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review 2020-10-02 06:28
The Persians by Geoffrey Parker & Brenda Parker
The Persians - Geoffrey Parker

TITLE:   The Persians


SERIES:  Lost Civilizations


AUTHORS:  Geoffrey Parker & Brenda Parker




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781780236506



"During the first and second millennia BCE a swathe of nomadic peoples migrated outward from Central Asia into the Eurasian periphery. One group of these people would find themselves encamped in an unpromising, arid region just south of the Caspian Sea. From these modest and uncertain beginnings, they would go on to form one of the most powerful empires in history: the Persian Empire. In this book, Geoffrey and Brenda Parker tell the captivating story of this ancient civilization and its enduring legacy to the world.   
The authors examine the unique features of Persian life and trace their influence throughout the centuries. They examine the environmental difficulties the early Persians encountered and how, in overcoming them, they were able to develop a unique culture that would culminate in the massive, first empire, the Achaemenid Empire. Extending their influence into the maritime west, they fought the Greeks for mastery of the eastern Mediterranean—one of the most significant geopolitical contests of the ancient world. And the authors paint vivid portraits of Persian cities and their spectacular achievements: intricate and far-reaching roadways, an astonishing irrigation system that created desert paradises, and, above all, an extraordinary reflection of the diverse peoples that inhabited them.
            Informed and original, this is a history of an incomparable culture whose influence can still be seen, millennia later, in modern-day Iran and the wider Middle East.




This book provides a broad, simplified, and somewhat bland, history of Persia from the Achaemenid Empire to modern Iranian times.  Informative and short.



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-08-04 07:43
Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker
Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors - Matt Parker

TITLE: Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors


AUTHOR: Matt Parker




FORMAT: Paperback


ISBN-13: 9780241360194



"What makes a bridge wobble when it's not meant to? Billions of dollars mysteriously vanish into thin air? A building rock when its resonant frequency matches a gym class leaping to Snap's 1990 hit I've Got The Power? The answer is maths. Or, to be precise, what happens when maths goes wrong in the real world. As Matt Parker shows us, our modern lives are built on maths: computer programmes, finance, engineering. And most of the time this maths works quietly behind the scenes, until ... it doesn't. Exploring and explaining a litany of glitches, near-misses and mishaps involving the internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries, the Roman empire and a hapless Olympic shooting team, Matt Parker shows us the bizarre ways maths trips us up, and what this reveals about its essential place in our world. Mathematics doesn't have good 'people skills', but we would all be better off, he argues, if we saw it as a practical ally. This book shows how, by making maths our friend, we can learn from its pitfalls. It also contains puzzles, challenges, geometric socks, jokes about binary code and three deliberate mistakes. Getting it wrong has never been more fun."




An interesting and breezy collection of stories about maths errors that resulted in incorrectly illustrated and nonfunctional soccer balls, funky code, collapsing or bouncing bridges (and other structures), nonfunctional airplanes, financial disasters and disastrous space flights, amongst others. The author has a sly humour and an easy writing style. This book isn't particularly technical. The author manages to make mathematical blunders an entertaining reading experience while illustrating the importance of maths literacy (and double checking everything!).

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review 2020-06-30 03:51
Classic Spenser: The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker
The Judas Goat - Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser


...I looked at my situation. If they were going to shoot me, there was little to prevent them. Maybe they weren’t going to shoot me, but I couldn’t plan much on that.


“You can’t plan on the enemy’s intentions,” I said. “You have to plan on what he can do, not what he might.”


A boy cleaning the tables looked at me oddly. “Beg pardon, sir?"


“Just remarking on military strategy. Ever do that? Sit around and talk to yourself about military strategy?”


“No, sir.”


“You’re probably wise not to."


We start with Spenser calling on Hugh Dixon. The word "rich" seems inadequate to express the wealth that Dixon seems to possess. Nowadays, he could probably hire a private security firm to do what he needs—maybe he could've in 1978, too. But he's done his research and has decided to hire Spenser instead because he knows Spenser's integrity and priorities are what's kept him "in the minor league."


We're given a great description of Dixon:

Full front, his face was accurate enough. It looked the way of face should, but it was like a skillful and uninspired sculpture. There was no motion in the face. No sense that blood flowed beneath it and thoughts evolved behind it. It was all surface, exact, detailed and dead.


Except the eyes. The eyes snarled with life and purpose, or something like that. I didn't know exactly what then. Now I do.


The eyes snarled with a need for revenge. That's pretty much all that's keeping Dixon going. A year before, he, his wife and daughters were in a London restaurant that was bombed. Dixon lived, although he almost died and lost the use of his legs. The rest of his family did not. He wants Spenser to do what the London police have failed to do—find the terrorists responsible and bringing them to justice—either by apprehending them for the police or killing them. Dixon remained conscious during the attack and has detailed descriptions of the personnel involved. Spenser agrees, after insisting that he doesn't do assassinations—unless forced out of self-defense, he won't be killing anyone. It's all okay with Dixon, but you get the clear impression that he'd prefer they died.


Spenser makes travel arrangements (including learning how to bring his gun into London), says goodbye to Susan, and leaves that night. Dixon's London-based lawyer introduces him to a Scotland Yard inspector who worked the case. There's a group called Liberty who claimed responsibility for the bombing. They're small-time, right-wing, and draw their membership from around Europe—they're likely based in Amsterdam, but that's conjecture. Which really doesn't give Spenser much to work on.


So he tries a little something to draw them out. It results in two of them dying and Spenser being shot in the, ahem, "upper thigh." It also gives Spenser a lead to some others. While he calls Susan to tell her what happened, he also asks her to do him a favor—get word to Hawk that he could use some help (this both relieves and worries Susan, she wants him to have backup, but hates that he needs it).


From here, Spenser and Hawk follow leads for Liberty to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. They even have a brief confrontation with the leader of Liberty, a man named Paul. Paul's not one of the men directly involved in the death of the Dixons, however. Spenser and Hawk determine that Liberty has something planned for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and decide that even though the job is done, they need to stop Paul.


On the one hand, it's hard to believe that security at the Olympics is as lax as it appears, then again 1976 was a different time. Through a combination of luck and good guessing, there's a final confrontation with Paul and one of his top associates that ends in a nine-page fistfight between Spenser, Hawk, and a giant of a man named Zachary. This fight blew my preteen/early teen-aged mind when I first read it, and became the standard by which I judged all similar scenes in fiction (there's one in Lee Child's Persuader that reminded me of this one—although, Reacher didn't have anyone fighting on his side).


While there is some deduction at work, this is largely Spenser as vigilante, not as a private investigator. On the one hand, I prefer the P.I. On the other hand, it's a good story and it demonstrates another side of Spenser that we don't get to see much of early on. And like the rest of these first twelve, it's hard for me to engage my critical faculties.

In addition to the globe-trotting and the intense action scenes, we get Spenser's typical narration when it comes to describing places (one of my favorite elements of each book) and people. Spenser's wit and compassion both get to shine. It's just a fun read. The scene that results in his upper thigh wound is one of my favorites in the series—combining humor, tension, and action.


But the thing that struck me the most this time through is that what seems to really interest Parker—more than Spenser, more than this revenge story, or anything else—is Hawk. We met him in the last book, but we didn't get that much time with him, just a handful of scenes. But he's all over this novel.


Spenser calling Hawk to come help represents a turning point in the series. It's not an automatic thing yet, but from here on out, it's more common for Spenser to call up on Hawk for help than not. The self-sufficient, independent operator develops a real dependence. It's a real boon for the reader, for as fun as Spenser's interior monologues are, having him banter with Hawk becomes a reliable highlight. There might be other, earlier, writers who've had a relationship like this, but I'm not aware of them (and would like to be). In Spenser and Hawk, we get the template that Elvis Cole and Joe Pike follow, or Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro and Bubba Rugowski, or Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, or Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski, among others. The outsider, the friend/ally that the mostly lawful protagonist can rely on when there's a need for something outside the law.


From Promised Land, we know that Hawk and Spenser fought on the same card in their youth; we know he's stylish (I guess); that he's respectful of Susan; he's an enforcer, a leg-breaker, for whoever is paying for him at the moment; and he has some sort of code that reminds Spenser of his (with significant differences in Spenser's mind, but not so much in Hawk's).


Here we learn a bit more, he can disappear into a crowd, despite his flashy clothes and is almost infallible when tailing someone. Shortly after arriving in London, the two have some drinks while Spenser catches Hawk up on what's going on and notes:


He showed no sign that he drunk anything. In fact in the time I'd known Hawk I'd never seen him show a sign of anything. He laughed easily and he was never off balance. But whatever went on inside stayed inside. Or maybe nothing went on inside. Hawk was as impassive and hard as an obsidian carving. Maybe that was what went on inside.


Later, when Spenser is in Boston to update Dixon, he leaves one member of Liberty with Hawk, as they use her as a source of information on the rest of the group. When Susan asks if that's safe to do, Spenser replies:


“Hawk has no feelings,” I said. “But he has rules. If she fits one of his rules, he’ll treat her very well. If she doesn’t, he’ll treat her any way the mood strikes him.”

“Do you really think he has no feelings?”


“I have never seen any. He’s as good as anyone 1 ever saw at what he does. But he never seems happy or sad or frightened or elated. He never, in the twenty-some years I’ve known him, here and there, has shown any sign of love or compassion. He’s never been nervous. He’s never been mad.”


“Is he as good as you?” Susan was resting her chin on her folded hands and looking at me.


"He might be," I said. "He might be better."


“He didn’t kill you last year on Cape Cod when he was supposed to. He must have felt something then.”


“I think he likes me, the way he likes wine, the way he doesn’t like gin. He preferred me to the guy he was working for. He sees me as a version of himself. And, somewhere in there, killing me on the say-so of a guy like Powers was in violation of one of the rules. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have killed him either.”


“Are you a version of him?”


“I got feelings,” I said. “I love.”


“Yes, you do,” Susan said.


Part of this conversation will repeat throughout the series—is Hawk better than Spenser? Are the two versions of each other (this was touched upon already in Promised Land)? Does Hawk feel?


Hawk will contend that the two of them are more similar than Spenser will admit, but in The Judas Goat and in countless other books, he will note that Spenser's abundance of rules helps him to deny that similarity, over-complicates Spenser's life, and one day will get him killed. There are times when Spenser agrees to all of that (even the last), but those are the only terms upon which he can live his life, so that's how it's going to have to be.


Exciting, amusing, tense, and we get to delve for the first time into the character that's arguably Parker's greatest creation. The Judas Goat really has it all. If only so I had an excuse to read this one again, I'm so glad I started this little project this year. It will serve as a decent jumping-on point, for those who want one, and it's a great spot to return to for long-term fans.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/06/29/classic-spenser-the-judas-goat-by-robert-b-parker
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review 2020-06-07 16:30
Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment - Parker Curry,Jessica Curry,Brittany Jackson
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

An absolutely stunning book about a simple trip to the museum that inspired one little girl's dreams. A perfect example of why representation is so important. Every person needs to see themselves positively reflected in all areas to feel connection and show that they can do anything.

The simple narration worked perfectly for this story. It is a simple story and when told in a simple way, it really emphasizes the experience and impact rather than getting bogged down in wordy narration.

Also, that artwork is just perfect. I loved the bright feel. Each page is magical. That's nothing else to say. Every bit of it is amazing and adds to the inspiration of the story.

A beautiful work that emphasizes positive representation, inspiration, confidence, kindness, and the drive to do anything. Simple yet eloquent. A lovely book that shows how one simple moment can change the world. 
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review 2020-06-03 14:48
"Scare Me" by Richard Jay Parker
Scare Me - Richard Jay Parker

I am amazed how some authors have such twisted imagination to pen gory, creepy thrillers that slowly draw its readers deep into a fictional world and leave them speechless because passing time with them is such a thrill…yes this one is that good

“When did you last Google yourself”. Aren’t you a bit curious?

This is the story of a wealthy businessman, Will Frost, who after being woken up in the middle of the night by a mysterious caller goes online to find a site in his name showing photos inside his home along with six other houses he has never seen before. A murder was committed in the first house and then he is told his daughter has been kidnapped and to save her he needed to visit each of the houses before the police shows up. Given tidbits of information Will is then on a wild chase around the world and founds himself running the deserted streets and smack into violence and murder…..is it scary…maybe…maybe not…

What a read. This psychological thriller has kept my full attention throughout. This story is so full of tension and intrigue I simple had to push on to see what would happen next. There is so much action and so many unexpected twists and turns to keep us on our toes, I had little chance to get off. It is such a very hard story to put down. Vividly said, the images described are imprinted in my mind. I definitely wouldn’t want to be in Will shoes.

Mr. Parker’s background as a TV script writer shines in this story and shows how skilled he is in portraying action and his characters’ emotion with the right words. Ok, I admit this story is far-fetched borders implausible but it makes for a very entertaining read. I love how the suspense exceeds the last words….Maybe a sequel….hope so..

I received “Scare Me” as a complimentary book from Lume Books with no obligations to write a review.

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