Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles - A Review

Wonder Woman:
Her Greatest Battles

A Review

We find traditional Wonder Woman doing her best to defeat all kinds of villains - human, animal, and alien. It was fun to relive some of my childhood with a heroine that I followed (somewhat) nearly a half-century ago. The editors have chosen a variety of worth while classic Wonder Woman stories. Though we see none of the complete story arcs, we do get a good glimpse of Wonder Woman in action.

I have no way of knowing if these are truly Wonder Woman’s greatest stories - they are certainly her strangest stories. And for being that, it is well worth getting the five stars I am awarding it.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Sherlock Effect - A Review

The Sherlock Effect

Raymond Kay Lyon

A Review

Christopher Sherlock Webster received his unexpected middle name because his father was obsessed with his well-known namesake, Sherlock Holmes. The new London based private investigation firm, The Baskerville Agency, got its start when Christopher was approached by his college pal, Morris Rennie. Morris proposed the agency, and because both Sherlock and Mo were at a point where they were ready to find a transition in their lives. Mo would finance the agency, Sherlock would provide the brains, and they would share the profits 50/50.

Besides reviewing the early history of The Baskerville Agency, the book is a collection of first-person reports of five early cases thrust upon the new agency. The cases are interesting to read, but are not as satisfying as those by Arthur Conan Doyle. I found the first one fairly simple to solve long before reaching the end of the story. The last was a bit uncomfortable (I did not finish it) as it dealt with the production of pornography. The other three were somewhere in between - though none measured up to the original canonical Sherlock Holmes collection of works. Having said all these things, the stories are worth reading and provided several evenings of entertainment.

This edition is the third printing from a new publisher of a book originally written in 1997. Though it has been 20 years since the original was published, I expect there is little chance that additional works in this series might be forthcoming - but one can hope.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Prayer Bible For Children - A Review

The Prayer Bible For Children

A Review

In spite of many positive reviews, I found this children’s Bible to be lacking. 

Using the description provided by Bible Gateway, the ICB is best suited for “a barely literate society because of its economy of words, acrostic literary form, and poetic parallelism.” Though the text is aimed at the third-grade reader, the book as a whole is not. Having said that, this version is also not presented in a manner that will be appealing to children. The chosen font is too small for most young readers. The illustrated pages use only gold and dark blue - with black text, possibly providing more appeal for an adult audience than for the children the title suggests the book is targetting. 

The various helps included might be more suitable for the middle school or junior high reader, but this reviewer doubts that typical middle schooler or junior high students would want to be carrying a “Children’s Bible”. Also attached as a separate booklet is a 64 page (lined) “Prayer Journal” for the child to record their own prayers. No suggestions are available for the use of this booklet and the child using this Bible will need assistance from a parent or Sunday School teacher in order to make use of it. 

My rating for this Bible is not that I do not think it has value, but because I question the value of this edition for a child. If an adult wants to say, “I gave my child a Bible as a gift,” this may be a suitable gift. But that would be more satisfying to the adult than to the child. There are more suitable children’s Bibles available. 

If the word “Children” were removed from the title, this book would be better suited for an audience working with a group where English is considered a second language. An adult ESL student would be able to overlook the title and be able to accept the format as appropriate for their age and educational status. 
This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Vanishing Point - A Review

Vanishing Point

Lisa Harris

A Review

Murders in and around Nashville, TN, haunt both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Teams from both agencies are brought together over a period of a decade to find the person who is kidnapping young women, taking Polaroid pictures, and burying them in shallow graves.

But as the case is worked on over the years, relationships are growing. There are the human relationships that are often a part of these thrillers and the relationships the protagonists have with God. I found this second set of relationships particularly interesting as they struggled with the problem of evil in a God created and God controlled world. A prolonged discussion in chapter 32 of the book helped this reader resolve some of the issues related to this topic.

Whether the reader is looking for the next romantic thriller, a Christian thriller, or a readable murder mystery designed for fans of Criminal Minds, Vanishing Point might provide a satisfying read.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

The Linking Rings - A Review

The Linking Rings

John Gaspard

A Review

The Linking Rings is a fascinating look at London’s Magic Circle, “ the most prestigious magic club in the world” (as per Wikipedia), through the eyes of an amateur sleuth from
America as he and his friends attempt to solve a series of murders which systematically whittles away at the club’s members.

As the reader makes his way through this unique novel, they are introduced to a number of real professional magicians as well as the characters in the story. This reader found himself visiting Wikipedia multiple times to understand the men and women who define the world famous magician that call The Magic Circle their home in London men like Jay Marshal,  Tommy Cooper, and Chung Ling Soo. I did not look up every name dropped in the course of the book’s 250+ pages.

As the deaths mount up, the list of suspects diminishes, but enough remain to make an interesting and provocative tale.  Though the presence of magicians might make one expect the appearance of the macabre and mysterious, it is clear that all the magicians (both historical and fictional) are professionals, trained to entertain more than to introduce an unknown spiritual world (i.e. a world of ghosts, goblins, beasties, etc.). Though a number of tricks are described within the pages of the book, no secrets are disclosed, except those needed to identify the murderer.

For the fan of magic, cozy mysteries, or English history, The Linking Rings will make a good book to grab on a cold winter night or any other night.   
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Phantom of OZ - A Review

The Phantom of OZ

Cindy Brown

A Review

A mixture of humor, history, psychology, and self-reflection, Phantom of OZ is a murder mystery with a heaping dose of self-help on the side.

As I read the first chapter, I was a bit skeptical - a seance does not sound like an interesting topic to read for this reader. But the seance was quickly dropped and moved on to the disappearance of the best friend of Ivy Meadows, the primary antagonist. A friendly ghost does make an appearance - but she is more like Casper than Morley.

I enjoyed the way the author wove the theater into the story - though it was more figuratively than literal. Chapter titles are drawn from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. The story centers on the cast members performing a remake of The Wizard of OZ set in outer space. Many of the expected characters are there, though they are somewhat creepier - and at least one of them is a murderer. And then there is the kidnapping. Ivy Meadows and her new friends are willing to put their own lives on the line to solve the puzzle and save the life of Candace Moon.

In the midst of all this, the author weaves a secondary story focusing on the issues of body image, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia. The story explores the roots of these diseases and approaches needed for their care. At the same time, the author recognizes that solutions are not easy and not always certain. These themes are addressed simply but clearly, helping those not familiar with the underlying issues to better understand the lives of those struggling with their self-image and their dietary decisions.

The Phantom of OZ is a fun read and a good contribution to the Ivy Meadows series coming from the author. For the reader looking for some lighter reading providing some insight to some darker issues, Phantom might be a good choice for a weekends reading.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Cat in the Box - A Review

A Review

Originally published in the UK in 2016, The Cat in the Box has now made its way to the USA with a 2017 publication date. The book is a fun history of science, focused, not on the people of science or the discoveries, but on how the scientific method and the experiments that used this method moved the various disciplines forward.

The author begins by giving a simple definition of the scientific method:

science is nothing without experiments. As the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman said, “In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it; then we compute the consequences of the guess to see 
what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right; then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience [observation of the world], compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is—if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong .” [Richard Feynman, The Key to Science, Lecture at Cornell University, 1964 (] 

Those words—if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong—provide the simplest summary of what science is all about.

Beginning with that definition, we begin to look at the various ways the physical and biological sciences have used the scientific method to reach the current state of knowledge.

The first experiment discussed is from the 3rd century BCE with Archimedes discovery that equal volumes displace equal volumes of water. Tradition tells us he made the initial hypothesis by watching the water displaced as he sat into his own bath - followed by experiments that proved the hypothesis correct.

The most recent rendition of the book includes a 101st experiment, carried out in 2015 and published in 2016, establishing the gravitational waves spreading out through the universe.

Between those two events, we meet a variety of men and women who made significant contributions to science through their experiments. The author also does a careful job of showing how on scientist discovery provided the foundations for the next generation’s hypotheses. Included are many references to the original publication sources where the experiments are described. Though the 101 experiments are presented in chronological order, in-text notes point to earlier and later work that connect to the current story. As the author concludes,

This astonishing experimental result [the proof of gravitational waves] was the culmination of more than two thousand years of experimental science. And it all began with another kind of wave—ripples in the bathtub of a Greek philosopher called Archimedes. 

The book, though not based on mathematics, is written for a high school graduate or college student. The text is not hard reading - experiments are well explained. The book would have a place in a lower division general science course or an upper division or graduate level history of science course. Though not every experiment could be safely duplicated in the context of a college semester, many of them could be chosen for demonstration or as student projects (perhaps with some simple modification).  
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.