The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray is an influential novel written by Oscar Wilde.  The story revolves around the eponymous character, Dorian Gray.  Early in the story, Dorian is an impressionable young man.  His friend, an artist named Basil Hallward, has painted a portrait of Dorian.  Basil is almost worshipful of Dorian’s innocence and natural beauty.  Lord Henry Wotton, known as Harry, is an associate of Basil.  Harry persuades Basil to introduce him to Dorian.  Immediately, and against Basil’s wishes, Harry begins to exert an evil influence on Dorian.  Dorian becomes preoccupied with his own youthful appearance.  He develops an intense desire to remain youthful forever.  Dorian wishes that his portrait would grow old, while he remains young.  In a mysterious way, Dorian’s wish is granted.

I consider this book to be a cautionary tale about the consequences of selfishness, conceit and other sinful behaviors.  Dorian’s descent into a life of evil was saddening to me.  I felt disappointed that he would fall prey to Harry’s false and immoral philosophies.  The manner in which Harry influences Dorian is very cunning, and seems to be a very accurate portrayal of the manner in which one might be deceived by hedonistic philosophies.

The tone of this novel is rather dark and gothic, so I am not sure that everyone would enjoy reading it.  I personally found it to be quite intriguing and instructive, even though it seemed eerie at times, especially at the end.  This could be considered a very tragic story, but I think Oscar Wilde teaches some valuable lessons in this book.  I would recommend the book to most people, although some people may find it to be a bit creepy.

-Oliver H.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is the first book in its trilogy by James Dashner, published in 2009. It follows the main character, Thomas, who wakes up with no memory in a strange elevator. He only remembers his name and does not know where he is. The elevator doors open, and he is exposed to an entirely new world. Thomas immediately meets new people that are trapped in his new abode, they are all teenage boys who work every day out in the Glade, an area with foliage and farms that is surrounded by a huge, stone Maze. He befriends a few of the boys, Minho, Newt, Chuck, and Alby who introduce him to everything and explain where he is. All the boys have the same backstory: They were placed in an elevator and brought down here, with no memory of their former lives except for their names.

They are surrounded by the Maze, an intricate labyrinth with moving doors and large stone walls that are impossible to climb over. There is seemingly no exit, and the boys have been trying to escape from the maze ever since they got there. While there are many jobs that keep the little community they have formed going, the most important of them all is the Runner. Runners are sent into the Maze during the day to try and map out an exit but to no avail. Runners also have the most dangerous jobs, as if they cannot find their way back to the entrance before night they are trapped in the Maze with horrible, stinging monsters called Grievers whose sole purpose is to kill the boys. Thomas’ only goal is to become a Runner, and as the Maze closes one night when his friends Minho and Alby do not return, Thomas runs into the Maze after them.

He saves them and is quickly promoted to a Runner. However, strange things begin to happen around the Glade. A girl named Teresa arrives in the Box with their last shipment of supplies, and Thomas befriends her quickly. He is the main suspect of these happenings, but his friends must learn to trust him in order to solve the puzzle of the Maze.

I loved this story. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and the ending was phenomenal, even though it was a cliff-hanger. I had to read the entire trilogy, and all of the books were amazing. I would definitely recommend checking this one out, as it has some great plot points as well as surprising twists. The Maze Runner is filled with turns that will make you want to read every chapter. One reason I like this book so much is because of its amazing descriptions. How everything was described allowed me to imagine the story and picture all the characters, especially the Maze and the Grievers inside.

If you are looking for a good read that has a great story, then you should check out Maze Runner. After reading, I checked out the next book in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, right away. This book may not be for everybody, but if you enjoy adventure and science fiction, then you should read The Maze Runner. Thanks for reading my review!

-Brandt D.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

have you seen me? by Kate White

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have you seen me? by Kate White is an excellent novel of mystery, suspense, and nail-biting thrills.

The book opens with main character Ally Linden arriving to her workplace an hour earlier than everyone else. However, she soon remembers that she has not worked there in five years- and even more troubling, she doesn’t remember where she has been for the last three days.

Determined to find out what caused her fugue state and what she did, Ally hires two private investigators to retrace her steps for those three days. Quickly, questions begin to pop up- why didn’t her husband report her missing? Where have her purse and phone gone? Do the bloodstained tissues in her pocket mean something? Could the episode be related to a traumatic incident she experienced in her past? Every time we think we’ve figured it out, a new twist reveals that everything is not as it seems.

I really liked this book! The surprise ending left me in complete shock- I’m usually very good at guessing what’ll happen at the end of suspense novels and solving the mystery, but the resolution of this book completely caught me by surprise- it was ingenious. White used diversion and opaque writing masterfully to her advantage, weaving the perfect web of suspense. While the writing was a little too technical in some parts (financial journalism was described in excruciating detail), I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a dark suspense thriller.

-Vaidehi B.

have you seen me? by Kate White is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon

I read this book a while ago because my mother gave it to me as a gift. Of course I was going to read it. When I first read it, I thought whatever about it until I re-read it. I mean the girl wakes up from coma at age 17 after her house was attacked and her mother was killed. She was in a coma for 4 years! The crazy thing is that she was the only person that saw the person who killed her mother.

Stacy is now trying to recover memories with the help of new face Jeff. So many twists, lies, and secrets to discover with the mental age of 13, in a 17 year old body. Who can she trust? Who can she not trust? Who should she listen to and so forth?

This was a fun thriller that I took my time with because I could. If you are looking for a suspenseful, thrilling, and eerie book this is definitely the read for you! I highly recommend this book even though it was written quite a while ago.

-Coralie D.

The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon is available to download for free from Libby.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons is a Newbery Award-winning novel by William Pène du Bois.  A professor named William Waterman Sherman has been found floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  At the time of his rescue, he is surrounded by the wreckage of twenty deflated balloons.  He had departed three weeks earlier from his home in San Francisco, using a giant gas balloon to fly over the Pacific Ocean.  Somehow, he ended up in the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by twenty balloons.  When he finally arrives home, the people are anxious to learn what had happened to him.  They could not imagine how he could have circled the globe in only three weeks, and why he ended up with twenty balloons rather than the one balloon with which he began his journey.  So, the professor gives a speech to recount his amazing adventure. 

Professor Sherman explains that he had wanted to get away from the world, just so that he could relax for a time.  He decided to drift on a balloon over the Pacific Ocean.  Unfortunately, he crashed on the volcanic island of Krakatoa.  He was greeted there by a man in a white suit and bowler hat.  The man is part of a hidden community in the middle of the island.  As the professor was introduced to the community, he came to realize that this was a highly-sophisticated civilization.

I enjoyed reading about the inhabitants of Krakatoa, and about the professor’s adventures on the island and around the world.  His journey is interesting and exciting.  There were many whimsical and amusing elements to this story as well.  In a way this novel feels like a blend of truth and fiction.  The author seems to include some social commentary about the aristocrats living in Krakatoa, but for the most part this book is simply a playful children’s story.  It was a quick read but very enjoyable.  I can certainly see why this was awarded the Newbery Medal, and I would definitely recommend this book.

-Oliver H.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

As someone who has been reading American and European-written novels my entire life, the only times I’ve gotten close to experiencing Asian literature were through mangas, movies, and TV series. After reading The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa–a Japanese-written book translated into English–I was opened to a new type of writing style that readers don’t often see in American or European novels. However, that doesn’t make this novel worse than others.

Published in 1994, The Memory Police is a close parallel to 1984 by George Orwell, in the sense that both take place in a dystopian society where the government constantly watches over its citizens. Although both emphasize the dehumanization of totalitarianism, Ogawa wrote her novel differently. Her story begins on a small island where objects disappear routinely, causing people to forget that such things ever existed. Those who try to remember are caught by the police. Those who do remember are taken away only to never return, creating a government-fearing society. The protagonist lives on the island as an orphaned novelist. When she discovers that her editor remembers a long-forgotten object, she keeps him hidden in her home while the Memory Police search for him. As the novel progresses, a fear of forgetting is expressed through her writing as a way to preserve the past.

Considering that this novel was translated from Japanese to English, I’m grateful that the translator was able to keep the same amount of tension and emotion from Ogawa’s writing. Although the protagonist isn’t some fearless character fighting to overthrow the government like in American literature, that only makes her more realistic and more relatable. She isn’t trying to do anything unreasonable–she simply wants her editor and herself to survive. I admit the plot could seem dull to some readers who focus on the action, but I enjoyed the psychological development of the protagonist’s mind. There’s so much depth to her personality and her thoughts which can connect to today’s world. That fear of losing everything–including yourself–is clearly shown in Ogawa’s novel, and I applaud her for her writing.

In essence, I thought the book was a definite read, but only because it appealed to me. The only issue with this novel–along with many other books–is that there’s a limited amount of readers who would be interested. To those who think this novel focuses on characters trying to change a dystopian world: it isn’t what it seems. This book was more psychological than I assumed, with less action or romance. The protagonist doesn’t necessarily stand out amongst the citizens. Instead, the author is trying to show the perspective of a typical person living in a dystopian society. To me, that’s the beauty of this novel. In reality, the novel fits best with analytical readers who want more than just the plot.

-Natasha P.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Nadya Lapteva is the last remaining cleric in her country. In Emily A. Duncan’s novel Wicked Saints, the reader follows the journey of a girl who can speak to and channel the power of gods. However, this is not just your average fantasy series. The trilogy is set in medieval Eastern Europe, following Slavic gods, frozen lands and ancient evils. 

In the country of Kalyazi, Nadya finds herself alone as the bloodthirsty Tranavians try to take over her country. While on her way to a monastery she suddenly finds herself being tracked down by none other than the Tranavian High Prince and bloodmage, Serefin Meleski. As she desperately avoids being caught she finds unexpected help – a defecting Tranavian soldier by the name of Malachiasz Czechowicz. Cautiously, she agrees to travel with the Tranavian. Together they create a plan to assassinate the Tranavian King and put an end to the war.

However, not all is as it seems. Malachiasz’s smooth words and incredible wit causes Nadya to wonder why he was banished from his home country in the first place. Blindly trusting Malachiasz, Nadya soon finds herself in the heart of enemy territory. What was supposed to be a simple plan soon turns into a storm of lies and betrayals. In the chaos, Nadya discovers she was only guided into Tranavian to be used to release gods older than her own. A territorial war escalates into a war over light and darkness.

Nadya Lapteva is the only cleric able to release evil, and the only one left to stop it.

The novel is an incredibly unique read. The effort that went into researching Slavic mythology and beliefs is so refreshing because Eastern European culture is so rarely seen in books. One of my favorite parts of the novel is the way in which it is written, the sentence structure combined with including Polish and Czech words really brings the reader into the setting. Additionally, the book is full of emotions and plot twists that have the reader anxiously turning the page. I would recommend Wicked Saints to anyone interested in fantasy novels but with a darker twist. 

– Michelle L.

Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Theodore Boone: The Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer - Kindle edition by Grisham, John. Children  Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Theodore Boone, a normal 13-year-old living in Strattenburg, is just like any other kid. He’s smart, polite, and a little bit undecided about his future career. However, Theodore Boone is a very lucky teenager, because he has the title that no one else in Strattenburg possesses. Theodore Boone is a KID LAWYER. 

Theo is an only child with 2 parents who are both lawyers. His dad is a real estate lawyer, while his mom works as a divorce attorney. Ike, Theo’s uncle, used to work with Theo’s parents at the Boone and Boone law firm before some unfortunate incidents took away the license that allowed him to practice the law. 

So, when Pete Duffy is accused of murder, Theo feels thrilled to get to watch another trial. He does what any kid who loves to watch trials would do: Try to skip school. When a friend at school comes up to Theo to tell him about a mysterious witness, Theo finds himself as an important part of the murder trial, too. Theo tries to help the star witness overcome his fears and attend the trial to make sure justice is served. 

Theodore Boone: The Kid Lawyer is the first book of an exciting 7 book series. Each book contains a different mystery where Theo tries to take action. Sometimes, he finds himself in trouble, but other times, he finds himself being celebrated by others as a hero. 

This novel shows how you have to work as a team to achieve goals. Theo knew what he had to do, but the mystery witness didn’t want to come out and tell what he saw, which made it harder for there to be a completely fair and honest trial. 

Throughout this book and the rest of the series, Theo fights through his problems, while also advising his friends. He never puts himself over others, helping everyone succeed and be happy. 

I would give this book a 10/10 rating because the author did a great job of including plot twists throughout the novel. Just as the trial seemed to be coming to a close, something significant would happen, creating more and more obstacles for the characters to get through. John Grisham did a great job including his knowledge of the law in this book. I learned a lot of different facts about the U.S. justice system as I was reading about Theodore Boone and the murder trial. 

If you are interested in becoming a lawyer in the future, or if you just want to read about a thrilling murder mystery, this book would be a great read for you!

-Mert A.

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors is the fourth book in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo.  I enjoyed this book, even though it is not my favorite in the series.  Charlie Bone is back for a new semester at Bloor’s Academy.  This is a school for students with magical powers.  Charlie Bone knows that he possesses magical ability, but he still has not fully learned the extent of his endowment. 

In this book, Charlie meets some new characters.  Billy Raven is an orphaned boy who has been adopted by a couple named Mr. and Mrs. de Grey.  The de Greys have magical powers, but it turns out that they are evil.  They force Billy to sign papers that contain oaths, which would compel him to do things against his will.  Billy becomes imprisoned in a mysterious place called The Passing House.  Mr. de Grey uses his magic to create a force field that prevents Billy from escaping.

My favorite part of the story is when Charlie Bone and his friends help Billy to escape from The Passing House.  They take Billy to the house of one of Charlie’s friends, named Gabriel Silk.  At Gabriel’s house, the papers with the oaths suddenly come to life, and attack Billy and his friends.  The friends need to join forces with their magical powers to rescue Billy from the evil magic of the de Greys.

One of my favorite things about this book is the development of the characters.  I especially liked to read about Charlie’s friends, Lysander Sage and Tancred Torsson.  They have special powers that prove to be very useful in this story.  This particular book may not be quite as exciting as some of the others in the series, but I definitely still enjoyed it.  I am not really sure why it is called The Castle of Mirrors, because that did not seem to be the most important part of the story.  Still, I am glad to have read this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Charlie Bone series.

-Simon H.

Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors by Jenny Nimmo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive/Libby.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A case closed for five years, almost as dead as the vanished girl in question. Everyone living in the town of Little Kilton believes that Sal Singh murdered his girlfriend Andie Bell and subsequently committed suicide. Well, almost everyone. Pippa Fitz-Amobi never really agreed with the final verdict of the case; too many unexplained variables never lined up quite right. She decides to investigate the shady mystery for her senior year capstone project in an effort to expose the truth. Pip plunges straight into a world of lies and loose ends that threaten to expose the crime’s true nature, but someone out there would prefer that those secrets stay buried…

This book was so engrossing and suspenseful that I stayed up far too late on a school night just to finish it. Clues, characters, and red herrings are intricately interwoven to weave a complicated web of secrets. Right from the start, the plot engaged me and kept me reeled in with constant suspense. I found the plot to be very well-planned at a good pace to keep the story moving. Additionally, several exciting twists kept me on my toes and genuinely surprised me with how they revealed new details about characters I might have otherwise ruled out. While the mystery was incredibly interesting, I also enjoyed reading about the small moments of Pip’s everyday life and her friends and family. Those background/side characters had their own development, details, and quirks, which made the story more well-rounded and believable. 

Pip did do a couple of questionable things in the name of sleuthing, mostly by invading the privacy of others in several ways. I wish she could have faced consequences for that, and also that she could have had a bit more trouble working through the clues in general. It was nice when things tied together neatly, but sometimes clues lined up a bit too easily. Overall, it may have been a bit too outlandish of a mystery for it to be completely realistic, but I find the complexity and intrigue of the mystery to be much more important than realism. When it comes to those factors, this book nailed it and I’d highly recommend it as an enthralling quick read!

-Kaitlyn S.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.