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text 2018-04-13 04:50
Reading progress update: I've read 6% of Ice Ghosts
Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition - Paul Watson

The author has supposedly won a Pulitzer.  (OK, it was for photojournalism.)

 

This book was selected by the Guardian as one of the "best science books" of 2017.  The CBC put it at the top of its 2017 "holiday gift guide" of books about science and nature.

 

I regret to say at 6% in it is poorly organized, opening with three (inadequate) maps (and hard to read on a kindle, though that is not his fault - possibly the publisher's), and a chronology of events which is, depending on how you look at it, either spoilerific or because he couldn't be bothered to write a proper narrative history. 

 

And then the spliced sentences started popping up, as well as at least one sentence fragment.  Watson is also addicted to adjectives.

 

I'll be charitable and say he needed a better and more observant editor.  I would think W.W. Norton would have been capable of finding one, but perhaps the experienced ones were all busy elsewhere, and an intern got the job.

 

(I think - think, mind you - that I shall finish this, as I find the subject fascinating.  But his prose style and the freaking sentence splices are getting on my nerves.  My fingers are itching for a red pen.)

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review 2018-03-26 19:35
Dense, interwoven historic fiction within a conspiracy-mystery frame story
Minds of Winter - Ed O'Loughlin

Remarkable work of historical fiction. Intricate in structure, convincing and meticulous in detail, and surprisingly engrossing in character, this novel avoids typical plot, organization, and closure in favour of more challenging choices.

 

The modern-day frame story is of two lost souls in the high Canadian Arctic and, oddly, a historic marine chronometer. Nelson's brother (recent) and Faye's grandfather (long past) went missing in the area - but they're not there on a Dan Brown-esque mystery-thriller search for the truth. This case of missing, confused, and obfuscated identities resists such tidy progressions. Instead, the unlikely couple stumble their way into uncertain discoveries of questionable validity based on documents left behind by Nelson's apparently-missing brother. This modern day progression is interspersed with "found" documents and firsthand accounts of explorers, adventurers, and secret-history-movers of the last two centuries prodding at the edges of the unknown on journeys that range from Australia to the Arctic and very nearly everywhere in between. The dots don't connect - or maybe they do - but the real surprise is how enjoyable the ride is.

 

I don't usually enjoy fiction that lacks the classic rise-and-fall story arc or that evade neatly-wrapped endings, but the unconventional format of this book somehow worked for me. Strong research, a talent for authentic(-seeming) voice, and telling details bring to life far-flung locations and eras long since passed. I couldn't keep track of the location, time, character, and (potential, suggested, unconfirmed) links between the jumps for most of the book - and in fact, once I thought I'd worked out the trajectory, this book happily dumped the drawer upside down on me once more. In effect, the experience is like reading a loosely-linked series of short stories or historic records. I'm not sure if it's the inherently fraught circumstances of so many of the players, the exotically far-reaching locales, or the promise of a mystery to untangle, but this dense, interwoven narrative completely held my attention. Highly recommended read.

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review 2018-03-16 20:23
Review: The Unsound Theory
The Unsound Theory - Emilia Zeeland

As you may have noticed, it has been a very slow year for me reading wise. Who knew having an infant and toddler to take care of full time would leave me little "me" time. The chronic sleep deprivation hasn't helped things either, but the plus side is that the few books I have managed to get to this year have been amazing. This one is no exception.

 

In true YA fashion, Yalena has a cryptic past that leads her on a journey to find both her origins and herself. This being the first book in the series, there is a lot of informative information and character introductions but it's a great lead in to what is sure to be a fantastic series. Yalena is an interesting character who surprised me a bit as she found her own voice in a sea of overachievers.

 

I really enjoyed the world building elements that Zeeland includes. Brief history lessons that you attend with Yalena and her classmates make this space world more and more interesting. Of course, what's a good novel without some romantic interests and competitive drama to keep things interesting. STAR Academy is a college level specialty school by invitation only. It is an elite group of students expected to become the next best thing in their respective fields, no pressure there.

 

I highly recommend this book to science fiction fans, especially those who enjoy young adult as well. Space is the next frontier and there is so much to learn from the next generation of explorations. The Unsound Theory has a little bit of everything in it and I can't wait for the next installment of this series!

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review 2018-03-01 06:42
The Science of Food by Marty Jopson
The Science of Food: An Exploration of What We Eat and How We Cook - Marty Jopson

TITLE:  The Science of Food:  An Exploration of What We Eat and How We Cook

 

AUTHOR:  Marty Jopson

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9781782438380

______________________

 

Marty Jopson has written a short, easily digestible book on the science behind cooking food and kitchen gadgets - everything from the physics and materials science of the knife and chopping board you use; the perfect frying pan; the invention of pressure cookers; to industrial processes required to make puffed cereals, dried mashed potatoes and refrigeration; to the denaturing of proteins when you cook a steak or boil an egg; why emulsions like mayonnaise work; and other vaguely food related stuff like sell-by dates, artificial sweeteners, making chocolate and aeroponics (the process of growing plants in an air/mist environment instead of soil or water). 

 

This book seems especially written for the non-scientifically inclined reader with interesting examples, "digestible" language, minimal scientific jargon and numerous illustrations.  I found the book to be an informative, interesting and easy read, with minimal social chit-chat, but I do wish the author had gone into more detail!

 

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review 2017-10-30 17:18
Game review - Gone Home

 

[As usual, if games aren't your thing, feel free to skip this. I try to only post reviews on BL for the ones that are particularly story-rich and don't have much in way of what most folks would consider actual gameplay.]

 

Like Tacoma, Fullbright’s newest game, Gone Home isn’t so much an adventure game as it is an interactive story, although the story is even slimmer here than it was in Tacoma.

You play as Katie, who has just arrived home in the very early AM after a trip abroad. The family just moved to this home and I’m pretty sure Katie has never been there. At any rate, the house is empty - no one else is home, and you don’t know why. There are a few cryptic notes from your younger sister indicating that something has happened and that you shouldn’t tell your parents anything. There are also a couple phone messages, one of which is particularly worrisome. In order to find out what happened, you have to explore the house, reading any notes you find and picking up keys and combination lock codes so that you can open new doors and learn more secrets. Touching certain items triggers voiceover narration from your sister, explaining a little of what happened to her while you were gone and how things got to the point they are now.

The game’s atmosphere is top-notch. It’s dark outside, and there’s a storm going on, so your exploration is occasionally interrupted by thunder. Meanwhile, almost every room you enter is dark. When I first started playing, I turned off lights after leaving a room, but it wasn’t long before I got in the habit of turning on every single light and just leaving them on. Not only did it help make exploring slightly less scary, it helped me keep track of which rooms I’d been in and which hadn’t. However, the house’s electrical wiring was a bit wonky, so occasionally the lights flickered. And for some reason everyone left their TVs on.

Thankfully for those like me who scare easily, the flickering lights, thunder, TVs, and Katie’s sister’s notes about potential ghosts were as bad as the “horror” got. There really wasn’t anything to be afraid of. No jump scares, no monsters, literally nothing in the house but you. The house became a lot less creepy once I realized that, although there was one room I refused to explore because it didn’t seem to have a working light.

As you explore the house, you learn more about what happened to Katie’s sister, but you also learn a bit about what’s been going on with Katie’s parents. Since I’d read spoilery reviews of the game, I already knew most of what was going on with Katie’s sister, but I had no clue about what was going on with her parents. I wanted to know what they knew about what was going on, and where they were.

The final revelations were...kind of disappointing. Maybe I’d have enjoyed them more if I hadn’t come across those spoilery reviews? Or maybe not, since several things were obvious well before the game’s ending. One of the things Fullbright seems to have trouble with is story pacing. This one spread things out almost too much, while Tacoma waited until the very end of the game for almost all of its most interesting moments. Gone Home's setup also felt more contrived. Would Katie's sister really have forced her to learn literally all of the house's secrets (and at 1 or 2 AM!) before finally letting her know what had happened? That seemed...pretty awful.

Of the two games, I definitely enjoyed Tacoma more, although Gone Home was still pretty decent. Part of that might have been that I’m more of a sci-fi fan - I really enjoyed Tacoma’s world-building, the AI, and getting to explore the station. Gone Home’s benefits were its creepy atmosphere and the cassette tapes strewn about the house...which I hated. It would have been nice if the cassette players had had some kind of volume control, but even if they had, I seriously disliked Katie’s sister’s taste in music, which was a bit of a bummer since she mentioned and gushed over the music so much in her voiceovers and notes. I wasn’t really a fan of the music in Tacoma either, but at least it didn’t feel as important there.

Oh, also: although Gone Home still made me feel a bit nauseous, I found that I did better with it than I did with Tacoma. So that was something.

I don’t regret playing Gone Home, but it’s one of those games I’d be cautious about recommending. It’s very short - I finished the entire thing in slightly less than 2 hours - and the story is very, very slim. As in “I can’t say much more about it than I already have, or I’d give everything away.”

I do have one other thing I’d like to say, but it’s very spoilery. You’ve been warned.

Okay, so the one other thing I wanted to say was that it kind of bugged me that I’ve now played two interactive stories with

heavy LGBT themes and the exact same setup (not saying the title of the other one, because spoilers). There’s a person, you don’t know what happened to them and you want to find out, you do a bit of invasive exploration, and in the end you learn the person is LGBT (in this case a lesbian), has run off, and you’re supposed to leave them be and trust that everything is going just fine for them. This bugged me in the other game I played, but it particularly bothered me here. If I were Katie, you can bet I’d want to know where my little sister is. I’d want to keep in touch with her in order to make sure that she’s doing okay, and I’d want her to have more people she could depend on than some girl I don’t know who might be dependable but who also might not. It also kind of sucks that both of these games were set up in such a way that the LGBT aspects are major spoilers - they are very nearly the entire story. Tacoma was better in that respect too. One gay character and two lesbians, and you could actually talk about characters' sexuality without spoiling even a little of the story.

(spoiler show)

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 2.5 stars and 3 stars. I decided that the issues I mentioned slightly overshadowed the things I enjoyed about the game and finally settled on 2.5 stars.

 

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

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