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Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally)
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And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
29 used & new from CDN$ 1.90

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Begins with 49 Near-Perfect Pages, June 7 2013
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment." -- 1 John 4:18 (NKJV)

Regardless of your ultimate view of this book, I think you'll agree that pages 1 through 49 are as well written as anything you've read in a long time. Bravo, Mr. Hosseini! They are a remarkable achievement!!

While anyone would envy an author who accomplished so much to open a novel, there's a problem. Readers expect the rest of the book to maintain that remarkably high standard.

I believe that Mr. Hosseini has the talent to do so. The plot for this book, its scope, and length make it impossible to do so. You couldn't write War and Peace in many fewer words ... or a Tale of Two Cities. And the Mountains Echoed needs to be two or three times longer to flesh out his plan for the book.

Without that length, the book comes across as a series of short stories briefly connected to one or the other of the two siblings in the book's beginning, Abdullah and Pari. Each story is its own morality tale about how we treat other people, including those in our families. Within the whole book there are themes connecting suffering, responsibility, and morality. Some characters adhere to timeless values, at least in parts of their lives, while others talk a good game ... but don't act in accord with their words. The result is a tapestry capturing Afghanistan yesterday and today against a backdrop of humanity over all times.

One of the book's major accomplishments is to present some of the most thought-provoking writing I recall about how appearance affects our lives and our behavior. I would love to see Mr. Hosseini return to this subject in future books. He obviously has a deep understanding that can inform us all.

But please do write a book next time that's as long as your subject deserves, Mr. Hosseini! We'll read it.

A Delicate Truth
A Delicate Truth
by John Le Carre
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Interesting as Well as Poorly Drawn Characters in an Over-the-Top Plot, June 7 2013
This review is from: A Delicate Truth (Hardcover)
"A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies." -- Proverbs 14:5 (NKJV)

John Le Carré has lost none of his ability to imagine, describe, and develop compelling characters that advance what he likes. You'll remember several of these characters for some time to come, I'm sure. I was most impressed.

He also presents the plotting and execution of secret tasks in nimbly realistic and memorable ways.

I thought the book went very wrong, however, in characterizing those representing what Mr. Carré doesn't like and in plotting the actions that they take. These parts of the book weren't just poorly done; they were impossible to swallow.

Consequently, the book presents a mixture of writing that might characterize Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde alternating as coauthors. The mixture was most unsatisfying for me.

I would have liked the book better if I had stopped reading around page 200. I don't remember having that reaction to any of Mr. Le Carré's earlier works.

Robert B. Parker's Wonderland
Robert B. Parker's Wonderland
by Ace Atkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.87
79 used & new from CDN$ 0.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atkins Passes the Test of Writing about Spenser without Much of Susan and No Hawk, June 7 2013
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." -- Proverbs 27:6 (NKJV)

When Ace Atkins wrote Lullaby, I was struck by how well balanced the book was for bringing in readers' favorite characters and story elements. At that time, I opined that the real test of his ability to carry the series would be to write a story that wasn't so typical of what everyone loves. I'm pleased to see that Mr. Atkins stepped up to the challenge and gave us a humdinger of a story that contains no Hawk and not much Susan. The book is distinguished by turning Henry Cimoli into a more significant character than in any earlier book, a major challenge that he carried off very well. We also enjoy further development of Zebulon Sixkill as a character.

To me, however, the most breathtaking part of the story was pitting two fictional gambling barons against one another, two characters who remind me of two such real moguls. The closeness in the characterizations gave me a feeling of almost reading nonfiction. I was really impressed by how well the plot was crafted to take into account the personalities of two such characters.

While Spenser will never be the same, he's in good hands. That's more than I can say of most series continuations written by new authors.

If you miss the old terse dialogue, just go back and read some. You'll never meet its like, I'm sure.

Well done, Mr. Atkins!

Mindfulness
Mindfulness
by Ellen J. Langer
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 22.04
4 used & new from CDN$ 22.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief Applications of Ground-Breaking Research into Improving Thinking, June 7 2013
This review is from: Mindfulness (Audio CD)
"This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope." -- Lamentations 3:21 (NKJV)

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a class led by Professor Langer. As she referred to so many ground-breaking studies that have become part of the foundation of how we consider improving thinking processes, I realized it was time to read more of her work. She recommended I start with this book.

Since I like to learn while driving, I opted for the unabridged audio CD set, which was perfect for my purposes. As someone who often conducts experiments to increase mindfulness, I was pleased that overviews of her methodologies were included along with descriptions of the results and their practical implications.

The book opens with compelling examples of how we categorize things in such ways that we cannot easily access helpful knowledge, even when the potential rewards are great. I see this problem all the time, and it made me smile to listen to this material. She then turns to other reasons we behave without considering our options, such as automatically deferring to "authority" even when such authority is based only in appearance. From there, Professor Langer makes a compelling case why we should seek to do better.

In Part Two, the book explains how to be more mindful. I thought that Chapter 5 was especially helpful in addressing the need to create new mental categories, welcome new information, seek more than one view, seek control over the context, emphasize method over result, and grasp other perspectives on what mindfulness is.

Anyone over the age of 45 will find Chapters 6 and 10 (Mindful Aging and Minding Matters: Mindfulness and Health) to be worth the price of the book.

Chapter 9 on prejudice will be an eye-opener for most people. It should be required reading for all.

If you haven't read any of her works, you've probably heard them described in other books. Why not learn from the source?

Read this book ... It's a mindful action!

Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.00
32 used & new from CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Characters Never Die ... Their Authors Eventually Bring Them Back to Life, June 4 2013
"Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.'" -- John 5:8 (NKJV)

What could bring more anticipation than having Easy Rawlins return from what looked like the end in Blonde Faith? With so many years between novels, I'm sure you are expecting the best of the bunch. Well, I hope you find it to be so.

I didn't, but I'm still grateful for the chance to read the book. I was again impressed by how well Walter Mosley captures what I remember of race relations in LA during the late 1960s.

Given that it looked as if Easy was gone for good, Walter Mosley does a fine job of providing a credible explanation for his unlikely survival. I almost felt as if I was with Mouse struggling to bring Easy back up to the road.

My objections to the book are focused in two areas: Easy comes back to full strength much too fast for someone with his injuries ... and he does so with a not-quite-credible reliance on Mama Jo's Gator's Blood. I felt as if I could see Walter Mosley's tongue sticking deep into his cheek as he wrote these sections.

The mystery and investigation are vintage Easy Rawlins, aside from my objections. I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

Looking for Yesterday
Looking for Yesterday
by Marcia Muller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A Predictable Mystery and Too Little of the Characters I Love, June 4 2013
This review is from: Looking for Yesterday (Hardcover)
"If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;" -- Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NKJV)

I usually read mysteries because I like the mental challenge of trying to solve them before the detective or the author reveals all, the characters and what they are doing interest me, or the setting is one that I enjoy. Looking for Yesterday clearly appeals mostly to my liking for San Francisco and the surrounding Bay area.

The mystery's solution stands out far too much in advance like, well, Telegraph Hill does when you are in that part of San Francisco. Sharon McCone is mostly talking to herself or to someone I didn't care for in the book. I could have skipped either kind of dialogue and not have been diminished. It was fun to read, once again, about San Francisco and some of the surrounding areas.

I haven't said this before about this series, but you could definitely skip this book and not miss much. I'm sure there will be references to the major series effects in the next book.

Marcia Muller can do a whole lot better. I'm sure she will do so once again in the future.

The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers Book Six: Day of Doom
The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers Book Six: Day of Doom
by David Baldacci
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 10.82
51 used & new from CDN$ 3.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Ends the Series in an Out-of-Character Rush, June 4 2013
"Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines." -- Hebrews 13:9 (NKJV)

Having a variety of authors can be a great blessing to a series such as this one. They can each bring something fresh and interesting to the story outline, along with their own unique styles. Occasionally, such a choice will misfire. That's what appears to have happened here.

I don't know why David Baldacci departed from the character profiles by so much in this story, but it could be that no one was willing to tell him that he blew it. After all, he might get grumpy and not help out again. Publishers worry about such things. Readers should hope that he won't come back to the 39 clues.

The Cahills vs. Vespers series started off with great promise ... and sustained it pretty well through five books. Then, well, we have Day of Doom ... which doomed the series.

I don't see how you can avoid reading Day of Doom ... because you'll want to know how this series ends. But you won't want to own this book. Borrow it from a friend or the library. I'm sure there's no long list to take it out.

If you think you want to read a David Baldacci thriller, try The Hit instead.

Check out the reviews before you start reading any future series about the 39 clues characters.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.32
35 used & new from CDN$ 4.77

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Explaining New Possibilities Presented Today by Crunching and Reusing Data, May 28 2013
"For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." -- Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NKJV)

I believe that your reaction to this book depends totally on whether you already crunch and reuse all available data. If you do, it's old news. If you don't, you may feel that the floor has been tilted a bit in favor of those who have and know how to use the data. In the latter case, first appreciating that data-driven learning can be more valuable than theory-testing learning can be quite an eye-opener. You may not agree. Sometimes you should and sometimes you shouldn't.

If you aren't a data jock, the book has accessible examples and anecdotes that you will probably understand just fine. If you are a data jock, the content may seem, well, "Elementary, my dear Dr. Watson."

I thought the most interesting parts related to how privacy might be protected against unanticipated invasions by those who are incautious in plowing ahead without considering who will get hurt and how.

The case for not needing to know cause-and-effect is greatly overstated here. One of the best potential uses of data-driven analysis is identifying what combinations of changes may work best with one another in a new business model, an improved strategy, or an upgraded business process. If you don't understand cause-and-effect in seeking to make such improvements, you'll make a big mess most of the time. That's also true in other complex environments, such as many medical ones. The benefits of one such cause-and-effect based improvement will usually run rings around the kind of incremental enhancements described in this book from acting on merely data-driven conclusions.

I've graded the book for its value to someone who is new to the subject.

The Hit
The Hit
by David Baldacci
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.99
126 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hit and Miss, May 24 2013
This review is from: The Hit (Hardcover)
"The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers." -- 1 Samuel 31:3 (NKJV)

Will Robie is back. Once again he's sent after a member of his own organization, this time a highly talented assassin, Jessica Reel, he knows. As you can imagine, Robie finds this troubling, even in the emotion-free zone that he tries to maintain. He also wonders why Jessica has been assassinating other members of the organization. What could her reason be?

Assassin versus assassin is a familiar theme in the thriller literature. It can provide some astonishingly interesting confrontations and fascinating plot developments. I give Mr. Baldacci full credit for putting in some good surprises in the book, the points that I'm sure are contributing to this book being a hit in the book business. However, I wouldn't be treating you fairly if I didn't point out that on the scale of such thrillers The Hit is pretty average.

The "miss" elements here involve making Reel's motivations far too easily disclosed, presenting the "bad" people a little too early and a little too clearly, and having a final crisis that doesn't seem quite up to the way it's built up in the book's plot.

I thought that the book was an easy read and sustained my interest. It is more of a thriller than it is a suspense novel, something that would have made the book more appealing in my opinion. The book has a few scenes that will definitely get your pulse racing, which is good.

I'm not aware of a better thriller in the last few weeks, so if you are looking forward to one there can be no doubt that The Hit will do.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue: Cassette
Girl in Hyacinth Blue: Cassette
by Susan Vreeland
Edition: Audio Cassette
Price: CDN$ 33.95
12 used & new from CDN$ 4.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Expand Your Sense of What Art Is and What Roles It Plays, May 22 2013
"For how great is its goodness And how great its beauty!" -- Zechariah 9:17 (NKJV)

Just to be clear, I'm reviewing the unabridged audio CD version of Girl in Hyacinth Blue. I highly recommend listening to, rather than reading, this intriguing book. The audio version will make the insights of Ms. Vreeland's stories more accessible to you.

The Girl in Hyacinth Blue has a simple premise: Start with the current owner of a beloved painting and move back in time to learn about its previous owners and its ultimate creative origin, expressed through what the painting means to them and how it affects their lives.

Adding these dimensions to fiction about a rare (imaginary) Vermeer painting certainly expanded my horizons. Although I certainly own art that others must have possessed and valued before me, I had never given them any thought (except for a name captured in a friendly inscription). Yet they were there before me, all the time! I must also admit that I tend to focus more on how others and I react to art today, rather than how people in the past did, or how the works were created. I am extremely grateful to Ms. Vreeland for adding this perspective to my life.

Let me make a few things clear about the book that may be more important to you than they were to me. Ms. Vreeland's mastery of writing about Vermeer's work isn't that of an art historian, but it's rather more like that of an art enthusiast. If you take your commentary on art seriously, your nerves will screech a bit in places. Ms. Vreeland is also not an historian. She writes more accurately about the human heart than about the times that the fictional events took place. The experience is a bit like reading a thriller of a mystery, where you want some vivid characters, some surprises, and a gradual unveiling of an interesting set of facts and truths. Since I like mystery thrillers and collect art, the book was perfect for me.

Thank you, Ms. Vreeland! You've expanded my awareness quite a bit!

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