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.