Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Death Comes As The End by Agatha Christie - Agatha Christie

One of Agatha Christie’s only historical mystery novels, Death Comes as the End is set in 2000 BC in ancient Egypt, one of the singular civilizations that nearly valued death over life. At the bottom of a cliff in the city of Thebes lies the broken body of Nofret, concubine to a ka-priest, whose beautiful face was a harsh contrast to the venomous words that came out of her mouth, causing all who met her to hate her with a passion.

Though Nofret’s death is easily written off as an accident, Renisenb, the priest’s daughter, finds herself suspecting something more behind the tragedy. Increasingly, she becomes convinced that the source of evil is not an external spirit or force exacting revenge, but present within her own household.

As members of her family continue to die in “accidents,” Renisenb, her friend Hori, and her grandmother Esa must race against time to discover the true killer, before they, too, find themselves on the boat of Ra…

Beginning with a lighthearted tone, Death Comes as the End gradually descends into the darkness of a family surrounded by fear with no escape in sight. However, Christie also brings her experience in writing mysteries to the table by delving into the psychology of murder, which, far from being boring, serves as a yet another plot element leading up to the shocking, unseen conclusion.

Overall, Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie is a fantastic read, and all fans of the Queen of Mystery should be sure to read it.

-Mahak M.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Paper Towns by John Green

Throughout my 14 years of existence, I’ve never read a book that amazes me as much as this. It’s plot consists of Quentin’s take on Margo as she goes on one of her crazy adventures once again, or is this one different from the rest? Margo Spiegelman is a rebellious and adventurous young woman who does things as she pleases. Her history of running away on an adventure and returning a couple days later had everyone constantly thinking of her. She often left clues, but they were never specific enough to find her. Her neighbor, Quentin, who shares a bit of history with her, finds love for her only to realize that maybe Margo isn’t exactly the girl of his dreams. When Margo goes on this adventure her senior year, they both learn things they didn’t know about themselves and each other.

The events that take place in this book are simply thrilling and manage to keep you on your toes. Personally, the ending really had me hooked because I had never read about an ending like this one before. That’s one of my favorite things about this book, the element of surprise it had. If mystery and adventure books are your calling, I’d recommend checking this one out. While it has a bit of romance involved, it’s more of an adventurous book. Paper Towns highlights how we all change in highschool and figure out who we are. John Green is an extremely talented writer, and if you choose to read it, it’ll sweep you off your feet

-Kaitlyn Y

Paper Towns by John Green is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

From Russia, with Love (novel) - Wikipedia

SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, plans to commit a grand act of terrorism in the intelligence field, one that will completely and utterly smash any remains of respect left in that particular organization. Their chosen target – MI6 agent James Bond.

Oblivious to their coming destruction, MI6 receives word that a beautiful Russian agent, Tatiana Romanova, is willing to defect to the British intelligence along with a crucial piece of Soviet technology – a Spektor. There is, however, one catch – James Bond, the man she claims she loves, must come out to meet her at Istanbul.

However, as revealed in the first half of the book, this “love story” is a mere set up for the greatest scandal the intelligence community has ever seen – and Bond and Romanova have fallen right into the trap for their own destruction. Unless Bond can find a way to extricate himself and his organization from their impending doom, SMERSH will have free reign over all of Europe, and potentially the world.

Through a masterful use of dramatic irony and the usual Bond action scenes, Ian Fleming crafts a 007 masterpiece in From Russia With Love. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they devour the novel, only to reach the cliffhanger conclusion. From Russia With Love is a brilliant James Bond adventure that is definitely not to be missed.

-Mahak M.

From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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 Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

For all the self-proclaimed literary snobs—you know, those who continually reference books and apply its meanings to the chapters of one’s life—Gabrielle Zevin introduces A.J. Fikry, a middle-aged and depressed bookseller on the coast of Massachusetts. Encompassing this universal feeling, of a storied life, Zevin characterizes all of us through him. Her novel, memoir, a minder—I’m not even sure what to call it—is nothing short of a masterpiece and warmly prompts us to recall why we read and how we love one another.

Fikry doesn’t have a lot of customers and even fewer friends. Mourning the loss of his wife, Fikry prizes his first edition copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tamerlane,” until it goes missing within the first few chapters. Left in its place is a small bundle. Spurring an unexpected change in his life, Fikry stubbornly comes to learn that the capacity of his love is not limited to paperbacks and late wife.

For the most part, Zevin’s writing is optimistic but realistically honest. As an array of characters is introduced, her writing accommodates. For Fikry, his old-fashioned life is personified by careful and calculated narration. However, as new friends find their way into his life, the style of writing expands. It seemingly mimics the path which Fikry takes in order to step outside his bookshop and into the life of others.

A bit like Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin represents the old-fashioned reader within all of us. There is something timeless and special about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, as it provides an unexpected and touching story for almost any audience. Something Fikry may appreciate, and aligned with Zevin’s writing, I find the Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” to be a fitting song. Through tones of inevitable and haunting lonesome, the lyrics remind us that the next step is to find a door and walk through it. Until we invite someone else to walk along with us, we will continue to walk along this road of life alone.

Literary snob or casual reader, almost anybody can connect with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. It is both a New York Times Bestseller and now one of the most memorable books I have read. I highly recommend.

-Maya S.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded 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

Book Review: The Moonstone by William Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone eBook by Wilkie Collins - 1230001902938 | Rakuten Kobo United  States

As a writer of the British Empire at the peak of the colonial era, Collins is immersed in the influence of colonialism and orientalism thinking mode. His image of the Eastern people inevitably shows the superiority of the subjects of the metropolitan country and the obvious racist attitude towards the colonial people. However, many factors in The Moonstone, such as the selection of time setting, plot arrangement, characterization and so on, can also be interpreted completely in the opposite way: Collins raises certain doubts and challenges to the colonial mentality. Collins’s choice of India as the setting is closely related to the Indian mercenary riots of 1857. The rioting started when the British authorities used butter and lard as lubricants for bullet clips that needed to be chewed through the mouth, and the mercenaries were mostly Hindus or Muslims. To them, touching the oil on these clips meant blasphemy against religion. Angry soldiers rioted, killing not only the British boss but also the innocent. Most of the reports in the British media distorted the facts of the case, and for a time, the name “bloodthirsty Indian” was constantly heard. Collins and Dickens collaborated on an article called “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners,” which exposed the insidious, cunning, and hypocrisy of colored people and praised the qualities of British soldiers. The Moonstone was written on the tenth anniversary of the riots, and newspapers and magazines are full of memories, memorials or reflections on the events. By this time, many British people had come to understand the truth and felt that the British authorities had been wrong to disregard the Indian soldiers’ religious beliefs, and Collins’s views had changed subtly. In the novel, his view of the relationship between Britain and India is no longer a simple tribute to the British empire, but an indirect expression of his deep reflection. The plot arrangement and characterization of the novel also reveal Collins’ questioning and criticism of the so-called noble morality of the colonists.

Several of the Englishmen involved in the jewel were from the upper middle class, but the cruelty and greed of Colonel Herncastle, who first grabbed the jewel, goes without saying, and the image of Abel White, the real black hand in the jewel theft, is ironic. The final collapse of the case exposed Abel White as a hypocritical English gentleman. He is the suitor of Rachel, the heroine. He is of noble birth, well-educated and has a noble career as a lawyer. He attends church regularly and is enthusiastic in organizing and participating in various charitable activities. He was a fine young man of uncommon appearance. He had a round, bright face, a ruddy complexion, and lovely blond hair. However, when the mystery is solved, his double identity is revealed: the bright surface conceals the dark inner heart, he not only leads a dissolved life, but also embezzles the client’s funds. After the financial crisis, in order to avoid ruin, he took the risk of stealing precious stones. It is intriguing that Collins has named such a sanctimonious figure Abel White. The image of an Indian was in stark contrast to Abel White’s imposing appearance. In the eyes of several narrators, the Indians are dark skinned, obtuse, and have a manner reminiscent of snakes. However, they had a clear goal and a firm belief. In order to retrieve the stolen holy moonstone, they broke the religious rules and sacrificed their lives to trace all the way to England, and finally returned the gem to its owner by tenacious perseverance, superhuman patience and shrewd calculation. The explorer concludes the novel by describing a grand Hindu religious ceremony celebrating the return of the jewel. His reverence rose to the page as he spoke of the three men going their separate ways, with the congregation around them making way for them in silence. The moonstone becomes a yardstick to measure the good and evil of human nature and a mirror to reflect the character’s morality.

Reflected in this mirror, the “barbarian” in the eyes of the Europeans became the guardian of virtue, while the English gentleman had forgotten what was virtuous. So when Abel White, the “capable white man”, is murdered by an Indian, the mood conveyed by the novel is not one of indignation, but of sympathy, admiration and relief that justice has been done. The moonstone is a sacred object of Hinduism. This gem is no longer just a physical indicator, but a spiritual and cultural sustenance. The twists and turns of its fate revealed that the economy of the English country estate was closely related to the colony. Events in the colony would eventually spread to the British mainland and cause social unrest in Britain. The moonstone exposes the brutality and greed of the colonists, reflecting their moral corruption and hypocrisy under the guise of religion and civilization. Moreover, through the influence of the gem on the family of the British gentry, the author implies that colonial affairs destroy the traditional social and family hierarchy order: only when the colonial gems leave the British mainland, the British family can restore normal order. Another theme of the novel is to celebrate Rachel’s pursuit of love, even though her pursuit is full of difficulties. She falls in love with Franklin before her birthday party, but on the night of the party, after witnessing him steal the moonstone, she begins to doubt their love. But no matter how sad she was, she chose to sacrifice her reputation for secrecy to protect Franklin. In the novel, there are three Indians who follow in the footsteps of the moonstone, and their task is to keep searching for the moonstone, without fear of sacrifice, even through generations of efforts, until the stone is returned to its original place. Rachel’s sacrifice was in the name of love, and the sacrifice of the three Indians was in the name of faith. The two kinds of sacrifice echoed and supported each other.

The horror and mystery reflected in The Moonstone is one of the important features of Gothic literature. Readers are always in the process of guessing the murderer, guessing wrong, continuing to guess and guessing wrong. Only by reading the ending did we discover who the real killer was. In The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins has a remarkably precise command of time and space, one of the basic abilities that most mystery novels have. In terms of narrative structure, the novel is just like drama and film shooting, which is divided into prologue, first part, second part and epilogue. In the second part, there are six stories to tell. The time of the narrative remains the same, and the gems are stolen one by one — the truth comes out, but after the jewel is stolen, the events in the second part are told separately by the six men, as if the police were looking for clues and inquiring about relevant personnel, and the parts of the six men’s separate stories seem to be independent. The overlap of time and the intersection of space weave an impenetrable web. Narration, flashbacks and interludes in space and time make the plot messy and complex, close and scattered, and the readers’ mood is controlled by the author. There are traps in Wilkie Collins’s narrative that draw the reader’s mind in mysterious and conspiring directions, yet he is so grounded in the goodness of human nature that, just when you want to believe in it, another well-reasoned accident pulls back a plot that has gone far. Finally, you seem to know how the gem came back to India, and you seem not to know. This kind of looming narrative is extraordinarily precise in its transformation of narrative vision. In the dialogue of the characters, the defects of the previous character are written back or made up, and the whole picture is reflected afterwards where random incident causes an uncontrollable scene.

-Coreen C.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game is a short novel by Ellen Raskin.  This book has won several awards, including the Newberry Medal.  The story is about a millionaire named Samuel W. Westing.  Sam Westing was known as an eccentric man who loved games.  He left behind a very strange will.  According to the will, his vast fortune would be inherited by the person who could win a perplexing game he had devised before his death.

The will only allowed certain people to play the Westing game.  They were not the kind of heirs typically included in a will.  The game participants seemed to have no relation to each other, but they all had some kind of connection to Sam Westing.  According to the will, he had actually been murdered by one of his heirs.

The people all seem confused that they were selected to play this game, but each of them wants to win the Westing fortune.  The game involves various clues that arouse suspicion in each other.  As the game unfolds, the heirs discover many surprises, and realize that Sam Westing’s game is more dangerous than they had supposed.

I have read this book several times, even though I have already learned the surprise ending.  I still enjoy reading this book for its suspense and humor.  I also like reading about all the different characters, and their unique personalities.  The story is very clever and full of surprises.  This book is very engaging and I think you will have a hard time putting it down once you start reading it.

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