Good Books and the Random Movie

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30 August 2008


Coyote is the first in a series by Hugo Award-winning author Allen Steele.

The story begins in 2070. The US has had two revolutions and has split into three countries - the New England states, Pacifica and the United Republic of America. The URA is controlled by the Liberty party. Anyone who is not a member is suspect.

When the URA government spends all of its budget on a spaceship - to the point where the economic bottom third of the country is made of people living in shacks - its only goal is to be the first nation to create an interstellar transport to the distant (and likely habitable) planet of Coyote.

When the crew hijacks the ship and replaces the passengers with political dissidents, it changes the goal of the mission. They are escaping to create a free society elsewhere.

Now 103 people are on the new planet of Coyote. It is habitable, but a far cry from Earth. The settlers will have to build shelter and grow food before the 9 month winter sets in.

Coyote is the story of the founding of the new planet. In the second book, Coyote Rising, settlers will have to deal with the second ship that was sent from Earth.

Steele, Allen. (2002). Coyote. New York: Ace Books.

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27 August 2008

Second Shot (Charlie Fox #2)

The sequel in the Charlie Fox series, Second Shot, by Zoe Sharp leads bodyguard Fox back to the US.

Even after her last US assignment left her hopeful never to return, Charlie Fox finds herself in Boston. She is protecting a woman who just won twenty-five million pounds in the lottery in England. She has hired investigators to find her father, who appears to be living in New England.

All is not as it seems with her client's father and Charlie has to find out what is off before everything goes wrong. When her client shoots her, she knows this job is going down hill fast. But even from a hospital bed, Charlie will not drop the case - she must find the truth before a little girl becomes a pawn in the race to steal the lottery winnings.

Sharp, Zoe. (2007). Second Shot. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.

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25 August 2008

Into the Storm (Troubleshooters #10)

Into the Storm, a Troubleshooters novel, by Suzanne Brockmann is a military adventure and a serial killer thriller rolled into one.

The Troubleshooters Inc. security experts are going up against the boss' old Navy SEAL team in a training exercise. The first round will be in the desert. The SEALS will be tasked to rescue a hostage from the Troubleshooters.

When all goes well, the second exercise has the players switched around, mixing SEALS with TS Inc, to try their skill in the woods of Maine - in the middle of winter.

But something goes terribly wrong when the woman playing the hostage - the only member of the teams not trained to survive outdoor or defend herself - goes missing.

Her footsteps are followed to the road where she was picked up by a car. But with a serial killer on the loose it is a race against the clock to find her before it is too late.

Brockmann, Suzanne. (2006). Into the Storm. New York: Ballantine Books.

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23 August 2008

Northern Lights

Northern Lights by Nora Roberts is a detective mystery that takes place in Alaska.

Nate Burke was a Baltimore cop for 11 years. When his partner was killed in the line of duty his survivors guilt drove him out of the force. For a change of pace he applied for a job as the chief of police in Lunacy, Alaska.

Hoping for crimes no more serious that public drunkenness, Nate is in for a shock. When three climbers are stranded on No Name mountain they discover a body. Now strange events are happening all over Lunacy and Nate has to find out which of the Lunatics killed the Ice Man - while also dealing with everyday Alaska - moose, bears, weather, etc...

Roberts captures the feel and characters of Alaska in this mystery - the thrill of the land, the lunacy of people who would live in such harsh conditions, and the beauty of community in a small town where people have to rely on each other to survive.

Roberts, Nora. (2004). Northern Lights. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

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21 August 2008

Cloudy in the West

Cloudy in the West by Elmer Kelton is everything a good western novel should be, at least in my opinion.

In 1885, Joey Shipman becomes an orphan. Though he inherits his father's farm, his evil step-mother is in charge until be comes of age. And he is only 12. When it appears that his step-mother is out to kill him to take possession of the farm, Joey runs away to look for a long lost cousin.

Cousin Beau Shipman may not be the best guardian. He is a hard working man - except when he can afford a bottle of whiskey. But soon the cousins are off on a Wild West adventure, dodging the law, meeting notorious outlaws, and finding their own way in the world. It is never quite clear who is taking care of whom, but the two eventually form a bond that makes a true family.

Cloudy in the West reminds me of a more serious and adult version of The Misadventures of Maude March. Though Joey's sarcasm is not as witty as that of Sally March, both novels are worth a read for anyone with a love of horses, adventure, or the Wild West. Cloudy is sure to become a classic that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Kelton, Elmer. (1997). Cloudy in the West. New York: Forge.

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19 August 2008

Riders of the Purple Sage

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey is a classic set in the old west on the edge of Utah.

Jane Withersteen, a single Mormon woman, lives in a house on the edge of the town of Cottonwood. Her father, who founded the town, has left her a wealthy woman. But the town elders are not happy with her. Not only has she refused to marry Elder Tull, she consorts with Gentiles.

As the elders increase the pressure on Jane to conform to their standards, tensions rise and the Gentiles who are faithful to Jane - the only people not beholden to the church - are the people she can rely on. One man, Venters, has stood by her for years. Another man, the mysterious outlaw Lassiter, rides into town to save the day.

Riders is a beautifully told story of the old west and the tensions between the various groups of people - Mormon, Gentile, Cattle Rustler - and the inner battle of one woman raised to believe one thing when her eyes show her another.

Grey, Zane. (1912). Riders of the Purple Sage. New York: The Modern Library.

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18 August 2008

In A Sunburned Country

Bill Bryson is a well known travel author who might be just a bit mad. In his account of Australia - In a Sunburned Country - he captures the feel of the country while continuously warning potential visitors to keep away.

Filled with history and lore, Sunburned, is a history/travel/dangerous animal account. Bryson points out that almost every animal, insect and fish in Australia has the potential to kill. They have the deadliest spider, snake, jellyfish, croc, etc...

At the same time he paints a picture of a friendly, HUGE country that is worth the risk.

One sentence description (for class): This whirlwind tour of Australia, as told by a quirky narrator who balances each awe-inspiring sight with a deadly creature, will leave readers wondering whether to rush to or run from the Land Down Under.

Bryson, Bill. (2000). In a Sunburned Country. New York: Broadway Books.

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16 August 2008

First Drop (Charlie Fox #1)

First Drop by Zoe Sharp is the first in a new series about Charlie Fox, an ex-British Army bodyguard.

After being discharged from the Army, Fox taught self-defense for a while. Now she has been hired by a friend to be a bodyguard. Her first assignment in in the US. She lands in Florida and is told she will be babysitting the teenage son of a software designer.

On her first day in charge of Trey she is forced to go to an amusement park. When a man starts shooting at her and Trey, Charlie must figure out what to do next. Neither her boss or Trey's father is answering the phone.

After checking the house, she discovers she and Trey are on their own. She will have to figure out who is after them and why. Having spent a grand total of 24 hours in the US, it will not be an easy task.

Sharp, Zoe. (2007). First Drop. New York: St. Martins Paperbacks.

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13 August 2008

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones is an engaging read that will draw you in and not let you go until the last page.

Susie Salmon narrates the novel from beyond the grave. As a fourteen year old girl she is murdered by a neighbor.
Though the novel begins with tragedy it shows the emotions of humanity - showing the lives of Susie's parents, siblings, friends and acquaintances after her death.

The Lovely Bones is a powerful novel on a topic that touches everyone's life. It not only deals with the death of a loved one, but beautifully exposes characters to the emotions of trying to continue their own lives.

Sebold is an amazing author who captures the horror and hope surrounding the death of Susie Salmon. This book is sure to become a classic, being read by generations to come.

Sebold, Alice. (2002). The Lovely Bones. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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12 August 2008

The Unsung Hero (Troubleshooters #1)

In The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann, Navy SEAL Tom Paoletti suffers a near fatal head injury after a helicopter crash. After being released from the hospital he is given a 30-day leave to recover.

On arriving in Boston on his way home to Baldwin's Bridge, Tom sees an internationally terrorist. But when he calls his commander he is told that he is being paranoid due to his injury. Now Tom is on his own with the world's most notorious killer targeting his home town - and specifically the celebration of the fighting fifty-fifth from WWII. A celebration that is to honor Tom's great uncle.

Teaming up with three other Navy SEALS, two WWII veterans, two teenagers, and a pediatrician who he has been in love with since the was a teenager, Tom has to save his town and the people he loves. But will he be able to stop a terrorist with the ragtag bunch he has been able to put together?

Brockmann, Suzanne. (2000). The Unsung Hero. New York: Ballantine Books.

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10 August 2008

Down River

Down River by John Hart is a mystery about family and betrayal.

Adam Chase has not been home to Rowan County, North Carolina, for five years - not since he was acquitted of murder there. He has not spoken to his father since his step-mother testified against him, and his father took her side.

Now he is back, but the people he left behind are not all ready to forgive him for leaving. It seems that everyone in town remembers him because of the trial. The friend he came back to talk to is missing. Then the day after he returns, a woman is attacked on his father's farm. It is not long before Adam finds himself back in the sheriff's office.

But after seeing local justice firsthand, Adam will not sit back and watch this investigation. He is determined to find out what is going on. Even if it means stepping on the toes of his ex-girlfriend who is one of the officers investigating the case.

Before the mystery is solved, others will die. Adam will make discoveries about his family that have been buried since his childhood. Once he finds the truth will he be able to stay in Rowan County for good or will he run away again?

Hart, John. (2007). Down River. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.

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08 August 2008

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1)

Maisie Dobbs, created by Jacqueline Winspear, is a detective to rival Agatha Christie!

Maisie, who grew up on the south side of the Thames, has just lost her mother. Her father is consumed with grief and worried about money (the savings for Maisie's schooling spend on trying desperately to save her mother). When he suggests that she take a position in the house of Lord and Lady Compton, Maisie becomes a maid.

Lady Rowan Compton, encouraged by her friend Dr. Maurice Blanche, see that Maisie continues her studies. She learns enough to be accepted at Cambridge. When the Great War begins and England needs more nurses to tend to the injured young soldiers, Maisie volunteers and is sent to France.

Ten years later, in 1929, Maisie has just opened her own detective agency. Her first assignment seems to be an open and shut case of infidelity, but all is not as it seems on the surface. Before the case is solved, other questions will arise that will lead Maisie back to emotions she thought she left behind at the end of the war.

Jacqueline Winspear was awarded or nominated for four awards for Maisie Dobbs - her first novel. She is a writer who captures the interest of readers and doesn't release them until long after the last page.

Winspear, Jacqueline. (2003). Maisie Dobbs. New York: Penguin Books.

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Target Lock (Amanda Garrett #4)

The forth book in the Amanda Garrett Navy thriller series by James H Cobb continues the career of Commander Garrett.

Captain Amanda Lee Garrett, US Navy, is now a Commodore - in charge of a small fleet of ships called the Sea Fighter Squadron. The squadron includes two stealth ships, one of which is her former command the Duke, three hydroplanes, a flock of attack helicopters, and a Marine Special Forces battalion.

When a private research satellite is being recovered in the Sea between Australia and Indonesia, the recovery ship is attacked by pirates. Those pirates have been a problem in the area since the 1500s, they are now being taught the skills to take on larger ships.

Amanda and her fleet are sent to Indonesia to find the new leader of the pirates before he can take control of the whole sea. But the new pirate king may meet his match in Amanda Garrett. Or will she finally meet her match? At one point she is kidnapped and the fleet, now in the hands of Admiral Eddie Mac will do anything to rescue her - including breaking international law...

Cobb, James H. (2002). Target Lock. New York: GP Putnam's Sons.

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04 August 2008


Infected by Scott Sigler is a science fiction, horror novel that will leave you nauseous.

A rash of outbreaks of a triangle blisters is making people crazy. One doctor within the Center for Disease Control has been given the task of tracking down the victims. She needs a live person to examine. But she keeps getting there too late. All infected seem to go crazy - killing themselves and others.

Now ex-football player "Scary" Perry Dawsey has noticed what look like bug bites. But these bits hurt more than any other. Soon he is in so much pain he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't trust doctors since they failed to fix his knee, ending his football career.

Will the CDC find Perry in time to discover the true organism behind the outbreak? Will they be able to stop the spread before the whole nation is Infected?

Sigler, Scott. (2008). Infected. New York: Crown Publishers.

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03 August 2008

Little Brother

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is a technological thriller about civil rights in the face of terrorism - a subject we all need to ponder these days...

Marcus is a seventeen year old who is familiar with the systems used to keep people in line. He knows that the high school provided laptop is recording his every key-stroke, the school's gait recognition keeps track of who is walking where, and the Internet is monitored by the US government - by the Department of Homeland Security.

He also know how to get past most of the systems. He has downloaded an Internet program that runs in the background and is invisible to the school computer. He puts rocks in his shoes when he wants to avoid being recognized by the gait cameras. And he encrypts anything important that he sends out.

But when he and three friends skip school to follow the next clue in an ongoing Internet game, he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Terrorists have blown up a bridge - too close to where he and his friends are for DHS. They are captured and taken away for questioning.

After being released from the DHS, Marcus vows to fight back. The government cannot harass thousands of innocent citizens to look for a terrorist in a haystack. As civil liberties are taken away, Marcus creates an underground movement that will prove the inefficiency of the governmental policies. As the Constitution says - if the government is no longer working, the people have a right to overthrow it and start again...

Filled with information on how computers work and how they have changed the world, as well as a history of the civil rights movements in the US, this book is exciting and educational.

Doctorow, Cory. (2008). Little Brother. New York: TOR.

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02 August 2008

TV: Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under is arguably the best show ever aired on television.

The series focuses on the Fisher family - that owns a funeral home. During the pilot, the father of the family is killed in an auto accident. Sons David and Nate have to decide what to do with the family business: David wants to keep it open and Nate has spent his life trying to escape it. Daughter Claire needs to get through high school and find her path. And wife Ruth will have to rethink her role in life.

Every character is well written, fully explored, and beautifully acted. The cast is made up of stage actors who convey emotion better than most on TV or even in movies.

Six Feet Under is revolutionary television not only for the quality but for the emotion and discussion about death that is has sparked. We in the US are notoriously afraid of death when compared to other cultures. This show has changed the way people look at death and those who deal with it daily as a career. No subject is taboo with this show. You will see many social, political, and economic issues played out in a sensitive, thoughtful way, not by using stereotypes or other cheap ploys usually found on TV.

Watch it! It will change the way you think! It is amazing.

Six Feet Under.
Francis Conroy
Michael C. Hall
Peter Krause
Lauren Ambrose
Mathew St. Patrick
Rachel Griffiths
Freddy Rodriguez
Justina Machado

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