by Robin Cook, 2009, audiobook read by George Guidall, Recorded Books, Frederick, MD

This is possibly one of the worst books I have ever experienced.  My wife and I listened to it on our trip from Florida to Rhode Island and we were both very happy when it ended.

First of all, the author went on a rant about alternative medicine in the early stages of the book.  I am in agreement with a lot of what he said, but he just kept hammering it over and over again.  It got to the point where I wanted to fast forward as it got to the point where it was extremely tedious.

In the second part of the book, the main character (a medical examiner) just dropped his crusade against alternative medicine and suddenly turned to another project, seemingly to take his mind off his situation at home, a baby with a lethal brain tumor.  He then gets involved with a plot to extricate the Virgin Mary’s ossuary from under St. Peter’s tomb.  The implication of this extrication is that, if it turns out that they validate that it does contain Mary’s bones, it will invalidate the doctrine of papal infallibility and the Catholic Church will be totally discredited. The author again pounds the religious argument over and over, making it just as tedious and pedantic as the alternative medicine tirade.

Because of the split between the focus on alternative medicine in the first part of the book and on the religious aspect in the second part, the author attempts to tie it all together with a supposed miracle in the last chapter.  It’s a nice try, but it just doesn’t seem to cut it.

Compounding the issues above are some of the characters which are, quite frankly, repugnant.  There are the archaeologist and his geneticist wife who argue with each other like five year olds.  Their back and forth digs are ridiculous.  The archbishop of New York, who is complicit in the plot, is so rigid in his views that I couldn’t empathize with him at all.

Finally, the end of the book didn’t seem to bring it together.  The best thing about it was that it was over.  The reader, George Guidall, did his usual good job.  The reason I have rated this book at 1 1/2 stars versus only 1 star is because of the reader.  He saved us from having to read it ourselves.1 1/2 stars

A Death in Vienna

by Daniel Silva, 2004, audiobook read by John Lee, Books on Tape

This is a pretty good book about tracking down a Nazi war criminal in Vienna who has a connection to a right-wing politician who is running for the office of the Austrian Prime Minister.  The plot is believable for the most part and keeps moving throughout the book.  The characters are well done.  The reader did a good job as well.3 stars

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr, 2014. Scribner, New York

This book, about a young blind girl and a German boy genius whose paths cross in WWII, starts a bit slow and seems a little disjointed in the beginning, but it really comes together in the end.

The author utilizes very short chapters that alternate back and forth between the blind girl and the German boy.  I found that it took a little getting used to, but this technique really adds to the overall book. 4 stars

The Children Act

by Ian McEwan, 2014, Penguin Random House, New York

This book is about a woman judge in England who must rule whether a young boy should be forced to undergo a blood transfusion to save his life, despite the religious objections of his parents and the boy himself.  The state argues that the boy has been brainwashed by his religious teaching and his parents.  The parents and the boy argue otherwise.

The author focuses on the anguish that the judge undergoes in making a decision, but the book is also about her as a person and how wrapped up she is in her work and career.  It makes for an interesting scenario, but, unfortunately, the ending of the book seems very incomplete.  I enjoyed reading it but it left me feeling very unfulfilled.3 stars

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

by David Mitchell, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox, 2010, Recorded Books

This is a story about a clerk in the employ of the Dutch East India company in about 1800 and his experiences in Dejima, Japan.  The book is very interesting as it characterizes the relationships between the Dutch merchants and the xenophobic Japanese.  It also depicts the corruption and contempt of the Europeans toward their Japanese counterparts.

The book was narrated very well and it was enjoyable to listen to. 3 1/2 stars


by Nelson DeMille, 2006, Warner Books, New York

This is a novel about a retired NYC police detective working for an anti-terrorist group within the FBI after 911.  His wife also works for the FBI and is officially his supervisor.  It takes place in the Adirondacks.

The plot is interesting, although somewhat of a stretch.  John Corey, the main character, is a bold, wise-cracking individual who, I think, may have a personality similar to that of DeMille.

The novel suffers a bit from a little too much dialogue with the villain, which sometimes slows down the action so that the books tends to drag in places.  While the bantering and jokes are fun, it can get a bit wearing at times.  Otherwise, the book was OK.2 1/2 stars

Into the Woods

by Tana French, 2007, Penguin Books

This is definitely a different kind of mystery.  Instead of action, the author focuses on the psychology of the detective who is also the narrator of the story.  The reader is exposed to all of his thoughts and emotions as he goes through the steps to solve this murder.

Since the detective is the primary character (i.e., hero) of the story, one would expect him to succeed not only in solving the murder, but also to receive recognition and rewards for so doing.  Don’t expect this book to come out that way in the end.

I enjoyed reading the book but it got a bit bogged down in it’s later stages.  Also, I was expecting some kind of unexpected “twist” toward the end.  Nothing like that occurred so I was a bit disappointed as I put it down.  The book was an interesting read but I certainly wouldn’t rave about it.3 stars

The Man Who Invented Florida

by Randy Wayne White, audiobook narrated by Dick Hill, book originally published 1997, Audiobook released 2010 by Tantor Audio

This is the third Doc Ford novel and not one of Randy Wayne White’s best efforts.  The plot seemed dull and the pace dragged significantly.  The ending has a bit of a twist but not enough to redeem the book.  Ordinarily White’s books are fun to listen to but this one was a bit of a chore.2 stars

A Green Journey

by Jon Hassler, 1985, Ballentine Books, New York

I picked this book up as I had run out of books to read, so I started looking around for something light to read in the bookcases in our condo in RI.  I seemed to recall that I had read something by Hassler in the distant past that I had really liked.  After looking at other books that he wrote it turned out that it was North of Hope that I had read many years ago.

It turned out that this book wasn’t much to my liking other that it was an easy read.  Hassler intersperses references to The Troubles that were occurring in Ireland into a tale about a soon to be retired school teacher and her visit to Ireland to connect with a pen-pal with whom she had been corresponding for some time.

The story was okay as were the characters, but not much more than okay.  The book just wasn’t compelling, and, as it is one book of a series, it wasn’t a complete story in and of itself.  The ending seemed as if it was just a convenient place to leave off so the reader could run out and purchase the next book to find out what the heck happened to the characters after the interlude depicted in this one.  I think the following book might be still on the shelf of the bookcase where I found this one.  Who knows?  Maybe I will find myself in the same situation in the future … roaming around looking for something to read that strikes my fancy at that particular moment and then I pick up the sequel.  Not a likely scenario at the present time, but I can’t predict the future.

Nonetheless, this book was somewhat enjoyable to read so it served its purpose.

2 1/2 stars

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett, 1930, 1st Vintage Books Edition

This book is a selection of our men’s book club for the coming season.  It has some interesting aspects and a very involved plot but it is certainly dated.  It has the alluring fem fatale character was so popular back in those times as well as the hoodlums, a punk, and, of course the somewhat shady private eye.  This last character, Sam Shade, is the most unusual.  Hammett depicts him as a not very attractive individual with slumped shoulders, a face that probably his mother didn’t even love, and a condescending attitude to the police and every woman he encounters.  Despite his physical shortcomings and lack of manners, he seems to be a magnet for most of the women in the book.  It feels quite different from more modern adventures such as Indiana Jones where the hero is at least an attractive individual.

Hammett’s writing style is sparse but it also seems awkward at times as it often doesn’t seem to flow.  Probably the best attribute of this novel is the plot, which is convoluted and interesting even if somewhat unbelievable at times.2 1/2 stars