Category Reviews

Review: How to Become a Successful (Recovering) Alcoholic

How to Become a Successful (Recovering) Alcoholic

How To Become a Successful (recovering) Alcoholic by J.P. Willson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heart to heart, head to head

Although the subject matter did not initially strike me as particularly relevant in my own life, the ease and bravura of Willson’s delivery spoke volumes of valuable insight into the struggle that so many face–and far too few overcome.

The author has a method of storytelling that is reminiscent of the sort of fireside saws my elders used to pass on their wisdom and give youth the benefit of vicarious experience. With seamless shifts between didactic point-of-fact, remembrances of the past, and musings on the proverbial whithertos and whyfors, Willson paints a clear picture from the perspective of both a drunkard and a recovering alcoholic...

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Review: Thunderdrop

I must say I was rather disappointed with how this story developed. It has a somewhat unique premise, and the author’s style lends itself to a fluid reading experience. However, it felt as though the author herself had some uncertainty as to the pace and prose.

A bit too much of the page is devoted to trivial things, while the sorts of minutiae that in other works find themselves expounded upon with clarity and meaning were left all but unexplored. It became a common thread–no pun intended–that an expectation of deeper meaning would be met summarily with vivid descriptions of banal themes.

This is the sort of tale that could easily have been spun into Herbertesque science fiction mastercraft, but the nascent epic was stifled by what felt rather much like a hurried wrap-up before it could r...

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Review: Learn SQL in 2 Hours

As an old hand at SQL myself, I found positives and negatives in this title. It is ostensibly written for those new to the field, but the material has more value, in my opinion, as a good reference and refresher than a true primer. It is fairly clear and concise, and the author does a great job of packaging a good deal of material into a short read.

That said, the delivery seems to suffer from the sort of blind spots one might expect from a tech guru attempting to explain specialized concepts to a neophyte. There seems to be a lot of assumption regarding the expected level of comprehension and little in the way of context or relational exposition to really solidify the information given into concrete understanding of the material.

If you have a technological background, this title will lik...

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Review: Secret Codes and Cryptograms

Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms

Satisfies a Sweet Tooth for Logic

I had the great privilege of interviewing Elonka Dunin for an unrelated project and managed to snag a copy of The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms before the day was out. For anyone who likes to see things unfold under careful scrutiny (fans of The Da Vinci Code rejoice), this book will not disappoint.

The relative difficulty of the ciphers varies, of course, with the complexity of the set, but the savvy reader will find perseverance to be useful. Every detail of this book must be regarded with some suspicion from the start, as in true cryptographic fashion it holds secrets within secrets. In addition to the practice ciphers and tutorials on codebreaking, the book contains several famous cryptographic quandaries that mostly remain unsolved.

O...

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Review: Grunts!

Grunts! by Mary Gentle

Bloody Good Fun

If you are a fan of fantasy, you may have found yourself at times feeling less than satisfied with the standard fare. A great evil rises, darkness falls over the land, and brave heroes ride valiantly into combat against a mindless horde that seems almost complicit in ensuring that good always triumphs over evil, yeah? Author Mary Gentle says, “I’m sorry, I’m just not having it.”

Grunts! paints the picture from the other end of the canvas, in a world reeling in the aftermath of the Final Battle, and just as in every Final Battle before it the Dark Lord has once again been vanquished by the Light...

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Review: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Beautiful, Descriptive Storytelling

I first read Young Fu nearly twenty years ago, and it has been one of my favourite books ever since. Ostensibly a title aimed at young readers, it nonetheless has a depth and breadth of story that is not often found today, riddled with sayings plucked out of the Classics and subtle story arcs that may not be immediately apparent. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis did well to lend this novel an earthiness that draws the reader in without ever letting you forget that, beyond the boundaries of the limited stage upon which our heroes act, the world keeps moving.

The story follows its titular character, Fu Yunfa, from tragic beginnings as he and his mother leave their ancestral village for the bustling metropolis of Chongqing after the death of Yunfa’s father...

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Review: Code of the Lifemaker

A Must-Read in Science Fiction

There have been only a handful of science fiction novels that have kept me reading from one page to the next, and Code of the Lifemaker is certainly not the least among them. James P. Hogan does a spectacular job of laying out a truly wonderful story against a backdrop of a not-so-different-from-our-own human society that lends both credibility and disbelief to the plot. From the introduction of the man who (arguably) serves as the main protagonist–Karl Zambendorf–to the grand revelation about what lurks on the surface of Titan to the climactic finish that will have you clawing at the page to see the conclusion, Code of the Lifemaker does not disappoint.

The story follows, for the most part, two chief characters, the first being mentalist and all-around hucks...

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