Monthly Archives: July 2012

Livewire by Harlan Coben

In Livewire Harlan Coben returns to his sports agent and former professional basketball player Myron Bolitar.  Myron agrees to help his pregnant tennis star client Suzze T find her rock-star husband Lex who disappeared after a facebook post declared that he was not the father of the baby.  Myron finds Lex in a nightclub with Kitty Bolitar, Myron’s sister-in-law who disappeared with his brother years ago.  Kitty is high on heroin, but she manages to run away from Myron.  Desperate to find his brother, Myron plunges into a world dominated by drug dealers and mafia with his vigilante friend Win watching his back.

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1421: The Year China Discovered America

1421: The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies is a fascinating nonfiction discussion of the maritime accomplishments of Chinese explorers that preceded the era of Columbus.  Menzies describes well-documented voyages by Admiral Zheng He to Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and eastern Africa under orders from Emperor Zhu Di.  Most of the book revolves around the author’s assertion that in 1421 Zheng He commanded an armada of huge ships that split into four fleets with journeys that traversed the world with discoveries of Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, North and South America, and Antarctica.  Some of the ships were 480 feet long with rudders almost as long as the Nina that carried Columbus to the New World.  Critics question the validity of much of the documentation for this work, but it raises interesting possibilities, and I found the discussion of the Ming dynasty and the accomplishments and failures of Zhu Di to be intriguing.

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Mirror Image by Sandra Brown

Mirror Image by Sandra Brown is an old book (1990) with an interesting premise.  What if a woman survives a mass catastrophe and awakens in the hospital ICU with a new identity.  This happens to Avery Daniels when she sustains severe facial fractures, a concussion, burns, and lung damage from smoke inhalation during an airplane crash.  Doctors and family members mistake her for the dead and unrecognizable mother of a child that Avery carries from the wreckage.  Before she can say a word, plastic surgeons “restore” her face to resemble the other woman.  She learns of a plot to kill her new “husband,” who is a charismatic candidate for the United States Senate.  She realizes that she must embrace her new circumstances to save the life of this man who now thinks she is his wife.   Tate Rutledge was trapped into a disastrous marriage.  His wife cheated on him, aborted his baby, and made his life miserable.  He plans on demanding a divorce after the election, but she seems different after the accident, and he endeavors to discover why.

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Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collin

Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the second and the third (final) books inSuzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series are both fast reads.  I finished each in one day.  Katniss Everdeen once again has to fight for her life in another set of Gladiator-style games set up for the amusement of the sadistic president of a future empire.  Katniss’s courage inspires a bloody revolution for which she becomes the reluctant poster child.

 

As populations die, she wonders if the price of freedom is too great, and more ominously, if the leaders she supports are any less evil than the ones she opposes.  Peeta, the young man who fought to keep her alive in book one, tries to kill her; and her best friend Gale no longer seems to support her core beliefs.  Book three concludes with a surprise ending in which Katniss refuses to bend to the will of those who try to control her.

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A Prisoner of Birth

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer is a modern-day version of The Count of Monte Cristo.  Shortly after Danny Cartwright proposes to his pregnant girlfriend Beth, a barrister coerces him into a fight during which the barrister kills Danny’s best friend who is Beth’s brother.  The barrister frames Danny for the murder.  Danny is poor and illiterate and unable to refute the lies of the barrister’s friends who testify at the trial.  The jury convicts him of murder, and he goes to Belmarsh Prison in London.

There he shares a cell with Sir Nicholas Moncrieff, a wealthy, well-educated Scottish nobleman who teaches Danny to read and to talk like an aristocrat.  The two men look much alike, and a prisoner working for the barrister mistakes the two men and murders Sir Nicholas shortly before he is due for parole.  Danny assumes the nobleman’s identity and soon leaves the prison with the Moncrieff fortune and scores to settle.

The choice of Belmarsh Prison as the setting for the novel adds authenticity to the writing since the author spent time as an inmate there.  I hope to find time in the future to read A Prison Diary, Archer’s three-book series of diaries elaborating on life in various prisons where he experienced incarceration for “perjury” and for “perverting the course of justice.”

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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

In Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson brings to life one of Americans greatest scholars, scientists, and philosophers.  Franklin was born in Boston in 1706 and died in Philadelphia in 1790, a period of great turbulence in the new world filled with wars and struggles for freedom that culminated in the creation of a new form of government that reflected his ideas of representative democracy and religious tolerance.  The book traces his humble beginnings, his prowess as a publisher and author, his power to influence people, his scientific discoveries regarding electricity, hot air ballooning, and ocean currents, and his evolution from loyal supporter of the king to ardent rebel leader.  He was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France that facilitated the success of the revolution, the peace accord with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States.

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