Saturday, January 17, 2015

read: The Edison Effect (4 stars)

The Edison Effect: A Professor Bradshaw MysteryThe Edison Effect: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winning entry in the Professor Bradshaw Mystery series by Bernadette Pajer. Her curious and somewhat befuddled electrical engineer and the quaint, young city by the sea are charming companions.

In these books, early Seattle is it's own character and this book keeps it interesting and alive. We're even introduced into some of the seedier neighborhoods and their denizens, without it quite becoming turn of the 20th century noir.

This story starts with a quite simple mystery. Who electrocuted the Bon Marche electrician installing the Christmas lights? But as Bradshaw and the police start asking questions, they always seem to wind up with more questions than answers and more suspects than they need. The writing is engaging, with clear cut characters and richly drawn settings. It's not a wild ride, but it's fun and puzzling right to the end. Recommended.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

read: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (4 stars)

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human SocietiesGuns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting read (for about the first 2/3 of its length). The author does a good job of explaining and making the reader think more deeply about how geography, environment, biology, sociology, politics and language all work together to influence technology and what most of us regard as progress. I gained new insights into the origins of farming, writing, disease and government and how and why they might have been unevenly distributed throughout the world.

I share the same concern as others that the writing does get a bit repetitive. This seems to be a common shortcoming of academics writing for a wider audience. They need to realize that their readers might not be researchers in their field, but we're still pretty smart and can pick up on themes and ideas without having them pounded into our skulls with a mallet.

Even so, I do recommend this book. Read the good parts. Skim the boring bits. Think about the complexity of the world.

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

read: The Martian (5 of 5 stars)

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I'd posted this review months ago when I read the book before all the rest of the world and Hollywood got a hold of it. I'd picked it up based on the rave reviews I'd seen and heard on and elsewhere. Then I waited until the rest of the folks in my book club were ready to read it. We all loved it. I procrastinated. Things got busy. At this point, anything I say can only come across as simply jumping on the bandwagon.

But this is good. You should read it. If you geek out on NASA and space flight, you will geek out on this. If you enjoy science fiction, this is just far enough into the future that you will enjoy it. If you like realistic human drama, this is right up your alley. If you like the film Castaway, this is that, plus Apollo 13 and a side of fries. If you're put off by snarky, geeky, sciency first-person narrative, you might not like it. But you should try it anyway, because this is being made into a blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon and you will want to read the book before that comes out.

[Read from June 04 to 08, 2014]

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Friday, December 5, 2014

read: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride (5 stars)

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess BrideAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolutely enchanting memoir from the star of The Princess Bride. He begins at the beginning with the creation of the story and the early encounters with it by himself and many of the of the crew. After a brief synopsis of his early career, he picks up the story with getting cast, meeting everyone, the many adventures making the film, and some of the adventures of having made it.

Interspersed are additional memories from Rob Reiner and most of the cast. The result is an absolute must read/listen for any fan of the film.

I highly recommend listening to the audio book, in order to hear not only Cary Elwes' warm narration, but also his spot-on voice impressions of Rob Reiner and Andre the Giant and several others.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

read: The Murder of Adam and Eve (4 stars)

The Murder of Adam and EveThe Murder of Adam and Eve by William Dietrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

According to my own rating system, I would give this book a solid 3 stars: good book, entertaining or informative. But I have to give it an extra 1/2 star (rounded up to 4) based on the author's obvious ambitions of theme and his skill with with words. It could have been a solid 4 stars on its own if it weren't for a somewhat whiny teenage protagonist, silly aliens, several pesky plot holes and a tendency to get preachy and overly philosophical.

Looking past all that, there's plenty of tension, oodles of adventures, pages of wonderful travelogue and wonder, and more than enough controversy for anyone.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

read: The Job (4 stars)

The Job (Fox and O'Hare #3)The Job by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're looking for a fun story that's a mashup of 'Remington Steele', 'Burn Notice', and 'The Thomas Crown Affair', this is it. The TV and film comparisons are valid both for thematic reasons and borrowed plot lines. There's a Federal agent working both sides of the law. An art thief who's never who or where he's supposed to be. Almost every chapter is a different art theft or con. Numerous references to fictional characters and places are sprinkled liberally throughout the story.

Just like a television movie, none of the story makes any sense when submitted to any scrutiny. The capers are paper thin. The characters are cardboard flat. Real motivation is missing in action. And yet, like a television movie, it's fast-paced, colorful, and eye-catching. There are plenty of twists and turns, but the reader is never lost or left behind.

Pick this up for a read on a plane trip or sitting on the beach and the minutes will fly by. It gets four stars for delivering on that promise.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

read: My Sister's Grave (5 stars)

My Sister's GraveMy Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Dugoni turns from writing legal thrillers to police procedurals with his usual storytelling aplomb. As with David Sloane, his cop, Tracy Crosswhite, is personally and emotionally tied up in the case. Her sister Sarah disappeared years ago and her body has just been recovered. But the physical evidence doesn't quite match what was used to convict the man in prison for Sarah's murder. And Tracy still feels responsible for what happened to her younger sister.

The author creates an especially rich world of characters, places and situations that always feel real. Flashbacks are sparingly and deftly used to reveal and add depth without holding the story back. Everything moves along quite quickly. Clues to solving the mystery unspool naturally. Characters react realistically. The story feels more like a real-crime documentary than complete fiction.

I have enjoyed every book I've read by Dugoni. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through Amazon's Kindle First program.

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