Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Frameshift by Robert J. Sawyer
Tor, 1997
paperback, 343 pages
ISBN: 0812571088
medical science fiction
highly recommended

From the cover:
This is the story of Pierre Tardivel, a scientist, and his complex battle against a deadly illness, an ex-Nazi war criminal still hiding in the U.S., a crooked insurance company, and a plot to make Pierre and his wife the victims of a bizarre genetic experiment. Frameshift is hard science fiction at its best, full of complications and neat surprises

Winner of the Seiun Award (Japan) and a finalist for the Hugo Award.
My thoughts:

Frameshift was a very entertaining enjoyable medical science fiction thriller from Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer. The plot threads were well planned and executed, the writing is good, the character development is strong. Even though it was originally published in 1997, the science held together remarkably well. There might be some quibbles to be found in the portrayal of how health insurance works in the U.S., and a few unnecessary scenes, but I felt that these were minor in comparison to everything Sawyer did right. This was my first Robert Sawyer novel and I plan to look for more. Highly recommended


It seemed an unlikely place to die.
During the academic year, twenty-three thousand full-time students milled about the well-treed grounds of the University of California Berkeley. But on this cool June night, the campus was mostly empty. opening

"Exactly," replied Pierre. "Klimus wants perfection, and I guess he's entitled to it. But the whole point of the Human Genome Project is to find out what makes us human, and humans sometimes make mistakes." pg. 4

The punk had a bowie knife in his right hand. It was difficult to make out in the darkness except for the reflection of the streetlamps off the fifteen-inch blade. He was holding it underhanded, as if he'd intended to thrust it up into Pierre's back. pg. 6

"Why would a neo-Nazi be after me?" said Pierre, into the darkness. He exhale noisily. "Hell, why would anyone go to the trouble of trying to kill me? After all..." He trailed off, the English sentence already formed in his mind, but deciding not to give it voice.
But Molly could tell what he had been about to say, and she drew him closer to her, holding him tightly.
After all, Pierre Tardivel had thought, I'll probably be dead soon anyway. pg. 10

He was a monster.
A devil.
Evil incarnate.
His first name was Ivan. His last name was unknown, and so the Jews dubbed him Ivan the Terrible. He had arrived at the camp a year before, in July 1942. pg. 15

"Huntington's is carried on a dominant gene," said Dr. Laviolette to Pierre, in French. "You have precisely a fifty-fifty chance of getting it." pg. 27

At the age of thirty-two, Pierre was appointed a distinguished postdoctoral fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, situated on a hilltop above the University of California, Berkeley. He was assigned to the Human Genome Project, the international attempt to map and sequence all the DNA that makes up a human being. pg. 52

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Tsunami by Gordon Gumpertz
Durban House Press, 2008
trade paperback, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781930754805
not recommended

Synopsis from cover:
Deep in the mid-Pacific an ancient undersea volcano comes to life. Leading scientists predict the volcano will subside and go dormant, but seismologist Dr. Leilani Sanches is alarmed. Her advanced computer model shows the volcano will build to a monster explosion and trigger a tsunami massive enough to wipe out the Southern California coast.....
Coast Guard Commander Dave Steel believes she is right and becomes her ally in a race against time. Leilani and Dave meet the violence of nature and the violence of their enemies head on....
My Thoughts:

One would think that a novel about a underwater volcano potentially erupting and causing a huge tsunami to hit the Southern California coast would be enough subject matter for any novelist to tackle. Gumpertz, however, decided that was not the case.The science at the beginning deceived me into thinking the whole novel would be just as good. Hint: it's not. This is because he chose to introduce other competing plot threads and some romance problems that basically took over most of the novel, ruining a book that started out strong. (Apparently, Durban House, the publisher of this title, may be a vanity press.) Really, the big moment a reader of any book called Tsunami is anticipating was basically treated almost like an after thought compared to the attention given to the other, frankly insipid plot threads.
I was going to give Tsunami a so-so rating, but honestly it's not recommended.


The container ship Moro Prince, bound from Manila to Los Angeles, had enjoyed three days of smooth sailing. opening

"Let's take a look." Lani clicked the mouse and replaced the satellite view with a full-color, real-time simulation of Seamount Gilman, the undersea volcano. The equipment hummed while she and Gus studied the computer-generated model of the volcano, the ocean around it, and the ground beneath. Everything seemed to be playing out as her hypothesis predicted. The worse could happen. pg. 4

"I know you were a star at Princeton when you came to SciPac for your PhD. But you're inexperienced and you're not a trained oceanographer or volcanologist. You simply don't have the background that gives me a high degree of confidence in this theory of yours." pg. 6

Lani said, "when we go down tomorrow, I'll be looking for fissures and major cracking along the side of the mountain. Bulging or other signs of weakness. See if there's lava flow as well as ash, and whether it's coming out of the top or a hole in the side." pg. 19

"They can be bought like anybody else. With the kind of money we're offering, no problem. The governor and the mayors of all the beach cities are going to release statements saying everything's okay. When we get through with her, Leilani Sanches is gonna wish she was back on the beach doing the hula hula." pg. 42

"We've got to stop the flow," said the other FBI man, Assistant Director Albert Lewis. "Otherwise there'll be a lot more dead cops." He pulled a small black gun out of his pocket and placed it on Admiral Carson's desk. "Here's one of the little b*stards. Deadliest street weapon we've ever come across." pg. 46

Rear Window

Rear Window
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter

This weeks Summer of Hitchcock movie at MyFriendAmysBlog.

Rear Window is brilliant. The casting and dialogue are impeccable. Limiting the set to the apartment courtyard and keeping the camera angle always from Jeffries room (with only a couple of exceptions at the end) is masterful. It really gives you the feeling you are Jeffries, the bored photographer with a broken leg who is stuck in his claustrophobic apartment and becomes a voyeur, watching the secret, private world of neighbors for entertainment. And it begs the question, what do we really know about our neighbors. Even though it is a murder mystery too, we never see anything gruesome, just clues that point to what might have happened. After watching it numerous times, the climax of Rear Window continues to be suspenseful. The timing was perfect.

James Stewart as Jeffries, Grace Kelly as Lisa, Thelma Ritter as Stella and Wendell Corey as Lt. Doyle. Rear Window earned Hitchcock an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

When, at college orientation they asked the students what was their favorite movie lots of them answered some inane recently released movie that is already basically forgotten. Wonder Boy answered Rear Window and unfortunately received a bunch of weird, confused looks.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


As a child the concept of a “hometown” was lost on me. My family moved around way too much for it to make sense. It’s an idea that is also lost on my children. My son, Wonder Boy, said the other day that on campus when people talk about their hometown he just can’t grasp the concept of how people can be so devoted to one place. I’d have to say I agree with him.

Years ago, when my family moved to a new city and we were visiting churches, I had a particular Sunday school teacher ask me “Where is your hometown?” I didn’t understand the question. I thought she meant to ask my birthplace, so I answered with the name of the city where I was born. It was that “hometown” label that threw me since at that point I had already lived in four other cities. Certainly, from my point of view, she should have asked where I lived, which was in the city where the church was located.

Of course, always moving did mean we were often the new kids. I really never found it to be a problem at school (until we moved to the small town where I went to high school.) Often it was being the new kid at whatever church we decided to attend that caused the most problems. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case, but there it is. For example a Bible was given to all 6th graders from one church. In mine they spelled my last name wrong. That was a wee bit hurtful. In the Bible I can see my correction inked in boldly. Sometimes I felt like the church kids were the cruelest kids. Sometimes it was because they were jealous that we had lived other places. Since my husband also experienced this as a child moving from Southern California to the upper Midwest, we have always been hypersensitive to how our kids feel and are treated in a church. Just because it’s good for the adults doesn’t mean the kids just need to adjust.

Now my mother (who has a hometown) has always said that the town we were living in when I graduated from high school would consider themselves my hometown. I refuse to allow those people to claim me since I don’t particularly like them. (See the information on my last reunion.) Living in that town was never a good idea. It was even bad when, married, we moved back to the area with our kids. Now they have bad memories of that same town.

A certain national news anchor used to call this same town his hometown although apparently he had also moved around and lived in even smaller, less impressive places. As far as I can tell, as his career was progressing he had to claim it or some place worse. When I was in high school the town was all abuzz because he was going to have a news crew come film at the high school and the town would be mentioned on a national program. The sad truth was that in the nationally televised program he made fun of the town and it’s people. He no longer wanted to be reminded of the roots he once claimed. I think now that he’s older he has made his peace with it.

Just Me, my daughter, thinks that sometimes when people have been born and always lived in one place it can potentially make them rather ethnocentric and narrow minded. They also usually think that where they live is the greatest place upon the face of the planet. As a family when we discuss our moving around we always have viewed it as a positive. I think it has made us more open to seeing different customs and cultural influences and as a result has made us more accepting of different people. It’s also help us notice some of the odd little local or regional words and word usage. For example “spaghetti” as in “bring spaghetti for a spaghetti dinner” means bring any kind of pasta in one area. A “tavern” is a sloppy joe in another. (In a church cookbook from that area the humor I find in the title of the recipe “taverns for 50” is lost on them.)

My current town is not where I’ll be living for much longer. We simple rented a house in this rather centrally located place to give us time to decide where we want to buy a house. It’s an OK place to live. The neighborhood is safe and there are plenty of places to walk the dogs. It has very hard water though, and the yard isn’t fenced so we have to always walk the dogs. I know I don’t want to buy a house in this town. I’d rather either move into a city or out in the country. I guess I’m easy to please in some ways.

I’m not entirely sure if our footloose attitude is healthy or not. Certainly I would say we are grounded. We know who we are and what we believe. We also tend to see positives and negatives in every place we’ve live. In some ways moving to different cities as a family, along with homeschooling, has kept us tight as a family. It’s also very likely encouraged us to view wherever we are living as a specimen - something to observe and dissect but not necessarily embrace whole-heartedly.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Broadway Books edition 1998, copyright 1990
trade paperback, 246 pages
ISBN-13: 9780767902892
short stories
highly recommended

From the Publisher
One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with such care, emotional content, and prosaic precision that it could stand on its own.

My Thoughts:

The Things they Carried contains elements of a memoir, and a novel about the Vietnam War. Some of this group of collected short stories are fiction, some non-fiction. Many of the stories can stand alone as short stories, but all of them are interconnected. I found the title piece to be the strongest, but there were other selections that were also quite haunting. Highly Recommended


First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. opening

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together these items weighed between 15 and 20 pounds, depending upon a man's habits or rate of metabolism. pg. 2

Kiowa, a devout Baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother's distrust of the white man, his grandfather's old hunting hatchet." pg. 3

They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried. pg. 7

They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak. They carried infections. pg.14

They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing - these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture. They carried their reputations. They carried the soldiers greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. pg. 21

Many years after the war Jimmy Cross came to visit me at my home in Massachusetts, and for a full day we drank coffee and smoked cigarettes and talked about everything we had seen and done so long ago, all the things we still carried through our lives. pg. 27

If you weren't humping, you were waiting. I remember the monotony. Digging foxholes. Slapping mosquitoes. The sun and the heat and endless paddies. Even in the deep bush, where you could die any number of ways, the war was nakedly and aggressively boring. But it was a strange boredom. It was boredom with a twist, the kind of boredom that caused stomach disorders. pg. 34

By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths, You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened....and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain. pg. 158

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michelle Kerns, Book Examiner, has written another great article:

Go read the complete article!

Quoted Highlights:

"For all the wishy-washy, touchy-feely gobbeldy-gook that gets thrown about when discussing books, the business of writing quality literature -- or writing anything worth reading, period -- is governed by the same rock-solid, no-nonsense rules that govern the mastery of any art form:
1. Expose yourself to the masters.
2. Learn what they did to achieve their effects.
3. Learn how to do it yourself.
4. Practice.
5. Repeat.
THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO BECOME PROFICIENT IN YOUR ART, whether you're talking about becoming a musician or a painter or a sculptor or a macrame expert. "

"Now, you tell me -- do you honestly think that a high school English class that is focusing its attention on the emotional ramifications of drug use or how tough life is as a homosexual in a heterosexual world is going to produce more proficient readers and writers?
The purpose of a high school English class should be this, and this alone: to produce young readers that are familiar with Western civilization's major authors and their works, to aquaint them with the main aspects of the various literary movements throughout literary history, and to teach them the specific techniques these authors used to produce their greatest works."

"ANY English class that is diluted by a political or social science agenda is going to suffer, and, I guarantee you, it isn't going to be the social science aspect that suffers. The end result will be high school graduates that go tripping off to college lacking the English literature foundation they sorely need. This isn't just a shameful failure of the public school system -- it's a travesty."

"Do I think that there should be much MORE attention paid to classic authors in a high school English class? Yes. Do I think that the Chapman High School English classes were being hijacked by an agenda that did NOT include proficiency in English literature? Oh, hell, yes."

"There's plenty of time for drugs and sex and what-have-you. That period of time in a young person's life is officially known as College. Until they get there though, and are out from under the sheltering umbrella of the coerced taxpayer, their training should be 100% agenda-free: the math class should be just math; the music class, just music; and the English class? Just the writing, ma'am. Just the writing. And if you're reading the right stuff, that's all you need."

Really, go read Michelle Kerns!

Summer People

Summer People by Brian Groh
HarperCollins Publishers, 2007
trade paperback, 311 pages
ISBN-13: 9780061209970
contemporary fiction

From the Publisher:
Nathan Empson has just accepted the most unusual summer job of his life. In exchange for serving as a "caretaker” for Ellen Broderick, the eccentric matriarch of an exclusive coastal community, he'll earn a generous paycheck and gain access to one of the last bastions of old New England wealth. But not everyone in town is welcoming—or even civil. And while he discovers companionship with a philosophical, ex-punk Episcopalian pastor, and more than companionship with the alluring nanny to the pastor's children, Nathan finds it increasingly difficult to ignore his employer's unnerving behavior. With each escalating mishap, a new aspect of Ellen's colorful past comes to light, exposing the secret lives of her old friends, flames, and enemies, as well as the story behind a scandalous incident Nathan must prevent her from repeating. Yet to sound the alarm about her condition would mean leaving his beachside oasis and the romance that may well change him forever.
My Thoughts:

Groh is actually a fairly good writer but he just didn't have all the elements together here to make this a fairly good book. This is an easy to read, totally forgettable novel. The characters are not developed and the plot fell flat. Not one character is likeable. The synopsis from the publisher makes Summer People sound much more interesting than it actually is - there really is no huge, secret revelation. What there is is an excessive number of rum and Cokes and a shallow twenty-something experiencing a large helping of teenage angst. It is an adequate debut novel. So-So


In the morning, Nathan awoke and discovered Ellen was not in her room. Her bed was clumsily made, the blue comforter pulled over rumpled white sheets, and her closet door stood wide open. opening

"Are you visiting someone here?" The man had a long, patrician face and unnaturally white teeth.
Nathan admitted, "I'm kind of helping out for Ellen Broderick this summer."
"Is that right? So she made it back. Well, good for her. She's doing okay?"
There was more in the man's question than a casual inquiry. But, distracted, Nathan answered, "Yeah, she seems like she's doing all right." pg. 3

By world standards, Nathan supposed his own middle-class existence was a life of comfort and opportunity enjoyed by only a fortunate minority, and he did not dislike Ellen....But Ellen had lived a life of comfort and opportunity enjoyed by a still smaller minority - a minority in which Nathan was not included - and in his gut he could not help but carry a dark kernel of resentment toward her. pg. 14

For the first time he saw the dilemma that would plague him for the rest of the summer: was he a caregiver, in which case he could soon walk back inside and suggest that perhaps it was time for Ellen to go to bed? Or was he just a chauffeur/cook, in which case he would just leave her talking with her friends? Neither job description seemed accurate, and as much as Nathan blamed himself for not nailing down his summer duties, he also blamed his father. pg. 17

Nathan took a few steps closer to her and said, "Listen, I'm sorry if there's been a mix-up. If you invited me thinking I was someone else, and now want to...you know...if you don't feel comfortable having me on your boat, I guess I understand that." pg. 35

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Short History of a Prince

The Short History of a Prince by Jane Hamilton
Random House, 1998
trade paperback, 349 pages
ISBN-13: 9780965058056
contemporary literature
highly recommended

From the Publisher
Walter McCloud is a boy with dreams unlike most. Introduced as a child to the genius of Balanchine and the lyricism of Tchaikovsky, Walter has always aspired to be a dancer. As he grows older, it becomes clear that despite his desire, he lacks the talent, and he faces the painful knowledge that his more gifted friends have already surpassed him.
Soon, however, that pain is overshadowed when his older brother, Daniel, finds a strange lump on his neck and Walter realizes that a happy family can change overnight. The year that follows transforms the McClouds, as they try to hold together in the face of the fearful consequences of Daniel's illness, and Walter makes discoveries about himself and his friendships that will change him forever.
Decades later, after Walter has left home and returned, he must come to terms with the memories of that year, and grapple once and for all with the challenge of carving out a place for himself in this all-too-familiar world.
A moving story of the torments of sexuality and the redemptive power of family and friendship, The Short History of a Prince confirms Jane Hamilton's place as a preeminent novelist of our time.
My Thoughts:

The chapters in The Short History of a Prince switch back and forth between two decades in Walter's life. Following the school year, the book covers 1972-73 when he was a sophomore year in high school and 1995-96 when he teaches English at a small-town Midwest high school. This is a coming of age story interspersed with a grown man coming to terms with a turbulent year in his past and his connection to his extended family. During much of the 1972-73 school year, Walter's brother Daniel is dying. At the same time Walter is hanging out with his friends from ballet, Susan and Mitch, and accepting his own homosexuality. Jane Hamilton is an excellent writer, and this book is no exception in highlighting her skills, but reviewers seem all over the map on this book. Part of this could be due to the fact that the main character is gay. If this will bother you, do not read The Short History of a Prince. Highly recommended - unless the subject matter will bother you.


Why Walter woke up earlier than usual on August 10, Saturday, he couldn't explain. opening

He was often assigning meaning to moments, saying, Here, and here, and here is a beginning, the opening sequence of my real life. He was fifteen and he he was ready for drama even if he had to construct it himself. Ideally he'd take the part of the unlikely hero, or the witty and cunning rescuer, or the artist who is at first misunderstood. Pg. 4

They had to go. aunt Jeannie had asked for his help, and Joyce had made the lime Jell-O in the doughnut molds, the orange Jell-O in the fish molds, the deviled eggs, a ham and a kettle of baked beans." pg. 6

She always watched over the McClouds' house when they were gone. It was not a hardship for her, no more devotion required to watch and empty house than a full one. pg. 9

He loved the kitchen where the aunts and nieces held on with an iron grip to the Lake Margaret etiquette, as well as to their positions, based on relations, many of which went back to their birth orders and the petty squabbles of childhood. There was only one bowl that melon balls could be served in, no sympathy for the sister-in-law who didn't know better and brought out the orange platter. Aunt Jeannie was obsessive about the refrigerator, and she defrosted it compulsively, guarding the appliance as if it were a beloved feverish animal, the wet cloths like bandages dripping down the shelves. pg. 16

"Does everyone do this?" Susan whispered to Walter. "Replay their wedding?"
He moved closer to her so he could speak right into her ear. "No, not everyone does this after twenty-five years of marriage. It's optional. I think it's like those Civil War reenactments. You get to dress up, fire your musket, have a bonfire, run around. It's for fun, I think."
"But it's sort of beautiful. It's not only reliving their day of glory, but it's -"
"A way for Aunt Jeannie to prove that she's thinner than everyone else her age and has a great hairdresser." pg. 24

Through his twenties and thirties, Walter had worked at a dollhouse shop on the Upper East Side in New York City, selling furniture and house kits, and teaching his customers how to install the dinkiest marble tile, hardwood for floors, period molding and slate shingles. pg. 31

He watched her gather their towels, plastic shovels, buckets, trucks and wet suits, compressing what was strewn over the lawn into one beach bag. Mothers, he thought, had the ability to rake up possessions and compact them, making the whole load portable. pg. 41

He wanted to talk to Lucy not because he wished to cast a golden light on his past but because finally, in his premature middle age, he was afraid. Afraid, he guessed, of life itself. He was afraid of the boys who sat in their bedrooms in the glow of their computer screens, communing in sentence fragments with people they would never meet. When he thought of all those little zombies his stomach hurt. So many people seduced by a technology that bred impatience and greed. What was good, what stood the test of time and had value, was being thrown out and replaced with a perpetual present that was slick and speedy and shallow. pg. 49

Monday, June 22, 2009


Neanderthal by John Darnton
St. Martin's Press, 1997
mass market paperback, 397 pages
ISBN-13: 9780312963002

Not since Jurassic Park has a novel so enthralled readers everywhere. Now, enter the world of Neanderthal...
The expedition of the century...uncovers the find of the millennium...Neanderthal.
In the remote mountains of central Asia, an eminent Harvard archeologist discovers something extraordinary. He sends a cryptic message to two colleagues. But then, he disappears.
Matt Mattison and Susan Arnot-- once lovers, now academic rivals-- are going where few humans have ever walked, looking for a relic band of creatures that have existed for over 40,000 years, that possess powers man can only imagine, and that are about to change the face of civilization forever.
My thoughts:

Neanderthals are still alive and living in the mountains of Tadjikistan. Matt Morrison and Susan Arnot set forth on an expedition to find their mentor who has disappeared on a previous expedition. The scientific information on Neanderthals is dated, but it doesn't have to prevent you from enjoying the book because it's fiction... unless you are an anthropologist or archeologist. Then you might have trouble with the science. Please be warned that this is not comparable to Jurassic Park. It's not that good. What it is, however, is a good vacation read, fast paced and entertaining. You can skim over the clumsy sex scenes that add nothing to the plot. Actually, you can quickly skim over several parts, including evolution discussions, and just follow the action. Recommended


Akbar Atilla rested his AK-47 against a tree trunk and moved away from the campfire in search of a place to relieve himself. opening

Suddenly, at thirty-eight, Matt had become conscious of time. He chided himself for hypocrisy in romance; all the games, the stabs at mystery, the flirtatious routines he had perfected over the years like a politician's hollow patter now struck him as vapid. Only once had he been able to strip away all that pretense, years ago. And that he had messed up. pg. 8

Susan Arnot's class on prehistoric man was one of the most popular at the University of Wisconsin, even though she was known as a tough grader. There was always an extra thrill in taking a course from someone who was well known in the field, especially someone controversial, whose theories had shaken up the establishment. And of course she was something of a campus sex symbol. pg. 9

Dr. Kellicut has been abroad in Tajikistan on an exciting project that we are sponsoring. The project is of the utmost importance to the scientific community and to the field of paleontology and prehistoric research in particular. He has not been heard from in several months, aside form a message that he sent to you through us and which we are holding for you. The message is in the nature of a summons, which we are convinced you will want to respond to favorably once you know the facts. I am afraid I must add that we have grounds to believe that Dr. Kellicut's life is in danger. pg. 18

Matt still had not recovered from the shock of seeing the skull. He still couldn't bring himself to believe it was twenty-five years old; that was something simply too incredible....that a Neanderthal could survive into the twentieth century... pg. 42

I also read about 10 pages of Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley and gave up.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams

This weeks Summer of Hitchcock movie at MyFriendAmysBlog.

Dial M for Murder was released the same year as Rear Window, and both dramas play out in one room. The difference is that Dial M for Murder feels much more like a play. While next week's movie, Rear Window, feels claustrophobic (and apparently was supposed to) Dial M for Murder never does. We know what happened. The tension is in following the visual suggestions and clues. Wonder Boy also felt Dial M for Murder had close plot tie ins with Hitchcock's The Rope.

Summer Lovin' Challenge

I'm going to participate in the
Summer Lovin' Challenge

(Follw the link for the rules)

Challenge starts June 21, 2009 and Ends September 21, 2009.

Right now I'm planning to reread:
Watership Down
All 5 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books
and maybe some others, LOL!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Die for You

Die for You by Lisa Unger
Shaye Areheart Books, June 2009
hardcover, 353 pages
ISBN-13: 9780307393975
highly recommended

From the Publisher
Isabel Raine thought she had everything–a successful career, a supportive family, and a happy marriage to the man she loved. Then one ordinary morning, her husband, Marcus, picks up his briefcase, kisses her good-bye, and simply vanishes.

That day, all her calls to him go straight to voice mail; the messages she leaves at his office go unreturned, too. Panicking after finally receiving a call from his cell phone in which all she can hear is a man’s terrified cry, Isabel calls the police. But they aren’t interested. Men leave, they tell her. They leave all the time. Desperate to find her husband, Isabel races to his office. But instead of finding him, she finds herself in the middle of an FBI raid. Hours later, she awakens in the hospital with a severe concussion and a homicide detective by her bedside waiting to question her about Marcus Raine–the real Marcus Raine.

Now the only thing Isabel knows for sure is that her husband of five years is gone. Where is he and who is he are questions no one seems able to answer. But Isabel will not rest until she discovers the truth about the man she loves, even if it means risking everything–including her own life.

Bestselling author Lisa Unger takes us on a nightmarish journey from bustling, glamorous New York City to the murky, twisted streets of Prague, seeking the answer to one bone-chilling question: What if the man you love, the one sleeping beside you, is a stranger?
My thoughts:

Unger is one talented writer. I enjoyed Die for You in part because of her writing and how deftly she revealed all the flaws her characters had and the secrets they were all hiding. It nicely supported the exploration of the theme - how well do we really know the people closest to us? She also did a great job in setting the place and atmosphere. The story is told from various character's points of view. I really liked and truly understood the observations Unger had through Izzy (Isabel) in the book about how writers see events differently from other people. (I often told my high school art students that they needed to learn to see because artists see things differently.) I'm now going to be looking for her novel Blackout.
Die for You is highly recommended.

A huge "Thank You" needs to be given to Jen. I won my signed copy of Die for You from her blog giveaway.


A light snow falls, slowly coating the deep-red rooftops of Prague. I look up into a chill gunmetal sky as the gray stones beneath me are already disappearing under a blanket of white. There's a frigid hush over the square. opening

"Why are you doing this?" I ask him.
He comes closer, the muted sound of his footfalls bouncing off the buildings around us.
"Why?" I scream, voice echoing. But his is impervious, his face expressionless, as though I've never meant anything to him. pg. 4

The last time I saw my husband, he had a tiny teardrop of raspberry jam in the blond hairs of his goatee. pg. 7

But then he'd always felt that way, even as a child, even in his native home. Always apart, watching. He accepted this as a natural condition of his life, without a trace of unhappiness about it or any self-pity.Isabel had always understood this about him; as a writer, she was in a similar position. You can't really observe, unless you stand apart. pg. 10

As they pulled into traffic, a line from the The Prophet came back to Marcus: "It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands." Marcus could feel the life he'd been living shifting, fading. With every city block they passed, he left a gauzy sliver of himself behind. The strand that connected him to Isabel, he felt it pull taut and then snap. pg. 15

All the initial panic I'd felt when Marcus didn't come home, the shock and dread that gripped me after the horrifying phone call, had drained. At this point, I was stunned, bleeding out by the side of the road. pg. 23

One of my top ten most dreaded sentences: Your sister is such a treasure, followed by the pregnant silence in which the subtext So, what happened to you? might easily be inferred. pg. 43

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
by J. Maarten Troost
Bantam Books, 2004
trade paperback, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780767915304
humorous travelogue
Very Highly Recommended

From the Publisher
At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is “La Macarena.” He and his stalwart girlfriend Sylvia spend the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options (including the Great Beer Crisis); and contending with a bizarre cast of local characters, including “Half-Dead Fred” and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who’s never written a poem in his life).

With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples of American civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.
My Thoughts:

The Sex Lives of Cannibals is hilarious. This is the adventures of Troost and his girlfriend who go to live on the atoll Tarawa in the Pacific. It is more a humorous reflection on what lead up to their decision to move to Tarawa and their subsequent adventures living there than an actual travelogue, but there are some good insights and information in the book. I actually appreciated Troost's sense of humor more than Bill Bryson's. He is funny, often in a lighthearted, self-deprecating way. Troost can find humor in the most mundane daily tasks. The chapter titles are long, descriptive, and funny. By the way, cannibals are briefly mentioned as well as sex, but nothing approaching both of the two subject together. Very Highly Recommended - one of the best


Chapter 1 In which the Author expresses some Dissatisfaction with the State of his Life, ponders briefly prior Adventures and Misfortunes, and with the aid of his Beguiling Girlfriend, decides to Quit the Life that is known to him and make forth with all Due Haste for Parts Unknown:

One day, I moved with my girlfriend Sylvia to an atoll in the Equatorial Pacific. The atoll was called Tarawa, and should a devout believer in a flat earth ever alight upon its meager shore, he (or she) would have to accept that he (or she) had reached the end of the world. Even cartographers relegate Tarawa either to the abyss of the crease or to the far periphery of the map, assigning to the island a kindly dot that still manages to greatly exaggerate its size. At the time, I could think of no better destination than this heat-blasted sliver of coral. Tarawa was the end of the world, and for two years it became the center of mine. opening

Let me say at the top here that I didn't have a particularly good reason for moving to Tarawa. There was nothing Quaker-ish, Thoreau-ish, Gauguin-ish (as you wish) about my taking a little leave from Western civilization, which I thought was fine mostly, particularly as manifested in certain parts of Italy. True, I had worries. News You Can Use, the peculiar link between consumption and identity, professional athletes who strike, Cokie Roberts, the Lazarus-like resuscitations of Geraldo Rivera's career, and the demise of the Washington Redskins as a team to be reckoned with all gave me pause and even some anxiety regarding the general course of Western society. However, these issues seemed insufficient to justify a renunciation of continental comfort. I was simply restless, quite likely because of a dissatisfaction with the recent trajectory of my life, and if there is a better, more compelling reason for dropping everything and moving to the end of the world, I know not what it is. pg. 2

And so after six years of exceedingly expensive, private school tertiary education combined with the amassment of some interesting and potentially job-relevant experiences elsewhere in the world, I became a minimum-wage temp, an experience that need not be recounted with much detail, though I will note that to be a temp is to have all the illusions and conceits of youth shattered, which was useful and necessary though disagreeable. pg. 6

"A story is like a car trip," tutored my editor. "You, the writer, are the car that takes readers from point A to B to C without leaving the road." As careful readers may have already surmised, I favor the ditches of digression. pg. 10

The word Kiribati, pronounced kir-ee-bas on account of the missionaries being stingy with the letters they used to transcribe the language, is derived from the word Gilberts, which is the name of one of the three island groups that comprise this improbable nation. Located just a notch above the equator and five thousand miles from anywhere, Tarawa is the capital of this country of thirty -three atolls scattered over an ocean area as large as the continental United States. The total landmass of these islands is about three hundred square miles, roughly the size of the greater Baltimore metropolitan area, though I believe it halves at high tide. pg. 15

Like many air travelers, I am aware that airplanes fly aided by capricious fairies and invisible strings. Typically, this causes me some concern. pg. 21

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Dead and the Gone

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2008
Hardcover, 321 pages
ISBN-13: 9780152063115
Young Adult, science fiction
very highly recommended

From the Publisher
Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.
With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.
My thoughts:

In The Dead and the Gone Pfeffer returns to the disaster that happened in Life As We Knew It. In fact, this is a strong companion novel to the story set in a different location so I'd suggest reading Life As We Knew It before The Dead and the Gone. In The Dead and the Gone we follow Alex Morales's struggles through his eyes by dated prose rather than the journal entries found in Life As We Knew It. I do appreciate the fact that the Morales' family are strong Catholics so we get to see how they rely on their faith in God as they struggle in NYC to simply live from day to day. Although I felt this was just as strong as her first novel, some of the suspense is lessened because you know it's going to get bad. Also, even though Pfeffer made sure Alex said the doors to apartments in NYC were steel, etc. to explain why they didn't break into other apartments looking for food, I kept thinking that a sledge hammer can do wonders and could they have gone through some walls if necessary. As in the first book, some details require you to suspend reality, which is acceptable because it's a YA novel. very highly recommended


At the moment when life as he had known it changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey’s Pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces. opening

But as Alex raced across Broadway, fire engines and ambulances screamed down the avenue with no concern for traffic lights, and he began to wonder what was going on. Turning onto Eighty-eighth Street, he saw clusters of people standing in front of their apartment buildings. There was no laughter, though, no fighting. Some of the people pointed to the sky, but when Alex looked upward, all he saw was cloud cover. One well-dressed woman stood by herself weeping. Then, as Alex walked down the short flight of outdoor steps to his family’s basement apartment, the electricity went out. pg. 3-4

"Not moonspots," Briana said. "But the moon was supposed to get hit tonight by an asteroid or something. One of my teachers mentioned it. She was going to a meteor party in Central Park to watch."
"Yeah, I heard about that at school, too," Alex said. "But I still don’t see why an asteroid would knock out the electricity. Or why Mami would be called to the hospital." pg. 5

"Some big thing hit the moon last night, a planet or a comet or something. And it knocked the moon out of whack. It's closer to Earth now. Tidal waves. Flooding, blackouts, panic." pg. 9

"Things'll work out," Alex said. "Give the scientists some time and they'll figure out what to do."
"This is too big for the scientists," Lorraine said. "Only God can save us now."
"Then He will," Alex said. pg. 13

It took about fifteen minutes of terrible news around the country before the newscasters began focusing on New York. Alex sat there, absolutely still, the sound so low he could barely hear. The words and pictures assaulted him anyway. Horrific loss of life. Lower Manhattan decimated. Staten Island, Long Island devastated. Blackouts, looting, riots. Curfew between 8 PM and 6 AM. Tides twenty feet tall, sweeping away people, trees, even buildings. Mandatory evacuations. Plane crashes. Countless numbers of people dead in subways and in cars from tunnel flooding. pg. 21

And he reminded himself, New York always survived. It had to. The United States, the whole world, couldn't manage without it. It might take a while, and there might be a lot of politicking involved, but eventually New York bounced back from any misfortune. He lived in the greatest city in the world, and what made it great was it's people. He was a Puerto Rican New Yorker, strong by birth and by upbringing." pg. 23-24

Monday, June 15, 2009


Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, December 2008
ISBN-13: 9780399155161
Hardcover, 512 pages
Kay Scarpetta Series #16
not recommended

From Publishers Weekly
At the start of bestseller Cornwell's plodding 16th thriller to feature Dr. Kay Scarpetta (after Book of the Dead), the forensic pathologist-who recently relocated to Belmont, Mass., with her forensic psychologist husband-is called to Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital for reasons that don't become clear until she gets there. Oscar Bane, who voluntarily committed himself to Bellevue while denying he brutally murdered his girlfriend, refuses to speak to anyone except the high-profile Scarpetta. Bane, Scarpetta discovers, is obsessed with her. Meanwhile, someone masquerading as Scarpetta is lurking in cyberspace and supplying an online gossip site with dirty secrets about the doctor. For help on the murder case, Scarpetta turns to her computer whiz niece and a macho former colleague whose shocking actions in Book of the Dead severely damaged his relationship with Scarpetta. With a plot full of holes and frustrating red herrings, this entry falls short of the high standard set by earlier volumes in this iconic series. (Dec.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
My thoughts:

I've been a fan of Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series from the beginning, but Scarpetta may well signal the end of my reading the series. The last two books, at least, have not been up to the high standards Cornwell originally set in the series. The books at the beginning of the series are highly recommended, but it just seems like they have been slowly degenerating. I had to actually force myself to finish Scarpetta - not a good sign. Even for those of us familiar with the series, the characters come across as one-dimensional here. The plot moved unbelievable slowly. The ultimate ending was a disappointment since I guessed what was going on long before the conclusion. Many fans of the character Kay Scarpetta will likely overlook any problems with this latest addition to the series, but I simply can't. I'm sorry to say that Scarpetta is Not Recommended, although fans of the series might be likely to consider this a so-so effort.


Brain tissue clung like wet, gray lint to the sleeves of Dr. Kay Scarpetta's surgical gown, and the front of it was splashed with blood. opening

On the prison-ward floor of the modern Bellevue Hospital Center, the thin wire of Benton's headset connected him to his wife some hundred and fifty miles away. He explained that late last night a man was admitted to the forensic psychiatric unit, making the point, "Berger wants you to examine his injuries." pg. 4-5

Feeling the desire to hire someone she'd known since the early days of her career was understandable, Benton had said. But the danger in looking back was that we saw only what we wanted to see, he'd added. We saw what made us feel safe. pg. 9

"My advice to you is to make yourself scarce until Kay's back in Massachusetts," Morales said. "She doesn't need any more stress, you hear me, bro? And what I don't want is next time we call her in for assistance, she says no because of you. We don't need her quitting her position at John Jay, quitting as a consultant because of you. Then Benton would quit next, if he wants to keep the wife happy. So we lose both of them because of you." pg. 37

A department of corrections officer had the solid, silent presence of the Rockies as he stood near the wall, allowing her space to work, but close enough to intervene should Oscar become violent, which seemed unlikely. He was frightened. He'd been crying. pg. 39

Wonder Boy (informally) and I are doing MyFriendAmy’s Summer of Hitchcock. This week's discussion is on North by Northwest, one of our favorites.

In other movie news, on Friday we finished up the Lord of the Rings marathon with nephews Movie Dude and Dragon Rider (formerly Cool Man).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beneath the Ice

Beneath the Ice by Alton Gansky
Barbour Publishing, 2004
trade paperback, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9781586606749
action/Christian fiction
Highly Recommended

Synopsis from cover:
In the world's most barren, desolate landscape an enigma beneath the ice is about to be revealed.
Perry Sachs, vice president and senior project manager for Sachs Engineering, is renowned for overcoming seemingly impossible challenges - those which others in his field deem insurmountable. But when Perry and his team are called to Antarctica for an excavation job, the scoreboard is reset - and it's anybody's game.
It's a game in which severe conditions, unexpected tragedy, unknown threats, and the rise of a mysterious adversary have escalated the stakes to a deadly level.
Can Perry's faith sustain him amidst forces intent on destruction? Can his team accomplish the unthinkable?
My Thoughts:

Beneath the Ice is better written than A Treasure Deep. Gansky appeared to have dropped his use of excessive similes. Although it curtailed my game of looking for them, it is for the best. This is the second book in Gansky's series of books featuring Perry Sachs, a sort of Christian Indiana Jones. In order to enjoy the book, you do need to accept some unbelievable premises, like a huge, all-encompassing world-wide conspiracy, and ignore some inaccurate technical details. And, as I mentioned in my review of A Treasure Deep, Perry and his top people need to stop mentioning they went to MIT. The academics in the story would mention what college or university they are affiliated with. Successful, confident men in their 30's with top positions in a major company don't. Highly Recommended


Dr. Harry Hearns struggled to place the plastic-coated electric lead into the tiny copper socket. He failed for the third time. anyplace else, an other time, this would have been a simple task, but this was not just any place or any time. opening

Russo was right. It looked like a building - and a large one at that. That was nonsense. It had to be. Researchers had found fossil trees and other plant life in Antarctica but nothing showing a human presence - and buildings were distinctly human things. pg. 11

"Dr. Griffin James, glaciologist, Ohio State - chief scientist."...
"Dr. Gwen James, biologist, University of California, San Diego."...
"Commander Trent Larimore, United States Navy."...
"Sarah Hardy, robotics, King's College, London....I'm with NASA."
"Jack Dyson, civil engineering, MIT..."
"Gleason Lane.... also MIT....computer science"
"Perry Sachs," Perry said. "Project director, Sachs Engineering, architecture, MIT." pgs 25-27

For decades EA Mining had been one of the most successful mining operations in the world; now it was second to none. That gave Enkian a large measure of pride. It also made him one of the richest men on the planet. pg. 38

When first presented with the difficulties of working in Antarctica, Perry assumed warmth and protection from wind and ultraviolet light would be the most important considerations. He had been wrong. The more he learned of Lake Vostok and the need to keep it uncontaminated, the more he realized sterility was the most difficult job before him. pg. 41

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Treasure Deep

A Treasure Deep by Alton L. Gansky
Barbour Publishing, 2003
paperback, 350 pages
ISBN-13: 9781593106706
Action, Christian fiction

Synopsis from back cover:
The wealth is unbelievable.
The impact on history immeasurable
The danger unimaginable.
And Perry Sachs is just the man for the job.
It started as an effort to save one man's life. It became a project more important than anything Perry Sachs has ever done. More significant than anything he ever could do in the future...
In a few hours he would return to the spot that very well might change the course of history. It would be dark by then, but that didn't matter. This was an around-the-clock operation.
My thoughts:

For the most part A Treasure Deep was a pleasant summer read. Perry Sachs is sort of like a Christian Indiana Jones, only he's a wealthy, well educated (more on that later) engineer. The story sets up a mystery and suspense right at the beginning.... and then it stalls out for most of the book. The action picks up again toward the end and there is a satisfying conclusion. Gansky did a great job showing a Christian living his faith without making the character seem false.

Gansky drove me crazy with his many similes like: "...Perry felt out of place, like a prune in a basket of oranges." (pg. 25). I also am quite tired of reading about how his whole team are MIT graduates. I'm currently reading another Gansky and he had his characters introduce themselves as their occupation and then MIT. Hint: Once people are successful professionals in their thirties and have a major position in a world-wide company, they normally don't say, for example, I'm ________, civil engineer, MIT, unless they have some really major insecurities or are incredible bores. At this point in his characters' careers they should be secure enough to simple state their area of expertise within the company. If Gansky really needs to let us know they all went to MIT, then he can add it. And he will.


His legs were on fire, the muscles mere kindling in a blast furnace of exertion. opening

He hopped once in a brave effort to distance himself from the criminal behind him and to protect the precious bundle in his arms. It was one hop too many. Dr. Jamison Henri fell to the wet, trash-littered alley. pg. 7

Henri shook his head. "Teacher. North Pacific Seminary. New Testament..." He seized again. A moment later he took a deep breath and said, "Take it. I have to trust you." He released his arms from around the leather case. "Let no one have it. Trust no one. Learn from it. Promise me. Learn from it. Protect it." pg.11-12

Doubts surfaced like a whale breaching and spouting. The odds that he was right were astronomical, the evidence he followed was thin, and the experts who agreed with him were zero. Still, he thought he was right, and more importantly, he felt he was right. pg. 16

"Looks like a chamber or something buried. I expected that. It's this that strikes me as odd." He ran his finger along a fuzzy streak on the page. pg. 27

"I may be crossing the line here," Brent said, "but what are we looking for? I mean, if that's not too much to ask."
Perry studies the young man for a moment then said, "Sorry, newbie. You're asking too much - at least for now." pg. 28

Monday, June 8, 2009

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition, May 2008
(originally published in 2006)
paperback, 349 pages
Young Adult novel
ISBN-13: 9780152061548
very highly recommended

Synopsis from back cover:
When a meteor hits the moon and knocks it closer in orbit to the earth, nothing will ever be the same. Worldwide tidal waves. Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. And that's just the beginning.
My thoughts:

This end of the world story is told through journal entries written by sixteen year old Miranda. As it begins, life is normal for Miranda, who is finishing up her sophomore year of high school, but then an asteroid hits the moon and her life dramatically changes. The true scope of the world wide apocalypse that a disaster like this would cause is dramatically modulated because we are viewing the horror through Miranda's journal entries. This is a very compelling, well written YA novel.

I have a few minor quibbles with the book. Some details require you to suspend reality, which is acceptable because it's a YA novel. The ending, while it works for the novel, would never happen in reality if a world wide catastrophe like this occurred. I must say I also didn't much appreciate Pfeffer inserting what I must imagine are her feelings toward Christianity and Republicans. While these digs are easy to overlook in the context of the novel, the book would have been fine without them. Alternately, if you want to dis Christianity by having someone become fanatical, perhaps balance that with someone whose faith sustains them through the unthinkable and does no harm.

All in all, though, Life As We Knew It is very highly recommended. (However, it might appeal more to women than men. Perhaps the next book in the series with a young man as the main character, The Dead and the Gone, will appeal more to men.)


Lisa is pregnant.
Dad called around 11 o’clock to let us know. Only Mom had already taken Jonny to his baseball practice and of course Matt isn’t home from college yet, so I was alone to get the big news. opening

Megan is spending so much time at her church. She goes to services every Sunday and she never used to and she does stuff with the youth group at least twice a week and sometimes more and for all her talking about how she’s found God, I think all she’s found is Reverend Marshall. She talks about him like he’s a movie star. pg. 4

He asked if any of us had heard about the asteroid and the moon. Mom remembered something about it, because it was big news when astronomers first announced it was going to happen. Some asteroid is going to hit the moon, and Peter heard on the radio driving over that it's going to be visible in the night sky next week. pg. 9

I know I can't explain, because I don't really know what happened and I sure don't know why.
But the moon wasn't a half moon anymore. It was titled and wrong and a three-quarter moon and it got larger, way larger, large like a moon rising on the horizon, only it wasn't rising. It was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible." pg. 19

The newsman cleared his throat, like taking an extra few seconds was going to change what he had to say. "We are receiving reports of widespread tsunamis," he said. "The tides. As most of you know, the moon controls the tides..." pg. 22

"New York City has suffered massive damage," the anchor said. "Staten Island and the eastern section of Long Island are completely submerged. Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard are no longer visible. Providence, Rhode Island - in fact most of Rhode Island - can no longer be seen. The islands off the coast of the Carolinas are gone." pg. 25

"I went to the bank this morning," Mom said. "And I filled the gas tank and gas was already at five dollars a gallon. I went to the supermarket and the electricity went out and there was chaos there, so they just said a hundred dollars for each wagon [cart] no matter what was in it. I had a lot of cash on me, so I filled a wagon and went back and got Mrs. Nesbitt and then Jonny and you so we could each get wagons to fill." pg. 33

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Last Oracle

The Last Oracle by James Rollins
HarperCollins Publishers, June 2008
hardcover, 448 pages
thriller/adventure; Sigma Force Series, #5
ISBN-13: 9780061230943
Highly Recommended - Very for fans

From the Publisher
New York Times bestselling author James Rollins brings back SIGMA Force to battle a group of rogue scientists who've unleashed a bioengineering project that could bring about the extinction of humankind.

In Washington D.C., a homeless man dies in Commander Gray Pierce's arms, shot by an assassin's bullet. But the death leaves behind a greater mystery: a bloody coin found clutched in the dead man's hand, an ancient relic that traces back to the Greek Oracle of Delphi. As ruthless hunters search for the stolen artifact, Pierce discovers the coin is the key to unlocking a plot that threatens the very foundation of humanity. For an international think-tank of scientists has discovered a way to bioengineer autistic child who show savant talents into something far greater and far more frightening—all in hopes of creating a world prophet for the new millennium, one to be manipulated to create a new era of global peace...a peace on their own terms.

From ancient Greek temples to glittering mausoleums, from the slums of India to the radioactive ruins of Russia, two men must race against time to solve a mystery that dates back to the first famous oracle of history—the Greek Oracle of Delphi. But one question remains: will the past be enough to save the future?
My Thoughts:

Fans of Rollins will take note that this is a continuation of the SIGMA force books so you've met many of the characters before. This is good for fans because Rollins can get on with the mystery and the action, but new readers who don't realize this is the 5th book featuring the SIGMA force might feel the character development is lacking. It isn't. It has just been developed over several books. Although you can casually start reading Rollins right in the middle of this series, if you enjoy The Last Oracle, go back and read some of Rollins' earlier books. (Fans also need to know that Rollins has cleared up one cliff hanger only to leave us with another.)

Although I like the SIGMA series, I'm going to step out on a limb and say that I actually liked the non-SIGMA series books a bit better. This isn't just in terms of Rollins. I'd also like to see Preston and Child maybe push Pendergast and D'Agosta into the background or set them aside for a few books. If you could all just introduce us to some new characters, it might be a nice change of pace. Sometimes I feel like relying on the presence of familiar characters doesn't challenge the actual writing and plot development in the later books of a series.

I like Rollins, though. I like his action driven plots. I appreciated the fact that he didn't feel the need to add gratuitous sex or language to this book.
Highly Recommended - Very for fans


They had come to slay her.
The woman stood at the temple's portico. She shivered in her thin garment, a simple shift of white linen belted at the waist, but it was not the cold of predawn that iced her bones. opening

Maybe it was her manner. So strange, so distant, as if she stood with one leg in this world and the other beyond this realm.
The child glanced up with those clear blue eyes, so full of innocence, so in contrast with what spilled next from her lips.
"You are old. You will die soon." pg. 6

The centurion had his orders under the seal of Emperor Theodosius, handed to him personally by the emperor's son Arcadius. The old gods were to be silenced, their old temples torn down. All across the empire, including Delphi. pg. 10

A wash of fear swept through Yuri. Uncle Pepe. The pet name for Josef Mengele. It had been used by all the Gypsy children. But these children were too young to have ever seen the insides of a concentration camp. pg. 15

It wasn't every day a man dropped dead in your arms.
Commander Gray Pierce had been crossing the national Mall when the homeless man accosted him. Gray was already in a bad mood, having finished one fight and was headed toward another. pg. 19

Painter nodded to the dead body. "I know this man."
Shock rang through him.
"His name is Archibald Polk. Professor of neurology at M.I.T." pg. 25

"From the preliminary physical exam, I was already suspicious. I discovered patches of hair loss, eroded teeth enamel, and burns on his skin. If this man hadn't been shot, I wager he would have been dead in a matter of days.....This body is radioactive." pg. 35