An exploration of what happens to human bodies after death, from surgery practice and accident analysis to “medical cannibalism” and composting.
Mary R...moreAn exploration of what happens to human bodies after death, from surgery practice and accident analysis to “medical cannibalism” and composting.
Mary Roach investigates a variety of uses for and treatment of the human body after death, interviewing dozens of experts who use bodies for crash testing, dissection labs for medical students, and examining decomposition rates. She also delves into less common practices, such as the use of human remains as medicine, research into head transplantation, and the development of composting bodies as an alternative to burial or cremation.
Her book is not for the squeamish, but neither is it sensationalistic. Roach combines facts about current and historical treatment of cadavers with thought-provoking discussion of human attitudes and taboos surrounding death. Her irreverent attitude enlivens the book with frequent dashes of humor, demanding of readers an acceptance of human vulnerability to death and decay.
A Vatican priest, an Italian policewoman, and an elite team of U.S. soldiers race together to prevent zealots from taking over the world.
A secret frat...moreA Vatican priest, an Italian policewoman, and an elite team of U.S. soldiers race together to prevent zealots from taking over the world.
A secret fraternity called the Dragon Court steals the preserved bones of the Three Magi from a cathedral in Germany. Their diabolical plans for the future of the world are opposed by SIGMA Force, an elite team of scientist/soldiers from the U.S. Defense Department. Working with Lietuenant Rachel Verona of the Italian Carabinieri Corps and her uncle Monsignor Vigor Verona of the Vatican, Grayson Pierce and his team races to the sites of the Seven Wonders of the World to uncover the clues that will allow them to defeat the Dragon Court.
Rollins’ book is a solidly plotted adventure with many satisfying puzzles, providing twists and turns along the way to tantalize and surprise readers. The historical and technological details add interest to the story, as does the author’s note providing the factual basis for parts of his story. He suggests that readers interested in the facts behind his fiction visit his website (www.jamesrollins.com). (less)
British Private Richard Sharpe poses as a deserter to spy on the Indian ruler his army is attacking in 1799.
Richard Sharpe is not enjoying his life in...moreBritish Private Richard Sharpe poses as a deserter to spy on the Indian ruler his army is attacking in 1799.
Richard Sharpe is not enjoying his life in the Light Company of the 33rd regiment of the British army—not because he objects to fighting, or danger, or the heat of southern India or the gritty dust kicked up by the men marching in front of him. Sharpe is bored. Sharpe is also cursed with the malevolent Sergeant Hakeswill, who enjoys tormenting his troops. To escape Hakeswill’s attentions, Sharpe agrees to pose as a deserter in order to contact the Scottish spy held prisoner in the dungeons of the local ruler, the Tipoo. Sharpe needs all his wits, strength, and fighting skills to enter the city, survive attack from the Tipoo’s bodyguards and tigers, find the spy and collect his intelligence on the city’s defenses, and put that information to use when the British attach the city.
Cornwell does an excellent job of combining historical detail, military strategy, and human interaction in an exciting adventure. The information about daily life in the British army and the Indian city add to the pleasure of the adventure without slowing down the story. Sharpe is a likeable character, and I look forward to reading more of his adventures. (less)
Atlanta judge Rachel Cutler and her ex-husband Paul are drawn into a deadly hunt for amber panels looted by the Nazis in World War II.
After World War...moreAtlanta judge Rachel Cutler and her ex-husband Paul are drawn into a deadly hunt for amber panels looted by the Nazis in World War II.
After World War II Karol Borya helped the Soviets recover many treasures looted by the Nazis. One treasure he did not find was the Amber Room, panels of exquisitely carved amber removed from the Soviet Union’s Catherine Palace in 1941. Treasure hunters still search for the Amber Room, 60 years after the war, and long after Borya immigrated to the United States to live a quiet life. But Borya may have known more than he ever told anyone. When he dies unexpectedly, first his daughter Rachel, a judge in Atlanta, and then her ex-husband Paul are drawn into a deadly competition with professional treasure hunters seeking the Amber Room.
Berry’s treasure hunt yarn offers some tricky twists and turns as Rachel and Paul blunder through an unfamiliar world people with ruthless killers. The descriptions of amber and the panels carved from it and the explanations of the history of looting and recovery of art add interest to the story.
An intrepid international team races through booby-trapped caverns to recover seven pieces of the golden capstone that will determine the future of th...moreAn intrepid international team races through booby-trapped caverns to recover seven pieces of the golden capstone that will determine the future of the world.
Once every 4,500 years the Tartarus Sunspot aligns with Earth and causes world-wide flooding and sun-scorching, unless this is prevented by the placement of the Golden Capstone on the Great Pyramid at Giza. According to the legend explaining this function of the capstone, those who put the capstone in place will gain power over Earth for the next 1,000 years. The Tartarus Rotation will bring the sunspot into alignment in 2006, and naturally, the search is on for the missing capstone. Rival teams from the U.S. and a coalition of European countries are opposed by the underdog team of agents from seven small countries working together. The pieces of the capstone are carefully hidden and guarded by inventive booby traps. It will take all the cleverness, strength, and skill of our team to prevent one of their rivals from capturing the prize and ruling the world.
Reilly’s books have been described as “outlandish adventure”, and this description is certainly appropriate for 7 deadly wonders. The action is nearly non-stop, with occasional flashbacks to explain background stories. The tone is breathless—at one point, no fewer than eight one-sentence paragraphs follow one upon another. The squeamish should be advised that the action includes both designer deaths and wholesale slaughter, but detailed description of these is kept to a minimum, perhaps because our heroes are too busy fending off yet another attack or seeking another escape route at the time. Maps and diagrams punctuate the text with visual representations of the cavern routes and the traps that lie along them.
Actor and author John Lithgow presents poems by many of his favorite poets, enhancing the listener’s experience with biographical and critical comment...moreActor and author John Lithgow presents poems by many of his favorite poets, enhancing the listener’s experience with biographical and critical commentary.
Lithgow provides an inviting introduction to the work of his favorite poets. For each poet he sketches a brief biography, including critical comments on the poet’s work and place in the literary world. He follows the biography with a reading and discussion of one poem, and concludes by reading another poem and listing favorite poems of the poet. Lithogow provides a pithy tag for each poet (William Blake is “the mystical visionary”, Matthew Arnold the “serious poet”), and intriguing background details (Ogden Nash was a member of the family for whom Nashville was named).
Lithogow narrates the commentary and reads some of the poems; he wisely enlists the aid of others (including Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren) to vary the poetry readings. Their voices and interpretations keep the listener’s interest. It is both puzzling and unfortunate that Lithgow chose to present the poets in alphabetical rather than chronological order. Using chronological order would have made it easier for listeners to comprehend the influence of poets upon one another and the changes in poetical style and approach over time. It might also have inspired Lithgow to sharpen his focus on this fascinating aspect of his presentation.
Bren Cameron, human ambassador to the atevi natives, struggles to quell the latest outbreak of atevi warfare and assassination attempts.
In the elevent...moreBren Cameron, human ambassador to the atevi natives, struggles to quell the latest outbreak of atevi warfare and assassination attempts.
In the eleventh volume of the Foreigner series, Bren Cameron is trapped on his estate on the west coast of the atevi-inhabited continent, along with both the grandmother and the heir of the atevi ruler, Tabin. Surrounded by guerilla forces of the insurgents trying to depose Tabini, Bren, his bodyguards, and his allies work on the delicate task of forging political alliances to bring peace to the world. The task is complicated by Tabini’s young and impetuous son, the local Edi tribe, which has been left out of atevi negotiations for generations, and the Assassin’s Guild.
As with the other books in the series, Deceiver relies on long descriptions of the thought processes involved in the atevi’s political maneuvering to drive the plot. This makes the books a bit like reading a description of a chess game. For those readers who do not immediately drop the book and run from the room screaming, this discussion is surprisingly interesting. Cherryh has created likeable characters, a strong sense of place, and a powerful impression of a culture and a people who are other than human. These grounding details and the intermittent dramatic action keep the reader involved and following the political machinations to their satisfying conclusion. Because of the complexity of atevi relationships and society, the reader’s understanding depends heavily on explanations in previous books in the series. New readers should begin with Foreigner, the first book in the series.
Russian detective Erast Fandorin is one suspect among several confined on shipboard while a French police commissioner investigates the murder of the...moreRussian detective Erast Fandorin is one suspect among several confined on shipboard while a French police commissioner investigates the murder of the eccentric Lord Littleby.
A clue dropped at the site of a horrific murder leads Paris police commissioner “Papa” Gauche to sail on the maiden voyage of the steamship Leviathan. Ten of the passengers are suspects, including the Russian detective Erast Fandorin. Each passenger has his or her own story to tell, secrets to protect, and view of the other passengers to reveal. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, laying out the character’s personality and problems in front of the reader and the two detectives, who race to solve the crime.
The rotating point of view was intriguing, and provided for insight into each character, revealed by his or her own thoughts and by the reactions and commentary of others. It was also unsettling, and made for a disjointed reading experience. I’d like to try other books by Akunin, but I hope he uses a different style. (less)