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 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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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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The Sting by Sandra Brown

29203612When Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard lock eyes across a disreputable backwater bar, something definitely sparks. Shaw gives off a dangerous vibe that makes men wary and inspires women to sit up and take notice. None feel that undercurrent more strongly than savvy businesswoman Jordie, who doesn’t belong in a seedy dive on the banks of a bayou. But here she is . . . and Shaw Kinnard is here to kill her. 
As Shaw and his partner take aim, Jordie is certain her time has come. But Shaw has other plans and abducts Jordie, hoping to get his hands on the $30 million her brother has stolen and, presumably, hidden. However, Shaw is not the only one looking for the fortune. Her brother’s ruthless boss and the FBI are after it as well. Now on the run from the feds and a notorious criminal, Jordie and Shaw must rely on their wits-and each other-to stay alive. –Grand Central Publishing; 2016

Book Review:

The tension drains the longer the story goes on and the clearer it becomes that Jordie Bennet should indeed be shot, or at the least be arrested.  Not only for withholding information from a federal investigation, but for being an insufferable damsel in distress without a single good comeback line for any of Shaw Kinnard’s insults.  In addition to having the nerve to fall for him despite having no discernible positive qualities, other than being the male lead in a romance novel.

But don’t worry if that recap put you to sleep.  Every scene is repeated at least twice from another character’s point of view,  without adding a drop of new information, so you won’t miss a beat!

All of Brown’s characters do have well defined personalities and there are a few plot twists that just barely keep this book from being thrown into the fire.  –-(Low) Borrow it 

Pirate (Sam and Remi Fargo Adventures Book 8) by Clive Clusser and Robin Burcell

An 800-year-old treasure… an ancient cypher wheel… a brutal murder… and a man who will stop at nothing to claim what he considers rightfully his. Husband-and-wife treasure-hunting team Sam and Remi Fargo have gone on impossible missions before and faced many perils, but never have they faced an adversary as determined as the one before them now. The battle will take them halfway around the world, and at its end will be either one of the most glorious finds in history — or certain death.

–G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 2016

Pirate follows the further adventures of millionaire treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo, as they race to find a lost medieval treasure.  The light banter and quiet moments of reflection and appreciation between the couple helps solidify the husband and wife’s relationship outside of their titles and their assumptive meanings.  The same could not be said for Remi’s vague relationship with Brie Marshall, who caused the whole adventure by sending the couple to her uncle’s bookstore for a rare first edition book.

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The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.                                                   — Little, Brown and Company; 2016

Review:

Despite not caring for the Twilight series, that Meyer is most famously known for, I did overall enjoy The Host, which prompted me to give The Chemist a chance.

The book starts off slow as Meyer pats herself on the pat for several pages to tell you of all the cool devices her leading lady Juliana,…er ah Alex  – whatever her name is, comes up with to safe guard herself against the unnamed government agency that is out to finish the job of killing her.  Despite all the precautions of booby trapped doors and poisoned jewelry, she forgot to fail safe herself against her own stupidity.   Read more