The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Considered by many to be the greatest novel that was ever written, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a masterful depiction of life during America’s Jazz Age. At a time when wealth and social status translated into parties and romance, Fitzgerald adeptly captures the essence of the Roaring Twenties in this novel that has persevered for nearly one hundred years.

The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, an outsider with outside perspectives on the people living around him on the West Egg of Long Island. One particularly enigmatic resident is the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby, a man with a mysterious past. Over the course of his time there, Nick discovers Gatsby’s all-consuming love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, and how Gatsby’s endless desperation to win her love and devotion has driven all of his actions.

Using Nick to stage a reunion between Gatsby and Daisy, the two proceed to embark on a romantic relationship, despite Daisy’s marriage to Tom Buchanan. Unfortunately for the two lovers, Tom eventually finds out about the affair, and that spells out the beginning of the end for both Daisy and Gatsby.

As timeless as the time during which The Great Gatsby is set, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is a fantastic glimpse into America’s past, as well as into the thoughts and actions of the wealthy and the ordinary, making it relevant to every reader in modern times.

-Mahak M.

Magician by Raymond Feist

Countless tales of the struggle between good and evil in Medieval times have been told. But it takes a true artisan to delve into not only fanciful creatures but other worlds as well. Raymond Feist does this masterfully.

This book is a classic in the realm of fantasy and adventure. It has been captivating readers for more than 30 years. After reading it, I understand its appeal. The author creates parallel universes that are enthralling. A rift opens in the Kingdom, and they are attacked by the Tsurani. The Tsurani have no metal in their world, however, they are rich with magicians. These magicians are powerful and wreak havoc wherever they go. There are also many Kingdom characters who are instrumental in the survival of their world. We watch as they grow and change throughout the course of the invasion transforming to meet each challenge. There is no lack of adventure.

Don’t be put off by the length of this book (841 pages!) It will draw you in and keep your attention as you live their story. Sometimes, it is hard to keep track of all the characters, but the resolution ties all the strings together at the end and makes it worthwhile.

I recommend this book if you are someone who enjoys fantasy, adventure and doesn’t mind conflict. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Also note, that this is the first in a series of many books that continue the Riftwar Saga.

-Elijah Y.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming

Moonraker (novel) - Wikipedia

Sir Hugo Drax – war veteran, multi-millionaire, primary donor for Britain’s newest defense project, and…card cheater? When M requests the legendary 007, James Bond, to investigate this strange discrepancy, Bond thinks nothing of it but a lesson to teach an otherwise spotless man. But there is more to the ex-amnesiac turned benefactor than simply cheating at cards. 

As Bond delves deeper into the activities at the base of the praised Project Moonraker, Britain’s state-of-the-art defense system capable of targeting any European capital, scheduled to launch in less than a week, he realizes that some things are not as they seem. From the unusual German workers employed for construction to the mysterious death of the previous investigator, Bond must determine the truth behind both the Moonraker and its creator, Sir Hugo Drax…

Bond, however, is not alone in his endeavor. With the support of an undercover agent, Gala Brand, and, of course, MI6, he must race against time to discover the truth, which may be much, much darker than even 007 could have ever predicted…

Ian Fleming’s Moonraker, the third in the James Bond series, will not disappoint fans of 007. With plot twists and action sequences galore, Fleming manages to glorify every aspect of Bond’s newest case, from a brilliant game of bridge to the saving of millions of lives. Arguably the best Bond novel (definitely my favorite), Moonraker is a book that will be near impossible to put down.

-Mahak M.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind (novel) - Wikipedia

Gone with the Wind is a novel written by American writer Margaret Mitchell, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Set in Atlanta and a nearby plantation, the novel depicts life in southern America before and after the Civil War. Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, Melanie, and the rest of the southerners are at the center of the story. Their customs and manners, words and deeds, spiritual concepts, and political attitudes, through the entanglement of love between Scarlett and Rhett, successfully depicted the Civil War led by Lincoln and the social life in the southern area of the United States.

The Civil War destroyed the economy of Georgia and the whole South. Slaves were freed and the good old days of slave owners were gone. In order to survive, they had to put down their pride and struggle, or they would die, and even the elite of Alanta would have to condescend to selling cakes and driving wagons. Feminist literature began in the 19th century and flourished in the 20th century. The rapid development of feminism is closely related to the social environment and historical background at that time. As the ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity and natural human rights advocated by the French Revolution rapidly gained popularity throughout the world, a feminist movement began to fight for women’s equality in politics, economy, education and other aspects from the 1830s. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, published in 1936, was written under such circumstances.

In the past, the author used to create a single and prominent character, that is, the positive character is brilliant, without any shortcomings, while the negative character is usually full of dark, cunning, and comes with a callous nature. However, Gone with the Wind breaks this way of description. The characters presented in the novel are the combination of positive and negative dispositions. This combination of personalities not only manifests the characteristics of each character in a round and vivid way, but also reveals a personal change brought by social upheaval in a deeper level.

-Coreen C.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Price of Admission by Daniel Golden

The Price of Admission (Updated Edition): How America's Ruling ...

This book was recommended to me by my friend who accidentally found this book online while she was exploring her college options as a student who needs financial aid. I wasn’t exactly drawn to reading this book at first simply by looking at its title. The United States of American is a nation where equality, justice, and freedom prevail, I thought. But curiosity still prompted me to read the first few pages of this novel and I was truly surprised at how much the rich and wealthy alumnus parents manipulate college acceptance officers to help enroll their children in the Ivy League universities.

I didn’t feel bitter because of the rich kids who, with mediocre academic records and criminal offenses managed to get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. Well, life is unfair, and their parents just naturally are more powerful and connected to tycoons who with a phone call ensures the matriculation of a child into these universities. What I felt to be a decline in democracy, meritocracy, and most importantly, the prominence of the American education system—one which the U.S. proclaims to be of the top in terms of its position in the world—is the fact that scholarly institutions are no longer willing to discover talent and support intellectual efforts from the rough and lower socioeconomic tiers.

Wealthy legacy and children of generous donors occupy spots that they don’t deserve. Perhaps they don’t even think how many nights did students from working and middle class spent studying instead of partying like them. Is the advancement of education really still the major goal and core of private institutions, or in maintaining their status in the academic community and attracting tycoons their one and only aim now?

-Coreen C. 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Adhieh

The wrath and the dawn is not your everyday fantasy novel. 

For one, it has middle eastern representation, which in my opinion is a certain demographic in fantasy that is highly underrepresented. Secondly, it is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, the fairy tale that which inspired Aladdin and many other films under the title the tales are commonly referred to, Arabian Nights

But before we continue can we take a moment to appreciate the covers? The original covers that were released with the book when it came out in 2015, are absolutely gorgeous. And I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that the reason I purchased these books was because of the covers. My quest to obtain the original covers was completed through the wonderful website of eBay, which fortunately had one or two to spare for my honorable mission.

But fear not, the covers were not the only extraordinary part of the book, because of course the most important part of any novel is the content. To that, the wrath and the Dawn upheld the high expectations I had for it. 

The Wrath and The Dawn tells the story of Sharzard, a women of noble birth in the Islamic Golden Age, and Khalid, the Caliph who takes a new bride each night only for them to die the morning after. Once Sharzard’s closest friend falls victim, she decides to volunteer to be his bride to try and kill Khalid. Sharzard convinces the Caliph not to kill her through the stories she tells each night. 

I absolutely zoomed through this book. Not only this one but the duology as well and ended up reading them both in one day. This was highly encouraged by the short and fast-paced chapters. There was never a dull moment in this book, and there was always someone to follow and root for. 

Another particular part that had me completely enthralled and hooked on was the romance. Although the premise seems somewhat problematic and troubling the romance evolves in a very cute and intimate manner that makes it hard to dislike. As with a lot of young adult novels, the main character’s remarks tend to be very witty and sarcastic. But unlike in other novels where those said remarks seem forced and unlike the character, Sharzard’s personality in my opinion is much more genuine and seems natural. These remarks make the banter much more fun to read and helped me get through the book even faster. 

But more importantly, its an enthralling tale about love, danger, and magic in ancient times that everyone should read. 

The wrath and the dawn is also available as a webtoon and although I prefer the original material, if you are short for time or quite like the cartoonish style then I highly recommend that as well. (Note, the webtoon is not completed and is currently being updated weekly.

-Asli B.

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Adhieh is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

For all the self-proclaimed literary snobs—you know, those who continually reference books and apply its meanings to the chapters of one’s life—Gabrielle Zevin introduces A.J. Fikry, a middle-aged and depressed bookseller on the coast of Massachusetts. Encompassing this universal feeling, of a storied life, Zevin characterizes all of us through him. Her novel, memoir, a minder—I’m not even sure what to call it—is nothing short of a masterpiece and warmly prompts us to recall why we read and how we love one another.

Fikry doesn’t have a lot of customers and even fewer friends. Mourning the loss of his wife, Fikry prizes his first edition copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tamerlane,” until it goes missing within the first few chapters. Left in its place is a small bundle. Spurring an unexpected change in his life, Fikry stubbornly comes to learn that the capacity of his love is not limited to paperbacks and late wife.

For the most part, Zevin’s writing is optimistic but realistically honest. As an array of characters is introduced, her writing accommodates. For Fikry, his old-fashioned life is personified by careful and calculated narration. However, as new friends find their way into his life, the style of writing expands. It seemingly mimics the path which Fikry takes in order to step outside his bookshop and into the life of others.

A bit like Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin represents the old-fashioned reader within all of us. There is something timeless and special about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, as it provides an unexpected and touching story for almost any audience. Something Fikry may appreciate, and aligned with Zevin’s writing, I find the Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” to be a fitting song. Through tones of inevitable and haunting lonesome, the lyrics remind us that the next step is to find a door and walk through it. Until we invite someone else to walk along with us, we will continue to walk along this road of life alone.

Literary snob or casual reader, almost anybody can connect with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. It is both a New York Times Bestseller and now one of the most memorable books I have read. I highly recommend.

-Maya S.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye | Summary, Analysis, Reception, & Facts ...

The Catcher in the Rye is the only novel by American writer Jerome David Salinger, first published in 1951. Salinger limits the story to the three days when 16-year-old high school student Holden Caulfield leaves school to wander in New York City and explores the inner world of a teenager using streaming-of-consciousness writing. Anger and anxiety are the two main themes of the book. The experiences and thoughts of the protagonists resonate strongly among teenagers and are warmly welcomed by readers, especially middle school students.

The United States in the 1950s had just won World War II and became a supreme political, economic, and military power. In such a period, “New York” is a representative of the American materialist society. It symbolises the most “fake” of all, that people’s spiritual life is a wasteland and that no one cares about other people’s feelings. The artistic charm of this novel lies in the author’s focus on the in-depth analysis of the characters’ psychology. He depicts the ambivalence of the protagonist Holden and his complex psychopathy in a delicate and analytical manner. In this book, Salinger adopts a first-person limiting perspective, and the story is told only within the scope of Holden’s psychological activities or feelings, while Holden is a 17-year-old undergoing psychoanalytic treatment and has no normal judgment of the world around him.

Salinger takes such a figure as the narrator of the novel, which greatly negates the traditional aesthetic concept of metaphysics. The traditional aesthetic concept holds that beauty is the inherent attribute of literary and artistic works and the manifestation of the cohesion of people’s aesthetic experience. The creation of artistic works as a form of beauty includes not only the reproduction of artistic images to reality, but also the aesthetic intention and evaluation of artists to reality.

The purpose of artistic production is to edify the soul with sublimated aesthetic experience and give people pure aesthetic enjoyment. Artistic works should create beautiful atmosphere, beautiful image, beautiful ideal, so that it has moving charm, eternal value and a harmonious, unified overall form. However, Salinger’s Holden is far from such an aesthetic object. He is a teenager suffering from mild schizophrenia, whose values have not yet been fully formed and whose rational world is in chaos.

-Coreen C.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Love is in the Air

Are you looking for books that make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside? Well you have come to the right place! My top three romance books are Quarantine; a love story, Windfall, and Love, Life, and the List.

The first book, Quarantine; a love story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc, is about two teenagers that are both flying to New York to see family, get stopped by a bunch of biohazard people. The people from biohazard are studying a disease called tropical mono, and if anyone on the plane had a fever, they would be put into thirty-day quarantine. The girl Flora faked a fever and kissed Oliver so they would go to quarantine together. Now they are stuck in a room together, forced to learn things about each other, including secrets. This book is very well written and will definitely make you tear up towards the end.

My second book, Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith, is about three best friends named Teddy, Alice, and Leo. Alice has had feelings for Teddy, but she does not know how to tell him. So for his birthday, she jokingly gives him a lottery ticket and a card that confesses her feelings for him. On the night she gives it to him, the card slips under the fridge so only the ticket remains. The next morning, Teddy finds out he won the lottery! This book truly demonstrates friendship and true love. I highly recommend this book.

My last and final book Love, Life, and the List, by Kasie West, is about two best friends named Cooper and Abby make a list of things to accomplish during the summer. Abby has feelings for Cooper but the first time she told Cooper about her feelings, he clearly did not feel the same. Abby also has a passion for art and is determined to get into the art museum that her boss is hosting. She also has to deal with a paranoid mother who is too afraid to even go out of her own house. Now Abby has to go through the whole summer juggling her feelings, skills, and family. This book definitely demonstrates heartbreak, friendship, and family.

-Veronica S.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander, is the first book of his well-known fantasy series called the chronicle of Prydain.  This is the story of a young man named Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper in a place known as Caer Dallben.  Taran leads a simple life, caring for farm animals and making horseshoes, but he dreams of making a sword and becoming a hero.  One day, something strange happens to the farm animals.  They begin running away as though they are frightened.  Most troubling is that the special pig, named Hen Wen, manages to escape.  Taran dashes after her, leading to an unexpected adventure to save the land of Prydain.

Many elements of the story are inspired by Welsh legends and mythology.  I found some of the names difficult to pronounce, but I think the Welsh influence adds to the charm of the book.  The ancient feel of this fantasy makes the book very enjoyable to read.  Taran joins with several unusual characters who aid him on his quest and add humor and intrigue to the story.  For example, Taran encounters a bard named Fflewddur Fflam, who possesses a magical golden harp.  Fflewddur is prone to exaggeration, and whenever he stretches the truth, at least one of his harp strings breaks.

This book is a wonderful blend of action, adventure and humor.  We also learn many good life lessons, as Taran seems to learn something valuable from each of his companions.  After reading this book, I highly recommend reading the other four books in the series.  The titles of the other books are The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King.  These books are worth reading not just for the delightful characters and engrossing story, but for their portrayal of the true meaning of heroism.

-Oliver H.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.