Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie.  The hero is the famous detective, Hercule Poirot.  Poirot is described throughout Christie’s novels as a small Belgian man with an egg-shaped head and a distinctive moustache.  The novel is set almost entirely on a train called the Orient Express.  The train was on its way to London, but becomes stuck in the middle of the night due to a snowdrift.  The next morning, a man named Mr. Rachett is found dead in his bed having been stabbed multiple times.  Poirot, intrigued by the mysterious circumstances surrounding this apparent murder, puts the “little grey cells” in his mind to work.  In other words, as he always does, Poirot uses his brain power to solve the case.

One thing I enjoyed about this novel is that we have more suspects than most Poirot stories.  The various personalities made the story quite colorful and entertaining.  Many nationalities are represented, such as American, British, Hungarian, Russian, Swedish and Italian.  One of my favorite suspects is an old woman named Mrs. Hubbard.  She tends to ramble and rattle on about her daughter or anything else that pops into her head.  I found it amusing to read about the passengers’ interactions as they all claimed alibis to absolve themselves of the murder.  The victim seems to have had a very bad reputation, so many suspects might have been motivated to kill him.  This made it very hard to guess which suspect was the actual killer.

This is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books.  There are many characters to keep track of, which makes the story interesting and exciting, but the mystery becomes difficult to figure out.  The ending was quite surprising and different from other Poirot stories that I have read.  Overall, I found this novel to be quite thrilling.  I would also recommend Agatha Christie’s other Poirot books, such as Cards on the Table and The ABC Murders.  Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite characters, and I have enjoyed all of the Poirot mysteries that I have read so far.

-Oliver H.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Death On The Nile by Agatha Christie

Linnet Ridgeway has everything she could possibly ever want. She is smart, rich, charming, and beautiful. Her friend Jacqueline comes to her one day with a request; Linnet makes Jacqueline’s fiance Simon Doyle her land agent. He needs a job, and Linnet gives it to him. 

However, she falls in love with him and thinks about how lucky Jacqueline is. In fact, Jacqueline doesn’t have nearly as much as Linnet does. Eventually, Linnet ends up marrying Simon Doyle. Jacquline is mad at Linnet for “stealing” her fiance from her. She decides to follow Linnet and Simon during their honeymoon. 

One morning, during a cruise of tranquility down the Nile, Linnet is found dead in her cabin. Hercule Poirot is on the cruise, and with one of his friends who is also searching for a criminal, they try to discover who committed the crime. However, Simon had been accidentally shot in the leg the night Linnet was killed, so they must get to their destination. A doctor on the ship has done all he can, but Simon must get to a hospital quickly, so the detectives are running out of time to find out who did it. 

I enjoyed reading this book because there were so many plot twists and the ending was so unexpected. I also liked how there was such a variety of characters which helped to develop the story and to make it feel more realistic. The author also gives a lot of details about their backstories. As a result of these small sections about the characters and their lives, the reader has reason to suspect almost everyone. I really liked how there were multiple crimes that I kept trying to solve before the detectives in the book solved the complicated case. Almost nothing is as it seems to be.

This was an amazing book and I really enjoyed reading it. I would recommend you to read this intriguing novel.

-Peri A.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

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.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us is Lying is about four high school seniors, who are all quite stereotypical people in a high school, the jock, Cooper Clay, the prom queen, Addy Prentiss,  the “nerd”, Bronwyn Rojas, and the delinquent, Nate Macauley. However, when the four of them meet in an unfair detention, along with Simon Kelleher, the self-proclaimed “omniscient narrator” and person in charge of the gossip app named “About That”, which talks about the school’s gossip, although only using initials. 

However, the detention quickly turns into a crime scene when Simon dies due to a peanut allergy, with all the epi-pens in the nurse’s office mysteriously gone. All four of them are later questioned, when the police find that Simon had drunk a large amount of peanut oil prior to his death. They all deny knowing anything, though. Later, all four students are separately called to the police station and told that before his death, Simon had queued up a post which details each of their secrets- Cooper used steroids for his baseball performance, Bronwyn stole tests, Nate is dealt drugs, which violates his parole, and that Addy had cheated on her boyfriend. With the police putting pressure on them, and more and more media coverage, the four of them band together and take the investigation upon themselves. 

The novel is very interesting, and I thought that there were many plot twists and it’s quite fun to try to piece together the mystery as more and more information is revealed. It’s also enjoyable to see the different characters grow as people, seeing Addy become her own person, and see Nate and Bronwyn grow closer together. I definitely recommend One of Us is Lying for those who enjoy murder mysteries and those who enjoy piecing together different pieces of information throughout the book.

-Kelsie W.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

This New York Times bestseller has quickly become, needless to say, a very popular book.  Murder mysteries themselves are a commonly-read, yet thrilling genre and this book falls into the category of the classic “who did it” scenario.

 One of Us Is Lying begins on a regular Monday at Bayview High School where five students are all in detention. However, what would have been a usually boring, uneventful detention session swiftly becomes a high-profile event, as one of the students, Simon, ends up dead. Though this student is known quite well, his reputation is not the best, to say the least, as Simon is known as someone who spreads rumors and secrets about people, often revealing extremely personal, uncomfortable truths.  It makes sense that many people would have a reason to dislike, or even hate him, but the real question is: does anyone truly want Simon  dead?  After all, other than his exposing, gossip-ridden app, he is an otherwise harmless teenager. That being said, if someone did want him dead, then that would mean that the most likely suspects were probably in the same room as where he took his last breaths. 

Interestingly enough, McManus switches the character point of view with almost every chapter, meaning you get an inside scope within the minds of each student. This makes it an enjoyable challenge for the reader to decipher clues as to who is guilty, because each person’s side of the story and perspective on the matter is different. None of them seem obviously malicious, though. So it’s left a guessing game until the end of the book. In my case, I was still debating between a few different characters until the end of the book when the answer was revealed to me, and I ended up being wrong entirely, which I think goes to show that McManus created the plot in such a way that it was hard to tell.

Is it Bronwyn, the smart, goody-two shoes girl with a perfect academic record? Is it Nate, the leather-jacket wearing drug dealer with a mysterious past? Is it Addy, the sweet, beautiful girl, famous for her long locks of hair? Or is it Cooper, the quiet baseball jock?

Read it and find out!

-Aisha E.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Movie Review: Knives Out

Boy, oh boy, was this a good movie. I wanted to wait until the official end of awards season to write this review, so I could add in any awards it won or was nominated for. It didn’t win any, but I think it deserved far more.

If you weren’t already aware, Knives Out is something of a whodunit film, with innumerable red herrings and so many (and I mean SO many) twists. Due to the mysterious nature of the film, I’m going to refrain from revealing too much of the plot. Plus, the point of this review is to entice you just enough to go see it yourself and spoiling the movie would spoil the effect of that enticement.

So basically, the movie is centered around this extremely wealthy family, and all their wealth comes from their patriarch, mystery author, and owner of a successful publishing company Harlan Thrombey. The morning after his 85th birthday, Harlan is found in his study with a slit throat, and police deem it a suicide; however, an anonymous party calls Benoit Blanc, a renowned private detective, to the scene because they suspect foul play. There definitely was foul play at hand, but the viewer finds that every member of Harlan’s family had a strained relation with him, and so they all had a theoretical motive.

The movie follows Blanc through his case with subplots surrounding Marta, who was Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker. The viewer has no idea what could possibly happen next, right up to the very last scene. The plots take riveting and unexpected turns, and the whole movie is the best kind of roller coaster. I won’t give any explicit spoilers, but the ending of the movie was absolute gold and gave me almost complete close (I am holding out for a sequel!) If you are looking for a movie that will have you glued to your seat and pondering for hours afterward, or even just something to watch on family movie night, Knives Out is definitely a contender.

-Arushi S. 

Knives Out is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Time to Kill by John Grisham

This is a legal thriller written by former criminal defense attorney John Grisham. The reason I thought that the first novel written by him is awesome is because it not only penetrates deep into the entrenched system of racism in America, it also describes the love and duty of a father. Carl Lee Bailey murdered brutally the rapists who harmed his twelve year old daughter teaches me how much a father can do to protect his little girl. Moreover, it also tells me how unfair the justice system was to blacks in general compared to whites. I was also very shocked at the Ku Klux Klan and how cruel they can be in terms of killing innocent African Americans and burning any traitors at the cross.

This novel serves as a reminder to people working in the legal professions today on how our justice system should conform with the foundation of democracy—racial equality. It also delivers a message to its readers in that laws can be interpreted in different ways and we should have sympathy for each other. Supposedly, Carl Lee Bailey should be charged with capital punishment, but because he killed the two rapists for the sake of his daughter, he was released at last. The jurors knew that every father would perhaps do the same for their own daughter, which is the reason they decided that Bailey was not guilty.

-Coreen C. 

A Time to Kill by John Grisham is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

When by Victoria Laurie

Everyone knows that they will one day die, and yet we live our lives trying our best to ignore it, as death is a dark subject for most. However, the main character Maddie in the book When by Victoria Laurie, has no choice but to see death everywhere she goes. The death date of every person she sees is imprinted upon their forehead.  Living alone with her mother, money is tight, and so her mother arranged for her to earn money by telling clients who come to their home their death date.

One day a client comes in and Maddie informs her that her son’s death date is next week. Shocked and confused( as the woman had initially come in regarding the death date of her daughter who had leukemia) she leaves angrily. Of course, the woman’s son ends up dead upon the very date that Maddie predicted. After this, the FBI begins to suspect Maddie as well as her best friend Stubby for murdering the child. The book is a thrilling mystery that I enjoyed immensely, and it is the kind of book that kept me up late reading, anticipating what would happen next. 

Buried beneath the fast-paced storyline, however, is the question to the reader of what you would do if you knew the day you would die. It was something fascinating to ponder as I read, and even one of the characters in the book whom Maddie had told his death date to had turned his life around due to that. He wanted to make sure his family was supported financially and knew they were loved, as well as enjoy the last years of his life. And the meaning I found within the book as well was that death is not something to try to run away from, but rather something to remember every once in a while, to put everything into perspective and allow you to live life beautifully.

~Aisha E.

When by Victoria Laurie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In A Dark, Dark Wood shows how dark a reunion of friends can get. It goes into the worst possible scenarios that could happen at a reunion all leading to the last scenario that leaves them unsure of who to trust.

Nora lives alone in a flat in London. She runs frequently and enjoys living alone because she doesn’t have to share with anyone. One day while writing a book, she gets an email from an old friend from college called Clare. The email invites Nora to a getaway before Clare gets married. Nora decides to go. When she gets to the isolated house, something feels off to her but she can’t tell what it is.

As the getaway goes on, Nora starts feeling more and more like something odd is going on around her. Finally, during the night all the girls in the house are awoken by a loud noise. The gather together in one room and start hearing footsteps coming up the stairs. Nora grabs a shotgun oddly placed on the wall in front of her and walks out to the stairs. At the stairs, Nora sees a hooded man coming up the stairs. Nora precedes to shoot him with the shotgun which sends him tumbling back down the stairs. As Nora goes to see who it is, she sees that it’s James her college love. James also happens to be the man Clare is getting married to.

Nora begins tying a cloth around James wound to try to stop the bleeding. Then they lift James up into the car. Nora goes to go get her jacket before leaving, but when she goes back outside, Clare is already long gone. Nora runs to the road to get to the car. She gets to the road and sees nothing. Then out of nowhere, Clare’s car speeds onto the road and hits Nora. Nora then wakes up at the hospital forgetful of what happened. Soon she pieces everything together and realizes that Clare had planned everything. She tells that to the police and soon Clare gets taken into custody and then locked up

– Emilio V.

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva

When I first picked up The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva at Barnes and Nobles, I was fascinated by the title. Truth to be told, I first saw Daniel Silva’s books at JFK International Airport when I was coming back to California from New York; and since I adore spy novels, I looked into the series that Silva wrote, found this novel, and decided to give it a read.

In my opinion, this book started out awfully slow. However, during the first half of the novel, the reader gains a thorough understanding of the main characters and the background information leading up to the climax. Even though the beginning was really slow and has little action, I still enjoyed getting acquainted with Michael Osbourne, his family, and his rivals.

This being a book report, I imagine now you, as the reader, would want to know what this novel is really about. However, I give no promises for spoilers. This novel is about CIA agent Michael Osbourne and his nemesis, Jean-Paul Delaroche. Now you might be wondering: why does Osbourne and Delaroche have such a bad history? Well, the shorter version is Delaroche shot and killed Michael’s past lover with him watching and Michael wanted revenge. So, when the perfect opportunity came, he grasped it and was extremely desperate to find the truth. It’s not exactly a pretty story but none of the important characters died, I promise. (Well, some people died, but, they’re not as important.) The mark of that assassin is killing his opponents by shooting them three times in the face and it is literally one of the coolest aspects of the book. Sure, it is bloody and disgusting, but I like how Delaroche has a personality and it would’ve been so dull if Delaroche didn’t have his style. This book has kept me on edge until the last page. What I find amazing is Silva’s ability to integrate so many plot twists and unexpected relationships that you’d never expect.

When I got to half, the plot twists got so intense that my mom had to break me out of my reading coma. I’d praise this book for the raw emotion that Daniel Silva’s characters bring to the table. It is a wonderfully written story and I would totally recommend it for the action and the formidable characters.

– Angela L.

Daniel Silva’s The Mark of the Assassin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library