Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zero Plus Zero Equals Zero

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

Summary: The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshipped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. For centuries, the power of zero savored of the demonic; once harnessed, it became the most important tool in mathematics. Zero follows this number from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept to its struggle for acceptance in Europe and its apotheosis as the mystery of the black hole. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for the theory of everything. Elegant, witty, and enlightening,Zero is a compelling look at the strangest number in the universeૼand one of the greatest paradoxes of human thought.

Review: An interesting history of zero that stretches the importance of zero too far by mixing it in with the idea of the void.

What does make zero so dangerous? This book does a good job of going over the history of the zero and how mathematics were before and after zero. I did not realize how much difference having a zero actually made nor the mathematical problems that could occur with zero. Zero really is an incredible concept and I don’t really believe that anyone fully understands zero and how it functions. I also really enjoyed learning about the different mathematical systems of various people. Our minutes and hours are derived from the Babylonians who had a base sixty number system.

What did hurt this book was the connection of zero to a philosophical void or nothingness. I know that zero represents a void or nothingness, but the voids and nothingnesses that were addressed in this book were not simple zeros. They were connected to philosophical and religious questions and discussions that could confirm someone’s belief or break it down. Regardless, I did enjoy learning about how different philosophers and theologians along with societies and religions viewed the void and nothingness and how that changed over the centuries.


Recommendation: I would recommend this to anyone interested in the history of mathematics.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Next Up, Bob Goes to Mars

The Sun Zebra by Rolando Garcia

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: The Sun Zebra, is best described as a children's book for grownups. Its aim is to encourage us to discover (or rediscover) the amazing things that children and their magical carefree world can teach us, even as we try to teach them about the harsh realities of our own. The book is a collection of five stories that follow the "adventures in living" of an unusual little girl named Nell, her mother Rhonda, and Nell's father who is the narrator of the stories.

Review: A sweet collection of stories about a man and his daughter and the childlike wonder we lose as adults.

I enjoyed these stories. They were very sweet and showed the natural wonder and innocence of a child. Too often, we lose this innocence and natural wonder of a child, some sooner rather than later. I personally am rather cynical about childhood innocence, but after reading this book, I can certainly see the importance of preserving that innocence as long as possible even though one cannot survive with too much innocence in today’s world. Not all children are alike and Nell seems like a very special child and certainly a great one to write stories about.

My favorite story was Bob the Intrepid Insectnaut. I love insects and was privileged to see, as a child, a cicada coming out of its shell. Cicadas are fascinating creatures. Due to my childhood, I can be rather childlike at times and I found myself wishing that Bob would fly to the stars and see beautiful sights. I was extremely glad that Bob landed in the backyard of a retired entomologist who was able to help him. The other stories were delightful, but not as delightful as Bob. I think this book would resonate strongly with adults who have children.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that those are parents or who are involved with children on a daily basis or anyone who misses what was lost in adulthood.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

You Never Saw it Coming

Mask of Shadows (Michael Drake Mystery #2) by Erick Burgess

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Michael Drake, a part-time private investigator and part-time jazz club owner, starts the day as he has many others, doing a favor for a friend. In doing so, he falls right into the middle of a torrid affair. As Michael tries to decide whether or not to tell his friend of his wife's indiscretion, she is murdered. Through no fault of his own, Michael is entangled in a murder plot that reaches back to his days in college. The problem lies in the fact that, in clearing himself, he may implicate the friend that he intended to help. That is only the beginning when murder and passion collide in a small south Louisiana town. When the true killer is revealed, Drake must deal with the consequences and the lives he helped destroy.

Review: A murder mystery with so many twists, turns, and dead ends that you won’t know what’s coming.

The description for Mask of Shadows let me know that this wasn’t going to be a straightforward mystery, as far as mysteries can be straightforward. It sounded like it might be rather torrid, especially with Michael Drake having an affair with a woman who is murdered soon after. And I was certainly not disappointed. I might read more mysteries if they were actually like Mask of Shadows. I did not have the slightest idea that the culprit was actually the culprit. And that’s how a mystery should be. It should keep you guessing until the end.

There weren’t too many characters, but I had a little trouble remembering them all. Some of them were in and out so quickly. Although I am against cheating, I can’t really fault Drake for what he did. Drake was an interesting character. He had a lot of baggage that kept him too much in the past and I know how dangerous it can be to live in the past. His past comes back to him in unexpected ways, but he is finally able to accept the past and start living in the present. I have hope for him.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy gritty mysteries.

Friday, July 26, 2013

To Be Human

Tsukahara's Ghost by Leon Bruce

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: Morgan Brunhilde lives on the fringe of society, outcast because she prefers the company of Governed Intelligences to human beings. When a stranger called Tsukahara asks Morgan to help him find a Governed IQ that has gone missing, a Mind, he says, of unlimited intelligence, Morgan agrees on the condition she gets access to the Intelligence once they recover it.

But when Morgan realizes what the existence of an ungoverned Mind actually means, she must decide whether she can trust Tsukahara enough to keep his side of the bargain, or run the risk of losing everything in an effort to win the greatest of prizes.

Review: An enjoyable science fiction story with fascinating technology and questions of humanity.

The short story, “Tail to Contact,” connects with this story although I won’t tell you how since it would spoil the surprise. Tsukahara’s Ghost brings up the same issues raised in Tail to Contact. Issues of identity, what makes humans human, humanity, control, and technology. Element of this book do remind me of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and the comparison is a good one. The plot is seemingly straightforward, but I will admit to being confused at times. This book is short and could have probably been expanded at parts so a reader could better understand the story.

I was a little rough on what CDI exactly was. It seemed like an internet you could “physically” go into with the use of implants or through a connecting device. Beyond that, I wasn’t really too sure. Also, I understood that IQs were governed artificial intelligences. None of them seemed to be self aware even though some of them had very high intelligence. Morgan liked to interact with these IQs although it’s never fully explained although that does explain why she accepted Tsukahara’s offer. I really did not like how many times Morgan got raped or almost raped. It felt unnecessary.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy science fiction that deals with artificial intelligence and clones.

Expiration Date

Tail to Contact by Leon Bruce

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: From the author of Tsukahara's Ghost comes a tale about Reikino Fifty-Nine, the newest assassin.

The fifty-ninth Reikino model to be concepted in MitsuiBiotech's clone manufacturing labs, Rei is an assassin of the highest order. Her abilities and intelligence are unmatched by her predecessors, however with an increase in skill comes an increase in conscience, an increase Mitsui will do anything they can to avoid.

When Rei is sent on a routine mission to catch a spy, her loyalty is tested - by the mission itself, and by the company who made her.

This short story is based on characters from the novel, Tsukahara's Ghost. While it contains back-story to the novel, it may also be enjoyed as a stand-alone read.

Review: An intriguing short story set in a science fiction world where clones and internet implants are normal.

Tail to Contact is a short story that takes place in the world of Leon Bruce’s novel Tsukahara's Ghost. It is a prequel of sorts, but Tsukahara's Ghost can be read without reading Tail to Contact. The idea of clones having expiration dates reminds me of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and it’s not a bad comparison. I like the questions that are raised regarding obedience, the soul, and our lives truly our own? The story was action packed and I really liked how it connected to Tsukahara’s Ghost.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy science fiction short stories. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Insanity and Flowers

Nomance by T.J. Price

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Carla the florist is surrounded by the duplicitous and the craven – and that’s just her flowers. The human beings are infinitely worse, especially the men. There’s Gwynne, her oafish and cold hearted brother, Gerald, the suave and sophisticated doctor whose hidden agenda is unspeakable, and finally there’s David, the handsome, dashing lawyer whose deceit hurts most of all. If only God weren’t a fictional character then surely they’d get their just deserts . . . except, it is only through their perfidy that love finds a way into her world.

Review: A very strange story with strange and oftentimes whacky characters.

The plot seems straightforward enough. Carla’s flower shop, Romance, is barely staying afloat. She needs money very badly. She has a freeloading brother who lives with her. I personally wouldn’t have been able to stand living with Gwynne. He has no redeeming features whatsoever. Carla needs money so badly that she decides to become a surrogate mother after receiving an offer from a doctor on vacation. It soon turns into a case of too good to be true. Carla is only going to get half of what she expected, but she does really need the money.

That’s when the time skips start and when the story starts to get weird. The reader is introduced to another set of characters who seem to know Gwynne and are in turn connected with Carla. A lot of seemingly important events take place out of view and often left me confused. The motives of the characters were completely selfish, especially Carla. The strangest set of circumstances revolved around the doctor and what he really wanted the baby for and the lawyer and the divorce case. The end does give me some hope for Carla and I hope that she will be happy.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy weird or unusual stories featuring relatively normal people.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mighty Pen

Workingman's Ink by Dave Shiflett

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: A collection of journalism originally published by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Review, The American Spectator, The Los Angeles Times and other places. Subjects include alcohol hysteria, celebrities (Elvis, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, King Farouk and many others), military deployment, remembering a family slave, trial lawyers, gambling, scapegoating, sex, marriage among the very rich, deer hunting, the demise of country music, bluegrass and old time music festivals, Apollo 11 and the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.

Review: An eclectic collection of stories about country music, Fred Astaire, alcohol, the Apollo astronauts, and hunting.

Some of the stories I enjoyed, some I didn’t enjoy too well, and some just weren’t for me. While I don’t always agree with what Dave Shiflett has to say about certain topics, he does manage to make funny and humorous remarks. His stories are sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but almost all have a strain of irreverent humor running through them.

The most touching story was the story about Shiflett’s son. I cannot imagine what it is like to have a son or daughter or spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend in the military. Shiflett does mention the worry that he has about his son being overseas, but focuses on the importance of the job that his son is doing. I wholeheartedly agree that people who are so quick to put support the troops stickers on their cars probably do very little supporting. (Yes, I do know there are exceptions).

While I didn’t know or wasn’t too familiar with the celebrities Shiflett mentions, the stories did manage to keep me entertained. I also enjoyed the hunting stories even though I have never hunted nor do I ever want to. The stories I couldn’t get into were the ones about country music since I am not a country music fan at all.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy nonfiction stories about popular topics.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Crazy "Crazy" Uncle

Lady Languish by S.C.D. Goff

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: After her Uncle Malachy terrifies Evangeline Languish on her 16th birthday, she is abandoned at a boarding school by her parents. But when Evangeline discovers a strange young man, injured and alone, she is forced to change her mind about everything she knew. Could Malachy's stories be true? Evangeline must face her uncle once more ... can she get to him before he kills everything she loves?

Review: A somewhat slow and sometimes boring young adult vampire novel.

I was glad that this book wasn’t your typical young adult vampire book. There wasn’t a super special school that all the vampires went to nor was being a vampire made to look cool. Actually, there were few young adults for a young adult novel. There was a boarding school, but that was only one aspect of the story and it was a normal boarding school. There are certainly some interesting elements in this book: a damphyr, mysterious deaths, a murderous uncle, an organization of vampires, and an organization dedicated to fighting vampires.

Unfortunately, this book was slow and sometimes boring. There should have been a lot of tension and buildup since Eva was waiting for her to uncle to attack and kill her. I did like that not much was known about vampires or damphyrs, which did put Eva at a disadvantage. While she was a special occurrence, Eva wasn’t the only damphyr and wasn’t super special or made too much of. I liked the character of Slane (even though she was one of the baddies) and was intrigued by her. I am also curious at to what Hobbes is up to and would like to know about him.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy more story based and less action based young adult vampire novels.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cats and Dogs and Bunnies and Lizards and Opossums

Puppalicious And Beyond by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Do you rank Where The Red Fern Grows along with Wuthering Heights amongst your favorite books of all time? All Creatures Great and Small with Pet Sematary? If so, chances are you get it: there’s something magical about giving literary immortality and voice to the nonhumans that capture our collective imagination. If these are the stories that glue you to the page, then Puppalicious and Beyond: Life Outside The Center Of The Universe is the book for you. Set in the Caribbean and Texas, it tells the sometimes true and sometimes fictional tales of the magnificent and interrelated creatures – natural and supernatural -- that passed through the author's life, bringing her delight, fright, and every emotion in between.

Review: An enjoyable collection of stories about animals and the relationships humans have with them.

I love animals. I have a tendency to love the less furry and more spiky or scaly sort of animals. My favorite animals are manta rays, whale sharks, and bearded dragons. I also love frogs, reptiles, lizards, snakes, spiders, insects, fish, and turtles. I like cats and dogs along with wolves, birds, and owls. The stories in this book focus heavily on dogs with a smattering of cats, lizards, frogs, bunnies, and an opossum. The stories really show the love and devotion humans can have toward their pets and animals in general.

While I enjoyed all the stories, my least favorite story was the one about the frogs. I love frogs and I hated reading about how many frogs were killed. Frogs have a right to live too. One of my favorite stories was about the gecko on the glass. I found it cute how a female appeared and then downright adorable when babies were born. I love lizards. The most heart wrenching story was the story about Petey. It was hard to read due only to the content and I was hoping for a good ending.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to animal lovers.

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's a Mad, Mad World

Mad Moral (Mad #1) by Kevin Anthony

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Twenty year old Ford Fischer is a serial slasher desperately trying to resist the lure of the blade. After taking a life, Ford's regret consumes him, leading him to self-mutilate his hand in hopes of preventing further mayhem. All the while a series of family issues threaten to sidetrack his quest for mental stability. His drug abusing mother disappears after an argument between her and Ford; leaving him sole caretaker of his transgender parent, whose life is slowly deteriorating from a mysterious illness. The parental strain leads him to weigh the strength of his bond with the two divorcees. Just as Ford feels nothing more could go wrong, he finds himself in the middle of a slashing spree - the victims being slashers themselves. He's forced to play the role of detective to avoid becoming suspect, or worse, a victim. As slasher after slasher is eliminated, Ford seeks out the blade-friendly stalker with the morally conflicted mindset "slash or be slashed." MAD MORAL is the world of Ford Fischer, where in murderous stuffed animals, demonic possessions, gigantic creepy crawlers, knife wielding slashers and much more madness are common place. Fischer, coupled with a romantically conflicted exorcist and a dreamer who redefines night terrors, leads us through a twisted world that can be best defined as one of a kind.

Review: A very mad story with giant spiders, slashers, exorcists, and zombies.

It certainly is a mad world and it gets even madder in this book. I was expecting this book to focus mostly on Ford Fischer and the slasher who is killing slashers. The summary does state: “murderous stuffed animals, demonic possessions, gigantic creepy crawlers, knife wielding slashers and much more madness are common place” so I was expecting a pretty crazy read. It was even crazier than I expected. Some many elements are common place including giant spiders, zombies, cults, exorcists, and possessed teddy bears. The craziness, or should I say madness, walked a fine line between being entertaining and too over the top.

One of my favorite parts of the novel was Slashers Anonymous. It is quite incongruous, but I guess slashing could be considered an addiction. I wonder if they have a twelve step program. The slasher slashing the slashers reminded me of Dexter and I would have liked to see more of that character. A few chapters from his point of view would have been cool. I seem to like killers killing other killers. This book had a winding twisting plot, but it was enjoyable and managed to all come together.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in horrors novels with a supernatural bent.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Case of White Washing

Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England by Alison Weir

Summary: In this vibrant biography, acclaimed author Alison Weir reexamines the life of Isabella of England, one of history’s most notorious and charismatic queens. Isabella arrived in London in 1308, the spirited twelve-year-old daughter of King Philip IV of France. Her marriage to the heir to England’s throne was designed to heal old political wounds between the two countries, and in the years that followed she became an important figure, a determined and clever woman whose influence would come to last centuries. Many myths and legends have been woven around Isabella’s story, but in this first full biography in more than 150 years, Alison Weir gives a groundbreaking new perspective.

Review: A biography of Queen Isabella that attempts to rehabilitate her image.

I had never heard of Queen Isabella before and this is the first book I have read about her. According to Weir, Isabella has been regarded as an adulteress and a she-wolf. I know that people are quick to relate rumors and tell downright lies about people to make them look bad or out of spite or a variety of reasons. I know that social mores were much different in the medieval period than they are today. From what Weir says about Queen Isabella's reputation, I expected to feel sympathy for her and believe that she was a strong woman.

After reading this book, I still feel ambivalent about Queen Isabella and while I did feel some sympathy for her, I didn't like her too much. What I found most useful about this book was what I learned about English history in the early to mid 14th century. I certainly plan on reading more about this time period since there are so many interesting topics: the war with Scotland, the supposed homosexuality of Edward II, and England's relation to France.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in medieval English history or biographies of queens and/or much maligned people.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review of Sweetness and I'm Yours by Lindsay Paige

Disclaimer: I received these books from the author in exchange for a review. 

The first two young adult novels in a series dealing with serious issues that suffer from unbelievable personality changes.

Sweetness (Bold As Love #1) by Lindsay Paige

Summary: Emily wished she was invisible. But after moving to a new town with her dad, a charming boy makes it impossible for her to disappear. Despite her feelings of unworthiness, Emily soon finds herself drawn to the safety of Jake's world.
Good looking and the star of the hockey team, Jake has a lot going for him. What most people don't see is the difficult life he has at home. When quiet Emily steals his heart, Jake vows to help her discover she is worthy of love.

Just when the two of them realize the sweetness of their relationship, they are put to the test. Only together can they overcome their haunted pasts to fight for a future together.

Review: Emily has been verbally and sexually abused. She shows a number of signs of someone who has gone through trauma. As someone who has gone through years of trauma, I know how hard it is to learn to function again. Even after ten years, I still have symptoms and am still dealing with many issues. So in short, you can’t get over abuse as quickly as Emily does. I am glad that Jake is there to break her out of her shell and help her to cope, but I can’t believe the very abrupt change in Emily. I am glad this book deals with serious issues, but it needs more length to show a more realistic change.

I'm Yours (Bold As Love #2) by Lindsay Paige 

Summary: After the incident with Claire, Emily encounters more problems. Conrad is back with explanations and hope. Emily wants to give him a chance to explain himself. She can't help but wonder why he left. However, Jake isn't comfortable with Emily going out to eat with an old lover.

Will things be too much for Emily to handle? Will Emily do the one thing she knows best and withdraw? Will Emily and Jake's love for one another keep them from shattering?

Review: I’m Yours was a little better because the relationship between Emily and Jake was set. Conrad showing up was certainly a surprise, but not totally unexpected. What was unexpected though was how quickly he disappeared. I thought Conrad would have been used to create drama through the book, but he leaves so quickly and causes barely a ripple. Having read the first book, I was quite surprised by how quickly Emily decides to have sex again and how much sex she does have. It’s not realistic. I was disappointed by how the big issue in the book was solved. It felt like a cop out. 


Recommendation: I would recommend these books to those that enjoy young adult novels about serious issues. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Little Bit of Pressure

Changes (The Randall Lee Mysteries #1) by Charles Colyott

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: When a young woman is found murdered in a seedy massage parlor near his neighborhood, the police recruit Randall Lee - an American acupuncturist and Tai Chi master -- as a translator and expert in Chinese culture, to assist in the investigation. Lee discovers that the murderer is an expert in a forbidden Chinese martial art - the dark mirror to his own healing practices - and joins in the hunt for the killer to escape his own inner demons and save the woman he loves.

Review: A murder mystery with a lot of Tai Chi and a dose of acupuncture.

I read very few mysteries since they don’t really appeal to me much. Changes is a mystery, but it’s unlike any mystery I’ve read before. Changes takes place in Chinatown in St. Louis, which I can only imagine isn’t the most glamorous place to set a mystery. It focuses heavily on Chinese culture and Chinese gangs. Randall Lee practices Tai Chi and is an acupuncturist. It was very interesting to learn about acupuncture, Tai Chi, pressure points, internal versus external martial art styles, and Chinese culture in general.

Lee is a rather humorous and self deprecating fellow. He can get a bit much at times. I certainly can get sick of witty comments and he had plenty. I was surprised that the police turned to Lee to be a translator. I would have expected the police to find someone that was affiliated with the police in some way or through an official channel. I found it hard to believe that Knox would let Lee in some places he wasn’t supposed to be. The solution to the murder mystery was unexpected and was certainly very interesting to read.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in unusual mysteries or mysteries with an Asian theme.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tragedy and Silk

News on the Home Front by Christopher Geoffrey McPherson

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: Set against a worldwide canvas that includes New York, Paris and Germany "News on the Home Front" tells the story of two women who have been friends since their childhood in West Lake, Maryland. The world war has torn apart their lives leaving each trying to find a way to put it back together. It's been a difficult few years with rationing and shortages starting to take their toll. Carole's boyfriend, Philip, is off to fly for the Army; and Irene has taken a job at the nearby aircraft factory. Carole promised Philip that she would wait for his return from the war -- but circumstances begin to conspire against her. She's waited her whole life for him, but can she make it until the end of the war?

Review: A tale of two privileged women during World War II.

Some reviewers on Goodreads that this book reads like a soap opera and parts of it certainly do. At its heart however, this is historical fiction and does deal with serious issues including death, dying, rationing, food shortages, loss of family, and soldiers overseas. These serious issue are sometimes made less serious than they are due to the sometimes soap opera like feel and the fact that the story is told about two rich white women. Yes, I know that Carole and Irene both suffered, but it lacks emotional impact.

You can really see the disjointed perspective of the war when Irene, who has lots of money, complains about having to pay excise tax, rations, and having to save her toothpaste tube so she can get more toothpaste. Irene works in the factory even though she doesn’t have to and the reader is supposed to get the impression that Irene really likes her work and feels like she is making a difference, but is fine with leaving work to help out her friend. Despite that, Irene was a good friend when Carole needed her the most and was willing to step up.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in historical fiction about World War II focusing on those left behind in the United States.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

He Doesn't Love You!

The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy

Summary: When young Robert Dudley, an earl's son, meets squire's daughter Amy Robsart, it is love at first sight. They marry despite parental misgivings, but their passion quickly fades, and the ambitious Dudley returns to court. Swept up in the turmoil of Tudor politics, Dudley is imprisoned in the Tower. Also a prisoner is Dudley's childhood playmate, the princess Elizabeth. In the shadow of the axe, their passion ignites. When Elizabeth becomes queen, rumours rage that Dudley means to free himself of Amy in order to wed her. And when Amy is found dead in unlikely circumstances, suspicion falls on Dudley - and the Queen...Still hotly debated amongst scholars - was Amy's death an accident, suicide, or murder? - the fascinating subject matter makes for an enthralling read for fans of historical fiction.

Review: A much too long historical fiction novel about Robert Dudley and Amy Robsart.

There was actually very little sex which was surprising considering what I’ve heard about The Boleyn Wife, from my experience with The Tudor Throne, and the book’s title. The book also focuses heavily on Amy Robsart, which would have been fine if the damn book hadn’t been so long and if Amy was actually a character worth anything. I understand that she fell hard in lust (most certainly not love) with Robert Dudley and that the lust quickly faded. I thought she would have figured out rather quickly that Robert did not love her anymore. Instead she spends the whole book still “in love” with him and always trying to get him to come back to her.

Her pining takes up a surprising amount of the book and it downright boring to read. Robert Dudley was also an ass. I always like the idea of love between Elizabeth and Robert, but in this book, it’s only love due to his great ambition. Elizabeth has the right of it when she questions whether Robert would still love her if she wasn’t queen. I am not sure how ambitious he was in real life, but he was ambitious almost beyond believing along with constantly verbally and physically abusing his wife. Elizabeth was the only character actually worth a damn.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in the scandal of Amy Robsart's death.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hell in a Handbasket

Angela's Coven by Bruce Jenvey

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Reggie Sinclair is an aging British rock star living in New York City who has just found out he is terminally ill. He also has a very dark secret: When he was still an undiscovered teenager, he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his great fame and success. As his life draws to an end, he prepares to face the inevitable until he stumbles upon a very enchanting, modern-day witch named Angela, and her untraditional coven.

Angela gradually introduces Reggie to her world of old school Witchcraft with its roots in alchemy and ‘natural chemistry’ dating to the Dark Ages. As their relationship grows, they devise a plan to break Reggie’s contract and save his soul.

This is a story of the struggle between good and evil with a cast of characters that ranges from guardian angels to young witches-in-training. Together, they have to come to terms with the uncertainties of love, loss, and life decisions to save Reggie from an unbearable eternity. Here is a plot filled with unexpected twists and surprises to the very last page that will also cast an entirely different light on anything you may have ever considered as faith!

Review: A humorous and tragic tale of selling your soul to the devil.

I liked Reggie Sinclair. He was funny and had a great sense of humor. Sometimes though, it did feel like he was trying too hard. I also get that people do really seem to like him. And then of course the beautiful witch falls for Reggie. It feels a bit too much like wish fulfillment. Love comes for Angela and Reggie and although I am happy they found each other, it happens much too fast. I do really like Reggie’s decision at the end of the book when it came to Angela. It was unexpected, but it was the right decision.

I know Reggie sold his soul to the devil and that is bad, but Hell, Satan, Ajax, and the hatred of Shakespeare are much funnier than they probably should be. I could almost think of Hell as a bumbling place even though people do die during this book in the course of their mission to break the contract. Reggie’s lineage adds some extra spice to the book. I didn’t like how immature the witches were. They aren’t children yet were acting no better than teenagers. A little more seriousness would have been good.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy humorous supernatural novels.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Natural 20

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Summary: The Hobbit meets Moneyball in this definitive book on Dungeons & Dragons—from its origins and rise to cultural prominence to the continued effects on popular culture today. Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you probably know someone who has: The game has had a profound influence on our culture. Released in 1974—decades before the Internet and social media—Dungeons & Dragons is one of the original ultimate nerd subcultures, and is still revered by more than thirty million fans. Now, the authoritative history and magic of the game is revealed by an award-winning journalist and life-long dungeon master.

From its origins on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, and to its apotheosis as father of the modern video game industry, Of Dice and Men recounts the development of a game played by some of the most fascinating people in the world. Chronicling the surprising history of D&D’s origins (one largely unknown even to hardcore players) while examining the game’s profound impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences. An enticing blend of history, journalism, narrative, and memoir, Of Dice and Men sheds light on America’s most popular (and widely misunderstood) form of collaborative entertainment.

Review: An interesting tale of the history of Dungeons and Dragons with some role playing stories thrown in.

I was interested to read this book because I am a nerd along with my husband and our friends. I’ve been witness to a number of Dungeons and Dragons games along with other role playing games like Dark Heresy (a Warhammer 40k role playing game). I’ve tried D&D, but it wasn’t for me. I still love the idea of the game and I do enjoy reading the novels that take place in D&D settings like Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. Who doesn’t love wizards, magic, and dragons?

The book itself is on the short side and is as much of a story of the author’s experience with D&D as it is the story of D&D. The story of D&D had more turns than I expected. I really enjoyed learning a little about the history of games, especially war games. Beyond the author’s experiences with D&D, he includes stories of D&D campaigns. While those are interesting, they add very little to the book although the book would be even shorter without them. I also didn’t like how the author was so quick to bring up stereotypes and assuming something of every nerd. Also, obsession is unhealthy, regardless of what the obsession is.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in "nerd culture", Dungeons and Dragons, or tabletop role playing games.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Smell of Decomposition in the Morning

Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab - The Body Farm - Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass, Jon Jefferson

Summary: Forensic science and murder investigations are among the most fascinating topics of our time. Dominating television and print media every season, both as fiction and nonfiction, the subject could not be hotter. As one of the world's leading forensic anthropologists, Dr. Bill Bass is the premier guide to this unusual world.

Nowhere is there another lab like Dr. Bass's: on a hillside in Tennessee, human bodies decompose in the open air, aided by insects, bacteria, and birds, unhindered by coffins or mausoleums. At the "Body Farm," nature takes its course with corpses buried in shallow graves, submerged in water, locked in trunks of cars. As scientific stand-ins for murder victims, they serve the needs of science-and the cause of justice.

For thirty years, Dr. Bass's research has revolutionized the field of forensic science, particularly by pinpointing "time since death" in murder cases. In his riveting book, he investigates real cases and leads readers on an unprecedented journey behind the locked gates of the "Body Farm." A master scientist and engaging storyteller, Bass shares his most intriguing cases: his revisit of the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder fifty years later; the mystery of a headless corpse, whose identity astonished police; the telltale bugs that finally sent a murderous grandfather to death row-and many more.

Review: A collection of tales with each one focusing on a specific case and some facts about Dr. Bass thrown in.

I really thought this book would be a good read or at least an interesting read. I love bones, the body, diseases, and how much forensics can tell us. I know that forensic anthropology along with forensic science would be nothing like they show on tv (although it would be cool if it was). Still, I was expecting some fascinating history and gruesome cases. Most of the cases are interesting enough, but their telling gets interrupted by Dr. Bass telling us another tidbit of his life or personal history.

I know that a lot of what he tells is about the history of forensic anthropology and does relate to the case being told. A lot of it is extraneous and adds nothing or little value. I am sure Dr. Bass is a great forensic anthropologist (he is certainly quick to tell us that), but I didn’t like him much as a person. He talks about killing snakes, gets married fourteen months after his first wife dies (something I can’t imagine doing on a personal level), and is always quick to tell us about how great he is.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in forensic anthropology.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ghosts and Cookies

The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch by Ashland Menshouse

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: Do you believe?
Can a ghost haunt more than your home? Can a Sasquatch track more than footprints?
Aubrey Taylor's quaint and cozy life in the subdued, Appalachian town of Lake Julian had never been exceptional. Shouldered by his lifelong friends, Buzz Reiselstein and Rodriqa Auerbach, he quietly endured the puerile punishments of a persistent pack of pesky bullies that included the most-feared kid in school, Magnos Strumgarten, and his own obnoxiously, well-accomplished brother, Gaetan. Comfortable in his humdrum niche of the absolutely average, Aubrey never pushed back.
Until...fate dug a little too deep...and the unseen darkness of unspoken places rattled his mediocrity.
When spurious specters and elusive mountain men battle for a tomb of Watchers, buried in ages past, only those who choose to look beyond the surface feel the grip of the ancients' revenge. Unusual disappearances, a colorful cadre of insightful townsfolk and a whirlwind of blunders and mishaps exposes the struggling forces that transform Aubrey and his friends into more than spectators amidst the oldest war of all.
Prepare yourself to see the unseen as you've never seen it before.

Review: An enjoyable young adult supernatural adventure that suffered from being too long and too much description.

The first thing that I noticed was the length of this book. I am used to some young adult novels being over 500 pages, but those 500 pages are quite easy to read so I was expecting a fairly quick read. The Last Seer and the Tomb of Enoch was a pretty quick read although not as quick as I was expecting. The book was bogged down with too much description and too much additional information. While everything in the book did contribute to the telling of the story, I felt like a hundred or so pages could have been cut out of the book.

The mythology was fascinating although sometimes it could be confusing. My favorite part was the explanation for Big Foot and why people can never seem to find them despite sightings. Like some other supernatural and fantasy books I’ve read recently, this book was an enjoyable blend of magic and technology. I loved Buzz’s inventions, especially the Buzz Beetle. The characters were likeable enough and their banter was quite funny to read. The ending does wrap up rather quickly and leaves an opening for a sequel.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy young adult supernatural novels.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Evidence Please

The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era by Norman F. Cantor

Summary: There may be no more fascinating historical period than the late fourteenth century in Europe. It was a world in transition, soon to be replaced by the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration - and John of Gaunt was its central figure. Norman F. Cantor, the best known and most popular historian of the Middle Ages, brings Gaunt to life in his newest work, The Last Knight." John of Gaunt was the richest man in Europe, apart from its monarchs, and he epitomized and surpassed the ideals of the late Middle Ages. From chivalry - he was taught at a young age to fight on horseback like the knights of old - to courtly love - his three marriages included two romantic love-matches - he was an ideal leader. He created lavish courts, sponsoring Chaucer and proto-Protestant religious thinkers, and he survived the dramatic Peasants' Revolt, during which his sumptuous London residence was burned to the ground.

Review: A barely there biography of John Gaunt along with sweeping generalizations and many references to homosexuality and billionaire capitalists.

I am very interested in medieval history along with medieval literature. I want to study the medieval period for my PhD. I plan on starting to read more about the medieval period along with medieval scholarship. The Last Knight seemed like a good book to read to get an idea of the late medieval period. Unfortunately, some reviews on Goodreads warned me that the book might not be such a great read. Reading the book only confirmed the poor quality of this book.

The author has won awards and honors and is has written a number of bestsellers. For someone who has researched and written about scholarly subjects, I found his scholarship lacking. The author's biography on Goodreads puts it best: his books generally received mixed reviews in academic journals. He makes grand sweeping generalizations and provides little to no evidences, assumes to know what John Gaunt was thinking and feeling, and often harps on homosexuality and billionaire capitalists. I did learn some interesting information about the medieval although I plan on reading more accurate books to gain more knowledge and understanding.


Recommendation: I can't recommend this book due to the faulty and misleading content.