The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva

When I first picked up The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva at Barnes and Nobles, I was fascinated by the title. Truth to be told, I first saw Daniel Silva’s books at JFK International Airport when I was coming back to California from New York; and since I adore spy novels, I looked into the series that Silva wrote, found this novel, and decided to give it a read.

In my opinion, this book started out awfully slow. However, during the first half of the novel, the reader gains a thorough understanding of the main characters and the background information leading up to the climax. Even though the beginning was really slow and has little action, I still enjoyed getting acquainted with Michael Osbourne, his family, and his rivals.

This being a book report, I imagine now you, as the reader, would want to know what this novel is really about. However, I give no promises for spoilers. This novel is about CIA agent Michael Osbourne and his nemesis, Jean-Paul Delaroche. Now you might be wondering: why does Osbourne and Delaroche have such a bad history? Well, the shorter version is Delaroche shot and killed Michael’s past lover with him watching and Michael wanted revenge. So, when the perfect opportunity came, he grasped it and was extremely desperate to find the truth. It’s not exactly a pretty story but none of the important characters died, I promise. (Well, some people died, but, they’re not as important.) The mark of that assassin is killing his opponents by shooting them three times in the face and it is literally one of the coolest aspects of the book. Sure, it is bloody and disgusting, but I like how Delaroche has a personality and it would’ve been so dull if Delaroche didn’t have his style. This book has kept me on edge until the last page. What I find amazing is Silva’s ability to integrate so many plot twists and unexpected relationships that you’d never expect.

When I got to half, the plot twists got so intense that my mom had to break me out of my reading coma. I’d praise this book for the raw emotion that Daniel Silva’s characters bring to the table. It is a wonderfully written story and I would totally recommend it for the action and the formidable characters.

– Angela L.

Daniel Silva’s The Mark of the Assassin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Diviners by Libba Bray

There is a recently-added feature to the YA section called “Allen’s Pick”.  And, as I was walking through the library, I spotted this little tag and decided to give the recommended novel a try.  Little did I know it was the perfect kick-off to my summer, fulfilling my favorite three genres:  historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery.  Though the main character, Evie O’Neill (a Diviner, herself), and I got off on the wrong foot, I soon began to fall in love with her charming wit and Bray’s use of decadent literature.

The year is in the 1920’s where 17-year-old Evie O’Neill is performing her party act in front of her slightly drunk friends.  She asks for a person’s possession.  She touches it, falling into a deep trance before delivering the verdict.  In one case, she uncovers one boy’s secrets.  Without thinking, Evie spills, causing quite the uproar and later the punishment of moving to live with her mysterious uncle in upstate New York.  While Evie’s parents believed they were sending Evie to her mortal hell, the star-struck-wannabe-flapper was cooking up something entirely different.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bray’s novel, for its language, plot, and musical references.  She certainly did her research, finding what a teenage girl in New York in the 1920’s would be doing with her life.  I even had to google ‘Libba Bray age’ to make sure she was not 108 and therefore was not 17 years old in 1921.  Bray then went on to write a sequel to the Diviners, entitled, the Lair of Dreams.  Next time you visit the library, I would definitely recommend looking for the “Allen’s Pick” tag, and try a new read!

-Maya S.

The Diviners series by Libba Bray is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

Psycho is an amazing piece of both horror and suspense. One day when my mom and my little brother where at Sea World, I took advantage of the time to watch some good, old classic horror movies with my dad. At first we watched Apocalypse Now, a movie about a soldier in the Vietnam War. Then we stumbled upon Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, a movie about Norman Bates and his crazy relationship with his mother.

At first the movie was kind of slow and didn’t reach the suspense fast enough to call it the first slasher film in film history. Then as the movie kept on going and going it got to the part that made it so famous. The stunning thing about it was that you never would have seen any of these parts in the movie happen.

If I went to see Frankenstein or Dracula I wouldn’t see anything I saw in Psycho. For this review I really had to put myself in someone else shoes. It made me think how this film would make me feel if I was alive in the 1960s. This film would shock me because there was so much suspense in the film. For example, the music–an excellent job by Bernard Herrmann–had me at the edge of my seat because it was so suspenseful.

In general, the entire movie was outstanding a real master piece of both suspense and horror. This film earned this title “the first slasher movie ever”. In my mind this film put Alfred Hitchcock on the map in my opinion. This film not only was remarkably successful but, this film inspired a lot of films like it. This movie has a perfect score in my mind.

-Max U.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Pretty Little Liars

You’ve never seen any nastier fights or heard crazier drama than those done by girls. Lying, manipulative, and persuasive, we get away with pretty much anything. Which leads me to present one of my most favorite TV shows, Pretty Little Liars. The series was developed by I. Marlene King (based on the book series by Sara Shepard) that premiered June 8, 2010.

The main characters of the series are four best friends living in the small town of Ravenswood, Pennsylvania. The young women are connected to Alison Dilaurentis, the popular girl of them all. When she goes missing, the five girls split up at the same time the town is whipped  into a frenzy. Local papers and news channels go wild as they all ask the question, “Where is Alison’s body?” Almost two years after the disappearance, the girls reunite after Alison’s body is found and the signs pointing to murder. Everything but peace has settled on Ravenswood and the girls.

To make matters worse, an unknown stalker known only as “A” begins to torment the girls with secrets they only thought they knew through blackmail. “A” also harrasses them with information of Alison’s death and her killer. “A” is known only to the four girls because going to the police would only make matters worse, leaving them to be the only ones to figure out the murder of their beloved friend Alison.

Pretty Little Liars is a TV show is full of teen drama, crime thrillers, and most of all, mystery.

-Leann D.

TV Review: Riverdale

I’m not going to lie, when I originally heard of the T.V series Riverdale, I thought it was going to be lame. I thought it would be one of those typical high school dramas where teens from the popular and non-popular groups fall in love. I was wrong.

My friend and I were bored one day and we decided to watch it and within the first 10 minutes, I was hooked. The show is about a small town called Riverdale, a seemingly average town with average adults and average high school kids. The death of a rich and popular teen rocks the town and initiates a fraught murder mystery.

There is so much action, drama, mystery, and of course romance. Not only does Riverdale keep you on your toes wondering what crazy event will happen next, but the show also does a great job of showing all the different kinds of people. The singers, the jocks, the “geeks”, the rich, the poor, and also the LGTBQ community. My friend and I both  finished the first season in only a few days, and cannot wait for season two which airs in October. If you haven’t yet watched Riverdale, I definitely recommend you watch it, before season two comes out.

-Kyndle W.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

With a plan to hide, paranoia to battle, and friendships to question, a group of five college students deal with the psychological punishment of murdering their sixth member: Bunny Corcoran.

The Secret History, by Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt, is deep, fascinating, and full of aesthetic-driven description. Richard Papen, a poor college student from California, transfers to Hampden College in Vermont in order to escape his old life. There, he can’t help but be entranced by a group of mysterious young adults that saunter around the campus disconnected from the rest of the student body. Belonging to the highly exclusive Classics major taught by Julian Morrow, those five students have a divine air about them that Richard can’t resist. Securing his spot in their class, Richard is dragged into much more than a new group of friends: relationships full of hidden truths, a wild secret to keep that he never saw coming, and brewing plot of even more horrible proportion. Join Richard as he learns what friendship with Henry Winter, Francis Abernathy, Bunny Corcoran, and the Macaulay twins really means.

From the overlying theme to direct references, Donna Tartt draws heavily from Fyodor Dostoyesky’s Crime and Punishment. Both stories deal with how a seemingly justified murder affects the murderer’s mental state, driving them to extreme paranoia and desperation for relief. Both books open with a murder, Crime and Punishment’s happening about 20% of the way in while The Secret History‘s is described in the prologue. While Crime and Punishment reads chronologically, The Secret History tells the reader about the murder first, then flashes back months before, carrying through the murder and on to what happens after. Having just read Crime and Punishment, the parallels stand out. Reading about a variety of characters’ reactions in The Secret History is far more interesting than that of the sole guilty soul in Crime and Punishment.

Donna Tartt’s writing style is beautiful, oftentimes bringing me to pause and reflect. I grew to care so much about her tragic characters, and her writing brought me to be truly shocked or pitiful or furious right when she wanted me to be. I couldn’t predict any of the twists this book offered, which is a sign of a well-written story. This new adult/murder mystery novel was thrilling to read, and it’s a story that will last with me for a long time. Thought-provoking, genius, and beautiful, The Secret History is well worth the read.

-Abby F., 12th Grade

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

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

monster_naokiurasawaLet’s say that you’re a doctor. You have a choice to save either one of these patients: a ten year old boy who arrived at the hospital first, or the mayor of the city. You can only save one while the other will die. Who will you choose? Now, let’s say that you choose the child: congratulations, you have now unleashed a monster onto the world.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese doctor working in late 20th century East Germany, saved a ten year old boy named Johan Liebert instead of the mayor ten years ago. Because of that, he lost his trust with his colleagues, his fiancee, and his promotion. To top it off, the boy he saved had murdered two people before admitted to the hospital. Now, Dr. Tenma is a fugitive framed for the murders committed by Johan Liebert after seeing this monster again.

Throughout his run on his life, Tenma tries to figure out Johan’s past. And he must consider one question: if he knew ten years ago that the boy he wants to save will turn out to be a monster, would he save the mayor? And if Johan’s life were in his hands again, would he save him?

This manga is a very good psychological story. Dr. Tenma meets a bunch of so-called monsters along his run, and proves that all of them can be forgiven. For example, he meets a soldier and a young girl. The soldier had killed the girl’s mother, and worries that he would never be forgiven, as the girl never smiles or speaks to him. However, Dr. Tenma fixes this rift, and in the end the little girl holds the soldier’s hand as if he were her father. Additionally, we hear the police’s side of the story, and through their investigations even we start to wonder if Johan is just in Tenma’s brain or not.

Additionally, Urasawa accurately depicts the historical content and geography of East Germany and Czechoslovakia throughout the story: the beautiful city of Prague, the slums of major cities, and the brutality of the underground.

Urasawa’s characters are also incredible, and it is amazing what each of them does to get the job done: Johan’s insane plans, the detective that is chasing after Dr Tenma and what he thinks in order to chase after his patients, and the motivation of many, whether if it is chasing after Johan or living a daily life. The artwork is very beautiful, and you cannot tell it’s a manga from twenty years ago: each of the characters looks widely unique and well crafted. Additionally, the backgrounds are incredible, which each scene looking realistic as if you were there yourself, whether it was in a hospital room, a restaurant, or a prison.

This was a manga that made me just say “wow” at the end, and anyone into mysteries, action, psychological thrillers, or horror would be really hooked into this series.

-Megan V, 11th grade