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!