The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This award-winning book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, guides readers through a dangerous yet exciting journey of finding what is important in one’s life and to never lose hope to accomplish any dreams.

The main character, Santiago is a confident, shepherd boy that is known to be curious about the world and to believe in what he wants to believe in. In the book, he travels to many places but his destination is the Egyptian pyramids where he hopes to find treasure. Throughout the story, he receives advice from many mentors about finding his “Personal Legend”. He is taught to never lose hope and to follow his dreams which is what Santiago does. Being beat up after every obstacle Santiago has to face, by the end, he is a powerful and gritty young boy who realizes that he has the ability to accomplish any of his dreams. Join Santiago through his long journey, battling difficult circumstances and ultimately reaching his goal. With helpful advice from many individuals Santiago meets through his trip, there is valuable information that is important for the reader to also take in.

Though the book is not very long and not very hard, it is important to not speed through it but to understand The Alchemist is trying to teach us. I really liked it and if you decide to read this book too, I think you will like it as well.

– Amandine K.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Wizenard Series by Kobe Bryant and Wesley King

When did magic and basketball meet? Floors moving uphill and downhill, mysterious writing on the wall, each person seeing a different vision than the next in the same place! Is there anything Rolabi Wizenard can’t change? Well, as Rolabi Wizenard tests a struggling basketball team’s commitment and desire, they find out how to handle fear and learn to overcome the biggest challenges! A team determined to win, The West Bottom Badgers start an incredibly long journey to the title, with Rolabi Wizenard as their coach! 

As each player faces their own challenges, they all have to find a way to come together as a team and compete for a championship! A team from The Bottom part of Dren is starting their adventure now. They have no time to waste, they just need to work hard everyday, and play while controlling their fears. Everyone comes from struggling parents, who can’t pay all their bills, but their hearts are bigger. Their desire to win is stronger! The main question is: Will all their hard work be enough?

As the West Bottom Badgers learn to work and hard and fight through fear, they start to unlock their true potential. Former bench players become stars and the whole team starts to look up. That is until they start the season. The season starts off very rough as they start off with 5 straight losses without a single win. Their hopes to win the championship, once as high as a mountain, start to plummet as each loss comes and goes. 

The Wizenard Series is a 2 book series with the first book being the same story in all the different parts of it, just from different perspectives. You get 5 different angles of the story with Rain, Twig, Cash, Peno, and Lab. The 2nd book is with Reggie, where you get a view of the first season with Rolabi Wizenard as head coach from the eyes of Reggie.

As everyone faces problems and challenges on the court, most of the kids also face problems off the court. Some sleep on the ground, some have to work hard into the night to earn the money their family needs, and some have lost family members. Well, after all, this is The Bottom. Once someone comes to The Bottom, they have a hard time leaving, and that is just like the situation everyone on this basketball team is in. Professor Rolabi Wizenard not only teaches these kids basketball, but he also teaches them life. Will they be able to apply what they have learned from him into their daily lives as they get older and try to get out of The Bottom with basketball?

I enjoyed reading this fabulous book, and I would rate it a 10/10. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

The first book: The Wizenard Series: Training Camp, the second book: The Wizenard Series: Season One

-Mert A.

Rime Game Review

Are you looking for a fun game to play? Rime is an amazing game. It combines logical puzzles and a fantastical world to create a mysterious island with many surprises and mysteries.

First of all, there is a great storyline. The story is one of the most important parts of the game. Rime features a young boy, waking up to find himself stranded on a deserted island. He is desperate to get back home, but also curious. You are the young boy, and you need to solve all of the puzzles and games on the island in order to get home. You have nothing but a small fox who sometimes appears for a short period of time and small clues along the way. Will you ever get home?

The game has very nice graphics which look realistic. Natural sounds flood the area around you, and there is no one to hear or see. All of the sounds seem very 3D, as if you are actually there yourself. Slowly, the logical puzzles you have to solve get harder as you go along. The adventure itself is very thrilling and exciting. There are different parts to the game. Each part has a new scene where the adventure takes place. 

I would recommend this game to anyone who is looking for an exciting, adventurous game to play. It keeps you entertained, and you never get bored! 

Also, there are lots of collectible items which can be found throughout the game, so keep an eye out for those! The collectible items you find can be used to unlock cool things. Outfits are one example. Although at the beginning of the game you receive an outfit, there are also different outfits which you can find. Having different outfits could be useful, and also give your character a different look. You can also collect toys, emblems, lullabies, and keyholes. Most of these are hidden in places which are not easy to reach or not on the main path. 

Another important thing to know is that there are certain places which are ‘points of no return’. So before moving on in the game, you can explore the area you are in. You could also go back and explore the area after completing the game, so don’t worry if you couldn’t find something you were looking for. 

During the game, you will encounter a little fox. She will guide you through the game. Also, if you are stuck, this little creature will chatter in your direction. If this happens, follow her! She is the way the game gives you hints if you are stuck. The fox disappears most of the time, once you have either followed her or done what she was trying to tell you to do. 

Overall, Rime is a great game. I think it is an exciting game to play. It improves your logical and reasoning skills, and it is also really fun. I would recommend you to try this game.

Rating: 10/10

-Peri A.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Scat, written by Carl Hiaasen, is a humorous but insightful novel about family, forgiveness, and the power of love.

The plot focuses on Nick, a teenager desperately struggling to pass biology with his fearsome teacher, Bunny Starch. To make matters worse, his father just returned from Afghanistan with no left arm. When Miss Starch goes missing on ‘family business,’ he and his best friend Marta don’t buy it. No, they assume the class delinquent, Smoke, has something to do with it. And he does! Just not in the way that they think. There’s a whole lot more going on than anyone player in this twisted tale can see…

In this book, Hiaasen expertly crafts a twisting, turning, crooked plot that captivates you until the very end. The main characters excellently portray the simultaneous confusion and excitement of ignorance, and the book itself holds great relevance to our world today.

The theme and motifs paint both a fantastical and realistic portrait of forgiveness, our earth, and the innate humanity in each and every one of us. The seriousness of the lesson is tempered well by the simplistic, yet effective humor of the characters. Using suspense and mystery in strange ways, this book will draw you in and keep you laughing until its conclusion.

-Vaidehi B.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Extraordinarily crafted and presented, Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, a young man plagued by memories of his experiences in an act of terrorism, the loss of his mother, and one piece of artwork that alters his life — and history — forever.

Deemed a Dickensian-style coming of age novel, for its poetic air and substantial length (771 pages, beginning to end), “The Goldfinch” recounts a large sequence of Theodore’s life from his point of view, as he moves from New York to Las Vegas and back again, and ages from thirteen to mid-twenties. The novel stretches broadly across a grand array of emotions, written in descriptive and illustrious sentences: orchestrations of edge and tension, raw reflection and self-discovery, dreamy chains of events.

Tartt presents a diverse and complex cast of characters accompanying Theo in his spiraling search for answers, including his informal guardian and (eventual) business partner Hobie and his risk-taking Ukrainian friend Boris. Each character — individual in their own stories, mannerisms, beauty — pulls new aspects into the course of Theo’s life and leads to the ultimate fate of the story.

Theo’s desire for control and hunt for resolutions to his long-standing questions remains central to the heart of “The Goldfinch.” Still utterly infatuated with Carel Fabritius’s painting, the namesake of the novel, Theo expresses his connection to the painting and the fact that it acted as a piece of joy, a piece of history that he had an impact on: “And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost…” (Tartt 771).

The Goldfinch is brought to a close in the midst of loose ends; what happens between the characters is still unclear, left at the hands of the audience to decide the character’s stories. And, after pages and pages of Tartt’s beautifully written masterwork, we can’t help but imagine our very own endings for the characters we’ve grown so fond of.

-Keira D.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is a modern re-telling of The Iliad through the eyes of Achilles’ closest companion, Patroclus. After being exiled to Phthia, Patroclus, an awkward boy of a prince, finds his place living in the shadow of Achilles: “the best of the Greeks”. Achilles is strong, beautiful, destined to be a god. Together they make the most incongruent pair. Despite this, they form a steadfast friendship that grows into something much deeper, much to Achilles’ mother, Thetis’ dismay, who will do anything to ensure her son achieves his destiny of becoming a god.

Achilles and Patroclus grow into strong young men, masters of war and medicine under the watchful eye of their teacher, Chiron. News of the Trojan War forces the companions to return to Phthia where they learn of a terrible prophecy foretelling Achilles’ death in battle. Achilles, drawn by honor and glory heads to the war. Fearing the plans Fate has lain for his friend, Patroclus follows. Together they join the fight, waiting for the day Patroclus must surrender his friend to his destiny, never once questioning what Fate might have in store for him.

A devastatingly beautiful, painfully moving, tale of romance, war, and the whims of gods and Fate that explores what Patroclus really meant to Achilles, and the battle between immortal fame and the wants of the human heart.

-Lauren R. 

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a realistic fiction novel about two teenagers who suffer from cancer.

The story begins with Hazel, who is seventeen and suffering from advanced thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer limits her ability to interact with others, so she mostly stays home, watching television and reading. As a result, her parents and doctor believe she is suffering from depression, so she is forced into a cancer support group.

At this support group, she encounters Augustus Waters, another teenage cancer survivor who lost a leg. Hazel and Augustus instantly click with one another, discovering that they both love literature.

After the support group, Hazel introduces Augustus to her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction. The two are frustrated since the novel offers no closure; it ends in mid-sentence as if the author died. They continuously attempt to contact and meet the author, who lives in Amsterdam, which is the novel’s main plotline.

Over the course of the novel, both characters begin to bond with one another, discovering what they have in common, and their relationship eventually develops into a sad, but bright romance.

The Fault in Our Stars is a great novel, filled with slight humor and relatable characters, it is heartbreaking at the same time since it causes the reader to realize that real people suffer from cancer. The Fault in Our Stars opens the reader’s eyes to the world of cancer survivors and people who suffer from disabilities, which is why I’d recommend it.

-Josh N

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

From the author of the well-known The Three Musketeers comes The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic tale of romance, adventure, and overarching revenge.

In 1815, Edmond Dantès, a talented sailor on the cusp of marriage, finds his golden life stolen away from him when he is cruelly betrayed by his supposed comrades. Branded a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Dantès, innocent and heartbroken, has no idea the scale of the conspiracy presented against him. Of the three co-conspirators, all were considered the unfortunate man’s “friends”: M. Danglars, a fellow sailor who was desirous of supplanting Dantès as captain of their ship; M. Fernand, who loved the woman Dantès was to marry; and M. de Villefort, who ignored his duty as a man of law and sent a faultless young man to prison to protect his murderous father.

However easily they may have gotten away with their crime in round one, they certainly did not keep up their success in round two. After spending fourteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Edmond Dantès sets himself at liberty, and returns to France as the enigmatic Count of Monte Cristo, the man everyone knows yet no one does.

Receiving wealth beyond belief from a fellow inmate, the count, tenacious and patient, not only avails himself of the opportunity to exact revenge on the malicious men he blindly trusted, he also uses his immense wealth and munificence to benefit the lives of those who helped him in the past.

In the midst of all this, however, life goes on, and romantic intrigues, marriage refusals, and the like all continue on in the background of a slow-moving chess game only the Count of Monte Cristo knows is being played.

Mind racing, excitement overtaking, any reader, no matter what genre they prefer to read, will root for the vengeful Count of Monte Cristo, and condemn his enemies to their given punishments.

-Mahak M. 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, written by Pierce Brown, was the last book that I finished before President’s Holiday. The story follows Darrow, a brave and loyal Red. Reds are the lowest “color” in the futuristic society of humans. The story follows Darrow’s adventures in becoming a Gold ( the highest ranking color) and destroying the rulers of the unfair Society form the inside.

Once a Gold, Darrow goes to an academy where all other Golds attend. There, they learn to fight, command fleets, etc. Darrow hopes to graduate, become a well known and trusted fleet leader, and eventually destroy the Society. At the academy, the students are split into houses, each named after a Greek god. Then all of the houses are put against each other in an all-out war; the winning house will then graduate. In the end, Darrow’s house wins, and one of the most powerful leaders of the Society decides to train him in becoming a fleet leader.

All in all, I thought that Red Rising was really good. There was a good mix of intense violence and strategy. The house wars reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Currently, I am reading the sequel to Red Rising and it seems really good! Overall, I would rate the book a strong nine out of ten and would recommend the book to any middle schooler.

-Daniel C.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is the second book from the 5th Wave series. This book focuses on everything that happens after the explosion of Camp Haven. Cassie, Ben, Dumbo, Ringer, Poundcake, Nugget, and Teacup are all holed up in an old hotel. They have nowhere to go and are running dangerously low on supplies. Ringer refuses to believe Cassie about Evan Walker and how he survived the explosion at Camp Haven.

Tired of staying in the hotel, Ringer and Teacup set off to explore and look for caverns to hide in. After they have been gone for an unusually long time, Ben starts to worry.  Then Evan appears and sends everybody into a panic not knowing whether they can trust him. Then they hear the sounds of a helicopter over the hotel, which makes their worries worse. As the helicopter goes farther and farther away, a child appears in the hallway. She repeats over and over saying her throat hurts. She is taken into a hotel room to get rest and once inside, they see that her throat is extremely swollen. They look inside her throat and find what has caused it to swell. The Others had inserted a bomb into her throat which would detonate when it detected carbon dioxide. They quickly take the bomb out of her throat and leave the hotel. Meanwhile, Ringer had been captured by Vosch and was being implanted with the 12th system. She kills the nurse who is taking care of her and escapes with Teacup.

-E. Vargas

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.