Book Review #31: “The Da Vinci Code”

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In short, I liked this book MUCH better than Angels & Demons. It was significantly shorter in length, and I got through it much faster than the first one.

I actually finished the book at the end of April, but I dove head-first into my next book and basically forgot to write this review!

This installment involving Robert Langdon was centered in Paris, with London thrown in. It was another fascinating thriller. I liked Sophie better than Vittoria, and I wasn’t as turned off. The ending was more satisfying, too.

I felt I was more interested in this story and I wanted to learn more. I wanted to read at least one chapter every night. This book was also less graphic, and it had more adventure!

The Da Vinci Code focused on cryptology, another secret society, a heavier emphasis on religion, and so many fascinating facts. Brown does a good job of balancing facts with action. Having had the opportunity to visit The Louvre, I was thrilled to see it play a big role on paper.

I don’t have a lot of criticism for this book. After my frustration with Angels & Demons, I’ve experienced renewed excitement to see what happens to Robert next. I’m actually excited to pick up book three! I’m ready to dive into The Lost Symbol very soon.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #30: “Angels & Demons”

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I originally thought The Da Vinci Code was the first book to feature Robert Langdon, but I was proven wrong!

This was a HUGE book. I wanted to finish it last week, but it was so dense that it took me until 11:00 p.m. last night to finally finish. It’s 616 pages total!


To be blunt, I have several praises, as well as several criticisms.

I was instantly drawn into Robert Langdon’s world. Brown hooked me within the first few sentences. I was along Langdon’s side from Harvard, to Switzerland, to Vatican City, to Rome. It was a bit of a whirlwind at first, and then you get plunged into the worlds of CERN,  Vatican City, the Catholic Church, history, and symbolism.

Trying to figure out the puzzle that Brown laid out kept me interested. A scientist at CERN is brutally murdered, and he has connections to both the scientific and religious communities.

I liked Vittoria Vetra almost immediately. She’s feisty, gorgeous, and a great addition to Langdon. Langdon is the main character, but there were times that Vittoria was faster, and took control, and I liked it! She’s a smart cookie, and I knew Robert would be attracted to her.

The menagerie of twists and turns made me feel like I was on a high-speed ride through Europe! It was exhilarating. There were several days where I flew through multiple chapters and dozens of pages.

I applaud Brown’s dedication and commitment to historical accuracy, and being totally up front about not fictionalizing any locations, historical figures, or places (There’s a disclaimer in the very beginning). It felt even more real!

However, I had several issues with this book. There were three particular instances where I feel Brown is almost too graphic in his writing. As an aspiring writer of fiction, I know that, at certain times, it’s necessary to be graphic to illustrate and illuminate, But, Brown’s style was too much for this reader. I almost gave up every time. I almost didn’t want to find out what happened next. Some of it almost made me sick.

But, I pressed on.

Toward the end, as the intensity was reaching its peak in Vatican City, where decisions needed to be made quickly – Brown inserted this multiple-page speech by the Camerlengo (papal chamberlain) that just dragged on and on. I got the significance – The man was addressing the cardinals at a critical point in the conclave – but it could have been much shorter! Maybe dedicate a page or two, but not five or six! I felt so impatient during that section. I wanted to skip the entire speech and get just back to the action!

Finally, I hated the ending. It felt abrupt, it felt weird, it left me hanging a bit. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, but I hated how nonchalant it felt. I won’t give it away, but I felt a bit empty when I closed the book.

My first thought was, “That’s it? That’s how you end this ridiculously long book? Wow…”

After sleeping on it, I realized this morning why he ended it the way he did, but I still wasn’t happy about it!

If you’re looking for a thriller that involves conspiracy, mystery, secret societies, art history, exploring historic sections of Europe, and learning a lot about the Catholic Church – This book is for you.

Overall, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for this one. I’d heard of the movies, but haven’t seen them. The first few pages of The Da Vinci Code I read about a month ago made me curious about who Robert Langdon is and how he got himself into such a twisted web of history, religion, and murder. It’s an exciting book, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and what happens next.

Despite my issues with Angels & Demons, I’m still motivated to read the other books with protagonist Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), Inferno (2013), and Origin (October 2017). Look for these reviews over the next few months.

3 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #28: “The Underground Railroad”

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Image Credit: goodreads.com

I first heard about this book when Colson Whitehead was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air back in August 2016. It’s one of several podcasts that I subscribe to, and I’ve learned about a lot of books, both new and old, in this way.

It took me a long time to finish this book. Not that I was in a hurry, but it was a tough book to read.

Whitehead took one of my childhood thoughts – That the “Underground Railroad” during the time of slavery in the U.S., was a real railroad – and turned it into a fascinating, yet heartbreaking story.

I can’t say much in this review without giving away potential spoilers, so I’ll keep this brief. I enjoyed Whitehead’s world-building, how he created the characters, and how he wove historical accuracy into an alternative reality.

I imagine he researched for a long, long time, to make sure certain parts of this story were as accurate as possible, at least for the time periods that were being viewed.

There’s so much emotion packed into this one book – Fear, anger, sadness, joy, trust, love, to name a few. He weaves horror into relief, courage and bravery into fear, love into disappointment.

There’s a little bit of everything in this book – Pulse-pounding action, a dash of romance, lots of drama, and a bit of thriller.

I look forward to reading more from him, in the future. I need a few days to recover from this amazing, yet horrifying piece of literature.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #27: “The War That Saved My Life”

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“It had been awful, but I hadn’t quit. I had persisted. In battle I had won.”

~Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The War that Saved My Life


This was another book I picked up at Barnes & Noble recently. I could tell it was historical fiction, and I’ve been itching for more historical fiction to cross my path.

I wasn’t disappointed. This book immersed me into the world of London and the English / British countryside at the beginning of World War II. Seen through the eyes of Ada and her younger brother Jamie, I started to understand how difficult life would have been back then.

This book is technically written for middle-grade readers, but I really enjoyed this one. It was hard to put down at night to go to sleep. The chapters are shorter, but each one had this grip on me that didn’t want to let go. I wanted to see what happened next to Ada, Jamie, their Mam, and the other characters they encounter along the way.

I can’t say too much about this book without spoiling things, but Bradley captured the time period nearly flawlessly. And, to write from a child’s perspective is remarkable in itself. I think she did a great job.

I was very excited to read on the back cover of a sequel to the story. It’s being released in early October, and I can’t wait. I look forward to writing the review of The War I Finally Won later this year.

I also want to read more of Bradley’s books – There was a preview of Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children in the back of this book, and that one is going on my soon-to-be updated TBR.

This is a great book for almost any age.It has a good grasp of history, drama, family, relationships, and compassion. I highly recommend it!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #21: “The Sky’s The Limit: My Journey with Maryellen”

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“By choosing our path, we choose our destination.”

~Thomas S. Monson


If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out my previous Maryellen book reviews before reading this one:


In 2014, when American Girl first announced the relaunch of their historical characters into the BeForever line, I was skeptical of their revamping of the books. For nearly 20 years, I was used to each historical character having six books that make up their story, set over roughly the course of a year in their life.

Now, they’ve condensed the shorter six books into three longer books.It still covers roughly a year in their life, and the number of pages are pretty close between the two.

The main difference is the third book in each collection is a choose-your-own-adventure style, where girls of today dive right into the historical girl’s world.

Although immensely skeptical, I was also immediately intrigued. I wanted to read them!

Maryellen’s stories are the first complete collection in the new format that I have completed. I’m planning to do the same with Melody soon – See Book Review #13 and Book Review #14 for more!

Going in, I knew the story started with a girl of today being transported into Maryellen’s world because of the sneak peeks in the previous books.

To my surprise, I found that you can read this book without necessarily having to have read the others, which is neat. But, I appreciated having read the three others first. Actually, I recommend it.

Our modern girl is a skier from the mountains of North Carolina. Suddenly, with the watch she wins from her race, she finds herself in sunny Daytona Beach. Bewildered, she meets Maryellen and her siblings. The adventure commences quickly, and soon the modern girl, and the reader, are swept up in the 1950s and carried away.

I enjoyed being able to choose my path along the way – It made me excited to see what could happen next. I appreciated the blending of both worlds as well.

The only criticism I had was there was a very small section toward the beginning of the book (just a few pages) that required you to skip several pages ahead and then go back to that part later, if you happened to choose that path. I recognized the intent of the author, but it was annoying and a bit confusing. I can see how it could be frustrating to younger readers.

However, despite that slight annoyance, it was a fantastic book. I quickly devoured the different stories and journeys in the span of one night! It’s a breezy read, and I enjoyed the style. I applaud the author, and American Girl, for this ambitious idea for their dolls. Plus, it’s a new spin on other books like this.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #18: “The Finders Keepers Rule: A Maryellen Mystery”

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“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates loot on Treasure Island.”

~Walt Disney


After reading the first two volumes in Maryellen Larkin’s collection, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her mystery book.

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading my first two posts before moving forward with this one:

Maryellen’s story continues in December 1955. Daytona Beach is busy preparing for its annual dance, and excitement is in the air.

I could almost hear “Rock Around The Clock” in my ears throughout the book. The music of the fifties is amazing!

As Maryellen practices dance steps with her sister Carolyn, and Davy practices football plays, there’s more excitement along the shore. There’s several secrets, a mysterious ring, and a sense of treasure afoot!

This book gripped me by the shirt collar and never let go. I couldn’t put it down! For being a book meant for ages 8 and up, it almost felt like a classic Nancy Drew mystery. There were twists, turns, a bit of danger, and several suspects!

I was happy to see a spotlight on several other characters: Maryellen’s sister Joan, Joan’s new husband, Jerry; and more of Davy.

Once again, this standalone novel proves that 10-year-old kids are just as smart and clever as adults. I was actually sad to get to the end!

If you like the thrill of discovering treasure, history, and a bit of suspense, I definitely recommend this book. This is a new favorite of mine!

To finish out Maryellen’s collection, I will be reading The Sky’s The Limit: My Journey with Maryellen (Choose-your-own-adventure). I hope to have that review published very soon!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #16: “Taking Off: A Maryellen Classic 2”

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“The fifties – they seem to have taken place on a sunny afternoon that asked nothing of you except a drifting belief in the moment and its power to satisfy.”

~Elizabeth Hardwick


If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading my post titled Book Review #15: “The One and Only: A Maryellen Classic” before diving into this one.

Maryellen’s story continues as she prepares to celebrate her tenth birthday in 1955.

Three weeks before her birthday, a historic day emerges. Around the world, it’s broadcast that Dr. Jonas Salk has perfected a safe and effective vaccine for polio.

This is significant, since it was mentioned previously that Maryellen suffered from the illness during the Polio Epidemic of 1952. Fortunately, she only has two long-lasting effects – One slightly weaker leg and sensitive lungs.

As spring begins to change into summer, Maryellen experiences a bit of fame and those effects, both good and bad. She learns several lessons along the way, about fame, attention, bragging, and friendship.

Shortly before summer vacation starts, Dad brings home a silver spaceship of a surprise – The 1955 Airstream trailer. The whole family goes West and explores much of the American landscape. Maryellen gets caught in the middle of gathering ideas for a science contest, the dog getting loose, figuring out whether or not her sister Joan really wants to get married, and more.

One of Maryellen’s excellent traits is coming up with great, practical ideas, especially in times of adversity. Because of this, she’s able to help her mother, father, sister Joan, and unites her girl friends and boy friends together to form an amazing science contest team.

The two stories blend very well together. They transported me from my home in Virginia straight to Daytona Beach, the Alamo, Old Faithful, and back to Daytona Beach. I could visualize everything, and almost smell certain smells.

In the future, I plan to explore the two other books in the Maryellen collection: The Sky’s The Limit: My Journey with Maryellen (Choose-your-own-adventure), and The Finders-Keepers Rule (Historical Character Mystery).

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂