Friday, November 30, 2007

Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King

When the Wool guild, the most influential guild in Florence at the time, held a contest for the design and manufacture of the dome for the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral, several men submitted plans. Fillipo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti were selected as the finalists. This continued the life-long rivalry between the two men that began when Lorenzo Ghiberti won a contest years earlier to create doors for the Cathedral’s baptistery. ”The Gates of Paradise” as they would later be called, are considered one of the best examples of bronze work in the world. Fillipo Brunelleschi, who was an unremarkable looking man, accomplished remarkable things. As co-manager for the dome of Santa Maria Del Fiore, or the “Duomo” as it is known, he arrived at a time of architectural uncertainty and backwardness and brought with him the needed scientific skills and architectural knowledge to make himself indispensable to the Wool Guild. He eventually sidelined his co-master Ghiberti completely.

Ross King’s conversational style, makes the most complex scientific terms explainable to the casual reader. The true jewel of this book, however, is his ability to capture the orneriness and dysfunction Fillipo radiates in his relationships with others. By all accounts, Fillipo was a very difficult man, but King tempers this fact with examples of the absolute genius of his inventions and architectural skill. Ross King brings to life the world of 15th Century Florence with his remarkable attention to detail and paints a picture of a time cursed with plagues, wars and floods. Buildings took generations to complete because of the interruption in manpower. Brunelleschi came along when needed most and reinvented architecture. He is called a founder of the renaissance in Italy, and after reading this short book, you can certainly understand why.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Female Intelligence by Jane Heller

Lynn Wyman is known around the nation for the "Wyman Method," a communication program that teaches men how to communicate with women by teaching them the fundamentals of "womanspeak." In addition to having a successful career, Lynn is married to a husband that is so sensitive he already knows and actively uses womanspeak. Her life is about perfect until things take a turn for a worse.

Lynn accidently picks up the line when her husband, Kip, is talking to a woman he is having an affair with. To make matters worse, Lynn's marital troubles are leaked to the media, and her career is in ruins. Who would want to take communication advice from a woman whose own marriage is in shambles?

Fortunately, Lynn has a plan to get her life back on track. When she reads an article about Brandon Brock, the arrogant and powerful CEO of Finefoods who has problems communicating with his female staff, Lynn decides she will enroll him in the Wyman Method. Once the nation sees that the Wyman Method came tame the most wildest of beasts, Lynn will be back on top.

Dealing with Brock, however, is not as easy as she thought, especially when her heart gets in the way. Meanwhile, someone out there is trying to sabatoge everything she has worked for. Lynn now has to get to the bottom of things while keeping her heart safe.
Female Intelligence was hard to get into at first, but there is enough suspense and humor to keep the plot moving along, and it was well worth the committment

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

Charlie Howard is a mystery writer. He is also a thief. His career in thievery started at a young age. Left alone at boarding school during holidays, he would grow bored and snoop around his schoolmates things. And eventually start taking things. While finishing his latest mystery novel in Amsterdam, Charlie receives an email to meet a mystery man at a bar. Intrigued, Charlie shows up and is offered a job. At first Charlie declines because it is such short notice, but he gives in and takes the job. The job is to break into two houses and steal a monkey figurine from each house. Charlie completes the job and goes to meet the client at the rendezvous but he isn't there. Charlie finds out where he lives and goes to his house and discovers the client beaten and barely alive.

Charlie becomes the number one suspect and must now figure out why these monkeys are so important. With a cast of suspects and people not who they say they are, Charlie has his work cut out trying to figure out this mystery.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

When four coworkers at Hammerstead Technology, Jaine, Marci, T.J., and Luna, made up a list of the qualities, even physical, that would make the perfect man one night at a resturant after work, they never excepted their lives were in danger.

The list that would make up Mr. Perfect, which became known as just "the list," mistakenly got into the company's newsletter, which, in turn, got them all sorts of media attention. The four women soon find their lives in complete choas: boyfriends and husbands take the list as a hit to their ego while their family members and coworkers see it as vulgar. But the opinions of others are the least of their problems.

"The List" brings out of the woodwork someone who finds the list so repuslive, he is determined to kill the ones who created it. When one of the women is found dead in her home, the three ladies know they are in grave danger. Fortuantely Jaine has the protection of her sexy cop neighboor, Sam, to protect her, but can he catch the killer before it's too late?

Mr. Perfect is just the right blend of steamy sex and heart-pounding suspense with many twists and turns along the way that should appeal to any romantic suspense fan.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

30 Days of Night by Steven Niles and Ben Templesmith

In the remote town of Barrow, Alaska, the sun will be setting for the last time and won't be rising again until December. Town sheriffs Eben and his wife receive several call from local residents regarding missing cell phones. Meanwhile, Eben is called to a local bar regarding a belligerent patron who is demanding raw meat and alcohol, which is prohibited in Barrow. Eben takes the strange patron into custody. Once behind bars, the patron makes death threats and escapes his cell by bending back the bars. Clearly, Eben is faced with something that is not human.

Soon, Eben discovers that his town is under attack by cannibalistic vampires who decapitate their victims once they are finished with them. Some of the survivors manage to take refuge, but they won't be able to hide for long. In an attempt to seek help, Eben leaves the hiding place and is bitten by one of the creatures. He now becomes one of them.

30 Days of Night is true horror at its best because it features plenty of gore, carnage, and profanity. This is the first in a series, so the reader is left with plenty of questions and should seek the next book in the series, Dark Days. Although this book may not be for everyone, enthusiasts of horror should find something to like here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Girls by Lori Lansens

Meet "the girls," Rose and Ruby Delavin, two twins that are unlike any other: they are the oldest surviving craniopagus conjoined twins. At twenty- nine, Rose has been told that she has a brain aneurysm and that the girls may not have much longer to live. As a result of her diagnosis, the book is composed as Rose's autobiography, as she wants to tell her life story before she dies. She has also convinced her sister, Ruby, to write sections so that the story is told from both of the sister's perspectives.
From their autobiography, we learn about their complicated birth from their young mother who abandoned them and how they came to be raised by Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. We learn how others react and interact with the girls. But most importantly, we understand how different these two girls really are and can gain an understanding of what it might feel like to be a conjoined twin.

The Girls brings about a variety of emotions in the reader, as this story is both heartbreaking yet inspirational. Lansens does such a superb job of telling their story from their perspective, you forget that the author is not a conjoined twin herself. I would recommended this book for book discussions.