Book Review: The Blood Gospel by James Rollins And Rebecca Cantrell

Book: The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

Published August 2013 by Harper|717 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: The Order Of The Sanguines #1

Genre: Adult Thriller

In his first-ever collaboration, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins combines his skill for cutting-edge science and historical mystery with award-winning novelist Rebecca Cantrell’s talent for haunting suspense and sensual atmosphere in a gothic tale about an ancient order and the hunt for a miraculous book known only as . . . The Blood Gospel

An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators–Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist–are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.

But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb’s sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ’s own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. The enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.

From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.

Here is a novel that is explosive in its revelation of a secret history. Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the monks hide their countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation to Christ’s own blood? The answers to all go back to a secret sect within the Vatican, one whispered as rumor but whose very existence was painted for all to see by Rembrandt himself, a shadowy order known simply as the Sanguines.

In the end, be warned: some books should never be found, never opened–until now.

I really liked this one!  The Blood Gospel is definitely interesting, and it’s a good read-alike if you like Dan Brown.  Particularly the Da Vinci Code/Robert Langdon books.  But with vampires.

I did like the Sanguines, and how they came to be.  I also liked what Rollins and Cantrell did with history, particularly with Rasputin, and the Romanov family, though we only see Alexei, the son of Csar Nicholas.  Part of me wishes Anastasia had been the one mentioned, because of the stories of how she survived, but we can’t really do anything about that.  I will say that Alexei makes sense, because his hemophilia is how Rasputin ended up with the family in the first place.  Even though this book isn’t about that, part of me wishes we had a lot more detail about how he survived.

One thing I thought was confusing was when we had other perspectives.  We see a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory narrate at times, as well as a young boy who survived the earthquake.  People were referenced in those chapters, and those references were never explained.  They were known simply as He and Him, and I wanted something a lot more clear.  It made things more confusing and muddled than they needed to be.

Another thing I was not sure about was the kid who survived the earthquake.  I’m still not sure how he factors into things, but maybe we’ll see that in the other books?  The chapters that focused on some of these side characters were really strange.  I already mentioned how confusing they were and part of that is because it wasn’t obvious at first when we changed perspective.  I don’t mind multiple narrators or perspectives, but I do mind when it’s not obvious.

But things seemed to get randomly introduced and it wasn’t clear at first how they connected to the overall story.  Some of becomes clear by the end of the book, and while I’m doubtful it will come up again, I hope some of the people and things are explained more.  Again, the vagueness did not work for me at all because you’re trying to figure things out and it made it really confusing.  I hope that doesn’t continue in the other books.

I was definitely intrigued, and I did want to keep reading to see what would happen next.  It takes place over a couple of days, and even though we knew the timeline because dates and times were mentioned, it also seemed like it was happening over a longer period of time.

On a random note, I don’t understand why they couldn’t mention when we changed narrators, but could mention the exact day, time and location for the timeline.

Back to the timeline, though.  Things were definitely moving along, and I really liked the pace of the book.  Though it seemed like a lot, especially over a couple of days, there was never a lull in the action.

3 stars.  I liked The Blood Gospel, and I’m curious to see what happens next.

Advertisements

Book Review: Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Book: Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Published October 2018 by Starscape Books|288 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

I liked Everlasting Nora!  I really felt for Nora, and she has a lot to deal with.  There’s something very hopeful about this book, and I definitely finished the book feeling like everything was going to work out for Nora and her mom.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a shany town set up in a cemetery.  Even though everyone seems to be living where they have family members buried, I wonder if that’s the case for everyone, and how it works if it’s not a family member and their family comes to visit?

We do see in one or two scenes where they have to move so that they’re not seen at a funeral service.  Granted, it was at a different cemetery than the one Nora lives at but it still highlighted things that Nora possibly had to deal with.  That was an interesting detail, and it made the book seem more real somehow.

She has to rely on others when her mom disappears in order to pay off her gambling debts.  Nora has to help out too, and I felt so sad that she had to leave school when her father died, and they ran out of the money they had after his death.

We see the difference between having money and having nothing and needing to help out by working in order to survive.  It’s not a new concept for middle grade or YA, but I liked the setting of living in a graveyard.  It showed that life is different in other countries, and that everyone is going through something.

I’m glad things got better for Nora, and I hope things continue to work out for Nora and her mom.

3 stars.  I wish I had more to say about Everlasting Nora, but it don’t.  It’s pretty hopeful, and I definitely recommend it.

Around The Internet #11

Hey there!  We’re back with another round of some interesting reads and recipes I’ve come across recently.  Enjoy!

That’s all for today, and I hope you have a great weekend!

Book Review: The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Book: The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Published January 2019 by Scholastic Press|336 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life? 

I really liked The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali!  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really liked Rukhsana’s story, and how supportive some of her family and friends were.

Her parents weren’t the most supportive, at least initially, and I think it’s important to note that not of all her family thinks the way they do.  They do come around, though I was sad it took a really big event for them to see things differently.  I felt so much for Rukhsana, and everything she went through.  I hated what her parents did- I know they thought they were helping, and they were definitely more worried about what other people thought.  And even though I am not a fan of what brought them around, it was a wake-up call that they could have lost Rukhsana.

Her friends and her girlfriend were pretty frustrating at times.  They didn’t seem to get how hard it would be for Rukhsana to come out to her parents, and what would happen if they did.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have supportive, caring parents, and it seemed like her friends brushed off what she was telling them.  I don”t think they realized the gravity of what would happen when she came out, and we definitely see what happens when her mom finds out.

I really loved her grandma, her brother, and her cousin.  She had a couple of other people who were really supportive, and it was obvious they cared about her, and what happened to her.  She had some great people in her corner, and she’s lucky to have them in her life.  They definitely encouraged her to hear her parents out after what happened, and I get why she wasn’t willing to talk to them at first.  She did change her mind, but it also seems like they have a long way to go before things are completely better between them.

4 stars.  I really liked this book, and it was a great read.  Her parents were really frustrating at times, and though I don’t agree with how they handled things, they did start to come around.

Audio Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray, Narrated by January LaVoy

Book: The Diviners by Libba Bray, Narrated by January LaVoy

Published September 2012 by Listening Library|Length: 18 hours, 14 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: The Diviners #1

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

SOMETHING DARK AND EVIL HAS AWAKENED…

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

I’ve meaning to read this book for a while, and I finally got around to it!  I liked it, and it was great on audio but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

I thought the setting was a great backdrop for the paranormal.  It worked really well, especially with the time period and with the book being set in New York.  While it would have worked in another time period/place, I can’t imagine it being somewhere else.  I don’t know that it would have worked otherwise.

There were times where I ended up getting confused.  We’d be with Evie, and then the book would suddenly switch to someone else.  It took a while to figure out how those other stories were connected to what was going on with Evie.  I think it just didn’t translate well to audio, at least for me.

It was really long, and it took me a while to get through it, so by the time I got to the end, I was fuzzy on what had happened at the beginning.  I was never clear on what Evie could do and what led her to New York, and I’m not sure if it’s because I just didn’t remember what happened or if it was never mentioned.

I’m not sure how I feel about Evie.  I didn’t mind the slang at first, but I did get tired of it by the end.  I feel like if Evie were a real person living right now, she’d have her own reality tv show.  She has this ditzy socialite vibe to her, and she seems pretty self-absorbed, even at the end of the book.  Obviously, some don’t change, which is fine, but maybe there’s hope for Evie.

I did like the narrator, though!  January LaVoy did a great job narrating, and she really brought Evie to life.

3 stars.  I liked The Diviners but I didn’t love it.  I might pick up the next book, but I’m still undecided.

Book Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

Book: Slayer by Kiersten White

Published January 2019 by Simon Pulse|404 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Slayer #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

Slayer was a book I was both excited and nervous about.  Excited because I love Kiersten White, and I will read anything she writes.  But I was nervous because I’ve never seen Buffy, and I wasn’t sure if what to expect.  But White is an auto-buy author for me, and I knew I was going to fun and entertaining.

I actually really liked it, and I had no reason to be nervous!  I was sure I would have no idea what was going on, since this is my first introduction to Buffy.  But you don’t need to have seen Buffy in order to know what’s going on, which was really nice.  I think it does reference the show, but she does a great job at explaining what’s going on, and what got us to the events we see in this book.  I definitely want to watch the show now!  If only to see the world White was working from.

There were some things I wasn’t surprised by but I still loved seeing how everything played out.  I’m really curious to see what will happen next.

I loved Nina, and she was really easy to relate to.  I really felt for her with everything going on, and even though I understood where her mom and sister were coming from, I still found myself really hating them at times.  Nina really seemed like an underdog but there were some people who seemed really supportive of her and wanted her to do well.  I kind of wonder what would happen if some things hadn’t happened, and if things would have turned out differently.  I guess we’ll never know, but I’m still looking forward to seeing what’s next for her and everyone else.

4 stars.  I didn’t love Slayer but it was a really fun read.

Book Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Book: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Published January 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents|312 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Sci-Fi/Re-Telling

To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams. 

I liked Dragon Pearl!  Not as much as I wanted to, but I still liked it!

What I liked most is that it’s a sci-fi re-telling of Korean mythology and folklore.  I love re-tellings but they tend to be fantasy or contemporary, and it’s pretty rare that they’re sci-fi so that made this book stand out.  Min travels all over space, and there are pirates and ghosts involved, and you can’t go wrong with pirates or ghosts.  It’s too bad there are no pirate ghosts, but that is definitely not this story.

I liked Min, and how she wanted to follow in her brother’s footsteps and be a part of the Space Forces.  That definitely changes over the course of the book, and I liked seeing her work her way out of some of the sticky situations she finds herself in.  I was most intrigued by the fox-magic, and how people saw it as a bad thing.  I guess it had to be someone, but I liked seeing her rely on her magic more and more to find out what happened to her brother.

I was surprised by what really happened, and it just goes to show you can’t always place your trust in the people.  She meets a lot of people along the way, and things are never what they seem.

There were times (especially at the beginning), where things seem to drag.  It does take time for Min to get into space, but she has a lot of adventures along the way, and even though I didn’t love it, I can see why so many people do.  I had a hard time getting into it, but I still enjoyed the characters and the world.  Especially everything involving the Dragon Pearl.

3 stars.  I liked Dragon Pearl, and it was fun to see a re-telling set in space.

Book Review: Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson

Book: Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson

Published January 2019 by Inkyard Press|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.

I was intrigued by Even If I Fall, but it ended up being okay for me.

I really felt for Brooke, and what she had to go through.  You see glimpses of what people think of her, but I feel like the summary made it seem like it was a bigger deal than it really was.  We don’t get a lot of it, and considering how much Brooke seems to be out and about, we could have had more of it.

I felt like the secret didn’t match with all of the build-up to it.  I was really let down by it, and I honestly expected something more life-changing.  It was definitely disappointing, and I honestly expected more.  I wasn’t necessarily shocked that there was a secret, but I was shocked that it was so small and insignificant.

Before I start sounding like a broken record about that secret, the ending in general was pretty disappointing.  I don’t mind open endings at all, and I did finish the book wondering what was in store for Brooke.  But I wish we had actually finished the book with whether she got into ice-skating tour, and not her opening the envelope.

I liked that she was there for her sister, but Brooke did seem pretty self-absorbed at times.  I felt really sad for her that she thought she had to give up on the ice-skating tour to be near her family.  I am glad that she decided to go for it, and that she shouldn’t put her life on hold because of her brother.  I get why she didn’t initially tell her friend about what really happened to her brother, but it did cost her, and I hope she eventually understands that she should have been more honest.

I didn’t particularly care for the romance, mostly because it’s the brother of guy her brother murdered.  If I were him, I don’t know that I would have even talked to someone who murdered a relative, much less date him.  But there is a part of me that’s glad she had someone to talk to, even though Heath would not have been my first choice.

2 stars.  Even If I Fall was just okay.  I was disappointed in the secret and in the ending, but I did like that Brooke decided to go for the audition, and to live her life.

Book Review: Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Book: Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Published June 2018 by Tor Teen|336 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery/Contemporary

Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.

Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.

But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

I’ve heard a lot about this book, so I decided to pick it to see what the fuss was about.  Dive Smack ended up being an okay read for me, but I get why people like it so much.

Let’s start off with what I liked about Dive Smack!  I really liked the diving terms at the start of each chapter, and how they related to what was going on in Theo’s life and with that particular chapter.  I loved that he was a diver, and I feel like diving (or swimming) isn’t something a lot of YA characters do.  That really stood out to me, and seeing how each term related to what was going on was really cool.

I also liked seeing the mystery of the night of the fire unravel.  We’re learning things as they happen, the same way Theo does.  His memories start coming back, and it was interesting to see how everything worked out.

As much as I liked seeing the mystery unravel, I thought most of the book moved too slow.  It wasn’t until we were close to the end that things started to pick up, and even though I liked the mystery, there wasn’t any excitement in the build-up.  I never really felt a sense of urgency when I was reading it.

And then there’s the fact that Theo’s grandpa didn’t share his concerns about Theo’s uncle Phil.  Especially given everything that happened with Phil.  I get he’s trying to protect Theo, but I wonder if things could have been avoided if grandpa had just been honest about what happened.  I get they were both struggling with what happened, and Theo’s school project brought that up, but I really do wonder if things would have unfolded the way they did if his grandpa had just been honest with him.

I didn’t really care for Theo.  I thought he was horrible to some of the people on his team, and he was definitely a jerk at times.  I thought it was unwarranted, and jealously is not a good look for anyone, but in particular, it’s not a good look on Theo.

I liked Chip and Iris, though.  I really liked learning about Iris, and she had a pretty interesting story.  Theo’s lucky to have Chip around, and Chip seems like a cool guy.  They’re really the only other characters worth talking about, but I don’t have much to say about them.

2 stars.  I wanted to like Dive Smack more, but the pacing was really slow and I never felt any sense of urgency.

Book Review: King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Book: King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Published January 2019 by Imprint|514 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Nikolai Duology #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

I’m been pretty excited about King Of Scars for a while!  And while I didn’t love it, I still really liked it.

I loved seeing Nikolai’s story, and I was really surprised with how everything ended.  It’s definitely an adventure, and I don’t blame him for wanting to keep everything a secret.  It’s been ages since I read the Shadow and Bone series, but I did not see that coming.

We also have Nina and Zoya narrate King Of Scars, and it was nice to to see Zoya’s perspective on what was going on with Nikolai.  It was also nice to see what was going on with Nina, and while Zoya and Nikolai were dealing with what was going on with Nikolai.

I was nervous going into this book because I hadn’t re-read Shadow And Bone or Six Of Crows ahead of time.  If you haven’t read those series, you don’t need to in order to read this one.  Bardugo does a great job at explaining what’s happened before and she weaves it into the story really well.  You’ll understand what’s going on in this book, which worked out great for me because I didn’t remember anything.

Still, reading those books first is something I’d recommend, because it does set up the world we see in this book, and it does give you the background and history you need it.  It just makes understanding this world easier, but it’s not necessary.

I want to randomly switch over to Isaac for a second.  We do get a few chapters from his perspective, and while it’s a way to see what’s going on while Nikokai is dealing with things, I also didn’t particularly care for those chapters.  They didn’t really stand out to me, and all I pretty much remember is that they exist.

It seemed like it took a while for things to get going- it wasn’t until the end of the book that things really got interesting, and part of me wishes that it didn’t seem to meander for a lot of the book.  That’s what it felt like to me, anyway.

4 stars.  I really liked King Of Scars, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!