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« March, 2007 »

Swimming to Antarctica   book icon  
by Lynne Cox (2005)

read: 24 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

This is mostly not a book about swimming to Antarctica though that story is the culminating one in this book. This is mostly about Lynne Cox, a notable distance and cold water swimmer, describing what motivates her and some of her better-known swims. I had wanted to read this book ever since reading the article she wrote for the New Yorker, but I sort of wish I had stopped there. Being a good swimmer doesn’t necessarily make you a good writer. While I found most of these stories interesting, Cox has an almost Asperger’s-like way of telling these stories, always telling you what her core body temperature was and what she ate and drank before each swim and repeating these detals almost verbatim each time. The author she reminds me the most of is Temple Grandin. Also, depite having a team of doctors on her team with her, she talks a lot about her own folk remedy ideas like how maple syrup is good to drink before a swim because maple trees “use sap as energy” and I found this a little odd after a while.

I was sort of hoping I might learn more about Lynne the person and how she balanced living a real life along with all this high-intensity training and exercising but it seems like the answer is: she doesn’t. She has a small website without much personal information, she apparently lives at home or near her parents. She went on a corporate speaking tour where she commands fees in the five figures range. She doesh’t have a significant other of note. She has a dog. So, as a swimming book, for people who want to know what it’s like to do cold water swimming in open water, this book is great. If you want to get at the personalities or the science behind some of this -- besides the pretty basic “how to avoid hypthermia” -- you’ll have to go elsewhere.

Ingledove   book icon  
by Marly Youmans (2005)

read: 23 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: ya

[review pending]

The Geographer’s Library   book icon  
by Jon Fasman (2006)

read: 19 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: fiction

I read this book after a friend whose opinion I greatly respect had already told me it was a disappointment to her. I liked it a little better than that, but not a lot better. It seems there is some sort of genre of books about ordinary guy caught up in some sort of deep mystery concerning Ancient Objects, Hot Women and Research. The researcha gnel always appeals to me, and some of the ancient stuff, and I’m sort of “eh” on the hot women angle, but the stories are usually interesting enough. This one was pretty good.

It might have been better if I hadn’t been reading a proof copy and had had illustrations of all the alchemical -- I hope I’m not giving away too much here -- objects rather than just a blank box with “TK Illustration” written in them. At the end of it all though, you don’t quite have the sufficiently zing-y wrap up to make it all come together and think “man I read a good book.” I liked the charachters, liked the story, enjoyd it while I was reading it, but I’ve read better versions of the same general plot and don’t think I’ll think about this book much after it’s faded from recent memory.

The Hunt Club   book icon  
by John Lescroart (2006)

read: 14 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: fiction

This was one of the better cop-type books I’ve read lately. I’m pretty bad at differentiating what is a mystery from a thriller from a cop book from a whatever. This guy is a social worker turned private investigator and he’s put together The Hunt Club (his name is hunt) and they are a crack team of folks who try to get to the bottom of a murder of a well-off judge. Along the way a woman vanishes who is a bit of a love interest and that story seems to take as much precendence as the dead judge. The characters are inteersting, the story is well written and the main lead is an interesting person who doens’t make a bunch of dumb decisions like a lot of other cop book protagonists I could name.

The only thing really perplexing about this book was the ending. I won’t say much more about it except when I finished it, a few days after my sister read it , we both asked each other “what was your take on the ending?” So, if you wind up reading this book, I’d love to know what you thought about the ending.

Likely to Die   book icon  
by Linda Fairstein (1998)

read: 14 March 2007
rating: [0]
category: fiction

My sister handed me this book on the plane and said there weren’t too many rape scenes in it and that I might like it. Fairstein is one of those mystery/thriller type of writers who talks a lot about cop work and forensic work and I’ve had a hard time finding good mysteries in that vein that weren’t total “terrorize the heroine” thrillers. This one has faded form memory pretty quickly but I remember enjoying reading it on the plane. It’s an Alexandra Cooper mystery loosely about the stabbing death of a very promient female neurosurgeon in an inner-city hospital. Fairstein plays her cards close and until the very end of it, you really don’t much know whodunit but the cop work is pretty interesting. On the other hand, it’s not one of those solve-it-yourself books, so until the end of the book you really don’t have enough information to figure out who the killer is. On that front I found it a little less than optimal because I felt like towards the end I was just reading along waiting for the reveal. Good airplane reading.

Vanish   book icon  
by Tess Gerritsen (2005)

read: 12 March 2007
rating: [0]
category: fiction

I call bullshit on pregnant cop stories. Apparently the cop in this story had her water burst while she was questioning a suspect and her whole delivery process shangahied by a kidnapping/siege that occurred in the hospital. I am not a parent, but I find a lot of the weird parenting that goes on in this book -- even keeping in mind the quirkiness of the main parent characters -- to be a little unbelievable. Add to that the graphic teen-rapes that happen in this book and it added up to a story that was interesting but not something I could honestly recommend to anyone.

The sex trade industry where women from other countries are forced into sex work in the US is a terrible thing, but I’m not sure if stories like this are helping raise awareness or just capitalizing on the tawdry titillation factor of subjugated women making a thriller mystery a good read. I liked the first Gerritsen book I read the best -- the one with the astronauts -- and I’ve found them sort of disappointing since.

Queen of Angels   book icon  
by Greg Bear (1990)

read: 9 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: fiction

It took me a hundred pages of this book for me to be certain I hadn’t read it before. It has the same transform policewoman that another of Bear’s books has and another crime that has to do, loosely, with therapied vs. untherapied people in a future where that sort of thing matters. I’m glad I stuck with it, even though the beginning is sort of a slog. It covers several stories at once including one sub-theme that has to do with the role of a thinker -- a computer brain type character -- whose text is all written as if it were appearing on a dumb terminal in front of you. A little tough to read early on, but the stories all come together in a really neat way and Bear’s imagination and ideas about future scenarios are excellently evident in this novel.

Beyond Heaven’s River   book icon  
by Greg Bear (2001)

read: 7 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: fiction

[review pending]

The Road to Wellville   book icon  
by T. C. Boyle (1994)

read: 3 March 2007
rating: [+]
category: fiction

[review pending]

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