Friday, June 13, 2014

Guest Review: David Baldacci's Will Robie Series

1. The Innocent (2012) by David Baldacci
[Guest Review by Shirley Ayres]

Will Robie, a paid government assassin, fails to take out his target.  However, his back-up finishes the job in front of Robie, causing Robie to flee the scene, knowing the back-up is targeting him.  Robie escapes and gets on a bus which, after Robie leaves the bus, blows up.  Robie pulls a 14 year old girl named Julie Getty off the bus just before it explodes, killing all who remain on it.  FBI Special Agent Nicole “Nikki” Vance teams up with Robie and Getty to find the one who blew up the bus, not knowing that Robie was the target of the explosion.  Plots intertwine and lots of people are murdered before the stunning climax.  The book is very fast paced and I hated to stop reading.

2. The Hit (2013) by David Baldacci
[Guest Review by Shirley Ayres]

Will Robie, Nikki Vance and Julie Getty are together again in this intriguing mystery.  The real story is between Will Robie and paid government assassin, Jessica Reel.  Reel is given a target but, much like Robie, does not complete the assignment.  Robie is sent to kill Reel even though he trained her to be a competent assassin.  As Robie gets close to her, Reel can almost predict his every move and eludes capture every time.  This is a very good story of two intelligent killers after each other and what happens to them.

Thanks, Shirley!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Short Book Reviews

Super Short Book Reviews!

1. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

 Shannon was heralded as the next J.K. Rowling, but her debut fell short of my expectations. The Bone Season is a dystopian novel set in 2059. Paige Mahoney possesses a rare talent- she is a dreamwalker, a very special sort of clairvoyant. Her "gift" is highly sought after, and soon Paige is captured and is forced to serve as a soldier in the Rephaim's army. Her training is supervised by her keeper and master, Warden. Here are my two main gripes with this book: 1) Shannon makes up words, but they aren't well-crafted nor do they add anything to the plot (she's no Shakespeare), and 2) the tale of the natural born enemies who fall in love feels old.

2. My Story by Elizabeth Smart

Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom on June 5, 2002, at the age of fourteen. She spent eight months in the possession of two religious fanatics who subjected her to physical and emotional abuse. Unfortunately, this book lacks any real emotional depth, and I found myself becoming frustrated by Smart's inability to take matters into her own hands instead relying on her faith to eventually set things right.

3. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This historical novel is based on the lives of two sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who advocated for abolition and women's rights. Kidd allows you a peek inside the minds of two characters from very different walks of life: a strong-willed slave, Hetty, and her compassionate but discouraged owner, Sarah.  Kidd's characters jump off of the page and thump you on the chest, and the story that she crafts is powerful. This book has universal appeal.

4. Tell Me by Lisa Jackson

This is the third book in the Savannah series, but it can be read as a standalone novel. Blondell O'Henry has just been exonerated after a twenty-year stint in the pen for murdering her daughter. Her son, Niall, a key eyewitness, has recanted his earlier testimony. Nikkie Gillette, reporter and childhood best friend of the victim, is determined to get the real scoop. There are a lot of characters in this thriller and, consequently, a lot of suspects. Of course, as it happens in many mysteries, the protagonist, Nikki Gillette, makes several questionable decisions that put her in tricky situations. 

5. The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki

Each year, Kean University offers a popular course called Death in Perspective taught by Professor Norma Bowe. This nonfiction book follows the shocking stories of four students who have registered for this course. This is an interesting read, BUT the author loses her journalistic subjectivity as she builds a personal friendship with her subject, which, in some ways, takes away from this heartbreaking book.

6. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer gives us a firsthand account of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest. Eight people lost their lives in a two-day period on the tallest mountain in the world due to poor planning and a powerful blizzard that enveloped the area. I couldn't put this book down. Krakauer is like a less funny Bill Bryson....or perhaps there's just nothing amusing about killing yourself for bragging rights.

7. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Quick tells a unique love story that enfolds between two individuals who are dealing with mental illness. However, this is one of those rare books that you can skip if you've already seen the film. 

8. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

A patron recommended, actually insisted that I read, this book. It's not something that I would normally pick up, but I'm glad that I did. What would you do if you bumped your head, lost memory of the ten most recent years of your life, and now you're getting divorced from the man you're crazy about and have three kids you don't recognize? This is a light read with some heavy questions.

Happy Reading!
Sharlene Edwards

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thinking About Linear B

I hadn't given a lot of thought to the tablets -- known as Linear B -- that were excavated in Crete at the beginning of the 20th century.

In the course of reading Margalit Fox's excellent book, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, I thought about them a lot.

The tablets themselves are fascinating. Clear evidence of a written civilization well before the Classical Age that were impenetrable for decades. Unlike the Rosetta Stone, there were no clues as to what these massive and detailed tablets meant. So, scholars and archaeologists worked for decades to crack the code.

The Riddle of the Labyrinth focuses on two people who dedicated most of their lives to "cracking" Linear B: Michael Ventris, an English architect who is credited with deciphering the tablets, and Alice Kober, a classicist at Brooklyn College who's vital contribution has been largely ignored.

Among her accomplishments, Fox wrote obituaries for The New York Times, so her narrative has that sense of an entire life told. I enjoyed learning about the code, cheering for the ultimate decoders, and admiring Fox's efforts to give Alice Kober her due.

Check it out: