I took this selection because it was listed in Time Magazine's 10 best novels of the year. It is not. But if you can get past the improbable story of a Jewish youngster joining the Italian Mafia as a hit-man and then becoming a Medical Resident through the Witness Protection Program, you will find this an entertaining listen. The cover art supports the notion that this is a graphic novel without the pictures with lots of gratuitous violence, the anti-hero who takes on the mob against all odds, a martial arts expert who just falls short of super-hero skills, and -- execution by sharks at Coney Island. I suspect that Martin Scorsese is bidding for the movie rights. The production values are high and the book is narrated as a drama which suits this novel well and makes it, I suspect, a better listen than read.
This story is the Thornbirds of Reisterstown Road. It traces several generations of a Baltimore Jewish Family from the 1950s to the present day. Laua Lippman fills the book with her pitch-perfect descriptions of life in Baltimore -- everything from the stained glass windows at Beth Tefilah to Berger cookies for dessert on Friday night. Our favorite Tess Monahan makes a cameo appearance at the end, but one wishes that she would come back for a full book.
The plot has a few good twists at the end, but one gets the impression that the author did not quite figure out the ending of the book until she was about 3 quarters through.
This is a good listen in its own right, but is a must for detective / police procedure novel fans who live or have ever lived in Baltimore. Mght also be a good idea to watch the movies Avalon and Diner as companion pieces to get another version of the Forst Park High School Crowd.
This is another good book by Dan Silva with Gabriel Allon -- one of the most intriguing characters in thriller fiction. He is an assassin with a high sense of purpose, a master spy and detective, a loving family man, and a master of art restorer. He is best friends with the Pope and saves his life at least twice during the series of books. But, he also saves the state of Israel at least once or twice per book.
This episode is constructed as a string of thrillers that starts with the murder of an art historian at the Vatican, and wanders through Paris, St. Moritz, Denmark, Berlin and Jerusalem. Along the way, we get a nice dose of the local scenery, history, and a few art, history, and religion lessons.
Silva's characters stay true to themselves throughout the series and are fairly complex, but once you get to know them, you wish for some new folks to come on board. In this episode, the only new characters of note are the various villains who are just evil people.
George Guidall is always a great narrator/performer and anything he does is worth a listen.
In summary -- if you liked the other books by Silva, you will also like this one. You better read it soon, because it is so timely that I suspect it will not wear well over the years.
This book is a detailed account of the fall of Lehman Brothers, the reorganization and mergers of Goldman-Sachs, Morgan-Stanley, Merrill-Lynch, Wachovia-Wells Fargo, the genesis of the TARP fund, and the nationalization of the banks. The story gives the listener the sense of the desperation and breakneck pace of the total reorganization of Wall Street and US National Banking. The key protagonists in this history-memoir are the Dartmouth alums Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner who were facing down what they thought was an imminent economic collapse and the pressure points they used to avert the disaster. If there is any one lesson from this, it is that the fall of Lehman was mostly a matter of bad timing and the tension between Paulson and Fuld. The book does not seek to analyze the root economic causes of the fall of Wall Street other than excessive risk-taking and over-leveraging and does not provide the details of the accounting mischief like House of Cards and Smarted Guys in the Room. But the human story behind the deals is well depicted. It is a long but a compelling listen.
Sarah Vowell's innate medium is audiobooks and radio (NPR). In her squeaky voice, she recounts history with passion, irony and humor intertwined with curent events and pop culture. There is nobody I can think of who is quite rivals her in contemporary commentary. She is a modern version of Mark Twain. If she ever decides to auction off on eBay her attendance at a dinner party, I will certainly be one of the bidders.
This book provides a good companion piece to Philbrick's Mayflower which chronicles the Pilgrims from the point of view of the Indian Wars. Vowell focuses on the cousins of the Pilgrims in Boston and the Winthrop legacy. But the real hero of both books turns out to be Roger Williams who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious freedom and civil liberties / property rights for the Native Americans. Thus, whatever cynicism one has for the Puritan settlers, it is leavened by the pride in the early recognition in this country for the values of freedom. She also balances the strictness of the Protestant ethic with the great devotion to education embodied in the founding of Harvard College that initiated the common goal of educational excellence that is so much part of American ideals.
I am a big fan of Finder whose usual plots involve an average man caught in a web of corporate intrigue and ethical dilemmas. In this novel, I had the impression that he was trying to channel Harlan Coben. But H.C. would have written this book with a lighter touch, a sense of humor, and a less confusing plot. I finished the tape, but only because I kept thinking that it had to get better. Actually, in retrospect, the plot was pretty silly, though it might become a good movie if Sylvester Stallone took the lead role.
Gabriel Elon is one of the most interesting thriller heros -- a brilliant art restorer and a brilliant Mossad assassin. In this book, Silva seems to be just going down his list of bad guys -- Nazi torturers, Arab terrorists, Drug Cartels, and now Russian KGB/Mafia. I think that the next novel will have to address U.S. Skinheads, but Gabriel is running out of relatives to be kidnapped by bad guys. Nonetheless, the plot moves along well and Phil Gigante does a good job of dramatizing the book. I actually like his accents (except for the southern lilt of the CIA agent). The plot is complicated and Silva has to pull the fat out of the fire at the end with a "deus ex machina" that is less than satisfying. But...I still love Silva and Gabriel and cannot wait for the next one -- hoping it will be a little more polished than this one that seemed to be rushed out for the summer reading season.
Another one of Michael Palmer's semi-medical thrillers about the U.S. President's personal physician who becomes embroiled in a sinister plot that has lead to the disappearance of his predecessor. Palmer does not write as good a medical thriller as Robin Cook, nor as good a political thriller as David Baldacci, but does a passable job. The plot would make a great "made-for-TV" cable movie. The characters are not very engaging but who cares as long as the chase is on. The narrator, Phil Gigante, is one of my favorites. He does his novels in different voices so they tend to come across like a radio play rather than a narrative. I particularly like his European accents in the Dan Silva novels. His southern accents are a little too strong for my taste, but it is always clear who is speaking. I bought this one on the one-penny per minute sale and it was worth every cent if you want a good listen for the beach or the plane.
I picked this novel after hearing Dr. Verghese on the Diane Rheim Show on NPR and was impressed by his enthusiasm and idealism for the practice of medicine and the training of young physicians.
The plot has some refrains of the Kite Runner, also written by a physician. It follows the intertwined lives of two brothers from politically unstable Ethiopa to the United States. The language and imagery are lyrical in many places even in the description of surgical procedures and cadaver dissections.
It is not overstated to say that the novel does for Surgery and Medicine what Moby Dick did for whaling. The plot is interspersed with technical descriptions of nearly every aspect of medicine from the fine points of surgical anatomy to the process of medical residency certification. The finale of the book is far-fetched and is telegraphed, but in the context of the grand story, I suppose it is no more far-fetched than Ahab waving goodbye from the back of the White Whale.
The characters are compelling and complex -- particularly the namesake of the novel and the father of the narrator. One of the recurring themes of the book is the tension between the good life (i.e. love of family) and the good career (i.e. good works). This theme is carried from the Carmelite Nuns in Madras to the trauma and transplant surgeons in New York. No one seems to get it quite right except for Ghosh, the Indian/Ethiopian Internist who is the most attractive person in the book. I wonder if Dr. Verghese modeled him as a self-portrait.
I suspect that this book will not get the readership that it deserves because of the hefty length and hefty price. But it ought to reside on the bookshelf of everyone who aspires to go into medicine as a career -- right next to Arrowsmith and Aequinimitas.
Lincoln Rimes, a modern quadriplegic Sherlock Holmes and his NASCAR-driver Police Detective Girlfriend Amelia Sachs solve a series of violent murders cum identity theft. Deaver is good at dramatizing cyber-crime ("The Great Blue")combining a police procedural with geekfest and a little psychopathology ("Diogenes Syndrome"). Deaver is a plot-meister, and each of his books has at least three endings. This novel's plots are more complex than usual -- weaving together five or six subplots that all climax simultaneously except for one. The Watchmaker makes a cameo appearance and will likely show up again.
If you like Deaver, you will love this, but be prepared for a longish and complex book.
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