A grab bag of fun brainteasers that most readers won’t have seen before.

A Collection of Fascinating Games and Puzzles


Think chess, sudoku, Rubik’s Cube and other games are just too easy? If so, Murali’s (Chess, 2011) compendium of arcane new variants will keep you guessing.

Murali, a software engineer, compiles a blizzard of board games and puzzles—some invented by others and some of his own device. The competitive games, most designed for a standard checkerboard, include “parity chess,” a variation of regular chess in which each player simultaneously moves during each turn and two pieces can occupy the same square; a hybrid of chess and Scrabble; and “concept chess,” in which players must both occupy squares bearing related ideas—a surefire party favorite. The author’s selection of puzzles, however, is much larger. It includes two-dimensional versions of a Rubik’s Cube, although Murali warns that “it would be better to implement these variants in software for ease of solving.” There are dozens of inventive, rather involved types of sudoku using prime numbers, words, shapes, dot patterns or chemical formulas, as well as a three-dimensional version. He also includes twisty logic puzzles about compulsive liars and truth-tellers, and amusing matchstick puzzles that morph into mathematical equations and geometrical patterns through delightfully creative maneuvers. Murali’s instructions are, for the most part, lucid and explicit, and he illustrates them with engaging sample puzzles (although at least one logic puzzle appears to contain an error). The book is reminiscent of the late Martin Gardner’s “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American, but it’s pitched more at unabashed eggheads than casual puzzle-workers. Indeed, many of the puzzles are unconventional and require some hard thinking to get one’s head around them. However, because there’s usually just one sample of each puzzle, readers will have to make their own if they want to keep playing. Still, those who put in the effort will be rewarded with an entertaining workout of the wits.

A grab bag of fun brainteasers that most readers won’t have seen before.

Pub Date: June 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500216429

Page Count: 220

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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