Archive for August, 2008

August 30th 2008

Da Vinci Code Decoded

I loved Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.  It was a fun read.  It had mysteries and conspiracy theories and, lest we forget, it was a work of fiction.  It certainly annoyed the heck out of a lot of people, most notably the Catholic Church.

Martin Lunn is, according to the blurb on the back of the book, an expert historian.  Historians aren’t generally given to flights of fictional fancy.  He goes to great length to discuss virtually all the controversial bits in Brown’s book.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book for two reasons.  First, I’m fascinated by history, especially ancient history.  Second, Lunn’s discussions of the controversies point to the fact that Brown managed to take many kernels of truth and wrap a nice story around them.

From the cover blurb:

The reality of Catholic offshoot Opus Dei… the hard facts about the bloodline of Christ and King David… the shocking secrets of the Holy Grail… the origins of the Knights Templar and the infamous Priory of Sion… the secrets of Temple Church and Rosslyn Cathedral… and much more.

I suspect the people who hated The Da Vinci Code will not like Da Vinci Code Decoded a whole lot better.

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August 27th 2008

Beyond Reach

I’d never heard of Karin Slaughter before I picked up this book over the weekend.  All I wanted was something to read while riding the bus around Manhattan, ya know?  In one of the blurbs on the cover, the Washington Post calls her “one of the best crime novelists in America.”  Maybe.  There were certainly enough plot twists to rival a bowl of spaghetti.

The characters we’re supposed to like are likable.  The scum we’re supposed to hate are quite slimy.  There was even a nice selection of characters who were definitely in a gray zone.

But did I mention the twisty plot?  Honesty, there were moments when it was hard to keep track of who was doing what, and why.

And the ending?  Oh, that sucked.  Interesting symmetry… but I don’t think Slaughter needed to turn the book into such a downer.  Now I’m afraid to read any more of her books because I’m afraid they’ll piss me off too just like this one did.  When I read fiction, I want entertainment.  I want to step out of the real world for a while.  And yeah, I want happy endings.  Is that too much to ask for in fiction?

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August 25th 2008

Creation in Death

Back in the day when Dallas was still a newbie and Feeney was training her to be the righteous cop she is today, they caught a case they weren’t able to solve… another psycho serial killer.  Well, boys and girls, the psycho is back in New York plying his trade once again.

This is the story of a very bad person doing very bad things, and the team that finally brings him to justice.

Well, duh!  OF COURSE, they catch him!  It’s what Dallas does, right?  This time around, Roarke plays a much larger role in the cop side of things.  Rather than his usual gathering of data from his totally excellent home office (I SO want his computer system!), he joins the team down at Cop Central… leaving Summerset to run through data files at home.  Still, it’s good old-fashioned police work that saves the day.

Sadly, Bookcrossing only as one more novel and a collection of novellas available.  I’ll have to read something else.  Gasp.

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August 18th 2008

Portrait in Death

All sorts of fun things are happening in this one! Once again, I’ve gone backwards to a book earlier in the series… prior to Peabody’s rise to detective. In fact, this is the book where Dallas recommends that Peabody take the detectives exam.

And Summerset is off on a three-week vacation! Oops, wait… no he isn’t. Galahad, the trusty household cat, trips him on the stairs on the morning of his departure. A broken leg and wrenched shoulder later, Summerset is ensconced in his quarters with an unbearably perky nurse. Some hilarity ensues when Mavis and Trina show up for a “spa session.” Makes you feel sorry for poor Summerset, even if you don’t like him. (I generally do, but as we all know, Eve does not.)

And a shocking revelation rocks Roarke’s world… it turns out he has family left in Ireland. Not only family, but a large family. And most puzzling to Roarke, they don’t want anything from him. So now he has aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. And a large portion of them come by for a visit in a later book.

What? Oh, the bad guy! Right. Definitely a head case, who will probably wind up in a mental facility rather than a cage.

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August 18th 2008

The Gospel According to the Son

A long time ago (really long… I was in high school), I read a book called The Memoirs of Jesus Christ by Marcus Harrison.  I loved it!  I lent it to my mother, who also enjoyed reading it.  Instead of returning it to me as I’d requested, she gave it to my father to read.  Apparently, he thought it was sacrilegious and I never saw the book again.  In the intervening 30 years as I searched high and low for another copy of said book, I came across this one by Norman Mailer.  It’s got a similar premise: the gospel written in the first person by Yeshua himself.

(Now that I finally found a copy of Memoirs, I’ll tell you about that after I re-read it.)

Mailer’s book is less detailed and written in a more conversational style, making it easier to read… and faster.  He takes all four gospels and weaves them into a single narrative, noting where the original writers got it wrong or exaggerated.  I found the Jesus of Mailer’s book to be less engaging than Harrison’s… it was harder to really like the character.

Still, if you’re not the sort of person who’s offended by the fictionalization of religious texts, it’s a pretty good book to read over the weekend.

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August 15th 2008

Job: A Comedy of Justice

Job: A Comedy of JusticeAh, Robert Heinlein.  Sometimes, I just have to reread some of his stuff.  It could be because I’m slightly masochistic.

Take one sanctimonious evangelical preacher, one typical Heinlein female (very smart, very beautiful, willing to defer to her man’s wishes) a bunch of world-hopping and a bushel of Heinlein’s trademark preaching (in this case, mostly about religion and social mores), and you get Job: A Comedy of Justice.  That makes it sound like I hate the book, doesn’t it?  I don’t.  But after 40 years of reading his in-your-face morality, I do think it’s terribly over-the-top.

But that’s Heinlein for you.  We of the gentler sex need to be protected and cared for.

Um, yeah.  I don’t buy it either.

Still, the whole concept of the story seriously amuses me, which is why I to bother to read it every few years.  Yahweh and Lucifer are brothers, and playing this little game… except Yahweh sets all the rules and cheats on top of it.  Poor Alex gets stuck in the middle.

So if you can get past Heinlein’s 1950s “progressive” morality, it’s quite a good story.

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August 12th 2008

Survivor in Death

Survivor in DeathI get them two at a time from Booksfree… so you get two in a row.  Sadly, there are only a few more left in my list.

There’s a wonderful Klingon saying: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  The evildoers in this story really take that maxim to heart.

This is another tear-jerker.  In addition, there was the usual pleasant and sarcastic bantering.  One amazing thing to note: Eve and Summerset actually work together without killing one another.  Well, I should say, they work together without Eve ripping Summerset’s head off.

The funniest part of the book was when Roake said he’d like to have children with Eve.  If you’ve read even one of these books, you’d know Eve would prefer to be faced with an alley full of chemiheads than even think about children.  (So Mavis’ expanding pregnancy is creeping her right out.)

And the main supporting character this time around is a nine-year-old girl.  Let’s just say Dallas is not a mother figure.

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August 9th 2008

Visions in Death

Visions in DeathYes, another Eve Dallas story.  Why?  Because I can’t seem to get enough of them, I guess.

In a previous book (Origin in Death, I think), Robb casually mentions an incident where Peabody had been injured in the line of duty.  This is the book that tells you the whys and wherefores of Peabody’s meet up with violence.

We’ve also got another deranged serial killer on the loose in New York City.  I’m telling you, come 2059, there’s no way I’ll be living anywhere near NYC.  Oh wait… I expect to be into my next lifetime by then.  I sure hope I remember I don’t want to live in NYC.
 

 

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August 6th 2008

The Path of Least Resistance

The Path of Least ResistanceOk, what was up with writers back in the 1970s and 1980s that they felt everything they wrote needed to sound like a text book?  Did they think people would take them more seriously if they wrote dry tomes using lots of big (and often made up) words?

There are a lot of books in the “self help” and “pop psychology” genres.  If Fritz hadn’t written this one like a psychology textbook or journal submission, I’d recommend it wholeheartedly… he’s got some interesting insights.

If you don’t mind the scholastic type books, it might be worth trying to find this one.  There seems to be a revised edition available that was published a few years after this one.  I wonder if it reads any easier.
 

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August 3rd 2008

Slash Your Debt

Slash Your DebtIf you are not interested in, or do not qualify for, a debt consolidation loan, then this is not the book for you.  The main focus of the book is finding a good debt consolidation loan, and then paying it off in three to five years.

While some of their strategies are sound, they are strategies just as easily found in books not geared specifically towards debt consolidation.  Heck, you can probably find them all just by Googling “frugal living.”

I’ll be releasing this one… probably in my next trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
 
 
 

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