Supper Club by Lara Williams

Supper Club by Lara Williams is a poignant, perceptive, and savagely funny novel about the disastrous realities of growing up in a modern world.

The book centers around a young British girl named Roberta- following her through various sexual, romantic, and societal exploits from her college days to her thirties. In the opening chapters, we experience Roberta’s deep dissatisfaction in college, and her all-encompassing depression at her social life. She is desperate to connect with her peers- to truly become like the effervescent social butterflies she sees in sitcoms on the television. Unable to do so, she begins cooking. What begins as a hobby soon spirals into an obsession. Roberta falls even deeper into depression- she is horrified by her body, and spends her days by herself, alone in her dorm, or working at her job in a small publishing company. Soon, she meets an intern named Stevie- the kind of woman Roberta would give everything to be like. They become very close friends, even moving in together- and then, one night, Roberta comes up with a marvelous and terrible idea: the idea of a Supper Club.

The club originally begins with the goal of letting women eat- letting them take up space, letting them exist– but soon, the women in the club are trashing stores and getting unbelievably high on various drugs. Amid this beautiful chaos, Roberta struggles to find meaning- struggling with the various men in her life, struggling with her family, struggling with herself. She pushes against the boundaries that hold her without quite knowing how to. She feels anxious and inadequate- yet, she feels beautiful and free.

That is the dichotomy that truly makes this a timeless book- uncertainty combines with melancholy combines with explosive ecstasy to truly make the novel whole. That’s also something I enjoyed about Roberta. She’s not perfect. She’s not even close. She is desperate and sad and pathetic and hopeful and strong all at once. She isn’t a perfect protagonist- but she is real. And that is the true thesis of Supper Club– about how society shrinks women and makes them fake- makes them ghosts. It’s about reclaiming space- reclaiming the true meaning of being a woman, with all its good and bad and ugly. It’s about reclaiming hope.

This book contains mature themes, such as self-harm and sexual violence, that may not be suitable for some readers.

-Vaidehi B.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a raw, poignant novel about the realities of poverty, especially for children, in Victorian England.

The book centers around a young orphan named Oliver, who was given to an orphanage at birth after the death of his mother. Worked to the bone and severely malnourished, Oliver falls in with a gang of pickpockets and quickly turns to a life of crime. What follows is a powerful tale of Oliver’s desperate struggle to survive in the heartless world he lives in.

Although this book was quite bleak and depressing, I really appreciated it as an accurate retelling of poverty in Victorian times. The deep class divides affecting society even then are tangible, and Dickens’ fury and contempt towards the excesses of the rich are clearly felt throughout the novel. Overall, I would recommend it!

-Vaidehi B.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of beautiful and poignant essays about growing up in California and the meaning of home.

This book was originally recommended to me as a “requirement for coming to age in California,” and I must say that I agree. Didion’s writing is smooth, and, albeit difficult to understand in places, it easily and beautifully covers a wide variety of topics- ranging from Didion’s childhood in Sacramento, to her visits in Hawaii and Alcatraz, to the hippie counterculture in San Francisco in the 1960s. She effortlessly captures the hazy, dreamlike quality of a childhood in California, in addition to the quiet desperation that accompanies living in tiny towns in the desert. What really struck me was how factual this book was- every character, no matter how briefly mentioned or how inconsequential to the essay overall, was a real person, as many brief Wikipedia searches proved.

Didion writes with a timeless quality and a quietly powerful observationalism, proving that life is indeed cyclical- that things change, but people never do. Her writing is uncomfortably personal, but she still somehow manages to capture the reality of the human experience as a whole- through small, ordinary events. The annual arrival of the Santa Ana winds merits a discussion about the kind of sparse unreliability that comes with living in Los Angeles- a visit to Hawaii sparks a discourse on the constant undergirding hum of ‘war,’ what with Vietnam and Cuba. This, I think, is what makes Didion’s writing so special- while calmly narrating her own life experiences to us, she forces us to turn inwards to ourselves and examine what we find within.

-Vaidehi B.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Following a devastating global war called World War Terminus, the radioactive fallout in the Earth’s atmosphere has left the planet near inhospitable, driving entire species of animals into extinction. Most of mankind has fled from their homeworld, preferring to live in off-world colonies. The humans who remain desire any living creature, and for those who cannot afford one, incredibly realistic copies of any creature can be made to order, from sheep to ostriches to anything in between – including humans.

While the androids were originally designed to assist the immigrants to Mars, their frightening indistinguishability from actual humans caused them to be banned from Earth. Some rogue androids, or “andys,” however, escaped, and now live among human beings undetected. Because of this, official bounty hunters are commissioned to find these androids and “retire” them.

Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter living in what was once San Francisco, is tasked with finding a special group of andys, designated Nexus-6, a highly intelligent model made of organic material so similar to that of humans that only an invasive posthumous procedure can determine the difference. While Deckard begins his commission believing it to be ultimately no different from his other missions, he quickly realizes that this is far from the case. The advanced androids are so indiscernible from regular humans that Deckard begins to empathize with them, finding it harder to complete his mission as it goes along. However, the andys are not human, and when faced with certain death, they are completely willing to fight for their survival by any means necessary.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick is simultaneously an intriguing science fiction novel and an analysis of the psychological impact of loneliness and what it means to be human. The action-filled plot takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions with a twist ending. This book is definitely recommended to fans of the sci-fi or dystopian genres.

-Mahak M.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo was a book that took me by surprise. From the LGBTQ+ representation to the long-awaited Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone crossover, my jaw was glued to the floor.

Rule of Wolves takes place several weeks after the end of the previous book in the King of Scars duology, King of Scars. Nikolai Lantsov, the soon-to-be king of Ravka, is still trying to rebuild his country. Chaos ensues, and war begins. Nikolai and his general, Zoya Nazyalensky, must create weapons tough enough to retaliate against their enemies.


Meanwhile, Nina Zenik, a Ravkan spy, is working with Hanne Brum, the child of a Fjerdan general, to help the Ravkan war effort from inside enemy lines. At the same time, Ehri Kir-Taban, Tamar Kir-Bataar, and Mayu Kir-Kaat all travel to Shu Han to save the country from corruption and save Grisha while they’re at it.

How do you survive a world that keeps taking?

Zoya Nazyalensky

Bardugo definitely made an effort to fix her errors in the Shadow and Bone trilogy with this book. The lack of representation in the trilogy was disappointing. Rule of Wolves is what Shadow and Bone should’ve been—a nose-dive into the cultures of the Grishaverse.

Here, you get a real look into Shu culture whilst learning darker secrets about Fjerda. You get to compare and contrast the two, something that you really couldn’t do in any of the other books since the character perspectives weren’t that different from one another. Since Rule of Wolves includes the perspectives of Nikolai, Zoya, Nina, Mayu, and the Darkling, you get a broader view of Bardugo’s world.

All in all, Rule of Wolves is a book that won’t disappoint if you’re a fan of the Grishaverse, and I’m looking forward to Leigh Bardugo’s next books in the series. You should definitely check it out if you have the chance.

-Shadi H.

Rules of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo can be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Book Review: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is a classic novel by Kenneth Grahame.  The stories in the book revolve mainly around a mole, a water rat, a toad and a badger.  These main characters, along with the other animals, are anthropomorphic.  They interact with humans and dwell in harmony together.  Mole is a gentle and timid creature.  Rat is quite practical and pragmatic.  Mr. Toad is exceedingly wealthy and boisterous.  Mr. Badger is elusive, but extremely wise.  Their stories weave together throughout the book.

Mr. Toad is particularly amusing.  One day, he brings along Rat and Mole for an exciting trip with his horse and gypsy cart.  Suddenly, a “motor-car” drives by and knocks the gypsy cart to the side of the road.  Mr. Toad is amazed by this new machine.  He becomes obsessed with the idea of acquiring and driving a motor-car.  This new obsession leads to many wild adventures, and many smashed motor-cars.  Things really get out of hand when Mr. Toad goes so far as to steal a motor-car.  He lands in prison for the crime, and finally begins to realize that his careless behavior has led to destructive consequences.  Still, his daring antics are quite entertaining.

Overall, I think The Wind in the Willows is a delightful book.  I loved reading about the little adventures of Rat and Mole, as well as the ongoing story of Mr. Toad.  I especially enjoy the differing personalities of each character and how they interact with each other.  The author incorporates various compelling themes, such as friendship, greed and redemption.  This is definitely a book that I would recommend to readers of all ages.

-Oliver H.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is a light, fluffy read that has made me feel hopeful and happy. Love stories come in all types of forms but this one was different. The characters had unique personalities and the story isn’t a perfect ending. Lara Jean and Peter’s mannerisms made for a comedic and relatable read. It was a refreshing change of pace from other love stories. If you would like to read something lighthearted and cute this is the book. It’ll keep you captivated until the very end leaving you wanting more.

I was so ecstatic to find out that there was more to the series. Throughout the series, I felt that I was able to see the character development and the gain of knowledge and wisdom as they get ready for college. I know that it’s only a story but it’d be nice to have that same whimsical outlook on life like Lara Jean does. She truly gets to live the romance novel she reads daily; From having her lover to the evil ex who has a change of heart. As Lara Jean once said, “I’d always fantasized about falling in love in a field, but I just never thought it’d be the kind where you played lacrosse.”

-Coralie D.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a classic of American literature, dealing with the silent and prevalent plague of racism in the Great-Depression-era Deep South. Told through the eyes of young Scout and Jem, the novel created one of America’s most respectable fictional heroes- Atticus Finch, the upstanding, intelligent, and determined lawyer, dedicated to righting the wrongs of the South.

This novel deals with many complex themes- especially the theme of morality. Atticus Finch, the single father of Scout and Jem, is an upstanding, respectable, and almost irritatingly moral figure in his community. He is seen as a lone beacon of justice and light in his community because of his values. Another theme in the novel is that of humanity’s base instinct of right and wrong- beyond what is outlined in the law. This is clearly shown when Atticus chooses to defend Tom, the black man accused of raping a white woman.

Even though this book is highly lauded on many different platforms, I would not give it an incredible rating. First of all, I was not a big fan of Atticus- even though every single townsperson in the novel gushed about how Scout and Jem were so incredibly lucky to have such a moral, upstanding, and intelligent father, I did not concur. Sure, Atticus was most definitely all of those things- but he seemed more like the idea of a father rather than a real father: he was a personality before he was a person, so to speak. He was cold and aloof towards his children- he did not seem to provide Scout or Jem any real love or guidance through the novel outside of faux-profound moral platitudes. In addition, the book overall had an undertone of condescension and white saviorism that I really did not appreciate. However, this book was written in the 1960s- so it is understandably less progressive than what we would expect today. Even though I didn’t much enjoy this book, I would definitely recommend that you read it- it is still a window to not-so-past times, and can help us better understand what we need to do to confront racism in our world today.

-Vaidehi B.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout at Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Book Review: The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, is a collection of letters written by a “devil” named Screwtape.  Screwtape is an important official in Satan’s realm, who refers to himself as “His Infernal Excellency, Mr. Screwtape.”  The letters are addressed to Screwtape’s young nephew, Wormwood.  Wormwood is a “junior devil” on earth, who is trying to tempt his “patient” into committing sin.  Each chapter is a letter of advice to Wormwood from his “affectionate uncle,” Screwtape.

I found this book to be very insightful and amusing.  I think it was very clever to imagine what words of advice one devil might give to another, as to how one might properly tempt a human into committing sin.  As it becomes clear that Wormwood’s patient is in danger of choosing good over evil, we see that the devil will stop at nothing to lead his patient astray.  We gain many insights into the devils’ tactics and methods of attack.  At the same time, I was amused by the dignified and affectionate tone of Screwtape’s letters, despite his evil intentions.  I also found it funny that one devil would have seniority over another, as though they aspire to positions of high status within their evil realm.

This book is a short read, but full of profound insights and witty observations.  From the devil’s perspective, we can learn a lot about human nature and frailties.  We can also learn about how to overcome evil tendencies.  This book offers a very unique and imaginative portrayal of the battle between good and evil.  I highly recommend it.

-Oliver H.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

All the Stars and Teeth is a dark fantasy book set in a world of mermaids, pirates, and princesses. Written by author Adalyn Grace, the book does it’s fair share of dramatics. Where people are gifted with powers allowing for displays of power and entertainment. The world is set in a series of magical islands with each one containing a singular power. In this world, you can master numerous powers, however it will bring death and destruction if you do. To prevent this, there is a long time tradition of picking a power based on your home and only practicing that single power.

At the heart of the kingdom, Visidia, lives Amora Montara, a princess. Who wields the power of soul destroying. She is soon to be the queen but must face a trail. A trial where she will read the souls of 5 people, and determine who is truly evil. If she passes, she shall be queen. If she does not- well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.

Under a lot of stress, she panics and her powers consume her. Killing a man and melting his body, the people of her kingdom are disgusted and scared at this display. They scream how Amora is a monster and how she must be locked away. Amora is taken to a cell, where she awaits either execution or exile. Until a pirate named Bastian comes offering help, but for a price.

There is a bigger issue besides Amora. Where a man is not only trying to master numerous powers and soul destroying, but has cultivated a mass army to take over Visidia. After realizing the stakes, Amora sets off with Bastian. However this is a book of secrets and many will be uncovered, whether Amora wants to know or not.

Personally, I thought this book was sadly average at best. I think it’s perfect for getting into fantasy and YA. However, there isn’t much to it besides the plot. The romance was good in the middle and I enjoyed the witty banter and suspense. However, I found myself bored and a bit surprised because at the end it felt so rushed over. The plot was wonderfully done, although a little lengthy at some points. The villain was also rarely seen until the end, and was a bit underwhelming despite all the characters “fearing” him. 

It’s a bit confusing with the magical and political fantasy aspects, but I figured it out by the middle of the book. The plot was also extremely well written with twists and turns I kind of expected, but none the less enjoyed. It’s similar to books such as To Kill a Kingdom or Daughter of the Pirate King. I definitely enjoyed the pirate’s character and the side characters were beautifully done. 

Overall this book is a 3.5 out of 5 for me. Whereas it’s perfect for beginners. I definitely think that there are better books with more in depth characters. But, if you need a quick read or are in a reading slump, this is the book for you. Easy characters, heavy plot, and a sly villain make for a simple yet intriguing story.

-Ashley Y.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.