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Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

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When Origin, the fifth in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, was published last Fall, I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, I had several ARCS, giveaways, and commitments that forced me to hold off until just this week to read it – nearly 5 months of misery. I cried when my fellow readers published reviews and I couldn’t look at them. I kicked things when the book mocked me on the shelf. Then my wonderful blogger friends voted for this as the book they wanted me to read in February on my Book Bucket List! So I survived and made it my priority this week… in the end, it was a good read and I will always enjoy Brown’s style, plots and characters. I’m giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars and will rate either a 3 or 4 on each of the book sites depending on their ratings meanings.

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The story is quite intriguing, as always. A man holds a press conference to reveal that he has found the answers we’ve all been searching for: (1) Where did we come from, and (2) Where are we going? It kicks off a series of events including his murder, the ire of many established world religions and the envy of historians and cultural icons. Langdon pairs up with the future Queen of Spain who runs the museum where the murder occurs, then they travel the country to discover all the answers.

The scenery, setting, and backgrounds are marvelous. Brown is highly adept at giving readers exactly as much as they need to picture the story without coloring it in too much… a few blurry edges for personal imagination. The sheer intensity of the research he must have done in the worlds of science, religious, museums, Spain and art is admirable. The volume of characters, the who is good versus who is evil balance, the red herrings, the small and large steps during the chases… all of these facts and the enveloped tone completely make this a 5 star read from those perspectives.

But then I started comparing it to his previous novels, to other works in this sub-genre and to his overall approach in telling the story. It fell short for me. There weren’t enough side stories. The characters were flatter than usual. I would love to have seen a bigger story about the Spanish royalty’s influence and history (other than Franco) in regard to science, evolution and romance. There were no scenes except a memory between the prince and his future consort, so I didn’t root for them. Langdon almost felt like a secondary character in the book. And the various sects of religious and military groups involved in the story seemed too fluid and/or disorganized in terms of the bigger picture. It made the story less interesting as I couldn’t really latch onto any specific character. Even Langdon had a minimal connection to the man who was murdered… despite being professor and student, we saw very little memories of a bond between them. Throw in a few conversations at a pub bonding over a theory, or an argument over the church, something to connect them for us in the present.

That said, I do enjoy these types of novels and there was enough to keep my interest. It just wasn’t a consistent page-turner throughout the whole book. I’ll still read the next one. And I’ll always be in awe of the author’s intelligence, world knowledge and style.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
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Blog: “Art of the Balanced Perfectionist”

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In my childhood and early in my career, I was often deemed the classic Type-A perfectionist; however, as I learned more about efficiency, negotiation and motivation, I’ve adopted a more balanced platform in how I approach decision-making and choices.

We’ve all heard the term “analysis paralysis,” but it’s quite surprising to see how often we still continue to get caught up in the decision-making process.  While I support that every decision deserves an appropriate amount of due diligence, the diligence should also have a direct correlation to the risk and impact of the decision being made.  To me, decision-making is an art form, similar to negotiating or debating.  There are several approaches, each right in their own way.

I no longer believe in focusing on and only accepting the quintessential “be-all, end-all” idyllic decision because it is rare that a single one exists — and it may not even be achievable when it does exist.  In those cases where it exists and is possible, the path to get to the perfect decision may also result in adverse impacts.  As an alternative, I believe it’s essential to weigh the benefits of extended analysis, research and time against a more iterative and agile process that allows for innate growth, evolution and opportunity.

As each year progressed in my career, and I began to more intrinsically trust my own judgment, I learned to balance all sides of the situation.  I still hope to achieve the right decision(s), but I stay conscious of the impact of taking too long or over-thinking the options along the way.  I also look for methods where I can evolve the decision-making process over a reasonable time frame with key steps and milestones that incrementally get me to the end game — all the while delivering some benefits rather than just once at the end. But this isn’t just about a career; it’s an approach to growing and improving each day.

I’ve come to see this as a balanced perfectionism, rather than the one and only concrete irrefutable solitary perfect decision.  It’s not an exact science — and that’s really the important piece of the approach.  If it were a science, it would be quantifiable. Yet, it’s not quantifiable; it’s subjective based on experience, communication and knowledge.  You won’t always be right — and that’s OK — but you can’t let the decision-making process paralyze you.

The energy we build and the collaboration we encourage throughout the decision-making process becomes what I call “The Art of the Balanced Perfectionist.” It’s a choice to be free and happy and to accept the limitless boundaries of that which can be achieved and that which cannot be achieved. It’s not meant to stop us. It’s meant to open the door to accept ourselves without a constant immeasurable drive to nowhere. But to replace it with a happiness associated on each positive step forward.

About Me

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: Cutting for Stone

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Cutting for Stone
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

My rating is 3.5 of 5 stars to Abraham Verghese‘s novel, Cutting for Stone, which was a book club selection about 7 years ago. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like the book, as I expected it to be quite sad. And back then, I wasn’t interested in reading sad or emotional books; however, this one was quite good and I waffled between a 3 and a 4. I settled on a 3 only because I felt it was a little too formal / stiff for the type of book it felt like it should have been — still above average to me, as far as books go.

The basics: Twin brothers born in Ethiopia, Africa. The mother dies during childbirth and the father will need to raise them, but fate intervenes and they are separated. The book chronicles the separate life of the two boys and the connections between them. It’s about the differences between America and Africa, love and fear, focus and desire. There are many surprises in the book, all leading you to root for certain things to happen in each of the relationships throughout the story.

I had never heard of the author before, and this is the only read I’ve tackled by him, so far. But he’s got several other books and short stories. For me, it was a little too focused on the medical side of their personalities / careers / activities. Not in a bad way, just enough that it didn’t burst at its seams as a superstar book. I also felt like it was a little light in the action at some points, but it certainly makes up for it in some major ways in the last third.

If you are interested in other cultures, different ways of doing things and what happens to twins when they aren’t always near one another… it’s a great read. I’d suggest reading a lot of reviews to decide if it’s for you… as it’s different than most books of its genres or sub-genre.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 40 – Spiritual

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Spiritual: relating to religious belief or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things

As I awoke this morning, my mind drifted to today’s topic, first focusing on the count of days. When I determined it was day 40, something about the 40 days of lent stuck in my head and I attempted to choose the best word to represent how I feel. I considered religious, but I am not prepared to go into all of those details, so I settled in with spiritual.

I was raised Catholic, as were most of my family members on my mother’s side. My father’s side doesn’t appear to have been all that religious. I attended church every weekend from about 8 until 21.

In college, I was a Eucharistic minister and worked in the religious center’s main office as one of my part-time jobs. When I graduated and moved back to Long Island, I stopped going to church except for the occasional holy days until I was about 25. I don’t believe I’ve been back since other than a few weddings and whenever I’ve been on tours or trips and make it a point to stop in. Nothing significant occurred to change my attendance, I simply stopped going. But I’m not planning to discuss church attendance. I am discussing spirituality.

I would consider myself your average “smart” person. I have some common sense, but also lack so in many areas. I’m book smart on a lot of things, but missing some key basics. I accept these things. It also means that I often, as I’ve noted before, have impartial feelings about situations and usually see both sides of the coin on all issues. Spirituality is one of those things. I do not know the history of all the major religions. I am not familiar with every major detail of evolutionary science. But there are a few things I believe I struggle with when it comes to “how did it all begin”?

I think of it like the chicken and the egg scenario. If there were no chickens, how did we ever produce the first egg? It’s a catch-22 for me… which came first cannot be answered in my mind, and I don’t have the energy or interest in devoting my entire life to solving that puzzle. I feel the same way about the creation of life. My mind has trouble fully accepting Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and natural selection. I understand it. I’ve seen it. I know things change over time. But have we truly existed in some form for billions of years, once as tiny little cells, now evolved into modern humans? What exactly caused each of those changes? I know there are tons of books and research to help explain the big categorical shifts and changes, but my brain is too tiny to really understand and accept how far we’ve come, or that so much time has even occurred.

I sort of feel like we all began somewhere around 3 or 4 thousand years ago, as I’ve read enough books and history to almost see those numbers are tangible and reachable. Then I think about the beliefs of Catholicism where God built the world in 7 days, Adam and Eve were the first people, Jesus died on the cross for his people and we worship everything in this realm. I have difficulty believing in something I cannot see or have never experienced. But the genealogist in me yearns to believe and accept that everything started with 1 man and 1 woman, and we all have a biological mother and father, generation after generation of human evolution.

Side Note: This is not meant as commentary on parents, necessity of a mother and a father, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, et al.)

For the record, I’ve always believed people can and should do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting anyone else. Therefore, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t hurt… but what two other people do with their lives has no impact on me… plus, if I was against it, I’d be a hypocrite, which I’ve noted before. And a child needs loving caretakers to grow up properly… whether it’s two men, two women, transgender, a single parent, a grandparent… I don’t care. Love the child, raise them well and prepare them to be a good person who continues that cycle. OK, now that I’ve gotten that out there… back to spirituality…

As I’ve noted before, I always seem to feel like two people. And in this case, I believe both in the theories of evolution and those in religion, and I also have doubts about both. But there are many religions, each with a different take on the origination of it all. As I’ve evolved, I believe where I’ve ended up is in something more spiritual. It’s less about the specifics and particulars of what you believe, but that you do believe. There is something out there higher or greater than me. Whether it’s a God who created the world or is a scientist from another dimension conducting experiments, I have some level of faith that there is a bit of control being exercised.

Though less now than in the past, I find myself looking toward the sky saying “Help me out here.” I will on occasion pray for the health or improvement of a friend or family member. I will wish and hope for someone or something to give me a chance. I believe in past lives. I feel connections to things I’ve never seen before, for some reason, and question if it’s deja vu. The thought of people being tied to the land around them is comforting. The concepts of earth, water, wind and fire feel like pillars of our lives. I would not be afraid if I saw a ghost. I strongly hope for an afterlife where all the problems and pain people have experienced are gone, and everyone is happy and healthy.

The best word I can use to describe how I feel about all of this is spiritual. All that functions in our bodies is a physical component of who we are. But how we think, feel and process, though partially physical, comes from somewhere else. Perhaps it is our soul, perhaps it isn’t. But it’s that part of who I am as a person that determines how I live my life today and in the future. And that’s the part of me that has felt various connections to a multitude of things across the expanse that’s been my life thus far. I have appreciation for other people’s beliefs, those who are committed to their religion and all that comes with it. I accept and want everyone to have their own personal calling, whether I agree with it or don’t understand it. And I’d never tell someone else they are wrong for what they believe, when it comes to spirituality.

It’s rare I discuss these types of things. Politics and religion are the two areas where I absolutely hate having discussions with other people. Partially because I do not like arguing or any discomfort when there are differences in opinion, but because I do not have the answer, nor will I ever have the answer until… and only possibly… until I pass from this world. But until then, I’m content with having my own beliefs, keeping myself open-minded to others and living the best life I can without hurting those around me.

To me, that is being spiritual. Whether I light a candle and dance around a fire, attend church every Sunday, pray every afternoon or practice some other form, having a connection to something you believe in, that is more than physical, is healthy. And for anyone reading this, hopefully I have not offended or upset you. Not everyone agrees with the things I’ve mentioned in this post, and that is each person’s prerogative. All I ask is that people never force what they believe on someone else. Focus on yourself when it comes to these things and let others do the same.

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post.