Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Dan Brown’s Origin

Getting in lots of reviews while other challenges keep serious writing at bay.

Speaking of both, a review of Anne Applebaum’s The Twilight of Democracy : The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism is coming soon–along with more analyses of current political issues America faces. 

Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)Origin by Dan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing you can count on from Dan Brown in his Robert Langdon series is a plethora of references to scenic locations, art, history, etc. After a while, it does get tiresome. In most cases these settings have some connection to the plot so it’s not all for naught. I excuse these excursions for the sake of tracking the intriguing plot twists. Origin saves the biggest for last but no spoilers here.

As always, it’s Brown’s preoccupation with peculiar attributes of the Catholic Church that dominates. Never having been a Catholic and having no particular opinion of the foibles any millennia-long organized religion has, it’s one more thing to finesse for a reader like me. Like any other thriller/suspense story it’s really about who did what to whom, why and when. Brown dots the i’s and the t’s of those.

The other thing he does differently with this story is to raise a somewhat different issue than does the various Terminator-related stories on AI and where its connection to humans is headed. Can’t say more without getting into spoilers. But that’s what makes this worth reading, even if it’s not the best examination of the subject.

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Review of Watching Glass Shatter

Watching Glass ShatterWatching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked it, but I’d have given it a 2.5 if that were possible. That’s not so much the author’s fault as my expectation of a little more suspense/mystery and not almost entirely a family drama.

That said, the author does well at overcoming another bias of mine–not crazy about stories of the wealthy. Oddly, just read another one recently so maybe that annoyed me again. The same stresses and strains could be found in any family, rich or poor. It’s interpersonal issues that are the story–with wealth being nearly an incidental element.

Cudney does a good job of depicting the flaws of the various family members, especially the overly controlling mother, Olivia. He wraps it all up, neatly with a bit of melodrama. Unfortunately, it’s nearly with a deus ex machina that I won’t reveal because it would be a spoiler–identifying the adopted son.

Bottom line, if you like family sagas, this book will probably fit the bill for you. Just not my thing; not the author’s fault.

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3 Books to Read Before Writing Your Own

Three, three, three reviews in one! Not just for writing a memoir but creative non-fiction and/or a book “that makes a difference.”

Writing a Book That Makes a Difference by Philip Gerard

No instruction manual can really tell you how your book should be written. In fact, many can dull your senses and arouse doubts in your mind about structure, organization and other aspects of how you want to tell your story. Nonetheless, desiring to do exactly what the title of this book describes, “writing a book that makes a difference,” I found it very useful in stimulating my thinking. It helped rather than hindered my choices, although, as I suggested, it really couldn’t tell me what I needed to do. Only after reading many such books did the winnowing process of my own brain absorb a little from this and a little from that. So if you too want to write such a book, go ahead and buy or at least read this early on in the process.

Writing Creative NonfictionThis book may not be 100% comprehensive (a tad redundant, perhaps), but if there is any other one out there that has more to offer on addressing the varieties of style, structure, form and the creative nonfiction process, I haven’t seen it. Being new to the business in 2003 when I began working on Waiting for Westmoreland in earnest, I found the instuctions and insights illuminating, inspiring and confusing all at once. How to choose?! I felt like Alice on her journey after the rabbit. Still, it gave me plenty of techniques to consider–that would not have been as readily discernible had I simply tried to read every book of actual creative nonfiction I could get my hands on.

Writing the Memoir by Judith BarringtonLast but not least, a book directly about writing a memoir.

An excellent book answering FAQs that you didn’t know you had or if you did, you didn’t know how to ask them. As I was crafting my own memoir, this book helped guide me on the path.