Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters

cover of The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters
I have always liked the Jacqueline Kirby books, written by Elizabeth Peters, and I thought that I would re-read one of the earlier ones, The Murders of Richard III. The book was written in 1974 and was told from the viewpoint of Thomas Carter. He was in London and a member of the Ricardian Society. This group of folks believed that Richard III was not the murderous villain as portrayed by William Shakespeare and some historians. Thomas takes Jacqueline (Jake) to a meeting at the estate of Richard Weldon. Weldon claimed to have a letter that would prove that Richard III did not murder his nephews. When the gathering at Weldon's estate became disrupted by pranks that duplicate the murders associated with Richard III, Jake started to suspect that there was more than meets the eye, and that something must be done before the pranks become deadly.

Jacqueline Kirby is my kind of woman. She's intelligent, spirited, and up to any challenge. She's always able to see through the clouds of confusion to figure out whodunit. In The Murders of Richard III, Jake takes an active role in this mystery, at one point tackling the villain with her weaponized purse. I call it weaponized because it's one of those big ass purses, and when Jake puts a heavy statue in it, it can be deadly. Peters knows how to interject humor into her books, and The Murders of Richard III is full of humor, action, and mystery. Of course, there's also a tinge of romance. I really loved The Murders of Richard III, and I would highly recommend it, even if you haven't read an Elizabeth Peters before.

Friday, November 22, 2013

History Decoded by Brad Meltzer

A year or so ago, I was scanning the TV list for a new interesting show. I found it when I saw the description for Decoded. The series, which so far ran for two seasons, was the brainchild of Brad Meltzer, and it fit into my interests like a hand in a glove. The show featured Scott Rolle, Christine McKinley, and Buddy Levy who would investigate historical controversies for Meltzer. The show looked at a variety of difference historical topics, such as the White House cornerstone, secret Presidential codes, the Statue of Liberty, and Secret Societies. The show was fascinating, and the team took a very rational view of things. They researched the conspiracies and controversies, and they formed rational responses. Loved the show! I wish that it had a third season.

Fortunately, Meltzer collected the ten greatest conspiracies of all time in a new book History Decoded. Of course, I got the book, and it was just awesome. Each chapter had supplemental materials that illustrated the conspiracies, held in an envelope at the start of each chapter. Each section was short, but full of information. The countdown to the top ten:
  1. John Wilkes Booth
  2. Confederate Gold
  3. Georgia Guidestones
  4. D. B. Cooper
  5. White House Cornerstone
  6. Spear of Destiny
  7. Leonardo DaVinci
  8. Fort Knox Gold
  9. UFOs
  10. JFK Assassination
As I mentioned, conspiracies intrigue me, and the book did not disappoint. Meltzer, and co-author Keith Ferrell, did a great job of collecting and presenting the information. If you love history, and especially if you love conspiracies, you will want to read History Decoded. The only problem that I have with the book is that I want more.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Die for Love by Elizabeth Peters

cover of Die for Love by Elizabeth Peters
I have not been reading much lately. I have been very busy teaching three classes, and it hasn't left much time for anything else. I did manage to get some reading done. Since Elizabeth Peters died a few months ago, I have wanted to read some of the books that I haven't read for a while. I went back to the Jacqueline Kirby books, and read the third book in the series, Die for Love. This book is classic, hilarious Peters with satire of a romance writers conference.

Jacqueline Kirby wanted a vacation away from her Nebraska university, and while she was looking for a conference to attend, she found one in New York City for romance writers. Of course, Jacqueline had never read a romance novel. After reading one on the flight to New York, she realized that she could easily try her hand at writing one. The conference is the epitome of cartoon romance. Hattie Foster, Aunt Hattie, was one of those unscrupulous agents who used blackmail to keep her stable of writers working for her for mere peanuts. Hattie had all the big name authors, all the Valentines (writers with some form of Valentine in the name). Dubretta Dubrenstein, a sharp tongued reporter for the Daily Blank made it her job to expose Hattie, and when she had a heart attack and died at one of the conference soirees, Jacqueline immediately knew it was murder. With the a next to no help from flame, and fellow professor, James Whittier, Jacqueline set out to solve the mystery. When it became obvious that someone was out to get Dubretta's notebook, which Jacqueline has, and when Laurie, a romance conference hanger-on, got murdered, Jacqueline knew she had to stop the killer before she was next.

Elizabeth Peters did an excellent job with ribbing romance writers and romance writer conferences. Peter has both Vicky Bliss and Jacqueline attempting to write romance novels. The prose would just fly off their pens, and Peters gave us glimpses of the over the top dialog. Peters was an excellent writer, and in Die for Love, she gave a great mix of humor and mystery. I enjoyed the book a good deal, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants some laughs with a mystery.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Grave Descend by John Lange

cover of Grave Descend by John Lange
I really miss new books by Michael Crichton. Crichton wrote the type of book that I love to read: scientific thriller. It was so obvious that the man was highly intelligent because he was able to discourse on any topic, especially the scientific ones, and make you think he was an expert on the topic. Crichton did his research. I loved listening to some of his talks after he wrote State of Fear. Crichton was telling people to doubt the science of climate change. Crichton was saying that we need to read about the topic and not trust to politicians to have the best solution to any problem. In fact, we should all see that politicians always have an agenda. Science based on politics and fear was not the science that Crichton thought we should subscribe to.

Now none of that has anything to do with Grave Descend. Well, not exactly. Imagine my excitement when I learned recently that Michael Crichton had written books under the pseudonym John Lange in the 1970s. Hard Case Crime recently republished the books, and of course, I had to check it out. Grave Descend is a very short, fast-paced read. James McGregor is a professional diver, who is called to for a salvage project on a boat, The Grave Descend, that sank in the waters of Jamaica due to an explosion. McGregor immediately questions the story because the parts just don’t add up. He goes to check out the location of the wreck, and surprise, surprise, the Grave Descend is anchored there. Within minutes, McGregor sees someone fiddling with a remote, and boom! Down goes the Grave Descend. McGregor finds himself embroiled with money launderers, the Sicilian Mafia, and the police, as he tries to piece together what happened to the Grave Descend.

The book wasn’t like a typical Crichton story, but it did have a hard-boiled, edgy feel with taut, fast-paced action. After reading Grave Descend, I started looking for other John Lange books at the library, and I will definitely have to loosen the purse strings to buy some of the Kindle editions. If you have a spare evening, I strongly recommend Grave Descend. You won’t regret it!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

cover of The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
I have been looking for some new writers who write in the style of Barbara Mertz, and I found Susanna Kearsley, whose The Shadowy Horses said it was in the tradition of Barbara Michaels. So, of course, I was expecting some good woo-woo with romance and history. I was not disappointed. Verity Grey is an archaeologist who gets a job with Peter Quinell looking for the Roman Ninth Legion around Quinell's house in Scotland. Quinell is sure that the Ninth Legion, whose final resting place was missing, was to be found in Scotland because of the second sight of a little boy, Robbie. When Verity joins Quinell and her former boyfriend, Adrian, she finds herself captivated by fellow archaeologist, David Fortune. Unfortunately, Verity gets an eerie feeling that there is something supernatural going on. When Robbie tells her that the Sentinel, the Sentinel of the Ninth Legion, has become captivated by Verity because she reminds him of his sister, Verity really feels a chill down her spine. Will Verity help Quinell find the Ninth Legion? Why is the Sentinel watching over her? And will Verity and David find true love?

As I mentioned, I really did enjoy The Shadowy Horses. Kearsley's plot reminded me strongly of Michaels' books. There was a good deal of eeriness with the wandering of the Sentinel, the sound of galloping horses, and the mystery of objects going missing. Of course, I knew that Verity would find love, because that's what always happens in these types of books. I found myself caring about the characters because Kearsley did such a good job of making them human. I'm going to have to look for other Kearsley titles to see if they are as enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer

cover of The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer
I have been busy this month with the Jewish holidays and with teaching three writing courses this term. So needless to say, I haven’t had much time for pleasure reading. It took me a month of bus time reading to finish The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer. I caught a few of the Decoded shows on the History Channel, and I enjoyed watching Brad Meltzer and his assistants investigate various historical claims. Shows looked at DB Cooper, John Wilkes Booth, UFOs, the Alaska Triangle, the Culper Ring, and similar stuff. It’s all interesting, and it got me to check out Meltzer as an author. I noticed that The Fifth Assassin was on sale for Kindle when the paperback version came out, so I got it.

Beecher White is the hero of the book, and he works as an archivist and for the modern day Culper Ring. Someone is killing pastors in the DC area, mimicking the assassins of the Presidents. The weird thing is that the assassin in wearing a plaster cast of Abraham Lincoln’s face, which were made in Lincoln’s lifetime. An acquaintance from Beecher’s childhood, Marshall, may be involved, and Beecher also thinks that Beecher’s former girlfriend, Clementine might be involved. The characters were a bit confusing for me because it seems that the story started with The Inner Circle. So we have Clementine’s father, Nico, who tried to kill the current president, President Wallace. Wallace also has a back story with Beecher, who knows that Wallace killed someone in the past. Can Beecher figure out who is killing the pastors before that someone kills Wallace? And does Beecher want to prevent Wallace’s assassination?

Even with all the confusion of jumping into what appeared to be the middle of the story, I really enjoyed The Fifth Assassin. I could hear Meltzer narrating Beecher’s internal dialog, and I found myself racing through the pages whenever I did have a chance to read. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, when the end of the book came too soon. The book ends in a cliff hanger that really did leave me yearning for a quick release of the next book in the series. Meltzer has an informal, quick-paced writing style, and it added to the book’s action scenes. I have The Inner Circle on hold at the library, and I hope to catch up on Beecher’s backstory. I plan on reading a lot more Meltzer in the future.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown

cover of Inferno by Dan Brown
Dan Brown: the mere mention of his name can turn some people into raving lunatics. Brown can't write. His stories are contrived. His plots are thin and poorly imagined. His grammar and language suck. His research is superficial. I could go on and on with the rantings of these folks. What I don't understand is why these folks feel compelled to read Brown's books? If the books irk you so much, save your money and your time. Walk by the book display. I think that some folks just love to complain, and I think that others like to believe that they are part of the intelligentsia that only reads literature. Others may be suffering from petty jealousy because they would love to be a best selling author. Let me just say that i am not part of the attacking hoards. I like Dan Brown's books. Heck, I even loved some of the them.

Inferno came out in May, but I didn't get a chance to read it until my vacation last week. I wasn't a huge fan of Lost Symbol, but the concept of Inferno seemed to return to Brown's earlier themes of symbology in classical works. In this case, the classical work is Dante's Divine Comedy. Robert Langdon awakens in a hospital in Florence, realizing that he lost two days. He can't remember how he got from his class at Harvard to a hospital in Florence. As he tries to figure out what happened, with the help of young, super-intelligent, Sienna Brooks, Langdon realizes that he needs to look at Dante's journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory, and Heaven to find a biological threat to civilization. As Langdon races through Florence to recover his lost 48 hours and to discover the secret of Inferno, he is hunted by mysterious police officials dressed in black. Langdon races through Florence and Venice trying to escape deadly assassins. That's enough to be said about the plot.

Inferno is full of the fast-paced thrills and puzzles that Brown gave us in The DaVinci Code. I thought it was a much more entertaining read than Lost Symbol, which I guess is a recommendation. The ending was a bit of a disappointment, and it just seemed to be more like the balloon deflating from a slow leak than the heart stopping pop that I was hoping for. I like the earlier Brown books much better. I think that the more time he puts into the books, the more confusion he adds to the mix. That said, I'm still looking forward to the next Dan Brown book. The only problem is that it will probably be years from now before it will be published.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

N or M? by Agatha Christie

cover of N or M? by Agatha Christie
Although Agatha Christie is mostly known for her murder mysteries, mostly starring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, she was also a very good espionage writer. Those books are few in number, but one of my favorites is N or M?, which features Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Tommy and Tuppence were only in a handful of Christie books: The Secret AdversaryPartners in CrimeN or M?By the Pricking of My Thumbs, and Postern of Fate, which was the last book that Christie wrote. Tommy and Tuppence start out as young people fresh from World War I with no prospects. They get involved in a spy case, looking for the mysterious Jane Finn. They open a detective agency in Partners in Crime, which is a collection of short stories with an overall unifying theme of working for Mr. Carter and looking for a man known as No. 16. For each case in the book, Tommy and Tuppence took on the personality of a well-known (in 1929) fictional detectives. With N or M?, Tommy and Tuppence are now middle aged. World War II is in full force, and the Berefords want to get in on the act of helping their country, but they are dismissed as being "past it." War is for the young, like Tommy and Tuppence's twins, Derek and Deborah.

N or M? starts with both Tommy and Tuppence down in the dumps because they don't have a role in the war. When someone comes knocking at their door, we all know that it is adventure. This time, it's in the shape of Mr. Grant, who has been sent to solicit the services of Tommy for a boring desk job in Scotland. When Tuppence gets called away to tend to a sick friend, Mr. Grant lets Tommy know that Scotland is a rouse. He's really going to a boarding house in Leahampton called Sans Souci to look for a Nazi spy. The spy can be one of two main people known as N and M. N is a male, while M is a female. Tommy is not to tell Tuppence a thing, and a few days later, he goes off to "Scotland." Imagine Tommy's surprise when he arrives at Sans Souci, as Mr. Meadowes, to find Tuppence already in residence as Mrs. Blenkensop, Tommy is elated. Tuppence figured out that Mr. Grant didn't want to talk in front of her, so she plotted the phone call with a next door neighbor. As Tommy and Tuppence investigate the inhabitants of Sans Souci, they realize that people are not as they appear. Just as Tommy and Tuppence are playing a role, any of the other house guests could be someone else. The only one who seems above suspicion is Mrs. Sprot with her two-year-old daughter, Betty. Christie cunningly hides the identities of N and M, and I was greatly surprised by both reveals. There are no murders in the book, but there is lots of adventure.

I loved N or M?, and it makes me want to re-read the first two Tommy and Tuppence books. The latter two are not very good, so I'll just avoid them for now. As Christie would say, you are not past it until you are dead, and you should never believe everything people tell you.

Keep your eyes open for the part where Christie has a character talk about amnesia that is brought on by the stress of life. This is obviously an reference to the amnesia adventure that Christie had. She rather famously went missing in 1926 when her husband Archie Christie was divorcing her. The claim was that Christie suffered amnesia from the stress of the divorce. You can read more about that here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Dancing Floor by Barbara Michaels

cover of The Dancing Floor by Barbara Michaels
I was randomly reading the books by Barbara Michaels; but there are only a few left on the list that I haven't read, so I put them on the back burner. However, the local library had a copy of The Dancing FloorThe Dancing Floor is one of the last books that Michaels wrote under that pseudonym. The book was published in 1997, and only Other Worlds was published after it. Other Worlds doesn't really count, because it's not Michaels' typical romantic suspense book.

In The Dancing Floor, Heather Tradescant goes to England in memory of her father. He had recently died, and he and Heather had always planned to tour the gardens in England that were designed by a famous British gardener of the name Tradescant. Heather is at a loss, and she really wants to see Troyton House. However, Frank Karim, the rich owner is reclusive, and it doesn't look like Heather will get a chance to see the gardens. However, she finds her way into an old, thorny-hedge covered maze at the back of the house, and in a fright at one of the statues hidden in the maze, barrels out onto the lawns of Troyton. Frank is quite taken with Heather's last name, and thinks it's a sign that she should help him in the restoration of the garden. However, there is a force that seems to be trying to hurt Heather. Could it be because of the Witches of Pendle? Frank's son, Jordan, doesn't seem happy to have Heather around, and the security guard, Sean, also seems suspicious of her, although that doesn't stop his womanizing ways. Then there's the neighbor, Giles, who used to own Troyton, and is having issues with his troublesome wife and his hooligan young son, Bobby. As accidents happen to Heather, she starts to wonder if they are natural or supernatural.

Some of the later Barbara Michaels books were disappointing, but I found enjoyed reading The Dancing Floor. It reminded me more of some of the earlier romantic suspense books that Michaels/Peters wrote, only without a really strong occult feel to it. I'm really glad that I picked up the book at the library because it was a very enjoyable read.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan by Todd Gallagher

cover of Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan by Todd Gallagher
I like sports, and I also like to theorize how certain things affect sports. For example, what if you could get a really obese guy as a goalie? He would fill the net opening, and make it impossible to get the puck in the net. Well, Todd Gallagher, a Pittsburgher and writer for ESPN, took the questions that fans had and put them to the test. He documented the results in his book Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan. I wasn't interested in every question that Gallagher looked at, but there were a few that really caught my attention.

The first question I caught my eye was the Olympic swimmer doing the doggie paddle and being the average person. Well, whenever Gallagher approached an athlete, I noticed that the athlete would accept the challenge, and then start to practice with the restriction, such as doing the doggie paddle. Josh Davis was the Olympic swimmer, and he was able to easily beat Gallagher with a doggie paddle. In fact, Davis was even turning around to root Gallagher on. After losing that match, Gallagher wasn't done with Olympic athletes. He knew someone who had been discussing for years what it would take for the average person to beat an Olympic sprinter (100 meters). For this bout, Maurice (Mo) Green agreed to race against a person who would complete part of the run on a moving walkway. Gallagher found the moving walkway at LAX, and Mo was not pleased with the average Joe getting a 35 meter head start, but agreed to a 31 meter head start. So that means that the average Joe only had to run 69 meters to Mo's 100. With the first race, Mo almost caught the average Joe, even with the 31 meter head start and 35 meter moving walk way. But Mo asked for a second attempt. He learned from that first try, and Mo won the second match. The thing that was most impressive was the Mo quickly figured out, within minutes, what handicap would allow the average Joe to have a competitive chance.

Gallagher also looked at women competing against men in sports. As an example, the USA women's Olympic soccer team can beat 14-year-old boys. However, when the boys hit 15 or 16, the women have a much harder time being competitive. When it comes to strength and athletic ability, men had the edge. That doesn't mean that a couch potato can beat a woman athletic, but men in the sport dominate women. During Wimbledon, Andy Murray said that he would play Serena Williams. Williams first response was that she wouldn't even win a point. There was a ton of talk about it, but in 1998, Karsten Braasch, a German tennis player ranked around 200, easily beat both Williams sisters. Of course, at 31, even with her recent results, which makes me wonder about performance enhancement, Andy Murray would easily trounce Serena Williams unless we apply some of the handicaps that Gallagher puts on athletes in Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan. Maybe Serene would be able to use the doubles lanes, and Murray would get one serve per game to Williams four. But what would the result of that match mean to me? That Williams had no chance to beat Murray one on one. It is what it is.

To answer the statement in the title, Andy Roddick did play with a frying pan against Todd Gallagher using a regular tennis racket. Gallagher did manage to win the match, but even he wondered if Roddick had had a chance to practice more with the frying pan, if the result would be the same. Roddick did practice a bit before the match, as Gallagher found out, but it wasn't enough to give Roddick the winning edge.

If you love sports, and you love playing the game, "what would it take to beat..", you'll love this book. I could imagine a follow-up book with even more questions and situations where the average person can have a chance at beating a professional/skilled athlete.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
I like to read in general, and I love to read kids books when I need a good spot of relaxation. As I was scanning the shelves of the library, I saw Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Of course, everyone has heard of the book, and how insanely popular it it. Well, I had not had a chance to read it, and in fact, never considered reading. However, I picked up the book; and when I saw that the book was all in Comic Sans typeface with drawings galore, I figured I needed to give it a try. I'm glad that I did because the book was very enjoyable.

Kinney started the story as an online daily entry. The book is in the same format. Greg Heffley, the "author" of the diary entries, writes about his entry and first year of middle school. For those who don't know, middle school is the the time between grade school and high school, usually around grades seven and eight. Greg is just trying to fit in. As he says at the start, usually the fastest boy would get the girl in grade school. In middle school, things become more difficult, and it's not easy to be the fastest or smartest. Greg's best friend is Rowley Jefferson, and they have various adventures muddling through the confusing world of average adolescence. Greg has an older brother, Rodrick, who is really into music and picking on Greg. Greg also has a much younger brother, Manny, who is spoiled rotten by the parents, and who embarrasses Greg by calling him Bubby.

I read through the book in an afternoon. Kinney has a great way with telling funny stories and really connecting to the average child who wants to fit in with the others, but doesn't know how he can do it. I laughed out loud throughout the book, and I found myself rooting for Greg, even when he wasn't the nicest, most responsible kid. I know that I, for one, can't wait to read more of Greg's adventures, and I already put a request in for the second book in the series: Rodrick Rules.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Watch, Therefore I Am by Gregory Bergman and Peter Archer

cover of I Watch, Therefore I Am by Gregory Bergman and Peter Archer
When I was in college, one of my favorite courses was on the philosophy of ethics. Since then, I have always found the topic of ethics and philosophy interesting. In my writing courses, I devote a class to professional ethics. So when I saw I Watch, Therefore I Am by Gregory Bergman and Peter Archer in the library, I was very excited. Who wouldn't want to see the connection between philosophical principles and television? Whenever I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, I would pay special attention to the ethical issues that would confront the crew of the Enterprise. I thought that's what I Watch, Therefore I Am would do, talk about the philosophical issues presented in series television.

Imagine then, my disappointment when I discovered that the book gave a very quick and superficial overview of different philosophical ideologies while making a rather lame connection to some television show. I think in most cases the connections between the philosophical principle and the show was rather tenuous. For example, the authors made a connection between All in the Family and faith and reason. I was hard pressed to see the connection or to see how the example dialog illustrated anything about faith. The book is extremely quick and easy to read because there isn't much depth, and there are blank pages between most of the chapters. If you are looking for something entertaining or that looks at the philosophical elements in a particular show, you will probably be disappointed with I Watch, Therefore I Am. I know that I was.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters

cover of Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters
All I have to say is "wow!" I just finished reading the fifth book in the Vicky Bliss series, Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters. I really liked the first two books in the series: Borrower of the Night and Street of Five Moons, and Night Train to Memphis rivals them for my favorite of the batch. This one started with Vicky wondering what the heck was going on with Sir John Smythe. He had been incommunicado for around six weeks, and she was sure that something was up. When she was approached by the Munich police asking her to go on a cruise because she might be able to identify a criminal, she knew that it had to be Sir John. The Munich police try to get her boss, Herr Schmidt, out of the picture on a trumped up museum purchase, and Vicky went off to Cairo to be a Egyptian art expert on a Nile cruise for wealthy tourists. Imagine Vicky's shock when Sir John was on the cruise with...his wife! The twists and turns that follow as Vicky tried to figure out what was going on, and who was threatening her and Schmidt. Peters has always been great with all Egyptian plots, and Night Train to Memphis has tons of excitement and chase scenes as Vicky and John try to escape from the baddies.

There were so many things that I loved about this book. First, we found out that Sir John's real name was John Tregarth. Then, if you do a careful reading of the book, you find tons of references to the Tregarth history. Peters always alluded to the connection between John and the Emersons (of the Amelia Peabody Emerson mysteries). It's easier to pick up the clues when you know to look for them. If you haven't read any of the Vicky Bliss books, you really need to get cracking!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

cover of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle for the first time. The book is a child's classic that was written in 1962, and surprisingly, this is the first time that I read the book. I'm not sure if I tried to read the book as a child, but I'm sure that if I did, I would have been confused and probably stopped reading the book. The story is about the Murry family, especially, Meg and Charles Wallace. Their father went off on a secret assignment for the government, and wound up going missing. Mr. Murry is a physicist, and Mrs. Murry is also a scientist. Although everyone in the town thinks that Mr. Murray left his family for another woman. However, the family knows he's out there. Charles Wallace, five-years-old, doesn't talk much, and others think he is an idiot. However, when he talks to his family, he has a much more advanced vocabulary and intellect. Charles Wallace mets some strange women in the woods near his house: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. Of course, the three women turn out to be from another realm, and they help Charles Wallace, Meg, and new family friend, Calvin O'Keefe, find and rescue Mr. Murry. Of course, there is lots of talk about time and distance travel via a tesseract, or a wrinkle in time/space. The three kids eventually find Mr. Murry, but run into the evil IT, the darkness that takes over planets and life on those planets.

As I said, the book is very confusing at the beginning. It's hard to figure out what is going on. I could imagine that some kids might just give up with the confusion. Also, there are definite religious overtones throughout the book with the fight between good and evil, and supreme goodness and supreme evil. There is also some discussion of mathematics and science. The tesseract is a product of the fifth dimension. The book is a quick read, and I really enjoyed the book. The key message to remember is that love wins out over evil. I can imagine that several readings would needed to pick up all the details in the book. Wrinkle in Time is indeed a very thought provoking story.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Split Second by David Baldacci

cover of Split Second by David Baldacci
I love to find new-to-me authors with a batch of books that I can read. David Baldacci fits that description. Yes, I heard of him before; that is how Baldacci got on my to-be-read list in the first place. I would see his books on the New Books tables. Since the books appear to be thrillers, I thought they would be right up my alley, and I was right. I started with the King and Maxwell series. The first book is Split Second starts with Michelle Maxwell, Secret Service agent, losing the presidential candidate that she was watching. John Bruno was kidnapped from a funeral home while the Secret Service agents waited outside the viewing room for him. This, of course, leads into the last time the Secret Service lost a presidential candidate when Clyde Ritter was assassinated on Sean King's watch eight years earlier. King was distracted by something, and did not see Arnold Ramsey shoot Ritter. However, King responded and killed Ramsey. What's the tie between the two cases? Will King and Maxwell join forces and catch the psychotic mind behind the events?

I loved the book! The action was constant. Every few pages, someone was threatened or killed. There were a ton of lose ends, and it didn't seem to me to make any sense about how the two events were connected. I did manage to figure out the twist with one of the people involved in the mystery. However, there were so many loose ends that I didn't think Baldacci would be able to tie them up. But Baldacci did a great job doing just that. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series and the Camel Club books (the other series Baldacci writes). As I was reading the book one evening, I noticed that TNT has a new television series based on the books called, what for it, King and Maxwell. I'm not sure if I'll watch the series, but I will definitely be reading the books.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Max Finder Mystery

cover of Max Finder Mystery volume 1 by Liam O'Donnell and Michael Cho
I love a good graphic novel, and my favorite type is the mystery/adventure type. One of my favorites is the Case Closed manga, and recently I found Alison Dare. Right after I finished the Alison Dare stories, I went to the local library to scan the shelves for more entertaining graphic novels. I came across Max Finder Mysteries by Liam O'Donnell and Michael Cho, and I got the first three volumes of the collected cases. The books are a collection of short stories and puzzles, sort of in the same vein as Encyclopedia Brown. The stories are four pages each. At the end of the story, you get the chance to play detective and see if you can figure it out. The answers are included at the end of the book. Between each story is a one page puzzle. Each puzzle is different, ans are things like cracking the code, tracking the footprints, and completing sentences.

How do the stories compare to Encyclopedia Brown? Well, the Encyclopedia Brown stories are much more clever. However, I really enjoyed Max Finder. The cast of characters is small, and everyone makes nicey-nicey at the end. I liked Max Finder, and I plan on looking for volumes 4 through 6. Next up on the graphic novel list is Leave it to Chance.

The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

cover of The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
The Ice Limit is a standalone book written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This book does not have any connection to the Pendergast books. In The Ice Limit, Sam McFarlane is a meteorite hunter. He used to be a partner with Nestor Masangkay, and when Masangkay turns up dead, after finding what may be the biggest meteorite ever found, McFarlane finds himself a wanted man, wanted by Palmer Lloyd, one of the richest men in the world. Lloyd wants to get the meteorite for his museum. So Lloyd hires McFarlane, and then hires Eli Glinn, head of Effective Engineering Solutions, Inc. (EES), to get the meteorite from a deserted island off the coast of Chile. Stuff gets tricky when Lloyd wants the meteorite yesterday, which means that the EES and McFarlane have to go around Cape Horn in July, which is the winter in the southern hemisphere. EES converts a tanker into this high-tech vehicle. The tanker has been made to look like a crappy tanker that won't arouse the suspicions of the Chileans. The ship's captain is a woman who had lost her ship's command by grounding the ship while drunk. However, she is extremely competent, and now no longer drinks. There is lots of talk about the Ice Limit, which is the area around Cape Horn where the ocean is so close to Antarctic that is full of icebergs and dangerous waters. The group is determined to get the meteorite out of the ground even with all the obstacles. The meteorite turns out to be much heavier and dangerous than they originally thought. The meteorite seems to fit into McFarlane's pet theory that there might be meteorites that came from outside of our Solar System. As McFarlane and Rachel Amira try to figure out what the meteorite is, while Glinn tries to get the meteorite into the tanker's hold before Commandante Vallenar of the Chilean navy shoots the tanker out of the water.

The Ice Limit is a typical Preston and Child thriller. At times, as I was reading it, I was strongly reminded of Michael Crichton. I spend most of the book on the edge of my seat, just knowing that something awful was going to happen and that none of them were going to get back to New York. I read the Kindle version of the book, and it contained the epilogue that Preston and Child had on their website. The epilogue contained a variety of news articles about the incidents in the book after the fact. There are some rumors that Preston and Child will write a sequel to The Ice Limit. Since The Ice Limit came out in 2000, I'm afraid that means there won't be a sequel. Come on, Preston and Child! I want to more!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your Royal Hostage by Antonia Fraser

cover of Your Royal Hostage by Antonia Fraser
I am catching up on my huge pile of library books, and Your Royal Hostage by Antonia Fraser was one of them. It's one of the last Jemima Shore mysteries. In this one, Jemima has been fired from Megalith because she was supporting Cy Fredericks' efforts there. Unfortunately, Cy was on his way out. So Jemima finds herself without a job, but not for long. Instead, Jemima found herself working for an American television show covering the upcoming royal nuptials of Princess Amy of Cumberland to Prince Ferdinand. Unfortunately. a group of animal rights activists, Innoright, have planned to disrupt the wedding and kidnap Princess Amy to promote their animal rights agenda.

Unfortunately, although the book was a quick read, it wasn't really up to the standards that I had come to expect of Antonia Fraser. The mystery, if there really is one, was not that exciting. I kept on waiting for the story to pick up and become exciting. However, it never really did pick up. Jemima seemed to have been just a very minor character in the story, and she really didn't play an active role in the book at all. It was rather a disappointing story. Next on my list is The Cavalier Case by Fraser. It has to be better than Your Royal Hostage. Anything would be better!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures

cover of the Collected Alison Dare by J. Torres and J. Bone
On Free Comic Book day, my local comic book store, Phantom of the Attic, in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, had a sale on comics that were stored in long boxes. One of the comics that I picked up was an Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures. The comic was just a short glimpse into the Alison Dare world, so I looked up the title in my local library. They had two volumes of the collected Alison Dare comics. I quickly read the two books, which were just so much fun!

Alison Dare is the daughter of an female archaeologist and a male librarian. Her father has an alter ego, the Blue Scarab, a super hero who fights evil. There's also Uncle Johnny, who is a super spy, disguising himself as a variety of characters. Alison goes to a convent school with her two best friends, Wendy and Dot. Alison gets the trio into a variety of misadventures, usually centering around her mother's archaeological adventures. Unfortunately, there aren't many adventures in print. I wish that J. Torres and J. Bone would do more Alison Dare.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Menfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt

cover of Menfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt
Nobody today writes romantic suspense/gothic romances like they used to. At least, that's what I think after reading Menfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt. As you can probably tell by the plethora of romantic suspense books in my reviews, I love a good romantic suspense. What makes a romantic suspense book good? Well, you have to have a heroine that you like, and she has to fall in love with a guy that is a handsome rake. Then you have to throw in some conflict that comes between them. Perhaps the heroine doubts the motives of the hero. Is he really in love with her? Has he married her for her money? Is there another woman? Then you have to have some mysterious circumstances, like threats to the life of the heroine. Is it coming from the hero, or from some other outside source? I want some romantic scenes, but I don't want graphic or explicit sex. Leave it to my imagination, because I can make it better than the author in most cases.

So how does Menfreya in the Morning compare to that ideal? It compares very well! Harriet Delvaney is the heroine: the only daughter of a wealthy member of Parliament. She falls in love with the Menfreya family because she doesn't really have love or attention at home. Gwennan, the younger Menfreya, becomes Harriet's BFF. Bevil, the elder son, of course, becomes Harriet's romantic interest. The Menfreyas are an interesting bunch. Women are attracted to the Menfreya men like moths to a flame, and the same goes for the women. Plain Harriet can't compare to the beautiful women and girls who fling themselves at Bevil's feet. Not only that, but the poor girl is also gimpy! Yes, she has a limp that becomes worse whenever she is trying to impress others. Harriet does not have an easy life at home, even though she is a (or will be) a wealthy heiress. Her mother died giving birth to Harriet, and her father blames Harriet for it. He can't stand the sight of Harriet, and because she knows it, she tends to be truculent when around him. When Harriet does achieve her dream of marriage to Bevil, she is still bedeviled about Bevil's motives. Did he marry her for money or love? To add to the gothic chills, there's a clock that signals the death of a Menfreya when it stops, and yep, it stops. Does that signal Harriet's possible doom? Does Bevil want to murder her to be with the governess that he might have impregnated?

All in all, I was extremely satisfied with the story and the suspense. The book was published in 1966, which makes it one of the earlier Holt books. She kept the story moving, and I think she did a great job with character and plot development. I really enjoyed reading Menfreya in the Morning, and I'm sure you will too.