A Court of Thorns and Roses (series) by Sarah J. Maas

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is something I generally try to abide by, but if I’m being honest with myself, it doesn’t always work out that way.

If I were to go into a bookstore or library looking for a book to read, this definitely would not be one I’d consider choosing. (Now since I’ve read the series, the covers have kind of grown on me). Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have friends who love reading as much as I do who recommended this book to me.

The story follows a mortal girl named Feyre (fay-ruh) who lives with her father and two older sisters. Her town lives in fear of the immortal faeries who live beyond the forest and the invisible wall that separates the faerie realms from those of the mortals. They’re a poor family, and Feyre’s father, who is crippled, has given up hope and has stopped supporting his own family. It has become Feyre’s duty to go hunting every day to keep her family alive.

One day, while hunting, Feyre encounters a wolf, and shoots it. This proves to be a grave mistake, and Feyre gets taken off to Prythian (a realm on the other side of the wall) to live with immortal faeries. The immortal faeries she’d grown up fearing and hating.

I absolutely loved the first book! It’s based off of Beauty and the Beast, so the story is kind of familiar, but it’s also very different. The second book was even better! And don’t even get me started on the third one. I don’t know how many times I’ve read series were the first book is great, but it just goes downhill from there. I’m telling you, this series starts off great, and just gets better and better.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the individual characters because I might spoil something, but I’ll just say that Sarah J. Maas (the author) is so skilled at creating characters that readers will love and care about (this doesn’t even do her justice, you won’t really know until you read the series how amazing, funny, and lovable the characters are!). I also love how she describes the settings so vividly. I would do almost anything to be able spend time in Prythian (the world that this book takes place in) and hang out with all the characters!

So if you’re looking for a fantasy book filled with adventure, romance, humor, and emotion (I almost cried while reading the last book which is saying something because I practically never cry while reading), I highly, highly recommend this series.

-Elina T.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

In Challenger Deep, written by Neal Shusterman, Caden Bosch is a teenager who struggles with mental illness. This story is told from two perspectives where it switches from his point-of-view of his life and his fantasy world. In his fantasy world, he has become a part of a voyage with a man who calls himself the Captain and his parrot to explore the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep, to find the bottom of it.

In Caden’s daily life, he begins to show signs of his mental illness. His friends, family, and teachers begin to notice his anxiety, his random thoughts, and his new hobby of pacing and walking. At first, they shrug it off thinking it’s only a phase, but everyday Caden falls deeper in his mental illness.

Caden’s story is an emotional one about a boy going through his first mental breakdown. There were some funny moments, but it’s a sad story of a teen going through a mental illness.

Although it took me some time to read this book, I highly recommend reading it. This book gave me some new insight about how people with mental illnesses feel. The author did a fantastic job in capturing Caden’s emotions and of his family and friends emotions.

There are some curse words ( no F-bombs though) and no sexual content (Yay for those who don’t want to read smut!). This book has little to no romance since it mainly focuses more on the friendships of Caden and his recovery from his mental breakdown.

This is a good book for older teens, I don’t recommend kids ages 13 and younger reading this because of the mature themes. Also, it can be a bit confusing because it’s from Caden’s perspective, but it’s entertaining.

*Spoiler alert* In one scene, some of the patients talk about what happened to them before they were hospitalized. The author doesn’t go into detail, but it’s a little disturbing. 

-Ash A.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Interwoven by a single object, the three lives of children are forever changed by magical harmonica in the novel Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

The story begins with a young boy named Otto, who meets three sisters when he gets lost in a forbidden forest. Interacting with them, Otto realizes the mysterious nature of them. The sisters guide him home, and give him a harmonica with a special “M” seal. The harmonica makes its way to a young boy named Friedrich in Germany.

Hitler is rising, and the Nazi’s party influence is very prominent; resistance to it is very difficult. Discovering the special harmonica in the factory his Father works in, Friedrich plays it and realizes there is something special about it. Because of unforeseen circumstances, he is forced to get rid of the harmonica.

It travels next to Mike, an orphan, in Pennsylvania. Constantly taking care of his younger brother, Mike is looking for a break to help himself and his brother out of their destitute lives. Musically gifted with playing the piano, Mike discovers the special harmonica. He and his brother are eventually adopted, but there are some complications with their new guardian. The last child in the novel is Ivy. Receiving the harmonica, her special talent for playing is recognized by her teacher; her teacher chooses her to play a solo in a special concert, but Ivy’s Father receives a job, forcing her to move way. Her Father’s job is to take care of a farm of Japanese family, while they are in an internment camp. The neighboring farms are anti-Japanese, and some vandalize the property. The harmonica helps her adjust to the move. Each of the children’s lives have their own story with the harmonica, but the ending ties them all together beautifully.

Even though this book is intended for younger children, anybody of any age would enjoy this novel because of its simplistic nature and “feel-good” element. My favorite part of this book was how there were multiple stories, and they were told in such detail, that one was able to connect and understand the individual characters. It is also relatable because of the backdrop of the second World War, and how it impacted people differently depending on where they lived. The “magic” element made the novel all the more enjoyable because it captured the innocence of the young children.

I loved Echo, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a light, quick read.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

The novel Shooting Kabul by N.H. Sense is about a boy named Fadi who lived in Afghanistan. His family had no choice but to leave Afghanistan because the Taliban rose to power and they didn’t bring the good like they promised.

Fadi’s father, Habib, had secured the family a safe passage to America in the summer of 2001, as long as they crossed the border. The plan was to meet a truck that would carry Fadi’s family across the Peshawar, Pakistan. While Fadi’s older sister, Noor, was helping her sick mother, Fadi was in charge of taking care of his sister Mariam. All was going according to plan until the Taliban showed up.

Mariam is accidentally left behind because she dropped her barbie doll and she jumped off the truck to get it back. The rest of his family made it safely, but they were unable to properly move on with there lives until they knew Mariam would come back safely. While staying with his relatives in San Francisco, school had just started and he had to adjust to a new life. His new friend, Anh convinced him to join the school’s photography club and there was a competition where the first place winner gets a new camera and a trip to China, Kenya, or India. Then Fadi realized that India is right next to Afghanistan and if he won the competition, he could fly there, find Mariam, and bring her back home. Fadi spent all his time photographing the sights of San Fransisco. He knew that failure wasn’t an option, so he took the perfect picture of his grandparents and submitted it.

Later, there was news that terrorists had crashed planes into two skyscrapers in New York at the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11. Many people believe that all Muslims are terrorists who support the men who hijacked the planes. Bullies at his school started picking on him because of his Muslim faith. Fadi truly believed that he would win the photography competition, but when he heard that he didn’t win, he was devastated. Fadi isn’t able to go to Afghanistan to find his missing sister. But, he did get an honorable mention for his entry, which attracted the attention of one judge who specialized in photographing war zones. The judge offered to show him some of his most recent work, which was taken along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While looking thorough the photos, Fadi saw a picture of Mariam playing with some other children at a refugee camp. Mariam was tracked down and she boarded a flight to San Fransisco to be reunited with her family.

I would would recommend this book to anyone who likes novels that involve historical background. This book was interesting and it involved the tragic event of 9/11.Throughout the the novel, you get to see the journey Fadi went through to save his sister in Afghanistan.

-Vanessa T.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats, a boy who has bad luck due to a curse placed on his great- great-grandfather, is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, for a crime he did not commit. Stanley and the other boys at the camp are forced to dig large holes in the dirt every day. Stanley eventually realizes that they are digging these holes because the Warden is searching for something.

As Stanley continues to dig holes and meet the other boys at the camp, the narrator intertwines three separate stories to reveal why Stanley’s family has a curse and what the Warden is looking for. I thought that the stories were great because they kind of blended in with one another and revealed the history of Camp Green Lake one step at a time.

Anyways, one day, as Stanley is busy digging holes, he finds what other than a lipstick tube with the initials KB imprinted on it. He discovers that the initials stand for a famous outlaw nick-named Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Stanley knows that the Warden, a woman who happens to be a descendant of Charles and Linda Walker, people who are enemies of Kate Barlow, is interested in this find and he speculates that perhaps Kate Barlow used to live in the area.

What treasures might the mysterious and dry Camp Green Lake hold? Read this book to find out!

Holes by Louis Sachar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols

When you open up your yearbook, there usually is a Best Of page, such as Best Dressed, Most Athletic, etc. Some people don’t know that this page is called the Superlatives, or as dictionary.com defines it: being of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme. Jennifer Echols weaves together a series about how three different titles affect three best friends: Tia, Harper, and Kaye.

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The first book, Biggest Flirts, starts off with Tia, the drum captain. She bilingual, 5’ 9”, is a serious underachiever, and almost has an allergic reaction if anyone tries to put her in charge. What she thinks are her values and morals all start to change when the new guy, Will, shows up from Minnesota. She states over and over again that she doesn’t want a boyfriend, but will that change as she gets to know Will better?

 

 

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The second book, Perfect Couple, is about Harper, the yearbook photographer. She’s first dating the yearbook editor, Kennedy, and then gets voted Perfect Couple with the schools quarterback, Brody. She doesn’t understand why the school would pair her with someone like Brody.  She’s a photographer with glasses and her funky homemade dresses. So why would the school think that Brody is a perfect match for her while Kennedy already is?

 

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The final book, Most Likely To Succeed is about Kaye, the head cheerleader. She’s the student body vice president, and has exceptional grades, but her mom always pushes her to work harder. She’s dating the student body president, Aidan, for the past three years. But even though similarities at first may attract at the beginning, they sometimes don’t work out in the long run. Maybe she needs to date the school’s bad boy, Sawyer, who has a father than was in jail, dresses up as the school mascot, and tries to convince her that he’s a good fit for her.

 

All three girls first start out with the jerks at the beginning, even though one isn’t a jerk at the end of book three. Each of the girls have a rocky start with the guy they’re supposed be with, but it eventually works out. And of course you have to have the curve-ball, such as when Kaye tells Harper a shocking secret in book 2, which makes you go, wait, what?

This is a nice, relaxing series by Echols. If you want a series that will make you smile, this one is for you! These books make you rethink about wanting to have one of those titles. What if you are voted a bad one, such as Sawyer’s Most Likely To Go Jail award? On the other hand, would you really want the Most Academic Award, and feel like you have to live it up, and be more pressured to be valedictorian? This series is for ages 14 and up.

-Rebecca V., 8th grade

Biggest Flirts and Perfect Couple are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. 

The Selection by Kiera Cass

selection_coverHave you ever wondered what it would be like if The Bachelor and The Hunger Games were intertwined? Well look no further, because Kiera Cass’s The Selection series delves into a dystopian universe, a reality set in America’s future, with 35 young women competing to win Prince Maxon’s heart.

This story is set in the nation that used to be the United States, and is now called Illéa, which was established after China took over the country following World War IV. The nation, specifically the royal palace, is currently undergoing rebel attacks fueled by the unfair caste system placed upon the people.

To lift the nation’s spirits and to honor tradition, the royal family hosts the Selection; where the king’s son, Prince Maxon, goes through the process of choosing a wife from the 35 selected women from all over Illéa. Participants get a boost in social status and access to luxurious palatial living until the Prince chooses his princess. To have a shot at royalty is a dream shared by all young women in Illéa. All except the tenacious America Singer. America, unlike her mother, is not too thrilled at being expected to throw herself at the, no doubt snobbish, prince.

Nevertheless, being chosen for the Selection is not only an honor, but provides generous financial compensation to the woman’s family. And with America’s family being level five out of eight in the caste system, they would greatly benefit from her selection.  As level fives, America’s family is dictated to work either as musicians and artists in order to make a living, which provides an unsteady income. To complicate the issue, America would be leaving behind her secret boyfriend of two years, Aspen. Aspen is level six in the caste, therefore America’s mother would hardly condone a marriage between the two, as it would convert America herself into a six, into a life of poverty.

Is Prince Maxon a self-absorbed snob like America believes he is? Will America end up a princess or marry Aspen despite the hardships they will face? Are all of America’s dresses at the palace as beautiful as the one on the cover? Well, I cant spoil everything! I can say, however, that although this series might seem like a cliché Young Adult novel, it has great characterization, a relatable flawed protagonist, and is an overall exciting read. So pick up a copy and you can get lost in the palace drama like I did!

-Ava K.

The Selection series by Kiera Cass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download free from Overdrive and Hoopla.