I Am Pilgrim

I really dislike the Mad Max movies. Which is odd, considering dystopia is my thing. I can read any book about the genre, and most movies, as well. But the Mad Max movies are not my thing. So, when I heard about this book, written by the screenwriter of Mad Max 2 and 3, I was out. No interest. Then I read the plot and reviews. And maybe, just maybe I would check it out. Then a friend raved about it. And harped on me about it. And I caved. 600 pages later, here I am on the other side. I survived.

I love a good thriller. I will read most types, but this one about espionage, catching the Muslim extremist in a post 9/11 world, covert operations, etc just didn’t appeal to me. But the more I read, the more sucked in I got. And I was so impressed with this story. Because something that is mentioned on page 100, that was just a hint, just a tidbit, turned out to be huge later in the book. And that happened a number of times. This is an expertly constructed book.

You never really know the character, in part because his identity shifts so much due to the covert business, but you see who he is deep down. He’s not a heartless man. He isn’t ruthless or cruel. He simply wants to protect people. And unfortunately, he knows you sometimes have to kill people to protect the many. Even when he does, he still takes no joy in what he has done, making him human. And this is the main reason I enjoyed this book. There are so many small events that link together within the novel. Hayes does a great job of tying up all the loose ends as well. Very impressive first stab (pun intended) at a novel from this screenwriter.


All the Missing Girls

Yet another Netgalley book! So, I’ve read one great one and one bummer one. However, this one I selected completely on the premise alone. It’s a murder mystery, but it has a unique feature. It’s told in reverse. Which really seems odd, given the whole mystery aspect, but this novel really does work.

The fact that it’s told in reverse is laid out for you up front, so there’s no confusion as to what is happening. And, as a speed reader, I found myself having to go a lot slower with this book to really grasp all the details.  Reading a book in reverse chronological order is like looking at a picture and then being told the story behind it. Normally you make the memory and look at the picture later, then the memory comes flooding back. And I was skeptical about whether or not this novel (and unknown, to me, author) could pull it off. And while the book had some confusing moments and not everything is perfectly resolved (but rather implied), as a whole, it was really great.

The murder mystery genre is really hit or miss for me. Some novels are so predictable and formulaic that you see the murderer coming a mile away. And not to give anything away, but the resolution wasn’t wholly surprising to me, but the storytelling was really what made the book readable and interesting. Reading it in chronological order would have been nowhere near as intriguing.

Dark Matter

When I saw this book was available on Netgalley, I immediately requested it, simply based on the author. I read the Wayward Pines series last year and loved it. I don’t know much about the author, but based on the trilogy, I knew I wanted to read more. He does a great job of balancing suspense and science and wow, can he write an ending.

This book grabbed me from chapter one. There’s no slow burn in this book. From the beginning, you are sucked in. And there is absolutely no way to predict where the book is going, which is refreshing. The author has clearly done his research in physics and does an outstanding job relating this information in an understandable way. I expected there to be some difficult parts given how insane (in a good way) the premise is, and there were a few where I had to slow down and reread a bit, but nothing that I wasn’t able to handle.

And just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the rug was yanked out from under me. I was pleasantly surprised by how many plausible twists and turns the book provided. I never felt like what was happening wasn’t possible, even though it really isn’t….probably. I’m no physicist, so there’s always a chance. In any case, I highly recommend this book, especially if you liked the Wayward Pines trilogy. This seems to be a stand alone book, but I could be wrong. I will be adding Blake Crouch to my list of “must read” authors.

The Nightingale

Two birds with one stone here!! A friend recommended this one, and it is on the NY Times Bestseller list for the book challenge. And wow! What a fabulous read! Not necessarily the most uplifting of books, but absolutely beautiful.

Two sisters, one older and responsible, one younger and impetuous. But both strong in their own stubborn way. Set in France during WWII, the stories follows both of them, sometimes living together, oftentimes apart and you see their struggles for survival during the worst period of the last century. You get small glimpses of present day, learning that one of the sisters has survived, but which isn’t revealed until the end.

I have shed tears at three books: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (ugly cried. twice.), the Book Thief (just a couple tears. twice) and now The Nightingale. I’m not a crier, so this should tell you something. I refuse to reveal whether they are happy tears or sad tears or a combination of both, but know that this book hit me hard.

I gave it 4 stars because I thought it could have been edited down a bit, but that’s just my personal preference. Overall, I loved the characters and felt their motivations were authentic. Even though WWII is always hard to read about, I feel it’s important to be frequently reminded of the time period, and books like this do an excellent job at doing so.

Where the River Ends

A few months ago, I asked some Facebook friends for book recommendations, and I vowed to read every book mentioned. One thing I love about doing the book challenge is that I get exposure to new authors. So, asking my friends for feedback seems like the next step in broadening my horizons. And one recommended author Charles Martin. I selected one of his books at random from the library, and in all honesty, I HATED this book. One star. I finished it only so I could write an accurate review.

I used to tell my students that hating a book was sometimes better than loving a book because you end up having so much more to say. For the first half of the book, I merely disliked it. The writing is atrocious and trite. The characters are stale and predictable. The plot was mediocre. Then came the sexist comments. Did you know that from birth, there are two things a woman wants: To be pursued and to know she is beautiful. Are you fucking kidding me? How about “to be strong,” “to be equal,” “to be treated fairly”? I would take every one of those things over the very shallow ideas of pursuit and beauty. This is where the book lost me. The hatred grew. By the end I was almost to the point of throwing the book across the room.

I’m giving the author the benefit of the doubt and assume he isn’t sexist, however, there are dozens of male writers who write strong female characters. The main female character in this is strong, but she is also selfish and reckless, putting her needs above the safety (and potential jail time) of her husband. I have no tolerance for this. The author’s twitter handle is “storiedcareer.” Seriously? Isn’t that self glorification? Barf.

I will not be reading another one of his books and I certainly suggest that you don’t either. I rolled my eyes at least every other page at how terrible, cliched, and downright sexist this book was.