Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Nadya Lapteva is the last remaining cleric in her country. In Emily A. Duncan’s novel Wicked Saints, the reader follows the journey of a girl who can speak to and channel the power of gods. However, this is not just your average fantasy series. The trilogy is set in medieval Eastern Europe, following Slavic gods, frozen lands and ancient evils. 

In the country of Kalyazi, Nadya finds herself alone as the bloodthirsty Tranavians try to take over her country. While on her way to a monastery she suddenly finds herself being tracked down by none other than the Tranavian High Prince and bloodmage, Serefin Meleski. As she desperately avoids being caught she finds unexpected help – a defecting Tranavian soldier by the name of Malachiasz Czechowicz. Cautiously, she agrees to travel with the Tranavian. Together they create a plan to assassinate the Tranavian King and put an end to the war.

However, not all is as it seems. Malachiasz’s smooth words and incredible wit causes Nadya to wonder why he was banished from his home country in the first place. Blindly trusting Malachiasz, Nadya soon finds herself in the heart of enemy territory. What was supposed to be a simple plan soon turns into a storm of lies and betrayals. In the chaos, Nadya discovers she was only guided into Tranavian to be used to release gods older than her own. A territorial war escalates into a war over light and darkness.

Nadya Lapteva is the only cleric able to release evil, and the only one left to stop it.

The novel is an incredibly unique read. The effort that went into researching Slavic mythology and beliefs is so refreshing because Eastern European culture is so rarely seen in books. One of my favorite parts of the novel is the way in which it is written, the sentence structure combined with including Polish and Czech words really brings the reader into the setting. Additionally, the book is full of emotions and plot twists that have the reader anxiously turning the page. I would recommend Wicked Saints to anyone interested in fantasy novels but with a darker twist. 

– Michelle L.

Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

From the publisher:

“Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…”

Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, but it is their similarities and connections that unite their experiences. After all, they were just young kids leading normal lives, until cruelty and torture tore them, their families, their homes, and their lives apart.

As these innocent children and their families are forced to leave behind everything they’ve ever known in search of safety, their harrowing journeys extend beyond the promised land they strive to reach—Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud have unknowingly begun another journey, the one within.These three are abruptly forced to grow up and make unthinkable risks and sacrifices to save themselves and their loved ones.

Read Refugee, because it is a beautiful story that will make you rethink your good fortunes.

Read Refugee, because it is a gorgeous, intricately crafted work of art.

Read Refugee, because it brilliantly ties different stories together in the most shocking ways.

Read Refugee, because it will make your heart stir in sympathy and hope for these three kids, who are so much like normal kids, yet so different—their lives have been destroyed by violence.

But most importantly, read Refugee, because it is important for readers to understand how different one’s life could be if an ancestor got lucky—or unlucky—when seeking a better, happier, and safer life away from home.

-Lam T.

Refugee by Alan Gratz is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway

Across the River and Into the Trees eBook by Ernest Hemingway ...

“Across the River and Into the Trees” is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway after a trip to Italy and his return from hunting in 1949. The protagonist Colonel Cantwell has something of the author in him. As he grew older and more depressed, Colonel Cantwell went duck hunting in Venice and to northern Italy to pay his last visit to the battlefields of the past. He thought of past love, thought of death, and felt lonely and hopeless. Shortly after the war, the hero of the two world wars goes to Fossalta di Piave, Italy, to revisit the spot where he was wounded in battle. The hero, Colonel Cantwell, hunts wild ducks with his friends and focuses on the pure love between him and the beautiful Italian girl Renata, which has no utilitarian purpose.

It reflects the author’s aversion to war, his concern for the future of human beings, and his thoughts on the value of life, love, and death. Though this novel may not be the most classic work of Hemingway, its profound themes and traumatized account of the war shock the reader. Its rich background gives the reader knowledge and its unique way of writing left an unforgettable impression on people. The book’s title, taken from the dying words of Confederate General Thomas Jackson during the American Civil War, shows Hemingway’s “tough guy” theme similar to himself, who faced down death.

-Coreen C.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front is a war novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The title is an allusion to a German army report that stated “All quiet on the Western Front” because there was no military activity that day. The novel is about German soldier Paul, who serves in World War I. As the war progresses, Paul begins to wonder what causes men of the same generation to fight one another, and he begins to wonder what future he will have after all the suffering he has seen.

The novel begins as Paul and his comrades line up for their meal. The men are joyful, for there is excess food, due to the fact that over half of their regiment had been killed on the Western Front. They speak of home and their past. However, as time passes, tragedies occur as one by one, Paul’s friends are taken from him. As Paul witnesses the suffering around him, he cannot help but wonder what about human nature causes men, who have no personal grievances against each other, to slaughter one another.

Paul soon no longer cares for anything. He longs for neither home nor peace; the only thing that matters to him is his comrades. He believes that his generation is lost, that they were irreversibly cut off from their past, that the war consumed them and prevented any hope of a future, and that they would be rejected by previous and following generations.

All Quiet on the Western Front reveals major themes about human nature and war, like what causes a soldier to kill another soldier, despite the fact that they have never known each other and harbor no grievances against each other. Overall, it’s a classic with many relevant themes and should be read by everyone; however, it does contain lots of violence and some inappropriate scenes.

-Josh N.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones, the first novel of A Song of Ice and Fire, is a fantasy novel by George R. R. Martin. It is considered an adult novel, with explicit scenes, so it should not be read by younger readers. The majority of A Game of Thrones takes in Westeros, a vast continent that spreads from a warm south to a freezing, mysterious north. In the north is a massive wall, manned by an organization known as the Night’s Watch, designed to keep an alien, zombie-like race known as the Others out, while the country’s center of power is in King’s Landing, a city in the South that contains the Iron Throne. Upon the Iron Throne sits the King of Westeros, who supposedly has the support of the seven Great Houses.

A Game of Thrones has three main plot lines. The first focuses on the fight for the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. Here, King Robert Baratheon and his Hand, Eddard Stark, attempt to keep Robert in power as they struggle to determine who is friend and who is foe. Robert and Eddard are surrounded by enemies, bystanders, and traitors, all while the country’s Great Houses wage war for control over the Iron Throne.

The second significant plot line is that of Bran Stark, Robb Stark, and Jon Snow. Bran Stark, Robb Stark, and Jon Snow are all sons of Eddard Stark, but Jon is an illegitimate son. While Bran and Jon defend the Wall from northern invaders, like the mountain men and Others, Robb Stark focuses on becoming the ruler of Winterfell, in place of his father’s absence.

Finally in the far east, upon another continent across the sea, is the plot line of Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of the Iron Throne’s previous king, who had been overthrown by King Robert. Daenerys and her brother Viserys Targaryen focus on reclaiming their rightful inheritance, as they begin to gain power in the east.

A Game of Thrones is a complicated mess, with main characters scattered throughout the globe. It can most similarly be compared to The Lord of the Rings, but with more complexity, more characters, and more explicit scenes. A Game of Thrones should only be read by a dedicated reader, or by a person who has the time, due to its length and large amounts of characters. Readers desiring a quick read should definitely not check out A Game of Thrones.

-Josh N. 

A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel set in the distant future when humans have accomplished interstellar travel and faster than light communications. In this age, humans are threatened by the existence of the Formics, commonly known as the Buggers, an alien race that nearly wiped out humanity in two previous invasions. Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic with lots of physiological themes.

The protagonist of Ender’s Game is Ender, a child prodigy with exception intelligence. Ender is recruited for Battle School, a space station where exceptional children like Ender are trained to become commanders and leaders to combat a future Formic invasion. At Battle School, students are sorted into “armies,” which are their groups for a game similar to laser tag, but in a zero gravity situation. These armies are extremely competitive, and Ender soon finds himself many allies and enemies as he emerges as the best of the best.

Ender’s Game also has many psychological aspects, as Ender is constantly forced to outsmart and outplay his enemies. For example, Ender states that he constantly beat one of his bullies at the beginning of the novels to win the current fight and all future fights. There’s lots of psychology in the book since the novel is about geniuses.

Ultimately, Ender’s Game can be considered a masterpiece. It is a must-read for science-fiction novel fans and is simply a very enjoyable book.

-Josh N.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

I Am Malala

I Am Malala is a story about Malala Yousafzai. Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan. Mingora is a place where not many women have that many rights. Malala always wonder why this is and why she isn’t able to go to school. That rule wasn’t in place, but Mingora was taken over by the Taliban, and they enforced that rule and many other harsh ones.

Because of the circumstances she is in, Malala starts writing blogs about what has happened under the pen name “Gul Makai”. Shortly after, the Taliban start getting forced out of town by the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army force the Taliban out of town, but they still stay in the rural areas on the borders of town.

Then, someone at The New York Times sees Malala’s blogs and features her in a documentary. The documentary is about protecting girl’s rights and education. The Taliban see the documentary, and Malala becomes a target. As she’s on her way to her father’s newly reopened school, two Talibans stop the bus, and one shoots Malala in the head. Malala miraculously survives, and is taken to the United Kingdom for treatment. The news spread extremely quickly, and people around the world are now praying for Malala’s recovery. After Malala gets discharged from the hospital, she joins the rest of her family in Birmingham. She continues to this day to campaign for women’s rights and mainly for their education.

-Emilio V.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This was yet another book assigned to me in my English class this year. Surprisingly, contrary to the other books our class has read, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Typically, I have a strong repulsive reflex to gore and all war related subjects. The discomfort my stomach feels and the immense sorrow I feel for fallen soldiers weighs my heart down. Remarque’s novel did just that but to my surprise, this book is one I’d read again.

Nineteen year old Paul Baumer narrates the daily lives of him and his German companions as they experience the horrors of World War I. Technological and warfare advancements such as trench warfare, tanks and poison gas pose serious threat to these inexperienced young boys. Paul gives a detailed account of the inhumane living conditions and terrific attacks where every man’s life is on the line and chance is the determining factor if one lives or gets blown up. A reader gets to meet and befriend all of Paul’s closest companions: Kat, Tjaden, Kropp, Kemmerich and others that Remarque reveals are the only people in the world that can understand and love Paul. Together they flirt with girls in attempt to regain their innocence and connection of the world they left behind and together they fight to survive, not only to keep themselves alive but to stay alive to support and comfort each other. There are humorous moments and there are melancholic moments that all coalesce to make Remarque’s masterpiece.

Like many war novels, the conditions and experiences sound absurd to civilians back at home. However, while majority of war novels glorify the bravery and heroism of soldiers, Remarque’s novel takes an opposing standpoint. War is not beautiful nor adventurous; war is a slaughterhouse that takes souls, strips them of innocence and leaves them fearful and desensitized. I love that Remarque chooses to focus on the negative effects of war and admonishes society for our constant exaltation of combat. Young children in our society have minds filled to the brim of the same ideals that Paul and his friends were taught in grade school. Their teacher, Kantorek, pounds patriotism into their young minds and shoves the hungry desire for glory down their throats. But the brutality of war destroyed any want to serve their country and gain homage back at home; Remarque desperately wants society to recognize his pleas of reducing war glorification.

The loss of innocence and the admonishing of war glorification is only two of the numerous themes depicted in this work. There are touching themes of friendship and there are heart wrenching themes of the Lost Generation that make the reader reflect on humanity and the value of life rather than spurring the reader into an acclaim of warfare. Remarque’s work is bittersweet, providing immense catharsis but an unsettling question in the back of one’s mind. Is war worth the pain? Are those who survive wars really surviving if they come back home only to suffer from PTSD and detachment from a life they once lived? There is no other book I’d recommend to a reader who wants a gripping but thought-provoking read.

-Jessica T.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is availalbe for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier

I was assigned to read this in my Social Studies class. Since we where learning about the American Revolution it was a fitting read for this topic.

The book was about Tim Meeker. His brother Sam Meeker was enlisted in the American Revolution. The only problem was that his family disagreed with him. The Meeker’s were Tories which meant they where on the side of the British. The whole story is about how the war affects people.

I thought the first part of the book was a little boring. But just like all great books they pick up in the end. That is exactly what this book did. At the end of the book I realized it was a true story. Most of the things in the story where real.

Early in the book Tim was a young boy. In the first chapter he got so excited when he was going to milk Old Prue which was a cow.  Since his brother did it he thought it was so cool when he saw Sam do it. Of course it wasn’t as cool as he thought it was. I thought this sequence showed how little brothers always look up to there older brothers.

Later in the book Tim was working in the family tavern and sometimes he would get unsurprising visits from Sam. Sam wouldn’t come all the time of course. He would just come once or twice in about two years.

When you picked up the book from the start to end you could really see how much Tim progressed from a child into a adult. You could really see him take charge after his brother was gone off into the war. Another main theme in the book was violence. Readers are really opened up how the war just doesn’t affect the soldiers it affects everybody.

The town of Redding (which is the town Tim is from) is affected a lot because they have a lot of cattle and the soldier need it because there hungry.

-Max U.

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library