Good Books and the Random Movie

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28 March 2010

The Fifth Servant

The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia takes place in Prague in 1592, depicting the tension between the Catholic church and the Protestants - and the Jews caught in the middle.

Benyamin ben-Akiva, a newly arrived scholar from Poland, is the fifth servant for the Jewish community. He is in charge of calling men to prayer and helping keep peace in the ghetto.

Shortly after he arrives he is tasked with the most important case of his life - a young Christian girl is killed and the Christians are claiming blood libel, that the Jews killed her for her blood to be added to the Passover matzo. The fact that even the Catholic church, still in the heat of the inquisition, has ruled that Jews are forbidden by the Torah from consuming blood, does little to help.

ben-Akiva has three days to find the killer of the whole ghetto will be punished - that most likely trigger a pogrom killing most of Prague's Jews.

Wishnia has written a compelling historical mystery which includes much Jewish law. Fans of Maggie Anton's books (Joheved, Miriam, and Rachel) will find similarities in the amount of Talmud and Mishnah included in the story.

Wishnia, Kenneth. (2010). The Fifth Servant. New York: William Morrow.

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25 March 2010

Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the original pirate adventures. Originally published in 1883, it was written for Stevenson - one chapter per day - for his stepson.

Jim Hawkins lives at the Admiral Benbow inn in southern England. When a salty old sailor moves into the inn his life is in for a change. The sailor pays him to keep an eye out for a man with one leg. Though the one-legged man does not show up - others come looking for the old sailor.

Soon Jim finds himself assigned as a cabin boy on a ship that has set sail for Treasure Island to seek buried treasure.

Stevenson has written many books - most of which have become classics that are still read today, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kidnapped.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. (2001). Treasure Island. New York: The Modern Library.

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23 March 2010

Once a Spy

Once a Spy by Huffington Post columnist Keith Thomson is an espionage novel with a twist.

Drummond Clark is a spy. He has been a spy most of his life and, as such, has many secrets that cannot fall into the wrong hands. Now he is developing Alzheimer's and is becoming a potential sieve of information. His own agency is following him to make sure he is not becoming a danger.

According to his son, Charlie Clark, Drummond is an appliance salesman who is the dullest human he has ever met. Anyone who would miss his son's birthday for a wash machine expo cannot be a good dad.

When Charlie is called to collect his father from a senior center he wandered into, Charlie thinks the men following them work for the bookie he owes money to for gambling on horse races. But during one of his father's lucid moments he learns that the boring appliance salesman is awfully adept at hot wiring a needed get-away car.

Once a Spy combines the action-packed story of a super spy novel with the chance for a son and his father to get to know each other after 30 years of lies (provided they are not killed by the CIA assassins who are after them), plus a wrench thrown in called Alzheimer's. It is a perfect balance of suspense and substance that will thrill readers of many genres. I will be scanning the Huffington Post headlines until his next book is written!

Thomson, Keith. (2010). Once a Spy. New York: Doubleday.

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17 March 2010

The Burnt Houes (Decker & Lazarus #16)

The Burnt House by Faye Kellerman is the sixteenth book in her series about police officer Peter Decker and his (now) wife Rina Lazarus. The series is excellent for any fans of mystery or for readers who would like to read / learn more about Judaism.
In the first book, The Ritual Bath, Decker is introduced to the world of Orthodox Judaism and the woman with whom he will spend the rest of his life. The series goes on from there advancing both their relationship and Decker's immersion into Judaism.
In The Burnt House, Decker finds himself with a huge disaster on his hands. An airplane carrying 47 passengers crashes into an LA apartment building. Along with the obvious problems, it seems that one of the reported victims of the crash cannot be confirmed to have been on the plane.
During the recovery an extra body is found that is not the missing woman but likely someone who was murdered in or near the apartment building. Decker and his coworkers, including recurring characters Marge Dunn and Scott Oliver, will be tasked with solving one murder and one possible missing person case who may have more in common than they first think.
Here is a list of the series so far:
1. The Ritual Bath
2. Sacred and Profane
3. Milk and Honey
4. Day of Atonement
5. False Prophet
6. Grievous Sin
7. Sanctuary
8. Justice
9. Prayers for the Dead
10. Serpent's Tooth
11. Jupiter's Bones
12. Stalker
13. The Forgotten
14. Stone Kiss
15. Street Dreams
16. The Burnt House
17. The Mercedes Coffin, aka A Cold Case
18. Blindman's Bluff
19. Hangman
Kellerman, Faye. (2007). The Burnt House. New York: William Morrow.

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15 March 2010

Circumference of Darkness

Circumference of Darkness (titled Maximum Impact in the UK) by Jack Henderson is a thrill ride of terrorists, hackers, and political corruption.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Jeannie Reese of DARPA is authorized by the US government to release the ultimate spyware on the Internet - IRIN will catalog all information (net, phone, video) and hunt the people who planned the attack. But when her program begins to track people high up in the government, she is shut out of the process.

With the help of her assistant, her Marine bodyguard, and the publisher of a long-standing underground hacker magazine, she must track down the one man whose computer skills match her own. A man only known by Phr33k.

If Jeannie and Phr33k combine their efforts the US may survive the second wave of attacks planned by an international group of terrorists.

Henderson, Jack. (2007). Circumference of Darkness. New York: Bantam Books.

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10 March 2010

Vampirates: Black Heart (Vampirates #4)

Black Heart is the fourth book in the Vampirates series by Justin Somper.

Twins Grace and Connor Tempest are completely caught up in the world of pirates and vampirates, but on opposite sides. Grace lives among the vampirates. Connor has joined her at Sanctuary, a place where vampirates go to recover or take a break from live at sea. But Connor is not comfortable there. Though he has the chance to meet his mother's spirit and find out about his past, he must leave.

Newly appointed Captain Cheng Li is about to launch her first ship and Connor is ready to sign up to sail with her. But her first assignment from the pirate federation is to hunt down the vampirates and destroy them. Connor, as the only pirate to have met an actual vampirate, knows that they are not all bad - but will he be able to convince the federation before Grace's life is endangered?

Somper has created a fantasy world that should appeal to a wide audience; it does, after all, have vampires and pirates! What more could you ask for in a YA series?

Somper, Justin. (2008). Vampirates: Black Heart. New York: Little Brown & Co.

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07 March 2010

Captain Jack's Woman (Bastion Club prequel)

Captain Jack's Woman by Stephanie Laurens is the prequel to her Bastion Club series.

Kathryn "Kit" Cranmer has spent the six years since her grandmother's death in London. She was under the impression that her grandfather had sent her away. In reality her aunts tricked her into going to London to find a husband with whom they could share her future inheritance. But now she is back at Cranmer Hall with her grandfather and determined never to get married.

Kit has always been a bit wild. Her grandparents raised her and let her get away with a lot. Since her return she has taken to dressing as a boy and sneaking her horse out at night to go riding. Soon she is the head of a small band of smugglers bringing in rum and lace, but a rival gang wants to absorb them into one large gang.

Captain Jack, the head of the larger gang, knows right away that Kit is a woman. But he thinks she is a illegitimate grandchild of Lord Cranmer - and therefore, fair game. Before he can find out the truth he crosses a line that will link himself to Kit for life.

Laurens is a prolific historical romance writer. Captain Jack's Woman is entertaining, sexy, and a great read while on the beach during a vacation.

Laurens, Stephanie. (1997). Captain Jack's Woman. New York: Avon.

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