Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Natural Causes by Michael Palmer

First sentence:

"Connie Hidalgo's contractions had been little more than twinges for the first two hours of the drive; but as she and her financé passed the New London exits on I-95, the tightening with her began to intensify."


"Dr. Sarah Baldwin races to a Boston hospital with a young woman whose normal labor has suddenly become a matter of life and death. As she struggles to save both mother and baby, she doesn't know that two other women have already died under horrifying identical circumstances. And so begins Sarah's own nightmare, as she learns that the prenatal herbal vitamins she prescribed are the only thing these three women have in common.

Soon Sarah is fighting to save her career, her reputation -- her life. For she's certain there must be some unknown factor linking these women, and as she gets closer to the truth, it becomes clear that someone will do anything -- even murder -- to keep a devastating secret." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was an intense medical thriller with lots of twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew what caused the problems, Palmer deftly took the story in a new direction.

Date read: 9/4/2008
Book #: 63
Challenges: TBR Challenge 2008; Naming Conventions Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0553568760
ISBN-13: 978055356876?
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year: 1994
# of Pages: 465
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our Children's Children by Clifford D. Simak

First sentence:

"Bentley Price, photographer for the Global News Service, had put a steak on the broiler and settled down in a lawn chair, with a can of beer in hand, to watch it, when the door opened underneath an ancient white oak tree and people started walking out of it."


"They were our children's children, and they came one day from nowhere -- walking through holes in the air into our world. By means of one-way time tunnels, they fled the ravening beasts with teeth, claws and tentacles, that reproduced like bacteria and were intelligent.

They fled to escape the uncontrollable horror of their own far future, and we, their distant ancestors, housed and ed and comforted them, content in their assurance that the tunnel was securely guarded from the beasts, whatever or whoever they were.

But then somebody up there slipped and the beasts were abroad..." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a good science fiction book with lots of untapped potential. I liked the interactions between the people from the future and the ones in the present. At the end, however, I found myself wondering what happens next and being a little disappointed that there were so many unanswered questions.

Date read: 9/2/2008
Book #: 62
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0879978805
ISBN-13: 978087997880?
Publisher: Daw Books
Year: 1974
# of Pages: 189
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig

First sentence:

"My father and I were in the laundry room and we were having a crisis."


"Recalling the agony of growing up obsessive-compulsive and a religious fanatic, Jennifer Traig confesses to the most peculiar behavior -- such as tirelessly scrubbing her hands for a full half hour before dinner, feeding her stuffed animals before herself, and washing everything she owned because she thought it was contaminated by pork fumes. Devil in the Details announces Traig as one of the most hilarious writers to emerge in recent years -- and one of the strangest." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

Funny and poignant, this honest book about obsession, family and overdoing religious ritual made me both laugh and think.

Date read: 8/30/2008
Book #: 61
Challenges: Non-Fiction Five Challenge 2008, Unread Authors Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Memoir

ISBN-10: 031601074X
ISBN-13: 9780316010740
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 242
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, September 19, 2008

Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie

First sentence:

"Mrs. Oliver looked at herself in the glass."


"Hercule Poirot stood on the cliff overlooking the rocks below and the sea breaking against them. Here, where he stood, the bodies of a husband and wife had been found. Here, three weeks before that, a woman had walked in her sleep and fallen to her death.

Why had these things happened. . .?" -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

While the mystery itself was predictable, I liked the interactions between Hercule Poirot and the mystery writer Ariadne Oliver as they hunt for "elephants" for help in solving the mystery of the Ravenscrofts' deaths.

Date read: 8/30/2008
Book #: 60
Challenge: What an Animal! Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0006162649
ISBN-13: 9780006162643
Publisher: Fontana
Year: 1972
# of pages: 218
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wyvern by A.A. Attanasio

First sentence:

"Dawn built a temple of clouds above the jungle."


"He came from the jungles to challenge the world...

1609. A time when navigation was more art than science, when the whole wide world was thought of as plunder. This is the time when Jaki Gefjon was born in the dark jungle of Borneo, A fair-skinned half-breed, Jaki is outcast as a devil child. Until he emerges from the jungle and enters upon an epic adventure: through times of violence, treachery, mysticism, love, and loss." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written epic story about life, death, love and self-discovery as Jaki Gefjon struggles to unite the teachings of both the jungle and the sea. I especially liked Jaki's interactions with his mentors Jabalwan and later Captain Pym.

Date read: 8/29/2008
Book #: 59
Challenges: Initials Reading Challenge, Unread Authors Challenge 2008, What an Animal! Challenge, Chunkster Challenge
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Adventure

ISBN-10: 0061000116
ISBN-13: 978006100119
Publisher: Harper
Year: 1988
# of Pages: 693
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pandora's Clock by John J. Nance

First sentence:

"Professor Ernest Helms had returned to the starting point of the snowy forest trail just in time."


"The biowarfare people call the bug a Level 4 pathogen. That means no cure. No hope. No survivors.

Now it's loose on Quantum Flight 66. One passenger is already dead. The experts say in 48 hours the rest may follow.

James Holland, former U.S. fighter pilot, now flying this commercial Boeing 747, isn't ready to die. They say he can't land his plane. They say he's a threat to the whole world. They're ready to blast him out of the sky.

Captain Holland may be on a collision course with doom -- but they're going to have to catch him first. He's determined to take whatever risks he must to outfly them. Outsmart them. And beat...

Pandora's Clock -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was an exciting thriller set on board an airplane, in Washington, DC and in the Middle East. While some of the characters started as clichéd, they gradually became more three-dimensional as the medical and political crisis grew.

Date read: 8/27/2008
Book #: 58
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0312960344
ISBN-13: 9780312960346
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Year: 1995
# of Pages: 430
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tall, Dark & Dead by Tate Hallaway

First sentence:

"If only I hadn't been late."


"The line between magic and sanity is very thin. That's part of why I, Garnet Lacey, quit cold turkey. Never touch the stuff. No exceptions.

But magic is so addictive... and my inner Goddess, Lilith, is hard to resist. Besides, restraint isn't easy when you manage Wisconsin's premier occult bookstore, and get customers like Sebastian Von Traum—piercing brown eyes, a sexy accent, and a killer body in black leather and denim. The only thing missing is an aura. Which means he's dead...

That means trouble. I guess I'm a sucker for it. The Vatican witch hunters are on to us. My long-lost vampire ex has crawled out of the woodwork looking for action. And Sebastian's frustrated ex is stirring in her grave.

What's a girl to do if she's hot for a dead man walking? Run like hell—and take full advantage of the nights...." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this paranormal fantasy featuring Garnet Lacy. I liked how she gradually learned to share with her friends her past and how she gained internal strength to confront the goddess Lilith. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Dead Sexy.

Date read: 8/25/2008
Book #: 57
Series: Garnet Lacy, #1
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Paranormal fantasy

ISBN-10: 0425209725
ISBN-13: 9780425209721
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 295
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

Ambassador to the Penguins: A Naturalist's Year Aboard a Yankee Whaleship by Eleanor Mathews

First sentence:

"History could not have stirred a more unlikely mix: two museums, a blubber hunt, an irascible captain, a steward with an actual peg leg, several million birds, and Robert Cushman Murphy reading Shakespeare on deck during his spare time."


"In 1912, a young museum curator named Robert Cushman Murphy was offered the opportunity of a lifetime -- to spend a year on one of the last Yankee whaleships out of New Bedford, on a voyage to he Antarctic. Only recently married, Murphy had many regrets at leaving his wife Grace so early in their life together, but he saw that the chance to journey to the end of the world, to bring back new specimens, to record what he saw, was also the chance to launch a stellar career.

During the voyage, Murphy kept a journal, packing it with observations of his experiences on board, both as a naturalist and as a witness to a disappearing way of life. When he was not taking photographs and developing them in seawater, or skinning birds to take back to the American Museum of Natural History, he was watching his shipmates raid penguins' nests or harpoon wahles and boil down their stirpped carcasses. this journal, recorded in the voice of a man who relished the world around him, was later published as the critically acclaimed Logbook for Grace. Murphy himself went on to become a world authority on oceanic birds."

Eleanor Mathews, his granddaughter, has now taken this extraordinary diary, updating and supplementing it with never-before-published information and his own original photographs. She presents his voyage in a compelling third-person narrative, maintaining his voice while expanding the tale for modern readers. As a story of seafaring life, a portrait of the whaling industry still under sail, an account of a natural history expedition, and a love letter to an absent wife, it was described as 'a book to set on the shelf beside Moby-Dick and Two Years Before the Mast.' Logbook for Grace has disappeared; but we can proudly offer Ambassador to the Penguins to replace it." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This book combined many of my interests - ships, Antarctica, the naturalist's wonder and interest in the animal world. I liked following Murphy's voyages both literal as he learned about the ways of whaling on the brig Daisy and emotional as he wished to get home to his new wife, Grace.

Date read: 8/24/2008
Book #: 56
Challenges: Non-Fiction Five Challenge 2008, What an Animal! Challenge, Unread Authors Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 1567922465
ISBN-13: 9781567922462
Publisher: David R. Godine
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 352
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer Reading Thing Challenge 2008

Summer Reading Thing Challenge 2008

When: June 20, 2008 - September 21, 2008
What: Read any number of books during the Summer

My list:

The Magicians of Night by Barbara Hambly

First sentence:

"'I think he's coming around.'"


"The two wizards, Jaldis and Rhion, had dared the dread Dark Well to answer the desperate call of a world without magic. Jaldis had not survived the dreadful Void. Now Rhion was alone in a world he could not imagine -- the world of Germany in 1940.
The four would-be wizards of the Occult Bureau welcomed him to their home in Schloss Torweg. They wanted his help desperately. But they would not heed his advice against the calling up of dark magic. They needed magic to overcome the enemies they claimed were trying to conquer their fatherland. To that high mission, nothing could be neglected, however dark and ugly.
They lied to him, claiming the Dark Well had been destroyed, removing his only hope of returning to Tally and his two sons. And soon he realized he was no more than a useful prisoner.
But he knew the Dark Well still existed. And somehow, despite whatever they did to him, he must find a way back across the Void!"-- from the back cover

My thoughts:

When I read the description, I wondered whether this fantasy featuring a wizard in early Nazi Germany would be clichéd with cardboard characters. However, Hambly skillfully creates great interactions between the wizard Rhion, his Nazi captors and the people he rescues. The only quibble I have is that the plot set in Rhion's homeworld seemed tacked on and not resolved very well.

Date read: 8/19/2008
Book #: 55
Challenges: Summer Reading Thing Challenge 2008, Celebrate the Author Challenge
Series: Sun-Cross #2
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0345362594
ISBN-13: 9780345362599
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 1992
# of Pages: 354
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Deathstalker Rebellion by Simon R. Green

First sentence:

"In the beginning was the Empire, and all was well."


"Owen Deathstalker -- outlawed, with a price on his head and a mighty warrior lineage in his veins -- had no choice but to embrace the destiny that befell him. With nothing to lose, only he had the courage to take up sword and energy gun against Queen Lionstone XIV.

Now as he gathers his unlikely force -- the legendary washed-up hero Jack Random, the beautiful pirate Hazel d'Arc, the original Deathstalker long since presumed dead, and the alien Hadenmen whose purposes no human can discern -- the eyes of the downtrodden are upon him...while the freedom of a galaxy awaits!" -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was an engaging military space opera which gave insights into many characters points of view. Though the series is about Owen Deathstalker, he is more in the background in this book. More prominent characters include Captain Jack Silence who will defend the Empire even if it's not perfect and the rebel Jack Random who is one of the few who was altered by an alien maze.

Date read: 8/18/2008
Book #: 54
Challenge: Chunkster Challenge
Series: Owen Deathstalker #2
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0451455525
ISBN-13: 978045145529
Publisher: Roc
Year: 1996
# of Pages: 509
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page