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Walls of Zhumar
Walls of Zhumar
by Chuck Dixon
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 2.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced martial arts action, June 15 2003
This review is from: Walls of Zhumar (Paperback)
Fans of Honk Kong action movies should find Way of the Rat a special treat although anyone who enjoys fast-paced action-filled stories will enjoy it too. Young Boon Sai Hong, a member of a shadowy Thieves Guild, not finding what he was sent to take steals a ring and a book instead - both items of great power - though he doesn't realize this until later. Inadvertently he gains a mentor in the form of a talking monkey who helps Boon throughout the story. Though Boon is disturbed to discover a talking monkey tagging along he quickly realizes he needs all the help he can get no matter where from. There are others also aware of the powerful artifacts who wish to possess them. Some with honorable intentions, others less so. The greedy lord of the city, the leader of a barbarian horde intent on conquest and the daughter of the emperor. All are on a desperate race to aquire the Ring and Book.
The ring is the Ring of Staffs and gives its wielder mastery beyond all others of the martial arts of sticks or staves. The Book (actually a scroll) is the Book of the Hell of the Hungry Dragons and it is no ordinary book for its page is a gateway to Hell itself. There are other Rings and other artifacts but to tell more would spoil the enjoyment of the story. Suffice to say that Boon soon finds he is in for far more than he ever bargained for when every hand and blade is raised against him to obtain the items he stole. And though he begins the story as a small-time thief circumstances reveal a heart capable of compassion and honor. Possession of the Ring and Book begin to change him as awareness of the burden he carries begins to sink in and not all of it is to his liking.
The artwork is particularly well done and many pages display martial arts moves that could be used to learn actual techniques if one were so inclined. Unlike many comics the panels, while active, are never so busy as to be confusing. This is particularly pleasing in my opinion as it makes Way of the Rat very newbie-friendly for someone who has never read a graphic novel or comic before. The inking is clean as is the coloring and lettering. Another interesting tidbid are the occasional Chinese proverbs that begin each chapter. Crossgen comics tend to display a very polished look and this book is no exception. For someone who would like a story that diverges from typical super hero fare with a tight, fast-paced story Way of the Rat is a fine introduction to a new series that's sure to be around for years to come.

Changeling Plague
Changeling Plague
by Syne Mitchell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast-Paced Medical Sci-Fi Thriller, April 9 2003
Bio-engineering must be an "in" thing to base fiction on these days among hard sci-fi writers the way cyberpunk was for the mid-to-late 90's. The Changeling Plague reminded me of nothing so much as Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio (also an excellent read). Both use a base hypothesis of what would happen if genetic propogation began to do odd things. How would that change us and how would various societies and their governments respond? But while Bear's story hypothesizes it could happen from spontanous mutation due to environmental stresses such as industrial pollution and over-populated regions Ms. Mitchell's novel envisions a world where illegal gene therapy research escapes the control of the scientists conducting it.
As with most novels there are some odd situations. For example, in Ms. Mitchell's novel (as a previous reviewer noted) the world quite understandably has a mass panic (the infection rate climbs to 96% with almost certain death to follow). It is never clear how extensive the damage is beyond a few scenes sketched out showing general public panic. In a world where it is admitted this virus is highly communicable (the author never quite pins down if it's airborn or only transmitted via touch) and mass-panic ensues apparently pizza-delivery boys think they're immune so you can still order delivery knowing it will be at your doorstep a half hour later. And since the story explains earlier that bio-hazard suits sell for thousands of dollars on the black market I doubt pizza-delivery suddenly becomes a lucrative career option. This is only one example of some odd disjunctures. It had the effect of reminding me I was reading a story. Thankfully though it didn't happen often.
If I had to classify it I would say this book is more plot-driven than character-driven. You see the 3 main characters (the medical researcher Lillith, Patient 0 Geoffrey Allen and hacker extraordinaire Idaho Davis) and what they think and how they react to the events around them but unlike some I didn't get a sense of getting to know or understand each character *except* in relation to their handling of the plague and it's consequences on them, their family and friends. This is what I mean about it being more of a plot-driven novel than a character-driven one. Having said that these 3 do get a lot of air-time with everyone else getting bit roles. Using terms of a standard hollywood tv-drama the main 3 carry the novel and get the majority of lines while a few other regulars get a few lines per chapter.
The pacing is also tight. Unlike some novels there isn't a lot of time spent building a backstory that makes people often say of a novel, "it's slow through the first part.". Ms. Mitchell jumps right in and never lets up. It is a fun, entertaining read and the author succeeds overall more often than not. If you are a sci-fi fan give this book a shot.

Play Solo Flamenco Guitar with Juan Martin Book/CD/DVD Set: Volume 1
Play Solo Flamenco Guitar with Juan Martin Book/CD/DVD Set: Volume 1
by Juan Martin
Edition: Spiral-bound
Price: CDN$ 21.39
27 used & new from CDN$ 20.60

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Flamenco Repertoire Book, Jan. 8 2003
This book fills a special niche which so far has been under-represented in available Flamenco books. Specifically a Graded Course of Repertoire. This book is not meant to be an instructional course and the author mentions that in the Grade Approach chapter. To quote, "The main aim of this book is to give you a progressive series of flamenco music to play and enjoy - and to learn with. It does not aim to provide a complete teaching course, so you will not find a detailed description of techniques deonstrated in the video, nor of other important issues relating to the flamenco guitar, its music and history."
That is very true. But the one thing it does have - flamenco songs progressing from very basic to intermediate - it has in spades. Each piece is presented in both standard notation and tab. You start at Grade 0 but even this assumes you have some basic skill with the guitar. Specifically you should know how to make chords and have at least some basic finger-picking skills (or at least be learning them concurrently). Other techniques he labels as optional (such as golpe, picado, etc) for Grade 0. At later grades you will need to know these techniques but will need to find instruction for them elsewhere.
One note of warning. I disagree most strongly with other reviewers advising beginners to get Juan Martin's flamenco guitar method El Arte Flamenco de la Guitarra (intermediates are another matter - to them I say definitely get it). I have this 2 book/cd set and I'm warning everyone right now I do not consider it the best source for learning flamenco for most beginners. This book is best for classical guitarists who have decided to add flamenco to their repertoire of playing skills. For one thing it is very dense in its instruction and the pieces and exercises you start out with are beyond what I would recommend for a rank beginner (obviously Mr. Martin agrees because he released this book/cd/dvd set to address some of those concerns). The only beginner I might recommend it to is someone who's personality allows them to stubbornly stick through difficult material week after week working one tiny bit to perfection before moving on. The instruction ramps up in difficulty very, very quickly and by the end of volume 2 you are playing very difficult instrumentals. I rather suspect most beginners might not have that kind of patience or at least will prefer a longer and more gentle learning-curve, especially if they are trying to teach themself.
Which gets me back to this book/cd/dvd set. It complements other flamenco teaching methods by giving beginners some beautiful flamenco instrumentals to play even at the most basic levels. Grade 0 might be very simple but everyone will recognize the tunes as being flamenco and they will be quite fun to play. It just increases the incentive to practice and go to the next chapter for ever more slightly advanced pieces. The learning curve in this book is gradual - something that I think many people wanting to learn flamenco will appreciate. By the end of the book many beautiful flamenco instrumentals will be added to your repertoire that will be a joy to play and for listeners to hear.

Mastering the Guitar - Technique Studies
Mastering the Guitar - Technique Studies
by William Bay
Edition: Spiral-bound
Price: CDN$ 10.94
9 used & new from CDN$ 6.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Companion Guide, Jan. 8 2003
This book is meant to be an additional source of study for the first and second volumes of the excellent Mastering the Guitar book/2cds series (this is the only one in the series that is book-only, no cds are available). However, it can be used in addition to any beginning guitar method as a source of additional study and songs. It begins with an introduction to traditional music notation, rhythm and some basic music theory.
There are plenty of studies for plectrum picking, crosspicking, fingerpicking, chords, moveable finger patterns, finger-agility studies, etc. After the studies are songs for applying the skills learned in the studies. The studies and songs are all grouped according to keys. Thus, for example, the first key introduced is C and it has all of the studies I mentioned above followed by several songs. The songs represented are of several styles of music. Everything from folk and classical to rock and blues is here.
The majority of studies are presented only in music notation but all of the songs are presented in both standard music and tab. I realize this was done as a concession to the marketplace as there are many guitarists who don't want to know how to read music. However, for anyone with even the slightest curiosity I would encourage to give learning how to read music a go. For only a bit of effort at the beginning the later rewards are considerable for thereafter NO style of music is off-limits to you. You'll be one of the few guitarists able to read, practice and play ANY kind of music - even music written for another instrument and be able to adapt it to guitar. This book certainly makes learning to read and play standard music notation fun. The songs are fun to play, cover several popular music styles and a beginner will have complete songs to add to their repertoire to play for family and friends. Don't be like some folks I know who know many rock tunes but only know bits and pieces of them and can't play any of them in their entirety. In my opinion, a beginner who can play even one single piece well is actually more truly deserving of the title "guitarist" (and is definitely the better musician) than such dime-a-dozen guitarist-wanna-be's. If you love the guitar and don't want to be one of those guitarist-wanna-be's I mentioned above this book will definitely help you on your way to that goal.

Test of Time
Test of Time
by Mark Waid
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 18.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Another 5-Star Story, Dec 27 2002
This review is from: Test of Time (Paperback)
Collecting issues #7 - #12 of the on-going series Crux book 2 is even better than book 1. One of the reasons I've grown to love this series so much is that each character has a distinct personality and that aspect comes across very well.
The scene where the Atlantean group reveal one of their story-telling rituals was a great touch by Waid, et. al. Not only did it reveal something of the culture of Atlantis but gives added clues to each character's personality and the way they view their current situation - fighting for their survival against a foe they can neither understand nor communicate with. The question of what happened to species homo sapiens, while answered somewhat is only partially so. Those that are answered lead to yet more mysteries. Moral and ethical questions are also raised. If you could go back in time would you try to avert a disaster if you could? Would you still do so knowing that while you might save some people it would mean a much greater number would suffer and possibly die in the future that would not have done so before? These are only some of the dilemmas confronting the Atlanteans. And it is very interesting to see that the mysterious stranger is not the over-arching god-like being book 1 at first implies. Even he is surprised when some things do not turn out quite as he planned.
Crux is a scifi/fantasy fan's tale and highly recommended - particularly for people who enjoy character-driven stories. I also recommend Crossgen's other trade Negation v. 1 to learn more about the antagonists the Atlanteans struggle against (not to mention Negation has one of THE coolest, most charismatic Bad Guys ever seen in any comic series - Charon, the God-Emperor of the Negation Universe).

Atlantis Rising
Atlantis Rising
by Mark Waid
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 15.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Earth and Atlantis ...Where it all Began, Dec 26 2002
This review is from: Atlantis Rising (Paperback)
At the time of this review Crux and Negation are my personal favorite Crossgen titles. Crossgen has done a wonderful job of creating a very fascinating universe. It's our universe and Crux's events take place on Earth, albeit many millenia in the future. Not without cause is this title named Crux for Crossgen has promised Earth and the story told here will be...well, the crux of the Crossgen universe.
We are introduced to Atlantis and 9 key figures - the 7 Atlanteans, one human and a mysterious stranger who awakens them from stasis but refuses to tell them why. The stranger grants them an orange sigil-mark (in marked contrast to the yellow and red sigils of characters in other CG comics). And thus the mystery begins. Why did Atlantis drown? What happened to the other transitioned Atlanteans? Where has homo sapiens - the race the Atlanteans were mentoring in its infancy - gone? And why are they being attacked by strange bug-like creatures?
I agree this book is the one to give to a comics-reader who likes team superhero books as in one sense Crux is such a book. That is, it features characters wielding powers not available to ordinary humans even though these characters wear normal clothes (no spandex or capes here). Of course, by that broad definition the majority of Japanese Anime also falls into the superhero genre. Nonetheless, this team doesn't go around fighting crime. There is a depth to the story as hints are dropped of a larger epic storyline which is a feature that runs through all of Crossgen's comics. You do not need to read any other comic or graphic novel in the Crossgen universe if you don't wish. Crossgen has taken care to make sure each story can be understood and enjoyed alone. But if you choose to read some of their other comics or trades (I HIGHLY recommend Negation) a story-arc on the scale of an Epic emerges (and I do mean Epic with a capital "E").
In one sense this very coherent world has some of the same elements that make me love Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. As the story unfolds in Crux you begin to see true depth to the history, myths and legends that shaped the Atlanteans, Earth and interest is piqued in the mystery of missing humanity. Characterization is particularly strong. I got a very distinct sense of each members own personality, likes, dislikes, etc.
Here is the chance to see one conception of the beauty and history of Atlantis (the art is breathtaking - Atlantis definitely looks "Atlantean") with fascinating characters struggling in a world that has drastically changed from the one they knew. Any fantasy or science-fiction fan should give this graphic novel a shot.

Once Upon A Winters Night
Once Upon A Winters Night
by Dennis Mckiernan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting retelling, Nov. 3 2002
The author states this novel is a retelling of a short story he read as a child. A short story titled "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" written by a Scandinavian author. If it was a Scandinavian tale that inspired the author I can only say that Nordic bard was a lover of myths for I know it as a re-telling of one of my favorite classical Greek myths that I read as a child - the myth of Eros and Psyche (i.e. Love and Soul). Right down to the need for Alain (Eros) to wear a mask and hiding his true form to prevent a curse enacting. Right down to Camille (Psyche) invoking the curse when she sees Alain's true form unmasked by candlelight as he sleeps. Right down to the drip of the candle wax on Eros'- I mean Alain's - chest. And of Psyche's - I mean Camille's - subsequent quest to find her lover again and break the curse. For as the Greek myth makes clear, Love and Soul were meant to be together for the blessing of mankind.
It was enchanting as a Greek myth and even more so as Mr. McKiernan's re-telling. Here the Greek myth is given life so compelling I think it better than the source. Unlike some previous reviewers I didn't have any problem with the occasional touches of archaic phrasing. They only happened sporadically and even then only in small touches. That must be something that is strictly a personal preference - you're either allergic to it or you're not. I actually liked it as it added to the over-all feel of what a myth should be when read. To anyone who likes myths and fairy tales this is a wonderful read. And if you ever get the chance - read the original myth from whence it came. You'll be glad you did.

Rhapsody: Child of Blood
Rhapsody: Child of Blood
by Elizabeth Haydon
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
79 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Hype, Oct. 17 2002
Anyone considering purchasing this book would do themselves a favor and read as many of the reviews here (both pro and con) as possible. Many people seemingly enjoyed the story so it proves all too well that one person's pleasure is another one's poison. For me, while the premise of the story is interesting there were too many problems that weighed it down. Also it is a romance novel thinly disguised as fantasy. If you do not like romance novels beware - it is unlikely you will like this book whatever else its virtues.
Characterization - this was THE main thing that just kept interfering with my ability to enjoy the story. For example, Rhapsody, we are told at the beginning, is a woman of astounding beauty. She's of mixed species blood as are most of the other women in the book. Yet the author never explains why the heroine is so much more beautiful than any other female. And after her walk through the fire her beauty ascends to the level of a goddess. Scene after scene shows men becoming slack-jawed idiots and burning with lust at the mere sight of her. Women and children mob her like she's a movie star. The author tries to introduce some counterbalance by giving Rhapsody the two flaws of having a past briefly as a prostitute and of not being aware of her goddess-level beauty. Extreme beauty, if handled well, need not be a barrier to the reader believing the story. After all, Tolkien did something very similar when he wrote the tale of Beren and Luthien. Luthien was also of mixed blood but the weight of the past stories and culture made it totally believable when Tolkien wrote that Luthien was the most beautiful creature that has ever walked the earth. Not so with Rhapsody.
Had it been handled differently those two flaws might have been enough to humanize an increasingly saccharine and hard-to-believe character. Unfortunately, the prostitution explanation was very brief and the only back flash of those days show her sleeping with a man she hated in order to prevent him from doing so with a child (the child being used as blackmail). So the very thing the author uses to try to humanize Rhapsody is undercut by showing her sacrificing herself to save a child from a horrible crime. This does not show a flaw. It added yet another aspect to the heroine that we are to secretly admire.
There are similar problems with Achmed. In short, he just doesn't act like an assassin. For someone who is used to bloodshed and manipulating people he just doesn't come across as the cold-hearted killer the author wants him to be. Maybe if there had been scenes where he was actually BEING a cold-hearted assassin (instead of just telling us he is) it would be more believable.
The above are only 2 of the problems I had with the book but there were many more. That is not to say there weren't good things about it either. Obviously there are or so many people wouldn't be writing 5 star reviews. My point is that there are enough problems with the book that there can be no guarantee into which category you will fall - fan or disappointed.

Mike Meyers' A+ Certification Passport
Mike Meyers' A+ Certification Passport
by Michael Meyers
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Good for Review, Oct. 5 2002
If you already have some experience and understanding of computers this is a good book for review. However, if, like me, your knowledge is spotty you'll need more in-depth explanations.
Its strong points are the concise, direct, to-the-point explanations of just the subjects covered in the exam. Combined with practice exams and a more detailed book you should be able to pass with no problem. But as one previous reviewer mentioned, some of the book's practice problems ask questions which the text doesn't address. Let that be a warning. It's an example of how no single book can prepare you for every question you might encounter. Thus I would say this book is best used in conjunction with a more in-depth book as well as taking plenty of practice exams.

How Computers Work
How Computers Work
by Ron White
Edition: Paperback
32 used & new from CDN$ 4.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Leave "Computer Clueless" status behind..., Sept. 17 2002
This review is from: How Computers Work (Paperback)
with this book. You want a fun, entertaining introduction to computers? Get this book. The excellent pictures and diagrams clearly explain how all that hardware and software interacts in plain english. This book is good enough it can actually be a great aid in studying for A+ certification. I've met a lot of supposed "techs" who could actually gain something by reading it. When I took it to work people would laugh - until I handed it to them and they started reading. They quit laughing and many of them quickly aquired their own copy soon after.
It won't make you a computer guru. If that is your eventual goal you'll need other books. But everyone has to start somewhere and this book can make the process more understandable and enjoyable. The cd is fun to watch and is yet another way to continue learning. For those who own Macs there is a Mac version of this book that is every bit as understandable and fun to read.

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