Origin

Origin by Dan Brown is the latest in the Robert Langdon series. It’s been quite a while since we’ve gotten a new one of these and honestly, I felt like this one came out of the woodwork–I had no idea it was coming until a few months out.

Robert Langdon is back and this time he is running around the Guggenheim Bilbao and the rest of Spain. When Robert is invited to an event at the Guggenheim for a presentation that will “change the world,” he can’t pass it up. Edmond Kirsch, a futurist, billionaire and one of Robert’s first students claims to know the answer to two of mankind’s greats questions: where do we come from and where are we going?

The night begins with a bang and suddenly is halted when Kirsch is attacked. Now it is up to Langdon and Ambra Vidal, the museum curator, to find out what Kirsch’s discovery was and reveal it to the world. But helping Kirsch will place them in terrible danger.

Can Langdon and Vidal uncover Kirsch’s password, release his revelation and stay alive when religious fanatics, police and the public are after them?

You can’t deny that Dan Brown as a way of combining history and fiction that is intriguing. You really do get a glimpse into history, architecture and more that you might not have otherwise seen. In this sense, all of his books are great. But for me, the story here, was a bit lackluster and not at all up to the suspense and thrill of his first two books.

I found the story quite slow actually. If you think about it, not much actually happens. The novel is book-ended by two giant chunks of text where the characters are basically stationary and nothing happens. I actually felt like I was being talked at quite a bit and it just felt like some of the prose when on and on. Don’t get me wrong, some of the theory was interesting, but it could have been condensed and still achieved the same goals.

I also hate to say it but the book was predictable. Believe it or not, but I called the ending and almost all of the character reveals after about two hours of listening to the audiobook. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t quite get into the story but there wasn’t as much wow, mystery as I expect with Dan Brown’s books.

This wasn’t a bad read but not one I would read again. Although, I will see the movie if it comes out–I love me some Tom Hanks! I hate to do it but this one only gets 2 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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The Clockwork Dynasty

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson would probably be considered science fiction or steampunk fiction. Told from two perspectives, past and present, this book tells the story of a hidden race of automate–human-like machines that live in secret among humans.

In the present, June Stefanov is a well known anthropologist specializing in historic machinery and artifacts. She is curious and this curiosity becomes dangerous when she uncovers an ancient mechanical doll with a secret. Now June is pulled into a secret world of machinery and mayhem and her only ally is a strange man who is anything but a man at all. Together they must uncover the past to save the future.

In the past, we land in Russia, 1725 where two mechanical beings, Peter and Elena, awaken to serve the Tsar. With no memory of their past lives and no knowledge of their creation, Peter and Elena struggle to blend in. When the pair accidentally runs into another of their own in a dangerous encounter, the two must flee into hiding.

Enter a world where secrets are hidden, even from their bearers and the world we know it’s exactly what it seems.

The Clockwork Dynasty was such an interesting read. The world building was really well done and quite unique. I really did love this world of ancient machinery and automation. The world of the automate is full of secrets and intrigue and yet there is still this element of mystery–even the automate don’t know who first created them, except to call them the first men. Normally, a loose end like this would really bother me but in this story it surprisingly didn’t.

One of the man problems/gripes, call it what you will, I had with this book was that the first half of more felt like a long beginning. Although, there was a lot of action, I didn’t really feel like we got into the narrative and where it was going until more than 150-200 pages in. It felt like I was reading one giant introduction and that I was waiting for the plot to thicken.

I also both liked and didn’t like this relationship between Peter and June. In one sense it was refreshing to read a book where there was literally no romantic entanglements and on the other, I would have liked them to show more of a bond, even if it was platonic.

Overall, I did like this book a lot. It didn’t wow me but it was unique and something I haven’t read before. I give this one a high 3.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is a realistic fiction novel about a curmudgeonly old man who is given a second chance at life. Ove is your typical surly old man–he believes rules are rules and right is right. Ove follows strict routines, has strong principles and is known for having a bit of a temper.

Ove’s structured life is turned on it’s head when a family of four moves in next door and constantly interferes with his plans to join his wife. Dented mailboxes, pregnant busybodies, broken windows, stray cats and more slowly thaw this grieving widowers hard heart.

A Man Called Ove is an entertaining tale of neighborly love and moving on.

This is a book someone from my book club recommended to me and one I’ve heard about a lot working in the library. When recommended, all they told me was that this is a book about an old man who is constantly getting interrupted while trying to kill himself. And that’s actually a pretty apt description. Ove is ready to join his dead wife but wants to do it right, he isn’t desperate to kill himself and is constantly saying something along the lines of “can’t a man die in peace,” when he gets interrupted.

Ove is your typical grouchy old man, if to the extreme. Everyone knows that one old guy who is stuck in his ways and wants you to “keep off his lawn!” This story has archetypal characters and relatable themes. Although, I will admit that it took me forever to realize the story took place in Switzerland–the constant referral to “kroner” didn’t do it for me.

I’ll admit, I am an old soul but probably a bit young to fully appreciate this one. An older audience probably sees some of themselves or their parents in Ove. I didn’t know my Mom’s parents and my Dad’s mother passed away when I was young. So I don’t have much to compare Ove to and yet he was still this typical grumpy old man that I could see roaming the neighborhood and enforcing the “rules.”

This was a light read that will be comforting in its familiarity to many readers. This one gets four stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a fictional novel and this years One Maryland One Book. One Maryland One Book was created by Maryland Humanities and the goal is to bring diverse groups together across the state of Maryland to share their experiences reading one book.

Set in Nigeria, fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja live a privileged in Enugu with their highly devout father and mother. Their family is a pillar of the community, they live in a beautiful house, are highly respected and all their needs are taken care of. But life isn’t as charming as it seems from the outside. Their father’s fanatical religious beliefs create a home that is silent, suffocating and even dangerous.

As politics begin to fracture the country from within, Kambili and Jaja escape their home for a short while when they go to visit their aunt and cousins in a small university town outside of Enugu. With their extended family Kambili and Jaja learn that life isn’t all about schedules, school, church and fear. But after a taste of another life, a life of freedom and happiness, will Kambili and Jaja be able to go back to the life they knew?

This is definitely a book that will spark conversations. Purple Hibiscus is charged with so many themes that  you will have your pick to choose from. We see a country charged with violence and unrest; battling beliefs and societal pressures; abuse and family struggles; class struggles and so much more.

This narrative is told through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Kambili, who gives the story an innocent, open air. She comes of age in this novel and we see her grow from a scared naive little girl, into a woman who stands up for herself and will do what she must to keep her fractured family together.

This book was at times hard to read, dealing with sensitive themes and topics. For me the ending left something to be desired, but it was the ending the story needed and in that way it was satisfying.

This would be a good book for a book club and there are a ton of resources to help spur on the conversation at One Maryland One Book. This one gets four stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Cafe by the Sea

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan is an adult fictional novel about a woman who finds herself by going home. Flora McKenzie fled to London from her small Scottish home on the Island of Mure. In London, Flora can escape the past that haunts her and escape into the anonymity of the city.

When her job takes her back to Mure, Flora must face all she left behind. The failing farm, with it’s memories of her mother, her messy father and three older brothers. The small town faces with their long memories of how Flora left and why. And on top of all that she’s travelling with her boss, who is kind of an ass and whom she is utterly in love with.

Can Flora find her way home again? Restore her communities faith in her? And find happiness in the life she chooses?

The Cafe by the Sea combines all the best of Colgan–food, family, beautiful scenery and a story line that is fairly light and fluffy, with a little love thrown in. Colgan is one of those authors you read when you need a palette cleanser from your usual genre and are just looking for a light read. And in this Colgan delivers.

When I first started this one, I sort of groaned because the narration really bugged me, especially in audio. It starts off with almost as if we are looking down on Flora and can see straight into her mind. An omniscient narrator but not quite a third person one. I was worried the whole story would tell me what the characters were feeling rather than show me, but two chapters in the narration changes.

As in most of Colgan’s novels there is a mini love triangle. Flora, her unrequited love, Joel and the hometown local, Charlie. Without giving anything away, I thought we were pulled between these two men but then, poof, one of them gets solved without much fuss. Seemed a little like a cop out to me. I understand wanting to keep the story light but the way the attraction tied up so neatly didn’t seem super realistic to me.

Other than the two points I mentioned, this was a good read. It sucked me in, kept me entertained and was just a light read that makes you feel good. Colgan always makes me want to travel to the places her books are set. This one gets 3 stars from me. A good read but compared to some of her other books, not my favorite.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Secondborn

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol is the first book in a a new adult dystopian series where your birth order determines your lot in life.

In the Fates of the Republic, firstborns are the ruling class, the elite–they make the rules and benefit from them. Secondborns are owned by the government and are responsible for all of the labor intensive jobs. And thirdborns… die.

On Transition Day, all secondborns are taken to begin their servitude to the republic, where they will remain until they die or are called up to take the place of a deceased firstborn. This story begins with Roselle St. Sismode’s eighteenth birthday and her transition to the Fate of Swords, a militaristic branch of the Fates. But Roselle’s transition is no ordinary thing; she was born to an elite family, a family of high power and she has been in the public’s eye since her birth. This puts her at a disadvantage and she it hated in the eyes of many of her secondborn brethren.

Can Roselle find an ally in secondborn Hawthorne Trugrave? Will she buckle under the pressure? Can she conform to rules that break her own moral code? And what will she do when her fate leads down traitorous paths?

I should kick this off by saying that I’ve never read any of Bartol’s books before and this one wasn’t really on my radar when I picked it up. I needed a new audiobook quick and Audible recommended this one so I thought I’d give it a go. I tend to enjoy books that I might not have otherwise when they are in audio format vs. print and I think that is the case with this one. The story itself kept me entertained while I drove but I found a lot lacking with it.

First and foremost, the insta-love. Roselle and Hawthorne meet and two sentences in they are talking about sex. He’s loved her since she was ten watching her on tv but he loves her more now that he knows her… and this was only a few days after they met. Hawthorne literally comes to Roselle’s rescue again and again. Yea, the banter is cute and I kind of like Hawthorne but it was just too fast, especially in a society where secondborns are only allowed to have relations through “date-night” and relationships are forbidden on pains of death. There were just too many cringe moments for me and frankly it became a little unbelievable.

I also felt that there were some lost opportunities with some of the side characters. Roselle has these intense conversations and interactions with some of the supporting characters and then they are never seen or heard from again. This is a series, so I am sure they will pop up but there were instances where they really should have at least been mentioned again.

There were some really great moments in the book, I will give it that, but the world-building wasn’t fully developed, there was no consistency with the flow/pace of the story and I guess the story just didn’t really do it for me. But it is a series and since I read the first, I will continue on for now. This one gets two stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Where They Found Her

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight is an adult fictional thriller that takes place in a small well-to-do New Jersey town. In a small town, everyone has an opinion and it can be difficult to hide when all you want to do is blend into the shadows. New to town, freelance journalist, Molly Anderson is trying to begin anew and forget the tragedies of her past. But these tragedies are once again forced into the light when she is assigned a story that starts with a dead baby.

But there is more to this story then meets the eyes and things take surprising turns as past and present collide. Told from the perspective of three very different women this book unwinds a twisting tangled web of hidden truths. Will this small town survive when everyone is forced to look beneath the surface?

This is another book for my book club, so again not my usual go to genre. This actually wasn’t a bad read. One of the really great things about Where They Found Her was that it really did keep you guessing. Every chapter you thought you knew what was what and whodunit and then something would happen and you’d find you weren’t really sure anymore. By the end I knew _________ was part of things somehow but I was actually pretty surprised at the final reveal.

My favorite character in this book is probably Sandy. She is a teenager trying to build herself up even though all the odds are against her. She is a tough, straight shooter and yet she has these moments of fragility that are very human and relatable. I also think she comes out the most changed, in a positive way, after all is said and done.

Another thing I thought this book did well was it’s narrative. The story wasn’t quite linear in it’s telling–it would go backward and forward in time but it a way that felt natural. Jenna’s diary was a really great way to look into the past without getting too much or too little. It was actually really neat to get to know Jenna as a teenager when she is literally missing in the present.

I did think the end wrapped up a little quickly, given that the rest of the story only took place over a matter of days. There were also quite a few, uhh really, moment and a few loose ends I would have liked to seen cleaned up.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-