Thursday, May 17, 2018

Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to HawkingGreat Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking by William H. Cropper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an awesome book! If you know me, you know that if physics were a woman, I'd marry her. This collection of the biographies and contributions to the field of several of the greatest physicists ever is a joy to read. Physics is a human endeavor and it's explorers were amazing characters. It would take years to read detailed biographies of each physicist included in this volume, but the concise, engaging, respectful accumulation of their stories gathered here will entertain and educate. A must read and have displayed on the bookshelf for any physics enthusiast.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Holy Cow!

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe ItselfThe Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy cow! I read the kindle version (and I'm listening to the audiobook separately on Google Play), and I'm surprised that I didn't exceed the highlight limit of this book. Thank you, Sean Carroll! The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself goes on my shelf of books that most influenced my thinking along with Cosmos, The Demon Haunted World, The Character of Physical Law and The Nature of Reality. Here, Sean Carroll tackles the question, "Now that you've decided that nature is enough, how do you determine your place in the universe?" He suggests taking the view he calls poetic naturalism - coming to terms with the reality that we live in a universe governed by laws that determine how matter, energy, space and time behave and that it's totally up to each of us to find the beauty in it and create meaning in our lives. While this idea isn't new to me (or probably to anyone willing to tackle this book), Sean Carroll weaves our understanding of the universe with the wonder of it all into our perception of it our place in it, and he does so in a very engaging, non-threatening, hopeful, enchanting, enlightening, humorous, and, above all, satisfying way. The appendix is a very concise and well presented overview of the core theory of physics. I'm getting the equation put on a T-shirt. If you read only one book that I've recommended on Goodreads other than the ones mentioned in this review, read this one. Even if you're a theist with a religious worldview, you'll gain an appreciation for how a naturalistic worldview can be rewarding and meaningful.

View all my reviews

Wordy Rappinghood!

Blue SkyBlue Sky by Wallfestories
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This fan fiction novel picks up where Portal 2 left off. It is the extremely verbose story of the romance between Chell and Wheatley, which is strange, but well thought out. My only reason for rating it 3 stars is that it could have seriously benefited from extensive editing. You know a book needs editing when you find yourself screaming, "Jesus Christ! Describing it once is enough, and 4 times is freaking torture!" Skimmers will enjoy this more than I did.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Crisis on Infinite EarthsCrisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Barry Allen (The Flash) is trapped in time and shuffled among alternate universes as he helps all those universes' heroes and villains battle the anti-monitor and the evil fiend's attempts to destroy all of reality. Written by DC Comics veteran Marv Wolfman, this novelization of the comic series reads sort of like a recounting of a very intense acid trip. If you like that kind of thing, you'll enjoy this, I'm sure, but I personally can't get into this style. I like my stories to be somewhat grounded in a more coherent narrative, and by the last quarter of the book, it reads more that way. I did like the premise of the story and found the ending to be very satisfying. I just found out that there's an audio version of the book. Perhaps I would have enjoyed that better. Anyway, kudos to Marv for going out on a limb with this style of storytelling. I think he did it well. It's just not my thing.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Young Skywalker Gets His Street Creds!

Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Star Wars, #1)Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent novelization of the film, this first installment of the Star Wars saga written by Terry Brooks and read by Alexander Adams is thoroughly entertaining. Included are sound effects, original film score music and Adams' passionate reading. Adams does a fair job of giving character to the voices. His Yoda needs a little work, but overall, he does a great job. What I appreciate about the novelization is that there are issues addressed that aren't in the film. Skywalker's immaculate conception is one issue that is unambiguously faced. This work is considered canon, so take that where you will, campers. I recommend getting the Audible version. It's truly engaging!


View all my reviews

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Reality Check

There are four forces in our observable universe known to science: (1) gravity (2) weak nuclear (3) strong nuclear and (4) electromagnetic. Please note the disclaimer "known" in that sentence. That means that their might be other forces out there we don't know about. HOWEVER, if there are, they are hidden, and I mean extremely well hidden, because the billions of dollars and hundred-thousands of man-hours spent studying those four forces haven't found a a shred of verifiable evidence of the existence of any others. If psychic and other paranormal phenomena really occur, they MUST involve forces other than the four mentioned above, because such phenomena ALWAYS contradict the behavior and properties of those forces. That makes it, not impossible, but extraordinarily unlikely that such phenomena occur outside human imagination (making for great entertainment), misperception (causing hallucinations or delusions) or aberrant brain activity (causing mental illness).



Monday, March 26, 2018

Mike Pence is an Asshole

A Day in the Life of Marlon BundoA Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the unabridged Audible edition of the book. I chose to read it, because I think that Mike Pence is an asshole. In fact, I think that all the homophobic religious right are assholes. That's pretty much all I have to say, except that I enjoyed the performance, and that if you - reading this - are part of the homophobic religious right, well, you're an asshole too. However, if you are tolerant and happy to let people be who they are are as long as they aren't infringing on the freedom of others, then you're OK in my personal opinion, because, as we learn from this book, being different isn't bad. We're all different, so if you can't deal with that, learn to. You'll be happier for it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In Their Styes With All Their Backing! What They Need Is Damn Good Whacking!

Speaker for the Dead (Ender's Saga, #2)Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second of the Ender series by Orson Scott Card. This is the book he meant to write in the beginning. Ender's Game was more of a prequel. As such Speaker for the Dead is a more serious read. If you're expect a romp roaring good time, don't go here. This is a very cerebral novel. The issues it that go to make up the story are interesting and relevant. When writers claim that SciFi is social commentary that you can get away with, they're talking about this kind of book. Ender, through relativistic effects, finds himself 3,000 years in the the future of the first novel and his profession is one in which he speaks for the dead when called upon. His true mission is to find a place where the hive queen he saved after the war with the buggers can get a new start. He finds it on a planet where the indigenous peoples known as "piggies" have caused the death of a human xenographer. Very interesting drama ensues and a great story unfolds.

I enjoyed the Audible unabridged version of the novel as it features a cast of readers. The change in voice, pacing and tone were engaging. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the wider implications of the first novel.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Don't Get Played Again

Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a review of the audiobook version of this fine novel. Both the characters and the writing get more mature with this installation of the Harry Potter saga. Jim Dale does an outstanding job of reading once again. This is the one where Harry gets played, but gives as good as he gets so that the player gets played in the end. Maneuvered into participation in the Triwizard Tournament, Harry must survive trials of the tournament and the evil deeds of evildoers. Death Eaters, you know. Hate those guys. Voldemort is not only gross, but loquacious and spends way too much time talking when he should be killing. Just like a villain. Stupid villains. They never get a happy ending, you know. Oh, and Rita Skeeter - bitch. Enough said. Dumbledore is his usual wise, great and powerful self. Anyhoo, Voldemort is back to wreak havoc in the next novel, and hey Voldemort - less talking, more killing! Jeez Louise! Stupid villain. There are wins, but there are losses and that's what gives me respect for JKR's writing with this installment. If you've never read, Harry Potter, you should, even though Harry never once passes gas and laughs about it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Curious

The Complete Adventures of Curious GeorgeThe Complete Adventures of Curious George by Margret Rey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Curious George was a fixture of my childhood. I read those books repeatedly. Now, as an adult, I wonder - what made Curious George work? It's been around for a long time and kids still seem to love it. Maybe it's that the stories are simple, engaging and don't overwhelm the senses. Maybe it's that George makes mistakes, but doesn't get judged for it. There's a much about the character and the events that most any kid can relate to. The illustrations are friendly and heartwarming. As I read the book, I always found myself smiling at the end of a chapter. The book does a good job of educating without lecturing. Did I hold on to my childhood curiosity because of these books? I don't know. Likely, there were many factors that made me treasure that quality, but I like to think that the curios little monkey and the man in the yellow hat were a significant influence. Good reading for kids of all ages.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Jesus! This book is LONG!!!

AlaskaAlaska by James A. Michener
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thing I love about reading is that a good book will take you to places that you either could not go to or probably never would, even if you could. James Michener makes an excellent tour guide in this novel set in Alaska. He takes the reader from the geologic formation of that part of North America to its first settlement by Asians crossing the Bering Land Bridge all the way to to modern Alaska in the early 1990s, which, by the way, is when I started reading this very long book. I bought it in early 1992 and said to myself, "This could take some time." Well, obviously, it did. But, you want to know if you should read it, right?

Aside from a few minor items that do not agree with the scientific consensus on the physics and geology involved with Alaska's history on Earth (popular notes and highlights in the kindle edition point these out), Michener makes a very engaging retelling of the events in a manner very similar to what Robert M. Hazen does in his similar popular nonfiction retellings of Earth's history. If this kind of thing interests you, I strongly suggest you read Hazen's works.

The characters Michener creates as participants in this historical fiction are a bit on the two dimensional side and many of them share too similar characteristics. But, they are all engaging and don't take too much away from what the story really tries to do, which is, tell their tales as survival stories. What else can one's goals in Alaska be, but to survive? Well, that and get rich quick, and there's plenty of those stories too. Michener makes you truly feel how majestic, isolated, cold, barren and dangerous Alaska can be. He also makes you want to google pictures of the mountains, bays, icefields, glaciers, skies and wildlife of Alaska. I think that when you've read this book, you'll feel that you've come as close as you can get to having been there as you can given that this is a work of fiction. Well, written nonfiction books would certainly do better.

This book is unnecessarily long. But, that's James Michener for you. If you do some hunting, you can probably find the Reader's Digest condensed books that have some of his novels and likely get the same satisfaction from reading them. There are Audible unabridged versions of most of his novels and if I were going to read this one again, I'd definitely do it as an audiobook. Jesus! This book is long!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

This Will Make You FEEL Redeemed .... But It Won't Redeem You

Sandbox WisdomSandbox Wisdom by Tom Asacker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a charming book! Full of sage advice and wisdom, this book details the experience of Bill - a corporate executive - who spends a day with Falcon and his granddaughter Annie. In that single day, Bill learns of the wisdom of children and how it can help him in his daily business life. Bill's experience seems too good to be true, so .... was it? Tom Asacker gives no indication that the story either is or is not fiction. It seems to me that if it were true, the author would have made a major issue of it, so it seems reasonable to conclude that it is entirely fiction, and herein lies the problem with this book. First, I will point out that the advice given in the book is good advice - shallow though it is. To bottom line it, people are more important than profits and business should be modeled on how it can make the world a better place. I'm all for that! However, there is nothing in this book that anyone with a decent upbringing wouldn't already know. I don't think it would be of any use to business people who do not have a decent upbringing as they would simply never pick it up, even if encouraged to do so. Business people who make the world a better place don't become so by reading books like this, and I seriously doubt that reading a book like this would ever transform a business person from being an opportunistic asshole to something approximating a decent human being. That said, if you're a touchy-feely, artsy-fartsy type, or a business person who feels guilty about screwing people over, this book is gonna make you feel real good about the possibility of change. It might even inspire you a little bit. If that inspiration leads to your action for the good of all, let me know about it. Otherwise, it's a nice little collection of wisdom. Enjoy!

View all my reviews

Monday, January 08, 2018

Bord Now

Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron: The Deluxe Junior NovelMarvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron: The Deluxe Junior Novel by Chris Wyatt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I am more a fan of DC Comics, I must say that Marvel Studios has frequently outdone DC and Warner Brothers Studios with their respective franchises. Where Marvel does not shine is in movie novelizations. I enjoy movie novelizations because there are no issues with mumbling actors and ambiguous cinematography. This novel, written for youngsters, reads like a series of facebook posts. There are more exclamation points than I could count and the scene depictions are very dry. There is very little insight into the characters, their thoughts and their feelings. Basically, Mr. Wyatt wrote down what he saw on the screen and heard on the speakers. I do like the attractive layout and format of the book and the movie stills are a plus. However, personally, I would never recommend this book to a young reader - I don't care how bored he or she is with reading. I don't think it would encourage reading at all. The best thing I can say about this book is that the hardcover version is less expensive than the kindle version, it's pretty and would look nice on a bookshelf and I now know all the dialogue despite mumbling actors.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Meh...

FaceOffFaceOff by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm more a fan of police procedurals than I am a fan of PI or similarly themed "mystery" novels, and while I do enjoy the works of many of the authors featured in this anthology, I'm not a hard core fan of anyone except F. Paul Wilson and John Sandford. When I saw this on Audible.com, I was skeptical that the authors could pull off any authentic short story mashup of their characters. It seemed to me that the effort would be forced and come across that way. Well, that's how I found them as I listened. I was easily distracted while listening to many of these stories. I listened through the Hoopla Digital service, so at least I was spared having to buy the book. i would have returned it if I had.

That said, if you enjoy the genre, these stories aren't bad at all. I personally didn't find them compelling, but I'm me and you're you and we're probably not exactly alike, don'tcha think? If you stopped to look at this book, read it. I command you! :-)

View all my reviews