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Desolation Island  (The Aubrey/Maturin Novels, Book 5)
Desolation Island (The Aubrey/Maturin Novels, Book 5)
by Patrick O'Brian
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.78
406 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A turning point in the series - not to be missed., February 13, 2006
Captain Aubrey, given command of the 50-gun HMS Leopard (a poor example of a weak and declining class of ships) is ordered to the penal colony on Australia, there to deal with certain difficulties faced by Captain Bligh (of HMS Bounty fame). Before he can leave, however, he is ordered to take on board several convicts to transport them to the colony for punishment. Unbeknownst to him, but known to his friend Dr. Maturin, is that one of these prisoners is an American spy. Maturin's task during the voyage will be to learn the identity of the spy's English contacts before the Leopard arrives in Australia.

But before they're halfway there, jail fever breaks out, decimating (more than decimating) first the prisoners and then Aubrey's officers and crew. Even worse, when Aubrey puts into port to take on supplies and land the weakest of his convalescents he learns of a 74-gun Dutch ship that is rumored to be in the area. Although in the past he successfully took a 32-gun frigate with a 14-gun sloop, Aubrey knows that in her present sickly state his Leopard must avoid the Dutch ship at all costs.

Of course, he is unable to do so. He encounters the Dutch ship, which immediately turns in pursuit, and what follows may be the most magnificently realized chase of the entire 20 and a half book series. Lost in the majesty of the towering waves of the high southern latitudes, the Leopard runs for her life.

Desolation Island marks a turning point in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. Whereas the previous four novels managed to resolve their major and minor plot lines before coming to an end (Master and Commander, of course, was written as a stand-alone novel, without any thought of a sequel, while Post Captain, HMS Surprise, and The Mauritius Command build on the earlier novels but are otherwise self-contained), with Desolation Island Mr. O'Brian seems to have realized that he was writing something much bigger than a novel with perhaps a sequel or two. In Desolation Island he begins a story arc that spans two or even three volumes, and sets in motion events, some of which will reverberate as far as The Yellow Admiral, novel number 18.

This is where the Aubrey/Maturin series matures, growing beyond the boundaries of single novels and expanding into the story of two men's lives and friendship, set against the beautifully, meticulously rendered life of England and the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. I cannot recommend this novel strongly enough, and I am a little bit jealous of anyone sitting down to read it for the first time - you're in for a real treat.

A final note: if you're buying the Aubrey/Maturin novels in paperback, try to get the older style of cover, with the author's name and the book title confined to the upper left corner. Geoff Hunt's cover illustrations are not random paintings of ships, but scenes from the novels, and he designed them to work with that cover style. The new style chops off a lot of the painting, which is a real loss. In Desolation Island, for instance, the old cover shows a hole in the Leopard's sail, indicative of the determination of the Dutch ship's chase - this is obliterated in the new cover, cheapening the effect of what had been a great painting.

Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease, Seventh Edition
Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease, Seventh Edition
by Stanley L. Robbins
Edition: Hardcover
207 used & new from $9.53

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One hundred dollar text. One dollar binding., February 7, 2006
Much has been written about the quality of the text in this volume, and really, I agree with most of it. Robbins is a comprehensive textbook of human pathology, and is well written, though perhaps it could use a few more illustrations. Based on the text alone, I'd give it four or five stars.

The binding, however, is anemic, and worthy of one, or perhaps two stars. I have never seen a book's binding fail so regularly nor so spectacularly as I have with this book. After one year of use, my copy needed to be rebound. Several of my classmates have also had theirs rebound, or are about to. Several others have reinforced their copies with tape. One classmate had his book's binding fail entirely; he now has two or three pieces and carries whichever piece he is reading. This book bears a price tag of over $100, and I don't feel that I've gotten my money's worth. I may not have babied this book, but I haven't abused it, either.

That said, Robbins is *the* pathology text, and it is because it's a *good* pathology text. If you study at a computer, the online version of the text is very useable and easily searchable (easier to search through than the hard copy, actually,) and though of course you can't use a highlighter or take notes in the margins, you can take notes and bookmark sections.

Final analysis? Yes, buy this book. But have a plan in place for when the binding goes.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2009 10:49 AM PDT

Pride and Prejudice (Bantam Classics)
Pride and Prejudice (Bantam Classics)
by Ian Edginton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $4.70
695 used & new from $0.01

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How little have we changed, February 15, 2005
I was supposed to read this in high school. Didn't happen.

Then I was supposed to read it in college. Again, didn't happen.

It's about a bunch of girls sitting around a drawing room, right? Probably noteworthy from a historical perspective, but what does it have to do with me, or with the 20th or 21st century?

Everything, it turns out. And strangely enough, I should have seen that just from the title: this is about how pride and prejudice make us blind to the things under our noses. It is about how, in our closed mindedness, we sell others, and consequently ourselves, short. And it is about how we deny ourselves happiness in this asinine fashion.

Notice that I don't say "this is about how Elizabeth, the heroine . . .." Certainly Elizabeth is guilty of the sins that form the title of this book, but Austen cleverly allows us to make the same mistakes as Elizabeth does, and being human, we make them. Admittedly, we come around to the truth quicker than Elizabeth does, but I think that that only makes it more obvious what our mistakes have been. We sit, watching Elizabeth agonize over truth, wondering if this careful, intelligent, strong young woman will ever figure it out, and we reflect upon ourselves: where have we been proud? Where have we been prejudicial? Whom have we sold short, and what has been the result?

So there is a moral, but equally important is that neither the story nor the author preaches to us. We are free to draw our own conclusions, though what those conclusions are is obvious, for most anyone with half of a brain.

Of course, all of the good moral in the world is useless without a skeleton of prose, but how marvelous this prose is. I would say that the novel is worth reading for this prose alone, even without the moral, but the two are not even intertwined, they are the same: Austen's genius is to show us Elizabeth's life, and convince us that it is a mirror of our own life: 200 years later we're still making the same mistakes, celebrating the same victories, living the same lives, and it's always nice to read about ourselves.

So yes, it's about a bunch of girls sitting around in a drawing room. And it has everything to do with the here and now.

(A little aside, for those who wonder: how did I ever read this book? I read somewhere that Patrick O'Brian's (author of the Aubrey/Maturin books) favorite author was Jane Austen. Even more, I read that the comparison of his work that most pleased him was to Jane Austen's work, so I figured that there had to be something to this author, after all - and not just something from the point of view of high school literature class.)

From a Buick 8
From a Buick 8
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
509 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid example of King's writing, March 12, 2004
There's something about those cars from the fifties - something that isn't quite natural, and Stephen King knows it. First, there was Christine, a 1958 Plymouth Fury that was simply born bad. Now, Mr King introduces us to a Buick from the same era, a Buick that is equally bad, but very different. Whereas Christine was born on a Detroit assembly line alongside her siblings, this Buick is one of a kind: an impossible, inoperable engine; a steering wheel designed for an ocean yacht and dashboard controls that don't control anything are just a few of its physical traits. But if the car can't be driven, it does have the unsettling habit of inviting guests from time to time - guests you wouldn't invite yourself, if you had the choice. The Buick 8 does have two things in common with Christine, though: it has a peculiar resistance to damage, and although it isn't literature, per se, it makes a very good read.

The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine
The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine
by Frank Huyler
Edition: Paperback
128 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but there's better out there, February 20, 2001
There is a little orange mass market paperback filled with Emergency Room stories, a book whose pages are alternately horrifying and heartwarming, uplifting and disquieting. This is not that book. These stories, which are tales culled from a young ER doctor's career, ring true, but there is often something missing: an intangible thing that is nonetheless required if a story is to have real staying power. Few of the episodes in this book have the below the belt hitting power or style that characterizes so much of the little orange book.
This is not to say that the book is not interesting, just that it didn't pull me along from page to page and story to story. Neither did many of its images follow me when I put the book down. It is, though, a book whose stories feel like they are from the heart, which in as heartless a place as the ER can be, is a good thing. The story telling is pretty good as well, since it tells two stories at once: one, the story of the patients, but two, the story of the doctor; the story of what it means to be a doctor and face the ER again, and again, and again.
Nevertheless, I prefer the little orange book.

Emergency!: True Stories From The Nation's ERs
Emergency!: True Stories From The Nation's ERs
by Mark Brown
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
135 used & new from $0.01

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, February 8, 2001
This little orange book has a lot to recommend it: The stories are powerful, sometimes for the hope they give, sometimes for the horror they reveal, sometimes for both. The writing is clear and easy to read, and goes by quickly. Perhaps most impressively, the pace and rhythm are such that in spite of the peaks of emotion achieved, burnout is avoided, with humor and hope slipping in to defuse the horror just when as it becomes too great to contain, and horror making its appearance just when we are so uplifted that we should burst. These are the best of the stories collected from over 15,000 ER staff members, so if you want to know the extremes of life at your local Emergency Room, don't bother with TV's ER, read this book instead.

Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History
Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History
by William B. F. Ryan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.66
148 used & new from $0.03

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do science and religion meet?, September 25, 2000
I took a history course once where we used the Bible as one of our textbooks. I won't get into the issues of this any more than to say that if that offends you, then this book will, too. If it intrigues you to use the Bible as an anthropological lens, then Noah's Flood is for you. Walter Pitman and William Ryan put together a convincing narrative, first using the tools of geology and oceanography to prove that not only did a severe flood once occur in or near the Mediterranian Sea, but that it occurred well within the time of Homo sapiens. Completing this, they use archeology and anthropology to investigate the possibility that people actually witnessed this event, and to consider whether this catastrophic event may be the source for flood legends. Intelligent comparisons are made to flood stories in other religions, historic accounts, and legends.
Mechanically, the book is well constructed. The language is complex, but not at all inaccessible; a college student would have no trouble with this book, and many high school students would be equally at ease. I had to read this book piece-meal over a month, and found that the meaning or location of many of the terms used in the summation had to be deduced or looked up in the earlier chapters; if I had been able to read the book in a few sittings this might not have been the case (I don't know.) Additionally, since the authors are key players in the events they report, it is worth mentioning that the book refrains from excessive praise upon its authors.
I found this book to be enlightening and well constructed, and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the creation of cultural mythos and is willing to consider that there may be more to human prehistory than the Bible might suggest.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
by David Borgenicht
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.59
1114 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I hope I never have to use it - but I'm glad to own it., September 25, 2000
When I first found this book - in a truck stop, of all places, I was convinced it was a gag. Wrestle an alligator? Get inside a moving train? Survive if your parachute fails to open? When I started reading, though, I discovered that the few scenarios I could judge the validity of were correct. The basics of providing an emergency cricothyrotomy are all given. The basics of emergency childbirth are correctly covered. The directions for taking shelter from gunfire agrees with everything that I've been taught to date. I can only assume that the directions for jumping from a moving motorcycle to a moving car are equally correct.
From a mechanics point of view, the chapters are very short, the text clear, and the diagrams helpful. The material is presented without the condescension that can creep into these types of books. These qualities make it a strong choice as reading material if you 1) get interrupted often, or 2) are being shot at.
I won't tell you that you need this book - if you're likely to encounter these situations at work, then your employer should be providing the education, if at home, then you should be taking a class on your own of some sort, so that you can learn in more detail. Then again, sometimes people do get stuck with a woman giving birth before the ambulance can arrive. Why should only the Boy Scouts be prepared?

Ghost Train: American Railroad Ghost Legends
Ghost Train: American Railroad Ghost Legends
by Tony Reevy
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $8.48

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Broad, but Shallow., April 14, 2000
Researching ghost stories is probably not an easy thing. Primary sources (those who have encountered the ghosts) are scarce, can be difficult to find, and may be reluctant to talk. Media attention to sightings is generally scant, and the ghosts themselves are often fickle in appearance and silent on self-explanation. When the research is done, the stories still have to be presented, around a campfire if possible, in a tone that does justice to their mysterious content. It is not every man (woman) who can tell a story skillfully. Even so, Mr. Reevy could have done better. He presents his ghosts with an almost breezy, though largely understandable prose that is entirely at odds with his subject matter, and rarely even approaches the evocative work of Edgar Allen Poe or H. P. Lovecraft (see "Glowing Eyes on the Track" for a possible exception.) Another failure is a lack of depth. Mr. Reevy has done a fair bit of research for this book, which is unfortunate because it rarely shows. Over eighty ghosts are presented in this heavily illustrated 162pp book. Do the math, and that comes to less than 2pp of text per ghost. If Mr. Reevy had concentrated his research efforts on only six or twelve ghosts, and had found a talented writer to present them, this could have been a four or five star book. As it is, I got more of a chill watching Ghostbusters on broadcast TV.

Pathophysiology of Heart Disease: A Collaborative Project of Medical Students and Faculty
Pathophysiology of Heart Disease: A Collaborative Project of Medical Students and Faculty
by Leonard S. Lilly
Edition: Paperback
169 used & new from $0.01

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Robbins - an excellent book for cardiopathophysiology, April 14, 2000
Dr. Lilly and company present the ins and outs of heart disease clearly, and in down to earth language, resulting in a book that is not only educational, but (almost) fun to read. The compact size of the book makes it ideal for reading on the subway, plane, or in the hallway before an exam. All of the basics that a student of cardiopathophysiology needs are presented, and although I turn to other books first if I have questions on the interpretation of a _specific_ EKG, I turn to Lilly for everything else, including the physiology of the EKG. My second edition of this book is well worn and heavily annotated, and it has a prominent place on my bookshelf - right next to my copy of the third edition, for this is one of few medical texts that I have taken the trouble to buy again when a new edition came out. Robbins is a great book, but it's a huge, heavy tome, and where cardiopathophysiology is concerned, this book beats it by a long mile.

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