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Content by Charles Ashbacher
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Reviews Written by
Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States)

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Meg
Meg
by Steve Alten
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.74
15 used & new from CDN$ 7.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Like environmental niches everywhere, Jan. 22 2016
This review is from: Meg (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of the most engaging and intense thrillers that I have ever read. It is based on a living dinosaur premise that is plausible. The Mariana Trench is a long undersea valley where there are thermal vents that have been active for millions of years. The heat and chemicals they release warms the water and provides the elements that bacteria and other small living creatures use for energy. Like environmental niches everywhere, this create a food chain and at the very top is the mighty “Carcharodon Megaladon” a 70-foot, 100,000 pound predator that has supposedly been extinct for millions of years.
Since sharks cannot survive for long in cold water, any shark that managed to get into the warm waters of the trench would have to stay there, the cold water layers between the trench and the surface would provide a natural isolation mechanism. This would allow “Carcharodon Megaladon” (Meg) to exist in the trench with very little that could ever challenge it for millions of years.
Jonas Taylor is a deep-sea submersible pilot and in the opening he is piloting a craft into the trench when he encounters a female Meg. He executes emergency procedures but the action leads to the deaths of the two scientists in the ship with him.
Using a plausible premise, Alten develops a mechanism where the Meg can survive the passage through the cold water layers and reach the surface, where she feasts on whales and the occasional human. Large and sturdy enough to batter and destroy medium sized ships that annoy her, the Meg becomes a terror that must be dealt with.
The story takes many twists and turns, never moving outside the bounds of the possible. It is intense, the characters are well developed and it will no doubt make a great movie that could be even more terrifying than “Jaws.”
One of the best aspects is that it is at least possible for a Meg to have survived to modern times, think Coelacanth if you have doubts.

This book was made available for free for review purposes

Leadership and Soft Skills for Students: Empowered to Succeed in High School, College, and Beyond
Leadership and Soft Skills for Students: Empowered to Succeed in High School, College, and Beyond
by Cary J. Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.37
7 used & new from CDN$ 19.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent advice, just nothing new or remarkable, Jan. 22 2016
It seems that no self-help book is complete without some form of linguistic wordplay gimmick. This book is no exception, the wordplay here is the three Rs: Readiness, Relationships and Results. Not the best one I have ever read but a lot better than some of the acronyms that I have seen elsewhere.
The skill sets that Green encourages have existed and been necessary as long as modern industrial bureaucracies have operated. They are: communicate well, dress and act professionally. In many ways the mega-successful tech titans such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have set a bad example in this area. These three and many others in technology are known for a lack of fashion sense, of course they are the peak and all others should heed Green’s advice. Dressing like these guys does nothing to improve your chances of reaching their level of success.
While the advice contained in this book is valuable, useful and can aid the soon to be ex-student in their entry into the job market, there is nothing remarkable or even new. Remove a few references to modern technology and the content appeared in books over a century ago.
As an experienced reviewer, as a read through this book the thought, “I have read this before” kept recurring. Some examples of the well known are the two lines bolded on pages 79 and 83.
“If you are going to criticize someone, be sure you have your facts straight.”
“Don’t diminish your likelihood of success by submitting application materials that are full of errors.”

This book was made available for free for review purposes

Amfor outdoor indoor fast speed jump rope for cardio training
Amfor outdoor indoor fast speed jump rope for cardio training

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to use, the rope is soft and flexible for rapid movements, Jan. 21 2016
The handles are padded, soft and easy to grip, even when your hands are wet with perspiration. The rope rotates a full 360 degrees inside the end of the handle, so there is no possibility of a tangle in that region. The rope is made from extremely flexible vinyl material that adjusts to twists as fast as you can make them. It is also light, so it reacts quickly to your hand movements. While for most people it will not be an issue, the softness of the rope means that you can whack somebody with it and there will be no ill effects. This is a great rope for high energy skipping.

This item was made available for free or for a reduced price for review purposes

Being a Captain is Hard Work: A Captain No Beard Story
Being a Captain is Hard Work: A Captain No Beard Story
by Carole P. Roman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.22
4 used & new from CDN$ 11.60

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most valuable of lessons of life, what to do when you are wrong, Jan. 21 2016
The intrepid Captain No Beard and his brave crew are once again sailing the high seas on a great adventure. In this case they are on their way to Dew Rite Volcano. When Mongo announces a brewing storm and Linus points out that they are going in the wrong direction, the captain refuses to acknowledge the obvious. His position never changes in the face of mounting evidence, to the point where Zach is placed in grave danger. Demonstrating his courage, the captain rescues Zach and then is forced to a point of extreme humility where he must admit his mistakes.
There are two lessons in this book, one major about life and the other a factual one involving science. When it is first clear that he has made a mistake, Captain No Beard refuses to admit it, making the consequences of his mistake far greater than they otherwise would be. This is a very important lesson about life, you will make mistakes, so the only reasonable course of action is to admit them early and learn from them.
The second lesson is about the different types of clouds and what they mean. Mongo knows that a storm is coming because he recognizes the correct cloud type. The captain disagrees because he misidentifies the cloud type. There is a complete list of cloud types at the end with explanations of what they mean.
If done right, life lessons and science lessons can be effectively combined in an entertaining manner. This book is an existence proof of that. It is an excellent book for children to learn one of the most valuable lessons about life, what to do when you are wrong.

This book was made available for free for review purposes

Ivation Heavy Duty Rolling Snow Pusher with 6" Rubber Wheels & Adjustable Handle, Bright Orange
Ivation Heavy Duty Rolling Snow Pusher with 6" Rubber Wheels & Adjustable Handle, Bright Orange
Offered by Canadian Shoppe
Price: CDN$ 79.95
2 used & new from CDN$ 79.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for light powder, worthless when the snow is heavy and deeper, Jan. 21 2016
Depending on the type and amount of snow, this shovel is either easy and effective to use or completely worthless. I live in Iowa and a few weeks ago we had a snowstorm where the snow was wet and heavy. In those conditions, this shovel was of no use at all. Since it is designed to push snow rather than scoop it, the weight and stickiness of the snow meant you could do nothing with it.
Two days ago it snowed again and it was a small amount of light powder. In this case the shovel makes rapid removal easy with a limited effort. The wheels turn effortlessly and as long as the snow does not build up too much in front of the blade you can clear large areas very quickly. I was impressed with the ease and effectiveness of use. It provides a way for people that cannot physically use a standard snow shovel to clear snow.

This item was made available for free or for a reduced price for review purposes

High Level Investing For Dummies
High Level Investing For Dummies
by Paul Mladjenovic
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 28.47
23 used & new from CDN$ 21.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Advice that will increase your investment knowledge IQ, Jan. 19 2016
This is one of the few self-help books that will retain its value over time. The advice is solid as well as timeless and while there are some sections that discuss the possibility of getting rich quick, the overwhelming majority deal with ways to get rich in a slow and methodical manner.
There are explanations of many of the standard investing strategies, from the standard long to the more complicated and potentially dangerous short. Other strategies, such as call and put options, straddles, strangles and bull, bear and neutral combination strategies are explained. The investment tactics employed by some of the superstars of the business are also covered.
The only negative that I see in the book is the placement of chapter 19, “Big Picture, Big Profits.” In this chapter some of the major overall economic behaviors, such as gross domestic product, leading economic indicators and unemployment are explained. Particularly how they affect various investments and investment strategies. To me, it would have made more sense to lead with this material, after all it is always best to clearly define the terms before you use them.
That said, this is an excellent primer on the exciting and challenging field of personal investing. With many companies dropping or dramatically reducing their pension programs, retirement savings is now in the hands of the individual. It is challenging but doable, as long as you do some basic research, accurately identify your needs and ability to take risks and invest within the time frame that is your current reality. This book will both mitigate the challenge and increase the level of doable.

This book was made available for free for review purposes

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe | Summary
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe | Summary
by InstantRead Summary
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.63
4 used & new from CDN$ 4.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Not enough emphasis on the speculative nature of the contents of the book, Jan. 18 2016
One point that needed more emphasis in this summary was a more questioning attitude regarding the main thesis of the book. In the introduction where dark matter is explained there is the paragraph: “While dark matter does not readily fit into the Standard Model of particle physics, and although dark matter has not been detected directly, data from the recently launched GAIA satellite may support the theory that dark matter exists in the Milky Way galaxy as a thin, concentrated disk.” Notice the word “may” in this segment, there is no definitive proof of this yet it is the basis of main thesis of the book.
The subsequent paragraph is: “The wobble of the solar system up and down through the Milky Way and the proposed dark matter disk could dislodge Oort cloud objects, sending them into the inner solar system to periodically collide with the Earth. One of these may have been the meteoroid tied to the K-Pg extinction.” Again, the presence of the word “may.” This regular contact with the dark matter is used to explain the evidence for regular mass extinctions on Earth.
There is no mention of the “Nemesis” hypothesis regarding the regular extinctions, which is the theory that a small dark star orbits the sun and occasionally comes close enough to discharge comets from the Oort cloud. While there is no evidence for Nemesis, its existence could also explain the periodic extinctions.
In closing, I liked this summary, but the author should have been more forceful in pointing out the the dark matter premise is a hypothesis based on foundational unproven hypotheses. While learned, it is scientific speculation based on very weak evidence.

This book was made available for free for review purposes

Clearstream Affair (Version française) [Import]
Clearstream Affair (Version française) [Import]
Price: CDN$ 35.78
14 used & new from CDN$ 19.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Tense and unpredictable story based on real events, Jan. 18 2016
This movie is based on real events where a dedicated investigative journalist exposed the illicit actions of a Luxembourg-based bank as well as bribery and kickbacks in the purchase of ships by the navy of Taiwan. The ships were built in France and the Taiwanese naval officer that raised questions was found dead on a beach. Not having done any investigation of the actual events, I do not know how precisely this movie follows the real events, but will certainly grant them some creative license.
It really does not matter how accurately this movie follows the actual events, everything that happens is completely plausible and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The amounts of money that are involved are staggering, with the usual consequences of deception, claims and counterclaims and a lot of big time CYA.
Roberts himself becomes obsessed with following the story to the point where his home life with his wife and two daughters begins to suffer and unwind. While there is no graphic violence, there is the regular hint that it could break out at any time, for the French intelligence services are involved as well. The viewer is often puzzled as to which side various people in the mix are on, the side of truth and decency or that of grabbing one big fistful of Euros.
This is a great movie, even if you know the end result the tension will keep you riveted.

This item was made available for free for review purposes

LE Rechargeable LED Book Light, Portable Music Stand Lights, Dual Head, 4-Level Brightness, AC Adapter and USB Cord Included, Daylight White, Clip Light, Task Lighting
LE Rechargeable LED Book Light, Portable Music Stand Lights, Dual Head, 4-Level Brightness, AC Adapter and USB Cord Included, Daylight White, Clip Light, Task Lighting
Offered by Neon Mart Canada
Price: CDN$ 41.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very flexible, you can project light on the entire surrounding sphere, Jan. 18 2016
The clip is very sturdy, it expands out to a maximum of 1.5 inches, so it can be placed on most tables and other available clipping locations. At maximum illumination the two lights provide enough light to read or see a keyboard, at least over a small area.
The two snake connections between the clip and the bulbs are very flexible, they can be twisted a full 360 when going both directions and can be bent double. The snakes themselves are approximately 6 inches long so they can be used to project light on the entire sphere surrounding the clip. There are two bulbs in each light and for each of them they can be off, one on or both on. Therefore, there are four levels of light available.
The light can be charged using a USB port and a standard electrical outlet plug is included for charging off the grid. When the light is fully extended it can easily be placed into the corner of a backpack or carry on bag. Therefore, you can provide your own light if you go places where the light may be poor or like to work while on a train or plane. With all the options for light intensity and placement, you can avoid any spillage that will annoy your fellow passengers.

This item was made available for free or for a reduced price for review purposes

URBAN ARMOR GEAR Cell Phone Case for Galaxy Edge Plus-Retail Packaging-Clear
URBAN ARMOR GEAR Cell Phone Case for Galaxy Edge Plus-Retail Packaging-Clear
Price: CDN$ 46.96
5 used & new from CDN$ 39.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Not sure about the claim of secure drop tested, Jan. 17 2016
This case is constructed from hard, white plastic on the back with a set of five small, round rubber bumpers roughly 0.25 inches in diameter. The plastic is somewhat flexible and there is a rubber ridge all the way around that will hold the device fairly tight. Since it is made from somewhat flexible rubber, the ridge will absorb some shock if the device is dropped on edge. However, while I did not have the courage to perform an actual experiment, it seems very possible that the phone could pop out of the case if it is dropped on edge from a modest height. When I pressed the short end down with a bit of pressure, the case bent a bit, something that could force the phone out.
The advertising claim is that the case is military drop-tested, I take them at their word but have no idea how rigid that standard is. This case will provide your phone significant protection on the back, although I question if it will hold the phone if it is dropped on edge from the height of your ear.
This item was made available for free for review purposes

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