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Announcing the Winners of The Second Annual FanFiction Contest!

This year we had a fantastic turnout consisting of imaginative, fantastic, beautifully written pieces. We are so honored by those who opted to share their passion and talents with us. Thank you to all who submitted their writing. Without further ado:

First Place ($50 Barnes & Noble Gift Card)

 Anatomy by James B. (Frankenstein)

Second Place ($40 B&N Gift Card)

 想いよひとつになれ – Feelings, Become One by Silver (“Love Live! Sunshine!!”)

Third Place ($30 B&N Gift Card)

 A Most Dangerous Squid Game by Jason S. (“The Most Dangerous Game” x  “Squid Game”)

Fourth Place ($30 B&N Gift Card) 

The Man by Jessica W. (The Raven)

These Violent Delights (Review by Sriya B. ’22 )

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TW: gun violence (major), gore (major), transphobia (moderate), racism/xenophobia (minor).
I picked this book up because someone told me it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but they didn’t tell me it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s crime-run Shanghai about star-crossed ex-lovers putting aside the blood feud between their gangs to prevent a monster from terrorizing their city.

Between the ruthless gangs, the rekindling of first love, and the dramatic ploys of various nationalities trying to gain control of Shanghai, this story delivers on so many fronts.

I can definitely see how this follows Romeo and Juliet, but at the same time, it feels entirely different. It’s the perfect kind of retelling, with the right balance of new and original. Chloe Gong successfully took a beloved classic and retold it with new culture, queer representation, and modern themes surrounding misogyny and racism, while also staying true to the core themes about love, loyalty, and betrayal.

The writing, while slow and long-winded in some areas (I might have lightly skimmed here and there), has beautiful descriptions and quotes you’ll want to write down and remember forever. As someone who has been reading a lot of YA romance lately, coming back into fantasy was a bit of a shock, but the way Chloe Gong navigated the multiple POVs and plot without confusing me was amazing. Of course, this way of ornate telling might not be your cup of tea, but I recommend you give it a try anyway! Oh, and the ending had me running to the library to get the sequel.—Review by Sriya B. ’22

If you like this book, Sriya also recommends The Gilded Wolves and An Ember in the Ashes.

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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Review by James B. ’24)

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

TW for the book: Drug Overdose, Murder, Sexual Assault

As Leigh Bardugo’s debut into Adult Fantasy, Ninth House is a stunning dark thriller that takes place on the modern day Yale campus. Be aware that this book may make you question your college apps however, as there is much murder and magic afoot.

The book follows Galaxy (Alex) Stern, a freshman with an unusual ability, through various timelines as she attempts to piece together the details of an oddly familiar murder and figure out how it relates to her mentor’s disappearance. You see, Alex is by no means qualified to study at Yale, but has rather been enlisted by a governing body that oversees the activities of the university’s ancient secret societies. It is through her ability to see ghosts, called Greys in the book, that Alex is recruited as Lethe House’s new Dante, serving under the previous Dante, now Virgil, Daniel Arlington. From a hospital bed after being found overdosed on the scene of a brutal killing, to controlling the magical powers of several groups of entitled rich kids at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Alex Stern must fight for her life and the promise of a better future.

For the record, I wanted to like this book so badly, and even having finished it I still want to. The world-building is incredible and Leigh Bardugo once again proves that somehow she can still create new magic systems as well as lovable morally-grey characters. Alex Stern had potential to be among my favorite characters I’ve read in fantasy; she’s dynamic, persistent, and brutal while also remaining very human (ever when she is very much not). This book had all the makings to be a favorite and somehow it all just fell flat.

I am by no means a slow reader, but Ninth House took me months to conquer. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of hard-hitting action, but the back and forth between timelines quickly became dizzying. I found myself frustrated that another segment had gone by without answering my biggest questions, and even once they were answered, it didn’t feel satisfying. One of my biggest red flags for a book is whether it makes me question if I, the reader, am reading it incorrectly somehow. Too often I felt I was slipping off the hook, like the line itself was too taut for me to think about anything else.

Having said that, there are some truly gorgeous scenes in this book that stand extremely well on their own, and I think it is worth reading if you have the patience for a lot of unanswered questions. Just be sure to prepare yourself as Ninth House does explore some intense topics that might be upsetting, and that I was frankly unprepared for. —Review by James B. ’24

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Review by James B. ’24)

The House in the Cerulean SeaThe House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea is a comforting tale of an orphanage for magical children, although it isn’t an orphanage because no one goes there to adopt. What initially appears to be a light-hearted criticism of the corporate machine becomes a bright story of found family and finding your place in a world who would very much not like you around.

Most remarkable about the book is the ease with which it builds the world around the story. From only the first few pages you already know that this is a world in which magical creatures are not uncommon, but oppressed. Magical children are abandoned in “orphanages” overseen by a corporate giant. Our protagonist is Linus Baker, a caseworker at DICOMY given a top secret case by the Extremely Upper Management. It is on this case that Linus meets Arthur Parnassus, the Headmaster of an orphanage housing the six-year-old anti-christ, Lucy. It is this boy as well as many others that, despite the fact that they aren’t human, teach Linus about humanity.

I very much enjoyed this book, although I was under the incorrect pretense that it was a Queer romance first and adventure second. The romance is there, but it is far overshadowed by the odd but lovable found-family and delve into everyday oppression. Each child earns their own heart-warming spotlight, and as V. E. Schwab’s testimony on the cover says, it is indeed like being wrapped in a big gay blanket.

I don’t have any specific complaints about the book, as I’m aware that I went into it with the wrong idea of what it would be, so keep in mind that while there are elements of romance, I would not call it a romance. Either way, it’s a very fun title to add to your shelf and the characters are extremely well-done. Even though I found it underwhelming, I will be reading more T. J. Klune in the future because I fell in love with his style. —Review by James B. ’24

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2022 FanArt Contest Results!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our first ever Book Blog Fan Art Contest! From Genshin Impact to Dream to Spiderman and beyond, our team greatly enjoyed viewing all the entries, and we were so impressed by all the talent. Without further ado, below are our winners and Honorable Mentions. You can view all other entries here!


First Place: Nia’s untitled entry for Chainsaw Man

Fan art for Chainsaw Man by Nia

Second Place: A’s entry “A Final Song” for The Untamed

Fan art for The Untamed series by A

Third Place: Kevin Z’s entry “Rocky!” for Project Hail Mary

Fan art for Project Hail Mary by Kevin Z

Honorable Mentions

Most FANtastic: Dr. Harley’s entry called “Cool in Class”

Literal “fan art” by Dr. Harley

Most Likely to be Mistaken as a Webtoon: yeehaw 🤠’s entry for Kizuna Ai: “hello, world 2022”

Fan art for Kizuna Ai (inc.) by yeehaw 🤠

Excellent Use of Collaboration: yeehaw 🤠and yeehawh’s entry for Hololive and Nijisanji: “tokomachi radio”

Fan art for Hololive and Nijisanji by yeehaw 🤠 and yeehawh

Once again, a huge thank you to all the talented artists who submitted their fan art, and congratulations to these winners!

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai (5 Star Review by Jason S. ’25)

No Longer HumanNo Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

TW: suicide, substance abuse, misogyny

No Longer Human, Osamu Dazai’s last work, is a heavy semi-autobiographical novel told mostly through the abandoned memoirs of Oba Yozo, a man whose failure to understand and properly interact with a thoroughly westernized pre-WWII Japanese society forces him to live under the assumption that he is disqualified from humanity. The narrative is bookended by an observer whose findings reframe Yozo’s life through a set of more forgiving, though by no means rose-tinted, lenses.

I find Yozo to be an incredibly well-written character. This does not mean that I like him as a person; on the contrary he is melancholy, irresponsible, and thus extremely difficult to like. However, his mistakes are painfully human. This being said, Yozo’s narration is at times dominated by an unusual misogyny that uncomfortably extends beyond the already alienating context of his misanthropy. Even more concerning for a semi-autobiographical novel, quite a few women are written by Dazai to passively conform to Yozo’s views concerning a vulnerable, inscrutable woman.

This intolerance, though, is a human fault. Inexcusable, but quietly human. Passing judgements onto Yozo’s faults inevitably made me question my own. The text, though genuinely depressing, sits at an extremely accessible 177 pages. No Longer Human is a novel I will return to when my values will have unrecognizably shifted, and one that I recommend best with a highlighter, a good pen, and an open mind. —Review by Jason S. ’25

Jason’s book recommendations for those who enjoyed No Longer Human:

Notes from the Underground is a strikingly similar work; indeed, Dazai even explicitly communicates his Dostoevsky influences at one point in No Longer Human.

Siddhartha is a very interesting piece in comparison.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men explores many of the same issues in radically different contexts, particularly the story “The Depressed Person.”

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Books That Defy Genres! (by Ms. Pelman)

One of the easiest ways to talk about books is by genre. We say, do you like mysteries? What about fantasy, or sci-fi? It’s a great way to find common ground and to seek out, or give, recommendations.

Did you know that genres follow a formula? It’s true! If you read enough mysteries or romance books, you’ll begin to see patterns. Some people really dig this for their reading, as familiarity can be comforting. Often people return to the same author over and over again because they know just what to expect.

Of course, there are times when you crave something out of the ordinary. And when that happens, books that break the mold are the most satisfying. When you want to expect the unexpected, here are a few books that blur the lines of categorization in interesting ways:


Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The year is 2065, Adri has been preparing her whole life to be an astronaut who will help colonize Mars, and she is elated when she is chosen for the mission. When she moves from Miami to Kansas for training, she discovers a journal written by someone who lived in her house over one hundred years ago. Adri becomes increasingly absorbed in the fates of the people contained within the journal.

Since the book is told in multiple timelines, and across vast geographies, it is a satisfying blend of science fiction and historical fiction, complete with secrets, betrayals, and heartbreak.


Lovely War by Julie Berry

Romance, history, and wartime, but with a mythological kick.

When Hephaestus finds his wife Aphrodite cheating on him with his brother Ares, he convenes a trial in which Aphrodite must defend herself and her actions. To do so, she relays a harrowing story about interracial love, music, and friendship during World War I.

Beautifully written and captivating, while not shying away from historically accurate portrayals of racism and sexism, this soaring book makes a compelling case for the enduring human spirit as told by the goddess of love herself.


In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

If you think you know all about books where teenagers go to magical schools, think again.

When the obnoxious and unloved Eliot winds up in a magical realm called the Borderlands (protected by an invisible wall), he meets elves, mermaids, and other magical people. It seems like his dreams will be realized, but this is a place where expectations, stereotypes, and other prejudices are thrown out in place of the unpredictable. Eliot will fall in love and make an unexpected friend, but can he save the world while doing it?

This funny novel plays with fantasy tropes, but more than that, it turns preconceived notions of gender, colonialism, and sexism upside down and inside out.


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

A classic work of literature by an author whose work has produced a rabid and devoted fanbase.

In this book the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, has become “unstuck in time” so the story does not follow a linear timeline. It jumps around all over the place featuring different moments of Billy’s life.

Vonnegut’s unique writing style is at times humorous, sometimes derisive, but always memorable and moving.


Noggin by John Corey Whaley

When the story begins, Travis is a 16-year-old suffering from cancer. Once he realizes that he will not survive the illness he agrees to participate in an experimental procedure in which, after he dies, his head will be removed from his body and cryogenically frozen, to then be attached to a new body if and when the technology allows…

…It doesn’t take long and Travis is born again 5 years later, albeit with a new body. He would like, and expects, to pick up his life where he left it, but that won’t be so simple. Some of the most important people in his life, namely his girlfriend and his best friend, have been living, loving, and changing in the time that he was gone and Travis must figure out where he fits in.

This strange tale raises both philosophical and existential questions about life, wrapped up in a funny and heartfelt story about love and the nature of being.

Have you read any other books that defy genres? Share them in the comments!

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Review by Varun F. ’24)

Skyward (Skyward, #1)Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson tells the story of Spensa, a young woman who dreams of becoming a pilot in order to follow in the footsteps of her father and protect the world from the Krell, an alien species. The plot follows her journey through pilot training and the trials that she must overcome in order to prove her place as a true pilot.

I really enjoyed this book in part due to Brandon Sanderson’s incredibly written action scenes, which mainly take place between the Krell and the pilots. Creating an interesting and engaging action scene is hard enough as it is, but Brandon Sanderson goes above and beyond by staying true to the voice of Spensa in his narration throughout these scenes. I would even go as far to say that one could solely read this book for the action scenes.

Still, there are some flaws in this book. For one, although Spensa is a deliberately arrogant and overconfident character, many of her decisions and actions throughout the book simply do not make sense. Additionally, I wish there was more commentary on Spensa’s past, which could have been in the form of flashback scenes. That being said, I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was packed with incredible action scenes and great moments of humor. I strongly recommend this book to any action or science fiction fans. —Review by Varun F. ‘24

For those who enjoyed Skyward, Varun also suggests the next books in the series, Starsight and Cytonic.

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Top 5 Scary Reads (Chosen by Our Teachers!)

Although Halloween is over, the days are getting colder and darker (sometimes it even rains!)… it’s as wintry as California will get. Perfect weather for curling up with a warm drink and a good, spooky book to chill you to the bone. So we asked our teachers what their favorite scary work of literature was, or what creeped them out the most, and these are their responses… happy reading!

Mr. Manjoine: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”

“Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave.”

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

Note: The Road was also adapted as a post-apocalyptic survival film by the same name!

Ms. Manning: Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

“When any pretty maiden came within that space she was changed into a bird, and the fairy put her into a cage, and hung her up in a chamber in the castle. There were seven hundred of these cages hanging in the castle, and all with beautiful birds in them.”

We know fairy tales as the stories of a beautiful princess, a charming prince, and their happily-ever-after… but let’s just say that Disney did quite a lot of clean up…

Mr. Slivka: The Body Artist by Don DeLillo

In The Body Artist, DeLillo tells the hallucinatory tale of performance artist Lauren Hartke in the days following the suicide of her husband, filmmaker Rey Robles.

Finishing out their lease of a rented house on the coast, living in a self-imposed exile, Lauren discovers a mysterious man in the bedroom upstairs who is able to repeat — verbatim — entire conversations she had with her husband before his death but does not seem to know his own name or where he happens to come from.

“A metaphysical ghost story about a woman alone…intimate, spare, exquisite.” – Adam BegleyThe New York Times Book Review

Ms. Green: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Get Out meets The Stepford Wives in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

Ms. Miller: “The Wind” by Lauren Groff

“Much later, she would tell me the story of this day at those times when it seemed as if her limbs were too heavy to move and she stood staring into the refrigerator for long spells… then I would sit quietly beside her, and she would tell the story the same way every time, as if ripping out something that had worked its roots deep inside her.”

You can find it here in The New Yorker (TW: domestic violence)