“The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True” by Richard Dawkins, illustrated by Dave McKean (Free Press, 2011)

The Magic of Reality
starstarstarstarstar

Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, needs little introduction; and neither does illustrator Dave McKean, who has worked with a number of well-known authors, including Neil Gaiman, and was the creator behind the movie MirrorMask.  Now the two have joined together to bring you a unique book of science and evolution called The Magic of Reality.

In the first chapter of The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins sets the stage with an important explanation of the differences between reality and how incredible it can be, and the impressiveness of magic and miracles and how they are just illusions and not real.  The book explores a number of astonishing things about our world and universe, and how we have come to know it, such as: who the first person was, what things are made of, what is the sun, what is a rainbow, and what is an earthquake, to name a few.  The last two chapters are perhaps the most important, as Dawkins talks about why bad things happen to people, and what exactly a miracle is.

The Magic of Reality is an important read for anyone who is uncertain about the world we live and how it came to be the way it is.  Dawkins puts thoughts and sayings, extreme coincidences, good and bad luck in perspective, saying you may think it an incredible series of incidents to lead to a specific point that it may seem like there is some power or force behind it, but when you study each of those incidents on a scientific level, it all makes perfect sense to be just that: an incredible coincidence.  Coupled with Dave McKean’s captivating and mind-blowing illustrations to help illustrate points and reveal the complexity of seemingly ordinary things, The Magic of Reality is an important book to have, whether you’re looking to help an adult make up their minds about something, or constructively and efficiently educating a youngster who is learning about science and the way of life.

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Magic of Reality from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Damn You, Autocorrect” by Jillian Madison (Hyperion, 2011)

Damn You, Autocorrect!
starstarstarstar

In this incredible and wonderful period of Smartphones, it is all very likely that humanity will look back on this time as the remarkable invention of the iPhone and the power and ability that was unleashed with this invention.  And with this marvelous invention there was texting; and with this fantastic ability to text, there was . . . autocorrect.  For those who aren’t in possession of an iPhone, or may not be familiar with it, one “perk” of the texting application is the autocorrect feature that facilitates one’s typing using the touch screen to automatically complete words and make (supposedly) it much quicker and easier to text.

Of course, the adage: “With great power, comes great responsibility” is powerfully true in this case, as this feature has led to innumerable errors, faux pas, and hilarious results that have now become infamous on the internets, dutifully and thankfully collected at the brilliant autocorrect website, Damn You Autocorrect.  And now the cream of the crop of entertaining autocorrects are collected in this perfect book to just have hanging around anywhere in the house or at work, or just about anywhere in the world, Damn You, Autocorrect!   And here are some highlights from this must have book:

Texter #1: “I just fell off the chair at work.”
Texter #2: “Are you OK?”
Texter #1: “Yes.  I think I scared my coriander.”
Texter #2: “Huh???”
Texter #1: “Co-workers.”

Texter #1: “I just had a great dump.  I MEAN HUMP1  AHHHHHHH Frick I mean lube.  LUNCH.  I MEANT LUNCH.”
Texter #2: “Well, whatever it is, I hope it was good . . .”

Texter #1: “I wish we were moving tomorrow.”
Texter #2: “Not long.”
Texter #1: “I know I just need to stay busy.”
Texter #2: “You can always work on the stiff in the garage.”
Texter #1: “The stiff huh.  Sounds kind of morbid.”

Texter #1: “Traffic crap – new eta is 430.”
Texter #2: “Almighty.  Altitude.  Danger.  Blast!  What I mean is, alrighty.”
Texter #1: “Ha that’s awesome.  I thought you were having a mini melt down! 🙂 We are 15 min out.”

Texter #1: “My neck hurts so bad.  I slut wrong.  Sleep.  Jeez.”
Texter #2: “No u slut right.  Trust me.”
Texter #1: “Shut up.”

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Damn You, Autocorrect from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)” by Mind Kaling (Crown, 2011)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
starstarstarstar

Mindy Kaling, best known for the portrayal of her character, Kelly Kapoor, on The Office, is also one of the show’s main writers, and a talented comedian.  In her greatly entertaining book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Kaling is not looking to just tell her life story so far, nor is she just relaying a series of hilarious anecdotes, or recommended life lessons; instead she does a perfectly blended combination of all three.

The key to Mindy Kaling is that like other great contemporary female comedians like Tina Fey and Molly Shannon, she doesn’t hold back, but is willing to make herself look ridiculous, knowing it’s incredibly funny.  The book is filled with amusing photos from her life, growing up, as she regales the reader with stories of her life in becoming a comedy writer.  The book is a short, fast read that covers important episodes of Kaling’s life, and her work on The Office, but also features some great life lessons she’s learned along the way that the reader can really appreciate, whether they’re female or male.  The highpoint of the book is her attendance at a photo shoot where she is graced by a trailer full of beautiful dresses all in a size zero, way too small for her.  After accepting this insulting setback and some inner searching, she comes back to the costume designer, demanding that he make a specific dress fit her, even though it’s too small for her.  The dress ended up getting cut and ruined so that it looked fantastic from the front.  It was a harsh lesson for Hollywood that is simply inspiring for readers.

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Wyrd” Progress Report XIX

WORDS WRITTEN: 2472

TOTAL WORDS: 52,710

REASON FOR STOPPING: Hit page 250, shot past the 50,000 word mark, and finished a big, lengthy scene.

Just a quick update to say I hit my last big writing goal for 2011 by reaching page 250 in Wyrd, which makes me extremely happy.  Also beat the 50k word mark and finished a big long scene of the main character telling his story.  I think the goal for this project for 2012 is going to be to hit at least page 500, which should be the end of the book, but I have a feeling this sucker is going to keep growing and growing.

wordage

“George R. R. Martin’s Doorways” by George R. R. Martin, art by Stefano Martino (IDW, 2011)

Doorways
starstarstarstar

Way back when, before The Song of Ice and Fire series, bestselling author George R. R Martin was a big guy in Hollywood, working on the new Twilight Zone series, as well as a writer for the Beauty and the Beast TV series.  Doorways is the show that very much almost, but ultimately never was.  The pilot was filmed and in the process of final editing, but was never given a slot for airing . . . disappearing into the vault of dead shows.  Martin still feels sad and very attached to this story, as he indicates in his introduction.  Now he has brought it back to life, in a sense, with art from Stefano Martino, in the form of a graphic novel.

The story opens with the main character, Dr. Thomas Mason, who is an ordinary man with an ordinary wife living in an ordinary life.  But all that changes when a doorway opens up in the fabric of reality and an incredible, young woman named Cat steps into his life and steals his mind and perhaps his heart, as he is dragged along on the adventure of his life.  Cat has the ability to travel through these doorways, taking one to different places in time and space within the blink of an eye.  The problem is that there are beings after Cat, looking to stop and kill her, so she has to keep running.  With Mason’s help she passes through a doorway and Mason finds himself potentially sealed off from his normal life in his normal world forever, but he doesn’t have time to waste, as there are creatures on his tail looking to wipe him out.

The story of Doorways is compelling, in the great science fiction way that Martin has delivered before, with a harsh and detailed art style from Martino, sucking you right into the story.  The question remains if there will be any more stories to tell after this volume . . . only time will tell.

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Doorways from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean” by David Abulafia (Oxford, 2011)

Great Sea
starstarstarstar

The Mediterranean Sea has been there for a very long time.  Over the millennia it has shrunken and grown, given birth to islands, then drowned then, then birthed them once again; at one point it was even a dried-up seabed for a little while until the Atlantic began pouring into it once more, filling it up like a bathtub.  Humanity has also played an important part with the Mediterranean; without it our history would be very different.  From the days of the Neolithic people, to the ancient Egyptians, to the Greek and Roman empires, on through the many events of history taking place along its shores, this Great Sea has always played an important part.  Now David Abulafia, Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge University, brings historians and interested readers the ultimate biography of this unique sea, as seen and used and experienced by the people who lived and still live on its long coastline.

Abulafia divides The Great Sea into five parts, chronologically: 2200 BC – 1000 BC, 1000 BC – AD 600, 600 – 1350, 1350 – 1830, and 1830 – 2010.  Filled with many illustrations and maps, as well as two sets of detailed photographs, this book is certainly not a quick and easy read, but is nevertheless an invaluable one.  A lengthy index helps guide readers to certain periods and places in history and time for the Mediterranean, but what works best is to just start from the beginning and work your way through this heavy tome and learn about just how important this body of water has been for humanity.

Originally written on December 1, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Great Sea from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“A Fire Upon the Deep” by Vernor Vinge (TOR, 2011)

Fire Upon the Deep
starstarstarstar

Practically an instant classic and winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel for 1993, A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge is now available in a new quality paperback almost a decade after its release.  The science fiction here is first-rate, as Vinge delivers an acceptable reason why we haven’t traveled to the stars yet: we live in an area of the galaxy known as the “Slow Zone,” while in the surrounding area known as the “Beyond,” faster-than-light travel is a common way of life.  And then outside the Beyond is the “Transcend,” where godlike “Powers” exist.  Humanity sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong, awakening one of these powers known as the Blight, which runs rampant like an uncontrollable virus, turning entire civilizations into controllable automatons.

Hope lies in two children who crash land in a spaceship on a medieval-style civilization consisting of dog-like creatures known as “Tines.”  An evil Tine known as Steel kills many of the survivors of the crash, destroying most of the coldsleep boxes, kidnapping one of the children named Jefri Olsndot.  A rival faction of Tines, led by one named Woodcarver, rescues Jefri’s older sister, Johanna.  And so continues the war between these two factions on this strange planet.  Meanwhile help is also on the way from an unexpected entity.

Originally written on December 1, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Fire Upon the Deep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.