Sunday, January 31, 2016

I am Pilgrim

Book: I Am Pilgrim
Series: Pilgrim #1
Author: Terry Hayes

A breakneck race against time...and an implacable enemy.

An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.

A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.

A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard.

Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.

A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.

One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey.


Review: This is one of those books that has a lot of 5 star reviews and 1 star reviews. People seem passionate about loving it or hating it. I wasn't sure what to expect and I have drastic opinions about the first half and section half, let's get started.

First Half
The first half of the book was a challenge. The writing style was very odd. It's written in first person yet we have sections written about certain characters with their personal feelings and emotions as they are about to die...written from a characters perspective who wasn't there. Or it somehow it went from first to third back to first? Not sure, it was weird. The main character is also a super spy (I will refer to him as 'super spy since he goes by so many different names)-for the life of me, I could not get a good grasp of him as a person. Maybe that's the point, to be a good spy you need to blend, he was just so 'blah.' There are several sections about the Saracen (jihadist), the big bad of the book and his background. I found these sections incredibly boring-literally, sleep inducing. There were also so many "I just don't see that happening moments." Our super spy retires at a young age and the government allows him to write a book detailing some of his cases. I realize he attempted to 'hide' his true identity as the author but I just don't see the government allowing that. Then an NYPD detective is able to figure out his true identity and the spy agrees to speak at a symposium in front of people (under an alias). No, just no. An ex-spy should be trying to keep a low profile and keep his face out of the public eye. Okay, on to the big bad, the Saracen. **minor spoiler alert** He breaks into one of the most secure facilities in the world (supposedly) using eye balls he cut out of somehow. How is it they have this advanced retina scanner but no CCTV cameras? Even gas stations have them, for goodness sake!

Okay, enough complaints, I decided to persevere and finish the book, even though at this point I was thinking I was definitely in the one star review group.

Second Half
Our super spy is brought back into the fold to track and capture the Saracen, someone with  no criminal record. Side note-our super spy doesn't speak Arabic and Saracen is a Saudi, I thought this would be an issue, but it wasn't. Now, once our super spy flies to Turkey to track him, the book improved 100%. I found I was immersed in the chase-imagine my surprise when i actually stayed up until almost 2am to finish the book (a drastic change from falling asleep at 9:30pm several nights in a row trying to slug through the first half). The plot was fast paced and it was interesting see how everything played out. Of course, our super spy finds the most obscure clues, but that's how these books work, right? 

So-overall, while first half is def tough to get through, I'm glad I finished the book. 

Grade: 3/5

Falling Kingdoms

Book: Falling Kingdoms
Series: Falling Kingdoms #1
Author: Morgan Rhodes

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed... and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It's the eve of war.... Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword.... -Goodreads

Review: I'm a huge fan of Morgan Rhode's adult series (funny vampire series by Michelle Rowen) so I was excited to read this. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's the first in a fantasy series so we were introduced to the world and cast of characters. It started slow but I was quickly sucked into the story. Cleo evolved from a character I couldn't stand at the beginning to someone I was rooting for at the end. I wasn't happy with the 'insta-love' between some characters, but that seems par for the course with YA these days. 

I will definitely read the next in the series and I have high hopes. 

Grade: 3/5

The Devotion of Suspect X

Book: The Devotion of Suspect X
Series: Detective Galileo #3
Author: Keigo Higashino

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.

When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.-Goodreads

Review: A murder mystery where the reader knows who the killer is and what happened. The question is-will they get away with it? Do we want them to? This was a really interesting psychological thriller (a tad choppy at times with the translation from Japanese to English) while we see the police investigation and how the killer responds to it. I will definitely be reading more of this series. 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Spin
Series: The Corruption Series #1
Author: CD Reiss

Mafia capo, Antonio Spinelli blew through my orderly life like a cyclone.

Gorgeous and passionate, with a breathtaking brutality, he put me under his spell the moment he touched me, drawing me into his underworld of risk, violence and betrayal.

And I found, just as this sophisticated savage didn’t trust me, I didn’t trust myself. Something happened to me. Some alchemy from the heat between us.

I discovered I was a savage, too.-Goodreads

Review: Unpopular review time. I love CD Reiss and I love her other series focusing on Jonathon and Fiona Drazen. I did not enjoy this book. Theresa Drazen is an accountant whose ex-fiance (who is running for mayor) cheated on her. There is nothing remotely interesting about her. She falls into insta-lust/love with Antonio Spinelli, a capo for a crime family. One of the first times she sees Antonio, she has taken her alcoholic sister out to a bar (yes, she knows her sister has a drinking problem and INVITES her anyway), her sister vomits on a car, and then Antonio punches a guy in the face. He then shoves the guys bloody face into the car and makes him lick the vomit. i kid you not. Theresa is not disgusted by this. Unfortunately, I was. Moving on...You would think Theresa would have a moral problem with his line of work as she is very straight laced. She is able to get over it very quickly. They barley have any conversations, their relationship is almost all physical. These scenes aren't even that sexy (especially the shower scene featuring conditioner-yikes). Very disappointed in this one. 

Grade: 1/5


Book: Cinder
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Author: Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.-Goodreads

Review: Cinder is a futuristic re-telling of Cinderella. While the concept is fantastic, the execution was lacking. The characters were one dimensional, the plot was way too predictable (the 'big reveal' was literally known in the first chapter) and the world building was not inspiring. 

Grade: 2/5

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Book: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
Author: David Quammen

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Scientific AmericanBest Book of the Year, and a Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS, and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. In this gripping account, David Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge and asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?-Goodreads

Review: This is without question, the freakiest book I've ever read. One of my best friends is an infectious disease expert with the CDC and recommended this. Honestly, I was thinking 'why would I want to read a book about infectious diseases, I'm not a scientist?' but I am so glad I read this. This book is about spillovers (when a microbe passes from animal to human as a disease).  Quammen takes a detective type approach going from one disease to the next. He starts with a documented case, how the scientists and doctors treat/research/track etc. It was overall fascinating. There were some sections that weren't as interesting as others, but overall this was a fantastic read. 

Sidenote-I have ZERO desire to ever touch a bat, any sort of monkey/chip/gorilla or travel to Africa after reading this. 

Grade: 4/5

The Language of Flowers

Book: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. -Goodreads

Review: This is a beautiful book about love, loss, friendship and finding peace. Told in alternating timelines, we follow 18-year old Victoria as she leaves foster care and attempts to live in the real world on her own. In another timeline, we follow her as a damaged foster-child placed with a woman named Elizabeth, who seems adamant about adopting her. Both timelines were had glimpses of hope and heartbreak. While the plot was rather slow, I found this very well written and very interesting. 

Grade: 4/5