Book of the Month - December, 2004

November 22nd, 2004

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

The Christmas Train by David BaldacciTom Langdon, a weary and cash-strapped journalist, is banned from flying when a particularly thorough airport security search causes him to lose his cool. Now, he must take the train if he has any chance of arriving in Los Angeles in time for Christmas with his girlfriend. To finance the trip, he sells a story about a train ride taken during the Christmas season. Thereupon begins one of the most hilarious-and heartwarming-journeys ever told. Along the way, Tom encounters a ridiculous cast of characters, unexpected romance, and an avalanche that changes everyone's Christmas plans. As the mighty Southwest Chief chugs along, Tom learns what really makes the holiday special in a remarkable novel that will charm all who read it.

Buy The Christmas Train $5.39

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Pop Goes the Weasel - James Patterson

November 7th, 2004

Pop Goes the Weasel - James PattersonDETECTIVE ALEX CROSS is back--and he's in love. But his happiness is threatened by a series of chilling murders in Washington, D.C., murders with a pattern so twisted, it leaves investigators reeling. Cross's ingenious pursuit of the killer produces a suspect--a British diplomat named Geoffrey Shafer. But proving that Shafer is the murderer becomes a potentially deadly task. As the diplomat engages in a brilliant series of surprising countermoves, in and out of the courtroom, Alex and his fiancee become hopelessly entangled with the most memorable nemesis Alex Cross has ever faced.

Pop Goes the Weasel reveals James Patterson at the peak of his power, with his most dynamic and powerful psychological thriller to date. Here is a chilling villain no reader will forget, a love story of great tenderness, and a plot of relentless suspense and heart-pounding pace. To read Pop Goes the Weasel is to discover why James Patterson is one of the greatest suspense writers of our time.

Pop Goes the Weasel is another reason why James Patterson is one of my absolute favorite authors. He does not disappoint. I have enjoyed every book of his that I have read, and I gravitate towards the Alex Cross novels first. I am through 5 of the now 10 book series. Pop Goes the Weasel is the fifth and book 10, London Bridges, is in stores now.

In this novel, Patterson tells of how Cross faces off not only against some of the most brilliant criminal minds, but also against the government. The short chapters helped this book along as it was not the most action packed of the series, though it was no less suspenseful. As you would hope with any book, this one was hard to put down; especially at the end. There was some conflict involving Alex's love interest in this book and my only complaint was how it was resolved. Patterson chose the logical choice for resolution, so I do not fault him. I cannot say any more without sitting you down and explaining the whole thing and ruining the ending. You're gonna have to read it for yourself.

Read this book. Read this series. Read this author.

| Forum | The Alex Cross series:
Along Came a Spider $7.99
Kiss the Girls $7.99
Jack & Jill $7.99
Cat & Mouse $7.99
Pop Goes the Weasel $7.99
Roses are Red $7.99
Violets are Blue $7.99
Four Blind Mice $7.99
Big Bad Wolf $19.01
London Bridges $16.77

The Smoke Jumper - Nicholas Evans

October 26th, 2004

The Smoke Jumper - Nicholas EvansThe fire that was to change so many lives was so utterly started with a single shaft of lightning. It struck a mountain ridge on a still and moonless night and nestled like a pupa of death in the desiccated heart of an ancient pine. There were witnesses no doubt to this sudden splintering of air and wood, but none that was human. The woman, camped nearby with her group of troubled teenagers, slept on and heard nothing.

She has brought them here by court order on a youth program to help them find themselves. But one among them will be lost forever. For soon the cocoon of fire will hatch to engulf the entire mountain and exact its deadly toll. And into this inferno will come...

THE SMOKE JUMPER

His name is Connor Ford and he falls like an angel of mercy from the sky, braving the flames to save the woman he loves but knows he cannot have. For Julia Bishop is the partner of his closest friend, Ed Tully, an ambitious young musician. Julia loves them both but the tragedy on Snake Mountain forces her to choose between them and burns a brand on all their hearts.

His blond, blue-eyed looks an laconic cowboy charm, Connor is the only child of a Montana rancher and a rodeo queen. Until that fateful day, he has been happy to spend his winters nurturing a career as a photographer and his summer vacations with Ed, "smoke jumping"--being dropped by parachute to fight remote forest fires.

In the wake of the fire, he embarks on a journey to the dark heart of human suffering, traveling the world's worst wars and disasters to take photographs that find him fame but never happiness. Reckless of a life he no longer wants, again and again he dares death to take him, until another fateful day on another continent, he must walk through fire once more...

I have wanted to read this book for a long time now. Nicholas Evans has written two other books besides The Smoke Jumper, The Horse Whisperer and The Loop. I read The Loop some time ago and was very impressed by not only the story, but also Evans' writing. This led me to seek out his entire catalog, thus guiding me to The Smoke Jumper.

On the surface the only difference between The Loop and The Smoke Jumper is that one has a good story and the other does not. The Smoke Jumper has the same beautiful writing Nicholas Evans poured into The Loop though I feel as though the plot was lacking.

"The important things in life always happened by accident. At fifteen she didn't know much, in fact, with each passing year she was a lot less clear about most things. But this much she did know. you could worry yourself sick trying to be a better person, spend a thousand sleepless nights figuring out how to live clean and decent and honest, you could make a plan and bolt it in place, kneel by your bed every night and swear to God you'd stick to it, hell, you could go to church and promise properly. You could cross your heart seven times with your eyes tight shut, cut your thumb and squeeze it and pen solemn vows on a rock with your own blood then throw it in the river at the stroke of midnight. And then, out of the black beyond, like a hawk on a rat, some nameless catastrophe would swoop into your life and turn everything upside down and inside out forever."

That is the first paragraph from The Smoke Jumper. To put it simply, Evans writes the way I want to read. The book was not bad, I feel as though my expectations may have been too high. The bar was set high in The Loop.

Buy The Smoke Jumper $7.99
Buy The Loop $7.99
Buy The Horse Whisperer $7.99

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Book of the Month - November, 2004

October 24th, 2004

The Millionaire Mind by Dr. Thomas Stanley

The Millionaire Mind - Thomas J. StanleyIn the 1996 best-seller The Millionaire Next Door; written by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley, one of contemporary America's most firmly held beliefs was shattered. According to Dr. Stanley, wealthy individuals do not all belong to an elite group of highly educated and exceedingly lucky people who often inherit their money and spend it on lavish purchases and pampered lifestyles. The Millionaire Next Door showed us that a significant number of America's wealthy are far more likely to work hard, save diligently, and live well below their means.

Now, Dr. Stanley takes us even further with a new, groundbreaking study of America's wealthy. In The Millionaire Mind he targets a different segment of the population: those who have accumulated substantial wealth and use little or no consumer credit; yet live in houses valued at an average of $1,400,000. Exploring the ideas, beliefs, and behaviors that enabled these millionaires to build and maintain their fortunes, Dr. Stanley provides a fascinating look at who America's financial elite are and how they got there.

-What were their school days like?
-How did they respond to negative criticism?
-What are the characteristics of the millionaire's spouse?
-Is religion an important part of their lives?

The author uncovers the surprising answers to these and similar questions, showing readers through concrete examples just what it is that makes the wealthy prosper when others would turn away dejected or beaten.

The Millionaire Mind promises to be even more transformational than The Millionaire Next Door, delving deeper into the minds of America's welathy and answering the universal questions with solid statistical evidence in an approachable, anecdotal style.

This book offers a very unique perspective as it peers into the lives of America's wealthy. Dr. Stanley offers demographical information that may surprise any reader. Not everyone worth more than one million dollars is an ivy league graduate; they have not even necessarily graduated from high school. Is it education or courage to take risk that is more common? The Millionaire Mind contains answers to many questions you may have about how to make money and how to hang on to it once you have it.

Buy:
The Millionaire Mind $11.87
The Millionaire Next Door $10.50

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The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three - Stephen King

October 7th, 2004

Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451210859/petespage01?dev-t=mason-wrapper%26camp=2025%26link_code=xm2

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three - Stephen KingStephen King returns to the Dark Tower in this second mesmerizing volume in his epic series. Roland of Gilead has mysteriously stepped through a doorway in time that takes him to 1980s America, where he joins forces with the defiant Eddie Dean and courageous Odetta Holmes. A savage struggle has begun in which underworld evil and otherworldly enemies conspire to bring an end to Roland's desperate search for the Dark Tower. Masterfully weaving dark fantasy and icy realism, The Drawing of the Three compulsively propels readers toward the next chapter. Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is unlike anything you've ever read. Here is Stephen King's most visionary piece of storytelling, a magical mix of fantasy and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

I wasn't so hooked after reading the first book in this now seven (7) book series, The Gunslinger, but that has now changed. I'm aware of what cult classics The Dark Tower books have become and I was curious to check it out. Guided by Tolkien, King writes his fantasy series and I need to find out how it all ends. Suspense, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror: All genres in which you could place these books. My only Stephen King experience is through these first two books of this series, though rest assured I will now read more of his work (starting with books 3-7!!). He writes in such a way that is so easy to follow. He writes these books like I would think the same words. They are very easy and fun to read.

| Forum |The Dark Tower Series: |
The Gunslinger
The Drawing of the Three
The Waste Lands
Wizard and Glass
Wolves of the Calla
Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower

The Black Echo - Michael Connelly

September 25th, 2004

Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0446612731/petespage01?dev-t=mason-wrapper%26camp=2025%26link_code=xm2

The Black Echo by Michael ConnellyFor maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal...because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city, his survival insticts will once again be tested to their limit. Pitted against enemies inside his own department and forced to make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, Bosch goes on the hunt for a killer whose true face will shock him.

Author Michael Connelly has now written 10 books about detective Harry Bosch, The Black Echo was the first.

Harry Bosch is a loner. He has been in and out of institutions his entire life and seems to have never developed the ability to get close to other people. He is very good at what he does, arguably one of the best, but he is forever chastized for not being part of the police "family." This makes for a very interesting perspective on a mystery; Bosch solves his cases with very little direct help from others.

This is yet another mystery novel that I was unable to put down until I was able to find out "who dunnit." Until the very last pages I was still learning details about how the case was solved, there were no slow moments.

| Forum | Also by Connelly: Void Moon | The Poet

Book of the Month - October, 2004

September 22nd, 2004

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian JungerIt was the storm of the century—a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it "the perfect storm."

When it struck in October, 1991, there was virtually no warning. "She's comin' on, boys, and she's comin' on strong," radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail from off the coast of Nova Scotia. Soon afterward, the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace.

The Perfect Storm is a real-life thriller, a stark and compelling journey into the dark heart of nature that leaves listeners with a breathless sense of what it feels like to be caught, helpless, in the grip of a force beyond understanding or control.

Buy The Perfect Storm $6.99

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Harry Potter: Read these books.

September 17th, 2004

Link: http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/home.asp

Though lessened, there still exists a decent amount of controversy over the books in the Harry Potter series. Are they children's books? Are they written for adults? Is it ok for adults to read them? Should I be embarrassed by reading Harry Potter? These questions, though common, are quite absurd. The beauty of these books is simply that they are written for everyone. The only thing required to enjoy Harry Potter is an open mind.

Give author J.K. Rowling a fair chance and her books will take you to another place. The now five (5) book series will transport you from your normal life to a world where humans co-exist with wizards and witches. Open your mind to a hidden society of magic people and follow the maturation of Harry Potter.

When I started reading the books, after they were first released, there was not much excitement surrounding Rowling's work, though you could feel the tide turning. As Harry Potter became a household name, the books began to carry the stigmatism of being for children only. Once this happened, many people who were new to the series knew them only as children's books and would never give them a chance. You may feel the same way. You are doing yourself a disservice if you like to "let go" every once and a while.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneHarry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley — a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry — and anyone who reads about him — will find unforgettable.

For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsThe Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanFor twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts... he's at Hogwarts." Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireIt's the pivotal fourth novel in the seven-part tale of Harry Potter's training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. Unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal — even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"I say to you all, once again—in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust."

So spoke Albus Dumbledore at the end of Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts. But as Harry enters his fifth year at wizard school, it seems those bonds have never been more sorely tested. Lord Voldemort’s rise has opened a rift in the wizarding world between those who believe the truth about his return, and those who prefer to believe it’s all madness and lies—just more trouble from Harry Potter.

Add to this a host of other worries for Harry…
• A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey
• A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
• Ron as keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
• And of course, what every student dreads: end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

…and you’d know what Harry faces during the day. But at night it’s even worse, because then he dreams of a single door in a silent corridor. And this door is somehow more terrifying than every other nightmare combined.

In the richest installment yet of J. K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter confronts the unreliability of the very government of the magical world, and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it) Harry finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages, and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.

One thing that I would say J.K. Rowling does best in her writing is her description of the magical setting at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She has a talent for getting both very detailed and also not crossing the line that would have her too focused on the setting. She keeps the story moving and simply mentions a place, a name, a spell, an object that is entirely made up yet perfect for it's place in the book. She makes the books very entertaining.

I have just finished reading all five books in a row for the first time. I have now read each book twice, and they are still as fun as the first time I read them. I will admit that reading all five in a row was quite cumbersome as they are (especially 4 and 5) such long books.

Part of the fun is in simply trying to guess what Rowling will come up with next!

I highly recommend these books. They truly are a treat for the imagination.

Anyone seen my self-esteem?

September 7th, 2004

So I happened to check my Amazon recommendations today as I had a brief moment. The SystemWhat I didn't know is that my reputation preceeds me, even on the internet. It was just a normal day seeing mostly the same DVDs that I won't clear out of there as I plan on using them as a rental guide sometime in the future until I happened upon a book in which someone at Amazon thinks I would be interested.

It is safe to say that when I review my recommendations I do NOT expect to see books like, "How to Get Laid Today! The System"

What I want to know now is, Does everyone know? Am I that open of a book that even Amazon can read me? I know I am not good with the ladies, but do I need the internet to rub it in? No.

And I have reached a new low...

Book of the Month - September, 2004

August 18th, 2004

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann MartelLife of Pi is a masterful and utterly original novel that is at once the story of a young castaway who faces immeasurable hardships on the high seas, and a meditation on religion, faith, art and life that is as witty as it is profound. Using the threads of all of our best stories, Yann Martel has woven a glorious spiritual adventure that makes us question what it means to be alive, and to believe.

Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel -- known as Pi -- has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest oftravelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal.

As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea -- catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun -- all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on.

As Yann Martel has said in one interview, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” And for Martel, the greatest imaginative overlay is religion. “God is a shorthand for anything that is beyond the material -- any greater pattern of meaning.” In Life of Pi, the question of stories, and of what stories to believe, is front and centre from the beginning, when the author tells us how he was led to Pi Patel and to this novel: in an Indian coffee house, a gentleman told him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And as this novel comes to its brilliant conclusion, Pi shows us that the story with the imaginative overlay is also the story that contains the most truth.

Buy Life of Pi $8.09

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