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 Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Ever since its infamous publication in 2003, The Da Vinci Code has succeeded largely in two things: become a massive international bestseller and stir up a contentious brew of religious controversy and criticism.

Controversy aside, I have to first applaud Dan Brown’s skill in weaving together an excellent thriller. When I first saw how thick the book was (689 pages; and I usually only exercise that sort of brainpower and patience with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson), I thought that Dan Brown better have a good story to tell.

Let me just say…he rose to the challenge and completely destroyed it.

My previous conceptions on the book were way off. I had this skewed idea that it was a biography of Leonardo da Vinci’s, ah, complex life, but it’s far more intriguing than that. In fact, the whole book is entangled in a complex matrix of enigmatic riddles, secret societies (ooh!), and the constant hit-or-miss run of the two fugitive protagonists, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu.

Langdon is a professor at Harvard–very prestigious, I know–and he studies the meanings of hidden symbols (sign me up for his class, please). He is drawn together to the other main character, Sophie Neveu, who is the granddaughter of a famous curator, Jacques Sauniere, through the mysterious death of Sauniere in the Louvre. Fair warning: this book is pretty intense. It literally starts with the curator’s murder by the hand of a monk under the religious group Opus Dei, but honestly, I don’t mind these intense openings, which makes me sound extremely psychotic. Guys, I promise the book didn’t ruin me.

Anyways, we eventually discover that Sauniere is part of a brotherhood, the Priory of Sion, that is devoted to the preservation of the pagan goddess worship tradition, and believed to be once led by Leonarda da Vinci (see, you knew da Vinci was in the title for a reason!), and that Sauniere is the last living member of the brotherhood. So that means…all their secrets are about to die! How could they!

Yeah, sorry. Jacques Sauniere outplayed us all, the genius man. Through excruciating pain before his death, he creates riddles and drawings around the exhibition, leading Neveu and Langdon on the most epic scavenger hunt I have ever witnessed. Sauniere doesn’t plan on having the secrets of the Priory lost anytime soon, and he trusts Langdon and Neveu to solve his puzzles and discover the truth. To be completely honest, Neveu and Langdon seriously make me question my IQ. I mean, they somehow escape the Louvre, slipping through the grasp of the French police by means of a bar of soap and a garbage truck (read the book to find out; the scene is pure gold, so I can’t elaborate too much >:) ). This might sound sort of cringy, but trust me, you have got to read this book, because you won’t put it down. Ever. How Dan Brown comes up with the puzzles in the story, the whole plot, the creative ways of escaping…it’s beyond me. At this point, I’m convinced that if anyone knows how to evade the FBI and disappear off the face of the planet, it’s Brown.

I’m not really going to go into more detail, because each puzzle just folds into another lead, then another. It’s insane. Now, though, I want to talk about the conflict about this book, which is partially what made it so well-known.

See, the book was banned entirely in countries like Lebanon because it poses some…well, interesting ideas about Christianity. For example, the whole focus of the Priory of Sion is the belief that the Holy Grail is not a cup depicted in da Vinci’s drawing The Last Supper. It’s a woman named Mary Magdalene, who the Priory believes to have married Jesus Christ and bore his child. I go to a religious high school, and yeah, that theory is definitely never brought up. Additionally, the book highly suggests that religious leaders such as the Pope and religious groups such as Opus Dei are surrounded with a dark history of blackmail and altering the true stories of the Bible, simply to make money. As the book says, the Bible isn’t the best book ever written, it was the best book ever sold.

Shots fired.

Brown argues that the book is completely factual, but many opponents of the book aren’t at all interested in listening. And I suppose they have a good reason to; the book does unravel some aspects of religion that Christians and others of faith may find highly offensive. For now, I’m choosing to remain neutral on the issue. I can definitely understand why some would renounce the book, but to me, I would still praise it for its compelling plot-line and lovable characters. If you’re looking for a thriller you can’t put down and will keep you occupied for days to come during quarantine, hit up Leonardo da Vinci, Langdon, Neveu, and the rest of the gang–and just lose yourself in the awesome world Dan Brown has created!

-Katharine L. 😀

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

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

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This book is not for the faint of heart. It contains very graphic and mature scenes and themes, but nonetheless, it’s a beautiful book. 

Sadie tells the heart-wrenching story of a girl trying to get revenge for her sister’s death. It’s told through her own narration, and through a podcast following her trace. 

As a non-avid reader of mysteries/thrillers, this book was nothing like what I had expected. Although it could be a bit slow at times, what is lacked is made up of impact. This book hits so hard, and it’s important to recognize these types of actions as something that sadly is a part of society today. 

As you learn more about Sadie and what she’s been through, and the stories of the people she meets, you find everything that happens is the absolute worst things imaginable. Society is a gruesome and horrible place, and reading this book gave me biggest reality check I ever could’ve gotten.

The most horrible thing is, that these predicaments are what some people live in, it’s all they know, and that thought repulses me. The idea that people can relate to this piece of work is truly a reflection of the worst parts of society today. 

But all that aside, I highly recommend reading this book. Again, it gave me every sort of feeling imaginable and left me wondering about each and every one of the characters we had the honor of meeting. The podcast format for some chapters is such an ingenious idea and executed so well, I regret that I read the physical copy and not the audiobook. 

Our main character is the strongest and most resilient person I’ve ever read about. She has been through so much in her life, and as the book goes on and on, the situation gets worse and worse. Sadie is such a broken and mistreated character that everything she does, and everything she goes through is remarkable to me.

In short, if you want an impactful read, this is it.

If you’re struggling with anything that Sadie encounters or is going through in this book please reach out for help. You are not alone. 

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 

    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

    National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

-Asli B. 

Sadie by Courtney Summers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel was one I was assigned as a summer reading assignment which, undoubtedly deterred my interests from the story. It took a lot of psyching myself up to finally delve into the world Marquez had exquisitely painted. But immediately the book was extremely intriguing. The first line of the novel was an eye-catcher stating “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”

This novel, in the beginning, was confusing. The book was not written in chronological order as suggested but instead jumped around in time. This constant shift through time made it hard to understand a cohesive story during the early stages of reading. However, after a few chapters, the story came together. So as a suggestion, do not let this initial confusion deter you from reading this book.

By the end of the novel, this jumping through time helps create a more intriguing story, creating suspense because the author can choose specific information through different times to give to the reader.

This story is also accurate to the customs of the place in which the story was written. So, it gives an almost realistic feel to a seemingly horrific action. It also allows readers to have some insight into the practices of a different era and different location. This story, stating that the main character was to be killed, then follows the actions which allowed the main character to suffer such a horrific fate. This story ended up being one I extremely enjoyed. I finished the book in a day because I just could not put it down. So, sometimes these books that we are forced to read because of school can actually be enjoyable. It gave me something to do over the summer which was fun.

This book is a nice short read for anyone who is interested in a mystery book. I would suggest it to anybody looking to read something different than the popular books that are being written today. For, this book brings a totally different perspective to the way books can be written.

-Ava G.

Chronicle of Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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

Finale by Stephanie Garber

Caution: this review may contain spoilers from books one and two, Caraval and Legendary

The Fates have been released from the Deck of Destiny. Legend has claimed himself Elantine’s heir, and his coronation as emperor of Valenda is soon to occur. Scarlett and Tella’s mother has not opened her eyes since her imprisonment in a card. Legendary, the sequel to Stephanie Garber’s Caraval, has dressed the place behind the curtains for a final act: the finale.

While the first two books in the trilogy are told by single narrators (Caraval told by Scarlett and Legendary told by Tella), the two sisters take turns narrating in Finale. I thought the combination of Scarlett and Tella’s narration provided a wonderful balance to the story, for each sister has a unique personality and an individual mindset. The idea of the two points of view working together to build this final story also compliments the theme of sisterly love, which is present throughout the trilogy.

Finale focuses largely on the power of love when directed at someone and when used against beings who live off of fear. This story exemplifies how love–whether given gently like Scarlett or ferociously like Tella–may be the strongest force against enmity.

In Finale, Stephanie Garber expands upon certain objects and curiosities that previously appeared in the other two books. I was interested to learn more about Scarlett and Tella’s mother’s past, why Scarlett sees feelings in color, and how Scarlett’s magical dress originated.

I was a bit disappointed that Caraval is not played in this final book, but by no means did the story lack the magic and elaborate colors found in Legend’s game. Understandably, with the Fates running free in Valenda, the characters can no longer simply play a game (not that Caraval was really just a game).

Though Finale is filled with visited dreams, different kinds of magic, and unusual places, I still think my favorite book in the series is Caraval (though I usually tend to favor the first book). It could just be the initial magic of Caraval and Legend that makes the first book so compelling or the mystery of who is an actor and who is not. However, I’m glad I read Finale, as it expanded upon many elements of the magic and characters while also leaving some untied strings to the story.

– Mia T.

Finale by Stephanie Garber is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library