Sunday, June 17, 2018

Book review: Close Your Eyes by Iris Johansen and Bill Johansen

Close Your Eyes is a mystery and the start of a series featuring an interesting and unusual protagonist. Kendra Michaels was born blind and got her sight restored at age 20. She's also incredibly observant and inquisitive and uses those skills both as a music therapist for troubled kids and as a detective.

In this novel, she's helping find a serial killer. Then things get even nastier.

 The first quality a suspense novel like this should have is to keep you turning the pages and Close Your Eyes does this very well. It's also well-written and the characters are reasonably well-developed (especially compared to some other suspense novels).  But there are some problems.  The biggest one is that it isn't entirely clear that a person who was born blind could learn to see at age 20. The research isn't too encouraging and this isn't even discussed.  But there are some more minor ones (e.g. who wears a leather jacket when it's 110 degrees?).

Still, I enjoyed it and will probably read more in the series.




Saturday, June 16, 2018

What are you reading? June 16, 2018

  • Started this week
    • Close Your Eyes by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen. A mystery/suspense novel with an interesting protagonist.  I am on p. 294.
    • Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris. I am on p. 11.
  • In progress this week
    • The Machiavellian Moment by J. G. A. Pocock. I am on p. 25. Multidisciplinary social science/history.   
    • This Idea is Brilliant edited by John Brockman.  Short essays on a wide range of ideas by experts. I am on p. 165.
    • A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny. This is a very good history of the subject, well written and clear.  Kenny follows an unusual strategy in that he takes two approaches: He first covers each era in a more-or-less chronological order, then he looks at the big topics of that era in a systematic way.  I am on p. 629, in the Enlightenment.
    • The Drawing of Trump and its Postponement by Fred L. Karpin.  I am on p. 53. A classic on the play of the hand in bridge.  
  • On hold this week (books started but put aside, without prejudice)
    •  Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. Why the Enlightenment is still important, why life is still good.  I am on p. 55. 
    • Death in Brittany by Jörg Bong.  A mystery. I am on p. 25. 
  • Finished this week
    • The Empty Quarter by David Robbins.  Spy stuff.  My review.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book review: The Empty Quarter by David Robbins

The heroes of this book are the members of the Special Ops US Air Force pararescue jumpers, known as PJs. In The Empty Quarter, the second book in a series about them, they are working to rescue a Saudi princess in Yemen and in the Empty Quarter region of Saudi Arabia. But there are all sorts of competing factions. The princess' husband is in conflict with her father; there are various groups of bandits who show up; there are terrorists and brigands.

I thought the best part of this was the portrayal of how the PJs work and what they do. I hadn't even heard of them before this, but they are apparently the elite of the elite (e.g. their members are all former Rangers or Seals or similar) and they devote their expertise to rescuing people, including American troops of various kinds.

It was also interesting to read more about the conflicts in this part of the world.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

What are you reading? June 9, 2018

  • Started this week
    • Nothing this week
  • In progress this week
    • The Empty Quarter by David L. Robbins.  Military/spy stuff, set in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, I am on p. 346.
    • The Machiavellian Moment by J. G. A. Pocock. I am on p. 16. Multidisciplinary social science/history.   
    • This Idea is Brilliant edited by John Brockman.  Short essays on a wide range of ideas by experts. I am on p. 165.
    • A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny. This is a very good history of the subject, well written and clear.  Kenny follows an unusual strategy in that he takes two approaches: He first covers each era in a more-or-less chronological order, then he looks at the big topics of that era in a systematic way.  I am on p. 624, in the Enlightenment.
  • On hold this week (books started but put aside, without prejudice)
    •  Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. Why the Enlightenment is still important, why life is still good.  I am on p. 55. 
    • Death in Brittany by Jörg Bong.  A mystery. I am on p. 25. 
    • The Drawing of Trump and its Postponement by Fred L. Karpin.  I am on p. 53. A classic on the play of the hand in bridge. 
  • Finished this week
    • Earthman's Burden by Gordon Dickson and Poul Anderson. An old science fiction book about how humans discover the Hoka, perhaps the funniest aliens ever. My review.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: Earthman's Burden by Gordon R. Dickson and Poul Anderson

I found this old book in my local used bookstore. It was published in 1957, but is a compilation of even older stories.

This is the story of a diplomat from Earth in the far future.  He is assigned to the planet Toka, home of the Hoka. They are shaped like large teddy bears. They are bright and enthusiastic. Rather overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Indeed, they adapt (with a vengeance) each Earth fashion that they are introduced to. 

It's reasonably amusing, but it does wear thin after a while. It spoofs various genres, but the spoofing is kind of old because the book is old.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

What I read in May

Here is a list of books I finished in April.  Links go to my reviews.






Saturday, June 2, 2018

What are you reading? June 2, 2018

  • Started this week
    • The Empty Quarter by David L. Robbins.  Military/spy stuff, set in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, I am on p. 83.
  • In progress this week
    • Earthman's Burden by Gordon Dickson and Poul Anderson. An old science fiction book about how humans discover the Hoka, perhaps the funniest aliens ever. I am on p. 135. 
    • The Machiavellian Moment by J. G. A. Pocock. I am on p. 16. Multidisciplinary social science/history.   
    • This Idea is Brilliant edited by John Brockman.  Short essays on a wide range of ideas by experts. I am on p. 129.
    • A New History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny. This is a very good history of the subject, well written and clear.  Kenny follows an unusual strategy in that he takes two approaches: He first covers each era in a more-or-less chronological order, then he looks at the big topics of that era in a systematic way.  I am on p. 624, in the Enlightenment.
  • On hold this week (books started but put aside, without prejudice)
    •  Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. Why the Enlightenment is still important, why life is still good.  I am on p. 55. 
    • Death in Brittany by Jörg Bong.  A mystery. I am on p. 25. 
    • The Drawing of Trump and its Postponement by Fred L. Karpin.  I am on p. 53. A classic on the play of the hand in bridge. 
  • Finished this week
    • Significant Figures by Ian Stewart. Brief biographies of famous mathematicians. My review.