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review 2018-07-18 02:53
Ulysses - James Joyce,Cedric Watts

The life of the everyman in a single day in Dublin is the basic premise of James Joyce’s Ulysses, yet this is an oversimplification of the much deeper work that if you are not careful can quickly spiral down into a black hole of fruitless guesswork and analysis of what you are reading.


Joyce’s groundbreaking work is a parallel to Homer’s The Odyssey though in a modernist style that was defined by Joyce in this novel.  Though the primary character is Leonard Bloom, several other important secondary characters each take their turn in the spotlight but it is Bloom that the day revolves around.  However any echoes of Homer are many times hidden behind Joyce verbosity and stream-of-conscious writing that at times makes sense and at times completely baffles you.  Even with a little preparation the scale of what Joyce forces the reader to think about is overwhelming and frankly if you’re not careful, quickly derails your reading of the book until its better just to start skimming until the experience mercifully ends.


While my experience and opinion of this work might be lambasted by more literary intelligent reviewers, I would like to caution those casual readers like myself who think they might be ready to tackle this book.  Read other modernist authors like Conrad, Kafka, Woolf, Lawrence, and Faulkner whose works before and after the publication of Ulysses share the same literary movement but are not it’s definitive work.

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review 2018-07-17 12:04
A Higher Loyalty
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership - James Comey

I didn't know what to expect with Comey's memoir, and I ended up being impressed by his sense of principled leadership and ethical conduct. I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with him on every issue, but I can appreciate his thought processes as he describes his reasoning behind various difficult decisions.


Going back to working in Rudy Giuliani's U.S. Attorney's office in New York City in the 1980s, to being in the Department of Justice under the Bush II administration, to Barack Obama's appointing him as FBI Director, through Donald Trump firing him (via the TV news), Comey takes the reader on a fascinating ride, with a narrative peppered with humor that sometimes made me laugh out loud (while in public, listening to my little mp3 player). Regardless of what your current opinion of James Comey might be, I think the book is well worth reading/listening to.

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review 2018-07-16 02:36
Do not drink while listening
Hut 33: The Complete Series 103 - James Cary

Those code workers at Bletchley most likely did not have as much fun as I did when I listened to this BBC audio series. This excellent series chronicles the working lives of Hut 33, which is located near Hut 31. Finding it can be slightly more difficult, as Josh will tell you.

Hut 33 contains Archie (he’s from the north) who doesn’t like Professor Charles (they have history). There is Gordon who is a 17-year-old genius. He has a crush on Minka, a Polish woman who escaped to England and is as silent as a house. There is also Mrs. Best the landlady who has had just about every man.

Listen (because it is audio) as they face the evil clubs and the social classes. Wonder if Mrs. Best will have lay hands on Charles. Be awed over the fact that no one kills Josh. Be more impressed that he doesn’t accidentally end his own life. Take bets on when Archie will kill Charles. 

Plus, why does Minka hate owls so much?


P.s. Minka is played by Olivia Coleman.

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review 2018-07-08 18:58
The Lives of Ants by Laurent Keller and √Člisabeth Gordon, translated by James Grieve
The Lives of Ants - Elisabeth Gordon,Laurent Keller

I was cataloging a newer edition of a biology book and happened to come across this while I was hunting down the older edition for possible weeding. I don't read a lot of nonfiction - according to my records, I've only read or listened to approximately 13 nonfiction books in the past 10 years - but this looked reasonably interesting and social insects intrigue me.

My knowledge of ants is pretty limited. I've read a few popular science articles and I played SimAnt a lot when it came out (anybody else remember that game?). That isn't enough to judge whether the information in this book is any good.

That said, I found The Lives of Ants to be very readable, if not terribly well organized. The beginning of the book felt like the authors were throwing around information confetti. The bits and pieces of information were fun, but so brief and varied that it was clear the authors were only scratching the surface of an enormous topic. Also, I had trouble keeping track of which ant species were mentioned, and whether some of them had come up more than once. Species that were outside the norm in some way tended to get more attention. I suppose that's understandable since "weird" tends to make for more interesting examples, but it sometimes made it hard to get a good feel for just how far outside the norm they were.

Although there was certainly interesting information throughout the whole text, Part III was by far my favorite. Each chapter in this part was focused on a single ant genus. Chapter 13 covered Dorylus, army ants, chapter 14 covered Oecophylla, weaver ants, chapter 15 covered Cataglyphis, desert ants, and chapter 16 covered Myrmecocystus, honeypot ants. Unfortunately, most of these chapters only dealt with one or two features of these ants, albeit with more thoroughness than previous examples in the book. I was often left with questions about social organization, nest structure, etc. that weren't addressed.

Part II (Social Life), Part IV (Advantageous Liaisons - things like ant trees, aphids, etc.), and Part V (Bloody Pests! - covered things like supercolonies) were other sections I enjoyed, even as the authors sometimes frustrated me. It was often very difficult to get a complete picture of the life of a specific genus or species of ant. Yes, the book (thankfully) includes a species index, but I didn't particularly want to turn to that and jump around the whole book trying to piece together scraps of information. Besides, sometimes the information I wanted (such as more detailed information about "invasive" ant distribution - where is this species considered native and where is it invasive?) just wasn't in the book.

The worst section of the book were Parts VI and VII, which looked at the genetic basis for behavior and social structure. A huge portion of this was written as though ants could see their own genetic makeup and that of their nest mates and make decisions based on who was more or less related to them. Later on, the authors made it clearer that this behavior was based on scent, which has a genetic basis, but even then I had questions about how all of this was supposed to work, considering that the ants shared the same nest, would all be sharing their scents, and would therefore, I would think, all have very similar scents even if some were less related to each other than others.

The final section, "High-Tech Ants," dealt with robots and swarm intelligence's applications in artificial intelligence. It felt a little out of place but was, I suppose, intended to highlight myrmecology's broader applications.

The book included a section with color photographs, as well as several black-and-white drawings throughout. The thing that bugged me about the drawings was that their placement had little to do with the text. For example, one intriguing illustration of a parasitic queen (Teleutomyrmex schneideri) that has no workers, clings to Tetramorium caespitum queens, and lives in complete dependence upon her host queen and host queen's workers wasn't explained until 6 chapters (approximately 40 pages) later.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-07-08 04:43
The Store by James Patterson and Richards DiLallo
The Store - James Patterson




Jacob and Megan Brandeis have gotten jobs with the mega-successful, ultra-secretive Store. Seems perfect. Seems safe. But their lives are about to become anything but perfect, anything but safe. 


Especially since Jacob and Megan have a dark secret of their own. They're writing a book that will expose the Store--a forbidden book, a dangerous book. 


And if the Store finds out, there's only one thing Jacob, Megan and their kids can do--run for their bloody lives. Which is probably impossible, because-- 



The Store is an engrossing thriller that will leave you paranoid. I love how it's written with short chapters only a few pages long. You really feel accomplished reading this. The book is very fast paced and hard to put down. I really enjoyed reading this. It seemed like a cross between The Stepford Wives and 1984. 


Intensely thought provoking, this book could be called Amazon Gone Wild. What is sad is that it is not such a giant leap to see this book turn into non-fiction. I don't see Amazon as this evil store who is trying to take away my freedom, but I do find Amazon very controlling and devious. Their Kindle for example comes with ads (unless you pay to remove it) and those ads are based off of what you buy. Everythibg you buy, everything you browse is tracked and stored. Amazon spins profiling you as they are doing you a favor. How else could you possibly find more books to read or more things you NEED? Without Alexa's guidance how can you possibly survive?!  I don't believe Amazon is profiling and storing information on its customers to use it for anything other than getting rich, but that is not to say they or anyone else can't. This book made me evaluate my life and my online shopping. Privacy is a thing of the past. We sacrified it on the alter of technology. I don't believe technology is inhertly evil. As we stare in awe with children's eyes in the candy store I can't help but hear Jeff Goldblum's warning echo in my mind. We are so preoccupied with whether or not we could we didn't stop to think if we should.

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