Book Review: Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu

Four ways to pharaoh KhufuJust finished Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu! This adventure tale is by Alexander Marmer and can be found on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

Michael has dreamed of visiting the Egyptian pyramids since he was a child. On his first day in the country touring the Great Pyramid, he meets a dying German engineer who claims to have been poisoned. After giving Michael a business card for his daughter and a small notebook, his last words are “find four ways.” Michael begins an adventure beyond his wildest dreams, attempting to recover a stolen ancient stele, decode the dying man’s final words, and find the final resting place of the great Pharaoh Khufu. He is accompanied by the German’s daughter, Anna, and together they try to unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s death.

Strengths

This was a very well-written (and well-edited) book. That’s not to say I didn’t find a few typos, but obvious care went into the writing and research of this book. There is SO much fascinating history about Egypt and the pyramids included in this story! I learned more than I thought I’d ever know about Egypt in a single read.

The story line was exciting and full of action. I liked the main characters, Michael and Anna, and enjoyed going on the adventure with them.

Weaknesses

The main weakness for me–which may not be seen as a weakness by someone else–was simply the length of this book. Clocking in at 363 pages, I feel like the same story could be told at two-thirds the length. There were times when I simply couldn’t keep up with the complicated theories the characters uncovered about the pyramids. You almost need a larger base of knowledge about Egypt before starting the book to fully appreciate everything. The extent of my knowledge about Egypt comes from middle and high school history classes, so I’d say it’s pretty limited. By having such complicated and intricate sub-plots, the audience can become bored or feel alienated for not understanding.

Conclusion

It’s obvious an incredible amount of time and thought went into researching for this book. The characters go on a great adventure, survive car chases and murder attempts, recover an ancient artifact, and discover long-held secrets. I love the journey Michael goes on–he’s definitely my favorite character. My girly side wished there was a little more romance to the story; it’s totally set up for Michael and Anna to fall in love, but nothing really happens except mention that they steal glances at each other. And I wish the story was condensed a bit, more focused. I think this is a book that fans of crime fiction or books like The DaVinci Code would love. If that sounds like you go check this one out!!

4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: The Marijuana Project

The_Marijuana_Project_Brian_Laslow_t580It took me a little longer than I had anticipated, but I finished Brian Laslow’s The Marijuana Project! Now, to be clear, I needed more time for reading due to several factors, mostly being that I had another big project I was working on that took up a lot of time. Also, The Marijuana Project is not a quick one-day read, but is loaded with fascinating backstory. I found this realistic novel on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

The Marijuana Project is about a successful security consultant named Sam, a conservative family man who is staunchly opposed to drug use of any kind. When a medical marijuana company offers him a well-paying job running security for their new facility, Sam doesn’t know if he should take the job. He accepts the position, albeit a little tentatively, but is resolved to do his job to the best of his ability. Then Sam starts receiving anonymous notes: on his windshield, while out of town on business, and to his email inbox, all targeting his ethical insecurity, trying to persuade Sam to help an anti-marijuana activist group burn his client’s supply of product.

Strengths

The quality of writing throughout the book is strong and clear. The main protagonist, Sam, is very cool. He’s smart, thorough in his work, has impeccable integrity and makes sure every decision he makes is in line with his personal code of ethics. I think integrity is an increasingly rare quality. It was refreshing to read about a character who continually strives to do what he believes to be right.

“Sam was a man of principle. He believed there was good and evil in the world and if good did not fight evil then it was as responsible for the result as evil itself.” (pg 167)

The Marijuana Project was also, at least for me, quite educational. I live in Colorado, a place where marijuana can be obtained from vending machines, yet I’ve somehow stayed relatively ignorant of many of the arguments on both sides of the debate. It was interesting to witness Sam’s journey as he wrestled with the pros and cons of protecting a substance he personally disagrees with. vending machine

The ending was a great twist, something I did not see coming.

Weaknesses

The main thing I wanted from this book was more action. The prologue is a flash-forward to the end where Sam is defending the marijuana facility from unknown assailants, bullets flying and a truly dire situation. With such an exciting beginning, I was expecting a little more action throughout the story and especially at the end. There were parts where Sam is describing aspects of his security systems that got lengthy and–I hate to say it–a little boring. Also some parts where Sam is doing research about the person or group who might be sending him notes or his internal ethical debates really slowed the story down.

Conclusion

Definitely an interesting book, different from anything else I’ve read. I learned a little more about the marijuana industry, a very current and relevant topic, and more about how much goes into security–something I can say I’ve never given much thought. If you are interested in learning more about the marijuana debate, are interested in security, enjoy ethical dilemmas, or stories with a healthy dose of mystery, then you will definitely enjoy The Marijuana Project!

4  out of 5 stars

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Book Review: Guarding Shakespeare

guarding-shakespeare-coverJust finished the noir novella “Guarding Shakespeare” by Quintin Peterson, found on Book Club Reading List!

Synopsis

Lt. Norman Blalock has worked at the Folger Library guarding priceless Shakespearean artifacts for 25 years. Shortly after being passed up for promotion yet again, Norman is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: steal a small, virtually unknown artifact in exchange for enough money to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Why should he be loyal to employers who systematically underestimate his abilities? Could he really pull off the heist of a lifetime?

Strengths

I love the idea for this novella! It’s like Ocean’s 11 meets National Treasure with a dash of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Norman lives a lonely life–estranged from his adult children, single, deceased parents, and has lived with a distrust of others his entire life, making it hard for him to be close with anyone. So when Kavitha, a young, gorgeous British woman, comes around representing her employer and offering Norman incomprehensibly large amounts of money to do a job, I was cautiously hopeful that she might be the solution to his loneliness. I think Guarding Shakespeare does a great job at making the reader care about its characters, particularly Norman. I was very much invested in his outcome, worried he would be double-crossed but hopeful that everything would work out  in the end.

“When the truth is too painful, we choose to live a lie. Norman chose to live the lie for now.” (pg 89)

If that quote doesn’t make you want to root for Norman, I don’t know what will!!

A cool thing about this story is the amount of historical trivia it contains. Any history buff will enjoy this book! I’m thinking the author, Quintin Peterson, is either a history enthusiast himself or did tons of research to write this story. Probably both.

Weaknesses

I think the biggest weakness for me was the flow and writing style of this novella. While the content was great, descriptions of locations, people, and historical events are described in extremely long run-on sentences. When sentences are too long, my eyes skip ahead and I miss out on information, making me confused and have to back-track to try and catch up. Here is one example of a run-on sentence that was hard to follow, right at the beginning of the story:

“Lt. Blalock, clean-shaven, tall, dark, and trim, wearing a fresh uniform consisting of navy blue slacks riding just right on the tops of spit-shined combat boots, a heavily starched white shirt choked by a navy blue necktie, and a navy blue commando sweater bearing on each sleeve blue, yellow and white circular Folger Shakespeare Library Police shoulder patches embroidered with Shakespeare’s family crest and a shiny gold metal badge and matching name tag on either side of its half-bust circumference, was hiding in the storage/elevator service room on the Gamma Deck of the Folger’s underground complex, evading detection by a fellow officer with a K-9 conducting a random interior security sweep.” (pg 4)

Whew!! What a mouthful! Why not just say Lt. Blalock was hiding from an officer doing a security sweep, then state in separate sentences what he was wearing and how he looked? I think that would be easier for reader comprehension.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed the idea behind the story and the main characters Norman and Kavitha. I think Norman is very easy to relate to; he has flaws and seems like a normal person, making me emotionally invested in his well-being. I also enjoyed the bits of historical trivia. Unfortunately, the run-on sentences and lengthy descriptions interrupted the flow so much that I had a hard time following the story in places. I wanted more of the dialogue between Norman and Kavitha, more of Norman’s history with his father, more suspenseful action scenes, and less lengthy descriptions of history or what a character is wearing. The core of a really great story is there; with a little editing it could really shine!

3 stars

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