Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons

Darwin's Blade: Simmons, Dan: 9780380973699: Amazon.com: Books

This book contains some mature sexual descriptions that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons is an action thriller about Dr. Darwin Minor, an accident investigator with a dark past. His life has been more or less normal for the past decade- but as a series of increasingly improbable accidents crop up around California, he finds that he may be in too deep.

This book is typical, incredibly cliche suspense thriller- complete with the FBI, the Russian Mafia, guns, copious violent (albeit creative) death, and cars. Still, I did enjoy it. Even though it didn’t really live up to the ‘thriller’ part, I thought it was overall a pretty good read- and a nice break from the typical material I have. Still, quite a few pet peeves of mine made an appearance in this book. There were several points where I almost put the book down for good- because I really didn’t want to read a four-page description of physics equations or Vietnam or the mechanics of guns and cars or what felt suspiciously like Philosophy 101. The depth of detail about these frankly mundane and unimportant plot devices was mildly interesting, but for the most part, extraordinarily irritating.

As such, I would only recommend this book to slightly more intellectual readers. Some of the plot does require significant brainpower to understand- more than I, as a casual reader, would have liked. Also- be ready to face a macho, almost-forced version of romance. Still, if you’re looking for a comforting-in-its-outlandishness type of crime novel, you really can’t go amiss with Darwin’s Blade. Just be prepared to skip a few pages.

-Vaidehi B.

Darwin’s Blade by Dan Simmons is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Seventeen-year-old Kamran Smith is living the life—he’s the star of his football team; dates a popular, beautiful girl; and—though his family originally comes from Iran—has always felt like a 100% accepted American.

And then Kamran’s older brother, Darius, is accused of being a terrorist. Kamran can’t bring himself to believe any of it, but hard evidence has been exposed to the public—films of Darius threatening his country and implying a looming fatal attack.

Suddenly, in the whole world’s eyes, Kamran is labeled as a terrorist as well. His closest, supposedly loyal friends abruptly turn on him. Kamran is determined to prove to the world that Darius is not a terrorist.

Racing against time, Kamran discovers a sequence of clues and codes that he must unscramble to guide him to the truth about Darius and the dangers that lie ahead. As he puts his life at risk in saving his brother and the world, he never ceases to believe that his brother is not a terrorist. No matter what evidence there is, he knows Darius is innocent. No matter how much the world thinks otherwise, he is convinced Darius would never betray his country

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz, the story of Kamran Smith; is a thrilling, action-packed read that brings to light themes of loyalty, doubt, prejudice, and perseverance. Though it is slightly unrealistic, it’s still an incredible novel. I would definitely recommend Code of Honor, especially to those interested in historical fiction, current events, or action novels.

-Lam T.

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Library Of Souls (miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children) (hardcover) By Ransom  Riggs : Target

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs is the third installment of the wildly popular fantasy series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

This review contains spoilers for the previous two books! I highly recommend you read them before reading this review. You can find a review for the first book here.

This book picks up where the previous one left off. Jacob, Emma, and Addison the peculiar dog travel across London in an attempt to find the kidnapped Misses Peregrine and Wren (and all their peculiar friends) and rescue them from Miss Peregrine’s evil wight brother, Caul. However, Caul has secret plans that no one could have expected- and as Jacob’s ragtag group travels through the dregs of peculiar society, the battle for the soul of peculiardom brews in the distance.

I really enjoyed this book! I actually prefer this book to the one previous to it, Hollow City– I enjoyed the overall plot and especially the ending of this book a lot more than the one previous. Author Riggs does a perfect job of blending humor with vivid descriptions, and the world of Miss Peregrine and Jacob really seemed to come to life in this book. I found myself at the edge of my seat, especially in the last quarter of the book. If you read the first two books and found yourself bored, don’t worry- this book picks up the pace again! You definitely won’t be disappointed. In fact, I would highly recommend this book and series to any reader!

-Vaidehi B.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson is a fantasy novel, filled with thrills, twists and lies. The story is narrated from the point of view of the main character, Sage. Sage is a fourteen year-old orphan and thief. One day he is caught stealing from a butcher but is saved by a nobleman named Bevin Conner. Sage is then kidnapped by Conner to be used in his devious plan. Sage is to undergo training with three other orphans. They are forced to impersonate the long lost son of the late king; Prince Jaron. If they don’t, they will definitely be killed.

At first I saw the book as somewhat predictable, but as I continued reading, I found other twists and surprises in the story that you wouldn’t have been able to find out unless you read the whole book. I appreciated the main character; Sage. He was lighthearted, witty, clever, but sometimes rude and cheeky. He was sly but could be honest at times. I really enjoyed reading from his perspective and it really fit with the storytelling. I also enjoyed Mott. Mott was one of Conner’s assistants. He was loyal and kind, but had a tough exterior. He was smart and helpful. Many of the characters made impacts on the story, and they all had interesting personalities. The personalities of characters changed the story in different ways and I liked that they all had a sort of impact. At certain points in the story, I thought some things in the story were a bit far fetched and unrealistic but still enjoyable nonetheless.

The False Prince is a young adult and middle grade book with relatively short chapters and is a quick read. My expectations when beginning this book were low but as I continued reading, I really enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. I didn’t expect that I would want to finish the book when I had started reading, but I ended up finishing the book the same day I started it. The story captivated me and I couldn’t put it down.  After reading the book I looked into the series and found the Ascendance Trilogy. The False Prince is the first in the Ascendance Trilogy and I can’t wait to start reading the second book, The Runaway King.

-Nicole R.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Neighbors by Carol Smith

The Neighbors is a murder-mystery novel by Carol Smith, filled with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

The book centers around Kate Ashenberry, a (very depressed) young woman on the run from an abusive relationship. After enduring months of domestic violence from her now ex-husband, she fled New York City and ended up in an imposing Victorian apartment building in the heart of London. Surrounded by eccentric neighbors, such as the warm and welcoming Barclay-Davenport couple, beautiful Eleni Papadopoulos, mean-spirited widow Adelaide Potter, and heartthrob Gregory Hansen, she slowly begins to find her voice again. However, a mysterious murderer has been terrorizing the residents of the building. Neighbor after neighbor meets their end under increasingly strange circumstances. Now, Kate may be the only one left who can figure out what’s going on… and save her newfound family.

I really enjoyed this book! It was very well-written, and the protagonist, Kate, was very likeable- I found myself rooting for her to win! The ending was incredible- a super-surprise twist that left my mind reeling. I would completely recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery writers like Agatha Christie!

Warning: this book contains occasional mature sexual content that may not be suitable for all audiences.

-Vaidehi B.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows is a YA fantasy novel written by New York Times bestselling author, Leigh Bardugo. The story follows six criminals that come together to take on a nearly impossible heist. This novel takes place two years after the events in the Grisha trilogy. 

The book begins in the fictional city of Ketterdam, the capital of Kerch, where Hoede (a member of the Kerch Merchant Council) tests a drug called jurda parem on a Grisha healer. The drug dangerously amplifies the Grisha’s power and results in them also having the ability to manipulate minds. When a wealthy merchant and member of the Kerch Merchant Council, Jan Van Eck, discovers Hoede’s experiment he hires Kaz Brekker, gang leader of the Dregs, to rescue the inventor of the drug, Bo Yul-Bayur, from the Ice Court to prevent the drug’s existence from being exposed. Since the Ice Court is an impenetrable prison in the fictional country of Fjerda, Kaz recruits a crew to successfully accomplish this heist. He eventually recruits Nina Zenik (a Grisha Heartrender), Jesper Fahey (a sharpshooter), Wylan Van eck (Jan Van Eck’s runaway son), Inej Ghafa (a Dreg member and his right-hand spy), and Matthias Helvar (a Grisha-hunter). From this point onward, the crew has one mission: to rescue Bo Yui-Bayur and for all to successfully return home. Breaking into the Ice Court is already a challenge, but it becomes even more difficult when new information is revealed through the heist. 

I honestly wasn’t a big fan of the Grisha trilogy––the prequel series to Six of Crows––however, I really enjoyed this book from the moment I picked it up. More than anything, I liked the character development the most. The book is written in third-person with the point of view switching between the main characters with each chapter. The writing style allows the author to reveal what led them to do what they are doing now––breaking in an impenetrable prison––and how they became who they are now. I truly believe that each character has a beautifully written story. 

I highly recommend this book to readers who love and enjoy an action-packed, fast-paced, and a character and plot driven story. 

**The Grisha are the magical elite in the fictional country of Ravka.

-Dulce M.

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

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

The novel The Cousins is written by Karen M. McManus, whose prior works are One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep A Secret, to name a few.

It begins with the introductions of our main characters, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story, the grandchildren of the infamous Abraham and Mildred Story- despite the fact that they’ve never met them before, after their parents were disinherited. However, when they receive an invitation to work at her island resort over the summer, refusing is unfathomable, a chance to get back into her good graces. But when they arrive at the island, as stranger and stranger things happen, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah realize that all is not what it seems. The Story family has a dark past, and the cousins will need to uncover them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I expected, since I enjoyed McManus’ previous books. From the eerie mantra repeated throughout this novel, “Family first, always,” to the questions and plot twists, The Cousins continues to keep you wondering until the final reveal.

Kelsie W.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Authors We Love: Elisabetta Dami

Although the most acknowledgeable authors tend to be writers of adult novels or even young adult books, it doesn’t mean that children’s book authors should get any less credit. At around age seven or eight, I remember my mom and I would visit the Mission Viejo Library practically every week. I would always go to the children’s section and look for another book to read—specifically any book from the Geronimo Stilton series. Only now in my high school years would I finally reminisce on my past and realize who was behind all of the stories that established my love for reading.

An award-winning author with her worldwide Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton books, Elisabetta Dami was born in Milano, Italy. Her father was a writer himself before she was born, so by the age of 13, Dami was already working for him as a book editor. At 19 years old, she began writing stories of her own but only began publishing them later in her life. In her 20s, she went through a series of adventures by earning her pilot license, traveling all around the world, running marathons, and even immersing herself in indigenous cultures.

With a passion for seeing the world, volunteering for sick children, studying different cultures around her, and creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Dami incorporated her love for adventure into stories for children. This was essentially the birth of the Geronimo Stilton series. The first book was titled, Geronimo Stilton: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye (2000), starring a shy mouse who owns a newspaper company, yet falls into the most dangerous situations and uses academic knowledge to find his way out.

As the popularity of the series grew, Dami continued writing more books that branched out to create a world of her own. Some of her best books include The Kingdom of Fantasy (2003), Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House (2000), and The Phantom of the Subway (2000). The author has written over 100 children’s books, published them in 49 different languages, and has sold 180 million copies globally. She continues writing at the age of 63 and helps kids all around the world develop a profound love for reading.

I used to be a huge fan of Elisabetta’s novels; as I look back on my childhood, I’m able to see how much of an impact her books had in my life. Although it’s relaxing to sit down with a nice book, I admit that my passion for reading has somewhat diminished. Perhaps it was easier to entertain children through the art of storytelling than in our modern age, or maybe it’s simply because I haven’t picked up an enticing book in a while. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to appreciate—and thank—the authors who hold a centerpiece of our childhood.

– Natisha P.

Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy is the third book in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo.  This is my favorite book in the series so far.  These books are about a boy named Charlie Bone, who has a special magical power.  Charlie attends a school called Bloor’s Academy, where other students possess magical powers as well.  In this book, a new semester of school is beginning.  Charlie and his friends discover that a boy named Ollie Sparks has been secretly imprisoned at the school for a while.  Ollie is an “invisible boy,” because he was the victim of a magical snake that can turn its victims invisible.  Charlie and his friends try to save Ollie from his sad and lonely imprisonment.

In addition to Charlie Bone, two of my favorite characters in this book are Lysander Sage and Tancred Torsson.  Lysander is possibly the most powerful character in the book, but he is also very friendly.  Tancred also possesses very powerful abilities, and he is very helpful to Charlie throughout the book.  Charlie has other friends with special powers, and it is interesting to read about their different magical abilities.

My favorite part of the story is when Charlie and his friends help Charlie’s uncle after he was severely injured.  Charlie’s uncle, named Paton Yewbeam, had been away on a long and perilous journey.  He returns with many serious burns, and Charlie learns that he must find a special plant to cure his uncle.  The only place to find the plant is in the garden of one of Charlie’s evil aunts, so Charlie and his friends must risk their own lives to save Uncle Paton.

I enjoyed this book because Charlie and his friends take many risks to help others.  The story is very exciting, and Charlie’s life is in danger many times.  I like reading about the friendship between Charlie and his classmates, as they have many adventures together trying to save their friends and family.  I would recommend this book and the other books in the series to everyone.

-Simon H.

Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy by Jenny Nimmo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Five years ago in the town of Fairview, Andie Bell, a popular senior, was killed by Sal Singh. Supposedly. Of course, Sal never admitted it, due to the fact that he had committed suicide a few days later. In A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, Pip Fitz-Amobi is assigned a capstone final project, and she chooses to examine this supposedly closed case. At first, Pip’s goal is solely to find more information, but as she continues to learn more about what really happened five years ago, she begins to believe that Sal might actually be innocent- with facts to back it up, instead of just hopeful thinking. However, a certain someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip to find out any more, and will stop at nothing for her to stay quiet.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder has quickly shot up my list of my favorite books, and I highly recommend it to any enjoyers of murder mysteries. It’s nail-biting, exciting, and keeps you on your toes. And of course, if you have already read A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, I also recommend its sequel, Good Girl, Bad Blood, which has the same characters, but a new gripping mystery.

-Kelsie W.

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