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.

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Book Review: Blackbird by Michael Fiegel

Book: Blackbird by Michael Fiegel

Published November 2017 by Skyhorse|312 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: Adult Thriller

A dark, biting literary debut for fans of Caroline Kepnes following the unlikely bond between two sociopaths―and the destruction left in their wake.

“When I was eight years old, I was abducted from a fast food restaurant by a man who took me, in all likelihood, because of a small splotch of mayonnaise on his hamburger. And so I believe in neither free will nor predetermination. I believe in condiments.”

A cold-blooded killer-for-hire, Edison North drifts across America from city to city, crime scene to crime scene, leaving behind a world in flames. But during a random bloodbath at a fast food restaurant, Edison meets Christian, a young girl who mirrors his own vacant stare and stink of “other.” Though it’s been a long time since he felt anything resembling a human connection, something about this desperately lonely child calls to him. Edison feels certain she deserves better. And while he is not convinced that he can give her that, he can make her stronger. So begin the chronicles of Edison North―and his protégé.

As Edison begins Christian’s strange apprenticeship, Christian looks back upon her fractured upbringing and the training that made her into the killer she’s become. What follows is a brilliant―and ultimately tender―character study of two outsiders whose improbably forged bond unleashes a new facet of the human experience between them―and a jagged slash of violence on the world around them.

I thought Blackbird was just okay.  I’ve had it for a while, and while it isn’t typically the sort of book I’d pick up, it was part of the PageHabit horror box (back when I was getting it before I ended up cancelling it).

Here’s the thing.  I don’t know that I would classify this book as horror.  It’s more of a thriller, and I tend to associate horror with authors like Stephen King or movies like The Exorcist and Halloween.  Not a novel about an assassin who takes an 8 year old as his apprentice after kidnapping her from a fast food place.

We get sections narrated by both Christian and Edison.  Christian’s chapters are in a slightly different font than Edisons, and there’s obviously a different voice, but it would randomly switch between the two, so it always took a while to get into the two very different perspectives.

It’s not an easy read, and I found that I could only read a little bit at a time before I had to put it down and read something else.  I liked it at the beginning, but by the end, I kind of lost interest in what was happening.  I also thought things were more muddled by the end, though this is the sort of book you need to pay close attention to, and I wasn’t really doing that.  It’s not my cup of tea, and it felt like things were painfully slow.

It also felt like I was getting snippets of their lives, and I think that’s because of the time jumps.  Which were fine, of course, and the story was pretty linear.  I just felt like I was getting little snippets, and even with the time jumps, I still felt like things moved slow.

I did get a conspiracy theory vibe from the book, which was interesting.  Edison has a handler, and people are watching both him and Christian (xtian as he calls her) and he travels around doing murder for hire by some shadow organization.  If that’s not some sort of conspiracy right there, I don’t know what is.

I also liked that Fiegel had no problem showing how terrible Edison was, and it is a pretty straightforward book.  You see his methods and beliefs, and yet it didn’t seem like he was intentionally trying to shock or scare the reader.  It was also more literary than I expected.  In the literary fiction sense.

I’m not sure what else to say about Blackbird.  It seems like a book a lot of people liked, but it wasn’t for me.

2 stars.  Blackbird was okay, and while I initially liked it, by the end I was bored.  I can see why people like it.

Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Book: Origin by Dan Brown

Published October 2017 by Doubleday Books|461 pages

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

Series: Robert Langdon #5

Genre: Adult Fiction/Thriller/Mystery

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.” 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. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

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. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

I randomly saw this book at the library on one of their displays, and I was intrigued so I figured I’d check it out.  I’ve enjoyed Brown’s books to varying degrees, and even with the ones I didn’t completely like, they’re still pretty quick reads and usually entertaining.  They’re certainly not boring, though they always seem to start off slow.  Origin was no exception to this.

It did take a while for the story to get set up, which I expected.  Still, it was slow-paced at first, but there was more action once things got going.  It wasn’t as action-packed as I thought, especially in comparison to his other books. It has been a while (years probably) since I’ve read a Dan Brown book, so maybe I’m remembering things differently.

There were a few connections to history (we are talking about Dan Brown here).  In this case, Spanish history, since the book is set in Spain.  I swear, Robert Langdon spends more time traveling than teaching.  I do like that Brown incorporates a lot of real places, people and artwork, and it felt like he put a lot of thought and research into the people, places and things we see in the book.  It is sort of topical- we see mentions of Uber, Disney, and fake news, and I did like the updates from the conspiracy website.  That seemed very timely as well.  Does that mean the book will be a little bit dated in a few years?  Probably, but for now, some of the pop culture references are pretty timely.

I am half tempted to see if that website goes anywhere, or if it’s made up.  It would be awesome if it did go somewhere, like a website for the book or something.

Is this book the typical Robert Langdon book?  Of course it is, so if Dan Brown isn’t your thing, you’ll probably want to stay away from this book.  On the other hand, if you’ve even remotely enjoyed his books, you’ll probably like it. While I don’t necessarily love his books or run out to get them, I always end up liking them and enjoying them.

One thing I wondered about is the lack of reference to the virus that was set loose in Inferno.  It’s like it never existed, and considering the revelation that Kirsch wanted the world to know, you’d think that would be incorporated into his presentation.  But it wasn’t, and that was a little strange to me.  The Da Vinci Code is referenced, though, which wasn’t surprising given that what the book is actually about.

It is sort of weird how all of the Robert Langdon books don’t really reference the other books.  They’re pretty contained, and with each book that comes out, it’s like the previous ones don’t really happen.  I’m willing to overlook it, though, because each book has enough going on as it is.

3 stars.  It’s not my favorite Dan Brown book but it’s not my least favorite either.  It was entertaining and a quick read, and I liked the setting and places we see in the book.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

I thought I’d share some of the books I read earlier in the year and never got around to reviewing.  I talked about some of the books I read earlier in the year in this post, and figured I do another post since I had some more books to talk about.  All of the books were from the library.

Book One: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

What I Thought:

  • So, The Invisible Library is about Irene, a spy for a very mysterious Library, and her quest to retrieve a dangerous book from an alternate London
  • It’s a really good read-alike if you like the Eyre Affair…but instead of going into books, you’re going into parallel dimensions and alternate worlds to take their books for the sake of preservation and research
  • The library has a life of its own, and the librarians seem like an interesting bunch
  • I really want to know more about the librarians.  We get a little bit of the hierarchy and structure of the library, but not a lot, and I’m hoping we get more
  • The way I feel about the librarians is the same way I feel about the Library.  We get a general idea of the library and how it works but I want more
  • It is the first book in a series, so it is setting up for future books.  Hopefully we’ll see more
  • There are a lot of possibilities, though.  I mean, they go into parallel dimensions to retrieve books, and there are a lot of possibilities for future books.  It would be interesting to see how things could possibly spiral out
  • My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s a fun book to read, and great if you like books about books and libraries, but I wanted more about the Library and the librarians who work there.

Book #2: Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

What I Thought:

  • Carve The Mark is about Cyra, who is pretty much able to torture people, and Akos, who has some power I cannot remember
  • I was really excited about this book, because I loved the Divergent series (even Allegiant, which I know people either love or hate), but I did’t like it as much as a thought
  • Well…what I remember, which isn’t much
  • Honestly, even though it’s set in space, it felt like it could have been set anywhere.  I kind of forgot it was space in space most of the time
  • It was really slow and confusing and I wasn’t a big fan of the dual narration
  • I don’t remember a lot about the book, and I honestly can’t remember what I liked or didn’t like.  I know I read it, but that’s pretty much it
  • I think it could be an interesting read-alike for fans of Graceling and An Ember In The Ashes
  • I vaguely remember that it’s slightly interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy- there are element of both, and it didn’t feel like it was one or the other
  • My Rating?  2 stars.  I don’t remember enough to dislike it, but I don’t remember enough to like it

Book Three: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

What I Thought:

  • I really wish I re-read the first two books in the series first, because I had a hard time remembering what was going
  • I’m starting to like this series less and less, and I honestly thought this book was the last one
  • I was very surprised on learning this is, in fact, not the last book in the series.  I was disappointed with how it ended at first, because nothing felt resolved, but when I saw there were more books, the ending made a lot more sense
  • I was more bored reading this book than I was with the other books
  • Nothing stood out to me as interesting or memorable, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened
  • I do like the overall premise of the series, and I am determined to finish it out…but part of me wonders if it’s being stretched out too much
  • Maybe I need to re-read the series before I make up my mind.  And maybe if I do re-read it, I’ll do an updated review
  • Rating: 2 stars.  It wasn’t very memorable, and I remember being bored when I was reading it.

Book #4: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

What I Thought:

  • This book is bananas!
  • Seriously, what is going on with Clare and Nora?  Clare has some issues, as does Nora
  • I mean, Nora’s okay, but she was really hung up on a short-lived relationship that happened when she was 16.  I thought it was weird that she was so hung up on something that happened 10 years earlier
  • And Clare…I get that she was worried what people thought about her (don’t we all worry about that, to some degree?) but she took it to an extreme
  • To me, they acted a lot younger than they were.  Not that they have to act a certain way, just because they’re in their mid-twenties, but Clare in particular seemed very determined to get what she wanted
  • It was not as creepy as I thought it would be.  They’re in a cabin in the woods, and it’s pretty isolated from what I could tell.  But it was not at all creepy
  • I did want to keep reading, though, and to see who was killed and why.
  • Rating: I have to go with 2 stars on this one.  I just wanted something more creepy.