Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See was originally published in 2005. My paperback copy has 269 pages. I was totally transported back in time by this book and very highly recommend it. Although a case could be made that the inclusion of many more diverse and historically accurate details in a larger book would have made it perfect, I am still satisfied with the direction See chose to take and the details she chose to focus on. It makes the book more accessable to more people. (Although some of us might tackle that six hundred page novel, many people won't.) Rating: 4.5

Synopsis from book cover:
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

"I am what they call in our village 'one who has not yet died' - a widow, eighty years old." first sentence

"I am old enough to know too well my good and bad qualities, which were often one and the same." pg. 3

"By the time I was forty, the rigidity of my footbinding had moved from my golden lilies to my heart, which held on to injustices and grievances so strongly that I could no longer forgive those I loved and those who loved me." pg. 4

"The girl is indeed very lovely, but golden lilies are far more important in life than a pretty face. A lovely face is a gift from heaven, but tiny feet can improve social standing."....If your daughter's feet end up as I imagine, I can rely on a generous fee being paid by the groom's family. You will also be receiving goods from them in the form of a bride-price." pg. 21

"I also knew the difference between nei - the inner realm of the home - and wai - the outer realm of men - lay at the heart of Confucian society....the domestic sphere is for women and the outer sphere is for men....I also understood that two Confucian ideals ruled our lives. The first was the Three Obediences: 'When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son.' The second was the Four Virtues, which delineate women's behavior, speech, carriage, and occupation: 'Be chase and yeilding, calm and upright in attitude; be quiet and agreeable in words; be restrained and exquisite in movements; be perfect in handiwork and embroidery.' pg. 24

"Aunt instructed me on the special rules that govern nu shu." pg. 25

"We were still young enough to believe that our kind hearts would win over any difficulties with our mothers-in-law." pg. 69

"Aunt continued to teach us nu shu, but we also learned from Snow Flower, who brought new characters with her every time she visited." pg. 69

Monday, July 28, 2008

Before Green was a Noun

Apparently my family was green long before it became popular, let alone a noun. Recently I came across a blog entry that brought back a flood of memories. While that particular family was picking up cans in the ditches along a rural road and planning to sell them for scrap metal, my memory goes back to a time before soda pop came in cans. I vividly recall working the ditches along a rural highway in the 60’s with my older brother and younger sister. Our “work” was collecting bottles for the deposit money.

We collected bottles when we drove from our home in Omaha to my grandparent’s house, which was in a nearby town. As my mother slowly drove the car along the shoulder of the road, the three of us scouted the ditches for pop bottles. We shuttled our loot back and forth to the car, slowly working our way along the rural highway. As I remember, there were certain places in the road where people seemed to be more inclined to toss bottles out their car windows and into the ditches. These popular dumping areas became well known to us.

It was a task with built in rewards for success. I wonder how much money we made doing this? Certainly, it was good exercise, but I clearly remember being in it for the thrill of the hunt. I have no idea how the money was divided up. Did we keep track of the number of bottles we collected? Or did, as I suspect, my older brother get the majority of the money while my sister and I were recipients of a trickle down effect?

My mother remembers it being fun for us and an activity that we enjoyed. She knows we received the money for the bottles, but has no idea how it was divided up. (I still suspect my older brother was in charge and my sister and I were very likely short-changed.) Beyond our monetary motivation, my mother pointed out that our father traveled a lot. Collecting pop bottles kept us busy and away from the neighborhood kids for a day. Perhaps it was therapeutic for our mom to be away from the neighborhood kids for a day too, as that particular neighborhood was full of children.

One thing of which I am certain is that I recall it as being great fun. How collecting pop bottles from ditches along a rural road in the middle of the summer could be considered fun is an interesting idea to contemplate now. Certainly this would be viewed as work rather than fun today. Today this would be a community service project. Today we could have that stretch of the road named after my family, assuming, of course, that we would collect all the trash and not just the bottles. But back then it was a way for some kids to have fun and earn money at the same time.

I am thinking that I need to get Wonder Boy and Just Me out collecting cans from the ditches along some rural roads. Sure they are a little older now than we were then, but I think they could learn some valuable lessons collecting cans along side the road and selling those cans for scrape metal. They could keep the money they made, minus the cost of gas, of course.

Hotel Du Lac

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner was originally published in 1984. My hardcover copy has 184 pages. In Hotel Du Lac, Edith Hope is an unmarried British romance writer who writes under a pseudonym. Edith's friends have coerced her into taking an unexpected vacation at the Hotel Du Lac in Switzerland at the end of the season. She is expected to contemplate her life after a recent social disgrace, which is not immediately revealed to us, and then return to England after a proper amount of time has passed. She spends her days at the Hotel writing letters, working on her new novel, going for walks, and socializing with the few remaining, mostly female, guests. She also reflects, endlessly, about the events that brought her to this point in her life.

Hotel Du Lac won the 1984 Booker Prize, which is the reason I read it, and, perhaps the only reason I finished it. In the description of the book on the cover the last sentence claims that, "Brookner spins an enthralling tale around a classic question: 'Why love?' " My feelings were more along the lines of, "Why did this win the Booker?" I found it way too atmospheric and brooding. While there is no doubt that Brookner can write, the prose can be long-winded and the sentences overwrought. (Note the quote examples below of single sentences.) With the slow start to this novel, I was hoping that Hotel Du Lac would be a satire or there would be an interesting plot twist. It isn't and there isn't. The novel is basically a tired, mediocre plot full of one-dimensional characters. The only redeeming virtue is Brookner's writing ability. Rating: 2.9


"For it was late September, out of season; the tourists had gone, the rates were reduced, and there were few inducements for visitors in this small town at the water's edge, whose inhabitants, uncommunicative to begin with, were frequently rendered taciturn by the dense cloud the descended for days at a time and then vanished without warning to reveal a new landscape full of colour and incident: boats skimming on the lake, passengers at the landing stage, an open air market, the outline of the gaunt remains of a thirteenth-century castle, seams of white on the far mountains, and on the cheerful uplands to the south a rising backdrop of apple trees, the fruit sparkling with emblematic significance." pg. 7

"Edith Hope, a writer of romance fiction under a more thrusting name, remained standing at the window, as if an access of good will could pierce the mysterious opacity with which she had been presented, although she had been promised a tonic cheerfulness, a climate devoid of illusions, an utterly commonsensical, not to say pragmatic, set of circumstances - quiet hotel, excellent cuisine, long walks, lack of excitement, early nights - in which she could be counted upon to retrieve her serious and hard-working personality and to forget the unfortunate lapse which had led to this brief exile, in this unpopulated place, at this slowly darkening time of the year, when she should have been home..." pg. 8

"And no doubt after a curative stay in this grey solitude (and I notice that the leaves of that plant are quite immobile) I shall be allowed back, to resume my peaceable existence, and to revert to what I was before I did that apparently dreadful thing, although, frankly, once I had done it I didn't give it another thought." pg. 9

Sunday, July 27, 2008

movie night


for the

Saturday night

double feature

happy sigh

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Giant Gila Monster

For some unknown and inexplicable reason, I love this movie.
I enjoyed watching it again Friday night.

Although this is another great selection.

I know how to have fun on Friday nights.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Forgotten Man

The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais was originally published in 2005. My paperback copy has 356 pages. This Elvis Cole novel felt darker than the earlier ones. It seemed to be consistently more serious throughout, with fewer jokes made by Elvis during tense situations. Part of the charm I found in Elvis Cole was his ability to make jokes at all times. It almost feels like Crais needed a break from his Elvis character when he wrote The Forgotten Man. Checking that line of questioning out, I noticed that he did take a short break from writing mysteries featuring Elvis Cole. Crais' latest release this year is the next in the series, with a novel featuring the ever enigmatic Joe Pike in-between. I have not read all eleven Elvis Cole novels and probably won't, but this has been a very enjoyable series of mysteries and the character Elvis Cole is a great PI. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:
In an alleyway in Los Angeles an old man, clutching faded newspaper clippings and gasping his last words to a cop lies dying of a gunshot wound. The victim claims to be P.I. Elvis Cole's long-lost father - a stranger who has always haunted his son.
As a teenager, Cole searched desperately for his father. As a man, he faces the frightening possibility that this murder victim was himself a killer. Caught in limbo between a broken love affair and way too much publicity over his last case, Cole at first resists getting involved with this new case. Then it consumes him. Now a stranger's terrifying secrets - and a hunt for his killer - give Cole a frightening glimpse into his own past. And he can't tell if it's forgiveness or a bullet that's coming next...
"The floor was smudged as if they had tried to escape their attacker and splatter patterns ribboned the walls and ceiling. The weapon used to kill these people had rose and fell many times, the blood it picked up splashing the walls." pg. 4

"They called me to view the body on a wet spring morning when darkness webbed my house." pg. 13

"He told me he was your father." pg. 15

"He was a deluded old man who thought he was my father. That's all." pg. 62

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Indigo Slam

Indigo Slam by Robert Crais was originally published in 1997. My paperback copy is 307 pages. I am continuing to enjoy Crais' Elvis Cole mysteries. Elvis is a likable character and the stories move along at a quick pace. These really are a great choice for summer reading.

Synopsis from book cover:

Life in the California sun suits Elvis Cole—until the day a fifteen-year-old girl and her two younger siblings walk into his office. Then everything changes.

Three years ago, a Seattle family ran for their lives in a hail of bullets. Hired by three kids to find their missing father, Elvis now must pick up the cold pieces of a drama that began that night. What he finds is a sordid tale of high crimes and illicit drugs. As clues to a man’s secret life emerge from the shadows, Elvis knows he’s not just up against ruthless mobsters and some very angry Feds. He’s facing a storm of desperation and conspiracy—bearing down on three children whose only crime was their survival. . . .

"At two-fourteen in the morning on the night they left one life to begin their next, the rain thundered down in a raging curtain that thrummed against the house and the porch and the plain white Econoline van that the United States Marshals had brought to whisk them away." first sentence

"Teri knew that her father was in trouble with some very bad men who wanted to hurt them." pg. 4

"Our father travels often so we're used to being on our own, but he's never been gone this long before, and we're concerned." pg. 17

"When you hire a private eye, you hire a snooper. Snooping is how you find people who walk away without telling you where they've gone. Snooping is what I do." pg. 36

"I thought about Teresa and Charles and Winona, and how the daddy I was trying to find wasn't the same daddy that Teri was searching for, and I thought how sad it was that we often never really know the people around us, even the people we love." pg. 50

"I was probably thirty seconds away from being thrown into jail, but you always feel better when you tough off to a guy." pg. 96

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Voodoo River

Voodoo River by Robert Crais was originally published in 1995. My paperback copy has 383 pages. This is the 5th of Crais' Elvis Cole mysteries. In Voodoo River, Elvis travel to Louisiana, gets the job done in his special way, and falls in love. I continue to enjoy Crais. I think one of the reasons is that although there is swearing in the book, Elvis isn't the foul mouthed one. I enjoy his enigmatic partner Joe Pike too. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:
L.A. private eye Elvis Cole is hired by popular television star Jodie Taylor to delve into her past and identify the biological parents who gave her up for adoption thirty-six years before. Cole's assignment is to find out their biological history and report back.

It seems all too clear cut. But when he gets to Louisiana and begins his search, he finds out there's something much darker going on. Other people are also looking for Taylor's parents; and some are ending up dead.

And when Cole realizes that his employer knew more than she was telling, Voodoo River becomes a twisting tale of identity, secrets, and murder.

"Jodi Taylor was the star of the new hit television series, Songbird, in which she played the loving wife of a small town Nebraska sheriff and the mother of four blond ragamuffin children, who juggled her family and her dreams of becoming a singer." pg. 3

"I'm an adopted child, Mr. Cole.... I'm thirty-six years old....and there are things I want to know...I have questions and I want answers. Am I prone to breast or ovarian cancer? Is there some kind of disease that'll show up if I have children?" pg. 4

"If you find these people, I have no wish to meet them, and I don't want them to know who I am. I don't want anyone to know that you're doing this, and I want you to promise me that anything you find out about me or my biological relatives will remain absolutely confidential between us." pg. 6

"We were paying this guy, and we wanted to find out if what he had was really real....We didn't want to stir the water, so we didn't hip you to the whole deal. So sue us. We wanted you to go into this with a fresh eye. That makes sense, doesn't it? We wanted to see if you'd get to the same place as the goof with the hair." pg. 168

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Free Fall

Free Fall by Robert Crais was originally published in 1993. My paperback copy has 288 pages. This is another mystery featuring the PI, Elvis Cole. It's not quite as good as Lullaby Town, but I still found it a solid effort. Crais's Cole is a clever, funny character. Rating: 3.9

Synopsis from cover:
Elvis Cole is just a detective who can't say no, especially to a girl in a terrible fix. And Jennifer Sheridan qualifies: Her fiancé, Mark Thurman, is a decorated LA cop with an elite plainclothes unit, but Jennifer's sure he's in trouble - the kind of serious trouble that only Elvis Cole can help him out of.

Five minutes after his new client leaves his office, Elvis and his partner, the enigmatic Joe Pike, are hip-deep in a deadly situation as they plummet into a world of South Central gangs, corrupt cops, and conspiracies of silence. And before the case is through, every cop in the LAPD will be gunning for a pair of escaped armed-and-dangerous killers - Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

"Jennifer Sheridan stood in the door to my office as if she were Fay Wray and I was King Kong and a bunch of black guys in sagebrush tutus were going to tie her down so that I could have my way. It's a look I've seen before, on men as well as women." opening sentences

"Jennifer and I have been going together since we were kids. I've been acting kind of distant with her for the past couple months and I haven't told her why, and Jennifer has figured out that I'm mixed up in something." pg. 14

"I miss them. Minimalls are not as attractive as orange trees, but maybe that's just me." pg. 20

"A woman I know gave me a build-it-yourself bird-feeder kit for Christmas, so I built it, and hung it from the eve of my roof high enough to keep the birds safe from my cat. But the birds scratch the seed out of the feeder, then fly down to the deck to eat the seed. They know there's a cat, but still they go down to pick at the seed. when you think about it, people are often like this, too." pg. 37

"That's an official police investigation. That's what I'm telling you to stay away from. I'm also telling you to stay....out of Mark Thurman's personal life." pg. 101

"I will always love him. No matter what. If he did something, it's because he believed he had to. If I can help him, then I will help him. I will love him even if he no longer loves me." pg. 117

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lullaby Town

Lullaby Town by Robert Crais was originally published in 1992. My paperback copy has 317 pages. Five mysteries by Crais featuring Elvis Cole were in the box of used books given to me by my father-in-law. This is my first of them and I'll have to say that I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am looking forward to the next book in my stack. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:

Hollywood's newest wunderkind is Peter Alan Nelson, the brilliant, erratic director known as the King of Adventure. His films make billions, but his manners make enemies. What the boy king wants, he gets, and what Nelson wants is for Elvis Cole to comb the country for the airhead wife and infant child the film-school flunkout dumped en route to becoming the third biggest filmmaker in America. It's the kind of case Cole can handle in his sleep - until it turns out to be a nightmare. For when Cole finds Nelson's wife in a small Connecticut town, she's nothing like what he expects. The lady has some unwanted - and very nasty - mob connections, which means Elvis could be opening the East Coast branch of his P.I. office . . . at the bottom of the Hudson River.
"Patricia Kyle said, 'Is this Elvis Cole, the world's greatest detective?' " opening sentence

"The private-detecting life is a lonely one. After cleaning the guns and oiling the blackjack, what's a guy to do?" pg. 2

"Tell you the truth, I don't give a rat's ass if you find his ex or not. But if it makes Peter happy to have someone looking, then we'll have someone looking." pg. 9

"Yeah, yeah. That's it! Brilliant and gifted are difficult....Let's go see him and get it over with."
We went to see the monster." pg. 11

"Trying to talk with Pike is like carrying on a fill-in-the-blank conversation." pg. 48

"She squinted to make the left eye stop moving. The knuckles on the hand holding the knob turned white. Neither of us said anything for quite a while. Then...she said, ' I'm sorry you've wasted your time, but I know nothing about any of this.' " pg. 80

"Sal DeLuca is the godfather....The capo de tutti capo. He's the head of the whole damned mafia." pg. 107

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell was originally published in 2006. My paperback copy is 294 pages. Black Swan Green is about a year in the life of 13 year old Jason Taylor's. Each of the thirteen chapters follow a month, from January 1982 to January 1983, of Jason's life. The chapters can stand alone but add up to a powerful story of growing up in a small English town. Although it has been favorably compared to Catcher in the Rye, Jason Taylor is not as self absorbed and full of angst as Holden Caufield, and we see hope for Jason's future as he begins to stand up for himself and quits worrying about what others think. Mitchell is masterful in his dialogue. He really has authentically captured the voice of a 13 year old boy. The British slang will take some getting use to for American readers, but the finely developed characters are worth the effort. This is an epic novel. Rating: 5

Synopsis from book cover:

Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But award-winning author David Mitchell creates an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy: a world of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigrĂ©; of first cigarettes, first kisses, and first deaths; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons. Pointed, humorous, profound, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s subtlest and most luminous achievement to date.


"Do not set foot in my office. That's Dad's rule." opening sentences

"Mind you, if they knew Eliot Bolivar, who gets poems published in Black Swan Green Parish Magazine, was me, they'd gouged me to death behind the tennis courts with blunt woodwork tools..." pg. 6

"Games and sports aren't about taking part or even about winning. Games and sports're really about humiliating your enemies." pg. 8

"I loathed myself for not putting Ross Wilcox in his place about speaking German, but it'd've been death to've started stammering back there." pg. 10

"Eavesdropping's sort of thrilling 'cause you learn what people really think, but eavesdropping makes you miserable for exactly the same reason." pg. 29

"It's not what you learn at university, it's....who you network with! Only at Oxbridge can you network with tomorrow's elite!" pg. 51

"Mum boasts to visitors and relatives how, no matter what, we sit round as a family to share an evening meal. She'd've done us all a favor if she'd given this tradition a night off." pg. 114

"A Pyrrhic victory is one where you win, but the cost of winning is so high that it would've been better if you'd never bothered with the war in the first place." pg. 115

"Me, I want to bloody kick this moronic bloody world in the bloody teeth over and over till it bloody understands that not hurting people is ten bloody thousand times more bloody important than being right." pg. 118

"Poets are listeners, if they are not intoxicated. But novelists....is schizoids, lunatics, liars." pg. 149

"Teachers're always using that 'in your own words.' I hate that. Authors knit their sentences tight. It's their job. Why make us unpick them, just to put it back together more shonkily?" pg. 210

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Pandemic by Daniel Kalla was originally published in 2005. My paperback copy has 407 pages. Pandemic is the first book by Kalla to feature Dr. Noah Haldane. If you were intrigued by Kalla's book Cold Plague, you might want to consider reading Pandemic first, although it's not necessary to read the books in order. This is medical mystery/thriller. I enjoyed Pandemic and look forward to more books by Kalla. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:

Dr. Noah Haldane knows that humanity is overdue for a new killer flu, like the great influenza pandemic of 1919 that killed more than twenty million people in less than four months. So when a mysterious new strain of flu is reported in China, he expects trouble.

He soon discovers that the new disease, Acute Respiratory Collapse Syndrome, is far more deadly than SARS, killing one in four victims, regardless of their age or health. But even as Noah and his colleagues struggle to contain the outbreak, ARCS is already spreading to Hong Kong, London, and even America.

In an age when every single person in the world is connected by three or fewer commercial flights, a killer bug can travel much faster than the flu of 1919.

Especially when someone is spreading the virus on purpose...

"Northern Gansu Province, China: The SUV rattled along the dusty road, twelve miles south of Jiayuguan's city limits." first sentence.

"If not for the semiautomatic rifles slung over their shoulders, the soldiers manning the gate could have passed for surgeons. All three wore gowns, plastic caps, gloves, and surgical masks." pg. 2

"He might have been anywhere from twenty to eighty, but his face was so swollen and bruised Lee couldn't place his age. His eyes puffed out like apricots. His lips swelled out further than his nose. The line of the jaw was lost in the unnatural folds of his neck. Between his sausage lips, a clear plastic tube led to the ventilator." pg. 5

"In the winter of 1918-1919 this mutated influenza virus killed twenty million people. Which in today's terms is the equivalent of eighty million dead in less than six months." pg. 11

"Man-made propagation of a natural epidemic. That, Ms. Roberts, is where I think the terrorists will get the best bang for their buck." pg. 20

"This isn't any known influenza A or B, but a closely related virus. Probably one we've never seen." pg. 34

"For all infections, there are three routes of potential spread. First, direct contact, HIV or Hepatitis B are examples of viruses requiring intimate contact. Second is a droplet spread like the common cold or flu. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, large mucous droplets carry the infection from person to person. However, these droplets are relatively big and fall to the ground quickly so you need close and immediate contact. The final and most feared route of spread is airborne. Smallpox and measles are viral examples. By coughing or sneezing, people aerosolize tiny particles. These particles can linger in the air for hours or spread remotely via ventilation systems and so on." pg. 99

Monday, July 14, 2008


Bloom by Wil McCarthy was originally published in 1998. My hardcover copy is 310 pages. There were a few places where Bloom threatened to lose it's pace and my readership behind but the end is well worth any bumpy spots overcome to get there. I enjoyed Bloom and recommend it. Rating: 3.5

(Actually, my desire to read has flagged a bit since The Usual Rules. It opened up a whole 9/11 Pandora's box of recollections from that time and makes me feel even more that Maynard's use of 9/11 as her vehicle to explore grief in a teen girl was irresponsible.)

From Publishers Weekly at Amazon:
Although set in the 22nd century, this transcendent tale of close encounters with awesome life forms echoes current anxieties over the godlike manipulations of bioengineering. Following the total engulfment of Earth and the planets of the inner solar system by mycora, a manmade species of self-replicating fungus that has developed a ravenous appetite for inorganic matter, the remnants of the human race have fled to the moons of Jupiter. Loosely organized as the Immunity, they keep a watchful eye on the encroaching Mycosystem and stamp out the horrific "blooms" by which the technogenic spores literally eat their way into a territory. The Immunity's goal is to relocate to a cleaner planetary system, but not without first investigating transmissions that improbably suggest human life may still exist on Earth. This provokes acts of sabotage by the Temples of Transcendent Evolution, who revere the Mycosystem as "some sort of hyperintelligence, maybe a direct link to God himself," and fear that the mission's covert objective is "deicide." McCarthy (Murder in the Solid State) relates the challenging clash of technology and theory that follows through the experiences of John Strasheim, a freelance journalist onboard the Earth-bound starship Louis Pasteur. The writing is vivid?particularly in sequences that describe the chaos of bloom alerts?but it's also challenging: technojargon casually spoken by the Pasteur-nauts can be so stultifying that it gives the events and people described the dispassionate feel of a virtual reality simulation. Readers who can plug into the prose and navigate its dense circuitry, however, will find themselves rewarded with a wallop of a finale that satisfies high expectations for high-concept SF. Agent, Shawna McCarthy.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"This much we know: that the Innensburg bloom began with a single spore; that Immune response was sluggish and ineffective; that the first witness on the scene....broke the emergency glass, dropped two magnums and a witch's tit and died." first sentence

"[W]hat you probably haven't heard is that they're stealing data gene sequences from our own phages." pg. 13

"The ship's interior was slightly smaller than my tiny house in Philusburg, and the mission would last 280 days, or just a hair over nine months. It sounded like a boarding-school nightmare, a crowded, bickering nightmare of bunk-bed privacy and no possibility of escape." pg. 17

"We didn't evacuate many animals with us, did we? Of course there wasn't much time - it's hard to blame us when the hills around the spaceport were literally dissolving..." pg. 23

"[T]he Temples of Transcendent Evolution have managed over the past two decades to colonize nearly every corner of the Immunity....But in Innesburg their branch temple was burned to the ground last year..." pg 26

"So when the Earth's biosphere was fully converted, there was nothing left to decompose. The mycora should have died, but they didn't. Instead, they very rapidly developed photo- and chemosynthetic pathways which allowed them to use inorganic matter in their reproduction.... they've done a much better job of vivifying the Earth than organic life ever did." pg. 51

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Sugar House

The Sugar House by Laura Lippman was originally published in 2000. This is another book in the stack of mysteries given to me. Regrettably, this mystery wasn't holding my attention and stopped at page 42. After setting it aside, I tried to resume reading it later but decided that tv was more interesting, never a good sign.
I'm not finishing this book and perhaps I'm not ready for another series of mysteries yet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Usual Rules

The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard was originally published in 2003. My hardcover copy is 390 pages. To summarize the plot as simply as possible,Wendy is a thirteen year old who lives with her mother, stepfather, and half-brother in NYC. Wendy's mother dies in the 9/11 attack on the WTC and she ends up moving to Davis, CA, to live with her father, with whom she has had very limited contact in the last several years. The Usual Rules is about Wendy's healing, search for inner strength, and a realization what defines a family.

Maynard's Looking Back was a book I read right after it was published back in the 70's and it hit a chord with me at that time. Then I recently read her memoir, At Home in the World, but I have never read any of her fiction. After reading many rave reviews of The Usual Rules, I decided to give it a try.

Maynard is a compelling story teller and a good writer - IF you can overlook her lack of standard punctuation, like quotation marks for dialogue. (I did find this very distracting at times.) There were also details and characters in the story that stretch credibility. The whole novel reads like a YA novel, which it is considered to be by some, and people and reactions are very idealized. Character flaws are there, but somehow they have a glossy sheen to them rather than being real and gritty. When Wendy is skipping school, wandering alone around Davis or in San Francisco (at night), meeting people and she experiences no negative consequences, it didn't ring true. I also would not give it to a young teen to read.

But what really bothered me the most was the use of the 9/11 attack on the WTC as a vehicle to explore grief in a young teen who loses her mother. Considering the publication date, 2003, it seems opportunistic. After reading the first 50 pages, I had to turn to the back of the book and read Maynard's Afterword and Acknowledgements to see that she had talked to some teens who lost parents. But I still almost set the book aside for that reason alone. The names of the victims of the 9/11 attack are known and the wound is still raw in many across the country. I wish that Maynard had created a car accident or some other way to explore grief in this character and her family. I would not have read this book in 2003.
But I did finish The Usual Rules now. It is a very compelling book in spite of it's flaws. I'm rating it a 4.


" It was a story Wendy knew well, how she got her name." first sentence

"Later, she would consider what she was doing at the exact second it happened." pg. 21

"Treats made trouble, just like she said." pg. 29

"They didn't know much, but they knew a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Her mother's building." pg. 30

"Does God know about this? Louie asked." pg. 37

"More and more lately, Wendy found herself feeling like a person in a play who's trying to remember her lines." pg. 75

"In September, everything she loved - songs on the radio and clothes and flavors of ice cream and types of dogs, leaf piles and roller skates and skating, and Japanese animation movies and sushi and shopping and the clarinet and splashing in the waves at Nantucket with her brother - had melted away, not gone maybe, but this was almost worse: still there, but robbed of any capacity to give pleasure, like a soup with so many ingredients that, in the end, it tastes of nothing, like what happens when you mix all the wonderful colors of paint and it turns out that together what they add up to is brown." pg. 227

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon was originally published in 2007. My hardcover copy has 414 pages. Chabon seems to be a writer that polarizes people - it's either love or dislike. I happen to think he's brilliant. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a seemingly classic noir detective novel, only it's combined with alternate history, oh and the characters are mostly Jewish or Tlinget. The world The Yiddish Policemen's Union creates is complete, it needs no editing, no further explanations... and I'm struggling with what else to say about such a well written and brilliantly executed novel. Very highly recommended with a rating of 5.

Synopsis from cover:

For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. For sixty years they have been left alone, neglected and half-forgotten in a backwater of history. Now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown.

But homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can't catch a break in any of their outstanding cases. Landsman's new supervisor is the love of his life—and also his worst nightmare. And in the cheap hotel where he has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under Landsman's nose. Out of habit, obligation, and a mysterious sense that it somehow offers him a shot at redeeming himself, Landsman begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy. But when word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, Landsman soon finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, hopefulness, evil, and salvation that are his heritage—and with the unfinished business of his marriage to Bina Gelbfish, the one person who understands his darkest fears.

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

"Nine months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered." first sentence

"According to doctors, therapists, and his ex-wife, Landsman drinks to medicate himself, tuning the tubes and crystals of his moods with a crude hammer of hundred-proof plum brandy. But the truth is that Landsman has only two moods: working and dead." pg. 2

"Just to spite himself, because spiting himself, spiting others, spiting the world is the only pastime and only patrimony of Landsman and his people." pg. 11

"Last February five hundred witnesses all up and down the District swore that in the shimmer of the aurora borealis, for two nights running, they observed the outlines of a human face, with beard and sidelocks. Violent arguments broke out over the identity of the bearded sage in the sky, whether of not the face was smiling (or merely suffering from a mild attack of gas), and the meaning of the weird manifestation." pg. 13

" 'Your father played chess,' Hertz Shemets once said, 'like a man with a toothache, a hemorrhoid, and gas.' " pg. 31

" 'Evergreen and with the sap of their original violence they remain'
Brennan studied German in college and learned his Yiddish from some pompous old German at the institute, and he talks, somebody once remarked, 'like a sausage recipe with footnotes' " pg. 84

"They were both past the age of foolish passion, so they wee passionate without being fools." pg. 120

"It would require the brain strength of the eighteen greatest sages in history to reason through the arguments against and in favor of classifying the rebbe's massive bottom as either a creature of the deep, a man-made structure, or an unavoidable act of God. If he stands up or sits down, it doesn't make any difference in what you see." pg. 135

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Infected by Scott Sigler was originally published in April, 2008. My hardcover copy is 342 pages. I really loved this book. Sigler has the perfect blend of science fiction, horror, and action. If I wanted to get technical, there are a few minor quibbles I could bring up, but won't. Any book that has me staying up until 2:30 AM to finish because there is no point in trying to sleep until I do finish it, is going to get my highest rating. Hopefully a publisher will re-release Sigler's two previous books from the podcasts he did of them. At this point I am a fan and would definitely purchase them. Trim your fingernails before you start reading and the need to scratch becomes intense. I very highly recommend Infected with a rating of 5.

Synopsis from cover:
Across America a mysterious disease is turning ordinary people into raving, paranoid murderers who inflict brutal horrors on strangers, themselves, and even their own families.

Working under the government’s shroud of secrecy, CIA operative Dew Phillips crisscrosses the country trying in vain to capture a live victim. With only decomposing corpses for clues, CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya races to analyze the science behind this deadly contagion. She discovers that these killers all have one thing in common – they’ve been contaminated by a bioengineered parasite, shaped by a complexity far beyond the limits of known science.

Meanwhile Perry Dawsey – a hulking former football star now resigned to life as a cubicle-bound desk jockey – awakens one morning to find several mysterious welts growing on his body. Soon Perry finds himself acting and thinking strangely, hearing voices . . . he is infected.

The fate of the human race may well depend on the bloody war Perry must wage with his own body, because the parasites want something from him, something that goes beyond mere murder.

Infected is the first major print release from Internet phenom Scott Sigler, whose podcast-only audiobooks have drawn an immense cult following, with more than three million individual episodes downloaded. Now Sigler storms the bookstore shelves with this cinematic, relentlessly paced novel that mixes and matches genres, combining horror, technothriller, and suspense in a heady mix that is equal parts Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.

Infected will crawl beneath your skin and leave fresh blood on every page.


"Alida Garcia stumbled through the dense winter woods, blood marking her long path, a bright red comet trail against the blazing white snow." first sentence

"Then the itching started. And not long after, the urge to move north again. No, not just an urge, as it had been before.
The itching made it a mission." pg. 2-3

"It's the Triangles! We have to do something..." pg. 5

"It wasn't the kind of music you'd expect to hear at that volume.
Heavy metal, sure...But not Sinatra....You didn't crank Sinatra so loud it rattled the windows.
I've got you . . . under my skin" pg. 8

"After a journey of unknown distance, unknown time, the next batch of seeds dropped from the atmosphere like microscopic snow, scattering wildly at the tiniest breath of wind. Wave after wave washed through the air. The most recent waves had been close to success, the closest yet, but still hadn't caused the critical mass needed to accomplish the task." pg. 16

"What arrived as a microscopic seed had hijacked the host's body and used the built-in biological processes to create something foreign, in a way far more insidious than even a virus." pg. 24

"It was, in fact, illegal for the CIA to run this op on U.S. soil, but the president wanted Murray to handle it - if it was terrorism, it might require some creative tactics." pg. 33

"His finger rested beside a small lesion, sort of like a gnarled zit.
A gnarled zit with a tiny blue fiber sticking out of it." pg. 51

"You think a bomb is a terror weapon? It's nothing compared to hundreds of Americans going psycho on each other." pg. 66

"There were no Men in Black to save the day....No X-Files agents crashing through his door...." pg. 165

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pest Control

Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh was originally published in 1996. My paperback copy is 306 pages. This is a funny story about an exterminator who is mistaken for an assassin. Fitzhugh doesn't take himself or his story too seriously, so relax and laugh along as you follow the over-the-top action. It's an easy, humorous read that begs to be read in a light hearted manner rather than as a serious action novel. For all it's flaws, I'll have to admit that I enjoyed Pest Control and laughed out loud several times. I'm rating this a 4 because it was embarrassingly fun to read. Warning: do not read if you are squeamish about bugs and lots of facts about bugs.

Synopsis from cover:
Bob Dillon can't get a break. A down-on-his-luck exterminator, all he wants is his own truck with a big fiberglass bug on top - and success with his radical new, environmentally friendly pest-killing technique. So Bob decides to advertise.

Unfortunately, one of his flyers falls into the wrong hands. Marcel, a shady Frenchman, needs an assassin to handle a million-dollar hit, and he figures that Bob Dillon is his man. Through no fault - or participation - of his own, this unwitting pest controller from Queens has become a major player in the dangerous world of contract murder.

And now Bob's running for his life through the wormiest sections of the Big Apple - one step ahead of a Bolivian executioner, a homicidal transvestite dwarf, meatheaded CIA agents, cabbies packing serious heat ... and the world's number-one hit man, who might just turn out to be the best friend Bob's got.
"His eyes were metallic blue jewel beetles peering out from underneath a pair of furry black caterpillars." first sentence.

"Bob Dillion, Brooklyn exterminator, had invented an all-natural pest control method that wouldn't poison the environment like conventional methods." pg. 3

"An uninformed observer might have asked why these people were lined up four deep to cheer for this corrupt madman. The answer was simple. They were there because although they despised this tyrant, by god, he was their tyrant and he was the only living thing they could call their own.
That, plus they were giving away free falafel." pg. 12

"She was wearing a conservative, navy blue business suit, attempting, as many women did in the 1980's, to look more manly." pg. 15

" 'Hey! The hell you got against chlorinated hydrocarbons?' Johnny pointed at the twitch around his right eye. 'You making fun of this?'
'Uh, course not!' Bob said. 'It's hardly noticeable.'
'Yeah, well I'll tell you a thing or two buddy. This twitch put two kids through public school!' Johnny said. 'And it'd put through two more if I could still have kids.' " pg. 51

" 'I will have his liver cut out, wrapped in bacon, and served to my soldiers!'
The men looked uneasily at each other. Non of them really cared for liver." pg. 170

"Ch'ing was on their butts like a big nasty pimple." pg 249

"They saw a small shadowy figure moving irregularly in the distance.
Bob turned to Klaus. 'The Dwarf?' pg. 269

World Made by Hand

World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler was originally published in 2008. My hardcover copy is 317 pages. This novel is an end-of-civilization-light novel, that somehow makes the collapse of civilization look almost appealing. If McCarthy's The Road sounds too dark and foreboding for you, then try World Made by Hand. It's an easy to read novel. There are many flaws in it, including a lack of character development beyond the main character, Robert Earle, and in places, after starting out reasonably strong, the plot meanders into pointless information. Also it's hard to know what Kunstler wanted to convey to the reader with the religious sect moving in and settling down. Kunstler needed to either expand the story and tie up the loose ends or edit them out. A case could be made for misogyny too, since all the women characters are one dimensional and, well, sad. There were also parts of the details of living that surprised me. I think that many of the people I know would be getting along much better than Kunstler's Union Grove, NY because they have a wealth of skills and knowledge that these people are somehow lacking. World Made by Hand is not worth any 5 star review or rave, just based on the writing alone, but it is an easy summer read that will not tax your brain. It really does read like a made for TV movie. Rating: 3.5

With World Made By Hand Kunstler makes an imaginative leap into the future, a few decades hence, and shows us what life may be like after these coming catastrophes—the end of oil, climate change, global pandemics, and resource wars—converge. For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is not what they thought it would be. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy. And the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure. As the heat of summer intensifies, the residents struggle with the new way of life in a world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers replenished with fish. A captivating, utterly realistic novel, World Made by Hand takes speculative fiction beyond the apocalypse and shows what happens when life gets extremely local.

"The titles open....meaning that the owners were known to be dead with no heirs and assigns, a common condition in these times." pg. 2

"It was chilling to reflect on how well the world used to work and how much we'd lost." pg. 4

"Now, in the new times, there were far fewer people, and many of the houses outside town were being taken down for their materials." pg. 5

"I tried to avoid nostalgia because it could destroy you." pg. 14

"...after the bomb went off in Los Angeles. That act of jihad was extraordinarily successful. It tanked the whole U.S. economy." pg. 23

"No one years ago would have anticipated how much production moved back into the home when the machine age ended." pg. 57

"A man who don't have religion, won't serve his community when called. What kind of fellow is that?" pg. 61

"We began to encounter more people now, inhabiting the ruined suburbs, the lawns replaced by potato patches, the slit-levels and raised ranches turned into hovels now that the electric amenities and the plumbing were out of order..." pg. 137

"It's a world made by hand, now, one stone at a time, one board at a time, one hope at a time, one soul at a time." pg. 142

Friday, July 4, 2008

Cold Plague

Cold Plague by Daniel Kalla was originally published in 2008. My hardcover copy has 335 pages. I enjoyed Cold Plague immensely and appreciated Kalla's inclusion of an author's note right at the beginning explaining the science behind Cold Plague. Although the conclusion didn't contain any surprising twist, I am looking forward to finding a copy of Kalla's previous book with Dr. Noah Haldane, Pandemic. Cold Plague will be a natural choice for Crichton fans with it's medical/science fiction theme. And, really, is anything better than a relaxing carefree summer weekend spent reading various forms of plague books? I think not. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:
Pristine water—hidden for millions of years, untouched by pollution, and possessing natural healing powers—is found miles under Antarctic ice. The scientists who make this astonishing discovery stand to win worldwide acclaim and earn billions. While people around the world line up for a taste of the therapeutic water, a cluster of new cases of mad cow disease explodes in a rural French province. and his World Health Organization team are urgently summoned.

Fresh from a brush with a pandemic flu, Noah recognizes the deadliness of a prion—the enigmatic microscopic protein responsible for mad cow disease—that kills with the speed and ferocity of a virus. Despite intense international pressure to declare the outbreak a random occurrence, Noah suspects that factors other than nature have ignited the prion's spread among animals and people in France. Facing a spate of disappearances and unexplained deaths, Noah uncovers a conspiracy that stretches from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Beverly Hills, and from the North to the South Pole. He soon realizes that the scientific find of the century—a lake the size of Lake Superior buried three miles under Antarctica—might hold the key to a microscopic Jurassic Park.

With a billion-dollar industry hanging on his silence, Noah has to stay alive long enough to sound the alarm.

" Imagine a lake the size of Lake Michigan buried three miles below Antarctic ice at the very coldest spot on earth!" author's note, pg. 1

"Prions are infectious agents, rogue proteins that lack DNA, which defines life. But these microscopic assassins excel at destroying life." author's note, pg. 1

"Despite ice that ran miles deep below his feet, he was tramping through one of the driest spots on earth. A desert. Even in the height of the austral summer, under a sun that never set, it was usually too cold to snow." pg. 13

" 'The water it wills the way...,' Philippe began to say, but his words sputtered into a garble of nonsensical French.' " pg. 19

"And the most bizarre part is that unlike other infections - bacterial, parasitical, and even viral - prions are not alive by any definition. They are simply rogue proteins that somehow sabotage normal functioning brain cells." pg. 27

"The water, it worms its way into your mind. It gets into your soul. They possess me already. They will come for you!" pg. 41

"Everyone touched by this prion seemed to face nothing but misery." pg. 123

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks was originally published in 2001. My paperback copy is 315 pages. I've been leery of reading Brooks and I wanted to try this novel before I read anything else by her. I figured since it was a "novel of the plague" it should be right up my alley. Although it was good, Year of Wonders has confirmed my suspicion that I'm not going to enjoy most historical novels. It's not that Year of Wonders was bad, it's just that other novels about plague have been more suited to my liking, such as Ann Benson's The Plague Tales and Connie Willis' Doomsday Book. They both have a science fiction bent. Even Eifelheim by Michael Flynn had some elements of historical fiction, but it was more science fiction. The conclusion is that I'll take my plague books straight up, nonfiction and full of facts, or I enjoy an element of science fiction in them. Also, just between us, I had to suspend belief and ignore certain facts in parts of this novel. Rating: 3

Synopsis from cover:
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated mountain village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year,1666, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. But as death reaches into every household, faith frays. When villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive, a year of plague becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."

"I used to love this season." first sentence

"The Puritans, who are few among us now, and sorely pressed, had the running of this village then." pg. 7

"We live all aslant here, on this steep flank of the great White Peak." pg. 11

"God warns us not to love any earthly thing above Himself, and yet He sets in a mother's heart such a fierce passion for her babies that I do not comprehend how He can test us so." pg. 33

"I have said that he loved a pot. I should add that the pot did not love him, and made of him a sour and menacing creature." pg. 37

"It was a voice full of light and dark. Light not only as it glimmers, but also as it glares. Dark not only as it brings cold and fear, but also as it gives rest and shade." pg. 45

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Peoples of the World

Peoples of the World
by Mirella Ferrera was originally published in 2003. It is 320 pages - 320 pages packed with gorgeous photos with some written descriptions of the people and their culture. Just Me picked this up at Half Price books this week. No rating because this is one of those coffee table books you keep for the photos.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson was originally published in 2006. My hardcover copy of this nonfiction book is 301 pages including the notes and index. I have had Johnson's book on my wish list for a long time and I am pleased to say it lived up to my every expectation. I very highly recommend The Ghost Map and rate it a 5.

Synopsis from cover:
It is the summer of 1854. Cholera has seized London with unprecedented intensity. A metropolis of more than 2 million people, London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure necessary to support its dense population - garbage removal, clean water, sewers - the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease that no one knows how to cure.

As their neighbors begin dying, two men are spurred to action: the Reverend Henry Whitehead, whose faith in a benevolent God is shaken by the seemingly random nature of the victims, and Dr. John Snow, whose ideas about contagion have been dismissed by the scientific community, but who is convinced that he knows how the disease is being transmitted. In a riveting day-by-day account, The Ghost Map chronicles the outbreak's spread and the desperate efforts to put an end to the epidemic - and solve the most pressing medical riddle of the age.

The Ghost Map is the chilling story of urban terror, but it is also a story about how scientific understanding can advance in the most hostile of environments. In a triumph of dynamic, multidisciplinary thinking, Steven Johnson examines the epidemic from the microbial level to the human level to the urban level.Brilliantly illuminating the intertwined histories of the spread of disease, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, Johnson presents both a vivid history and a powerful provocative explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.

"It is August 1854, and London is a city of scavengers." first sentence

"But such social outrage should be accompanied by a measure of wonder and respect: without any central planner coordinating their actions, without any education at all, this itinerate underclass managed to conjure up an entire system for processing and sorting the waste generated by two million people." pg. 4

"Imagine living with that sword of Damocles hovering above your head - every stomach pain or watery stool a potential harbinger of imminent doom." pg. 33

[B]acteria can process all the molecules of life, making bacteria both an essential energy provider for the planet and its primary recycler.... in reality it's been one long Age of Bacteria on this planet..." pg. 36

"The ultimate route of transmission is almost invariably the same: an infected person emits the bacteria during one of the violent bouts of diarrhea....another person somehow ingests some of the bacteria, usually through drinking contaminated water." pg. 40

"The tragic irony of cholera is that the disease has a shockingly sensible and low-tech cure: water" pg. 45

"The explosion of tea drinking in the late 1700s was, from the bacteria's point of view, a microbial holocaust." pg 95

"For the first time the law had something to say about people opting to fill their old cellars with 'great heaps of turds'..." pg. 118

"Whenever smart people cling to an outlandishly incorrect idea despite substantial evidence to the contrary, something interesting is at work." pg. 126

"Hall's instructions for his cholera committee offer a brilliant case study in how dominant intellectual paradigms can make it more difficult for the truth to be established, even if the people involved are smart and attentive and methodical in their research." pg. 165

"A service called GeoSentinel tracks infectious diseases among travelers; the CDC publishes a weekly update on the current state of influenza in the United States....The popular ProMED-mail e-mail list offers a daily update on all the known disease outbreaks flaring up around the world, which surely makes it the most terrifying news source known to man." pg. 219

"The very forces that propelled the urban revolution in the first place....could be turned against us." pg. 254