Origin (Robert Langdon #5) by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that will change the face of science forever by answering two of the fundamental questions of human existence. The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. 

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Langdon and Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event, flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.–DoubleDay Books, 2015

Book Review:

Where do we come from? Where are we going? are the two repeated questions in this atheist’s wet dream.  Full of conniving priests, murdering zealots, science and social revolution leaning away from the Catholic church. Like in Langdon’s past adventures, we get a tour of a beautiful country and its landmarks.  This time in Spain.  And again a beautiful, intelligent, yet non-romantic female counterpart in Ambra Vidal.

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The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) by Tana French

A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girls boarding school, and the case was never solved. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of the boy with the caption: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined. –Penguin Books, 2015

Book Review: 

The storytelling is split between present-day first-person of the career climbing Detective Stephen Moran and third-person, following Holly Mackey and her friends in the events that lead up to Chris Harper’s death.  Puberty sucked the first time I went through it myself, but to watch these teenage girls go through it is intolerable.  Not just because growing bodies, social status, and random dick pics are annoying, but the girls’ point of view isn’t interesting and could have been left out. I’m sure it was added to create character depth for the girls’ and the murder victim, but that was already artfully done with the detectives’ interrogation and did nothing, but slow down an already long investigation.

French does not romanticize detective work, which gives the investigation a real and tangible quality. But the unadvertised splash of the supernatural takes the story out of the real world and into an off-brand Craft ripoff that drove the sinking ship of a story deep into the glade of no return.–(Very Low) Borrow it

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost.-Lee Bordeaux Books; 2017

Book Review:

In an effort to ‘casually’ avoid the wedding of his 9-year f*ck boy and outrun turning 50, Arthur Less accepts every job, award ceremony, teaching assignment, and vacation invitation to be as far away as possible.  He encounters former lovers, rivals, old friends, locals, and his publisher on his travels from New York, across the world to Japan.

Less is told his writing is spoony, that’s he’s bad gay, told people over 50 are too old for love and that a relationship ending after 20 years is a great success.  While he ruminates on these statements he never comes to a conclusion of his own on the matters, except that he is a fool.  Which a book club would have a great time arguing for or against.  Does throwing together a trip around the world to places he’s never been, make him a fool or adventurous?  Or as the omnipotent 3rd party narrator would have you believe, brave?  Does avoiding love make you sensical or an idiot?

The style of writing that quickly flits between the past and the present is as The New York Times hails; inspired, lyrical, and elegiac. And is one of the few books I found myself reading more than once and I think you should at least read once yourself. –Buy it!  

The Songs of Achilles by Madaline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.-Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011

Book Review:

From Patroclus’ point of view, from which the story is told, we see Achilles as one hell of a lyre player, beautiful, physically capable, and confident, not bordering on arrogant just yet. There is no wonder why Patroclus fell for him. Too bad Patroclus has neither looks, charisma, physical prowess, intellect, anything, to make him worthy of Achilles other than being chosen by him a la Pretty Woman. But just like I didn’t understand Achilles’ love for Patroclus, nor did I understand the Greek’s worship of Achilles.  Before the Trojan War, the myth from which Achilles is famed, he hadn’t killed a man, won a competition other than a track meet or gone on any adventures.  Hell, he was in hiding when the Greeks came to recruit him to fight to return Helen of Sparta from Troy.  How he was allowed to name himself ‘Best of the Greeks’ is beyond me. Fortunately for the Greeks, Achilles more than lived up to the hype, decimating hundreds of Trojans in a single blow. To be a hero in this time you only needed to be a fierce warrior, with a good song sung about you around the campfire, didn’t matter what or who you fought for, the prize was the glory.

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My American Duchess by Eloisa James

The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford – an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés. 
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear: All is fair in love and war. — Avon, 2016

Book Review:

Merry Pelford is independently wealthy, smart, funny, and busty.  You more than understand the Duke of Trent’s instant infatuation.  Trent’s burly physic, annoyance with polite society, (although I don’t know how insulting Merry and America at every chance makes the English ‘polite’, but it does give the opportunity for a great lesson on how to deal with bullies) and love of Merry’s directness and wit, makes the attraction mutual, despite Merry being engaged to her third suitor.  Between her past engagements and intelligence, you would think Merry would be a bit more cautious or at the least do a thorough background check before agreeing to another engagement, but no.  Putting Merry in the bind of breaking yet another engagement and being socially ruined in America and England or living the rest of her life in a loveless marriage.

The steamy sex scenes of the third act smooth over the drama of Merry’s wedding day and her spouse’s refusal to love her, despite moving hell and high water to have her, and makes the story overall enjoyable. –(High) Borrow it

Uglies (Uglies #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world– and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever…–Simon Pulse, 2005

Book Review: 

In this youth-dominated post-apocalyptic world, people are separated by ugly and pretty.  Because when you’re pretty, what is there to fight about?  No more unfair advantages for the tall and attractive for jobs, political office-hell, life in general.  No more racism and discrimination because everyone looks the same after they ‘turn’ or have the surgery that will make them pretty at age 16.  But until then you’re ugly.  You live separated from your family in school dorms in Uglyville till you turn, and then can cross the river and move into Prettyville. No, I didn’t make up those names. In Prettyville everyone is pretty and does nothing but party all day.  How this society thrives or even affords a population that adds nothing to it isn’t explained, but hey you’re pretty now, what do you have to worry about?

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Savages (Savages #2) by Don Winslow

Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach-based marijuana operation, reaping significant profits from their loyal clientele. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon took care of eliminating the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they can’t handle — the Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, sending them the message that a “no” is unacceptable. –Simon Schuster, 2010

Book Review:

Set during the late 2000s during the Obama administration, Savages’ short cast includes two drug dealers, a horny- rich-do-nothing and the Mexican cartel.  That about covers the character development. Each character is given a label and more or less stick to it.  The cartel says, ‘hey gringos, give us your weed or else’, the drug dealers say, ‘here take it, we’re getting bored with the biz anyway,’ but of course, it wouldn’t be much of a story if the cartel was civil about it or if the story was told in a consistent style.

The cartel takes the drug dealers’ horny- rich-do-nothing to incentivize them into doing things their way.  Which does nothing but start a war with both sides fight for what is theirs.  Their pothead-plaything, their territory, freedom, etc.  Political commentary taking jabs at Republicans, Democrats and the Iraq War are sprinkled throughout the fast-paced tale that never quite answers who is the real savage is.

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Devil in Spring (The Ravenals #3) by Lisa Kleypas

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger. 
After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain. -Avon;2017

Book Review:

Pandora’s need for independence, refusal to obey any man and vivid imagination, makes her a character you can’t help but fall in love with. As the male protagonist, Lord Gabriel St. Vincent found out for himself. St. Vincent’s acceptance of Pandora and his desire to respect her wishes for independence, will have you screaming for her to soften her stance and just marry the man already! Pandora’s curiosity and adventurous nature make for some pearl grabbing scandalous sex scenes.  That same temperament puts Pandora directly in harm’s way as well as helps her to save the day.

Which this book did for me, by looking past the romance of marriage to point out the real world ramifications of marriage for women in the Victorian area.  That they become the property of their husbands with no rights of their own. And by breaking the monotony of damsels in distress or unworldly wasps in need of a man’s protection.  Or annoyingly contrarian female leads who would have been better off left to spinsterhood. -(Low) Buy it!

Dirty Deeds by Loreli James

Landscaper Nathan LeBeau knows exactly how to use his big equipment to make the earth move. The Native American bad-boy has a reputation for getting filthy—in and out of the bedroom. 
So when good-girl Tate Cross needs dirt work done, she hires the wickedly hot and surprisingly intuitive Nathan—secretly hoping she’ll get more than just her flowerbeds plowed. 
Smart and sexy Tate is exactly the type of woman Nathan’s been looking for. But he wants more than another fling, so he digs in his heels to prove to Miss-I-Don’t-Need-Romance that taking things slowly will lead them to something real.
But Tate isn’t interested in being romanced—even when Nathan’s sweet and charming ways are hard to resist. She’ll use every tool at her disposal to convince the former player to play with her and that getting down and dirty together is as real as it gets. — Ridgeview Publishing;2017

Book Review:

Inconsistent, unclear and huh? Overall surmises this story of two reluctant lovers.  When Tate and Nathan first meet, Tate is so nervous she is literally hiding in the bushes.  She was in good company cause Nate was also riddled with insecurities about his Native American heritage.  But they miraculously get over their nerves quickly, making illicit comments about wearing tassels, sharing a beer bottle and being aggressively handsy despite coming into the encounter like 14-year-old virgins.  Tate and Nate, say they want stringless sex, but to prove his ex-girlfriend wrong, Nate throws in some romance for the hell of it.  Making both of them sit through dates and put a lot of effort into a relationship that neither one of them claim to want. Making their motives and end goals unclear.

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