Profile for A. Volk > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by A. Volk
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1
Helpful Votes: 2108

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
A. Volk (Canada)
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (#1 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
One Renegade Cell: The Quest For The Origin Of Cancer
One Renegade Cell: The Quest For The Origin Of Cancer
by Robert A. Weinberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.78
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining cancer and the science behind it, July 23 2014
I love this book for two reasons. First, it clearly explains (albeit in technical terms) what cancer is. It's not an infectious disease. It's not a foreign agent invading our body. It is, quite simply, a cell who's DNA gets damaged or mutated to a point where it ignores an important rule of multicellular life: don't keep reproducing yourself. Unlike bacteria, who can grow unchecked, if cells within a multicellular organism keep growing, the organism does too. If the cells in your fingers kept growing, your fingers would grow like your finger nails do. Clearly, that's not a viable way to "build" a body. So our cells are programmed to only grow under the right conditions, and to turn off growth (and even commit suicide) when they receive the right chemical signals. When you have cancer, the ability to respond to those signals, as well as the internal settings to stop growing, all go out the window. Which is one reason it's so hard to treat- you are literally trying to target and kill a part of your own body that's just a little bit different from the rest. Deadly different, but it's still essentially part of you.

All of that is fascinating to read, and clearly illustrates the nature of cancer. But there's another reason I really enjoyed this book. It's a brilliant science book. The importance of basic research is clearly stated here. Who would have thought that studying sex amongst tiny worms was worth spending research dollars on? Well, it was because it illustrated some of the crucial mechanisms that underlie cell growth and death. Without that knowledge, a deep understanding of cancer (and its cure) would have been impossible. So this book not only educates about cancer, but about basic science in general. It's not aimed at an audience who lack some understanding of cellular biology as it discusses actual mechanisms in a way that could lose a casual reader. Even there though, I think it's analogies are good enough to grasp the basics of the facts even if the details elude the reader. So for the general reader, this is a four star book. For those with a bit of a background in biology/medicine/science, this is easily a five star book.

Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences by Jacob Cohen Stephen G. West Leona Aiken Patricia Cohen 3rd (third) Revised edition (2002) Hardcover
Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences by Jacob Cohen Stephen G. West Leona Aiken Patricia Cohen 3rd (third) Revised edition (2002) Hardcover
by Jacob Cohen Stephen G. West Leona Aiken Patricia Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
2 used & new from CDN$ 215.62

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic stats book, July 23 2014
This book is one of the tools that helped me really understand the mechanics (i.e., the guts) of multiple regression. A classic when it was written decades ago, it remains in print because it is one of the most authoritative guides to multiple regressions. It begins with a thorough review of correlations, including formulas where required (I still hand-calculate the significance of a difference between correlations with these equations). The remainder of the book (75% or so) deals with multiple regression in all of its various forms. It includes recommendations for what kind of regressions to use with what type of data, a detailed discussion of assumptions (and their violation), a discussion of effect sizes, and of course a detailed description of how regression actually does what it does. The Venn diagrams within are instrumental in understanding the concepts surrounding explained variation.

So at what level is this book best pitched at? I used it, and suggest its use for, graduate students in the social sciences who are already familiar with basic statistics and who are now interested in looking under the hood of the engine so to speak. It should instill a much greater understanding of, familiarity with, and use of regressions and correlations. It's absolutely not a book for beginners, but I think the title alone makes that clear. It's not my absolute favorite amongst statistical books, but it's definitely in the Top Five, so it gets 5 stars from me.

Ender's Game
Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
128 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in military science fiction, July 20 2014
Heinlein's Starship Troopers is rightly considered to be one of the best pieces of military science fiction ever written. Rather than being action-oriented, it is largely a philosophical book. In many ways, Ender's Game follows the same vein. There is more action and the philosophizing is less blatant. But I think it might actually surpass Heinlen's book in being thought-provoking. Heinlein asks what do citizens owe the military? Orson Scott Card asks much the same thing, only in a more ruthless fashion.

Because the hero of the book is a young boy. A brilliant young boy who will poked, prodded, and tested to make sure that he is indeed fit to lead humanity in a war against an alien species. The book brilliantly walks the line between outlining the angst and troubles of a boy growing up while simultaneously asking larger questions about morality, society, and duty. The ending is not a surprise to most people by now, but let me say that it clearly shocked me the first time I read the book. This is also one of those books that's definitely superior to the movie (which I though was actually decent). It's also a book that's well suited towards today's youth who are used to stories about child heroes. Only in this case, it's not nearly as easy to decipher who's a hero and who's a villain. Which is a large part of what makes this a brilliant book that's easy for me to recommend to anyone who likes fiction. The science fiction is important for the setting, but it's not a techno-geek story. Rather, the characters, the story, and the themes it addresses makes this a classic for the ages well worth reading. Five stars.

Superman Classic: The Superman Reusable Sticker Book
Superman Classic: The Superman Reusable Sticker Book
by Alaina Sudeith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.59
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, but not great, July 16 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a simple book of stickers that are broadly reusable. The children I gave it to had a hard time reusing the stickers more than twice, reducing its overall value. Still, the backgrounds are interesting and there are a variety of settings to put the stickers in. They work best on the specially surfaced paper in this book, but can also be applied to other surfaces (although that reduces their reusability). Overall then, it's an OK book for kids 3, maybe 3.5 stars out of 5.

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Seventh Season
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Seventh Season
Price: CDN$ 27.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting more comfortable with its new direction, July 15 2014
At around the end of Season 5, this series had to decide what direction it wanted to take. Was it going to continue being a series about a few awkward, nerdy men? Or was it going to be a show about awkward men and the women who love them? Well, the series went solidly in the second direction and I thought that it momentarily stumbled. The writing for the relationships was weird and awkward, and not in a funny way. Fortunately, in season 7 the writing seems to have straightened itself out. The relationships are still weird, but at least they seem to have developed in a plausible way. Raj still gets the short end of the relationship stick, but his latest fling involves someone who's weird enough to fit in with the group while still being different enough to have her own character. Sheldon and Amy seem to be evolving something of a normal relationship, while Penny and Leonard continue to be the stars of their group, but Sheldon remains the star of the show, even if he's softening some what over time and through human contact. That leaves Bernadette and Howard, who have become the "normal" pair of the group. Howard in particular has lost a lot of the bizarreness that made him unique, but he's still funny.

Overall then, I think the show is finding it's new footing as a weird version of Friends. It's still funny and it's still more intellectual than most shows. But I can't help but feel that some of the original charm, the oddness, of the show has gone missing for good as it transitioned into a more main-stream sitcom. It's still good enough to get four stars from me, but I can't quite give it a perfect 5 star rating.

Rockford Files: Season 2
Rockford Files: Season 2
DVD ~ James Garner
Price: CDN$ 12.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Season 2 delivers for fans and for general audiences as well, July 15 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Rockford Files: Season 2 (DVD)
This is an excellent season for TV Guide's greatest detective (as he was voted). There is a good selection of episodes here, and the DVD set itself is rather sturdily constructed. One thing I like about these early episodes is that Jim rarely has to use his gun. This carriers through the series, but in Season 2 we hear Jim talking about his gun as a very last resort. Meaning his wits, guile, and smooth-talking are his main weapons. Which makes it more interesting to watch. Granted, it's not quite as far over in that spectrum as Columbo (my other favorite US detective), but it's definitely far more thought-oriented than most modern detective shows.

There is a short, but interesting interview with series co-creator Cannell, who reveals the origins of the ideas for the show, the challenges in getting it pitched, the challenge of creating new phone messages for each episode intro, and the importance of James Garner for the success of the pilot and the show. Speaking of which, we also get the pilot episode as a bonus. Given that I got this on one of Amazon's fairly regular DVD sales, it makes it a no-brainer for me to recommend this Season 2 of the Rockford Files not only for fans of the show, but for anyone who wants to watch some quality entertainment on TV.

Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour Series 1
Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour Series 1
DVD ~ Michael Matus
Price: CDN$ 24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb prequel to Inspector Morse, July 9 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This superb prequel to Inspector Morse features the life of our famous Inspector when he was early on in his career. The production values, the set design, the writing, and the acting are all superb. There are the four Season 1 epsidoes along with the pilot episode. There are no other bonus features other than subtitles, so it's a little thin on content. But in this case, quality more than makes up for quantity. I quite enjoy a range of detective shows, and Endeavour follows up on Inspector Morse's ability to deliver a top-notch British detective show that is less brazen and brash than its American counterparts (e.g., Rockford or Columbo), but equally entertaining. Great stuff, and easy to pass on a five-star rating for it.

Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour Series 2
Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour Series 2
DVD ~ Michael Matus
Price: CDN$ 27.97
16 used & new from CDN$ 25.92

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The legend of Morse continues, July 9 2014
The legend of Morse continues in this second series. It's rare for a prequel to capture the magic of the original series, but that's just what Endeavour does. The four 90 minute episodes are relatively few for a DVD set, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Once more we get fantastic production values and great writing combined with great acting.

In terms of content, we get to see more of Morse's private side as he enters a romantic relationship. We also get a deeper glimpse into Fred Thursday's mind as we understand his life story. As I said above, the plots are well-written, but I can't really discuss them for fear of giving away spoilers. Let's just say that they are darn entertaining.

What we don't get are any significant extras such as director commentary or production notes. Which is a shame given how short the overall content is, and almost made me downgrade this season to 4 stars. But then the overall quality of the show, its actors, and its writing led me back to a five-star rating. If you liked the first season, Season 2 won't disappoint.

Hard Choices
Hard Choices
by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.00
34 used & new from CDN$ 19.21

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed description, but lacking in deeper thoughts and connections, June 13 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Hard Choices (Hardcover)
This is the third book that I've recently read from Obama administration insiders. The first was Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. I quite enjoyed that book as it gave a very strong insight into Gates' experience under two difference administrations as well as very honest appraisals of himself and the people around him (or at least they seemed honest to me). The next book was Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises. It had plenty of details and made a passionate argument in favor of the Wall Street Bailouts. For the most part, I enjoyed it, but felt he ducked some pretty big questions. Which brings us to the current book. Overall, there's more depth and detail here than in either of the aforementioned books. That's not surprising given its greater length. A lot more pictures too. It offers some of the broader picture depth that Duty did as well as some of the passionate arguing that Stress Test did. But in some ways, it feels more shallow than either.

I think the problem was Hillary tried to cover too much. She also discusses events by theme (so China, then Burma), rather than a general chronological narrative. In some ways this helps keep your focus on a particular problem. But, by necessity, it also detracts from the overall flow of the book. You jump from one issue to another rather than seeing her tenure fold out in front of you like in the other two books. For me, it was a significant hindrance in understanding Hillary's overall path.

Also, the book really does read like a preparation for a US Presidential run. I would love to see a woman challenging for that position after having, as she says it, put 18,000,000 cracks in that ultimate glass ceiling when she almost won the 2008 primary. And given her significant experience, I think she's as least as qualified as the other challengers being mentioned in both parties. But while that might make for interesting history, it taints this book in that almost every decision, every moment, is explained. It feels like a mixture of defensive writing combined with a (slightly) preaching narrative. I would have preferred a more laid-back, honest approach. Don't get me wrong, she admits to mistakes when they happen. So it's very important for me to state that I didn't think she was lying or stretching the truth. It was just that the overall tone seems to clearly aim this book as a pitch for her credentials, making it a little drier to read than it might otherwise have been.

So do I recommend this book? If you are interested in Hillary as a person or politician, then the answer is definitely yes. If you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes for a US Secretary of State, then I also strongly recommend this book. It covers both famous events (infamous in the case of Benghazi) as well as important events that happened away from the world's cameras. Five stars for both of those reasons. If you are interested in reading a really entertaining, funny, and moving biography, well, then this is a little harder to recommend. It was good in places, but it did drag on in others. Maybe three stars for that.

That leads me to give this book an overall 4-star rating. If you know why you're buying it, you'll hopefully have a pretty good idea of what you're getting and whether you will enjoy it.

The Martian: A Novel
The Martian: A Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Robinson Crusoe on Mars, June 8 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The premise of this book is very simple- being shipwrecked/stranded on Mars. Mark Watney is an astronaut on the 3rd (?) manned mission to Mars. A severe storm comes up requiring everyone to evacuate. Unfortunately, during the storm Mark gets hit by debris and his signal is lost (so it looks like he's dead). Faced with the choice of waiting for him or losing their ride home, the remaining astronauts have no choice but to leave their (presumed) dead comrade behind. Only he isn't dead. And now he has to survive on his own until he can be rescued. IF he can be rescued!

This was a really fun book. It mixes Robinson Crusoe with MacGyver with accurate NASA-technology. It's well written, even if the characters are a little one-dimensional. This isn't the work of a great author in terms of character and story development. But the plot is awesome, full of surprises and great survival solutions, lots of techno-speak, and it moves along at a fast pace. So it's really a plot-driven story with enough grasp of character and story to keep it enjoyable. In fact, I read if very quickly in a very short period of time. Which is my usual go-to guide for whether a book is worth strongly recommending enough. The action was great, the problems and their solutions were fascinating, and the overall quality of the book is definitely good enough for me to recommend this book with 5 full stars!

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20