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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Balance of May


During the month of May, I read/watched and/or reviewed the following:

Books:
- "Into the Mist: Silver Hand" by Steve Finegan. Read my review.
- "A Heart Like His" by Beth Moore. Read my review.
- "Alaska" - a travel guide by Frommer's - by Kris Capps et al. Read my review.
- "Immortality" by Stephen Cave. Read my review.
- "The Last Refuge" by Ben Coes. Read my review.

Product:
- "3D Puzzle - Empire State Building, 216 pieces" by Ravensburger. Read my review.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book "The Last Refuge" by Ben Coes

About the Book: With time running out to stop the nuclear destruction of Tel Aviv, Dewey Andreas must defeat his most fearsome opponent yet. Off a quiet street in Brooklyn, New York, Israeli Special Forces commander Kohl Meir is captured by operatives of the Iranian secret service, who smuggle Meir back to Iran, where he is imprisoned, tortured, and prepared for a show trial. What they don't know is that Meir was in New York to recruit Dewey Andreas for a secret operation. Meir had been tipped off that Iran had finally succeeded in building their first nuclear weapon, one they were planning to use to attack Israel. His source was a high-level Iranian government official and his proof was a photo of the bomb itself. Dewey Andreas, a former Army Ranger and Delta, owes his life to Meir and his team of Israeli commandos. Now, to repay his debt, Dewey has to attempt the impossible ---to both rescue Meir from one of the world's most secure prisons and to find and eliminate Iran's nuclear bomb before it's deployed---all without the help or sanction of Israel or America (at the near certain risk of detection by Iran). Unfortunately, Dewey's first moves have caught the attention of Abu Paria, the brutal and brilliant head of VEVAK, the Iranian secret service. Now Dewey has to face off against, outwit, and outfight an opponent with equal cunning, skill, and determination, with the fate of millions hanging in the balance.

About the Author: Ben Coes worked at the White House under President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, serving as a White House-appointed speechwriter to the U.S. Secretary of Energy at the height of the Gulf War. Ben ran Mitt Romney's successful run for Governor and was a Fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. A graduate of Columbia College, where he won the Bennett Cerf Memorial Prize for Fiction during his senior year, Ben lives in the Boston area with his wife and four children. For more information, visit www.bencoes.com or www.facebook.com/bencoes.

My Review: This is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time (at least since the Lion's Game (Nelson DeMille)). This is the first book I read from Mr. Ben Coes and I will look forward reading his "Coup d'Etat" and "Power Down" and future ones to come. The author was brilliant on creating the environment for his story. The plot is simple. An ex-Army Ranger and Delta, Dewey Andreas, owns his life to Kohl Meir, the grandson of Golda Meir, who is an Israeli Special Forces commander and saved Dewey in a high risk operation. Meir goes to New York to meet Dewey and before their meeting Meir is abducted by Iranian secret service and is conducted to a security prison in Iran. Meir wanted to meet Dewey to tell him about a nuke designed by the Iranians to destroy TelAviv. Dewey now has a mission to find the bomb and save Meir, with no help from Americans or Israelis. Abu Paria is the head of VEVAK, Iranian Secret Service and an Islam fanatic. He will try to stop Dewey.

This book was brilliantly written by Mr. Ben Coes and published by St. Martins Press in July 2012. I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader who loves an excellent thriller. Very entertaining reading, it took me almost 13 hours to read the entire book.

The author was kind enough to provide me a book for reviewing through his Marketing Manager, Lizzie McQuillan. Thanks to both for the opportunity they gave me to review this wonderful book.

If you read this review , feel free to leave a comment!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book "Immortality" by Stephen Cave

About the Book: A fascinating work of popular philosophy and history that both enlightens and entertains, Stephen Cave’s Immortality investigates whether it just might be possible to live forever and whether we should want to. But it also makes a powerful argument, which is that it’s our very preoccupation with defying mortality that drives civilization. Central to this book is the metaphor of a mountaintop where one can find the Immortals. Since the dawn of humanity, everyone – whether they know it or not – has been trying to climb that mountain. But there are only four paths up its treacherous slope, and there have only ever been four paths. Throughout history, people have wagered everything on their choice of the correct path, and fought wars against those who’ve chosen differently. While Immortality takes the reader on an eye-opening journey from the beginnings of civilization to the present day, the structure is not chronological. Rather it is path driven. As each path is revealed to us, an historical figure serves as our guide. In drawing back the curtain on what compels humans to “keep on keeping on,” Cave engages the reader in a number of mind-bending thought experiments. He teases out the implications of each immortality gambit, asking, for example, how long a person would live if they did manage to acquire a perfectly disease-free body. Or what would happen if a super-being tried to round up the atomic constituents of all who’ve died in order to resurrect them. Or what our loved ones would really be doing in heaven if it does exist. Or what part of us actually lives in a work of art, and how long that work of art can survive. Toward the the book’s end, we’re confronted with a series of brain-rattling questions: What would happen if tomorrow humanity discovered that there is no life but this one? Would people continue to care about their favorite sports team, please their boss, vie for the title of Year’s Best Salesman? Would three-hundred-year projects still get started? If the four paths up the Mount of the Immortals lead nowhere -- if there is no getting up to the summit -- is there still reason to live? And can civilization survive? Immortality is a deeply satisfying book, as optimistic about the human condition as it is insightful about the true arc of history.

About the Author: Stephen was born in Cornwall, in the beautiful but rainy Southwest of England, back in the days when Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan were topping the charts. After a decade studying and teaching philosophy, he was awarded his PhD in metaphysics from the University of Cambridge in 2001. Before dedicating himself to writing, Stephen worked for the British Foreign Office, negotiating international treaties on behalf of Her Majesty. Stephen has since written well-received essays, features and reviews on many philosophical, ethical and scientific subjects, from human nature to robot warriors and animal rights. He writes regularly for the Financial Times, and has also written for the New York Times, the Guardian, Wired, and others. His first book, Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, was published in English and other languages in spring 2012. Stephen lives in Berlin with his wife, the journalist Friederike von Tiesenhausen, and their two daughters. He speaks fluent German.

My Review: This is a very well-written book that discuss the quest of some individuals or even civilizations to immortality. After a brief introduction talking about Nefertiti, the author split his book in four major parts, depending on the approach he is taking to discuss immortality. First part is called Staying Alive, meaning prolonging physical life, through elixirs, medicines, vitamins, etc. He talks about King on Qin, the construction of the Terracotta's Army and the Great Walls of China and other examples. The second part is called Resurrection and it is based on the Christian belief of reborn in the same body (or a glorified body, as is described on the Scriptures). Here the author uses St. Paul and Frankenstein story as examples of trying to conquer death, if I can say so. Third part is called Soul, meaning that the individual consciousness survives the death of the physical body. In this part he uses Dante Alighieri and Beatrice as examples, as well as Dalai Lama. Fourth part of this books is called Legacy, that has to do with immortality through great deeds or descendants. Examples used are of Alexander the Great and Gilgamesh. And he closes his book with a Conclusion chapter that wraps up his whole analysis.
This is a very entertaining reading that I recommend to the permanent library of all readers that enjoys philosophy and wants to think about their own concept of mortality.
This book was written by Stephen Cave and published by Crown Publishers in April, 2012.

Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this book for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book "Alaska" - a travel guide by Frommer's - by Kris Capps et al.

About the Book: Full-color throughout. Free full-color, foldout map. Insider advice on avoiding the crowds and making the most of your time at Alaska's most popular parks, from Glacier Bay to Denali. Plus tips for navigating the state's lovely but less-traveled corners, including Unalaska and the Pribilof Islands. Where to find the strangest community events, authentic native art, and most scenic spots along your route. Insightful commentary on Alaska's rich history, from present-day politics to its origins billions of years ago. Opinionated reviews. No bland descriptions and lukewarm recommendations. The expert writers are passionate about their destinations--they tell it like it is in an engaging and helpful way. Exact prices listed for every establishment and activity--no other guides offer such detailed, candid reviews of hotels and restaurants. It is included the very best, but also emphasize moderately priced choices for real people. User-friendly features including star ratings and special icons to point readers to great finds, excellent values, insider tips, best bets for kids, special moments, and overrated experiences.

About the Authors: Kris Capps is a longtime Alaska journalist who has traveled extensively throughout the state. She spends most of her time in Interior Alaska and currently lives right outside Denali National Park with her teenage daughter; this has been her home for 20 years. She writes a weekly newspaper column about the Denali area for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and is the author of award-winning guidebooks including the Denali Road Guide and Denali Walks.
Mike Dunham moved to Quinhagak, Alaska, on the Bering Sea, with his parents in 1955, when he was 4 years old. He has since lived and worked in Mountain Village, Togiak, Afognak, Homer, Haines, Kodiak, Kenai, Seward and Cordova—but mostly in Anchorage, where he is the Arts and Entertainment editor for the Anchorage Daily News. He has won numerous regional and national awards for articles on travel, art, education, food, history and humor, as well as for his work in radio. Outside Alaska he has written for publications ranging from Orion magazine to Opera News. He is among the editors of the University of Alaska's recent "Grammar of Central Alaskan Yupik, an Eskimoan Language" and suspects that he is the only non-Alaska Native in the world who has to divulge on his tax returns how much money he makes as an Eskimo dancer.
Dave Kiffer is a fourth generation Ketchikan resident on both sides of his family. A professional jazz musician with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing, he has worked for newspapers and public radio in several states. He currently runs Historic Ketchikan, a non-profit that promotes economic development through historic preservation and heritage tourism. In addition to serving as the current Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor, Dave teaches music and writes humor and Alaska history columns for sitnews.us.
Charlotte Glover, is a Youth Services librarian for the Ketchikan Public Library who has done travel research for "Alaska Best Places" and "Frommer's Alaska" for many years and contributes regularly to TripAdvisor. She is Dave Kiffer's wife and their son Liam is 10 years old and is on track to win the 5K in the 2020 Olympics.

My Review: This is a travel guide that should be able to fulfill all your needs for information on what to do, how to do, where to go, where to eat, where to sleep, etc... when you are visiting Alaska. The authors did a magnificent job putting together this excellent travel guide.

The book is structured in eleven chapters, going from an overview of what is the best of Alaska, passing over the best Itineraries for different time length travels and covering different cities and regions, like Southeast Alaska, Anchorage & Environs, Kenai Peninsula & Prince William Sound, Denali National Park, Alaskan Interior and the Bush. Finally there is a chapter covering how to get there and how to plan an outdoor vacation. There is also indication of useful websites and fast facts about Alaska.
Each chapter has dozens of beautiful pictures, maps, as well as top tips, best places to eat, best places to drink and best places to shop, costs for attractions, hours of operations, etc.

I have never been to Alaska, and this guide was an excellent way of awakening my desire to go there. It is full of magnificent photos and so rich in detail that I felt that I had already visited most of the places. Definitely I will include Alaska in my plans for future travels.

This is an outstanding result for a combined effort from four different authors and it was published by Frommer's in February 2012. This is a must have book for those who are serious about planing their trips and also for those who want to remember details on previous travels, while wishing they can return to Alaska some day in the future.

Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this book for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book "A Heart Like His" by Beth Moore


About the book: We all go through times when we feel insignificant or times when we feel certain that we have experienced a degree of failure from which there is no return. This is not a reality we experience alone, but is one that a man after God’s heart experienced as well. From shepherd, to refugee, to king of Israel, David exhibited the purest virtues and the most heinous sinfulness, but through it all his relationship with the Lord continued to grow. A Heart Like His looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration between a man who was not unlike any of us and the one true God who is all good and all powerful. Beth Moore walks us through an exploration of David’s incredible life, drawing spiritual insights from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny not merely by what he did, but who he loved and served. Bringing lessons from David’s life to bear on your own, this picture of a man who loved and followed God will help you to serve with a heart focused on Him no matter the circumstance.

About the Author: Wanda Elizabeth "Beth" Moore (born Wanda Elizabeth Green on June 16, 1957) is an American evangelist, author, and teacher. Moore founded Living Proof Ministries, a biblically-based organization for women, in 1994. It is based in Houston, Texas, and it primarily focuses on aiding women who desire to model their lives on evangelical Christian principles. Women from around the world sit under Moore’s teaching at Living Proof Live conferences, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. Moore also teaches through her radio show, Living Proof with Beth Moore, and appears as a regular on the television program LIFE Today, where she hosts Wednesdays with Beth. In 2007 and 2008, Moore, along with Kay Arthur and Priscilla Shirer, founded Deeper Still: The Event, a LifeWay weekend conference featuring the three women. Moore writes books based on the regular Bible studies that she conducts at the Living Proof Live conferences and at her local church, Bayou City Fellowship, Houston, Texas. Moore’s books include Breaking Free, Believing God, and When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. Through her books, the Internet, DVD, video, and audiotape, women from every denomination around the world have participated in her Bible studies, while many others have listened to her on the radio or heard her speak in person. Through the years American missionaries and expatriates have taken the Bible studies overseas, resulting in Beth Moore Bible study groups all over the world. Moore's Living Proof Live conferences have taken her to thirty-nine states since 1994 and have been attended by more than 421,000 women. She has also taught conferences for women in numerous countries, including Ireland, England, Singapore, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and India.

My Review: David was always my favorite character in bible stories. His simplicity as a boy and shepherd, his determination as an anointed by God, his complexity as a king, and above all, his love for God, those characteristics made him a very special person. And author Beth Moore capture all details of his personality in this wonderful and well written book. We clearly note the passion that Beth has for David and how well she introduce all stories related to this character, his Back Story, his friendship with Jonathan, his fight for survival from Saul's persecution, so every aspect of his life is described in details and in such a passionate way that we would have to cheer for David even if we did not like him. Although his life is full of struggles, he always kept his love for God.
The book is divided in 9 parts for a total of 52 chapters. Each Part has a Psalm as a theme and the chapters for that part develop the main theme or that part of David's story.
At the end of the book we find some Review Questions for us to meditate on the reading, and possible use them in a bible discussion group.
This was a magnificent effort from the author who put together this excellent book with a strong message, and I recommend it to the permanent library of any person who enjoys a good reading of biographical nature on a fascinating character. This book was written by Beth More and published by B&H Publishing Group originally in 1999, and was republished in 2003 and 2012, with the same name. The author was kind enough to provide me a copy for reviewing through Shelton Interactive and I was not asked to provide a positive feedback. Opinions here are my own.

If you read this posting, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book "Into the Mist: Silver Hand" by Steve Finegan

About the Book: In the woods behind the park ... buried beneath the ground ... a secret waits. Thirteen-year-old Gabe Wrenn is unsettled by his family’s move to the creepy old house on Byrnmor Street. Even more unsettling is the prospect of being the new kid in school on Monday, and the object of everyone’s gawking stares, when all he wants is to be left alone with his sketchpad. But unsettled can’t begin to describe how Gabe feels when he first stands in The Woods, an old oak grove bordering the park behind his house, and a mysterious voice summons him to “the Door to the East.” It’s an epileptic hallucination for sure, and another sign that his bullying older brother Sam is right: Gabe’s nothing but a brain-damaged freak. This opinion is not shared by Ellie Yvonne, the impetuous girl next door. With disturbing conviction, Ellie declares that Gabe’s epilepsy makes him special. It could even be the key to unlocking the secret of the Brynmor Witch’s bramble-choked grave at the heart of The Woods. "Into the Mist: Silver Hand" is the first book in a two-part fantasy adventure story about an unlikely hero who triumphs over isolation and adversity through friendship and a strange new sense of self-confidence that results when he takes possession of a relic of unknown origins. "A pleasure to read. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Wanted more." – Marc Mohan, The Oregonian For young adults (ages 12-18) and up.

About the Author: In addition to being a YA author, Steve Finegan is a seeker of the extraordinary in the ordinary and an avid, eclectic, and voracious reader - with observations, which he occasionally shares on his blog Achieving Wow! Steve writes fantasy fiction in which unlikely young heroes battle isolation, rejection, and worse only to discover that what makes them so different from everyone else, and often miserable because of it, is an extraordinary gift or ability that they come to value and embrace. Steve lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, son, golden retrievers Gary and Cooper, one very old Yorkshire terrier named Corkie, and a horse named Jordan, who seems to think he's a dog.

My review: This is a very interesting and well written book that will keep your attention to the end. The initial chapters start creating the ambient and the plot warm up in direction to the intense final moments of this first of two fantasy books narrating the saga of our heroes.
The plot is simple to follow. The family of a young boy (Gabe) with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy moves to a new city, where the boy has to adapt himself to his neighborhood and his new school. He befriends with a girl next door (Ellie) and together they start living adventures in the woods behind his property, where it used to live a woman that was considered to be a witch. And things develop from there and during his epileptic crises, he is transported to an alternate world, rich in mythological creatures, where he has the role of a hero. The description of the alternate world is superb and you will get involved easily with the new set of characters. Although the story starts slowly, it goes on a "crescendo" till it reaches its climax at the end. It is a very entertaining book, very well written. Really enjoyable.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers that love young adult novels with a good plot, with mystery, suspense, friendship, basically all good ingredients to a great fantasy book.

This book was written by Steve Finegan and it was published in January 2012. The author was kind enough to provide me an electronic copy for reviewing in .mobi format. I was not required to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Product "3D Puzzle - Empire State Building, 216 pieces" by Ravensburger



My Review: I am a puzzle maniac, having assembled jigsaw puzzles from 100 to 9000 pieces (a 13200 pieces is in the queue). Some of them were 3D puzzles, like the Taj Mahal, US Capitol, Neuschwanstein Castle, Big Ben, etc. This Empire State Building does not disappoint at all. Very high quality product from Ravensburger (as usual), all the pieces have an excellent finishing and they stick together very well. No glue is necessary. The final assembly resembles a lot the real building, is very stable, and it is a nice decoration you can have for a while in your home. It is just a shame that this is only a 216-pieces puzzle...

Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Balance of April

During the month of April, I read/watched and/or reviewed the following:

Books:
- "Pabby's Score" by James Ross. Read my review.
- "The Canker Death" by James Bottino. Read my review.
- "Amsterdam" - a Travel Guide by Lonely Planet - Karla Zimmerman and Sarah Chandler. Read my review.
- "God Gave Us Love" - by Lisa Tawn Bergren and art by Laura J.Bryant. Read my review.
- "Greece Day By Day" - a travel Guide by Frommer's - Stephen Brewer and Tania Kollias. Read my review.