Book Review: Zero Sum Game

Zero Sum Game (Russell’s Attic #1)

Deadly. Mercenary. Superhuman. Not your ordinary math geek.

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good.

The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight. She can take any job for the right price and shoot anyone who gets in her way.

As far as she knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower . . . but then Cas discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Someone who’s already warped Cas’s thoughts once before, with her none the wiser.

Cas should run. Going up against a psychic with a god complex isn’t exactly a rational move, and saving the world from a power-hungry telepath isn’t her responsibility. But she isn’t about to let anyone get away with violating her brain — and besides, she’s got a small arsenal and some deadly mathematics on her side. There’s only one problem . . .

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

Review:

This was such a fun book to read. I absolutely loved the protagonist, Cas — she’s a salty mercenary with a odd moral code, who is also freakishly good at math. Superhero good at math.  It was so much fun to read the scenes where she uses her mad math skills to take down those who were after her. And, even though she is a standoffish, antihero type of character, I still really liked her and wanted to know what she was up to next.
What also makes this a good book are the supporting characters — I cared about them as well and wanted to see how their story lines would work out. They were all so different and brought out various traits in Cas.
Overall, this is an exciting, fast paced read with a strong and smart heroine who is not above making mistakes. It certainly kept me turning the pages. I can’t wait to read the next book and learn more about her backstory.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book on NetGalley for an honest review.
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Book Review: Good Me, Bad Me

Good Me, Bad Me

Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.

How far does the apple really fall from the tree?

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

Review:

 

Good Me, Bad Me is quite a book. Not only is the subject matter intense, but the writing adds to this tension with its terse and poignant turns of phrase, and the way connections are made without spelling everything out. It is the story of Milly, whose mother is a serial killer and how abused she was whole life. One day, Millie can’t take it any more so she turns her mother in to the police.

 

This book is an exploration of Milly and how she thinks and acts, especially given her past. She wants to do good things and be good, but she also has it in her to be bad. Her thoughts and actions are intense and horrible sometimes and feel authentic given what she’d been through. There is a type of nature versus nurture dichotomy, and huge tension over which one will win.

 

Throughout the book, we certainly feel for Milly, but we also know that something is wrong. Her thoughts are honest and raw, so I found I didn’t want to get too close to her, but I was completely fascinated by her.

 

Personally, I was totally enthralled and couldn’t stop turning the pages, though it did get so intense at one point that I had to have a little break. If you like psychological thrillers, I would highly recommend this book.

 

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Book Review: Dust by Patricia Cornwell

Dust (Kay Scarpetta #21)

Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta has just returned from working one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history when she’s awakened at an early hour by Detective Pete Marino.

A body, oddly draped in an unusual cloth, has just been discovered inside the sheltered gates of MIT and it’s suspected the identity is that of missing computer engineer Gail Shipton, last seen the night before at a trendy Cambridge bar. It appears she’s been murdered, mere weeks before the trial of her $100 million lawsuit against her former financial managers, and Scarpetta doubts it’s a coincidence. She also fears the case may have a connection with her computer genius niece, Lucy.

At a glance there is no sign of what killed Gail Shipton, but she’s covered with a fine dust that under ultraviolet light fluoresces brilliantly in three vivid colors, what Scarpetta calls a mineral fingerprint. Clearly the body has been posed with chilling premeditation that is symbolic and meant to shock, and Scarpetta has reason to worry that the person responsible is the Capital Murderer, whose most recent sexual homicides have terrorized Washington, D.C. Stunningly, Scarpetta will discover that her FBI profiler husband, Benton Wesley, is convinced that certain people in the government, including his boss, don’t want the killer caught.

In Dust, Scarpetta and her colleagues are up against a force far more sinister than a sexual predator who fits the criminal classification of a “spectacle killer.” The murder of Gail Shipton soon leads deep into the dark world of designer drugs, drone technology, organized crime, and shocking corruption at the highest levels.

With unparalleled high-tension suspense and the latest in forensic technology, Patricia Cornwell once again proves her exceptional ability to surprise—and to thrill.

Review:
This is my first time reading a novel my Patricia Cornwell and I was excited because I’d heard great things about the Kay Scarpetta series. Unfortunately, this book was a let down for me.
The characters are all well established, have a history with each other, and a pattern of behaviour, which is fine. Old tensions and rivalries are brought in quite a bit.
This novel takes place over the course of one day and yet there is very little actual action. Scarpetta spends a lot of time going over things in her head, so much time that things get very repetitive. And I mean really repetitive. I almost didn’t make it through the book. She explains old rivalries between the characters several times, she looks at the evidence, figures it out, talks about it, explains it, then thinks about it again.
And, I have to say, that it bugged me that Scarpetta was hungry all the time but barely ever ate. And that they were sometimes in a hurry, but it would take two chapters of thoughts and contemplation before they actually left the room.
Right from the start, Scarpetta’s husband and FBI profiler, Benton, seems to know there’s a cover up and who’s doing it and much of the rest of the book is finding ways to use the evidence against him.
It is obvious that the author knows a lot about forensic science and all of the techniques and gadgets and that was interesting, however, the story was so slow and repetitive that author knowledge couldn’t compensate.

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Book Review: The Bone Labyrinth

The Bone Labyrinth (Sigma Force #11)

A war is coming, a battle that will stretch from the prehistoric forests of the ancient past to the cutting-edge research labs of today, all to reveal a true mystery buried deep within our DNA, a mystery that will leave readers changed forever . . .

In this groundbreaking masterpiece of ingenuity and intrigue that spans 50,000 years in human history, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins takes us to mankind’s next great leap.

But will it mark a new chapter in our development . . . or our extinction?

In the remote mountains of Croatia, an archaeologist makes a strange discovery:  a subterranean Catholic chapel, hidden for centuries, holds the bones of a Neanderthal woman. In the same cavern system, elaborate primitive paintings tell the story of an immense battle between tribes of Neanderthals and monstrous shadowy figures. Who is this mysterious enemy depicted in these ancient drawings and what do the paintings mean?

Before any answers could be made, the investigative team is attacked, while at the same time, a bloody assault is made upon a primate research center outside of Atlanta. How are these events connected? Who is behind these attacks?  The search for the truth will take Commander Gray Pierce of Sigma Force 50,000 years into the past. As he and Sigma trace the evolution of human intelligence to its true source, they will be plunged into a cataclysmic battle for the future of humanity that stretches across the globe . . . and beyond.

With the fate of our future at stake, Sigma embarks on its most harrowing odyssey ever—a breathtaking quest that will take them from ancient tunnels in Ecuador that span the breadth of South America to a millennia-old necropolis holding the bones of our ancestors. Along the way, revelations involving the lost continent of Atlantis will reveal true mysteries tied to mankind’s first steps on the moon. In the end, Gray Pierce and his team will face to their greatest threat: an ancient evil, resurrected by modern genetic science, strong enough to bring about the end of man’s dominance on this planet.

Only this time, Sigma will falter—and the world we know will change forever.

Review:
I really wanted to like this book — it hit a lot of the right buttons for me. I was in the mood for a thriller, the story involves archaeology and Atlantis, there is action and adventure, and Rollins is a highly recommended, prolific author. But, despite all of my expectations, I only found the book OK.
The characters were good, the kind of tough guys you would expect in a thriller. I like that not all of the tough guys were “guys” — some were women too.
And you can’t fault Rollins on his research. It is clear from the early pages that he has researched all of the science and archaeology behind the book. That part really was interesting, thinking of the possibilities of Adam and Eve, a historical leap of intellect, and the presence of Atlantis. Great stuff.
But then there were the other things. I actually felt uncomfortable reading parts of this book. The big antagonist was basically all of China. There was no redeeming quality of anything Chinese. The whole country was depicted as inhumane, cut-throat, and immoral. I know there needs to be bad guys, but vilifying an entire country is not OK.
The writing, for the most part, was good. There did need to be more editing, however as there were a few occasions when a paragraph or description was repeated practically word for word within several pages. And much of Rollins’ research was presented in an info dump format — a character would go to the library and research then come back and tell everyone everything for several pages.
And, I couldn’t figure out from a story point of view, why Sigma Force took the people they were supposed to be protecting to Ecuador and put them in harm’s way. There needed to be a better rationale for going against their assignment of keeping these people safe than curiosity. From the book point of view, it was interesting and they learned a lot, but from a plot point of view the officers of Sigma Force were not doing their job by putting their charges in life threatening danger when there was no pressing need.
Overall, there was a lot to enjoy in The Bone Labyrinth, but I’m not sure I’ll be picking up another Sigma Force book soon.

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