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booksforabuck "BooksForABuck" (Long Beach, CA)

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Unforced Error
Unforced Error
by Michael Bowen
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 27.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Cute, literary, maybe a bit over the top, July 19 2004
This review is from: Unforced Error (Hardcover)
Intellectual property lawyer Rep Pennyworth figures he'll do just about anything to bring in a big-bucks client. He'll even spend a weekend as a civil war reenactor while he tries to decide whether the publisher really can trademark the idea of a faux civil war unit. He can't figure out how the publisher could make any money at it, but that isn't the lawyer's job and a hundred thousand bucks is real money. But when an editor ends up killed and Rep's friend Peter is the lead suspect, Rep realizes he's going to have to do more than dry lawyering--he'll have to figure out what really happened before Peter is sent to prison.
The dead man isn't exactly a saint--he had an affair with Peter's wife, for one thing--which gives Rep and his wife Melissa a cast of suspects. But the police like to follow the obvious, especially when Peter's civil war cavalry sabre tests positive for the dead man's DNA. Plenty of library research into civil war battles and Vichy France politics, as well as a scad of literary illusions add depth to the story as Melissa tries to decide which philosopher to use to advise her friend--finally to decide on Travis McGee (of John D. MacDonald fame) and Rep finally agrees to play Nick and Nora (of The Thin Man fame) with Melissa.
Author Michael Bowen dishes up plenty of plenty of literary illusions for fans of mystery and literature, a clever opening scene involving a potential affair and reality T.V. and some interesting looks into civil war reenacting. I thought that the final revelation into the badguy's ultimate plot was a bit over the top, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the adventure, the witty dialogue, or the way nerdy librarians, book editors, and intellectual property lawyers become action heros.

The Ocean Between Us
The Ocean Between Us
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply emotional tale of growth, July 19 2004
This review is from: The Ocean Between Us (Hardcover)
While back-to-school shopping with her teenaged children, navy wife Grace Bennett catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and doesn't like what she sees. She's nearing 40, has gained weight, and is still 'waiting' to get started with her life. Things she realizes are important, like getting a house, settling down, and developing a career of her own have been put on hold to let her devote herself to her family and to her husband, Navy Captain Steve Bennett's career. When she spots and falls in love with a beautiful home, she decides she can't take the waiting any longer.
Steve Bennett knows that his navy career puts strains on the family. Still, Grace knew that when she married him and it doesn't seem fair that she's changing the rules now. And a house is silly, really, as he'll be transferred again as he moves up the career ladder. He blows off Grace's concerns--until a long-buried secret from his past rears up and puts a tear in their already damaged relationship.
Steve and Grace's children are dealing with their own issues: their son is rebelling against his father's pressure to attend the Navy Academy; their older daughter is dealing with her new-found sexuality--and gets caught in a dangerous situation she can see no way out of; the younger daughter is the shy one--a curse in a family that moves every few years and must make new friends, new alliances whenever they do. The pressures military service puts on families are echoed in the problems and joys faced by Grace's circle of friends, especially her fitness coach Lauren, who has fallen for a young navy airman.
Author Susan Wiggs brings a strong emotional focus to the issues of the military spouse and woman's search for identity in a world still largely defined by men. Grace is a strong and sympathetic character, torn between her love for a man and her own need for autonomy, reinforced by her discovery that he has kept a secret from her throughout their marriage. Wiggs further hooks the reader by dealing with the issue of date-rape. Ultimately, the story is that of Grace's growth. She transforms herself from a woman who defines herself by her husband to a woman who can stand on her own feet--yet is strong enough to welcome a man into her arms if he is prepared to treat her as an equal rather than someone to whom orders can be given.
It took me a few chapters to get into this story but the payoff was definitely worth the investment. Wiggs demonstrates again why she is one of the top authors in romance/woman's fiction today.

Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.00
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.73

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice action, psychology after very slow start, July 18 2004
This review is from: HERO (Hardcover)
After a busted mission, the mostly human Deep Reconnaissance Team stumbles across an ancient artifact--working technology from the vanished Aldenata aliens. The Captain plans on returning it to base, getting the bonus and commendations that come from such an important find--but a billion credits worth of alien technology is enough to tempt a saint and the DRT is definitely not made up of saints. When one member frags the others, the three survivors must battle it out for survival and for a chance at the billion credit prize. Unfortunately, none can trust either of the others and the stage is set for a brutal three-way battle to stay alive in a dangerous and enemy-occupied planet.
THE HERO starts painfully slowly, with history lectures, anti-environmental statements, and a military mission that wasn't really going anywhere. But in the second half, once the artifact is discovered and the true conflict begins, the pace picks up, characters have a chance to become fully defined, and the real story takes place.
Authors John Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson know their military and write convincingly of both military tactics and of the friction between front-line soldiers and the officers in the rear. The Bane Sidhe Elf (Darhel alien) adds interest with his combination of extreme physical skills and his inability to kill. The sociopathic human killer with a the superior sniper rifle, an eagerness to kill, and an unstoppable greed seems to have all of the advantages in the three-way struggle.
Although I wish that Ringo and Williamson had condensed the first hundred pages, the second half of the book definitely makes it worth reading. Ferret, the wounded soldier who must track down and kill both the elf and the killer makes a fascinating character and Tirdal the Elf, with his difficulties in causing violence definitely gives the story a twist.

Ten Big Ones: A Stephanie Plum Novel
Ten Big Ones: A Stephanie Plum Novel
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Hardcover
109 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great mix of action, humor, and romance, July 17 2004
When she accidentally spots a robbery, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum becomes the target for a gang assassination plot. Being a target assures Stephanie that sometime boyfriend Joe Morelli will shift into protective mode and, since she insists on keeping her job, mean a fight. Still, Stephanie is a bounty hunter (although a sometimes incompetent one) and she resolves to go on with her mission despite Morelli's resistance. It doesn't help that super-bounty-hunter and occasional backup (and occasional love interest) Ranger is out of town.
With the help of ex-Ho Lulu, Stephanie manages to get her car explosion out of the way quickly, track down another naked bail jumper, deal with a woman who has an obsession for Frito-Lay products (an obsession that seems perfectly understandable to both Stephanie and Lulu), and her sister's suddenly planned wedding (with transvestite Sally Sweet as wedding planner and an eggplant-colored maid of honor dress). Still, staying ahead of a hard-core gang killer is going to take more than Stephanie's normal bungling.
Author Janet Evanovich mixes humor and adventure in another fun-filled Stephanie Plum story. I'm happy to see that, while she still gets into constant mishaps, Stephanie is becoming more competent as a bounty hunter, successfully apprehending at least one suspect without being zapped with a stun gun. The romantic triangle between Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger continues to add sizzle but it seems that Morelli now has a big lead over his rival.
Evanovich provides a consistently high-quality read and TEN BIG ONES is no exception. I couldn't put it down and have no hesitation in recommending it.

Paid Companion
Paid Companion
by Amanda Quick
Edition: Hardcover
36 used & new from CDN$ 1.59

2.0 out of 5 stars Unlikable characters, weak mystery, July 15 2004
This review is from: Paid Companion (Hardcover)
To help distract the 'ton' while he traces his uncle's killer, Earl Arthur St. Merryn decides he needs a fiancee. Since he's already had one fiancee--who fled down a ladder to avoid the marriage, St. Merryn decides to be more logical and hire a fiance through a service that provides paid companions. Elenora Lodge, recently disposessed of her home and most of her property, turns up at the agency just in time. St. Merryn decides that her spirit and enthusiasm would be a perfect match--and that Elenora could be just the actress to persuade society that she was St. Merryn's next fiancee.
Although St. Merryn initially intends to keep Elenora at the outskirts of his plans, she quickly asserts herself, forcing herself into his confidence and, soon enough, into his arms. Neither is particularly good at hiding the attraction they feel for one another although Elenora is convinced that, once the mystery is solved, St. Merryn will get on with her life and that Elenora will be forced to move on with her life. Tracking down the killer is a bit complicated, though, and the interval gives them plenty of time to explore the attraction--and for Elenora to dazzle polite society in Regency England.
Author Amanda Quick always writes a fast-paced and entertaining read and THE PAID COMPANION is no exception. That said, I found Elenora to be quite annoying with her complete lack of respect for St. Merryn's finances, her willingness to simply run over whatever ideas he proposed, and her constant jumping to conclusions when a simple conversation would have avoided the misunderstanding. By constantly giving in to Elenora, St. Merryn comes off as a bit of a wimp. The mystery portion of the book is really a non-starter as we are introduced to no suspects and no clues.
I wanted to like THE PAID COMPANION and Quick's writing is strong enough to keep me reading, but the unlikable characters and weak mystery plot definitely detracted.

The Judgment of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome
The Judgment of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome
by Steven Saylor
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 3.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical thriller, July 13 2004
When a storm blows his ship off course, Roman investigator Gordianus is captured by the one man who most hopes to see him dead--Pompey the Great. Before he can carry out his threats, however, Pompey himself is killed by the Egyptian king, Ptolemy and Gordianus makes his way to Alexandria just in time to see Julius Caesar taking control. Caesar intends to secure Egypt as a base, ensure that Pompey's allies cannot use it agaisnt him, and then move on but the conflict between Ptolemy and his sister/wife/rival, Cleopatra threatens Caesar's peace.
Cleopatra and Ptolemy both use every persuasion possible to encourage Caesar to chose them as the singular ruler of Egypt. In the course of this persuasion, Gordianus's estranged son, Meto, is accused as an attempted assassin and Gordianus realizes that he will lose his son forever if he doesn't do his best detecting ever. Unfortunately, if Meto isn't the poisoner, either Ptolemy or Cleopatra probably is--and Caesar is unwilling to allow either of them to be accused.
Author Steven Saylor spins a convincing and gripping tale of Egypt in the dying days of the Roman Republic. Egypt's wealth makes it a treasure that Rome must have, but its mysterious religions and its concepts of god-king make it anathema to republican Romans like Gordianus. Saylor deepens the mystery and the reader's emotional involvement in the story by making Gordianus a fascinating and complex character. His love for his wife (despite an affair), his torn feelings for Meto, and his wish for the republican virtues of a vanishing Rome engaged my sympathies and increased my investment in the story and in Gordianus finding a solution to what seemed an insolvable problem. Indeed, the actual Judgment of Caesar comes down to solving the unsolvable.
Saylor's strong writing and fascinating insights into history add to the book's appeal. THE JUDGMENT OF CAESAR is a winner.

Ringworld's Children
Ringworld's Children
by Larry Niven
Edition: Hardcover
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.61

3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful world-building, weak story/characters, July 12 2004
This review is from: Ringworld's Children (Hardcover)
250-year-old Louis Wu awakens as a young-man after an extensive stay in a nanotechnology healing chamber to find that the situation on Ringworld is not good. Although the new protector, Tunesmith, is doing what he can to repair the damage Ringworld has suffered, too many societies have recognized Ringworld for the technological treasure-trove that it is. The worst part is, Ringworld doesn't actually need to survive to be looted of its treasure. And anti-matter weapons can quickly punch holes in the Ringworld that Tunesmith would be powerless to stop.
Louis involves himself in Tunesmith's secret plan, testing a space drive, checking on the status of Tunesmith's comet-hole repair system, and falling in love with an Earth-human whose fighter craft has penetrated Ringworld through a hole in its surface. He gets the chance to see even more of the mysteries of Ringworld, but he can see no way out of the war that is coming.
Author Larry Niven's Ringworld is a fascinating construction. A ribbon of super-strong material around a sun, Ringworld sports the surface area of a million earths--and is inhabited by a hugely diverging group of semi-humans along with a few aliens. Protectors, the final stage in 'human' development, work to benefit their decendents, but armed with limited information, have done too little to prevent war.
Fans of the Ringworld series will want to read this story, see the further adventures of Louis Wu, and see how Niven has dealt with the criticisms of his great creation, adding devices and details that make it more technologically possible. The world-building that went into Ringworld is first-class and the original Ringworld novel is a true classic of SF. Ringworld's Children is a far smaller book than the original masterpiece. The characters are not really fleshed out or motivated, and I found myself uninvolved with the story.
Fans of Ringworld will want to read this one for the latest on this fascinating more-than-world. If you aren't already a Ringworld fan, though, you'll definitely want to start with the original.

Hundredth Man
Hundredth Man
by Jack Kerley
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from CDN$ 1.47

5.0 out of 5 stars Best mystery of the year, July 11 2004
This review is from: Hundredth Man (Hardcover)
Carson Ryder single-handedly solved a complex serial-killer case as a patrolman and now is something of a wunderkind in the Mobile, Alabama, Police Department. He and his partner, Detective Harry Nautilus, head up the PSIT Squad-- psychopathological and Sociopathological Investigative Team, and they are supposed to have authority over any murders that show signs of, well, craziness. Unfortunately he has powerful enemies who see him as a threat and will do anything to undermine his success. So when another serial killer--one who beheads his male victims--comes on the scene, his worst enemy, the ambitious Captain Terrence Squill, does everything he can to prevent Ryder from solving the case or even having any authority to investigate it. But Ryder feels so strongly that he can solve it--and that Squill is on the wrong track, that he risks his career and his life to do so.
The fascinating, three-dimensional characters, the twists and turns of an authentically portrayed murder investigation, and the raw beauty of the Alabama landscape and coastal areas mix into a rich stew of a novel that is, at times, quite terrifying. Told in first person, we occasionally get to dip into the killer's mind. And while I've seen this technique used in many, many novels, seldom have I seen it used to such good effect. This is easily the best mystery-suspense novel I've read so far this year--and it's a first novel. I look forward to more.

Fear And Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving
Fear And Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame That Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving
by Harriet Lerner
Edition: Paperback
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and interesting, July 11 2004
Perhaps the easiest way to describe what this book is is to describe what it's not. It's not a step-by-step process that will change your life overnight (something I'm always looking for and failing to find--wonder why?). It's not full of tests for discovering whether fear is crippling you; there are no worksheets, no exercises, no quick fixes of any kind.
Instead, what this book offers is some insightful analysis into what causes anxiety, fear and shame, howthese uncomfortable "guests" manifest in our lives, and some suggestions for how we might use these sometimes painful emotions for self-discovery and, ultimately, become higher-functioning by learning to reduce or in some cases eliminate fear, anxiety and shame, or co-exist with them.
As I flew through this well-written, clear, and interesting text, I found myself recognizing situations from my own life, past and present, and from others' lives, and in some cases reaching a new understanding. I can't say the book changed anything about my particular life in any dramatic fashion, but it is interesting reading for anyone who seeks clarity about the craziness going on in his life.

Murder Is Academic: A Cambridge Mystery
Murder Is Academic: A Cambridge Mystery
by Christine Poulson
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Promising first book, July 10 2004
When her department head is found dead, Cambridge professor Cassandra James gets tapped as acting head--in a department that seems doomed to be eliminated. Only if she can get her fellow professors to start producing publishable material can she keep her job and theirs. With one of them getting messages from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and another completely avoiding her, things don't look promising. But when one of her students is assaulted, she realizes that there have been three suspicious 'accidents' in one very small department.
Cassandra's investigations are limited by her increasing pregnancy. Still, she finally involves the police, alerting them to a lesbian affair between the first student found dead and the dead department head. But the police have lots on their plate and no obvious suspects come to mind. They do warn Cassandra, however, to be careful. Three suspicious deaths in one department should be a clear warning to the new department head.
New author Christine Poulson writes convincingly of the politics and personalities of a college. Whether in England or America, publishing, getting the college name out, and playing politics matter far more than excellence in teaching. Where MURDER IS ACADEMIC fell short, however, was in the mystery itself. Cassandra spent more time cowering in terror than actually investigating. She simply ignored the most obvious clue until the very end of the book, got most of her information from dreams, and finally had the killer's identity handed to her. I enjoyed Poulson's writing style and hope that she'll focus on the mystery in her next mystery.

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