Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick


"Larkwood Priory, England: Father Anselm is stopped by an old man. What, he is asked, should a man do when the world has turned against him? Anselm's response: claim sanctuary. But the answer sets off more trouble than he ever could have imagined when the man returns, demanding the protection of the Church. He is Eduard Schwermann, a suspected Nazi war criminal.

Agnes Aubret has unburdened a secret to her granddaughter Lucy. Fifty years earlier, Agnes was in occupied Paris, risking her life to smuggle Jewish children to safety-until her group was exposed by an SS officer: Eduard Schwermann.

Not only has the Church granted Schwermann sanctuary before; in 1944 it helped him escape from France to begin a new life in Britain. As Anselm attempts to find out why and as Lucy delves deeper into her grandmother's past, their investigations dovetail to form a remarkable story."

My thoughts:

A very moving book about family, memory and reconciliation. I especially liked the way Lucy's and Father Anselm's stories eventually intertwine as they and others learn the truth about who betrayed the Resistance group, the Round Table.

Date finished: 2/13/2007
Book No.: 16
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0751535818
ISBN-13: 978-0751535815
Publisher: Time Warner Paperbacks
Year: 2004
No. of pages:433
Binding: Paperback

Fool's Puzzle by Earlene Fowler


"Meet Benni Harper... a spirited ex-cowgirl, quilter, and folk-art expert who's staking out her own corner of the contemporary American West. She's got an eye for murderous designs - and a talent for piecing together the most complex and cold-blooded crimes...Leaving behind memories of her late husband, Benni's making a fresh start... Moving to the trendy California town of San Celina, she takes an exciting new job as director of a folk-art museum. While setting up an exhibit of handmade quilts, she stumbles upon the body of a brutally stabbed artist - and hopes to conduct an investigation of her own. She crosses paths with the local police chief, who thinks this short and sassy cowgirl should leave detecting to the cops and join him for dinner. But it's hard to keep a country girl down, and soon Benni uncovers an alarming pattern of family secrets, small-town lies - and the shocking truth about the night her husband died..."

My thoughts:

A good mystery - I liked the characters, especially Benni and Ortiz. I also liked learning about different quilt patterns. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Irish Chain.

Date finished: 2/13/2007
Book No.: 15
Rating: 3* - good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 042514545X
ISBN-13: 978-0425145456
Publisher: Berkley
Year: 1995
No. of pages: 256
Binding: Paperback

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll


"Cliff Stoll was an astronomer turned systems manager at Lawrence Berkeley Lab when a 75-cent accounting error alerted him to the presence of an unauthorized users on his system. The hacker's code name was "Hunter"-- a mystery invader hiding inside a twisting electronic labyrinth, breaking into U.S. computer systems and stealing sensitive military and security information. Stoll began a one-man hunt of his own, spying on the spy-- and plunging into an incredible international probe that finally gained the attention of top U.S. counter-intelligence agents. The Cuckoo's Egg is his wild and suspenseful true story-- a year of deception, broken codes, satellites, missile bases and the ultimate sting operation-- and how one ingenious American trapped a spy ring paid in cash and cocaine, and reporting to the KGB."

My thoughts:

A well-written and engaging book about the early days of the Internet (then called Arpanet) and the frustrating attempts of Stoll in getting the various government agencies to understand the danger posed by hackers. The book also documents Stoll's personal career change from astronomer to computer security expert.

Date finished: 2/9/2007
Book No.: 14
Rating: 4
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 0671726889
ISBN-13: 978-0671726881
Publisher: Pocket
Year: 1990 (reprint)
No. of pages: 356
Binding: Paperback

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Mugger by Ed McBain


"A mugger who specializes in female victims is providing a lot of work for Detective Hal Willis of the 87th Precinct. After each of his crimes, the mugger bows low and announces, "Clifford thanks you, madam," before running off. At the same time, Patrolman Bert Kling is asked to speak to a troubled teenaged girl. Soon the girl is dead, apparently the latest victim of the mugger."

My thoughts:

This was a good police procedural - the second in the 87th Precinct Series. I liked the characters and the plot.

Date finished: 2/7/2007
Book No.: 13
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2007
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0446601438
ISBN-13: 978-0446601436
Publisher: Warner Books
Year: 1996 (reprint)
No. of pages: 178
Binding: Paperback

Abra Cadaver by James Tucker


"When a body turns up in the Allegheny River, it's rushed to the Pittsburgh cororner's office for an autopsy. But something's wrong - the person died of natural causes and has aready been embalmed. So how did the corpse end up in the river?

A year later, Dr. Jack Merlin, a dedicated young surgeon, makes another shocking discovery. The body currently being dissected in the gross anatomy lab at Pittsburgh University Medical Center is his roomate, who went missing months earlier. No foul play had been suspected. But now....

As an amateur magician, Dr. Merlin knows a little bit about disappearing acts. This one is a killer. He'll have to use all his skills - in medicine and magic - to find the truth. And stay alive..."

My thoughts:

This is the second book I've read recently which was set in Pittsburgh! I enjoyed the mix of medicine, murder and magic, though some of the characters were a bit two-dimensional at times. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Hocus Corpus.

Date finished: 2/6/2007
Book No.: 12
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0451195914
ISBN-13: 978-0451195913
Publisher: Signet
Year: 1999
No. of pages: 394
Binding: Hardcover

Friday, February 9, 2007

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks


Long before Oliver Sacks became a distinguished neurologist and bestselling writer, he was a small English boy fascinated by metals–also by chemical reactions (the louder and smellier the better), photography, squids and cuttlefish, H.G. Wells, and the periodic table. In this endlessly charming and eloquent memoir, the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings chronicles his love affair with science and the magnificently odd and sometimes harrowing childhood in which that love affair unfolded.

In Uncle Tungsten we meet Sacks’ extraordinary family, from his surgeon mother (who introduces the fourteen-year-old Oliver to the art of human dissection) and his father, a family doctor who imbues in his son an early enthusiasm for housecalls, to his “Uncle Tungsten,” whose factory produces tungsten-filament lightbulbs. We follow the young Oliver as he is exiled at the age of six to a grim, sadistic boarding school to escape the London Blitz, and later watch as he sets about passionately reliving the exploits of his chemical heroes–in his own home laboratory. Uncle Tungsten is a crystalline view of a brilliant young mind springing to life, a story of growing up which is by turns elegiac, comic, and wistful, full of the electrifying joy of discovery.

My thoughts:

This is a very detailed look at the history of chemistry, scientific thinking, photography, and other topics. Sacks' enthusiasm is evident throughout, and I'm amazed that he was willing to take risks in his quest to learn about each element. Some of the passages were very long, but there were many anecdotes to keep my interest.

Date finished: 2/5/2007
Book No.: 11
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Memoir

ISBN-10: 0330390287
ISBN-13: 978-0330390286
Publisher: Picador
Year: 2002
No. of pages: 250
Binding: Paperback

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Tinker by Wen Spencer


"Inventor, girl genius Tinker lives in a near-future Pittsburgh which now exists mostly in the land of the elves. She runs her salvage business, pays her taxes, and tries to keep the local ambient level of magic down with gadgets of her own design. When a pack of wargs chase an Elven noble into her scrap yard, life as she knows it takes a serious detour. Tinker finds herself taking on the Elven court, the NSA, the Elven Interdimensional Agency, technology smugglers and a college-minded Xenobiologist as she tries to stay focused on what's really important - her first date. Armed with an intelligence the size of a planet, steel-toed boots, and a junkyard dog attitude, Tinker is ready to kick butt to get her first kiss."

My thoughts:

A few years ago I visited Pittsburgh for a conference. I could still picture the city as I read this great mix of science fiction and fantasy. I look forward to reading the sequel, Wolf Who Rules.

Date finished: 1/31/2007
Book No.: 10
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0743498712
ISBN-13: 978-0743498715
Publisher: Baen
Year: 2004
No. of pages: 448
Binding: Paperback

By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz


"Dylan O’Connor is a gifted young artist just trying to do the right thing in life. He’s on his way to an arts festival in Santa Fe when he stops to get a room for himself and his twenty-year-old autistic brother, Shep. But in a nightmarish instant, Dylan is attacked by a mysterious “doctor,” injected with a strange substance, and told that he is now a carrier of something that will either kill him...or transform his life in the most remarkable way. Then he is told that he must flee—before the doctor’s enemies hunt him down for the secret circulating through his body. No one can help him, the doctor says, not even the police.

Stunned, disbelieving, Dylan is turned loose to run for his life...and straight into an adventure that will turn the next twenty-four hours into an odyssey of terror, mystery—and wondrous discovery. It is a journey that begins when Dylan and Shep’s path intersects with that of Jillian Jackson. Before that evening Jilly was a beautiful comedian whose biggest worry was whether she would ever find a decent man. Now she too is a carrier. And even as Dylan tries to convince her that they’ll be safer sticking together, cold-eyed men in a threatening pack of black Suburbans approach, only seconds before Jilly’s classic Coupe DeVille explodes into thin air.

Now the three are on the run together, but with no idea whom they’re running from—or why. Meanwhile Shep has begun exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior. And whatever it is that’s coursing through their bodies seems to have plunged them into one waking nightmare after another. Seized by sinister premonitions, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to crime scenes—just minutes before the crimes take place.

What this unfathomable power is, how they can use it to stop the evil erupting all around them, and why they have been chosen are only parts of a puzzle that reaches back into the tragic past and the dark secrets they all share: secrets of madness, pain, and untimely death. Perhaps the answer lies in the eerie, enigmatic messages that Shep, with precious time running out, begins to repeat, about an entity who does his work 'by the light of the moon.'"

My thoughts:

I liked this book, especially how the characters Dylan, Shep and Jilly interact with each other and how they learn how to handle their new abilities.

Date finished: 1/30/2007
Book No.: 9
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0553582763
ISBN-13: 978-0553582765
Publisher: Bantam
Year: 2003
No. of pages: 496
Binding: Paperback