Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular by by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Snyopsis: What do a pair of kid inventors with a knack for science and electronics do when Hollywood comes to town? Why save the day, of course!  In Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular, 11-year-old siblings Nick and Tesla Holt find themselves on the set of a big-budget superhero movie. But someone’s sabotaging the onscreen debut of their favorite comic book hero, so the brother and sister sleuths must crack the case with the help of a fresh assortment of homemade special-effects gadgets. This cinematic saga features instructions for all-new movie magic projects that kids can build themselves, such as camera gear, stunt dummies, make-up magic, and more. Science and electronics have never been so much fun! (from the online description)

Review: I have read all the previous books, in the series, and adored them. This one felt - different. The story seemed a bit sparse compared to the previous four. However, this did not detract from the over all feel of the book. It was still full of laughs, adventures, and of course - science! The Science of Movies, to be precise. All of us, young and old, have dreamed of being in the movies or being part of one. Setting the story on the lot of a movie, with oodles of movie lingo and characters - perfect! The science was fun as well - I mean, how to make your own Zombie make-up? Awesome! Once again, I highly recommend this book, and this series. 

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-594-74-760-1
Date Finished: 3-22-2015
Pages: 224

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reveiw: Sanibel Flats by Randy Wayne White (Doc Ford Series, Book 1)

Synopsis: Its cool gulf breezes lured him from a life of danger. Its dark undercurrents threatened to destroy him. After ten years of living life on the edge, it was hard for Doc Ford to get that addiction to danger out of his system. But spending each day watching the sun melt into Dinkins Bay and the moon rise over the mangrove trees, cooking dinner for his beautiful neighbor, and dispensing advice to the locals over a cold beer lulled him into letting his guard down. Then Rafe Hollins appeared. How could he refuse his old friend's request-even if it would put him back on the firing line? Even if it would change forever the life he'd built here on Sanibel Island? (from the back of the book)

Review: I was raised in Florda, but live in the north now. I miss my Sunshine State. So when a fellow Florida exile recommended this book, I was amenable. It's not my usual. I don't read a lot of action-spy-intrigue stories. But I enjoyed this - that is to say, I stayed up way to late one night to finish. The characters had depth and felt real. The plot was a nice mix of action, science, humor, angst, and history. I'm not running to buy the next in the series, but if I find it cheap, I might pick it up.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-312-92602-1
Date Finished: 3-21-2015
Pages: 307

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, and Other Stories by Archaia Entertainment

Synopsis: This is Archaia Entertainment's 2014 contribution to Free Comic Book Day. It contains six "mini" stories from six comics  - Mouse Guard, Rust, Labyrinth, Bolivar, Will O'The Wisp, and Farscape.

Review: While I've seen the TV show Farscape, and the movie Labyrinth, I had no exposure to the other four stories. This was an eclectic collection. Sci-fi, mouse fantasy, steampunk - it was odd jumping from world to world. Some of the stories made me want to read more (The Mouse Guard), while others left me confused (Will O'The Wisp). In the end this was a fine collection to read. I didn't receive it as part of FCBD 2014. I received it a few weeks ago, as part of a video game art exhibit at a local museum.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60886-425-6
Date Finished: 3-20-2015
Pages: 32

Sunday, March 22, 2015


I don't normally have a TBR pile. Just a stack of books I'm reading (3-5 at a time) and the rest live on my shelves until I pull them down. However, on occasion, I have a convergence of books that I want to read right now and I do not put them away as normal. Instead, I leave them in a pile on my nightstand and plow through them as I can.

Here is the current pile:

Nick and Tesla's Special Effect Spectacular by Pflugfelder & Hockensmith

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn

Mouse Guard: Labyrinth and Other Stories by David Peterson et al

The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect by  Chris Melissinos and Patrick O'Rourke

Imperial Stars by E.E. Smith and Stephen Goldin (Family d'Alembert Book 1)

These are in addition, of course, to my current reads, which I have been neglecting. I really must read more, otherwise I will die before I get all of my books read!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: The Girl Who Knew It All by Patricia Reilly Giff

Synopsis: It looks like a lonely summer ahead for Tracy Matson. She's the only girl her age in the small town of High Flats. And Leroy Wilson, the only boy, thinks she's a know-it-all, even after Tracy tries to make friends by giving him a chocolate-icing-on-rye sandwich. Things start looking up when her pen pal, Casey Valentine, pays a surprise visit. But now Tracy has another problem: She told Casey that she loves to read. What if Casey--who wants to be a writer--finds out that Tracy is really a rotten reader? Suppose Leroy spills the beans? (from the back of the book)

Review: Tracy is an interesting character. She's both likable and unlikable. I cringed reading about her attempts to make friends. But I loved watching her grow and learn. Tracey's struggle with reading is relatable, and would be good for kids who also struggle. Giff wrote characters with depth and realism. The plot moves nicely and easily. Some of it is dated, being the the book was written in 1979, but I enjoyed that factor. This is a fine read and I recommend, particularly for elementary kids.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-440-42855-6
Date Finished: 3-8-2015
Pages: 118

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: Binding Ties by Shannon K. Butcher (The Sentinel Wars, Book 9)

Synopsis: Lyka Phelan is a Slayer, sent to live among her enemy to guarantee lasting peace with the Theronai. Yet she has a secret—and it could make her a slave to their power. But when a pack of Synestryn destroys her home and captures her packmates, Lyka realizes her freedom is a small price to pay for the safety of her people. So she strikes a bargain with the leader of the Theronai—one that reveals her true identity and binds her to him forever. Joseph thought he knew better than to tangle with the beautiful, hot-blooded Lyka. One misstep could send their races straight back to war. But now he has no choice other than to help her. Forced to protect her with his life, Joseph finds himself increasingly drawn to Lyka. As they risk everything in their fight against the demons, he realizes he must convince her to surrender to him completely—otherwise she will never truly be his. (from the back of the book)

Review: Joseph is a character that shows up in almost all the books. At the leader of the Theronai, he's often the one issuing commands that change the fate of the other characters. But in this book, we get his story. His love for Lyka and how that compliments and conflicts with his duty as leader, are very well done. Lyka's struggle also very plausible and I enjoyed watching Lyka overcome her flaws. Butcher does a good job of raising the stacks - Lyka's brother, Eric, walks through Hell, and I want to find out how he survives. Between that and the mystery at the end, as well as the additional allusions to other couples whose stories haven't been told (Tori and Nicholas, Ronan and Justice) - I'm desperate for the next book!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-451-24083-5
Date Finished: 3-6-2015
Pages: 369

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Willing Sacrifice by Shannon K. Butcher (The Sentinel Wars, Book 8)

Synopsis: Theronai warrior Torr has never forgotten Grace, the human who stole his heart and nearly gave her life to save his. So when he is summoned to the aid of Brenya, the powerful woman who healed Grace, he is devastated to find that Grace’s cure has left her mind devoid of any memory of Torr or their love. However, despite not knowing who he is, Grace is inexplicably drawn to the dark warrior. As they team up to stop the invasion that threatens the people Grace now considers family, her memories slowly start resurfacing. But sometimes the past is best forgotten—a lesson that Torr may learn too late. (from the back of the book)

Review: It was a relief to finally read about Grace and Torr. Butcher gave us their beginning in a previous book (I can't remember which one), but only it bits and pieces (like she does). I was glad to see a book dedicated to them. It was the first of her stories that took place on another planet - not Earth - and that made it a unique story. Grace, being human, was a fascinating character, with depth and flaws and purpose. And Torr - his love for her felt plausible. Grace isn't a Theronai, meaning she shouldn't be able to bond with Torr. How that is made possible open more questions that it answeres, and As with all Butcher's books in the series, I highly recommend. But they are better read in order....

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-451-24111-5
Date Finished: 3-5-2015
Pages: 371

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review: Ester: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt

Synopsis: When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart. (from the back of the book)

Review: Esther is a favorite bible story, and I enjoy reading renditions. This was a pleasant edition. I thought the idea of Esther loving the king seemed a bit implausible, but other than that, Hunt stayed true to many of the customs and histories of the ancient Persians. The characters felt multi-dimensional and the plot flowed nicely. In the end, this was a fine retelling. I recommend if you are interested in versions of the Esther story.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7642-1695-4
Date Finished: 3-1-2015
Pages: 348

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review: Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner

Synopsis: The bestselling book that the New York Times hailed as “a highly readable and substantial guide to the grown-up realms of money and business,” Get a Financial Life is a must-read for anyone in their twenties and thirties (or beyond) who wants to understand the basics of personal finance. (from the online description)

Review: This book is highly informative. It's organized and easy to read, with excellent charts. Kobliner doesn't dumb down the ideas, but she doesn't use fancy terms either. With clear prose, she leads the reader through the good and bad of finances, how to set up your money for now and for the future. She also gives many resources, both websites and books, for further research. After reading this book, I am much for confident and prepared to deal with my finances. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7432-6436-5
Date Finished: 2-28-2015
Pages: 336

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ramble: Reading Goals for 2015

Last year, my reading goal was 150 books - any books. I managed to complete this by reading largely small books like YA and childrens, or comic books.

This year, I don't want a numerical reading goal. I want a substance goal.

I want to read more non-fiction, all those books on history, religion, science, and sociology that I've collected. I want to read all those classics and cozy novels and mystery series from the 40s. And I most certainly want to read the 500+ science fiction novels I have.

I have tentatively set a numerical goal of 130, which is ambitious. But, I will adjust as needed.

Reading Projects:

Evolution: 5+ books, including Origin of the Species by Darwin

Economics and Finance: 2+ books

Memoir and Essay: 2+ books

Mystery and Horror: 3+ 

Science Fiction: 10+ including at least 2 trilogies. 

So far, I've read one book about finance and economics, and I've started the Darwin. I'll check in with you in a few months, and give an update.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Synopsis: Rich Dad Poor Dad, the #1 Personal Finance book of all time, tells the story of Robert Kiyosaki and his two dads—his real father and the father of his best friend, his rich dad—and the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing. The book explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to be rich and explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you. (from the online description)

Review: This book was highly recommended to me as an exceptional book to learn about personal finances and how to make money. I was disappointed. While Kiyosaki has a few good ideas, the majority of the book was fluff, and quite repetitive. He encouraged taking advantage of people's ignorance and misery and extolled the pursuit of money as a game, even when it hurt others. In the end, I took almost nothing away from the book, except of few bits of advice and a full loathing for anyone who uses others to gain something as trite as money. Kiyosaki gave the reader very little for the money spent on his book - another example of how to make money, I guess.

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-61268-001-9
Date Finished: 2-26-2015
Pages: 243

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: The Politics of Pirates: Crime and Civil Disobedience in Colonial America by Douglas R. Burgess, Jr.

Synopsis: The untold story of how colonial pirates transformed America and brought it to the brink of rebellion. The seventeenth-century war on piracy is remembered as a triumph for the English state and her Atlantic colonies. Yet it was piracy and illicit trade that drove a wedge between them, imperiling the American enterprise and bringing the colonies to the verge of rebellion. In The Politics of Piracy, competing criminalities become a lens to examine England’s legal relationship with America. In contrast to the rough, unlettered stereotypes associated with them, pirates and illicit traders moved easily in colonial society, attaining respectability and even political office. The goods they provided became a cornerstone of colonial trade, transforming port cities from barren outposts into rich and extravagant capitals. This transformation reached the political sphere as well, as colonial governors furnished local mariners with privateering commissions, presided over prize courts that validated stolen wares, and fiercely defended their prerogatives as vice-admirals. By the end of the century, the social and political structures erected in the colonies to protect illicit trade came to represent a new and potent force: nothing less than an independent American legal system. Tensions between Crown and colonies presage, and may predestine, the ultimate dissolution of their relationship in 1776. Exhaustively researched and rich with anecdotes about the pirates and their pursuers, The Politics of Piracy will be a fascinating read for scholars, enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in the wild and tumultuous world of the Atlantic buccaneers. (from the online description)

Review: Having an interest in both pirates and colonial America, I was eager to read this. It did not disappoint. Burgess makes a strong argument for his case: that piracy during the late 1690s was the source of the first civil disobedience on the part of colonies.
His writing is clearly meant for the education and the academic. The sentences structure, syntax, and vocabulary of the prose are complex. He cites sources from across academia, demonstrating extensive research. For the casual reader, this book might be a bit wordy. However, if you enjoy intellectual works, this book is for you.

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-61168-527-5
Date Finished: 2-22-2015
Pages: 291