Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel was one I was assigned as a summer reading assignment which, undoubtedly deterred my interests from the story. It took a lot of psyching myself up to finally delve into the world Marquez had exquisitely painted. But immediately the book was extremely intriguing. The first line of the novel was an eye-catcher stating “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”

This novel, in the beginning, was confusing. The book was not written in chronological order as suggested but instead jumped around in time. This constant shift through time made it hard to understand a cohesive story during the early stages of reading. However, after a few chapters, the story came together. So as a suggestion, do not let this initial confusion deter you from reading this book.

By the end of the novel, this jumping through time helps create a more intriguing story, creating suspense because the author can choose specific information through different times to give to the reader.

This story is also accurate to the customs of the place in which the story was written. So, it gives an almost realistic feel to a seemingly horrific action. It also allows readers to have some insight into the practices of a different era and different location. This story, stating that the main character was to be killed, then follows the actions which allowed the main character to suffer such a horrific fate. This story ended up being one I extremely enjoyed. I finished the book in a day because I just could not put it down. So, sometimes these books that we are forced to read because of school can actually be enjoyable. It gave me something to do over the summer which was fun.

This book is a nice short read for anyone who is interested in a mystery book. I would suggest it to anybody looking to read something different than the popular books that are being written today. For, this book brings a totally different perspective to the way books can be written.

-Ava G.

Chronicle of Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

When by Victoria Laurie

Everyone knows that they will one day die, and yet we live our lives trying our best to ignore it, as death is a dark subject for most. However, the main character Maddie in the book When by Victoria Laurie, has no choice but to see death everywhere she goes. The death date of every person she sees is imprinted upon their forehead.  Living alone with her mother, money is tight, and so her mother arranged for her to earn money by telling clients who come to their home their death date.

One day a client comes in and Maddie informs her that her son’s death date is next week. Shocked and confused( as the woman had initially come in regarding the death date of her daughter who had leukemia) she leaves angrily. Of course, the woman’s son ends up dead upon the very date that Maddie predicted. After this, the FBI begins to suspect Maddie as well as her best friend Stubby for murdering the child. The book is a thrilling mystery that I enjoyed immensely, and it is the kind of book that kept me up late reading, anticipating what would happen next. 

Buried beneath the fast-paced storyline, however, is the question to the reader of what you would do if you knew the day you would die. It was something fascinating to ponder as I read, and even one of the characters in the book whom Maddie had told his death date to had turned his life around due to that. He wanted to make sure his family was supported financially and knew they were loved, as well as enjoy the last years of his life. And the meaning I found within the book as well was that death is not something to try to run away from, but rather something to remember every once in a while, to put everything into perspective and allow you to live life beautifully.

~Aisha E.

When by Victoria Laurie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Finale by Stephanie Garber

Caution: this review may contain spoilers from books one and two, Caraval and Legendary

The Fates have been released from the Deck of Destiny. Legend has claimed himself Elantine’s heir, and his coronation as emperor of Valenda is soon to occur. Scarlett and Tella’s mother has not opened her eyes since her imprisonment in a card. Legendary, the sequel to Stephanie Garber’s Caraval, has dressed the place behind the curtains for a final act: the finale.

While the first two books in the trilogy are told by single narrators (Caraval told by Scarlett and Legendary told by Tella), the two sisters take turns narrating in Finale. I thought the combination of Scarlett and Tella’s narration provided a wonderful balance to the story, for each sister has a unique personality and an individual mindset. The idea of the two points of view working together to build this final story also compliments the theme of sisterly love, which is present throughout the trilogy.

Finale focuses largely on the power of love when directed at someone and when used against beings who live off of fear. This story exemplifies how love–whether given gently like Scarlett or ferociously like Tella–may be the strongest force against enmity.

In Finale, Stephanie Garber expands upon certain objects and curiosities that previously appeared in the other two books. I was interested to learn more about Scarlett and Tella’s mother’s past, why Scarlett sees feelings in color, and how Scarlett’s magical dress originated.

I was a bit disappointed that Caraval is not played in this final book, but by no means did the story lack the magic and elaborate colors found in Legend’s game. Understandably, with the Fates running free in Valenda, the characters can no longer simply play a game (not that Caraval was really just a game).

Though Finale is filled with visited dreams, different kinds of magic, and unusual places, I still think my favorite book in the series is Caraval (though I usually tend to favor the first book). It could just be the initial magic of Caraval and Legend that makes the first book so compelling or the mystery of who is an actor and who is not. However, I’m glad I read Finale, as it expanded upon many elements of the magic and characters while also leaving some untied strings to the story.

– Mia T.

Finale by Stephanie Garber is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Though often overshadowed by its fellow stories, such as Goldfinger and Dr. No, Ian Fleming’s first novel, the action-packed adventure novel Casino Royale, is an incredible escapade not to be missed for the world.

As a double-o agent, 007 James Bond is licensed to kill, and has taken advantage of it on multiple occasions. However, his new assignment at a French casino may be his greatest challenge yet. Tasked with bankrupting one of the richest European paymasters on the planet (and one working for the rival spy organization SMERSH to boot), Bond must enamour lady luck long enough to win eighty million francs at the baccarat table – a pure game of chance.

And yet, good fortune is far from the only romance Bond has on his mind. Attracted to his beautiful companion, Vesper Lynd, Bond must balance his love for her with the importance of his mission, but when misfortune befalls Vesper, the carefully-built castle of cards may come crashing down.

Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale is a classic novella that combines love, luck, and logic in a twisting and turning plot with a startling conclusion that is practically impossible to see coming. Pages turning, plot thickening, no reader will be able to put down this exciting book about one man who has to risk everything he has to save it.

-Mahak M.

Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Variant by Robinson Wells

Variant, written by Robinson Wells, is a well-written mystery/ thriller novel. The book follows Benson Fisher, a foster child who grew up in Pittsburgh. In the story, Benson applies to a private school and gets in! But this is not a regular school. Even though this school is very nice, has good food, and nice people, it also has no teachers or gangs, and the school is completely isolated from any outside world interactions.

When I first started reading this book, I immediately thought it was really good. Wells introduces you to the characters, the school, and the story easily and naturally. I also loved all of the twists and turns in this book; they definitely add to the storyline.

Benson begins to get used to life at the school. He has new friends, eats great food, and even begins to like a girl, Jane. But, just as life is beginning to become comfortable, it goes downhill. One night, Benson and Jane decide to go out for a walk. During the walk, the two get attacked from behind and Benson is knocked out. When Benson wakes up, he finds Jane’s beaten body. Worse yet, she turns out to not even be human but an android!

When I first figured this out, I was so shocked! I did not expect this twist at all and when it came, it blew me away! Because of all the twists, I never knew what was coming or what to trust. This was a major factor in why I liked this book so much.

After this major twist, Benson cannot stand his school and tries to recruit people to escape. The small group of rebels all tries to escape but only Benson and his friend Becky succeed. The book ends with an injured Benson and Becky left alone in the forest.

I enjoyed this book so much and really look forward to reading the sequel. My favorite character is Benson because he is always loyal and never gives up. Thrilling and exciting, Variant is a great novel for eighth graders and above.

-Daniel C.

Variant by Robinson Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Extrodinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

The book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict was inundated with adventure from beginning to end. The book had you on your seat’s edge throughout the entire story. This book was witty with great banter between the characters. There is the classic character, of a main bully, with his two friends who make the children’s life miserable. If, you are interested in fairy tales and a more whimsical story, this book is probably not the correct book for you. The story is about an orphan named Nicholas Benedict, who is a very bright boy known for being smarter than most adults. He is going to a new orphanage where he learns  that there is a mystery treasure to be found. He sets out on a hunt to find it, along the way he finds new friends. Unfortunately there are also obstacles to the treasure hunt adventure, his condition of narcolepsy, which has him falling asleep at odd times. The other obstacle is the fact that the head of the orphanage is also trying to find the treasure. It turns into a race to see who can find the treasure first. This book is for people who love to solve mysteries and enjoy the unlikely heroes, or the underdogs rising out on top. “The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict” is a wonderful read and I would say you are never to old to read it and enjoy what it has to offer.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

In my opinion, Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna was one of my favorite reads this summer. I’ve been pretty content to say that my summer reading list has been comprised of some pretty awesome (for a lack of a better word) books, but this combination of a mystery and thriller book blew me away.

When you first realize the plot, it’s not the most exciting one in the world (not that it stays that way). Not one like Harry Potter, where you find out about Hogwarts, and the next second, everyone’s flying on broomsticks, and you really envied all those magical children out there that were casting spells and you were sitting at home reading about them. No, Two Girls Down is a whole other story.

The story is centered around two sisters, Kylie and Bailey Brandt, and their mother, Jamie Brandt. The story started off at an intriguing pace, leaving me turning the pages hastily to keep up. I was hooked from the very beginning. I loved how the author developed her characters right off the bat, letting everyone know the sister’s similarities and yet quite noticeable differences, too. This would become essential later in the story.

Things are pretty average at the beginning of the story. The two girls’ mother, Jamie, is leading a not-so-perfect-with-a-cherry-on-top life, but she manages. Their father left them a long time ago, claiming not to have the time or energy to raise two young girls. But one day, Jamie’s world shatters and tumbles into a whirlwind of chaos as her beloved daughters, Kylie and Bailey, vanish underneath her very eyes.

The girls are last seen in the parking lot of a mall, where Jamie left them to go shopping for a gift for Kylie’s friend’s birthday. When she gets back, no traces of them remain, and she begins to become frantic.

But here, in shining armor, rise the heroines of the thriller. A very, very unlikely pair. A retired officer named Max Caplan, and a former bounty hunter, Alice Vega, brought together by strange events that could only be the doing of fate, put aside their differences and share their knowledge with each other on a wild chase from town to town, desperate to find the missing girls.

Alice Vega proved to be someone who worked in a solitary way, not needing accomplices or friends, but a tough, hardened woman who could fight life’s problems on her own. But she realizes that she could have never fight alone again after meeting Max Caplan, who proves to be a kind, more logical figure in the mystery. It was one of the weirdest crime fighting pairs I’d ever read about, but once I started, they quickly rose to one of my favorites. They balanced each other out so well, and I really enjoyed the way the author chose to incorporate that.

To read the novel was like being a detective on your own part. I felt fully immersed while reading, feeling the pair’s frustration, their anger and pain, their sorrow throughout the journey (all while I sat motionless on my couch and my eyes burned holes into the pages). My heart pounded when fight scenes emerged, and later, sighing in disappointment as different leads fell away.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who’s wanted to read a mystery thriller, because I think it’s truly exceptional. I would have never guessed the ending, since the author gave nothing away. The leads and evidence tied together so perfectly in such an intricate fashion that I was never tempted to put the book down, even after I read it twice. I promise, you won’t be disappointed by this read!

-Katherine L.

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.