Tag Archives: Dan Brown

A Reading Ramble: Inferno, A Natural History of Dragons, Smoke and Mirrors and More

I’m pleased to report that I kept up my reading even during the crazy busy month of June – so it’s time for another rambly post (my spellchecker tells me rambly is not a word but I like the sound of it anyway) about what I’ve been reading.

One book I tackled in June was Dan Brown’s Inferno. So here’s the quick and dirty: it didn’t work for me. I was very excited when I picked it up from the library, and cracked it open as soon as I got home. I got about halfway through the novel and realized I felt the same way about it as I did Angels & Demons: the story was exciting, and I was learning some interesting things, but I didn’t really care one way or another how the novel ended.

With Angels & Demons, I quit reading at about the 80% mark. I remember thinking to myself, all this excitement is rather tiring, and anyway, I know Langdon will end up fine, right? I felt the same with Inferno, except I got to that point a little earlier than I did with Angels & Demons. Since I knew lots of people were eagerly awaiting Inferno, I returned it to the library two days later (I waited a day to see if maybe I was just in a tired mood, and really did want to finish it after all – it turned out I really didn’t).

A Natural History of DragonsI absolutely adored this book

Happily, though, I also got my hands on a copy of A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. I LOVED this book – it’s one of my favourite reads of the year. It’s the kind of book I just want to press on everyone I know: “Read it, read it, oh, you simply must read it!”

And really, you simply must. I mean, it’s got dragons! An independent, feisty female main character! And did I mention, dragons?

For all you Flavia de Luce fans out there, Isabella (Lady Trent) is like Flavia all grown up – if, that is, Flavia had lived in a Victorian-type era in a world where dragons exist.

Last month I also managed to get tickets to see Neil Gaiman when he comes to Toronto in August on his book tour for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, so I decided I’d catch up on my Gaiman (I’ve only read two of his books so far, Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, both of which I loved). To get myself started, I skimmed through Prince of Stories (I had to skim, since the book contains synopses of all Gaiman’s works published at the time Prince of Stories was released, and I didn’t want to read anything spoiler-ish, but even skimming, it was quite lovely to read about everything Gaiman has done).

Smoke and MirrorsSuch a lovely short story collection!

And now I’m halfway through Smoke and Mirrors, and really enjoying it. When I was in my early 20s, I was an avid short story reader, and Smoke and Mirrors reminds me how satisfying a well-crafted short story can be. And I have to say, I am SO in awe of the way Gaiman handles narrative poetry!

I’m also halfway through Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, but it looks like I won’t be able to finish it for a while. I have it on ebook loan from the library, and there are several people on the wait list after me, which means I won’t be able to renew it. Which reminds me – I should go and add myself to the holds list again! It’s my first taste of Hill’s work, and I’m liking it very much so far.

Another June reading highlight: I discovered Peter Lovesey’s Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond – I read Cop to Corpse, the twelfth book in the series (which didn’t hurt my reading of it in the slightest, I might add). Lovesey’s Diamond is great when you’re in the mood for a British police procedural, with a touch of humour that makes it even more enjoyable.

In audio, I listened to Lee Child’s Running Blind and Without Fail, both great books for when you’re in a Jack Reacher mood. I also did three Nero Wolfe short story collections (all rereads) in audio: Curtains for Three, And Four to Go (which starts with a hilarious story in which Wolfe plays Santa) and Death Times Three. Interestingly, one of the shorts in Death Times Three is also in And Four to Go, in slightly shorter format and with the characters slightly changed.

So that’s been my reading month in June, more or less (I might have missed one or two books, and I’m sure if I did, it will of course come to me the moment I hit publish …). It was a pretty good month in terms of reading, and now that I’ve written this post, I’m a little surprised at how many books I did read during such a crazy busy month!

Reading The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown

The Lost SymbolI’ve been reading Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

I found the book extremely exciting; it’s definitely a real page turner.

I really enjoyed all the research, too. I was very tempted several times while reading to stop for a moment and go to the computer to Google some of the things that Brown talks about in the book.

So here’s the paradox: despite this, I returned the book to the library without finishing it.

This is exactly the same thing that happened when I read Angels & Demons, the sequel to The Da Vinci Code (I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code enormously, by the way, and yes, I did finish it).

I had put down Angels & Demons with about a quarter of the book left to go. I’ve never been able to figure out why, exactly – I mean, here we were, coming up to the finale, there was a ton of excitement, which I’d enjoyed thoroughly, and suddenly, I lost interest.

As it turns out, I put down The Lost Symbol with about a quarter of the book to go, too; today, on my way to the library, I looked at it, sitting on my bedside table, and realized I probably wasn’t going to be in the mood to pick it up again, at least not in the near future. So I returned it.

This time around, I gave it a bit more thought. After all, I love a good story, with lots of excitement, a book that’s real page turner – so what happened?

Perhaps it didn’t help that I saw through all of the villain’s traps, right from the start of the book (that is, all the traps up until I stopped reading, which was just after Langdon fell into another trap despite my saying to him, “No! Don’t do that! Why aren’t you calling to check first? Oh, no, here we go again!”).

Still, despite this, as a reader I was quite willing to forgive Langdon for falling into these traps, even though they seemed so obvious to me (maybe I’m just way more paranoid or cynical than Langdon and after all, of course Langdon doesn’t know he’s a character in a thriller while I do know he is). Still, that wasn’t the reason I stopped reading.

The only thing I can think of is that there was just too much excitement for me. I already knew how the book would end – obviously, the world isn’t destroyed, and Robert Langdon lives to potentially get involved in another symbology caper – but really, I know that for most of the suspense novels I read.  But the pace was relentless, and in the end, just too fast for me. I could keep up for a while, and the subject matter and all the research definitely kept things interesting, but as we headed toward the finale, I just found all the excitement to be too much. And I lost interest as a result.

So this is a real paradox, because while I did not finish the book, I actually really enjoyed every bit of the book that I did read. And I just noticed that there’s a special illustrated edition that will be published this November, and if my library will be ordering it, well, I’d love to flip through it, so I can see pictures of the things Brown talks about in the book (because yes, I did resist the urge to Google while I was reading).

How weird is that? But it’s true. I enjoyed every bit of the book that I did read. At the same time, it’s a DNF (did not finish) for me. And yes, I would be tempted by the illustrated edition.

How’s that for a wishy washy sort-of-review?

What about you? Have you read The Lost Symbol? Did you like it? And if not, is it in your TBR list?