Moonraker by Ian Fleming

Moonraker (novel) - Wikipedia

Sir Hugo Drax – war veteran, multi-millionaire, primary donor for Britain’s newest defense project, and…card cheater? When M requests the legendary 007, James Bond, to investigate this strange discrepancy, Bond thinks nothing of it but a lesson to teach an otherwise spotless man. But there is more to the ex-amnesiac turned benefactor than simply cheating at cards. 

As Bond delves deeper into the activities at the base of the praised Project Moonraker, Britain’s state-of-the-art defense system capable of targeting any European capital, scheduled to launch in less than a week, he realizes that some things are not as they seem. From the unusual German workers employed for construction to the mysterious death of the previous investigator, Bond must determine the truth behind both the Moonraker and its creator, Sir Hugo Drax…

Bond, however, is not alone in his endeavor. With the support of an undercover agent, Gala Brand, and, of course, MI6, he must race against time to discover the truth, which may be much, much darker than even 007 could have ever predicted…

Ian Fleming’s Moonraker, the third in the James Bond series, will not disappoint fans of 007. With plot twists and action sequences galore, Fleming manages to glorify every aspect of Bond’s newest case, from a brilliant game of bridge to the saving of millions of lives. Arguably the best Bond novel (definitely my favorite), Moonraker is a book that will be near impossible to put down.

-Mahak M.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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

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.

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

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game (text only) by E. Raskin: E. Raskin: Amazon.com ...

16 heirs. 8 teams. 1 fortune ripe for the winning. The Westing Game has begun, and there is no turning back…

The glittery, glassy apartment house Sunset Towers (which, oddly enough, face east!) has been leased to tenants more different than not. However, after reclusive millionaire Samuel W. Westing dies, it is revealed that the residents of Sunset Towers are connected by far more than their new apartment homes – they have all been named as potential heirs to the Westing fortune!

In order to win the money, all the heirs have to do is find the one who murdered Westing. Paired up in accordance with Westing’s will, and armed with 10 thousand dollars and a single clue, the heirs must unveil the murderer before they can strike again…

Through blizzards and burglaries, bombings and burnings, the heirs play on, but nothing is as it seems on this hunt for a killer, and as the pairs follow the clues that Westing left for them, it may be that they themselves are in danger…

Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is the perfect combination of mystery and adventure that allows the reader to use their wits and solve the puzzle alongside the heirs in the book. No matter what the reader’s personal preferences are, Raskin’s brilliant writing and simply complicated enigma that is Westing’s will capture their attention from the first page to the last. 

-Mahak M. 

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

Towards Zero - WikipediaWhat do a failed suicide attempt, a wrongful accusation of theft against a young girl, and the romantic life of a famous tennis player have in common? At first glance, apparently nothing. But dig a little deeper under the surface of Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero, and you’ll find that nothing is as it seems, especially at Gull’s Point.

Superintendent Battle may be in over his head when he takes up the murder case of elderly widow Lady Tressilian, who was killed in her own seaside home at Gull’s Point. While it appears to be an open-and-shut case against her primary beneficiary, the wealthy sportsman Nevile Strange, new evidence comes to light that gives Strange an airtight alibi, leaving Battle with the question: who in the house wants to see Nevile Strange dead?

There is no shortage of suspects, and one thing is clear – nearly everyone in the house has a dislike for Nevile Strange. In the midst of this drama lies the strange nature of Nevile Strange’s love life, who divorced his ex-wife Audrey to be with a new woman, Kay. However, Strange’s true feelings may not lie with the law, and no one ever knows what Mrs. Audrey Strange is thinking…

In this slow-moving chess game of a mystery novel, Towards Zero will change the way you read murder mysteries (and Agatha Christie) forever. This book is recommended to all fans of the Queen of Mystery, or if you’re just looking for a new action/mystery book to occupy yourself with.

-Mahak M. 

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie - Agatha ChristieA string of Pekinese kidnappings…a romance left half-finished by the strange disappearance of a young woman…a malicious Parisian gangster fleeing to one of the most remote places on Earth…the largest political scandal in England…a stolen painting and a kidnapped schoolgirl…a series of women dying under odd circumstances, only connected by a mysterious religious sect…an innocent woman on the verge of being framed for a dastardly crime…. 

The only thing that connects these decidedly unusual yet distinctly unrelated cases is one man, and one man alone: the great Hercule Poirot (and his mustaches).

Based on the original Labours of Hercules, Poirot endeavors to act in his namesake by carefully selecting twelve special cases before his retirement from detective work in order to cultivate vegetable marrows.. From the Nemean Lion to the Erymanthian Boar, from the Flock of Geryon to the Capture of Cerberus, Poirot will stop at nothing to bring criminals to justice, and, on occasion, to take matters into his own private hands.  

While writing short stories isn’t standard fare for Agatha Christie, this collection of twelve short stories is the perfect mix of murder, intrigue, and Hercule Poirot (featuring his little grey cells) that any fan of the celebrated Queen of Mystery will surely not be disappointed.

-Mahak M. 

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Image result for catch 22

Nearly six decades after its original publication, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 remains one of America’s most valuable – and most entertaining – classics of all time. Depicting the brutal insanity of war in a way no one else has quite managed, Heller and Catch-22 have cemented themselves in American literature.

Set in Italy during World War II, Catch-22 tells the story of the disillusioned bombardier Yossarian, who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are constantly trying to kill him, including both the enemy forces and the people within his own army. 

The most significant of these would-be killers is undeniably the titular Catch-22, which states that a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. 

Trapped in this endless cycle of missions and death, the soldiers on the island of Pianosa are forced to adapt to their constant torture by hiding in the hospital ward, enjoying illegal meals in the mess hall, and generally doing their best to be a nuisance to Colonel Cathcart, who continues to raise the missions needed to be relieved from duty.

Combining serious matters with lighthearted humor, Catch-22 is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives. This fascinating look at the negative aspects of war, inspired by World War II and the Vietnam War, is a book that is impossible to put down. 

-Mahak M. 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Image result for the da vinci codeWhat does the murder of an elderly curator of the Louvre, Leonardo da Vinci, and a secret society only rumored to exist have in common? That’s what famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon must find out in The Da Vinci Code

On a race against time, Langdon and a talented French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, attempt to unveil the truth behind the Priory of Sion, an ancient secret society that the late curator was involved in – one that is dedicated to protecting a historical secret that has proven to be as enlightening as it is dangerous. 

Blocked by both the Church and the Parisian police, Langdon and Neveu are left isolated and working against everyone they know. Together, the two of them must follow the trail of mystery and murder on a quest to stop a shadowy puppetmaster who appears to anticipate their every move and will stop at nothing to extract the Priory’s secret – not even murder. 

Fast-paced and unforgettable, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a perfect example of historical intrigue and modern writing that makes this novel a contemporary classic. This book is recommended to all readers or any history buffs who want a new look at an old painting. 

-Mahak M. 

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle started life as a doctor, earning his Doctor of Medicine degree in Scotland, and practicing in the medical field for nearly twenty years. However, Conan Doyle is not known for his work in medicine, but rather for his incredible work in the literary field, which gave enduring gems to nearly every genre of literature.

Over the course of his lifetime, Conan Doyle created many different and complex characters for his stories. For example, his 1912 novel The Lost World stars the boisterous and occasionally insolent scientific genius Professor Challenger, whose radical opinions about strange locations and events are often proven true, much to the exasperation and secret admiration of his friends and his rivals. The title of this book may sound familiar, and it should – Conan Doyle’s work was the inspiration behind the movie Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Conan Doyle also dabbled in other genres, varying from quasi-memoirs to historical adventure to horror. The Stark-Munro Letters, which were written and published in 1895, are a thinly-disguised account of Conan Doyle’s early years in the medical field. Seventeen short stories feature Brigadier Etienne Gerard, a French soldier who tells the tales of his adventures during the war, which are engaging to any and all readers, even without an in-depth knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars. Additionally, in the short stories The Case of the Lady Sannox, The Brown Hand, and The Brazilian Cat, Conan Doyle harnesses his eye for the macabre to deliver quick but lasting packages of terror and mystery that the reader cannot easily forget.

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

 

Of all the products of Conan Doyle’s pen, perhaps the most well-known is the reclusive and eccentric yet brilliant consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, along with his less-intelligent comrade and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The first adventure starring the dynamic duo, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1886 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It was an instant national success, and it was followed by another novel, The Sign of Four, and twenty-four short stories.

 

 

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Eventually, Conan Doyle became tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes, who he believed was “standing in the way” of his greater works, so he killed off the great detective in 1893’s “The Final Problem.” However, public pressure convinced Conan Doyle to continue writing about Holmes, with a new novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and the resurrection of Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” In the end, Holmes and Watson are featured in sixty stories – all of which are beloved by both the avid crime critic and the casual reader. 

Sadly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930. Interestingly, his last words were spoken to his wife: “You are wonderful!” In the end, over the course of seventy-one years, Conan Doyle’s work has imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of all who read it, and “the father of the modern detective” will not be forgotten even in the farthest of futures.

-Mahak M.