Monday, March 30, 2009

Arctic Drift

Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler was originally published in 2008. My hardcover copy has 515 pages. This is the twentieth book in the Dirk Pitt Series, so at this point the characters are well established and developed through the whole series. It was an interesting storyline, but not as good as some in the past. Let's be honest, though, fans are going to read Cussler for the next Dirk Pitt adventure no matter what. It seemed to me that Dirk Cussler did a better job writing with Clive this time around, however, and that is hopeful. In the past, the Dirk Pitt Jr. and Summer Pitt characters could be more annoying than anything else. Their role was smaller this time and they weren't as bad. Note to either Cussler: If you're going to keep the twins around, continue striving to make them individuals. They need to break free of the twin thing, toughen up, and do their own research, independent of each other, with NUMA.
Highly recommended, especially for fans of the series

Synopsis from cover:
A potential breakthrough discovery to reverse global warming . . . a series of unexplained sudden deaths in British Columbia . . . a rash of international incidents between the United States and one of its closest allies that threatens to erupt into an actual shooting war . . . NUMA director Dirk Pitt and his children, Dirk. Jr. and Summer, have reason to believe there’s a connection here somewhere, but they also know they have very little time to find it before events escalate out of control. Their only real clue might just be a mysterious silvery mineral traced to a long-ago expedition in search of the fabled Northwest Passage. But no one survived from that doomed mission, captain and crew perished to a man—and if Pitt and his colleague Al Giordino aren’t careful, the very same fate may await them.

"The cry rattled through the ship like the howl of a wounded jungle beast, a mournful wail that sounded like a plea for death." first sentence

" 'It's something on the ship driving them mad'..." pg. 6

"With her disappearance, the saga of Fitzjames's mad crew would be obscured from history. But unbeknownst to her commander, the ship held a greater mystery, one that over a century later would impact man's very survival on the planet." pg. 18

"Ahead off the port bow, he noticed an unusually thick cloud rolling along the water's surface. Fog was a common companion in these waters, but there was something peculiar about this formation. The color was a brighter white than that of a normal fogbank, its billows heavier." pg. 23

" 'I fear we are at a tipping point, Jim, in terms of both the economy and the environment. Disaster awaits if we don't take the right steps.' " pg. 35

"Dirk had immediately pegged the inspector as a frustrated lawman trapped in a job too small for his ambitions." pg. 43

" 'When I met with the family, the deceased man's uncle kept crying that the Devil's Breath had killed him.'
'What did he mean?'
'He said that the devil had decided his time had come and cast down a cold white breath of death that killed him and everything around him.' " pg. 55

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Bond film # 22; PG-13
Director: Marc Forster Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench

Daniel Craig is a new kind of James Bond. He's not as smooth and upper-class as previous Bonds, but we like him. Most of the traditional Bond gadgets are gone and we are left with James Bond as a ruthless killing-machine, sort of like a British Jack Bauer. We like him and Jack. Quatum of Solace is a continuation of the story line in Casino Royale and moves at a break-neck pace. Bond is considered a rogue agent bent on revenge by M (Judi Dench) and she is trying to get him out of the field. Our only complaint is perhaps too great a role for M, although I guess if you have Dame Judi Dench playing M you are obligated to give her a larger role. Another great addition to the James Bond collection.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Panic in Level 4

Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science by Richard Preston was originally published in 2008. My hardcover copy has 188 pages. As Preston notes in the introduction: "In this book, we are embarking on a deep probe through the realms of the vanishingly small, where, at times, all we can say is, 'There be monsters.' The chapters in this book were originally published in The New Yorker, but I've expanded, updated, and linked them." (pg. xxxvii) Since the chapters in Panic in Level 4 are all basically independent nonfiction articles, I'm writing this review a little bit differently, placing the quotes included after the title of the chapter they are from.
Very Highly Recommended - one of the best

Chapters in the book, including quotes:

Introduction: Adventures in Nonfiction Writing

"Biosafety Level 4, also known as BL-4 or Level 4, is the highest and tightest level of biosecurity in a laboratory. Laboratories rated at Biosafety level 4 are the repositories of viruses called hot agents - lethal viruses for which there is no vaccine or effective cure." pg. xv

"We know that the Ebola virus was one of the more powerful bioweapons in the arsenal of the old Soviet 1991, bioweaponeers had reportedly been experimenting with aerosol Ebola - powdered, weaponized Ebola that could be dispersed through the air, over a city, for example." pg. xvi

"In narrative nonfiction writing, taking notes is an essential part of the creative process. We tend to think of a reporter's notes as being a transcript of the words of someone speaking to the reporter. If you who are reading this happen to be a student of journalism, remember that you can take notes about anything. It can be quite useful to jot down observations on any and all details of a person and a scene, including sights, smells, and sounds, as well as the emotional aura of the scene." pg. xx

The Mountains of Pi

"When he was thirty-six, Gregory Volfovich Chudnovsky began building a supercomputer in his apartment from mail-order parts. Gregory Chudnovsky was a number theorist, a mathematician who studies numbers, and he felt that he needed a supercomputer to do it." pg.3

A Death in the Forest

"Invasive species of Microbes, plants, and animals are changing ecosystems all over the planet in a biological upheaval that may affect almost everything that lives. The cause of the upheaval is the human species. Life on the planet is being homogenized by the expanding human population and the frequent and rapid movement of people and goods, which carry invasive organisms with them. pg. 51-52

"In effect, the trees of North America have been hit with all sorts of Ebolas of their own." pg. 53

The Search for Ebola

"Months later, when the epidemiologists finally arrived, they traced the threads of horror back to one man, Patient Zero, who became known only by his initials, G.M. The threads converged on one little spot in the world. It was a sinuous patch of forest called Mbwambala." pg. 71

The Human Kabbalah

" 'He's an idiot. He is a thorn in people's sides and an egomaniac,' a senior scientist in the Human Genome Project said to me one day. The Human Genome Project was an ongoing nonprofit international research consortium that had been working to decipher the complete sequence of nucleotides, or letters, in human DNA. " pg. 88

"To the intense surprise and wonder of the scientists, nature was turning out to be an uncharted sea of unknown genes. The code of life was far richer and more beautiful than anyone had imagined." pg. 120

The Lost Unicorn

"In 1998, The Cloisters - the museum of medieval art in upper Manhattan - began a renovation of the room where the seven tapestries known as The Hunt of the Unicorn hang. The Unicorn Tapestries are considered by many to be the most beautiful tapestries in existence. They are also among the great works of art of any kind." pg. 132

The Self-Cannibals

" 'This is a very horrible disease, and a very complex brain problem.... It is also one of the best models we have for trying to trace the action of one gene on complex human behavior.' " H. A. Jinnah, pg. 155

"There is still great uncertainty about how much of a role genes play in major, common conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder. One wonders where obsessive-compulsive disorders come from, or such behaviors as compulsive hand-washing, compulsive neatness. Do some people suffer from OCDs that are caused by misspellings in their code? What about borderline personality disorder? How many mental illnesses are the result of errors in the code or certain combinations of errors?" pg. 159

Planet of the Apes marathon

Planet of the Apes, 1968
Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1970
Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 1971
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, 1972
Battle for the Planet of the Apes, 1973

(I'm glad this marathon is done and won't need to be repeated for awhile.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Six Sacred Stones

The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly was originally published in 2008. My paperback copy is 577 pages. What can I say? First, Reilly makes it clear in a author interview included in my copy that he is planning a series of books featuring Jack West Jr. and other characters found in 7 Deadly Wonders and The Six Sacred Stones. The Six Sacred Stones is a continuation of the story found in 7 Deadly Wonders, so read 7 Deadly Wonders first. You also need to know that The Six Sacred Stones ends in a cliff hanger, so you will have to wait for the next book to finish the story. (That was a wee bit cruel, Reilly.) I actually felt that Reilly did a better job writing The Six Sacred Stones. He still overuses exclamation points, italicized words, etc, but it seemed to be less distracting. I'm wondering if this is due to the difference in reading Reilly in paperback versus hardcover? If that is the case, read him in paperback. All American's aren't evil now, just some random rogue groups. Do not expect realism or accuracy in details, and you won't be disappointed. (Basically, everything said in my 7 Deadly Wonders review still applies.) Yet again, this is a book that my nephew, Movie Dude, will really love because it reads like a movie. I did enjoy The Six Sacred Stones in spite of all the obvious flaws.
for action/adventure junkies that don't require accurate details

Synopsis from back cover:
The end of the world is here.
A mysterious ceremony in an unknown location has unlocked a catastrophic countdown to Armageddon. Now, eighteen months after his heroic bid to save humanity from an ancient curse, supersoldier Jack West Jr. and his loyal team of adventurers must find and rebuild a legendary device known only as "the Machine." The clues to their mission can only be found in the fabled Six Sacred Stones, but the team must go on a wild race around the globe to find the relics...even as the deadliest enemies they've ever encountered threaten them at every turn.

"Note death of Australian specialist Oakes in Iraq. The power of Tartarus has been nullified. Someone has the other Capstone." pg. xiii

"Wizard had seen the Mystery of the Circles perhaps a dozen times around the world - in Mexico and Egypt, even in Wales and Ireland - and in various forms: from crude scratchings on bare rock walls to artistic carvings over ancient doorways, but none of those renderings was anywhere near as beautifully and elaborately carved as this one." pg. 3

"The area was also known, however, for certain unusual events.
The Roswell of China, for hundreds of years it had been the site of numerous strange sightings: unexplained celestial phenomena, swarms of shooting stars, and aurora-like apparitions." pg. 5

"He snapped to look back out the kitchen window, saw Lily and Alby still playing out by the barn. Then he saw the hazy orange sky beyond them, glorious in the morning sun -
- as it began to fill with falling figures, dozens and dozens of them, figures that issued blooming parachutes above them, slowing their falls.
Paratroopers. Hundreds of paratroopers.
Coming for his farm." pg. 25

" 'The file summarizes his research into a set of six stones called the Ramesean Stones and their relationship with six oblong blocks known as the Pillars of the World, or sometimes, the Pillars of Vishnu.'
'Vishnu?' Abbas said, recognizing the word. 'As in...'
'Yes,' West said. 'As in I am Vishnu, Destroyer of the World.' " pg. 61

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Shell Game

The Shell Game by Steve Alten was originally published in 2007. I didn't finish it because the novel was clearly pushing Alten's personal beliefs rather than a political thriller. Actually, considering the current economic crisis, Alten's book seems rather pointless. If you believe in an oil conspiracy and that top officials knew about 9/11 and purposely allowed it to happen, then you will like this book. Be warned that there are
factual errors and timeline problems, for example Jimmy Carter was not the president in 1973 who in response to the Arab oil embargo advocated a program of national conservation. Not recommended/ did not finish

From Publishers Weekly
Even die-hard conspiracy theorists will be dubious about the sinister government-led plots that form the shaky foundation of this political thriller. Alten, best-known for his gory novels featuring giant prehistoric sharks (Meg; The Trench), goes well beyond the already far-fetched idea that the Bush administration let the devastating 9/11 attacks happen to further the neoconservative agenda of reshaping the Middle East. In 2012, with centrist conservative David McKuin in the White House, the federal government plots to detonate a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city and blame Iran as a cover to take out that country's radical leadership. Standing in the plotters' way is Ace Futrell, an energy expert whose murdered wife was possibly targeted by U.S. intelligence. An awkward mix of actual and fictional political figures (Hillary Clinton is still in the Senate in 2012, having lost the 2008 election to McKuin) doesn't make this paranoid and superficial book more plausible. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
"But The Shell Game is neither standard fiction nor nonfiction. It was written as a cautionary tale, backed by disturbing facts and inconvenient thruths that are used to project an all-too-real scenario down the path we
have been lulled into taking." pg xiii

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

7 Deadly Wonders

7 Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly was originally published in 2006. My hardcover copy is 392 pages. Despite review blurbs trying to make the connection, Reilly is not comparable to Michael Crichton. (Crichton was a more thoughtful, intelligent, and technically competent writer.) What Reilly does is write pure action-adventure novels that more closely resemble a movie script. If one must compare him to another writer, it would be Clive Cussler. If you like Cussler, you are probably going to like Reilly (although Cussler is also a better writer). This novel is for action novel junkies only. The characters jump with mind-numbing speed, with little or no preparation, from one adventure to another. To enjoy the novel, however, all aspects of Reilly's writing style must be overlooked. He has random paragraph and sentence breaks. He overuses exclamation points, capital letters, dashes, ellipses, and italics. All the characters are really one-dimensional. In all honesty, 7 Deadly Wonders reads like a movie. It is helpful that Reilly includes many necessary pictures and diagrams to make sense of the action. I am going to make sure this book finds it's way to Movie Dude, who will truly enjoy it. It would also make a good airplane book. I do wish Reilly didn't make the Americans the bad guys, though.
- whump! - for action-adventure junkies only!

Mathew Reilly's 7 Deadly Wonders is a lot of things--fast-paced, clever, action-packed. But mostly it's perfect for a Jerry Bruckheimer treatment. The novel reads like a screenplay meets video game with one harrowing chase after another.
The breakneck action stems from an Egyptian sun cult which has hidden pieces of the capstone to the great pyramid in the husks of the seven wonders of ancient world, leaving clues that would flummox Indiana Jones. Here's the deal: whichever nation can locate and assemble the capstone in time for a cosmic event designed to end life on Earth will rule the world. Enter a ragtag team of commandos representing non-superpowers (read, in a Da Vinci Code context, not the European Union, the United States or the Vatican) who stand to lose in this eventuality. The team pits itself in a race against the formidable forces of the western world, cosmic calendar, and traps set by ancient-wonder-hider, Imhotep V. Complete with Mario-Brothers-style drawings, the book lurches from one great escape/victory/defeat until its final climax atop Cheops' Pyramid. It's a thrilling ride, perfect to enliven a lazy vacation or long plane ride. The real question is: Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey?--Jeremy Pugh

"It towered like a god above the mouth of Mondraki harbor, the main port of the island state of Rhodes, much like the Statue of Liberty does today in New York." opening sentence and paragraph

"The nine figures raced through the crocodile-infested swamp on foot, moving fast, staying low.
The odds were stacked against them.
Their rivals numbered in excess of two hundred men.
They had only nine." pg. 5

"He was handed a glowstick, which he cracked and tossed down the hole.
It fell for twenty feet, illuminating a pipelike stone shaft on its way down, before - splonk! - it landed in water and revealed -
Lots of crocodiles. Nine crocodiles.
Snapping, snarling, and grunting. Sliding over each other." pg. 11

"Wizard popped up out of the manhole, his grenade launcher raised. He fired it three times, each shot emitting a loud puncturelike whump.
The rounds that burst out of the grenade launcher looked like grenades, but they weren't grenades - fat and round and silver, they fanned out to three corners of the giant cavern, little red pilot lights on them blinking. pg 30

"The result was stunning.
The superthin waterfall of oil became a superthin waterfall of fire...
...then this flaming waterfall hit the oil-stained lake at the base of the cavern and set it alight.
The lake blazed with flames.
The entire cavern was illuminated bright yellow.
The crocs screamed, clawing over each other to get to safety." pg. 34

"And still the traps didn't stop!
A wide low-ceilinged chamber met them: its ceiling was maybe two yards off the floor... and getting lower.
The chamber was about thirty meters wide and it's entire ceiling was lowering!" pg. 36

"We are gathered here today because we believe that the Capstone should not belong to any one superpower. Its power is simply too great. In short, we are here to save the world." pg. 77

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Virus by Graham Watkins was originally published in 1995. My hardcover copy has 413 pages. In Virus a computer program is causing CAS, computer addiction syndrome, and people are dying. Let's be honest, this novel was published in 1995 and the technical information, if ever correct, was already dated by the time the book was published. Virus is definitely not for anyone who can't get past the dated computer information, technical flaws, and implausible science. There were a few other errors in information, for example a mention that Pine Ridge Reservation is in North Dakota, that could have been easily researched. Disclaimers aside, I did enjoy it, but it's too dated to recommend.

Synopsis from publisher:
There have been a lot of new patients coming into Duke Hospital lately, patients who show symptoms of severe self-neglect but don't seem to be suffering from any known disease. Diagnostician Dr. Mark Roberts and psychiatrist Dr. Alexandra Walton want to know why. At the same time, a computer scientist working with the doctors uncovers a supervirus, infecting machines through their modems. The result is something altogether new, a program that has become a living organism, software that behaves like a biological parasite. It "lives" in the millions of computers connected to the Internet, and reproduces itself through "seeds " - highly compressed programs that invade other software to build virulent new copies of itself.
"He felt disoriented, but that wasn't an unfamiliar feeling; it always seemed to happen when he tried to quit playing the game, when he was forced to shift from Horval the mighty Magus back to Berry Horne, none-too-successful college student." pg. 2

"After a moment he heard, with considerable shock, the date. It hadn't been two weeks, it had been more than three. He felt his normally clean-shaven face and encountered a substantial beard: at the same time he became aware of his own smell..." pg. 5

"...that makes twenty-two patients in four weeks, all suffering from what amounts to - well, what amounts to a truly ridiculous degree of self-neglect." pg. 13

"We have thirty-one patients now here that fir this profile. I've talked to Manny Selmons over at UNC and he can identify another twenty or so - and they weren't even looking for it. Jack Fredericks at County General says he has ten maybe. Something's going on." pg.23

"...I have a close friend who works near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in North Dakota...." pg. 24

"I've run just about every test I can think of on these folks, and there isn't anything medically wrong with them. They just seem to stop caring about themselves. They don't eat, they don't sleep, they don't bathe." pg. 34

"Computers....That's the link I found....For all six patients I've interviewed, the obsessions are related to work they're doing on a computer." pg. 50

Friday, March 20, 2009

When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro was originally published in 2000. My hardcover copy has 336 pages. The narrative switches between chapters set in the present where Christopher is a detective in London, and his past as a child in Shanghai. The chapters set when Christopher was a child provide the background for when Christopher decides to return to Shanghai as an adult to search for his parents. The novel is as much psychological as physical. Ishiguro appears to have borrowed some of the hallucinatory world of The Unconsoled in that Christopher is an unreliable narrator and parts feel like a dream world. Basically, this novel throws in to question Christopher's childhood memories as well as his observations. Recommended

Synopsis from the publisher:
Christopher Banks, an English boy born in early-20th-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when both his mother and father disappear under suspicious circumstances. He grows up to become a renowned detective, and more than 20 years later, returns to Shanghai to solve the mystery of the disappearances.
Within the layers of the narrative told in Christopher's precise, slightly detached voice are revealed what he can't, or wont, see: that the simplest desires—a child's for his parents, a man's for understanding—may give rise to the most complicated truths.

"In fact, it had become a matter of some irritation to me that my schoolfriends, for all their readiness to fall into banter concerning virtually any other of one's misfortunes, would observe a great solemness at the first mention of my parents' absence." pg. 6

"However, for all my caution, I can bring to mind at least two instances from school that suggest I must, at least occasionally, have lowered my guard sufficiently to give some idea of my ambitions. I was unable even at the time to account for these incidents, and am no closer to doing so today.
The earliest of these occurred on the occasion of my fourteenth birthday....What I did eventually uncover was a weathered leather case, and when I undid the tiny catch and raised the lid, a magnifying glass." pgs. 8-9

"I never heard any further talk concerning my aspirations to be a "Sherlock," but for some time afterwards I had a niggling concern that my secret had gone out and become a topic for discussion behind my back." pg. 10

"Even now, if I were for a moment to close my eyes, I could with ease transport myself back to that bright morning in Shanghai and the office of Mr. Harold Anderson, my father's superior in the great trading company of Morganbrook and Byatt." pg. 25

"We children, he said, were like the twine that kept the slats held together. A Japanese monk had once told him this. We often failed to realise it, but it was we children who bound not only a family, but the whole world together. If we do not do our part, the slats would fall and scatter over the floor." pg. 77

"Here, in other words, at the heart of the maelstrom threatening to suck in the whole of the civilised world, is a pathetic conspiracy of denial; a denial of responsibility which has turned in on itself and gone sour, manifesting itself in the sort of pompous defensiveness I have encountered so often." pg. 173

"She wrote of how our childhood becomes like a foreign land once we have grown." pg. 297

Star Wars

Star Wars Marathon Time:

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Unconsoled

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro was originally published in 1995. My hardcover copy has 535 pages. Synopsis from the Publisher:
From the universally acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day comes a mesmerizing novel of completely unexpected mood and matter--a seamless, fictional universe, both wholly unrecognizable and familiar. When the public, day-to-day reality of a renowned pianist [Ryder] takes on a life of its own, he finds himself traversing landscapes that are by turns eerie, comical, and strangely malleable.
Ishiguro is a very skilled, gifted writer which made reading The Unconsoled compelling but puzzling. I will freely admit I did something after reading the first 50 pages that I've never done before: I went in search of spoilers to help make sense of the book. In some ways, you can't really give any spoilers for The Unconsoled because there really is not a clear linear plot other than a very warped sense of time passing and an upcoming event/concert on Thursday. I settled on two theories that helped me sort out what I was reading. The first is that it is a dream, or a nightmare. The second is that several of the characters represent Ryder during different periods of his life. Actually, both of these thoughts helped me greatly.

I really like The Unconsoled, but I know that no matter how high I recommend it, it is not a book for everyone. It's a big book, 535 pages, and I fully believe that it is a dream, written out, so it follows the illogical activities in a dream. Some of the long speeches from people are maddening. Perhaps it's a great novel for those of us who do have an active dream-life and remember many of our dreams. We understand the logical/illogical sequences of events and long discussions taking place in mere minutes. We know hallways that just appear, doors that lead from one room to another, in a different place. It explains the two incidents in the quotes below. They are from a dream world: standing up to speak and finding that the robe you are wearing - to a formal dinner - has fallen open and you are naked; seeing one of your favorite movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey, starring Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner.
Highly recommended, but with reservations


"The taxi driver seemed embarrassed to find there was no one - not even a clerk behind the reception desk - waiting to welcome me." opening sentence

"Clearly this city was expecting of me something more than a simple recital. But when I tried to recall some basic details about the present visit, I had little success. pg. 15

"When he organizes an event like Thursday night, everything, everything, has to be just right. He goes over every detail in his head, over and over. Sometimes it does get a bit much, all this single-mindedness. But then I suppose if he didn't have that side to him, he wouldn't be Father and he wouldn't achieve half of what he does." pg. 25

"She began to talk about the house. As she did so, I tried to recall something of the phone conversation to which she had just referred. After a while, I found a faint recollection returning to me of listening to this same voice - or rather a harder, angrier version of it - on the end of a telephone in the not-so-distant past. Eventually I thought I could recall almost a certain phrase I had been shouting at her down the mouthpiece: 'You live in such a small world!' " pg. 35

"Oh yes. Naturally, at this time of night it might take a little while. But certainly it'll come in the end. You have to be patient, that's all. You might get a little chilly standing here, but believe me the bus is well worth the wait. It'll come out of the darkness, all brightly lit up. And one you step on board, you'll find it's very warm and comfortable. And it always has the most cheerful crowd of passengers. They'll be laughing and joking, handing out hot drinks and snacks." pg. 51

"The young man remained silent for a long time and I wondered if he had become angry with me. But then I caught sight of his profile in the changing light and realised he was turning over in his mind a particular incident from several years ago." pg. 65

"...I saw with some relief it was the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey - a favourite of mine which I never tired of seeing....We were well into the central section of the narrative - with Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner on board the spaceship bound for Jupiter..." pg. 93-94

"I cleared my throat a second time and was about to embark on my talk when I suddenly became aware that my dressing gown was hanging open, displaying my entire naked front of my body." pg. 143

" 'But for some reason there's always a queue of people like yourself, Miss Collins - very well meaning people - eager to rush to the rescue of these types. Perhaps I flatter myself, but I can tell you, I am not one of their number. In fact, I can say with confidence that at this point in time, I'm not in any need of rescuing.' Miss Collins had been shaking her head for some time. Now she said: 'Mr. Ryder, it really would be a great sadness to me if you were to continue making your mistakes over and over.' " pg. 146-147

Monday, March 16, 2009

Top 20 Most Annoying Book Reviewer Cliches

Michelle Kerns, Book Examiner for is quickly becoming one of my favorite on-line finds. She recently wrote an article titled:
The Top 20 Most Annoying Book Reviewer Cliches and How to Use Them All in One Meaningless Review

Quoted from article:
" even more pervasive, destructive language-killer has infiltrated the newspapers, newssites, and literary blogs of the world -- reviewerspeak.
The purpose of reviewerspeak is to force every free-thinking book, movie, and art reviewer into the submissive parroting of only a handful of approved reviewer words to describe any item that may come their way...."

I'm really quite certain that I'm an offender, a laughing-at-myself offender. You simply must read Michellle's whole article. She continues with the "20 most annoying clichés book reviewers use:"

1. Gripping
2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant
3. Compelling
4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, "The writing in the book is really great. I just can't come up with the specific words to explain why."
5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.
6. Tour de force
7. Readable
8. Haunting
9. Deceptively simple: as in, "deceptively simple prose"
10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books
11. Fully realized
12. At once: as in, "Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict is at once a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller." See, I just used three of the most annoying clichés without any visible effort. Piece of cake.
13. Timely
14. " X meets X meets X": as in, "Stephen King meets Charles Dickens meets Agatha Christie in this haunting yet rollicking mystery."
15. Page-turner
16. Sweeping: almost exclusively reserved for books with more than 300 pages
17. That said: as in, "Stephenie Meyer couldn't identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read."
18. Riveting
19. Unflinching: used to describe books that have any number of unpleasant occurences -- rape, war, infidelity, death of a child, etc.
20. Powerful
Go read Michelle Kerns today!

Sunday, March 15, 2009



V The Final Battle.

V , the miniseries, was originally aired in 1983 on NBC.
V: The Final Battle aired on NBC in 1984 and provided a conclusion to the 1983 miniseries.
The basic story is, for those of you who are unfamiliar with V is that a race of alien Visitors, seemingly human-like, arrive on Earth and promise friendship, until they try to take over the planet. A rag-tag group of people form a resistance movement.
All Movie Guide says that V was "inspired by Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, a 1935 account of a fictional fascist takeover of America." "V was written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, who initially envisioned the project as a less fanciful story of fascist aggression; when his pitch to NBC seemed to be faltering, Johnson allegedly added the alien angle extemporaneously, securing himself a green light and NBC a sweeps-week hit."

These shows have really stood the test of time. There are some little indicators here and there that show you it was made in the 80's, and the movie doesn't stay completely true to the miniseries in all the minor details (some professions of characters were changed), but, all in all, it really continues to be a solid movie. (It should be mentioned that the success of V also spawned a short lived TV series that was not as good as these two miniseries movies.)
Very highly recommended

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon was originally published in 1959. My paperback copy has 324 pages, including the introduction by Louis Menand. Almost everyone has watched at least one of the two films made of Condon's book. In the plot, American soldiers are captured, brainwashed, and programmed by their Chinese captors. One of them is programmed to become a political assassin. In the introduction Lois Menand says, "The Manchurian Candidate may be pulp, but it is very tony pulp. It is a man in a tartan tuxedo, chicken a la king with shaved truffles, a signed Leroy Neiman. It's Mickey Spillane with an MFA, and a kind of summa of the styles of paperback fiction circa 1959." (pg. viii). Although the book shows it's age in some ways, it is surprising how well it stands the test of time. This is one case where the film, and I'm thinking of the 1962 version, actually does an excellent job of representing the content of this psychological thriller. This theme of brainwashing is as pertinent today as it was during the cold war. highly recommended

Everyone knows the controversial 1962 film of The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, even though it was taken out of circulation for twenty-five years after JFK's assassination. Equally controversial on publication, and just as timely today, is Richard Condon's original novel. First published in 1959, at the height of cold war paranoia, The Manchurian Candidate is a terrifying and suspenseful political thriller featuring Sergeant Raymond Shaw, ex-prisoner of war, Medal of Honor winner, American hero... and brainwashed assassin. Condon’s expert manipulation of the book’s multiple themes – from anticommunist hysteria to megalomaniacal motherhood – makes this one of the most entertaining, and enduring, books of the era.

Louis Menand: "Some people like their bananas overripe to the point of blackness. The Manchurian Candidate is an overripe banana, and delectable to those who have a taste for it." pg. x

"It was sunny in San Francisco; a fabulous condition. Raymond Shaw was not unaware of the beauty outside the hotel window, across from a mansion on the top of a hill, but he clutched the telephone like an osculatorium and did not allow himself to think about what lay beyond that instant: in a saloon someplace, in a different bed, or anywhere." Opening

"Well, it just so happens that you're a Medal of Honor winner - incidentally, congratulations - I meant to write but we've been jammed up. Johnny is a public figure, Raymond." pg. 15

"His mind began to spin off the fine silk thread of his resentment in furious moulinage. For almost two years he had been free of his obsessed mother, this brassy bugler, this puss-in-boots to her boorish Marquis de Carrabas, the woman who could think but who could not feel." pg. 17

"It took that kind of objectivity to begin to tolerate Raymond, who was full of haughtiness. Raymond stood as though someone might have just opened a beach umbrella in his bowels. His very glance drawled when he deigned to look, seldom deigning to speak." pg. 26

"Conditioning is based upon associative reflexes that use words or symbols as triggers of installed automatic reactions. Conditioning, called brainwashing by the news agencies, is the production of reactions in the human organism through the use of associative reflexes." pg.32

"Although the paranoiacs make the great leaders, it is the resenters who make their best instruments because the resenters, those men with cancer of the psyche, make the great assassins." pg. 43

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mercy Among the Children

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards was originally published in 2000. My hardcover copy has 371 pages. Richards won the Giller Prize (Canada's most prestigious literary award), and the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award for Author of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year for Mercy Among the Children. Richards' book was on my TBR list and I decided to read it now because it was recently rejected as a book for Canada Reads and I wondered why.

Oh. My. Goodness. This is an incredible, heart breaking novel that will haunt me for years to come. The story of Sydney Henderson's family, as told by grown son Lyle, is about the price they all pay for Sydney's refusal to abandon his principles. The novel is stronger and richer because it is told from the son's point of view. It is about the nature of good and evil, and the relationship between fathers and sons. But it is unrelentingly sad. I wanted some justice for Sydney and his family. I wanted Sydney to fight back, but Richards kept Sydney true to his principles. This is a brilliant study of human nature and the selfishness and pettiness that rules the daily lives of so many people.

Mercy Among the Children is not for everyone. It is simply so sad. I was anxious for the family. I bawled like a baby several times. Many readers, like me, will also be angry at all the people in the Henderson's lives who did not speak up and take a stand. In the end, Mercy Among the Children could be a parable showing that the truth will eventually come out, although perhaps not in the expected way. Oh, it should also be mentioned that Richards is an incredibly gifted writer.
One of the best - Very Highly Recommended.

Synopsis from the Publisher:
When twelve-year-old Sydney Henderson pushes his friend Connie off the roof of a local church in a moment of anger, he makes a silent vow: Let Connie live and I will never harm another soul. At that very moment, Connie stands, laughs, and walks away. Sydney keeps his promise through adulthood despite the fact that his insular, rural community uses his pacifism to exploit him. Sydney's son Lyle, however, assumes an increasingly aggressive stance in defense of his family. When a small boy is killed in a tragic accident and Sydney is blamed, Lyle takes matters into his own hands. In his effort to protect the people he loves — his beautiful and fragile mother, Elly; his gifted sister, Autumn; and his innocent brother, Percy — it is Lyle who will determine his family's legacy.

"Lyle Henderson had a story to tell, perhaps about this very thing, and he was hoping Terrieux would listen. This was not an unusual request from the men that Terrieux knew, but was unusual for a boy of Lyle's age and demeanour. The demeanour was something seen only in youth, a kind of hopefulness in spite of it all. In spite of the blast of misfortune that would crumble lives to powder." pg. 2

"Here Lyle looked at his notes again - pages and pages of quotations and arrows. 'Everything I relate is true. It is what I have witnessed and what has been told to me - the conversations of others even when I was not present are very near to being exactly what they were, told to me by those who remembered them first-hand, or talked to someone who knew. It has taken me almost seven years to piece together what it was all about, and I want to set it before you now. Maybe you can write about it, as a former policeman, just for interest sake, and maybe you can expose the Mat Pits of the world.' " pg. 6

"I often wanted to enter the world of the stained glass - to find myself walking along the purple roads, with the Mount of Olives behind me. I suppose I wanted to be good, and my mother wanted goodness for me. I wanted to escape the obligation I had toward my own destiny, my family, my sister and brother who were more real to me than a herd of saints." pg. 11

"What surprised him was the fact that an educated man would ever do this. He had been innocent enough to assume that the educated had excised all prejudice from themselves and would never delight in injury to others - that is, he believed that they had easily attained the goal he himself was struggling toward. He did not know that this goal - which he considered the one truthful goal man should strive toward - was often not even considered a goal by others, educated or not." pg. 21

"What my father believed from the time his own father died was this: whatever pact you make with God, God will honour. You may not think He does, but then do you really know the pact you have actually made? Understand the pact you have made, and you will understand how God honours it." pg. 22

"Worse for her social welfare, she saw miracles - in trees, in flowers, in insects in the field, especially butterflies, in cow's milk, in sugar, in clouds of rain, in dust, in snow, and in the thousands of sweet midnight stars." pg. 23

"There is a second group, the group that you and I belong to. The group that says that in a man's heart is the only truth that matters. You cannot change a constant by changing how the rules might be applied to this constant." pg. 36

" 'Don't worry - truth will out,' Sydney said.
They continued their walk, not understanding how evil and darkness attach themselves to the good or great to destroy their will to live." pg. 72

"I remember him now as a man who had no idea of the responsibility or maturity his vocation required." pg. 225

Monday, March 9, 2009

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was originally published in 1937. My paperback copy has 236 pages, including a foreword and extra material. I will admit that at the beginning the dialogue, presented phonetically in a southern dialect, frustrated me. After forcing myself to continue, I was able to read it a little easier without as much difficulty. It really is a simple story about a black woman who marries three different men, who wanted three different women. Ultimately, Their Eyes Were Watching God is "a bold feminist novel, the first to be explicitly so in the Afro-American tradition" as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote in the afterword (pg. 197) in my copy. I am highly recommending Their Eyes Were Watching God, if only for the historical perspective of a Black woman living her life in the thirties.

From the cover:
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person - no mean feat for a black woman in the 30's. Zora Neale Hurston's classic 1937 novel follows Janie from her nanny's plantation shack to Logan Killick's farm, to all-Black Eatonville, to the everglades, and back to Eatonville - where she gathers in "the great fish-net" of her life. Janie's quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiences life's joys and sorrows, and comes home to herself in peace.

"Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly." pg. 1

"Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song." pg. 2

"You know if you pass some people and don't speak tuh suit 'em dey got tuh go way back in yo' life and see whut you ever done. They know mo' 'bout yuh than you do yo'self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear." pg. 5

"Ah don't mean to bother wid tellin' 'em nothin'. Phoeby. 'Tain't worth de trouble. You can tell 'em what Ah say if you wanns to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf." pg. 6

"Ah was wid dem white chillun so much till Ah didn't know Ah wuzn't white till Ah was round six years old." pg. 8

"Lawd a'mussy! Look lak Ah kin see it all over again. It was a long time before she was well, and by dat time we knowed you was on de way. And after you was born she took to drinkin' likker and stayin' out nights. Couldn't git her to stay here and nowhere else. Lawd knows where she is right now. She ain't dead, 'cause Ah'd know it by mah feelings, but sometimes Ah wish she was at rest." pg. 19

"Ah don't want yo' feathers always crumpled by folks throwin' up things in yo' face. and Ah can't die easy thinkin' maybe de menfolks white or balck is makin' a spit cup outa you: Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me down easy, Janie, Ah'm a cracked plate." pg. 20

Drop City

Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle was originally published in 2003. My hardcover copy has 444 pages. T.C. Boyle is a gifted writer and it's a pleasure to read his writing. The story of the Drop City commune itself wasn't quite as enjoyable as Boyle's writing. While I enjoyed the juxtaposition of people living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness versus the hippies at Drop City's idea of going back to nature in California, I really did become tired of the Drop City denizens, and their drugs and sex in the first part of the novel. Actually, I appreciated the novel more once Drop City moved to Alaska and they had to learn some harsh truths. This is a highly recommended novel.

I was especially excited to discover that this book, picked up in a used bookstore clearance section was, in fact, a signed edition by T. C. Boyle. They really need to double check what they are doing. This isn't the first time I've found a hidden treasure there, beyond the books themselves.

From Book Magazine:

It's 1970, and the hippies at Drop City, a California commune, are grooving on acid, pot, free love and music by Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. A thousand miles north in the Alaskan wilderness, a very different community of bourgeois "dropouts" exists: isolated trappers and homesteaders, such as Sess Harder and his new wife, Pamela, who live in a remote cabin and struggle against the brutally cold winter. For nearly half of Boyle's engaging novel, which depicts the sometimes tragic American desire for reinvention, the two communities remain separate, but when sanitary and legal troubles threaten Drop City, the hippies pile into their school bus and head north to Alaska, "the last truly free place on this whole continent." Through border crossings and Jack London-like treks in the cold, Boyle masterfully builds narrative suspense in anticipation of the collision of these two communities. Though some may find the blend of realism and naturalism too conventional for a novel about free love and communes, Boyle, always a skilled and generous storyteller, offers a stream of adventures, surprises and rewards.

"Outside was the California sun, making a statement in the dust and saving something like ten o'clock or ten-thirty to the outbuildings and the trees. There were voices all around her, laughter, morning pleasantries and animadversions, but she was floating still and just opened up a million-kilowatt smile and took her ceramic bowl with the nuts and seeds and raisins and the dollop of pasty oatmeal afloat in goat's milk and drifted through the door and out into the yard to perch on a stump and feel the hot dust invade the spaces between her toes. Eating wasn't a private act - nothing was private at Drop City - but there were no dorm mother's here, no social directors or parents or bosses, and for once she felt like doing her own thing. Grooving, right? Wasn't that what this was all about? The California sun on your face, no games, no plastic society - just freedom and like minds, brothers and sisters all?" pg. 3

Ronnie's brow was crawling and his mouth had dropped down into a little pit of nothing - she knew the look. Though he hadn't moved a muscle, though for all the world he was the hippest coolest least-uptight flower-child cat in the universe, he was puffing himself up inside, full of rancor and Ronnie-bile. He got his own way. He always got his own way..." pgs 8-9

"His name was Marco, and Norm Sender, the guy -cat - who'd inherited these forty-seven sun-washed acres above the Russian River and founded Drop City two years ago, had picked him up hitchhiking on the road out of Bolinas." pg. 13

"All the communities he'd been a part of, or tried to be a part of, had fallen to pieces under the pressure of the little things, the essentials, the cooking and the cleaning and the repairs, and while it was nice to think everybody would pitch in during a crisis, it didn't always work out that way." pg. 48

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cries Unheard

Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell by Gitta Sereny was originally published in 1998. My hardcover copy has 412 pages. This is a heartbreaking account of the British child killer, Mary Bell, but more importantly, it makes a case for the reform of the justice system when dealing with children. Bell agreed to talk to Sereny 27 years after her conviction. Sereny tells us about Bell's horrific childhood, the murders, her public trial, and her years of imprisonment. Apparently this book was quite controversial in Great Britain when it was first released. Although the information about the treatment of children in the justice system and protective custody is a bit dated now, it still makes a compelling argument for reform. Cries Unheard is not a typical true crime novel, so if that is what you are interested in, this might not be a good choice for you. It would also be helpful to read Sereny's 1972 book, The Case of Mary Bell, or research the murders before reading Cries Unheard. This book is recommended, especially for those interested in child psychology.

Synopsis from the Publisher
What brings a child to kill another child? In 1968, at age eleven, Mary Bell was tried and convicted of murdering two small boys in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Gitta Sereny, who covered the sensational trial, never believed the characterization of Bell as the incarnation of evil, the bad seed personified. If we are ever to understand the pressures that lead children to commit serious crimes, Sereny felt, only those children, as adults, can enlighten us.

Twenty-seven years after her conviction, Mary Bell agreed to talk to Sereny about her harrowing childhood, her terrible acts, her public trial, and her years of imprisonment-to talk about what was done to her and what she did, who she was and who she became. Nothing Bell says is intended as an excuse for her crimes. But her devastating story forces us to ponder society's responsibility for children at the breaking point, whether in Newcastle, Arkansas, or Oregon.

A masterpiece of wisdom and sympathy, Gitta Sereny's wrenching portrait of a girl's damaged childhood and a woman's fight for moral regeneration urgently calls on us to hear the cries of all children at risk.

"Briefly then: In the course of nine weeks two small boys, aged three and four, were found dead. Some months later, in December 1968, two children, both girls, were tried for their murder; Norma Bell, age thirteen, was acquitted; Mary Bell (no relation) was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. The case caused an uproar, and Mary Bell was demonized across the country as the 'bad seed,' inherently evil." pg. xiii

"The central account here, the story as Mary Bell told it to me (almost all of which I was able to subsequently check against the knowledge of others), is intended not as biographical literature but as a document that might serve as an incentive to all of us who care about children's well-being. If Mary's painful disclosures of a suffering childhood and an appallingly mismanaged adolescence in detention succeed in prompting us - whether as parents, neighbors, social workers, teachers, judges and lawyers, police, or government officials - to detect children's distress, however well hidden, we might one day be able to prevent them from offending instead of inappropriately prosecuting and punishing them when they do." pgs. xx-xxi

"And in the first four years of Mary's life her mother had tried repeatedly to rid herself of this unwanted child. Time and again she attempted to hand her over to relatives and, twice, to strangers. Four times she tried to kill her." pg. 12

"Mary's case, and her life since her release in 1980, has raised an extreme and, to her, deeply disturbing amount of media interest." pg. 13

"...there are two entirely distinct parts to her. One is the attractive, warm, and unconditionally loving young mother....The other chaotic, almost incapable of organization and discipline, and....often very sad." pg. 27

"....the national press backed away from the case: in 1968 troubled children were not yet in vogue, and 'evil' was best ignored lest it might infect." pg. 33

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

rating books

I'm dropping the number ratings for awhile. I will continue to note if the book is very highly recommended, highly recommended, recommended, so-so, not recommended, or if I did not finish it, so the idea of the 5 point scale is there but not the numbers. What I am pondering right now is some special notation of books that I would previously have given a 5, a very best award (like Bethany's Happy Chicken Award) and maybe a stinker award for the very bottom. I've always struggled with the idea of rating a book, but began doing it for a book group which required a rating. Since I'm no longer a member of that group, I really don't have to continue doing something that makes me uneasy.

I'm uncomfortable with a rating system simply because sometimes I read a certain kind of book for the escapism - and that's ok. After reading (and really liking) John Updike's rules for reviewing, I decided that a number rating system makes me too uncomfortable. I don't want to make any author an example, but let's take Alten's Meg books as an example simply because they are exciting escapism. I know they are not fine literature, but they were never intended to be fine literature. The pleasure my nephew and I had in reading Meg met Alten's purpose in writing it.

The Echo Maker

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers was originally published in 2006. My
hardcover copy has 451 pages. Winner of the 2006 National Book Award, this is said to be Powers most accessible novel. I can only compare it to the approximately 150 pages of Gold Bug Variations that I managed to read first - out of 639 pages - before I set it aside and said enough. I gave up on it. I wasn't up to the challenge. (From what I read, Publisher's Weekly was correct in calling Gold Bug Variations a "strange, overwritten, often infuriating, manically intelligent and sometimes deeply moving novel.") The Echo Maker surprised me, in comparison. It is a complex, intelligent, multi-layered novel, and the plot was certainly more accessible and immediately more compelling than Gold Bug Variations. While Powers writes beautifully captivating prose, his novels don't appear to be written for the average, casual reader. I also have a suspicion that I'm not quite up to Powers' intellectual capacity.

Although I enjoyed The Echo Maker, intimately understanding the setting and cranes, I also found that it became tedious after awhile and I kept feeling like it could have used some good editing, some tightening up. I was tired of Dr. Weber almost immediately. The only reason I pressed on and finished was because I wanted to see what happened to Mark and Karin and if the mystery surrounding his accident was solved. While I'm glad I tried two of his novels, in all honesty, I don't think I'm the audience for which Powers is writing. The Echo Maker is a recommended novel, if only for a dedicated reader to experience Powers prose.

From the Publisher
On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman - who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister- is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark's accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition.
Quotes from The Echo Maker:

"Cranes keep landing as night falls. Ribbons of them roll down, slack against the sky. They float in from all compass points, in kettles of a dozen, dropping with the dusk." opening sentences

"A squeal of brakes, the crunch of metal on asphalt, one broken scream and then another rouse the flock. The truck arcs through the air, corkscrewing into the field." pg. 4

"Your brother has had an accident. In fact, he'd long ago taken every wrong turn you could take in life, and from the wrong lane." pg. 5

"She told her boss, as vaguely as she could, about the accident. A remarkably level account: thirty years of practice hiding Schluter truths. She asked for two days off. He offered her three. She started to protest, but switched at once to grateful acceptance." pg. 8

"She hunted down the newspaper and read the flimsy accident account until it crumbled. she sat in the glass terrarium as long as she could, then circled the ward, then sat again. Every hour, she begged to see him. Each time they denied her. She dozed for five minutes at a shot, propped in the sculpted apricot chair. Mark rose up in her dreams, like buffalo grass after a prairie fire. A child who, out of pity. always picked the worst player for his team. An adult who called only when weepy drunk. Her eyes stung and her mouth thickened with scum. she checked the mirror in the floor's bathroom: blotchy and teetering, her fall of red hair a tangled bead-curtain." pg. 9

"Then she saw the note. It lay on the bed stand, waiting. No one could tell her when it had appeared. Some messenger had slipped into the room unseen, even while Karin was shut out. The writing was spidery, ethereal: immigrant scrawl from a century ago." pg. 10

"Eight times an hour, he asked what had happened to him. Each time, he sat shocked by the news of the accident." pg. 59

"What are you doing here, anyway? Who sent you?"
Her skin went metal. "Stop it, Mark," she said, harsher than intended. Sweet again, she teased, "You think you sister wouldn't look after you?"
"My sister? You think you're my sister?" His eyes drilled her. "If you think you're my sister, there's something wrong with your head." pg. 59

Quotes from Gold Bug Variations:

"Word came today: four lines squeezed on a three-by-five. After months of bracing for the worst, I am to read it casually, jot down the closing date. The trial run is over, Dr. Ressler dead, his molecule broken up for parts, leaving no copies." opening sentences

"I spread my hands on the table and divorced them. Through a tick in my eyelid, I pointlessly read the note again. All over with our friend, his four-letter tune. I knew the man for a year, one year ago. Before everything fell apart, he became one of the few who mattered to me in the world." pg. 15