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.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a novel about a group of young boys who have been stranded on an island, without any connection to civilization. They struggle to maintain order and peace on the island, as the group becomes split between two “tribes:” a violent, uncivilized tribe, and a more rational tribe dedicated to becoming rescued.

The novel begins with the boys recovering from an airplane crash. The boys discover that they are stranded on the island alone, without any grownups or methods of communication with the outside world. Ralph, a boy approximately twelve years old, befriends an intelligent, but physically weak boy nicknamed Piggy. Together they find a conch at the beach, which they blow into to rally all the other boys scattered about the island. The boys all decide to vote Ralph as “chief” since he possess the conch, infuriating Jack, who leads a group of choir boys and wants to lead all of the boys on the island.

Despite their struggle for power, Jack and Ralph initially get along, and they focus the group’s efforts on building a signal fire to contact ships for rescue and shelters for survival. However, the two being to drift apart as Jack begins hunting. Hunting causes Jack to reveal his more savage and violent nature, causing him to become less focused on the group’s priorities, which is mainly getting rescued. Furthermore, the group begins to collapse even further as they discover that there is a “Beast” who watches over their signal fire, panicking all the boys.

Ultimately, the Lord of the Flies is a classic novel, and I would highly recommend it. It is relevant today because of its themes on human nature. It reveals that despite what people appear like, beneath that civilized mask is violence and savagery, uncovered when people are forced away from civilization. The novel focuses on the boys struggle to remain order and peace as they drift apart.

-Josh N. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic fictional nation known as Panem, located in the midwestern United States. The novel’s protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, and she must survive a deadly competition known as the “Hunger Games.”

Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which is like states. Each district has a specialty; for example, Katniss is from District Twelve, which specializes in coal mining. Because of a failed rebellion years before, each of the districts is required to send one “tribute” to an annual event known as the Hunger Games, during which two tributes from each district, a male and female, all fight to the death to claim the glorious title of “victor.”

The story begins before the Reaping, an event that chooses the two tributes from each district by random. Katniss’s younger sister is drawn, but Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place, knowing that going means almost certain death. Chosen alongside Katniss is the male tribute, named Peeta.

Katniss and Peeta are both sent to the Capitol, a wealthy and powerful state that rules over all the districts and runs the Hunger Games for its own entertainment. Together with their coach and advisor, they begin to prepare for the Hunger Games, training and making alliances with other tributes.

I would recommend the Hunger Games because of the extreme suspense that the author creates while the tributes are fighting during the games. The story is touching, but it contains extreme violence, so I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers.

-Josh N. 

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a dystopian, survival novel written by William Golding in 1953. Living through the bloodiest war in human history, Golding had witnessed humanity’s great capacity for inflicting cruelty and brutality on one another. This greatly influenced his pessimistic view of human nature; he believed that the natural human propensity is violent unless restrained by societal influence. The book opens on an island, now inhabited by a group of unsupervised British schoolboys that survived a violent plane crash. Some of the main characters are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, and Simon. Ralph and Piggy find a conch shell and call for an assembly of all the survivors on the island. The assembly results in the appointment of Ralph as chief. Ralph believes that maintaining fire on the island is the most important task, as it will signal to the outside world that they need rescue.

Meanwhile, Jack is focused on hunting. During this conflict, the boys find a mysterious creature called “the beast,” which they believe is following them, and planning to harm them. Simon tells the group that “the beast” may be them; that the human is the most dangerous animal on the island. As the debate on the existence of “the beast” continues, Jack and Ralph split into two separate tribes. Simon finds the head of a pig, left behind as a sacrifice to “the beast.” This head is the Lord of the Flies and gives Simon a vision. Simon is soon killed by Jack’s tribe, and as the conflict escalates, so is Piggy. Ralph is now targeted by Jack’s tribe and tries to fight them off as best he can. Just before Ralph is killed, a naval officer on a nearby ship reaches the island, alerted by their smoke signals, and rescues them.

This book demonstrates a zeitgeist held by many authors and philosophers during this time period. Golding’s use of British schoolboys as his characters shows that anyone, regardless of age or perceived innocence and civility, can surrender to the brutal proclivity living within all human beings. The boys are a mirror image of the warring adults surrounding them, and the island becomes a microcosm of World War II itself.

-Katie A. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I recently read this book for my English class, and it was surprisingly good to read. Normally reading books for English feels like a chore, but for this book, it was entertaining to read. 

The book is about young boys from England who crash land onto a deserted island. It is never specified where they crash land but we predicted it was somewhere in the Pacific. The main boys in the book are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, and Roger. The boys have to learn how to survive in this harsh society they have made. 

They first start off by appointing a leader and making up rules that are essential to follow. Throughout the book, however, we can see a natural progression of rules being broken and people fighting for power, doing whatever it takes to achieve that–even killing. The book Lord of the Flies is mainly about the innate evil in the boys and if they are affected by the environment around them, or if they naturally had the evil inside of them. 

During the book, there are sometimes where we are going to have to say goodbye to some characters (no spoilers), but overall it is an amazing book. It is probably the best book I’ve read in English ever!

-Phoebe L. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Shark Wars by E.J. Altbacker

Shark Wars is a very interesting book and I enjoyed it very much. The story is similar to the book Warriors. Instead of clans, the sharks are divided by shivers. Gray and his friend Barkley live with the coral shiver. But Gray gets banned from the coral shiver and becomes an outcast, and then things get interesting. I will leave the rest of the story for you to read.

E.J. Altbacker did a good job making this book interesting, with lots of good twists and a nice cliffhanger leaves you hungry for the next book. This book is based on the heroic quest base genre. The Shark Wars series is a lengthy six novels total, so try to read them all! Shark Wars features a nice balance of dialogue and fighting, and it also has at least 200 pages, it might take a while to finish the book! Shark Wars has a nice variety of characters, and it has an obvious protagonist and antagonist. Every character in Shark Wars in unique and special, you care for some and dislike others.

E.J. Altbacker did a nice job incorporating as many shark types as possible, which I love! A very great book that you should totally read. Don’t miss out on the amazing book, known as Shark Wars!

-Brandon D.

The Shark Wars series by E. J. Altbacker is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I recently read Lord of the Flies by William Golding for my English class. When my teacher first introduced my class to this book, I thought it’d be like the other books we’ve read in school last year, and I was not particularly thrilled to read it. However, the story Lord of the Flies tells is extremely chaotic and I found myself liking the book more and more.

The novel is about a group of extremely young British school boys who are stranded on an island and who thought it would be heaven on Earth since there are no adults around and no rules to obey. However, the boys soon realize that they need to establish ground rules and the makeshift democracy seemed to work for a while. To be honest, I didn’t think boys 10 years and younger paid much attention to politics. However, as the book progresses, the reader could tell that the boys are actually shredding their civilized self and becoming more and more animal like and savage. Jack, the main antagonist, even manages to first handedly murder 3 boys who were on the island. I know. I’m shocked too.

The novel opens with its protagonist, Ralph, and I found myself disliking the immature, “fair” boy who the others choose as leader of their “society”. However, I felt pity towards the social outcast, Piggy. Piggy is ostracized because he is overweight, has asthma, and he has glasses. I could relate more to Piggy because I’m more or less a nerd myself, and I felt angry at how today’s society isolates the nerdy kids, as well. As the book progresses, the shockingly brutal actions that the young boys perform caused me to think about the savagery that exists in our own society and how Golding is right to stress that everyone has innate evil in them and how it cannot be killed. I like this book for this sole reason: this book is not merely about a group of immature school boys, it is about chaos, fear, danger, savagery, and above all, the degeneration of human nature. Golding cleverly intervenes references, plot, and personalities into his masterpiece and I never thought I’d learn so much about human nature through a book that we’ve read in English. Lord of the Flies has taught me a valuable lesson and I would definitely recommend it for a light read outside of school.

-Angela L.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Every month in English, my teacher assigns the class a certain genre to read. In April, I had tor read a bibliography. I chose Unbroken because I was interested in a war story and had heard good things about the book and movie.

I quickly discovered that this was an incredibly touching story about a man and the challenges he faced during World War 2. This story tells interesting facts and stories, making the reader want to read more.

Louis Zamperini, a famous Olympian runner, enrolls in the army only to crash land in the Pacific Ocean. He was stranded at sea for 47 days before he and his two other crew mates were captured and tortured by the Japanese for three years! Louis eventually escapes when the war is over, but was never the same man again.

The book is well written, switching between gruesome and sad sections to cheerful and funny scenes. This gives the reader an idea of how much Louis was tortured, but is not overwhelming gory. My favorite part of the book is when the Japanese surrender and the war is over because you finally know that Louis is safe.

The book is interesting to read with slightly accelerated vocabulary.Exciting and stressful, Unbroken is a great book that I would recommend to middle school students or older.

-Daniel C.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Image result for a thousand splendid suns

Mariam and Laila- Two women, born years apart and having incredibly different lives. One grew up in extreme poverty as an illegitimate child, while the other went to school and dreamed of making a difference in the world. However, both are affected by the power changes in the Afghani government, including when it started to regulate women’s lives in the late 1990’s. When they finally meet each other, their world changes despite having no initial relation to each other in the first place.

I found this book to be very well written. It was easy to read, especially compared to books such as Shakespeare. Although there are some terms in another language, they are often translated or not as much importance, but still keeps the feeling that you are in a faraway land.

On top of that, Hosseini keeps the atmosphere of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, very well. He describes food from there, yet also references places such as the Bamiyan Buddhas in order to keep this atmosphere, which is done very well.

The characters themselves are amazing. The book is in two different points of view, which are between the women, and one can see how different they are, yet wanting the same things in life.

However, the book does get into what Afghanistan is facing now. The book takes place over forty years, so it is easy to see how Afghanistan changes under local rulers to the Soviets and to the Taliban. Especially under the Taliban, we see how women’s lives are changed for the worst. However, we also see the abuse of women by their husbands even before the Taliban, which can also be very depressing. On the other hand, without any spoilers, I can guarantee that the ending is very satisfying, so it is important to stay all the way until the end!

Overall, I highly recommend this novel, and encourage others to read it.

Megan V, 12th Grade

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This book may not be the happiest or the prettiest but I must say it is one of the deepest and most profound books I’ve ever read. Assigned to me in my English class at school, I at first did not know what to expect because how can one be the lord of a bunch of flies? Disgusting, annoying little creatures they are . . . However, as our class annotated page after page and read article after article about the human psyche and the never ending violence occurring in the world, I realized how vital this fictional allegory is to our understanding of our society.

Based off of his experiences of World War II, Golding writes this futuristic novel during a fictional World War III where a group of English schoolboys crash on an island after their escape plane is shot down. Ironically, these stereotypical private school pupils slowly turn savage, revealing the gross truth about the evil within every man and what dangers can be unleashed when man turns cruel.

Taking advantage of being stranded on an island and lacking any parental guidance, these young boys lounge in the lagoon, eat tropical fruit, and attempt to create their own government. They elect Ralph, one of the older, more attractive boys who has possession of a seemingly-magical conch. This democratic government only lasted a few chapters before their separation from civilization is clearly visualized. They become hungry for bloodshed and one of the boys in particular, Jack, desires ruthlessly killing a pig over being rescued. Death and disputes steadily increase, leaving the audience wanting to know what happens next, even if what is to come is not pleasant. Simply put, the plot can be summarized as a fight for power and survival. However, that is to say the least about this thrilling novel.

I definitely had mixed emotions while reading. In some instances, I was upset at the character’s decisions and in one chapter, tears were spilling. Golding has a beautiful writing style that touches both beauty and pain and reflects upon the world. This novel invokes one to think about what Golding is trying to reveal about human society and puts the world’s violence, hatred and connate evil into perspective.

-Jessica T.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive