Sunday, January 21, 2007

Book Review Time

It's sometimes hard to come up with book worth a review, but here are a few for now.

An Island Apart, Lillian Beckwith. It's been awhile since I read some Beckwith, but it's refreshing and just right for this time of year. Beckwith is a Scotswoman who has spent time living in the Hebrides. This is a short love story, rather above the heads of young adolescents but not bad for older teenagers. It's about a thirtysomething woman who enters into a "hasty" marriage of convenience with an islander, and the life she enters on the small but comfortable croft there with her fisherman husband and his very dour brother. Meg read this one too, and pronounced it quite good; a little sad but not dreary or depressing. She said Beckwith has a style that is unassuming, but made her think. Beckwith has written several other books, notably The Sea for Breakfast, which is something of a sketch of her own entry into Hebridean crofting life. A nice read on a cold and snowy day.

Natural Selection, Dave Freedman. In keeping with my affinity for natural-disaster/science-fiction novels, this is a story about a group of scientists who conduct a hunt for an animal which turns out to be an (unbelievably) rapidly evolving sea creature. It wasn't a bad read although there is some cussing-- and not too much, as I remember, in the way of sexual situations-- Meg and I read it without having to put it away. What makes it interesting is to see the thinking process of evolutionary scientists. It's an argument for the fits-and-starts theory of rapid evolution. Freedman is making a case for macroevolution, and that part doesn't fly well... but this is science fiction, after all.

Crisis, Robin Cook. Aahh, another Cook book. I do love Cook's medical thrillers. This one is a bit different from his usual in that its emphasis is heavy on the legal end of the medical business, involving a new development in healthcare called "concierge practise". This is where a small group of patients pay a fee up front to retain a doctor's services, so the idea is that the patient-doctor relatinship is more what it traditionally should be, with house calls thrown in. The story revolves around The Patient From Hell And How She Died. Cook is a liberal on health care, but he's a smart guy and I read him to get this take on medical trends.

SO those are the more notable ones out of the ton of books I've read over the past couple of months. By the way, we bought Meg Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian for Christmas and she's already read it three times. A stellar must-read... I look forward eagerly to more of Kostova's work!

Game review: I bought Rich a game for his birthday called Curses. In the game, you pick up cards which give you a small task to do, which is easy enough. But you have to do the tasks while accumulating "curses" which affect what you do. For example, while being cursed to keep the tip of your tongue between your teeth, and your nose pinched shut, you might have to say why cats are better than dogs. If you fail to "keep" all the curses, others can call you on it. If you do it three times, you're out of the game. We played it a couple of nights ago with friends, and Ian held on a long time having to speak as though he had a golf ball in his mouth! And I had to speak as though there was an echo in the room...room.

Blokus: This is a good game we played in Ohio for the more mathematically minded. It involves what is known as map theory-- the science of having depicting areas with limited amounts of color that cannot border the same color. In the game you have to build a continuous string of your colors, which must touch, but only at the corners, never at the sides. Ther's definitely some strategy involved. Now, I'm anything but mathematically-minded, but if I was able to play and enjoy the game, then anyone can, believe me.

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