Thursday, May 30, 2013

12th of Never, by James Patterson

This novel is the most recent of Mr. Pattersons' "women's murder club" mysteries.   I'm not a fan, mostly because I find the plots predictable.  But there I was on the (covered) porch on a rainy day, and my spouse put her book down... what was I to do?

There was the usual predictable outcome, but also a surprise twist on the plot.  Multiple plots, actually, mostly unrelated, but they do keep the book moving forward.  And it certainly is a fast read (maybe because it is so shallow?).    I was fairly positive on my review until I thought about a not too subtle thread: Mr. Patterson seems to be sending a message about women in this book: otherwise it would be too much a coincidence that more than one of his female characters displays a striking ability to hide their true feelings, completely reverse their positions, and appear both psycho and evil.   Gosh!  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, by Alan Alda

Once again I found myself unenthusiastically working through a stack of books I received as gifts over the years.  Determined to finally be done with them, I picked up this memoir.

I don't generally care for biographies, much less for autobiographies.   And I particularly am not excited about actors working outside of their field:  actors testifying before Congress is so absurd as to make me physically ill, actors talking about politics or even worse, science -- yikes.

(I love actors when they act, and screen writers for their scripts, but to imagine that celebrity imparts some magical capability to provide useful advice on other than acting or writing is ridiculous.  Then again, I believe in science which apparently puts me in the minority of 21st century America.  But I digress.)

So this book:  a memoir by a famous actor -- sounded like the worst of all worlds.

I was wrong.

No, not about the absurdity of celebrity.   I was wrong about over-generalizing.   It turns out that Mr. Alda is a clear thinking fellow who found a way to write about his experiences and make it interesting. In particular, he has done a number of commencement speeches, and in excerpts from these demonstrates good writing, good speechwriting, and good advice.

So I really enjoyed this book.

Go figure.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron

Anyone who knows me is shaking their head in disbelief at the notion of my having read a book about a cat.  For I am not a cat lover; rather, I am a cat -disliker.   (Don't judge me: it is the trauma of a severe allergic reaction to cats that leads to my attitude.)

But I was given this book a couple of years ago and felt compelled to read it.  So here's the deal:  it is a non-fiction account of how a stray kitten ended up in a public library in Iowa and made many people feel good about things by acting cute.   Ms. Myron adds interesting information about the region and some autobiographical content that fits well in the narrative.

Many people will enjoy this book, especially cat lovers.   I am a huge fan of the public library system, maybe that's why I didn't hate the book.

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

I bought this novel for one of my daughters; she thought she might be bored after work and she seems to enjoy the post-apocalyptic genre.   I couldn't resist reading it before she left town, and it was a fast read.  And an enjoyable one:  even though Amazon calls it a "best teen book of the month" choice, I would not hesitate to recommend it.   I'd expect, for example, that anyone who enjoyed the Wool novels would enjoy The 5th Wave.

The plot basics:  aliens come to Earth; they aren't friendly; things aren't going well for humanity.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Theoretical Minimum, by Leonard Susskind

This book was a terrible disappointment because of missed expectations.   I'd expected it to be true to the book cover's description: "...for anyone who has ever regretted not taking physics in college...," "a first course in physics and associated math for the ardent amateur."   Against this measure of success, the book is a complete failure.

Personally, having studied both some math in school (through differential equations, anyway) and some physics (just two semesters though), I didn't get bored until about half way through the book.   But I was scratching my head way earlier than that about what would lead anyone, reviewer or book publisher, to imagine this is for amateurs.

For example, the discussion of introductory trigonometry, introducing radians, the sine, cosine and tangent, and their graphs, took two and a half pages, including diagrams.   I can not imagine that anyone who was new to these concepts could possibly follow the discussion from radians to graphs with any understanding -- because there was no such meaningful discussion.

For those who are more familiar with the math, the issue is more about motivation, or boredom.   There was far too little explanation of how things could be interesting rather than plodding through the equations.   Because there was no practical application or motivation of the work, whether it be partial differentiation or momentum, or far after I personally tuned out at the Gibbs-Liouville theorem, there was no reason to be interested much less excited.

A real dud.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Desolate - The Complete Trilogy, by Robert Brumm

The title is apt for this post-apocalyptic story:  there's little hope here.   The best of this genre, like Wool, are able to keep your spirits up even in a depressing setting.   Not so for Mr. Brumm's work.

Don't bother.

Hell and Gone, by Duane Swierczynski

I really liked the first in the Charlie Hardie series by Mr. Swierczynski; I used words like clever, and it was quite amusing.

This is much less the case for the sequel.   This book is downright depressing.   There's none of the humor that made the prior novel fun, and the plot twists occur within a dark context, making them less appealing.

This is a no vote.

Hard Case, by Bernard DeLeo

The hero, John Harding, is a caricature of the super hero spy.  As such, this novel is a bit off-putting to me.  But it certainly is interesting enough that, for the right price (low), and the right use (e.g., wasting time at an airport), it is worth reading.

Severance Kill, by Tim Stevens

This is a solid spy / suspense thriller.   The plot kept my interest.  Towards the end, I encountered a set of typos; this was annoying.   Still, at far less (in the Kindle version) than the cost of a paperback, this was as interesting book to read (e.g., while waiting for auto service, as I was) as any.