Review: Heaven by Mur Lafferty

My first encounter with Mur Lafferty was at CREATESouth 2010, where she gave a very entertaining keynote speech.
The last few days I’ve been entertaining myself with her audio book series Heaven. The Afterlife Series started off in 2006 with Heaven and continues with Hell, Earth, Wasteland and concludes with War.
For me, the measure of a good book is how often my brain churns around in the world and with the characters. Books like Dune, Lord of the Rings, most anything by Robert Heinlein have all given my brain vast worlds to explore and have fun in.
Although I’ve only recently finished Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife series, it has been spinning in my head since I started listening. It’s a story that takes many different elements and combines them all together into an entertaining tale. Take two people, kill them, send them into the afterlife, turn them into gods that never quite grasp the full extent of their god-ness and see what happens.
When I’m listening to things, whether it’s music, podcasts, audiobooks or the radio, my brain usually ends up tuning it out. Heaven managed to keep my brain entertained enough to keep listening. Mur does a good job of reading the story, and most of the time it’s easy to tell the different characters apart. There is the occasional sprinkling of swear words in there, so probably not something you’d want to listen to with kids around.
The entire series is available from Podiobooks.com and is just under 18.5 hours (69 files, ~850 MB). Definitely worth checking out.

Review: Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living

This is the review I posted on Amazon.com.
Home-Ec-101-Book-Cover.pngFull of hints, tips and techniques written in that funny, quirky Heather style. If you know Heather (I do), you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t know Heather, you’ll get an idea of the kind of person she’s like as you read the book. Perhaps the most entertaining book on home economics you’ll ever read.
Heather’s book, like her website, is divided into 4 sections: Cook it, Clean it, Wash it, Fix it. Each section includes tips, techniques, hints and suggestions for dealing with various parts of the household, interspersed with posts from the website. You’ll find the toilet cleaning tutorial on pg 66. Basic mending techniques for clothing are covered in chapter 10. Save time dealing with laundry by skipping the underwear folding (pg 119). Do you burn water in the kitchen? Head straight for the Cook it section.
It’s a great book to read that will leave you chuckling and ready to take on the house.

Review: Linux Server Hacks

Linux Server Hacks is filled with tips and techniques (written in cook-book style) for getting various things done in Linux. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call them hacks, but there are a few useful tips contained in the book. As computer books go, this one is pretty long in the tooth (published in 2003) and there are a few things that are probably no longer current unless you’re using a 5 year old Linux distro. For the most part though, a lot of the tips and tricks in the book should be pretty portable to any system and usable even on newer versions.
There are 100 tips in 8 sections covering a wide range of topics from Server Basics to Backups, Revision Control, SSH and Networking to name a few. Personally, I found the sections on SSH, Networking and Information Services to be the most interesting and useful.
Some of the tips in the book are a little on the esoteric side and probably not useful for everybody. If you’re already familiar with Linux internals and diving into the command line, you might find a few useful tidbits in this book to use.
3.5 stars out of 5.

Review: Marley & Me

Just finished reading Marley & Me last night. It’s a book that will tug at the heart strings of every dog lover out there.
Marley is a lab retriever. Somewhat overly rambunctions, not all there, but full of life, love and energy. Maybe a little more than his fair share, but despite his antics, the trouble he gets into and the chaos he causes, you can’t help but fall in love with Marley (even if he’s not yours). At the same time you’re thanking the gods that your dog isn’t like Marley, you almost wish he was your dog. Marley’s all exhuberance, loyalty and love and shares it by the bucketloads even up to the very end. The ending is kind of sad, but even still you can’t help but remember the fun parts of Marley. After you’re finished the book, it really made me think about Nala’s place in our lives, how much joy and love she’s brought to us (even though she’s not nearly as exhuberant as Marley by a long shot) and definitely not to take her for granted.
Read the book, and then go hug your dog. You’ll appreciate it.
I even miss Marley, even though I only knew him from reading the book.
5 stars out of 5 for this one.

Review: How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend

How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete was a book that one of the dog park people recommended to us. Thanks to the wife’s aunt, we got a copy of it for Christmas, and dove right in. After getting through a few chapters, my first thought was “This is the book we should have read before getting Nala”.

The Monks of New Skete have apparently been breeding German Shepherd Dogs for quite some time now and also run a boarding/training program for other dogs, so they have a good amount of experience with breeding, raising and training dogs and dog psychology/sociology. Much of this collected wisdom (along with plenty of anectodes) is encapsulated very nicely in this book. The book offers a lot of good training tips and insights into the canine mind, which is something I think all dog owners would benefit from to help understand their dogs better. Apart from the training advice and techniques given in the book, I think the most valuable thing this book has to offer are the monks’ insights into the canine mind, and how dogs think and behave. A lot of topics are covered in the book, so at 321 pages some of the coverage is necessarily a little cursory. A sizable reading list at the back provides pointers to other books that cover specific topics in more detail though.

For dog owners, this is one that’s definitely worth adding to the bookshelf.

BTW, pay no attention to the bad or 1 star reviews at Amazon.com. All of those people seem to have gotten the wrong idea that the monks are trying to get across about disciplining your dog. They give the false impression that the monks advocate beating your dog into submission, which is totally way off base and suggests these people just didn’t get what the monks are trying to say about discipline. While a couple of physical punishment methods are provided, the monks qualify their use by saying:

physical discipline or correction is never an arbitrary training technique to be applied to each and every dog for all offenses

In considering their use, you should follow the rule of always using the least amount of force necessary to change the behavior. Don’t go overboard. Build on your corrections, making them progressively tougher until your dog responds appropriately. Above all, watch your dog: his response will tell you whether the correction is too soft or too stern.

physical discipline should be reserved for the heinous canine crimes mentioned earlier, not meted out for every episode of bad behavior

The reviewers that give the book a poor review seem to have missed all this. The chapter on discipline ends with a section on making up with your dog afterwards, which is a very important thing to do.