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    $6.99 $4.29
    1. The Closer
    $16.47 $14.88 list($24.95)
    2. The Mermaid Chair: A Novel
    $10.50 $8.43 list($14.00)
    3. The Kite Runner
    $14.99 $9.70
    4. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide
    $16.47 $13.79 list($24.95)
    5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly
    $10.50 $7.19 list($14.00)
    6. Life of Pi
    $17.00 $12.14 list($24.00)
    7. Never Let Me Go
    $17.79 $5.30 list($26.95)
    8. The Innocent
    $16.47 $14.48 list($24.95)
    9. Lost in the Forest
    $17.16 $10.98 list($26.00)
    10. Saturday
    $17.79 $17.57 list($26.95)
    11. Acts of Faith
    $17.13 list($25.95)
    12. The Historian
    $13.57 $12.33 list($19.95)
    13. A Good Yarn
    $9.75 $6.15 list($13.00)
    14. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following
    $16.32 $15.12 list($24.00)
    15. Bangkok Tattoo
    $9.00 $6.84 list($12.00)
    16. The Curious Incident of the Dog
    $13.26 $11.00 list($18.95)
    17. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide
    $13.97 $11.98 list($24.95)
    18. True Believer
    $15.61 $14.29 list($22.95)
    19. The Bitch Posse
    $16.29 $13.91 list($23.95)
    20. The History of Love: A Novel

    1. The Closer
    by Donn Cortez
    list price: $6.99
    our price: $6.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0743476980
    Catlog: Book (2004-10-01)
    Publisher: Pocket Star
    Sales Rank: 7392
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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    Download Description

    "METHODHe is the Closer -- a remorseless executioner whose modus operandi is terrifying in its brutal simplicity. He captures his prey, tortures them until they confess their sins, and disposes of them as they deserve. His victims have only one thing in common: they are all serial killers. MOTIVEAccompanied by a hardened ex-prostitute who lost her closest friends to a twisted murderer, the Closer is closing in on his ultimate quarry: an ingenious psychopath known as the Patron who must be stopped. For behind the facade of the Closer is a tortured man whose family the Patron slaughtered. MADNESSBut even as the time for his revenge approaches, the Closer may be turning into what he despises most. Because with every violent act of retribution, he fears that he's no longer killing in the name of justice.... HE'S KILLING BECAUSE HE LIKES IT." ... Read more

    Reviews (6)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Pulls You In and On
    I can't say enough about how much I loved "The Closer". It is written exactly how a great book should be. I was scared. I was enthralled. I was shocked. I was addicted. Most important I didn't have to put on my thinking cap and force myself between the lines. I didn't have to use a thesaurus and dictionary. All I had to do is read and enjoy. That is the sign of a great book. A great book pulls me to read on and I usually finish it in a few days (I finished "Map of Bones" in four days, "My Fractured Life" in three days, and "The Program" in four days).A pretty good book I will finish in under two weeks (I finished "The Da Vinci Code" in a week and a half). This was a great book, every bit as good as "My Fractured Life" and "Map of Bones." It is easy to read and easy to get lost in. I read it in five days.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Dot Com Horror Show
    If people like this really exist, then boy, we'd better watch out.The Patron, Road Rage, Gourmet, and Djinn-X, are truly horrific characters.Each of them deserved what they got and more, and it was so much fun knowing they got what was due to them. The Closer is all business and man, what a gruesome business he and his cohort Nicki are in.I loved their relationship although there wasn't any romance, you kind of got the feeling that if the Closer shows up again, he and Nicki will be a romantic killer couple instead of just a killer couple.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Ewwww
    This was a great novel one of the best that i have read in a long time. The torture scenes were awesome and the villian was classic. Cortez has a true gift for the disgust I hope that he gets to put more out in the comming years.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Good
    I like to keep my reviews short so al I'm going to say is GET THIS BOOK!!! Though its not amazing its still a great, entertainning book. Also check out any Edward Lee or Richard Laymon books@!

    4-0 out of 5 stars Very violent book, but enthralling
    This book both captured me and repelled me.

    The concept and storyline are well fleshed out and very clever.The characters are interesting.

    But I can't seem to give this book 5 stars, because of the amount of graphic violence.

    Don't get me wrong.....I read all the suspense and thrillers I can get my hands on, and I don't cringe when Kay Scarpetta is doing an autopsy.But the violence in this book is so intense, so personal, and so extraordinarily over-the-top, that I finally found myself wondering about the author's sanity.

    This is a very entertaining book, but do be prepared to be shocked, and occasionally, perhaps, nauseated.
    ... Read more

    2. The Mermaid Chair: A Novel
    by Sue Monk Kidd
    list price: $24.95
    our price: $16.47
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0670033944
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-05)
    Publisher: Viking Adult
    Sales Rank: 10
    Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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    Sue Monk Kidd's The Mermaid Chair is the soulful tale of Jessie Sullivan, a middle-aged woman whose stifled dreams and desires take shape during an extended stay on Egret Island, where she is caring for her troubled mother, Nelle. Like Kidd's stunning debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, her highly anticipated follow up evokes the same magical sense of whimsy and poignancy.

    While Kidd places an obvious importance on the role of mysticism and legend in this tale, including the mysterious mermaid's chair at the center of the island's history, the relationships between characters is what gives this novel its true weight. Once she returns to her childhood home, Jessie is forced to confront not only her relationship with her estranged mother, but her other emotional ties as well.After decades of marriage to Hugh, her practical yet conventional husband, Jessie starts to question whether she is craving an independence she never had the chance to experience.After she meets Brother Thomas, a handsome monk who has yet to take his final vows, Jessie is forced to decide whether passion can coexist with comfort, or if the two are mutually exclusive.As her soul begins to reawaken, Jessie must also confront the circumstances of her father's death, a tragedy that continues to haunt Jessie and Nelle over thirty years later.

    By boldly tackling such major themes as love, betrayal, grief, and forgiveness, The Mermaid Chair forces readers to question whether moral issues can always be interpreted in black or white.It is this ability to so gracefully present multiple sides of a story that reinforces Kidd's reputation as a well-respected modern literary voice. --Gisele Toueg ... Read more

    Reviews (146)

    1-0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
    After being moved to tears by the story and the beautiful words of SECRET LIFE OF BEES I awaited the first day of THE MERMAID CHAIR with great anticipation.It's plesant and light, but nowhere near the depth and beauty of BEES and surprisingly predictable.The worst part was, after sticking with MERMAID hoping it would get better, the ending was just a big thud.If you absolutely must read it, don't waste your money on the hardcover.In my disappointment, however, I found THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by Phillipa Gregory and give it 5 stars!!

    2-0 out of 5 stars What happenned?
    What a disapointment.After loving "The Secret Life of Bee's" I jumped in and bought a hardbound copy of "The Mermaid Chair".After a couple chapters and not believing this was from the same author, I put it down for weeks.Finally, in an urge to finish one book before starting another, I decided to give it another try.I felt as if I was reading "The Bridges of Madison County" all over again, but without the heat or any real connection between the two lovers.Sue Monk Kidd explained on a talk show that the book was about a middle-aged woman finding herself.What a shame the story centered around the main character running from one man to the arms of another one for her answers.There's nothing new,challenging or thought provoking in such a weak story-line.I'll give her another try--- "Bee's" was that good.Leave the love stories for Harlequin.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The buzz about this book . . .
    Okay. So most people have read "Secret Life of Bees" by now and either decided that they loved it, or hated it.But whether or not you HAVE read it, please, please, please give "Mermaid Chair" a chance.You can't expect the same book over and over, from the same author."Chair" is very well constructed and thought out, the way McCrae's "Children's Corner" is or the way Martel's "Life of Pi" makes you think about certain issues.Don't be put off by the hype and give Kidd's latest novel the chance it deserves.

    2-0 out of 5 stars No depth - No tension - No story - NOT "Bees"!
    Although the characters and story line seemed interesting initially, in the end they both missed the mark.The story lacked depth - intrigue.The characters felt underdeveloped and one-dimensional. All in all, "The Mermaid Chair" was a major disappointment.

    He (a monk) sees her (married for 20 years) and it's all over.No pounding hearts... heat... connection... preamble - they are just "in love".Enough after one look, that our hero and heroine appear to be quite shallow and amorphous. The ending supports that opinion (I won't spoil it... just in case you're brave enough to take this one on in spite of the warnings).

    I love romance as much as the next person, but this was just too much of a strettttttch!Maybe it happened too quickly. Maybe there wasn't enough tension.Maybe it simply wasn't believable. For me, it didn't work.

    After placing "The Secret Life of Bees" in my collection of all-time favorites, I couldn't wait to read this one.Next time, I'll read the jacket more carefully - pay more attention to the story line before I invest so much of my time in something that falls so short.

    Although Ms. Kidd uses wonderfully creative and descriptive phrases and word pictures, much of "The Mermaid Chair" felt forced and uncomfortable.Metaphors and flowery phrases abound with predictable regularity and rhythm. After the tight writing in "Bees", this one seemed to be one or two re-writes short of "finished".

    The story line and the characters DID keep my interest enough to finish the book - but barely. If you're terribly bored, read it, but better to spend your time on something more worthwhile.

    2-0 out of 5 stars disappointing
    SPOILER ALERT***After just loving "the Scret Life of Bees", I eagerly awaited this book.I was disappointed at the shallow re-working of similar plot elements.Most upsetting--the main character thinks s/he is responsible for a parent's death, later to find out that's not so.Sue Ellen, you are such a good writer, why did you resort to this?? ... Read more

    3. The Kite Runner
    by Khaled Hosseini
    list price: $14.00
    our price: $10.50
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1594480001
    Catlog: Book (2004-04-01)
    Publisher: Riverhead Books
    Sales Rank: 11
    Average Customer Review: 4.83 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    The timely and critically acclaimed debut novel that's becoming a word-of-mouth phenomenon... ... Read more

    Reviews (107)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Riveting. Fascinating. Powerful.
    In a word or two, this book is riveting, fascinating, powerful. An avid reader, I found this to be the best book that I have read in recent memory. It more than lived up to all the accolades that heralded its US debut. Khaled Hosseini could not have written a more apropos novel than The Kite Runner, a story that is set against the backdrop of the recent historical events and subsequent political upheaval of Afghanistan. And while this story does cover much of the political turbulence that disrupted and destroyed the lives of so many Afghani people, this is a story, which because of its of theme friendship, betrayal and ultimate redemption, will eventually transcend time and place.

    The author presents the reader with a serene, picturesque description of pre-war Afghanistan before the fall of the monarchy and the 1979 Soviet invasion. Hosseini, who portrays Afghans as a generous, gregarious people in a land where perhaps the only things more cherished than custom and tradition is loyalty and honor, has given a face to his country that until the events of September 11, 2001, have remained virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world. The deeply held mores and customs of the Afghan people that Hosseini so skillfully, yet simplistically weaves into his story also serves to enlighten the reader about Afghanistan.

    Finally, it is the storyline itself that is truly memorable. The Kite Runner is ultimately a tale of friendship, betrayal and redemption - about how one person finally atones for the sins of his past. Filled with bouts of harrowing action and blissful calm, the novel verily elicits the entire spectrum of human emotions. Hosseini makes his characters quite real, very human, keeping them true to themselves, their personalities, although it is the protagonist, the primary narrator, whose character flaw is at the heart of this novel. Finally, I must admit that some parts of the story were predictable, but it does nothing to lessen the terrific tale told by Hosseini. The Kite Runner is a beautifully written story that will stay the reader long after many other stories have been read and forgotten.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Kite Runner
    This is a truly magnificent book! Without a doubt one of the very best stories I have ever read, not just because it is so beautifully written, but also because it is an important story. It takes place during the last thirty years of turbulent history in Afghanistan, and deals with a family and their love for each other and for their country. Author Khalid Hosseini no doubt has drawn heavily on his own life experiences to bring us this story. He was born to a wealthy family in Kabul Afghanistan and came to America as a political refugee in 1980. In The Kite Runner, Amir is the son of a prominent Pashtun family; his best friend, Hassan is the son of their servant man and a Hazara, a much hated ethnic minority. Despite their ethnic differences, Amir and Hassan are close friends throughout their childhood, both of them always mindful of Hassan's servant status. The two boys grow and learn, one of them privileged, the other deprived, both of them secure in the bosom of a prominent Pashtun family, both loved by the patriarch of that family, while the winds of change blew ceaselessly over the Afghan landscape. This story traces the lives of Amir and Baba his proud Father, and of Hassan and Ali his Father and faithful servant to Baba. In July of 1973, the people of Afghanistan woke to learn that while their King Zahir Shah was away in Italy, the Afghan monarchy had been ended in a bloodless coup led by the King's cousin Daoud Kahn. For a while there was peace in their lives but it was not to last. Before the end of that decade came first the Russians with soldiers, tanks and helicopter gun ships, and when they left, came the years of wanton destruction by the countless tribal war lords. This was to be ended, they thought mercifully, by the arrival of the Taliban, who at first brought order to the chaos, but later proved to be the most ruthless of killers. Amir and his Father left Afghanistan when the Russians arrived and came to America to settle in an Afghan community in San Francisco. However, the ties to their homeland and to the family they had left behind were to haunt them for years. One day, Amir received a telephone call from a friend in Pakistan and decided he must return. What he found there was a revelation of the awful changes which had been brought to his homeland and its people since his childhood. Don't buy this book because it is about that part of the world which changed our lives, don't buy it because it is a story about Muslims, don't even buy it because it is in a way a modern "Gone With The Wind" a story of a strong family in turbulent times. Buy it because it is a wonderful meaningful story, beautifully, sensitively written, by a man whose first language was not even our language, but who has mastered it as few of us have, and who has shown an unusual understanding of the workings of the human mind in times of great mental and physical stress.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wow!
    This book is absolutely riviting. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters will stay with me long after the book has been put down.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An Exquisitely Written Novel With An Extraordinary Plot
    Khaled Hosseini's powerful and haunting first novel, "The Kite Runner" is the best book I have read this year. It is a story of family relationships, friendship, betrayal, guilt and atonement. Mr. Hosseini also explores, movingly, the horrors of war and the terrible conflicts between classes and ethnic groups that have long plagued the people of Afghanistan. The novel spans the period in Afghani history from the peaceful 70's to the rule of the Taliban in the late 1990's.

    In Kabul, during the winter of 1975, Amir's life changed forever. Those were the last peaceful days of Afghanistan's monarchy. Amir, our young narrator, is the privileged son of a wealthy Pashtun businessman. They are Sunni Muslims. Totally unlike his father, (called Baba, the "Toophan agha" or "Mr. Hurricane"), Amir is very sensitive, introspective, and much more interested in poetry and literature than in football. His mother died giving birth to him and the boy struggles to win his father's affection. Hassan was the closest person to Amir and his constant playmate, but they were not quite friends. The two boys had nursed at the breast of the same wet nurse - a special bond to the Afghanis. They were virtually inseparable. They climbed trees, wandered the streets of Kabul, made mischief, shared secrets, ran kites, and Amir would read while Hassan listened avidly to the wonderful stories. "The Shahnamah," a 10th century epic of ancient Persian heroes, was Hassan's favorite. He was an illiterate servant and his father was Amir's father's servant. They are Sh'ia Muslim, Hazaras. During a kite flying tournament in the winter of Amir's twelfth year, he betrayed Hassan - a defining event that will haunt him always. He will spend the rest of his life trying to atone. The Soviet invasion caused Amir and his father to emigrate to the United States, leaving everything and everyone behind. However, Amir will have another opportunity to prove his loyalty to his childhood friend and gain forgiveness. The story revolves around Amir's internal struggle.

    Mr. Hosseini's characters literally come alive on the page. Their emotional struggles and triumphs moved me deeply. Amir, Hassan, Baba, Ali, and Rahim Khan are so credible that I really became attached to them and miss them, now that I have turned the book's last page. The narrative is beautifully written, poignant, and also very informative about an Afghanistan most foreigners have never seen. Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan émigré living in San Francisco. I look forward to his next book. Very highly recommended.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and timely story
    Khaled Hosseini's debut novel "The Kite Runner" is an expertly crafted and timely novel about Afghanistan. Amir and Hassan grew up together in Kabul and are inseparable playmates and companions. Hassan would do anything for Amir, yet Amir does not consider Hassan his friend because they are of different worlds. Amir is a Sunni Muslim and a Pashtun, a member of the privileged class of Afghanistan. Hassan is the family's servant boy, a Shi'ite Muslim, and a Hazara, the lowest Afghani class. At a critical point in their lives, the cowardly Amir turns his back on Hassan and irreparably destroys their relationship. When the monarchy of Afghanistan is overturned and the Soviets take over, Amir and his father flee to America, leaving Hassan behind. But Amir is haunted by guilt because of his callous treatment of his childhood companion. Years later, when an old family friend is dying, Amir is asked to return to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and he knows that he must use this opportunity to atone for the past, and in doing so, risk his life.

    The book also touches upon the immigrant experience as Amir's father Baba struggles to adjust to the California lifestyle and to an existence without the luxuries and honorable status he enjoyed in Afghanistan. It highlights the difference in customs and ethnic mindset between Afghanis and Americans. Parts of this novel are humorous and parts are touching. Some sections are painful to read, yet they are a necessary and haunting part of the story.

    I cannot recommend this wonderful book highly enough. It is one of the best novels I have read so far this year. The writing style is sparse and simple, yet it packs an emotional wallop. I could smell the kabobs sizzling on the grill, see the kites soaring and battling in the crisp winter sky, and feel the despair of the Afghani people over the loss of their old way of life due to war and oppression. The story is almost allegorical in its universal truths of love, friendship, betrayal, and redemption. Not only does it bring to life the turmoil and hardships that Afghanistan has faced, but also it sheds light on the culture and nature of the people behind the news stories.

    Eileen Rieback ... Read more

    4. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide
    list price: $14.99
    our price: $14.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0517149257
    Catlog: Book (1996-01-17)
    Publisher: Wings
    Sales Rank: 1033
    Average Customer Review: 4.79 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    It's safe to say that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of the funniest science fiction novels ever written. Adams spoofs many core science fiction tropes: space travel, aliens, interstellar war--stripping away all sense of wonder and repainting them as commonplace, even silly.

    This omnibus edition begins with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which Arthur Dent is introduced to the galaxy at large when he is rescued by an alien friend seconds before Earth's destruction. Then in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Arthur and his new friends travel to the end of time and discover the true reason for Earth's existence.In Life, the Universe, and Everything, the gang goes on a mission to save the entire universe. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish recounts how Arthur finds true love and "God's Final Message to His Creation." Finally, Mostly Harmless is the story of Arthur's continuing search for home, in which he instead encounters his estranged daughter, who is on her own quest.There's also a bonus short story, "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe," more of a vignette than a full story, which wraps up this completist's package of the Don't Panic chronicles.As the series progresses, its wackier elements diminish, but the satire of human life and foibles is ever present. --Brooks Peck ... Read more

    Reviews (257)

    4-0 out of 5 stars A comic genius!
    Douglas Adams is possibly the funniest author I've read. His "Guide" is a wacky, crazy, hilarious tale of a totally clueless human's (Arthur Dent) travels in the big bad galaxy out there. Arthur, like millions of other humans, is totally ignorant about the Universe. Indeed, until the day the Earth is demolished (to make way for a hyperspace bypass!), he doesnt even know that his close friend Ford Prefect belongs to another planet - and is a researcher for the hugely successful book The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy.

    But Ford & Arthur escape from Earth, and set out on a journey of a lifetime, spanning 5 novels so far, where time and space are equally trivial barriers that can be crossed at a leap. Along the way, Arthur finds out a lot he didnt know, and lots more than he ever wanted to know, from hitching rides on passing space ships and teaching their computers to make tea, to the real history of his planet and the knowledge that his is the third most intelligent species on earth(and not, as was widely believed, the second) He also grapples with scientific concepts way beyond his grasp like the Infinite Improbability drive, Somebody Else's Problem field, discontinuities along the probability axis, not to mention the End of the Universe(the universe's most spectacular & profitable catering venture) Douglas Adams serves up one wacky idea after another, a universe wildly beyond our imagination, yet very familiar in its core values of crass commercialization and tasteless marketing hype. The reader is hurled through a series of increasingly improbable events, all held together by equally crazy characters and brilliant, witty(and ofcourse crazy) dialogs.

    So if I'm raving so much about the book, why do I give it only 4 stars? Because, like all artists, Adams has his highs & his lows, both of which are present in this collection. I would wholeheartedly recommend the first two novels - Hitchikers guide & Restaurant at the end of the universe. But coming after them, Life, the Universe & Everything is somewhat of a letdown, and So Long & Thanks for all the Fish even more so. Mostly Harmless is better, but still doesnt meet the standards set by the first two. All in all, this book is a collectors item for Adams fans - and I dont regret buying it. But for those just starting out on Adams, I'd recommend they try individual copies of the first two novels.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Don't Panic! A long review means much good things to say...
    This collection deserves to be read in one continuous read. It refers to itself backwards and forwards, sideways and down, so it's a real treat (and quite a convenience) to have the whole tangled mess between two covers. However, each of the six sections deserves its own sub-review.

    'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' is the name of both the most popular portable comprehensive galactic encyclopedia, and the book that begins Douglas Adams hilarious space saga. It neatly sets up the tale by giving away the answer to the meaning of life! Don't panic, it's not all it's cracked up to be, because they don't have the question! We meet a great cast of eccentric characters, get to fly around on the 'Heart of Gold' (powered by the ludicrously simplistic Improbability Drive), and discover that planet Earth will be destroyed to make way for an interstellar roadway.

    'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe' builds on the logic of the first book, and tweaks it enough to keep things really interesting. Milliways (the aforementioned restaurant) is a great comic creation, walking a grossly absurd existential tightrope to become a fascinating setpiece. There's a great moment about how Zaphod Beeblebrox's great-grandfather is named 'Zaphod the fourth' while he's 'Zaphod the first' ("An accident involving a contraceptive and a time machine"). The whole gang narrowly escapes flying into the sun, and are saved by a piece of specious bureaucracy. The whole mess ends with Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent landing on a familiar planet, and discover that evolution ain't all it's cracked up to be.

    The strength of the first two books is that when Adams goes off on these incredible leaps in logic and flights of fancy (two of my favourite modes of transportation) they always seem to follow some kind of narrative thrust. In 'Life, the Universe, and Everything', they seem like non-sequiters, or at most just interesting tangents. I enjoyed the concept of the poem that was never written due to a reckless time travel expedition, and the guy who was injected with too much truth serum and now told The Truth. But they seemed more ornamental than consequential to me. Maybe I just didn't understand the plethora of cricket references (although I did get a kick out of them). Furthermore, the installment was hurt by a serious deficiency in Zaphod Beeblebrox.

    A grand comeback is made in 'So Long and Thanks for all the Fish'. This manages to be a really touching love story, interlaced with grand questions about the nature of existence and what happened to all the dolphins. Arthur Dent and Fenchurch (don't call her Fenny) slowly but surely realize that the universe has a higher purpose for them, and they have no choice but to fall in love. And the scene describing their first consummation of that love is actually quite original, and very beautiful. That all being said, the story still manages to be a strong link in the overall chain of events, periodically keeping track of Ford Prefect until it becomes necessary for him to swoop in near the end (deux es machinas-style) and save the cosmic day. Adams also manages to include several more comic illogicalities (probably not a word, but whose rules am I following here?), the standout being the description of Wonko the Sane's inside-out house. A great little interlude, that.

    'Young Zaphod Plays it Safe' is a confusing little mess, that I hope gains some meaning in hindsight, once the entire book is complete (**I've just finished reading 'Mostly Harmless', and I'm still in the dark over this one. Oh well.)

    'Mostly Harmless' is a little less frenetic than its predecessors are, and a little more assured in its narrative structure. Its story is one of those that begins with three different plots, and as time goes on the plots slowly begin to converge into one final conclusion (kind of like an episode of Seinfeld, now that I think about it). Arthur and Ford get into some seriously mixed up situations, but they are perfectly explained through some more of that demented Douglas Adams logic. Ford actually jumps to his death, miraculously escapes, and then jumps again. And he has a perfectly good reason for doing it both times. My one complaint is that the book doesn't give each plot equal attention, so when you haven't read about one of the characters in a while, you tend to forget what they were doing when last you met them. On a positive note, the whole enterprise actually validates the mess that was 'Life, the Universe, and Everything'.

    The series can be read in two ways: as comic fluff (albeit high comic fluff), or as a satire on the nature of existence. A third way, and probably the most effective, would be to read it as both. Or neither. Just read it!

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the Funniest Series Ever!
    When you've just finished a book that's as thick & heavy as a dictionary, it is all too tempting to write pages and pages in review of it. However, I will spare you as much as I can.

    The basic premise of the novels is that Ford Prefect is a hitchhiker and writer for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." He hitches rides all around space, writes up his experiences and sends them in to his editors. As the novel opens up, it's roughly 1980 in England, and he's been stuck on Earth for 15 years because Earth (as we know) has not really made contact with other planets and so he can't find a ride out of there (here). In that time, he has made friends with Arthur Dent, one of the absolutely most endearing characters I've ever come across in literature (even more than a Hobbit).

    When we first meet Dent, he thinks his greatest battle for the day will be to lie in front of the bulldozers which want to knock down his house. Little does he know that Earth is also about to be knocked over (obliterated really) for a hyper-space by-pass. Prefect, however, catches on and rescues Dent at the very last minute...Whether or not this was a good thing is up to the reader to decide.

    While Adams shows his literal genius for comedic timing and absurd humor within the bounds of Earth at the beginning, once he is freed of all constraints his writing style blazes with unique talent. Every page is so filled with parody, dry wit, perfect timing, and mind-boggling fictitious science that it leaves you laughing aloud and reeling at the same time. I realize that his humor is not for everyone...but for anyone who enjoys satire and for anyone who is frustrated with the insanity of life, this book brings the proverbial comic relief.

    From what I've read from hard-core Douglas Adams fans (and there seem to be quite a few of those), books #1, 2, and 4 in this series are Adam's purest works. #3 and 5 are a bit heavier in tone. #6 (Young Zaphod Plays It Safe) is simply baffling.

    For those who don't like science fiction, I would say that that shouldn't really be a problem here. While Adams does invent some very funny alien races (like the race with 50 arms that was the only one to invent deodorant before the wheel), his focus clearly isn't imagining how different life can be. Everything in his novels is a satire of humanity - from the bureaucracy to the androids to the laws of physics.

    Of all the wonderful things I could dwell on in Adam's work, the last thing I would like to mention is that of all action/adventure stories I have ever read, I think Adams has created a few of the most realistic heroes. Dent, Prefect, and Zaphod - though somewhat resourceful - aren't particularly strong, bold, courageous, intelligent or smooth. They bungle any number of situations, and only Trillian has a real moment of brilliance. And yet, no matter how much they might want to simply run and save their own hides, a sense of duty to man/life nags at their conscience and keeps bringing them to help save somebody. Ultimately, I think this balances out so much of Adams ironic humor about how stupid life can be. Yes, life is absurd at so many levels, but Adams never abandons our Western Civilization ideals of the value of life and our duty to help each other.

    Oh, and the dialogue is priceless!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wit and ridiculousness.
    There are those who don't get "The Far Side" by Gary Larson. It's too wacky and weird. There are those who don't like the wit of "Calvin and Hobbes," passing it by for simpler humor.

    There are those who hate "Monty Python" because it's "stupid" or "ridiculous." And there are those who hate the humor "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or "Pride and Prejudice," as its wit is deep and veiled.

    Now try and envision an amalgam of these two approaches to comedy. Witty lines, and wordplays, combined with floating penguins and Vogon poetry. You have to be pretty quick to understand some of Adams' jokes regarding quantum mechanics, yet silly enough to laugh at the manic depressive robot, and the apathetic mention of the destruction of Earth. Douglas Adams is simply the best at combining wit with irony and absurdity. And this is simply the best book in which to find his genius.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The best comedy writer since spike milligan.
    If you are an Adams fan then this is for you, My copies of the 5 books are all in a rotten state after years of reading and rereading, and I wanteed a tome to keep. Apart from the additional Zaphod story I will not read this for many years. i know it verbatim. Those raised on Pratchett and Rankin might find Adams' humour a little dated to be fair, but he was first and he cannot be replaced.

    Cleverer than Pratchett and nowhere near as predictable, Adams seems to start at the beginning and then just bimble along through the narrative, but previous issues reemerge to show that the first three books, at least, were all part of a masterplan. ... Read more

    5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    list price: $24.95
    our price: $16.47
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0618329706
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-04)
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    Sales Rank: 190
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.
    Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
    An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father's grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother's apartment. They are there to dig up his father's empty coffin.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (97)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Second Novel Delivers
    I think there are probably a great many people who hoped that Foer's second novel would fall short of his first achievement, as second novels often do.Such a marvelous first novel from such a young writer is bound to stir up jealousy and resentment.Indeed, I think some critics and readers hoped this so intensely, that they found failure where there was very little.This is an amazing follow-up to _Everything is Illuminated_. If it delivered nothing else but Oskar's hilarious voice, it would be worthy of a read.The humor is wonderfully complex.Take, for example, Oskar's habit of delivering unlikely compliments.The situational comedy, that Oskar is complimenting an unattractive someone (an old or fat woman, say) on her beauty, may be the joke.But it's the transparency of Oskar's underlying need to be loved which delivers the real comedic burn.At the same time, these compliments are also genuine.I can hardly explain it, but Foer manages to explore this leitmotif in a way that conveys both Oskar's essential snobbery and generosity in a single stroke.

    I can only imagine that critics who have called this work exploitative or accused it of sentimentality are responding to some abstraction of the work, some thing they wish it were.In lesser hands, such a project might have been either exploitative or sentimental, but from Foer's deft pen, it is neither.

    I find equally incomprehensible critiques which suggest Oskar's voice is unrealistic.Certainly, we might be hard pressed to locate the grade-schooler who could discuss physics with such facility (though I suspect there are panini-eating children in New York who could come frighteningly close),but realism is the wrong lens through which to consider Oskar's voice.Part of the delight of Foer's work is the way he pushes the limits of realism, skirts it, brings a magical sensibility to historical events, without (in _Extremely_, anyway) actually going magical realist.

    The ending (and I certainly won't spoil), the way the mystery of the key delivers, falls a little flat.But to my mind, this is an extremely small sin that barely detracts from the genius (I don't mind saying it) of the whole.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Makes my top 3 list of all time
    As an avid reader of over 45 years (I won't count those that I read in my pre-teens), I have had to make decisions on which books would leave me and which would continue to keep me company.
    All of my books get passed on to friends.Of those that are returned, I sell many at garage sales or donate them to charitable organizations.
    "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was a book that I didn't even want to lend to my best friend, but I did.When she returned it in pristine condition, I heaved a sign of relief and put it on my "favorite books to keep" shelf.I will NEVER part with this book again and will re-read it many times over.
    Oskar Shell is a 9 year-old boy who has become one of my favorite fictional characters ever.Every little quirk of his amazed me...his heavy boots, his letter-writing, his tambourine, and his quest to find the answer to the key his father left behind.
    I loved Oskar so much that I was aggravated when the story shifted to his grandparents and the bombing of Dresden.It would have made an extremely interesting story in itself, but I was too fascinated by little Oskar and hs amazing journey to find "Black."
    The week before I visited my nephew, a student at NYU, I told him how much I loved this book.As we took the subway from Manhatten to Brooklyn, he gave me a review he had copied by Harry Siegel of the N.Y. Press.As I read it, he began to fear that my anger might start an unfortunate incident on the train.
    A hack critic calls Foer "corrupt and debased.""Cloying, false,
    a fraud.""An admixture of shtick and sentiment."I'm assuming that Mr. Siegel is quite jealous of Jonathan's talent.
    I loved "Everything is Illuminated" very inventive...and this novel was even more so.As a middle school librarian who has read a lot of fiction for younr people, the only author who comes close is Jerry Spinelli...Daniel Zwick in "Loser."
    I honestly cried through the last 75 pages of Foer's book.It was that will never leave my "save"

    3-0 out of 5 stars A Seminal Work
    The Economist recently suggested that September 11, 2001 is the contemporary novelist's biggest dilemma: impossible to ignore but doomed to failure if addressed.Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, narrated by a boy whose father died in the World Trade Center that day, does not fail, but neither does it truly succeed.The heart of the novel has young Oskar searching for months for the lock that belongs to a key his father left behind.Along the way Oskar meets an array of characters to whom he is able to speak more openly about his father's death than to his mother or his counselor.A subplot has Oskar's grandparents describe their childhoods, how they met, and their sad lives together.

    Solitariness, loss, sadness, and the inability to communicate with those we love are themes throughout the novel.Oskar's only honest conversation with his mother ends with him telling her he wished it were her, not his father, that had died that day.Oskar's grandfather, having survived the bombing of Dresden during World War II but having lost his first love, loses his ability to speak and must carry around blank books in order to communicate.The New Yorkers that Oskar meets on his quest all give the sense of longing to talk to someone - anyone - but of being incapable of connecting.

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about a boy, a family, a city, and a country dealing with the shock of September 11.It is creative, well crafted, funny, and sad, and like the attacks themselves it is difficult to digest and interpret.Foer is perhaps the first American novelist to address the September 11 attacks.Time will tell if others are able to do it more deftly, but Foer's will undoubtedly be a seminal work.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Calculated Kitsch?
    The following is excerpted from the rave review in the New York Times Book Review:

    ''Unless,'' Oskar wonders, ''nothing was a clue.'' This paradoxical would-be koan is a clue for the reader: profundities ahead, possibly a lot of them, and all of them dropping with the same ''plop.'' And so it begins, and doesn't ever stop - a rain of truisms, aphorisms, nuggets of wisdom and deep thoughts tossed off by Oskar and the other characters as if they were trying to corner a market in ironic existentialist greeting cards. ''It's better to lose than never to have had.'' ''You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.'' ''Everything that's born has to die, which means our lives are like skyscrapers. The smoke rises at different speeds, but they're all on fire, and we're all trapped.''

    If the above quotes are any indication, perhaps the book should have been titled "Extremely Trite and Incredibly Boring". Is Foer writing for sophisticated adults or the "Harry Potter" crowd? Genre bending is one thing, but this is an indigestible stew - a hodgepodge of narrative, fantasy, adventure, pop culture, doodles, photos - and lame aphorisms that read like self-help affirmations. Critics will love it because it confirms their hipness. Readers who habitually channel surf and multitask won't care that the book is more style than substance. As the book's protagonist, Oskar, might say: "Style is the new substance". A lamentable trend, IMO. But decide for yourself. Another book I need to mention -- very much on my mind since I purchased a copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, not reviewed anywhere -- but an odd, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Good story, but sometimes hard to follow
    I really enjoyed this book, but I often found it hard to follow. That's because the main story line is interrupted by letters, which also tell the story, but from a different perpective and time. Very interesting technique, but it gave me a few headaches, haha. As you continue reading, it all begins to make sense. I recommend this book, just beware, you may get lost more that you're used to. ... Read more

    6. Life of Pi
    by Yann Martel
    list price: $14.00
    our price: $10.50
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0156027321
    Catlog: Book (2003-05-01)
    Publisher: Harvest Books
    Sales Rank: 73
    Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

    The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?
    ... Read more

    Reviews (976)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A truly remarkable tale
    Good storytelling in this age is quite rare. Rarer still is an engaging story with a sustaining set of characters to draw you in and teach you about what it means to be a human being. There is plenty of plot summary elsewhere to give you a sense of what the book is about. What you won't know until you read it is how deceptively simplistic those synopses are. Long ago, I actually decided not to read the book after reading such a summary. What a mistake!

    "Life of Pi" is without a doubt the best work of contemporary fiction I've read since "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay". The story's elements are simple and straightforward, but the author's voice is charming, intelligent and insightful. What I found so remarkable about a book advertised for it's "inventiveness" is the degree of realism. In many ways, Martel's style reminds me of the great "magical realists" like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Pi's fascination with religions and his attention to the detailed inner workings of zoo management are illuminating. Never before has such an eloquent case been made for the civility of a zoo (I suppose it would take a zoo run by a vegetarian family to make such a place civil).

    Naturally, the story really finds its legs once Pi is stranded at sea with wounded animals. It is a testament to the author's abilities that 227 days on the ocean can be filled with such immediacy and interest. Pi's journey is a story of resilience and determination...a desire to go on living when there is seemingly no point in doing so. Throughout it all, Pi suffers with dignity and pride, engaging his plight head-on, digging in his heels and sticking it out until the end. What's staggering is how lively and redemptive such an experience can be. This book is funny, informative and surprisingly fast-paced given the fact that the narrator is adrift at sea.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Multi-faceted
    Life of Pi has one of the strangest beginnings that I have ever read. The narrator gives us many small and random facts about zoology, then proceeds to detail his interest in Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, and how he practices all three religions at the same time. Not exactly gripping writing, or similar to the survival story described on the back jacket. But, near page 100, Life of Pi abruptly transitions. Our hero, Pi, leaves India with his family and their zoo animals, (his family runs a zoo) on a cargo ship bound for a new life in Canada. But, the cargo ship soon sinks and Pi is left on a life raft with a tiger. Now, the real book begins. Pi must survive on a small life raft with a massive tiger. The meat of the novel is Pi explaining his activities while on the high seas. But, as the novel continues, his exploits change from the normal, collecting water when it rains; to the hard to believe, going blind and meeting fellow survivors. Predictably, Pi survives, and the author's purpose of writing the novel becomes clear when he is interrogated. Life of Pi can be read two ways, as a exciting survival story with a bad beginning; or as an allegory for the two different ways in which events can play out, the reader not knowing which way actually happened, and which way was fantasy. Because of the questions it raises, Life of Pi would be an excellent discussion book for a book club, however, it is enjoyable when read alone as well.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A deeper look
    Life of Pi was a wonderful book, with notes of philosophy and theological thought tied into a well crafted story. While it may start with a slightly slower pace than other books in the genre, it is worth the effort. If you liked this, I would also recommend Golf in the Kingdom.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A delicious rendering of an exciting and memorable
    journey across blue seas with one of the most unforgetable characters I have ever come across. Pi Patel, a zookeepers son living in India,has a vast knowledge of animals and is in a love/fear relationship with them all. When the family must move, they do so, zoo and all to Canada. Unfortuneately the ship they are on loses its battle with the sea and sinks; leaving Pi on a lifeboat with several of the surviving zoo animals.

    This floating island becomes a city within itself and how Pi survives, fighting to co-exist with the wild beasts while defending himself against hunger, thirst and nature is a frightening yet mystical journey for both Pi and the reader.

    The fact that Pi is a Catholic/Hindu/Muslim adds something very thought-provoking to an already magnetic novel.

    I suggest you travel along with this enigmatic boy/man and see through his eyes the vast expanse of sea; hear through his ears the wild frightening animal noises; pray with him to his God and above all take this author's flight of imagination and savor and enjoy because it is truly wonderful!

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Slice of Pi
    Martel spins a fascinating yarn that goes beyond the realm of imagination. The exposition moves slowly, leaving the reader to ponder where the tale is headed. However, once the plot becomes apparent, the text flows, for the most part. The seemingly simple story line of being trapped on a lifeboat is, indeed, complex. Some readers tout their religious denotation; however, no one needs to look that deeply. Read it because it's an enlightening tale that makes one wonder how anyone would endure such a crisis. ... Read more

    7. Never Let Me Go
    by Kazuo Ishiguro
    list price: $24.00
    our price: $17.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1400043395
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-05)
    Publisher: Knopf
    Sales Rank: 113
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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    All children should believe they are special.But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny.Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection.Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own.

    Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another.She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it.Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms.As in Ishiguro's best-known work, The Remains of the Day, only after closing the book do you absorb the magnitude of what his characters endure.--Regina Marler ... Read more

    Reviews (58)

    4-0 out of 5 stars beautifully lyrical overall
    A beautifully lyrical piece, deceptively simple prose.Part of the resolution feels a bit forced though; the story would have been better without it.The final few pages, however, help to correct part of this mistake and continues the generally sweet, sad tone of the inevitably of departure.
    An important commentary on what could plausibly become a major social issue from modern cloning technology.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Read It Quickly, Think About It Deeply
    Everyone wants to write dissertation-length reviews of this book that spoil the suspense and mood Ishiguro tries to build. Here's a quick one instead: This book is marvelously and beautifully written. The prose reads quickly and feels right, creating the narrator as a very real presence. And the story deals with an alternate history, in which human cloning is possible and society has developed a system for taking advantage of this possibility.

    After finishing, I wasn't sure how I felt about the story--whether it worked, whether the ending was necessary, and various other issues that other reviewers have pondered. But at heart the book is about people who have had vital information about their world withheld from them and how, with the exception of the narrator and two of her friends, they accepted their lot in life without question--even though that lot was to be nothing more than contributors to the health and happiness of others without remuneration, financial or otherwise. The story thus touches on issues surrounding not only obvious topics like stem cell research and cloning, but also wage slavery and the perils of unbridled greed and willingness to turn a blind eye to the plight of others.

    Have all your friends read this. You'll have plenty you want to discuss.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Good in the small; disappointing in the large
    Caveat: there are small spoilers ahead, though fewer than in the Publsher's Weekly review that Amazon provides.

    I really wanted to like this book a lot, and it certainly is not without its virtues. The way Ishiguro sustains the voice of the narrator over the course of the story is impressive; Kathy's voice is every bit as distinctive as Stevens' in The Remains of the Day and yet quite unlike it. The book also deals with worthy themes, not least the way we might come to take for granted something utterly shocking and repulsive. One reviewer asked why none of the characters tried to run away. My response is that the reader wishes they might, but the point of the novel is that the characters have been lulled into a sense that their lot in life is inevitable; they have their place and the most they could hope for (a hope that plays out in the final pages) is that there might be a brief respite from what must come.

    More below on the psychological plausibility of that premise. My disappointment had to do with what sits in the background. The novel, after all, is set in contemporary England -- or, at least, a version of contemporary England that's supposed to be within a reasonable imaginative distance of the world as it actually is. Perhaps the scheme on which the novel is built could actually emerge from the real attitudes of contemporary Western Europe. The way we are to assume most people view Kathy and her fellow "students" is not unlike the kind of racism that's still far too common in supposedly civilized Europe. But even that sort of reflexive racism seldom goes so far as to call into question whether the "other" has a soul and, the most vicious aside, most Western racists would still be horrified by the use to which the "students" are put. It's true; we are within living memory of the Holocaust. But it's also true that because of those very memories, the Western world, at least, is a different place. Moreover, even though most of us have deep reservations about cloning, it's not because we think that cloned humans would be any less than human. On the contrary, our reservations are partly because it's so clear that these beings _would_ be humans -- just like us.

    Or so one might think. In order to make the case that this isn't so, and that the England he imagines is within imaginative reach, Ishiguro would have had to tell us a lot more than he does about how his dystopia came about. What we get, instead, is a hasty and almost perfunctory account in the final pages that feels unconvincing and blunts the emotional force of the novel's ending.

    That said, there's a coda that honesty compels me to add. When I finished the book, I felt much less moved than I thought I was meant to. But in spite of the clumsiness of the backstory, I woke up the next morning with a real sense of unease. It was not that I was ready to grant the plausibility of the backstory. It was that I could imagine all too easily that the characters might really have been manipulated into accepting the utterly unacceptable lot that they have been handed, however implausible that lot may be. These characters may not be intrinsically less soulless than the rest of us, but we can imagine them being robbed of a piece of their souls -- not by the circumstances of their births but by how they've been schooled to see themselves.

    Never Let Me go opens with the young narrator Kathy H. telling us that she has been a "carer" now for eleven years, and that the authorities - whomever they are - have been generally pleased with her work. Then she talks about her "doners" and their "impressive recovery time," even before the "fourth donation." Kathy tells us that she's a graduate of Hailsham; a type of exclusive boarding school, "a privileged estate" set in the tranquil English countryside, presided over by a mismatched group called the "guardians."

    Hailsham is no ordinary school. Like most boarding schools, Hailsham exists in its own enclosed world, with its own philosophy, and its own faintly odd traditions. But there's never any mention of parents or a home life, and daily existence is permeated with strange customs, names, and an esoteric terminology. Former students are known as "veterans" and a mysterious "Madame" drops by occasionally to collect artwork for something called "the Gallery."

    Obviously something strange is going on and it all looks obliquely sinister, but this hardly matters to Kathy and her best friends Tommy and Ruth, as they think they are living some sort of idyllic existence, having the best time of their lives. In Hailsham they had their own "lost corner."

    "We knew a few things about ourselves - about who we were, how we were different from our guardians, from the normal people outside. We perhaps new down the line there were donations waiting for us, but hadn't yet understood what any of it meant." In reality, the students are clones and have been bred specifically for harvesting their organs. After they do this, and their series of donations are finished, they'll be "complete" and presumably die.

    Of course, this is all kept mysteriously quiet, although the kids have a hint of their purpose. In one instance, a frantic Miss Lucy - one of their kinder guardians - blurts out that even before they're middle-aged they'll have to start to donate vital organs - their first donations, and "if your to have decent lives, you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you."

    Ishiguro, in very careful increments, lets the children know, and through them us what Hailsham is really for - an exclusive institution where the children are reared for one soul purpose. For them death is not only inevitable, it's almost desirable. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy often discuss big plans for the future, but because of their preconceived role they stay fearful of the world around them - "unable to quite let each other go."

    Ishiguro takes a rather icy, restrained, and dispassionate look at this issue, but he does it from the point of view of the donor, rooting the reader firmly in the mind of Cathy. We get to see her thoughts and views of the world, and throughout, a picture emerges of a passionate, intelligent, perceptive, and also a remarkably sensitive woman, who is unfortunately regarded by the society around her as "not quite human."

    Never Let Me Go portrays a new world rapidly becoming more scientific; there are more cures for the old sicknesses, and there are now vast human banks rich in deposits of hearts and lungs and livers. But it's become also a harsh and cruel world full of scientific objectivity, where the donors are housed in government run institutions and where societies are exhibiting a resoundingly deep moral blindness towards the issue. It's a scenario that is chilling, compelling, otherworldly, and also deeply disturbing.

    Beautifully written, with exquisite warmth and tenderness, Never Let Me Go is often disquieting and worrying, but it will also fill you with the bright light of understanding and leave you absolutely enriched for the experience. This gifted author has created something astonishing, not so much a novel, but a passage into the heart of the human soul. Mike Leonard May 05.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Hail Sham!
    What do Kazuo Ishiguro's new science fiction novel "Never Let Me Go", his Booker Prize first novel "Remains of the Day" and Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" have in common? Well, they all deal with stultifying British class structure. And they could all share Pirate's subtitle "A Slave of Duty".

    But to an American mind at least, stories of self-sacrifice due to unwritten orders given by dubious authority seem like a sham. In fact, in his new book, the truly privileged students live in a cloistered private school named Hailsham. Now of course Hailsham is a very British name, and the proper division is Hails-ham or Hails hamlet. But I prefer the wordplay "hail sham" or "health deception", because Hailsham is not what it seems.

    Unlike most reviewers I will not give the plot away ("Luke, I am your father"). Do not listen to the National Public Radio interview where Mr. Ishiguro cheerfully ruins the story by telling the central secret.

    The simplicity of his writing, without any jargon or forced super-futurism, makes the story even eerier. It is like a sinister version of a cheery P. G. Wodehouse school story--with pranks, sports, eccentric "masters" distracting the reader from the central horror. The character's minutely detailed emotional reactions to minor events would seem neurotic. But in this cautionary morality play they are needed. They help prevent a freedom-loving, individualistic reader from kicking over the author's traces and shouting "Run away you fools, save yourselves!" at the quaint, spidery, Bembo typeface. ... Read more

    8. The Innocent
    by HarlanCoben
    list price: $26.95
    our price: $17.79
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0525948740
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-26)
    Publisher: Dutton Adult
    Sales Rank: 58
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Matt Hunter made a mistake when he was 20 years old and paid for it with a four-year stint in prison that left him with a determination never to be locked up again. Finally, his life is back on the promising track he was taking before he accidentally killed a man: He has a good job, a newly pregnant wife he adores, and is about to close on the home of their dreams. Then he gets a couple of bizarre photos on his cell phone that seem to show his wife in a compromising position with a black-haired stranger. But before he can sort out who sent the anonymous pictures and why, he's running from the law--especially from the cop who was his best friend in grade school, and a sharp young detective who's stepped right into the middle of an FBI investigation spurred by the discovery that a dead nun who wasn't who she claimed to be is somehow mixed up in Matt and Olivia Hunter's life. Coben deftly wields a complicated plot involving a missing stripper, a dead gangster, an incriminating videotape, and a couple of agents who aren't quite who they seem to be, while Hunter manages to hold onto his faith in Olivia despite her clouded past and uncertain future. Like all Coben's protagonists, (including the hero of his popular series starring sports agent turned detective Myron Bolitar) Hunter is a nice, middle-class New Jersey boy who's still the innocent of the title, despite the miscarriage of justice that sent him to prison. Or was it? That's the moral question at the heart of this tightly constructed thriller, which will no doubt shoot directly to the top of the bestseller list, and deservedly so. --Jane Adams Exclusive Content

    A Bit of Bolitar: An Exclusive Essay by Harlan Coben

    Beloved series character Myron Bolitar appears in a new short story included with Harlan Coben's latest thriller, The Innocent. In this exclusive essay, Coben shares his thoughts on Bolitar's return.

    ... Read more

    Reviews (38)

    5-0 out of 5 stars This is a good one!!!
    I have read all these reviews up until today regarding this book and find most of them very true. This is a great book. A fast read as with all of cobens novels. I had seem him when he visited a bookstore in NJ the day the book came out. He was very excited about the release. When I brought the book home that night I finished it in 5 hours. I liked it alot. Still my fav's are Tell No One and Gone for Good. But this is up there. Its not confusing and I didn't think it was convoluted either. It just a fun read and worth the while to read, eventhough it will be a short while. THANKS HARLAN!!!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Man, this guy can tell a tale!
    Coben manages once again to spin an amazingly engaging yarn about hapless Matt Hunter who, while in college on a typical undergraduate pre-law trajectory, goes to a fraternity party where his best friend gets into a fight.Hunter, very reluctantly enters the fray late when his friend is getting the bejesus beat out him.Hunter does not want to fight and in fact regards his reluctance as cowardice.But intervene he does and with catastrophic results.He accidentally kills another boy who was also uninvolved in the fight.

    The story resumes 9 years later with Matt out of prison working as a para-legal in a law firm and married to a woman who can only be described as perfect - perfect in every way for our Matt.He can barely believe his good luck.

    But the bliss doesn't last long after Matt receives on his mobile phone a picture of his wife wearing a blond wig in a compromising situation.BAM!!Matt and we are off to the races.And what a wild ride it is!

    Coben is simply the best contemporary writer that I've come across who grabs your interest and simply will not let go.The old cliche about not picking up a book unless you have the time to complete it is actually true of Coben.He is a master at creating suspense and intrigue.

    Coben's characters are always ordinary and manage to find themselves in extrordinary circumstances that would bedevil anyone.Coben creates characters and situations that nearly anyone could relate to which is to a large extent why his books work so well.Ordinary people getting caught up in overwhelmingcomplicated unfathomable situations.

    Coben is an amazing story teller and this book will deliver.I heartily recommend it to all.My wife loved it as much as I did.

    4-0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars!
    In my humble opinion, Harlan Coben is one of today's best mystery and thriller writers and stands above all of the rest.I agree with another reviewer who said that Harlan on a bad day is still better than many on their best days.

    Having said that, The Innocent, wasn't Mr. Coben's greatest endeavor to date.While still a page turner, his novels are becoming formulaic and you just expect twists and turns.

    This is a story of a guy(Matt)who was convicted of murder, spending 4 years in jail when, in actuality, it was an accidental killing and "our hero" was just trying to stop a barroom brawl.Usually I can go with Mr Coben's flights of fantasy, but he lost me right here, in the beginning.Matt's family could afford a good lawyer and in today's world, Matt would be a lawyer himself "with a past."Matt's wife has a past of her own unknown to Matt.Using the old picture in a cell phone trick, Coben is off to the races and doesn't stop until the last page. The pace is fast, there are some surprising twists (although I had many of them figured out), but I never did "warm up" to the characters.The truth of the matter is that while I certainly wanted to see what happened, I really didn't care enough about the characters for it to matter if the ending was happy or not.

    From another author, this would be a very good story.From Harlan Coben, it is only good.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Less than his best
    I did not care for "Just One Look" and had high hopes for this one. I was disappointed. Coben is good but this is simply not up to some of his best in the past.
    You will be entertained with a tangled plot but perhaps I expect too much.
    Lots of surprises and a review of the plot would take multiple paragraphs. I would not discourage your reading the book, just know that it is not up to par in my opinion.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Coben at His Best
    In the first twenty pages all you get is an innocent murder "you" committed, a nun with breast implants, a Reno stripper, FBI agents who don't look good and more is still to come!Coben gets the reader enthralled immediately.

    This is a mystery with several intertwined mysteries going at once and several characters proceeding in several directions, yet also all entwined - a delicious mix, especially when stirred with good writing.At times, Coben came perilously close to overdoing it, but he never passed over the razor thin line between head-scratching and hair-pulling.The plot worked and did not get over the top.

    We have the ex-con, who really isn't a con, a county inspector, the FBI, and an Amazon private detective, all in the hunt (with a few helpers to boot) for what first appears to be a murder, then two murders connected, then a third.All get tied together in the end.At about page fifty, the reader is afraid he has at least some of it solved.Fear not.Nothing is as it seems.

    Simply put, this is a great mystery with twists and turns taken by a few different threads.

    What adds to this book is Coben's characters.They all have depth, a rarity in a genre where one is happy if the main character has some depth.There is not a single cardboard cutout character.They all have feelings, flaws and strengths.This book actually has three characters you want to root for, yet they are not perfect, nor even close to it.For that reason, there are times you really have to doubt them - which just adds to the mystery.The primary bad guys are not all bad.Their motivations are understandable, which makes them human.

    This is a page turner and great mystery.Highly recommended, I think this is Coben's best and certainly much better than his last. ... Read more

    9. Lost in the Forest
    list price: $24.95
    our price: $16.47
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1400042267
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-05)
    Publisher: Knopf
    Sales Rank: 339
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Sue Miller is the best-selling author of the novels The World Below, While I Was Gone, The Distinguished Guest, For Love, Family Pictures,and The Good Mother; the story collection Inventing the Abbotts; and the memoir The Story of My Father. She lives in Boston.

    From the Hardcover edition.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (17)

    3-0 out of 5 stars fair
    Lost in the Forest is not one of Sue Miller's better books.
    I agree that the ending was kind of a disappointment. You would think Daisy's Father would have been outraged by the thought of Duncan and his young daugher's affair.
    I didn't really see the point of this story. I felt bad for Daisy in that she was so mixed up after her stepfather died and Duncan took advantage of her.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A subtle, engaging story of one family's journey
    Sue Miller is in fine form in this novel revolving around her specialty theme: a family in crisis.In this case, we're presented with a story about an already broken family (broken via divorce some years before) having to deal with an additional crisis: the sudden death via automobile accident of the family's new father figure.The different family figures deal with the crisis in different ways.Yes, one of the young daughters in the family eventually falls into a sensual relationship with a much older man, but those with prurient motivations for picking up this book should be forewarned: though there's one fairly graphic chapter, the whole scenario is treated intelligently and thoughtfully, not as softcore entertainment.Also, that particular plotline is only one of many narrative lines developed by the author:many of the characters, not just the one daughter, are "lost in the forest" in this novel, and we spend a lot of time dealing with their particular issues, too.This is a fast, though thoughtful and subtle, reading experience, with characters you really get to know.Recommended.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Superb Plot with Distinguished Characters
    Mark's teenage daughters call him from their mother's house, asking for help. When he picks them up, along with his ex-wife's two-year-old son, Theo, they inform him that their stepfather was just hit by a car and killed. Worse, their mother Eva and little brother were with him when it happened.

    Eva is crazed with grief, and so the three children live with Mark for a bit while Eva's friend, Gracie, cares for her. The death of John unleashes complicated emotions for Mark. He had liked the man and enjoyed talking with him. Yet, Mark has continued to yearn for Eva throughout her new marriage.

    As Eva tries to find her way through her sorrow-filled days, mothering is both nearly impossible and also the anchor holding her to life. She aspires to mourn while tending her children, and hopes not to frighten them with the power of her desolation. As time goes on and whole days pass without tears or rage, Eva finds herself grieving even for her lessening heartache.

    Mark almost inevitably becomes attached to Theo, bringing him home along with the girls for visits. He realizes that he loves all three children and that he longs to woo Eva back to him through their children.

    As her parents struggle to cope, Daisy, the younger daughter, grows increasingly hostile toward her mother and inaccessible to her father. She acts out, at first in relatively harmless ways. Eventually, though, her actions turn increasingly dangerous and troubling, as a family friend exploits her vulnerability.

    Like a character in the fairy tales that the family collaborates on for the benefit of Theo, Daisy is lost. In the family's made-up stories, the lost child finds a way through the forest to the inevitable happy ending. Is there hope for a similar conclusion to this particular chapter in Daisy's life?

    In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that I am such a Sue Miller fan that I would --- with great joy --- gladly read her grocery lists. In LOST IN THE FOREST, the author gives us her finest: characters we fully believe in and care about; a plot that draws us in, engrossing readers to the point that they're happy to give up sleep in order to discover what happens; and lyrical writing. As in real life, the conclusion of the tale is not a true ending, leaving readers with the sense that this family's existence is not contained within the book covers and so continues on.

    This highly awaited work is a must-read treat for Sue Miller's many fans. And, if you've not read this author before, fair warning: Opening LOST IN THE FOREST may well set you up for a lifelong addiction.

    --- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon

    4-0 out of 5 stars Was I supposed to be outraged by the ending?-No spoilers
    I read this book rather quickly.I liked it, not as much as some of Ms Miller's other books, but it read easily and fast. The characters were well developed, and I enjoyed the setting of the book (California Wine Country) as well as the businesses the characters were involved in- a bookshop and vineyards. I was saddened by the beginning of the book, and appreciate that what happened was the start of what was to become. I hated what happened to Daisy, the middle daughter. I tried to read into the characters to see how this could have been avoided-especially her parents, divorced though they were. I appreciated most of the relationships in the book. But the ending absolutely infuriated me. I nearly threw the book across the room-something I had not done since Centennial by James Michener-in the scene where he describes what we did to the Indians and Buffalo. Anyway, I do not want to give the ending away.I wish I could talk to Ms Miller about the omission in the end, the lack of responsibility by several characters.I want to know if she wrote this ending to make us the reader furious, so we would not forget what happened to Daisy and not allow us to let it happen to another. Or was it her idea of an okay ending, or was the book due per a contract and just had to be wrapped up. I hope she meant for us not to forget; I won't. But I have to wonder if that was her intent. And I really wish I had an email address so I could give her my thoughts on it.Read the book, then you can decide-was the ending the right one?

    5-0 out of 5 stars With Great Wit
    A very witty and droll take on relationships, placed against the backdrop of wine country. Somewhere in between the dry wit of "Saturday" and the slick wit of "My Fractured Life", "Lost in the Forest" has a strong delivery. Masterfully scripted, "Lost in the Forest" is a fine feast. ... Read more

    10. Saturday
    by Ian McEwan
    list price: $26.00
    our price: $17.16
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0385511809
    Catlog: Book (2005-03-22)
    Publisher: Nan A. Talese
    Sales Rank: 52
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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    "In Saturday he remains at the top of his game — assured, accomplished and ambitious... [Saturday] offers something transcendent, impossible to dissect."
    —Lewis Jones, Telegraph

    "operating at the height of his formidable powers...Artistically, morally and politically, he excels"
    —Ruth Scurr, Times

    "Where the literary careers of some of his contemporaries now look like gaudy wreckage, he has triumphantly developed into a writer of outstanding subtlety and substance. ..Written with superb exactness, complex, suspenseful, reflective and humane, this novel about an expert on the human brain by an expert on the human mind reinforces his status as the supreme novelist of his generation."
    —Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

    "It's the good writing and the truthful and convincing way of rendering consciousness that makes Ian McEwan's Saturday so engrossing, keeping me awake like a mystery thriller."
    —Colm Toibin chose Saturday as one his books in A Little Night Reading, in The Sunday Times

    "Refreshing and engrossing, Saturday has a pleasing intimacy... McEwan's superb novel amply demonstrates how good fiction, by dramatising unweildy and fraught ideas in a deeply personal narrative, can fashion the world into gobbets sometimes more digestible than factual reportage"
    —James Urquhart, Independent

    "His gift of observation, wonderfully precise, now comes thick and fast. There is nothing in this novel that feels forced. The author's mature attention illuminates equally everything it falls on....this [is a] profound and urgent novel."
    —Tim Adams, Observer

    "In Saturday he is at his best — thoughtful, eloquent, yet restrained. The novel has all the technical assurance of its predecessors, and suggests as well as a newly political sensibility and a seductive, Joycean attention to the textures of normality."
    —Henry Hitchings, FT

    "Saturday is a brilliant novel about post 9/11 Britain, about the fragility of middle-class liberal values and assumptions, and the escalating vulnerability of our small, democratic island. It is McEwan writing on absolute top form."
    Daily Mail

    "An exemplary novel, engrossing and sustained. It is undoubtedly McEwan's best."
    —Anita Brookner, Spectator

    Praise for Atonement:
    “Atonement is a deliriously great read, but more than that it is a great book.”
    —Zsuszi Gartner, The Globe and Mail

    “A book that shocks one into remembering just how high one’s literary standards should be… A tour-de-force by one of England’s best novelists.”
    —Noah Richler, National Post

    “A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama.”
    The New Yorker

    “Atonement is a tremendous achievement, a rich demonstration of McEwan’s gifts as a storyteller.”
    The Vancouver Sun

    From the Hardcover edition.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (95)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A moving story
    Saturday brilliantly depicts life in a post 9/11 environment and successfully portrays a world of divergent but understandable differences. This novel's varied attributes places it in the line ofgreat stories like DA VINCI CODE, DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, THE TRIUMPH OF THE SUN, NEVER LET ME GO. They have at their core mystery,love, happiness, hope, sufferings and uncertainty.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Perfectly pretentious
    Henry Perowne, brilliant neurosurgeon, lives in a 7000 square foot period townhouse in the beautiful part of London, plays squash every Saturday (before making love to his wife of 20 years for two hours), never looks at other women, runs the London Marathon every year, never loses his temper and generally makes you want to throw up.As does his perfect wife (brilliant lawyer/daughter of famous poet/heiress), perfect daughter (beautiful brilliant poet protégée) and perfect son (brilliantly gifted blues musician). At least he does have one flawed relative, his drunk of a father in law.Then again, the drunk father in law is also a brilliant world famous poet who lives in a French chateau.These characters are all sickeningly bourgeois and totally unbelievable.Add to that some shallow and equally artificial pontifications on the wisdom of the War on Iraq, a score of sleep inducing pages describing squash matches and the like and, hey presto, you have "Saturday".

    5-0 out of 5 stars Chaos and Order
    Ian McEwan is a master at pitting chaos and order against one another to create human drama. I personally loved McEwan's "Amsterdam" as an all time favorite and thoroughly enjoyed "Atonement" as well. With "Saturday" he keeps that same approach of human drama. Here with "Saturday" he utilizes a stream of conscious voice reminiscent of "My Fractured Life" that is tremendously effective. Just when you think the voice is rambling you realize its purpose and the lesson of consequence. You will be enthralled.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The weekend is here---do you know where YOU are?
    In my quest for the next best thing, I ran across "Saturday."While I hadn't read "Atonement," I was still cautiously optimistic, given the fact that sometimes the term "bestseller" doesn't always mean "good." But the sixth day of the week turned out to be quite fascinating.Well written and well thought out, along the same lines as McCrae's "Children's Corner" and full of inspirational insight (think "Glass Castle") this wonderful novel captivated my attention from page one until the end.Certainly one of the reasons for the success of this novel is the fact that it deals in some way or other with terrorism and the war in Iraq.But McEwan takes things farther than just that.It may only be one day in a man's life, but what happens internally to him is much, much more.Caution:This is not the book for you if you don't like to think!!!

    4-0 out of 5 stars Great writing about unbelievable people
    In spite of the fact that Henry Perowne's world is vastly different from the one in which which most of us live, we share the same emotions.On any day we can be fearful of the world's future; we can be content in a loving yet sometimes touchy family relationships; we can be comfortable in careers, and we can be forced to react to situations that seem unfair, random, or meaningless.As different as Henry's world is to mine, I could relate.I suppose that's a sign of a good author.

    On the other hand, I can't say that "Saturday" will be a novel I'll never forget.The situations and Henry's reaction to them are at times just too contrived.I really can't envision a street thug such as Baxter so easily softened by the recitation of a poem.I can't believe a neurosurgeon would allow himself to perform surgery after the events of his day on that particular patient.I can't believe the almost surgerical analysis of Theo's blues "three times rounds the twelve bars" and such could have such an emotional effect.Henry seems to be an expert at many things (cooking, wine, music, squash), and totally oblivious to others.The family is a bit too perfect, too artificial.

    Furthermore, I don't understandthis novel as a reaction to 9/11.Terror and fear of a world out of control is not new (remember the atom bomb).

    The writing at times is beautiful although at times tedious (that squash game!).However, in spite of shortcomings, I'm glad I read "Saturday" and would recommend it to others for its ability to connect each of us in some very vague and almost unexplanable way.

    ... Read more

    11. Acts of Faith
    list price: $26.95
    our price: $17.79
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0375411666
    Catlog: Book (2005-05-03)
    Publisher: Knopf
    Sales Rank: 411
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Acclaim for Acts of Faith
    “Philip Caputo, from Vietnam onwards, has understood the hardest truths of the modern world better than almost anybody. Acts of Faith is a stunningly unflinching novel. On the surface it is set in Africa, but in fact its true landscape is the ravaged soul of the twenty-first century. Philip Caputo is one of the few absolutely essential writers at work today.” –Robert Olen Butler
    “In Acts of Faith Philip Caputo has fashioned a gripping cast of characters and placed them in a spellbinding story. You can’t get any better than that.” –Winston Groom
    “Caputo’s ambitious adventure novel, set against a backdrop of the Sudanese wars, makes for a dense, riveting update on Graham Greene’s The Quiet American . . . Caputo presents a sharply observed, sweeping portrait, capturing the incestuous world of the aid groups, Sudan’s multiethnic mix, and the decayed milieu of Kenyan society.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)
    Acts of Faith offers an image of Africa deserving comparison with Conrad, Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan de Hartog’s forgotten near-masterpiece The Spiral Road.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    “Philip Caputo is a splendid, muscular story teller who possesses the crucial power to make endearing ordinary men from diverse fragilities and stubborness.” —Gloria Emerson, Los Angeles Times

    “For the past twenty years, Caputo has written parables of hubris upbraided, populated by outsiders whose defects lead them into trouble as unerringly as does fate.” —David Haward Bain, New York Times Book Review

    “Caputo lets no one and nothing off the hook.” —Richard Bausch, Washington Post Book World

    “Caputo takes on most of the hot-button issues of our time–racism, random violence, disempowerment, the decay of social fabric, even the nature of evil itself–and more than lives to tell the tale.” —Roget L. Simon, Los Angeles Times

    Acclaim for Philip Caputo's previous books:

    The Voyage

    “An adventure filled sea story.” —Andrea Barrett, The New York York Times Book Review

    “Genuinely exciting . . . Caputo’s prose is a pleasure . . . The ending satisfies completely, adding layers of intriguing meannig to the already rich adventure story.” —Debra Spark, Chicago Tribune

    “A compellig novel that offers both rousing adventure and penetrating insight into the mystery that is family.” —Library Journal

    “A high seas classic combined with a mystery . . . a complicated psychological drama . . . an engaging study of the emotional life of young me . . . [their struggles] toward independent adulthood, their rage and love for an unapproachable father.” —Paul Kafka, San Francisco Chronicle

    “Caputo is a conjurer of rich atmosphere; he knows the sea and sailing. But he also knows the ways of building finely shaded characters. Readers will find all his talents on display here.”--Brad Hooper, Booklist

    “Strongly imagined . . . those who plunge headlong into its dark waters will not soon forget the experience.” Kirkus Reviews


    “What makes Exiles extraordinary is the lead story, “Standing In,” . . . Here Mr. Caputo brings fresh subtlety to the psychology of exile. It is one of the most engaging works of fiction he has yet produced.”--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times

    “Philip Caputo is a splendid, muscular story teller who possesses the crucial power to make endearing ordinary men from diverse fragilities and stubborness.” —Glor
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    Reviews (4)

    4-0 out of 5 stars The Truth Comes Out of Us All
    Acts of Faith will be compared by many to the epic books about how people under stress in exotic circumstances reveal themselves such as The Quiet American.In this case, the stress in question is the desire to do the right thing . . . in a place and time when you will be tempted to let the ends justify the ends.

    The war in the Sudan is the centerpiece of Acts of Faith.In this 660+ page novel, Mr. Caputo leisurely lulls you into taking sides against the Arab slavers . . . but reels you into realizing that the Christian do-gooders don't have clean hands either.

    The story has several narrators.The most important is Fitzhugh Martin, a multiracial Kenyan who simply wants to have a job, but gains a purpose in life through serving the Sudanese.But Fitzhugh gets more than he bargained for when he joins the zealous American, Doug Braithwaite, in establishing a bush airline to deliver humanitarian supplies.Fitzhugh's perspective is the reader's lifeline back to the reality outside of the Sudan and the passions of the characters.Wesley Dare narrates from the perspective of a bush pilot whose altruism is tempered by the desire to make a big score and leave Africa forever.Quinette Harden narrates from the viewpoint of an ordinary American Christian woman who finds herself drawn to the unfolding struggle, particularly in rescuing slaves.She goes with the flow and becomes sucked into an unexpected life like quicksand.Finally, Ibrahim Idris ibn Nur-el-Din presents the Sudanese Arab perspective as he pursues his twin goals of keeping power and regaining his favorite female slave.

    The core of the story revolves around a small area in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan where a tiny medical mission has been tending to those fleeing from the Arab attacks on the black Africans in southern Sudan.The vulnerability of the mission and its patients quickly draws the sympathy of those who are new to the area.But the Sudanese government won't allow aid to reach the mission.The United Nations has a policy of requiring permission to fly in, and won't supply aid because Sudan opposes it.That leaves the desperate people there in need of help.Drawn initially by idealism, some of the bush pilots decide to supply aid.Funding isn't a problem.And the Sudanese government doesn't try very hard to stop the flights.

    But as time passes, the needs of those in the Nuba Mountains change and grow.Those who have committed to helping them find themselves tempted to do more . . . than perhaps they should.

    The book is filled with little moral challenges and lessons.An ethics teacher could use this book for years to generate interesting moral questions to consider.

    Ultimately, though, the book is about peeling back the veneer of who we appear to be . . . to reveal who we really are.The character developments of Quinette Martin and Wesley Dare are masterful.The other characters are developed much less well.That was a disappointment because clearly Mr. Caputo has the skills to do more in this regard.Many of the characters, by comparison, are barely-sketched-in cardboard figures who simply tie the plot together.The problem seems to be that Mr. Caputo prefers to develop his characters through plot rather than by using revealed thoughts and selected background.The exception is Doug Braithwaite where selected background is used to try to reveal a lot, but the effect doesn't quite work as smoothly as it might.

    Many will find this book to be ponderous and wish it were shorter.I didn't mind the length, but much of the plot development was predictable which made some parts a little more tedious than they might have been.

    But Mr. Caputo is generous in his observations about the mixed nature of good and evil . . . and our tendency to justify ourselves in doing as we please.That's what made this book rewarding for me.

    4-0 out of 5 stars "Sudan...cut off from normal standards...under harsher rules."
    Setting this almost 700-page novel in Sudan and neighboring Kenya, Philip Caputo details the massive aid efforts of non-government organizations (NGOs) from around the world to bring aid into an area so dangerous that the UN will not enter.Using bush pilots and small airlines from Kenya, the NGOs fly into southern Sudan and land on hidden landing strips.The Muslim government of Sudan, located to the north in Khartoum, has long been at war with the oil-rich, largely Christian south, and atrocities, thoroughly described here, occur on a regular basis--the abduction of children for children's armies, the rape and enslavement of women, the maiming and mutilation of the healthy, the cutting off of food and water, and the theft of crucial medical supplies.

    Caputo's large cast of characters consists of relief workers in Nuba, an oil-rich area in Sudan--Christian evangelists who bring aid and wish to convert the inhabitants;the International People's Aid group, a humanitarian group from Canada, run by a former Catholic priest;German Emergency Doctors, which operates a local hospital;and the mercenary pilots and owners of small airlines which service the area--along with members of the SPLA; a local Arab warlord allied with the Khartoum government; and members of the international press, most notably CNN.

    The novel has a three-fold, rather than single focus--the very real atrocities of war and the real corruption of the Sudanese and Kenyan governments;the real, marginal lives, and real tribal and religious conflicts of the Sudanese people; and the fictional lives, backgrounds, and relationships of the characters.Well over two hundred pages are devoted to the backgrounds of fictional characters, including, sometimes, even the backgrounds of the characters' parents.The characters are people of action and impulse, however, not of thought and contemplation, and it is their actions, not thoughts or past history, which drive the novel.Judicious editing of the lengthy background material, especially at the beginning, could have shortened the novel significantly, tightened it thematically, and improved it dramatically.The three love stories draw in the reader and keep the interest high, but they are given as much space here as the real struggles of the real Sudanese of Nuba.

    Caputo's intentions are to publicize the horror of this Sudanese civil war, but he also wants to show that "In Sudan the choice is never between the right thing and the wrong thing but between what is necessary and what isn't"--an ethical conundrum which conflicts with absolute, conventional values and shows the magnitude of the problems.Planes flying aid are sometimes used to smuggle weapons;the desire to save lives on a massive scale sometimes involves the sacrifice of lives on a small scale.

    Caputo's vision of man's inner nature is dark.When even a high-minded evangelical makes expedient decisions with horrifying results, and when intense love slowly sputters out, then what is left?Caputo does not provide those answers, nor does the structure of the novel.In a conclusion dependent upon coincidence and melodrama, the reader is left with the idea that in a conflict between good and evil, the best one can hope for is a toss-up. (3.5 stars)Mary Whipple

    5-0 out of 5 stars thought provoking anti-war thriller
    In the oil rich Nuba Mountains of Sudan, Muslims wage war on the natives.A variety of individuals with differing purposes try to provide sustenance to the beleaguered populace.One relief group Knight Air includes Biracial Kenyan Fitzhugh Martin who fills his previously vapid life as a soccer star with meaning due to the relief operation.Americans Douglas Brathwaite and Wes Dare, and Canadian Mary English also find spiritual sustenance with the fly lift effort.

    At the same time as Knight Air and other rival relief groups struggle to assist the blacks, the ferocious slaughter continues as Arab warlord Ibrahim Idirs keeps fighting though he misses his black mistress who is probably dead..The Sudanese People's Liberation Army has its agenda too and so does the altruistic Knight Air who chooses an immoral means that will geometrically increase the death rate in order to end the killings.

    Using detailed events to describe a devastating war, Philip Caputo provides a deep look at what Colin Powell declared as genocide.The story line uses action to paint a complex multifaceted look into the killing fields of Sudan and how mercenaries, missionaries, military and mindless humanitarians cause havoc on the beleaguered local populace.Though depressingly a Rwanda replay, ACTS OF FAITH is a thought provoking anti-war thriller that even uses seemingly out of place romantic subplots to serve as ironic counterpoint to the killings in which all is not quiet on the southern front.

    5-0 out of 5 stars American Acts Of Faith Brings Acts of Destruction inSudan
    The best of Philip Caputo's writings concern the chaos and madness of war. His previous books were born out of his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran (see "A Rumor Of War" - 1977 and "Indian Country" - 1987). This time he writes about a war different from his own with masterful results.

    He places his American characters in the ugly civil war that turn into genocide in the Sudan. As in Vietnam, his Americans believe that they have the answers and know what is best for the local Sudanese. They don't, and from that premise their growing involvement will bring tragedy by the close of the novel.

    His storytelling of American do-gooders in way over their heads approaches epic proportions. It has riveting characters whom the reader will care about their respective fates. This is a long tale at nearly 700 pages -- it is double the length of his other books. "Acts of Faith" will hold your interest and haunt you long after you have set it down for the last time. ... Read more

    12. The Historian
    by Elizabeth Kostova
    list price: $25.95
    our price: $17.13
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0316011770
    Catlog: Book (2005-06-14)
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    Sales Rank: 61
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    Book Description

    DESCRIPTION: In this riveting debut of breathtaking scope, a young girl discoversher father's darkest secret and embarks on a harrowing journey across Europe to completethe quest he never could -- to find history's most legendary fiend: Dracula. When a motherless American girl living in Europe finds a medieval book and a package of letters, all addressed ominously to "My dear and unfortunate successor..." she begins to unravel a thread that leads back to her father's past, his mentor's career, and an evil hidden in the depths of history.In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright:a hunt that nearly brought her father to ruin and may have claimed the life of his adviser and dear friend, history professor Bartholomew Rossi. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, have to do with the 20th century? Is it possible that Dracula has lived on in the modern world? And why have a select few historians risked reputation, sanity, and even their lives to learn the answer?So begins an epic journey to unlock the secrets of the strange medieval book, an adventure that will carry our heroine across Europe and into the past -- not only to the times of Vlad's heinous reign, but to the days when her mother was alive and her father was still a vibrant young scholar. In the end, she uncovers the startling fate of Rossi, and comes face to face with the definition of evil-- to find, ultimately, that good may not always triumph. ... Read more

    13. A Good Yarn
    by Debbie Macomber
    list price: $19.95
    our price: $13.57
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0778321444
    Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
    Publisher: Mira
    Sales Rank: 236
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    You might have heard about a wonderful little yarn store in downtown Seattle. Debbie Macomber can take you there! Thousands of women discovered it when they read her bestselling novelThe Shop on Blossom Street.

    Whether this is a return visit or your very first, you'll find that A Good Yarn is a place of welcome and warmth. A place where women feel at home. Where they're among friends, old and new:

    The first person you'll meet is Lydia Hoffman, who owns the shop. In the year since it opened, A Good Yarn has thrived -- and so has Lydia. A lot of that is due to Brad Goetz. But when Brad's ex-wife reappears, Lydia is suddenly afraid to trust her newfound happiness.

    Elise Beaumont, a retired librarian, joins one of Lydia's popular knitting classes. Since losing her life savings, Elise has been living with her daughter, Aurora -- the only positive legacy from her brief marriage to professional gambler Marvin "Maverick" Beaumont. Now she learns that her onetime husband plans to visit and that Aurora wants a relationship with her father, regardless of how Elise feels about him.

    Bethanne Hamlin, like Elise, is facing the fallout from a divorce. But her husband, Grant, left her for another woman -- not a pack of cards -- and she's still struggling to reshape her life. She joins the knitting class at her children's urging; it's the first step in her effort to recover a sense of dignity and hope. Then she starts a small business and meets a man with whom she has something surprising in common!

    Courtney Pulanski is a depressed and overweight teenager. She's staying with her grandmother, who's trying to help her . . . help that takes the form of dragging her to seniors' swim sessions -- and to the knitting class at A Good Yarn.

    Like so many women, these four find companionship and comfort in each other and in this age-old craft. Who would've thought that knitting socks could change your life?

    Debbie Macomber, the author of The Shop on Blossom Street, Changing Habits, Between Friends and Thursdays at Eight, has become a leading voice in women's fiction worldwide. Her work has appeared on every major bestseller list, including those of the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Publishers Weekly. She is a multiple award winner, and there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print. ... Read more

    Reviews (7)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Sweet
    What a sweet and delightful novel this one is. Very romantic, full of love and well as the women in the knitting class. Debbie Macomber has given us a delightful read. One in which i did not want to put down
    also read: Full Bloom by Janet Evanovich and the hot-Fire In The Ice by Katlyn Stewart

    4-0 out of 5 stars No one does Women's Fiction better!
    Debbie Macomber is one my favorite authors.No one can write about women, for women better (in my opinion!!).A GOOD YARN is no different from any of her other books on this subject.It's not her best novel (BETWEEN FRIENDS has that honor!), but it's certainly a pleasant read, and would make the perfect "beach companion"or poolside read this summer.

    The book is a sequel (or follow-up) to last year's SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET, with the story revolving aroud the main character and shop's owner, Lydia.This year's knitting class teaches us how to make a pair of socks (an actual pattern is included inside the book), while Lydia meets and becomes friends with a new group of three women.The three characters from last year's book (students from her first knitting class) make"cameo" appearances, but the story focuses on Lydia and her three new students.

    Written from the point of view of all four characters, the chapters once again alternate between narrators (which is actually typical for a Debbie Macomber novel).While this can become confusing or even a nuisance under the pen of other writers, Debbie Macomber does it flawlessly and effortlessly, so that readers get to know each character on an intimate level, and can actually see themselves becoming with friends with one or all of all of the book's main characters.

    Lydia is the shop owner and the one who brings these women together (through her knitting classes which she offers at her shop).After battling illness for most of her life, she's given a clean bill of health and finally found, what she believes is true love with Brad (the handsome UPS guy!) and has made a connection with & become much closer to her sister, whom she has battled with for nearly as long as she's battled her illness.

    Bethane is a recently divorced mother of two, who is learning how to live life on her own, discovering who she is, and what it is she can offer to those around her, all the while trying to deal with the emotional roller coster her children are on due to the divorce.Elise is also divorced, whose gambling ex-husband comes to town to re-accquainthimself with their now grown and married daughter, while trying to mend the fences with the one & only woman he's ever really truly loved.Courtney is a teen-aged girl who is new in town and has recently come to stay with her grandmother.After losing her mother in a car accident, her father to his work, and her siblings to marriage, Courtney must deal with a new school, making new friends, and all the other trials & tribulations that all teens go through, all without the guidance of a parent close by to lead the way.Each character has their own individual story to tell, while at the same time, we see how their paths cross and how each affects one another's life and help each other along.

    The stories are fairly predictable, yet the familarity of each character with their trimumphs and tragedies makes this a comfortable, enjoyable read that most readers will certainly identify with and feel like one of the friends in the book.I'm sure many will be wishing that a similar shop existed in their own neighborhood!

    My only "negative" thought about this book, and the reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5, is that I felt the characters & stories were too similar and parallel to the characters & stories of last year's SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET.While most of Debie Macomber's books have a familar feeling to them, since most deal with the friendships of women and are often told in a similar way, I'd prefer to meet new charcters with new stories and go on a new journey.It didn't make this book any less enjoyable, it just left me with a feeling of "been there, done that."

    I still think Debbie Macomber is one of the best authors of women's fiction today, and her stories and characters feel very real with many true-to-life experiences.If you enjoy stories about the love of friends and family with a little romance thrown in, you're certain to enjoy any one of Debbie Macomber's HC releases.

    You don't have to have read SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET to enjoy this book, but it will certainly help fill in some of the blanks.Once you've finished this book, if you're left wanting more, I highly recommend BETWEEN FRIENDS, which was written by Debbie Macomber and released about two years ago - it remains one of my favorite books of all time!

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Real Page-Turner and an Inspiration to knit socks!
    This novel kept me up all night last night! Debbie Macomber teases you into reading just one more page all the way through, so don't start it until you have time to read it all at once! And now that I am done I feel like the characters are real people.

    I think anyone who reads this book is going to walk into the first yarn store they see and ask to have a class like the characters in the book do. The only thing missing for me was that no men were knitting. Sometimes it seemed like the author was about to have a man or boy knit but she never did.

    I learned to knit socks on two circular needles three years ago from Cat Bordhi's excellent book, Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles. A Good Yarn starts right out with a sock pattern by Nancy Bush (she is the matriarch of sock knitting books!) done on double pointed needles, and then the same pattern is given again by Cat Bordhi for two circular needles. The story is about a group of women who learn to knit socks as taught in Cat's book and so I felt like I was right in the room with them, because I knew exactly what they were knitting!

    This second knitting novel by Debbie Macomber (the first is Blossom Street) is a wonderful gift for any knitter or even for any woman who appreciates true friends. There's a bunch of knitting novels now, from mysteries to Debbie's wonderful books. I read Knitting: a Novel recently and it is very good too, but not as easy to follow as this one. Cat Bordhi also wrote a novel that has sock knitting in it and even tree house knitting (no kidding). The book is called Treasure Forest.It kept me up all night too turning the next page until the very end.

    3-0 out of 5 stars A Good Yarn
    Another class is about to start at A Good Yarn, and with it, more lives that are in need of repair have the opportunity to come together and be reknit. There is Elise, a retired librarian who lost her heart and savings to Maverick Beaumont, a professional gambler, or more aptly, loser. Then comes Bethane, a woman whose husband ditched her for a younger model, leaving her to raise two teens who are in the throes of acting out. Finally, there is Courtney, a teen with a weight problem who does not want to be in that town, much less the class. Together with their teacher, Lydia Hoffman and her sister Margaret, these women will begin to weave new lives, ones that interlock with each others' in new and inspirational ways.

    *** Although the shifting perspective between first and third person, as well as the changing point of view between characters takes a while to get the hang of, in the end it is worthwhile to do so. This book is not billed as inspirational, per se, but you would not be wrong to look for inspiration herein. ***

    2-0 out of 5 stars Predictable and Bland
    I found the characters in A Good Yarn rather cliché: the divorcee who is still in love with her gambling ex-husband; the gambling ex-husband with a heart of gold; the woman who finds courage to start a career when her husband of 20-odd years dumps her for a younger woman; the rebellious teenager; the wise grandmother, ad nauseum.The plot was predictable: of course the teenager loses the weight and ends up going to the homecoming dance with the football teem quarterback/Homecoming King; of course the goodhearted ex-husband gambler is dying of cancer and mostly reformed.The best that can be said of the writing was that it was redundant; for example, Macomber writes how the gambler's luck at the casinos influenced his moods, and then tells us in the very next sentence that he was happy when he won and depressed when he lost, as if it would have been the other way around.I didn't particularly sympathize with any of the characters or their situations. ... Read more

    14. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
    by Paulo Coelho
    list price: $13.00
    our price: $9.75
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0062502182
    Catlog: Book (1995-05-10)
    Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
    Sales Rank: 315
    Average Customer Review: 4.15 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world, and this tenth anniversary edition, with a new introduction from the author, will only increase that following. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

    ... Read more

    Reviews (604)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Looking to follow your dream?
    If you are looking to follow your heart in a chosen path or seeking the truth then this book is for you. The book contains great insights and spiritual awareness but is written in a very easy to read style.

    I would strongly recommend that before you read this book to follow the principles listed in the Fit for Life books by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. This cleansing of the body will take several months but it is worth it, as then you can experience the insights and spiritual guidance for yourself.

    Another book I would recommend following the detoxification process is The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy.

    Good luck and God bless.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Oprah, please!!!!
    It it high time Oprah picked a Paulo Coelho. It is so much like the pseudo intelectualism she likes. This is highly recommended for whose have a lot of time to waste. I don't get why people read it with so many good choices to read instead... that's the ugly truth.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Herman Hesse Wannabe
    If nothing else, The Alchemist provided stimulation for me to search out more authentic sources on the topics it endeavored to attack (Buddhist philosophy, Arabian desert lifestyle, etc). And because it WAS a source of stimulation, and because I could not allow myself to group it with the 1-starred Stephen King or Danielle Steele 'novels', I give Coelho 2 stars for his effort.

    Basically, this is a simple story of a man on a journey through Arabian deserts; on his way he meets mystics, women, takes up odd jobs in glass blowing, caring for sheep, and such soul searching enterprises. Suppossedly by the end of his adventurous journey (which leads him to a "treasure") he 'learns'/attains the meaning of life.

    I do believe Coelho was a little theologically confused at the time he wrote this story. His main messages are:
    "Follow your heart", and "Learn the Language of The World"; but see, Coehlo and his main character are Christians; the boy travels through a (mainly) Muslim land, and though he ends up at the Egyptian pyramids, the preachings seem to be quite "eastern" in take (buddha comes to mind). But of course, the whole POINT of Eastern philosophies is that they cannot be described in words (Coelho constantly preaches about how things cannot be told, they must be experienced).

    For all that, Coelho does a lotta telling.

    The language is quite simple, which can be beautiful (read: Herman Hesse); however it comes off as quite redundant and sermonic. Every other sentence contains at least one reference to either "The Soul of the World", or "The Personal Legend", or "Follow Your Heart" with a big fat capital H. By the end of the novel I am skimming most passages.

    The characters are flat (I didn't really "feel" them, what they were going through, and there was no character development), and the storyline resembled that of a children's folktale (I like folktales).

    Overall, it was a worthwhile read given that it only took a couple hours, presented some interesting ideas (albeit, without illustrating any of them satisfactorily), and removed me to the Spanish countryside/Arabian desert for a bit (I am a sucker for folktales, and if this book is nothing else, it would make a BEAUTIFUL illustrated children's book-- I like that).

    NOTE TO ALL Reviewer-Reviewers: Please consider rating the reviews as helpful if they contain pertinent information on the item under discussion, not if you agree with what the reviewer has to say. I've noticed unhelpful one-liners get "helpful" votes (when the reviews were positive), and other, more full/explained (but more negative) reviews get NO helpful votes -- this IS NOT A VOTE on how much you agree with the other reader! Be FAIR :o)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable yet inspiring
    I really enjoyed this book. It didn't bog me down with a lot of details, it told a simple story, with a message. Kind of reminded me of myself and the journey called life that I go through. I highly recommend this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself"
    THE ALCHEMIST is the story of a young Andalusian shepherd who pursues his dream to travel to Egypt where he hopes to find a treasure.

    Santiago spent two years at a seminary where he received an education. He left after he decided not to become a priest. He told his parents that he wanted to travel, and his father told him that poor people where not able to travel, unless they were shepherds. So, Santiago became a shepherd and moved his flock of sheep all over Spain. He learned a great deal from his sheep, but he made sure to keep reading and he always carried a book with him.

    He encounters many people on his journeys, including a king, a gypsy and a true alchemist. The alchemist tells Santiago to "tell his heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second encounter with God and with eternity." In the desert he learns to see with both his eyes and his heart, he also meets Fatima and falls in love.

    This book is simply written, but I can already tell that certain parts of the story will always remain in my mind. ... Read more

    15. Bangkok Tattoo
    list price: $24.00
    our price: $16.32
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1400040450
    Catlog: Book (2005-05-10)
    Publisher: Knopf
    Sales Rank: 515
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Download Description

    Killing customers just isn’t good for business.”

    My mother Nong’s tone reflects the disappointment we all feel when a star employee starts to go wrong. Is there nothing to be done? Will we have to let dear Chanya go? The question can only be decided by Police Colonel Vikorn, who owns most of the shares inthe Old Man’s Club and who is on his way in his Bentley.

    “No,” I agree. Like my mother’s, my eyes cannot stop flicking across the empty bar to the stool where Chanya’s flimsy silver dress (just enough silk to cover nipples and butt) drapes and drips. Well, the dripping was slight and is more or less finished (a rusty stain on the floor turning black as it dries), but in more than a decade as a detective inthe Royal Thai Police, I have never seen a garment so blood-soaked. Chanya’s bra, also hideously splattered, lies halfway up the stairs, and her panties—her only other garment—lie abandoned on the floor outside the upstairs room where, eccentrically even for a Thai whore, she has taken refuge with an opium pipe.

    “She didn’t say anything at all? Like why?”

    “No, I told you. She dashed in through the door in a bit of a state holding an opium pipe, glared at me, said, ‘I’ve done him in,’ rippedoff her dress, and disappeared upstairs. Fortunately, there were only a couple of farang in the bar at the time, and the girls were fantastic. They merely said, ‘Oh, Chanya, she goes like that sometimes,’ and gently ushered them out. I had to play the whole thing down, of course, and by the time I got to her room, she was already stoned.”

    “What did she say again?”

    “She was tripping on the opium, totally delirious. When she started talking to the Buddha, I left to call you and the Colonel. At that stage I didn’t know if she’d really done him in or was freaking out on yaa baa or something.”

    But she’d snuffed him all right. I walked to the farang’s hotel, which is just a couple of streets away from Soi Cowboy, and flashed my police ID to get the key to his room. There he was, a big muscular naked American farang in his early thirties, minus a penis and a lot of blood from a huge knife wound that began in his lower gut and finished just short of his rib cage. Chanya, a basically decent and very tidy Thai, had placed his penis on the bedside table. At the other end of the table, a single rose stood in a plastic mug of water.

    There was nothing for it but to secure the room for the purposes of forensic investigation, leave a hefty bribe for the hotel receptionist—who is now more or less obliged to say whatever I tell him to say (standard procedure under my Colonel Vikorn in District 8)—and await further orders. Vikorn, of course, was in one of his clubs carousing, probably surrounded by naked young women who adored him, or knew how to look as if they did, and in no mood to be dragged to the scene of a crime until I penetrated his drunken skull enough to explain that the business at hand was not an investigation per se but the infinitely more challenging forensic task so lightly spoken of as a “cover-up.” Even then he showed no inclination to shift himself until he realized it was Chanya (the perp, not the victim).

    “Where the hell did she get the opium?” my mother wants to know. “There hasn’t been opium in Krung Thep since I was a teenager.”

    I know from her eyes that she is thinking fondly of the Vietnam War, when she was herself a working girl in Bangkok and a lot of the GIs brought small balls of opium from the war zone (one of them being my almost-anonymous father, of whom more later). An opiated man is more or less impotent—which reduces much of the wear and tear on a professional’s assets—and not inclined to argue about fee str
    ... Read more

    Reviews (6)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Are you up for this, farang?
    "Cynical" seems a wan description of the world of Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Many readers will have a hard time with Sonchai, who advocates prostitution as a worthwhile way for poor Thai girls to get rich quick, and who doesn't bother to conceal his utter contempt for post-911 America and Americans. If you hold your Western morality dearly, better skip this one.

    On the other hand, if you're up for a stylish, sexy, rollicking good read with oodles and oodles of plot, dripping with exotica of every description, then welcome to Sonchai's world. Sonchai's mom, an ex-hooker turned clubowner, and the ever-inventive Colonel Vikorn (with his limo blasting "Ride of the Valkyries" through its sound system at all times) are characters who will make you laugh out loud--that is, when you're not squirming over the moral dilemmas they pose (and then leap past, with the greatest of ease). You may think you've read it all on the moral ambiguity front, but Burdett takes all those wised-up detective stories and raises the stakes to another level entirely. When you find yourself rooting for a young male cop to be successful in his sex-change operation, you'll know Burdett has gotten into your head. It's a great ride! Enjoy!

    2-0 out of 5 stars Bite Me Farong !!
    Don't waste your time, the author uses the word Farong about every other sentence. I think it is supposed to be funny. There is little here to capture the readers interest. Unless you like being called or referred to as a Farong, save your money. There is a somewhat interesting description of Bangkok and it's seamier side, in fact I think that is the only side of Bangkok you will read about in this book.There is supposed to be a mystery here somewhere, but I didn't think it was worth my time to keep looking for it. Finally after about half way through I gave up. I was luckily able to sell my copy on Amazon at a small loss.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Beautifully twisted!
    Picked Bangkok 8 and Tattoo up before a recent three day weekend getaway and am I glad I did!What great Irony, cynicism, mystery, all wrapped up in the twisted world of Bangkok's District 8.This book is the sequel to Bangkok 8 so read that first.

    Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is investigating the murder of a CIA operative found guttedand mutilated. the number one suspect is a hot little number Chanya who works the local saloon--and Sanchai thinks he is in love love Chanya, or is it lust?The murder of course turns out to be more complicated then it first appears.Sanchi must deal with the rages of his hard nose police captain Vikorn, as he trys to unravel the case, with Chanya slowly giving out her secrets.Mix in CIA agents, Thia army generals, Thai gangsters, Muslim terrorests, all against the funky world of district 8 in Bagkok and you have a wonderful stew of a story!

    What I really enjoyed about this Burdetts writting were his characterazation, you can tell he knows Bangkok and its people, at leaste the seamy side of Bangkok.The Dialog is bitting and witty, and the author adds his own great commentary.For a good thriller read in an exotic Local you can't go wrong here or with "Bangkok 8."I also higly recommend "A Tourist in the Yucatan" for another cool thriller in an exotic location.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A slice of Thai life in an ironic and cynical thriller!
    Picked Bangkok 8 and Tattoo up before a recent three day weekend getaway and am I glad I did!What great Irony, cynicism, mystery, all wrapped up in the twisted world of Bangkok's District 8.This book is the sequel to Bangkok 8 so read that first.

    Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is investigating the murder of a CIA operative found guttedand mutilated. the number one suspect is a hot little number Chanya who works the local saloon--and Sanchai thinks he is in love love Chanya, or is it lust?The murder of course turns out to be more complicated then it first appears.Sanchi must deal with the rages of his hard nose police captain Vikorn, as he trys to unravel the case, with Chanya slowly giving out her secrets.Mix in CIA agents, Thia army generals, Thai gangsters, Muslim terrorests, all against the funky world of district 8 in Bagkok and you have a wonderful stew of a story!

    What I really enjoyed about this Burdetts writting were his characterazation, you can tell he knows Bangkok and its people, at leaste the seamy side of Bangkok.The Dialog is bitting and witty, and the author adds his own great commentary.For a good thriller read in an exotic Local you can't go wrong here or with "Bangkok 8."I also higly recommend "A Tourist in the Yucatan" for another cool thriller in an exotic location.

    5-0 out of 5 stars terrificThai police procedural
    In Bangkok, Nong, part owner of the Old Man's Club, calls her son Royal Thai police detective Chai Jipleecheep and her partner, Chai's superior Colonel Vikorn to inform them that one of their ladies, Chanya killed a visiting American.While Nong thinks killing customers is bad for business, Vikorn informs Chai that the homicide was an act of self defense without visiting the crime scene or interviewing the woman who has confessed.Chai persuades his boss to come to the hotel room where the murder occurred.The victim not only had his penis removed, but possessed an interesting Visa that allowed multiple reentries over the next two years.In other words Mitch Turner was from the CIA.

    Vikorn knows self defense or homicide means the CIA, the FBI, and the Thai government will be all over them from head to toes.Instead Vikorn, needing to protect his investment decides to throw the blame on Al Qaeda, which will make the Americans happy.While Vikorn tries to con the Yanks and his superiors, Chai conducts inquiries into the homicide because he has problems accepting that even an opium dazed Chanya would commit mutilation.

    This Thai police procedural is a wonderful tale starring an interesting detective trying to remain honest when surrounded by corrupt individuals including his mother.The secondary cast provides insight into the society as well as set an amoral tone to the tale that only seemingly Chai counters.The official inquiries are cleverly designed to occur below the radar screen of the Americans seeking the Al Qaeda connection.Fans of exotic locale who-done-its will enjoy this fine tale and seek Chai's previous solid investigative tale (see BANGKOK 8).

    Harriet Klausner
    ... Read more

    16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Vintage Contemporaries)
    by Mark Haddon
    list price: $12.00
    our price: $9.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1400032717
    Catlog: Book (2004-05-18)
    Publisher: Vintage
    Sales Rank: 26
    Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Narrated by a fifteen-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions.

    Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. At fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbour’s dog Wellington impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

    Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer, and turns to his favourite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As Christopher tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, the narrative draws readers into the workings of Christopher’s mind.

    And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon’s choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotions. The effect is dazzling, making for one of the freshest debut in years: a comedy, a tearjerker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (339)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Hitting the mark
    I seem to have hit the mark recently for picking excellent books that deal with dysfunction, some sort of handicap, or bizarre coming of age stories. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT is one such book. The others were LITTLE CHILDREN (suburban dysfunction) and BARK OF THE DOGWOOD (family skeletons in the closet--and everywhere else). Of the three, INCIDENT was the most unusual.

    Christopher Boone is a fifteen-year-old autistic boy who discovers his neighbor's poodle impaled on a pitchfork. As if this isn't enough to keep you reading, the story is told through the eyes of the fifteen-year-old who is determined to figure out how the event happened. Enter the genius aspect of this novel: how the autistic mind works (or doesn't). We're shown the amazing labyrinth of the psyche that Christopher tangles with in order to piece together what happened, and the thought process is truly amazing. Again, I was reminded of a similar incident in McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD where the main character takes an aptitude test and fails miserable, at least in other's eyes.

    What an eye opener this Mark Haddon book is for this reason, for how many of us can even guess what goes on in the minds of those on the "other side?" And who is to say that "their" line of thinking is not the more correct one? Who is to say that their "logic" is illogical? Not me. If you've ever been on a jury you know how an attorney can twist things into an entirely different perspective and this is, in a sense, what happens, though Haddon is not intentionally manipulating us--he's just letting the story unfold via a very unseal mouthpiece that happens to see things in a different light.

    This is not a lengthy read, and you'll find yourself flipping the pages (not because it's a thriller) but because it's so well written and different. I've enjoyed all of the Today Show Book Club picks and this is by far, one of the best. Highly recommended for something completely different and well done.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Different ways of thinking
    This one of those treasures of a book you come across from time to time. Its rise to the fame reminds me of those exquisite low-budget movies that suddenly appear on the scene and capture audiences around the world. Mark Haddon, an award-winning children's book author, originally wrote the Curious Incident primarily for young audiences, not the general adult reader. Yet, the story and the character are anything but simplistic. Not surprisingly, given its captivating story, its moving main character, and unique style, it won literary awards for youth and children's books. Then, something curious happened as it caught the attention and imagination of the grown-ups... Having just won the Whitbread Prize for the best novel in 2003, it has achieved a rare recognition by winning awards across different literary categories.

    The story is written from the perspective of Christopher, a 15-year-old youth with ambitions of becoming an astronaut. It is about experiences in his life, his "Special Needs" as an autistic youth and his surroundings. At some level he comes across like a younger child that can only react physically to uncomfortable situations, at another he acts like a very mature teenager who can explain his difficulties and reactions. He applies logic and analysis to help him understand real life problems as intellectual puzzles, such as who murdered the poodle. Given a certain rigidity of his systematic thought processes, he cannot give up on a path once chosen, whether intellectually or physically. The resulting problems have to be faced, whatever. If his parents could have read his book, they would have had a much easier time coping with him.

    For me Haddon's book is a gem for a number of reasons. It is very real and touching story of a very special teenager that pulls the reader right into it and along with it. Christopher's ability to observe his surroundings and himself and describe his thought processes in "his" book allows the reader insights into a personality that we know little about. Haddon describes this environment where autism makes life complicated for Christopher and difficult for his parents with great care, yet he does not allow the special situation to become overbearing. He also demonstrates that people suffering from autism have a lot to offer and their special needs may not as far removed from those of the average normal person. It is a question of degree. [Friederike Knabe, Ottawa Canada]

    4-0 out of 5 stars Christopher's world
    I do not know a thing about autism--so maybe this has something to do with why I was drawn into Christopher's tale. I found this character to be very interesting as he explained to me, the reader, how his mind works and why it works the way it does. I credit the author, Mark Haddon, for sticking to the challange of conveying such a story. There's much skill in the craftmanship and I find it to be a very intelligent read. I don't understand how another person here said they read--which caught my eye because I did as well--'Simon Lazarus' and found that to be more "worthy" and that 'A Curious incident..'is "drivel" or gimmicky. I see nothing of the sort here. Both of these works are distinct in their own right, and both are smart and quite readable. So for this reader: 'Simon Lazarus' and Christopher's story here are both entertaining and fascinating reads in their own distinct way. That's what literature is all about. Appreciate them both.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Autism Understood....
    I am so grateful I purchased this remarkable book. Getting into the mind of an autistic child gives the reader a phenomenal look at the complexities of this disorder.

    Christopher is a remarkable boy and the author who created him, a remarkable man. This book will, in time, be considered a classic. I intend to put it away for my grandchildren to read when they are old enough. They are just beginning to be exposed to children with special needs.

    This book was humorous, suspenseful, sad, happy and simply wonderful. It is a book for all time and what a great film it would make. I hope someone discovers it for that reason.

    Thank you Mr. Haddon. You are a genius!!

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Book Sure To Capture A Reader's Heart
    THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME is a book that is certainly capturing people's attention. In some ways the story of an autistic teenager trying to solve a mystery is not the most captivating of topics. The only way such a topic could come to life is through the skills of a gifted writer, which is the reason THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME is a best seller and the book's main character Christopher Boone will always have a place in the hearts of those who have read this extraordinary work.

    The greatest strength of the book is the main character and narrator, Christopher, who has Asperger's Syndrome. Haddon's use of the first person enables the reader to understand the world from Christopher's perspective. We learn about his extraordinary gift (his mathematical ability) as well as his personality quirks. We also hear from Christopher why he acts in certain ways which are disturbing to the people he encounters. While Christopher may be unable to interact with the world around him, he is a keen observer of everything that happens. We feel empathy for Christopher when we meet the people in his life and realize the tragedy that has been so much a part of his experience. We admire Christopher's pluck and reserve as he accomplishes things that are difficult for him. Because the reader loves Christopher, the book becomes mesmerizing and we follow his every move with attention.

    There are a number of reasons why this book should be read. The first, and perhaps most impelling reason is that it is entertaining. The author's writing style is straightforward and Christopher is engaging. Even though most of us would believe we are different from Christopher, after reading the book any one of us could say that there is some Christopher in all of us.

    Would be writers will find the book fascinating. Haddon's literary skills are remarkable. He also includes little pictures, puzzles, games, and the like which make the book highly original. In an interview I read, he stated that the impetus for the book was not Christopher himself, but the dead dog. He found the dead dog intriguing and decided to tell its story. Haddon believed the best way to do so was through the character of Christopher. He captures Christopher's voice and keeps it consistent throughout the book. ... Read more

    17. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    list price: $18.95
    our price: $13.26
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0345453743
    Catlog: Book (2002-04-30)
    Publisher: Del Rey
    Sales Rank: 931
    Average Customer Review: 4.72 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    At last in paperback in one complete volume, here are the five classic novels from Douglas Adams’s beloved Hitchiker series.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    Seconds before the Earth is demolished for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved by Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised Guide. Together they stick out their thumbs to the stars and begin a wild journey through time and space.

    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
    Facing annihilation at the hands of warmongers is a curious time to crave tea. It could only happen to the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his comrades as they hurtle across the galaxy in a desperate search for a place to eat.

    Life, the Universe and Everything
    The unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky– so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals can avert Armageddon: mild-mannered Arthur Dent and his stalwart crew.

    So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
    Back on Earth, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription conspires to thrust him back to reality. So to speak.

    Mostly Harmless
    Just when Arthur Dent makes the terrible mistake of starting to enjoy life, all hell breaks loose. Can he save the Earth from total obliteration? Can he save the Guide from a hostile alien takeover? Can he save his daughter from herself?
    ... Read more

    Reviews (39)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Cosmic comedy
    Part humor, part science fiction and part philosophy; that's how I'd sum up the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. There are five novels in this collection with a 'bonus' story which is a really a waste of space. I liked the first three stories the best as these were pretty funny. Adam's humor is similar to Terry Pratchett's (Don't read Pratchett) and having read Pratchett at a much earlier age I could appreciate the weird twists and turns and the countless non-sequiturs. It's the kind of book you'd enjoy if you're used to the type of Monty Python humor. Douglas manages to poke fun at nearly all the professions on earth, and he never lets up in his 'attacks' against the church, most noticable in the last book 'Mostly Harmless'.

    If you are looking for logical connections between the books, you may be disappointed as these stories seem to develop on their own, with explanations of unexpected twists and turns provided as the book proceeds. Along the way though, Adam's does provide some interesting food for thought about our place in the universe, and about the nature of the universe(s) themselves. His classic thinking-outside-of-the-square style shows when he describes the difficulties faced when dealing with the grammar of time travel.

    The tone of the last book 'Mostly Harmless' was a bit too serious for my liking, especially after some of the sidesplittingly funny lines in the earlier books. He really did bring the book down to Earth on the last one. All in all, not a bad effort, though as a Christian I had to constantly remind myself that his attacks on religion were his views alone. Even though it's a comedy, this book made me realize the enormity of the universe and our own insignificance in it.

    Read this book, if you like out of this world comedy.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing
    wow. this book is one of the best science fiction books i have read. humourous and wacky, it's the kind of book you don't want to miss. it's amazing how Douglas Adams can mix science fiction and humour in such a good package. it's an excellent read for any day, anytime, with or without tea. the whole thing includes the 5 books from the series and a short story. it can keep you entertained for a few weeks the first time and after your first read you won't be able to put it down.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A humorous review for the too serious science or techno:
    These books are wonderfully hilarious. You can immediately recognize new friends if they have read and loved these books. I have read all of Adams' books but this 4 book series is the best. While chaperoning a bus tour of England with my students, I began reading the series again. Even at 52, it kept me giggling throughout the tour. Everyday objects and events take on new possibilities of the absurd. You will laugh out loud even in the most serious places-NYC subway

    5-0 out of 5 stars Crazy Insane
    Starting out with a guy from Betelguese and a file cabinet locked in an unused lavatory with a "Beware of the Leopard" sign, the first book blasts off into one of the best series I've ever read. Only other book that can compare to this in its insanity is Catch 22 and currently I'm trying to find more book's like these. Adams does an awesome job of laying out an intricate story with tons of random bits that make it so extreme. If you don't know if you want to buy this book then go ahead and buy it. Otherwise go be boring. The only people who won't like this are those non-fun people who get kicks out of working in an office or at a school like that awful CONAface of an english teacher.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
    I read this book after my friend recommended it to me. A t first I as a bit confused with the description of the setting and characters but as I read on it was great. It's absolutely hilarious and a book everyone should read. ... Read more

    18. True Believer
    by Nicholas Sparks
    list price: $24.95
    our price: $13.97
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0446532436
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-12)
    Publisher: Warner Books
    Sales Rank: 60
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an unforgettable love story that explores the deepest mysteries of all those of the heart.

    As a science journalist with a regular column in Scientific American, Jeremy Marsh specializes in debunking the supernatural.A born skeptic, he travels to the small town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, determined to find the real cause behind the ghostly apparitions that appear in the town cemetery.What he doesn’t plan on however, is meeting and falling hopelessly in love with Lexie Darnell, granddaughter of the town psychic.Now, if the young lovers are to have any kind of future at all, Jeremy must make a difficult choice:return to the life he knows, or do something he’s never done before take a giant leap of faith.But his choice is only the beginning, for their story takes the most unlikely twist of all, one that will finally make Jeremy a TRUE BELIEVER. ... Read more

    Reviews (66)

    3-0 out of 5 stars very disappointing - no emotional involvement at all
    This was an enjoyable book, and would have received a much higher rating from me had it stood alone. However, as a Nicholas Sparks book, I was holding it up to some very high expectations set by his previous masterpieces, and quite frankly, it fell very short. It simply wasn't up to the calibre of his previous books and lacked the very qualities I love most about his writings. It reminded me of a Danielle Steel novel rather than something from the deeper, more engaging, Nicholas Sparks.

    In a word, the story was superficial. The supernatural premise that drew the characters together was ridiculously hokey, and pitting New York city-life against life in sleepy small town America didn't capture my interest the way it could have had it been presented better, with more exciting characters and plot development.

    Noticeably absent: there was no deep emotional connection between the two protagonists. Even though I easily buy into the soulmates, meant-to-be concept of love-at-first-sight, I did not find the romance and coming together of these two characters to have that kind of depth or energy. I'm not convinced they truly belong with each other, or their relationship will last much beyond the end of the story.

    As well, there was no emotional connection between the characters and the reader. There wasn't a deep passion for me to feel alongside them. I didn't grow to care for them as people nor did I become as emotionally invested in their relationship, as I have with other Nicholas Sparks characters. These two will be easily forgotten, whereas Noah/Allie, Jamie/Landon, Theresa/Garrett, Paul/Adrienne, Miles/Sarah, and all the others have continued to live in my heart long after I put those books down and moved onto other reading material.

    On the positive side, there were flashes of Nicholas Sparks's brilliance scattered throughout the book. His use of vivid descriptions and attention to detail was impeccable, as always. The dialogue flowed naturally, with the right blend of wit and seriousness, and sounded realistic (very important to me in a romance novel, as most don't have this quality and instead use incessant and annoying bickering so the conflict/tension comes across as abrasively hostile instead of deep and abiding love).

    All-in-all, although I was sorely disappointed, it was still a pleasant story and worthwhile reading. I hope Nicholas Sparks goes back to novels that draw the reader into an emotional investment into the characters and their story, with their bittersweet tragic endings (or even happy endings as in The Wedding). I prefer to feel strong emotions and intense passion when I read a Nicholas Sparks.

    5-0 out of 5 stars the greatest Nicholas Sparks book yet
    I love all of Nicholas Sparks' books, but this one i couldnt put down. Great storyline, and you really won't be able to stop reading it. Once i finished it i wanted to read it all over again.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Not his best work
    I am a huge Sparks fan, but this book was not writen by the Nicholas Sparks that I once knew.It was long.I had trouble staying focused, but I will say that it had a good end to it, it just took forever to get to that end.If you are a Veronica Haddon fan then you will never get through this book.It is just not up to the standards of Whispers of the wicked saint, but it is worth the read, If you still love nicholas sparks.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Yeah, it was good...
    I thought this was a good book, and the way the two characters fell so quickly for one another (in a matter of days) reminded me of Nights in Rodanthe (which is my fave).Nicholas Sparks has done it again, with another novel that shows that miracles can happen when you least expect them, and that love conquers all.

    1-0 out of 5 stars A Sparks disappointment
    Oh how I waited with bated breath for Nicholas Sparks' new release! And oh how disappointed I felt as I struggled through this "Danielle Steel"-like book. The Notebook and Message in a Bottle rank as 2 of my all time favorite books. True Believer, however, did not make a true believer out of me. The whole story was unbelievable from the very beginning. Too much for me to believe that 2 people that have just met can instantly know that they are in love, oh please. There is no depth to this book. The characters are implausible, shallow, and very predictable. It seems as thought Mr. Sparks is trying to follow a formula that he thinks will sell, a la Danielle Steel. He should spend more time visiting the truth in life and love-as in The Notebook-and less time giving us this pulpy mess, and expecting us to swallow it... ... Read more

    19. The Bitch Posse
    by Martha O'Connor
    list price: $22.95
    our price: $15.61
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0312333927
    Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press
    Sales Rank: 3900
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    These are the confessions of the Bitch Posse. Cherry, Rennie, and Amy were outcasts, rebels, and dreamers. And their friendship was so all-encompassing that some would call it dangerous. This is the story of three women-as seniors in high school and as women in their mid-thirties---who formed a bond in order to survive the pitfalls and perils of their lives. In the present day, one of them is a wife and mother-to-be, trying to live a "normal" life. One of them is a writer who engages in a number of self-destructive relationships. And one of them is in a mental hospital---and has been ever since that one fateful night fifteen years ago, when a heart-wrenching betrayal and the unraveling of relationships led them to a point of no return, where their actions triggered unimaginable consequences. These secrets have torn them apart while inextricably binding them to one another. What happened to them? And can they survive their shared history, even today?

    The Bitch Posse is an anthem for friendships that defy society's approval or disapproval. It's a novel of secrets, courage, sacrifice, and hope against the odds. It is both a journey back to being a girl on the verge of adulthood, and a journey forward, showing how the events of our past can unearth the best in us today.

    Dare to jump in.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (8)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Required reading!
    I want to say up front that Martha O'Connor and I are both part of the same online writing community. That's why I bought her book. I never expected to be so completely blown away by the calibre of writing, by the passion she has for her tortured characters, her beautiful, troubled Bitch Posse Goddesses.

    There's a raw edge to the writing--it's brutal, unforgiving, and damn near perfect. Martha weaves together a brilliant story of love so uncompormising that it borders on hatred, and her mastery of narrative not only had me convinced of the three distinct voices but also pulled me into the story with such brute force that it left me gasping. Not everyone can pull off the present tense; Martha redefines it.

    THE BITCH POSSE should be required reading. I'm recommending it to everyone I meet.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Not Your Usual Chick-Lit
    I must come clean with you. I am not a fan of Chick Lit, nor am I a fan of anything that is written in reaction to Chick Lit. I tend to shy away from anything with an excess of pink on the cover or a title that sounds overly hip or kitschy to make a point. Furthermore, I grow bored with books about shopping or shoes or women in their "Sex and the City" quest to buck the male-dominated society while still managing to "find" a suitable man who fits into their cookie cutter version of reformed-bad-boy-turned-sensitive-and-responsible (yet still blazing in bed!) perfection. Frankly, I find this type of blathering somewhat tiresome in life, so why would I want to spend my free time reading about it...even if I do happen to be on the beach?

    Every once in a blue moon, however, I come across a book that in some way, shape, or form seems like a not-too-distant bedfellow to the aforementioned genre of Chick Lit/reaction-to-Chick-Lit Lit, and (gasp!) I actually enjoy reading it. Such was the case when I picked up Martha O'Connor's debut novel, THE BITCH POSSE. Yes, bare skin is shown on the cover, and sure, there happens to be a pink stripe off to the right of said bare skin, and of course the two women who belong to (once again) the bare skin happen to be sitting erotically close to each other. Fine. Now that I've pointed out that the externals of this book seem to represent everything I dislike about contemporary women's fiction, I will admit that I found my reading experience to be quite unabashedly satisfying.

    THE BITCH POSSE chronicles the crisscrossed lives of three young women, first as seniors in high school, then as "grown-up" women in their mid-30s. As the point-of-view bounces from one girl to the other, back and forth between 1988 (their senior year) and 2003 (the present), the muddled puzzle begins to slowly piece together until, ultimately, readers are left with a no-holds barred, fully disclosed "Aha!" moment at the novel's conclusion. As we turn the last page, we not only uncover the dastardly, unmentionable secret that each girl has been separately yet collectively guarding since high school, but we also must grapple with the gritty, peeled back version of what each girl's life has unfortunately become and therefore fall witness to the fallibility of life, the indelibility of choices, and the delicate nature of the human spirit.

    O'Connor's characters are anything but flat. Although a bit stereotypical at times and a tad over-the-top at others, most, if not all of the people we meet in the book, are vibrant (albeit twisted) and full of personality. The members of the badass Bitch Posse --- Rennie (the smart one who has an affair with her married drama teacher), Cherry (the cool one with the coke addict mother and the boyfriend who sometimes gets a little too rough during sex), and Amy (the reformed beauty queen/popular chick with the alcoholic parents, the super indulged retarded sister, and the not-so-surprising Xanax addiction) --- are exactly what we'd expect from a trio of no-nonsense, till-death-do-us-part friends. They are brash, equally outspoken in their own way, and are ready to take on the world no matter what the cost --- especially now that they've cemented their friendship by slicing their arms and dripping blood into glass jars. Ouch.

    Fifteen years later, however, the girls are far from empowered...or friends. The once hot-to-trot Rennie is on the other side of a New York Times bestselling first novel with nothing but drivel to show for the follow-up. Instead, she's teaching at some second-rate college and having scandalous affairs with younger men who don't know any better. Amy is desperately trying to keep up appearances by living a so-called squeaky-clean, gingham clad life in the suburbs with her supposedly devoted husband and pending baby, inaptly named Lucky. I guess the combination of his affair and Lucky's death didn't quite mesh with her presupposed equation. Craziest of all, Cherry has firmly planted herself in a mental institution and spends most of her days doing measly arts and crafts with her fellow nut-job patients. Not exactly the embodiment of strength that she once was.

    What happened to these three, you ask? What caused them to break the bloodied bonds that were so fervidly formed many years prior? Why, that dark, salacious secret, of course --- the night that could never be forgotten and the split-second decision that would change the course of their lives forever. It is this gnawing riddle that keeps the pulse of THE BITCH POSSE going at top speed, prompting even this most jaded reviewer to stay up until the wee hours of the night just to find out what happened next.

    All in all, Martha O'Connor's first book is a thrilling ride and a searing look into the lives of three girls turned women as they scratch, scrape, and slash their way through existence. Aside from the author's excessive use of profanity and frequent scenes of hard-hitting sexuality (pun intended), THE BITCH POSSE is one chick novel you are sure not to forget.

    --- Reviewed by Alexis Burling

    5-0 out of 5 stars girls and women struggling with postmodern cynicism
    Martha O'connor is among the firstamerican authors to challenge postmodern cynicism with honesty.A generation of girls raised indoctrinated with meaninglessness manage to find meaning in their relationships with each other.Some will claim this book is exhibitionist, but the question it raisesis this:how long will we continue to let our pride stop us from connecting with each other?

    5-0 out of 5 stars Nothing to Bitch About with *this* Posse!
    Martha O'Connor's debut novel, The Bitch Posse, has recently made it's way to shelves across America.

    Can I just say that this has got to be one of the best books I've read. Ever. I was hooked after the first few pages (which happened to be a sex scene, but that's beside the point).

    One might think from the title that this is a chick book. One would be wrong. Although I'm sure the primary target audience is female, this is decidedly *not* some schmaltzy Lifetime-esque story.

    The book explores the lives of 3 female characters: Rennie, Cherry and Amy - The Bitch Posse. The reader is taken on a journey which (so far) jumps back and forth from 1988 to 2003 for each of the protagonists, who are actually also antagonists (to themselves anyway). Each of their stories is unique, but at the same time eerily and heartbreaklingly similar to the others'. I'm going to stop with that because you really need to buy this book and read it for yourself. Yes, It's *that* good.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Midwest Punks
    After slowly reading through the first half of the book over a period of days, I sat down read the last 160 pages in one night.It was definitely something I wanted to read through, to see the end of, to find out what happened.The story seemingly has no real beginning, no real middle, and no real end, but of course in a sense it has all those things. The three main characters (as teenagers) spend their time rebelling against the common mores of their community.Their actions and reactions are such that at one point I thought: "God, aren't these girls just whining middle class Midwesterners?"But then I realized: I'm a whining middle class Midwesterner and these girls are exactly (all of them, not just the Bitch Posse but the other, more popular girls, too) are the people I remember from high school.The book captures an aspect of small town Midwestern life that I remember vividly.Basically, therreader has two option: one can see the story as it appears on the surface: three friends, small town boredom, middle class angst, horrifically "upstanding" people; or one can look deeper and see the disorder of the soul that comes from this pretense of virtue in a vicious world. ... Read more

    20. The History of Love: A Novel
    by Nicole Krauss
    list price: $23.95
    our price: $16.29
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0393060349
    Catlog: Book (2005-05-02)
    Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
    Sales Rank: 117
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother'sloneliness.

    Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. And although she has her hands full—keeping track of her brother, Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah), and taking copious notes on How to Survive in the Wild—she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With consummate, spellbinding skill, Nicole Krauss gradually draws together their stories.

    This extraordinary book was inspired by the author's four grandparents and by a pantheon of authors whose work is haunted by loss—Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, and more. It is truly a history of love: a tale brimming with laughter, irony, passion, and soaring imaginative power. ... Read more

    Reviews (19)

    5-0 out of 5 stars "I often wonder who will be the last person to see me alive"
    Believe the hype.The History of Love is one of the most original and engaging pieces of literary fiction of the past year.The novel focuses on a book entitled The History of Love, written by Leo Gursky at age twenty in Slonim, Poland, to honor Alma Mereminski, with whom he has shared an extraordinary love.When the Nazis threaten Poland and Alma has to flee, Leo, unsure if he will escape, gives his book for safekeeping to his best friend, who is sailing to Lisbon.Leo eventually makes his way to New York, where as a locksmith, he is a "man who became invisible."His book about Alma has vanished.

    Leo's story unfolds through his memories and moves back and forth in time, running in parallel with the story of Alma Singer, a 14-year-old girl named for a character in a Spanish-language book entitled, coincidentally, The History of Love, which her father bought in Valparaiso, Chile, and gave to her mother when they were newlyweds.Young Alma, lonely following her father's death, spends her days writing How to Survive in the Wild, in an attempt to control the uncertainties of her life, while her brother Bird, eleven and a half, loses himself in religion, believing he may be the Messiah.Their mother becomes a translator of books.

    Gradually, the characters and their stories converge, and the reader learns how a book written in Polish came to be published in Spanish in Chile, then translated into English by Alma's mother for a client living in Venice.

    The relationships of the characters as they age, their attitudes toward life, and their goals for the future create a fluid thematic structure in which characters spring to life and become the primary focus.Using humor, absurdity, and a variety of points of view, Krauss creates profound emotion and sympathy for these characters as they deal with absurd reality, always keying her unique imagery to their particular points of view.Ultimately the reader recognizes that Krauss's novel, like Leo's book, illustrates the many different kinds of love--that of parents for children, children for parents, friends for each other, and, of course, the love between lovers.

    With an opening page guaranteed to pique the interest of even the most jaded reader, this confident novel, written with assurance and panache, is fresh and full of charm, a novel illustrating in unique ways some of the oldest themes in literature.Mary Whipple

    5-0 out of 5 stars VERY IMPRESSED :)
    The History of Love is a great novel. Plotted with exquisite precision, propelled by deeply sympathetic characters, and crammed full of mysteries and solutions, this book lights up neural networks you never knew you had. Besides recounting the stories of a 15 year old girl and a Holocaust survivor, Krauss's novel is also the story of a book (The History of Love). What it says about books is just as important as what it says about love, even if it isn't going to make the end-of-paper movement at cartel Microsoft very happy.

    Nicole Krauss understands books to be what no other medium is: self-contained, tough, mobile over continents and generations and languages, full of the future as inscribed by a piece of someone's soul. The History of Love (the novel within the novel) has a provenance that would make a Rembrandt painting blush: written in Poland, manuscript given away then stolen, conceived in Yiddish, translated to Spanish, published in Argentina, found by a Jewish traveler, given to his wife, secretly translated into English, discovered by a 15 year old girl in New York, AND MORE. In Krauss's telling, none of this is random, and even though characters act unaware of each other, the larger plan somehow manifests G*d in the lives of the Living. Why don't I just write it: according to Krauss, when the soul of the writer is pure, a book becomes an immanent sacred object. And in that way, books are a lot like love, only rectangular and full of numbered pages.

    If we esteemed writers by what their novels hold faith with, Nicole Krauss would sweep this year's fiction awards. Besides the faith in the power of the written word, there's faith in the integrity and goodness of young outsiders, in the quest to redeem history in old age, in the ability of human beings to shape their own destiny no matter how complicated and compromised, in the presence of love as an active agent for good in the universe. Last, but not least, Krauss has faith that writers can change the world through writing. If they can, and she has, then we're just a little better off today than we were before The History of Love came into the world of readers.

    Postscript: The similarity between The History of Love and Jonathan Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the talk of the town. Maybe Foer and Krauss gave themselves a literary problem to solve: create a novel about the interactions between generations, with a dead father, a geeky teenager, and a historical tragedy. Maybe they just talk to each other a lot about what they're writing (they're married). The thing is: with two novels like these, who cares?

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Exploration of Chance and Coincidence
    THE HISTORY OF LOVE, Nicole Krauss's second novel, is a complex story that doesn't lend itself well to being summed up in a nice, neat plot synopsis. For one thing, the book travels back and forth in time, narrated by several characters, sometimes in the form of letters, diaries, and even a novel-within-a-novel (also, not coincidentally, called THE HISTORY OF LOVE). For another thing, the book is a sort of mystery, revealing name changes, betrayals, and secret identities as the plot unfolds.

    Perhaps the best way to explore THE HISTORY OF LOVE, then, is to introduce its two main characters. The first is the elderly Leopold Gursky, an almost tragically pathetic character living in a squalid apartment in New York City. Terrified that he has become invisible to the rest of the world, Leo makes a point of trying to make himself be seen every day, whether it is by purposefully spilling his coffee drink on himself at Starbucks or by volunteering to be a nude model for a life drawing course.

    Originally from Poland, Leo immigrated to New York after World War II, his heart having been broken by Alma, the only girl he would ever love, and by Isaac, the son who doesn't even know he exists. Now, nearing the end of his life, Leo reflects often on the meaning of his life, on what will be left of him after he is gone. He thinks, "At the end, all that's left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that's why I've never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that's why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived." What Leo doesn't know is that he does have a surprising legacy that may or may not keep him from being invisible forever.

    Not far away from Leo Gursky, also in New York City, lives Alma Singer. Named after the heroine in her mother's favorite book, fifteen-year-old Alma wants to be a naturalist. She collects tips in notebooks she titles "How to Survive in the Wild," and she takes pains to classify her world --- and her words --- in the careful tone and style of a scientist. Alma and her younger brother Bird are both coping with the recent death of their father, as is Alma's mother, a translator who receives a surprising commission from a mysterious stranger --- to translate an obscure Spanish book titled THE HISTORY OF LOVE into English. Alma, who imposes all kinds of romantic fantasies on the stranger who communicates only by letters, starts out on a quest to find the letter writer as well as the real-life Alma who may have inspired the novel's author.

    In the end, Leo and Alma come together in a surprising way --- and by means of a most unexpected catalyst. With its exploration of chance and coincidence and its multi-layered plot, Nicole Krauss's THE HISTORY OF LOVE will remind many of Paul Auster's novels and stories. Krauss's prose is remarkably versatile, skillfully using stylistic devices to differentiate the voices of her many narrators. In addition to being a genuinely well-crafted (if not exactly suspenseful) mystery story, Krauss's novel is by turns comic, mythic, thoughtful, and almost heartbreakingly sad.

    --- Reviewed by Norah Piehl

    5-0 out of 5 stars Extremely faithful and incredibly pure
    The History of Love is a great novel. Plotted with exquisite precision, propelled by deeply sympathetic characters, and crammed full of mysteries and solutions, this book lights up neural networks you never knew you had.Besides recounting the stories of a 15 year old girl and a Holocaust survivor, Krauss's novel is also the story of a book (The History of Love). What it says about books is just as important as what it says about love, even if it isn't going to make the end-of-paper movement at cartel Microsoft very happy.

    Nicole Krauss understands books to be what no other medium is: self-contained, tough, mobile over continents and generations and languages, full of the future as inscribed by a piece of someone's soul. The History of Love (the novel within the novel) has a provenance that would make a Rembrandt painting blush: written in Poland, manuscript given away then stolen, conceived in Yiddish, translated to Spanish, published in Argentina, found by a Jewish traveler, given to his wife, secretly translated into English, discovered by a 15 year old girl in New York, AND MORE. In Krauss's telling, none of this is random, and even though characters act unaware of each other, the larger plan somehow manifests G*d in the lives of the Living. Why don't I just write it: according to Krauss, when the soul of the writer is pure, a book becomes an immanent sacred object. And in that way, books are a lot like love, only rectangular and full of numbered pages.

    If we esteemed writers by what their novels hold faith with, Nicole Krauss would sweep this year's fiction awards. Besides the faith in the power of the written word, there's faith in the integrity and goodness of young outsiders, in the quest to redeem history in old age, in the ability of human beings to shape their own destiny no matter how complicated and compromised, in the presence of love as an active agent for good in the universe. Last, but not least, Krauss has faith that writers can change the world through writing. If they can, and she has, then we're just a little better off today than we were before The History of Love came into the world of readers.

    Postscript: The similarity between The History of Love and Jonathan Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the talk of the town. Maybe Foer and Krauss gave themselves a literary problem to solve: create a novel about the interactions between generations, with a dead father, a geeky teenager, and a historical tragedy. Maybe they just talk to each other a lot about what they're writing (they're married). The thing is: with two novels like these, who cares?

    4-0 out of 5 stars A great read
    I really loved it.I thought the writing was gently and yet bold.It was spicy and sweet and I loved the story.My favorite book is Whispers of the wicked Saints, by Veronica Haddon, but this book definetly gives it a run for the money.Bravo, very good read !! ... Read more

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