Friday, April 26, 2019

read: The Barbary Pirates (4 stars)

The Barbary Pirates (Ethan Gage, #4)The Barbary Pirates by William Dietrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Plenty of swash is buckled here, once the yarn gets ripping. After a rather rousing start, the story bogs for a while in order for the pieces to get positioned on the board. Then the dice are rolled and Ethan Gage starts shredding the scenery with all of the enthusiasm and grit, but not quite as much suave, of James Bond. Yes, there are pirates. Plus more Napoleon, now with added Archimedes, Robert Fulton and plenty of old friends and enemies.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

read: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (5 stars)

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You ThinkFactfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does it seem like the world is getting more and more difficult to understand? Does it feel like everything is getting worse, yet you know that some things must be getting better? Does it seem like all of what is presented as news is bad news and disasters? Does it feel like everything you learned about the world in school might be wrong?

All of the above are true for me. After reading Hans Rosling's book, I'm pretty sure I'm necessarily smarter. But I think I have a better handle on how to approach the issues of the day and how they are presented in the modern media. And that's really the point of the book. It's not trying to provide simple facts (although it does present some astonishing statistics that are meant to challenge your world view). It is intended to give the reader the tools to digest all of the input that is flooding our lives.

If you want a taste of what the book contains, watch Hans' TED Talk: https://youtu.be/Sm5xF-UYgdg

Then, read his book.

Then encourage everyone you know to read his book. Let's all become dedicated to factful living.

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

read: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (3 stars)

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Steampunk, #2)Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann VanderMeer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The usual mix-bag of good, bad and meh stories. I started out enjoying the eclectic feel of the stories, which didn't always (or even usually?) fit into my preconceived notion of what Steampunk is supposed to be. A great many of them tended to veer quite a more into fantasy than expected. Toward the end, however, the slow pace and intentionally archaic language became tedious and I started a lot of skimming.

I picked this volume up because it included, "Tanglewood", a "Clockwork Century" story by Cherie Priest. As expected, it was one of the good ones, though also not what I expected. My favorite was "The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday" by G.D. Falksen, with it's odd take on 19th Century social media.

Anyone that is really into this genre will probably find the collection enjoyable. If you're not already a Steampunk fan, the odds are more like 50-50.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

read: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (4 stars)

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and DreamsWhy We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not getting enough sleep is bad for you. This book tells you how bad (it's worse than you think) and why. More than just a survey of sleep research (although it is that), it's a needed explanation of the many ways that sleep affects our physical, mental and emotional health. It doesn't provide a one-size-fits-all solution to your specific sleep issues. But readers should come away with a better understanding of how sleep works and some strategies to improve their own situation. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

read: The Eighth Sister (4 stars)

The Eighth SisterThe Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been devouring everything Robert Dugoni has written ever since I picked up a copy of Wrongful Death and met him at a book signing. When I heard he was returning to the world of David Sloane with a spy book focused on his friend Charlie Jenkins, I could not wait to get a copy. I figured the author's skill at writing thrillers would serve him well. I was not disappointed.

Charlie is approached by his former CIA station chief and reluctantly recruited into what is supposed to be a few quick trips to Russia to gain some valuable intel. It will also provide some needed cash to keep his business afloat. His first trip is suspenseful, but successful. On the second trip, things go horribly wrong and we're off to the races.

As usual, the author's writing is clear and vivid. The characters, locations and action come alive, even when they fall into some obvious spy novel stereotypes. The reader is kept on the edge of their seat, turning pages to find out what happens next. Then, about two-thirds of the way through, the story takes a bit of a left turn, changing from a spy novel to a legal drama. By this time, the story has the reader hooked and anxious to finish. But the change in pace is a bit jarring.

I won't say I saw the end coming. But I feel like I picked up on most of the clues to the underlying mystery as they were dropped along the way. This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. But I like it when spy novels keep me guessing a little more. Even so, I enjoyed this book and recommend it.

Disclosure: Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

read: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (4 stars)

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book based on Lin-Manuel Miranda's enthusiasm for it and the subsequent popularity of his Broadway hit, Hamilton. It's a daunting tome, at almost 800 pages. It took me 5 months to get through it, mostly due to only reading it part-time and finishing several other books during that period. But it is well worth the persistence.

I found it easy to read and quite compelling. No matter how many facts and quotes the author managed to cram into it (and I'm certain he left out far more), almost every word is fascinating. The story of Hamilton's rise from obscurity to successful lawyer would be story enough. Add in his Revolutionary War exploits and contributions to the Constitution and early government and his life is quite astounding. This book doesn't overlook his foibles and failures, either. It all paints a quite different picture of that period of American history than I had ever heard before.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

read: Street Player: My Chicago Story by Danny Seraphine (4 stars)

Street Player: My Chicago StoryStreet Player: My Chicago Story by Danny Seraphine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is for fans of the rock band Chicago. You've all heard some of the stories. But Danny gives us the insider's look we've always wanted, along with his personal journey from literal 'street' player to founder of one of the most successful rock bands of the 70's and 80's. Chicago, the band, was his way out of Chicago, the city.

It's a fast read, full of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll (obviously). It's also filled with street brawls, mob connections and shady record executives. Danny doesn't hold anything back. He freely admits he hasn't always been the nicest person or easy to get along with. Based on his recollections, it's a wonder that anyone in the band is still alive. But he is. And they are. And life goes on.

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