Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

welcometothedarkhouse_lauriestolarz“In my hefty elf sack, your nightmares now keep. Better think twice before falling asleep.” -The Nightmare Elf

This chilling, nightmare-filled story takes place when seven fans of the famous horror film director, Justin Blake, enter an online contest. They are required to write about their worst nightmare, and the winners get the chance to stay at his legendary B and B, Dark House, featured in his movies. The fans also get to meet the famous man and sneak a look at his upcoming movie. Delighted to find they have won, the horror hopefuls Ivy, Parker, Shayla, Frankie, Garth, Natalie, and Taylor set out to have the scare of their life. Spending a weekend in the Dark House appeals to most of them like a vacation home, filled with effects that make the house really seem haunted and mysterious. However, their fun and games take a twisted turn when they are taken to an abandoned amusement park. Embodying the spirit of Blake’s movies, the park is like his own movie set with his wildly creepy characters running around. The seven lucky winners discover they must face their worst nightmares and survive them if they want to be set free.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. It’s description of horror and thrill left me wondering about my own nightmares. I knew I sure wouldn’t last one night in that house, not with its scare tactics and lonely halls. Stolarz uses her characters’ different perspectives to create this nail-biting world. As a big fan of horror stories, I was really anxious to see how the ending wrapped everything up. I have to say I was a little disappointed that I was left with so many unanswered questions, but overall the plot line was very intriguing.

I encourage readers who like to be scared to give this book a try. I know some horror stories are a gamble because it doesn’t end the way the readers hope. But Welcome to the Dark House is definitely one of my favorites and I would love to read it again.

-Sabrina C, 11th Grade

Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

endgame_jamesfreyAs a prominent novel of thriller and fiction, Endgame: The Calling brings a simple treasure hunt to a whole new and different level. With teens fighting teens, the entire world has no chance but to rely on the victor.

In a modern day setting, twelve teenagers carry on with their normal lives until each of them are by a meteor, a warning sign to these twelve “players” for the beginning of what may be the world’s end. Representing the twelve so-called original lines of humanity, these teenagers must play in Endgame, a hunt for three significant artifacts (this book is on the first one) that will save their lines from chaos and disaster while condemning the other eleven.

Through the eyes of each of the twelve players, authors James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton incorporate adventure, action, romance, and much more all into just a three book series. Characters like Sarah Alopay, Jago Tlaloc, and Christopher Vanderkamp share their perspectives on their journeys throughout the continents and how they must survive when problems and troubles arise. As clues are hidden inside the novel itself, readers are recommended to try and solve the mystery themselves, being part as one of the players on a mission to save all of humanity.

Endgame: The Calling is a suitable read for young adults ages 13-16, and with my rating of 8.5 out of 10, this may be one of the very best plot lines that I have read.

“Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil?”

…I guess you will have to read and find out.

-Riley W.

Endgame: The Calling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

andthentherewerenone_agathachristieWarning: This review contains spoilers

Ten strangers, with seemingly little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. A coincidence? Not at all. Ten people, who have never met before until this accident, are under a perilous set of conditions. On the first night, the ten strangers are invited to dinner. They are Lawrence Wargrave, the judge; Vera Claythorne, the schoolmistress; Philip Lombard, the expeditioner; Emily Brent, the housewife; Anthony Marston, a wealthy man with a fabulous car; Edward George Armstrong, the doctor; William Henry Blore, a retired detective; Thomas Rogers, the butler; Ethel Rogers, wife of Rogers; and John Gordon MacArthur, an old general in World War I.

After enjoying their delicious dinner, they are shocked when a loud voice booms throughout the dining room, accusing each of them in turn of hiding a guilty secret. By the end of the night, Anthony Marston is dead, due to choking on his drink, a deadly touch of cyanide in his glass. Badly shaken, the nine remaining people turn in for the night. In each of their bedrooms, there is a nursery rhyme going by “The Ten Little Indian Boys.” Again, is this a coincidence?

However…one by one they begin to fall dead.

The next death was Mrs. Roger’s. She’d fainted when the voice had announced their crimes over the gramophone, and the next morning she was found dead. Closely next was General MacArthur, who had wanted to stay on the island, but instead was found dead on the beach, knocked out from behind. Slowly, the remaining seven people start to get wary of each other. Soon, they realize that killer has to be one of them…

But pretty soon, suspects are eliminated, as Mr. Rogers, Emily Brent, and Justice Wargrave were found dead next. Only Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard, Edward George Armstrong, and William Henry Blore are left on the island. Which among them is the murderer?

Dr. Armstrong is quickly out of the picture, as he is found choked and bloated next to the crashing waves. Now there are only three survivors, but is cut down to two the next day: Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard. Blore was crushed by a large marble bear, which had fallen on his head. Soon after, Philip and Vera get into a fight on the beach, in which Vera grabs Philip’s gun and shoots him. Overcome with guilt, Vera is all alone on the island. Finally, the guilt washes over her, and she hangs herself in the large mansion. Everyone was dead.

But not quite.

Consider the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indian Boys”:

Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself;
And then there were none.

I thought this books was really interesting because each death was related to one in the poem. For instance, the first line has to do with the dinner and Anthony Marston’s death. Also, Soldier Island and Soldier Boys? That was fascinating. But I thought Agatha did superbly in writing this murder mystery because she didn’t leak any clues about who the murderer was and it is truly baffling when the story ends when all the people are dead. You are left with the feeling of, “Wait, what? Who is the murderer exactly?”

But that’s not all, actually! Agatha Christie gave me the pleasure to actually read the epilogue, which fully explained the murder and who the murderer was, who was actually (highlight to reveal spoiler)the judge, Wargrave! It told me that Wargrave was psychotic, and had a imaginative imagination and had always wanted to plan a murder. He faked his own death in the beginning, but then after Vera hanged herself, he shot himself. The whole point of this was to make this a murder case that no one could ever solve.

And so he did. And then there were none.

-Katharine L.

And Then There Were None is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

bewarethewild_natalieparkerBeware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker is a paranormal novel about the mysterious shrouding of a swamp in the city of Sticks, Louisiana. The whole town knows to avoid the swamp; including Sterling, the protagonist. That changes when her brother Phin runs to the swamp after an argument. He never returns and instead, a girl named Lenora May claiming to be Sterling’s sister appears from the foggy swamp. Sterling does not believe Lenora May, but the rest of the town does not know of anyone named Phin; they only know of Lenora May. Realizing she is on her own, Sterling becomes more and more determined to go back to the swamp to find her brother. Despite the fact that no one knew Phin, Sterling discovers that Heath Durham, a boy from her grade can help her. Together, they set out to uncover the dark secrets of the swamp.      

This book has it all. From action to mystery, Beware the Wild encompasses many genres. With a great plotline, there were no missing details. Also, it was unique because the author was able to take the concept of a haunted swamp, and turn it into a great story that will invite you in and won’t let go until the last page. Sterling, the main character, was a smart and independent protagonist, whose love for her brother was her sole motivation to bring him back. With a satisfying ending, Beware the Wild is great for a quick read.

-Anmol K.

Taken by Erin Bowman

taken_erinbowmanIn the small town of Claysoot, enclosed by a Wall, lives a 17-year-old boy named Gray. Today is the day of his older brother’s 18th birthday.  However, in Claysoot, when a boy turns 18, he disappears. They all do. And, everybody just accepts it.  So, tonight, as it turns midnight, Blaine, Gray’s brother, will be Heisted.  But, Gray is not ready.  He is not ready for his best friend and brother to leave him.  He is not ready to see Blaine’s little daughter’s face when she sees her father will never come back.  But, how can Gray stop fate from happening?

Well, there is one thing.  But, anyone who has ever tried it comes back blackened and burned as a result of climbing the Wall.  Gray considered climbing over it, but always thought it to be too dangerous.  Instead, Gray spends his last day having as much fun as he can with his brother.  But, it didn’t feel real.  Every moment, he would think that just at this very time tomorrow, Blaine would not be there.  He would be gone.

Forever.

But, Gray had to accept it.  So, as he walked up to the stage during Blaine’s Heisting ceremony, he said his final goodbye.  At this point in the story, I was reminded of the classic Italian song, Time to Say Goodbye made popular by U.S. singers Bocelli and Brightman.  It’s heart wrenching chorus brings alive the emotion that Gray is feeling. As Gray gave his brother a hug, Blaine did something strange. He winked. This made Gray very confused, but the time had come for Blaine to be Heisted.  The ground rumbled, there was a flash and his brother was gone.

Forever.

Or so he thought… If this were a movie, here I would insert in the suspenseful tri-tone bum bom bam! to intensify the mini cliff hanger.  Read the book to find out what happens next!  I really enjoyed it!  And, I give the first book in this Taken trilogy a 9/10 for its intriguing dystopian literature.

-Maya S., 9th Grade

Taken is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Girl is Murder & The Girl is Trouble by Kathryn Miller Haines

girlistrouble_kathrynmillerhainesThe year is 1942. The setting is New York City. Iris Anderson isn’t any normal teenager. With her dad in the detective business and her mom long gone, she has to fend for herself in her new school. But, as she grows older and starts to meddle in her dad’s business, things aren’t what they seem. Her dad was a naval officer who lost his leg during the attack on Pearl Harbor. But, now he is a private eye, specializing in missing persons. Her mom? She committed suicide six months ago. Iris left behind her rich, affluent life and is now in a dirty public school.

The Girl is Murder

A boy who attends Iris’ school ends up being the subject of a case her father is working on. Naturally, she investigates further. The kid is part of a group of gangsters she met on the first day of school. But how does she get close to them? She makes them her friends; but to do this, she lies. It is not long before they find out Iris’ true identity, and things get complicated.

The Girl is Trouble

girlismurder_kathrynmillerhainesThis book begins as the situation Iris’ and her classmates is nearing a resolution. Iris asks her dad if she can work with him. He puts her on her first case, but it ends up being bogus. Iris’ father can’t trust her, but there is something bigger at hand: her mother’s death. One day as Iris was checking around the house, she notices the safe is open. When she kneels down to close it, pictures of a dead body slip out. Iris doesn’t know what to do next.

The two-part murder mystery series by Kathryn Miller Haines is one that I enjoyed. When I thought I had solved the mystery, the plot turned itself around to be something completely different. So, kudos to Miss Haines, for she developed a character who is rather unpredictable. I would definitely give these books a rating of 10/10!

-Maya S., 8th grade

The Girl Is Trouble and The Girl Is Murder are available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

avalon_mindeearnettAvalon by Mindee Arnett is a science fiction novel telling the tale of Jeth Seagrave and his group of teenage mercenaries. Set in the future where space travel is possible, the Interstellar Transportation Authority (ITA) is responsible for this technology called metatech. With metatech, one is able to travel to other places in the universe faster than the speed of light.

Unfortunately, Jeth’s parents are dead and he and his sister Lizzie are stuck working for the crime lord, Hammer. Hammer gives Jeth and his crew different types of jobs that they complete to earn money. Jeth wants to save up enough money to buy his ship, Avalon, back from Hammer. This ship is very close to Jeth’s heart because it used to belong to his parents, but his uncle lost it while gambling.

Receiving a new job from Hammer, Jeth realizes that they pay-off would be enough to get Avalon back. With more enthusiasm than usual, Jeth commits to the job: go to the Belgrave quadrant, an area known to be haunted and those who go there rarely come back. Despite the danger, Jeth continues with the mission of getting an abandoned ship for Hammer. Jeth was ordered to stay off the ship Hammer wants, but he disobeys those orders and finds a group of humans. As he learns more about the stories of the survivors, Jeth realizes there is something very important on the ship. Acquiring very important information on the ship, Jeth realizes that the government and crime lords would be willing to kill to acquire this pivotal information.

I have been waiting for some time to read this book, and the wait was worth it. I enjoy the genre of sci-fi, and unfortunately there aren’t many good books in that genre. This book was great with its non-stop actions and the twists and turns. Headstrong and brave, Jeth was a great main character, but he fell flat in a couple of places. I also enjoyed how the story had many plot-twists. Some of them were predictable, but the rest were surprises. If you like Avalon, then make sure to check out the sequel, Polaris.

-Anmol K.

Avalon is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library