didn’t care as much as his mother than Adam did. She died in a murky corner shrouded by dust, and Adam was the only person that brought a broom. The gruff Charles was a brutal tyrant to Adam, but he exerted his sovereignty to serve Adam and loved him deeply. They quarreled a lot along with their life, but the huge farm that Charles inherited eventually was endowed to Adam, the only humane king died soundlessly, he was judicious but his sheer senses were unnoticed.

Samuel Hamilton, an Irish man who came to Salinas Valley in California as a magnificent craft man, blacksmith, heating contractor, and inventor. But his versatileness kept him poor with nine children. But the forge, the shoes and the machines that he invented always dance around him when he is working, the magic has worked. He was never friends with money, but friends with every neighbor and client who came to him. Sam was a tough man with a soft heart, his red mustache decorated him as a gentle giant, his fingers intercepted with crude soot which foiled him with authority and shrewdness. But Liza Hamilton, his wife was the person that not only conducted the shrewdness but she was able to use her strictness to criticize the shrewdness. Nobody ever blamed her really, because her inviting zeal and palpable discipline convinced every one of them who suspected her. And Tom, the toughest kid but his personality was the most babyish among all of the kids, I guess you can call him a precocious baby. William was the rich boy, Joe was the erudite scholar, Mollie was the beautiful girl and Dessie’s corpse became the precious soul of the family, just to mention a few of the remarkable kids. The other kids are memorable, they are too sacred to be mentioned. You just can’t refuse this glorious family with disgust except for one person.

Cathy Ames, a moral monster, she was enigmatic, her conscience never existed. Cathy wasn’t a normal human, she was like robots, very accurate and seems to obtain the power of mind-reading, nothing tortures her, except her own gnawing vanity. She established a supreme brothel, and once was a seditious whore. Cathy had once been beaten to hell, but her parents were being placed gently into the artificial fire by her. She seldom loved anybody, but a lot of people loved her and even worshipped her beyond their trembling spirit. A mom that left her two sons and shot her husband Adam is unforgivable, something unreasonable will happen, her body bargained with wealth. Cathy was castigated by God, she committed herself as Cathy Trask and left all the money to her son Aron. Her death was silent, some people even celebrated a little, but the person that she hated the most and injured the worse wetted the corner of his eye. Isn’t that sarcastic?

It was a century of racism back in the 1800s until somebody shut that lid and opened a new one. Lee was Chinese, he was born in America though, his father was one of the workers who was involved in building the Great Wall. Lee never engaged in the word “love”, but the impression that his parents had was deep. Women weren’t allowed in the process of the project, but the compulsion of clamping the family together ignited his mother in running into it and be with his father. She devoted her life due to the lassitude in the construction and gave birth to Lee, she was selfish, that’s all I have to say. Her grueling love and persistency abandoned the innocent Lee. He was a family pet to the Trask family, serving them pliantly and never complained about anything. In fact, Lee was smarter than all the humans that are on the earth breathing, he doesn’t breathe in oxygen, but in absolute wisdom. As time eclipsed by, the family pet transformed into the owner and send out bits of advice to the family, he was the actual father of Adam and his sons. During the point when he decided to leave, nobody attempted for retention, but he was the lonely dog without the cuddle of a sweet blanket. People that don’t wield their smartness properly are called a maverick, both good and bad. Sam Hamilton’s was the first and only person whom personality provoked Lee exhibited his yellow belly.

Twins are never the same. Cal was the darker one in every aspect. He wanted to be brighter to deviate the shameful appearance of his mom, but even his similarity didn’t gain any fond of both his parents. He is incredibly clever and a genial businessman with the ability to inhale all the profit that he could without any shenanigans. Aron was the boy with pale blue eyes that would drown you in the blue ocean and romp with the energetic dolphins. Abra Bacon lived as a voluptuous fairytale to the brothers. She acted like a soothing mother to Aron, since he had none, and played as a dainty princess to Cal. But then the church and the preacher became the dream of Aron and those were eminent enough to abet Aron to toss Abra aside. Aron joined the army like Adam did and martyred after Cal showed him their mother who changed her name to Kate as an omnipotent owner of a brothel. Cal wasn’t traumatized as bad as Aron, probably a little bit surprised only. If you keep swallowing absinthe then the taste of herbs will be mediocre, but munching chocolate will result in gnawing bitterness even in spinach. Abra turned to Cal and also won the countenance of Lee and Adam together, for her elegant parents were stone like and their daughter is only a sequin to them. Attractive kids get blemished psychologically a lot easier than undistinguished kids.

Adam Trask, I’ve got irresolution in me right now, is he the main character in this book? His life is soaked in extreme agony and performed as a pantomime of tragedy. Adam was forced to join the army by his father, he was being controlled like a pathetic marionette whom his family was diverted and he was tortured by Cathy cruelly. But he cherished Cathy in the very marrow of his bones. Many people around him died and their souls were reluctant to be in related with him. He could have averted the punishment by God, but only his ignorance and injustice treatment to Cal earned that despondent emblem. Adam Trask loved a lot of people, but barely anyone split their love and fed it to Adam. Even though you spray the fresh comedy on top of the reeking tragedy,  there will be one day when the comedy will rot and the irritated tragedy under will devour you.

-April L.

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Image result for code of honor bookIf you are into current events, this is a good book to read. Kamran Smith is half Iranian, the QB of the varsity football team, and is named homecoming king. But that all comes crashing down on him.

Kamran has always looked up to his older brother Darius. He is currently in the military, and Kamran has decided to follow the same route as him. But when Darius says on video that he was in charge of several terrorist attacks, all bets are off.
Everyone at school looks at Kamran like he’s a terrorist himself. He girlfriend ignores him, his best friend doesn’t want to talk to him, and he’s distracted in football practice. At home, the phones are ringing off the hook, and his parents aren’t functioning well. Camera crews show up at his house. And it only gets worse from there.

I feel that the ending was a little bit weak, and it could have been written better. When you find out who one of the terrorists is, it’s funny. The beginning and middle of the story was well written, but then the ending was crammed.

Terrorism has been a major part of current events since 9/11. It’s been 16 years, and it’s not improving by much. This story really hit me hard, because if we were in the shoes of Kamran’s friends, we would probably do the same things. Even if you aren’t that into current events, this still is a good book to read. Sure, a lot of the action is unrealistic, but imagining it is still interesting. It’s also a short book, about 250 pages, if you’re tired of annotating your long, annoying English book.

-Rebecca V . 9th grade