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A. Volk (Canada)
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Roman Soldier vs Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD
Roman Soldier vs Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD
by Lindsay Powell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
35 used & new from CDN$ 7.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview of the battles, Aug. 17 2014
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This is a strong entry in the Osprey series of Combat. It details three battles: Teutoburg Pass, Idistaviso, and the Angrivarian Wall. The first battle is the famous ambush that cost Varus his life and his legions (leading Augustus to cry "Varus, give me back my legions!"). It essentially relied on the Roman's allies lying to them and ambushing them. Varus had some very real clues to this happening, but he chose to trust his "allies" instead. Led by Arminius, a former ambassador to Rome (who had experience watching and/or fighting with the Legions), the ambush was devastatingly effective in wiping out 15-25,000 men. Later sources claim that the weather was also perfectly aligned against the Romans, although earlier sources make no mention of this. Which is a strength of this book- it does not take sources simply at face value and tries to instead weigh their likely validity.

The remaining two battles come about a decade later, when the Roman commander Germanicus decides to avenge the humiliation suffered earlier. Original a pretext for maintaining moral within the ranks of the legions, it turns out to be a full campaign where the Romans defeat the Germans in an open battle and then a set-piece battle. The power and flexibility of Roman armies is well displayed here.

The book contains details about the army's equipment and leaders, as well as some tactical details. The illustrations are good but there aren't enough of them to make a major difference in whether or not you should buy this book. I did take off half a star for the author claiming that the war of Germans vs. Romans was essentially a draw. That's a very generous way of looking at it from the Germanic point of view. In reality, they one a single surprise battle based on the complete deception of a formerly trusted ally. In open battle they fell to the Romans and in a set-piece battle, they fell again. What ended the Roman campaign (in a very similar way to which Japan was spared from the Mongols) was a ferocious storm that scattered much of the victorious Roman army when it attempted to return home by sea. It was these loses that gave the Roman emperor Tiberius reason for not wanting to finish off the Germans. So really it was a brilliant, but lucky ambush, then two clear losses, then some great luck on behalf of Mother Nature.

All in all then, this is a four to five star book. Because there are more in-depth treatments of the subject, and with the comments above, I felt that it was probably a four-star book. But I wouldn't quibble too much if someone thought it was five stars, and I do recommend it for providing a good introduction and overview to the two different armies at the time.

German Infantryman vs Soviet Rifleman: Barbarossa 1941
German Infantryman vs Soviet Rifleman: Barbarossa 1941
by David Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
30 used & new from CDN$ 8.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Good as a basic introduction, Aug. 11 2014
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This is a good, but brief, overview of the basic picture of the German-Soviet conflict in summer-fall of 1941 from the infantry perspective. The size of the book is an indication that it's not meant to be an authoritative guide. Individual diaries/biographies as well as more detailed books about the war would all offer a more comprehensive treatment of the topic at hand. In fact, this book is largely limited to a slice of the German mechanized infantry and their role in three battles during the start of Barbarossa: Zhlobin, Smolensk, and Vas'Kovo. There is a brief discussion of their equipment, organization, and leadership.

Overall, I think this book is useful as a primer to the conflict and the soldiers involved in it. In that regards, it's perhaps 5 stars. But as a more general book on the topic, I found that I learned very little new information from this book. For anyone who knows more than the basics of the Soviet-German war, it's perhaps a 2 star book. The comparison between the two types of infantry are really quite basic and leave out some important details (e.g., that many early Soviet infantrymen were pressed into battle without any weapons). The illustrations are interesting, but there aren't enough of them to dramatically raise the value of the book.

Given that its small size should make it clear who it's intended for (the first group of people), I'm going to give it a generous 4-star rating.

The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out War Part 2
The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out War Part 2
by Robert Kirkman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.51
29 used & new from CDN$ 7.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In all out war, Kirkman finds his groove, July 31 2014
The series was, in my opinion, starting to drag on with this war versus Negan. It needed a conclusion. We get plenty of action through the battle scenes, as well as some very interesting dialogue between the characters. Kirkman is trying to make a clear contrast between Rick and Negan, and what the two leaders will do to win the war. There's a few good twists in this volume that actually caught me off guard and didn't leave me shaking my head at the writing. So for that reason, I think I can safely give this a 5 star rating for fans of the series. It's not my favorite volume of the series (the early ones win that distinction), but it's definitely one of the stronger recent volumes in the series.

The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories
The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories
by Robert W. Chambers
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.96
26 used & new from CDN$ 6.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, collection of weird fiction stories, July 27 2014
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As I suspect many people will, I bought this book because of my interest in HP Lovecraft as an author and understanding his source materials. The book is billed as a series of horror stories, but in my opinion it's more like a series of weird stories. Some of the stories are in fact horror stories (Maker of Moons was my favorite, and very HPL-like, Yellow Sign, Harbor Master, and The Messenger were also good) while others are simple strange stories (e.g., The Mask, The Demoiselle D'Ys). Overall, the quality of the writing is good, but not great. Almost all the stories start off with the plot device of someone recounting an implausible story in a note or article. The writing is also interested as a turn of the 20th-century piece of writing, but it's definitely not perfect. Taking all of that into consideration, I think this is a good, but not great collection of weird fiction that will moderately appeal to fans of HPL, weird fiction, or turn-of-the 20th Century writing. 3.5 stars rounded up

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
29 used & new from CDN$ 5.53

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.

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

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, but not great, July 16 2014
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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

6 of 8 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
24 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
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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
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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.

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