Archive for July, 2016

Beyond the Ice Limit

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

1447_m1t1w280q75v8897_BeyondTheIceLimit_-_FINAL_COVER1 By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Short Take:

This is the sequel to a thriller the pair wrote in 2001. However you don’t need to read the original to either enjoy or fully understand this outing. Turns out what was once thought to be merely a massive and mysterious meteorite is much more dangerous — and alive. It’s two miles beneath the ocean’s surface in the treacherous south Atlantic, and it’s growing.

Why?

This is an entry in Preston and Child’s Gideon Crew Series, of which I am not a fan (though I greatly enjoy their Agent Pendergast books). However, this outing was an improvement, largely because the main female character was, thankfully, more than window dressing.

Preston and Child are thriller masters, but this book was solidly in the science fiction realm — weird alien life form, world-domination, that sort of thing. It was a fun read, but nothing awe-inspiring; a perfect choice for the beach, with plenty of thrills to keep you entertained.

The pair admits their fans continually pushed them to write this sequel. Making it a Gideon Crew novel probably killed two birds with one stone for them. However, the mash up doesn’t quite jell like one would like.

A Little Plot:

A handful of survivors from the catastrophe in the original thriller are intent on destroying the life form they once thought was a meteorite. To do that they need Gideon Crew’s nuclear weapons expertise. And, they have to do it fast before it dooms the whole planet.

For more about Preston and Child and their novels click here.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

UnknownBy Dominic Smith

The Short Take:

This engrossing book about the work of a Dutch female artist in 17th century Netherlands and a struggling art student more than 300 years later falls solidly in the “book club” category, but achieves far more than expected from that type of book. The writing is fluid, the descriptions vivid, and the modern day characters well drawn.

Why?

This is another of those split-time novels. In this case a three-way split: the artist de Vos’s life centuries ago; art student, Ellie, in the late 1950s; and, Ellie as a respected art teacher/curator in 2000. While those time jumps can often be annoying, Smith pulls the transitions off relatively seamlessly — you want to know more about a different time exactly as the next page takes you there.

Ellie Shipley and Marty de Groot (the latter owns the de Vos painting this book centers on) are interesting characters, likable despite their rather deep flaws and deceptions. What might seem like diversions from the story line actually reveal their isolation and dissatisfaction with their lives.

However, the sections dealing with de Vos were harder to swallow. She is a composite character of several real artists, but both her tribulations and joys seems a bit too pat.

There is quite a bit about the process of restoring old paintings and the process of forgery, as well as insights to the art dealer world. However, these were interesting and didn’t unnecessarily slow the story.

A Little Plot:

Bogged down on her dissertation on 17th century Dutch female artists, Ellie has been refining her restoration abilities through commissions from an art dealer. Then he brings her a photograph of a Sara de Vos painting and asks her to copy it. She loves the work, but knows what she is doing is wrong. Complications ensue, and follow her decades later.

Back in time, Sara de Vos’ life is in turmoil due to death and financial problems.

You can read more about Smith and his work by clicking here. By the way, if you just google his name, add “author” of you’ll get the baseball player by the same name.

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