Book Review: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

The fictional novel The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta tells the tale of a sixth grade girl named Kiranmala who is told that she is an Indian princess from another dimension. Readers are introduced to Kiranmala at the beginning of the story when she is complaining about always having to be an Indian princess for Halloween. However, once the Rakkosh demon shreds her home and her parents go missing, Kiranmala is taken back to her “home dimension” by two princes. There, she meets a girl of her age who is supposedly her cousin, winged horses, moving maps, and an irritating talking bird. To Kiranmala’s surprise, everyone helps her throughout her journey to find and save her parents. On her way, she finds out astonishing things about her heritage that had been hidden from her. 

This novel incorporates elements of many different cultures. I think that such novels, although fictional, can teach readers a lot! The story of the main character includes suspense, mystery, adventure, and humor. This novel is a hilarious and emotional rollercoaster, and a story everyone should read.

-Ayati M.

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Another break off series from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, this new duology starts off three years after the end of the Grisha Trilogy. King of Scars, an epic fantasy novel, follows the new King of Ravka, Nikolai Lantsov.

After his parents’ and older brother’s death, the weight of his country now lays on his shoulders. Nikolai along with the Triumvirate representing all Grisha take on the burden of keeping Ravka alive and intact. Plagued with the aftermath of the Darkling’s schemes, Nikolai looks to reunite east and west Ravka as well as keep the Shu and Fjerdans happy. Not only this, but every night he fights against the monster dwelling within him; a scar on his soul.

As war brews with Ravka’s northern and southern neighbors, Nina Zenik finds a way to survive behind enemy lines. As she tries to come to terms with a tragic death, she finds herself on a journey that will set the course for Ravka’s future.

To be completely honest, this book is very content heavy. It acts more as a prequel to the next book in the duology, Rule of Wolves, and took me quite a while to read. The first half of the book was interesting, as the reader follows three different characters, but it lacked any page-turning excitement.

By the second half of the book, the largest plot twist occurred and this definitely picked up the pace. With so many events happening, it left the reader wondering why each of them occurred, and Bardugo masterfully answers every one of them.

I really do recommend pushing through this book, especially if you have read the other Grishaverse books, because the ending is so worth it! There is one more book to this duology, one of my favorite out of all of the Grishaverse books, and I hope everyone who wants to read it gets to!

Happy reading!

-Katherine L.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Convergence by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore

Convergence is the first book in the Zodiac Legacy series, and is written in graphic-novel format by Stan Lee, the mind behind Marvel, and Stuart Moore.

In modern-day America, twelve superpowers, each corresponding to a sign in the Chinese Zodiac, are released onto Earth. The protagonist, a Chinese-American teen named Steven, is quickly launched into an epic journey across the world to help find the humans imbued with these powers- befriending the good ones, and bringing the bad ones to justice. Throughout the course of this adventure, he learns to harness his own power- and the mysteries of the Zodiac.

I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely an action-packed thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat, and the ending (hint hint: it’s a cliffhanger!) left my brain reeling! This is a great fantasy novel if you’re looking to diversity your bookshelf as well, and I’d recommend it to everyone.

-Vaidehi B.

Convergence by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I honestly had no idea what this series was even about until I found this book one day and started reading about it. It turns out that the full story of Nick Gautier, a high school student destined to become a monster known as the Malachai, is revealed, as he goes through poverty with his mom desperate for jobs and finding one as a club dancer and his father, who is the current Malachai, is in prison. Even though Nick tries his best to live his life right, he finds himself in dark corners and often unable to find anyone in his life, tormented by bullies and yelled at by his mother despite acting in defense of his bullies talking bad about her. Even today, I feel like some high school students have similar experiences with bullying, as it is still ongoing today and victims often face harsh conditions such as poverty like Nick, and even struggle with mental illnesses, with the bullying adding to their problems.

However, Nick unknowingly finds a glimpse of hope when he meets a girl named Nekoda Kennedy, a new girl at his school in his grade who he ends up making a friendship with. Although Nekoda acts friendly to Nick and treats him nicely, she is secretly tasked with the duty of ensuring that he does not become the monster he is destined to be, known as the Malachai. Although Nick believes he can trust Nekoda, his trust in her can completely be shattered once he hears about her duty. Despite this task for Nekoda, however, she sees some good in Nick and pushes herself to try to save him and keep the good in him, garnering feelings for him in the process.

Nick learning of his destiny is also a pivotal part of this book, as he tries to keep the good in himself alive to ensure that he does not become his father. This is shown in his many interactions with Nekoda, Bubba, Mark, and Kyrian, as he sees his friends as a guiding light to a straight and narrow path to preventing his destiny. His friends are primarily what separate his father from Nick, as his father seemingly has situational allies only and no true friends, although Nick has plenty of good friends and people he has helped in the past. Without his friends, Nick would surely embrace the darkness and become the monster that Nekoda has sworn to destroy.

Overall, I thought this book was very interesting despite my lack of understanding in mythical creatures and beings. The correlation to human life and mythical life is very well executed in this book, and putting Nick in a sympathetic light makes the readers want to root for him and ensure that he does not repeat his father’s history. The warfare between good and evil is also very prominent in this series as well, as each character faces their own personal demons throughout the story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good series to read.

Lawrence B.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an American fantasy novel about a boy who puts together his grandfather’s old stories and photographs and finds an abandoned psych ward/orphanage on the (fictional) island of Cairnholm.

Jacob Portman had always been fascinated by his grandfather’s peculiar stories and collections of photographs, but never really believed in them- until he finds his grandfather, beaten and bloody, in his garden. His last words are mysterious, and Jacob suddenly sees a monster like the ones his grandfather always talked about. He is plagued by nightmares of the monster and his dead grandfather. His therapist suggests he goes to Cairnholm Island, the island his grandfather grew up on, to confront his trauma. Instead, he finds an orphanage full of ‘peculiar’ children- children with superhuman strength, children who can levitate, and even a child that is invisible! The adventures that follow are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I really enjoyed this book- it kept me hooked from begin until end. What intrigued and captivated me most was author Riggs’ use of actual black-and-white photographs of children from old psych wards, and the way he wove them into the narrative. This was a very enjoyable read, and I’d recommend it to anyone!

-Vaidehi B.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 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 Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The story begins with an 18-year-old girl named Alessandra who wanted to be seen in the world. Being the younger sister, she is constantly overlooked by her father so she formulated a plan to gain power and thus receive the attention she wanted—by marrying and killing the Shadow King, taking his power all for herself. No one is allowed 5 feet within the king’s reach and the king has always been disinterested in the girls who have always tried to impress him but she didn’t let that stop her goal.

As the story continues, Alessandra finds that she isn’t the only one plotting to kill the king. Trying to save him from the threats on his life, it begins to get harder to convince herself she is protecting him purely because she wants to kill him herself when she becomes queen. And it becomes incredibly difficult to keep her objective clear when the king exposes his kindness to her.

When I started reading this book, I found it hard to put it down. The word dictation is astonishing, the friendships made are wonderful (strengthened very unexpectedly), and all of the personalities of the characters are powerful in their unique ways. The author weaves many villians in the story without overwhelming or confusing the plot. This standalone helped me out of a reading slump and I would like to recommend it to everyone.

-Saanvi V.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Wow. As someone who spends hours having an existential crisis and constantly reads sad books to feel something. I think this book may have broken me.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab is an absolutely brilliant book, if you understand it’s simple complexities. However I will admit, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

The book is set around Adeline LaRue, an eccentric young women set on living her own life. No restrictions, no arranged marriages, and plain freedom. But in France, 1714 she’s forced to marry a man she doesn’t love. Desperate to escape she prays to the gods as her mentor, Estelle, taught her. However, she went against Estelle’s greatest warning. “Never pray to the gods that answer after dark.” A god answers Addie, granting her freedom and also immortality. The consequence, you might ask? She will live forever alone, without being remembered by anyone she’s seen or met. She will never leave a mark on the world.

When she turns to her village, no one remembers her. To them she is a stranger, a traveler, someone foreign and lost. But once she was a daughter, a friend, and now she is nothing. Desperate, she flees and decides to travel the world.

I’ll spare you the boring details because this book sadly has little to no plot. Instead you just watch a lonely girl wander the world, stealing to live, and slowly losing herself in the process. No one remembers her except for Luc, the god who cursed her. Who visits her every year on her birthday to try and claim her soul. But Addie hasn’t given up and refuses to die despite being alone.

But one day, in New York, March 13, 2014. The boy in the bookshop remembers her name. He remembers her. For the first time in hundreds of years, Addie hears the words, “I remember you.” Three small worlds, that tug Addie’s heart.

Because of all the people in the word who have forgotten Addie, the boy in the bookstore is someone special. Or at least- now he is to Addie. The rest of the story is a blur of tragic backstories, clothes tinged with alcohol, and running through the rain. Classic hopeless romantic tropes that may or may not have made me swoon.

But as I said before, this book will break you. Because what qualifies as love? Is it someone you have a connection with? Is it someone who you know everything about? Honestly who knows. However V.E. Schwab decided to write a triangle of sorts. It may be a love triangle between a god desperate to obtain her, a forgotten girl, and a boy who just wants to be loved. Or it’s just three “people” connected by horrible misfortunes. But none the less, it can only end in one pair.

So I have one question for anyone who wants to or has read this book. The same question I wondered after reading this book. Can you be manipulated into loving someone without knowing? And would you still love them?

–Ashley Y.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

If you like Harry Potter, I have a feeling that you would like this book. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is a fantasy story, love story and a mystery. The book is set in the final year of magickal school for the main character Simon Snow and other leading characters. The book switches between the perspectives of a few other characters with some being Baz, Simon’s roommate/enemy, Penelope or Penny, Simon’s best friend, and Agatha, Simon’s ex-girlfriend. Simon is known as the Chosen One who has to destroy the Humdrum, an evil being destroying the magickal world. That was the one thing Simon had to do, but when a ghost visits his room in the middle of the night, his life gets a bit more complicated. Now he and Penelope group with Baz to help solve the murder of Baz’s mother while still figuring out how to defeat the Insidious Humdrum.

I remember hearing about this book from videos on Harry Potter. They all hyped this book up so much saying how much they enjoyed it which made me excited to borrow it. I was not disappointed. I smiled so much while I was reading this book. There were many different twists in the book and in some of them I could already predict what it would be, but when I got my prediction right, it gave me a kind of satisfaction from getting it right. Whenever I put down this book, I would always want to pick it back up again and continue reading. And when I finished the book, I was filled with a kind of bitter-sweet feeling. I didn’t want the book to end but felt happy finishing it anyways. I loved the enemies-to-lovers trope depicted with the characters and I loved how the story developed. There were so many diverse characters that were fun to read. The main characters had  their own personality that I will never forget. The chemistry between all the characters was wonderful and they worked together. 

This story includes mature language and talks about different types of relationships. This book had everything I was hoping for and more. It had mystery, an angsty past, romance, magick, and even some comedy. The spells they cast were so clever and it had many references to modern things. The story was exciting and addicting. I enjoyed it so much I finished it in only a few days. Though I was sad that this book was over, I am very happy to say that Carry On is only the first book of the Simon Snow trilogy and I already have the second book, Wayward Son, on hold right now. 

-Nicole R.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Movie Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is a Studio Ghibli classic, one based of a book of the same name. The gorgeous animations, lovable characters, and peaceful vibe of the movie make it one of my favorites. Howl’s Moving Castle follows a young woman, Sophie, who works as a hat-maker, content with a boring life. One day, a witch comes into her shop and curses her to look like an old lady. Sophie decides to seek out the feared witch Howl and his moving home, and gets caught up helping him resist fighting in the war sweeping the nation.

The movie’s director, Hayao Miyazaki, was influenced by his anger about the United State’s invasion of Iraq, and included many anti-war themes in the film. I also enjoyed the fact that the movie depicted old age in a positive light. Being seen as an old woman helped Sophie be stronger and bolder in standing up for herself. In many ways, Howl’s Moving Castle has many deeper meanings.

From the luscious green hills to the dark war scenes, Howl’s Moving Castle is truly a gorgeous animation. The characters are all very interesting as well, with Calcifer, the sarcastic fire demon, to Markl, the young apprentice with much to learn, and of course, Howl, who is much more than just a vain wizard.

-Kelsie W.