Monday, November 28, 2011

The Penal Colony - Book 103

Routledge, a man wrongly convicted of rape and murder, ends up in a penal colony on a remote British island. Except for weekly helicopter supply drops the places is basically forgotten by the law, so the convicts have to make their own. They are divided into 4 groups - the wild ones who roam the woods, two groups of marauders who regularly oppose each other, and those in the Village, an enclave run by the brainy where they grab access to the best of everything and achieve a lot via hard work and discipline. After an intial ordeal, Routledge makes it into this group, where he soon discovers a daring plan to escape. Will he be allowed to join in or is he doomed to live out his days in exile? The story of how the groups organize themselves, fight for territory and plan the escape makes for gripping reading. This book is highly recommended. (Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to book 102. I did read it, but it wasn't worth reviewing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book 101 - Calculating God by Robert Sawyer

I think I'm going to hunt down all of Robert Sawyer's books, because Calculating God was every bit as good as Factoring Humanity. Imagine that not just one, but two alien species come calling and they turn out to have the same DNA and cataclysmic planetary events at exactly the same time as those that affected the earth.  Does that mean there's a divine plan. The characters in the book wrestle with this issue and eventually set off for a distant planet to find and confront God. This is a fascinating read which explores humanity, personhood and spirituality through engaging human and alien characters. Highly recommended.

PS. This was my 101st book, which I completed 292 days after starting this challenge. Now that I've got used to book blogging, I plan to continue and see how many I can read within the 1001 days. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer - Book 100

I really enjoyed this book by Canada's best known sci-fi author. It's set in the near future where a linguistic professor is working on decoding some messages that have been coming from Alpha Centauri for the last couple of decades. Her computer scientist husband is also working on super-super computers, quantum computers. One day their daughter comes home and accuses her father of sexual abuse, ripping the family apart. As the parents each try to cope, they turn to their work and manage to solve several pressing issues, including what the alien messages mean. Able finally to engage in a kind of mental time travel, people know that they are not alone in the universe, with interesting effects on human behaviour. Recommended (and I'm going to search out lots of his other books too.)

The Wrong Woman and The Right Woman - Books 98-99

It's been a while since I've read any romantic fiction - I burned out on that a couple of decades ago, but these two books by Linda Warren were a refreshing read. Perhaps it's the fact that they deal with twins. Here's Amazon's description of The Wrong Woman:

They say everyone has a double... And according to private investigator Ethan Ramsey, Serena Farrell's double is a stripper working in a Dallas nightclub. Serena doesn't believe it—but she can't help wondering. After all, her mother died when she was an infant and she's been raised by wealthy grandparents who refused to discuss the past. So she knows next to nothing about her parents. Could she possibly have a sister? A twin? She decides to hire Ethan to find out who this other woman is. That fateful decision leads to some shocking revelations about Serena's family—and about her look-alike, Sarah Welch. It also leads Serena into Ethan's arms...and into his heart.

And here's the description of The Right Woman
Sarah Welch didn't know she had a twin until five years ago, when a string of events led her through the seedy underbelly of Dallas to the family she didn't know she had. Sarah has spent those five years trying to forget what she went through—forget the man who was gunned down, the criminal she helped put behind bars and the cop who saved her life. Now Sarah is in danger once again. And while this time she's able to confide her fears to her twin sister, there's only one person who can truly help her—Daniel Garrett, the cop who never stopped loving her. Working by Daniel's side to stop a killer, Sarah begins to accept Daniel as part of her past. And part of her future...

Yes, they are cheesy, Harlequin type romances, but they are saved by some very likeable characters: twins Serena and Sarah,  cop Daniel Garrett and PI Ethan Ramsey. They are an easy and enjoyable read. Recommended (if you like that sort of thing). :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Diary of Anne Frank - Book 97

I last read this book as a teenager and it made as big an impression on me now as it did then. This tale from the Holocaust of a young Jewish girl who is forced to go into hiding to avoid the soldiers is moving. Imagine the turmoil of your teenage years with all this going on as well. Life is never the same for Anne, but she deals with it by writing in her diary chronicling the daily events. As you read, it's hard not to be impressed by the fortitude of those forced to live a restricted life and the bravery of those who helped them.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Fear Index by Robert Harris - Book 96

I have to admit that the Fear Index was a bit of a disappointment after Imperium and the other Robert Harris books I have read. While readable enough, I just couldn't get excited about a computer scientist who has created a hedge fund investment algorithm that seems bent on ruining his life and taking over the world. While the concept is great, the story itself was a bit dull. Not recommended.

Imperium by Robert Harris - Book 95

I've read and enjoyed a lot of books by Robert Harris and Imperium is one of the best. As an old Latin scholar, I was fascinated to learn more about the life of Cicero, whom I knew as a famous man of letters. I did not realize how much he was enmeshed in the political life of the time. Harris brings this era of ancient Rome, when it was still the centre of the world's most powerful empire, vividly to life. The characters are richly drawn, especially Cicero and his secretary Tiro, who narrates the tale. An excellent read which is highly recommended.

A Case of Need - Book 94

Here's Amazon's description of A Case of Need.

A Case of Need is Michael Crichton's award-winning debut novel, written shortly after he completed his medical internship. Set against the ever-building pressure and pace of a large Boston medical center, the tensions flare-and explode-when a surgical operation tragically ends in death, raising countless questions. Was it accidental malpractice? A violation of the Hippocratic oath? Or cold-blooded murder?

My take? There's really not much to add to that. The book has many of the hallmarks of Crichton's later thrillers, without being quite as good as some of his bestsellers. Still, if you're a Crichton fan, you might as well add this to the list. Cautiously recommended.

The Oxford Guide to Word Games - Book 93

This book is more than 20 years old, but it's still a refreshing treat for all of us word nerds. It lists word games from centuries ago to the present, showing how they have evolved and how to play them. It's probably better skimmed than read straight through as I did, but I learned some interesting new riddles and revisited palindromes and tongue twisters, as well as finding some word games I'd never heard of. Recommended.