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Jeffrey Phillips "Innovation and Team Productivity Consultant" RSS Feed (Raleigh, NC)
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Will Starling: A Novel
Will Starling: A Novel
by Ian Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.68
52 used & new from $3.39

4.0 out of 5 stars In which your humble reviewer heaps praise upon Will Starling, Esq., January 18, 2015
This review is from: Will Starling: A Novel (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Will Starling is one of the best new novels I've had the chance to read this year. A book that tracks the Doomsday men, people who dig up the recently deceased to provide bodies to surgeons and anatomists in London, Will Starling is a combination of medical thriller, detective story, scientific discovery and history novel all rolled into one. What makes it really interesting is the narrator, Will Starling, an orphan who served as a surgeon's assistant with the British Army in the Peninsula War against Napoleon. As a smart but poor medical assistant, he is linked into the Doomsday men and the underworld of London just after the war.

Several surgeons are attempting to understand how to resurrect or reanimate people after death, and strange rumors swirl around London. Starling suspects he knows who is leading this effort, and attempts to expose the individual. Meanwhile other deaths pile up, and he himself accidentally kills a person who provided false testimony against a friend.

If you like English history, early scientific research into anatomy, and a good detective story you'll really enjoy Will Starling. One note of caution, however. This is a period piece, and written with all the mores and language (and slang) of the day. You'll need to work your way through some unfamiliar words and grammatical turns of a phrase. Stick with it, it's worth it.


The Peripheral
The Peripheral
by William Gibson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.88
128 used & new from $0.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What is perception? What is humanity after all?, January 11, 2015
This review is from: The Peripheral (Hardcover)
Gibson has a gift for writing about people who are almost disembodied, projecting their consciousness into other places or spaces. He started this with Neuromancer, where Case would project his consciousness onto the net, to try to steal data from corporations. In the Peripheral, he brings the same idea into play, but in a really compelling way.

Without ever explaining how or why, a server in Shanghai offers the ability to connect the present (represented by a down and out Southern county peopled primarily by meth dealers and ex-soldiers) and the distant future, where people are living after the "jackpot" - a never explained but clearly catacylsmic event. People in the current times can contact and exchange information with those in the future, and vice versa. This starts out sort of harmless enough, people in the future living out their continua fantasies. After all, connections between the future and the past (our present) form different stubs - the past can't be changed by the future.

People in the present can control peripherals in the future. In this case peripherals are very humanoid robots. In a strange twist, a human in the present witnesses a murder in the future, and that sets off the rest of the novel. There are forces in the future, and in the present, who don't want the murder solved or even investigated. Other forces want to understand what happened and put it right.

Like recent books by Neal Stephenson and other sic-fi writers, a reader of Peripheral needs to wade through a lot of exposition without explanation in the first 100 pages or so. The story begins to congeal after that. I had the chance to see Gibson speak and he admitted that he wanted the readers to work through the first portion of the book. I can imagine many people giving up. One word of advice: don't. Stick with it even if it doesn't make sense, because the rest of the book is a traditional "whodunit" with ideas about what a person is, what the future is worth, and some interesting ideas about whether or not we can talk to the future - after all, it's only information. Gibson is always good, this one returns to some ideas from Neuromancer and will make you think.


Canon CanoScan LiDE220 Photo and Document Scanner
Canon CanoScan LiDE220 Photo and Document Scanner
Offered by pcrush-outlet
Price: $89.94
123 used & new from $58.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A fine basic scanner for home or home office, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For a simple scanner, the LiDE220 does a good job with a wide array of documents. I've tested instruction sheets with very small print, elementary school photos, legal documents and other photos and documents and all come out very clear. The setup is easy and the user interface is relatively clean. It is strange not to have a power cord - the Scanner gets power through the USB cable that also acts as a communication vehicle. The Scanner is really small and has a low profile but is able to manage A4 size documents. It scans at a fairly high rate of speed and with detail especially in photographs.


The Hunger of the Wolf: A Novel
The Hunger of the Wolf: A Novel
by Stephen Marche
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.24
92 used & new from $0.01

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tame wolves, cynical narrators, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The cynicism that the narrator uses within the book is so overwhelming that I wanted to see if I could wring it right out of the paperback. The Hunger of the Wolf is a mash-up between books like "Less than Zero" and a werewolf novel, except that the werewolves don't seem to be all that problematic. Unlike other werewolves these seem relatively tame and rarely cause any problems. What's more, the men who turn into werewolves are completely accepted by their families and in some cases are attractive to spouses!
The book has much to say, most of it negative, about wealthy people. The main narrator researches the history of a wealthy family and struggles to understand their wealth and their wolfishness. In the end I think the narrator is a smaller man who gives up his family and friends to understand the wealth that others possess. I wanted to scrape the narrator off my shoe at the end. The author allows far too much cynicism in a book about wealth. He would have done well to match some of the humor of "Less than Zero" or other books about people experiencing wealth for the first time.


Dromida Kodo UAV Quadcopter RTF with Camera
Dromida Kodo UAV Quadcopter RTF with Camera
Price: $39.98
31 used & new from $19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best inexpensive drones we've tested, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I got this drone for my son, who is fascinated by flying gadgets. He took it out of the box, powered it up and started flying it around in the house within minutes. We later took it outside where he had it hovering about 60-75 feet off the ground. He also has learned how to make the hovercraft fly loops and flips. The Quadcopter is fairly small and reasonably rugged, since we've bounced it off of walls, the floor and the road surface without any noticeable damage. The Quadcopter was far easier to learn to fly than other small copters or drones that we've had before, and more versatile and robust.


One Step Too Far: A Novel
One Step Too Far: A Novel
by Tina Seskis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.40
159 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One plot manipulation too far, November 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Reading the hype for "One step too far" and then reading the book is a lot like experiencing many of the marketing promises we see regularly on TV. A product will seem almost too good to be true, and once we've tried it we realize that our initial expectations were right. There's nothing particularly wrong with One Step Too Far, and nothing particularly differentiated about it either. The story revolves around a set of twins, one loved by their mother and one troubled and unloved. A terrible tragedy occurs and the loved twin, Emily/Cat, leaves her home to start a new life. So far, a relatively common story.

But she leaves and finds herself in London, in a flophouse, then suddenly in a new job, rapidly promoted to account manager. Her new best friend is a coke head and a kleptomaniac. The partner in charge of the ad firm where she works is in love with her. And all of this happens in about eight months.

So, the story of the tragedy and the desire for a new life isn't new or unrealistic. It's the middle section of the book, exploring a new life, that seems wildly unrealistic. And the big reveal? You'll say to yourself, ok, that what it was. The book and its marketing unfortunately overpromise and to my mind underdeliver. But the worst part was the conclusion - the book wraps itself up far too neatly, of course in a completely obtuse way, which seems to be the author's chosen approach.


Perfect Fitness Crunch
Perfect Fitness Crunch
Price: $27.44
29 used & new from $27.44

3.0 out of 5 stars A device but no guides, October 27, 2014
This review is from: Perfect Fitness Crunch (Sports)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This review will be somewhat incomplete, because while the Crunch device is nice and seems to work reasonably well, there were no instructions on how to use it in the box or on the web. There was even a little card that encouraged you, once you put it together, to go to the web and download videos and a personal workout. Imagine my surprise when I can't even find the device on the Perfect Online website!

I give reasonably good marks for the materials and construction. It was easy to put together and I think I'm using the Crunch device correctly. It appears to be made of good materials and relatively sturdy for the dips and plank pushups. Sure would like more of a defined workout and a few instructional videos though.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 29, 2014 10:49 AM PDT


The Dark Winter: A Novel (Detective Sergeant McAvoy)
The Dark Winter: A Novel (Detective Sergeant McAvoy)
by David Mark
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.67
87 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Diamond is a smart but somewhat lazy detective who solves crimes more with ..., October 23, 2014
Add Detective Sergeant McAvoy to a short list of interesting detectives who are damaged characters. In Dark Winter, McAvoy and his team are pursuing a number of strange murders, each person who dies had previously been the sole survivor of another tragedy. McAvoy himself is a bit damaged, having barely survived a previous attempt on his life.

Unlike Rankin's Inspector Rebus, McAvoy is relatively new to his beat, and has been sidelined to some extent because of his near death experience. That doesn't make his character any less appealing - just very different. Where Rebus rubs elbows with the criminal overlords of the city yet never gives in, McAvoy stumbles through without a lot of insight, just basic determination. His character is also appealing because of his size (he's a large Scotsman) and his relatively timidity.

His character reminds me a bit of Peter Diamond, who is another police detective set in England, in Bath to be specific. Author Peter Lovesey casts Diamond as a Detective Inspector in a small town coping with a lot of new crime. Diamond is a smart but somewhat lazy detective who solves crimes more with his mind than with old-fashion policing. In some ways there are real parallels between Diamond and McAvoy.

As a fan of detective fiction, especially books that become series focused on one key detective (Rankin's Rebus, Lovesey's Diamond, Mankell's Wallander) I'm happy to add McAvoy to the list.


The Deliverance of Evil (A Commissario Balistreri Mystery)
The Deliverance of Evil (A Commissario Balistreri Mystery)
by Roberto Costantini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.77
64 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's Evil, but no Deliverance, October 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'd like to review this book but I really don't know where to start. Some books are character-driven, some are plot driven. The Deliverance of Evil isn't driven by characters, or plot, or story. It's driven by contradictions, poor police procedure, deference to the Vatican, and more loose ends than there are in a cheap suit.

The idea is sound enough - a beautiful young woman who works in an archbishop's office disappears, and then is found dead on a river bank. A deformed young man whose father provides the building for the church is accused, but his flimsy alibi holds up when the archbishop instructs a gate guard to alter her story about when the young woman left the premises. The key detective, Balistreri, is never able to solve the case and it eats at him. Decades later more people die, all in grim circumstances, each with a letter carved into them. There's no clear link between the killings. Balistreri, who for some reason runs a police sector in charge of immigration, takes on the case. There's plenty of police corruption, cover-up, anti-immigrant feeling and disdain for the Catholic faith to go around, as well as poor police work, alcohol-induced stupors, lying witnesses and much more. Further, there are false leads, planted evidence, and broken love affairs. In fact it's amazing that Balistreri ever gets anything done.

Further there are countless diatribes against the Roma people, the Catholic church, the antagonism of the wealthy inner city Romans versus those who dwell in the suburbs, native Italians versus immigrants, citizens versus cops, religious versus non-religious. No one seems to like each other, and it appears that everyone was hopping into bed with everyone else in Rome in the 80s. The first victim has an abortion, but we never find out who the father was. A crime lord uses the Roma to his advantage, only to stir up hatred against them, even though he is Roma himself.

Nothing in this book makes sense, except for the descriptions of Rome, from the old city to Trastevere, where there are many bars and restaurants. Having been to Rome recently, those portions were a nice reminder of my trip. The rest of the book is a mystery - a mystery of writing, editing and publishing.


Plaster City (A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco)
Plaster City (A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco)
by Johnny Shaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.21
47 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Dearth Valley Escapades, September 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Yes, you read the title correctly. This isn't Death Valley, it's Dearth Valley. There are more stupid people who have less going on and more money and coke to throw at problems than anywhere short of Hollywood. This isn't a novel, it's a reality series screenplay and a poor cousin to Dove Season.

The whole story turns on the rescue of a wayward daughter who doesn't want to be rescued, by a couple of guys who combined don't contain the mental ability to think through any problem other than to rush in fists first. In any normal setting, where there's this much at stake, the guys with the guns defeat the guys with the fists. But not in Plaster City.

I was really disappointed in this book because Johnny Shaw did a much better job in Dove Season. In this book he falls prey to the more crazy, the more violence, the better type of thinking, making the story hard to believe. A motorcycle gang bested by two older guys, one who has an arm in a sling? Really? A Mexican crime lord who steps in and does favors for an old friend? Forget Deus ex machina, this goes far beyond that!

Reading this is like watching the TV show Jackass, you can't watch and you can't look away.


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