The Great Zoo of China

The Great Zoo of ChinaTitle: The Great Zoo of China
Author: Matthew Reilly
Genre(s): Action & Adventure, Mystery & Thrillers
Pages: 416
Published by Gallery Books on 2015-01-27
ISBN: 978-1476749556
ASIN: B00J69Y52K
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, controversial topics, and/or violence.
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From the back cover...

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years.

They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time.

Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Of course it can’t…

My Review

I am honestly not sure how I feel about this book.  It is very reminiscent of Jurassic Park, just on a larger scale with much more intrigue and, if it is possible, more action.  The premise is fascinating, the lengths to which China would go in order to become a cultural superpower.  The prologue of the book is fascinating, and truly set the context for the rest of the novel.  While the novel is sci-fi/fantasy, the prologue’s tinge of reality created the framework, and believability, of the story.

The story is set in a zoo in southern China, a zoo like no other on earth.  Several VIPs from the fields of politics, science, and journalism have been invited to a special tour of the facility, a move to create global buzz in advance of its opening.  And, as one would expect, chaos ensues.

I love the premise of the book.  It is unique, despite its similarity to Jurassic Park, and the implications of it are astounding and rather horrifying.  To say that the novel is action-packed would be an understatement.  It was definitely on the gory side, which isn’t something I necessarily mind.  But there were times that the action was so intense that it was as if the human characters got a little lost.  We just didn’t get to know the individual characters very well and, although there was a large cast, very few were really developed.  And that made it a little hard to connect sometimes.

I think it was the lack of a lot of characterization that bothered me, but there is no denying that the premise is fantastic.  There are so many interesting elements to the story that make you think about what superpower status should really be worth.  It also makes you take a look at humanity and really wonder about it.

My Recommendation

If you love thrillers with non-stop action and a good story line, this is a good read!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 3.8

About Matthew Reilly

Matthew Reilly is a New York Times best-selling author of eight novels that have been published in eighteen languages in twenty countries. He has sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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January Wrap-Up

What the Diva read in January…

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City of Heavenly Fire

City of Heavenly FireTitle: City of Heavenly Fire
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments, #6
Also in this series: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 753
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on 2014-05-27
ISBN: 978-1442416901
ASIN: B00EFWU91E
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary's own brother.

Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris - but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee - even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned...

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!

My Review

I have loved this series and I think that City of Heavenly Fire just might be my favorite of the entire series.  There was a ton of action, a lot of tearjerking moments, love, sacrifice, and twists and turns that I never saw coming.  And I loved every moment of it!

Very little about this book was what I expected.  I knew that there would be tears and there were, but not when I thought.  I knew that there would be sacrifices, but they weren’t made by the characters that I expected.  I expected surprises, but I got them in ways I hadn’t imagined.

I truly enjoyed the unexpected in this book.  After a long series, there are always fan favorites.  Endings you want, love you want, situations you want to happen.  Very little of what I expected to happen actually happened, yet I felt no disappointment.  Things changed, drastically changed, and the unexpected changes were not only satisfying, but they opened up the series to continue in other ways and I can’t wait for that!

My Recommendation

I loved this series, and I loved this book.  For reasons I don’t understand, many readers don’t bother with epilogues.  But this is a book where I feel like the epilogue is vital to the story, too!  Great ending to a fabulous series!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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When Heaven Fell

When Heaven FellTitle: When Heaven Fell
Author: Carolyn Marsden
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 13
Published by Candlewick on 2014-09-23
ISBN: 978-0763643812
ASIN: B00N38BZKA
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

When a Vietnamese girl receives a visit from her half-American aunt, brimming curiosity — and cultural misperceptions — come to the fore.

Every day nine-year-old Binh sells fruit and sodas to the girls whose families can afford to send them to school, and every night she returns to her one-room home to share a simple meal with her family. Everything changes, however, when her grandmother tells Binh she had a daughter during the war, a child who was sent away to America as a little girl. Now Di Hai — Binh’s aunt, a teacher — is coming to visit, and Binh can’t help but wonder what luxurious gifts she will bring.

Yet when Di Hai arrives, there are so many confusing things about her: she’s taller than the men, she’s not married, and her presents are mere trinkets that could have come from Third Aunt’s tourist shop! Still, Binh secretly hopes Di Hai will take her to live in America. Can her aunt live up to her expectations? Carolyn Marsden tells Binh’s story with warmth and sensitivity as she ushers readers into the life and dreams of a young Vietnamese girl.

My Review

I picked up this book as part of an independent reading assignment for a children’s literature assignment on multiculturalism.  I loved it so much I wanted to share it here.

A full disclaimer… in my previous life, I was a Vietnamese linguist in the US Army.  Because of that, I fell in love with all things Vietnamese culture, a big reason I chose this novel.  The messages of this book are both eye-opening and beautiful, and it truly shows the differences and assumptions that are often made about different cultures.

It is set in relatively contemporary times in Vietnam.  Binh is 9 years old and has spent her entire life in her village, never even seeing her own country.  She lives with her parents, her brother, and her grandmother in a tiny one-room home nestled next to the river.  Her days are spent by the highway, selling fruit and soda to passersby.  Although school is free in communist Vietnam, the uniforms and books are not and her family cannot afford to send her to school.  A little cost comparison… school costs approximately 600,000 dong in southern Vietnam, which today is equivalent to about $28.

Ba Ngoai, Binh’s grandmother, finds out that her long-lost daughter Thao is coming to visit her.  Ba Ngoai has not seen her daughter since she gave her away after the end of the war when the Communist regime threatened the lives of Vietnamese children of American mixed blood.  Thao’s father was an American soldier, her life at risk.  Binh’s family sees all Americans as rich and assume that Thao will bring them gifts, gifts that will bring them a life of ease, maybe even a move to the States.  Instead, Thao comes with little, seemingly meaningless gifts.  The entire book is a journey for Binh to understand that there are gifts and beauty to be found in her own country, in her own life.  Thao learns about the value of things that she takes for granted, how much those very things mean to the family left behind.  There is so much to learn about diversity and culture and values in this book and it is simply beautiful.  There is a quote from a story within the book told by a Buddhist monk that I love.  The story was about a rich man looking for his runaway cows.  No one had seen them and after he left, the Buddha told his followers that the mand was burdened by his cows and that they were the lucky ones, having no cows to worry abot.

Please think about your cows.  Some cows may be possessions  Others may be ideas you cling to.  Think of releasing your cows.

My Recommendation

Although a middle grade book, it is a beautiful story that I highly recommend!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Carolyn Marsden

Carolyn Marsden was born in Mexico City to missionary parents. She has been a writer all her life, but THE GOLD-THREADED DRESS is her first book. About THE GOLD-THREADED DRESS she says, “I wrote this story when my half-Thai daughter was being teased at school. As a parent and elementary school teacher, I watched her struggle to establish a cultural identity. I became fascinated with a conflict that is common to many children in our increasingly diverse United States.” Carolyn Marsden has an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. After spending the last twenty-five years in Tucson, Arizona, Carolyn Marsden now lives by the ocean with her husband and two daughters.

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Breaking Creed

Breaking CreedTitle: Breaking Creed
Author: Alex Kava
Series: Ryder Creed #1
Genre(s): Action & Adventure, Contemporary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Pages: 320
Published by Putnam Adult on 2015-01-27
ISBN: 978-0399170768
ASIN: B00KWG661O
Format: eARC
Source: Penguin First to Read

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Ryder Creed and his dogs have been making national headlines. They’ve intercepted several major drug stashes being smuggled through Atlanta’s airport. But their newfound celebrity has also garnered some unwanted attention.

When Creed and one of his dogs are called in to search a commercial fishing vessel, they discover a secret compartment. But the Colombian cartels’ latest shipment isn’t drugs. This time, its cargo is human. To make matters worse, Creed helps one of the cartel’s drug mules escape—a fourteen-year-old girl who reminds him of his younger sister who disappeared fifteen years ago.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Maggie O’Dell is investigating a series of murders—the victims tortured, killed, and dumped in the Potomac River. She suspects it’s the work of a cunning and brutal assassin, but her politically motivated boss has been putting up roadblocks.
By the time she uncovers a hit list with Creed’s name on it, it might be too late. The cartel has already sent someone to destroy Creed and everyone close to him.

But Creed and his dogs have a few surprises in store on their compound in Florida. Will it be enough to stop a ruthless cartel determined to remove the thorn in its side once and for all?

My Review

This was my first book by Alex Kava, and it won’t be my last.  Breaking Creed is the first novel in the new Ryder Creed series.  Kava’s Maggie O’Dell (from the series with the same name) is also in this book.  Even though I haven’t read the other series, there was no problem with reading this new book.  Ryder, however, does appear in one of Maggie’s stories, ending not long before this one begins.

The star of this series is Ryder, a former Marine turned dog handler.  As an Army veteran and Army wife, I love novels with a military theme that are done well.  While the military itself wasn’t at the center of this book, it’s touch is felt throughout and it was done well.

Ryder and Maggie were facsinating main characters.  Although this series centers on Ryder, their individual stories were equally important and they wove together nicely.  The two characters came at the central plot from different angles and it made for a truly engrossing story with so many twists and turns.  Just as important to the story were the supporting characters, especially Jason and his friends.  They were former military and, as such, I related to their stories in different ways.  I thought that the nod to veterans and the problems they often face was extremely well-handled and done so in a way that not only shined a bit of a light on it, but also gave hope.

What I also found interesting was that Ryder’s dogs were almost as fully created characters as were the humans, with personalities and stories of their own.  Grace is the main dog and she reminded me of my Noelani, so I had a special love for her!

Things to love…

  • The subplots that really added depth to the story.
  • The veterans and their stories.
  • The dogs with individual personalities.

My Recommendation

I love action novels with a military/government theme and this book fit the bill.  So much intrigue and mystery and I loved that I was kept guessing!  Great read!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.2

About Alex Kava

Alex Kava is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen novels, eleven of them in the critically acclaimed Maggie O’Dell series. Her stand-alone novel, One False Move, was chosen for the 2006 One Book One Nebraska and her political thriller, Whitewash, made January Magazine’s best thriller of the year list for 2007. Published in over twenty-five countries, Kava’s novels have made the bestseller lists in the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy and Poland. She is the recipient of the Mari Sandoz Award presented by the Nebraska Library Association. Kava divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska and Pensacola, Florida. She is a member of International Thriller Writers.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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