Sunday, September 27, 2009

True Believer -- by Nicholas Sparks

I typically do not read Nicholas Sparks' books.  He is a talented story teller, but the tragedies inherent in his novels are not the genre that I typically like to read.  I'm not sure why I picked this one up, but with a much lighter beginning, telling of Jeremy Marsh, a scientific journalist, uncovering the fraud and deception of a psychic "mind reader" and getting a big career break by reporting it on a prime-time TV news magazine show, I decided to stick with it.  For his next story, Jeremy travels to a small North Carolina town to investigate unexplained lights observed by many at a nearby cemetery.   Although the reader follows Jeremy through his research of the intriguing legend associated with the "haunted" cemetery and his work to solve the mystery behind the ghostly lights, this is really a book about impossible love.  Jeremy, the New Yorker, and Lexie, the small town girl needing to look after her grandmother, fall in love, but it seems they will not be able to follow that love and be together.  Each have been deeply hurt in the past.

This is indeed a romance story and not one I would typically select.  It kept me interested and reading, however, and, in the end, I found it quite enjoyable.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Traffic -- by Tom Vanderbilt

This book promised to explore "why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)."  I was a little skeptical about how a book of this length about traffic could remain interesting and my kids even teased me about getting another "geek book."  I was pleasantly surprised, however.  In college, I actually studied queueing theory (from a mathematical perspective).  For me then, I found the discussion in this book on the psychology of queues (a traffic jam is after all just a type of queue) quite interesting.  If, like me, you've ever wondered about things like why we drive on the right side of the road and some countries drive on the left side of the road, what traffic is like outside of America, and what is the impact of new automotive safety technology on death and injury rates, then this book will offer you some insight.  This book addresses how drivers interact (and don't interact) with their vehicles, other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.  The book talks about intersections, roundabouts, road markings, signs (and the lack of signs), late and early merging, ramp metering, traffic enforcement, and much more.  In the vein of a Malcolm Gladwell book, this book references and cites a wide range of interesting facts and studies in an organized and coherent way.  I enjoyed this book so much, that I even checked out the author's blog on this subject: in search of more information on the topic.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sail -- by James Patterson

So I decided to read back-to-back  James Patterson stories.  This book was very enjoyable and, as I do most of his books, I recommend it.  When reading it, however, I must admit to feeling somewhat conflicted about it.  At times it felt too predictable, but then something unexpected would happen to pull me back in.

The story is about a wealthy widow, who with a career as a doctor, does not have the relationship with her children that she wants.  They are taking a sailing vacation, with her brother-in-law Jake, as a desperate attempt to save the family.  She has the seemingly perfect and supportive husband, who is not taking the trip with them.  After embarking on the trip, seemingly terrible luck puts the family in precarious situations but ultimately draws them closer together.  There is more than coincidence, however, behind all of their misfortune.

For me, this was an enjoyable read.  This type of story is probably my favorite genre.  While I might not consider this book one of my all time favorites, I certainly don't regret spending the time to read it.  In some sense, however, I appreciated it more retrospectively, after completing it, than while in the middle of it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cross Country -- by James Patterson

I'm a fan of Alex Cross.  This story was not my favorite in the series, but in my biased opinion, a worthwhile read.  Alex trys to track a vicious killer and his gang into his home turf in Africa.  He quickly discovers that policework by an American cop in these foreign nations has many different challenges than he has faced in his previous cases.  This book is more about Alex's survival than his investigative skills.  Somehow, though, he persists in Africa and discovers some powerful secrets.  When he is finally forced back home, he arrives just in time to face some horrible consequences.  In true Alex Cross fashion, when others would let it go, he follows the case through to the end.  For Alex Cross, however, "the end" is relative.  His cases always weave a complicated web.