Thursday, April 26, 2007

Book Review: “Gravity” by Tess Gerritsen

Emma Watson is a doctor an astronaut-in-training for one of the next Space Shuttle Discovery flights to the International Space Station. Her mission is moved up when one of the space station residents needs to vacate due to the death of his wife. Emma is horrified to discover that one of the science experiments aboard the space station has gone horribly awry, becoming a fast-moving fatal virus that is picking off the crew one-by-one. Did the virus infect earth when the previous Discovery shuttle crashed upon reentry? Will the current space station residents survive and come home?

My Thoughts
I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, but this book was a rip-roaring page-turner. I stayed up until 2 am one night because I couldn’t put it down. I was totally into it until the Disneyesque rescue at the end. It totally fell apart for me after that. I would still recommend it, but it gets ratcheted down several pegs due to an ending that was particularly unbelievable.

Book Review: “44 Scotland Street” by Alexander McCall Smith

Pat moves into an apartment at the address in the book’s title and gets a job at a small art gallery. This is a character-development story of the people in her building, her job, and other folks connected to them. The setting is Edinburgh and the story plods along like a typical British novel (can you say, “Pride & Prejudice?”). The characters each have an interesting personality trait or two, and more connections develop between them along the way, leading to several different story lines. You’ve got an underachiever, a narcissist, a portrait painter, an archeologist, a controlling mother, and a genius youngster, among others. The book ends without much being resolved in any of the story lines.

My Thoughts
Interesting fact: this was originally a 110-episode serial in a Scottish newspaper. At first I wasn’t sure I would stick with this book because it was so slow, but I don’t like giving up on books unless they are terrible, which this wasn’t. There are some humorous scenes that help redeem the story. However, I was hoping for more at the end and I was a bit disappointed. McCall Smith is also the author of the excellent No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which is much better in my opinion. (The art connection between these two reviews is just a coincidence – I’m not on an art bender.)

Book Review: “False Impression” by Jeffrey Archer

Anna Petrescu is an art expert. She works for Bryce Fenston, a scurrilous character/art collector/banker whom she discovers is cheating his customers. Acting as a modern-day Robin Hood, Anna decides to take matters into her own hands by stealing a priceless Van Gogh, one of Fenston’s targeted purchases, but the events of 9/11 temporarily foil her plans. (Interesting side plot of reliving the fateful day’s events through the eyes of a survivor, even if fictional.) The story takes Anna to Bucharest, London, and Tokyo with a knife-wielding assassin and a handsome FBI agent both in hot pursuit. Through forgeries, severed ears, multi-million dollar deals, and great plot twists, you’ll enjoy your wild ride through the world of sophisticated art collectors.

My Thoughts
The cover of this book features a quote from the New York Post that says, “A worthy successor to The DaVinci Code,” but I don’t see it except that both books are about art and crime. While I really enjoyed this book, I wouldn’t put it on the caliber of DaVinci, which I thought was exceptional. (It was fiction, people, so don’t start thinking I’m some heathen whacko.) Nevertheless, it was a good read and I recommend it.

PS – Holy cow! I just saw this very painting on a commercial for eye drops. What a small world.

New Category

I’m a fiction reader much of the time and plan to start offering book reviews to all of my loyal readers (both of you, and you know who you are). Most of the blogs I read regularly offer reviews of good scholarly works, and I enjoy them very much. But for those of us who dabble in the world of the imaginary, I’ll offer up whatever has its place on my bedside stand. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Driving Miss Daisy" While Driving

I have discovered a new phenomenon occurring in vehicles driving down the highway -- the practice of people watching DVDs in the car. Technology sure has taken us a long way. But as one who is always the driver, and most often the sole occupant of the car, I find myself a bit jealous. I certainly would like to be able to watch movies, too. It would beat books on tape by a long shot. When I pass, or am passed by, a vehicle with a DVD player, I'm instantly curious about what they are watching. In fact, on my most recent road trip, I pulled up next to a vehicle in just the right position so that I could try to see exactly what was on their screen. This was not a good practice for a couple of reasons. One: I was driving 70 mph. Two: the other car didn't like it much, judging by the way they stepped on the gas and pulled away from me rather quicky.
Would it actually be possible for me to watch movies while driving, as it appears in the above picture? My heart tells me it would be fun to try, but my head tells me it probably isn't a very good idea. What do you think?