Reliquary - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

January 3rd, 2008

Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildHidden deep beneath Manhattan lies a warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries, mostly forgotten by those who walk the streets above. There lies the ultimate secret of the Museum Beast. When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found deep in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is called in to aid the investigation. Margo must once again team up with police Lieutenant D'Agosta and FBI agent Pendergast, as well as the brilliant Dr. Frock, to try and solve the puzzle. The trail soon leads deep underground, where they will face the awakening of a slumbering nightmare.

A year and a half after the museum beast came to New York, two bodies are found on a routine police dive for a package of heroin thrown off a bridge. No one suspects the museum beast is involved since it was killed and transported away, but Margo Green and Dr. Frock are once again asked to help if they can identify these strangely misshapen bodies.

While it is their work to find out the identity of the bodies, it is up to the police to find out where they came from and how they made it to where they were discovered. This portion of the story was the most interesting to me as it described (how accurately I cannot say) the vast network of tunnels beneath Manhattan and the communities of homeless people who live there.

While I really enjoyed this book, it is not one I can recommend broadly. I consider Reliquary to be a guilty-pleasure sci-fi thriller. It had wonderful suspense that would probably leave most readers on the edge of their seats, but there were enough murders and far-fetched scientific "discoveries" to limit the number of readers who would enjoy this book. And at times there was almost too much going on. I was content with the complexity of the story, but they lost me with one particular subplot which continued (seemingly) only to keep one of the recurring characters involved.

I don't think I am the only one who is skeptical of sequels. I think that can be evidenced by Reliquary being labeled as "sequel to the New York Times best seller Relic" and it not being a bestseller on its own. I thought Reliquary was just as good if not better than Relic. Don't be afraid to pick up this sequel.

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January 2nd, 2008
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 56"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."

Stormchaser - Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

December 28th, 2007

Stormchaser by Paul Stewart & Chris RiddellFar, far away, jutting out into the emptiness beyond, lies the Edge. Both the land and the air are filled with strange peoples and terrifying creatures; action -- and danger -- await at every turn. On board the famous sky ship Stormchaser, Twig eagerly looks forward to the adventure and excitement that lie ahead in his new life as a sky pirate. The crew's quest: to collect stormphrax -- the precious substance created at the heart of a Storm the very moment it unleashes its most intense power. Only a sky ship as powerful as the Stormchaser, piloted by a man as brave and fearless as Cloud Wolf, could risk entering such a storm...

You probably do not need to read Beyond the Deepwoods first, but I would recommend it. The story doesn't skip a beat as it transitions from book 1 to book 2, but any references to the earlier story are well explained. Stormchaser featured the same beautiful drawings by Chris Riddell and was equally as easy to read. I enjoyed book 2 a little more because it seemed that it was written for a slightly older audience, but I still feel that The Edge Chronicles is written for readers younger than "Harry Potter" age.

I really enjoyed the look into the history and culture of Sanctaphrax and its population of academics. That was probably my favorite part of Stormchaser.

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December 27th, 2007
Arturo Perez-Reverte - The Club Dumas - 239-40

"He's the medieval fool, the joker in a pack of cards, the jester. He symbolizes destiny, chance, the end of everything, the expected or unexpected conclusion. Look at the dice. In the Middle Ages, jokers were privileged beings. They were permitted to do things forbidden to others. Their purpose was to remind their masters that they were mortal, that their end was as inevitable as other men's.

"Here he's stating the opposite," objected Corso. "Fate is not the same for all."

"Of course. He who rebels, exercises his freedom, and takes the risk can earn a different fate. That's what this book is about, hence the joker, paradigm of freedom. The only truly free man, and also the most wise. In occult philosophy the joker is identified with the mercury of the alchemists. Emissary of the gods, he guides souls through the kingdom of shadows..."

Book of the Month - January, 2008

December 21st, 2007

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Thunderstruck by Erik LarsonIn Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men -- Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication -- whose lives intersect during one of greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich out-did one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, "the kindest of men," nearly commits the perfect crime.

With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, the people, and the new inventions that connect and divide us, Thunderstruck is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.

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Movie of the Month - January, 2008

December 20th, 2007


Stardust"Scheming princes, wicked witches, flying pirates, celestial love, a pure-hearted hero, all in a magical land. What more do you want?" raves Today's Gene Shalit for Stardust, an epic adventure starring Claire Danes with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro.

In hopes of wooing a beautiful girl (Sienna Miller), Tristan (Charlie Cox) promises to bring her a falling star. But he's in for the adventure of his life when he discovers the star is actually a celestial beauty named Yvaine (Danes).

When an old witch Lamia (Pfeiffer) attempts to steal Yvaine's youth, Tristan must protect her at all costs. This magical fairytale like no other will make you laugh out loud and believe in love again.

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Wild Hogs

December 12th, 2007


Wild HogsTim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy start in Wild Hogs, the hysterically funny comedy about four weekend-warrior friends who decide to rev up their ho-hum suburban lives with a cross-country motorcycle adventure. They don their leathers, fire up their hogs and throw caution and their cell phones to the wind as they hit the open highway. But a lot can happen on the road to nowhere, including a run-in with the bad-to-the-bone Del Fuegos, a real biker gang who don't take kindly to the wannabes. Filled with hilarious misadventures, screwball situations and madcap mayhem, this laugh-out-loud comedy is a movie your whole family will go hog wild over.

Wild Hogs is about four middle-aged men who live in Ohio. During the week each does his nine-to-five thing, but every weekend they armor up in denim and leather, cruise around town on their motorcycles and then have a few beers. When mid-life crisis tickled one man's nose, it was not long before it spread through the group and a motorcycle road trip ensued. What better way for them to regain the spontanaety and autonomy of their glory days? I'm not sure this plot really needed conflict, but on their way west they came across a more traditional biker gang, who did not take kindly to these four midwestern suburbanites considering themselves peers.

When the movie was first advertised I could not believe the cast (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy). I had no issues with getting such an ensemble together, I was more taken back by the fact that these men (primarily Travolta) would make a movie like this. The more I thought about it, and certainly now that I have seen the movie, I believe that this was more about making a fun movie and working together than it was about setting box office records. I would have loved to be a fly on the camera while these men worked together; I hope it was as much fun for them as I imagine it to have been.

I gave Wild Hogs "the old college try" since I had heard some surprisingly encouraging remarks. I talked to a few people who were very pleased with the movie. I addressed my concerns with them about how cheesy it looked and I was told not to worry. In the end, Wild Hogs was very cheesy. But it was fun enough for what it was. If you can relate with the characters I am sure there is more substance to the movie than I was able to enjoy.

Have you ever been told that, "You will love Office Space even more if you have ever worked in an office setting?" Well, you will appreciate Wild Hogs much more if your own mid-life crisis is knocking, or has knocked at your door. Since (thankfully) mine has not, once the "conflict" settled into the story my interest waned.

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December 11th, 2007
Blades of GloryChazz: I hope you’ve brought your silver polish, MacElroy, 'cause that was gold.
Jimmy: That was disgusting.
Chazz: THAT, young man, is how babies are made.

The Golden Compass

December 5th, 2007


Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is a stubborn girl who wants to be included in the adventures of her uncle, the Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). For one particularly important mission Lord Asriel heads to "The North," and again Lyra is left behind. Her savior comes in the form of a woman, the Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), who says she is about to travel to the North and could use an assistant. For safety on her voyage with Mrs. Coulter, Lyra is given a strange instrument and told to keep it a secret. The instrument is an Alethiometer and if you can read it, it always shows you the truth. With the help of the Alethiometer and some new friends she meets along the way, Lyra must find and save kidnapped children and then find her uncle.

The movie is based on the world created by Philip Pullman in the His Dark Materials series, a three-book set with The Golden Compass being the first. While I have not read the books, I will assume that much of the movie was as it was in the books. For example, I will credit Pullman with the dæmons -- in this parallel world a person's soul travels alongside the body, in animal form, rather than inside it. This was a wildly imaginative element to the story and one of those "Why didn't I come up with that?" ideas.

I really like Daniel Craig, but he is not in the movie very long. You get the impression that he might get more on-screen time later in the story, but Lyra is our star. As Lyra, Dakota Blue Richards was everything she needed to be, when she need to be. She was stubborn, sassy, strong, and lots of other things that don't start with the letter S.

I don't like Nicole Kidman. In almost every role she is sneaky, rude, cold and nasty. And that is exactly how she was in The Golden Compass, and I loved it. Mrs. Coulter is each and every one of those things.

The animation for the movie was very well done. There were many parts of the movie where the animators could have made it look less animated, but they didn't. I think it added to the fantasy element of the story to keep it this way.

The story moves pretty quickly. There is a lot of information packed into just one movie. Normally I would gripe about the lack of depth given to certain parts of the plot, but I am making an exception for The Golden Compass under the assumption that things will be explained in the next two installments of the series.

It was PG-13 and the only reason I could see was for animated violence. Many people died, but there was little or no blood.

You can call this a children's movie if you want, but I think it is time we re-evaluated that category. You will like this movie if you like fun fantasy/adventure stories. I loved it.

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Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones

November 30th, 2007

Mister Pip by Lloyd JonesIn a novel that is at once intense, beautiful, and fablelike, Lloyd Jones weaves a transcendent story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of narrative to transform our lives. On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with almost everyone else, only one white man choose to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined school-house and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations. So begins this rare, original story about the abiding strength that imagination, once ignited, can provide. While artillery echoes in the mountains, thirteen-year-old Matilda and her peers are riveted by the adventures of a young orphan named Pip in a city called London, a city whose contours soon become more real than their own blighted landscape. As Mr. Watts says, "A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe." Soon come the rest of the villagers, initially threatened, finally inspired to share tales of their own that bring alive the rich mythology of their past. But in a ravaged place where even children are forced to live by their wits and daily survival is the only objective, imagination can be a dangerous thing.

On an island caught in the middle of a conflict it cannot escape, Mr. Watts was a diamond in the rough. This strange white man was a mystery to everyone until their fates had been sealed. With tension rising between the opposing sides of the war many people were able to flee the island. When the last boat was gone, no one was left to teach the children. No one except for the unknown Mr. Watts.

Mr. Watts ran an unconventional school. He had no personal knowledge to pass on to the children, but understood that they needed to learn. One technique he employed was almost "show and tell" meets "career day." One of the villagers came to class and shared anything they could with the kids. This may have been the best places to fish, a recipe, or a piece of the island's history. (As a sidenote, these visits to the schoolhouse were my favorite aspect of the book.) The only other way we saw Mr. Watts engage the children was by reading them a chapter per day from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.

The story was recounted by a girl who was, at the time, a 13 year old living on the island. She lived with, and tested the patience of, her mother. Her father had left the island years before in search of work. Through Mr. Watts she developed a profound relationship with Charles Dickens, and more specifically Pip, the young protagonist in Great Expectations. And through Charles Dickens she developed a special relationship with Mr. Watts. Thanks to her we saw not only life in school, but how the village was directly affected by the fighting. When homes were burned and people were killed we saw how dire the situation was for the people stranded on the island.

This 13-year-old girl was still a child and should have been able to be one. She, like the other children, did not have that option. Her father was gone and she was always fighting with her mother. She had to witness things that no one, let alone a 13 year old, should ever have to see. Great Expecations became a fairy tale to her; a world into which she could escape. And Pip was her guide. From daily peaks into his story, Pip became as real to her as anyone else on the island, maybe even more so. And just as easily as any villager could have, Pip became the cause of a great misunderstanding with a group of men with guns who do not like misunderstandings.

Lloyd Jones gave us a beautiful story full of hope, disappointment and a very unlikely school teacher. He wrote with a balance of poetic imagination and narrative story telling that made me love this book.

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