Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

escapefromlibrary_chrisgrabensteinEscape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was one of my top ten favorite books that I have ever read. This book is more than a rib-tickling novel full of humor and suspense. It’s a game in itself, in which readers can have fun solving clues and answering riddles while learning how to navigate the Dewey Decimal system.

This book actually reminded me of the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In Chris Grabenstein’s tale, twelve sixth graders are chosen to be the first ones allowed into an eccentric billionaire’s library. This fast-paced novel features an eccentric billionaire who welcomes a group of children into a fantasy setting full of weird, wondrous touches. This billionaire’s name is Luigi. L. Lemoncello, and he reminded me greatly of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The main character in Grabenstein’s book is a boy named Kyle Keeley. Kyle is a game fan—board games, word games, and especially video games! Kyle’s hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello, is the genius behind the design of the town’s new public library, which contains not only books, but an IMAX theater, an electronic learning center, instructional holograms, interactive dioramas and electromagnetic hover ladders that float patrons up to the books they want. How awesome is that? (I’ve always wished that there was a library that was just as cool as Mr. Lemoncello’s!).

However, there’s a twist. The next morning, after touring the library, the doors remain locked, and that’s where the twelve kids find out about Lemoncello’s fantastic new game…except that it involves them. Kyle and the others must follow book-related clues and unravel all sorts of secret puzzles to find the hidden escape route out of the library if they want to win Mr. Lemoncello’s most fabulous prize ever.

However…can twelve kids solve the puzzle that the clever Lemoncello set for the them? They will either succeed…or fail.

-Katherine L.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Image result for transparent natalie whippleI’m a big fan of sci-fi books, and sometimes I want to read something set in the modern era. Transparent, by Natalie Whipple, is exactly that.

In the Cold War, an anti-radiation pill called Radiasure was invented due to fears of nuclear warfare between the United States and Russia. A couple years later, mutations started appearing, but they weren’t that strange. But through every generation, the mutations grew worse, even with babies that never had contact with Radiasure.

Fiona is an invisible girl, and the only invisible person in the world. Imagine living your whole life never being able to look into a mirror, and never knowing what you look like. She’s the daughter one of powerful people who controls Radiasure. Her mother decided to escape with Fiona at the beginning of the book, and go into hiding, to get away from Fiona’s father, who treats them as weapons, and not people.

Being the only invisible girl is hard for Fiona when she starts in her new school. Algebra doesn’t make sense to her, and has to be tutored by an annoying senior, Seth. She doesn’t trust anyone, even Brady, and Bea, the two people who try to be her friend. Instead, she emails one of her brothers, Miles, at lunch and tells him what’s going on. Fiona especially doesn’t trust her other brother Graham, who has taken her back to her father every time she has tried to escape. Graham is supposedly trying to help Fiona and her mother, but she doesn’t trust him and thinks that he’ll tell her father where she is.

Eventually, Fiona begins to trust Brady, Seth, Bea, and Bea’s brothers. But is she going to jeopardize her friends and her safety? Or can she live a normal life where her father can never find out? Read the book to find out!

I enjoyed this book, and I think that it’s a cool glimpse into what superhero powers can be like for normal humans. There is also a sequel, called Blindsided. I recommend this book to older teens who like sci-fi and superheros.

-Rebecca V.

Transparent by Natalie Whipple is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

“In my hefty elf sack, your nightmares now keep. Better think twice before falling asleep.”
-The Nightmare Elf

welcometothedarkhouse_lauriestolarzThis chilling, nightmare-filled story takes place when seven fans of the famous horror film director, Justin Blake, enter an online contest. They are required to write about their worst nightmare, and the winners get the chance to stay at his legendary B&B, Dark House, featured in his movies. The fans also get to meet the famous man and sneak a look at his upcoming movie. Delighted to find they have won, the horror hopefuls, Ivy, Parker, Shayla, Frankie, Garth, Natalie, and Taylor, set out to have the scare of their life. Spending a weekend in the Dark House appeals to most of them like a vacation home, filled with effects that make the house really seem haunted and mysterious. However, their fun and games take a twisted turn when they are taken to an abandoned amusement park. Embodying the spirit of Blake’s movies, the park is like his own movie set with his wildly creepy characters running around. The seven lucky winners discover they must face their worst nightmares and survive them if they want to be set free.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. It’s description of horror and thrill left me wondering about my own nightmares. I knew I sure wouldn’t last one night in that house, not with its scare tactics and lonely halls. Stolarz uses her characters’ different perspectives to create this nail-biting world. As a big fan of horror stories, I was really anxious to see how the ending wrapped everything up. I have to say I was a little disappointed that I was left with so many unanswered questions, but overall the plot line was very intriguing.

I encourage readers who like to be scared to give this book a try. I know some horror stories are a gamble because it doesn’t end the way the readers hope. But Welcome to the Dark House is definitely one of my favorites and I would love to read it again.

-Sabrina C, 11th Grade

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash

Like many others, one of my New Year’s Aspirations was to read more books. To help myself with this, I chose to do the PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge. Along with a friend of mine, I began to check books off the list.

My first read of the year was back in January, but I still find myself thinking about it in March. Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash was my “Book With a Red Spine,” and it has made its way onto my list of favorites.

Until I came across Tom Barbash’s work, I had never much gone for short stories, much less collections of them. There was always something deeply unsatisfying about their brevity. I found myself anxious and yearning for more after the final page was turned.

But Stay Up With Me was incredibly real and terrifyingly relatable. Barbash has the power to make a reader fall in love with his characters in just a few sentences. The people in these stories are complex – they have failings and flaws in addition to their successes. Each one grows as a person and learns in the short course of their time in your hands.

And just as you are invested, just as you have committed the little idiosyncrasies of these characters to memory, the story ends.

Each time, as you feel the power of the final line, you are forced to wrench yourself from the story. There is a forceful discomfort as you move on, a sense of loss when their names are not printed on the next page.

All those people you just learned about? They’re gone. Everything there is for you to know about them is contained in those last few pages.

Stay Up With Me is collection of heartbreaking tales. Love, loss, and everything in between – Barbash does it beautifully.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

Image result for attack on titan volume 1

We’ve had zombie apocalypses. We’ve had alien races kidnapping us. There have been so many dystopian stories, from Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games to Divergent and The Walking Dead, in which human civilization is destroyed by some outside thing forcing humans to learn how to survive.

However, get prepared for giants eating humans.

In Attack on Titan, humanity has dwindled to an overall population of two thousand, kept safe behind three walls that separate themselves from the titans. However, Eren Jaeger’s life changes when the outer wall gets broken down by a muscle bound titan, a giant that eats humans. His mom gets eaten by one, in which he and his friends spend the next couple of years trying to get in the Survey Corps as a means of revenge against the almost impossible to beat titans.

Of course, he hates titans. So what happens when he becomes one himself?

Although this series is very popular in both the anime community and among non-anime lovers, I did not like it much. The artwork is not the best, but you can tell Isayama works really hard on each chapter. However, it is the plot that I enjoy. From the twists and turns to the corrupted politics being played in the background, it is easy to enjoy for someone who doesn’t like action. However, there is a lot of gore, as it is not just Eren’s mom who gets eaten. I will recommend it for any dystopia fan and for anyone interested in action.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield

bookofstorms_ruthhatfieldThe Book of Storms, by Ruth Hatfield, is a book that I found to be aimed towards middle school readers. The writing is not difficult, and though there are some clichés in the plot, it was a good read. The book starts off with the main character, Danny, who wakes up alone in the morning and finds that his parents are gone. Now, the reader learns that it is not unusual for his parents to be gone for the night, as they are often chasing storms, but also that they always come back the next morning. Danny attempts to do everything normally, just as he would if his parents had been there, even going to school. He hopes that they will be home when he comes back, but they are not.

After looking around his house again in search of his parents, Danny finds a notebook containing information that is to help him in the search for his parents. Outside his home, he finds a twig with which he finds that he can speak to plants and animals, including the neighbor’s cat .  Along the way, as he is trying to find his parents, he will face a powerful foe (who is kind of like the Devil, but the book mentions that it isn’t actually), whose intentions are not fully revealed until later on in the novel. This person is trying to get Danny’s “Taro” (his twig), for his ulterior motives.

I found the book to be interesting, mainly because I haven’t read another book with a plot or idea like it, although it could have been somewhat improved.

-Aliya A.

The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Taken place in imaginary Maycomb, Alabama in the middle of the Great Depression, racism, prejudice, hypocrisy, innocence and sorrow all integrate in Harper Lee’s profound novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The story is narrated by Jean Louise “Scout” Finch as an adult but the story is solely a memory, told through her eyes as a six year old. Two main story lines are incorporated in this novel; both proving to teach Scout and her brother, Jem, lessons about life’s trials, obstacles and triumphs.

One story line digs deep into the issue of segregation and hatred. While a majority of Scout’s town and schoolmates, all being White, show blunt partiality and disgust towards African Americans in their society, her father, Atticus Finch, must uphold his personal moral responsibilities. He does this proudly and sensibly as he represents a falsely accused African American named Tom Robinson as his defense attorney in a court case. Young Scout learns that courage and bravery is not always fighting with guns but instead, is standing up for what you believe is right, no matter the cost or who stands with you.

The second storyline acts as a form of entertainment and mystery to Scout, Jem and their close friend, Dill, in the beginning of the story. However, by the end of the novel, lessons of acceptance, kindness and ignoring false misconceptions are heeded. A couple doors down from Scout’s house lives a mysterious family named the Radley’s who, despite being White, are discriminated against and have earned a negative reputation for being untrustworthy and abnormal. The three children, particularly interested in the son, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who is rumored to be locked up in the house by his father, play games and create dares in attempt to make him come out of his house. They find this exhilarating until Atticus tells them to stop harassing Boo and that they must respect the Radley’s despite the gossip about them that circulates through the lips of those living in Maycomb. Throughout the book, odd surprises lead the children to come to the conclusion that Boo is kindhearted but too broken to show his compassion like a normal person would.

Overall, Harper Lee does a superb job of utilizing Scout’s innocence and eagerness to explore the world around her to present the audience with a genuine piece of historical fiction that opens up the audience’s mind to topics such as prejudice, coming of age and morality. Harper Lee’s authentic writing style helps readers to understand the issue at hand by making each character quite profound and unique. This book is definitely a must-read for adolescents and adults alike.

-Jessica T.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla