Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tea from an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan


"'How can you drink tea from an empty cup?' That ancient Zen riddle holds the key to a baffling mystery: a young man found with his throat slashed while locked alone in a virtual reality parlor. The secret of this enigmatic death lies in an apocalyptic cyberspace shadow-world where nothing is certain, and even one's own identity can change in an instant."

My thoughts:

This is the first book in the Artificial Reality Division series. I have already read the sequel, Dervish is Digital, which I liked better than this one. While this was a good cyberpunk sf-mystery, complete with questions of online identity and full body-suit sensations, it wasn't the easiest plot to follow. I did like how it set up Dore Konstantin as the head of the new Artificial Reality Division.

Date read: 4/18/2007
Book #: 34
Rating: 3* = good
Series: Artificial Reality Division #1
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0812541979
ISBN-13: 978-0812541977
Publisher: Tor
Year: 1999
# of pages: 256
Binding: Paperback

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dead Silent by Robert Ferrigno


"There are two people in Nick's hot tub. One is Nick's wife. The other is his former best friend. They are very naked-and very dead. Some of the cops think the killer is someone very close to Nick. The others are sure the killer is Nick. Where's a good alibi when you need it?"

My thoughts:

This was a good crime noir book set in southern California. It took me a while to realize that the cover was a close-up of an audio cassette. I especially liked the way Nick heard clues in the audio such as the first two numbers of a phone number based on the tones.

Date read: 4/18/2007
Book #: 33
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0425161498
ISBN-13: 978-0425161494
Publisher: Berkeley
Year: 1998
# of pages: 302
Binding: Paperback

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Visitor by Sheri S. Tepper


"The "magic" that once was America died horribly along with most of the Earth's inhabitants when an asteroid crashed into the planet sometime during the twenty-first century. Hundreds of years have passed, and all that remains of the time before are fragmented memories distorted by superstition -- as a tragically reduced populace suffers greatly under the tyranny of a repressive ruling order. But destiny has chosen Dismé Latimer to lead a wasted world out of the darkness ... with a book. Written by a courageous scientist ancestor, it is a sacred, unsettling tome rife with disturbing ideas and revelations ... and an impossible hope that compels a gentle, troubled young woman to abandon her abusive home in search of truth and her true self. But common "wisdom" and lore warn of grave dangers out in the world. Evil is there, a malevolence beyond imagining. And in the depths of the Earth, a gargantuan beast asleep for centuries has begun to stir..."

My thoughts:

An interesting mix of religion and science in a post-apocalyptic America. I liked the characters Disme, Michael and Jens and how they and others found out the truth about the alien "visitor" which had destroyed the planet centuries ago. I also liked the character Nell who was one of the "sleepers".

Date read: 4/14/2007
Book #: 32
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0380821001
ISBN-13: 978-0380821006
Publisher: Eos
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 512
Binding: Paperback

Jackdaws by Ken Follett


"D-Day is approaching. They don't know where or when, but the Germans know it'll be soon, and for Felicity "Flick" Clariet, the stakes have never been higher.

A senior agent in the ranks of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) responsible for sabotage, Flick has survived to become of Britain's most effective operatives in Northern France. She knows that the Germans' ability to thwart the Allied attack depends upon their lines of communications, and in the days before the invasion no target is of greater strategic importance than the largest telephone exchange in Europe.

But when Flick and her Resistance-leader husband try a direct, head-on assault that goes horribly wrong, her world turns upside down. Her group destroyed, her husband missing, her superiors unsure of her, her own confidence badly shaken, she has one last chance at the target, but the challenge, once daunting, is now near-impossible. The new plan requires an all-woman team, none of them professionals, to be assembled and trained within days. Code-named the Jackdaws, they will attempt to infiltrate the exchange under the noses of the Germans-but the Germans are waiting for them now and have plans of their own. There are secrets Flick does not know-secrets within the German ranks, secrets among her hastily recruited team, secrets among those she trusts the most. And as the hours tick down to the point of no return, most daunting of all, there are secrets within herself....

Filled with the powerful storytelling, unforgettable characters, and authentic detail that have become his hallmarks, Jackdaws is Ken Follett writing at the height of his powers."

My thoughts:

A gripping espionage thriller set in the days before the D-Day invasion. Both the Nazi and French Resistance characters are well-voiced and the espionage tricks used on both sides make an exciting story.

Date read: 4/13/2007
Book #: 31
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0525946284
ISBN-13: 978-0525946281
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Year: 2001
# of Pages: 451
Binding: Hardover

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward


"Amanda Eyre Ward's debut novel is an intimate portrait of three women whose lives collide during a brutal Texas summer.

In Gatestown, Texas, twenty-nine-year-old Karen Lowens awaits her execution with a host of convicted serial killers on death row. In Manhattan, Dr. Franny Wren, also twenty-nine, tends to a young cancer patient, and resists the urge to run from her fiancé and her carefully crafted life. In Austin, Texas, brassy Celia Mills, a once-vibrant librarian, mourns her murdered husband.

Over the course of the summer, fate pushes these eerily recognizable women together, culminating in a revelation of the possibility of faith, the responsibility of friendship, and the value of life. Sleep Toward Heaven is a luminous story of murder and desire, solitude and grace -- a rare literary page-turner where redemption seems perpetually within arm's reach."

My thoughts:

I liked this book about three women who normally wouldn't cross paths, but who find themselves both confronting and helping each other.

Date read: 4/5/2007
Book #: 30
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0060582294
ISBN-13: 978-0060582296
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 304
Binding: Paperback

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill


"Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur finds himself in the American South, living in a trailer park and working as a line cook at a steakhouse. No longer a devourer of human flesh, the Minotaur is a socially inept, lonely creature with very human needs. But over a two-week period, as his life dissolves into chaos, this broken and alienated immortal awakens to the possibility for happiness and to the capacity for love."

My thoughts:

While it was slow at times, I enjoyed this look at the life of the Minotaur as a line cook in the American South. I suppose being immortal he has learned over the years how to cook, sew, repair car engines and fix holes in walls that he accidentally gored with his horns! One of my favorite scenes is when he slices the beef at the tables and the customers don't quite know how to respond!

Date read: 4/4/2007
Book #: 29
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0312308922
ISBN-13: 978-0312308926
Publisher: Picador
Year: 2002
# of Pages: 320
Binding: Paperback

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Saving the World by Julia Alvarez


"Latina novelist Alma Huebner is suffering from writer's block and is years past the completion date for yet another of her bestselling family sagas. Her husband, Richard, works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to the health and prosperity of developing countries and wants her help on an extended AIDS assignment in the Dominican Republic. But Alma begs off joining him: the publisher is breathing down her neck. She promises to work hard and follow him a bit later.

The truth is that Alma is seriously sidetracked by a story she has stumbled across. It's the story of a much earlier medical do-gooder, Spaniard Francisco Xavier Balmis, who in 1803 undertook to vaccinate the populations of Spain's American colonies against smallpox. To do this, he required live "carriers" of the vaccine.

Of greater interest to Alma is Isabel Sendales y Gómez, director of La Casa de Expósitos, who was asked to select twenty-two orphan boys to be the vaccine carriers. She agreed— with the stipulation that she would accompany the boys on the proposed two-year voyage. Her strength and courage inspire Alma, who finds herself becoming obsessed with the details of Isabel's adventures.

This resplendent novel-within-a-novel spins the disparate tales of two remarkable women, both of whom are swept along by machismo. In depicting their confrontation of the great scourges of their respective eras, Alvarez exposes the conflict between altruism and ambition."

My thoughts:

I especially liked the chapters about Isabel, the doctor Don Francisco Balmis and the orphan children as they cross the Atlantic and then the Pacific oceans. The modern-day story about Alma, Richard and the Dominican clinic was exciting towards the end, but didn't fully grab my attention as much as the historical account. I did like reading the author's notes at the end of the book concerning the Royal Smallpox Expedition.

Date read: 3/31/2007
Book #: 28
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 156512510X
ISBN-13: 978-1565125100
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 384
Binding: Hardcover