Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Buncha books, issue 4

Well, I'm a week late, but here are the book reviews I had hoped to complete in the last issue of Buncha Books plus a couple more. So this issue will have a total of eight reviews. You may want to recall the disclaimer I made in that last issue about my memory.

Saving the World (Maximum Ride, Book 3) by James Patterson is the third book in the series about a group of kids who were the result of genetic experiments that left them with hollow bones, wings and the ability to fly. As usual, they are trying to figure out who their parents are, while running from the mad scientists and those scientists other creations, kids who can morph into evil wolf-like beings with wings. In this book of the series, several interesting discoveries are made, particularly for the bird-kids' leader, Max. Interesting side note: the kids keep a blog throughout the book that acts as their link to kids around the world. The blog can be found here. I've enjoyed this series. It follows the short-chaptered fast pace typical of Patterson's work, and as such is also the quick enjoyable read typical of Patterson novels.

Echo Park by Michael Connelly is a Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch novel. About twenty years ago, a girl went missing and was never found. In a deal with the state, someone has claimed responsibility for her murder, but something about the confession stinks to Harry. He begins investigating the cold case again, hoping to finally bring closure both to himself and the girl's parents, who he has kept in touch with for twenty years. Another good read. Harry Bosch is a character you can't help but like, and I always seem to learn something new when reading these novels. In this one, I learned about a previously unknown live recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall that was discovered in 2005. This piqued my interest because my husband loves Thelonious Monk. I looked it up online, found that it was true and purchased the CD for my husband for this Father's Day.

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child, finds our hero, Jack Reacher, once again just wandering around with the clothes on his back and a toothbrush and ATM card in his pocket. He needs some money and goes to the ATM, where he finds a deposit in an amount that reflects a distress code from his old military unit. He gets together with some of his old unit and they find that the members of the unit are being killed. They have to try to figure out what is happening and stop it. There's some saying along the lines of you don't mess with the unit, which compels them to want to enact revenge on whoever is behind the killings of their friends. This is a typical Lee Child novel featuring Jack Reacher: a fast-paced and exciting read, lots of head bashing and law breaking, but all in the name of good. Reacher is a bad ass good guy. I recommend not only this one, but all the Jack Reacher novels.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer is the only book (I think) that I've read by this author. It revolves around a young man who is the assistant to the President of the United States, when a high-ranking official is gunned down right in front of him during what is thought to be an assassination attempt. Years later, the young man is still the assistant to the now ex-President, when he believes he sees the man who had supposedly been killed. This leads him on a chase to determine if he really saw the dead man, because he feels that he deserves to know what happened, as he himself was disfigured by shrapnel at the time of the shooting. He involves his best friend and a reporter, and together they find themselves deep in a conspiracy. But why? And who is behind it? Meanwhile, the shooter, who believes he had been ordered to kill by God, and had been locked up in a mental institution since he was apprehended, escapes and goes after our hero. Everything comes to a head one night in a cemetery, where the plot twists for a surprise ending. Although if you're paying attention throughout the book, you might have figured it out by then. Decent read, and I'd probably pick up another novel from this author.

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline is about a law professor who visits a prison and is trapped inside during a riot. She finds herself in the room where a guard is killed by an inmate, who in turn is killed by another guard. Strangely, when she contacts the guards widow to tell her his final words, she is threatened to stay away. What is going on? Why were the guards and the inmate in the location they were at the time of the killings? Did the inmate really kill the guard? What exactly happened and why? Our heroine uncovers a conspiracy involving a most unlikely character. This was a pretty good read. Scottoline's novels usually (always?) have a female lead character, and so are a little different than most of the lawyer novels I've read, that tend to have male leads. Some things in the book are a little hard to believe, like a certain thing that she just happens to stumble into that helps her figure out what is happening. Overall, though, it was enjoyable.

Capital Crimes by Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman is actually two stories in one binding. I wouldn't call them short stories, they're too long for that; they're more like short novels. Novellas, I suppose. What is interesting about these stories is that the Kellermans' usual main characters, who those of us who read these authors know and love, Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware, make cameo appearances, which lent some familiarity to the stories and answered some questions without actually having to spell it out. For example: Question - Why would a musician end up seeing a semi-retired child psychologist about a phobia? Answer - Musician knows Alex Delaware's girlfriend, who we all know is someone who builds custom stringed musical instruments. (I can't remember the word for it, but it ends in -ier. Um... luthier? Maybe? I think. I'm TLTLIU.) Anyway, I found the stories interesting and liked the appearances of the familiar characters. I should say that Jonathan Kellerman's story was about the previously mentioned musician being found murdered outside a hole-in-the-wall Nashville bar and the solving of that crime. Faye Kellerman's story revolves around the murder of a California state representative, who happens to be a lesbian. Both stories are fun reads, though the solutions to the crimes were pretty predictable.

Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz is about a young man, Chris Snow, with a disease called XP, that leaves his body without the necessary enzyme to correct damage caused to his skin and eyes by ultraviolet light. Because of this disorder, he is forced to live his life from sunup to sundown. He lives in Moonlight Bay, California. His mother is dead, and in the opening pages of this book, his father dies with the last words, "Fear nothing." Chris declines to see his father's body before they take it to the morgue to be picked up by the funeral hoome, but changes his mind and heads down to the morgue. He stumbles upon a body-switch. As he tries to figure out what is going on, along with his best friend surfer buddy Bobby, his late night DJ girlfriend Sasha and his oddly intelligent Black Labrador Orson, he soon finds himself and his friends involved in something horrifying and unbelievable. What's worse is that it could all be due to the work of his mother, a brilliant genetic researcher. I really liked this book. If you like the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz, the Chris Snow character will seem very familiar. Maybe it's just that I read them the same way in my head, since they are both intelligent young men who have suffered loss and seem much more mature than most young men in their twenties, but I found myself thinking that they were perhaps based on the same person in Koontz's life. Anyway, if you're a Koontz fan, this is worth checking out.

The Chris Snow saga continues in Seize the Night by Dean Koontz. This time Chris and his friends have been living for a few months under the conditions imposed on them in Fear Nothing, when a child of Chris's old girlfriend is kidnapped, along with some other children. Chris and his dog, Orson, follow the kidnapper's trail to the military base where Chris's mother had worked and where the genetic research that had set loose the horror in Moonlight Bay had taken place. Chris is attacked and Orson disappears with a yelp of pain. Chris calls in his friends and a cat named Mungojerrie, and despite the police warning them off and confiscating their guns, they track down the kids and the dog. On their journey, they discover some kind of weird "sideways" time-travel research had taken place and that the "time machine" seems to be now powering itself. It's another of Koontz's novels that touches on quantum mechanics, which I find fascinating. Speaking of which, did any of you see the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Penny breaks up with her boyfriend and agrees to go out with Leonard? Then they both have reservations and share their thoughts with Sheldon. Sheldon says to both of them, "Schroedinger's cat," which Penny doesn't get (of course), even when Sheldon tries to explain it, but Leonard understands immediately. The first time he said it (to Penny), I thought, "PERFECT thing to say, I'm going to say that whenever one of my kids asks whether or not they should try something." But I'm digressing here. This novel was a good read. If you liked the first one, read this as well.

Last minute addition to this issue of Buncha Books:

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith is a children's book that I heard of somewhere along the line that sounded interesting, so I Bookmooched it. It arrived yesterday and I read it to my middle two kids last night before bed. LOVED it! If you're a math geek like I occasionally impersonate or even if you spent your school career in fear of math, you will find this book really amusing. It's about a kid who thinks his math teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci, put a math curse on him because he can't stop thinking of EVERYTHING as a math problem. It's a fun book and your kids may enjoy actually figuring out some of the problems, like:
I pull out my money.
I have a $5 bill, a $1 bill, a quarter, and a penny. George Washington is on both the quarter and the $1 bill. Abraham Lincoln is on both the penny and the $5 bill.

So which is true:
a. 1 Washington equals 25 Lincolns.
b. 5 Washingtons equal 1 Lincoln.
c. 1 Washington equals 100 Lincolns.
d. 1 Lincoln equals 20 Washingtons.

Don't forget to show your work.

Extra credit: How do you think Thomas Jefferson feels about all of this?

By the end of the day the kid feels like this:
I am now a raving math lunatic.
What if this keeps up for a whole year?
How many minutes of math madness would that be?
"What's your problem?" says my sister.
"365 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes," I snarl.

My kids both thought this book was great! I can't wait to read it again.

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