This is the first Crichton novel I have read, but it will not be my last. I completely enjoyed the book, which is a nice mixture of history, suspense,...moreThis is the first Crichton novel I have read, but it will not be my last. I completely enjoyed the book, which is a nice mixture of history, suspense, drama and technology.
The story concerns an expedition sent by the company Earth Resources Technology, Inc., into the deep rainforests of the Congo in search of blue diamonds. The expedition discovers the lost city of Zinj, but on the night of the discovery is completely wiped out. The destruction is caught on video, which records a grunting, heavy breathing type language and a grainy, man-shaped object which kills all the members of the expedition, by smashing their skulls.
ERTS, based in Houston, sends another expedition, led by young but brilliant Karen Ross and guided by the famous white African mercenary Munroe. Tagging along is scientist Peter Elliot and a female gorilla Amy. They are in a race against a consortium of other nations to reach and claim the blue diamond fields.
The novel traces the journey, hardships and ultimate outcome of the expedition in the brutal environment of the Congo jungle. There is plenty of danger from political factions, natural disasters, wild animals and other obstacles. The gorilla Amy proves to be a most valuable asset in the final outcomes of the expedition.
Crichton gets top marks for his research, supply an in-depth bibliography at the end of the book. Definitely a good read if you don't mind a bit of techno-babble and intensive historical review.
I give this book a vulgarity rating of 4 out of 10, mainly for expletives scattered throughout the novel. (less)
I would love to hate this book, but I just can't bring myself to do so. Still, I'll do no more for now than merely "like" it for want of a better choi...moreI would love to hate this book, but I just can't bring myself to do so. Still, I'll do no more for now than merely "like" it for want of a better choice. The Magicians centers around a group of brilliant teens, notably the protagonist Quentin Coldwater, who discovers that he can perform magic. Many have touted this series as "Harry Potter" for adults, but that is an extremely unfair attack on J.K. Rowling. Far from demonstrating the creative genius of Rowling, Grossman has simply taken well known themes in fantasy literature and stripped away any of their glamor, or fascination, and revealed the world of sorcerers as sad, bland and deeply troubled. The main characters in the book are almost all nihilistic, self-absorbed, bored, misfit and pessimistic to the extent that the book is a real downer.There aren't even any good villains to hate.
If the main characters aren't complaining because no one understands them, then they are drinking themselves blind, exploiting one another, exploring their sexuality, inventing ways to be crass, obscene and vulgar or lying around in an abject bored stupor steeped in melancholy. Most of the magicians do not believe in God and the one magician who claims a relationship with God cannot hold his own when subjected to the atheism of his peers.
Quentin is a genius underachiever who seems to be completely adrift in a sea of depression and is constantly selling himself short. He is obsessed with a series of children's fantasy novels to the extent that they dominate his thinking. When he learns of his magical ability, he is admitted to Brakebills Academy, a training school for young magicians. The reader should not at this point think that he is going to be introduced to a place like Hogwarts. In fact, Brakebills is so lifeless that paddle electrodes and a 300 volt shock couldn't start its heart to beating. The school's teachers are completely un-noteworthy and cardboard thin in development. The school itself is practically without any interesting aspect. The years of education at the school pass by so quickly that it seems Quentin barely arrives before he is graduating and going kicking and screaming back into the real world. Except that he doesn't feel at home at Brakebills either. Or anywhere else, for that matter. So, he drinks and drinks and drinks, seeking to destroy any relationship he might otherwise build.
Throughout the book is the legend of Fillory, the world of a supposedly fictitious author and his children characters. Made simple, the world of The Magicians is a hodgepodge of Narnia, Middle Earth and Hogwarts without any of the charm of those places and with every effort undertaken to strip away any feelings of awe or discovery or delight from the magical world.
Having said all that, Grossman's writing style provides enough hooks and spins to keep the reader turning pages. There are a few surprises. Quentin becomes likeable while never becoming loveable. Or perhaps it is better to say he becomes redeemable while never reaching redemption. Happiness will never pervade this depressing world, but as a genre of deconstructed fantasy, it is a fair read. Grossman demonstrates a wonderful vocabulary, so if nothing else the reader can increase his appreciation for the complexities of the English language.
Concerning vulgar language and adult themes, I give the book 7 out of 10, with the excesses of Game of Thrones as my 10 and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms as my 0.(less)
Water for Elephants introduced me to a world I know practically nothing about: the world of 1920s-30s circuses. I'm a fan of historical-based fiction...moreWater for Elephants introduced me to a world I know practically nothing about: the world of 1920s-30s circuses. I'm a fan of historical-based fiction which gives a glimpse into rare and unusual lifestyles. As such, Gruen did a fair bit of research for this romantic jaunt into the Big Top and the morass of characters attracted to the circus environment.
The story traces the life of Polish American Jacob Jankowski, who at the beginning of the book is a 90+ year old man confined to a nursing home. He is told what to eat, what to wear and what he can and cannot say, but has enough of his mental facilities left to rebel against this kind of treatment. Through a series of flashbacks, he relives his youth as a 24 year old veterinary student at Cornell University. Because of the sudden death of his parents in an automobile accident, Jacob finds himself homeless, penniless and adrift in the wide world. Through a trick of fate, he hops a ride on a circus train and becomes enmeshed in the strange and fantastical world of circus life.
His education is difficult and sometimes treacherous as he has to learn the ins-and-outs of circus politics and social caste. The circus he joins is run by the ruthless Uncle Al, a seedy character running a seedy show. With his strong men and thugs, he exercises a reign of fear over the circus workers, who none-the-less are being fed well when many in America are starving. Though most aren't being paid, they stay to be fed and are therefore victimized regularly by Al and his cronies.
Complicating things for Jacob, he meets and immediately falls in love with one of the performers -- Marlena, who is married to August (Auggie), a brutal animal trainer who routinely mistreats the animals under his care. He is a nasty piece of work who is seriously bi-polar, though Uncle Al believes him to be paranoid schizophrenic.
Jacob the youth struggles with convictions and morals while Jacob the elderly struggles with dignity, rights and indignation. Surrounding him are a cast of truly wonderful characters who either radiate love and good will or hatred and punishment. Water for Elephants is a very good read with a good cast of characters, smooth story line and enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning pages. Some of the best loved characters are the animals, such as Rosie the elephant, an orangutan and a toothless lion. The story has a great deal of humor and a lot of real life melded in an excellent adventure peppered with clowns, roustabouts, acrobats and sideshow freaks.
Objectionable materials include rampant profanity (7 of 10 on my scale) and somewhat descriptive sexuality (5 of 10 on my scale). (less)
I'm new to the "Kid Spy" genre and found this example to be a quick and entertaining read. It will probably appeal most to boys ages 10-15.
Alex Rider...moreI'm new to the "Kid Spy" genre and found this example to be a quick and entertaining read. It will probably appeal most to boys ages 10-15.
Alex Rider is an above-average 14 year old who lives with his uncle after his parents die in a plane crash. His uncle, Ian Rider is said to die in a car wreck at the first of the book, supposedly failing to wear a seat belt. This strikes Alex as extremely odd, since his uncle was a fanatic about wearing a seat belt. Ian Rider was also supposed to be an international banker -- but things just weren't adding up.
At his uncle's funeral, things definitely turned to the mysterious when Alex observed people who just didn't look the banker type. Then when one of the drivers accidentally revealed his shoulder holster and gun, Alex is pretty sure his uncle was much more than a banker.
The key to his uncle's death lay with the wrecked automobile, which Alex seeks and finds. What he discovers starts a chain of events which lands him in a strange position as a kid working for MI6, British intelligence.
His first mission: learn everything he can about the supercomputer Stormbreaker and why Egyptian developer Herod Sayle is donating thousands of them to British schools. MI6 knows that Sayle is up to no good -- but they don't know what he's doing. Alex must investigate, though he is little trained and a kid.
I enjoyed the book. It is rather straightforward with few plot shifts or unexpected sequences. For juvenile literature, it is a enjoyable read. My only real complaint is that I'd have liked a few more secondary characters to brighten things up and a bit more information about the characters who were present. Especially under-represented is Jack, the female American housekeeper who is Alex's only remaining guardian.
There are few noticeable objectionable areas even for younger readers. I think I recall a couple of very mild expletives, but they are hardly noticeable. Good for kids or even adults who want a quick read with a few cool techno-toys and some gunfire and minor explosions -- oh -- and a giant Portuguese man-of-war waiting for a hapless victim.(less)
The Confession delivers the quality of writing that readers continue to expect from Grisham. It is a gripping story which takes to task the death pena...moreThe Confession delivers the quality of writing that readers continue to expect from Grisham. It is a gripping story which takes to task the death penalty in general, and in particular the death penalty as it exists in the state of Texas. The book's obvious anti-death penalty stance, however, approaches the matter with the same delicacy with which the movie Platoon addresses the Vietnam War. It is hard to imagine a situation in which there are so many hardened, calloused and incompetent people in so many different levels of the justice system all collaborating in the railroading of an innocent man. Yet, for the sake of argument, it is believably possible.
The book follows a serial rapist/murderer who has recently been released on parole and placed in a halfway house in Topeka, Kansas. He is a creepy, vile individual who seeks out a Lutheran minister to confess to a crime for which another man is about to be executed. He tells the minister that he has an inoperable and terminal brain tumor which will kill him soon. In a protracted confession, he admits to the rape and murder of a high school cheerleader in the town of Sloane, Texas nine years earlier.
The minister, in trying to do what is right, finds himself embroiled in a volatile death-penalty case which is a circus of defenders and prosecutors in a final showdown slugfest. The man on death row was, nine years earlier, the star football player on the high school team. He also happens to be black. His so-called victim was white. Tensions are high and the outcome of the last minute attempts to stay the execution could result in a mass race war in Texas.
For the minister, the choice to do what he knows to be right will result in his committing a felony -- in aiding a parolee in breaking parole by going to Texas to confess to his crime and attempt to stop the execution. Should he do what he knows to be right? Or should he do what he knows to be safe?
At the heart of the story is a relentless attack on the death penalty. Grisham even includes a real-life case in Texas where a father was convicted of burning his daughters to death. The case received a great deal of press here in Texas, and could possibly be (most likely is) a case where the state of Texas has executed an innocent man. All that being considered, the book does not truly attempt to give an honest appraisal of both sides of the death penalty. It is mostly a diatribe against, or at very least a call to seriously overhaul, the death penalty systems in the states where it is practiced. Practically speaking, no overhaul will ever be sufficient, because humans are prone to mistakes and there will always be the possibility that an innocent person could be executed.
I am mostly pleased with the book as a gripping drama. I am displeased with the ending of the story because I feel that the minister is given an easy road to becoming an anti-death penalty advocate. While Grisham begins to move events to a place where the minister might have to face a criminal attack on his own family -- in the end the threat never materializes and the minister, who serves as the voice of reason and religious restraint, never has to truly grapple with how he would feel about the death penalty if his own family was victimized by a brutal criminal. The family of the noteworthy victim in the book is treated as being theatrical, overly hateful and completely oblivious to the possibility that the state is about to execute an innocent man.
In all, the story is gripping and dramatic and a good read. As an honest address to the matter of the death penalty it is hopelessly one sided and dishonest.
Objectionable matter: profanity is high -- 7 out of 10 on my personal scale. (less)
Among the best books I've read. A story filled with humor, sadness, love, hate, affluence and poverty. Same Kind of Different as Me is a book that cha...moreAmong the best books I've read. A story filled with humor, sadness, love, hate, affluence and poverty. Same Kind of Different as Me is a book that challenges prejudice on several levels: black and white, rich and poor, have and have not; homelessness. With a healthy dose of homespun wisdom and a strong Christian message, Ron Hall and Denver Moore tell of their lives from perspectives on different ends of the social spectrum.
Denver Moore is a modern day slave. Born and reared as a sharecropper, he faced the worst that racial prejudice and inequality could dish out. Getting nowhere as a sharecropper, he chose to hop a train. From dirt poor cropper he became a dirt poor street bum, homeless on the streets of Fort Worth. His brushes with the law and encounters in the ghettos has hardened him into a man feared in the hobo jungle.
Ron Hall is a self-made success in the world of high-dollar art dealing. In a short time he climbs the ladder of influence until he is making six figure deals and traveling around the world in pursuit of the next art deal.
Deborah Hall is his wife and a woman with a beautiful soul. Her love for the homeless sets the three of them on a life-changing journey full of hopes, doubts, successes and failures, and love that crosses all prejudicial lines. Her love for God propels her into the saddest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Fort Worth for the love of her fellow man. Along the way, she brings her husband Ron to a whole new level of love and acceptance as well.
As they interact across socio-economic lines, they each learn how the other half lives in ways that are often humorous and often heart wrenching. The friendships formed between these three surpass believability.
The book is clean, with no profanity or innuendo, and is very Christian centered. The story is told from the two perspectives of Ron Hall and Denver Moore. A thoroughly enjoyable read.(less)
Just now discovering the world of Jason Bourne. A fabulous book which has already led me to begin reading the second in the trilogy (actually written...moreJust now discovering the world of Jason Bourne. A fabulous book which has already led me to begin reading the second in the trilogy (actually written by Robert Ludlum).
I was a bit skeptical when I first began the book when I learned it was going to be an "assassin gets amnesia" story. I got over my skepticism quickly. Ludlum has a minimalist writing style that doesn't bog the read down in description. The writing is driving and exciting and at times ends one scene so abruptly and begins the next that the reader gets whiplash. And that's a good thing!
Just who is this amnesiac? Why does he have such finely honed skills that all point to a past as a killing machine? How did he learn all the languages that he can speak fluently? Just who shot him to doll rags and left him to die, floating in the sea?
One name keeps surfacing. Jason Bourne. Not very helpful, though. Who is Jason Bourne? Is he a good guy? A bad guy? A ruthless killer? One thing is for sure -- not everyone is glad that Jason Bourne has returned. Almost immediately the hunt to annihilate Jason Bourne begins.
Enter an innocent bystander who just happens to be gorgeous, with auburn hair and, dare we say it, a brain! The beautiful economist with the Canadian government suddenly finds herself embroiled in Jason Bourne's fight for survival. Which, in turn, leads to her own fight for survival. Can we say, "guilty by association?"
To add mystique, who or what is Treadstone 71. Why is that name so important to the true identity of Jason Bourne? And another thing -- who is the Jackal? Why is he so determined that Jason Bourne meet his maker with a bullet in the throat?
Bourne Identity is a true page-turner which holds the reader through all of its more than 400 pages. A must read for anyone who enjoys spies, assassins, government covert activity and conspiracy theories. Want to learn who really killed JFK? Well, read the book. (less)
The Bourne Supremacy lacks some of the immediacy of the first book, but still carries the reader through with enough action and covert manipulations t...moreThe Bourne Supremacy lacks some of the immediacy of the first book, but still carries the reader through with enough action and covert manipulations to make an enjoyable read. The book ended up a bit long in my opinion for the subject matter covered. There were several places where the information and action seemed completely superfluous to the story line.
Bourne Supremacy picks up where Identity left off, with the newly married Webb and Webb living happily away from government intervention. David is a professor in a local college and is slowly regaining a grasp on his lost life. He is pushing the Jason Bourne side of him deeper and deeper into the recesses of his mind.
Not for long. The government that created him has need of his services again. An unstable Chinese government could just send the world as we know it over the brink into either another war or at least financial upheaval. At the heart of the problem is a group of old-world Chinese lords who want to rip the future of China away from the Western way of thinking and back to traditional Chinese values. At their helm is a brutal madman with a penchant for ornamental swordplay.
What's this? There are now two Jason Bournes? While David Webb is hanging out with the love of his life, someone is murdering wholesale in the Oriental world and claiming to be Jason Bourne. What is to be done? Enter the zealous covert government agents who brought us the first Bourne fiasco, and buckle up for a ride that is every bit as dastardly, underhanded, hare brained and -- possibly -- necessary as the first.
The real problem is: How to get the old Jason Bourne back from retirment. Solution: kidnap his wife and take her to China. The problem: the best laid plans of wizened men often go awry!Don't count on Bourne playing the game within the rules. The result is a good story with enough twists and turns to challenge a Coney Island roller coaster.
My biggest complaint in the book is the sheer magnitude of profanity in the book. Less or none is always best in my opinion. (less)
A somewhat shallow but still satisfying romance/mystery. I read the Kindle version which is free. Mabry treats the subject of medical mystery with a c...moreA somewhat shallow but still satisfying romance/mystery. I read the Kindle version which is free. Mabry treats the subject of medical mystery with a convincing knowledge of medical jargon that doesn't come off feeling contrived.
Cathy is a young, attractive, blond doctor who returns to her home town of Dainger, Texas to start a private practice. Fresh out of medical school, she is fleeing the Dallas area to leave behind painful memories of a couple of bad relationships. She soon discovers that not everyone is glad she is returning home.
Who is the driver of the black SUV trying to kill Cathy? Or is it all in her mind? Who has a reason to want her dead? Is it the banker? The pharmacist? Her fellow physicians? Her ex? Just who can want Cathy out of the way so badly they will kill her? Maybe it's one of her surgeon father's past patients? Or the result of her paranoid schizophrenic? mother's past? And what was really the cause of their fatal car accident years ago? Cathy needs to find out ..... stat!
Cathy has a few aces up her sleeve. For one, she's truly a brilliant doctor. Next, she has some good friends who loved her and her parents and are glad she's back. Then there's the patients who aren't afraid of a new woman doctor. And there's her ex-boyfriend from high school. He's a lawyer who still has a flame of desire burning for the good doctor. Can she trust him? It's hard not to when his parents are the kind and compassionate minister and his wife who welcome Cathy with open arms.
The story has a few interesting twists and turns, but fails to deliver intense thrills. I'm most impressed by the complete absence of even a single word of profanity. God is mentioned positively throughout the book. Faith is a virtue and Christianity holds a central place in the plot. Also happily missing is any illicit sexuality. There is romance, but without the tawdry sex, excessive kissing, petting and other winter sports. Overall a good and likable read.(less)
This was a positively dreadful book which had a good idea but a poor delivery. I understand that it has a tremendous following, but I can only suppose...moreThis was a positively dreadful book which had a good idea but a poor delivery. I understand that it has a tremendous following, but I can only suppose there must be hordes of readers out there who enjoy pointless verbosity.
The idea behind the story is time honored in fantasy: Guys from present find their way through a portal to another time/place/age/reality -- in this case something akin to Celtic Highlands, though the development of the Celtic angle was thinner than a razor. Once in the new land, both friends find themselves separated and eventually growing apart as they take opposite sides in a civil struggle. The problem is, the character development and plot development of the book are practically stillborn. Like an emu they never get off the ground.
Most annoying in the book is the author's opinion that readers have to be told the same thing at least a dozen times in different ways before they can understand it. He loves adverbs to the point of lunacy and bludgeons the reader with diatribes that eat up pages of the book without delivering anything in the way of progress. His characters are single dimensional and are constantly experiencing inexplicable mood changes, attitude adjustments and character shifts which do nothing but confuse the reader. Scenery is described in such detail that it becomes monotonous. When writing, even triads used in explanation become boring after awhile. This author sees nothing wrong with describing the same item with even 10 or 12 different descriptions, all of which say the same thing. It's as though he's giving us a V8 smack upside the head again and again because we are too stupid to get it the first time.
I will certainly not be reading the second and third books because at this point I couldn't care less if Lewis/Llews and Simon/Siawn ever kiss and make up or become mortal enemies. Despite the constant drumming over the head of needless description, Albion is boring and lifeless. Insist all you want that it is brighter and richer and fuller and more amazing and more wonderful and glowing and more brilliant than our present world --- it is boring and nothing even remotely interesting happens in the book from first to last.
At best The Paradise War is a cardboard cutout world with paper doll characters which completely misses with any enthusiasm for the Celtic background or anything else. As I conclude the book I can't think of a single memorable quote or any other thing learned which I would want to share. A complete waste of time. Fortunately, I downloaded it for free from Kindle so I'm not out anything but the time spent trudging through it.(less)
Not a bad book for those who enjoy various quirks of history. The greatest shortcoming of the book is that almost nothing is referenced. So, we are le...moreNot a bad book for those who enjoy various quirks of history. The greatest shortcoming of the book is that almost nothing is referenced. So, we are left to assume that Gregory is a master historian without benefit of any explanation as to how he arrives as his conclusions concerning the many mistakes in history that he catalogs.
One example can be debated. He claims it is a myth perpetuated by artists that angels have wings and that the Bible never attributes wings to angels. While he might be right concerning the class of heavenly beings which are called "angels" he is wrong in that cherubim are attributed with wings, at least symbolically. Cherubim are angels.
Still, the book is interesting, funny in many parts and Gregory has a witty delivery style which contains many puns, one liners and irony.
I give it a three primarily because of a lack of attribution for his facts.(less)