Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

steeplejack_ajhartleySteeplejack by A.J. Hartley is a fantasy novel telling the tale of 17-year-old Anglet Sutonga, who lives in the city of Bar-Selehm; the story is a loose representation of South Africa with the rich whites and the poor blacks. In her Lani family, she is the third daughter; the Lani people hold the tradition of having the third daughter being cursed. Despite that belief, Ang continues her employment as a steeplejack. After finding the boy who was supposed to be her new apprentice dead, Ang feels responsible to investigate his death-even though she had never met him.

After the Beacon, an important symbol for the city of Bar-Selehm, is stolen, tensions escalate across the city. Regarding the murder of the apprentice, the politician, Josiah Willinghouse, hires Ang as a private investigator to look into his death. While investigating, Ang discovers a complicated layer of events that are all connected to each other. Uncovering the various truths about her city, Ang is able to bring the connection to light and make sense of all that is going on.

Having a slow start, the novel picked up the story and gripped me with the mystery. Ang is good at recognizing and making connections that make sense at the end of the novel. Speaking of the main character, I felt like she had a great personality and was relatable. Also, another great aspect of her was how she persevered, despite the difficult times she had to face. I liked the ending because it was unexpected, and it was not lacking. Overall, a great read, there is a sequel coming out for those who enjoyed this first book.

-Anmol K.

Steeplejack is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Webtoon Review: Tower of God by SIU

What is it that you so desire?

Wealth?

Fame?

Power?

“Whether you are looking for: wealth, immortality, absolute power, magical abilities or mysteries, just head up. All the glory and happiness of the world are all up there. The Tower is such a place”

But The Tower is not chosen,  The Tower chooses who enters its walls. For whatever reason, to enter The Tower means hard journey to the top. There is one, the 25th Bam also called Bam, who enters the tower on his own volition.  Not because he was seeking material want, but he was chasing his friend, Rachel, who entered the tower so she could see the stars. Bam encounters the First Floor Guardian of The Tower, Headon, who introduces Bam to the world he has forced entrance to. The Headon is the first to weed out those who are worthy to advance up The Tower. Each level of The Tower is a test to find the best of the best, who are worthy enough to reach the end. Bam, determined to find Rachel, decides to enter The Tower to find her, but once he enters The Tower, Bam realizes not everything is what it seems. The Tower contains many deep and dark secret that he will soon come to find.

The Tower of God plays on the idea where the weak will not survive and the strong determine the rules. This webtoon delved deeply into the reasons people act the way they do. What causes someone to choose betrayal over friendship and what is the meaning of a relationship between people are just two of the social question the webtoon asks.

Forewarning, there are a lot of characters. The one thing that the author does well is no character, once they are deemed important, is left without proper character development. As the entire story deals with the motives of people, SIU does an fantastic job of explaining how the character’s have come to be. The artwork is not particularly fantastic but I found his play with color interesting as color as it is involved with character development. Keep in mind, the social structure and how The Tower is quite complicated, so it may take a bit to understand The Tower. The development of The Tower, though, is integral to the story. Overall, story is fantastic despite its complexity.

This can be a very violent webtoon, so I recommend it for older audiences. Of course, this is only my opinion so why don’t you read it for yourself and decide.

The Tower of God is licensed by Line Webtoon and is free to read online.

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

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