Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review -- The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of ChinaThe Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Matt Reilly is my favorite action/adventure author. Nobody does it bigger, better and badass than Matt. People tend to crib about the lack of factuality or the over the top action sequences, but hey… if you can digest Hollywood then there is no reason not to digest this with a pinch or a bag of salt…which ever you would prefer.

The sheer scale and the grand stage of each and every action/adventure book of Matt Reilly is what sets him apart from his peers. I read The Seven Ancient Wonders first and since then I am hooked and I am an unabashed fan boy…

Coming to the latest novel, The Great Zoo of China, when I first saw the title I was a bit intrigued and I was thinking what can you write about a Zoo Matthew? My curiosity was piqued and I got my hands on the book first from a friend while I was travelling from USA to India and the then got a copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest unbiased review courtesy of the publisher Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and the author himself. Boy oh boy what a ride it has been….

China - when we think China we think an industrial powerhouse of production, flooding the world markets with goods made cheaply and efficiently that anywhere in the world. The place where the world comes to get their things built according to their blueprints. But that said let it not be said that the Chinese are not ambitious enough. They are…. They most definitely are on the quest to become a world superpower not only militarily but also economically and most importantly socially. That means bringing tourists to China, so what can they do that will get them enough tourists and put them on par or even above America with its Disneyland?

The idea is building a Zoo, the most biggest, most baddest and the most unique zoo ever seen by the world. A one of a kind zoo… A zoo with… DRAGONS… yes you read me right.. Dragons…

Jurassic Park comes to mind immediately…. Well the Chinese have seen it too and learnt their lessons from it. It is a project that has been in the making since the last 40 years when the Chinese quite literally stumbled into a nest of dragon eggs. Since then it has been a ultra mega $240 billion project to build and showcase the might of China with the greatest zoo ever built by man - A Dragon Zoo with the different species like Red Bellied, Yellow Jacket, Purple Royals, Brown Swamps and so on…

The Chinese claim that they have tamed these beasts, and in fact even trained them… nothing can go wrong in the zoo, of course it is perfectly safe, they even make the dragons put in an performance for the VIP guests from the West including writers from NY Times, the US Ambassador to China and Dr. CJ Cameron and her brother Hamish from Nat Geo. It is a wonderful world, an exquisite but controller world, where the dragons know who their masters are.. So what can go wrong???

Except that everything does, in typical Reilly style it goes to hell hand over fist. With the Great Zoo Matt Reilly delivers his first action heroine Dr. CJ Cameron. She has faced alligators in the everglades, and is the worlds leading expert on reptiles, but soon she finds that Dragons are a different ball game. They are intelligent, they are planners and they are after a bigger goal… Freedom… or is it???

Read the book the find out more, but with the Great Zoo Matt Reilly has taken his game up a notch further. Pitting man against beast, The Great Zoo of China is a high octane adventure that will grab you by the scruff of your neck and will not let you go until the book is finished. You will feel like you have completed a roller coaster ride of your life, but expect a sleepless night if you pick this book up as a night read as you will not be able to put it down… Beware….

Book Review -- Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'BriensInside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and the author Lisa Genova for granting me the permission to read this ARC of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Your efforts are much appreciated...

Dr. Lisa Genova a neurologist wrote this book to bring forth awareness on the most cruel disease ever know to man - Huntington's.

I must admit I was not aware of Huntington's before I read this book. I must also say I did not think much about the disease which statistically only 37,000 people suffer in USA… There are bigger stuff happening was my take on it… until I read the book…

Huntington's is cruel - it rightly called out by Dr. Genova. There can be nothing, I repeat nothing worse than watching yourself waste away bit by bit and do nothing to stop it. Lisa Genova paints an haunting story of the O'Briens there Joe gets diagnosed with Huntington's.

It is difficult when you know you are going to waste away to nothingness, but it is even more challenging knowing that you may have passed on the disease to your kids. There is nothing more hurting, more cruel or emotionally draining to a parent than knowing that your kids are going to suffer in their life and you are cause of it…. My heart went out to Joe. From a strapping, in shape, physically fit police officer to a wasted away person not even in control of his own limbs. From being self sufficient to being dependent on people around you for even the smallest thing in life.

While Joe struggles to find balance in his life after being forced into retirement with disability, he also has to deal with knowing that 2 of his 4 children are bound to get the disease. Both of them in the best of their health and at the peak of their challenging professions, a firefighter and a ballet dancer. To complicate the problem Joe is about to be a grand parent and they don't know if their grandson may/may not be infected with this disease… it makes the struggles in their life almost seem inhuman. Disease is a great leveler, it does not do emotions.

As Joe tries to find a semblance of balance within himself, his youngest daughter struggles with her own set of problems. Growing up in the shadow of a talented older sister (the ballerina), Katie is still trying to find her place in life and dealing with the complexities of being in a relationship with a black man and having trouble bringing him into open with her Irish Catholic family. She also struggles to move ahead in life when confronted with the scepter of Huntington's hanging over her head.

The book in essence is the parallel stories of Joe and Katie, as one struggles to come to terms with what is and the other struggles to come to terms with what may be. Ultimately it is the story of Joe trying to set an example for his children that the disease cannot be beaten, but it can definitely be lived with.

Inside the O'Briens gave me a healthy respect for the message that Dr. Genova is trying to convey. Bring about an awareness for Huntington's while helping the readers understand that Huntington's can cause you problems, but it cannot take away from you your quality of life.

A quality read which gives insight into how really life is…

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review -- Ghosts in Macau by H.N. Wake

Ghosts in Macau (A Mac Ambrose Short Story)Ghosts in Macau by H.N. Wake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks H.N for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest, unbiased review...You rock!!!

H.N. Wake turns up the heat with this short Mac Ambrose novella. China - a rising dragon from the east and the Macau is its Las Vegas.

Amid the glitz, glamor and lights of Macau is set the thrilling story of old school espionage, retrieving an hiding an asset deep from the heart of the country. It is a thankless job, never acknowledged or credited, the op goes south - the agent is left hanging in the wind, the op delivers on what it promises, the bosses at the top take all the credit for a job well done... And there is a third way - The bosses dump the op because it is too risky and you are left stranded again...

China and Mac Ambrose have a turbulent history as hinted by Wake in the previous book, she is a fearless operator, but this time around we see the emotional, the human element of Mac Ambrose. I will not get much into the story line for the fear of giving out too much and spoiling the story for  others, but one thing I would say for Mac Ambrose she is a gritty operator with her head screwed on at all times.

She differentiates between right and wrong; God have mercy on you if you are on her wrong because she definitely won't.

A quick read, whetting the appetite for the next book in the series. If there were any grouse I had it would be that it ended too soon...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Reading List -- May 2015

You just cannot have enough books. Whoever said that was absolutely, utterly and completely right and my hero. I dig books. I just can't get enough of them... and my traditional gluttony leads me into all sorts of jams which then has me contorting as a trapeze artist to get my way out of it.

Ok coming to this months reading list, where do I start???

Let me divide it into sections:

Net Galley: By far this is where I am feeling the pinch. I have a tendency to request 5-6 books at a time and being super busy these days, I am not able to plow my way through the books as I usually do. So currently my feedback to request ratio is languishing at 24% or so. I have way more books on my reading, approved and requested shelf than on my feedback shelf. Well I am not going to list all my Net Galley books here.. coz then I will never get done. So this month my reading list from Net Galley is:

1. Inside the O'Briens by Dr. Lisa Genova - It is about how a family deals and copes when they know that the father is having Huntingtons.

2. The Sound of Glass by Karen White

3. The Devil Will Come by Glenn Cooper

4. The Morganstern Project by David Khara

I also have The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins my Book Pal - Book of the Month to read with my A Good Thriller group member to read and discuss.

Also I have my perennial book pal Freda and books selected by us to read and discuss among ourselves.

It will be shaping up to a very, very, very busy May but I would not have it any other way...

Happy Reading,

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Book Review -- Key Witness by Sandra Bolton

Key Witness: A Southwest MysteryKey Witness: A Southwest Mystery by Sandra Bolton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Courtesy of NetGalley, publishers Amazon Publishing, Thomas & Mercer and author Sandra Bolton. Many thanks for making the advance copy of this book available to me at my request in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Key Witness is a murder mystery investigation involving multiple stakeholders, the Italian Mafia, the Mexican Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang and a few others thrown in to make it a complete pot pouri.

As a murder mystery cum chase I would rate it just about 3. But what pushes the rating up 1 more star is the background scenes. The book is mainly based in the Navajo Nation. The author does an incredible job of describing and bringing the haunting landscape to life.

You experience the land through the eyes of the newbie in this case the protagonist Abe Freeman, who has embarked on a road trip to find himself after losing his girlfriend to cancer. He gets mixed up in a murder of a fellow drifter he chances across overnight and subsequently becomes a Key Witness in the whodunit.

Brought in by the female protagonist of the story Emily Etcity, he has to stay in the state so that he can give witness when required. Emily is a Navajo and she takes him on board to keep him out of the way.

The Native American landscape is drawn in haunting beauty and through the various characters living on the land, you can feel the pride, the sense of attachment and the love that they have for the land.

The connect and respect that the tribe people and their ways of life give a very profound and powerful message of communing with Nature in a world shadowed by consumerism.

IMO that lifted the quality of the book from Like to Love.

The ending leaves a unconcluded story of Abe Freeman, the murder mystery is solved, but Abe Freeman is still on the road to self discovery and he needs to find himself first and then deal with the relationship that he has with Emily and her family.

The book deserves a sequel. We deserve to see the story of Abe Freeman played out to the end.

Book Review -- Blood Ransom by John Boyle

Blood Ransom: Stories from the front line in the war against Somali piracyBlood Ransom: Stories from the front line in the war against Somali piracy by John Boyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Courtesy of NetGalley, publishers Bloomsbury USA and author John Boyle. Many thanks for making the advance copy of this book available to me at my request in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Piracy… reminds us of the buccaneering Jack Sparrow and his group of rag tags aboard the Black Pearl. Treasure hunters, swashbuckling adventurers romanticized by Hollywood to bigger and bigger glory.  Pirates are something people thought active in olden days, the 1700's and 1800's at the height of imperial glory. Something nostalgic…

Not true, just look at the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, aboard a ship carrying cargo, chances are 8 out 10 times you would have seen groups of 6-7 people aboard a fast moving skiff firing AK-47s and RPGs at your ship. Who are these people? Somali Pirates

High Seas piracy is big business. Somali's have the control of the entire market for piracy, the ransom amounts from 2008 to 2014 run to more than 150 million dollars, an amount that is almost equal to the GDP of the entire country.

Somalia is a failed state. Europeans drew borders on the land of Africa and divided it into different countries. But the people who have a nomadic lifestyle and absolutely no concept of country but great believers of the clan system immediately started fighting amongst themselves for supremacy. How do you bring unity and peace among tribes or clans who have been at each others throats for hundreds of years? The result is a country divided by chaos.

With nobody interested in their welfare and hammered on all sides by war, natural calamity and disastrous deep sea fishing by greedy corporates and countries taking advantage of a non existent government, Somalia has been looted and raped at will. Toxic wastes have been dumped off its coasts further wrecking havoc among the populace already struggling with famine.  What do ordinary people do when the only choice between life and death is a way of crime?

Piracy in high seas is a lucrative business in Somalia. As it with all illegal business, it is organized and has deep ties to the Mafia and is extremely well organized and efficient. Well it was until the world sat up and took notice of the loss being caused by the Somali's to the world economy.

The navies of the entire world converged on Somalia to stop a bunch of couple thousand Somali's risking life and limb to conquer ships thousands of miles out into the open sea aboard only tiny ships and skiffs. It is an unequal war one Somalia is in the process of losing but it was not won without a bitter fight.

Blood Ransom takes you behind the scenes, what makes a person become a pirate? Why does he risk his life? What is the life like at in high seas hunting for a ship?

Blood Ransom is the sad truth of a nation left behind by the world, a story of human greed and profiteering, a story of struggle for existence that mutates into a life of crime. It is a in depth look at the rise and fall of Somali piracy, the book is fast paced, deals with anecdotes from both sides of the fence, the ones that pirated and the ones that tried to prevent. It is also the story of the victims who have been kidnapped. Some who are lucky enough to be ransomed, some who have spent years in captivity and some who are still waiting for their freedom.

If you feel that piracy is something romantic like Johnny Depp portraying it in The Pirates of Caribbean, then think again and read this book.

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