Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

I really wanted to read this book because I heard that it was being made into a movie. I’m a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan so I was excited to watch it … but before watching, I wanted to read the novel and see how it was. I love spy-ish movies and stories so it was a no-brainer for me to choose this as my next read. Here’s my review:

15803037Summary (Goodreads): In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.

Review: I was surprised at how long it took me to read this book! It looked fairly short but it had super tiny font – so consider yourself warned!

This is a very detailed book. I had always figured that espionage would be very meticulous and intricate, but I had no idea how much until I read this book. The author has carefully researched and outlined every small thing in this story. I really appreciated this attention to detail because it created a lot of depth and gave the reader a very full picture of what it means to be part of the espionage world. It also gives the reader an understanding of politics and the different mind games that can take place, which is where all the fun happens! At times, this level of detail could be overwhelming; it is one of the reasons why it took me so long to finish this book. However, now that I have completed it, I can see no better way of telling this story.

The characters in this novel were very unique. Dominika is fiery, egotistical, and able to adapt to every situation. She is so smart and I really empathized with her feelings of being used as a pawn; she wanted to be so much more, knew she could be so much more, and I loved that about her. However, I didn’t like that the author made her very impulsive and moody. It just didn’t fit with the image of a spy that the author kept pushing forward. I liked that she had spunk but her outbursts were a little shocking to me, and seemed incompatible with the rest of her character. I also didn’t really like Luke. There didn’t seem to be too much of substance there. While I liked that Dominika was the driving force behind this novel, I wish that Luke had been a worthy match for her strong character.

The story’s pacing is a little weird. I can’t really classify it as fast or slow; its tempo changed as it progressed, ramping up and down as needed based on the events that were about to unfold. There were times when I wish things would progress faster … but it made sense why it didn’t.

The writing style was something else I am struggling to characterize. I think that it worked for telling this kind of story. It was a cold and calculated voice that distanced the reader from the characters. I can see why a lot of people would find it off-putting but it reminded me a lot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hypnotist so I didn’t really mind it too much. I thought it was really cool how each chapter ended with recipes of a dish that was described in that chapter; it wasn’t strictly necessary but it was an interesting tidbit.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I would give this a 3.5/5 stars. I think it took me time to start to really get into the novel; at first, I felt bogged down by all the details. Once I got used to the details and the writing style, I found myself caught up in the political intrigue. I definitely want to continue reading the rest of the books in the series, especially since this one ended on a cliffhanger. But before that, I’m going to go and check out the movie!

Happy reading ~


The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read a nonfiction novel in a long time and I don’t think I have ever blogged about it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to broaden my reading range. I’m so glad that I chose to read this book because it was such a fantastic experience. Here is my review:

As World War I took its tool, hundreds of young women were employed at radium-dial factories to paint clock faces with a new miracle substance: radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was completely safe, the women used the “lip-painting” technique to do their job, happily surprised to find themselves glowing from head to toe by the dust that collected after a day’s work. With such a coveted job, these girls were considered to be the luckiest of all – until they all began to fall ill. As the radium poisoned their bodies, they found themselves battling not just their physical ailments but the working industry themselves in one of America’s biggest scandals.

I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn’t know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I’m familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren’t just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn’t make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn’t give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don’t want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~

Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt

This is another novel that I had the pleasure of reading before its release. Every time a publisher accepts my request and sends me a copy of their book, it makes me feel so happy inside and I literally cannot wait to finish the novel and gush about it to all of my lovely blog followers! This book should be available for the masses anytime now so hopefully my review will give you an idea about whether it is worth your while!

Being a female doctor post-Civil War in America is no easy mantle. However, Dr. Catherine Bennett has never envisioned anything different for her life, especially since her own father was a great doctor. However, when Catherine is wrongfully accused of murder, her career – and her life- become that much more of a problem. With a bounty over her head, Catherine flees with her maid to Colorado to build a new life for herself under a false name. But will her disguise keep her safe? Or will her secrets threaten to ruin all of her chances for happiness?

At first, I did not enjoy the way this novel was moving. I did not really like the character of Catherine; she was much too simple of a character and she just had this laissez-faire attitude that irritated me. I also found the beginning to be very repetitive with constant mentions of the past (this doesn’t change throughout the novel). However, my impression of this novel quickly improved as the story moved forward and dealt with violence and war and grief; these components made it all more 3-D and believable. By the end of the novel, I was wrapped up in the plot; it really pulled through for me and ended up being quite a good story. Those who compare this to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon would be right in doing so: Catherine truly resembles Claire Randall both in her mannerisms and in her attitude. If you liked Outlander, you will most definitely enjoy Sawbones!

Happy reading ~

The Innocent by David Baldacci – Will Robie series #1

If any of you have read my review on The Memory Man, then you already know that I really like David Baldacci. I like his style of writing and I like the male protagonists that he creates. When I heard he had this series, I knew I had to give it a shot. And so… I did:

The United States of America is a powerful nation – with powerful enemies. Sometimes, there doesn’t seem any way to beat their opponents – and that is when the government calls on Will Robie, a hitman who always follows orders and never misses his shot. But when a mission goes awry, Robie becomes a target himself and must escape from his own people. Fleeing the scene, Robie meets a 14-year-old runaway who has just witnessed the brutal murder of her parents. Against his own professional instinct, Robie takes the girl under his wing – but the more he gets to know the girl, the more he begins to realize that their fates may be connected. Robie must uncover the truth to save the girl’s life – and his own. But when you’re a hunted assassin, who can you trust?

When I was initially reading this novel, I really enjoyed it. I love Baldacci’s style of writing and I love his male protagonists; they just seem to embody the strong-but-silent type that have “deep pain in their souls”. The storyline itself was incredibly complex with a whole slew of characters to keep track of. Not only is Will Robie a badass fighter, he is also quite intelligent and a deep thinker; I like that he isn’t just one thing and that his intelligence is based on great observational skills rather than just “being smart”. The female characters in this novel were a great addition and really helped give the story some variety. By the time I had gotten to the middle of the novel, I knew who the “enemy” was – but there were still plenty of surprises that I could never have anticipated. One negative feature that I will mention is that the tying-in of the girl’s story with Robie’s was not done as effectively as I had hoped. It seemed a bit … messy and just thrown together last minute in comparison to the intricate connections of the rest of the story. This was definitely a good read but I definitely liked The Memory Man better. Because of this one negative feature, I am a bit reluctant to continue on with this series; I like clean explanations that make a lot of sense. But either way, this was a really good novel and worth giving a read!

Happy reading ~

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

As has been my trend, I chose this book because it has gotten some raving reviews that deemed it worth checking out. Surprisingly, it took me quite a while to finish the novel. I don’t know if it was because it was long or because I was just moving through it slowly. Anyways, here is my review.

When a foreign intelligence agent is called to come in and review a crime scene, he isn’t really expecting much. But he is in for a surprise: the murder was done in such a way that it was near untraceable, something the killer could only have learned by reading his book on forensic pathology. As the agent tries to find out who the killer is, he is taken to all the corners of  the world, where every incident is connected, and each clue is leading up to the most sinister plot that America has yet to face.

There were a lot of good things about this book but there were also some bad things; for that reason, I have mixed feelings about this novel. It was quite fast-paced but sometimes it became hard to connect all the dots. The agent was likeable as a character but the details he went into were excruciatingly described. The main focus of the book is on terrorism and although it was well-researched, it definitely had its biases. I don’t know if I would say this is a sensational read, I don’t even know if I would recommend it to many people. It’s definitely good as far as thrillers go so I guess use that information to decide if you want to give it a shot or not!

Happy reading ~

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

This book has been on my must-read list for the summer. The teaser for it was so incredibly interesting that I couldn’t resist. I’ve had so many books to read so far that I only just got time now. But boy am I glad I gave it a shot!

When Father disappears, Carolyn and her adopted siblings are worried. Since the day their parents passed away, Father has been the only guardian they’ve ever known. He took them to the Library and each child was instructed in a specific catalog of knowledge using unique and often cruel methods. As their search for Father begins, the line between their world and that of the ordinary American begins to fade. Alliances and plots are forming and there is no one that can be trusted. Amidst it all, Carolyn comes up with a plan. Whether she can pull it off is a whole other matter.

This book was wild, exhilarating, and wonderfully confusing all at the same time. The characters were unique and scary and amazing. The ideas and story line is extremely creative; I have no idea how the author managed to combine so many different ideas to create something so great! The only slight negative I would say is that the portrayal of a certain character at the end of the novel (don’t worry, I’m not revealing any spoilers!) was a tad bit off, in my opinion. But I loved this novel and I’m putting it on my list of books to buy with my next paycheck! So please please please give this book a chance if you are looking for something new and exciting and quirky! I’m sure you will love it as much as I did!

Happy reading ~

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline

I’ve been waiting so eagerly to read this book. The storyline just seemed so intriguing and I’ve been wanting to read a historical fiction book for a while now. Most of the ones I’ve read in this genre were on topics I was familiar with like WWII. This was my first step away from that into a topic that I really didn’t know much about.

Vivian Daly was a young Irish immigrant who had moved to New York City with her family. A tragic fire led to Vivian becoming an orphan overnight. Now, she is being sent on a train with many other orphaned children across the country in the hopes of getting adopted by a family.

Back to the present, Molly Ayer is a troubled teen with yet another foster family. After getting caught for stealing, she is given the task of completing 50 community service hours. Mercifully, she gets a chance to volunteer at an old woman’s house cleaning up the attic.

The two stories merge into one as Molly begins to sift through the memories and secrets found in the attic of none other than Vivian Daly…

I really liked this book. It was a very nice story with just the right amount of heartache. It has a wonderful happy ending and I liked the joining of the past with the present. Did I absolutely adore and love this novel? No. I have read better books. But this was an interesting topic and the novel itself was written quite well. Anyone looking for an interesting read in this genre should definitely check this book out!

Happy reading ~

The Woods by Harlan Coben

So I loves this author so much that I rushed to get my hands on another book of his. And this was just as good as the last one!

One summer camp night, Paul Copeland’s sister and 3 other teenagers went into the forest and disappeared. Twenty years later, he is still grieving for his sister. Paul is now a country prosecutor who has a young daughter that he is trying to raise on his own now that his wife has passed away. Clearly, life hasn’t been the best for him. But when evidence turns up about that fateful camp night, Paul is once again forced to relive the events and find out the truth behind what really happened. Who killed those teenagers? And why bring the evidence up now? The more Paul searches, the more he realizes that there is a lot more to this mystery than what meets the eye…

Another fabulous mystery book! I literally sat on my bed in the same position and kept reading without realizing that a few hours had gone by. I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t have guessed the ending at all! Every single part of it was packed with action and the characters were all so wonderfully portrayed! I am definitely keeping my eye on this author and I would encourage anyone who likes a good mystery to look him up, too!

Happy reading ~