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review 2017-12-11 05:44
It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History
It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History - Jennifer Wright

This was good!  I wasn't sure at the start, because it's pretty clear the author geared her narrative towards women (or men, but really, women) who were battling their way through breakups while reading this book.  But it's easy to get past that and just enjoy the history and the wry humour.  And omg were these people awful.  You expect Nero to be horrible, but - and maybe it's just my general ignorance of Roman history, but not this weirdly horrible.  And Oskar Kokoschka... holy cheese whiz weird, although I think I found it even more bizarre that everybody let him get away with his flavour of weird without seemingly batting an eye.  By the time you get to Norman Mailer, his horribleness almost seems bland by comparison.  Almost.  


This is popular history in its purest form, but it's lively and entertaining while it's being informative.  The source list at the end is a little web-link heavy for my taste, but I'm going with it; I learned a lot and little of it had to do with how these people broke up with their exes. 


I have this in print, but borrowed the audio from the library and while I was a bit hesitant about the narrator at the beginning, I soon changed my mind.  Hillary Huber's performance starts off sounding a bit monotone, but I soon found it works really well with Wright's wry humour and occasional sass.  I particularly enjoyed her narration in the car as it was both calming and often hilarious.


I definitely recommend this (in audio or print) if you're looking for light, breezy and educational.

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review 2017-11-18 06:24
The Alchemist
The Alchemist - Alan R. Clarke,Paulo Coelho

I bought this book while in Amsterdam for a couple of reasons:  The title first caught my attention, and the friend I was with said he'd read it and thought it was... ok.  But mostly because of the title. 


Since buying it I've read a lot of reviews that say it's... ok.  Which is why it sat on my TBR for so long.


Now that I've read it, I understand why a lot of people might think it's just ok.  Reading it, I'm left with comparisons that include fairy tales and Pilgrim's Progress; allegory plays a big part in this tale, although the message isn't all that hidden.  And the author doesn't even try to hide his, or his characters', faiths or spirituality; it's not preachy, but God and Allah are at the root of the plot.


Still, it's beautifully written, and well translated.  The allegorical nature of the story and the third person POV kept me from really being invested in what happened to anyone, but I did appreciate the truly omnipotent and omnipresent role the author gave to God.  He never tried to restrict the deity's role to just a traditional Christian or a traditional Islamic one; when he claims God is everywhere, he doesn't go about contradicting himself.  My appreciation for this refreshing lack of hypocrisy went a long way to overcoming my ambivalence about the fate of the characters, and elevated my appreciation of the book to a notch above 'ok'.  


If you prefer your spiritualism to be deity free, you're not going to like this book.  If that's less important to you and you're intrigued by the question of "why are we here?", this might be worth a look.



Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue),

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review 2017-11-18 05:40
Idiomantics: The weird world of popular phrases
Idiomantics: The Weird and Wonderful World of Popular Phrases - Peter Lewis,Philip Gooden

If you're at all interested in those phrases every language has that don't translate exactly, like "the buck stops here" or one of my personal favourites: "as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs" this might be a book you'd enjoy.  It's a glossary, of sorts, categorising different idioms of the world - subjectively chosen by the authors - by varying subjects: food, national identity, animals, etc.  Each entry is translated to English, explained and a brief history of its origins discussed, if the origins are known.


A great book to pick up periodically, or used as a reference.

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review 2017-11-15 07:52
A Christmas Cornucopia: The hidden stories behind our Yuletide traditions
A Christmas Cornucopia: The hidden stories behind our Yuletide traditions - Mark Forsyth

I'm a huge fan of Mark Forsyth's books: The Etymologicon and The Elements of Eloquence being just two examples of his excellent writing on language.  When he announced he'd be writing this small tome about the history of Christmas, I pre-ordered it, and I've been sitting on it all year, waiting for the Christmas season's approach to read it. 


I needed something light after my last read, and this was perfect.  It's written in Forsyth's usual dryly hilarious style and for such a small volume (171 pages including the index) it's chock full of Christmas facts.  Spoiler alert:  almost none of the Christmas traditions we know and love today are tied to paganism.  If you want to know how this can be true, read the book.  It won't be a waste of your time, and you'll probably laugh at least once along the way. 


If you do read it, make sure you skim the index at the end.  It might be the funniest index I've ever read (and I've been known to skim more than a few). 


Pagan myths: see


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review 2017-10-24 09:11
The Informed Gardener Blooms Again
The Informed Gardener Blooms Again - Linda Chalker-Scott

This is the second compilation of columns from the author's blog The Informed Gardener.  Her purpose behind both the blog and these books is to bust popular and often ingrained myths about gardening with hard, peer-reviewed science.


i found the first book a little bit off-putting, if only because she busted more than a couple of myths I was suckered into.  It's depressing to think you're a rational, objective, sceptical soul only to find out you're just as susceptible to marketing hype as the next gardener.  Still, I came away from it determined to get my soil tested, convince MT to go back to wood chip mulch, and lay off the manure.


This time around she covered stuff I hadn't fallen for so of course it's a better book! ::grin:: But in all honestly, I thought this one was a better book because it wasn't all about tearing down the myths; occasionally the chapters covered practices that had merit, or potential, but not necessarily in all situations.  This book felt more balanced.


The author does a great job keeping the writing accessible while sticking strictly to the hard science, and every chapter has its own citations/sources.  This is an excellent resource for anyone remotely serious about gardening.

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