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- (3/22) The Good, The Bad, and The Difference by Randy
- Collection of some of the best letters and answers from
Cohen's column "The Ethicist" (found primarily in the New York Times
Sunday Magazine). Cohen is not only wonderfully and intelligently funny,
but offers great advice on everyday tricky situations, as well.
- (3/21) Adam and Eve and Pinch Me by Ruth Rendell.
- This was my first Ruth Rendell novel, though I've heard great
things about her for years. While the writing was really good and the
characters were extremely well-drawn and real, the plot was a major
disappointment. Two women in England get letters telling them their
husbands were killed in a train wreck. A third woman's fiance goes out
one day and never returns. The men were all similar -- never holding down
jobs, always borrowing money, etc. But the women are all quite different.
One is a mother of two about to marry a gay friend so he won't have to
come out. One is a successful banker. And the third is a dry cleaner
with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Saying anything more than this
will give the mystery away -- and that was the problem. I had figured out
the connection between the men as soon as I read the description of the
novel on the book flap (even though it tries to make it sound really
mysterious -- woooo). And it doesn't take much longer to figure out who's
killing people in London and why, either -- even before the killings
actually happen in the storyline! The motive for the murders is one I
just never find interesting in novels -- craziness. And maybe if I hadn't
been expecting a MYSTERY, but instead just a drama, I would've enjoyed
this book a lot more. But Rendell's novels are filed under M for Mystery
and this just wasn't mysterious. I'll read at least one more of her
books before giving up, simply because this WAS really well-written. But
I hope the next mystery really is, well, MYSTERIOUS!
- (3/19) The Bear's Embrace by Patricia Van Tighem.
- Very personal story about Van Tighem and her husband Trevor's
slow, painful recoveries (mental and physical) after they were both badly
mauled by a grizzly bear while on a camping trip in the Canadian Rockies.
That Van Tighem survived all this at all is incredible -- that she still
had enough courage left over to write this book, which is so honest and
raw it made my stomach hurt at times, is even more amazing. I can't say
the writing is great -- it's a little clumsy in places and the dialogue
sometimes seemed a little too constructed. But all in all, this is a very
original, complete, and open tale of both unimaginable horror and
- (3/18) Envy by Sandra Brown.
- I got only 100 pages into this novel and then gave up. It's
got a great plot premise -- a mysterious novelist sends a first chapter to
a literary agent that knocks her socks off. She tracks him down, only to
find out the novel, about a murder motivated by envy, may not be
fictitious at all. Unfortunately, Brown is an AWFUL writer. The dialogue
is fakey, every character is an absolute 2-D stereotype, and when
the gruff, arrogant, rude author responds to the sophisticated agent's
first question by grabbing her head and forcing a "hard" kiss on her,
which of course makes her swoon (you know how we modern gals LOVE it when
strange men grab us and force their tongues into our mouths), I just got
plain disgusted. Yeech! Who is supporting Sandra Brown's career? Stop
buying this garbage!
- (3/10) Never Change by Elizabeth Berg.
- Wonderfully written novel about a self-anointed spinster, Myra
Lipinsky, who at age 51 has pretty much resigned herself to a life
centered around her career as a visiting nurse and her dog Frank. But
when her new patient turns out to be Chip Reardon, the guy she had a huge
crush on when she was in high school, everything changes. Chip is dying
of cancer, Myra of loneliness -- and the two of them end up becoming each
other's saviours, of a sort. Far from being the cheesy sapfest I just
made it sound like, this is instead a remarkably funny and honest novel.
Myra is my hero -- a strong, smart, independent woman with a big, soft
heart. And Berg is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. Truly
- (3/12) The Blue Nowhere by Jeffrey Deaver.
- Extremely suspenseful thriller about two computer hackers.
One, known on-line as "Phate," is actually a "cracker" -- a hacker who
uses his skills to do harm. Phate is worse than your average cracker,
though. He's so warped, he's come to view the world as one giant computer
game where the goal is to infiltrate innocent people's computers, find out
enough about them to get close, and then stab them in the heart just when
they think they're safe.
The second hacker, Wyatt Gillette, is also considered a criminal. He's
serving time for breaking into a governmental computer system (just to see
if he could), but only ever uses his skills for good (or to test himself).
He's well known in the techie world for his scripting skills, which is why
the detective in charge of the recent set of murders springs him out of
jail -- to enlist his support in catching Phate.
Two hackers of relatively equal skill -- one good, one evil, each
hunting the other down. As someone interested in computers, I greatly
enjoyed the techie stuff, though it was a little heavy handed in places
(almost like Deaver was showing off his newly acquired jargon). The plot
was fast-paced and packed with the clever plot twists I've come to expect
from Deaver, author of the Lincoln Rhyme series, which is one of my
favorites ("The Bone Collector," e.g.). People not interested in the
computer world (AKA "The Blue Nowhere") will also not be interested in
reading this novel. But those of us who think computers and the Internet
are fascinating, even if we don't really know all that much about them,
will love it. Recommended!
(3/6) The Zygote Chronicles by Suzanna Finnamore.
Sweet and very funny novel of sorts that is essentially
a journal kept by a mother while she's pregnant with her first child.
Since the mother is named Finnamore and the baby has the same name as
Suzanne's child in real life, I'm assuming that while this book is filed
with the fiction, it's more than a little autobiographical. Finnamore is
funny, honest, and actually reminded me a lot of me (same neuroses, I
guess!). I have to confess I left this novel with this funny feeling in
my chest -- a yearn to experience what Finnamore described myself, I
think. Don't tell my husband! Recommended.
(3/5) The Undiscovered Country by Samantha Gillison.
Interesting, though ultimately unsatisfying, story about a
young family who travel to Papua, New Guinea to do research on native
diseases. The parents, June and Peter Campbell, make no secret about the
fact their marriage is stale and they're hoping this adventure will save
it. But clearly they'd never read any of the other (dozen) novels about
this same thing (though Gillison does make this family scientists instead
of missionaries, which was a nice change), because just like in all those
novels, this experiences ends up being more devastating than
For the Campbells, it begins to go downhill when their little girl
Taylor starts hanging out with the cootie-covered natives -- at least,
that's sort of how June thinks of them. Soon she pretty much only speaks
the native language and has retreated so deeply into their culture that
she no longer fits in with the family. Then Peter's research goes stale,
the natives get restless, all three family members come down with their
own unique tropical disease, and somebody ends up not getting to return
I did really enjoy this novel -- loved the setting and the writing.
But by the end, I just felt like I've read that story too many times now.
Gillison's in good company -- I felt the same way about Barbara
Kingsolver's version of it too. But someday it would be nice if someone
wrote one of these novels and gave it a happy ending for a change. Now
THAT would be ORIGINAL. Yeesh.
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