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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