The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Avery is an average, but intelligent, girl from Connecticut. Her mother died, and her father couldn’t care less about her, but her half-sister Libby (same father, different mother) cares deeply about Avery. One day, however, Avery receives an invitation to the reading of the will of the late Tobias Hawthorne, who she discovers has a net worth of 46 billion dollars. She is both surprised and confused when she receives the majority of Tobias Hawthorne’s vast fortune, despite never having known him, or even heard of him and his family, until now. However, it is revealed that Tobias Hawthorne left a puzzle behind for them to solve. Meanwhile, there are still some people who are upset about Avery’s newfound inheritance and seek to get rid of her in any way possible. She now has no idea who is really on her side and who seeks to get rid of her. Avery is now not only facing a difficult puzzle with vague clues, but she must also now watch out for any attempts others may take to harm her. 

I liked this book because of the constant suspense and the unexpected events. This was a very unpredictable book, and there were multiple riddles presented by the clues. I enjoyed attempting to solve those puzzles and following along as the characters figured out what everything meant.

The Inheritance Games is part of a series consisting of 2 books, with the third book being released later this year. They all follow the same storyline, of the aftermath of Avery receiving the unexpected and large inheritance.

-Peri A.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman

What would you do if your parents suddenly fell asleep and you could not wake them up?  Now personally, I would probably cry for half an hour than get up, watch TV and cook brownies from a box (the batter is the best). But thankfully that has not happened to my parents, unfortunately that did happen to the fair children of St. Polonius-by-the-Fjord. After eating the traditional bear liver, the parents and everybody over the age of 12 years, 4 months and 6 days, fell into a deep sleep. Immediately the mayor’s son took control and had every child take over their parents job, appointments and basically life. Jean Hubby, the main character and awesome older sister, and her little brother Micah suddenly live their parents’ lives. When Jean goes to the storage room to find some food, her job was working in a restaurant (it was not her mother’s job, find out why in the book), she stumbles across something that explains the Great Hibernation. Once again Tara Dairman wrote a treasure that had me whipping each page. Not only did she show diverse and hilarious characters, she incorporated real problems that people face every day. This book is a great read that I loved. I recommend this book to anybody and everybody. 

The Great Hibernation  by Tara Dairman is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Craftfully weaving suspense, fast-paced dialogue, and humor into this classic yet unique whodunnit murder mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole novel.

First published in 1926, Christie admitted that this was one of her favorite novels that she’s ever written, and its popularity quickly helped establish her title of The Queen of Mystery. Per usual with Agatha Christie’s books, I loved how the characters were all developed perfectly, their personalities growing almost life-like as the story and mystery went on. The first-person narrative and detailed descriptions ground you in the story, and the plot twists will have you reading until the very end.

Hercule Poirot, Christie’s famous detective, adds a level of wit and cleverness to this book like no other, challenging the reader to try and figure out exactly how his mind works, and solve the mystery along with Poirot.

This has definitely been my favorite Agatha Christie book I’ve read thus far due to the revolutionary breakthroughs it brought into the mystery genre, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.”

-Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  by Agatha Christie is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Silent Patient Review

Author: Alex Michaelides 

Pages: 325

Genre: Thriller, mystery

The Silent Patient begins with a glimpse at Alicia Berenson’s picturesque life through her diary. This famous painter is married to a renowned photographer and lived the perfect life in a nice house in London. However, Alicia’s perfect life does not stop her from shooting her husband five times in the face when he returns from work. After this crime, she never speaks a word again. Five years later, psychotherapist Theo Faber finds a job opportunity at the psychiatric ward Alicia is being held and takes the job in order to examine Alicia with whom he has been entranced since her story stormed the press. Theo is determined to discover the events of that night as well as Alicia’s motive to brutally kill her husband. We get to follow him as he investigates personal aspects of Alicia’s life like her friends and family. However, each character introduces new information that makes her motive appear ever more convoluted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While it was a bit of a slow start as we hear about Theo’s life and mundane daily activities, the end is worth the wait. As the story continued, I too found myself anticipating the reasoning behind Alicia’s actions and definitely was not disappointed. There were a lot of hidden details throughout the book that made the resolution much more intense and mind-blowing. I would recommend this book to all readers, for while I do not particularly read many thriller novels, this one was very good.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le

(Phở is a flavorful Vietnamese soup that consists of thin rice noodles, tender meat, fresh herbs, and broth infused with cinnamon, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and black cardamom.)

This book perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being a Vietnamese-American growing up in America. From the food descriptions to the subtle references to Vietnamese culture, this book made me feel right at home while reading through Bao and Linh’s story.

Once upon a time, there were two phở restaurants across from each other. Within each one was a family, one with a daughter and one with a son. The families, the parents especially, were extremely competitive with each other, to the point where one might wonder if this competitiveness was natural. They often tried to outdo each other. If one restaurant decided to upgrade their flooring, the other restaurant would immediately have their flooring redone to make it look even better than the other restaurant’s.

Bảo Nguyễn, the son of two Vietnamese immigrants, works at his parents’ phở restaurant. He’s in his senior year of high school but has drifted, and continues to drift through life with no purpose or goal. That is, until he discovers that he can express himself through writing and journalism.

Linh Mai, the daughter of two Vietnamese immigrants, works at her parents’ phở restaurant. She’s in her senior year of high school as well, but unlike Bảo, has a goal in her life. She wants to pursue art in college, and eventually, as a career. However, one major obstacle prevents her from doing so: her parents. They believe that she’ll never be happy with that life because she won’t be paid as much as she would if she was to become a doctor or an engineer.

As you can probably guess from the title, their paths intersect and they fall in love. Loan Le wrote about all the things that make food, food, and it was so visually descriptive that I found myself craving a bowl of phở at 2am in the morning. Bảo and Linh have a forbidden love, in which they know they aren’t allowed to be in love with each other but they still are. This is because of the long history their parents have with each other, and the reason for the unnatural competition between the two restaurants. However, they find ways to make their love work out, with stolen kisses in the empty art room at school, texting with each other late at night, and going out on “restaurant reviews” that end up feeling more like dates.

I would recommend this book for anyone who likes rom-coms, or anyone who would like to learn about a bit of Vietnamese culture in an easily digestible YA novel.

In conclusion, I would rate this book a 10/10 because of the combination of the cute love story, the visually descriptive writing that allowed me to fully experience the book, and the overall great storytelling!

– Isaac M.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

I have been searching long and hard for a good summer read before school starts. The novel Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls fulfilled that way beyond my expectations. A coming-of-age story sporting a tragicomedy shows readers the arduous journey into adulthood and the fiery fireworks of first love. This fairly new read uses Shakespeare to question readers to ask peculiar questions to challenge ourselves. The novel’s main character, Charlie Lewis, is a 16-year-old teenage boy with rough family life. His parents are divorced, which forces him and his sister to bounce between households. Charlie is dealt the rather unfortunate cards, having to stay with his father, who is a depressed, drunk man for whom Charlie acts as a caretaker. Charlie’s friends act no more than strangers, and his grades are slowly degrading. Mistakenly, one day Fran Fisher comes bursting into his life. He soon gets wrapped into a theatre production of Shakespeare’s infamous Romeo and Juliet, in hopes of gaining attention from Fran. He is cast as Benvolio, Romeo’s fateful sidekick, while Fran is cast as Juliet.

Being involved in the production causes Charlie to see another side of him that he didn’t know existed. Hanging out with Fran causes him to look at life differently. David Nicholls manages to capture the perfect feeling of sweet sorrow in the endless troublesome journey into adulthood. A teenager such as Charlie who looked at life so cynically with nothing left to give manages to change throughout a few pages because of another teenage girl who shows him how life could be. Diving into the subject of first love,first night together perfectly shows readers the sweet sorrows that we will experience. While the novel has two separate stories happening at once, the first being the recollection of Charlie’s teenage life, the other being engaged to his soon-to-be wife; who is not Fran. Only when the first love has burned out, then you can look back and see the lessons you’ve learned and the feelings you’ve experienced.

This book is a perfect last summer read before the school year starts again. If you have a liking for coming-of-age stories, this book will most definitely exceed your expectations.

-Hannah R.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Set in the 1860s during the second half of the Civil War, Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women follows the lives of the four March sisters- Meg, Amy, Beth, and Jo. Throughout the story, the sisters are faced with several struggles that accompany the process of growing up and finding one’s place in society, especially in a state of poverty. When considering historical context, the novel provides a realistic perspective on battles of loss fought by several American families as their husbands and fathers were sent to fight in the war, as well as issues of independence and identity faced by many women in the 1800s. Another prominent character in the novel is the March family’s closest neighbor: Theodore Laurence, or Laurie, who is heavily involved with the March sisters from a young age and becomes a prominent figure in their lives.

While reading this novel, I found that the first half had a rather slow pace, making it hard to maintain interest for a long period of time, as many chapters seemed rather useless in developing the story line. However, having read the book in its entirety, looking back, I realized that as insignificant as some moments may seem, they were crucial in terms of character development, as these events have helped shape who the March sisters grew up to be in the end. Therefore, looking at the novel in this new light, I find that it has accomplished exactly what it intended to be: a story that shares not just one, but several small and personal, yet realistic struggles of a family living in uncertain times.

Out of all traits in this book, I find that the several themes of self-improvement, morality, and more would have the greatest impact on the reader. Many people may be able to connect, or relate to the lessons taught to the March sisters, and many others may be inspired by the messages shared regarding self-sacrifice and compassion for one’s family. I was also greatly pleased by the varying personalities of the four sisters, as they would all seem to approach the same situation in different ways. This shows the great impact the novel could have on several young girls, as it shows that there are multiple ways a woman may choose to approach her life, and none of the paths taken are inherently wrong.

Overall, Alcott’s original novel is a beautifully written, thought-provoking story that has had an immense impact on American literature through its vivid imagery, inspiring characters, and meaningful themes. I would recommend this classic to most people, especially if they are interested in American historical fiction.

– Aysha H.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther

Eighteen months ago, when Meredith Fox lost her older sister Claire, she locked everyone out and retreated within. This summer, on her family’s annual vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, she makes it her goal to reconnect with her old friends, find herself, and finally rejoin her world.

Meredith believes that winning her family’s yearly game of Assassin, this year at her cousin’s big summer wedding, is her perfect opportunity to honor Claire and move on from her depressive state. But everything changes for Meredith when she crosses paths with a charming groomsman, and a secret alliance is formed.

Meredith’s summer is flipped around when her heart—and her chances of winning the game—are suddenly put on the line. Weddings are perfect for flings, her friends tell her. But what if Meredith wants it to be more?

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther was one of the most amazing romance novels I’ve ever read. It was so beautifully written, and each intricately crafted scene made me clutch at my heart and sigh with relief, gasp with shock, or jump for joy. This book made me feel a rollercoaster of emotions, and it was like the sparks had been sprinkled into the pages themselves.

I also loved this book (and came to read it) because it was inspired by the songs of Taylor Swift. I’m a huge Swiftie, so I couldn’t resist reading it, and every Taylor Swift reference was so perfectly placed, so I just loved it. The book itself was based on one Taylor Swift song in particular, which I will not give away, because the plot will be spoiled! Definitely give The Summer of Broken Rules a try if you’re a fan of romance novels, Taylor Swift; or, like me, a lover of both! Happy reading!

-Lam T.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov was the last novel written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  The story is set in 19th-century Russia, and it revolves around a wicked old man named Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three adult sons.  From oldest to youngest, the brothers are named Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha.  Dmitri is similar to his father in that he is impulsive and immoral.  Ivan is more of a thoughtful and intellectual person.  Alyosha is kind-hearted and religious.  He has joined a local monastery, and he strives to maintain peace in his family amid growing tensions between his father and his brothers.

As the story unfolds, a terrible crime is committed, and one of the Karamazov brothers is the primary suspect.  This leads to a dramatic series of events, with many surprising outcomes.  Overall, this novel is quite dark, as it explores the thoughts and behavior of various evil and immoral people.  At the same time, characters such as Alyosha strive to maintain virtue and goodness.

This novel was extremely well-written.  I read an English translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, which flowed very well, even though this novel was originally written in Russian.  Each character seems to have a unique voice, which makes the story feel very realistic.  I was deeply impressed by the interactions between the father and the three Karamazov brothers.  The ending of the story was particularly satisfying.

This is a gripping novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is no wonder that Fyodor Dostoevsky is considered one of the greatest authors in history.  The characters have so much depth, and the storytelling is so realistic, that I almost found it hard to believe this was fictional.  I consider this one of the greatest novels I have ever read, and it deserves to be considered one of the great masterpieces of literature.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

*this review contains spoilers*

This book being the third of a trilogy series, The Summer I Turned Pretty focuses on the summer adventures of Isabel Conklin otherwise known as Belly to those close to her. Since this is the third book, I do recommend reading the first two to truly get a grasp of this book. Conrad and Jeremiah have grown up with Belly their whole lives seeing how their moms are best friends. However, the summer that Belly starts to mature, interest in Belly peaks and decisions for which boy will best suit her come into play.

Conrad, being the older of the two Fisher boys has always thought of Belly to be his younger sister and never thought himself to be anything with Belly. On the other hand, Jeremiah and Belly have always remained close and with Belly’s newfound beauty he sees her for more than being a best friend. Belly in the end chooses to be with Conrad who eventually realizes he’s been hiding how he truly feels about Belly and doesn’t want her to marry Jeremiah.

This was such a great summer read especially since the majority of this book is revolved around the fact it is summer. It helped me embrace there is so much more than just school but also appreciating the time spent with those you love during the summer. I might not struggle with the same boy problems Belly does throughout the book but for the most part it was an interesting journey to follow. I feel as if I’ve evolved with the characters and might even feel emotionally attached.

There’s not much else to say about the book besides that I HIGHLY recommend everyone to read it especially if you enjoy teen romance, love triangles, and coming of age books. If you do decide to give it a read let me know which team you’re on…#teamjeremiah or #teamconrad. Also, this trilogy has an amazon prime series releasing on June 17th for those who are interested in watching!

-Madison C.

We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.