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Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia
Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia
by Stephen Bertman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.86
75 used & new from $5.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview, but Bias Distracts, May 25, 2014
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First of all, in spite of its affordable price and approachable writing style, Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia is quite clearly a textbook. This is not a bad thing, and I would generally expect most books on the subject to be textbooks—it’s usually not a subject for the casual reader. That said, as a textbook, it is generally laid out well (there are a couple of exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment) and it is very readable. While I am not an expert in the subject (if I were, I wouldn’t have gotten this book), it appears to be factually correct, and uses reliable source materials for reference.
There are a few quirks in the layout—the first half of the book is very heavy on lists. If you’re a teacher, this can be helpful for helping your students assimilate a lot of facts very quickly. However, it also takes everything out of chronological order and makes it difficult to put anything into a chronological context. Again, if you’re a teacher, you can correct for this in your lectures, but if you’re approaching it as a layman or for independent study, you may have trouble keeping it straight whether the Akkadians or the Assyrians came first. In some cases, like the list of various gods, it is the most appropriate way to cover the information, but I do wonder if making the first two chapters a gazetteer and list of archaeologists was the best choice—indeed, I kind of feel like the archaeologists were included to take up space—they don’t appear to be mentioned again and, while relevant, would be more appropriate in an appendix than at the beginning of the book. Indeed, the chapter on archaeology really made me wonder who the audience for this book is—perhaps it’s my background in art history, but I kind of feel like if you’re taking a course on Mesopotamia, you’ve already covered carbon-14 dating in a survey class. The only reason I can see for including that would be if it were for laymen (which it’s obviously not) or if it were written for a high school class (in which case I kinda feel like I should’ve been warned that it was a high school textbook, not a college level one).
Still, these are fairly minor complaints. The biggest issue I had with this book is there is a very obvious bias present. I’m not sure if this was the author’s bias, or if it was included for the audience, but there is a strong Judeo-Christian bias throughout the book. Now, I’m not saying the bible is irrelevant to this time period (much of the Old Testament takes place in this time and region), but the manner in which it is referenced is distracting and, frankly, questionable. You’ll be going along, and then there will suddenly be a biblical quote or reference. For example, in the section on archaeology, he opens up the subsection “Digging For History” as follows: “The greatest biblical mandate for archaeologists is found in the book of Job (12:8): ‘Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee.’” This is completely inappropriate, jarring, and not the only time he does it—another example can be found in the everyday life section, when he quotes Ecclesiastes in regards to the ruined tells of the region. You can find this immediately before the subsection in that chapter on clothing, which is even worse. Indeed, the section on clothing starts out like something from a bad homeschool text. He actually starts it as follows: “According to the bible, the founders of the fashion industry were Adam and Eve.” While that’s not necessarily false (it is our earliest record of humans wearing clothes, assuming you believe the bible to be a factual historical account), it’s hardly necessary to reference Adam and Eve when discussing textile production in ancient Mesopotamia. These are just some of the more glaring examples—the book is littered with biblical references and quite clearly assumes that the audience is Judeo-Christian. Indeed, the section on religion and myth includes a passage about how the pious Christian, Jew, or Muslim might be shocked by Mesopotamian polytheism. Really? Who in the western world is going to be encountering Mesopotamia as their first polytheistic experience, when references to the Greek and Roman gods are everywhere—there’s even a Disney movie about them!
The biblical quotes and references that assume a Judeo-Christian audience are bad enough, but then I got to the section, “Mesopotamia and Sacred Scripture.” Given the subject of the book, I assumed that this would be about Mesopotamian Sacred Scripture (it seems odd that one wouldn’t cover that with religion, but it’s not unreasonable). It was not. This section covers the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran. Again, I’m not saying the bible is completely irrelevant, but this is a handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia. The New Testament and the Koran were written hundreds years after the time periods covered in this text. They have nothing to do with the subject matter at hand. The Old Testament at least contains events that occurred in the same chronological era, and the author does at least attempt to make connections to Mesopotamian culture and literature, but the focus is much heavier on the biblical books mentioned. While it is somewhat relevant, this is a subject that would be much better suited for a book of its own than for inclusion in a general overview of the region.
In short, while Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia does act as a general overview and is very readable, the obvious bias is distracting, and not appropriate to all audiences. I would not recommend this book for anyone looking for an unbiased history of Mesopotamia.


Marking Time (The Immortal Descendants, Book 1)
Marking Time (The Immortal Descendants, Book 1)
Price: $0.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Time, January 28, 2013
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Initially, my expectations were not overly high for this book--it's a young adult book (a genre, which, to be honest, is often used as an excuse for poor writing and massive plot holes), and it was a freebie. However, instead of the pulpy romp I'd expected at best, I got a well thought out universe, a compelling story, surprisingly good characterization, and the best vampire romance I've seen in years.

Our plot set up is that our heroine is a descendent of Time (other options include Nature, War, Death and Fate). There's a variety of drama, and a prophecy (there's always a prophecy), and our heroine winds up in the past attempting to rescue her mother. The time travel is very well done, with consistent timelines and a consistent overall chronology--any irregularities are examined and accounted for, which is always tricky business when you're jumping around. I won't go into too much detail about the story itself (spoilers!), but it's oddly compelling. On the surface, you wouldn't expect it to be that fabulous, but it sucks you in. Characterization progresses in much the same, sneaky way--there's nothing overt to let you know it's happening, but before you know it, you actually care about our heroine and her friends. It's refreshing to see a YA heroine who is not whiny or a goody two shoes. Indeed, our heroine's hobbies include graffiti and Parkour--little tidbits that are pretty darned original, especially in the genre (I can honestly say, this is the first book I've read where the heroine is into Parkour). Overall, it's very much urban fantasy, but it does have the requisite romance angle, too. And, while it does trot out the old and tired love interest is a vampire line, for the first time in a good decade, we don't have to deal with, "I love you, but I can't be with you because I'm too dangerous." Our love interest just happens to be a vampire--it's unfortunate, and he's not very popular because of it, but he's more concerned with taking care of his girl and making sure she's safe. Minimal time is spent on his dietary needs, and we don't have to deal with the very tired cliche of him staring at her neck, wanting to eat her.

As for the bad (because no book is ever perfect), there are some typos here and there, but they generally don't disturb the flow of the story very much. There are also a few things I wouldn't mind having seen a bit more of (a pretty big amount of time is spent developing the school, which our heroine promptly leaves, and the twins are just fun). I suspect some of that will be corrected in other books in the series. Honestly, I think my biggest complaint is the the heroine's name--Saira, pronounced, "Sigh-ra." Bizarrely pronounced/spelled names is a bit a of a pet peeve, and, let's face it, Saira doesn't exactly roll of the tongue--it feels awkward in my mouth. Still, minimal flaws.

All in all, just plain fun. Go read it.


The Death Series: A Dark Dystopian Fantasy Box Set: (Books 1-3)
The Death Series: A Dark Dystopian Fantasy Box Set: (Books 1-3)
Price: $0.00

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Entertaining, January 27, 2013
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This is exactly what I hoped for from a book about a "Cadaver Manipulator," plus a couple of atypical plot twists. In Blodgett's world, kids are all inoculated with a serum that will turn on any latent psychic powers when they hit puberty (a bit of a stretch, I admit, but if you're looking for high literature, you shouldn't be reading YA). Naturally, our hero develops a rare ability (he's basically a zombie master) and you get the fairly typical, "Oh, no, the men in black want to take me away!" story line. What is unusual is that our hero actually turns to his parents for help--and they help him, instead of turning him over. Once they realize how horrible their son is at hiding his ability, they immediately go to the press, sparing us god knows how many pages of being on the run. I found this kind of refreshing.
That's not to say there are a few plot points that strain credulity. The way our hero deal with his bullies is painfully pathetic (yes, share your big secret with them, but don't sic a zombie on them and terrify them into silence and submission--brilliant!), and, as mentioned in another review, some of the dialogue is a bit iffy. My biggest complaint is that the third "book" in this particular set is really more a bunch of short stories, and barely novella length. It explains the back stories of a number of characters and the whole inoculation thing, but I seriously question its inclusion as a full book. It might work better as a prequel, or even just a tie in--it's placement here breaks up the overall narrative of the series.
That said, if you're looking for a pulpy young adult romp, you could do a lot worse than pony up the dollar.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2014 10:39 AM PST


Ignite (Midnight Fire Series Book 1)
Ignite (Midnight Fire Series Book 1)
Price: $0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I've read this book before., November 19, 2012
Take Twilight and The Nine Lives of Chloe King, blend well, and you'll have this book. I strongly suspect this started life as a fanfic. I'm halfway through, and pretty well done with it. Teen girl moves to small town, makes friends, falls in love with broody vampire boy, discovers they are mortal enemies (I'll give her that, at least our heroine comes from a line of vampire killers instead of just being meat), blah, blah blah. On the Chloe King angle, our heroine comes from a line of supernatural vampire slayers, but is a half breed with genetics from a line of vampire protectors (they just want to keep the vamps from killing, not obliterate the species). Oh, no! She's a game changer that everyone wants dead. Seriously. You even have a love triangleish bit with her male friend who's one of her race. There's only a couple of ways this can turn out: 1) the girl pursues her forbidden love with the vamp (highly likely) 2) she settles for her safer friend (I doubt it) and then either 3) she unites the two lines of anti vampire people (my bet) or 4) she becomes persona non grata and has to go on the run with her vampire lover. And that's my prediction for the whole series, not just book one. The writing is competent enough, but pretty simplistic. It's tolerable, but I think I just hit my limit on this story.
Long story short, however you feel about Twilight is pretty much how you'll feel about this one. Like Bella and co? You'll love Kira and her buddies. Spent Twilight waiting in vain for Bella to die? Best skip this one. Didn't care? You probably meant to look at reviews for something else.


Rare Traits (The Rare Traits Trilogy Book I)
Rare Traits (The Rare Traits Trilogy Book I)
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Spin, October 28, 2012
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The theme of immortality is not a new one. However, Clarke puts an interesting spin on it, and approaches it from an angle most authors don't. While our hero is only practically immortal (he can still die by violence, just not disease or natural causes), we get to see both the benefits and inconveniences such a gift would have (most writers focus on the good end of things, not watching your loved one die, over and over). We also watch the cultural issues which occur with this--from witch hunters to mad scientists. While there are some typos (nothing a reprint/reissue wouldn't fix), it is very well written and positively captivating. I wound up staying up past two in the morning to finish it. I think my favorite part is where our hero is also an artist (I may be biased there, as an artist myself). He paints in the same style throughout his lengthy life under various names, thoroughly baffling an art historian. The focus on our hero's takes the book beyond "I'm different and scientists want to lock me up and experiment on me." I look forward to reading more from the author.


The Book on Mediums: Guide for Mediums and Invocators
The Book on Mediums: Guide for Mediums and Invocators
by Allan Kardec
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.33
62 used & new from $1.48

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great History Book, Lousy Guide, September 27, 2012
So, I'd read up on spiritism a bit, and had thought it was different from spiritualism. Based on this, not so much. There are plenty of warnings about being careful, and he does note that if you don't have the ability, you shouldn't try to get it--both of which are important points in the grand scheme of things. It is also an excellent guide for how mediumship has been practiced historically. The text is a bit pompous, but I chalk that up to the time period (the original is from the 1870's)--writers back then had higher expectations of their readers. It covers types of mediums, various spiritual phenomena (much time is devoted to table turning and rapping), and also acts as least partially as an apologetics book for spiritualists. Seriously--around a third of the book addresses complaints regarding mediumism, the types of people who don't believe, and how you should respond to them. Having acquired the book because it had "guide for mediums" in the title (and looked reasonable), I felt kind of like I'd invited my Mary Kay lady over and she brought me the book of Mormon instead.
Less than half the book is actually what I'd refer to as a guide for mediums (a guide TO mediums, sure. Like bird watching.), and it's very bare bones. For development he focuses solely on automatic writing (he uses an older term). He goes over some stuff you should and shouldn't do (basically be responsible and take it seriously), covers what he refers to as "obsession," which is basically any sort of attachment by a negative entity, from just annoying to full out possession, and a couple of smaller things. There is nothing in this book that you don't already know if you have any gifts as a medium at all--most of it's pretty obvious, pretty quick. If you're looking for a guide book, save your money and listen to your spirit guides or helpers or what have you.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a period look at the history of mediumship, you'll probably really enjoy this one.


Arson (The Arson Trilogy Book 1)
Arson (The Arson Trilogy Book 1)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Isn't What I Ordered, September 21, 2012
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The description led me to expect an exciting story about a pyrokinetic kid. I've seen this story before, so I was expecting kid on the run, lots of suspicious fires and your general paranormal genetic reject mayhem. Sure it's a formula, but it's one I enjoy.
What I got was a whiny brat who should have been taken away from his abusive grandmother years ago and a disfigured girl whose parents really need to just get a divorce and be done with it. I spent most of the book waiting to see where it was going. You do eventually get a bit at the very end where he goes Carrie on a bunch of kids, but the build up really isn't there for it.
There are numerous passages supposedly from the adult's perspectives--the grandmother's are incoherent (which, considering the character, shouldn't be a surprise), and the disfigured girl's mom's bits...well, it reads like what a teenager thinks being an adult is like.
To be honest, much of the book reads like something a teenager wrote. And if that's the case, well, kudos to Vega. It does take a lot to actually finish a novel and Vega has a solid grasp on the technical aspects of writing. The idea of the story really has a lot of potential, but it just doesn't make it there. I suppose we can also congratulate Vega on doing the unexpected--one generally doesn't expect a book about a firestarter to be about whiny teenage drama. If you're into whiny teen drama, you'll probably enjoy this book. If you're looking for a fiery romp with teens in peril, best to give this one a pass.


The Spirit World Speaks
The Spirit World Speaks
Price: $2.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Looking At, September 9, 2012
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If you follow Ms. White's blog, you may be worried that this is more stuff along the lines of "natural mediums vs. man made mediums", as that does tend to be a recurring theme (it's not one that speaks to me, but I'm also from the states and the spiritualist church here, well, as my husband joked, we burned those guys at the stake years ago). Well, if you're a member of the choir, I can assure you there's more here than that. It does get touched on a few times, but in a different manner than Ms. White usually does, and it's not a theme central to the book.
If you've read the description, supposedly the spirits wrote this through her. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, and am inclined to believe the odds are good that this is the case--there is a recurrent,"Why do you do this?" attitude that only someone/thing who doesn't get man's curiosity at all would have. I have also found White to be one of the more reliable people in the field--much of what she's said jives with my own personal experiences.
As for the content, if you've been paying attention, nothing here will surprise you. However, you will probably enjoy the validation of having someone else (in my case someone halfway across the world) confirm your observations, insights, and experiences. If you haven't been paying attention you're probably going to be pissed reading this, in which case you probably really need to hear what the spirits have to say.


Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme
Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme
by Richard Brodie
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.87
78 used & new from $1.46

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For idiots who have no idea what's going on, February 10, 2012
I've been growing more and more interested memetics over the last few years and there's not a whole lot of books about the topic. This one looked decent, and a cursory glance through the first few pages made it look satisfying enough. I will certainly admit that there's a good amount of information here.
However, the book is written in a very sensationalized manner, and the concepts are over simplified to the point of exhaustion. While memetics does cross over into a number of other fields, he spends far too much time explaining those other areas--an entire chapter about the evolution of sex was completely unnecessary. If you don't know that one of the chief reasons for infidelity is that, historically speaking, it provided men with a better chance of passing on their genes, well, you should probably be starting your studies somewhere else. In addition, the "comics" that appear throughout are, frankly, insulting.
I'll be honest, I didn't finish it, and I'm not one for leaving books unfinished. The valid points he had were eclipsed by the "OMG, memes are dangerous!" tone of the writing. He spends far too much time explaining concepts that are covered in high school (if you've had high school biology, you should understand enough about genetics to grasp memetics). The tone, excessive writing about other subjects (I understand they're related, but I bought a book about memes, not genetics or evolution), and annoying simplification had me putting the book down in disgust about halfway through. If you're looking for a serious scientific study of memes, this is not the book you're looking for (which, let's face it, I should have realized from the cover alone. But I was giving it the benefit of the doubt, and we all make mistakes).
If, on the other hand, you didn't pay very much attention in science class, and don't understand the massive amount of programming you receive on a daily basis, this will actually be an excellent book, and will explain in detail why you think the way you do. This would work well as an absolute beginner's guide to memes. Definitely not for anyone who knows anything about the subject, though.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 13, 2013 9:57 AM PDT


Imaginaerum
Imaginaerum
Price: $14.88
35 used & new from $8.72

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still excellent, January 18, 2012
This review is from: Imaginaerum (Audio CD)
It's Nightwish, so you know it's going to be good. This is their second album with the new singer, and a concept album. It's an excellent album, but something about it just doesn't grab me like the last one. Maybe it's just where it's not quite as good for the sing along in the car (heavy choral bits a duets make that tricky). Still good, still worth listening to, and still worth having.


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