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

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

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.