What to Read (Listen to) Next

51M04zBndRL._SL150_  After reading Sam Anderson’s teaser in the New York Times Sunday magazine – New Sentences from Dan Brown’s Origin: A Novel – I ordered the book on line from my library, but I am number 297 on the waiting list.  Although I read Brown’s The Da Vinci Code years ago, I steered away from his other books when Tom Hanks became the image of Robert Langdon – I had imagined Pierce Brosnan as the professor/adventurer.

Origin is number five in the series with Robert Langdon,  and this one promises the secrets of the universe with predictions for the future.  Anderson actually makes the case for not reading the book, but Peter Conrad for The Observer says it may the antidote to the real world –  ” a specimen of phoney fiction, expertly designed to confuse the credulous…{Dan Brown’s} deranged fantasy increasingly looks like our daily reality…”

Sounds like fun and I have too many credits on Audible – maybe I’ll just listen to the abridged version, or maybe instead –

download Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied Sing.51C0X7VufEL._SL150_

What are you listening to?


Inferno by Dan Brown

9780385537858_p0_v11_s260x420Envisioning my version of the characters is part of the fun of escaping into the fictionalized world, but with Dan Brown’s latest mystery thriller – Inferno –  I MV5BMTQ2MjMwNDA3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTA2NDY3NQ@@._V1._SY314_CR1,0,214,314_couldn’t get Tom Hanks out of my mind – Robert Langdon will never be the same.  The book was a hot pick at my library (to be returned within a week), but the intensity of Brown’s stories encourage fast reading, and it was easy to finish quickly. Using his familiar successful formula of a mad chase with a beautiful woman, complete with secrets, puzzless and historical references, Brown targets overpopulation and a villain who would solve the problem with a pandemic.

Florence is the site for the action, with references to its amazing art. Brown may add this Italian city to Paris and Rome as a future tour destination for tourists looking to follow the mystery.  The Parisian church, made famous by the Da Vinci Code, had crowds looking for the nonexistent clues that had made the book famous. It is fiction, after all, but with Brown’s latest adventure, his astute connection of real history and literature to his fabricated additions, make the story seem real.  The scientific possibilities for biochemical alterations and the mathematical predictions add credibility to the future doom predicted in the tale.  If you missed reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, Brown’s lectures will clarify any vague notions about the descriptions of hell, purgatory, and paradise with excerpts and explanations.

Brown assures the reader in his preface:

All artwork. literature, science, and historical references in this novel are real.”

The action accelerates in the end, with a twist of loyalties, but at times the plot wallows in Brown’s detailed background information.  As a good friend advised me – “if you liked his (Brown’s) other books, you’ll like this one” – different setting, exciting chase, lessons on history and art – same storyline.

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark

An ancient religious artefact is missing; the archeologist who discovered the priceless parchment is dead. Mary Higgins Clark, the doyen of mystery stories, offers a long list of possible suspects in her new book – The Lost Years.

When Jonathan Lyons is murdered and his wife, suffering from Alzheimer’s is suspected – found with the gun in her hand – her anger over his mistress places her at the top of the list. But wait. The only letter written by Christ to Joseph of Arimathea is missing before Lyons can return it to the Vatican. Did someone else kill Lyons to steal the letter and sell it to the highest bidder? Did his mistress, bereft over his leaving her to go back to nurse his wife, seek revenge for his betrayal? Were his colleagues ready to intervene for their own profit? Will his daughter be able to protect her poor but maybe vengeful mother?

Although the similarity to The DaVinci Code is obvious, with Clark, the red herrings and subplots are mindless. Without the caliber of Dan Brown’s intricate plotting, Clark’s tales are reliable but predictable.

The book is relatively short, with lots of white space; the language is simple; this was a “hot pick” at my library – returnable in 7 days – all strong motivators for a quick read but it wasn’t. After getting mired down in the repetition and minutia, I finally skipped over the pages of Clark’s descriptions of making a turkey sandwich and got it done already. Despite the many red herrings, the murderer was obvious. But I read to the end to confirm.

I have not read a Mary Higgins Clark mystery in a while, but I remember them being more enjoyable. Her fans will probably like The Lost Years; she does stick to her successful formula. But I’ve had better from her.

Keeping Cool with Books

Living on a tropical island is not always as ideal as most would imagine.  Clashes in cultural differences, a slow-moving work ethic, the subliminal suspicion of outsiders – but one element that always meets muster is the weather.  Soft warm breezes blow most of the time – except when they don’t, and the erupting volcanic cloud descends to choke out the sun.

This summer is supposedly the hottest since 2005 for some, and the New York Times book review chose fifteen books that made their bestseller list during the last heat wave. (For the complete list, click here).

I’ve only read three on the list:

  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
All three authors have beat the heat and written new books since then:

I read Dan Brown as soon as it came out, but have not yet picked up “Pomegranates” – mostly because it’s a memoir.  As for Mitch Albom, he’s worn out his formula for me.

The Heat is overrated (weather as well as the U.S. basketball team), but I always thought a warm fire – or a warm bed –  was conducive to curling up with a book.  I’m reading one now that has me been burning the midnight oil – Caleb’s Crossing – more on that soon.