Next - Michael Crichton

January 26th, 2007

Next by Michael CrichtonIs a loved one MISSING some BODY PARTS? Are BLONDES becoming EXTINCT? Is everyone at your dinner table of the same species? Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 400 genes; is that why a CHIMP FETUS resembles a human being? And should that worry us? There's a NEW GENETIC CURE FOR DRUG ADDICTION -- is it worse than the disease?

We live in a time of MOMENTOUS SCIENTIFIC LEAPS, a time when it's possible to SELL OUR EGGS AND SPERM online for thousands of dollars and to test our spouses for genetic maladies.

We live in a time when one fifth of all OUR GENES ARE OWNED by someone else, and an unsuspecting person and his family can be pursued cross-country because they happen to have certain VALUABLE genes within their chromosomes...

Devilishly clever, Next blends fact and fiction into a breathless tale of a new world where NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS and a set of new possibilities can open at every turn.

Next challenges our sense of REALITY and notions of MORALITY. Balancing the COMIC and the BIZARRE with the genuinely FRIGHTENING and DISTURBING, Next shatters our assumptions and reveals shocking new choices were we least expect.

THE FUTURE IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK.

Michael Crichton has been my favorite author for many years. It was his science fiction that has led me to the close-knit relationship I have with books today. He has written some of the most engaging fiction I have ever read. His stories have always interested me and I have become a devoted follower of his work. That means that even when a book comes out that I am afraid will be too much social commentary on an arguably growing global concern, I buy it anyway. And I read it with fingers crossed.

Next was the first Crichton book for which I had this ugly premonition. With the book he released before Next (State of Fear) the author delved more deeply into creating awareness in a "current event" as he taught the opposing view to global warming theory. In Next, Crichton teaches again; one thing he does so well is include a strong fact-base to his fictional story. The depth of his research is apparent even without flipping to the extensive bibliography at the end of the book.

Unfortunately I was disappointed with Next. The points that he made relative to the shocking ways in which large firms dealing in genetic research are able to exploit ordinary people were eye opening. As stated previously, his level of research was dazzling. It was only the fictional packaging in which he wrapped these nuggets of truth that fell short. I had hoped for a little more cohesion to the multiple stories he maintained concurrently in Next. There were many people in many different situations whose lives revolved around genetic research as characters in the book, but I felt that was too broad of a common element to unite these men and women in one story. It was more creative than handing out a stack of pamphlets alerting people to the growing concerns around genetics, but it was not very entertaining. This was just not the level of quality one should expect from Michael Crichton.

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2007 Edgar Award Nominees

January 24th, 2007
Edgar Awards

Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre...

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce on the 198th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2006. The Edgar Awards will be presented to the winners at our 61st Gala Banquet, April 26, 2007 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City. - Mysterywriters.org

- Best Novel -
The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin
Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
The Dead Hour by Denise Mina
The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard
The Liberation Movements by Olen Steinhauer

- Best First Novel By An American Author -
The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
King of Lies by John Hart
Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read
...Complete list of nominees

Book of the Month - February, 2007

January 22nd, 2007

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth ReichlAt an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told. Beginning with Reichl's mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first soufflé, to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s. Spiced with Reichl's infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist's coming-of-age.

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The Poet - Michael Connelly

January 9th, 2007

The Poet by Michael ConnellyMichael Connelly has written one explosive thriller after another featuring Detective Harry Bosch. Now, in an electrifying departure, he presents a novel that breaks all the rules and will keep your heart racing and your mind guessing until the very last page.

Death is reporter Jack McEvoy's beat: his calling, his obsession. But this time, death brings McEvoy the story he never wanted to write -- and the mystery he desperately needs to solve. A serial killer of unprecedented savagery and cunning is at large. His targets: homicide cops, each haunted by a murder case he couldn't crack. The killer's calling card: a quotation from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. His latest victim is McEvoy's own brother. And his last... may be McEvoy himself.

I have heard that a major key to writing well is to write what you know. In turn, as a murder-mystery writer you cannot write well about a crime scene unless you have actually stood outside the yellow tape and taken the situation in with all of your senses, or so the story would go. And that is the emphasis behind Michael Connelly's The Poet as I see it. Before becoming a best-selling author, Connelly wrote for newspapers, "primarily specializing in the crime beat" (MichaelConnelly.com). So before he wrote books, Connelly was a reporter. And instead of "typical" detective fiction, The Poet is about (what else?): a reporter.

I was immediately drawn to main character Jack McEvoy. He was sculpted with more precision. He was written with more passion. I may be way off base with this, but it seemed to me that McEvoy was a more natural character for Connelly to write. I have been to talks given by Michael Connelly where he shares experiences with police officers he was privileged to have, so you know there is truth in his detective fiction, but it was fun to read the same type of story wrapped in a different package. He had ridden along with the officers, but he had lived as a reporter. It was entertaining to get some insight into how reporters fight for information since they do not have the authority or the reputation with the police, and see just how competitive their world can be.

Yes, there is a girl. And right away I was closed minded to the whole thing. "This story did not need romantic involvement," I pleaded to the book in my hands, "it is so good without it." But I was wrong. Too often the romance is built in to make the book more marketable to a wider audience. Not so in The Poet.

I cannot remember the last time I came across a book that was so hard to put down. The Poet was interesting, entertaining and suspenseful. I found myself finishing the last page, closing the back cover of the book and wanting for fresh air. "THAT was a good book," I said aloud, to no one in the room.

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January 6th, 2007
Jeffery Deaver - The Twelfth Card - 257[S]he was finally lulled to sleep -- not by a mother's good-night kiss, or a father's deep voice reciting a prayer, but by the litany of a stranger's beautiful words.

Running with Scissors - Augusten Burroughs

January 5th, 2007

Running with Scissors by Augusten BurroughsRunning with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs finds himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year-round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things god dull, an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing, and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

I was worried. And as the book began, I became more worried. I was not worried that my expectations were too high, because they weren't. I was worried that they were so low that I was doomed.

For so long David Sedaris has been the benchmark for dysfunctional memoir. I was not afraid the new guy on the block would unseat Mr. Sedaris from his position, but rather I was afraid that someone else was just trying to ride Sedaris's coat tails to sell a few books. I was not excited for "My childhood was horrible, but boy am I glad I made it through...and somehow learned to write" to become the next hot genre. That would surely turn into a shouting match about whose story was more horrific and it would get out of hand. And the writing, which would not be done very well to begin with, would suffer. (And yes, I do over-analyze everything. Thank you very much.) In fact, I had heard that the writing in Running with Scissors left much to be desired.

To my surprise, not only did I enjoy Burroughs's writing, but I enjoyed the book as a whole.

Even though I wrote above that I became increasingly worried over the first few chapters, I found myself really enjoying Burroughs's colloquial writing style. It was funny and very easy to read. I do not think that I laughed nearly as much as other people that I know who have read the book, but I am harder to please in that regard.

The only bump I hit came early in the book. There was a brief recounting of a story involving the actions of the 6-year-old boy in the house. I was immediately concerned that the rest of the book would be filled with unnecessary anecdotes about other people. I was afraid that Burroughs had written a book that solely focused on the crazy things that happened around him and the crazier people who were a part of them, rather than actually writing about himself. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I only had that feeling at that one moment.

From what I can gather, Augusten Burroughs did not write this book to get anyone's sympathy. Nor did he write it as a self-deprecating book of jokes to make us laugh at his misfortune. But do not be surprised when you can laugh at some parts and you will easily feel sorry for what he had to go through. Running with Scissors was a touching memoir written with crisp wit. The language was very harsh at times and there were...unconventional sexual situations; if that is a red flag, you would probably do best to stay away from Running with Scissors. Otherwise, I will probably not seek out other works by Burroughs, but I am glad I read Running with Scissors and I believe it lived up to much of the praise it has received.

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Step on a Crack

January 3rd, 2007

Step on a Crack by James PattersonFirst there was Alex Cross.

Then there was the Women's Murder Club.

Now meet Detective Michael Bennett, NYPD.

Detective Michael Bennett is about to face the greatest challenge of his career. After the death of a beloved former first lady, the most powerful people in the world gather in New York for her funeral. Then the inconceivable occurs. Billionaires, politicians, and superstars of every kind are suddenly trapped within one man's brilliant and ruthless scenario.

Ten adopted kids.
Bennett–father of ten–is pulled into the fray but is then hit with devastating news: his wife is battling a terrible disease. As New York descends into chaos, he faces the prospect of losing the great love of his life and having to raise his children alone.

The crime of the century to solve.
Day after day, Bennett confronts the most ruthless man he has ever encountered, a man who kills without hesitation. As the entire world watches, Bennett has to find a way out–or face responsibility for the greatest debacle in history.

Step on a Crack is the first of four novels that James Patterson has scheduled to release in 2007. It would appear that Detective Bennett is being heralded as Patterson's newest serial character. So I hope this is a good book or maybe we will never hear from Bennett again. Look for Step on a Crack February 6, 2007 or feel free to pre-order a copy.

A Storm of Swords - George R. R. Martin

January 3rd, 2007

Storm of Swords by George R. R. MartinOf the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others -- a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords...

My struggle here will be trying to express things about book three of a series that I have not already said about book one or book two. It is very difficult for me to try to write my thoughts on the book without either saying things I have already said or tripping over my excitement for the series while trying to give you a down-to-earth recounting of the book.

I can tell stories about me sitting up at night reading in bed and getting entirely too animated with my reactions to things Martin wrote...or I can compare it with the first two books of the series. When put that way, I think I'll opt for the latter.

By starting, or continuing, the series through book 3 you will not be disappointed. Not on a grand scale anyway. (One thing about George Martin is that he is not afraid to kill off main characters. As with the first two books, in book 3 main characters die. If you were attached to one or more who is killed/dies then you may be disappointed on a smaller scale.) The series is not new to me anymore; I no longer have the honeymoon feeling with the books. Gone is the initial excitement from finding something I loved, but my devotion is renewed at the end of each book.

The excitement in the series slowed somewhat in book 2, but not in book 3. A Storm of Swords is aptly named for the fast-paced action. There is a lot that happens, and you may find yourself (as I did) going back and forth trying to decide which is my favorite character. Sit tight, it is going to be a bumpy ride, but it will be a fun ride. With George R. R. Martin, I am consistently entertained.

I guess it boils down to this: If you have read the first two books, I would imagine you were somewhat eager to read book 3, but do not want to be let down. Don't hesitate. Get your copy of book 3 today and start reading. I tried to pace myself through the first three, knowing that there are still unwritten books in the series, to spread out the amount of time between books more evenly. I have given up on that idea. Book 4 here I come!

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Peter Pan in Scarlet

December 29th, 2006
Peter Pan in Scarlet

In 1929 J.M. Barrie gave the copyright in Peter Pan to the Special Trustees of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. Marking that work's centenary, the hospital authorized the creation of a sequel to Peter Pan. The result of the worldwide search for its author?

MAGIC.
Peter Pan in Scarlet by award winner Geraldine McCaughrean.

Journey back to Neverland in the first-ever authorized sequel to J.M. Barrie's masterpiece, Peter Pan.

Set in the 1930s, when the devastating effects of World War I are still resonating throughout the world, Peter Pan in Scarlet sends readers soaring into a landscape of magic and adventure, on an unforgettable journey fraught with danger. All is not well. Nightmares are leaking out of Neverland as if chafes against the Here and Now, wearing holes in the fabric in between. Somehow Time is moving on where Time was never meant to. Fearing for Peter Pan's life, Wendy and the Lost Boys go back to Neverland -- with the help of the fairy Fireflyer -- only to discover adventure waiting in ambush and their worst nightmares coming true!

How Peter Pan -- the boy who never grows up -- and his friends restore Neverland to rights is the heart of this brilliant story told in a style that captures the elusive spirit of J.M. Barrie's classic. Illustrated by Scott M. Fischer, Peter Pan in Scarlet is a literary treasure that will leave no heart untouched.

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Book of the Month - January, 2007

December 20th, 2006

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Running with Scissors by Augusten BurroughsRunning with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs finds himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year-round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things god dull, an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing, and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

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