A Time to Kill by John Grisham

This is a legal thriller written by former criminal defense attorney John Grisham. The reason I thought that the first novel written by him is awesome is because it not only penetrates deep into the entrenched system of racism in America, it also describes the love and duty of a father. Carl Lee Bailey murdered brutally the rapists who harmed his twelve year old daughter teaches me how much a father can do to protect his little girl. Moreover, it also tells me how unfair the justice system was to blacks in general compared to whites. I was also very shocked at the Ku Klux Klan and how cruel they can be in terms of killing innocent African Americans and burning any traitors at the cross.

This novel serves as a reminder to people working in the legal professions today on how our justice system should conform with the foundation of democracy—racial equality. It also delivers a message to its readers in that laws can be interpreted in different ways and we should have sympathy for each other. Supposedly, Carl Lee Bailey should be charged with capital punishment, but because he killed the two rapists for the sake of his daughter, he was released at last. The jurors knew that every father would perhaps do the same for their own daughter, which is the reason they decided that Bailey was not guilty.

-Coreen C. 

A Time to Kill by John Grisham is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

When by Victoria Laurie

Everyone knows that they will one day die, and yet we live our lives trying our best to ignore it, as death is a dark subject for most. However, the main character Maddie in the book When by Victoria Laurie, has no choice but to see death everywhere she goes. The death date of every person she sees is imprinted upon their forehead.  Living alone with her mother, money is tight, and so her mother arranged for her to earn money by telling clients who come to their home their death date.

One day a client comes in and Maddie informs her that her son’s death date is next week. Shocked and confused( as the woman had initially come in regarding the death date of her daughter who had leukemia) she leaves angrily. Of course, the woman’s son ends up dead upon the very date that Maddie predicted. After this, the FBI begins to suspect Maddie as well as her best friend Stubby for murdering the child. The book is a thrilling mystery that I enjoyed immensely, and it is the kind of book that kept me up late reading, anticipating what would happen next. 

Buried beneath the fast-paced storyline, however, is the question to the reader of what you would do if you knew the day you would die. It was something fascinating to ponder as I read, and even one of the characters in the book whom Maddie had told his death date to had turned his life around due to that. He wanted to make sure his family was supported financially and knew they were loved, as well as enjoy the last years of his life. And the meaning I found within the book as well was that death is not something to try to run away from, but rather something to remember every once in a while, to put everything into perspective and allow you to live life beautifully.

~Aisha E.

When by Victoria Laurie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In A Dark, Dark Wood shows how dark a reunion of friends can get. It goes into the worst possible scenarios that could happen at a reunion all leading to the last scenario that leaves them unsure of who to trust.

Nora lives alone in a flat in London. She runs frequently and enjoys living alone because she doesn’t have to share with anyone. One day while writing a book, she gets an email from an old friend from college called Clare. The email invites Nora to a getaway before Clare gets married. Nora decides to go. When she gets to the isolated house, something feels off to her but she can’t tell what it is.

As the getaway goes on, Nora starts feeling more and more like something odd is going on around her. Finally, during the night all the girls in the house are awoken by a loud noise. The gather together in one room and start hearing footsteps coming up the stairs. Nora grabs a shotgun oddly placed on the wall in front of her and walks out to the stairs. At the stairs, Nora sees a hooded man coming up the stairs. Nora precedes to shoot him with the shotgun which sends him tumbling back down the stairs. As Nora goes to see who it is, she sees that it’s James her college love. James also happens to be the man Clare is getting married to.

Nora begins tying a cloth around James wound to try to stop the bleeding. Then they lift James up into the car. Nora goes to go get her jacket before leaving, but when she goes back outside, Clare is already long gone. Nora runs to the road to get to the car. She gets to the road and sees nothing. Then out of nowhere, Clare’s car speeds onto the road and hits Nora. Nora then wakes up at the hospital forgetful of what happened. Soon she pieces everything together and realizes that Clare had planned everything. She tells that to the police and soon Clare gets taken into custody and then locked up

– Emilio V.

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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