The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is narrated by Richard Papen, a new student attending a school called Hampden College in Vermont. Upon arriving, he is given the opportunity to take an ancient Greek class, in which he meets five Classics students: Charles, Camilla, Henry, Richard, and Bunny, who he grows close with within the first few months of the year. However, from the very first line in the prologue, Tartt spoils the fact that Bunny is eventually murdered, leading the novel to center around this event and how it was dealt with by the rest of the group.

Throughout the course of the story, Tartt alludes to several themes concerning the dangers of appearance and the romanticization of the elite class. For example, Richard is initially attracted to the group due to their wealthy, or as he describes, “magnificent,” appearances. He even fabricates aspects of his past in order to better fit in. However, as the group’s secrets, out-of-touch personalities, and extreme flaws slowly begin to unfold, it shows how their beauty never went beyond surface-level. No matter how rich they were, they were unable to cover up the guilt they felt from the damage they’ve caused.

What I found most intriguing and unique about this plot compared to others is that although Richard provides a well-paced, extremely detailed description of the course of events before and after Bunny’s death, he constantly alludes to the fact that he is a great liar, causing readers to question how valid his perspective truly is. Especially since he isn’t as involved in the group’s plans as others, the audience is left feeling as if they need to know more, and that there are gaps in the narration that can be filled by another character’s point of view. Therefore, I found myself continuing to contemplate the story days after I had finished it, making the novel an extremely memorable read that I see myself recommending to almost everyone.

-Aysha H.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Crave Series: Book Review

This series is the first fantasy series that I read after I was able to finish my classical reading that was required for high school. I simply just wanted a quick and easy-to-read fantasy book to get back into reading the genre, and I was so glad I picked this series.

Simply put, the series revolves around a paranormal romance between two main characters, Grace and Jaxon which eventually leads them on a mission to save the world pretty much. Yes, it is one of those books that are pretty vanilla, but is still entertaining if you’re look for something to get your hands on really quick.

The first book starts with Grace starting a boarding school at Katmere Academy after her parents died in a car accident about six months ago. Her Uncle Finn is the principal of the school and Macy, her cousin, also attends there as well. Not even after a day at Katmere, strange accidents keep occurring and they are all targeted at her! However, as Jaxon, a boy with a mysterious and aloof aura around him keeps saving her, a romance suddenly sparks.

Later on in the series, she finds out what she truly is and why she is being targeted by all the paranormal creatures. There are also pretty major plot twists that you wouldn’t think are coming and honestly I was even surprised by some of them considering the amount of fantasy books I read!

Honestly, what I liked most about the book is the modernness of it all. It really relates to me because they include many of the famous TV shows, singers, actors that made it quite interesting. Grace is also a funny but brave character and makes many jokes along the way that are pretty amusing. I finished the first book in about two days and the second one in about three. I haven’t finished the third one yet, but there is looking to be a big plot twist up ahead so we’ll see!

This series probably should be for ages 14 and above since there are uses of cuss language and some minimal violence here and there.

– Aleena C.

Crave by Tracy Wolff is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book Review: The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient is a psychological thriller book written by Alex Michaelides. The story focuses on Alicia Berenson, who is said to be a murderer as she shot her husband in the face six years ago and hasn’t spoken a word since then. The murder, together with Alicia’s refusal to speak up regarding her husband’s death has caught the attention of the public and sparked the curiosity of a psychotherapist named Theo Faber. Ever since Theo had the chance to work with Alicia while she was in a psychiatric unit, he has been determined to discover the truth behind Alicia’s mystery.

I discovered The Silent Patient due to its rising popularity among readers. Despite not being a fan of thriller books, I was encouraged to grab the book and borrow it from the Mission Viejo Library because of the hype, and I could say that I do not regret choosing to do so. While reading the first few chapters of the book, there are certain parts where I felt like it was uninteresting. Although since Theo, the psychotherapist, continues to dig deeper into Alicia’s mystery, it kept me intrigued until the end of the book. There are various reveals presented throughout the story, making me wonder more why Alicia decided to carry out such actions. In the end, it did not disappoint me. The final twist was a shocker and I felt completely fooled as I absolutely did not see it coming. 

I highly recommend reading The Silent Patient to all the readers out there, especially those who are a lover of thriller stories. Also, even if you are not a fan of thriller books like me, it is still worth the try of reading it!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is an exhilarating mystery novel revolving around the story of ten strangers, each invited to an island by a mysterious host. Their arrival was followed by a series of inexplicable murders, causing the guests to work together to catch the unknown culprit. The novel is based off a famous poem by Frank Green titled “Ten Little Indian Boys.”

Overall, I find this book to be a fairly quick read that keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end. The setting, as well as Christie’s fast-paced storytelling and mysterious tone adds an air of suspense that leaves readers feeling anxious, yet eager to find out who the murderer really is. Furthermore, the way the author flawlessly transitions between different perspectives and gives detailed descriptions of each character’s inner thoughts leaves readers relating to, and understanding the guests at a higher level. All this combines for a fully immersive experience into the world of mystery.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good mystery read. Agatha Christie is considered one of the best selling authors of all time, and I believe everyone should encounter her phenomenal writing at least once. However, I would be aware of the violence and overall gory imagery used, which many readers could be sensitive to.

-Aysha H.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Jane Anonymous: A Novel by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I have to say after reading this book I felt sad yet relieved. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I truly loved every bit of detail and description that was carefully poured into each and every chapter. It felt as if I was a part of the story myself. The feeling of betrayal of being unheard of by many others. Those who you thought you could trust. Imagine you’re being secretly watched for years and had no clue. That whatever evil has been following you creeps up behind you without any realization. Until it’s too late. It has you.

In this book we follow a teenage girl who’s wrapping up high-school with a job at her local jewelry store. She works from early morning to night. The jewelry store she works at is located near a dark forest with the surveillance cameras out of service. One night as Jane is closing the store getting ready to leave a man appears at the door. Begging for a minute. He claimed that all he needed was to buy a ring for his wife’s anniversary. Jane felt bad and unlocked the door. Little did she know this would be her biggest regret.

The man is dressed nicely. Hair styled back. His appearance charming enough to fool those around him. Just as the man chose a ring for his “wife” Jane offers him a small bag to put it in. She turns her back. The man jumps over the counter grabbing and pulling onto Jane. He forces a bag over head and drags her out of the shop effortlessly. He then shoves her into his trunk. Jane is screaming hysterically. No one can hear her. She dropped her phone in the store. The man tied the sack tight enough for her screams to be muffled. The trunk door locks. The engine is engaged. and the car zooms off into the distance. Into a land of insanity.

Jane’s phone is blowing up. Her mother and father are worried. Her best friend is calling her now worried. They were supposed to meet later. Jane never showed up. The shop is empty and everyone knows something is off. With anxiety overflowing the parents they inform the cops. A search is sent out only to find no trace of Jane.

Throughout the 6-7 months with her kidnapper Jane seems to believe she isn’t the first. She thinks she isn’t alone. But even at desperate times your thoughts may trick you. Will Jane make it out alive in one piece? Or does she seem to grow towards her kidnapper? Does she remember who she is after all this time? I have to say the ending will have you rethinking everything. You must be aware after reading you should always check your back. You never know when it’ll be your time.

-Hannah W.

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Craftfully weaving suspense, fast-paced dialogue, and humor into this classic yet unique whodunnit murder mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole novel.

First published in 1926, Christie admitted that this was one of her favorite novels that she’s ever written, and its popularity quickly helped establish her title of The Queen of Mystery. Per usual with Agatha Christie’s books, I loved how the characters were all developed perfectly, their personalities growing almost life-like as the story and mystery went on. The first-person narrative and detailed descriptions ground you in the story, and the plot twists will have you reading until the very end.

Hercule Poirot, Christie’s famous detective, adds a level of wit and cleverness to this book like no other, challenging the reader to try and figure out exactly how his mind works, and solve the mystery along with Poirot.

This has definitely been my favorite Agatha Christie book I’ve read thus far due to the revolutionary breakthroughs it brought into the mystery genre, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.”

-Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  by Agatha Christie is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Silent Patient Review

Author: Alex Michaelides 

Pages: 325

Genre: Thriller, mystery

The Silent Patient begins with a glimpse at Alicia Berenson’s picturesque life through her diary. This famous painter is married to a renowned photographer and lived the perfect life in a nice house in London. However, Alicia’s perfect life does not stop her from shooting her husband five times in the face when he returns from work. After this crime, she never speaks a word again. Five years later, psychotherapist Theo Faber finds a job opportunity at the psychiatric ward Alicia is being held and takes the job in order to examine Alicia with whom he has been entranced since her story stormed the press. Theo is determined to discover the events of that night as well as Alicia’s motive to brutally kill her husband. We get to follow him as he investigates personal aspects of Alicia’s life like her friends and family. However, each character introduces new information that makes her motive appear ever more convoluted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While it was a bit of a slow start as we hear about Theo’s life and mundane daily activities, the end is worth the wait. As the story continued, I too found myself anticipating the reasoning behind Alicia’s actions and definitely was not disappointed. There were a lot of hidden details throughout the book that made the resolution much more intense and mind-blowing. I would recommend this book to all readers, for while I do not particularly read many thriller novels, this one was very good.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

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


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.