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review 2017-07-22 16:00
Beyond the Usual Alpha-Beta Search: "Deep Thinking - Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard
Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins - Garry Kasparov,Mig Greengard

“In 2016, nineteen years after my loss to Deep Blue, the Google-backed AI project DeepMind and its Go-playing offshoot AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol. More importantly, as also as predicted, the methods used to create AlphaGo were more interesting as an IA Project than anything that had produced the top chess machines. It uses machine learning and neural networks to teach itself how to play better, as well as other sophisticated techniques beyond the usual alpha-beta search. Deep Blue was the end; AlphaGo is a beginning.”

 

In “Deep Thinking - Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard 

 

My personal experience with Go dates back at least a decade. I remember getting slaughtered every time by the free GNUgo software, just as I had been by every human opponent for the last 20 years. Never got the hang of it, though I was school chess captain back in the day. Totally different mindset. I first came across it in a little-remembered crime series called 'The Man in Room 17', with Richard Vernon and Denholm Ellit eponymously solving crimes without leaving their office, where they were always playing go. I also remember a funny little story while I was attending the British Council. Back in the 80s, a Korean guy gave me a game. After every move I played, he stifled a laugh and started a rapid fire of, "No! Cos you purrin ['put in', I presume] there, then I purrin here, after you purrin there an' I purrin here, you lose these piece" None of which made anything clearer. At chess, the first (okay, tenth) time I got mated on the back row by a rook, I learned not to leave the king behind a wall of pawns. Never got my head round the simplest 'joseki' (corner opening) at Go. Beautifully elegant game though.

 

If you're into Chess, and Computer Science of the AI variety, read on.

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review 2017-06-10 17:37
Girls Made of Snow and Glass - Melissa Bashardoust

          Arc Provided by Flatiron Books through Netgalley

 

                       Release Date: September 5th

 

Pitched as a feminist retelling, "Girls Made of Snow and Glass", doesn't disappoint in the least. Told in the alternative pov's of Mina, the stepmother Queen and Lynet, the snow Princess, this is a story that most surely will stay with the reader long after its read... What if there was more to the "tale" of the "evil" stepmother and her "naive" stepdaughter? What if there was a story of trying to break with one's past and one's sorrow? What if you only wanted to be loved, but never quite achieved that? How would you turn out with people trying to make a puppet out of you? This is the story of two women both trying to find out their true natures in a grey world . A world of snow and cold. And of bitter family ties. Along the way they will have to decide if they'll risk breaking those ties for a chance of finally being themselves. And of loving who they want. "Girls Made of Snow and Ice" is a tale of self discovery, friendship, and of budding young love, interwoven with bits of magic... In it, you have very different love stories. You have one between a woman with a heart of glass, and her creation. But for how long will it be her creation?

Another between two girls, both trying to survive in that world: One that has had everything given to her, except the love of a mother. And the other, who is trying to find her own station in a world filled with people who want to use her...

But for me, the most rewarding its between a mother and her child. Despite all obstacles, barriers, and wishes of kings. The writing is skilfully done, taking the reader successfully into a cursed world of snow, and many were the phrases _ so beautifully written _that I would love to share with you guys.

Really a remarkable read.

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review 2017-05-11 23:51
Review: Dark Asylum by E. S. Thomson
Dark Asylum (Jem Flockhart) - E. S. Thomson


I would like to thank Little Brown Books and Constable for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.

 

For a good few years I have avoided historical fiction, it's a genre that I used to read a lot of but found myself losing interest in. There was plenty of it out there but I just wasn't feeling it - they were all starting to run into each other, none stood out and I felt that they all read much the same. That is, until I came across E.S. Thomson's debut novel Beloved Poison and was blown away by how fantastic the book was. So fantastic, in fact, that it was my top read of 2016 and I have been recommending it to everyone ever since.

 

I was like a child on Christmas morning when Dark Asylum landed on my doorstep, but I have to admit I was a little apprehensive at first because I was scared it wouldn't live up to the first book. I needn't have worried, I loved it every bit as much as Beloved Poison.

 

It was such a joy to be with Jem and Will again and to be back on the streets of Victorian London. The sights, the sounds, the streets, the smells, the mood, the atmosphere, all so vivid that I was transported easily to another time and place. Like with Beloved Poison, the world around me ceased to exist while this book was in my hands.

 

The author's knowledge of medicine and of the time period is clear to see in the historical detail within the story. It's also clear that she enjoys what she does and has put a lot of love and dedication into the book.

 

And can I just point out that cover! This is one of the rare occasions where you can safely judge a book by its gorgeous cover and know that the story inside is every bit as amazing.

 

E.S. Thomson has made me fall in love with historical fiction all over again.

 

Highly recommended. One of my favourite reads of 2017 so far!

 

 

 

 

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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text 2017-04-25 04:14
100% done with Dark Asylum by E. S. Thomson
Dark Asylum (Jem Flockhart) - E. S. Thomson

 

I started reading this last weekend after being so excited to get started, but unfortunately my mother-n-law lost the last wee bit of mobility she had on the day I started it and as her primary carer I had to abandon all chance of reading anything until I could get her sorted into a new routine and adapt to the extra care she now needs.

 

I finally got to pick it up again this afternoon and flew through it in one sitting. I was a bit apprehensive because I loved the first book in the series, but I'm glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was every bit as good as the first.

 

Review to come.

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review 2017-04-24 14:31
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker's Dracula

 

I was holidaying in Whitby when I first realised that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a surprisingly modern novel. I’d watched the Hammer film versions of the book in my misspent youth and they left with the opinion that the book was a bit of late Victorian gothic horror, no where near good enough for me to need to wade through all that gore. But every Whitby bookshop had a copy of Dracula in its window, and naturally, I soon succumbed, reading it on the top of blowy cliffs and in the shelter of the beaches below. I took it on every walk, along with my butterfly identification book.
 
 
We did a lot of walking that holiday, passing the whaling arch on West Cliff, which Stoker would have passed too, with his family, when he holidayed here in June 1990. He stayed at Royal Crescent and it was there I discovered just how inspiring his time in Whitby must have been. Bram Stoker had found his inspiration. Standing in the crescent, you have a view of the North Sea, past sloping green cliff and grey sands. Across the river estuary are the imposing ruins of the Abbey, which must have been at least as gothic then as it is now.  The churchyard of St Mary lies below, the location of a vampiric attack in the second half of the story. As twilight falls, bats begin to swoop into view.
 
Mina, one of the two young female characters in Dracula, voices Stoker’s thoughts on the town: Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of "Marmion," where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits; there is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows…
 
Bram Stoker also spent time at Whitby library – he made notes from 'An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’, in which he must have seen the name ‘Dracula’ for the first time. The fifteenth-century Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was as bloodthirsty as his fictional counterpart, impaling his enemies on long spikes and nailing turbans to the scalps of foreign ambassadors. Stoker gives his reader the historical allusion that Count Dracula is the descendant of Vlad – in his Author’s Note he explains that the documents assembled in the novel are real. Even as I read this, before starting the novel, I was reminded of the hype around The Blair Witch Project, and saw how astute Stoker was as a writer. 
 
He’d called this story The Un-dead for all the time he was writing it. Just before publication, he changed his title to  the wonderfully charged-up name of the antagonis. This  may have changed its destiny, although ‘un-dead’ remains a popular trope today, especially in Young Adult literature.
 
I began my holiday read, and soon found that it was not at all like the Hammer Horror version…or for that matter like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) which I found almost unwatchably hammed up. Dracula contains elements of the conventions of gothic fiction…dark-shadowed, cobwebby castles juxtaposed with vast remote landscapes and vulnerable, virginal girls threatened by black-coated evil-doers… but Stoker contrasts his Transylvanian castle with parochial Whitby and the bustle of London in the 1990s.
 
Starting with that holiday in Whitby, Stoker used a wide range of research methods and a clear understanding of modern character development to write the story, but a stuck with the traditional gothic novel structure; diary entries, letters and newspaper cuttings etc. It opens with the most famous section of the book, Jonathan Harker's Journal, which recounts his visit to Transylvania as a lawyer helping the count through his London property transaction. Harker falls under the spell of the Brides of Dracula and succumbs to the vampire’s influence. This opening feels like it has an impossible resolution and I turned the pages as fast as any modern thriller, needing to know how he could possibly escape with his life. At that point, I had no idea how many other characters would not escape with theirs. The novel keeps twisting and surprising us, as Dracula, on his way to London aboard a ship (hidden in a coffin) is washed up in Whitby and escapes in the shape of a black dog, and we’re introduced to Renfield, who is incarcerated in  a mental asylum where he lives on a diet of flies and spiders.
 
Stoker's masterpiece was part of a fin-de-siècle literary culture obsessed with crime – this was the time that Jack the Ripper stalked Whitechapel – and sensationalism – these were the original ‘naughties’. The book strips away the layers of late Victorian anxiety such as loss of religious traditions,  colonialism, scientific advancement, plus a growing awareness of female sexuality and a continued fear of homosexuality.  The book is a mirror in which generations of readers have explored their own fantasies. 
 
Maurice Richardson described it as; a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match, and no one could argue with that (or prevent themselves from rushing to read such a book).
 
 
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