Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: KneeKnock Rise by Natalie Babbitt

Synopsis: Beware the Megrimum! From the moment Egan arrives in Instep, he sense the spell cast over the villagers by the Megrimum - the mysterious thing that lurks on the misty peak of KneeKnock Rise. No one has ever seen the Megrimum, but everyone shudders in horror whenever its unearthly wail floats down to the village. Before long, Egan is climbing the Rise to get a good look at the creature. What he discovers might change things in Instep forever! (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the first Newbery I've read I didn't enjoy. It's a bland story, predictable and shallow. It wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't good either. There are other Newbery books (and several non-Neebery) I would recommend before this one.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1971

Date Finished: 9-26-2013
Pages: 118

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Synopsis: When a rash of robberies hits the town of Half Moon Bay, 11-year-old sleuths Nick and Tesla are determined to catch the criminals - but to do so, they'll have to build a host of new gadgets and gizmos! In this robot-themed follow-up to Nick and Tesla' High-Voltage Danger Lab, the brother-and-sister duo build four different droids out of ordinary household objects - and illustrated instructions are included throughout the story, so you can build them, too! Can Nick and Tesla catch the criminal mastermind - and foil his army of rampaging robots - before it's too late?(from the back of the book)

Review: I wasn't sure what to expect when from this book. But whatever it was, this book was more.
Nick and Tesla are twins, living with their crazy inventor Uncle Newt in a the small town of Half Moon Bay. Inventors and Science Nuts themselves, Nick and Tesla find themselves using their brains, friendships and random spare parts to solve mysteries.
Here is what I enjoyed about this book:
1. I laughed out loud at least 17 times.
2. I didn't know who did it until the end.
3. There are instructions for building robots in the text - clear, easy, make-you-want-to-run-out-and-do-it-now-instructions.
With creative prose, engaging plot, witty humor, likeable characters and an extra helping of nerdy jargon and science smarts, this book is everything I'd want my kids to read. I intend to recommend this all my friends - those with and without children, and I intend to give this away as presents as often as possible. I highly recommend.

I received an free ARC through LibraryThings Early Reviewer Program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 9-23-2013
Pages: 214

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

Synopsis: A puzzling case of roboticide takes New York Detective Elijah Baley from Earth to the planet Aurora where humans and robots have, till now, always coexisted in perfect harmony. Only the gifted roboticist Han Fastolfe had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to commit the crime - but Baley must prove the man innocent. For the murder of Jander Parnell is closely tied to a power struggle that will decide who will be the next interstellar pioneers in the universe. Armed only with his own instincts, his sometimes quirky logic, and the immutable Three Laws of Robotics, Baley sets out to solve the case. But can anything prepare a simple Earthman for the psychological complexities of a world where a beautiful woman can easily have fallen in love with an all-too-human robot?

Review: As the third in Asimov's Robot Series, this one is just as good as the previous. Baley once again faces seemingly insurmountable odds to solve a problem. At stake: Not only his reputation, his job, his life - but the fate of all humans on Earth. I enjoyed journeying to a new planet with Baley, seeing a new society through his eyes. As with the other novels, the mystery is balanced with Baley's growth as a person, as a human, as an Earthman. I'm eager to see where Asimov takes Baley next.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 09-22-2013
Pages: 398

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin

Synopsis: What makes a woman fascinating to her husband? What is happiness in marriage for a woman? These are just two of the questions Helen B. Andelin answers in the bestselling classic that has already brought new happiness and life to millions of marriages. Fascinating Womanhood offers timeless wisdom, practical advice and old-fashioned values to meet the needs and challenges of today's fascinating woman inside. (back of the book)

Review: This was a DREADFUL book. While there was some legitimate and sound advice, it was bare scraps afloat in a sea of detrimental ideas and inane drivel. Advice on how to be a good wife is interspaced with testimonials how well this advice worked. Within a few pages, I was appalled and disgusted by Andelin's advice. Her ideas encourage women, already weak in this area, to make men the center of their world, vision, mind - to replace God with their husband.

It is commendable to remember we, as Christians, are called to serve one another - thus a wife is to serve her husband. But this book encourages an unhealthy obsession with the husband, in turn encouraging the husband to developed an unhealthy pride and self-centeredness. I also objected to the advice that encouraged woman to ignore bad behavior or questionable morals in the husband. This reminds me of For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn -another book of dreadful advice. Both books advocate never making the man "feel bad"  - which sounds good until you realize it means the man should never feel bad about his actions - any action. And that's not Godly.

Marriage is a partnership, a sharing, a giving to each other  - and recognizing your mistakes (which often involves feeling bad) is a vital part! Neither of these books every speak of how to handle a husband who doesn't admit his bad actions.

My other issue is advice that is encourages manipulative, childish and conniving behavior. Why would you direct women to play more mind games, to be more scheming and cunning or to be more devious? Absurd. Andelin seems to think it is impossible to be direct and feminine, and encouraged manipulation instead of honesty.

Advocates of FW laud the principles set out - and if the goal is to make your husband the center of your universe and lose oneself completely in abject slavery - then by all means, listen to this blather. These advocates will say anyone who doesn't like this book has lost the true meaning of womanhood and femininity. I say to tell me a true woman only does or does not [insert pet character trait] is no better then a bra-burning feminist or a patriarchal moron telling me that. I look to God for who I am - not some foolish hooey.

I do not recommend this book to anyone. at all. ever.

Bookmarks: 0 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 09-21-2013
Pages: 380

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov

Synopsis: Solaria was a beautiful planet, but a sparsely settled one. The Solarians had so isolated themselves that direct contact with others was almost unbearable, and all interpersonal dealings were conducted by solid-seeming trimensional projections. Now there had been a murder. The victim had been so neurotic that even the presence of his wide was barely endurable. But someone had been close enough to beat him to death while he was attended by his robots. Naturally, the robots couldn't have done it - the first law of robotics would not let them harm a human being. No weapon had been found. It seemed a paradox. So the authorities sent for Lije Baley, who was delighted to find that his old partner, the human-seeming robot, R. Daneel Olivaw, would join him. The partnership was back in business - a strange business, indeed. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the second (or third, if you count I, Robot) in Asimov's robot series and the second in the R. Daneel Olivaw series. Once again, this is a science fiction detective story. Baley's growth as a person, his changing beliefs - these were as much the story as the mystery. I enjoyed the mix. Asimov created a world and a society rich in flawed characters, unique customs and diverse history. His story quickly enveloped the reader in the world. I recommend to anyone interested in the AI vs. Human concept, and anyone interested in excellent classic science fiction.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 9-14-2013
Pages: 208

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: George and the Dragon Word by Dianne Snyder and Brian Lies (Illus.)

Synopsis: George has a word. A powerful, magic word. A hissing, crackling word that can make anyone cry. But when he uses it against mean Aunt Agatha, she doesn't cry: She turned into a Dragon! Now, George must consult a Wordsmith to find a word that will reverse the spell - but will he pay the price for the new word?
Review: I purchased this at a thrift store - $1 a bag of books. This was a cute, quick, delightful read. George, as a characters, is both deliquent and endearing. One can see why the other characters are frustrated with him, and see why he is frustrated with them. And his word - the author never tells you what the word is, leaving it to your imagination. I enjoyed seeing George grow, see him learn the true power of words and learn to use that power properly. I also loved the characters of the Wordsmith - and rather wish that was a profession!
I recommend this book to anyone with children who struggle to understand how there words might hurt other. I also recommen this book to lovers of words and letters and dragons - those of us of already know the power of words.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 9-14-2013
Pages: 64

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reveiw: The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki

Synopsis: In this fascinating book, New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea: Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant–better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future. Surowiecki ranges across fields as diverse as popular culture, psychology, ant biology, behavioral economics, artificial intelligence, military history, and politics to show how this simple idea offers important lessons for how we live our lives, select our leaders, run our companies, and think about our world. (from Amazon)

Review: I picked this book up as it was recommend on a nutrition website I read. The writer of the website used several of Surowiecki's arguments to prove why advice from the Internet might be better than advice from your doctor. Intrigued, I purchase a copy and dove it. I was not disappointed. Surowiecki used stories from cows at a fair, to lost submarines, to students in class to buying coffee to explain and explore this idea that one person may be stupid, but many people may be smart. The end was a bit trying, as he wrote about stock markets and hedge funds, but the fault is mine. I don't find stock markets interesting. I most enjoyed his chapters on Decentralization, Traffic and Taxes. I recommend this as an enjoyable non-fiction read that will have you thinking differently about why you do or do not engage in certain activities and how you make your choices.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 9-10-2013
Pages: 295

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ramble: September 11, 2001

I participate in the required American History courses throughout my lower education. My mother supplemented my education by insuring I have stacks of books to read - books of substance and depth. I read my share of fictionalized American history, with a smattering of European and African tossed in for fun.
But it wasn't until after 9/11 I started paying attention to reading more about my country. Currently, I posses 42 books on American History - biographies of Presidents, social commentaries, collections of documents and speeches and tales of war and heroes. I've even read several.
What 9/11 did, among many other things, was open my eyes to the fact I lived in a country I knew very little about. That I enjoyed freedoms whose source I couldn't name, walk on soil that hid the blood of my ancestors, functioned in a society whose origins of which I was ignorant. I did not want to be this way. 9/11 is the reason I have strived to eradicate my ignorance about my homeland.
It is my way, I think, to honor the fallen, and honor those left behind.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War Hardcover by Thomas B. Allen

Synopsis: It's 1863. Harriet Tubman is facing one of the biggest—and most dangerous— challenges of her life. She has survived her master's lash, escaped from slavery, and risked her life countless times to lead runaway slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Now she has a new role—that of Union spy! The outcome of a secret night raid deep into Confederate territory depends on the accuracy of the intelligence she and other black spies have gathered. Success will mean freedom for hundreds of slaves. Failure will mean death by hanging. 
You are about to enter the undercover world of African-American spies—enslaved and free—risking everything in the name of freedom. How were the Underground Railroad and slave songs used to pass secret messages? What were "contrabands" and "Black Dispatches?" What did Harriet have in common with the Secret Six and a maidservant in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis? You'll discover these answers and more as the action unfolds. (From the back of the book)
Review: I pick this up during my first foray into a newly discovered used bookstore. I'll read anything about Harriet Tubman, but this book in particular caught my eye because it's not a bigraphy, per se, but focuses more on her role as spy during the Civil War. Included are small stories about other slaves who worked as spies, often risky life and freedom in doing so. The book is cleverly designed, using pictures and script reminiscent of the time. Quick and easy, with clear prose and exciting stories, I'd recommend this to anyone interested in a starting point for further research. In particular, this would be an excellent read for elementary age children who are interested in the Civil War and Slavery.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 9-8-2013
Pages: 192

Monday, September 9, 2013

Aquisitions: Book Exchange, Williamsburg VA

Two seperate people informed me of a bookstore in Williamsburg that I might enjoy.

Oh, heavens, where they right! The Book Exchange in Williamsburg, VA might be my new favorite used book store.

Here's why:

1. While their books ranged from $4 to $10, once on sale, books were priced $1-$3 - for GOOD books. That's my sort of pricing.

2. I took a small stack of books to trade in (perhaps 7). I received $11 in credit. Which wasn't much compared to how much I bought. BUT considering I have several large bags at home to turn in  - you can see where I'm going with this, right?

3. They have two shelves devoted to Newbery Books. From said shelf, I acquired 10 (TEN!) Newbery books, half of which I'd never heard!

4. They had stacks of Dear America and My Name Is America books. I snagged 9 (NINE!), all hardcover. My collection of those series is looking mighty fine!

5. They had a large YA section, a marvelous Sci Fi/Fantasy and Women's Studies. There was a nice balance between fiction and non-fiction. Descent organization, well-lit, easy to dig through the stacks and they provided baskets.

6. The ones I didn't buy: There were a lot. I put back at least a dozen and didn't pick up twice that. Once I get a free Saturday, I plan to go back up and turn in more books and bring home more books. Who's with me!?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

Synopsis: "It was bad enough when Lije Baley, a simple plainclothes cop, was ordered to solve a totally baffling mystery - the murder of a prominent Spacer. It was worse when he found that the smug, self-satisfied Spacers were behind the pressure to provide an impossibly quick solution. But then Lije discovered the worst of all bad news. The Spacers, distrusting all Earthmen, insisted  he must work with an investigator of their choice. And that investigator turned out to R. Daneel Olivaw. R stood for robot - and Lije hated and feared robots deeply, bitterly and pathologically. (From the back of the book)

Review: This is the first of my cache I've read. Not sure why I picked it up, other then I enjoyed I, Robot (The movie. Haven't read the book) and I've been intending to read more Asimov - as he is the considered one of the three greats in Science Fiction (along with Heilein and Clarke).
Set in the same world as I, Robot, although thousands of years in the future, it wrestles with similar questions about the integration of human and machine.
Police Officer Lije Baley has a grudge against robots - personal and professional - so when he's asked to work with one to solve the murder of a Spacer, the only reason he accepts is the promise of a rating increase. Spacers and Earthmen hate each other - a hate built on distrust, war and fear As Baley and his partner, the robot Daneel get closer to the truth, Baley begins to see things about his world, about Earth, his marriage and his culture he never noticed. And he begins to questions things that people don't want him to question  - and will kill for.
Rumor is that Asimov wrote this because someone else said you can't combine classic who-dun-its and science fiction. For my opinion, he proved that someone incorrect. This has all the pieces of a fine mystery - the rogue police office, the unwanted new partner, the political savvy commissioner, the twists and turns, the sleezy suspect, the fanatical terrorist and the requisite chase through the streets. Or, what passes for streets in The City. True, I guessed the suspect before the big reveal, but I didn't guess the motive or what happened next. I enjoyed reading about Baley's growth as a character, watching his mental world expand.
In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys classic science fiction or mystery with a bit of a deeper strain.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel for 1954

Date Finished: 09-02-2013
Pages: 268

Monday, September 2, 2013

Aquisitions: Book-Nerd

Remember this? Yes, well, as of yesterday, all the books are sorted, cataloged and shelves (or awaiting turn in at the local bookshop).

There were not 100, as I believed from the pictures.
There were not 300, as I believed after I stack them on the dining room table.

There were nearly 700. For $80. That's about 11 cents per book.

And that's how you Book-Nerd like a Boss.