“Where Do We Come From?” Origin a Book Review

Where Do We Come From?

Introduction

Origin: A Novel is a new thriller from the world-famous bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown’s famous protagonist Robert Langdon is back, and this time, he’s trying to release the answers to two of humanity’s deepest questions: Where do we come from? and Where are we going? These questions have been asked for centuries particularly by scientists, many of whom would like to debunk the whole religion and God/Genesis theories entirely. After all, man has been fighting and waging war over whose is the only “God” “Allah” “Buddha” or another.  Actually, Christians and Muslims probably agree on more of their origin than they disagree on, both believe the Genesis theory and believe it or not, the existence of Jesus. This thrilling novel follows Langdon as he navigates the tricky waters of some of the world’s most extreme religions, uncovering dark secrets and hidden personal histories of the characters along the way. 

Summary – Where Do We Come From?

At the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, attendees (by invitation only) gather to witness the unveiling of a major scientific breakthrough by Edmond Kirsch – a former Harvard student of Langdon’s and billionaire inventor and sworn atheist. The mysterious discovery promises to change the world forever, answering the questions humans have struggled to answer for centuries: Where did we come from? And where are we going? But this event explodes into chaos, and Langdon is forced to flee Bilbao with museum director Ambra Vidal, searching for the password needed to unlock the secrets of Kirsch’s discovery. 

Narration

Origin is narrated in the third person with a limited omniscient point of view. Each chapter follows one of a handful of main characters. Chapter-by-chapter, the narrator reveals some of the inner thoughts and feelings of the main character, such as Luis Ávila, the retired Spanish Navy Admiral, who lost his family to a church bombing that cost him everything when he tried to find the answers to why God took his family in the bottom of a bottle. He assassinates Kirsch and takes aim at Langdon and Vidal on orders from the mysterious Regent.   

Setting

Origin is set in the present day. The globetrotting protagonist takes readers on an adventure, but a large part of the novel takes place in a few different Spanish cities, from Bilbao to Barcelona to Madrid. Kirsch has a two-year lease on the top floor (which is actually the Gaudi Museum) of the famous Casa Milà, which was designed by world-famous architect Antoni Gaudi After revealing his discovery to three of the world’s leading religious leaders, a Catholic Bishop, Antonio Valdespino (who is the King of Spain’s counselor and confidant), an Islamic Imam Cleric Syed al-Fadl, and a Rabbi Yehuda Köves, only those three know the nature of Kirsch’s discovery and what he will reveal to the world after their meeting soon after the Parliament of the World Religions. Syed al-Fadl dies wondering around lost in the desert after a car-jacking and the Rabbi will soon follow. 

Theme

As with many of Dan Brown’s books, Origin explores the major themes of religion, history, and symbology. What is the role of religion on a personal level? On a cultural level? How has religion shaped history? Who are we as individuals? As a society? These questions and more are explored in Origin: A Novel. However, the central questions of this book are the biggest of all: Where do we come from? and Where are we going? 

Genre

This book is decidedly a thriller. Packed to the brim with conspiracy, mystery, high-speed chases and “murder and mayhem.” Origin: A Novel is designed to keep readers on the edge of their seat and it does just that, at least it did me. This book is one of the most popular recently released books on the market, and Dan Brown’s previous books have remained bestsellers for years after their release. 

Author

Dan Brown is the bestselling author of a number of thrillers, including his breakout bestselling novels Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci CodeOrigin is the latest book in the Robert Langdon series and upholds the high standards of the previous books. 

The Guggenheim Museum -Where do we come from? Buy Origin, a Novel
The Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao, Spain

Plot

At the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, hundreds of elite invitees have gathered to witness the unveiling of a discovery by the billionaire, atheist, and futurist visionary, Edmond Kirsch. When the meticulously planned event descends into chaos, Langdon realizes that there are many people who want Kirsch dead and will stop at nothing to prevent his discovery from being revealed. After Kirsch’s assassination during the live broadcast, Langdon flees to Barcelona with the museum curator, event coordinator, and the future Queen of Spain, Ambra Vidal to find the password to his phone, where Kirsch stored the secret to launching his discovery. Ambra is engaged to the Prince Julián, who will succeed to the throne after his father’s death, and he is fading fast.

My Opinion

Origin is a great book for fans of previous Dan Brown works. Unlike many sequels, readers do not have to have read Brown’s previous work to enjoy Origin. Throughout, the narrative style works well and keeps the reader engaged as it switches from protagonist to protagonist filling in the reader on their background. I highly encourage others to read this book if they like thrillers, mysteries, and pardon my cliché, “page-turning drama.” 

The main characters are Robert Langdon, Ambra Vidal, Winston (Kirsch’s Artificial Intelligence AI named for Winston Churchill), Prince Julián, Bishop Valdespino, Edmond Kirsch, Luis Ávila, Spain’s King, and a few other minor characters. My favorite character is Ambra because she seems so real and genuinely troubled. My favorite quote from the book: “In the beginning, man created God.” My favorite part of the book is when we finally hear Kirsch’s discovery and what it means to humanity. I will read any book Dan Brown releases because his stories are always action-packed “page-turners.”

Conclusion

Book #5 in the Robert Langdon series is an impressive choice for readers who like action-packed thrillers. Brown’s narrative style is engaging and interesting, and the book is thought-provoking as well as gripping.  The thing with Dan Brown novels is that they are always believable, even when the story itself seems unbelievable! Depending on what you believe, the book may or may not answer the questions, where do we come from? and where are we going? 

Buy it Now!


En Espanol

A Novel Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

Introduction

Camino Island is a novel about the theft of five original, hand-written F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton’s Firestone Library by five cunning yet nerdy guys, well except the one psychopath, which goes south rather quickly after the heist, when the FBI discovers a small drop of blood left by one of the thieves.
There are rumors that Bruce Cable, a Camino Island bookstore owner bought the manuscripts. Elaine, an investigator for a mysterious and covert company hired by an insurance company that holds a policy on the manuscripts for $25 million, hires Mercer Mann. Mercer is a down-on-her-luck writer, who has just lost her teaching job. Elaine wants her to get close to Bruce and his wife, Noelle Bonnet, an antique dealer, to possibly discover if they have the manuscripts.

Summary of Camino Island a Novel

Mercer is the “perfect” woman for the job as she is young and beautiful, newly unemployed and up to her eyeballs in student debt, which Elaine offers to pay off for her, plus $100,000 for a six-month assignment, during which time she can finish the novel she hasn’t even started writing yet and is 3 years overdue. She’ll get half up front and the other half at completion. Another component that makes her ideal for the situation is that she spent nearly every summer with her grandmother, Tessa on Camino Island. Though she hasn’t been back since her grandmother’s passing, the beach cottage is still in the family and available for use.
Mercer fits right in with the crowd of Bruce’s friends on the island, mostly writers with storied pasts and stories about each other, as writers are notorious gossips. At least, they are in this story. Her plan to spend the six months writing her passed due novel does not necessarily go as planned. However, the discussion she has with Bruce about writing turns into a story that draws them closer together. One of Bruce’s past girlfriends was writing a story about a love triangle between F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, and Ernest Hemingway before his ex-girlfriend committed suicide and he begins giving Mercer the details.
While Noelle is in France buying antiques, they have a romantic fling. Despite Bruce and Noelle’s open marriage, Mercer feels a bit guilty about it, but not enough to stop.

Narration

The narrator is the storyteller, the bard, or Mr. Grisham, whichever you please.
Setting
The first setting of this novel is the Firestone Library at Princeton, then the cabin in the Poconos where the thieves hide out for a while, but the setting for most of the story is modern day Florida, Camino Island, in the small, sleepy tourist town of Santa Rosa.

Theme

To me, the overall theme of this novel is not to let greed rule your life. The thieves wind up dead, in jail, or on the run because of greed. Mercer sells her moral standing to discover if Bruce has the manuscripts, mainly because she has no job, no money, and a ton of student debt. Elaine’s company and the insurance company do not want to pay the $25 million they insured the books for, and Bruce gives up a cushy, comfortable, and prosperous life on a resort island and possibly risks everything for the excitement of dealing in stolen goods.

Genre

This is a crime fiction dealing with rare books and manuscripts.

Author

As all Grisham fans know, he is a notable trial defense and courtroom drama writer with very few exceptions. From his very first novel, A Time to Kill to The Rooster Bar, and some very popular titles in between, such as The Frim, Sycamore Row (the sequel to A Time to Kill), and The Pelican Brief most are courtroom dramas. Many of these titles became major motion pictures. Even his Young Adult (YA) series of Theodore Boone books were courtroom drama based. And yes, he did stray from the genre with Playing for Pizza, Calico Joe, The Tumor, and a few others, but crime drama or legal thriller, at least to me, is his forte! After all, he was an attorney.
Well, this is not the usual John Grisham courtroom drama, but you could refer to it as a legal thriller because much of the storyline deals with criminal elements within the underground rare books and art trade.

My Opinion & Recommendation

My favorite character was Bruce Cable. I can’t imagine having a better life than as the owner of a successful bookstore and coffee where you are the barrister. I mean come on, you can wear any outfit you want, even with a bowtie if you’re into such things, and no one thinks you’re weird because, hey you own a bookstore. You go to “work,” make some coffee, grab whatever book you choose from the shelf, and sit down and read until someone comes in. You have a huge collection of first edition books autographed by the authors, most of whom you know personally; and then, you meet and marry a beautiful and beguiling antique dealer, who fills your home with Provençal furnishing. I couldn’t imagine wanting much more, but then there are the nefarious deals with rare books to keep things exciting.
To me, this was a good story, not a great John Grisham page-turner novel like many of his legal thrillers, but it is a superb crime fiction. If you’re looking for a compelling story that forces you to turn the page in anticipation, this is not it. Although, I do believe it is a must-read for all Grisham fans, and it didn’t become a New York Times Bestseller and reach number one just because it was Grisham who wrote it; still and all, I’m sure that helped. Plus, his going on tour for the first time in twenty-five years to publicize the book probably helped as well.
I think non-Grisham fans would probably like this book even more than his regulars because it is such a departure from courtroom dramas and legal thrillers. Someone that is not expecting a cutting-edge courtroom battle would perhaps be more in tuned to the book. Nevertheless, I do think anyone would enjoy the story.

Buy it Now!

Buy an Autographed First Edition

Crime Action Drama: The Rooster Bar Book Review

As a John Grisham fan, I was eager to read his newest crime action drama, The Rooster Bar. Grisham’s readers often expect a fast-paced story with vivid characters and a plot filled with thrilling twists and turns, and this book does not disappoint. The Rooster Bar is a sharp criticism of today’s educational, financial, and immigration systems. Grisham savages the shady colleges and universities which are far more interested in creating large profits than in enriching the lives of their students. The book also exposes corruption in the student loan industry and the excesses of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This crime action drama follows three students at the fictional Foggy Bottom Law School: Mark, Todd, and Zola. They all borrowed heavily (each nearly $200,000) to attend school, and they are struggling in their personal and professional lives. All of them were betting heavily on their earnings as lawyers to pay back their high-interest loans. The schools recruiting videos and TV ads sold them on how easy it was to borrow the money and get a high-paying job in a law firm.
As they progress through law school, they become aware that their school has a low percentage of graduates that pass the bar exam and only a few of those that do get well-paying jobs. They find out that even that was an elaborate hoax, as the mega-millionaire also controlled eight law firms where they would hire a few of the graduates and start them at a high salary, use them in their recruiting ads, and then lower their salaries at annual reviews.

Gordy, a friend of the three main characters and romantically linked to Zola, traces a conspiracy linking Foggy Bottom to a lender in the student loan industry. His suicide leads the three friends to investigate further. The three decide that exposing the corruption is more important than receiving tainted law school degrees. They drop out of law school, assume new identities, and set up a fake and unlicensed law firm of their own with the goal of taking down Foggy Bottom and its financial partners.
The plot builds in excitement until this crime action drama provides a thrilling climax. Grisham’s reuse of a plot device from The Firm was one of my few real problems with this book, though some avid Grisham fans could rationalize it as an update to an ongoing problem, which in a way it is.
Grisham manages to make us sympathetic to these underdogs even though their methods are almost as shady as those of the law school they are trying to expose. I especially enjoyed the development of Zola’s character. Born to undocumented parents from Senegal, she becomes heavily involved in the politics of immigration after the deportation of her family members. Zola’s family’s experiences with the immigration system lend urgency to her character.
Other reviewers have criticized Grisham’s last few books for having lost the spark and thrill of his earlier works, but I found that The Rooster Bar was a return to his usual form. The characters came to life for me and were the best part of this crime action drama. Despite the slightly predictable plot twist, this courtroom drama was as engaging as any Grisham novel.
Grisham’s new book The Rooster Bar will not disappoint fans of crime action drama. Although those who have read The Firm might be turned off by the reuse of an older plot device, it’s a small point and after you get into the story, it won’t matter that much. The characters of Mark, Todd, and Zola carry the book and cause the readers to root for them even though they operate outside the law. If you’re looking for an entertaining legal read, pick up The Rooster Bar and decide for yourself.
Buy it Now!

Book Review, Heaven: The Popular Choice

Heaven: The Popular Choice...But Why Do Nearly Three Out of Every Four People Who Die Still Go to Hell?Heaven: The Popular Choice…But Why Do Nearly Three Out of Every Four People Who Die Still Go to Hell? by Truman Massey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Review of Heaven: The Popular Choice…But Why Do Nearly Three Out of Every Four People Who Die Still Go to Hell?

Introduction

This book written by Truman Massey, Ph.D. will provide you with the answers to many of the questions Christians and particularly non-Christians need the answers to in order to avoid being one of three who goes to Hell and put themselves squarely in the fourth group who are on their way to Heaven. Doctor Massey answers the questions, Who is God? Who is Man? And takes a comparative look at the Four Major Religions, scientifically and biblically, not simply by paraphrasing passages from the Word (although he does employ Bible verses to back up his theories), but with careful thought and analysis using the three universal laws, the Laws of Nature, the Laws of Physics, and Spiritual Laws. Doctor Massey is a genius in his presentation of well-formulated ideas and philosophies.

Why “Anyone Who Dies and Goes to Hell is a Fool, After All”

Chapter 1 of his book tells you exactly where he is going with the story, Anyone Who Dies and Goes to Hell is a Fool, After All, it doesn’t get much plainer than that. Doctor Massey states,
“It is important to note what you believe does not invalidate what is true or what someone has personally experienced and this point cannot be overemphasized. There are those very familiar with the laws of physics and as a result, we have an industrialized and highly technological world. This knowledge cannot be refuted, whether you believe it or not. The inventors and creators of these magnificent inventions knew something the rest of us didn’t know. It is indeed a great blessing for all of us that they continued in their efforts, not caring whether you believed in what they were doing, or whether you believed what they were doing could be actually realized.”

A Comparative Study of the Four Major World Religions

Hence, the only thing you really need to know and not wind up in Hell is that which is written in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – NIV However, in his book, Doctor Massey goes on to compare the four major world religions, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism and tell us what we need to know about each. He says, “What is important to note is forty-five percent of the Muslim population born outside of the United States, immigrated here after 1990. This strongly suggests they would prefer to live here, where Christianity is the predominant way of life, rather than in their own homeland where Islam is the predominant religion. The reasons vary, but the most common one tends to point to freedom; freedom to pursue liberty, happiness, and their dream of economic opportunities and independence.”
And, about Christianity, “Christianity is reported to be the largest religious group in the world with roughly two billion converts. However, in practical terms Christianity is not a religion but is rather, in its purest and best description, it creates a very personable and touchable relationship, established upon a covenant between the living God and the ones who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.”

Why the USA Is So Prosperous

He further explains why the US of America; the cradle of Christianity is so prosperous while other nations that have existed far longer than ours are still struggling to find and adopt a system of government that benefits its citizen as does the USA.

Conclusion

This is by no means a boring non-fiction. Doctor Massey is a masterful storyteller and gives us the knowledge we need in this work to propel us into the fourth group of humans destined to spend eternity in Heaven. Heaven: The Popular Choice is a must-read for those who have found Christ, to strengthen their faith and allow them to live as they should and to those who haven’t, so they too have a chance to spend eternity in God’s realm, the House he built for us, God’s Children.

View all my reviews


Book Review: American Ghoul, by Walt Morton

American Ghoul starts out a little slow as the author gives us the background, but once he’s finished giving us the background information, which doesn’t take long, the action starts and doesn’t stop throughout the book.

The Background

We all know how difficult it is to be a teenager with raging hormones, boring classes, and tormenting bullies, but imagine watching your parents burnt to death because they are ghouls like you. You narrowly escape with your life because your father told the vigilante crowd you were in the house sleeping as it is burning to the ground. Imagine further, you’re in Georgia and your nearest relative lives in New Jersey and you only have a few dollars, so a bus or plane is out of the question.

Granny’s a Ghoul

Young Howard Pickman hitches to New Jersey to live with his grandmother, who he hasn’t seen in years. His grandmother is a haggard shell of a woman even though she is just into her early sixties. Howard figures out why after they dig up a freshly dead, not embalmed carcass (embalming fluid is poison to a ghoul), and granny regains her health after nearly four years of not eating human flesh.

Howard is convinced by his grandmother to go back to high school, so he can go to college and pursue an education to become a mortician. You see, ghouls are not like zombies who eat the living, they are scavengers that just clean up the would-be wasted carcasses of the already dead by raiding cemeteries in the early morning, while hopefully, no one is watching.

About High School

Well, going back to school was a big mistake, like any other high school, Pinebury HS is filled with bullies and jocks and jocks that are bullies. Of course, there are other nerds and cheerleaders, as well. When he takes his SAT and scores in the top five percentiles nationally, the trouble begins. Or, ends… depending on how you look at it. OK, maybe the beginning of the end. This really pisses off the Senior Class President, as he believes this somehow lessens his accomplishment on the SAT, even though they both did equally fantastic, though our ghoul was a nerdy newcomer. But, the class president joins with the jocks to harass and bully the now “famous” nerd.

Things really heat up when one the of the nerdy crowd commits suicide (??) in the boy’s locker room and the boys form a punk band. Howard calls more attention to himself by getting a Mohawk haircut and starts dating one of the prettiest girls in school.

I really don’t want to give you too many spoilers, but this is a fun and exciting book after the preliminaries. If you enjoy heart-wrenching drama, alternative lifestyles, a little romance, high school shenanigans, murder, and mayhem, this book is for you!

This author knows how to pull you into the story and then show you a good time. Just read it, you won’t regret it.