Tag Archive | novel

Book Review: Inferno

Inferno, by Dan Brown

You probably know author Dan Brown, and his main character Professor Robert Langdon from the well known book and movie, the DaVinci Code.  Langdon makes his return in this fast paced adventure novel, featuring more mystery and symbols to decode.

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)

Langdon wakes up in the hospital, not understanding where he is or what has happened for the last 36 hours.  He soon learns that someone is trying to kill him, and flees, with the assistance of the doctor who has been treating him in the hospital.  

He discovers he is Italy, and he begins the slow, erratic process of piecing together the story of where he’s been and what he’s been up to.  That is, in between dodging a well-armed and mysterious militia, and a solitary hitman (albeit a woman).  He knows he can’t get caught before he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, but what is it that he’s looking for?  

Langdon uses his talents to read the symbols, and learn what threat is facing the entire world.  Similar to his other novels, Brown weaves history into the story, with a plenty of historic sites and their stories woven in.  And let me just say, after COVID, this story hit a bit close to home…

And with other Dan Brown novels, this thriller has many twists and turns.  You never quite know where you are heading next!  

4 stars.

Book Review: All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

I watched this movie when it came out in 2000, but I had never read the book.   Interestingly, I feel like I liked the movie, but don’t really remember anything about it clearly.  So, on to the book!

All The Pretty Horses

John Grady Cole is a teenager from a ranching family, whose childhood ranch is sold off after his grandfather dies.  He and a friend decide to head down to Mexico to work on a ranch.  It is set in 1949 according to other reviews, but the novel does not make it very clear.

John and his friend Lacey meet up with another teen named Jimmy along the way, and once in Mexico, they get into trouble when Jimmy loses his horse in a thunderstorm.  They end up finding the horse in a nearby village, but its ownership is no longer clear.  And that, is where the trouble begins…

In true Cormac McCarthy fashion, it is a very dark novel.  The young men learn about the dark side of men and power.  In my mind while listening to the audiobook version, I see a world of gray.  McCarthy’s prose is very lyrical, but the book is depressing, with no happy endings.  My overall impression: not great, not terrible, and definitely a book to make you feel better about your own circumstances in life.  

3 stars.

Book Review: The Charlemagne Pursuit

The Charlemagne Pursuit, by Steve Berry

This is another in the series following Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department agent, who owns a rare book shop in Copenhagen.  But somehow he keeps managing to get pulled back into the adventures he tried so hard to leave behind.

The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone, #4)

Malone brings it upon himself this time, as conversations with his son lead him into a new desire to learn the truth behind his father’s death in 1971.  He knows that he died in a submarine accident in the North Atlantic, but what went wrong?  

Malone asks his former boss to get him a copy of the still classified file, which leads him on a pursuit he never expected.  His father, in fact, did not die in the North Atlantic, but instead while on a mission in Antarctica.  But why?

Malone learns that as he is trying to learn why his father died, there are powerful men who want to ensure that the secret never comes out.  His pursuit to find out the truth leads him to uncover the ancient secrets that his opponents don’t want him to know.  

As usual, this is a fast paced book with several twists and turns.  Unfortunately, I feel like this novel sort of fell flat on the believability index.  It was disappointing, because I never really bought it since the story is just a bit outside of the realm of reality.  That said, it was still an interesting read.  

3 stars.

Book Review: Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

This was an unusual choice of audio books among my Dad’s collection, in that it was not a thriller.  Perhaps my mom chose it. I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces years ago before the controversy about him making up the story and then selling it as a memoir.  That hubbub seems to have died down.

Bright Shiny Morning

This novel, if you can call it that, details a series of stories about people in Los Angeles.  The down and out, the rich and famous, the ones who are trying to escape their pasts and build a new life.  The downtrodden and abused, the up and coming, the ones who have nothing but hope in LA. 

In between the characters’ stories, Frey details the history of Los Angeles, its fun facts, its troublesome violence, its natural disasters.  Honestly, no book has ever made me want to visit a place less than this book.  I’ve been to LA, and don’t really see the appeal, but this really solidified that I cannot understand why anyone would want to live there.  The only thing it has going for it is sun. 

Still I found myself interested in the stories, and intrigued by Frey’s unusual writing style, which frequently annoys readers based on his reviews.  The narrator, Ben Foster, is excellent.  He narrates with different accents, and changes his pitch, tone, speed and volume to vividly portray the stories in the book.  However, if you are looking for a happy ending, there doesn’t seem to be one in Los Angeles.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

4 stars. 

Book Review: Deception Point

Deception Point, by Dan Brown

I hadn’t read Dan Brown since I read the DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons almost 20 years ago, but this was among my parents audiobooks.

Deception Point is a political thriller, with plenty of action, deception (hence the title) and murder…

Deception Point

Rachel Sexton works in the National Security Office of the President, writing briefs for the President on various topics of national security.  Until one day she receives a call from her boss, letting her know that she’s been summoned by the President.  She is taken in a White House helicopter to begin the most bizarre and dangerous 24 hours of her life.

As it turns out, NASA has discovered a meteorite, buried deep within the ice of the Milne Ice Shelf in the Arctic.  It’s incredible all on its own, but then she learns that this meteorite has the potential to be the biggest scientific discovery NASA has ever made…  But why has Rachel been summoned to see a mysterious meteorite in the Arctic?

Like other Dan Brown novels, this one is fast-paced, leading the reader down multiple twists and turns, and barely letting you catch your breath before the next plot twist comes along. 

It held my interest, and I appreciated the scientific discussion that is present throughout the book, but it didn’t have the same allure as the DaVinci Code.  My biggest disappointment was that I found myself not being satisfied with the motive of the villain in the end; it wasn’t clear why that character was the one behind it all…

That being said, I still found it to be an easy, interesting read. 

3 stars. 


Book Review: The Utopia Experiment

The Utopia Experiment, by Kyle Mills

Can you imagine if someone invented the next phase in technology; a cell phone but WAY more.  A device that can read your brain waves, in order to give you an incredible experience.  Apps that appear in your field of vision and can be manipulated with your thoughts.  A device that corrects your vision and hearing, and gives you a sensory experience unlike any other.  And oh, did I mention that your nightly insomnia can be miraculously eliminated?  

The Utopia Experiment (Covert-One, #10)

Dr. Christian Dresner has invented just such a device.  It has potential capabilities for people with disabilities that can only be dreamt of.  And he’s created a military version that the U.S. will have exclusive rights to that will allow for U.S. military dominance and will hopefully bring peace to the world.  

Dr. John Smith is assigned to explore its military usefulness.  He thinks it is great, until an old friend, Randi Russell, shows up with information and a gut feeling that something deeply sinister is going on…

Kyle Mills wrote a fast paced novel that held my attention from start to finish.  His way of explaining complex technological innovations made it easier to grasp the concepts that were responsible for the premise of the novel.  

I was intrigued by this novel.  Parts of it seriously blew my mind, in terms of imagining the next horizon of technology and the dark purposes it could be used for.  My brain regularly got off on tangents about the power that the tech industry has over us.  There are some troubling parallels to things that are happening in the world today.  For someone with bad intentions, I shudder to think…

4 stars. 

Book Review: The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve

The outer shoals of Maine, is one of the most inhospitable places in the United States.  But the fishing is incredible.  So John and Maren Hontvedt, newlyweds, make their way from Norway to make a new life in America.

The Weight of Water

They live for five years on Smuttynose Island, part of the state of Maine, but actually closer to Portmouth, New Hampshire.  It is a remote outcropping with barely any soil, only a couple permanent residents, and few summer visitors.  The Hontvedts along with a few family members and an employee, build a life in their new, harsh home.

One day Maren, her old-maid sister and her beautiful sister-in-law are home alone when tragedy strikes.  After two brutal murders, only one woman is found alive, hiding in a sea cave, frozen to the core in her nightdress, clutching her dog for warmth.  The year was 1873.

In the present day, Jean Janes is on assignment as a photographer, to document the island and the little that remains of the murder site, for a magazine article on the murders.  She goes with her husband Thomas and five year old daughter, along with Thomas’ brother Rich and new girlfriend Adaline.  The five of them are traveling on Rich’s sailboat, trying to enjoy a vacation while Jean completes her assignment.  Little does Jean know that her story is heading for its own tragic ending.

Shreve’s novel goes back and forth between Maren’s life in the period of time leading up to the murders, and Jean’s present day life and troubled marriage.  Shreve weaves the story skillfully, and makes good use of the true story of the Smuttynose murders; although her ending diverts from the historical account.

It is a quick read, following Anita Shreve’s typical storyline on a woman experiencing a challenging relationship issue.  I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

4 stars.

Book Review: The Templar Legacy

The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry

I have several of the Steve Berry thrillers among the audiobooks that I’m working my way through, so I pulled another of them off the shelf for some entertainment on my commute.

The Templar Legacy (Cotton Malone #1)

Cotton Malone is a retired government operative, who gets tangled up in the quest his former boss is on; this time it has nothing to do with national security.  His former boss, Stephanie Nelle, is trying to discover what her late husband was looking for, that led to a journal of mysterious clues.

Malone learns that the mystery has to do with the riches that were supposedly stockpiled by The Knights Templar hundreds of years ago, and have now been lost.  Stephanie’s husband has been searching for the treasure, and plenty of people think he was onto something, and they want a piece of it. 

This thriller has the usual intrigue, mystery, and plenty of exploration of the myth of the Knights Templar and their continued existence following their arrest and destruction in 1307 AD.  Berry paces his novels well, and keeps his reader interested from beginning to end.

3 stars.

Book Review: The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton

What a heartfelt novel about friendship.  The Wednesday Sisters is the story of five women who meet on a Wednesday morning with their children.  They meet by chance, and forge a friendship that lasts through the years.

The Wednesday Sisters

The beginning of the book is set in the late 1960s, when women’s identities were still largely defined by their husbands.  Throughout the novel, they grow by supporting each other’s interests, goals and life plans.  But their approach is unconventional.  They support each other through writing.  Each of the Wednesday sisters commits to writing each week, and offering up their writing for critique.  And in doing so, they reveal their inner secrets, their wildest dreams and their darkest fears. 

They sometimes bumble through, especially when they deal with the thornier issues of life, including education, interracial marriage, infidelity, and infertility.  But in the end, they still have each other.

This was a book club pick, and I loved it.  I stayed up late multiple nights when I had to work the next morning, not wanting to put it down.

5 stars.   

Book Review: The 9th Judgment

The 9th Judgment, by James Patterson

This was another of the CD audiobooks I’m working my way through.  James Patterson is a prolific series writer, but this is the first book I’ve read by him.

The 9th Judgment (Women's Murder Club, #9)

In one night, detective Lindsay Boxer gets two major cases thrown her way, a jewel theft turned murder of a high-profile celebrity wife, and the execution style killing of a woman and her infant child.  As heinous as the murder of a baby is, the celebrity killing becomes the priority, until they realize they have a serial killer on the loose. 

Boxer is trying her best to investigate and find the killers, in a race against time before more murders occur.  The book is fast paced with lots of twists and turns, but it is a novel of cliches.  Boxer is blonde and gorgeous, and at times not all that intelligent.  She is repeatedly outsmarted by the killers, but I guess you can’t have a case that gets solved in the first 24 hours! 

2 stars.