Review Tuesday: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry is book one in his Cotton Malone series. The series was recommended to me by a coworker who knew that I loved history and to read. I’m so glad that I gave this book a try because this series is right up my alley – and there are at least 13 books so far! I always love when you find a new series that you love and that has numerous books. It can be like finding an oasis in the middle of a dry book dessert.

From Goodreads:

The ancient order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes . . . until the Inquisition, when they were wiped from the face of the earth, their hidden riches lost. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not at all what they thought it was–and its true nature could change the modern world.

Cotton Malone, one-time top operative for the U.S. Justice Department, is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen when an unexpected call to action reawakens his hair-trigger instincts–and plunges him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he’d left behind.

It begins with a violent robbery attempt on Cotton’s former supervisor, Stephanie Nelle, who’s far from home on a mission that has nothing to do with national security. Armed with vital clues to a series of centuries-old puzzles scattered across Europe, she means to crack a mystery that has tantalized scholars and fortune-hunters through the ages by finding the legendary cache of wealth and forbidden knowledge thought to have been lost forever when the order of the Knights Templar was exterminated in the fourteenth century. But she’s not alone. Competing for the historic prize–and desperate for the crucial information Stephanie possesses–is Raymond de Roquefort, a shadowy zealot with an army of assassins at his command.

Welcome or not, Cotton seeks to even the odds in the perilous race. But the more he learns about the ancient conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar, the more he realizes that even more than lives are at stake. At the end of a lethal game of conquest, rife with intrigue, treachery, and craven lust for power, lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world–and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees.

Now, there have been numerous books published about the Knights Templar and their lost treasure. It’s a fascinating topic that has entertained conspiracy theorists and historians for centuries. The most recently runaway famous tale of the treasure is of course Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The Templar Legacy is a smarter, more in depth, story than The Da Vinci Code. Oh yes, I said it. If you love history, conspiracy/treasure hunts, and adventure this is definitely a book for you.

This book is plot driven. There isn’t really character development – the characters are who they are. The plot thought is intense, and dense. It is fairly easy to follow along, but you do have to pause every once in awhile and connect the clues in your head – or at least I found that I had to – but I liked that. I liked that I had to think about how everything was connected, and about which character and side (there are definitely sides in this book) knows what, and doesn’t know something else. It was just lovely storytelling.

Cotton is the best of both worlds by being a book lover as well as an action man. He knows how to handle himself in risky situations, and his mind is razor sharp. He’s slightly stereotypical in that he’s a divorced man and has no real interest in any kind of family life (other than a son that he sees over the summer), but he isn’t an alcoholic, which I loved. I always find a lot of single male characters who are some kind of detective (even in the loosest sense of the word) are. So that was a bit of fresh air. I think that all of the other characters in this story are really only here for this book, I’m not assuming that I’ll see much of them again. But, that’s just how these series books go.

I have two complaints about this book.

  1. For Cotton being an action man, there are a couple of times where he’s just stupid and he makes what seem to be basic mistakes that I don’t think that he should have made, or that a character with his background would have made.
  2. Some scenes just go on WAY too long because it shifts perspective back and forth while people are shooting at each other. It would be a great action movie because you would know when to switch cameras to focus on another person, but in the middle of reading it, it just bogs the flow down I felt.

Overall, it was great, enjoyable, smart read that blends history and fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

Review Tuesday: Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

I am a huge fan of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich and so every time that she has something new come out I usually give it a go. Curious Minds is the first book in a new series called Knight and Moon, and in the way that all of Janet Evanovich series are it’s silly and adventurous.

curious-mindsFrom Goodreads:

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

The book is essentially about a heist. It’s a lot bigger than that in terms of global scale, but the nuts and bolts of it is that it’s a heist. That part of the story I found entertaining and very Stephanie Plum like in the sense that it’s over the top, no way would this ever work out outside of these page, but I’m enjoying myself nevertheless. You most definitely suspend your belief in order to get through this book.

That part of this book I enjoyed. It’s what I was expecting from the author of Stephanie Plum. What I didn’t like as much though were the protagonists. I found Emerson to be beyond over the top. I felt like he, and his house of “what the hell” push the boundaries beyond the ridiculous and was unnecessary. I didn’t really like him as a character.

Riley was a better character. She definitely gets pulled along for the ride for a good while, and she holds her own for the most part. But she too isn’t someone I loved as a character. I wanted her to stand up to Emerson more, and not be so wishy-washy.

The plot for me was what I enjoyed about the book, the characters not so much. And I most likely will not be reading the next in the series. I just don’t care enough about the characters to be interested in what they get up to next.

 

5 Things: Thanksgiving, Family, Shopping Sprees, Volunteering, & Books!

I need to really work on my blog scheduling and getting into better blogging habits because I find that while I was off work, it was (obviously) easier to blog whenever I wanted and I didn’t have to worry too much about planning ahead. Not so the case anymore. Planning and scheduling ahead is now super important otherwise this blog will just fall to the wayside.

So here’s to being proactive which is one of my favourite thoughts that I’ve had this week. But also here are 5 other things that brought me joy this week.

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My cousin Stef and I went out for a sushi lunch last weekend and then ended up going shopping afterwards. It was a rather expensive trip for me – I got new little ankle boots from Spring, a couple of sweaters from Simon’s, a book from Indigo, and then some things from Sephora, including this face cleanser. Stef and I got free facials and I fell in love with the cleanser they used and had to get it.

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This is my Babcie and Mom checking to make sure the turkey is cooked for one of the Thanksgiving dinners that I went to last weekend. So tasty!

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Doug and I at Thanksgiving dinner at my Babcie’s. The family was there to eat good food, and then we watched the Jays game, where the Jays won against Texas. It was epic! The Jays are playing tonight at 8:08 against Cleveland.

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I volunteer with a program at the Toronto Public Library. You get paired up with a little kid and help them practice their reading. The little boy who I’m paired up with is 6 years old, and we started reading Green Eggs and Ham a couple of weeks ago. He ended up checking the book out and last night I found out that he’s read it by himself – twice! This is the thank you card he wrote for me. I’m so proud of him!

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I’m currently reading Searching for Disaster by Jennifer Probst, and to the right is my “up next reading”: The Return of History by Jennifer Welsh, Feminist Fight Club by Jennifer Bennett and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Hope that you also had some moments this week that brought you joy!

Review Tuesday: The Assistants by Camille Perri

I heard about The Assistants by Camille Perri on Instagram. I can’t remember who had been reading it and loving it, but it was enough for me to put it on hold at my local library. The book arrived a month or two later (it’s a popular book), and I started and finished it within a couple of days.

assistantsFrom Goodreads:

A wry and astute debut about a young Manhattanite whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city.
 
Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all.
 
When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer . . .
 
The Assistants speaks directly to a new generation of women who feel stuck and unable to get ahead playing by the rules. It will appeal to all of those who have ever asked themselves, “How is it that after all these years, we are still assistants?”

This book was hilarious. The characters are very fun, quirky, and over the top. This book is not meant to be serious, and because it knows that it isn’t the read is just fun and entertaining. Tina is definitely the kind of character you can root for because we’ve all had the moment where we get in way over our heads (not to the level of embezzlement obviously) and just end up scrambling. But for all that she definitely scrambles for a bit, Tina comes into her own, figures it all out, and gets everything sorted.

The topic of student debt is a continuous one in this novel, and while the book is rather silly and fun, the issue of student debt that students will never be able to pay off and thus never get ahead in life is a serious one. Too many people have serious student debt that makes saving for a house, children or retirement next to impossible. University and college shouldn’t be that expensive. There has to be a way for it to be made affordable or free (which has happened in some countries around the world) so that students can then go on to lead productive, healthy and happy lives.

This book is definitely a fun, quick read that is perfect for when you need a laugh and a pick me up. Give it a go! @CamillePerri

5 Things: walks, books, musicals, and colouring

My 5 Things this week, is as ever, inspired by Emily and Cupcakes and Cashmere.

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Last weekend I hung out with my friends Carmen and Sarah, and we went to the east end of Toronto to have lunch, do a little shopping and to take a nice walk. This picture is from our walk in Glen Stewart park. It’s completely gorgeous and very peaceful.

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Last weekend I also went and saw Matilda the musical with my mom at the Ed Mirvish theatre. It was very cute, and I loved the story that Matilda told about the escape artist and the acrobat. The girl can definitely tell a tale. It also makes me want to read Matilda.

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The best boyfriend in the world (aka Doug) order me the new Harry Potter for my birthday back in March. He picked it up for me while I was at Matilda and dropped it off at my place, along with a chocolate glazed donut (my favourite), with a note on the bag that said, “because power reading needs a little energy xoxoxoxo.” How awesome is he?! Also, my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming on Tuesday!

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I know that some people find adult colouring ridiculous, however, I find that it really helps me when my anxiety kicks in. This is one that I’ve been working on for a night or two, and I do it while I watch tv. I find that it gives my brain something else to concentrate on (because sometimes tv isn’t enough to keep my attention) and it also gives my hands something to do. It’s incredibly relaxing.

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My two books that I’m currently reading! I’ve just started both of them, and I’m excited for them. They should be really good!

Review Tuesday: Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton, is book 2 in her Hudson Valley series, and just like book 1, Nuts, it’s hilarious. Like laugh out loud on the subway funny.

cream of the cropFrom Goodreads

Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is…cheese.

Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.

Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be…love?

Now, I am a huge fan of Alice Clayton. Wallbanger is one of my favourite books, and if you haven’t read it you definitely should. So every time a new book by Alice Clayton comes out, I have to have it. And Cream of the Crop was no exception.

Natalie is a force of nature character. She is driven, has great confidence (hard won) and is definitely a character that you wish existed in real life so you could go and grab drinks. She has a take no prisoners attitude, a killer kind of fashion sense and she’s a plus size woman who loves food. That last part intrigued me because there is definitely not a lot of plus size woman walking around chick lit. And there should be.

Oscar is as quiet as Natalie is loud – in essentially all of the ways that’s possible. He’s built his business from the ground up, works hard, isn’t a big talker, but is intense with his silences. And the one thing that he can’t get enough of is Natalie.

The book is told from Natalie’s perspective, so the reader knows all about her and what makes her tick, what her hang ups are, and where her hurts lie. Because Natalie has been hurt badly – very badly – in the past. And once you see what she’s overcome you admire her so much more. It’s harder to know where Oscar’s head is at, since the reader isn’t in it. But it’s fun figuring him out as Natalie does.

There is of course some great sex scenes in this book (there always are in Alice Clayton books), but (and this is really my sole criticism of this book) that I could have done with less sex and more relationship building between Natalie and Oscar.

The book overall is laugh out loud hilarious, has some very great and memorable characters, and is incredibly hard to put down. I breezed through it, it was so good.

So, if you are looking for a light fun summer read, this one is definitely for you.

Review Tuesday: The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg is book 5 in the Fox and O’Hare series. I love the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and that’s how I got started reading this series.

the pursuitFrom Goodreads:

Nicolas Fox, international con man, thief, and one of the top ten fugitives on the FBI’s most-wanted list, has been kidnapped from a beachfront retreat in Hawaii. What the kidnapper doesn’t know is that Nick Fox has been secretly working for the FBI. It isn’t long before Nick’s covert partner, Special Agent Kate O’Hare, is in hot pursuit of the crook who stole her con man.
 
The trail leads to Belgium, France, and Italy, and pits Nick and Kate against their deadliest adversary yet: Dragan Kovic, an ex–Serbian military officer. He’s plotting a crime that will net him billions . . . and cost thousands of American lives.
 
Nick and Kate have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they’ve ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions. Luckily they have the help of an eccentric out-of-work actor, a bandit who does his best work in the sewers, and Kate’s dad, Jake. The pressure’s on for Nick and Kate to make this work—even if they have to lay their lives on the line.

This series is simply hilarious. None of the books that Janet Evanovich writes are serious. They might deal with some series topics – bounty hunting, biochemical warfare etc. – but all of her books (and books that she writes with others) are silly fun adventures where the main characters always turn out okay.

If you’re not into that kind of fiction, then this isn’t a book or a series for you. However, if you are, then this series is awesome. I read this book over a weekend. It was fun and hilarious. Things blow up, bad guys get hurt, good guys come out on top. It’s a win-win all the way around.

I do really like how Kate and Nick’s relationship is changing and growing as the books continue. Because of their relationship their both experiencing personal growth that I think they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Also, Kate’s Dad is amazing, and is one of my favourite secondary characters.

This is a great book if you want a crazy adventure in conning, action, and a little romance. A great summer read, and a read guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.