Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nevermore: Deception Point, The Universe Below, Mind's Eye, Iris Lady, Shifting Tide, and Empire of the Summer Moon

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore started with an old favorite, a novel that’s passed between numerous readers and received some excellent reviews:  Deception Point by Dan Brown, a thriller that bounced from the offices of NASA teeming with scientists and engineers to the far and distant ice floes of the Arctic.  Featuring Michael Tolland, a scholar, and Rachel Sexton, an intelligence analyst, Deception Point is a suspenseful story about a bold and terrifying deception that threatens to destroy a nation—and possibly the world.  Although Dan Brown’s novel received some high praise from other readers, it didn’t fare so well this week.  Our most recent reader said she just wasn’t thrilled by Deception Point, calling it both “formulaic” and “incredibly disappointing.”  Too much of the novel felt predictable for our reader, and she argued she couldn’t enjoy the trite romantic entanglements between Rachel and Michael; moreover, she just didn’t like it and called it quits.  She decided, as she told her fellow readers, “[If I’m] not hooked by page 107, then it’s not worth it.”

Next, Nevermore looked at The Universe Below:  Discovering the Secrets of the Deep Sea by William J. Broad.  A Pulitzer Prize author and scientific journalist, William J. Broad delves deep into the “planet’s last and most exotic frontier” in his book, taking readers on an incredible adventure to the deepest parts of the sea.  He follows modern and ancient explorations of the ocean, examines the darkest trenches and recesses of the sea to show readers the bizarre wildlife of the depths, and offers compelling articles about advance technology and research that is slowly allowing humankind to explore this last great frontier and uncover what strange things still lurk beneath the surface.  Our reader absolutely loved reading Broad’s book.  A thrilling examination of one of Earth’s little-known territories, The Universe Below is an intriguing and wonderful book that offers unparalleled insight into the ocean and provides readers with beautiful illustrations (courtesy of Dimitry Schidlovsky).  Overall, she was very pleased with her pick, saying the illustrations alone were worth flipping through the book.

Nevermore also picked up an Inspector Van Veeteren mystery by Håkan Nesser and introduced a brand new Scandinavian crime mystery to the group.  In Mind’s Eye, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is confronted by one of the easiest cases of his career:  Janek Mitter, after a debauched night of wine and excess, is accused of murdering his wife of three months in the bathroom—and having only the flimsiest excuses, Mitter is found guilty and imprisoned in a mental institution.  But when Mitter is found murdered, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren knows his case isn’t as open-and-shut as he hoped.  Our reader greatly enjoyed reading Inspector Van Veeteren’s first mystery.  Compelling and surprising, Mind’s Eye was an incredible little Nordic novel that left our reader reeling with the concluding pages.  The ending, she said, was “really awesome.”  It made the entire novel worth reading.

Additionally, our readers decided to look at local author Marilyn Smith Nielans, reviewing her novel Saying GoodBye to the Iris Lady.  The “Iris Lady” of Williamsburg, Virginia, is an eccentric and obsessive widow who has become an icon in her community.  But when she is hospitalized with cancer, her three middle-aged children must return home to confront their mother’s dwindling health, her house and gardens, and their long-buried sibling roles and rivalries.  Labeled a “true life novel,” Saying GoodBye to the Iris Lady is a poignant story that captures the family dynamics of mothers and children.  Our reader actually had the opportunity to meet the author one year, saying she really enjoyed their conversation.  Neilans was a delightful personality and a wonderful author, and her book was decreed equally enjoyable.

Next, one reader picked up an old, battered paperback from a friend to share with Nevermore:  The Shifting Tide by Anne Perry.  William Monk is a private investigator, spending his days earning his living from the streets and the mysteries which lurk there.  But when Clement Louvain hires him to investigate a missing shipment of ivory from the Maude Idris, Monk finds himself caught in a desperate situation as he attempts to keep his family and his wife’s charity clinic afloat—and stop a terrifying plague from ravaging London.  Although our reader has never been a fan of Anne Perry, she said The Shifting Tide was not a bad book.  She noted it’s quirky and “very improbable,” but it wasn’t a terrible novel.  “It’s a day-and-a-half book, at best,” she pointed out, so it’s a very quick read for a slow afternoon.

Last, Nevermore looked at a familiar title, Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne.  Although our reader had only finished half of the book, he was very impressed by Gwynne’s work and the depth of the author’s research.  Split into two narratives—one, an inspection of the Comanche, Apache, Sioux and other tribes of the western United States; two, a narrative about Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by the Comanche, and her son Quanah Parker who was the last and, arguably, the greatest chief of the Comanches—Empire of the Summer Moon was “amazing to read.”  Our reader said Gwynne’s book is incredibly complex.  “There’s so much [to keep track of],” he said, “with the hierarchy of the tribes…and relationships.”  Even between the Comanches, relationships were complex and, sometimes, difficult.  He continued, saying it’s a fascinating book, but it has to be taken in slow doses to remember all the little details, to fully comprehend this vast well of Native American history.

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