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Marcy L. Thompson (Sammamish, WA USA)
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The Seducer
The Seducer
by Madeline Hunter
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
57 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Good or bad? Depends what you compare it to..., Jan. 30 2004
I like a good escapist read as much as anyone else. Some time ago, I happened on Madeline Hunter's medieval novels. I liked a lot of things about them. Most important, they did not contain anachronisms. The people in them acted like people who lived then really acted. Women in her books acted like it was normal to be treated as pawns in political marriages, even if they did not like it. (Just as an aside, I always hate it when heroines are outraged at arranged marriages, when they grew up in a class and society where that is the norm -- anachronism destroys suspension of disbelief.) Within this setting, her medieval novels contained interesting characters who had true human depth. Those characters were not stereotypes. I found all her books well worth reading, and worth keeping. Engrossing, well-plotted and paced, with compelling characters, they provided me with wonderful escape reading.
But I am really a sucker for a good regency romance, so I was very excited when I heard that this same author had decided to write a series of books set in my favorite period. This is the first book in that series. While the book remains more true to its historical time than many set in this time period, it is in many ways a weaker book than her earlier efforts. The first thing I noticed is that the plotting was heavy-handed. It was obvious what was going on long before she revealed the details, which even made it easy to guess who some of the mystery characters would turn out to be. Moreover, I did not feel connected to the heroine. She struck me as alternately stupid and vapid, with occasional flashes of the kind of emotional strength required to lure a man away from a life focused on revenge. The plot is a well-worn enough one that the in this kind of book, the characters and writing have to carry the book, and these characters were not strong enough (nor was the writing graceful enough) to do that.
This was still far better a book than most historical romances set in this time period, and it was not a complete waste of my time to read it. However, compared to what she has done in the past, Madeline Hunter disappointed me this time around.

The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management
The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management
by Jerry B. Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.67
31 used & new from CDN$ 1.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful advice, coming and going, Jan. 25 2004
The Abilene Paradox... has been one of my favorite books for many years. Whenever I read it, I find something of value in it for whatever challenges I am facing in my work. Plus, it's just fun to read. The first essay (the actual Abilene Paradox) should be required reading for anyone who wonders why groups do stupid things. And the last essay (on teaching future managers to cheat) should be required reading for anyone who wonders how one simple change could make a huge difference in business education, making it more relevant and more solidly ethically based. Everything in between these two essays is worth, reading, too.

The Sokal Hoax: The Sham That Shook the Academy
The Sokal Hoax: The Sham That Shook the Academy
by Lingua Franca
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.33
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced coverage of the entire mess, Jan. 25 2004
Regardless of whether you think Alan Sokal is a hero or a rogue, a brilliant crusader for intellectual standards or a crass fool who made himself and the "science establishment" look stupid with his prank, you should read this book.
In this book, the editors of Lingua Franca have assembled all the documents you need to understand what really happened. You can read the hoax paper in its entirety. You can read the article that revealed it as a hoax. You can read the response by the editors of Social Text. You can read what the press had to say, what intellectuals on both sides of the issue have said about the hoax, and what people writing in other countries have made of the whole thing.
Lately, the Sokal hoax has been on my mind a lot, and I find that I need to explain it to people who never heard of it, before I can talk about it. This book is the perfect answer to the question "where can I read more about it?" What I like about this book is that it represents all sides of the debate with their own words, and leaves it to the reader to make her own decision where she stands on the issues raised by the prank.

Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design
Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design
by Henry Petroski
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 1.01

3.0 out of 5 stars This should have been a 5-star book, Jan. 25 2004
This book is written by someone who has written other wonderful books about what it means to be an engineer. The topic of this book -- the design of everyday items -- should offer sufficient scope for another interesting book. And indeed, the book has lots of interesting information in it. The main thesis (that design is always imperfect, and the reasons why this is so) seems as if it ought to be sufficiently engaging to hold my attention through a book-length engagement with it.
Alas, the book is so poorly written that it fails on all levels. I gave it three stars because it was quite educational. On the other hand, given the author's track record and the inherent interest of the topic, three stars is an enormous disappointment. Finishing the book was hard, and I would not blame anyone who just gave up. Perhaps the author had a half-book worth of content and was forced to bulk it up to make the required word count? I don't know what happened, but I can't really recommend the book unless you are desperate to know how the paper cup came to be invented.

Interaction Ritual
Interaction Ritual
by Erving Goffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.95
23 used & new from CDN$ 2.80

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Needs a 21st-century filter, Jan. 25 2004
This review is from: Interaction Ritual (Paperback)
Edgar Schein recommended this book, so I read it. I'm glad I did. Goffman is fascinated by what happens when people engage one another face-to-face, and the essays in this book synthesize many years of observation, research and deep thinking on this topic. There is much to learn in the book, and it's even well-written and filled with interesting anecdotes that illustrate his points.
However, the book was written at a time when psychologists made no distinction between the social actiions of men and women. In this book, "a person" is always male. It's easy to see that the book was written long before Deborah Tannen came along, and it suffers from that.

I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience
I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience
by Lillian Faderman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.76
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A book that lives up to its title...., Jan. 25 2004
This is an astonishing book. The author, working with a Hmong colleague, collected many moving oral histories. She then wove them together into an astonishing tour-de-force.
This book provides a voice to Hmong people, telling their stories in their own words. At the same time, Faderman places the Hmong experience in the larger context of the experience of leaving one's home to come to the United States as an immigrant. Using the particular experiences of her Hmong informants, as well as her own history growing up as the child of an immgrant, she sheds light on the general topic of what it means to be an immigrant in this country.
For most US residents, there is immigration somewhere in our histories; this book speaks to how our families were profoundly affected by the dislocation and courage of these immgrants, whether they are ourselves, our parents, or lurking in the more distant past.
I can't imagine a better book on this topic.

In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life
In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life
by Robert Kegan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 32.25
45 used & new from CDN$ 20.92

5.0 out of 5 stars How Do You Think?, Jan. 1 2004
I was amazed by this book. I was reading it when we left for a two-day driving trip. Even though I am unable to read in a moving car, I kept it near at hand to read whenever we stopped at a rest area or gas station. It was so compelling that when I finished it, I immediately tossed it back near the top of my to-read pile. The second time through, I found that it had just as much to offer (if not more) as it had the first time.
Every once in awhile, I run across a book that helps me reorganize the way I think about the world. This is such a book. Through the use of examples and detailed examination of various aspects of modern life, Kegan considers what kinds of demands the world puts on us for thinking and relating. He makes a very solid case that cognitive development does not end after one passes through the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence (magical, concrete and abstract).
By carefully considering what it is exactly that we ask adolescents to do in making the transition from concrete to abstract cognition, Kegan sets the groundwork for a careful explantion of what the next order of thought is, what it looks like, and how the modern world demands that we master it. he looks in detail at just what we ask from adults in the areas of parenting, partnering, work, dealing with differnce, healing and learning. In each case, he shows that the modern world is set up so that people thrive best if they can use what he calls a fourth-order way of relating to the world, other people, and oneself.
This book helped me understand observations that had puzzled me, and suggests ways in which adult education theories (which generally drive me crazy) need to be expanded to explain what really happens when adults come together to learn.
One very interesting thing about this book is that Kegan is able to report on research studies that support his theory. Probably the most important thing this book does is to provide a framework for considering people in the context of how they individually construct the world and their relationship to it, which allows me to judge whether a person is authentic, courageuos or generous on his own terms, not on mine.

Angels & Demons: A Novel
Angels & Demons: A Novel
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.20
144 used & new from CDN$ 0.70

3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, pretty annoying, July 13 2003
I read this book because a bunch of people told me I should read "The Da Vinci Code", and I learned that this was an earlier book in the same "series". I felt i should read this one first, especially since I could get it in paperback. I am not usually a thriller fan (I've only read two thrillers previously that I really liked, despite occasionally trying others).
Anyway, I got the book and started reading it with some trepidation. The extremely gruesome beginning nearly put me off the book, and certainly made me think it was going to be a lot more viscerally gross than it turned out to be. However, I kept with it, and finally made it to the end. It's a pretty good book, but a couple times, I nearly threw it across the room.
Other reviewers here have donee a good job of explaining what is good about the book (lots of interesting puzzles, a fast-paced twisty plot, decent pacing, the concatanation of myriad random things into a rational pattern, and some interesting philosophical issues to wrestle with), so I won't belabor them. it was a fun book to read, and at the end, I did not feel I had wasted my time, as I so often do when I read thrillers.
That having been said, I found lots of things annoying about the book, and sometimes, it was hard to keep myself from flinging it out the window. The heavy-handed foreshadowing (starting with the comment on page 23 -- paperback edition -- about how some random fact he had just learned was going to save his life later tonight in another country) drove me nuts. I don't mind cardboard characters in a plot-driven novel like this, but I think that cardboard characters should refrain from changing their fundamental natures with no explanation. When the final plot twist depends on someone being other than who the reader thinks that person was, there should have been subtle signs of that earlier, which the reader can review in her mind and say, "Aha! I missed that!" Plus, the entire plot depends on Langdon's intuition being very very shrewd, so the occasional failures of his intuition were very noticeable. (like when he climbed onto the helicopter so he could make use of the random fact he had learned on page 23). Finally, the notion that a bunch of Renaissance scientists would have chosen English as their "pure language", while explained cleverly in the plot, is just too convenient, and broke my suspension of disbelief. I had to put the book down for a day or two after that happened before I could resume the roller coaster ride.
I've heard that many of the heavy-handed writing problems are gone in the sequel, so I will probably read it. In the end, this book was not a waste of my time, but it did not make it onto my list of "thrillers for the ages".
Oh, and comparisons to Umberto Eco simply serve to underline the deficiencies of this novel.

The New Knitting Stitch Library: Over 300 Traditional and Innovative Stitch Patterns Illustrated in Color and Explained with Easy-to-Follow Charts
The New Knitting Stitch Library: Over 300 Traditional and Innovative Stitch Patterns Illustrated in Color and Explained with Easy-to-Follow Charts
by Leslie Stanfield
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 26.87

5.0 out of 5 stars easy to navigate, easy to use, Nov. 25 2002
I own several stitch guides. This is one of my favourites. The thing that distinguishes it from others is the part in the front where there is a small version of each stitch, so it is easy to find the stitch you are looking for. The chart technique for describing the stitches is different from most stitch guides, but it works fine. In addition, they've done all the samples in neutral colored yarns, so it is easy to see how the stitches compare.

Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More
Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More
by Linda O'Keeffe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.96
134 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars tiny package, HUGE fun, Nov. 25 2002
This book contains fluent, erudite words about shoes, but who cares? The point of the book is the luscious photography -- beautiful, enticing images of a large number of shoes.
If you have friends who also love shoes, get a copy for each one and you can sit around for hours saying "omigosh, look at page 501!" and "wow, Carly Jane, page 347 is just what you need!" This is a whole lot more fun than it sounds, actually.
And you can always place the book on your coffee table where it will (a) take up very little physical space and (b) end up enticing everyone who sits down in your living room into developing a shoe fetish.
Seriously, this is a well-researched, beautifully photographed, elegantly written gem of a book. If you happen to like shoes, you really owe it to yourself to obtain a copy of it.

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