Book Review: “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow (5/5)

“While reading the scene in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in which the tenderhearted Uncle Toby picks up a fly and delicately places it outside a window instead of killing it, Burr is said to have remarked, ‘Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.'”

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Penguin, 2004, 818 pages [hardcover]

Here I am! Hi! Hi!!! I don’t even know if it is worth apologizing for not posting a review in so long; it’s unacceptable, but with everything that I have going on right now my reading and reviewing has suffered the most. :\

Work is good but super busy, and we’re also beginning to navigate the very, very stressful process of purchasing our first (and hopefully only) house. But a new, big house means more space for books, am I right?

In the time since I last posted I have definitely joined the Hamilton bandwagon. I have always been interested in American history, especially earlier American history, but never realized just how fascinating Hamilton’s life was in comparison to the other founding fathers until listening to the soundtrack from the show and then reading this book. Even though I have a lot of nonfiction and biographies on my TBR, I always seem to gravitate to fiction more, but this was really wonderful and maybe I will seek out nonfiction to actually read more often now.

I think with the growing popularity of the musical now, a lot of people know the basics of Hamilton’s life so I won’t really go into that in this review. What I want to talk about here is Chernow’s skill as a biographer and a writer. Unlike many other biographies, I think that Alexander Hamilton provides an extremely well-rounded and honest portrait of a quite complicated man: as much as there is to love and respect about Hamilton, he was a very vain, rather elitist guy who would do pretty much anything that he could to move up in the world and obtain more power. Chernow doesn’t shy away from this at all and continuously reinforces Hamilton’s personality traits, both positive and negative, as explanations for why he made many of the questionable decisions of his career. The writing was persuasive, emotionally effective, and often funny and sarcastic. Even though there was a very large cast of characters, between Hamilton’s wife and eight(!!!) children and his many political comrades and enemies, I felt like I knew everyone so well by the end (and we all know how it ends).

It’s also hard for me not to mention that since I was familiar with (OK, memorized all of the songs) the musical soundtrack prior to reading the book, it just reinforced for me how much of a genius Lin-Manuel Miranda is. It was really great for me to continuously find quotes and/or descriptions from Chernow that matched song lyrics. I can’t say exactly when I’m seeing the show (the tickets are a “surprise” from my husband), but I know that it is at some point in the not too distant future, and having read Alexander Hamilton is only going to enhance my experience.

Not surprisingly, I am giving Alexander Hamilton 5 stars. If you already love the musical/soundtrack, you have nothing to lose by reading this, except maybe time, since it did take me almost a month of train reading to get through it. If you have an interest in American history/founding fathers/colonial America etc., this is also a great choice. Despite the length and depth of this book I really never felt bored at all while reading it – I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to Chernow’s talents and how much to the fact that Hamilton’s life as compared to many of his contemporaries was simply very interesting, but those two factors have created a great combination and I’m so glad that I read it.

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Hope to be able to post a bit more regularly, but do not want to make a promise that I can’t fulfill. Miss you all though.

Book Review: “The Bookseller” by Cynthia Swanson (2.5/5)

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Harper, 2015, 352 pages [hardcover]

I had seen some reviews of this floating around Goodreads and other blogs and I was very intrigued. It was also in the staff picks at my library which definitely made me think that I was in for a treat. I always gravitate towards “books about books” which includes books about bookstores!! Unfortunately, though, I did not love this book as much as I hoped to. Looking again at other reviews I feel I might be in the minority so I hope I can do a good job explaining why it didn’t work for me.

The Bookseller tells the story of Kitty Miller who runs a bookshop in Denver in the early 1960s with her best friend. She’s in her late 30’s and doesn’t have any real romantic prospects but is OK with it and has come to terms with being single. However at night Kitty starts dreaming of another life, where she is Katharyn Andersson, married to handsome architect Lars and the mother of three children. As time goes by and the dreams become more vivid Kitty starts to become quite confused as to what really is a dream and what is reality, and starts to wonder where she truly belongs.

There were honestly some things about this book that I adored. I am a huge fan of mid century modern architecture, decor, and just… stuff (products? housewares?), and Swanson’s descriptions of the Anderssons’ 1960s house were so very on point with this. Her writing is truly transportive (is this a word? it’s late here) in this way; I felt extremely integrated into the politics and society of the time, from the gender roles, attitudes about marriage and parenting, fashion, and even the growth of suburbs.

So why didn’t I love this? As great as many of the descriptions were much of the story was a bit boring. I thought that the Kitty/Katharyn character really lacked a spine and I just couldn’t relate to her at all. I love a good twist as much as anyone could but the twists that the author pulled out here just left me feeling kind of hollow. Also without giving anything more away even though I really did feel transported to the 1960s including the politics and attitudes of that time there were a few comments and insinuations made about parenting that as a hopefully future mother some day (in a few years, Mom, I know you are reading this) just upset and angered me (I would be happy to explain more privately just to avoid spoilers).  These faults and more just overpowered the generally good writing for me. 2.5 stars but would not rule out a future Cynthia Swanson book.

Book Review: “The Boston Girl” by Anita Diamant (4/5)

The Boston Girl by Anita DIamant (1)

Scribner, 2014, 336 pages [hardcover]

I got this book from the library after several recommendations from friends (and my mom, my faithful reading buddy). Anita Diamant is probably most well-known for writing The Red Tent which was adapted into a TV miniseries and which I actually have not read! I do have it now from the library though, and after my experience with The Boston Girl I think I will be reading it sooner rather than later.

The Boston Girl made me feel very nostalgic because my grandmother passed away three years ago, almost to the day, and this book takes the form of an 85-year-old grandmother (Addie Baum) narrating to her granddaughter (Ava), telling her all about her life beginning with her childhood in Boston in the early 1900s. My own grandmother was born just 17 years after Addie and had some similar experiences growing up in terms of being one of the first in her family to go to college and really work hard to make a name and future for herself. It made me miss her a lot and wish that I had spent more time with her finding out more about her past while she was here.

It took me a little while to get used to the second-person interjections that Addie’s character often made to Ava. I feel that second person is pretty uncommon especially in historical fiction, but in general I did think that it worked in this scenario, with an older woman basically recounting specific stories from her past in response to her granddaughter asking: “How did you get to be the woman who you are today?”

I found the greatest strength of this book to be in the characterization. Throughout changing times, cultural adjustments, family, financial, and personal struggles, Addie really remains true to herself which I respected. Other characters are also presented strongly such as Addie’s mother who really struggles with a life in America and finds it highly challenging to let go of the “old ways” of living. Although the plot was slower at times, this was definitely a solid 4-star read for me.

 

Book Reviews: “Smoke and Mirrors” and “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman

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I wanted to review these two Neil Gaiman short story compilations together. I think that with the completion of both of these books, I have read just about all of Gaiman’s full-length published works for adults! Although to call these “short story” compilations isn’t exactly fair. Gaiman fills both of these with poems, essays, and other types of writing that go far beyond just stories, which makes his work such a pleasure for me to read.

Smoke and Mirrors is subtitled “Short Fictions and Illusions” while Fragile Things is subtitled “Short Fictions and Wonders.” I found Smoke and Mirrors to have a generally darker tone though both books experiment with the fantastic and supernatural. Smoke and Mirrors is an older book (first published 1998) and for me really carried a lot of the feeling of books like American Gods. My favorite story of anything that appeared between either of these two books was “October in the Chair” from Fragile Things. I adored this story, which described a meeting of the personified months of the year as they gather to hear a rather dark tale told by the character of October. There are also many retellings of myths, fairy tales, and references to other works by Gaiman and otherwise, but of course also much that is completely unique. I read these two collections one after the other and I think they sort of just blended together in my mind but if I was going to pick one I did prefer Fragile Things slightly more.

One problem that avid Gaiman fans might have with both of these is the fact that there is not much original material in either of them, but this wasn’t a problem for me personally and just about everything was new for me – just something to think about if you do follow a lot of the literary magazines and other sources where his work appears. For me I feel like no matter how much Neil Gaiman I read there is always something totally original and very out-there for me to find. I think he has one of the most vivid imaginations of any contemporary author and hope he continues to harness this to provide more books for me to read! I’m giving 4 stars to both Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things.

Book Review: “Ross Poldark” by Winston Graham (4.5/5)

Originally published 1945. 393 pages in my 2015 paperback edition.

Originally published 1945. 393 pages in my 2015 paperback edition.

I wanted to start exploring the Poldark series based on the growing popularity of the adaptation on BBC. This is the first book in a 12-book series by Winston Graham about the Poldark family. I haven’t watched any of the show yet because I wanted to see if I would enjoy the book first, but now I think I will definitely start watching!

Ross Poldark is the story of Ross Poldark (naturally), who returns home to Cornwall after fighting in the American Revolution. His family is fairly prominent around the area, though they are not the wealthiest or most powerful, just generally respected for the most part. Before he left for the war Ross was engaged to Elizabeth and he was so excited to come home and be with her again. However, when Ross gets home he finds out that not only has his father Joshua passed away in his absence but that Elizabeth figured him to have died in the war (it’s not like he could have sent her a Facebook message) and became engaged to his cousin Francis instead. Even after seeing that Ross has returned home, injured but alive and safe, Francis and Elizabeth go ahead with their wedding and Ross has to both heal his broken heart and make out a living for himself and straighten out his father’s home and land basically on his own (not spoilers — this is all at the very start of the book).

I first couldn’t help thinking of Ross like Ross from Friends. He was clearly so heartbroken over Elizabeth and everything that was going on, but tried his best to put on a good show for the family…

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Even though it was apparent that he actually felt like this…

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Ross has a couple of servants around the house, Jud and Prudie, who do a lot more drinking than helping out but he generously keeps them around, if only more for companionship after his father’s death and his own emotional trauma, and they eventually shape up and really get to helping him run things again. He also is very kind to the impoverished miners in the area, and rescues a young girl Demelza from her abusive father. More about that in the next books… I think that what Graham was trying to demonstrate in Ross’s character is that his generosity and kindness despite having relatively little himself and feeling so down helped him turn everything around and be well rewarded by the end of the book.

In many ways, it’s really hard to believe that this book is over 70 years old and that it details life in Cornwall in the late 1700s. Graham’s writing provides a lot of insight into character, family relationships, romance, gender roles, class politics, small-town gossip, criminal justice… SO many topics that really transcend time and remain so modern and relevant. Some of the vernacular is dated but for the most part I found this to be an easy read for its age with a pleasant flow and good pacing. The book is separated into a few different books that each span a slightly different time period. We really come full circle with Ross after his return home and get set up well for the following books even though the ending is satisfying and not a cliffhanger. I greatly enjoyed Ross Poldark and rate it 4.5 stars. The next book is Demelza and I’m looking forward to it!

Book Review: “The Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” (from “The Displaced Person”)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1971. 579 pages.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1971. 579 pages.

I am still in the middle of my little short story reading surge. I have been working on *this* volume of short stories for almost as long as my blog has been in existence, but it has taken me quite a long time to get through. This isn’t just because it’s a much longer collection of stories than the other ones I’ve been exploring but also because the stories here are heavy and the writing is far more complex and literary than more contemporary works, so I read them slower in order to better analyze everything that’s here.

I first bought this book because of the cover on the edition I’ve pictured above. It’s so pretty and features a peacock since O’Connor raised them, which I thought was very interesting. I’ve always been interested in reading her works since I had to read her arguably most famous story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” for school. This particular collection contains each story found in her previous short story volumes as well as twelve additional ones that had been published elsewhere during her short lifetime.

All of the stories in this book are written in O’Connor’s typical Southern Gothic style, a variety of American fiction that I always enjoy for some reason despite living in an area so far removed from the South. Recurring themes include the main character often having a very racist, gender-biased, and/or generally prejudicial worldview and having this come back to get them in the end, as well as examining the socioeconomic disparities between different groups of people in the mid-century South. O’Connor was also extremely religious and her Catholicism is also quite prevalent in terms of many characters having religious experiences and finding their faith growing stronger (but I would not call this Christian fiction by any means). O’Connor’s writing is extremely blunt and often very very violent. I had some trouble adjusting to the more dated and regional language use in earlier stories but for the most part I really liked the writing style, in that each story had a moral and that for the most part characters tended to get what was coming to them.

Some of my favorite stories of the 31 were “The Crop,” “A Late Encounter with the Enemy,” “A Circle in the Fire,” “Good Country People,” “The Enduring Chill,” and “The Lame Shall Enter First.” It probably wouldn’t be too hard to find these and many of the other stories online if you are interested! I am giving The Complete Stories 4 stars and I would also like to explore O’Connor’s two full length novels in the future.

Book Review: “The Color Master” by Aimee Bender

“I will never die, thought the cake to itself, in even simpler terms, as cakes did not have sophisticated use of language.”

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Doubleday 2013 – 222 pages

I have been exploring short story collections more frequently in recent weeks. I used to think that I didn’t like them, but when I am in the right mood it is nice to have those quick bursts of creativity and emotion that can cover the realm of an entire novel in just a few pages. I think a short story is good when it makes me care about the characters by the end even though I’ve barely gotten to know them.

I wanted to read some of Aimee Bender’s stories after a recommendation from a friend, and this was the only one of her collections available at the library the last time I was there. This is actually her most recent book of short stories and the first that I’ve ever read. My first impression as I got through many of the stories was that they were… weird. But that’s not necessarily bad. Some of them I did think were awful. But some for me really struck that wonderful balance I always want to find in good magical realism. A lot of the stories were reminiscent of Gaiman to me in many ways but I think that Bender’s were a bit more real than magic and kind of a bit more depressing to me. Many stories here were also very sexual, but I thought that everything of that nature was well-written, except the first story Appleless. I didn’t see the point to that one at all.

Most of my favorites within the book were mentioned in the cover description: “A woman plays out a prostitution fantasy with her husband and then finds she cannot go back to her old sex life” (The Red Ribbon); “Two sisters travel deep into Malaysia, where one learns the art of mending tigers who have been ripped to shreds” (Tiger Mending); “A company of tailors endeavors to capture the colors of the sun, moon, and sky” (The Color Master). In those latter two I felt that Bender’s true writing skills really came out. I mean: “That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel a little less alone. This is why everyone who eats a Whopper leaves a little more depressed than they were when they came in” – just beautiful – this is from Tiger Mending where the narrator manages a Burger King and her sister is a seamstress. I also really liked the story Americca, which describes a family that becomes a victim of “reverse robbery” – finding weird/random things in their house that no one in the family has purchased.

I am rating The Color Master 3 stars. Although there were for sure some standout stories in this collection, many of them also left me feeling a little unsatisfied and… violated? I think that the description that I see floating around in other Bender reviews as “fairy tales for adults” is really accurate because there are not many happy endings to be found here. I’m not sure that I will read Bender’s other works but I’m not completely ruling them out either.

Book Review: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand?”

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First published by Crown in 2011 – 384 pages in first edition

In 2044, the world and especially the US isn’t looking so good. Wade Watts is one of many people living in “the stacks,” towers of trailers and mobile homes piled high. Wade isn’t great at interacting with people and his family life is less than ideal. But just like everyone else, Wade has a way to escape: The OASIS. This is an extremely immersive virtual reality experience that started out as one video game developed by James Halliday but soon exploded into an entire universe with thousands of planets to explore and even its own currency that’s more valuable and popular than regular cash. OASIS users have avatars that they can name and design in any way they choose. Wade’s avatar is named Parzival, and because Wade is poor he can’t really buy the equipment he needs to advance his avatar’s level. When James Halliday (now insanely, incredibly wealthy) dies, he’s a loner with no family, and he leaves behind a will that is anything but traditional. Somewhere in the depths of the OASIS he has hidden an “Easter Egg” and whoever’s avatar is the first to discover it will inherit his entire fortune. In order to access this prize, egg hunters (“gunters”) will need to find three keys that open three different gates. None of it can be done without completing various challenges that all relate to Halliday’s obsessions in life.

The resulting story is a complete love story to 1980s pop culture, the development of video games and computing, and basically all things geek (I’m not gonna pretend that I didn’t make a little excited noise when Parzival describes the teleportation booths as reminiscent of the TARDIS). Wade is a complete Halliday devotee and because he loves all of the things Halliday loves he is able to creatively attempt the quest for the egg despite his limited resources. Other important characters are Parzival’s fellow “gunters” including his best friend Aech (“H”) and long-time crush Art3mis.

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Just kidding, I just had to put some Wil Wheaton here. The only spoiler I will give is that I thought this audiobook was… AWESOME! I loved the story and feel like a more inclusive type of virtual reality like the OASIS is not so far off for us. I identified with Wade, Art3mis, even Halliday in various ways and I found myself really sharing the characters’ triumphs and sorrows.

Maybe it’s just me being a general nerdy person but SO many of my favorite movies, TV shows, bands (RUSH!!!) and other things that I like all the way down to my favorite brand of sneaker had a home in this book and it literally warmed my heart. I would be stuck in traffic and look over to the car next to me to find someone staring at me because I was either hysterically laughing or crying a little bit and it probably looked weird since when I’m listening I’m alone in the car.

Wil Wheaton is the most perfect reader for this story. I was interested in getting this book in audiobook format even though I’ve wanted to read it in general for years now (one of my law school professors actually first recommended it to me) because it constantly comes up on lists of the best audiobook performances. I cannot separate the character of Wade from Wil’s voice in my mind now and I am hoping in vain that he will be cast as Wade in the movie when it comes out even though I know it probably won’t happen. It got to a point where I would just sit in my car in the work parking lot or when I got home because I could not bring myself to stop listening. I blame all of my tardiness on Ernest Cline and Wil.

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Between this and The Martian I have been quite lucky with my sci-fi in recent weeks. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Cline’s successor novel Armada but I will probably check it out. I adored this book and everything about it and do not hesitate in giving it 5 stars 🙂

Book Review: The Selection Series (#1 – 4) by Kiera Cass

This is the first time I’ve ever reviewed an entire series at once, so bear with me! It is really hard to keep a review like this spoiler-free, since I feel like the titles of the books themselves completely give everything away, so if you are nervous about accidentally finding out anything that happens in later books I would suggest skipping over this review, though I will do my absolute best to be careful.

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91cUR43vA0LEver since I noticed these books around Goodreads and the book blogosphere I was totally intrigued by how beautiful the covers are. Seriously, I would really like it if my whole closet was filled with dresses like that. I don’t know how my co-workers or people that I run into in the grocery store would would feel, but it would sure make me happy.

When I read YA books in series it really makes the most sense for me to have every available book in the series accessible to me because I read very quickly and even more so when it is YA. This is how I read the entire Beautiful Creatures series too – just had all 4 and plowed through them in a row. I was lucky enough that my library finally had The Selection, The Elite, The One, and The Heir in all at once so I grabbed them all and started my journey. Here we go!

Basic Series Plot

The first three books (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) focus on America Singer, a beautiful and talented musician growing up in a somewhat dystopian, caste-based society (side note: when the castes were established America’s ancestors received word that their surname had changed to Singer. It was Cohen before that, which is my maiden name – thought that was interesting). Castes in Illea (North America) go from One to Eight with One being the highest social status that a person can attain, and Eight the absolute lowest – mostly all Eights are homeless. America and her family are Fives along with other musicians, artists and performers. They aren’t well-off by any means being in the bottom half of the caste system and sometimes they struggle. Then an opportunity for the Singer family comes in the form of the Selection which allows girls between 16-20 to apply for a “lottery” to be chosen as one of 35 girls to move into the royal palace in Angeles and compete to win the heart of Prince Maxon Schreave and therefore the crown.

America really struggles with her adjustment to becoming one of the Selected girls and having to leave Aspen, her secret Six boyfriend, behind. At the palace, the girls are in a Bachelor-type situation, minus the roses, plus rebel attacks on the palace that the Selected have to cope with. The last few girls that remain in the contest become the Elite, and the one he eventually chooses is the One. The fourth book (which will not be the last in the series – at least one more is planned), The Heir, focuses on Princess Eadlyn who is the first female heir to the throne and has a Selection of her own in order to distract the nation with happy news and shift the people’s focus away from uprising and discrimination.

Thoughts

During my reading this past weekend I posted a picture of The Selection on Instagram and explained how fast I was tearing through these books. My best friend Marissa lovingly described them as “book crack.” She couldn’t be more right. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never read as quickly as I did with these books. In spite of myself I was completely drawn into America’s story, and even though I absolutely knew pretty much exactly what would happen and how it would all play out, I had to read it anyway. If you are looking for a series that you can finish quickly with a story line that keeps the momentum going, it is here.

I thought that some of the strongest points in Cass’s writing came when she discussed families. America and Maxon both have quite different relationships with their parents, and some of these differences are influenced by caste and wealth – I thought that this was captured quite well throughout the books. America’s sibling relationships and the female friendships she developed were also very realistic to me. In terms of the actual romance factor, I’m not really into love triangles so that aspect got old for me pretty quickly.

Some characters were more unique and special to me, but some including some of the main ones were unfortunately a bit hollow and predictable. Without giving more away, I do have to say that in The Heir I absolutely loathed Eadlyn – I don’t think that this girl could have been any more of a spoiled brat if she tried, and sometimes she WAS trying to be. I’m honestly not looking forward to the last book which is going to tell more of her story but I hope that she grows up a bit.

I love a good dystopian society, and thought that the setup of the caste system here was effective and had great potential, but I thought a lot more could have been done to explain the divisions in the castes in even greater detail, and discuss the implications of these harsh divisions on society. Most of the focus is on the contest itself. There are also some really troubling, oppressive indications within the actual competition. This actually comes out even more in Eadlyn’s story.

All in all, this wasn’t the best YA series that I’ve read, but it was far from the worst. Even with a predictable plot line, the writing was very fast-paced and I honestly never wanted to stop reading until all of my predictions were confirmed. Some characters were better-developed and more relatable than others. Ultimately I’m happy I gave into my desire to read the books behind the dresses 🙂

Ratings & Publishing Information

The Selection: 3/5, HarperTeen 2012, 336 pages

The Elite: 3/5, HarperTeen 2013, 336 pages

The One: 3.5/5, HarperTeen 2014, 336 pages (I swear I didn’t make it up that all 3 of these have the same exact page count)

The Heir: 2/5, HarperTeen 2015, 368 pages

Book Review: “I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes

“I have heard people say love is weak but they’re wrong — love is strong. In nearly everyone it trumps all other things — patriotism and ambition, religion and upbringing. And of every kind of love — the epic and the small, the noble and the base — the one that a parent has for their child is the greatest of them all…”

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Atria/Emily Bestler, 2014, 624 pages.

I Am Pilgrim is a spy thriller which finds a former top U.S. secret agent coming out of retirement to try and foil a terrorist’s plan to commit mass American genocide. The idea that the terrorist (called The Saracen) develops is terrifyingly genius but our guy, who on this new mission decides to give himself the code name Pilgrim, is quite an expert and does everything he can to attempt to catch The Saracen before it’s too late. Along the way Pilgrim also tries to figure out who has committed some very gruesome murders in New York City and Bodrum, Turkey, because they used tips and tricks lifted from his own criminology book.

This book surprised me! The first few chapters were really intriguing, but the middle of the book had a lot of backstory and what I felt to be filler. A lot of this ended up being important and I had to go back to review it, but it was in the middle (at around 350 pages of the 600) that I put this book down for about two months. Finally last night I decided I was just going to get it done. I thought that the buildup to the end was a lot better than the middle and enjoyed the ending a lot. It makes complete sense to me that Terry Hayes was formerly a screenwriter before turning to writing this novel – parts of it, especially the end for me, sort of flew by like I was watching a spy movie.

Some critical reviews of I Am Pilgrim have focused on the fact that this book is quite pro-American, anti-Muslim, somewhat xenophobic and generally very right-wing. I cannot say that I disagree with the reviewers who have noticed this and can absolutely see all of these themes present in this book. There was a lot of emphasis placed on things like the benefits of government surveillance and government-sanctioned torture and imprisonment and I think what is really scary about this and the tone that pervades the book as a whole is that a lot of it is probably a lot closer to reality than we even know.

I felt like there was a particular target audience to this book, and I am not exactly sure if I was a part of it but now that I am FINALLY done I am still glad that I read it. Even with the presence of these attitudes which some might find questionable I thought that the book was obviously exceptionally well-researched and entertaining once I did push through that more boring middle section. I thought the character development was strong as to the main characters like Pilgrim and The Saracen but could have been better for some of the supporting characters. I am giving I Am Pilgrim 3.5 stars and will probably see the eventual movie. I feel like I say that a lot and must read a lot of books with movie adaptations :p