Jul

04

Book Review of Dune: House Harkonnen

The prequels to Frank Herbert’s Dune, conceived as a trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, continue in the second book entitled Dune: House Harkonnen. As in the first book, Dune: House Atreides, the authors begin to answer some of the questions and fill in some of the gaps left in the Dune saga, which some thought ended with the death of Frank Herbert. However, as shown in Dune: House Atreides, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are able to advance the story of Dune in a seamless style that captures the reader’s imagination and leaves one with the desire for more.

In this second installment, Dune: House Harkonnen, the reader gains quite unpleasant insights into the psychology of the Harkonnen family. The only members of the family with any humanity, Abulurd Harkonnen and his beloved wife Emmi, cannot escape the brutality and depravity of their son Glossu Rabban and Abulurd’s half-brother, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The Baron and his nephew seek not only revenge upon their own flesh and blood but also upon House Atreides and Duke Leto, with devastating results. As we follow the Baron and the na-Baron in their heinous and bloodthirsty quest to quench their thirst for ever more power and wealth, we are given insights into the family dynamics and begin to have a little understanding of the reasons for the Baron’s violent and vicious temperament.

Even as we are thrown into the world of the Harkonnens, we also are shown the machinations of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV as his plans to gain power over CHOAM, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserit proceed. It is brought home throughout the Dune saga that “he who controls the spice controls the world,” and the plan set in motion in Dune: House Atreides by Elrood IX to have the Bene Tleilaxu create a synthetic spice is continued by Shaddam. However, as C’tair Pilru continues his efforts to harass the Tleilaxu who occupy his home world of Ix, we discover just how high the price is for this creation.

Back on Caladan, Duke Leto is, unknown to him or his household, still the target of the wrath of the Harkonnens. The subtle means used to attack the Duke come through the manipulation of his concubine Kailea, daughter of Earl Dominic Vernius of Ix. As Kailea falls prey to the plan set in motion by Baron Harkonnen, a wedge is driven between her and Leto, leaving the door open for the young Jessica, who is brought to the Duke by the Bene Gesserit sisters as they push forward their plans for the eventual birth of the Kwisatz Haderach. Yet Leto resists the urge to dismiss Kailea, because of their son Victor, which actually only aggravates the situation.

In Dune: House Harkonnen, we also learn how Duncan Idaho gains his status as a Swordmaster of Ginaz and how a feud between two other houses draws him and House Atreides into the politics of the Imperium, which threatens Shaddam’s power and control of the “known Universe.” In addition, we meet Gurney Halleck and discover the source of his deep-seated hatred of the Harkonnens.

As always, the Fremen of Dune, though isolated from the Imperium at large, have their own plans – plans that will eventually impact the entire universe. Liet-Kynes, son of the Imperial Planetologist Pardot Kynes, also begins his own journey of discovery, which will eventually put him on a collision course with Shaddam.

In Dune: House Harkonnen, the “feint within a feint within a feint” continues as the rebel forces on Ix and Dune continue their efforts against the brutality of Shaddam and the Harkonnens. In addition, House Atreides begins to make moves that will later bring them into the position of being a major player in the power struggles that are taking place in various corners of the universe as created by Frank Herbert and upon which his son Brian Herbert and the science-fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson have continued to build. Dune: House Harkonnen, as was Dune: House Atreides, is a very satisfying prequel to the original Dune saga.

Herbert, Brian and Anderson, Kevin J. Dune: House Harkonnen. NY, NY: Bantam Books, 2000.…

Read More

Mar

16

Book Review: To the Rescue, Tow Trucks, by Joanne Randolph

Tow trucks! What could be cooler than a truck that can pull other trucks? To my 3 ½-year-old, there certainly aren't many things that are more fascinating than tow trucks. I mean, even an economy car is huge to him, so when there's this huge truck that can move other huge trucks, he's all ears and dinner-plate-sized eyes. Though he has only gotten to see tow trucks working in real life a couple of times, he remembered what they were well enough to name the truck on the cover of Tow Trucks by Joanne Randolph and insist that we take the book home from the library. Once home, he had to look through the book a few times on his own before he settled down enough to ask me to read it to him.

This book is divided into several chapters from 6-8 pages each. The chapters are Behind the Scenes, Kinds of Tow Trucks, and Tow Trucks at Work followed by words to know, an index, and a website that kids can go to in order to learn more about this and other trucks.

One thing that impressed me about this book is that it is simple enough for an early reader, yet has enough content to be interesting and informative to children who are not yet old enough to read. Some pages don't say much, but what they do say fits in perfectly with the picture displayed and SHOWS what it means with those pictures. So many books will just have random photos that feature the right subject, but not necessarily the right action. Often, when the right action is shown, it's not focused enough for a young child to catch on. Not so with this book, as my son was able to clearly see what was going on and the pictures were such that I could easily point out the relevant features for him.

The pictures themselves are much better than I'm used to seeing in this kind of book as far as actual quality of photographs. I've seen many early readers that feature blurry pictures, too busy pictures, and so on. Whoever selected the photos for this book showed excellent attention to clarity, focus, and nicely contrasting colors to make it interesting to small children.

Often the "Words to Know" or Glossary sections of these books are completely useless to my son because he doesn't fully grasp the context of some of the words, especially since they're listed after the entire story is over. However, in this book we have three words (flatbed, flood, and racetrack) that, instead of giving a definition, show a thumbnail picture of each of these. This is much easier for a 3 ½-year-old to grasp when I can point to the picture and say "this is a flatbed" rather then reading descriptions to him that he likely won't even listen to, much less comprehend.

Overall, I was quite impressed with this book. We have gone through nearly every picture book and early reader featuring trucks that the local county library has to offer, and this is one of the best I've seen so far. Definitely a great find for children up to about age six or seven, and the nicely contrasted photos make it a good transition for children who are used to illustrations as opposed to photographs.…

Read More

Feb

19

Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

The title is intriguing. Who wouldn't want a 4-hour workweek? I could certainly handle reducing my workweek to only 4 hours! So, with a title like that, I couldn't leave the bookstore without it.

What I uncovered in the pages of this book was fresh and motivating. Timothy takes everyday problems, like email overload, and presents a whole new look on solving the problem so one can take back control of their time and begin focusing on achieving their own goals and their own success. I implemented Timothy's suggestions with my email, and six months later my email volume is down 85% and the quality of message I have receive has greatly improved. This alone is worth the price of the book; but, that's just one chapter!

Do you want to learn how to negotiate Remote Work Arrangements that benefit you? The 4-Hour Workweek explains how. Do you want to learn how to cheaply experience luxury travel? The 4-Hour Workweek covers that too. Do you dream of being in control of your financial success with freedom from your employer? Mr. Ferriss lays out a plan for that in The 4-Hour Workweek. He even includes lists of resources and examples of how to use them to benefit you.

The only part of this book I did not like was the section pushing the automated Internet business model because I think there is an element of natural skill around this. Some persons can easily find a product and write a marketing message that will sell well on the Internet; whereas, others will naturally struggle with this type of business because they lack the inherent marketing skill-set. Thus, this section of the book is not for everyone.

Aside from the automated Internet business model section, this book offers a lot. In addition to the chapter dealing with email, I love the part explaining "Beg for forgiveness, don't ask for permission."

I highly recommend you read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. You will learn how to take back control of your time, refocus on what is important to you and achieve your own personal success.…

Read More

Feb

18

Book Review: Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse is a historical fantasy book for young adults. It is a companion book to The Coming of the Dragon. It is about inner strength and doing what is right, even when it might go against personal desires. Hild is sixteen and is thrilled that she is starting to be seen as more than a child by her uncle, the king. However, when she saves her cousin's life and kills the traitor in the process the war favoring adviser plants fear of her reasons behind the action in her uncle's ear. Events lead her on a dangerous journey as a promise to peace to an enemy king.The journey is hard, and there are creatures of legend living in the wood and treachery lurking behind the scenes. Hild faces many choices, will she risk everything for the greater good and the destiny she did not choose or will she choice her childhood dreams.

Peaceweaver is a wonderful young adult novel, which could also make a great read for older children and adults. The world building and reveal of the larger picture are beautifully done. In fact, even after moving on to me next read, I keep going back and thinking about the book. The characters are strongly developed, and even the characters that do not get much time in the story, feel whole when they have a role to play in the story. Hild is eager to help her family and country, she wants to help weave peace in an era where conflict seems constant. She has great hope for the future, even a hope for romance. But when she is shown to have a special gift, the men that love war and have the ear of the king nurture fear and distrust in her, changing her path. Her fears, hopes, and doubts are all believable and understandable for the reader. I loved the building of legend into the world and story. I felt so much a part of the book that I was very sad to see the last page. The story is so well woven, that I actually dreamed about the story for a few nights.

My only disappointment is that I have yet to read anything else by Rebecca Barnhouse. I greatly enjoyed Peaceweaver, and will be reading The Coming of the Dragon as soon as possible. Some reviews have compared Barnhouse to a favorite author of mine, Tamora Pierce. I do think that fans of one will enjoy the other, and that several factors are similar, such as strong female characters and the lack of sexual situations that might bother readers or make the story inappropriate for younger readers. However, both writers have unique voices that sound different to me, but are both fantastic. I am thrilled to have discovered another author I can recommend to children that are bored with books in the children section, but are still unprepared for the sexual situations and violence can appear in young adult novels.…

Read More
1 2
Pleasant Valley Fly Fishing