Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’
I picked up this book mostly because it has Andre Norton’s name on it, yes the cover is lovely but Norton is a good author and I’ve been reading her books since I was a child so I knew it’d be good. I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s the sequel to Quag Keep but it is possible to read them separately as I’ve just done as enough is explained within this book to help the reader understand enough of what has gone before. I’m not into Dungeons & Dragons despite liking the idea of the game so I think there were some subtleties I missed. Essentially this is Dungeons & Dragons in ‘reality’. You’ve got a group of people who are about to play the game and have been given extra special miniatures to play with, as soon as they grasp them they are transported to another world and look like full sized versions of the miniatures with all the memories and skills they would have in the game. There are some differences to the game and this is where I find myself missing the subtleties, if I’d played the game I’d know how trolls die in the game and not how Tolkein kills them and I wouldn’t need the authors to tell me, thank goodness they do nicely so it doesn’t feel extraneous.
The back of the book gives this information:
In 1976 Andre Norton was invited to play a new sort of adventure game by its creator. It was called Dungeons & Dragons, the very game that launched the role-playing game industry. The creator was E. Gary Gygax, a former shoemaker turned successful businessman as the head of TSR Industries, the company he formed to sell his game.
Gygax played the game with Andre, introducing her to his world of Greyhawk, where she took part in an imaginative session of world-building, role-playing, and fantasy adventuring. When she returned home, she wrote the novel Quag Keep, a tale of six adventurers who journey from our world to the city of Greyhawk.
Now, thirty years later with the help of Jean Rabe, author of numerous TSR books and former head of the RPGA (Role-Playing Gamers Association), Andre returns with these bold adventurers for another quest, and perhaps a chance to return home to the world whence they came, ours.
I loved the book, the fact that I don’t game makes very little difference as it’s very well written so we get all the information we need to understand. Yes, if you’re into D&D you’ll understand more but it’s not entirely necessary. It is fantasy, with all the magic users, trolls, elves and other creatures we either love to love or love to hate.
As with any book by Norton it is well written with well-rounded characters and situations. The authors have left it open for at least one more adventure. My only problem is that I now have to find the Quag Keep so I can read that and find out how everything happened.
I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf wiggling its eyebrows at me telling me to read it already so last week I complied and have enjoyed it tremendously.
Groucho Marx was apparently born at an early age and was an undereducated boy having left school around his Bar Mitzvah to get a job, according to this book he had to talk his mother into it and so he got a job; he had to sit in the office, hand the boss the mail and answer the phone, occasionally his boss would ring in to ask if there had been any phone calls and with a negative answer so often Marx started to come in late and leave early which got him the sack. Marx went on to a multitude of varied jobs many of which he received the sack fairly early on and it wasn’t until he conceived the idea of going on the stage that he managed to stay the distance for any length of time.
Marx is one of a number of children and the number seems to change with each book. In the movies we saw Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo but there was also Gummo and I think I heard of a girl or two, Zeppo and the girls aren’t mentioned in this book. There are discrepancies between this book and another book by him (Memoirs of a Mangy Lover) written a few years later and also a book by his brother, Harpo, called Harpo Speaks! It makes it challenging to get at the facts.
All three books are well written and show the Marx wit and writing style. Groucho and Me is written very much in the style of Groucho Marx we’ve come to know and love; I do suspect some of the anecdotes have been exaggerated in some manner to make it more enjoyable reading. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty or innocent and so many of them have been changed to Delaney, one story got quite confusing as more than one person was called Delaney. I also wonder how much he had to suppress of himself in order to play Groucho Marx on screen and radio.
According to this book Chico was much more confident than the others so he pushed them to get off Vaudeville and to give Broadway a try, they never looked back and from Broadway they were given movie contracts leading to 13 brilliant and much loved movies. My favourite scene of all is the state room scene in A Night at the Opera, if you haven’t seen it then you most definitely should. The movies are full of brilliant wit, hilarious chase scenes and great music, they transcend all generations.
Marx details how he got involved in the stock market and how things went downhill very quickly during the crash of 1929. He also talks about prohibition. These help position the events in time and would be good reading for anyone looking at the history of those times.
I could write forever about the Marx brothers but this is already long enough. I loved the book despite the discrepancies and it made me love Groucho Marx all the more, definitely one to stay on my shelf.
This is the first book of Tony Martin’s memoirs, it precedes A Nest of Occasionals and there’s one more book to follow called Scarcely Relevant which I plan to buy in ebook next month after I get paid. I could say all the same things about Martin’s background but I won’t repeat myself.
I have a love/hate attitude to this book. The problems I have with it include the bullying that went on in the 1970s which still goes on today. Martin details it quite thoroughly with the name calling and the ‘funny’ jokes at other people’s expense, he goes through how he coped with it, it’s well written but I’m just not comfortable with bullying.
Martin had an ‘interesting’ childhood, I’ve lost track of how many times his parents were married, it might only have been twice each but I got confused somewhere along the way with the step-siblings and with who was living where and when. Step-families are rarely like The Brady Bunch where everyone manages to get along with everyone else most of the time and all the wrinkles are ironed out by the end of the episode, Martin shows us the other side to merged families and a good thing he does. He talks about how co-parenting from the child’s point of view and how sometimes one sibling will go and stay with the other parent, he talks about the fights between the parents of the merged family and how it can get rather supercharged, he even mentions how they would hide outside as far from ground zero as possible and then be careful not to walk through the loungeroom in bare feet for weeks afterwards for fear of getting shards of glass in their feet. There’s no Brady Bunch goodness here.
He also has an interesting, and apparently fairly common, medical problem – Haemochronmatosis. It’s apparently a problem with iron, not like mine where I have too little but the total opposite where he has too much and has to have some taken out regularly in order to keep healthy. The chapter where he’s diagnosed and has the first couple of years of bloodletting is incredibly funny and is almost exactly the way I deal with my health problems when I’m seeing a doctor i.e. make jokes about it. There is a follow up to this in A Nest of Occasionals where he talks about giving blood every two months, a little more often than you’re allowed.
On the whole I loved this book, it gives a generous and funny insight into his world. How he writes about his landladies and landlords is just hilarious. I would definitely recommend it but be careful as there is the odd swear word.
Many years ago I was introduced to a book about the early years of computing, The Soul of a New Machine by Tracey Kidder thus starting a great love of reading books about the early days of computing extending to books about companies based on computers and the internet. A while ago my friend Mark fueled this addiction by giving me this book:
It’s awesome! Packed full of details of computers, the internet and other stuff I don’t understand so it took me some time to work my way through the technical stuff, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it as a tribute to those early pioneers in the internet who made it possible for me to send and receive emails, who made it possible for forums and who made it possible for me to have a blog. I think I would be a totally different person if not for them.
The people featured in this book are the fathers of the internet. They figured out how to have computers talking to each other and how to have the information move from one computer to another using the phone line. One who receives an enormous amount of credit is J. C. R. Licklider, commonly called Lick. A man after my own heart he’d throw ideas out there for people to use and claim as their own using the words “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit; it matters that it gets done.” Lick was a force to be reckoned with and inspired many people to work really hard.
In those early days the group didn’t want to call their write up of their meetings Minutes and kept it as informal as possible instead calling them RFCs or Request For Comments. Here you can find the very first RFC from 7th April 1969.
This book talks about computers like to the ones my OH used early on, We’re talking about the PDP 11, the PDP 10, PDP 8 and also the PDP 1 so really early computers. If you’re a computer person you’ll be really interested in this book, if you’re into the history of computing or the history of a fledgling field of science then this is definitely for you.
I follow Marieke Hardy on Twitter, she says things I’m thinking but wouldn’t dare say and does interesting things so when I found her book it had to join my To Be Read pile.
When I finally pulled it out I wasn’t surprised to find it eminently readable. It’s about a class of media students, some of whom actually get on with each other and some who don’t. By the end of the year we see how they’ve come together as a group and are able to work together to an end, I won’t say what type of end but it is amusing.
This has been adapted from the series of the same name also written by Hardy. I have yet to see the series as it aired in 2002 long before Twitter was even thought of. It has themes familiar to most students, bullying, dating, fitting into a new school…or not and regular classroom ‘stuff’.
Until today I hadn’t noticed the sentence on the front cover ‘From the outrageously funny television series’ so I was assuming it was standalone but in my minds eye I could see the scenes unfolding in the school corridor or the classroom, the ones I had more trouble with were the ones within people’s homes but I think that’s more to do with Hardy’s focus on the characters rather than the homes. While I like a bit of description I feel if you describe too much it ruins the effect, I’ve actually stopped reading books before because the descriptions were too detailed so I think Hardy gets it about right.
I wouldn’t bother recommending it to your young reader as they might enjoy it and we can’t have them enjoying what they read.
I’ve been reading a few business and self-help books recently, the ones I’m reading seem to have components of each in them so it’s a little hard to classify them as either one or the other and this book is no exception. It talks about being great in business and in anything you do, not just by applying yourself but also by appreciating others.
Yes, of course we appreciate what other people do for us but when and how do you do that? Do you thank them quietly in your head, with a smile, with a phone call, or do you thank them with a card? Appreciation Marketing is all about recognising that other people are doing great things and acknowledging those great things. You don’t have to go all out and have a banner in the sky, you don’t have to do sky writing to tell them how great they are or even stand up in front of the audience and shout out, but you do have to take the time to thank them, appreciate their works or just appreciate them. Wyatt and Lewsey suggest taking the time out to email, phone or send a card. From what I’ve experienced sending a card is the best way as everyone is going online and so few people are receiving snail mail so any card you send is going to stand out.
While the focus of this book is on marketing you can apply the principles in any area of your life. They touch on a programme very briefly which I got into a few months ago and I’ve been trying to follow it but haven’t been doing anywhere near the amount they suggest, the little I have done has been amazing. You can see the programme on SendOutCards, there’s a short video and you should be able to register and send out a card to see how the process works. I’ve sent a few cards and received emails and phone calls in return.
I sent one to my butcher last year, the next time I walked in there the response was overwhelming. Imagine a tall, broadshouldered man, strong as he’s a butcher, his face lighting up when he saw me “just the person I wanted to see” he says and then continues to interrupt himself serving a previous customer to show him the card and tell me how good it made him feel. He was feeling a bit down the day it arrived and it perked him up. That card still sits on his counter, it’s been well handled. What have I got from this? Not much as the service and meat were already good but there’s been a subtle change in how they treat me, bigger smiles and the body language is more friendly and they use my name.
I sent one to a friend who rang me up on her return from their holiday to tell me how pleased she was to receive her card, apparently no-one has ever said anything like that before and it made her feel so good. Every time my OH sees her she asks after me, we were good friends before so it’s a subtle change.
A couple of friends I’ve sent cards to have been in tears on reading them. One thanked me on Facebook telling me she cried in the street after picking it up at the post office.
What have I got from these cards? It’s fairly subtle at present but if something comes up that suits me they’ll remember. When I first started with SendOutCards I wanted to send cards to make people sign up and send their own cards but that soon morphed into me just wanting to acknowledge people and their events, I was embarrassed to improve my business at other people’s expense. I now send cards when someone has good service, or an exciting event, or just because. Focusing only on the positive things they’ve done and omitting the negative makes people feel good.
What did I like about this book? It has a how-to guide on spotting different types of people such as: The Puker, the person who tells you everything about everything to do with what they’re doing and doesn’t ask how you are, I’ll just be embarrassed here as I know I’ve done this or; The Whiner, that person who only has negative things to say and whines about absolutely everything, oh boy, am I identifying with this person but I do try to make it funny and amuse people, maybe I’ll stop or maybe not. There are other things I like about this book but that’s the first thing to come to mind and that’s what Appreciation Marketing is all about, appreciate others so you’re top of their mind when something comes along that fits you.
Google shows you how possible it is to take an idea and then make it into a meteoric rise to a very successful company. Larry Page and Sergey Brin took Page’s idea of downloading the entire web onto his computer turned it on its head and within a few years they were making pots of money. They made a negative amount in the first two years but when they finally started charging people for their work in year three they made $US7 million. What started off as a research programme became Google.com.
I had no idea when I got my first computer and then subsequently got myself online by myself in January 1999 that Google was so new, they launched in September 1998. To me they were the only search engine worth using, I toyed with some of the others but they didn’t return good results, Google did. People were able to find what they were searching for and not something entirely different.
Most people take their funding money and spend it on marketing but Page and Brin did something totally different. They spent their money on getting the basics right, they didn’t even spend money on their home page instead having something totally basic and uncluttered, something which has become a hallmark of Google. Google sell advertising but there is none on their home page. Their funding money was spent on computers, lots of them and making certain they worked together and worked right, making certain the software was right and then finally hiring people but they’ve spent nothing on marketing…ever, or at least not at the time of writing this book in 2005.
Apart from having a great idea that actually works, Page and Brin found their guiding angel in the form of John Doerr, not only did he help fund them and find more funding for them but he also insisted they employ someone who knew about business. Doerr sent people to Page and Brin asking they be interviewed and they were all sent packing…except for Eric Schmidt, he became their Chief Executive Officer and kept them on the straight and wide when it came to the business. Brin and Page had many ideas, they wanted full control of those ideas but they needed someone to complete the triangle and keep them on a sound business footing. Schmidt was that man.
Brin, Page and Schmidt steered Google through to being a multi-million dollar company. Even when they had to float on the Stock Exchange they managed to keep control, they have always done things in their way, a way that is not necessarily what everyone else does. Let’s take their recruitment procedures as an example. At the back of the book is Appendix II, the GLAT or Google Labs Aptitude Test, two questions are:
1. Solve this cryptic equation, realizing of course that values for M and E could be interchanged. No leading zeroes are allowed.
WWWDOT – GOOGLE – DOTCOM
9. This space left intentionally blank. Please fill it with something that improves upon emptiness.
Ok, so there’s a maths question and a question that could be anything and is up to the user to decide. Only a little different. Then there’s how they treat their staff, they employ a full time chef who creates fabulous, healthy dishes for everyone in the building, this is supplied free of charge, as are the Segways to get around and so many other perks of the job. When you start working there you’re divided up into groups of three to work together and while you’re supposed to do the work assigned to you you’re also meant to spend 20% of your time working on your own projects, once they’re developed enough you get to present them and if they’re deemed appropriate assigned as a project for the company.
I loved this book as I love most business books written about a particular company or a particular segment of business, I think it could be used in class to help figure out how to get a company to go from Go to Woah, Big Business! It was competently written but not brilliantly, although it is easy to read.
Trade Me is the equivalent on eBay in New Zealand. It is locally grown by a university drop-out and is one of those fabulous success stories we’ve read about. The website went live in early 1999 then kicked off by their ISP for spamming, it went forward in leaps and bounds eventually being sold to the Australian company, Fairfax Limited, for $NZ 750m about seven years later in 2006. Both eBay and Yahoo don’t get a look-in in New Zealand as Trade Me has the market covered. This book is the story of its success.
This book details how they went from nothing to a very successful company that actively helps the Police force in New Zealand prosecute and jail people committing crime using their website. They’ve helped train the Police force in ecrime and in how it’s possible to figure out where the criminal is and what they’re doing. In order to help this they keep Trade Me strictly local, you can only register and trade if you’re located in New Zealand, overseas people are just not allowed to register.
The author has done some interesting things with this book. It’s aimed at the local market only and some of language indicates it’s also aimed at the business sector. There are a number of words I don’t understand and I can only guess from the context they’re used in business, there are also a number of local phrases and words which I don’t even see in Australia despite Australia and New Zealand being so close in so many different ways. O’Donnell has put in facts and figures, if you want to see the difference between paying as a private advertiser and paying as a business advertiser the information is written in this book in clear English.
I do wonder if it’s possible to take the story of this company, and a couple of others which have also started in similar ways and gone onto achieve great things, as a template to replicate in other companies. Challenging as there are some things you can’t replicate, you can’t copy a personality and their particular way of thinking, you also can’t imitate the timing of entering the market, these seem to be the factors defining why a particular company will succeed so well and another will flop. The timing is probably a big thing, there will never be another beginning to the internet.
I bought this book in New Zealand when I was here for a holiday a couple of years ago, I’m not addicted to bookshopping, promise, we somehow found ourselves in op shops and bookshops all over the place and this is one of the treasures I brought back. I recommend reading it if you’re able to get a copy.
You know those days when you open your mouth (or put fingers to keyboard) and step right into it getting yourself thoroughly embedded? I had one of those days last week with Dexter. You can read what I wrote and then if you still choose can come back for a little grovelling and some further thoughts.
I think it was sheer stubbornness that kept me reading this omnibus. Normally when I don’t like a book I don’t go and read more of the series but this one I just kept on plugging away and found myself involved about half way through the third book, anytime before then I could have put it down and been mildly annoyed at not finishing. Am I glad I finished? Sort of, it feels good to have made it through and to have found the hook in the third book, one which might come back to revisit us in a future book, but my brain does feel dirty with reading so much of Dexter. Lindsay doesn’t paint Dexter as a nice man and my brain feels very strange to have read about him through his own eyes.
In the last article I talked about Dexter having an alter ego just like Tara but having finally gotten to the middle of the third book I find it’s rather more involved than that and my alter ego idea has to be squashed well and truly. I’m going to put in a bit of a spoiler here so if you haven’t read Dexter in the Dark then go away now.
Dexter encounters the God Moloch and discovers his Dark Passenger or Inside Shadow is nothing more than a reproduction of Moloch and he is capable of moving from one person to another. Moloch apparently doesn’t like having reproductions of himself hanging around without him being in control, he also doesn’t like Dexter as he feels he is an aberration, so he tries to kill Dexter using his human hosts. He uses music and hypnotics to bring Dexter to him and tries to force him through the fire.
Things I have trouble with here. The Hebrew letters of Mem Lamed Final Chaf are transliterated as MLK whereas my small amount of Hebrew would transliterate them as MLcH where the cH is the gutteral sound in the back of the throat, in linguistics it would be written as an H with a little dot underneath rather than cH so I’m stretching a point here. Lindsay says MLK could be translated as Melek or King but the last letter is not generally transliterated as a ‘K’ sound but a ‘cH’ sound.
Lindsay indicates there are several possible words that could come from the letters MLK, I have no trouble with that both Aramaic and Hebrew were originally written without vowels these useful marks only being added when the Romans expelled the Jews from Israel, but when it actually sounds like MLcH with the cH sounding more like the ‘ch’ from the Scottish word ‘loch’ I have a problem.
In the book Moloch apparently wants people to be burned to death for him, the reason is never very clear. This could be okay, my research shows two possible reasons for the fire: the first being sacrificial and; the second probably as a cleansing agent but not necessarily to kill. It’s a little confusing as translations change over the years as the languages shift and change.
Dexter talks about not being human and having had to watch and learn how to act. He has apparently created his life from the ground up. This is not dissimilar to people in the Autism Spectrum as they don’t necessarily know how to interact with people automatically and can’t learn like ‘normal’ people can but need to be shown and examine every interaction in detail. Am I saying he’s autistic? Not necessarily, but very possibly.
Will I read another Dexter? Probably not, I did spend a lot of the book wondering how they dealt with it in the TV series and one day I do intend to watch it so I can find out. It is an incredibly dark series and there is only so much I can take. One thing I’m enjoying is seeing a large hole in my To Be Read Pile. I’m cleansing my brain by reading The Google Story, it’s nice and light and could have done with a good proofreader but that’s a rant for another day.
I picked this omnibus up from an op shop a while ago and as it creates a nice hole in my To Be Read Pile I thought I’d give it a go, having read two of the three books without a break I’m now asking myself why.
Dexter is not normal and we’re told this so many, many times that we have to believe he actually knows himself. His father created a really bad childhood for him so Dexter was warped by the age of three and his foster father, Harry, instead of helping him become normal counselled him to channel his darkness into killing the right people for the right reasons. When we arrive at the first book Dexter is a blood spatter analyst and uses his job to help him find pedophiles and other people who ‘deserve’ death. His evidence is good but won’t get through a court of law, but that’s okay as Dexter abides by the Code of Harry to make sure he’s killing the right person for the right reasons.
This is really dark stuff, well written although I am getting rather annoyed with being reminded so often about how bad and warped and totally not normal Dexter is. The constant reminders remind me of Fifty Shades of Grey and how we were constantly reminded how the two people were drawn to one another, the big difference here is that Dexter is well written.
Each book stands alone except we do find out a little more about his childhood trauma in Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Lindsay seems to be drawing a long bow here and telling us how really bad childhoods can cause trauma and lead the child (then adult) to become twisted and not normal and I’m not sure I totally agree with him. Yes, it does give some formation of the person’s character but there are other things that intervene and it couldn’t possibly twist a person as much as Lindsay is saying.
Because of this childhood trauma Dexter appears to have an alter ego, much like in The United States of Tara, the difference being that Dexter has conversation with his Dark Passenger and relies on him for some of his detective work. Dexter then lets the Dark Passenger take over during those times when he is taking some deserving person to their final end.
I’m going to struggle to finish the last book in this omnibus and then I’m going to read something totally different to cleanse my brain of the gore, maybe a business book or two.
Edit: Finished the book and found I had to eat my words. You can see the follow up here.