Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Devil Colony by James Rollins

Well, this was a very interesting book. It's a Sigma Force Novel, if that means anything to you. It's one of those "National Treasure" type books. An ancient secret, powerful warring groups, treasure, cataclysmic events, battles, a little romance... this book has it all. It was pretty much a series of crises--flowing adrenaline throughout the whole novel.

The most interesting thing about this book to me was its speculation on the Nephites and Lamanites, the peoples in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is approached in this novel as a historical record and the ancient secrets sought after by the opposing forces in this book originate with the Nephites, the "pale Indians". Very interesting. I worried that the author would fill his story with clever slams against the Mormon church, but he didn't. There were some events and references in the book that seemed to indicate general ignorance of Mormon practices and history, but there were no derogatory passages. That was nice (for a change).

Warning: there are some very foul words sprinkled throughout the book. There is no sex. I'm glad I read it, despite the dozen or so jarring and ugly words. It was interesting to see an outsider's possible interpretation of the Book of Mormon. Of course, to him it was purely a story or maybe even a history--not the spiritual record that members of the LDS church value it as. Still, it was enlightening to see things from a different (and friendly) perspective, and all the adventure and excitement was fun too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

I so like Helen MacInnes! This one was one of her good ones. A chest is hidden deep in a dark, frigid lake in the Austrian mountains. It contains secrets from the Nazi regime and is carefully guarded by the Nazis who have gone underground in the small Austrian town of Unterwald. But three other nations want to own those secrets. One man drags that chest from its hiding place and begins a deadly treasure hunt in which agents from many countries work together--and against each other--to find that chest. American lawyer Bill Mathison finds himself smack dab in the middle of all the chaos.

This one was engaging all the way through. I really liked Bill Mathison. I find these cold war stories so interesting. I guess it's because the cold war was big news for my childhood and much of my youth as well. It's fixed in my mind as the major conflict of those years. And I'm a sucker for books that have dashing spies, a touch of romance and in which all the bad guys either die or go to jail.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This was an interesting book. I can't decide if I like it or not. A group of dignitaries visit a third world country to gather for an exclusive opera performance--at a birthday party for a Japanese executive. Terrorists burst in on the party and take all the guests hostage. There follows a study in Stockholm syndrome. When the hostage situation is over (after many weeks), those who were once terrorists no longer seem so terrible.

This was an absorbing story. Completely unrealistic, I thought. Not that I necessarily expect fiction to be realistic--in fact sometimes it really bothers me when fantasy attempts to imitate "reality" in jarring ways. I'm not sure if I can explain this bothers me when gritty reality is portrayed in a story that is otherwise in no way realistic. I really thought that the relationships imagined in this book could never have happened. In that way it felt like fantasy. However, the end was quite realistic, jarringly so. It was an appropriate ending. There could have been no other ending I guess. But the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality bothers me always. Just a personal thing, I guess.

It was a very different book. Such a combination of the unexpected and the cliche, the pleasant and the horrifying, the fantastic and the gritty.

FYI, there were two very foul words in this book. They were unnecessary, but there anyway. There were also 2 sexual relationships (both outside of marriage) depicted. Those were part of what made part of this book very unrealistic. Because of these two things, I cannot comfortably recommend this book.

Zorro by Isabel Allende

This one's another graphic novel--art by Wagner, Francavilla and Lucas. I liked it. It was a pretty typical Zorro novel--the story was generally familiar to me. I especially liked the story of Bernardo's muteness; Bernardo doesn't talk, you know, and Ms. Allende's explanation of why was interesting. Wonderful illustrations (naturally).

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

This is Miss Marple's FIRST mystery. A widely disliked man is murdered in the vicarage study. Several people confess. Miss Ma figures out who really did it. I love Miss Marple, better even than Hercule Poirot, I think.

I read this mystery right after I read Sleeping Murder--Miss Marple's last mystery. I was a nice pairing. I can always highly recommend Agatha Christie. Who can't?

Catwoman by Joseph Loeb and Tim Sale

This is another graphic novel (I was visiting my sister and she and her kids LOVE them and had a bunch of them), comic book style. This was typical comic book stuff: voluptuous women, bloody battles, muscular men... etc etc. I liked it well enough. I've always liked comic books!

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

I've never read an Agatha Christie that I didn't like. This one is Miss. Marple's final case. Clever Miss Marple makes an extended stay in the village of Dillmouth in order to help a young couple who fear they have moved into a haunted house. When the young wife starts "remembering" a 20-year-old (or so) murder, she is advised to let sleeping murders lie, but she cannot. Miss Marple assists.

This is a good one.

The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

I read The Odyssey by Homer many years ago when I was in high school... or maybe college... and I thought I got the gist of the story, all while telling myself how lovely the language is. This is the graphic novel and it was great! Odysseus and all his journeys and all his troubles. Offend the Gods and pay for YEARS. Anyway, I've never understood The Odyssey better than I did from this graphic novel. I love the great classics translated into graphic form! I highly recommend this one.

The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

Well, I read a Nicholas Sparks book. I felt like such a cliche on the airplane, a plump matron reading a romance. Sigh.

The plot summary: volunteer firefighter Taylor McAden meets single mother Denise Holton when he comes to her rescue. He has some tragic issues from his past that keep him from maintaining permanent relationships with women. It takes his response to another tragic event for his eyes to open to what he must overcome to build a relationship with Denise.

There's nothing original about this story. It's engaging and sweet. It has a nice ending. The main characters do have a sexual relationship before marriage. Sigh. Not too many details. I won't read another Nicholas Sparks.

The Double Image by Helen MacInnes

This is a typical Helen MacInnes: a political thriller with a romantic element slipped in as well. This one takes place first in Paris and then on a little Greek island as well. It's all about beating the Communists again--it takes place in the late 1960s. The cold war is hot and heavy and Nazi criminals are still being hunted and tried. Innocent civilian John Craig gets involved with an episode of espionage. It's always the clever civilian who is the hero in Helen MacInnes' stories. He's also the one who gets the girl. :) I enjoyed meeting some of the characters I liked from another MacInnes--agents Frank Rosenfeld and Christopher Holland. That was fun.

This one is actually the least exciting one of Helen MacInnes' that I've read. I still really enjoyed it, but it didn't have the fast pace that some of the others I've reviewed on here did. Still, her writing is substantial, with well-researched settings. I love her characters and I get caught up in the suspense. I always enjoy her books.