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

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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.

Character Resume Project: Ford Prefect

Recently, I reread Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and since Ford Prefect is clearly the most awesome character in the book, I decided to write a short career resumè for him, in case he ever gets tired of hitchhiking.

Ford Prefect (a.k.a. Praxibetel Ix)

Current Address: 000 UFO Avenue, Cottington, West Country, England

Permanent Address: House of Ix, Betelgeuse 5, The Universe

Phone Number: (123) 456 – 7890

towels4life42@gmail.com 

OBJECTIVE

To create custom, expensive towels for the people of Earth, and to teach them the importance of always carrying a towel with them in case of planetary explosions. 

EDUCATION

B.A. Towel Weaving and Care (1834) 

Minors: Journalism, Star-Tracking, Acting 101, Creepy Smiling 102, History of Towels, Cooking for Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts of Traal

Vniuersitatis-13 University, Betelgeuse 5, Betelgeuse Sector, The Universe

GPA: 3.6 

EXPERIENCE

Researcher/Resident Hitchhiker for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to to the Galaxy (1857 – 1964)

  • Explored and documented the galaxy to provide succor to all competent hitchhikers wishing to explore the enigma that is the galaxy for less than thirty Altairian dollars per day.
  • Attempted to discover the legendary supercomputer Deep Thought (located on the sublime planet of Magrathea) in order to find the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Survivalist (1964 – 1979)

  • Travelled to Earth for one week, but ended up being stranded on one of the most hostile yet picturesque planets in the Plural sectors for nearly fifteen years.
  • Chose the excellent, obscure name of Ford Prefect to use during time on said planet, and befriended a common specimen of the Homo Sapiens, Arthur Dent.

ACTIVITIES

* Drinking the ineffably fantastic beverage, Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, with semi-half cousin, who is the exceedingly august president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox.

* Honing already-impeccable gastronomical skills to improve his hitchhiking meals

* Driving first and only car, a blue Ford Prefect.

* Searching the stars for spacecraft to hitchhike. 

* Playing the violently-originated game of Krikkit cricket.

HONORS

* Ix Award, which translates to “boy who is not able to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven” Award (1832)

* Tricky Traveller Award, for using a towel to create a mini raft to float down the torrents of water of the Wikiwiki River (1967)

* Hitchhikers’ Honorable Mention, for being the only hitchhiker to ever remember where his towel was while on the planet Oblivioni Tradita (1972)

AVAILABILITY: January 1979

Willing to relocate to anywhere in England, but should be allowed to suddenly call in sick on Thursday, October 11.

-Mahak M.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is available to all hoopy froods at the Mission Viejo Library

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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The year is 736 PCE – over seven hundred years after the former colonies of Earth across the solar system rebelled against their mother planet and won. Now, the world has been divided into rigid social classes that depend on the color of one’s skin, from the ruling Golds to the slaving Reds. 

Darrow, a Red Helldiver who risks his life daily to procure helium-3 from the bowels of Mars to make its surface habitable for human life, does not suspect what truly lies above the surface of the planet. But when circumstances force him to fake his own death and join the rebel group on Mars, Darrow quickly realizes that his entire life is a lie – there is already a city of Golds on Mars, and the Reds are merely slaving away beneath the surface to provide a life of luxury and comfort for the higher colors.

Furious at this deception, Darrow agrees to infiltrate the Mars Institute for Golds as a student by changing his skin color in an arduous and painful process called the Carving. However, once the now-Gold Darrow arrives at the Institute, he quickly understands that to become the best of the best requires courses of action .that he would not have dreamed of taking while he was a Red. As Darrow progresses on his journey to become the Primus of House Mars, he unearths the deep corruptions within Gold society, as well as the horrifying truth behind the power of the Golden people.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising holds a slight resemblance to The Hunger Games, but it is only a slight one – this novel takes the idea of colonization to an entirely new level, and questions the idea of a “perfect” society of social classes. This book is definitely recommended to fans of science fiction and adventure novels.

-Mahak M.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive