Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a fantasy novel about Katsa, who has been graced with the ability to kill. In her world, there are some who are graced with supernatural gifts and have different colored eyes. Those with useful gifts, such as Katsa, are brought to their King so he can use it. Unfortunately, Katsa is the niece of the King, and is used to intimidate would-be criminals. Engaging in secret espionage to help hinder his actions, Katsa is constantly working with the other members of the court.

On one of her missions, Katsa encounters Prince Po. Graced himself with an amazing ability to fight, Po goes to Katsa’s court. There, they fight together and maximize each other’s capabilities. Katsa has been trying to solve the case of a man she and other members of the court had rescued from another Kingdom. They did not know who had kidnapped him, but soon discover that this man is Po’s grandfather, who Po had been looking for. Working together, Po and Katsa discover the secrets behind both the kidnapping and their graces.  

The plot was intricate, but developed into a great story by the end. Katsa is a strong lead, and the development of her character is seen through the course of the story. Initially, she was reticent, but developed into a strong, self-assured character by the end of the story. Po also developed throughout the story, and was a great second character. The plot was simple, and easy to follow. However, there were some instances where it felt stretched out and a little boring, but there were not too many scenes like that. I would recommend this too whomever is looking for a fantasy read with a strong female character.

-Anmol K.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

With a chilling and intriguing beginning, Neil Gaiman instills a desire to keep reading. It’s one of those books that you almost cannot put down once you start. Gaiman’s unique plot line and incredible writing skills create such a vivid image in your head, it’s like you’re standing right there, in the middle of a graveyard.

Starting off with the gruesome death of a family, Gaiman automatically begins his book with an adventure. The story only gets better when the reader realizes the family’s baby slipped away unnoticed by the killer and ventures out the front door to, where else, but a graveyard. Gaiman writes with a dramatic, ominous tone and paints a picture of the dark sky and lonely graveyard. After a suspenseful scene, the baby is hidden by the intrigued spirits of the yard in the nick of time. A problem begins to rise when residents of the graveyard debate if the child should be taken in or not. Soon it is revealed that the human child will be adopted by the spirits and granted the Freedom of the Graveyard. The baby is introduced with a new name, Nobody “Bod” Owens, and the novel unwinds to reveal Bod’s adventures within the graveyard premises. Surely with the hundreds of ghosts to the mysterious man who lives on the borderline of life and death, Bod would be safe. But Gaiman’s novel doesn’t rest on safety and support; rather it’s the complete opposite.

Gaiman spins off into a wonderful journey starting from when Bod is at the young age of four. The graveyard holds many thrills and Bod makes no hesitation to jump right in. He befriends fellow humans and goes on reckless adventures, specifically to the grave of a Sleer: a snakelike creature who is the oldest creature in the graveyard and guards precious treasure. Bod also has a tendency to get himself into trouble; this is a result of his curiosity and mischievous personality. He literally falls into a death trap when he falls through a ghoul gate. He is transported into the Underworld and is on the brink of death before he is rescued by an unlikely soul. The young protagonist continues to stumble through life inside and outside of the graveyard. He encounters near death, celebratory dances, risky friendships and lasting memories until the end.

Neil Gaiman uniquely twists the themes of love, home, safety and family by setting his story in a graveyard, a place normally acquainted with death, gore, horror and dullness. Bod realizes that life is always changing and there’s always more to discover. The reader learns along with Bod, runs side by side Bod in his adventures, fights evil alongside Bod and ultimately, falls in love with the graveyard as Bod does.

-Jessica T.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive and Hoopla

Webtoon Review: Tower of God by SIU

What is it that you so desire?

Wealth?

Fame?

Power?

“Whether you are looking for: wealth, immortality, absolute power, magical abilities or mysteries, just head up. All the glory and happiness of the world are all up there. The Tower is such a place”

But The Tower is not chosen,  The Tower chooses who enters its walls. For whatever reason, to enter The Tower means hard journey to the top. There is one, the 25th Bam also called Bam, who enters the tower on his own volition.  Not because he was seeking material want, but he was chasing his friend, Rachel, who entered the tower so she could see the stars. Bam encounters the First Floor Guardian of The Tower, Headon, who introduces Bam to the world he has forced entrance to. The Headon is the first to weed out those who are worthy to advance up The Tower. Each level of The Tower is a test to find the best of the best, who are worthy enough to reach the end. Bam, determined to find Rachel, decides to enter The Tower to find her, but once he enters The Tower, Bam realizes not everything is what it seems. The Tower contains many deep and dark secret that he will soon come to find.

The Tower of God plays on the idea where the weak will not survive and the strong determine the rules. This webtoon delved deeply into the reasons people act the way they do. What causes someone to choose betrayal over friendship and what is the meaning of a relationship between people are just two of the social question the webtoon asks.

Forewarning, there are a lot of characters. The one thing that the author does well is no character, once they are deemed important, is left without proper character development. As the entire story deals with the motives of people, SIU does an fantastic job of explaining how the character’s have come to be. The artwork is not particularly fantastic but I found his play with color interesting as color as it is involved with character development. Keep in mind, the social structure and how The Tower is quite complicated, so it may take a bit to understand The Tower. The development of The Tower, though, is integral to the story. Overall, story is fantastic despite its complexity.

This can be a very violent webtoon, so I recommend it for older audiences. Of course, this is only my opinion so why don’t you read it for yourself and decide.

The Tower of God is licensed by Line Webtoon and is free to read online.

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

Manga Introduction: Bleach by Tite Kubo

bleach_titekuboIchigo Kurosaki is a high school student who can see ghosts. Because of this ability, he encounters Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper who guides souls from the World of the Living to Soul Society (the afterlife and Rukia’s home). Their meeting is not the most fortunate. Rukia is severely wounded saving Ichigo from a fallen soul called a Hollow. Left with no choice, Rukia gives her power to Ichigo to change into a Soul Reaper so he may fight in her stead. Now without power, Rukia is trapped in a human body and must train Ichigo to keep the balance of souls a Soul Reaper. Their partnership is far from easy as it reveals dark secrets that could tip the balance of the world just enough to destroy it all.

 

Here are a few facts about Bleach:

  • It was published in August of 2001 and ended 15 years later in August of 2016
  • There are 74 tankobon volumes (manga books) .
  • It was published weekly by Shueisha in the magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump
  • Bleach has sold a total of 84 million copies in Japan, ranking as the sixth best-selling series from Weekly Shōnen Jump as of 2013.
  • An anime series aired from October of  2004  to March of 2012 ending with a total of 366 episodes
  • Four animated films have been released, all featuring an original plot and character created by Tite Kubo: Memories of Nobody, The DiamondDust Rebellion, Fade to Black, and Hell Verse
  • Two collectible card games based on the Bleach series have been produced, one in Japan and one in North America.
  • There has been 9 musical productions since 2005. Five of which have been based on the original manga. The rest have been original stories or specials performances.
  • Recently, a live action film adaptations has been confirmed and it is to produced by Warner Brothers and directed by Shinsuke Sato, who has filmed other live action movies like Gantz and Library Wars

This is not one of my top favorites, but I still consider it a good manga. Compared to most manga, Bleach has one of the most structured settings I have seen. This could be seen as a necessity, due to the large cast of characters, but it helps with understanding how each society functions. This one of my favorite multi-dimensional worlds stories as it goes beyond just the two parallel worlds concept. Rather there are several worlds that balance the each other out. Characters, especially, are well developed with backstories that explain their choices and actions. I will have to say the beginning of the series I enjoyed more than the chapters currently, because the manga now is just trying to end and it has been dragged out far too long. As far as I understand, it has “officially” ended but there are still “extra” chapters to be released.

I do recommend this to an older audience as it contains a large quantity of violence and cursing. This manga I would give a 6/10. It could have been better if it had ended earlier but overall, I enjoyed it. Read it for yourself to find out!

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

Bleach is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Stranger Things: A New Netflix Phenomenon

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Once a new TV show permeates every form of social media, I take it as a sign I should get around to watching it – both to join the chaotic mess of fans and to avoid the ever-growing list of spoilers. Stranger Things, Netflix’s new original TV series, has taken the world by storm, and after watching the entire first season in two nights, I have been fully swept away in its winds of success.

Stranger Things is an eight chapter story about young boy, Will Byers, who goes mysteriously missing after a game of D&D with his quirky gang of friends. The town goes on high alert trying to find the boy, while a strange and, quite frankly, disgusting monster lurks in the shadows and awaits its next victim. The only one who has any semblance of understanding as to why the monster is stalking the small town is Eleven, a girl of few words and many powers. As Sheriff Hopper traces what he believes to be Will’s tracks to the suspicious government organization in town, Eleven teams up with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas to search for Will on their own.

The show walks the line between horror and sci-fi, using the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana as a setting for a supernatural hotspot, including an alternate dimension, telekinetic powers, and the monster that’s been nicknamed “The Demagorgon.” The pacing can feel slow at times, but it gives the show lots of room for character development and raw emotion.

The actors give stunning performances that truly convey their characters’ internal struggles, whether it be a desperate mother grasping at supernatural straws to find her son or a lab experiment runaway hiding from her manipulative “Papa.” The show’s comedic relief, which is mainly circumstantial and dialogue-related, is found mostly among the group of middle schoolers Mike, Dustin, and Lucas as they search for Will and coax Eleven into helping. They’re nerds, scientists, and adventurers-in-the-making, and I fell in love with them immediately. Eleven’s reactions to everyday phenomena always got me to crack a smile, too.

However, the show’s comedic moments are few and far between. A large portion of the show is suspenseful and emotional. Stranger Things‘ main theme would have to be trust and faith. The boys must earn Eleven’s trust in order to gain her help, and Eleven must earn their trust so that they won’t suspect her of being the “Lando” in their story, as Dustin would say. Joyce Byers, Will’s mother, needs someone to trust her as she tries not to lose faith in the supernatural signs her son sends her. The show relies heavily on its characters and their relationships with one another, whether it be family, friends, or even lovers. Fear and desperation can bring together the unlikeliest of people, and Stranger Things has more than enough fear and desperation to provide these opportunities.

The directors, the Duffer Brothers, have brought about a new pop culture sensation that is steadily increasing in popularity. If horror, sci-fi, and supernatural are your buzz words for a good show, Stranger Things is right up your alley. I enjoyed every minute of this series, and I eagerly anticipate Season 2 (coming next year).

-Abby F.