theinfamousj - Reviews

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The Andromeda Strain
The Andromeda Strain
Author: Michael Crichton
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 258
Review Date: 1/20/2013


And my streak of reviewing thrillers continues with the second epidemiological thriller in a row! The Andromeda Strain is another reread. I picked it up because (a) I had the book sitting on the shelf doing nothing, and (b) I had already reread Carriers so I figured, "Why not?"

It is the story of a bunch of scientists doing their scientific thing in trying to find the cure to a plague that originates in outer space. Well, not really foreign outer space so much as simply really, really, really high up in Earth's atmosphere outer space. As it so happens, we do have such archaebacteria that can live in these totally inhospitable environments on Earth, so the premise isn't that far fetched. Yes, I know the culprit in this case is a virus and not a bacterium, but still ...

This novel is chock full of government (in)efficiencies, (pseudo?)epidemiological jargon, computer read outs, and time pressure to cause the suspense. The climax and problem that beset the novel aren't what originally appear to be the case. Many reviewers are incredibly upset that the initial problem resolves itself, while completely missing the point that the race-against-time to save the lab from certain destruction is the actual climax.

This novel reminded me a lot of Mount Dragon , or perhaps Mount Dragon reminded me a lot of The Andromeda Strain as they both greatly detail the procedures in place to keep the contagion from spreading out of the lab and becoming an epidemic, and in both cases and explosive is the ultimate failsafe.


Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, Bk 1)
Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, Bk 1)
Author: Dan Brown
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 3673
Review Date: 4/26/2009
Helpful Score: 2


I am a fan of Illuminati references, so when I saw coming attractions for "Angels & Demons", the movie, I couldn't wait to watch it. But the release date seemed too far off.

Instead, I popped down to my local Goodwill and, as if by divine decree, this book was sitting there just waiting to be taken home and read. Who was I not to oblige?

The book was fantastic. Whoever was commissioned to do the artwork inside the book was inspired. And the ending? The surprises just keep coming. Robert Langdon's character is quirky, nuanced, and well developed, as is that of his female scientist sidekick.

If you have the credit, do not pass up the opportunity to read this book!


Assassin's Apprentice: Oathbreaker Part I
Review Date: 12/15/2012


This is the epic fantasy coming of age tale of a young boy named Aron Weylyn nee Braylin who lives in a land known as Eyrie. This land is filled with all of the supernatural specters that are prevalent in Irish folk ideas, such as the siddhe, Fae, Mab, Furies, etc. If you aren't familiar with this background, then this tale loses something. If you are familiar, then this tale is a delightful re-imagining of the modern life of such fantastical creatures.

Aron is conscripted to work for one of the two guilds: Stone. Stone is a guild that deals with justice and punishment for injustice; in particular, they carry out death sentences that have been given to the deserving. I'm not terribly sure that this work could be considered assassination, but that where the "assassin" reference comes from in the title. More specifically, Aron is the executioner's apprentice. So if you came to this novel looking for illegal assassination attempts, I'm afraid that you are going to have to search elsewhere.

This novel deals with Aron's forceable conscription and removal from his family on the eve of war, and the journey to the home of the Stone guild as Aron comes to terms with his new status as a conscripted apprentice and the land of Eyrie begins its war around them. The book continues with Aron having to find his place among the apprentices at the Stone guild, one of whom takes an instant bullying disliking to Aron, and ends with Aron and that boy as an unhappily paired team to face down serious threats.

The world building in this book is amazingly rich. The emotional life of Aron is vivid and gripping, and you feel his anger and pain even as he experiences it. The politics are present, but not overwhelmingly complex with only a few layers of intrigue plots to be had. The battle descriptions are riveting.

Much like the hallowed "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, the chapters of this novel switch viewpoints, and much like the hallowed series, the chapters are named after the character you will follow for that chapter. Being a fan of George R. R. Martin's writing, I had no trouble with this format, though if you aren't used to it, it might take some getting used to.

One thing I should remark on is that the world building is done in a style I actually enjoy. First, the foreign word is used in context, several times. Only when you think you have figured the thing out due to contextual clues do the authors actually go ahead and explain what the thing is. I found this to be great fun, but other reviewers might - and do - feel otherwise.

Be warned, there is a cliffhanger at the end and you will want to go out and immediately get the next novel in the series. Luckily, it already exists.


Birthright
Birthright
Author: Nora Roberts
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 612
Review Date: 6/25/2009
Helpful Score: 1


This book is fantastic for many reasons. First of all, it is a mystery. While I'd predicted the right group of people to contain the perp., I did not correctly predict the actual perp. Well done, Nora Roberts!

The second reason that this book is fantastic is because it has a theme that runs through it about empathy and awareness of how other people are feeling. This is something that I see less and less of in modern America and something we could use a bit more of.

The third reason this book is fantastic is due to the theme of second chances. It shows that true strength sometimes comes from taking a good look at your situation and deciding that you aren't happy with it.

Stubbornness is childish.

Forgiveness is godly.

Wonderful!


Carriers
Carriers
Author: Patrick Lynch
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 56
Review Date: 1/9/2013
Helpful Score: 2


Hot on the trail of having just finished another technothriller, I picked up Carriers. This is a reread for me. I first picked it up in high school, having read The Hot Zone (about Ebola), and the fact that the back of this book promises to be about a plague more deadly and infectious than Ebola, well ... I'm sure you can see where my high school mind was going with this.

So, then, what prompted the reread? I was making additional space on my bookshelf and one of the paperbacks had to go. After looking over the books I've decided to keep as a permanent collection, I decided that the one I'd be the least devastated to part with (though I'm still distraught) was Carriers, but I wouldn't let it go without a reread.

This is a technothriller to the max. It has epidemiological deliciousness spread throughout moments of sheer terror caused by animals behaving as they will and humans' almost infinite ability to throw up a huge wall of denial when met with a scary problem. In this case, the scary problem was a malarial mutation which is just likely enough to be believable. This book follows two different protagonists and provides two different view points, switching when necessary. I really like that in a novel, though I recognize that some of you may not, which is why you are getting the warning.

That said, this novel is a hot mess of characters, story lines, and subplots that mostly get resolved. If you don't like a book that makes you track details, then this is not the book for you. Also, there are clinical descriptions of the symptoms of this horrific virus. If you have a problem discussing bodily fluids and orifices around the dinner table, you may want to read this with an airsickness bag beside you.


The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, Bk 2)
The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, Bk 2)
Author: Dan Brown
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 100
Review Date: 6/23/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Some people say that "Angels & Demons" is a better book, but I found that "The Da Vinci Code" was one that I enjoyed more. I suppose it was because I saw the movie before reading this book which, in some ways, made the reading experience richer.

This book is definitely a re-reader.


Detective
Detective
Author: Arthur Hailey
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 48
Review Date: 2/27/2013
Helpful Score: 1


Once upon a time, I bought a bunch of books on eBay. They promised to send me a box filled with many different titles, and so they did. One of those titles was Detective by Arthur Hailey.

This is the story of a police detective named Malcolm Ainslie who lives and works in Florida. It follows - roughly - the investigation that is launched when a death row inmate confesses to actually having committed a lot more murders. The police had long suspected this, but they hadn't actually been able to hang the murders on Doil (that's the inmate).

Oh, and did I mention that Ainslie is a former priest-turned-detective?

This book takes you inside the heart and mind of a Florida detective. You encounter a lot of driving and/or sitting in the car, computers, triplicate forms, sexual advances, sexual retreats, sexual reminiscences, spouses being upset that work is a top priority, obnoxious rich people, bureaucracy, politics, and real life forensics that is less than conclusive, tape recorders (remember those?), double crossing, and flashbacks.

Between this book and Line of Duty, I feel that I have been given a real look inside the true world of police-work.

{Three star alt-text is, "I liked it." And I did.}


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 157
Review Date: 12/15/2011


From http://theinfamousj.livejournal.com/438647.html

I love, love, love, love dystopian fiction. This book title keeps being suggested time and time again, especially due to its similarity to The Lathe of Heaven.

Before I review the book, I just wanted to ask what, in Mercer's name, is up with the anti-Oregon hatred? The books I've been reading lately seem to be full of it. The Lathe of Heaven keeps having Oregon be the only place that is bombed and destroyed and then in this book Oregon is listed as a vast wasteland where only those who are suicidal should go.

That said, this book is about a post-apocalyptic world filled with radiactive dust that alters mental states and reproductive capacity. Most people have emigrated to Mars or other worlds where they are given android slaves to do their bidding. These androids look and act remarkably human, all of which is market driven according to the Rosen Corporation who produces them.

It is implied that androids who hurt {hurt? kill?} humans and then return to Earth are to be terminated and apparently this happens with such regularity that most police forces have a position called a bounty hunter just for doing this sort of work. Enter the protagonist - Rick Deckard - who is one such bounty hunter.

This is the story of Deckard's internal and external struggle to terminate increasingly more human-seeming androids. It is the story of his struggle with the basic human desire to anthropomorphize anything that vaguely resembles us, as well as extend empathic feelings toward that which we have anthropomorphized. It is the struggle for human contact in a vacuous world {John Isidore's story}. It is a struggle to find reasons to live and be joyous in a post-apocalyptic world. It is a struggle to keep going day-to-day while living with almost crippling depression. It is a story of the struggle to make it through a marriage that has survived on momentum alone.

It is not a story about sex, though there is a short sex scene with Rachael Rosen who is more than she seems. Also, it is not a story about dialogue as all the dialogue seems clipped or to be in a form of code or short hand which the reader is never given the tools to decode. And to that end, I have docked 2 stars from this book for it is a story mostly told in this clipped dialogue.

A better book that explores these themes would be I, Robot.


Electric Blue (Jane Kelly, Bk 2)
Electric Blue (Jane Kelly, Bk 2)
Author: Nancy Bush
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 4/13/2009
Helpful Score: 1


This was just the type of book I'd been wanting to read. It stars a heroine who does not bother with makeup and nice stylish clothes (neither do I, give me practical any day). While there are several potential love interests, neither seems to have "chemistry" so I'm just as glad that those brief moments in the book were just that: brief.

The main plot and core of the mystery was solid. The main character is well developed, though she often refers back to events from the first book which, since I haven't read it, weren't clear to me. These events were surrounding her love life which is the book's one downfall, so I was just as happy to skim over those references.

All in all, this is a good and quick read. I would have devoured it in one sitting if my DP had not forced me to go to bed.


Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants
Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants
Author: Bradford Angier
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 3/26/2009
Helpful Score: 7


I bought this book from a local trail outfitters in NC and was excited to read up on unknown edibles as well as edibles that I do know from having grown up in the area. Some of the more popular wild edibles from my area weren't in the book. I was disappointed.

Also, some of the edibles listed in the book are NOT really edible. It states things like, "Edible in very small amounts. Toxic in larger amounts." Ummmmm ... if this is a guide to edible wild plants, please stick to those where I do not have to carefully weigh out the amount I am planning on eating.

And let's not even get in to the plants that are listed as only edible by birds. Are they reading the book?

Perhaps a better title for the book would be the Field Guide to Wild Plants (leave out the edible part) which more accurately represents the book's content.

Which is, of course, not to say that the book wasn't 90% edible plants which are safe for humans in all quantities.


Foundation (Foundation Trilogy, Bk 1)
Foundation (Foundation Trilogy, Bk 1)
Author: Isaac Asimov
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 9/28/2012


Have you ever been in a situation where you were party to two people talking about something they had part in, and rather than telling of the event as a story, they simply rehash difficult or interesting aspects of the event leaving you, the observer, to piece together what actually happened? Reading Foundation (Foundation, #1) is exactly like that! It is interesting that the synopsis of the book, then, references "nonstop action", when in fact there is absolutely no action, save discussion, but merely discussion references to things that happened in the not too distant past.

This book opens with a galactic empire in place that is on the decline. A psychohistorian named Dr. Seldon exposits to a conveniently placed underling about the fact that he scientifically - using psychohistory - has predicted the decline of the galactic empire, an interregnum of dark ages, and then a second galactic empire. He further explains that he has a plan in place to shorten the dark ages by preserving all of the knowledge of human kind. And using psychohistory - who we shall now refer to as deus ex machina - he can predict the behavior of individuals and groups so has manipulated things to go exactly according to his plan, whether they like it or not. Muahaha.

The rest of the novel continues like this with a more learned or more accomplished character - exclusively male - expositing through dialogue to an underling or protege - also exclusively male...

[Read the remainder of my review @ http://theinfamousj.livejournal.com/451937.html]


Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 1450
Review Date: 4/28/2009
Helpful Score: 1


I'm the type of person who will click "Order More from This Member" to see if there is something else on a member's bookshelf that I want to read. Usually I strike out. This time I struck it rich!

There was something about the title, and the cover art, of this book that stuck in the back of my mind. I wanted to read it, to see what the book was about. When I looked on the internet for "spoilers", all I could find were raves. I was prepared for this book to have darker, sexual themes, since you can clearly read the attraction in Vermeer's painting. However, those themes were absent from the book and Vermeer was shown to be a respectable man.

I've heard that there is a movie that accompanies this book and now that I've read the book, I'm itching to watch the movie.

Definitely ranked "I love it" on the star rating system.


Grave Peril (Dresden Files, Bk 3)
Grave Peril (Dresden Files, Bk 3)
Author: Jim Butcher
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 586
Review Date: 5/26/2009


Fantastic book. I like the inclusion of the new character, Michael. He really rounds out the Dresden Files cast. The plot is suspenseful and is more about my favorite elements: magic and vampires, and less about Dresden and Murphy's "do you trust me?" relationship. I cannot wait to read book #4!


Just as Long as We're Together
Just as Long as We're Together
Author: Judy Blume
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 42
Review Date: 3/21/2009


There is another possible cover for this book. It can be seen at http://i40.tinypic.com/15i8cbs.jpg


Land of Nod, The Artifact
Land of Nod, The Artifact
Author: Gary Hoover
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/24/2012


Land of Nod, The Artifact is the story of young Jeff Browning, son of a well renowned physicist who has gone missing and is presumed dead. Jeff deals with the complex emotions around the abandonment by his father and his passivity, when he encounters a teleporter that takes him to a different world. It is not a spoiler to tell you that the world is called "Nod".

Once there, he childishly realizes that the rules of his home world not longer apply, but to also trust his psychic instincts about other people. This new world is one in which nightmares are real, and people from Earth have innate psychic advantages over the Nod natives.

I am not sure how this book is being marketed, but it is unquestionably a children's novel, aimed right around the upper elementary/lower middle school split, and clearly aimed at males. That said, even though I am nowhere near this book's target audience, it kept me captivated from start to finish.

I really enjoyed exploring the new world with Jeff. Author Gary Hoover has done an excellent job with world building and is clearly a master of showing, rather than telling, the necessary exposition. The descriptive attention to detail and simplified-yet-spot-on science explanations make me wonder if Mr. Hoover is a trained scientist, himself. If not, he certainly writes like one (a compliment).

One of the other things I really liked about this novel is that it had a hint of kindness permeating everything. While Jeff was in real danger and there was real action and real suspense, all the other protagonist characters seemed to adopt Jeff as a member of their family and treat him with the love and respect such a position provides. It is rare to feel that you are getting a special hug from a beloved parent due to reading a book, but I enjoyed the feel-good added bonus that came with the story.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


The Lathe Of Heaven: A Novel
The Lathe Of Heaven: A Novel
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 18
Review Date: 12/15/2011


From http://theinfamousj.livejournal.com/438297.html

I love, love, love, love dystopian fiction. To that end, if you love dystopian fiction as I do, you will love this book.

The premise of this story is that there is a man who is capable, through subconscious dreams, of altering the universe. Or perhaps he is capable of transferring his consciousness onto a parallel, yet subtly different, universe. As most of us dream resolutions to our conflicts, so too does he, but with far reaching consequences for himself and those who are present when he dreams.

Add to this a psychiatrist who specializes in sleep disorders who decides to use our fateful protagonist's powers to do good in the world. Or at least that is the attempt, but as with all dystopian fiction, something always goes wrong.

There is a lot of dialogue in this story, and it focuses on the exact nature of the dream gift as well as the ethics of using the gift. There are three recurring characters: the dreamer, the psychiatrist, and a female lawyer.

As with all other dystopian fiction, the story ends with an overwhelming feeling of good and trust to humanity, but the ride along the way is full of twists, turns, and mysteries that are revealed.

I've given this book 4 out of 5 stars because there were sections where Ursula K. Le Guin seemed to expect you to know things that were not disclosed in the book. Perhaps if I lived on the west coast I might know them, but as I am an east coast reader, I was left puzzled occasionally.

This book is very similar to "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?".


Line of Duty
Line of Duty
Author: Michael Grant
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 1/6/2013


I initially came across Line of Duty because it was tucked into a big lot of paperback books that I ordered off of eBay. I am not one for cop books, normally, but as I'd just finished Detective by Arthur Hailey, I thought I'd give it a shot.

And boy am I glad I did!

This is a fantastic story that shows what real police work is like. It discusses computers in ways that are not deus ex machina and shows what the internal politics are like behind the world of police work. It also shows the strain on police spouses as well as police arteries. I never realized that the world of law enforcement was so multifaceted nor so nuanced.

While I never watched it, I did live with a man who was a fan of "The Wire". I felt that if you liked that show, you might appreciate this novel, as they both seem to be on the same topic: that of police corruption.

An absolutely fantastic read!


The Little Book of Celtic Wisdom
The Little Book of Celtic Wisdom
Author: John Matthews, Caitlin Matthews
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 5/5/2009


Wonderful little book of Celtic Wisdom. Caitlin explores several of the lands mentioned in Celtic Mythology and ties them into everyday life. Visit the Land of Youth, the Land of the Living, the Plain of Delight, the Plain of Silver and Land of Promise. Truly a Celtic tapestry. I use this book with my groups as we travel on a Sacred Site Tour through Ireland.


Meet Felicity: 1774 (American Girls: Felicity, Bk 1)
Review Date: 3/21/2009


An alternate cover image for this text can be seen at http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=svigiw&s=5


Mount Dragon
Mount Dragon
Author: Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 211
Review Date: 12/15/2011


From http://theinfamousj.livejournal.com/438029.html

I really enjoyed this book and would categorize it as a thriller. Though it had bits of ethics, biotechnology, and romance thrown in, it really was more about the adventure than anything else. The ethics were dealt with in the most superficial way, the biotechnology was horribly simplified and important steps were altogether eliminated, and the romance seemed forced, but the adventure ... The adventure was fabulous. This is basically a story of someone protecting the entire human race while doing amazing feats of survival, as almost every adventure story is. It turned out, to me, to be a page turned and a book that I finished in only a week.

If you happen to like adventure/thrillers and even like a hint {and I truly do mean just a hint} of science mixed up in your literature, you won't do wrong to check out this book.


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