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Origin by Dan Brown

Title: Origin
Author: Dan Brown
Series: Robert Langdon, #5
Publish Date: October 3, 2017 by Doubleday Books
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library

Publisher’s Description: Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

I had quite given up on Dan Brown books after not enjoying The Lost Symbol. In fact, I never even read Inferno, but for some reason, I picked up Origin, probably because the cover had a chambered nautilus on it.

It turns out that’s fitting because, in my opinion, it was the best thing about the book. Not only did the nautilus represent a specific piece of artwork in the Guggenheim museum in Barcelona, Spain, but also the golden ration and the idea of infinite love and the perfection of the universe.

I know, that’s deep, but I think that is what Dan Brown has done with this book. It didn’t feel like an action thriller in the same way that DaVinci Code and Digital Fortress did. It was more like Brown’s commentary on religion versus science. Dan Brown is obviously on the side of science, but very strongly included in that is Love. One of the beautiful quotes in the book is a prayer that the character Edmond Kirsch wrote:

May our philosophies keep pace with our technologies.
May our compassion keep pace with our powers.
And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.

I  like that Robert Langdon is starting to show his age and had a harder time keeping up with the “damsel in distress,” Ambra Vidal, who is a decade or two his junior. There were some very tender moments when Langdon feels a closeness to Vidal that is more fatherly than romantic. That’s a nice change from the typical action hero lover persona that is a part of so many thrillers today. In fact, Ambra Vidal even says to herself towards the end of the story,

“[She] suddenly understood what Edmond had been saying about the energy of love and light… blossoming outward infinitely to fill the universe. Love is not a finite emotion. We don’t have only so much to share. Our hearts create love as we need it… Love truly is not a finite emotion. It can be generated spontaneously out of nothing at all.”

I give this book 4 stars because Dan Brown found a way to use an action-packed thriller to convey the message that Love is Universal. I also really enjoyed learning more about the art and architecture in Spain. I found myself looking things up on the internet and trying to see pictures of these amazing buildings and works of art. I hope the publishers create an edition that has hyperlinks or references or color illustrations like they did with DaVinci Code.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might try any other book by Dan Brown, The Art Forger by BA Shapiro, The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor, or Guernica by Dave Boling.

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Anubis by Kris Michaels

A new suspense romance series written by a fabulous artist.  If you like an action packed ride, this is one for the books.

Title: Anubis
Author: Kris Michaels
Series: Guardians of the Shadow World
Publish Date: January 30, 2018
Genre: Romance Suspense
Cover: Digitally Imagined
Source: purchased by reviewer
Publisher’s Description:  In the Shadow World, he was the God of Death, and he was called many names. The monsters he hunted called him Anubis. Those who saw his face died. To Guardian Security, he was a number, a surgical weapon they wielded against monstrous evil. One woman called him Kaeden Lang. Anubis never meant her to be anything except an interlude, a moment of light in the darkness of his life, a one-time escape from the ever-present haze of death. He committed an unforgivable sin—he saw her again—and again—and again. She held back the shadows that threatened to consume him.

Sky Meyers made a grave mistake six years ago. She fell in love—only to have the man she knew as Kaeden Lang disappear. Now, his daughter needed him to save her life. As the office manager for the State District Attorney, Sky accessed national databases in a desperate search for her baby’s daddy only to discover the man she knew as Kaeden Lang didn’t exist. She’d already lost the man she loved; she couldn’t lose her daughter.

Other eyes noticed Sky’s search. Abruptly recalled and informed of the existence of his daughter and her illness, Anubis slipped through the shadows to help Sky—but found death threatened more than his daughter. In her attempt to find Kaeden Lang, Sky unknowingly jeopardized his Shadow World existence by alerting an enemy Kaeden Lang can’t eliminate–only Anubis can.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says..

This is a romance – my favorite kind – one with a happy ending.  There is sex involved and some swearing. There are assassins involved, but they play for the good guy side.  There isn’t any graphic death – not like a horror story might have, but there is a couple of dead people involved.

I really love the Kings of Guardian series.  If I had to choose, my favorite to date is Jewell and here is that review.  However, we are on Anubis right now.  This is another series that author Kris Michaels is writing.  It’s called Guardians of the Shadow World.

This series has recurring characters which is the part of the series I like.  Even after their story is done, the characters pop up in other stories.  It’s like being part of a family.  I get to see them joke and tease as well as watch their progression with the family and their position within the Guardian world.

I know the concept of having assassins on the payroll might be tough to think about in real life and it might be hard to reconcile taking the life of someone else because of their penchant to kill and destroy lives.  I get that.  However, I am sure there really are people that have this job to make our lives less frightening.  With that being said, I do not have a problem with the Shadow World of Guardian.  In a perfect world, karma or whatever you want to call it -would punish those that do atrocities to other innocents just because they can.  We all know there is no such thing as a perfect world.

Anubis is Guardian Security’s asset and he kills with poison.  He is not an up close and personal killer. I could do research and see what that means psychologically, but that would be going too far and besides, I don’t really want to know.  This is a suspenseful story and I loved it just the way it is.

Everyone deserves happiness and this was an incredible story of a ray of sunshine perminating a life lived in the shadows.  It was a story about a path that was set in stone suddenly having a fork in the road that may lead to a better life.

The heroine was not whiny.  She was a strong lady and she didn’t make stupid choices.  She did what needed to be done and did not hesitate to face problems head on.  I think Sky was the toughest woman have met in a story.

The hero, suffice it to say, was struggling with himself.  The things he’d done and the danger he would bring to the doorstep of the people he loved.  It was a battle that ranged from the “right thing to do” and the “right thing I want to do”.  He was rather between a rock and a hard place.  I loved the way it all turned out.  5 stars.

 

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

 

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Jewell by Kris Michaels

Super Geek meets Scary Assassin.  Kris Michaels releases book #8 in the Kings of Guardian.  Technology princess Jewell King will finally meet her match.

 Title: Jewell
Author:  Kris Michaels
Series:  The Kings of Guardian
Publish Date: August 22, 2017
Genre: Suspense Romance
Cover: Digitally Imagined
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Publisher’s Description:  Obsessive. Toxic. Ice Princess. Witch. Jewell King ignored the epithets slung at her behind her back. Hell, after six, or was it seven, personal security officers asked to be reassigned rather than continue to guard her 24/7, maybe she deserved the names. She didn’t care. Good riddance. Well…the last one had kinda weaseled his way into her daily routine with his compulsive cleaning and insistence on health foods. When he left, she noticed and was…hurt. But that didn’t matter. She had no time for emotions. Handling the information and data systems for Guardian required 28 hour days and triple her current staff. On her shoulders rested the weight of defending Guardian against a brilliant hacker determined to take down all billionaire David Xavier had built and destroy her family in the process. He’d tried before. She had frustrated his first attempt by the slimmest of margins. This time he’d made it personal and he just might succeed.

Zane Reynolds waded through several weeks’ worth of empty energy drink cans, cast off candy wrappers and stale pizza boxes, and viewed Jewell’s office with a resigned sense of deja vu. He was back—against his will and despite his best efforts to stay as far away from Jewell as he could get. The fact she hated him would make Jewell a difficult assignment. He should walk away like all the others, except he couldn’t. He’d seen through the woman’s veneer and had witnessed the true kindness of the person hiding under the beautiful, yet caustic façade. This time, Zane had non-negotiable conditions before he’d agree to return as Jewell King’s personal security, and he told the CEO of Guardian as much. This time, he was doing things his way.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

 

I love this series.  I think I may label Jewell my favorite throughout the whole series.  There is sex but not that much gore.  A couple of dead guys but not anything that would freak me out.  There is no cliffhanger and there is a happy ending.

Jewell carries the heavy load of communications and technology.  She has to be everywhere all the time.  She’s taken for granted but she is brilliant.  Not one of her brothers know what it takes to do what she does.  She has big brothers that “take care” of little Jewell because she needs protecting.  Jewell has other thoughts.  She knows how to take care of herself…well, sort of.  She can survive – how’s that?  Big brothers decide that she needs a body guard.  A nasty egomaniacal hacker is bent on revenge since she took him down in front of everyone and the Dark Web.  His rep has been torpedoed and he can stand losing.

Zane Reynolds works for Guardian Security and is assigned to Jewell.  He takes all the punishment she can deal out.  It’s not his fault that her brothers never asked her if she wanted to weigh in on her own personal security.  Zane has problems of his own.  He’s coming out of the Shadow World of Guardian Security into the light.  He’s not sure he can be normal but he can’t stay where he was.

When the hacker starts to up the ante, Jason, Jared, Jacob and Joseph decide that Zane needs to protect Jewell again.  Funny thing, the boys don’t want their baby sister involved with Zane but they put them together.  They have feelings for one another and ‘Wham!’.  Uh, duh, boys.  What’d you think was gonna happen?

This is a romance.  I have to keep telling myself that but truth be told, it’s a lot of suspense too.  The story is well written and all the computer geek language was way over my head.  I loved that Jewell was such a powerhouse and stood up to her brothers.  She had leverage and she knew how to use it!  Go, Jewell!!

Jewell stands for all of us behind the scenes folks that make the hard stuff look easy.  5 stars without a doubt.

 

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Seal of Protection series by Susan Stoker
Delta Force Heroe series by Susan Stoker

 

 

 

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Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

In the company of Station Eleven and California, Marrow Island uses two tense natural disasters to ask tough questions about our choices—large and small.

Title: Marrow Island
Author: Alexis M. Smith
Publish Date: June 7, 2016, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Source: Library

Publisher’s Description: Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island; along with her mother, she fled the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father and ravaging the island’s environment. Now, Lucie’s childhood friend Kate is living within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” There have been remarkable changes to the land at the colony’s homestead. Lucie’s experience as a journalist tells her there’s more to the Colony—and their charismatic leader– than they want her to know, and that the astonishing success of their environmental remediation has come at great cost to the Colonists themselves. As she uncovers their secrets and methods, will Lucie endanger more than their mission? What price will she pay for the truth?

In the company of Station Eleven and California, Marrow Island uses two tense natural disasters to ask tough questions about our choices—large and small. A second novel from a bookseller whose sleeper-hit debut was praised by Karen Russell as “haunted, joyful, beautiful….” it promises to capture and captivate new readers even as it thrills her many existing fans.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

What an interesting and thought provoking-book this was. I really enjoyed the story, and the main character, Lucie, was fascinating. I can’t quite give this book 5 stars because the ending left me unsatisfied. Since I finished the book right after watching the movie Beatriz at Dinner, I was doubly unsatisfied. Both left you wondering, “Well, now what?”

Marrow Island does, however, have many deep themes to explore. I particularly like the book’s environmental emphasis and the mystery that surrounds what happened to the main character. More importantly, I like the exploration of the nature of relationships with childhood friends and relationships one forms as an adult. I was drawn in by the friendship of Lucie and Katie. I particularly like the author’s explanation, in the Q & A at the end of the book, that the relationship between the two of them was to be visceral, murky, and a little bit twisted. There’s no doubt that the relationship is exactly that. I also like the tension Smith is able to create toward the end of the book, as the reader is drawn into Lucie’s ability to rationalize making such a poor decision as to return to an area that is under threat of a wildfire just to prove to herself that she’s not going crazy.

The author writes incredibly well and is able to create such vivid images. A simple example is when Lucie visits a care facility, and the highly polished floors make it difficult for the residents to move quickly. Lucie thinks, “I wonder if this is another trap, like the shiny floors, intended to steal a few minutes here and there from life by slowing a body down.”

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to book groups since there is so much to discuss.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might also enjoy: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, or Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

From the legendary #1 New York Times bestselling author of Plum Island and Night Fall, Nelson DeMille’s blistering new novel features an exciting new character—US Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

Title: The Cuban Affair
Author: Nelson DeMille
Series: Mac MacCormick, 01
Publish Date: September 19, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Source: Library

Publisher’s DescriptionDaniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five, he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan. He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down. The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’s clients—a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

What Mac learns is that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash—by accident or on purpose. And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich…or not at all.

Brilliantly written, with his signature humor, fascinating authenticity from his research trip to Cuba, and heart-pounding pace, Nelson DeMille is a true master of the genre.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

With the introduction of “Mac” (DeMille’s new main character), I am looking forward to reading more about him. Mac’s personality, which includes the gallows humor of many military veterans, made me laugh out loud, particularly the things he didn’t say, but just thought. I enjoyed the caper that he and Jack, his first mate, went on. DeMille has done a wonderful job introducing the lackadaisical life of a tourist boat captain in Key West, but also the more serious life of the citizens of Cuba. It’s obvious DeMille has done his research, and I am not inclined to sign up for a “goodwill” trip anytime soon.

I also thought the character, Mr. Neville, was particularly tongue-in-cheek and spoke to DeMille’s own ability to poke fun at himself and authors in general. You will enjoy reading about Mr. Neville, a fellow tourist to Cuba, who is researching for a book he is writing. I had to grin though, because there was still a “hot” wife for the fictional, oafish author.

I give this book 4 stars and it will be a great beach read this summer or for a lazy afternoon by the fire this winter.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might enjoy anything by Carl Hiassen. My favorites have been Double Whammy, Skin Tight, and Native Tongue.

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