July 31, 2006
"Y: The Last Man" by Brian K. Vaughan, et al.
What happens when a plague wipes out all men on the planet, leaving only one? This is the basic premise of a comics series that is currently in its seventh volume. Yorick Brown discovers that he is the only man left on Earth after a rapid and violent epidemic. He is quickly placed in the custody of a government agent and a scientist who try alternately to protect him and to determine what factor allowed him to live. They find themselves in all manner of adventures as they try to survive this new dystopian universe.
I'm really enjoying this series because it's such an interesting premise -- all sorts of bizarre things happen when half of a population suddenly dies -- for example, thousands of planes crash simultaneously because all the people flying the planes are men, and streets are jammed with the cars of men who were behind the wheel when the instantaneous plague hit.
If you've never read a comics series before, this is an exhilarating series to use as a jumping off point. My one caution -- if you are an impatient person, it's difficult to wait for each volume to come out -- there are 3 month lags. You may find yourself lurking in your nearest comic shop waiting for the next issue!
ISBN (vol. 1) 1-5638-9980-9
July 24, 2006
"Good omens : the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Somehow I missed this novel when it was first published more than 15 years ago, so I'm very glad a friend recommended it to me recently. She said she was sure I'd enjoy it and she was right! It's a great read, and very funny, which you wouldn't necessary expect in a novel that focuses on the week of Armageddon. Early history, including the Garden of Eden, sets the stage at the beginning of the novel. The demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale have been working Earth more or less companionably ever since Eden, and they are key players in a cast full of memorable, bumbling characters, (almost) all of whom I liked a lot. This one is definitely on my list to read again, and I'm also planning to look for other things these two have written individually. This is the only book they've written together. It was a great collaboration!
Linda, head of UGL
"Perfect Match" by Jodi Picoult
"Perfect Match" is the first Jodi Picoult book I have read and despite her being a best selling author, I suspect it will be the last – at least for a very long time. This book set me on edge, and I never did connect with the major characters. The story felt like a Law and Order “ripped from the headlines” episode as we moved from crime to investigation to court. In this book a 5 year old boy suddenly turns mute and as we move through the first several chapters we discover he was sexually molested by a priest. Then his mother, the lead character in the book and an assistant district attorney, decides to take the law into her own hands and in an act of vigilante justice shoots and kills the accused in open court. In my mind after that the story really goes down hill as she uses inside knowledge to manipulate the justice system. The narration jumps between characters and their perspectives. At times this was helpful, at least I could tell what the mute child was thinking, but sometimes there weren’t enough clues in context for me to tell whose head I was supposed to be in and that just added confusion.
July 17, 2006
“Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure” by Sarah MacDonald
After we spent three weeks traveling around northern India, my friend, who has been living in India since January, gave me this book to read on the long plane ride back to the United States. “Holy Cow” is Sarah MacDonald’s account of living in Delhi for a year while her boyfriend, a news correspondent, completes his assignment to South Asia. MacDonald had been a talk show host in Australia and while she is in India, she decides to investigate the various religions practiced in India – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Sufism, Islam, and Christianity, in addition to many smaller, related sects. Her experiences with religion structure her account, but she also discusses the history of India and its religions, her experiences as a foreigner in India, and her observations of contemporary Indian life and culture. Her engaging and witty observations of the terror of traffic in Delhi, cheesy yet enjoyable Bollywood films, and Westerners in India seeking enlightenment and drugs ring true.
July 10, 2006
"Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown
By now you’ve heard of The DaVinci Code. Maybe you’re planning to see The DaVinci Code. Maybe you’ve even read The DaVinci Code. If you have read it, you have probably also read Angels and Demons, Dan Brown’s first book about Harvard professor of religious symbolism, Robert Langdon.
This page-turner starts when Langdon is recruited by the Conseil Europeen pour la Recheche Nucleaire to investigate a murder. Who died? The inventor of a process to produce commercial quantities of anti-matter. Even worse, the anti-matter is missing. Why call Langdon? The evidence points to an ancient, long-defunct group, the sworn enemy of the Catholic Church and the subject of Langdon’s most recent book: the Illuminati.
Langdon has twenty-four hours before the anti-matter containment system collapses. It is hidden somewhere in the Vatican, where the Cardinals have gathered to elect the next Pope. Langdon’s knowledge of Renaissance art (and a lot of help from the Vatican archives) allows him to locate and follow the Illuminati road to enlightenment, chasing one step behind the killer. He doesn’t make it, though, and the explosion is beautiful. Yet The DaVinci Code follows this story. Read Angels and Demons yourself to see how.
July 03, 2006
"Palace Walk" by Naguib Mahfouz
"Palace Walk," published in 1956, was written by Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz. It is the first part of his Cairo trilogy. This is the story the family of a well off merchants during 1917-1919, the time of British domination and Egypt’s move for independence. During the first half of the book the political situation is mentioned subtly in passing with the main thrust of the story being the daily life of Mr. Ahmad Abd al-Jawad and his family. The father is a strict and domineering influence at home. Outside the home, though, Mr. Ahmad is known by his friends as a boisterous, fun-loving man, the life of the nightly parties he attends. As the story progresses, the two daughters marry and leave home and the older two sons start living lives surreptitiously beyond the control of their father. The eldest son, Yasin starts living the same sort of secret, wild night life as his father -- full of women, wine, and music and middle son Fahmy joins the student resistance movement protesting English rule. The family’s story continues in the other two books, "Palace of Desire" and "Sugar Street."