Monday, 28 May 2007

The Innocent by Harlan Coben

I read a Coben book a few years back and remembered it to be quite the page turning mystery. The Innocent proves no different.

The book starts out in second person describing a scene involving...well a frat party when you are in your early 20s. You get into a fight with one of the frat boys and it takes a bad direction with the person on the other side of you ending up dead. Was it an accident? Could it have been prevented? You can't answer the questions. You go to jail for 4 years and come out to start a new life.

The 'you' in the story isn't really you of course but rather Matt Hunter. Nine years after his release from prison his beautiful wife, Olivia, is pregnant and they are about to close on a house in the neighborhood Mark grew up in. They get matching camera phones to keep in better contact with each other now that Olivia is pregnant.

Matt gets a picture message on his phone and his whole world is turned upside down. Suddenly the people in his life might not be who they said they were, people are following him and then turning up dead. The cops are looking at him with a close eye because of the past conviction. Not wanting to ever have to go to prison again Matt starts running and a twisty complicated story follows.

A quick, fun read that kept me glued to the pages. 4 stars (probably really 3.5 but I'll give it the extra half star for keeping me turning the pages).

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek

I read another book by Dybek called I Sailed with Magellan a few years ago. When I picked that one up I was surprised to find that it had nothing to do with either sailing or Magellan but rather was a collection of fantastic stories about growing up and living in Chicago.

Last weekend while I was rummaging through the little library around the corner from my apartment I came across this book, another collections of stories by Dybek taking place in Chicago and this time Chicago was right in the title.

When I say that Dybek is a beautiful writer, it by no means does his writing justice. There are so many scenes in the book that are described with such beautiful detail that I would hang on every word he wrote. I noticed that he has a collection of poetry out there as well and while I am not a fan of poetry usually, his short story writing isn't far from it. It's magical and the city unfolds as the pages turn by. His stories of childhood and living in the city are spectacular and wonderful.

The best story in the book in my opinion was the one called Nighthawks. He talks about hanging out at either the big library downtown or the Art Institute while he is between jobs and the differences between the two. He ends up at the Nighthawks painting by Edward Hopper in the Art Institute and the story that follows is a story of the people within the painting. That painting is my favorite at the Art Institute and I have often wondered about the people in the painting and how they got there. Amazing. And those two little stores were just two within the short story Nighthawks.

I loved this book and have been throwing it at people to read it. An easy and obvious 5 stars!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Cosm by Gregory Benford

I might be biased being a physicist...well, at least a physicist wanna be given that I'm still in graduate school....but anyways, I loved this book.

The main character of the book is Alicia Butterworth, a brilliant young physics professor working at the RHIC experiment at Brookhaven Lab. She has come up with the idea smash Uranium atoms together rather than gold, hoping to find some new interesting science based on the fact that Uranium is heavier than the gold previously used. All is going well in their run when all of a sudden there is an accident in the beam pipe and after an investigation, a wondrous sphere the size of a basketball is found. What makes it even more interesting is that it's not exactly a mass of "something" because it's made of nothing known to science.

What follows is a page turner involving experiments trying to find out what the sphere is and what it means for the life as we know it on planet Earth. The author of the book is a physicist with a nice resume and so his cracks at theorists and experimenters alike are funny to those like me in the know. Although...the main character is a black female...of which there are none of in particle physics. My advisor who also has read this book said, why not go ahead and make her a native American lesbian if you are going that route. Benford being a past Woodrow Wilson Fellow knows his physics stuff for sure so that was very interesting for me. I think those that just like science fiction however would like this book because I didn't think there was too much particle physics jargon involved.

I especially liked the ending......because I love the thinking outside the box. But of course you'll have to read it to find that information out.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I was given this book by my cousin Lisa for Christmas this year and just got around to reading it. Lisa, being a librarian, is always one for recommending great books and this one does not disappoint.

The story is of Marjane's childhood in Iran told in black and white comic strip form. We follow Marjane from the ages of 6 to 14, during which her country goes through turmoil. From the overthrow of the Shah regime to the Islamic revolution to the war with Iraq we get to look at those events through the eyes of a child. Marjane is extremely intelligent and extremely outspoken which can be a lethal combination in a country where the rights of women were being taken away. Marjane and a few runs in with "the law" throughout the book and by the end you cannot help but love her.

I am having a difficult time writing this review. The book was so wonderfully different and fantastic though that I suggest everyone reads it. 5 stars from me.

Also to note that this book had several similarities to a book I read awhile back called Reading Lolita in Tehran that was another incredible read.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Troubleshooter by Gregg Hurwitz

This book is the third in the Tim Rackley series and Hurwitz proves he is a notch above many mystery/serial killer authors. The first in the series in The Kill Clause followed by The Program. I would highly recommend reading these books in order as there are some story lines that follow through the three books.

Tim Rackley is in a word...awesome. He's tough, he kicks ass, he always finds the loop so he can get to the perpatrators. That being said, I didn't enjoy this story line as much as the previous two books. The book starts off with Den Laurey, who is a leader of one of the most violent biker (that's right I said biker) gangs, The Sinners, in the country, escapes from his transport on the LA freeway.

Rackley is put on the case and vows to hunt the crazed biker down. He gets lead into the world of biker gangs, murders, drugs and even terrorist (if you want to tie in any kind of crazy topic this book just about did it) Everytime Rackley gets close to taking Laurey down, circumstances interweave themselves and he has to let him go. Unfortunatly this action led to his wife, Dray, who is pregant being attacked. One thing you don't want is a pissed off Tim Rackely and after his wife is attacked he vows to take him down. Thus leading us into a convoluted world of the Sinner's world.

Another good one from Hurwitz, 4 stars from me (to note I would have given The Kill Clause and The Progam 5 stars....and maybe 5+ on The Program)