Month: May 2014

Book Review: The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

farm

Rating: 4 / 5

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Daniel’s parents, Chris and Tilde recently moved from London to Sweden for their retirement, rehabbing a farm in rural Sweden, where Daniel’s mom grew up. He doesn’t give the move a second thought, and assumed this is what his parents wanted.  All that changes when one morning he receives a frantic call from his father, stating that his mother is not well.  Daniel is about to make plans to get on the next flight out to Sweden, when his father calls him again to say that somehow she was discharged and he has no idea her whereabouts.  The phone call immediately after is his mom, informing him that everything his father has said about her is a lie, and she will be on the next flight to London to explain everything to him.  Thus starts the mystery of what is supposedly wrong with his mother, and why is she implicating his father? (more…)

Book Review: The Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra

wolf

Rating: 3 / 5

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Vincent Marelli aka the Wolf,  is the head of a powerful organized crime group.  Unlike many upper level members, who were born into the organization, Marelli had a fairly quiet childhood, only entering the mob after both his parents died within a short time of each other.  He is cunning and astute, but after a minor mistake with letting his guard down, his wife and two daughters were murdered.  Thinking that the Russians, led by Vladimir Kostolov are behind the brutal killings, Marelli plans to exact revenge. (more…)

Book Review: ‘A Better World’ by Marcus Sakey

a better

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 / 5

A Better World is the follow up to Brilliance (my review of it here), and it hits the ground running.  I don’t know how well A Better World is as a stand alone, but I highly suggest reading Brilliance before diving into this installment, as much of the groundwork is laid out in the first book.  In the late 1980s, it was discovered that 1% of the children born were abnormal in that they had special abilities.  Although the abilities are non-violent, a chasm was slowly created between the “abnorms” or brilliants, and the normals.  As a result of the tension, the world’s richest man, Erik Epstein, also a brilliant, founded a settlement, the New Canaan Holdfast, in Wyoming, where abnorms could live amongst each other.  Not much is known about why some people are born normal and some are born as brilliants, but a measure to implant a chip in the necks of all abnorms has been gaining traction.  In response, a small terrorist group, the Children of Darwin, has literally shut down three American cities.  America’s best bet in brokering a deal between normals and brilliants is Nick Cooper.  Cooper is weary, though, since the last time he tried to help he didn’t realize he was being used as a pawn in someone else’s ulterior motives.

A Better World is action-packed, which makes reviewing it difficult without giving away spoilers.  What I can say is that A Better World picks up where Brilliance left off, and is equally as compelling and engaging as Brilliance.  I was a bit skeptical with Sakey’s ability to continue to storyline, as so much happened in Brilliance, but A Better World perseveres, with more character development and more action without the “been there, done that” feeling.

It is so easy to classify the Brilliance series as a thriller since on the surface it is a book that moves quickly, with war, fighting, government, and politics.  But dig just a little deeper, and it’s a book that will get you thinking about the broader implications of the “us versus them” mentality, and treating people differently based on disparities rather than working together to embrace their differences.

A Better World is a continuation of the thrill ride that began with Brilliance, and I honestly cannot wait for the third book.

Book Review: ‘The Unpersuadables’ by Will Storr

Unpersuadables

Rating: 4 / 5

In The Unpersuadables, investigative journalist Will Storr sets out to find out why certain people hold on to their beliefs, even in the face of contrary evidence.  He interviews various people and various beliefs, from people who firmly believe in homeopathic cures to creationists to Holocaust deniers.  These people are intelligent, and Storr wants to find out what makes them tick.  These people are endlessly fascinating, and while I am bewildered, I found it amusing that they all staunchly held onto their beliefs even when Storr challenged their views.

The most interesting exposes for me were the following:

-interviews with Holocaust deniers

-yoga and the guru Swami Ramdev

-people who claim to suffer from Morgellons, a disease which does not exist

 The interviews and observations are interesting, but Storr goes further, researching why people form their convictions and refused to be persuaded.  I was shocked to learn that much of what we think we see is really our brain making assumptions.  Also, much of our beliefs have neurological and physiological impacts.  In general, humans have solidified their belief system by their late 20s, and new information that does not conform with the belief system will be rejected.  While this happens on a subconscious level, the person will immediately make up a reason to explain the decision, and, studies have shown, the stories are completely arbitrary.  It is shocking to learn that what we know and what we believe are frequently incorrect, but the brain will create reasons and explanations as to why our opinions are correct.  On a personal level, it makes me wonder if reading opinions which are contrary to mine are even worthwhile since my brain will automatically reject such opinions and create valid reasons to support the rejections.

The only aspect of this book that I thought was weak was how some information was presented.  The Unpersuadables is jam packed with information but I felt lost at the beginning of many of the chapters.  Introductions at the beginning would have helped immensely in giving the reader context in what was being presented.  For example, it took me a few pages before I realized that Storr was going on a tour of concentration camps with people who did not believe that the Holocaust occurred.  It felt like I randomly started in the middle of a chapter.

The Bottom Line: The Unpersuadables is a book that will really make you think.  When you first read about the various minority opinions you’ll be baffled at why people believe some things.  Then you’ll read about Storr’s quest to understand how opinions and convictions are formed, and you’ll start questioning your own.  The Unpersuadables is definitely eye-opening.