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 Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon

I read this book a while ago because my mother gave it to me as a gift. Of course I was going to read it. When I first read it, I thought whatever about it until I re-read it. I mean the girl wakes up from coma at age 17 after her house was attacked and her mother was killed. She was in a coma for 4 years! The crazy thing is that she was the only person that saw the person who killed her mother.

Stacy is now trying to recover memories with the help of new face Jeff. So many twists, lies, and secrets to discover with the mental age of 13, in a 17 year old body. Who can she trust? Who can she not trust? Who should she listen to and so forth?

This was a fun thriller that I took my time with because I could. If you are looking for a suspenseful, thrilling, and eerie book this is definitely the read for you! I highly recommend this book even though it was written quite a while ago.

-Coralie D.

The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon is available to download for free from Libby.

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.

Authors We Love: Junji Itō

American horror typically depicts a psycho lurking around in a motel, zombies brought back from the dead, or clowns eating frightened children. Junji Itō has shaped the way viewers define horror forever, bringing stories to life by drawings made from ink and paper. Unlike American horror, he illustrates supernatural events such as mysterious spirals, blood-sucking vampire bats, and much more.

Born on July 31st, 1963 in Nakatsugawa, Gifu, Japan, Junji Itō developed his love for horror at a young age. His older sisters would read him Kazuo Umezu and Shinichi Koga–famous horror manga authors during the 1960s–in Japanese magazines. Other authors such as Hideshi Hino, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Shinichi Koga, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edogawa Ranpo became major influences to his work as well.

Junji Itō’s career as a manga author began around the 1980s, when he won the Kazuo Umezu Prize after entering a short tale to Gekkan Halloween. The submission later turned into a Japanese horror manga series titled Tomie. Afterwards, he quit his previous job and pursued his hobby of writing and drawing as a full career.

Junji Itō’s works were popular in Japan, yet they only gained popularity in the United States late into his career. In 2019, Itō won an Eisner Award for his manga reinterpretation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Known as the Academy Awards of the comic industry, Itō became one of few foreigners to receive an Eisner Award. This year, he was once again nominated for an Eisner Award under the category of “The Best Writer/Artist” for his horror comic Jigokusei Remina.

Most of Junji Itō’s creations portray a dark, impulsive universe filled with the worst traits in any human, specifically greed, jealousy, and irrationality. There are recurring themes of grotesque horror, inevitable consequences of one’s own actions, seemingly ordinary characters that gradually submit to compulsion, and settings that break down and collapse into a state which reflects our own society. As a result, all of his mangas portray the beauty and underlying horror in every story. Itō’s most popular manga is arguably Uzumaki, a three-volume novel that depicts the journey of a teenager, Kirie Goshima, who witnesses an ordinary town fall under a curse of spirals. Another famous novel is Smashed, consisting of multiple short stories such as addictive honey that flattens those who drink it, a valley of mirrors, and “earthbound” people. These novels may be the most well-known, but Itō has a variety of underrated books, series, and movies to choose from.

As a lover of horror, I’ve grown to admire Junji Itō’s novels for their distinctive illustrations and plots. They truly allow readers to feel more than just fear. The ties between Itō’s fictional and nonfictional factors truly brings out different emotions because it reflects our own world.

Junji Itō is still alive at the age of 57. Although he may not be publishing any novels in the near future, his history of twisted tales that connect our deepest unknown fears to real life truly proves he’s the master of horror.

-Natasha P.

The works of Junji Ito are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Manga Review: Erased by Kei Sanbe

Many of the popular manga we see nowadays center around action and fantasy. Such famous mangas still have amazing reads and obviously attract readers around the globe for a reason, but they fall short of meaning or depth in their plots. Yes, there’s a lengthy plot, lovable characters, and other factors that appeal to minds of all ages. But do these mangas also talk about the reality of our world? Do they bring heart-throbbing events where the main character can’t gain hope from a 30-minute monologue? I admit, Erased may not be the best book to those looking for a light-hearted novel, but it’s definitely worth reading and allows readers to see both the beauty and cruelty of our real world.

Erased is also referred to as Boku dake ga Inai Machi (僕だけがいない街), which is directly translated as “The Town Where Only I Am Missing.” Written by Kei Sanbe, the series is filled with thriller, mystery, and a bit of science fiction. The story entails of a young man named Satoru. He enables the ability to time-travel before a life-threatening event and prevent it from happening, also known as “Revival.” One night, his mother is murdered by an unknown killer; the pain-staking event sends Satoru eighteen years back into his childhood. After discovering that the murderer is tied to his past, Satoru is now given the opportunity to prevent his mother’s death by discovering who the murderer is, as well as solve the case of three missing children in his home town.

To be honest, there are moments where the plot doesn’t make sense—especially since the author never mentions why Satoru is able to time-travel. Regardless, the plot of the book series remains absolutely phenomenal; the author quickens the plot’s pace when necessary and fills it with extreme twists and events that leaves the audience filled with emotions. The characters themselves are either loved or despised, and every character reaches their fullest potential, regardless of being a hero or villain.

But I digress—what is most enjoyable about this book is its uniqueness and how meaningful the story is. Time-travel itself is quite a cheesy plot factor, but the connection between reality and fantasy is what makes the series interesting. Overall, the plot remains realistic; characters often make mistakes and feel lost, some moments seem hopeless, and a glimpse of light that every reader looks for rarely shines. Sanbe weaves the cruel reality of our world into the plot with regards to child abuse and kidnapping. Yet he still gives signs of faith and hope through time-traveling and fiction, giving Satoru another chance at making things right, and a bittersweet ending. Such factors are simply not found in any typical manga.

Overall, the Erased series is truly underrated. Although it does fit those who prefer the gory over glory, Erased does what any manga rarely does—give hope and faith to the hopelessness of our real world.

– Natisha P.

Erased by Kei Sanbe is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Cracked Up to Be is yet another example of a book this year that fails to disappoint me. After reading Sadie by the same author, once Cracked Up to Be was re-released in a new edition, I jumped on the chance to read it. (Pro tip: you can find the novel on the Barnes and Noble buy one get one 50% off tables!)

Cracked Up to Be tells the story of a once-perfect high school girl Parker Fadley, who has fallen from grace after witnessing a traumatic event, which you learn more about as you continue on throughout the novel. 

Courtney Summers has a way of fully immersing you in her stories, and making you keep your eyes glued to the pages, wondering what will happen next. There is always something revealed or teased during the end of chapters that make you become completely addicted to the book. The fact that the novel is 214 pages long certainly doesn’t help as well, with short and straight to the point chapters that led me to complete the book in three hours filled with  

The story revolves around the characters more than the plot and was something I in fact, really appreciated. Don’t get too excited by the mystery though, because to be quite frank, it was slightly underwhelming as well as the ending. But I am willing to overlook that for the sole point of my love to hate relationship with Parker Fadley.

There is something so captivating about unlikeable characters that completely captivates you. I very strongly disliked the main character Parker, but at the same time I was obsessed to learn what her deal was, and I believe that was exactly the purpose of her character. Needless to say, I frequently caught myself laughing at the crass jokes she makes, but feel a sense of dislike for the snide remarks she makes afterwards. 

This novel isn’t suited to everyone’s tastes, and a better representation of Courtney Summer’s work in my opinion is Sadie (I have also published a review on this book!), but Cracked Up to Be was an undeniable great read for me that I encourage you all to read!

Trigger Warning: the following topics are discussed and portrayed throughout the book such as rape, suicide, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

-Asli B.

Game Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (spoiler-free)

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a popular game, primarily revolving around a “killing game” based on trials. It is the first main game of three, originally released in 2014. The goal is to solve the mystery of each trial and to find the killer. The game contains a wide cast of characters, including 16 students and one bear. Overall, Danganronpa is a very interactive game with a unique trial system that makes the user feel engaged while also learning about the large cast. 

One great part of the game is the art style and game design itself. The environment you are in is not only visually intriguing, but contains a wide variety of different areas. Each area is well designed and pleasant to look at. The art style also matches very well with the actual gameplay mechanics and design as the user interface contrasts the background. The art is also very unique compared to other games as the game is effectively a visual novel, making it a fresh experience. The characters in the game are also quite compelling. Every single character is a master of their craft and provides their own unique experiences. Their personalities and the way they interact with each other always brightens up the game. The characters and their designs were by far my favorite part of the game. Each invoked a certain emotion in you regardless of whether or not you liked them, making the game more enjoyable and entertaining as a whole.

In general, I would rate this game a 10/10. The game is absolutely worth the price point and the interactive visual novel is both entertaining and well written. The game may start somewhat slow but the gameplay itself and world overall make up for it. 

-Benjamin L.

Film Review: The Shining

The Shining is a horror movie about a man named Jack Torrance and his wife and son. Jack and his family stay at an isolated, massive hotel called the Overlook Hotel. Jack plans to spend his time at the hotel writing, attempting to cure his writer’s block. The Shining is based on a book written by Stephen King. The story slowly evolves as Stephen King’s character becomes an abusive and manipulative man towards his family. The audience realizes that Jack is mentally ill and his family is not safe with him staying at the hotel. Originally, it is perceived by the audience that Jack had been at the hotel before and he was not mentally ill. Jack’s son played an extremely important role in this movie because he was connected to the hotel through a concept called “shining.” He becomes apart of an alternate universe and communicates with a voice inside of his head. Originally, it was inferred that the son was the one that was mentally ill; however, the voice inside of his head was really trying to protect him and his mom from his father. The hotel was portrayed as a haunted building with no way out. Small clues such as the massive pantry and freezers with locks foreshadowed the scene when the mother locks Jack inside the pantry.

Throughout the movie, Jack plays mind games with his clearly oblivious wife and manipulates her into leaving him alone while he writes. One scene was particularly disturbing in which the wife finds Jack’s book that he had been writing while they were at the hotel. It is revealed that Jack was not actually writing a book and the papers were filled with the same sentence over and over again, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The movie the Shining transformed from a story about a family staying at a hotel by themselves to an alarming and captivating film about Jack Torrance’s disturbing mind and past at the hotel. His wife and son no longer felt safe at the hotel anymore and ran from him and hid from him until they got away. This movie displayed the disturbing effect of mental illness and how you never know who a person really is. The way Jack chased his family around the hotel and kept drifting in and out of the alternate universe kept the audience attentive.

-Sasha B.

The Shining is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by the well-known Robert Louis Stevenson, is a dark story that has a very intelligent meaning behind it. 

The story begins with a respected lawyer named Mr. Utterson, listening to his friend Enfield tell a chilling story of assault. The story describes a figure named Mr. Hyde, who tramples a young girl, and disappears into a door on the street, only to make an appearance when the onlookers call him out to pay his respects to the girl and her relatives. They agree not to discuss the situation further because they do not approve of gossip. However, it happens that one of Mr. Utterson’s clients, Dr. Jekyll, has a written will transferring all of his property to the same Mr. Hyde. Out of curiosity, Utterson does his own research by first making a visit to Dr. Lanyon. Lanyon reports that he no longer sees much of Jekyll ever since their dispute over Jekyll’s research, which Lanyon refers to as “unscientific balderdash”.

Then, Utterson encounters Mr. Hyde at the home in which he trampled the young girl, and he is amazed at how ugly and deformed the man seems. A year goes by with not much commotion over the situation until a servant girl witnesses Hyde brutally beat a member of Parliament and a client of Utterson to death. The police contact Utterson, and he immediately suspects Hyde and leads the police to Hyde’s personal address. However, upon arrival at the apartment, the murderer has vanished, and the police search proves futile. Shortly thereafter, Utterson again visits Jekyll, who now claims to have ended all relations with Hyde. He shows Utterson a note, allegedly written by Hyde, apologizing for the trouble he caused and saying goodbye. That night, however, Utterson’s clerk points out that Hyde’s handwriting bears a remarkable similarity to Jekyll’s own. Over the next few months, Jekyll acts very sociably and friendly until he abruptly cuts off ties with all people after the suspicious death of Lanyon. Then, one day, Jekyll’s butler, Poole, storms into Utterson’s house, pleading for help with his master. The two travel to Jekyll’s laboratory where they are shocked to find the body of Hyde, wearing Jekyll’s clothes and dead by suicide, and a letter from Jekyll to Utterson promising to explain everything. Jekyll opens the letter from Lanyon at home to find a chilling message that his death was caused by the shock of seeing Mr. Hyde metamorphose into Dr. Jekyll. The rest of the story dives into Jekyll’s dilemma about metamorphosis and his cry for help. As much as he tries to control it, Jekyll starts to subconsciously turn into Hyde. Jekyll understands that his other persona, Hyde, is a danger to society, and he debates committing suicide, and the novel closes with the end of Jekyll’s letter. 

This story, by Robert Louis Stevenson, can be very chilling and mysterious. Behind the complicated story that Stevenson wrote, there is actually a deeper meaning behind it. The author was trying to get into the concept of brain duality, which is why he emphasized the contrast between Jekyll and Hyde so heavily. Overall, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a very entertaining and mysterious story, which has a deeper meaning behind it.

-Karis K, 9th grade

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

TV Review: Criminal Minds

If you enjoy crime shows like NCIS, then you will also enjoy Criminal Minds.

The show is about a group of FBI agents with the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Every episode there is a new crime to solve. Whether it is a murder on the loose or a crazy person reeking havoc. The agents try to get into the unsubs’ (unknown criminal) mind by traveling to the crime scenes and talking to witnesses as well as locals. Garcia is the girl behind the magic. She is the one to call when you need police reports, hospital records, and other important documents. With her help the agents are able to find out more about the unsubs’ criminal record as well as the back story so they know what caused the crime.

Criminal Minds does a great job of allowing you to also pick up clues, this makes you feel like you are apart of the crime scene and the FBI. You will never be bored with this show. It walks you through what the FBI does and introduces you to criminal psychology.

I am still relatively new to this show but I am now binging it when I have the time. Just a warning, I do not recommend this show if you are iffy with blood or death in general.

– Giovanna S.