Book Review: Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Grade: A

Did you know that Dan Brown’s infamous book-turned-movie, The Da Vinci Code, is actually the second book in a series – Angels & Demons being the first book? A lot of Dan Brown fans seem to disagree about which of these two Robert Langdon adventures was the best, and usually it’s whichever book they read first. I read The Da Vinci Code a few years ago and remember that it took me a REALLY long time to get into, but when I did, I loved it. I also really enjoyed the movie based off the book. So when I found out they were making a movie version of Angels & Demons I decided I should probably get around to reading it now before I broke down and saw the movie – I don’t know about you, but once I’ve seen the movie, the odds of me reading the book are slim to none.

I guess you could say it took me awhile to get into Angels & Demons also, as I’ve picked up and put down this book a few times, but the truth is I just have far too many books vying for my attention because when I did finally re-pick up this book a month ago, it did not take much effort for me to get into the story at all. The only reason it took me an entire month to read it is probably the simple fact that I moved halfway across the country in the middle of reading it. And to go against the norm, I think I’m going to have to say that, although it was the second book I read, Angels & Demons was probably my favorite of the two Robert Langdon adventures.

This story had so many twists and turns, constantly building in ways I rarely saw coming. Dan Brown seems to enjoy leading his readers astray and I constantly found myself being duped by him, thinking I had for sure figured out a plot twist only to be completely proven wrong. And really, having read The Da Vinci Code, I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. He surprised me with just about every turn from beginning to end and the end… wow. Yeah, never saw it coming, but loved it.

I don’t want to give too many details or give too much away because that element of surprise – it’s really part of the enjoyment of reading this book. But if you are interested in religion, conspiracy theories, science, action and adventure, whodunnit mysteries, travel – anything like that – this book has it all and then some. I really enjoyed it and I’m planning to read the newest Robert Langdon adventure, The Lost Symbol, which comes out this September.

Have you read Angels & Demons or any of Dan Brown’s other books? Which one is your favorite? Least favorite? Have you seen or will you see the movies?

Teaser Tuesday: Angels & Demons

teasertuesdays31 Teaser Tuesday asks you to:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teasers:

“Her attire is not what concerns me,” the camerlengo replied, sounding too exhausted to be bothered. “When the Vatican operator calls me a half hour before I begin conclave to tell me a woman is calling from your private office to warn me of some sort of major security threat of which I have not been informed, that concerns me.”

from page 145 of Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

What's On My Nightstand: March

It’s time for What’s On Your Nightstand, my favorite book meme @ 5 Minutes For Books – this is a pretty open ended book meme for anyone unfamiliar with it – you can review the books you read this month, list what you are planning to read – take a picture of your nightstand, just list out the books – whatever you feel inspired to do this month basically. So here’s what I read this month:

  1. The Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart – Finished March 4, 2009 – I think the second book in this new series might have even been better than the first. I loved the whole thing for much the same reasons I loved the first. I think it’s such a smart, well written book and even better for kids expanding their vocabularies and showing all the different ways you can solve problems, make a difference and be smart. A truly inspiring work. – Full Review
  2. God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment by Scott Adams – God’s Debris by Scott Adams – Finished March 10, 2009 – Parts of this book kind of annoyed me with a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo that went completely over my head (like sitting in a room with two people talking about something you know nothing about). But other parts I LOVED – Adams has some great ideas about religion, gender, learning, communication and much, much more. – Full Review
  3. Waiting For Birdy by Catherine Newman – Finished March 18, 2009 – This memoir is about a mother’s experience in a second pregnancy – the author also had a 3 year old son at the time of her pregnancy – and so there are comments on pregnancy as well as hopes and fears of raising a second child and securing the relationship she has with her first child. There are a lot of memoirs and books out there on first time pregnancy but not so many on additional children – and this one was excellent to boot. It was the perfect book for me to read right now. – Full Review

And here are the books I have slated to read next:

  • Here’s The Story by Maureen McCormick – this is the memoir of the woman who played Marcia Brady in the Brady Bunch, so it has lots of behind the scenes stories from the show, but also deals with her own less than shiny past, what happened to her after the Brady Bunch and how she recovered from the bad roads she took during her life. I’m really looking forward to this book.
  • Operating Instructions by Ann Lamott – I have heard about this parenting memoir and it was just recommended to me again after I reviewed Waiting For Birdy by Catherine Newman – she is supposed to be fantastic and the few paragraphs I read definitely intrigued me.
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer – I swear I’m planning to read this soon, I seem to be stuck in a memoir rut of sorts though – and I’m enjoying it, so I’m not too concerned about dragging myself out just yet.
  • And I haven’t picked any books for this yet but I’m planning the semi-near future to start reading about the different world religions, probably at least one book from each religion I can think of – we’ll see if I follow through on that / when I get to it. One book I plan to read sort of in that field is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – that should cover an atheist-esque standpoint anyway. But if anyone reading this has any book recommendations for this endeavor – feel free to share – I’m not necessarily looking for each religion’s bibles – I’d prefer something either opinion related or a factual / historical account – but interesting to read I hope!

What’s on your nightstand this month?

In My Opinion: March 18th

EDIT – I finally got the video working properly – sorry to anyone who had to sit through silliness, but all is working now!

This week’s In My Opinion video meme asked you to answer one or all of the following questions:

1. What was your most memorable meal ever?

2. If you believe in heaven, what do you think it will be like?

3. Whose life philosophy do you admire?

And here’s my video response:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “In My Opinion: March 18th on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod
Did you play along? Don’t forget to Link Up at Write From Karen!

Book Review: God’s Debris

Grade: B+

Scott Adams is probably best known for his hugely popular comic strip, Dilbert, but he’s also written a couple of books that you could categorize as philosophical fiction, or as he likes to call it, a thought experiment. My husband (who is a fan of both Dilbert and Adams’s books) has been encouraging me to read God’s Debris for years and I finally broke down and did so a couple weeks ago. It didn’t take long – these books are very thin, quick reads, despite the whammy of intellectual stimulation going on between the covers, I managed to finish it in a few days.

This book is fiction, but the ideas in it are very philosophical. The ideas presented in the story might offend some people or simply confuse, but if you like challenging your opinions on things possibly well established as facts, this might be the book for you. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that college aged guys in particular will like this – people who say, “Why?” a lot might like this. People unsatisfied with conventional outlooks on religion, science and life will like this.

I’ll confess I got frustrated with this book a lot, especially in somewhere in the middle when the two (only) characters seemed to go off on the world’s longest tangent talking about I still don’t even know what – something in the math science realm I’m assuming. For me, it was akin to being in a room with two people talking about a subject you know so little about that they could be speaking a foreign language for all you know, and ignoring you completely. I almost put it down and moved on, but my husband insisted that I finish it and keep reading so I did and it did get better. The end of the book was probably my favorite. Now that all the big walls of thought have been essentially torn down, physics, math, science and religion sort of redefined – they move onto much easier to digest concepts and I found myself nodding along and going WOW to a lot of basic concepts about things about relationships, communication and how we learn. I even learned a thing or two.

So where does that leave me? I think that if you are like me, in that you are comfortable with having things you consider a fact questioned – maybe you are even a little thrilled by it – that you will likely enjoy the book, at least in parts. For me it was worth the quick read entirely for the few things I took away from it. If you have a scientific or mathematic background and can handle and understand language from those areas – man, I think you will love this book with a passion. I highly recommend it for those people and cautiously recommend it for the rest of us.

What I Believe

This week my church had a parish-led service where five people from the community stood up and talked about what they believe in – with the goal of showcasing the varied beliefs and opinions that make up a Unitarian Universalist church. It was pretty cool hearing people of varying ages and backgrounds, and a varying length of time within the Unitarian church, talk about their beliefs. It was cool agreeing with everyone about somethings, disagreeing about other things and that being totally fine. Some come from Roman Catholic backgrounds, others have been atheists for years, a lot of them come from varying Christian or Jewish religions. All continue to question their faith every day. The very idea of belief is a big deal – as were are always thinking about it, always changing. That’s like the point. I love it.

I’ve been going to this church for a month now. So I’m a total newbie when it comes to unitarianism. I don’t even think I could really call myself a unitarian at all yet – just a person who attends their services. I’ve been thinking about religion, seriously questioning myself and the world for about three years. Before that I was “raised Protestant.” I was baptized in a Protestant church, went to their Sunday school and have poured coffee, etc. at various Christmas dinners. But I didn’t go to church weekly. Or even monthly – or heck, even on holidays. It wasn’t until high school and college that I found myself occasionally attending a service with a friend or boyfriend, wondering what this “religion” thing was, what I could get out of it, and which ones I’d like. For about half a year or more I seriously considered converting to Catholicism (which my husband was raised) because I loved the church he attended and introduced me to, or at least I loved the priest.

But as I sat in the masses long enough, the glow waned, and I began to find myself annoyed with them more and more. “I believe in one true Catholic…” Um, nope I don’t. “I believe that Jesus Christ died for us…” Maybe? I’m not saying, “No you are wrong,” so much as I am saying, “No I do not believe this with every (or any) fiber of my being – and I don’t think any of the other religions out there are more or less right.” Moreover – I don’t believe that wars over religious beliefs are right. I don’t believe the prejudices towards our neighbors based on what God they pray to, what days they pray and how, or the color of their skin is right.

To me religion has always felt more like a story than a fact. It’s an idea. I don’t see it going past that point of idea. And ideas are so wholly personal – and should be, I think. I would be surprised if every member of any church, regardless which one, didn’t disagree about some small point (or bigger ones) in their faith. It’s normal, we’re human, we all see and hear things differently. It’s what makes us beautiful. I believe people should embrace their differences and learn from them, and focus less on our afterlives and more on our LIVES. I believe we should spend more time finding ways to embrace one another, help one another in any way we can and make a difference. I believe that at the base of all religions is the idea that we should lead better lives and help one another. If we all believe this on some level, why do we exclude others and narrow ourselves? This is one thing I love about Unitarian Universalists. All are welcome. They really do strive to embrace everyone, of any background, any faith – and work together as a community to make a difference. To me, that’s what “religion” should be.

I believe that I will never have it all figured out. I do not think my faith will ever be complete, nor my knowledge. I will not be finished until I die. And since I do not have a firm idea of what the afterlife has in store for me, I think it should be so very important to embrace every minute of now while I can. If and when I meet my maker, it will be too late to do things differently. I’d rather be open to all opportunities for growth and knowledge than pin myself to just one. However, I am not bothered with other people choosing that one religion. I think that all of them have their uses, all of them accomplish great things – and that a lot of people are very secure in their faiths and that’s wonderful. There is obviously something to this religious thing, having been around this long. I get that. So while I find myself at home at my local UU parish, I commend people for finding their homes in any faith based place they can. I don’t necessarily understand you, but believe me I respect and admire anyone who can lead a good life and find comfort in their faith.

And honestly, that’s about it for now. I’ll end this here, and go back to thinking about frivolous things like dessert and watching Simpson’s tonight with my husband. I appologize to any of my readers who might be put off by “another religious post.” I have no idea if this will be a regular thing or not – but now that I’m attending UU services weekly, I find myself thinking about this stuff more – and my blog really does seem like the perfect place to record my thoughts and feelings while I embark on this little “journey.” I trust that if it’s not your cup of tea, that you can simply move on to the next thing you want to read and catch up with me later. 🙂