Friday, August 04, 2017

Angel: After The Fall Vol.2Angel: After The Fall Vol.2 by Brian Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent followup to the first volume! I enjoyed the character stories as well as the trademark Whedon humor. If you were bummed that the series ended, read the comic. You'll be glad you did.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Hi, Jenny!

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in the day, the young Jenny Lee gave me a hardcover copy of this book as a Winter Holidays present. Perhaps she thought that I, being an adult, was very strange. Perhaps she was right. Adults are strange, after all. But, as Aaron Fletcher would say, in any case ..... I really enjoyed the book. It is imaginative, charming, thought provoking and just a bit sad. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it. There are times though that I wonder just what Jenny was thinking when she decided to give me that book. Thanks, Jenny!

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Sunday, July 16, 2017


All You Zombies and Other StoriesAll You Zombies and Other Stories by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of Heinlein's more charming collection of stories. A fairly quick listen (I read this as an audiobook, thank you Spider Robinson), these five stories will leave you smiling. I got this through the Hoopla Digital service - a free service that lets you read ebooks, listen to audiobooks and musical recordings and also lets you watch movies and TV shows. Much like Overdrive, this service lets you check out an item for a month and you can check it out again if you don't finish it by the end of the month and pick up right where you left off. A great service. I highly recommend it.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Boy Who Lived (Even Though He Never Once Farted)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Those who know me are aware that for 11 years, I refused to read a story about a boy who never once farted and laughed about it. That is, after all, what real boys do. They fart and laugh about it. I know. I was once an 11 year old boy. However, my friend, Tara, worked on me until I gave in and read the first book (really just to make her happy) and then, wanting to set a good example of being committed, I read the second book, which still didn't get me enthusiastic about reading the rest of them, but once I got into #3, I was hooked. I finished the series in late 2015 and now that Pottermore has its book club going, I thought I'd give the series a listen. This particular audio version is well read and unabridged. It was a joy to listen to. You have to hand it to JKR - she's not the world's most brilliant writer, but she can spin a yarn that would keep anyone thoroughly engaged, especially when it's being read to you by an excellent reader. Anyway, I'm glad that Tara worked on me. I'd have never read the series otherwise and there is enchanting magic in those pages. After all, it's about the boy who lived even though he never once farted. If that isn't real magic, I don't know what is.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Holy Cow!

The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between)The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers by John R. Shook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Theologies are interesting, because there are so many of them and they form the foundation for the worldview (i.e. religions) of most people. The problem with trying to understand them is that most writings on the subject are very technical and dry and not very accessible. John Shook does a wonderful job of making the subject accessible, yet comprehensive enough that any layperson can understand the fundamentals of the theologies presented. Furthermore, John Shook presents the subject without being dismissive of any particular theology. Shook presents the arguments of various theologies and points out the strengths and weaknesses of each. Each chapter deals with a particular theology. Comparisons are made across chapters. The final chapters of the book look at how theologies influence society over time and using historical trends he suggests how they might affect society in the future. This is a book that a person can read regardless of his or her worldview. Even if you are absolutely convinced that your worldview is correct and any different worldview is wrong, you live in a world among other people who don't agree with you, and gaining an understanding of their point of view is critical is fostering a society that works for the betterment of all.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

A Serious Cluster!

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest DisasterInto Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jon Krakauer writes a masterful account of the tragic May, 1996 Everest climb of which he was a participant on assignment from Outside magazine. My friend Christine frequently recommends awesome books to me, so I had to start this one 40 seconds after she made the recommendation. That's the thing about ebooks. Way too easy to get. No regrets though. I did enjoy this book as evidenced by the five star rating I gave it.

I'm not one to take risks for adventure's sake, so I immediately set out to try and wrap my mind around the psyche that compels people to do something so dangerous. My mistake was trying to apply reason to my analysis. Jon straightened me out in this passage from the book:
There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act—a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.

So, I pulled a Frozen on my attitude and just "Let It Go."

The first half of the book is dedicated to providing context for the events that led to the tragedy detailed in the second half. Jon's journalistic style made me take a leisurely stroll through the first half. It wasn't exactly a page-turner, but it was necessary. However, I found the second half of the book very hard to disengage from, and I dare you to read that second half and try putting it down. The last 5% of the book is a rebuttal of The Climb, which gives the point of view of one of the guides on that venture whose recollection is flawed and, as Jon points out, can't be backed up by evidence.

Jon Krakauer is painfully honest in his accounting of the events. As he blamed himself for some of the deaths, it must have been very hard for him to write. While he did make me understand what compelled these people to climb to the highest point above sea level on Earth's surface, I still can't relate to it, and probably never will. What I did gain by reading this excellent book was a better understanding of what it takes to be a skilled mountain climber and an appreciation of the challenges involved. I highly recommend reading Wikipedia's entry on Mount Everest before reading this book, because the history and geology of the area is fascinating gives even more important context to the story.

Read this book. You won't regret it.

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Laugh - I Thought I'd Die!

Funny Amazon ReviewsFunny Amazon Reviews by Jane Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This audiobook is effing hilarious! I only got it, because there was a sweepstake involved, but I'm very amused as a result anyhow. It's short. Kinda embarrassed that I'm counting it as a "book I've Read," but I'm doing it anyway! Fact is, there are a lot of hilarious Amazon product reviews to read. You should read the review of The Book Of Mormon that was reviewed as a D&D type game manual. It's a hoot! On that note, The Holy Bible gets some fairly outrageous reviews that will have you in stitches as well. I guess those are too topically sensitive to put in a give-away audiobook. You're forgiven, Audible. Anyway, the reviews included in this audiobook range from creatively literary to absurdly silly. They'll all make you laugh, unless you have no sense of humor, in which case, don't bother.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Failure to Prepare is Preparation for Failure

Cracking the AP Physics C Exam, 2015 Edition (College Test Preparation)Cracking the AP Physics C Exam, 2015 Edition by Princeton Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Very Decent Review

Cracking The AP Physics C Exam is a very useful guide for test prep. It also stands alone as a solid review of Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. Equations are almost a!ways derived so that an understanding of their limitations and appropriate use are understandable. This is not a substitute for a good calculus based physics textbook (although it is superior to some bad ones I've seen) and it's scope is limited. The exercises are rigorous and solutions are detailed. Two exams with keys end the book. This book is updated annually to reflect changes in the two part AP Physics C Exam. In addition, this book is an enjoyable read for the expert seeking a trip down memory lane on a tour of fundamental physics.

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Keeping That Zoo!

The Zookeeper's WifeThe Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Detailing the lives of a Polish family in World War II Warsaw, The Zookeeper's Wife engages the reader through masterful literary style and excellent scientific descriptions of the flora and fauna of the region. The last 10% or so of the book has an extensive set of historical notes and an excellent bibliography. It is as much a book to be appreciated for the story and writing style as it is serve as a reference book for the history, people and wildlife of the region.

I started this book as an assignment for a book club that I belonged to back in the day, so over the last 6 years, it's been on the back burner. I find Ackerman's style sometimes difficult to handle, because I find myself reading to be informed and her flowery style gets in the way of that objective. When I slowed down and got wrapped up in the story and language she uses, I enjoyed her style very much. The only author I've ever read who could be seamlessly poetic and informative was Carl Sagan. Others may find her style more palatable overall. The fault is mine. I really can't complain about it. It's an excellent book. I highly recommend it.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

It's A Needed Read

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book everyone should read, whether or not you embrace feminism.

I was raised in a conservative and very religious household and I learned to physically respect women - don't hit, don't harass - but I was taught that they have their place in the world. All the fiction books I read featured strong male characters. I only read biographies of males and actually had feelings of disgust at the suggestion of reading a book about - let alone written by - a woman. The first book that I ever (knowingly) read by a woman was The Thornbirds, and that was a horrible work of fiction to get me to read if the idea was to gain my respect for women writers, but that was not the idea of the person who suggested it. It was not until I had read a few books by Carl Sagan that I took seriously, and acted on, the idea that I should question everything that I believed. And I do mean everything. Through that practice, I found there to be no good reason to deny women the same opportunities, compensations, legal protection or privilege granted to men. In the then male dominated field of science and math, I met women who could run circles around men doing the same work. In one of the graduate math classes I took, there was a woman who asked questions that I didn't even understand. I vividly recall thinking upon witnessing it, "Never underestimate a woman. Never!" Like a hundred other beliefs that I left behind, the idea that a woman either could not or should not do something she wanted and was able to do evaporated and was replaced by the knowledge that a woman could, and should be encouraged to, make the most of her abilities just like any man. While I have spent much effort as a science and math teacher practicing that belief, I still have work to do as a male in this culture. It takes a lifetime to unindoctrinate yourself.

As the author clearly points out, culture is the main problem. While the United States has come a long way in making improvements, women still don't have cultural, economic or political power equal to that of men. Worse yet is the problem worldwide - particularly in third world countries and those dominated by religious fundamentalists.

The author makes many good points, but there is one that I disagree with. She says,

We are not apes.
Well, we humans are apes and to ignore the common evolution that we have with chimps and bonobos as well as the rest of the mammals and the behavioral tendencies we have in common with them is a mistake. Like all undesirable proclivities we have as mammals and apes due to evolution, we must lean to overcome them.

I was disappointed by the author's not mentioning the sore lack of equality of educational opportunities for women worldwide. In my estimation, it is one of the biggest - if not the biggest - problem to be addressed by feminism. Without excellent education, self-determinism - even in a politically and religiously friendly culture - is exceedingly difficult.

Thanks to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for writing this short work. I hope that there are many more like it.

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