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Showing posts from March, 2011

CR3 #27: Crazy All the Time: On The Psych Ward of Bellvue Hospital by Dr. Frederick Covan

In the early 90s, Dr. Fred Covan was the head psychologist at New York's busy Bellvue Hospital. Bellvue, of course, is where all the "crazy" in NYC eventually lands--where the doctors make their best efforts not necessarily to cure, but to at least help. It is a fast-paced environment, and anything can happen at any time.

During the year detailed in the book, Dr. Covan is advising a group of young residents, assigning them each to a variety of patients, and attempting to teach them how best to handle each situation that arises. The residents are a diverse bunch: male, female, rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, traditional, and radical. However, they are drawn together by their desire to help those who are unable to help themselves. Some of them struggle more than others. Some get too attached to their patients, others can't find a way to identify. They find their patients difficult, frustrating, and heartbreaking. Most of the residents eventually realize they are doi…

CR3 #26: Pegasus Bridge by Stephen Ambrose

Pegasus Bridge is another in Stephen Ambrose's series of books detailing the actions of the Allied army in the European theater of WW2. This particular book is actually the first he wrote, so it is good, but does not have the polish that some of the later works, like Citizen Soldier or D-Day have.

The story is much more compact than any of his other books--this is basically the actions of one small group of soldiers during one battle. The soldiers are part of D-Company "Ox and Bucks," a group of specially trained British commandos, and they are arguably the first allied soldiers to be engaged on D-Day. They arrived behind enemy lines in Normandy via glider plane, with the assignment to take and hold two strategically important bridges. One of those would be Pegasus bridge. The soldiers spent months training (although they weren't told what their actual goal would be until shortly before they went into action) and learning ways to attack and defend their goals. Their c…

CR3 #25: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Well, this book has confirmed that I do like Neil Gaiman, and that it's Terry Pratchett's fault that I didn't like Good Omens.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a dreadfully average Londoner during modern times. He leads a quietly ordinary life until one night he stops to help a girl he sees lying on the sidewalk. Soon, he finds himself trying to survive in "London Below," a subterranean world full of feudalism, magic, and danger where the people that "London Above" have forgotten wind up. There are rat-speakers, kings, lords, beasts, and angels. Richard is on a quest with the girl, Door, to try and help her avenge the death of her family. He also discovers there is more to life he ever expected.

I loved this book because it was both touching and funny. The plot moved along at a good pace, and all of the characters were interesting. The character of Richard is your standard cubicle-drone--a person whose personality could be easily described as &q…

CR3 #24: Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

The last several books I've read have been heavy, dull, or generally not particularly exciting. I decided I needed a break, and picked up a good old-fashioned murder mystery book. I wasn't disappointed--this was exactly the break I needed.

This is the eighth book in Tess Gerritsen's "Rizzoli & Isles" series, and focuses more than any other on medical examiner Maura Isles. Maura has gone to Wyoming for a pathology conference, and while there meets up with an old college friend, Doug. Wanting to get away from her life for a little while and do something besides think of her failing relationship with priest Father Brophy, Maura agrees to join Doug and his friends for a quick ski trip. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong and Maura soon finds herself lost in the wilderness, surrounded by danger and dead bodies. Meanwhile, back in Boston detective Jane Rizzoli begins to worry about her friend, especially after Maura doesn't arrive home at the scheduled time.…

CR3 #23: House of Windows by John Langan

House of Windows is the story of Veronica, a young widow. She tells the story of her short marriage and of her husband's mysterious disappearance to a writer she meets during a Cape weekend. It's a tale that begins as a love story between a young woman and her much older (and married) professor. They fall and love and eventually are married. Things seem to be going well, but soon the professor's son from his first marriage arrives to cause trouble. When he dies shortly after in Afghanistan, things begin to go horribly wrong for the couple, and the trouble seems to center around their home, Belvedere House.

This is a book that wants to be both deeply suspenseful as well as literary. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it doesn't necessarily succeed on either point. On one hand, there is a great deal of literature involved, as the professor is a Dickens expert, and Veronica follows in his literary footsteps, with a concentration in 19th century literature. Perhaps I just miss…

CR3 #22: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I wanted so very badly to like Good Omens. Many people for whose opinions I hold great respect think this is a great book. They find it funny and interesting and a 4 or 5-star read.

Unfortunately, I was just this side of hating it. I am pretty sure this is not due to Neil Gaiman's involvement, since I enjoyed the book of his that I've read. I have come to the conclusion that despite my best efforts, I do not like Terry Pratchett. This is hard for me to admit. One of my very dearest friends, Sacred Cow, loves his work. In all other things I bow to her expertise, but on Terry Pratchett I am afraid we shall just have to disagree. I find his work desperately wacky...not dryly wacky (Douglas Adams) or whimsically wacky (Ellen Raskin) but more like Jasper Fforde'sThe Eyre Affair or the work of Christopher Moore--wacky for only wacky's sake.

The plot of Good Omens concerns Armageddon. A small mix-up at the birth of the Antichrist results on a case of mistaken identity. Two repr…

CR3 #21: Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital by Alex Beam

Alex Beam's book details the rise and fall of McLean Mental Hospital, once the go-to destination for New England's elite and eccentric.

The book begins with the creation of the original hospital in Charlestown in 1818, and follows it from its decaying neighborhood out to the rolling hills of Newton, where donations from Boston's wealthy allowed for the construction of an asylum that more closely resembled a cluster of beautiful mansions. The grounds were designed and arranged by one of the most famous landscapers of the time (shortly to become a "guest" of the hospital himself) and the staff treated every client as though they'd never left their Beacon Hill mansions.

The story continues, chronicling the history of McLean itself, the lives of several of the more notable patients (many of whom were the black secrets of their rich families), and the evolution of psychology--the changing beliefs that led from dunking, cold sheets, and electroshock to insulin comas,…

CR3 #20: Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan

Tunnels of Blood is the third book in the Cirque Du Freak series. This installment follows young half-vampire Darren Shan as he and his vampire mentor, Mr. Crepsley, leave the Cirque Du Freak for a secret mission. They take along Darren's friend Evra the Snake Boy as a companion for Darren while Mr. Crepsley pursues his mysterious agenda. Through the course of the book, Darren gets a girlfriend and figures out Mr. Crepsley's secret, which puts them all in mortal danger.

This is a decent follow-up to the first two books, but it is not particularly exciting. It definitely leans more toward YA fiction (Does the girl like me? Do I like her? Should I kiss her?) than toward horror. Although it does get fairly interesting near the end, I found it on the whole to be a little dull. It's not a bad book, and would be particularly appropriate for a middle-schooler, but it's not a great piece of stand-alone work.

I am not sure that I'd recommend this -- I am not even sure if I wi…

CR3 #19: D-Day June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose

Stephen Ambrose writes some of the best historical non-fiction I have read (and I have read quite a lot.) His work regarding the European theater of WW2 is stellar--richly detailed and extremely well-researched.

This particular book deals with D-Day--there is some lead-up, details about how the invasion was planned and prepared for, but it is mostly just the events of June 6, 1944. Ambrose goes through each group that participated--paratroopers, bombers, sailors, infantry, engineers, Rangers, commandos, etc--and takes them from the staging ground up on to the beaches of Normandy. He explains, with the aid of photos and maps, where each group was, what their objectives were, and how successfully they completed the planned objectives.

The Allied invasion of France was a success due to several factors. The first was the ability of the Allies to create and produce the sheer amount of materials needed to move and equip a force of this size and nature. The second factor was the amount of plan…