Monday, February 28, 2011

Sue Recommends Dead Zero by Stephen Hunter

My first encounter with Stephen Hunter's character Bob Lee Swagger was watching Shooter, a popular feature film with Mark Wahlberg. The film was based on Hunter's first book in the series entitled Point of Impact. Shortly after I saw a review of a new novel in the series and it had great reviews. That began my quest to read Hunter's books.

Dead Zero is the newest and seventh entry in the Bob Lee Swagger series. Swagger is a former Marine sniper who is known for his shooting skills but also his ability to assess situations and outwit the enemy. He was retired with a medical disability but the U.S. government hires him as a special consultant to assist them in solving conspiracies and preventing assassinations.

With the newest title in the series, Hunter joins the bevy of titles based on global terrorism. Dead Zero begins in Afghanistan and brings the terror to our own shores. A Marine sniper, Ray Cruz, is sent to assassinate a cruel Afghan politician, Ibrahim Zarzi, but finds himself being hunted by a group of Americans. He wants to find out who in the U.S. government is the traitor responsible for the death of his spotter and the failure of his mission. Swagger is brought in to help find Cruz and prevent him from completing his assassination mission on U.S. soil as the U.S government now supports Zarzi. As Swagger performs his role in stopping Cruz, he discovers that he has a personal stake in this quest.

If you enjoy adventure, plot twists, and a smart, likable, down-to-earth character, Bob Lee Swagger novels are for you.


Megan recommends: Being Erica

Ever look back on your life and have regrets? Have you made decisions about your career or personal relationships you wish you could go back and change? Maybe you'd like a do-over? That's the premise of Canadian TV drama Being Erica. Only Erica Strange has time-traveling Dr. Tom as her therapist. With Dr. Tom's assistance, Erica can go back in time and relive past "regrets." Sounds silly, but it's an introspective drama about the life and loves of a single thirty-something living in Toronto. The New York Times calls it "Bridget Jones" meets "A Wrinkle in Time. "

Seasons 1 and 2 are available on DVD at the library.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mike Says: Try a Police Procedural with a British Flair

Luther starring Idris Elba & Ruth Wilson

I have to admit, I'm pretty picky when it comes to starting a new television show--there's so many great shows out there like Mad Men and Curb Your Enthusiasm that I tend to not watch a show and risk investing an entire season's worth of time on what turns out to be a mediocre story. On top of it all I never watch crime dramas; that is, with one notable exception that I've previously gushed about. Which brings us to why I began watching a British psychological police drama: Idris Elba was one of the best characters in that fantastic cops-and-gangsters show The Wire, so when I heard about Luther I decided to give it a try. To say I wasn't disappointed is a massive understatement.

John Luther is a criminal investigations detective who has fallen from grace and suffered a nervous breakdown but is back from a year's suspension and plunges headlong into his work. I'm not giving anything away when I say that the reason he was suspended is because he allowed a particularly odious criminal to plunge to what should have been his death, and this is the twist that the entire season turns on--that a police officer, who has never been one to follow procedures before, would take the law entirely into his own hands and become judge, jury, and executioner. He's done it once, so who is to say he's not to do it again? This pull only becomes stronger as he befriends another murderer who begins to play a cat-and-mouse game with Luther's life. This is recommended for any police procedural fan, people who thought Stringer Bell was the greatest thing since sliced bread, BBC Anglophiles, and anyone else who enjoys a decent story.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Classic L. Spdrague de Camp

Years in the making : the time-travel stories of L.Sprague De Camp
By L. Sprague de Camp.

Years in the Making collects L Sprague deCamp’s best time travel and alternate history stories. The collection includes three stories that are considered classics in the genre.

In Lest Darkness Fall, Martin Padway a young archeologist accidentally goes back to ancient Rome just before the barbarians were to finally extinguish civilization in the West.

The Wheels of If tells of a man who finds himself in an alternate world where Irish explorers discovered America.

Aristotle and the Gun is the memoir of a man who went back to ancient Greece to start a scientific revolution by teaching Aristotle about modern science.

De Camp’s stories rank up there with the other giants of his time Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Read They Marched Into Sunlight (Rob)

In October 1967 two events provided convenient portals from which to view and understand America's involvement in Vietnam. The first, on Oct. 17, was a battle at Ong Thanh between the 2nd Battalion--28th Infantry Regiment (Black Lions) and the NLF's 271st Regiment. The battle (a deadly ambush) left 61 Americans dead. The next day saw a confrontation between recruiters for Dow Chemical (manufacturers of napalm) and students at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. The students, attempting to block the recruitment interviews, were beaten and dragged from the University building. They Marched into Sunlight tells both stories in more or less alternating chapters. The author interviewed over 100 of the participants (including North Vietnamese soldiers) and mixes the personal narratives with journalistic history and war strategy. We get to know the motivations and conflicting emotions of soldiers, military family members, activists, bystanders, police, politicians and University officials. It works. For the most part the author, David Maraniss, allows the subjects to tell their stories free of judgment. We will not necessarily like or agree with or sympathize with all the interviewees (how could we?), but we readers cannot help but come away with a better understanding of the War's diverse human pieces.
(A movie is in the works for 2013.)

Read a Winner

Since March is Women's History Month, why not read a book by one of the 12 female Nobel prize winners in literature? From Selma Lagerlof in 1909 to Herta Muller in 2009, thie coveted honor was claimed by a select group of talented women writers. The more well known Pearl Buck, Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison and Doris Lessing received the Nobel along with Nelly
Sachs, Grazia Deledda and Sigrid Undset.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sue Recommends Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

Tami Hoag can certainly write a great "whodunnit"/thriller, and she proves it first with Deeper than the Dead and continues with the sequel Secrets to the Grave. She keeps the pages turning with twists in the plot and throws in new clues so that you keep changing who you think is the killer. The reader has a victory moment if at the end s/he can throw up her/his fists in triumph for figuring out whodunnit before it is revealed.

The characters are so well drawn that you feel like they are old friends--from Vince Leon (the veteran FBI profiler) to his new wife, Anne (a compassionate woman who loves children and Vince). But somehow this nice couple finds themselves once again personally involved in a murder investigation.

Secrets to the Grave finds Vince and the Oak Knoll police seeking the killer of the mother of a 4 year old who is also the victim of an attempted strangling by the same person. Follow them as they try to bring resolution to this horrible crime that takes place in an idyllic California town in 1986 before DNA played a role in finding criminals.

Can't wait for the third title in the Vince and Anne Leone series and I think you will feel the same. SH

Friday, February 4, 2011

Megan recommends: The Family Markowitz

Ever wonder if you could get the scoop on a particular family from just about _every_ family member's point of view? Then you should give The Family Markowitz by Allegra Goodman a try. Three generations of the Markowitz family are portrayed in ten linked short stories here in this 1996 release. Allegra Goodman is more well-known for her novels, but this title - an early work of hers - is one which has always stuck with me.