Sunday, December 26, 2021

Review of Alien Hunters by Daniel Arenson

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, Science

Watch the Review

Elaborate Description

Overview:

The skelkrin are apex predators who travel the stars on a path of conquest and destruction.  They are heading to Earth, but that will not be their final stop.  Before they reach human controlled space, they need to capture the last pirilian.  Pirilians have many magical gifts, such as teleportation.  If the skelkrin capture the pirilian, they would have the ability to teleport their fleets, making them unstoppable.  The pirilian was on the way to Earth to get help from Riff Starfire.  Riff is a musician, who finds out about the pirilian when the Cosmians try to get the information from Riff.  The Cosmians are humans who worship the skelkrin.  Riff needs to escape and seek the pirilian.  To do this, Riff seeks the help of an ex-love who is a gladiator, and brother who is a knight.  The group finds a spaceship that looks like a dragon.  Riff exchanges Riff’s signed musical instrument for the ship.  The purchase was for the ship, but whoever owns the ship inherits the eclectic crew, and business of Alien Hunters.  This crews’ clashing personalities need to find a way to get to the pirilian before the skelkrin do.


Caveats?

An engaging read but has some event sequence inconsistencies, and mixed character development.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are the skelkrin?
•What are pirilians?
•Why is Midnight sent to Riff Starfire?
•What is Riff Starfire’s character traits?
•Who is on the Dragon Huntress, and what are their character traits?
•Why did Riff Starfire become captain of the Dragon Huntress?
•Who are the Cosmians?
•What do the skelkrin want from the Midnight?
•What is the occupation of Alien Hunters?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940152784091
Pages to read:   289
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2014
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           4




Friday, December 24, 2021

Review of Ambassador: Seeing Red by Patty Jansen

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, Science

Watch the Review

Elaborate Description

Overview:

Long separated human species have reconnected after many millennia.  But they have not evolved as humans on Earth.  Having different physiologies and cultures.  Cultural differences spark accusations and generate misunderstandings.  This makes diplomats life difficult, figuring out how to navigate the various cultures effectively, trying to bring understanding, without offending or exacerbating the situations.  Cory Wilson is a diplomat, a representative, an ambassador between Nations of Earth and Gamra.  Caught in an attack that killed the Human president.  Cory’s loyalty is tested from all sides, while trying to prevent bloodshed and further misunderstanding.  While trying to handle very precarious situations with calm resolve, Cory needs to figure out who to trust, and who is responsible for the attack.  There are those who want war, making Cory their enemy because of Cory’s want for peace and cooperation.  Thrusting Cory into a vitally important position for all sides.


Caveats?

This story contains many different factions and cultures, making it hard to keep track of their connections and their political roles.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Who is Cory Wilson loyal to? 
•Why was the Human president assassinated?
•What cultural aspects are highly misunderstood?
•What is the Gamra?
•What is needed to explain cultural differences?
•What are some interesting traits of extraterrestrial humans?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940152784091
Pages to read:   289
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2013
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Review of Elevating Equity and Justice: 10 U.S. Supreme Court Cases Every Teacher Should Know by Robert Kim

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Law

Watch the Review

Elaborate Description

Overview:

Educators are extremely influential not just for academic outcomes, but also in life’s outcomes.  Educators set up many expectations for students as to what the student is capable of, and how to treat one another.  This book is about the cases that have changed how schools operate.  Elucidating what educators can and cannot do.  Informing who is to be taught and how.  Each case is a product of the changing time.  Each case is a product of parents wanting what is best for their children, and educators wanting what is best for their students.  Every case is presented with what happened to lead up to the problem, how the problem got resolved by the supreme court, who is impacted by the case, and practical stories of the impact that the case had on academic life.  Education is a very important factor in social life and the presented cases show how education has been modified to improve outcomes, but there are still many ways that education can be improved.  


Caveats?

This is a short book directed at busy teachers, who will be able to find more resources on how to handle certain situations at the end of each case.  Although the book’s efforts are for the betterment of school life, it has a slight political bias which can undermine understanding the issues from different perspectives. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•How did each case impact the function of teaching?
•How did each case impact the students?
•How can education be improved? 
•Who is to be taught?
•How should schools select their students?
•What do parents want from schools?
•What rights do students have? 

Book Details
My edition was provided by NetGalley
Edition ISBN:  9780325092140
Pages to read:   140
Publication:     2019
1st Edition:      2019
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           4

Monday, December 20, 2021

Review of The Backworlds by M. Pax

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, Science
Intriguing Connections = 1) Some Kind of Friendship, 2) Once Upon A Future

Watch the Review

Elaborate Description

Overview:

This a space faring future in which competition means ruthlessness against everyone, even family.  This is part of the reason Craze’s father Bast betrays Craze.  Even though Bast and the Verkinn council had planned to remove Craze from society for some time, to Craze it came all of the sudden.  Given a meager sum of money and told to leave.  Get on a transport and make a fortune on another planet.  Craze has never left the planet, and does not know the politics off world.  What Craze has is strength, and skills in manipulation.  With what Craze has, Craze immediately sets on trying to make allies, but it is hard to trust after being betrayed by family.  Falling in with different crowds, and meeting different alien species, Craze begins to learn the ways of the Backworlds.  The first venture came about quickly, and was about obtaining the much coveted chocolate that only comes from the fabled planet of Earth.  This is a story of falling into trouble, and understanding the meaning of loyalty and trust.   


Caveats?

A slightly slow start, but picks up pretty quickly midway, and is a quick read. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why did the Foreworlders and Backworlders declare a truce? 
•Why does Craze need to leave his planet?
•What are some of the species found in the Backworlds?
•How does behavior in this future different from your time?
•Who can be trusted? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940152784091
Pages to read:   115
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2011
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          2
Overall           2

Friday, December 17, 2021

Review of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History
Intriguing Connections = 1) How To Allocate Resources?,

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Overview:

The planet has scarce resources which societies need to choose how to allocate.  Some societies choose to modify their actions, decisions, behavior when resources cannot sustain the level of extraction, thereby surviving past the danger.  Other societies choose to exacerbate the environmental problems which has led to their collapse.  The environment is not the only reason why societies collapse, nor is it always a choice that societies make.  This book highlights a variety of societies in which it was the environment that precipitated in a society’s collapse, and a choice because societies within very similar environmental condition chose different actions and have survived within the environment.  Lessons drawn from ancient and modern societies can guide current societies into a sustainable future.  Resources need to be used, but using them too much leads to collapse.  What matters is how much and what resources are used for what purposes.  

Past societies and current ones are different.  The lessons cannot readily be applied to different situations, but the past can still be used to learn from.  The book is written for environmentalist and businesses alike.  Environmentalists and businesses tend not to want to negotiate how resources are used, but this book indicates that negotiation and communication are needed if societies are to be sustainable.  The public is very influential in making environmental policies, but rarely want to pay for the sustainability efforts. 

Failure of a society is a failure of group decision making.  They can fail in four different ways which are 1) failure to anticipate the problem, 2) failure to perceive the problem, 3) failure to try to solve it once perceived, 4) failure of solutions.  Alternative resources and technology do not become readily available, and may not solve the problems.  

Caveats?

The book is a bit difficult to read with examples giving a lot of details and information, of which some information would be best left to an appendix. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why did great societies of the past collapse?
•What role did environmental have in shaping societies? 
•What choices did societies make to survive their situations? 
•What are the contributing factors to a societies collapse? 
•How do environmentalists want to use resources?
•How do businesses want to use resources?
•What are the differences between the short-run and long-run views on resources use?
•Can alternative resources and technology be me available? 
•What are failures of group decision making? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780143117001
Pages to read:   539
Publication:     2006
1st Edition:      2011
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Review of Divided Loyalties by Nilofar Shidmehr

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel
Intriguing Connection = 1) Some Type of Romance


Short Description

Elaborate Description

Overview:

Choices need to be made.  But some choices are hard, and have consequences long past when they are made.  Within each of the stories in this book, the protagonists have to make choices.  Choices that pit dearly held values against each other.  Sacrificing some values, to uphold others.  Choosing between sibling, friend, parent, spouse, child, honor, faith, and politics.  Loyalty to different values has consequences, as it becomes ever more difficult to choose which to uphold.  Values that seem compatible, can cause a rift between people.  What the protagonists choose, and the reasons why, are deeply felt.  Each protagonist has to own their choice, their voice, and take responsibility for their lives.  Some of the stories take place in Iran, others in Canada, while utilizing Iranian history and cultural values.  The protagonists are all Iranian women with different backgrounds, experiences, and problems.  An underlying theme of women’s rights. 


Caveats?

The book is well written but some of the values that come from faith and culture might not be readily evident.  Although the difficult choices are understood for the difficulty they represent, some nuances are only understood when some knowledge of the faith and culture are known.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why are choices difficult?
•Why is it hard to have loyalties to different values?
•What are some values that the protagonists sacrifice and what did they make the sacrifice for?
•How do the protagonists make their choices? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781487006020
Pages to read:   306
Publication:     2019
1st Edition:      2019
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           4

Friday, December 10, 2021

Review of Nelson Mandela: A History From Beginning to End by Henry Freeman

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History

Short Description

Elaborate Description
Overview:
Nelson Mandela admired and emulated his father who was in a leadership position.  After his father’s death, Mandela came to be under the care of a cousin, at which Mandela was treated as part of the royal household.  Learning the nuances of traditional leadership of a large and diverse tribe.  Learning about governance, justice, and conflict resolution.  Mandela became a political activist during academic studies, for which he got into trouble.  Mandela’s early activism inspired many similar campaigns domestically and internationally, but it was inspired by the campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi.  Activism got Mandela and other activist leaders thrown in jail and put on trial for treason.  The activists appreciated their time in jail exchanging ideas about politics and strategies.  The verdict of the Treason trials was not guilty, but it had caused the members to be banned and go underground.  Later, Mandela and others started an armed group.  For this, Mandela was put in jail, but not even this stopped his passion and determination for freedom.  The activist group which Mandela belong to decided to break tradition of not celebrating any individual above another, and use Mandela as the personalized representative for the struggle for freedom.  This paved the way for Mandela’s release, and popularity with which he became South Africa’s first democratically elected president.  

Caveats?
This is a very short book, which means that there are a lot of details being left out.  This book is a good start to an understanding of the background of South Africa, but additional sources would be needed.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Who was Nelson Mandela?
•What was Mandela’s childhood like?
•What influence did Mandela’s father have on him and the community?
•Where did Mandela learn about leadership?
•Why did Mandela become and activists?
•Why was Mandela put in jail?
•Why was Mandela used as the representative for the activist groups?
•Why did South Africa fight in WW2?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940153546483
Pages to read:   39
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2017
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           3

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Review of The Mandela Revolution: A British Soldier's Inside View of His Rise to Power by Huw Lawford

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History

Short Description

Elaborate Description
Overview:
Nelson Mandela was the first legitimately elected president of South Africa.  A rule that inherited a need to integrate many disparate groups.  This is a personal account of the military aspect of integration, the merging of disparate groups into a homogenous defense force. To facilitate this goal, an external neutral group would be brought in to provide an honest assessment, which would also provide an external stamp of approval.  A group to oversee integration, education and training, and transparency and fairness.  The external neutral party was the British Military Advisory and Training Team which would witness and report on four of the major military groups.  There is an understanding that happens between soldiers, regardless of whom they serve.  What was learned from the early exchanges was that there was no desire for a civil war.  They all had experienced hardships, and knew that change was needed.  There was much understanding, but also misunderstanding as different cultures collided.  Peace was wanted, but tension could not be avoided and was made worse by a few who caused disruptions.  

Mandela showed up himself to deal with certain grievances, but those who had made the grievances came away surprised by how Mandela handled the situation.  Each group’s members needed to adjust to different expectations as the expectations of a government official was vastly different than the political group they belonged to before.  Being formally part of a government had a life of its own, that everyone involved needed to come to understand.  

Apartheid ideology did a lot of harm, but Mandela did not want to promulgate hate.  Mandela wanted negotiation and compromise, not revenge.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was meant for reconciliation, and restorative justice.  

Caveats?
There is not much background on South Africa.  This book acts more of a supplement to an understanding of South Africa during the time.  It is also less about how Mandela got into power, and more about the military aspects of South Africa when Mandela was in power.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Who was Nelson Mandela?
•What did Mandela desire from his position and for South Africa?
•Why was there a need to integrate the military?
•What were the major groups that needed to be integrated?
•What was the purpose of the BMATT (SA)?
•What were some cultural misunderstandings? 
•What are some understandings that occurred between the disparate groups?

Book Details
My Edition was provided by via NetGalley
Edition ISBN:  9781399009058
Pages to read:   202
Publication:     2021
1st Edition:      2021
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3

Monday, December 6, 2021

Review of Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel
Intriguing Connection = Some Kind of Friendship

Short Description

Excerpts

“The truth was that she could never make up her mind to purchase anything from which no intellectual profit was to be derived, and above all, that profit which good things bestowed on us by teaching us to seek our pleasures elsewhere than in the barren satisfaction of worldly wealth.” – Marcel Proust, Overture, Page 40


“Unfortunately, having formed the habit of think aloud, she did not always take care to see that there was no one in the adjoining room.” – Marcel Proust, Combray, Page 51


“He did not, however, draw her attention to this inconsistency, for he thought that, if left to herself, Odette might perhaps produce some falsehood which would give him a faint indication of the truth.” – Marcel Proust, Swann In Love, Page 287


Elaborate Description

Overview:

Told with reminiscence.  Looking back on life’s events, which includes the family friend Charles Swann.  Containing the narrator’s thoughts during the events.  From times of getting into trouble and the unexpected consequences.  To reading experiences and the sources of pleasure.  From family life and the complexity of bonds.  To falling in love and being jealous.  Thoughts that contain the strategizing before an event, to get an appropriate response, and the varied results that ensue. Each event holds more than just what can be observed.  Along the way is an eclectic array of information and philosophy.  Thoughts on history, and the changing times.  The interplay between ideas and their impact on decisions made.  But what happened in the past cannot be changed, and the decisions made have to lived with.  Rationalizations of the past have their limitations.

 

Caveats?

This is a very tedious book to read, containing poor transitions between ideas.  But, the book’s writing is very consistent with the subject, unfiltered thoughts.  Which makes it feel authentic.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some philosophical ideas that interest you?
•Why discuss Swann’s life?
•What were some childhood experiences?
•What were some experiences with books and reading?
•Why do people fall in love?
•Who was important in Swann’s life?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9788827526422
Pages to read:   434
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      1913
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          1
Overall           1

Friday, December 3, 2021

Review of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics, Research
Intriguing Connections = 1) Why Do People Think Differently?, 2) War for Your Attention

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Overview:

Human thoughts are very complex, making many different ways to access them subject to a variety of limitations.  Big data via the internet is very revealing about people.  What people search for is information that can reveal what they are thinking about.  Providing a different way to learn about people.  There are four ways that big data adds value to research which are 1) new types of data, 2) honest data, 3) zoom on small subsets, and 4) generate causal experiments.  The internet is a primary source of data that uses messy traces, unlike traditional sources of data such as surveys and questionnaires which are very neat.  Big data has many limitations as well, but it can help in a variety of situations.  A problem with big data is that as it enables better predictions about human behavior, the information can be misused by corporations and governments leading to various forms of nefarious discrimination activities.

People tend to be way more honest in their search terms rather than what they claim about themselves.  Depending on the context, they can be honest because of potential consequences, or because there are no consequences.  Surveys are usually anonymous, but people still lie on them because they want to look good.  The desirability bias causes people to lie about who they are relative to who they want to be.  Impersonal data tends to be more honest.  People will confess when they are alone rather than in the presence of others.  Facilitates knowing what people do rather than say they do.

Big data facilitates better understanding of the topics which can lead to better resolution methods.  Big data reveals that individuals are not alone in their insecurities and embarrassing behavior.  Making overt covert suffering.  Google data can highlight many vulnerable people, as they might not want to report their trauma to official sources. 

Offline experiments are time consuming and costly.  The digital space enables cheap and fast randomized experiments.  Gaps in understanding can be filled by testing.  Gaps always exist.  

Big data has limitations.  The numbers measure what can be gathered, not necessarily what is wanted or important.  Models created from the data does not indicate the reason why the model works.  Knowing why models work may not be that important.  But with this limitation, there is no indication of insights that can be gained and ways to improve understanding of the topics.  There are data sources in which do facilitate lying rather than honesty.  When there is no incentive to tell the truth, people make themselves appear better.  Online presence is not always anonymous, and can cater to an audience.


Caveats?

The book is well written with plenty of examples and provides a general understanding of the power and complexity of big data.  There are many topics in this book which are very sensitive, as in very private and personal.  As such, the book may not be appropriate for minors.  

Although big data does open up more opportunities to consider how people think, what matters is how the data is interpreted.  There are a variety of interpretations of the data, of which there can be many misleading interpretations.  Big data does offer lots to think about, but not how to think about what it brings up.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why is it hard to understand what people think about?
•What can the internet reveal that other methods cannot?
•What are the benefits of big data?
•What are the limits of big data?
•What are the limits of traditional sources and the internet as a source?
•How can big data be misused?
•Why do people deceive others?
•Where can people be honest?
•What is the use of experimentation? 
•What do Americans think of racism? 
•Do newspapers have a bias? 
•Do people go into echo chambers on the internet? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780062390875
Pages to read:   187
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2017
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           4

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Review of In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business by Charlan Jeanne Nemeth

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:

Short Description


Elaborate Description

Overview:

This is a book on how to raise decision making quality.  While searching for consensus hurts decision making, dissent improves decision making.  Assuming the majorities claims narrows thinking and creates poorer decisions.  People speak from the majorities perspective even if the individual is not part of the majority.  Dissent broadens thinking by opening up alternative perspectives.  The benefits of dissent are that thinking becomes more divergent, creative, and creates a search for information about the claims raised.  A reason for not raising alternative ideas is the fear of being ridiculed or rejected.  There are ways to reduce persecution such as anonymity.  Dissent should not be created for its own sake, but should be permitted and embraces when it is present.  By not speaking up, the group suffers and misses opportunities.  What matters for the dissenter is how to argue their ideas, as their ideas allow the group to see those different opportunities, some of which can be much better.  

Consensus is a problem when it goes unchallenged.  When the majority has a position, they influence just because of their numbers.  Facts matter little when people think that the number of people who believe something are more likely to be correct.  People can follow the majority whether it is correct or wrong.  Majorities get public agreement without the people believing the majority position.  

Dissent provides value, even when it is wrong, as it breaks blind following of the majority, and it motivates consideration of alternatives.  Dissenter minority voice influences by reason.  Persuasion by dissenter is time consuming, usually indirect, and contains an artful argumentative style.  Consistency in the dissenter is needed for persuasion, but it is not sufficient.  Dissenters change minds in private rather than publicly.  People tend to agree with dissenters in private, but resist in public.

Playing devil’s advocate does not necessarily work because its not authentic dissent, and as such does not stimulate divergent thinking.  Not criticizing others ideas is not a good tactic as it prevents consideration of the alternatives.  


Caveats?

This book is well written to support those who think differently.  Some caveats of the book include research quality and support for dissent.  

Research that is meant to support the claims have mixed quality.  Some are practical and can be applied to real life, others are to abstract to be appropriate supports of the claims made.  The research needs to be considered more carefully before applying some of the claims.  

This book is very partial in disapproving majority thinking, while only supporting dissent.  Although the reasons to favor listening to dissenters and questioning majority are marvelous, it does reduce the complexity of real life which can prevent appropriate application.  There are reasons that people dissent which does not add value to decision making.  The dissenters can have their own motivations which are not for the benefit of the majority, and prevent majority decision which can help the many.  Sometimes dissenters can prevent quality decision making by the majority by coming up with erroneous alternatives.  Too much dissent can be problematic as well.

There is an attempt in making a case for how to go about with a dissent, but it needs a lot of work as there are many ways in which a dissenter who is right can project their views in a manner that makes them appear wrong.  As in, the way a dissenter presents the information, the dissenter can prevent a search for information rather than inspire the search. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What makes decision making better and worse? 
•How does the majority influence decisions?  How does the minority?
•Are majorities always right?
•What do dissenters provide? 
•Why do individuals not raise alternative ideas?
•Should dissent be created? 
•How to argue?
•How not to be succumbed by the majority?
•Can the majority become tyranny? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780465096305
Pages to read:   137
Publication:     2018
1st Edition:      2018
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           4