The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Image result for the big sleep book

In the post-Prohibition era, America was left reeling from the terrible reign of crime, and the 1930s saw a severe uptick in acts of violence and drug usage across the country. The violence and fear of this time bled into the literature published during that time, and no work serves as a greater example of this than Raymond Chandler’s debut novel, The Big Sleep, featuring one of literature’s most famous private investigators: Philip Marlowe.

After receiving a call from General Sternwood, a elderly man with two wayward daughters in their twenties, Philip Marlowe expects the hire to be a simple open-and-shut blackmail case. However, as Marlowe digs deeper into what a bookseller named Arthur Geiger has on Sternwood’s wild younger daughter Carmen, he discovers that all is not what it seems. Between meeting Joe Brody, a man who had blackmailed the Sternwoods before; Agnes, a dangerous blonde who manages to escape murder scenes on three separate occasions, and Vivian Regan, Sternwood’s eldest daughter, it is the latter that ends up becoming the focus of Marlowe’s case.

As it turns out, all roads lead to Rusty Regan, the missing husband of Vivian Regan. Rumour has it that he ran away with the wife of a powerful crime leader, Eddie Mars, but Marlowe’s investigation into the people involved reveals that there actually may be more to the story. Despite vehemently informing all who ask that he is not looking for Rusty Regan, Marlowe’s most interesting detective sequences spawn from him being in the right place at the right time, and so unearthing more secrets, lies, and blackmail-worthy tales than one might suspect at the surface.

With its likeable protagonist and complex plot, The Big Sleep definitely is an interesting read. Although it was markedly different from novels I’ve read in the past, the fascinating mystery within a mystery structure as well as the unique prose and slang certainly lended the novel a time-machine air, allowing the reader to, in effect, travel back in time to the 1930s, to see what life was like in the time period it was set. Because of this, I would absolutely recommend this novel to any fans of mystery novels, historical or otherwise.

-Mahak M.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

“Keep a fire burning; a fire is what saves you.”

Such is the number one rule in Margot’s household, set by her mother before she could even walk. 17-year-old Margot lives with her emotionally distant mother in a small town where it is difficult to find peace and solitude. They constantly struggle to get along, butting heads at the smallest of issues while ignoring the largest insecurities plaguing them. However, nothing compares to the biggest secret held from Margot; the girl has no idea where she came from, and her mother gives no clues or mention to any extended family. Eventually, several discoveries lead her down a new path, leaving home to gain independence and seek out the truth behind her mysterious origins.

Burn Our Bodies Down depicts the journey Margot takes to discover that hidden side of her history, to a town called Phalene. As the story develops, we are introduced to characters within the town, each reacting to Margot’s appearance in an unexpected way. One of my favorite elements of this book is the characterization of Margot and her new friend Tess, foils in ideas and influences. Margot sees the world through the eyes of someone living a tragedy, unable to get a firm grasp on a stable and happy life. Tess, on the other hand, is privileged enough to see the world as a written tragedy, experiencing the horrifying events that unfold as if they were a story and not someone’s real life. She treats her new friend’s dilemma as a mystery to be theorized about, not realizing that her life can too become tragic until it’s too late.

As the story unfolds, tension builds to the point where we can only throw blind guesses at the page, with a final reveal that sent chills down my spine. Themes of responsibility, love, and empathy reign supreme throughout the novel, creating a beautiful coming-of-age story (if you consider horrifying supernatural occurrences to be typical in a teenage experience). Unlike Power’s previous book “Wilder Girls”, I found this book difficult to get into. However, knowing the author’s potential, I luckily stuck with the story as it picked up steam. The final chapters are a whirlwind of shock and excitement that I was grateful to experience, and wholeheartedly recommend the book to any fan of mysteries, thrillers, and emotional dramas.

Bailey L.

Game Review: Eyes

The game eyes is a horror game that has the player navigate through a mansion in hopes to find twenty money bags. If you get the twenty money bags through the door your free, but there is a catch. The house consists of one spirit that wanders around trying to ensure that you do not leave.

There are three floors and to find the money bags you must search in cupboards, drawers, and shelves. 

This game is different from every other game because around the house there are symbols of eyes drawn on the walls and when you collect them they show you what the spirit sees. This can help you tell what floor the spirit is on and if it is safe to leave the room or not. 

When the spirit is within ten feet of you everything around you will start to rattle, you will start to hear heavy breathing, and rats will start coming out of the floorboards. 

Overall the CGI in the game is very well done and looks realistic. The plot and goal of the game are very intriguing. The game is very fun to play especially in the dark and I would recommend this game to anyone who likes jumpscares. 

-Sanjana S.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

To me, this book is a bit like a fantastical version of Ocean’s Eleven. Of course, the plot of Six of Crowns is quite different, but, like Ocean’s Eleven, it involves a witty cast of characters who each possess a unique skill; a seemingly infeasible heist; and incredible twists unveiled with the air of a magician’s flourish.

Among the many inhabitants of the beautiful and expansive world of Six of Crows, there are Grisha, people born with special powers (such as the ability to heal, to control water, or to manipulate materials). These powers can be used for great good. However, towards the beginning of the novel, news of a dangerous drug called jurda parem, which enhances a Grisha’s ability, begins to surface. Not only does the drug enable Grisha to cause terrible destruction with little effort, but it is also highly addictive and dangerous to the Grisha themselves.

Kaz Brekker, nicknamed “Dirtyhands” for his apathetic and ruthlessly practical actions, is offered a mountain of money should he succeed at an unfeasible heist: stealing the scientist who created jurda parem from the nearly impenetrable Ice Court in Fjerda. He promptly assembles a skilled team, each chosen for their expertise in a certain area.

What I loved most about Six of Crows was the characters. The six main characters are each vividly developed and unique in their own wonderful way. In addition, their conversations with each other are entertaining and witty.

The characters take turns narrating the chapters, so we get a glimpse into the minds of each of the characters at different points in the story. Reading from each character’s perspective was really enjoyable, as each character has a different way of thinking. I liked how we were able to learn about each character’s thoughts and vulnerabilities–information that other characters may not perceive. Nevertheless, although she gives readers peeks into each character’s mind, Leigh Bardugo still manages to conceal information from readers–and reveal it in with incredible, unexpected plot twists.

I found the chapters narrated by Kaz Brekker–the leader of the group; a boy whose past is so nebulous and whose emotions are so imperceptible to others that some view him more as a legend than a teenager–particularly interesting; they give readers an understanding of this outwardly hardened and indestructible boy.

What’s interesting about this book is that none of the characters would call themselves heroes. They each have their own motive, and some of them don’t even get along. However, as the story progresses and as we gather little shards of each character’s past, we begin to understand them, and we learn what path led them to a future in which they would attempt one of the most dangerous and inconceivable heists. Though they are not obvious heroes, they do heroic things: they fight for each other, save each other, and care for each other. And despite being hardened by their pasts, they still manage to act like regular, bantering teenagers at times.

I will warn that there are several violent fights, and I could have done with less violence (however, this coming is from someone who used to be frightened by The Lion King). Nevertheless, this book, its world, and its characters are so vivid, intriguing, and compelling that I would, without a doubt, recommend it for YA and fantasy lovers.

– Mia T.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is available from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner is the second book in the Maze Runner series. It’s another very good read like the first book in the series. This book starts the second the other book ends in the story so it feels like you are still in the hectic moment that was the end of the first book. In this book, the characters learn more about the world that is outside of the maze and they find out that life outside might be worse than life inside because there is a virus called the flare virus that is taking over the population and turning people insane and zombie-like. In the story, they call people who are infected and zombie-like Cranks.

Overall this book is a great read just like the first book. This book gives us as readers more information on the characters that we have grown to love and also gave us more insight into the even more dangerous situation that the teens have now gotten themselves in. Also, the movie version of this book is good as well but the book is better in my opinion since they change some things in the movie which differentiate it from the book.

-Howard M.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

This book was one of the first books that made reading more interesting for me, as it started off with some background information about how nine children, referred to as Garde, were tasked with saving Earth after their home planet, Lorien, was destroyed from the evil Mogadorians, from the planet Mogadore, that are planning to take over Earth, with mentors known as Cepan tasked with helping the Garde realize their abilities. Each of the nine were separated, however the Mogadorians have already killed three of the Garde. The story takes place in the narrative of Four, who takes on many aliases before the story but settles with the identity of John Smith, and his Cepan Brandon takes on the name Henri.

When I go back and read this book, I love how they always make it clear that John feels like an outcast compared to the rest of the high school kids in Paradise, Ohio, the city and state that he and Henri settle in, as he feels alone in this new school and doubts who he can trust to stay alive. Along with the emphasis of Four being a new student, he also deals with common high school issues that people deal with today, such as a high school bully in Mark James, a crush in Sarah Hart, and a best friend in Sam Goode. Although Four is meant to be a defender of Earth, the author does a very good job in humanizing Four and his struggles to balance his duty of survival and his personal life, relating to many teens in high school today who have to balance school, sports, and personal life.

Also, throughout the story, I found it interesting how John and Henri clash in their different viewpoints of the path moving forward. Although Henri feels endangered after his life was nearly taken while looking for answers on the Mogadorians, John wants to stay in Paradise, as he feels a strong connection and love for Sarah and a closer friendship with Sam, as Sam has little connection with his family. Since Sam finally has a friend in John and treats him like family, it is understandable why John does not to leave and argues with Henri. I found this similar to how kids often have to move schools due to their parents getting new jobs and moving houses and possibly even states, and have to leave friends behind. The tension between John and Henri over this decision is clear, but in the end, Henri supported John’s decision and fought to protect John like a father, even sacrificing his life to save John.

Overall, this book is a good read and worth taking a look into, as everything comes full circle in the story. I believe that high school students in particular would really enjoy this novel, as it highlights struggles to fit into a new school and make new friends, something that really shapes a high school experience. However, what always pushed me into reading this novel over and over again was how John perfectly fit into normal high school life and struggles, despite his difference in origin and powers. This kickstarted my interest in the Lorien Legacies and helped me find more interest in exploring all the possibilities in new books, which I believe will do the same for anyone that reads this book in the future.

-Lawrence B.

I Am Number Four by Patticus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, 1):  Stewart, Trenton Lee, Ellis, Carson: 9780316003957: Amazon.com: Books

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a classic mystery and adventure book, that I would highly recommend for you to read! The style of this book is similar to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate events, and comes in a series for you to read! The book’s main characters are four young kids named Reynie, Constance, Sticky, and Kate. The book features only Reynie’s thoughts and insights, which is one downfall of the book. Personally, I would have enjoyed reading the book from all the character’s points of view.

Reynie is an orphan who has always felt out of place at his orphanage. Reynie decides to take a test from a mysterious sign he saw in his town, where he meets the other three kids who also happen to be orphans that passed the test. Shortly after, they meet Mr. Benedict, a strange old man who invites all four kids to help him with a secret mission. If you want to hear more about this thrilling story, you’ll have to pick up your very own copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society!

-Anusha M.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Every place you’ll ever find yourself in is more than meets the eye. This is the central idea of Leigh Bardugo’s new novel The Ninth House, a supernatural fantasy about the life of Yale student Alex Stern. The story follows Alex through her freshman year of college, recruited by a secret society at the university known as Lethe. This society supervises 8 other organizations across campus, each of them specializing in a certain magical concept through rituals and other supernatural events. Lethe has been interested in her for most of her teenage life due to strange occurrences in police reports that reveal her secret; Alex was born with the power to see “Grays”, the ghosts that fail to pass over beyond “the Veil” and wander the living world. As someone who can see them, Alex plays an important role in protecting the societies from supernatural interference with their business. She studies the ways of Lethe and magic under her mentor Darlington, and receives help from grad student Dawes and Dean Sandow. However, life as a college recruit is not an easy path, and Alex must learn to navigate her struggling GPA and avoid suspicion from her roommates, all while keeping the existence of magic and the Nine Houses a secret.

However, life gets turned even more upside down when Darlington disappears and a random girl is found dead on campus. Concerned about the societies’ potential involvement in both cases, she goes out to solve the mysteries in a collection of twists and turns. As the murder investigation unfolds, people are tossed in and out of the scapegoat role, even some of the people she trusts most. At the novel’s conclusion, everything is made clear through shocking revelation that leaves its readers yearning for a second installment in Stern’s universe.

This book took me a little bit of time to get into. Being a “New Adult” book, it was a large jump in detailed writing from the book I had just read. However, once I sat down and committed to reading, I found soon enough that I couldn’t put the book down. The characterization of Alex fascinated me, and became more enthralling as her past is revealed. The interwoven stories between the world of the living and the dead and the world of Lethe and Yale as a whole make for an interesting story. I am looking forward to the next installment, hopefully to come out late 2021 or early 2022.

-Bailey L.

The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is about a boy named Thomas who woke up in an elevator with no memory of his past except that his name is Thomas. When the elevator opens he is greeted by people who also have no memory other than their names. Over time Thomas starts exploring the glade (what they call where they live) which the outside of where they live is the maze which they think is the key to their escape. One day after Thomas arrives this girl named Teresa shows up in the box with a note saying that she was the last one ever. Which puts the group in a panic.

This book is a fantastic read. It keeps the reader engaged the entire book because you never know the twists and turns that will happen on their journey. This book is also the intro to the other 3 books in the series which are also very good books that I highly recommend. Also, I recommend reading the books before watching the movies because I felt more connected to the characters watching the movie after reading the books and also books are usually better than the movie counterparts.

-Howard M.

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

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Most of us are familiar with the monster we’ve labelled as Frankenstein, a green, grotesque creature of Hollywood films. Before reading Mary Shelley’s acclaimed novel for a high school English class, I had similar mental perceptions of the monster (I’d been envisioning the essential, go-to costume for elementary school Monster Mashes for years). After finishing the book, however, I was moved by the complexities of Shelley’s characters, their philosophy, as well as her examination of prominent social and political issues throughout the carefully woven narrative, which are still relevant today.

I’d read Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein before in middle school. Pages of colored artwork and masterful graphic design rendered an excellent adaptation of Shelley’s novel. It provided me the foundations to easily understand the basic plot of Frankenstein, yet I was still skeptic about reading the novel itself. I don’t particularly love Shakespeare or Dickens, with their fanciful ways of speech that can get tiring after a long period of reading, and I feared the same for Shelley’s work. But she was different somehow, her writing distinctively unique; perhaps this was because she was a female amidst a world of male writers, someone who had created such a haunting and gripping story so uncharacteristic of a woman of her time.

The novel centers around a gifted scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who manages to breathe life into his creation, a monstrous being. Instead of a being presented as a gift to humanity, the glorious product of defying even Nature itself, the specimen is a hideous creature that is shunned by society and his creator alike. The narrative is told from various perspectives–explorer Robert Walton’s letters, Frankenstein’s first person narration, the monster’s collection of stories–which I appreciated greatly, because it gave the storyline a certain vivacity, turning it away from the tiresome monotony of the same narrator. As the novel progresses, the monster and his creator enter into a growing spiral of violence and tragedy, and I will say (spoiler alert!) the novel is not exactly a Hallmark movie with a happy ending.

By the time I had finished the book, the ending surprisingly emotional (I had been nonchalant all throughout Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, but this ending really ran me over for good measure…go figure), I continued to mull the story’s events over in my mind. Frankenstein is a philosophical breeding ground–are monsters created or made, a victim of the cruelties of society? What are the ethical implications of science and technology (this one I consider a lot, since we are at a teetering frontier of modern scientific discovery)? Who is the real monster, the creation or its creator?

Even if you aren’t called by philosophy, read Frankenstein for it’s ingenious storyline. I didn’t think I would ever call a book published in 1818 “thrilling,” but I was pleasantly surprised at the wide range of emotions Shelley, and most good writers, can evoke through their stories, her ability to make the reader view society through a new lens. Read it for Shelley’s diction, the way she stirs to life a melancholy madness, the vividness in which she allows us to experience it, as if the character’s lives were our own, and which left me awed. It was a book that stuck with me long after I finished it, a book that I regretted misjudging before I picked it up and read it grudgingly for school, but which took me into the depths of humanity and morality.

-Katharine L.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.