Inferno

infernoIf you’ve read previous Dan Brown books, this is another one, much better than The Lost Symbol, but still a Dan Brown book.  Personally, I like Dan Brown books.  They fly off the shelves, so I’m guessing that there are a lot of Dan Brown fans out there.  Many of the reviews that I have read have been critical of this book, but I’m not sure what they were expecting?  It was a Dan Brown book, and a pretty decent one.

Robert Langdon, an expert on symbology, is embroiled in an international mystery that is centered on Dante’s Inferno.  At the beginning of the story he finds himself in a hospital bed, having short-term memory loss, with no idea why he is in Italy or why he was found saying “very sorry, very sorry”.  Before too long, it is clear that someone is trying to kill him and he is on the run, trying to solve the mystery of the strange object sewn inside his coat while trying to stay alive.  The clues to the mystery revolve around Dante’s Inferno and lead Robert and his female companion through Italy and through Dante’s work.

I will admit that there was a point in the book where I was getting tired of them running, almost getting caught, improbably escaping through Langdon’s sudden remembrance of some obscure piece of history, and then running again.  However, once I got through that, the story took some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting, leaving me surprised and reengaging me.

There are a lot of facts in the book, which is actually one of the reasons that I like Dan Brown novels.  It is great to read a thriller while also absorbing new knowledge about art, history, and architecture.  I found myself looking up the art and the buildings he talked about to learn more about them, to see pictures of what was being described.  It’s never bad to learn a little while you’re having fun…  There are also some interesting moral and ethical twists in the story which give you pause, something to think about, even if your mind says that your heart knows the right answer.

Unrealistic?  Absolutely.  Informative?  Definitely.  Fun?  I thought so.

Title:  Inferno
Author: Dan Brown
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 480
Publication: Doubleday, May 2013

Advertisements

Top Ten Tuesday

toptennonfiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was to make any list we wanted.  So, in honor of my friend Nate, lover of all things non-fiction, I decided to make a list of my top ten favorite non-fiction books.  They may not be ones that he would like, but it goes to show that I do read and enjoy non-fiction now and then!

  1. Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder – My geekiness comes out here, part of me will always be an engineer and I loved this story of a group of brilliant and dedicated engineers at Data General as they design and build a new computer in just one year.
  2. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – Thomas Jefferson is probably the figure from American history that I most admire and this biography was engrossing and enlightening.
  3. Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough – Although the task is daunting and the statistics sometimes overwhelming and depressing, the story of the work that Geoffrey Canada is doing for literacy and learning through the Harlem Zone is inspiring.
  4. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – McDougall provides an engrossing story about ultra-runners, from scientific research to the natives in an isolated part of Mexico that run hundreds of miles, to a race between those very natives and the world’s best ultra-distance runners.  Makes me want to run and fell the wind in my hair and the earth beneath my feet…
  5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand The story of Louis Zamperini’s life, from his delinquent childhood to the Berlin Olympics to harrowing experiences during World War II and his recovery upon returning home, is an amazing tale of perseverance and faith.
  6. Ghost in the Wires by Kevin MitnikNow the dork in me comes out again… For years Kevin Mitnik was the most elusive computer hacker in the world, and hacking was a game to him, a cross between a puzzle and a con.  This story of his escapades, his run from the authorities, and his ultimate capture is an amazing thrill-ride.
  7. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – A fascinating biography about a fascinating man – a jerk and a genius, one inseparable from the other in his pursuit of absolute perfection.  A technological revolutionary who connected art and technology and consumers as never before.  This story of his life is well-balanced and interesting (and the geek in me loved to read about the development of some of the most famous products in technology history), providing an unbiased glimpse into the life of a unique man.
  8. Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls – I found Jeanette Walls’ memoir, Glass Castles, to be compelling, but I absolutely loved this story of her grandmother, a tough, no-nonsense woman who was breaking horses when she was six, travelling along to an isolated town to teach when she was fifteen, learning to fly planes and running a vast ranch through both personal and natural disasters. A truly captivating story about an amazing woman and her life.
  9. Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma – I love to read with my kids, and although I do try, we don’t manage to make it every night.  In fourth grade, Alice and her father decide that they are going to read together for at least ten minutes every night for 100 nights.  After the 100 nights are over, they keep going, reading together every night until Alice goes to college.  This book tells the story of their relationship through the stories that they shared together, making me hope that the stories I have shared with my children will have an impact as well.
  10. The Outermost House by Henry Beston – For years my husband and I would take the kids and stay for a week in a small ramshackle cottage on the dunes of Cape Cod on the National Seashore.  Henry Beston’s descriptions of his solitary year spent there are beautiful and captivating; they always take me back to one of my favorite places to be.

Onion Street

onionstreetI am a huge fan of this series by Reed Farrel Coleman.  These gritty novels follow the life of former NYPD-turned PI Moe Prager through a number of cases, romances, marriages, tumultuous relationships with his brother and his daughter, and ultimately with himself.  Onion Street is a prequel of sorts to the rest of the series.   After attending the funeral of his childhood friend, Bobby Friedman, Moe relates the story of his youth to his daughter, detailing the series of events that led him to a life as a detective.

The story he tells takes place in 1967 Brooklyn with Moe as a directionless college student, wandering through his days.  That all changes when his girlfriend is mugged, ending up in a coma, and it becomes apparent that Bobby’s life is also in danger.  Enlisting his friend Lids (a drug-dealing genius who has suffered a nervous breakdown), Moe sets out to find out what’s behind these attacks.  His inquiries will take him to a run-down appliance store, the airport, Brighton Beach, and the Catskills.  Along the way to discovering the truth Moe encounters grieving parents, radical college students, mobsters, Holocaust survivors, drug addicts, and police detectives.

I have been waiting for the next Moe Prager novel for a long time and Onion Street did not disappoint.  The descriptions of 1967 Brooklyn are dirty, dusty, dangerous, adding to the grittiness of the story.  As with all of the Moe Prager novels, as in life, people are not always who you thought they were, right and wrong are not easy to discern, the answers do not come easily. It is a world of gray.

“No, this was Brooklyn. We liked our scars. We wore our failures with pride. We lived in a world of what used to be and what would be no more.”

Title:  Onion Street
Author: Reed Farrel Coleman
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 320
Publication: Tyrus Books, May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

toptenbookcovers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week it’s all about book covers.  And let’s all admit it, whether we mean to or not, we do judge a book by its cover once and awhile…  I really try not to, and there are few that stand out in my mind, so this was a tough list for me, but here it goes!

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I love all of these covers, the colors, the illustrations – don’t make me pick just one!

beautifulmystery

  1. Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny – Not only is this probably my favorite mystery series, and my favorite book (to-date!) in the series, but I love this cover.  Something about the sun shining through the trees reminds me of home and peaceful summer days.

 
 

borrower

  1. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai – I would like a street made of books…

 
 

 
 
 

 
firefly

  1. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah – Reminiscent of summers in the country…

 
 
 
 
 
 
flying books

  1. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce – One of my favorite books for the illustrations, hands-down, and the cover is no exception.  I could easily do a whole list of my favorite covers from picture books, but I’m trying to be at least a little bit grown up!

library

  1. The Library by Sarah Stewart – OK, so I’m not trying that hard!  Another great illustrated book with a fantastic cover (may be that it reminds me of myself – or the way that I would like to be some days!).

wild things
 
 

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – Now it appears that I am not trying at all, but just a couple more and I will get back to some covers of adult books!  How can you not love the cover of this classic?

wonderstruck

  1. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick – While the illustrations in the book are amazing (The Wonders of Brian Selznick), I also love this cover, the blue of the sky, the lightning, being struck…

 
 
 
 
midnight

  1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – The desolation and the beauty together and that statue – I love that statue – my husband bought me a replica of that statue for our backyard.

 
 
 
stevejobs

  1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – I don’t like this cover because I have a thing for Steve Jobs!  I love the way that the cover is so… Apple!  Stark and clean and simple like Apple packaging it seemed more than appropriate for this biography.

The Interestings

interestingsThe Interestings was a fun book, well-written with solid characters, a great trip through the last four decades, with plenty of themes to muse on – talent, desire, friendship, loss, and love.

Six friends meet up at an artistic summer camp in 1974.  The Interestings follows them through their lives and into their middle age years.  Jules, the comedic actress, will discover that talent is more of a desire than a reality.  Jonah, the son of an aging folksinger, will put aside his guitar as he struggles with his past and his homosexuality.  Cathy, too large-breasted to be the dancer she wishes to be, will survive an incident that will destroy her friendships.  Ethan, the true genius of the group, but physically unattractive, will use his animation skills to propel himself to wealth and fame.  Ash and Goodman are the golden siblings that everyone admires.  While Ash will remain beautiful and talented, succeeding as a director in New York City, Goodman will be involved in an incident that will destroy his life.

The book is interesting, as are the characters.  The story takes place over the course of nearly 40 years, mostly in New York City, and addresses issues such as AIDS, women’s rights, homosexuality, autism, poverty, depression, rape, and child labor.  While these issues form the backdrop of the story that is told, it is largely a story about life, love, and friendships.  Much of the story is told from Jules perspective.  Jules becomes a social worker, is poor, and is married to a man who is clinically depressed.  Ash and Ethan (now married) become obscenely successful and wealthy while pursuing their artistic endeavors and Jules must struggle with her envy to maintain both her friendships and her marriage.  In spite of their wealth and success, Ash and Ethan also struggle – with dishonesty, love, their work, and their children.  Jules is their constant – a dear and close friend to them both.  As their lives and their friendships evolve, each will struggle and succeed, proving that life is never predictable.

Title:  The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 480
Publication: Riverhead, April 2013