Monthly Archives: July 2018

Angels and Demons

When I read my first Dan Brown book, I felt a little confused, like I’d jumped into the middle of a series. Turns out I had, although they tend to be stand-alones too. So I’ve been wanting to go back to the beginning of Robert Langdon’s adventures, and that led me to Angels and Demons.

Langdon is an art historian and symbologist working at Harvard and he gets woken in the morning by a bizarre phone call. Next thing Langdon knows, gems caught up in the middle of an apparent Illuminati plot to bring down Vatican City.

Langdon’s knowledge of art history allows him to help Vatican City guards anticipate their enemies’ next move, but they keep arriving a moment too late. And with all the cardinals gathered to elect a new pope, time is quickly running out, and no one knows who the real mastermind is.

Brown mixes history and intrigue together to write a fast-paced thriller that leads you logically through unforeseen turns. Everything makes sense until one more piece of information is revealed, and everything changes.

While a little more of a challenge to read than Inferno, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with Angels and Demons. It’s easy to tell Brown has spent a lot of time in his research and making sure Robert Langdon knows everything he should know, as an art historian.

If you’re looking for something akin to Indiana Jones, the adventures of Robert Langdon are where you want to start.

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Dragon Rider: The Griffin’s Feather

For many people, Cornelia Funke’s sequel to Dragon Rider has been a long time in coming. For me, I was not only early in getting to read it, but also didn’t have the same wait that everyone else has had. Sorry, everyone.

In this second book, Ben and the Greenblooms have settled down in Norway, running a secret sanctuary for all kinds of fabulous creatures. Unfortunately for Ben, Firedrake and the rest of the dragons are still living at the Rim of Heaven. When the last Pegasus eggs are in danger of being lost before they hatch, Ben and company set out to hunt for a Griffin’s sun feather.

But Griffins and dragons have a long history of animosity, which means Ben’s best ally–Firedrake– can’t know about the mission, and can’t come along. Ben and company are willing to risk it all to save the unborn Pegasi, but when they get in over their heads, who is going to save them?

This sequel has a much more powerful message of nature conservation, reminiscent of the Amazing Panda Adventure (I used to love that movie as a kid). But, it’s still an exciting adventure story, keeping you on the edge of your seat (even if you know how it’s going to end).

As a sequel, I think Funke accomplished her goal of not telling the same story in a different way. While it’s still a story about saving a species, that part of the adventure is in keeping with the established characters. How they go about it, though, is fresh and exciting. Funke weaves in more themes than just saving the Pegasi, though, making it a dynamic read from start to finish.

For those who have been waiting, I think you’ll find it’s worth it. Keep an eye out for it, it hits shelves July 31.

Dragon Rider

I remember reading the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke when I was a young teen, and I loved the books (even if I can’t remember them so great). So while Dragon Rider isn’t a new book, I jumped at the chance to snag advanced readers of it (reissue, I guess, or just to get people excited for the second book) and her upcoming sequel.

Dragon Rider begins in a quiet dragon hideout in danger of being overrun by humans. Firedrake and his trusty brownie friend, Sorrel, set out to find the Rim of Heaven, a legendary hideout where some dragons may still be, and the one spot likely still to be safe from humans. Early on in their journey, they encounter Ben, an orphan boy who helps them figure out where they need to go, and joins them on their journey.

But Nettlebrand is soon on their trail–a dragon, so to speak, Nettlebrand was created and enjoys nothing so much as hunting and eating other dragons, and it’s been too long since he’s had a good hunt.

With a cast of courageous characters, Dragon Rider is a fun story about protecting nature, and of the weak and small overcoming the strong and big. It’s a magical story, which we’d expect nothing less from Funke, and while it’s geared toward kids (3rd and 4th grade, I’d say), it’s still enjoyable for adults, too. It reminds me why I’ve always loved magical stories, and of the classic style of the good guys winning the day. It’s also nice because, the characters are human in their behaviors, making the same kind of easy mistakes we all make. Sometimes, in adult fiction, we lose some of the humanity in our characters because we’re so busy trying to make them a different hero than the next guy. All in all, it’s just a fun, refreshing read.

So, if you have some youngsters in need of a good book, check out Dragon Rider. Just make sure you have a second book on hand, because they’re going to read through it fast.

Daring Greatly

Brené Brown has been on my radar for quite a while as someone I wanted to read. I don’t dip into personal growth (self help) too often, but I’d heard good things about Brown.

Daring Greatly is a book based on a decade of Brown’s research into shame and vulnerability, and how the two are linked. While many people see vulnerability as weakness, Brown argues that vulnerability is courageous, and is a countermeasure against shame. Instead of keeping shame bottled up, Brown challenges people to open up to trustworthy people and allow the feeling of not being good enough to be replaced by a feeling of worthiness.

After laying out her research, Brown takes the final two chapters to discuss how vulnerability and shame can each change the dynamics of the workplace, schools, and families, and how to start implementing good practices.

For being in the personal growth section, I was definitely expecting something more inspirational, if you will. But Daring Greatly really felt like it could have been at home in the psychology section as well. Either way, it was a good read that really challenges you to think about your behaviors, both in terms of your own vulnerability, and in terms of how you encourage vulnerability in others.

Brown argues, and I think I agree with her, that in order to live the fulled “wholehearted” life, we have to be willing to be vulnerable with others. In my own experiences, this is true. Being open with others creates genuineness, and without those, no relationship is going to be strong enough to last, nor will it be deep enough to be meaningful.

Daring Greatly is a must read, I think. If we could just change the way we interact with others to be more real and more positive, think of how much the world itself might change.