Review: “No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin …” By Molly Knight Raskin


Via NetGalley, I received a copy of this galley from Perseus Books Group / Da Capo Press. While I received it at no cost to myself, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

That said, I loved loved loved this book.

I imagine that most people outside of computer geekdom are probably not familiar with Danny Lewin or Akamai Technologies. But if you enjoy quick-loading websites with video streaming that doesn’t constantly lag, or if you are able to hit CNN and get regular updates when a huge breaking story hits, then you have Lewin to thank.

The story starts with Lewin as a gifted teenager, raised in a Jewish family. While he is in high school, Lewin’s family moves to Israel, where Lewin finishes his secondary education. Following high school, he tries out and qualifies for the most elite group in the Israeli special forces. The experiences he gains serves him well throughout his life, especially in the tenacity, determination and endurance necessary to excel.

Eventually Lewin takes a leave from the military to follow his educational dream: a post-graduate stint at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There Lewin finds an advisor and mentor in Tom Leighton, one of his instructors at MIT. Lewin is quickly identified as someone who has a lot of potential and ability, and people begin expecting great things from Lewin.

The roots of Akamai Technologies began when Lewin wanted to enter a contest at MIT for startup business ideas, primarily because he and his family desperately needed the cash prize to survive. Lewin’s concept was to tackle a huge issue on the Internet at that time: speed of delivery for content. When something became suddenly popular or breaking news hit the web, servers often buckled and crashed under the load. Lewin’s idea was simple in concept: devise a set of algorithms to distribute the load to cached copies of popular websites located on servers spread out over the country and, eventually, the world.

There begins the majority of the story, talking about how Akamai came to be, their meteoric rise and eventual leveling out with the dot.com crash on NASDAQ.

The book also covers Lewin’s eventual death, likely as the first victim of 9/11. Based on reports from flight attendants during the initial part of the hijacking of the first plane, Lewin was killed trying to stop one of the hijackers.

Which of course, leads to one of the big questions in the book: Can Akamai handle the huge media crush during and following 9/11, especially when they are still coming to grips with the loss of one of their founders?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was even more enjoyable because I’m not only a math geek, I’ve been involved in computers since I was nine (more than 35 years). But even if that wasn’t the case, it was still a great story about a young man who who driven from his teenage years to make a difference, which he certainly did in his 31 years.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

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Review: “Noah’s Rainy Day” By Sandra Brannan


I received a copy of this galley via NetGalley from Greenleaf Book Group. While it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

When I agreed to read this, I didn’t know it was the fourth book in the series. But sometimes, it can be good to pick up a book several books into a series so you can see how polished the book is. If it’s sloppy and ugly by the fourth book, chances are you don’t want to pick up the first three.

Alright, on to the review. The main character of this series is Liv Bergen who, as of this book, is fresh out of Quantico and ready for her first assignment with faithful bloodhound Beulah by her side. And boy, does it come with a vengeance.

Little Max is flying from New York to California to spend Christmas with his mother, who is estranged from his father and certainly not on good terms with him. Max is accompanied solely by an employee of the airlines and, once the employee is distracted by an argument with his girlfriend at Denver Airport, Little Max disappears. His parents are quite the celebrities, which brings a lot of local and national media attention to the case, only adding to the pressure on the investigative team.

Agent Bergen must work along with agents Streeter Pierce and Jack Linwood, the latter her current beau. Naturally, there’s a little bit of triangle chemistry going on to provide an additional subplot.

In the midst of this storyline is my favorite character, Noah Hogarty, a twelve year-old who would love to be a spy one day. He has a terrific mind for analysis and details, enjoying when his Aunt Liv comes by to discuss cases with him. They even work small cases on their own when mysteries appear.

Noah knows what happened to Little Max and is more than willing to share that information, but he has one sizable roadblock: Noah has severe cerebral palsy. This means he is unable to communicate in an easy manner, relying on cues such as smiling for a yes answer or using the five-finger method of working through the alphabet with his sister. Consequently, Noah can only answer questions if he’s asked. But if they don’t know to ask him……..

As the story develops, the story gets too close to home for Liv, and Noah gets taken by Max’s kidnapper, placing both boys in mortal danger. Will Agent Bergen figure out the clues? Will Noah’s family pick up on the cues he’s trying to give them? Can both boys be returned safely to their respective families?

Overall, I really enjoyed the storyline, especially because of Noah, as I previously noted. As the parent of an adult with special needs, I see a lot of Noah in my older son, even though he doesn’t have CP like Noah does. Following an email exchange with the author, I now know some of the backstory which allowed her to give such detailed depth to Noah’s character, and it’s no surprise he is such a strong character.

My only beef about the book is the location of the kidnapper is just a little too convenient. Sure, it needed to be that way to move the storyline along in the direction the author wanted, but it felt a little forced. It also allowed me to figure out much of where the book was going at only 21% into the book (I read a digital edition, so I didn’t really pay attention to pages). However, none of that works as a spoiler for the story; it just weakens it somewhat.

That said, I would definitely recommend this book to others, and I have already acquired the first three books from Amazon so I can catch up on Agent Bergen’s past stories.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Food & Wine Best Of The Best For 2012” By Food & Wine Magazine


I always feel a little guilty reviewing a cookbook produced by the same folks who produce a magazine I subscribe to, in this case, Food & Wine. After all, if I like the subscription enough to continue it, the odds are pretty good I’ll like a cookbook produced by the same publisher.

However, this is a little bit different, and it makes all the difference in the world. This cookbook is a collection of recipes from what Food & Wine determined to be the 25 best cookbooks of 2012. Not only does this give me some outstanding recipes, I get a free glimpse into 25 cookbooks to see if they are of interest to me.

Certainly, not all the cookbooks included here are down my alley, but the vast majority are, perhaps 20 of them. Those 20 have definitely been added to my To-Read list, and I hope to be able to track them down and add them to my collection.

Alright, on to the review of the book itself. It’s essentially ordered in a way that each included cookbook has a title page giving some details about the cookbook and its author(s). This is followed by several recipes from that cookbook. Each group is peppered with several high quality photos showing what the completed dish should look like. For amateur cooks like myself, this is essential. While my finished product may not be five-star restaurant worthy, at least it should resemble the picture in the book. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

Needless to say, this collection contains recipes from across the menu: appetizers, drinks, entrées, desserts, etc. There are also many cuisines represented, which is wonderful for me since I love all cuisines I’ve tried. Certainly I have favorites, but I have found something of interest in all I’ve tried.

So what recipes are represented? Try some of these on for size:

  • Chicken Paillards With Pancetta & Sage
  • Shrimp Curry
  • Salt-Massaged Cucumber With Miso & Sesame
  • Spareribs With Italian Plum Glaze
  • Grapefruit Tea Cake
  • Tomato & Almond Tarts
  • Jicama Sticks With Chile & Lime
  • Banana Buckwheat Bundt Cake

And those are just the ones that really caught my immediate interest. There are many other wonderful recipes I hope to try and, of course, eventually get the cookbooks from which they originated.  Hungry yet?

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Outside The Pale: Architecture Of Fay Jones” By Department Of Arkansas Heritage


In the midst of the review copies I’ve agreed to read, I have to throw in the occasional “want to” book. This is one such book.

I became fascinated by the architecture of Fay Jones following my wedding in the Mildred B. Cooper Chapel in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Later, I learned of the Thorncrown Chapel near Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and many other projects of Jones’s.

This book is a fascinating collection of pictures and drawings from not just the chapels above, but other buildings, both public and private, which were created by Fay Jones. There is also a fair amount of history behind Jones and how he got started in architecture.

Overall, it was a light, fun read with lots of pictures, which makes it sound like a children’s book 🙂 But in reality, it shows the creativity and genius Jones has displayed through many of his creations. I’m not sure people fully appreciate the works he has created.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “The Purity Of Vengeance” By Jussi Adler-Olsen


I received an eGalley of this book through Penguin Books’ First To Read program. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give it a positive review.

When I first agreed to read this novel, I didn’t realize it was the fourth book in The Department Q series. So it took me a bit to catch up with the characters and what the author presumes the reader already knows from the previous three books.

Nete Hermansen has an axe to grind. As a youth in the 1950s, she was forcefully sterilized by physician Curt Wad. In the eighties she sets plans in motion to bring about revenge on Wad and others involved in her abuse.

In present day, Detective Carl Mørck gets handed a case he really didn’t want any part of because of the emotional baggage associated with it. The case involves two of his former partners, and the case is also responsible for getting Mørck involved in Department Q. As the detective digs into the disappearance of a lady named Rita, who owned a brothel at the time she vanished, he and his assistants learned that many other people disappeared at the same time.

As the story moves along, you learn more about Wad and his political ambitions, not to mention the evidence he gathers as a means of cataloging blackmail against political adversaries. Eventually the lives of Wad, Hermansen, Mørck and the missing persons, all come together into a nice bit of crime solving for Department Q.

As I noted earlier, I’ve not read anything by Adler-Olsen before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve also, as far as I know, never read any fiction that takes place in modern day Denmark.

About halfway through the book I learned through some online reading that Adler-Olsen’s books are originally written in Danish and then translated to English. That certainly helped explain some issues I had with the book, as it didn’t seem to flow as naturally as I would like following the translation. I particularly was thinking of “The Girl Who…” series by Stiegg Larsson. The translations on those didn’t feel quite so cumbersome.

That said, I liked the way Adler-Olsen built the story. It does flip back and forth between timelines a bit, but considering the way they are tied together, it’s a necessity. Either way, I will likely go back and pick up the first three books in the series to check them out too.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “River Road” By Jayne Ann Krentz


I received a copy of this book via Penguin’s First To Read program, so many thanks to them for making it available. While it was provided to me at not cost to myself, I am not obligated to give a positive review.

Somehow, I have managed to not read anything by Krentz before, whether it be as Krentz or under a nom de plume such as Amanda Quick or Jayne Castle. I know she’s perceived as writing romantic suspense, but that’s not why I haven’t read anything by her before. Simply put, I just haven’t.

That said, I didn’t really know what to expect with this offering. But I always give things a fair read, otherwise, how would you discover new authors?

This story opens with our protagonist, Lucy Sheridan, being saved from a potentially bad situation at a party by Mason Fletcher, a young man who’s a few years older and who always seems to be the one to stand up for others and rescuing them. Lucy is, like many teens, not so understanding or grateful to her rescuer. Mason, after returning Lucy home, confronts Tristan, the spoiled rich brat who had hoped to take advantage of Lucy, instructing him to leave Lucy alone. Shortly after, Tristan mysteriously disappears, and his body is never found.

Fast forward to thirteen years later, when Lucy’s aunt has passed away, leaving Lucy with the inheritance. Lucy returns to Summer River to find that much has changed. What used to be a sleepy little town has now been swallowed up by the wine industry. Vineyards surround the town, and the people too have changed. And not all of them are happy to see Lucy again.

Naturally, when Lucy returns to Summer River, she reconnects with Mason again. He’s pretty much the same, wanting to do things for her, and not surprisingly, Lucy’s the same way, not wanting to be helped. Some things never change. At least at first. As the story develops, so does their romance. But of course, we pretty well knew that from the opening scene. It just seemed natural they’d find their way back around to each other, right? 🙂

As Lucy begins preparing her aunt’s house for sale, the renovations uncover something interesting that pulls folks related to her aunt and Tristan into their lives. And as I noted earlier, they aren’t too happy to see she and Mason poking around.

So the story develops and moves along, Lucy getting into hot water, Mason having to save her, or Lucy saving herself. Reluctantly, she begins to see his worth, and hey, his good looks don’t hurt his cause any.

So what really happened to Tristan? Was the car accident that killed Lucy’s aunt and friend really an accident? Who’s got the secrets to hide and why?

I really liked the way that Krentz developed this story. I’m not opposed to a little romance in my suspense, although perhaps a bit less in this case. But it’s not overbearing at all. It’s not like it’s a romance novel with suspense as a subplot. Certainly, Krentz has published enough books, and successfully so I might add, in different genres that she knows how to craft a good story.

As noted earlier, I haven’t read any of Krentz’s other novels to know if they are formulaic, but I will certainly let this story stand on its own for the time being. It was, at its core, a well-crafted romantic suspense novel with enough twists and turns to keep the reader wanting to turn the page. What more could you ask for in a book?

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Abominable Science!” By Daniel Loxton & Donald R. Prothero


I received a copy of this book from Columbia University Press via NetGalley. While it was provided at no expense to myself, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

First and foremost, if you are looking for a book that is going to verify your beliefs in all things cryptozoology, you are going to be disappointed.

This book actually takes the opposite tack. It takes scientific principles and applies them to the study of and hunt for various cryptids. The authors basically alternate chapters, each doing their part to tackle the specific topic at hand.

They do spend a lot of time at the very beginning talking about what is and isn’t good science and who is and isn’t qualified to be an expert in subjects related to cryptozoology. Just because someone has a PhD in science doesn’t mean they’re qualified, especially if the specialization is in chemistry, not zoology, etc.

But their biggest argument seems to be the strongest one: Show Me The Body. Surely, in our ever expanding world, where the population is increasing and places where these famous cryptids can hide are diminishing, surely someone would have found proof of Bigfoot, Yeti, Nessie, etc. Add in advanced scientific understanding and technology, and it seems even more likely.

Once the authors tackle the foundation of research, they go into details with several famous crytpids, talking about various claims throughout the years and debunking them via scientific principles. That was actually more interesting to me than the introductory chapters, as I learned more about the legends behind these famous mythical creatures.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, although it was pretty dry in places. There was also a general overtone of superiority over those who believe in cryptids, which got to be a little overbearing at times, but I understand that was the point of the book.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)