The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian: Andy Weir: 9780553418026: Amazon.com: Books

The year is 2035. Man has begun to reach for the stars, and begins to colonize the infamous Red Planet, Mars. Among a select few is botanist and engineer Mark Watney, who has been selected to travel to Mars on the Ares 3 mission.

Unfortunately, six days into what should have been the greatest month of Mark’s life and he finds himself living a nightmare.

After a dust storm forces the rest of his crew to leave Mark for dead, he finds himself trapped on the Martian surface with no way of signaling anyone, and is forced to somehow hold on long enough to await the arrival of the next Mars mission – which will land in four years’ time.

However, Mark probably won’t have time to starve, if the damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or simple “human error” don’t do the job first.

Armed with only his ingenuity, engineering skills, and a dark sense of humor that lightens every grave situation, Mark must somehow survive every hostility found on the red planet. 

Andy Weir’s The Martian is a trailblazer in the science fiction field, and Weir finds the perfect balance between accurate scientific details, action, and laugh-out-loud humor to keep the reader entertained. Once you pick up this book, it’s near impossible to put it down again, and I recommend it to all fans of science/realistic fiction, or just people looking for a good read.

-Mahak M. 

The Martian by Andy Weir is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

House on the Hill Game Review

House on the Hill produced by Steppe Hare Studios is a first-person thriller/horror game. In the game, you play as a young thief who is robbing an eerie mansion, trying to find precious gemstones, necklaces, etc. Your friend and partner in crime, tell you instructions through an earpiece while you do the robbing of the actual house. But, there’s a twist. Though getting into the house may seem easier than expected, it is impossible for one to escape and make it out. As you make your way through the house, the house itself begins to feel haunted more and more. With doors slamming, lights flickering, etc, you begin to realize that robbing this house was a bad idea.

What I found interesting about House on the Hill were the different endings that happened depending on your actions. Throughout the game, the player is given decisions that could change the outcome of the game, whether it be for better or worse. For example, the player could choose what items they wanted to steal, and what routes they wanted to take to steal said items. Depending on these situations, the players will also face different nightmares, monsters, and life-threatening situations. For example, I chose to steal a large gem, and the route that I chose was through the kitchen. This lead to me obtaining the gem, but I was chased by a bloody monster. I barely escaped but found myself trapped in a large freezer filled with dead animals and humans.

I ran into a couple of issues while playing House on the Hill. For example, the sound was a major problem for me while playing. In some scenes, the dialogue and sound effects were too quiet for me, even at max volume. In other situations, the game was much too loud and caused me to turn the sound off, which took away from the overall ambiance in House on the Hill. Also, in some situations, I could not open doors or pick up items, that were crucial to my survival. For example, I was being chased by a monster and I started to run towards a safe room. The only problem was, the door did not open until the third or fourth time I clicked on it. Luckily I was still able to make it out alive.

As one may see,  House on the Hill is a brilliant game for those that enjoy horror, puzzles, etc. However, this game is not for the light-hearted. In some scenes of the game, I was at the edge of my seat, and I even had to turn down the sound of the games, due to the disturbing sounds coming from certain rooms. I would suggest one playing this game during the daytime, or with friends, to make the game less frightening in general. If one were to play at night, they should prepare themselves for frightening thoughts or nightmares in the future. Besides this, I really enjoyed  House on the Hill and cannot wait for the developers to add more stories and endings.

-Daniel C.

Who Was To Blame in Romeo and Juliet?

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often considered to be the ultimate tale of romance – two children of warring families meet, fall hopelessly in love, and commit suicide in a woeful twist of fate. However, fate itself has quite little to do with the actions undertaken by the two lovers throughout the play. Though the tragic events of Act V, Scene III of Romeo and Juliet are often attributed to the two lovers’ distinct lack of luck, the blood shed at the end of the play is truly the fault of one character: Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who both Romeo and Juliet turn to in their time of need, only to be led astray.

Despite knowing the potential tragedy that could follow, Friar Lawrence nevertheless encourages Romeo and Juliet in their wish to wed, not because he wants to see two young lovers be happy, but because of his own desires. Though the friar appears old and wise, he does not dissuade Romeo from his course, for the friar does not seem to particularly care about Romeo’s happiness – he has an underlying motive. He later tells Romeo that he will consent to wed the two lovers not because he believes in the true love between them, but because he wants to end the feud between their families. 

The marriage between Romeo and Juliet eventually leads to ruin, when Romeo is exiled from the city and Juliet is being forced to marry Count Paris. To avoid this, Juliet visits Friar Lawrence and desperately begs him for a solution to the problem. Friar Lawrence concocts a plan, in which Juliet will fake her death to both avoid marrying Paris and reunite with Romeo in Mantua. This plan is infamously imperfect. For one, the entire plan hinges on Romeo being aware that Juliet had faked her death before Friar Lawrence retrieves her from the Capulet tomb. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurs, and, in his grief, Romeo commits suicide. Juliet, upon waking to Romeo’s corpse, stabs herself and dies.

The irony of the play is that, in the end, Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, not their marriage, is what ends the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, which was Friar Lawrence’s intent all along. Friar Lawrence, supposedly the wise and reasonable adult of the play, ends up being the most blameworthy character, both because of his deliberately neglectful and ignorant words and actions in regards to the lovestruck pair, as well as his continual promotion of his own overarching agenda. 

All in all, while it may appear that the tragic events of Romeo and Juliet can be solely credited to the cruel hand of destiny, the true blame for the two lovers’ deaths lies in the hands of Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who leads Romeo and Juliet into a situation from which the only escape is death.

-Mahak M.

What Happened Game Review

What Happened produced by Genius Slackers is an interesting and adrenaline-boosting first-person game. The players will play as a boy named Stiles, as he faces the challenges of Highschool. Not only that, but he is also bullied and has anxiety/suicidal thoughts. What Happened is a game that sheds light on the daily challenges that teenagers must face, as players are able to see it first hand through Stile’s point of view

When I first launched the game, creepy music and flashing lights started to play. It set the mood for what type of game I was about to play. On top of all this, the lobby for the actual game was very cool and interactive! The player was set into the perspective of Stiles, and you could move around into different rooms. Each room you entered either started the game, took you into the options tab, or quit the game and sent you back to the desktop. I really enjoyed this cool feature, and I believe more games should use this type of lobby.

As for the game-play itself, I mostly enjoyed it. The controls were quite simple, and I learned them quickly. There were multiple puzzles I had to solve in order to proceed to the next part of the game, and they were mainly easy. I did run into some issues, such as not being able to open doors or not finding the next segment to the puzzle, wasting time.

Other than those few problems, I enjoyed playing What Happened It really shed light on the problems that some teenagers go through on a daily bases. It’s good that video games are getting mixed into serious and pressing topics, and I believe that more games should resemble this one. I give What Happened a rating of seven out of ten.

-Daniel C.

Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

Diamonds Are Forever | Bookogs Database

He’s risked his life in an “innocent” casino. He’s fought toe-to-toe with the dastardly Soviet spy agency SMERSH. He’s even prevented nuclear annihilation of the world by the destructive Project Moonraker.

But when Agent 007, James Bond, is called in to halt a threatening diamond smuggling crime ring with expansive influence, he may finally find himself in over his head.

Posing as a captured courier, Bond teams up with Tiffany Case, a beautiful woman with ties to the very center of the operation. Following the trail of sparkling blood from Africa through England and finally to  America, Bond must infiltrate and remove every stop between the source and his destination.

Facing dangerous assassins and secrets upon secrets, Bond will somehow need to remain undercover long enough to unveil the last link in the long and deadly chain: the mysterious syndicate leader known only as “ABC.” One false move, however, and 007 may find himself on the wrong end of the wrath of the American underworld. 

Ian Fleming’s Diamonds Are Forever is the fourth book of the 007 series, and is definitely not to be missed by any James Bond fans. Jam-packed with action, adventure, danger, and hints of romance, both diamonds, and the book will last forever in the hearts and minds of the beholder.

-Mahak M. 

Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Knights Squad 2 Game Review

Knights Squad 2 Is a top-down, PVP melee game. The game takes place in medieval times, and you can play as a wide variety of different knights. The player can choose multiple different game modes to play either with other players, or AI bots. You can also play Knights Squad 2 locally, with your friends on the same server. The first thing I noticed when I launched Knights Squad 2 was the amazing aesthetics. With exciting music and sound effects, the game was full of adrenaline and excitement. As you decided which knight to use, each had a certain skillset, armor color, and strength.

Once loaded into the massive fighting arena, players were put up against other knights. The main goal was to be last alive while using certain abilities and weapons that spawned around the arena, to your advantage. The game was challenging, but I quickly learned the controls and strategies that eventually led to my victory.

There were some minor issues I had with Knights Squad 2. The game was not properly stretched to my TV’s resolution, which led to me not being able to see the full screen and directions. The game also gave no tutorial or directions on what to do, so for my first five games or so, I was running around trying to figure out what each button on my controller did. But, Knights Squad 2  is only in demo form, so these issues will hopefully be fixed upon full release.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Knights Squad 2 the graphics and sound effects of the game were amazing and beautiful. Battling was fun, and it made me feel like I was really in medieval times. I think this game could be really fun when the developers add online competitive modes into the game. But Knights Squad 2 is still in demo form, so I can not wait to see what is added!

-Daniel C.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter (Signet Classics): Hawthorne, Nathaniel ...

The Scarlet Letter is a novel by American romantic writer Hawthorne. It was published in 1850. The Scarlet Letter is about the tragedy of love in colonial North America. The heroine, Hester Prynne, was married to a physician, Chillingworth, but there was no love between them. In her loneliness, Prynne fell in love with the reverend Dimmesdale and gave birth to her daughter Pearl. Prynne was publicly punished and was paraded to the public with the symbol of adultery. But Hester Prynne remained steadfast and refused to name the child’s father. Symbolism is often used in the novel. Characters, plots, and language are highly subjective, and psychological activities and intuition are often given priority in the description. Therefore, it is not only a representative work of American romantic novels but also known as the pioneer of American psychoanalytic novels.

The love between Hester and Dimmesdale is full of the sacrificing spirit of a moth to the flame, which has a strong tragic color. They are not only the unashamed martyrs who sacrifice themselves for the higher truth but also the victims who are offered to God on the altar of Puritan. The symbolism of the letter “A”, at the heart of the book, is more colorful than red. Its connotation changes with the development of the plot and characters, and varies with the standpoint of the observer, showing the characteristics of wandering and drifting. “A” is the first letter of the alphabet, signifying beginning, and in Christian doctrine, the beginning in the fall, the original sin from which no one is spared. The beginning of the world was the fall; Adam and Eve, the ancestors of human beings, were expelled from the Garden of Eden because they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. The beginning of life is also the fall, Adam and Eve’s children and grandchildren inherit original sin which means that people are born to sin.

-Coreen C.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthrone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Hunting Simulatior 2 Game Review

Hunting Simulator 2 Is a first-person, hunting/shooter game. The game takes place in modern times, and you play as a professional hunter, exploring the wilderness. On your way, you will acquire new weapons and companions, that you can use to help you hunt all over the world. You will also run into a wide variety of animals that you can shoot and hunt. Players can then sell these animals for money or keep them as prizes. Using the money they earn from the day’s hunt, players will be able to upgrade and perfect their weapons, clothing, etc.

The first thing I noticed when I launched Hunting Simulator was the amazing graphics! With real-time sounds of the wilderness and beautiful landscape shots of the outdoors, I felt like I was really going out to hunt. The sounds of the rifles I used were also very realistic and even the animals and the sounds they made sounded real.

My favorite detail about Hunting Simulator 2 was the cabin. This was a place for players to relax and take a break from the hunting action. Players could buy new weapons, ammunition, hunting dogs, clothing, and much more at the cabin. They could also customize what they would be taking on each hunting trip. The cabin itself was very luxurious and nice and reminded me of a place someone would stay at if they were to go hunting in real life.

There were some minor issues I had with Hunting Simulator 2. When trying to call my hunting dog to give him directions, the controls were very weird. In order to praise your dog, the player had to hold down a wide variety of buttons on their controller, which caused me troubles. I also had a glitch where I could not move for a good five to ten minutes. But, this could have been a simple glitch due to the fact that the game is new.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Hunting Simulator 2. The graphics and sound effects are the game was amazing and beautiful, and I could not believe my eyes when I loaded the game up. Hunting was fun, and it made me feel like I was really in the outdoors. I think this game could be really fun if the developers were to add a multiplayer aspect, so one could play with friends. I can’t wait to see what is next for Hunting Simulator 2.

-Daniel C.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea, written by best-seller author of Between Shades of Grey Ruta Sepetys, tells a heart-wrenching and gripping historical fiction account of an overlooked by-product of WWII. Tragically symbolic of the disaster, Sepetys eternalizes the story of human struggle across the pages of the novel from four intertwined voices: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred.

The unique characters, of varying backgrounds—a compassionate Lithuanian nurse, an innocent German soldier, a young, pregnant Polish girl, and a careful Prussian thief—cross the paths of each other, pushed together by calamity and betrayal. The book follows their journey to the Wilhelm Gustloff, the only light at the end of their tunneled worlds. The ship, an escape from the Red Army, however, is overpopulated.

The cruel truth of the history, as well as the fictional characters created, brings the world in the book to life. Although the back-stories for the characters are not explicitly written, the mystery brings a kind of de-personalization to the series of events that occur. A reader can feel him or herself more realistically in the story, stumbling upon a group of strangers, coming together, and getting to know one another by circumstance. And then, when their stories are over, all that is left of them is a memory of the time spent together. A point evocatively hit upon in the story was how someone can be judged based solely on his or her shoes. Whether they are in good condition, made from good material, their laces (or lack thereof), a person’s shoes tell their whole story.

This particular comment reminded me of the Paul Simon song, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. The song, though brimming with shifting poly-rhythms and clever lyrics, simply tells the story of a rich New York girl, her many suitors, and her shoes, the soles laced with diamonds. Likewise, although the shoes of Sepetys’ characters tell a bit about each of their individual and unique stories, the world full of horror and hardship will continue to label these accounts as simple stories, overlooking true human condition.

For all historical fiction readers and shoe lovers, I highly recommend Sepetys’ book. She maintains a striking balance between history and fiction. And because of her beautiful words, I give her nothing but the highest praise.

-Maya S.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Goosebumps Review for Xbox One

Goosebumps is a new video game released on video game consoles. Obviously, the game is based around the well-known novel series Goosebumps. The player moves around a haunted mansion, looking for clues and book pages. While looking for these clues, The player is chased by well-known scary ghouls and monsters that readers of the Goosebumps series would recognize. For example, Slappy the doll, killer clowns, and zombies all make an appearance throughout the game.

The main goal, as said earlier, is to find clues and book pages hidden around the mansion. If the player is able to find all of these clues, then they are able to stop the evil monsters and escape from the house. But finding these clues are much harder than one may think. While searching, players will run into evil gnomes, clowns, dolls, and more, and they must think quickly on their feet if they want to escape. Hiding under beds and closets may be the only way to escape from doom.

There were two things that really added to the overall gaming experience of Goosebumps when I played it. The music, and the graphics. Both of these small details made me enjoy the game and also made it much more frightening. The graphics were very dark and gloomy and made it feel like I was the one in the large mansion. Whenever there were tall shadows or figures, I immediately became frightened. The music of Goosebumps was also very terrifying. The soundtrack sounded like it was taken straight out of a horror movie, and it really added to the overall gameplay.

There were some problems I had with the game. First of all, the game itself did not fit my tv screen. This was most likely a common mistake, but I was never able to see the whole screen because the game was stretched out too much. I also found some parts of the game, in general, to be very very confusing. When looking for clues, I spent too much time- in some places, and that made the game less enjoyable. Besides that, I enjoyed Goosebumps the game. With a good mix of comedy and creepiness, the game did feel like I was in one of the Goosebumps novels.l I can not wait for the game to be added upon and I look forward to any new games that come out like this.

-Daniel C.