Archive for December, 2009

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil – Drew Karpyshyn

Thursday, December 31st, 2009


Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Lucasbooks (December 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345511565
ISBN-13: 978-0345511560
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Main Characters:

Darth Bane
Zannah
Princess Serra of Doan
Lucia – Bodyguard to Princess Serra
Set Harth – Dark Jedi
Huntress

Storyline Summary

Darth Bane is in search of the Holocron of Darth Andeddu, a talisman that will make him immortal. Zannah is to the point where she feels she can confront her Master and take over as Sith Master. Before she can do so, however, she must find an apprentice. A secondary plot has Princess Serra out to get her revenge, and is aided (or is she) by her trusty bodyguard Lucia.

The story eventually brings all these characters into one spot for a big showdown.

Novel Review

This is the third in the Darth Bane series of books. Like the two prior, it concentrates a lot on the ideas of the Sith. It give a good glimpse into the rule of 2, and what must go on when an Apprentice seeks to overthrow their Master.

I found the action scenes moved very quickly. I love the character of Bane, and it was interesting to see how despite enormous power, you are never invulnerable. Some other interesting characters were, not so much introduced, as re-introduced in this book. Princess Serra, Lucia, and the Huntress in particulare were characters I really liked. here was a lot of flashback/referrals to previous events, some involving these characters.

While I don’t think a reader would have to have read the prior books, I would recommend it. Not necessarily to follow the storyline, but in order to enjoy the full experience of the whole story.

I’d love to see more novels set in this time period, or even in that of other Sith Lords. While the Jedi stories are usually entertaining, I find the history and ritual involved in the darker side of the force to be interesting, and worth pursuing more. I guess it goes back to that adage that it’s more fun to be a bad guy.

If you like Sith, and want a good adventure with one of the best Siths in a long time, pick up this book. I think you’ll really like it.

You can discuss it here

I Used to Know That – Caroline Taggart

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009


 

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Readers Digets (March 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0762109955
ISBN-13: 978-0762109951 
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This was a pretty entertaining book.  The author covered many subjects, from History, Math, English, to the great Composers, Authors, and Artists.  There were many things I didn’t know and many things I forgot I knew.  The reading time for this was very short.  I started it one night, and finished the next afternoon.  Among some of the things covered:

Onomatopoeia – Where a word sounds like the action it’s being used as, for example Buzz, Hiss. 
There were 3 Bronte Sisters: Anne, Emily, Charlotte.
Some Algebraic equations that I’d long forgotten.
Brief histories of WW1, WW2, Russian Revolution, and many others.
Information on all the Planets

The book itself is hardcover, and designed like an old school notebook. I thought this was a nice touch. I’d recommend this for trivia buffs, and for those who really stink at “Are you smarter than a fifth Grader”, which I found I’m not.  It would also be good for a quick reference (ie. need to know what Cosine is?).  Also would be a good gift for those in your family actually beginning to take these classes, ie. Algebra for the beginning Algebra student. Check it out if you get the chance, you might like it.

See a special excerpt article from the book here

You can discuss it here

*DISCLAIMER* A review copy of this book was provided to me by FSB Associates for review. This in no way influenced my review.

A Christmas Carol: Special Edition – Charles Dickens/Stephen Shelton

Monday, December 14th, 2009

 

 A Christmas Carol

Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Standard Publishing (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0784723915
ISBN-13: 978-0784723913 
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Review

The story is very familiar. Ebenezer Scrooge is a hateful old man. One Christmas eve, he’s visited by 3 spirits. These spirits show him what his life was, is, and will be. The goal is redemption. But will Scrooge repent of his vileness. Only time and Mr. Dickens will tell. This was the first time I’ve actually read this book, though I have seen numerous versions of it every year.

The language is what you would expect from the Era it’s written in. Some words phrases I didn’t find myself very familiar with. Luckily, this edition had notes for some areas for example “comforter”. To us, at least in the U.S. a comforter is similar to a blanket. However, in this time period, it referred to a scarf. The story is divided into 5 staves. I found out that a Stave is the typical breakdowns in a carol, as opposed to chapters that we usually find in books. This was to make the book more like a Christmas song vs. a novel. Mr. Shelton takes Dickens story and adds notes from a variety of sources. At the end of each stave, there are also discussion questions. These questions cover topics such as Selfishness, and forgiveness.

I found the notes and the discussion questions very appealing. While it definitely has a Christian spin to it, I think it could be a good copy of the novel for everyone. The discussion questions, for those not of the Christian persuasion, can be adapted. They are nice though, because they give you a way to relate to Scrooge’s story.

If you don’t have a copy of this book in your library, or want a copy you can share with your family, church groups, or anyone else, check this version out. I think you’d like it. At $7.99 it would be money well spent, and would make a nice stocking stuffer.

I wanted a discussion group for this, during the holidays. There wasn’t a big reaction, but if you want to participate, you can discuss it here. You’ll need to register first here.

*DISCLAIMER* A review copy of this book was provided to me by FSB Associates for review. This in no way influenced my review.

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The Gospel of Inclusion – Bishop Carlton Pearson

Monday, December 14th, 2009

 Gospel of Inclusion

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Atria (March 10, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416547932
ISBN-13: 978-1416547938 
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Review

Bishop Carlton Pearson. A man who gave up a powerful position within the church due to his beliefs. Growing up he always felt that anyone who sinned and didn’t accept Christ for his savior was in Hell. One day he had a revelation that changed his outlook. This revelation is that due to Christ’s dying for man’s sins, we’ve already been saved. Christ’s mission he argues wasn’t to form a new religion. It wasn’t to force people to accept strict rules. For a Christian, the only way is to accept him, but due to his sacrifice Buddhists, Agnostics, Athiests, etc. are also saved, whether they acknowledge that or not.

He seems to have some sorrow that he lost the respect of some of his fellow ministers (Rex Humbard). But states in the book, that while he could say that he’s been wrong, and was blinded, that he wouldn’t be true to himself. This Gospel he teaches, is from his view, and from what I’ve been able to find, the views of the Christian church for the first 500 years. The idea is called Universal Reconciliation. Many have apparently taught this, among them, Clement of Alexandria, St. Gregory, and St. Isaac.

As part of this gospel is the idea that there is no Hell. Hell is reportedly a man created concept for the most part, and for many of the world’s inhabitants are where they are currently. Children being abused, Wives/Husbands being beaten, someone wondering where their next meal is coming from, people dying from disease or poverty, all of these people are living in hell. When addressing the ideas of people like Hitler, Biship Pearson says that people with that much hatred in their hearts are already in hell.

While I support some of the aspects of this idea, there are some that I have trouble wrapping my mind around. The idea that Hitler could be in Heaven I find as strange as the idea that Ghandi couldn’t be. Bishop Pearson however doesn’t negate a punishment post death. This punishment he states would be along the idea of the Catholic purgatory. In this scenario someone like Hitler is sent their, punished for 100/200/1000 years, and eventually learn their lesson at which time they are reconciled to God. So hell is not an eternal place. I’ve always had trouble with the ideas that people are sentenced to an eternity in Hell due to the fact that they never heard about Christ, or heard and ignored it. Also, there always appeared to be contradictions in things like fundamental Jews don’t believe in the trinity, yet are God’s chosen people. So it’s never made sense to me how his Chosen people could be condemned to an eternity of torment.

I wish that everyone would read this book, and consider the ideas behind it. However, I know that there are many who won’t. If you question the right/wrong of things, I’d say get this book, read it and see what you think. If your the type who doesn’t beleive in questioning, then this book is probably not for you, but might be if you’d give it the chance.

You can discuss it here

The Godfather Returns – Mark Winegardner

Monday, December 14th, 2009

 

The Godfather Returns 

Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 30, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345478983
ISBN-13: 978-0345478986 
Order from here:
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Characters

Michael Corleone
Tom Hagen
Fredo Corleone
Nick Geraci
Francesca Corleone

Review

Michael Corleone. Tom Hagen. Most of the characters we’ve learned to love or hate from the Godfather movies return here. This novel takes place during the final scenes of The Godfather, and the years between Godfather and Godfather II. There is some backstory on Michael’s Childhood and war years. A lot more detail seems to be given on Fredo’s sexual desires. The basic story is Michael Corleone is trying to take his business legitimate. Other people have different ideas. Nick Geraci is a loyal member of the Corleone family, or is he? A secondary storyline involved one of the twin daughter’s of Santino “Sonny” Corleone. As you recall, Sonny was quickly turned into swiss cheese while waiting for the light to change at a toll booth. His daughter’s seem rather clueless to this fact, until one catches on and fills the other in. Does one twin posess her father’s anger streak, and if so what will the results be?

I really enjoyed this book. The author really seemed to stay true to the characters. A lot of them were fleshed out much more it seemed. Characters such as Johnny Fontane, and Fredo Corleone have a bigger story to tell. We see more details in this, such as what happened to Tessio. What happened with Fredo and why? The beginning with the parallel looks at the movie itself were a bit hard for me to understand at first. I had to pull out my DVD of the movie to see what happened at the end, the I was able to put the context of this book into it’s proper timeframe.

Due to language, violence, and things you’d expect from a gangster novel, I’d say Mature audiences recommended. As a follow up to the Godfather series though, I really liked it. If you like Mobsters, or even are a Mobster, check the book out. I look forward to the next novel “The Godfather’s Revenge” which is already in my reading queue.

You can discuss it here

Article on I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Thanks go out to Caitlin at FSB Associates for this article.

12 Days and 12 Facts for This Holiday Season

By Caroline Taggart,
Author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Ever catch yourself saying I Used to Know That?

Each holiday season brings another round of cocktail parties, family get-togethers, and corporate gatherings — and invariably, lots of small talk. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when discussing politics, literature, and other intellectual “stuff,” especially when what is thought to be general knowledge is often long-forgotten. Enter I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School. From English and Literature to Math and Science, from History and Geography to Religion and Other-Worldly Topics, this book leaves you equipped to handle any topic of conversation.

Here we’ve cherry-picked twelve fun facts for the holiday season — one for every day of Christmas (or whatever holiday you prefer!) Quiz yourself to see how much “stuff” you need to brush up on before hobnobbing with the boss or office crush.

1. On building sentences: Just what is a “clause”? (Not to be confused with Santa Claus.) 

Answer: A clause contains a subject and a verb and may stand alone as a sentence or as part of a sentence (when it is often called a subordinate clause): Santa Claus loves cookies but can’t eat them without milk.

2. How many bones is the spine made up of? 

Answer: 26 small bones called vertebrae (Be careful lifting all those heavy holiday boxes.)

3. Acclaimed author Charles Dickens (1812-70) wrote which Christmas classic?

Answer: A Christmas Carol. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge tries to ignore Christmas and is haunted by the ghost of his former partner, Marley, and by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, who show him the error of his ways.

4. The first chapter of this famous book opens with “Call me Ishmael.” Name the book and author. (Hint: it makes a whale of a gift!)

Answer: Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Melville is also the author of Pierre and the unfinished Billy Budd.

5. There’s a name for the process of watering your Christmas tree? Who knew? 

Answer: Grab the kids and give them this science factoid as they nurture the family tree: Osmosis is a form of diffusion that is specific to the movement of water. Water moves through a selectively permeable membrane (that is, one that lets some types of molecules through but not others) from a place where there is a higher concentration of water to one where it is lower.

6. Can you name all 6 wives of Henry VIII, father of the Church of England?

Answer: (Listed in order) Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Catherine. They are often remembered as divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Sure makes you think twice when complaining about bad relatives.

7. Who was the 16th President of the United States? 

Answer: Abraham Lincoln (R, 1861-65) and yes — he really was born in a log cabin on a winter’s day. Notably famous for many reasons including his Gettysburg Address: “Four Score and Seven Years ago our fathers brought fourth upon this continent a new nation conceived in Liberty . . . ”

8. ‘Tis the season to be jolly giving! Don’t forget to tip well this season — etiquette coaches will tell you that means no less than 18%. So just how much should you tip on a bill of $50? 

Answer: Percent means by a hundred, so anything expressed as a percentage is a fraction (or part, if you prefer) of 100. So 18% is 18 parts of 100, or 18/100 or .18. If your bill is $50, multiply 50 by .18 to get your tip total of $9. If you’re feeling generous, a 20% tip would require you to multiply 50 by .20, for a total of $10.00

50.00 x .18 = 9.00

50.00 x .20 = 10.00

Percentages can also be holiday-relevant when it comes to figuring out in-store sales. In this case, you want to multiply by the inverse of the percentage listed. So if you have a $50 sweater that’s on sale for 25% off, multiply 50 by .75 for your total of $37.50. That same $50 sweater on sale for 40% off would equate to $30, or $50 multiplied by .60.

50.00 x .75 = 37.50

50.00 x .60 = 30.00

9. Brr, it’s cold outside. But just how cold does it have to be to get some snow around here? 

Answer: Did you know that the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit? Keep an eye on the temperature and watch your footing for ice on the ground. (See previous fact about those treasured vertebrae!)

10. Everyone knows Santa and his elves live in the North Pole. But what about the South Pole (aka Antarctica)? 

Answer: The South Pole was discovered by Roald Amundsen (1872-1928, Norwegian), who was also the first to sail though the Northwest passage, the sea route from Pacific to Atlantic along the north coast of North America. Antarctica is the only continent that contains no countries — instead, it is a stateless territory protected from exploitation by an international treaty. A good place for the elves to protest low wages?

 

11. Which Ocean is bigger: the Pacific or the Atlantic?

Answer: The Pacific Ocean is larger at 69,374 square miles — that’s almost double the Atlantic, which comes in at 35,665 square miles. Making it evenmore astonishing that St. Nick can cross the globe in just one night.

12. Remember the reason for the Season! Can you name a few things that both Judaism and Christianity have in common? 

Answer: Both are monotheistic religions that share the first five books of the Christian Old Testament. Both religions view Jerusalem as a sacred site, the former for the Wailing Wall (contains the remains of the temple that was thought to be the place where God resides on earth) and the latter for Christ’s burial and resurrection site.

Happy Holidays to all!

©2009 Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Author Bio
Caroline Taggart, 
author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, has been an editor of non-fiction books for nearly 30 years and has covered nearly every subject from natural history and business to gardening and astronomy. She has written several books and was the editor of Writer’s Market UK 2009.

For more information please visit www.amazon.com. 

Bibliophilic E-Reader Giveaway

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Over at Bibliophilic They are giving away one Sony E-Reader to a lucky winner. Go to Turkey Day Giveaway to find out how you can enter to win.