Monday, December 31, 2012

Touch of Power

Touch of Power –by Maria V. Snyder

Fiction – Fantasy
396 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This is my first book by Maria Snyder, and I found it very enjoyable. I was looking for escape, and I found it. What I wasn't looking for was romance, but I found that, too.

Avry is a Healer, the last of her kind. Healers, in Avry's world were empaths, that would take the injury or illness into themselves to heal the sick, but of course, that would leave the Healer in a sickened or injured state until they healed. Fortunately, they were fast healers.

When the Plague swept the earth, people blamed the Healers, and hunted them down and killed them, because the refused to admit they started it, and refused to treat the plague victims, as they could not heal themselves.

In hiding for years, Avry is a sucker for kids, and every so often, she heals a sick one, then must leave before people figure out she's a Healer. This time, she blew it, she had to rest to overcome the illness she brought into her, and because of the bounty placed on her, the village turns her in for the money. She will face the guillotine soon.

Or will she? I mean, that happens in the beginning of the book, so we know, don't we, that there will be a rescue, but who rescues her? A man who wants her to heal his Prince, who is held in stasis, and has the Plague. A man Avry knows and hates and who, if she goes along with it, will kill her. What is a girl to do?

This book is fun, and it's pure, unadulterated brain candy. There are Death Lilies and Peace Lilies, but who can tell the difference before they're eaten? There is intrigue, double crossings, and magic.

The sequel is due out this coming March (2013) and it will soon be downloaded to my Kindle once I see it. In the meantime, I'll try a couple other of her books....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Always Looking Up

Always Looking Up: the Adventures of an Incurable Optimist –by Michael J. Fox

288 pages
footnotes/endnotes: No
illustrations: Yes (b/w photos)
suitable for eReaders: Yes

Remember the old saw, "I used to complain because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet"? Well, Rainy Day complains because she has to get up in the morning and feed the critters (before they find and dine on her toes), and then she read Always Looking Up. After reading the struggles Mike Fox has to go through to get out of bed, Rainy Day will try not to complain so bitterly that the critters can't/won't get their own breakfast! For those of you who have spent the last decade or so living in a cave, or under the ocean, and don't know -- he has Parkinson's Disease (PD).

This memoir is not in chronological order, it is in sections about what he values – Work, Politics, Faith, and Family, with a Prologue and an Epilogue. This bothers some people, but Rainy Day had no problem with it.The Prologue is important, don't skip it;-)

It covers the time since his previous book, Lucky Man, and is a very entertaining read. This isn't a 'coming of age' book, but it is a 'finding myself' book. He describes how he finds humor and happiness in the most mundane things, and how he is living a happier and more satisfied life.

Michael J. Fox has long been one of Rainy Day's faves, and she thinks he has just moved to the top of that list. She loves an optimist, and thinks there is nothing sexier than an intelligent and optimistic man. Michael J. Fox is both!

This book could have easily gone into the Why Me/Poor Me category, instead it is a testament to his ability to find the humor, and the good, in life that cloaks him fwith the ravages of a horrid disease.

Michael J. Fox is an actor, a devoted husband of more than 20 years, a loving father of four, and an activist. He lives with PD as an incurable Optimist.

Buy this book. Read this book. And the next time you're feeling grumpy about lack of shoes, or having to get out of bed before you're ready, remember Mike, and Muhammad Ali, and all the other people out there living with PD.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Writing Life -- by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life –by Annie Dillard

111 pages
footnotes/endnotes: No
illustration: No
suitable for eReaders: Yes

You will probably find this listed, somewhere, as a How To Write book. It is. And, it isn't. It is a memoir of how Annie Dillard writes, how she goes into bare bones existence in order to force the words, the sentences, the pages, from her brain to her fingers to the page. She doesn't tell us how to write a book, she shows us how she writes a book.

She claims to abhor the process of writing, and probably does (who is Rainy Day to question that?). But, does she have a choice? Really? Writing is something those who do, must do. It is hard, lonely work. At the end of a day of writing one's wrists hurt, their back hurts, their fingers are cramped, and yet, the next day, a writer sits down and starts the process all over again.

Annie Dillard is a writer, and Rainy Day could easily become envious of Ms. Dillard's ability to find and string the right words into the perfect ribbon of sentence and then weave those ribbons into story. Fortunately, Rainy Day is not the envious sort, and understands the agony Ms. Dillard goes through to create her perfect art.

If you are looking for a book on how one person writes, this book is perfect. It may just be the book to chase you into another art form, and that is fine. If you want a list of directions – First, get paper, then get pen, then...this book is not for you. It is about writing, and the life of one writer. Inspiration at it's best.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Spenser Novel

Painted Ladies – A Spenser Novel –by Robert B. Parker

Number of Pages: 291
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReader: Yes

Rainy Day hasn't read a Spenser novel in a long time, and went to bed last night to snuggle in with the doglet and cat and begin the book. It was a couple hours later, when she finished it, that she turned off her light.

Her biggest complaint is that there will be few, if any, more Spenser novels, as Mr. Parker is now deceased (With luck, there may be enough notes in his files for someone to write a few more?). Her second biggest complaint is that Hawk was merely mentioned, not an active participant in the story. Rainy Day really likes Hawk.

Spenser novels are what Rainy Day calls 'brain candy' – pure, unadulterated fluff; calorie-free confections; or, if you prefer, escape. And Painted Ladies did not let her down.

The book opens, along with Spenser's office door, with a new client who hires Spenser to protect him as he makes the exchange of ransom money for a priceless art object. Spenser fails, and the new client is blown to smithereens along with the priceless objet 'art. Or is it? And why are 'they' trying so hard to kill Spenser?

Those of you who like to read these kinds of stories, and figure out who done it early on, will possibly be able to do so. Rainy Day doesn't like to try to figure it out; she likes to be surprised. Which is a good thing, because she would be wrong more often than not.

For a bit of light reading, you just can't go wrong with a Spenser novel!

Mr. Parker, you and Spenser will be sorely missed!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Write Fast, Not Good

From Idea to Story in 90 Seconds: A Writer's Primer –by Ken Rand

89 Pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes (but harder to use a pen for margin notes or a highlighter;-)

Rainy Day attended a writer's conference a while back, and noted there were several books on the Door Prize Table, a couple of which she really, really wanted. Well, her name was called first, and she thought she would get to pick her book, ohboyohboyohboy, was she ever excited. She got up to the table to claim her prize and was handed From Idea to Story in 90 Seconds: A Writer's Primer. Not, she hastens to tell you, one of the books she had her eye on!

However, Rainy Day spent time, several years ago, doing volunteer work with Shanti, and one of the things they emphasized was to 'trust the system' so she decided to trust the system, and excitedly accepted her book, put it in her purse, and forgot about it. (She has a big, black purse, and the book is small, dark, and slender – easily lost in the cavernous bag;-)

The other day, she found the book, while waiting for the Dentist to call her. And she started reading it. She was not happy at the interruption of her reading. She had trusted the system, and discovered somewhat belatedly, she got the bestest book on the table. She doesn't even remember the ones she thought she really, really wanted.

This is a 'how to' book every Writer and Wannabee Writer should have on their desk. Not their bookshelf, unless the bookshelf is within reaching distance of their chair. Ken Rand is a writer who presents his theories, practices, and ideas in a humorous and accessible way.

Where do you get your story ideas? Try the grocery store. At one end find your antagonist, at the other end your protagonist. (Grocery shopping for Rainy Day may never be the same again, she might actually enjoy it a tad, now;-)

Got Writer's Block? The solution is on pages 42 and 43.

Want to write with a partner? There are some things you really need to know, and Ken Rand tells you how -- or expect failure. (It's a Right Brain/Left Brain thing times two.)

If you are an established author or a beginning writer, this is a book that should be in your library. Trust Rainy Day on this one! Buy this book. Read it. Write!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Depressing Truths

The First Noble Truth  --by Steve Kowit

77 Pages
footnotes/endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

The First Noble Truth:
all humanity suffers --
but we bring it on ourselves
and it is within ourselves
to choose to continue the
suffering, or to find enlightenment.

After the first six poems
of this book, I chose
to leave the suffering of
others for something more
enlightened and peaceful.

If the suffering of other
beings is what you long for,
if their suffering somehow
makes your suffering less,
by comparison, then by all
means, buy and read this book.

I did not finish this book, and doubt, seriously, that I ever will. The writing and style appeal to me, but the poems were just too darned depressing. The writing is clear, the style accessible, but....

Take a Trip Through Time and Africa

Belonging in Africa – by Jo Alkemade

288 pages
footnotes/endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Disclaimer: I am a friend of Jo's, so my review might be just a tad biased, but don't let that stop you from buying and reading this great book!

Sara, the protagonist of the novel, is a Dutch girl coming of age in Nairobi, Kenya in the 1970s. She has lived all over the world, as her father's job moved, but Kenya, Africa, is where she feels she belongs. Her overbearing parents want her to return to their native country, Holland, to be near her aunties and attend secretarial school. She wants to remain in Kenya.

She meets, and falls in love with Sam, a traditional African man, who is from Uganda. His father is imprisoned there, and Sam, as the first son of the first wife, is 'man of the family.' Sam has been accepted at university in London, and wants Sara to accompany him, and when their schooling is over, they will return to Kenya. However, he must first return to his family and make sure everything is in order before travelling so far.

This is Sara's dream come true. Until Fate steps in. While Sam is in Uganda, she receives a phone call that changes her life. Ignoring her father's demand she remain home, she journeys to the village of Sam's birth a young and naive girl. She returns to her home a few days later, a young woman of resolution.

Reading this book is like taking a trip through time to 1978 and a safari through parts of Africa where Jo has lived, but I have only dreamed. Jo tells a great story – I laughed, I cried, and I loved this book.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lying -- by Sam Harris

Lying – by Sam Harris

Essay (nonfiction)
84 pages
footnotes/endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Depends on whether you want to read the endnotes

Rainy Day subscribes to Sam Harris' Project Reason. Today, the new article was, "The Fall of Jonah Lehrer" the young science journalist and author recently fallen from grace for lying in his articles. To read the article, go here:

In reading the article, Mr. Harris made the content of his essay Lying available as a free download for a limited time. Rainy Day took advantage, downloaded it, and read it.

As stated above, it contains endnotes, and Rainy Day would be telling a lie if she said that was okay. It is not. If the notes were bibliography only, it would be acceptable, however, many contain relative information that was not easily accessed at the appropriate time.

However, the essay itself is well worth the read, and the investment in time and money. It is an accessible book, and guaranteed to make one think about the lies they tell – and Rainy Day is positive all of us do, at one time or another.

But, are our lies ethical? Do they really hurt anyone? And, once told, what do we think of the person we lied to, who bought our story? Yes, Rainy Day admits, she lies. Daily. After all, she writes stories – but she doesn't claim them as truth. What about the Politicians. They lie, and what do we think of them? (And what do they think of us?)

The chapters cover What Is a Lie? to White Lies, Integrity, Big Lies, and several other lies. And ways to tell the truth when asked questions like, "Does this dress make me look fat?"

Read this book, take his advice, and live a happier, fuller life!

To buy the essay ($1.99) go here:

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great --by Karen Karbo

How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great --by Karen Karbo

Number of Pages: Unknown
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReader: Depends—do you read end notes?

For a light, summer read, and if you're a fan of Kate Hepburn, this might be the book for you. Rainy Day can't tell you how many pages, because she read it on her phone, and Kindle seems to think you don't need page numbers. There are end notes, and Rainy Day was delighted when she got to the first one and discovered it was hot linked to the actual note – until she discovered she couldn't find a link to get back to the text, so she read the text then the notes at the end of the chapter.

Has Rainy Day ever told you how much she hates end notes? Especially chapter end notes?

The book is light and breezy, and guaranteed not to tax your brain, but also great fun. If you want the nitty gritty of her life, this may not be the book you want, but if you want to read something about the Great Kate that wasn't written by the Publicity Department or one of their minions, enjoy!

It seem obvious to Rainy Day that Mz Karbo genuinely liked the Great Kate, and though Rainy Day didn't really learn anything she hadn't already known, it was a delightful read for a summer's day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Eleventh Jaguarundi and Other Mysterious Persons –Jessica Amanda Salmonson

The Eleventh Jaguarundi and Other Mysterious Persons –Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Surrealist Short Stories
98 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day is fortunate enough to have a phone with a Kindle App. She says fortunate, because the other day she found herself in a waiting room for over two hours, and had nothing to read but the usual magazines. She hauled out her phone, and instead of playing solitaire she read this book. On her phone. (Rainy Day remembers when phones were black, connected to the wall, and the only things you could do on them was to make & receive calls, or if one was very, very stealthy, listen in on the party line conversations!)

But, back to the short stories. They are not, obviously, the usual fantasy. Jessica Amanda Salmonson after all, wrote them;-) The stories are surreal. This is not a genre that appeals to everyone, and even Rainy Day doesn't read a lot of it. But the stories were great fun, filled with patterns and shapes and sounds more than with plot and sense and character. A great way to enjoy a gentle vertigo while sitting, and not affecting your inner ears. think literary fiction turned inside out, cut into pieces and reassembled into different pictures.

If you need a linear story, a beginning, a middle, an end; if you need the standard plot structure to enjoy a story, then The Eleventh Jaguarundi and Other Mysterious Persons is probably not your book. However, if you enjoy the unusual, the off center, Salvatore Dali in words, then you stand a high chance of enjoying this book.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Like A Splinter In Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the Matrix Trilogy –by Matt Lawrence

Nonfiction – philosophy
224 pages, Trade Paper
Footnotes/End notes: Yes
Illustrations: Some
Suitable for eReader: Not if you read the notes

Matt Lawrence is a Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Social Science at Long Beach City College.

First off, Rainy Day must get her rant out of the way. Dr. Matt uses not just the annoying end notes in his book, he uses chapter end notes in his book. End notes of any kind take points off a review (unless they are strictly reference/bibliography). So Rainy Day gives the book high marks for content and low marks for presentation.

One of the movie channels recently played the Matrix trilogy on succeeding nights, much to Rainy Day's enjoyment. Watching the movies together made Rainy Day wonder what books, for surely there were books, were available on the subject. After some research, she bought this book, and except for the end notes was not disappointed.

Rainy Day found the chapters interesting, insightful, and thought provoking – all good things to get in a book of this type!

What is real? How do we know it? What are we? Are we real? Do we really have free will to choose? What is the Matrix and do we live in one? Many questions are asked, and the reader is encouraged to find his own answers.

Rainy Day's copy of the book is dog eared in many places so she can go back and re-read and re-think certain areas. Matt Lawrence does not tell the reader what his opinion of the movies is and ask the reader to swallow his pill, he explains what he sees, and asks the reader to form her own opinions, to choose the pill of their choice.

At the end of the book is a character list, a glossary, and a list of the philosophers who's ideas are presented. Matt Lawrence has shown the door, or the pill, it is up to the reader to walk through the door, to swallow the pill. Or not.

If the movies left you with more questions than answers, give this book a try. And, read the end notes. Yes, Rainy Day grumbles, loudly, about their use, but they are there, and they are worth the extra flipping and flapping of pages to find them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

One Summer --by David Baldacci

337 Pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day first 'met' David Baldacci when she read Wish You Well, in one sitting. Wish You Well is not a thriller, it is a well written story of Love. Then Rainy Day became reacquainted when she read The Christmas Train, also in one sitting. And when she saw One Summer on the shelf the other day, well, you guessed it. Another one-sitting read.

David Baldacci is well known for his thrillers. Rainy Day has yet to read any of them, so can't give you a comparison. But she can tell you about One Summer. Like the other two mentioned above, it is a story of Love. Please, Gentle Reader, do not confuse a good love story with a bodice ripping romance! Baldacci's love stories are not of the romance genre.

Jack is dying of a rare and incurable disease, he has, at best, days left to be with his wife and 3 children. It is Christmas Eve and his wife, Lizzie, is killed. His mother in law splits the children up between her remaining two children and herself, sells the house and all it's contents, and sends Jack off to a hospice to die. His children on the other side of the country, Jack faces death alone.

Only Jack doesn't play by the rules.

One Summer is a story about a family and their love for each other and for their friends. It is a story of that family as it struggles to learn what it means to love, and to forgive. It is a story about One Summer, when Love is found in an old house, and Life begins again.

Pure escape, pure fun, and a darned good read!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void –by Mary Roach

Nonfiction – Science
334 Pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes – b/w photos at chapter beginnings
Suitable for eReaders: No

Mary Roach is one of Rainy Day's favorite writers. Why? She uses footnotes. You know, those notes that show up at the bottom of some pages rather than at the end of the chapter or book. Rainy Day loves footnotes and the writers who write them. She is not so fond of end notes and the writers who haven't enough respect for either Rainy Day or themselves to put their notes at the bottom of the page where they belong. But, Rainy Day rants.

Packing for Mars is a book filled with laugh-out-loud humor about living in zero G and other astronautical phenomena. Ms. Roach tells us all the things we've always wanted to know, but no one from NASA would ever talk about, and we were never in a position to ask. She was in the position to ask, and she did.

How are astronauts really chosen? (In Japan, one of the 'tests' is how fast they can fold origami cranes under stress.) How do they wash in zero G? (Or do they?) What do some of the astronauts say about their sojourns into Space? (Jim Lovell says spending two weeks in Gemini 7 was, "like spending two weeks in a latrine." Indeed, astronauts must have the right stuff.  And what is the 'real' reason women didn't go along for the ride earlier than they did, especially since women are smaller, eat less, and can take higher Gs than men? (Read the book for that one.)

Mary Roach loves weird science, or perhaps that should be science of the weird. She will tell you some of the strange quirks of nature she has found, including who might really make the best astronauts. There are people who are uniquely and biologically qualified for such a journey.

And it isn't all science. What about Muslim astronauts? They face a unique situation in space, with 90 minute days, and speeding over Mecca that a guideline was drafted allowing them to pray 5 times daily based on our 24 hour clock, and what to do instead of kneeling.

Packing for Mars is well researched, well written, and full of humor. If you ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut, read this first!

At the end, Ms. Roach thinks we should send people to Mars. Yes, it will cost more, but humans have one thing the robotic rovers do not – intuition. She also has suggestions on how to block solar radiation for such a long journey. Rainy Day, being the romantic she is, thinks the robots ought to go first, and build some domiciles in some of the martian  caves near where humans need to be, and then we ought to send folks up there. Rainy Day just wishes she was young enough to go, too.

Thank you, Mary Roach, for a great and educational read!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Peculiars --by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Fiction – Young Adult, Steampunk
359 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No (yes, but not called out in the text, and worth reading!)
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Disclaimer! In the interests of Honesty, Rainy Day must tell the truth, not only does she know the author, but they are in the same writer's group! Just because Rainy Day says this is a fantastic read – believe her, it is! (She received nothing of value to promote this book. Honest. Trust her.)

The Peculiars was Rainy Day's introduction to Steampunk, a genre she'd heard about, but knew nothing. Steampunk is set in a very specific time, in the 1880s, and everything is powered by steam – including typewriters.

Our heroine, Lena Mattacascar had the misfortune to be, well, peculiar. Her feet were long and soft, and her fingers were too long, with an extra joint. She showed the true signs of Goblinism and was, well, peculiar. When Lena turns eighteen, she takes her inheritance from the father who abandoned her mother and herself many years prior, and goes north to the land of Scree in search of him and the family she never knew. And answers.

Her mother's family and the family doctor are all sure her father has goblin in his blood (where else would Lena have gotten it?) and that he has, uh, personality flaws. Lena must find out if she, too, has these flaws, whatever they are.

Peculiars are different people, some have long feet and fingers, some have wings, some have 'powers' and they are being outlawed because they are different. They are being sent north, to the wild lands of Scree. How different is Lena? Will she find her family, or be sent north as a prisoner? Oh, you will have to read the book to find out, Rainy Day will never tell.

Is being different a bad thing? Is it something to fear? Is it something to celebrate? Rainy Day has many questions about being different.

Rainy Day says: Buy and read this book! It is a great read, a lot of fun, and, well, different!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America --by Anthony Vaver

Nonfiction – history
336 pages, Trade Paper
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes, black and white, marginal quality
Suitable for eReader: Depends – if you read the end notes, no; if you don't care, yes.

The biggest complaint Rainy Day has of this book is the author's use of end notes instead of foot notes! But, as those of you who know Rainy Day know, that's a favorite rant of hers!

Rainy Day was aware that convicts had been sent to the Colonies, but had no idea it was so many or why. She naively thought it was a choice – go and get a second chance, or stay and face worse. Rainy Day did know about the penal colonies in Australia, which were true penal colonies. Here, in our Colonies, the people were sold for a finite period of time (7 or 14 years) and their owners had complete control over them. Some were cruel, some were not. Many of the convicts ran away, some actually became model citizens and their early lives forgotten.

In that period, starving children who stole a piece of bread were sentenced to death if caught. It was not an easy time to be alive – it was certainly not 'the good old days!' This book brings to life many of the convicts of the time, some of who survived the ocean voyage, some of who did not. It is a part of American History that isn't taught in the schools, and has had ramifications on our judicial system through the years.

It is a fascinating read, well written (except for the end notes!), and worth your investment in both time and money.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language –Deborah Fallows

Nonfiction - memoir
212 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes (some photos, lots of Chinese writing)
Suitable for eReaders: NO!

Right off the bat, Rainy Day wants to emphasize, Do Not read this on your eReader! You won't be happy if you do. Spend the money and get a hard copy. Trust Rainy Day on this. Please.

Deborah Fallows is a linguist by training and when her husband got a job in China, she immediately began Mandarin lessons. This delightful book tells about learning to speak Mandarin, the most popular of the several spoken Chinese languages.

Every chapter begins with a few words in Hanzi and the translation. You will miss this on your eReader, or it will be too large, too small, or too pixelated (Rainy Day has read of all three happening on one reader). Throughout the book she uses Chinese writing to make a point. You will miss a lot if you can't see it.

This is not a 'how to' book. It is not a primer for learning Chinese; it is wonderful insight into one woman's attempt to learn the most difficult language in the world. And to learn the nuances of her new culture. Where you, and Rainy Day, were raised to say Please and Thank You and Would You Mind – the Chinese find all that not only unnecessary, but rude.

And do you remember having to learn all the pronouns and their uses? Uh, not so much in Chinese. 

Rainy Day can relate, in the smallest of ways, to Ms. Fallows and her problem of hearing the tones. A friend of Rainy Day's went to China, and brought her her very own chop, with the name 'rain' on it. Rainy Day was so excited (she uses it when she signs books) she went to one of the engineers she worked with who just happened to come from China. He smiled, and said it was easy to say in Chinese: Yuh. Rainy Day repeated it. Several times. She could never get the tone. Was she saying fish, at, stupid?? She doesn't know, and decided to leave speaking Chinese to people who had good hearing.

If you plan on learning Chinese, and or plan on taking a trip to China, and or just want a good read about China, get this book. Do not hesitate!

And be sure to read the notes in the back of the book, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steve Jobs --by Walter Isaacson

Nonfiction, Biography
630 pages
Footnotes/End notes: Yes (not numbered)
Illustrations: Yes, photos and chapter heads
Suitable for eReaders: Yes (recommended)

Walter Isaacson has written several biographies, though this is the first Rainy Day has read. It will not be the last.

Everyone knows who Steve Jobs was, and his name will probably still be around 100 years from now. Although he was a person Rainy Day probably would never have called friend, nor he her, Rainy Day is pretty sure he would have been fascinating to know.

The news has had some stories recently about Apple manufacturing in China; at the bottom of page 546, Rainy Day came across this quote from Steve Jobs as he talked to President Obama:

"Jobs went on to urge that a way be found to train more American engineers. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. "You can't find that many in America to hire," he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. "If you could educate these engineers," he said, "we could move more manufacturing plants here." The argument made a strong impression on the president...."We've got to find ways (said President Obama) to train those 30,000 manufacturing engineers that Jobs told us about"."  (emphasis is Rainy Day's)

This book contained a great deal of information, not just about Jobs, but also about Apple and their products and Pixar. Rainy Day admits, she liked the part about Pixar the best – her favorite brother works there. But, she also owns a couple of Macs, and it was interesting to read how they came to be, as well as the iPod, iPad, iCloud, ietc.

There are 571 pages of text, the remaining pages are notes, resources, and index. There are some great photos, both glossy in a section, and many at the beginning of each chapter. Rainy Day's copy is a hardback, which made it very heavy to hold. Rainy Day suggests, unless the photos are super important and or you have a notepad, you get the electronic version for your eReader. The notes in the back are not called out in the text, and are resources.

Mr. Isaacson did a marvelous job, and as much as a Control Freak as Jobs was, he gave the author free reign to write the book as he, Mr. Isaacson, saw fit. He shows both sides of Jobs – the angelic, and the demonic. Steve Jobs is a very well written book about a most fascinating man who quite literally changed our world.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thinking in Pictures --by Temple Grandin

206 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes (endnotes are references)
Illustration: Yes, black & white photos
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This is the second Temple Grandin book Rainy Day has read, the first being Emergence: Labeled Autistic (see April 2, 2012). Where the first book was more autobiographical, this book talked more about being autistic, and how she thinks in pictures.

She talks about how she is a visual thinker rather than a verbal or word thinker. She thinks in pictures and has to translate the images into words.  Toward the end, she mentions several other scientists who, she thinks, may have been to one degree or another, autistic. Scientists who are/were brilliant in their field, but lacked social skills, and perhaps even skills that today would keep them out of universities.

She discusses autistics and medications, how many autistics come from families with a history of bi-polar disorder, depression, etc. And how many autistics, especially those that are institutionalized, are drugged into stupor and warehoused, rather than being helped.

Temple Grandin holds a high regard for animals, but does not place them on equal status with humans. She understands that in order for one animal to live, another must die, but that the death should be as free of fear and pain as possible. To that end, has designed and continues to design, humane methods of controlling animals for veterinarian procedures to slaughter procedures.

Throughout the years, Rainy Day has read various books on today's educational system and what it lacks, and what it has, and how it might be changed to make it better (Lord knows, it needs some help!). Rainy Day thinks anyone who is interested in our schools and how to make them better should read Dr. Grandin's books. There are different ways of thinking that deserve different ways of teaching, and unlocking the potential of those who think differently. Different is not less, and sometimes, in some ways, it can be more.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emergence: Labeled Autistic – by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano

A True Story
180 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: Yes (black and white photos, line drawings)
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

After seeing the movie, Temple Grandin Rainy Day had to read at least one of her books.

This woman is absolutely amazing. If you have ever known an autistic child, or adult, her book will give you an insight as to what it is like to be one. And seeing the world from their perspective.

Rainy Day cannot imagine what it must be like, but after reading Temple Grandin's book (as well as the YA novel, Marcelo in the Real World), she has a better idea.

This book is Temple's story of how, with much love and a lot of structure, she was able to emerge from her autistic world. How she learned to face her fears, get an education, and now with a  PhD owns her own business and is a college professor.

Temple Grandin thinks in pictures, not words like most of us think. It's a very unusual way of thinking. As her mother told her, she, and her way of thinking, is different – not less.

Leaving the autistic world for the 'real world' was not easy, and I suspect is still not easy for her to live here, but she has done it, and continues to do it. She travels all over the country and the world giving lectures not only in relation to her business (she designs chutes and machinery for cattle) but she talks about autism to groups of professionals and interested people.

From what I gather in reading her website, she is a very gracious lady, who takes the time to read and respond to questions.

If you know someone with autism, Rainy Day thinks you should read this book. She also thinks you should check out Temple Grandin's website. If you don't know anyone with autism, Rainy Day thinks you should read this book. You will learn something worthwhile!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults – by Cheryl B. Klein

314 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: Yes (small black and white photos)
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day recently attended a very intensive one-day workshop on Plot, by Cheryl Klein. It was marvelous, though the intensity made it rather like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. Rainy Day was delighted to be able to buy a copy of her book to read at her leisure.

After reading this book, Rainy Day is somewhat disappointed in the Title – it appears to be limited to those who write for children and young adults. Rainy Day thinks writers who write for adults, too, should read it! It just happens that Ms. Klein is an editor of books for children and young adults, and this book is a compilation of talks she has given to various SCBWI* groups across the nation.

Because these are talks she has been given, there is some overlap and duplication within the chapters; however, the chapters are filled with information from how to start a book to how to end it with an Editor's help.

The workshop Rainy Day attended had homework. The easiest and most fun was the required reading of Marcelo in the Real World –by Francisco X. Stork, the most difficult was making a 'book map' per her directions. Reading Marcelo gave all of us in attendance a common ground which she used for illustration purposes, and which she also used in her book (no, you don't need to read Marcelo to read this book, but you probably do need to read Marcelo just for the enjoyment of reading a great book). The book map was the hardest to do, and the most rewarding. (We had to breakdown a novel we'd already written, and then see where we need to make revisions. It took time, but when finished, Rainy Day could see the value thereof!

Second Sight gives the writer the tools needed to not only make a book map, but to develop characters and scenes. If you are a writer, this is a book Rainy Day thinks needs to be on your reference shelf – read, marked, and dog eared;-)

*Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa –by Teruyo Nogami. Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

296 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes (Endnotes, Sources etc.)
Illustrations: Yes (10 small black and white photos and 27 small black and white illustrations by the author)
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

If you are a fan of Kurosawa movies, as Rainy Day is, you will find this book a must read. It is a collection of essays, many previously published in Japanese magazines, and now available in English.

Francis Ford Coppola wrote for the back cover: "Teruyo Nogami was Kurosawa Akira's script supervisor throughout his career; more importantly, she was his loyal assistant and supporter during the good and bad moments of his life. ...Nogami-san's salty personality is perfect to show Kurosawa's many sides; the portrait is not always flattering, but it is essential to understanding him. This book is a treasury of stories and a key to the great body of cinematic work of Akira Kurosawa."

This book is not an apology for his actions, nor is it a 'kiss and tell all' type of book. Nogami-san, or Non-chan, as Kurosawa called her, tells the story of the man she worked for and greatly admired, as she remembers him. She readily admits her memory may be fallible.

Rainy Day was surprised to learn that Katsu Shintaro* had originally been cast to star in Kagemusha then walked off the set in a fit of pique. And she could hardly wait to get 'the scoop' as to why the last film Mifune Toshiro and Kurosawa Akira made together was Red Beard. She had, of course, read a few bits of gossip, none of which were more substantial that smoke from last year's forest fire.

Rainy Day read this as her 'bed time book.' The essays were short, and left Rainy Day with pleasant thoughts with which to close out her day. If you are a fan of Kurosawa, or Mifune, or of movies in general, Rainy Day thinks you will like this book.

Thank you, Nogami-San for a delightful and insightful book.

*Katsu Shintaro played Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman in a favorite series of Rainy Day

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marcelo in the Real World --by Francisco X. Stork

Fiction, Young Adult
312 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: None
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This prize winning book is one Rainy Day would not have picked up without prodding, more's the shame. Rainy Day tends not to read a lot of YA novels, because she writes YA novels, and while many who write them, read them, Rainy Day is one who normally avoids fiction in her genre, as many authors do.

However, Rainy Day signed up for a class in March, and one of the homework assignments was to read Marcelo in the Real World, and Rainy Day is very glad she did at least that much of her homework (the rest of the homework will come).

The story takes place between Marcelo's Junior and Senior years in high school. He is a high functioning Asperger's, and has spent his school years in a protected school, and now his father, a partner in a law firm, wants Marcelo to come into the real world. Marcelo must deal with giving up his coveted summer job at Patterson School where he would work with the horses and go to work in his father's law firm, working in the mailroom. His father promises that if he does well, he may return to Patterson for his senior year, otherwise, he must attend the local public high school.

Rainy Day knows a little about high functioning Asperger's – very little. She has known a few such people in her life, and she opened this book with some trepidation. So many of the YA novels Rainy Day has read in the past have such downer endings (another reason she doesn't read them), she really did not want to invest time, or emotion, in Marcelo only to have it end as a downer. Rainy Day was pleasantly surprised when she finished the book. Very pleasantly surprised.

This is an engrossing story of a young man coming of age in the real world. In an unsentimental way, Marcelo learns about jealousy, competition, anger, and honor. Rainy Day enjoyed this book tremendously, and recommends it to anyone, young or not, who wants to read a good story, and just might learn a bit about how people who are different, not less, think and act.

Bravo and Kudo's to Francisco X. Stork.

For information on high functioning autism, click here to read about Dr. Temple Grandin

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Imagine There's No Heaven

Imagine There's No Heaven: Voices of Secular Humanism –ed. by Matt Cherry, Tom Flynn and Timothy Madigan

102 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: None
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This little book contains interviews of, and essays by, 11 of the great Humanists of today.  If you are a Believer in (insert religion of choice), Rainy Day does not think you will like this book. However, if you are seeking answers in the rational world of Freethinkers, this may be a book for you.

Rainy Day admits she isn't sure how to review a book by 11 different authors, or contributors. She has a hard enough time with a book by just one person. The contributors include Peter Ustinov, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others Rainy Day had never heard of, like Tai Solarin, Henry Morgentaler, and more.

Owning, and having read, books by such luminaries as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Rainy Day didn't find their contributions to be earth shakers. The one that made her sit up and take notice was the interview of Tai Solarin, one of Nigeria's leading educators and social critics. Rainy Day was very sorry to do a Google on Dr. Solarin only to discover that he, like Christopher Hitchens, has died. The interview of Dr. Solarin was the highlight of Rainy Day's read.

Free Inquiry is the magazine for Secular Humanism, and Rainy Day received her copy of Imagine There's No Heaven when she subscribed to the magazine. If you are curious as to what Secular Humanism is – and isn't – Rainy Day strongly urges you to start here:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thousand Shrine Warrior - #3 of 3

Thousand Shrine Warrior: Third Novel in the Tomoe Gozen Saga –by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Historical Fantasy
275 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white ink drawings by Wendy Adrian Shultz
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day doesn't remember reading this third and last book in the series. She remembered the first two books, in fact she mentioned it was a bit like meeting up with her high school BFF and catching up on the gossip. But this story was entirely new to her. And a total page burner.

Rainy Day is both delighted she has finished this book – she can get back to her writing and household chores; and very saddened she has finished this book – she has said, "Goodbye" to her old friend, Tomoe Gozen.

The trilogy was called 'gloomy' by the author, and though it does have it's gloomy aspects, it truly was a good read. It is, after all, a Samurai tale. Lots of good sword fights, honorable vengeance fights, and the restoration of the Samurai's soul. A good read on the differences between Buddhists and followers of Shinto, at least in the fantasy land of Naipon.

Rainy Day highly recommends this trilogy to anyone who enjoys this sort of story. Well told, nicely executed, a heckuva fun romp. If you want an autographed copy of the trilogy, check out the last URL below. Rainy Day spent many years looking for the trilogy (Thousand Shrine Warrior had only one printing) and thought it well worth the cost to order from the author.

These URLs are also at the bottom of the review for Book #1

Jessica Amanda Salmonson books from her personal stash (these come autographed):

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Golden Naginata is once again wielded

The Golden Naginata: Second Novel in the Tomoe Gozen Saga –by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Historical Fantasy
310 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white ink drawings by Wendy Adrian Shultz
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rereading this series is, for Rainy Day, like meeting up with her high school Best Friend Forever and spending hours catching up on gossip. Great fun and a total delight.

Rainy Day mentioned in my earlier review of Tomoe Gozen, book #1, that there really was a Tomoe Gozen. However, Rainy D wanst to be clear, this story, though based on a real person from history, takes place in an alternate world where Nippon (Japan) is called Naipon, and magic exists.

Rainy Day has begun book #3, The Thousand Shrine Warrior, and finds it as captivating as the first two. Ms. Salmonson calls them 'gloomy' on her web site. In ways, Rainy Day must agree with her. However, the story is captivating, and fun, and different, and Rainy Day can hardly wait to finish #3.

These URLs are also at the bottom of the review for Book #1

Jessica Amanda Salmonson books from her personal stash (these come autographed):

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tomoe Gozen Rides Again - well on paper, anyhow

Tomoe Gozen: The First Novel in the Tomoe Gozen Saga –Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Historical Fantasy
257 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white ink drawings
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day first read Tomoe Gozen many years ago, and through the many moves she made since, lost her copy of both it, and the second book of the trilogy, The Golden Naginata. She doesn't think she's ever read the third and final book, The Thousand Shrine Warrior. Using Google, she found a site for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and ordered all three books. She is extremely happy to have them, all of them, once again in her possession!

Tomoe Gozen was as captivating this read through as Rainy Day remembered from years ago. This time, through the marvels of the www, Rainy Day did a bit of research, and there really was a Tomoe Gozen. According to Wikipedia, Tomoe Gozen was a "rare female samurai worror, known for her bravery and strength. She is believed to have fought and survived the Genpei War (1180-1185).

How much of the 'real' history is in this set of books Rainy Day has no idea-she's too busy reading; however, she does know through long ago conversations with Ms. Salmonson, that Ms. Salmonson has an intimate knowledge of Japanese and or Asian history, and in order to write a book about a hero, or heroine if you prefer, of Tomoe Gozen's fame and stature, Rainy Day is pretty sure a lot of research happened before the first words were typed.

If history and fantasy appeal to you, if you like swashbuckling type stories of samurai of old, and if you can find copies of the books, or get them electronically, Rainy Day thinks you will enjoy them. Rainy Day certainly enjoyed re-reading Tomoe Gozen, and is already into the Golden Naginata. She can hardly wait for the Thousand Shrine Warrior!

Jessica Amanda Salmonson books from her personal stash (these come autographed):