Bergers Book Reviews

The Charlemagne Connection

The Charlemagne Connection
Author: R.M. Cartmel
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-9929486-2-7
Pages: 328
Price: $13.99

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Commander Truchaud has been called back home to Nuits-Saint-Georges to help his sister-in-law, Michelle, handle his father, who is suffering from dementia and getting worse each day. He soon learns that a German tourist disappeared a while back, when his sister and her friend arrive, attempting to locate him. Fearing foul play, they try to determine when he was last seen, and with whom.

Inheritance laws in France are strict, and Truchaud soon learns that this German man might have been a threat to someone whose family owns one of the local vineyards. He also suspects that his disappearance may have something to do with the mysterious circumstances in The Richebourg Affair.

The Charlemagne Connection is more of a novel than a whodunit, and mystery buffs won’t find much to solve. But those who enjoy exotic settings and good character development will enjoy this book. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this intriguing mystery.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

February 2, 2016 Posted by | mystery | Leave a comment

Doing Math With Python

Doing Math With Python
Author: Amit Saha
Publisher: No Starch Press
Genre: Computer programming / Mathematics
ISBN: 978-1-59327-640-9
Pages: 264
Price: $29.95

Buy it at Amazon

Mathematics comes alive when seen visually, and computer programming makes it easy to turn formulas into graphs. Doing Math With Python shows the budding math whiz how to do this, step by step.

Prior knowledge of Python is not assumed, and the author shows the reader exactly how and why he’s using each line of code. Building on basic logic, the reader is then guided into programming more and more sophisticated graphs. Simple data mapping leads to graphic illustrations of algebra and physics equations. Statistical analysis, calculus, and even fractals are covered.

Serious math students who also enjoy working with computers will find Doing Math With Python a valuable resource. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 30, 2016 Posted by | computers, mathematics | Leave a comment

This Victorian Life

This Victorian Life
Author: Sarah A. Chrisman
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: History / Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-63450-237-5
Pages: 332
Price: $24.99

Author’s website
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Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman love history, and especially the Victorian era of the 1880’s and 1890’s. In an effort to truly experience what this period in history was like, they have engaged in a long-term experiment of actually living a Victorian lifestyle, as much as possible in this modern world. This Victorian Life chronicles their journey.

Sarah is a wonderful story-teller, as she blends actual historical facts and anecdotes with her own experiences. Beginning with the purchase of their new/old Victorian house, she describes how they furnished it with antique Victorian pieces. She also explains how actual antique pieces are often more beautiful and functional than their modern copy-cat versions, as well as why certain antique items are still available while others have long since disappeared. Personal care, along with cooking, sewing, and writing are explained from a Victorian perspective, along with the joys and hazards of bicycling. Ghost stories, historical figures, and her experiences in portrait sitting are also featured. Interesting primary source documents and photos from the time period are scattered throughout the text, bringing the history to life.

While some people may not consider themselves up-to-date in modern technology, the Chrismans are a bit more out of step with the rest of society, in this lifestyle they have come to love. Their home is heated with a kerosene stove, they use oil lamps rather than light bulbs, and they make their own clothes, copying them from antiques they have acquired over the years. This Victorian Life gives a glimpse of the Victorian era from the perspective of truly living in it. I highly recommend this fascinating and engaging book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 20, 2016 Posted by | history, memoir | Leave a comment

Nostromo the Dwarf

Nostromo the Dwarf
Author & Illustrator: Sam Carr
Publisher: Bliss Group Books
Genre: Children / Fairy Tale
ISBN: 978-1-940021-16-4
Pages: 120
Price: $6.99

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A young man unexpectedly discovers Nostromo the dwarf’s hideaway in the woods. After spending the night, he returns home. But a week later, Nostromo sends his dog with a dinner invitation, and a friendship soon develops.

Nostromo tells the tales of his adventures to the young man, who shares them with his child. In a series of bedtime stories, the child hears of Nostromo’s time at sea, meeting a ghost, building his house, surviving a flood, and meeting his animal friends.

Nostromo has lived a long and full life, and has suddenly disappeared. But the young man is convinced of his eventual return, hoping he may have even more stories to tell.

Nostromo the Dwarf reads more like a fairy tale than a novel. The story structure lends itself to read-aloud bedtime stories, just as the father shares Nostromo’s tales with his own child. And although Nostromo’s disappearance is some cause for concern, there is hope he will soon be back, possibly in a sequel. Kids will enjoy hearing of Nostromo’s adventures.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 17, 2016 Posted by | children | Leave a comment

Night of the Living Worms

Night of the Living Worms
Author & Illustrator: Dave Coverly
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: Children / Humor
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8886-1
Pages: 128
Pages: $13.99

Author’s website
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It’s rough being the little brother of Early Bird – the one who always gets the worm. But Speed Bump is determined to get a worm of his own, one of these days. Along with his buddy, Slingshot, he happily gobbles nuts and berries, and waits for the day he will earn his prize.

One evening, Speed Bump can’t sleep, so he convinces Slingshot to take a journey into the forest. All smart birds know not to go out at night, and soon they are spooked and lost. But when they find the Night Crawlers plotting against Early Bird, they need to act quickly.

Cute wordplay, humorous situations, cartoon-style line drawings, and great characters make Night of the Living Worms a fun read for kids. I can’t wait to see the sequel.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 12, 2016 Posted by | children, humor | Leave a comment

Smithsonian Everything You Need to Know: Grades 4-5

Everything You Need to Know
Author: Ruth Strother
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Science / History / Children
ISBN: 978-1-62686-312-5
Pages: 275
Price: $19.95

Buy it at Amazon

Kids have a natural curiosity about history and the natural world around them. While picking up an encyclopedia might be the best way to look up information about a subject that interests them, reading one of the 275 cards in this box set might also do the trick. Although there is only a snippet of facts, enough is presented on each topic to give kids a chance to research in more depth.

Subjects in this box include: Outer Space, Science, Inner Space, Weather, Earth in Motion, Biomes and Ecosystems, Human Body, Animal Relationships, All About Plants, Insects, Endangered Animals, Lay of the Land, Natural Wonders of the World, Man-made Wonders of the World, Ancient Times, U.S. Presidents, History Makers, and American History.

Although the title Everything You Need to Know might be a bit overly ambitious, there is a wealth of interesting material here that can generate hours of research and exploration. Teachers might also be able to use these cards as idea starters for projects and papers.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 5, 2016 Posted by | children, history, science | Leave a comment

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along
Authors: Howard Binkow and Reverend Ana
Illustrators: David A. Cutting and Mike Ferrin
Publisher: Thunderbolt Publishing
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0-9910777-0-0
Pages: 32
Price: $15.00

Author’s website
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Howard B. Wigglebottom isn’t invited to his friend, Ali’s party, and he’s upset. He asks his grandma why he can’t go, and she suggests maybe he’s not being a very good friend. When Howard thinks about it, he realizes that he does some things that cause everyone to fight. Grandma works with him to change his behavior, and he asks his friend for a chance to prove he can get along with everyone.

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns We Can All Get Along isn’t really a story – it’s more of a useful teaching tool. Grandma coaches Howard to come up with the reasons he’s not invited, and they talk about them, but no action actually takes place. A discussion guide is included for classroom use.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 3, 2016 Posted by | children | Leave a comment

Mind Muddlers: What you see is not what you get!

Mind Muddlers
Publisher: Ticktock Books
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-1-78325-244-2
Pages: 48
Price: 9.99

Buy it at Amazon

Certain patterns and designs can play havoc with our senses. When looking at these optical illusions, we think we see something, but it’s only our eyes playing tricks on us. In Mind Muddlers, kids are introduced to some of these interesting designs.

Impossible pictures, patterns that seem to be moving, and flat designs that appear to be in three dimensions are all featured in this unique book. Kids will enjoy seeing these mind-muddling pictures, and they are also encouraged to design their own optical illusions.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 2, 2016 Posted by | children, science | Leave a comment

Big Bill and His Little Mixer Truck

Big Bill and His Little Mixer Truck
Author: Rose Ann Woolpert
Publisher: Graniterock
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-939341-02-0
Pages: 32
Price: $17.99

Buy it at Amazon

Bill is home from the Navy and looking for work. But what kind of job can he do? His friends find work, but Bill doesn’t think those are the jobs he wants to do. One day he’s asked to drive a truck to deliver concrete, and he jumps at the chance.

Soon Bill is introduced to a little Ford mixer truck. The truck is anxious to begin its work, so Bill climbs inside and begins delivering materials to the job site. And when they are challenged by an extra big job, Bill and his little mixer truck get it done.

Big Bill and His Little Mixer Truck is based on the true story of Bill Van Sandt, who worked for Granite Rock Company. Bill’s original 1950 Ford chassis, Willard Concrete Mixer has been restored and is now part of a fleet of historic vehicles. Kids will enjoy reading Bill’s story, and will cheer for the little truck who could get a big job done.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 1, 2016 Posted by | children | Leave a comment

Museum Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Museum Archives

The Case of the Missing Museum Archives
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: Middle grade / Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-4342-9692-4
Pages: 128
Price: $6.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Amal Farah is visiting her father at the Air and Space Museum when the plans for a failed flying machine go missing. Since Dr. Farah is in charge of keeping them safe, he is blamed for their disappearance. When her dad’s job is threatened, Amal gathers her friends together find out what happened to the plans.

Along with Clementine, Raining, and Wilson, Amal investigates the theft, asking the museum staff lots of questions. Bit by bit, they piece together what they think happened, and then confront the perpetrator. Soon the missing plans are recovered, and Dr. Farah’s job is safe.

The Case of the Missing Museum Archives is part of the Museum Mysteries series. The story is reminiscent of Scooby Doo cartoons, when a band of kids gets together to thwart the bad guy. However, the cast of characters is more diversified, featuring other ethnic backgrounds. Children will enjoy solving this mystery along with Amal and her friends.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

December 31, 2015 Posted by | children, mystery | Leave a comment

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