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text 2019-12-29 13:44
24 Festive Tasks: Door 19 - Festivus: Task 1
Hot Sur - Laura Restrepo,Ernesto Mestre-Reed
The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean
A Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer
The Hour of the Star - Benjamin Moser,Clarice Lispector,Colm Tóibín

Overall, 2019 was a phantastic reading year for me with decidedly more highs than lows.  Of the latter, my worst reading experiences were, in no particular order:

 

Laura Restrepo, Hot Sur: OK, forget the "in no particular order" bit for a moment.  A main character expecting me to empathize with her for siding with the psychopathic rapist of the woman she calls her best friend ... and actually trying to talk her best friend into agreeing her horrific experience was all just a "misunderstanding"?  Sorrynotsorry -- just, nope.  A hard DNF, and that main character deserved everything she had coming to her as a consequence.

 

Renée Ahdieh, The Wrath and the Dawn: Shallow, infantile in tone, and, most importantly, abominably bady researched.  I didn't DNF quite as quickly as Hot Sur, but I barely made it past the 1/3 mark.  I might have been marginally more understanding if it had come across as YA fantasy (which was frankly what I'd expected), but it's written as historical fiction -- and getting core historical details wrong in a book of historical fiction is just about the worst sin you can commit in my book.

 

Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon: Well, let's just say Mr. Kean is decidedly not Helen Czerski (which is NOT a good thing), and he also isn't half as funny as he apparently thinks he is.  What he seems to think is humor, to me comes across as arrogance and unwarranted judgmentalism -- and his research / fact checking on everything "non-physics" is plainly abominable.  Almost as importantly, his fractured narrative style and lack of clarity completely failed to translate to me his own professed enthusiasm for his subject.  Another book where I never got past the initial chapters.

 

Georgette Heyer, A Blunt Instrument: Heyer at her worst -- clichéd, biased, snub-nosed, with one-dimensional characters and a mystery whose solution is staring you in the face virtually from page 1.  I only finished it for confirmation that my guess was correct (which, dare I say "of course", it was), but it was a struggle of the sort I never experienced with Heyer before or since (and I've finished all of her mysteries in the interim).

 

Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star: I know Lispector is highly regarded, but she's obviously not for me -- I detest speech that is so deconstructed to barely make sense (even to mother tongue speakers, as it turns out); combine that with the drab narrative (if that word is even justified) of a drab character living a drab life, and you've lost me for good.  It was a blessing that this is a very short book; if it hadn't been, this would have been another DNF.

 

(Task: The airing of grievances: Which are the five books you liked least this year – and why?)

 

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review 2019-04-16 21:27
The Disappearing Spoon
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

I finally finished this one.

It was a read for the Flat Book Society and I believe I was the last one still reading The Disappearing Spoon. It was not an easy read, especially at times. The first couple of chapters were all over the place and I know a lot of people DNFed at this point. I continued and I liked the later chapters much more.
It's better when Kean is not trying to explain the table, I find. Or, in his more future perspectives-part (the final chapters), these I also liked less.

My favorite anecdote is of two Danish researchers who were keeping onto some Nobel prizes of Jewish German scientists in the second world war and who dissolved the Novel prizes to make sure they survived the war. After the war, the gold was precipitated, sent back to the Nobel committee and they made the medal anew.

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review 2019-04-07 05:06
Jellaby - The Lost Monster
Jellaby: The Lost Monster - Kean Soo

Audience: Grades 4-8

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

 

I picked up this book because the cover was cute, but I didn't really expect much from it. Well, I can say I was pleasantly surprised. Portia is a bright ten-year-old girl who is trying to adjust to life without her father. She is feeling pretty lonely because she doesn't have friends at school and her mom is acting distant. Then she finds a shy, sweet, and quite large purple monster in the woods behind her house.

 

The illustrations are done in black, white, and shades of purple with red accents. Jellaby is purple with red stripes and Portia's hair bow is red. Portia's friend, Jason loves carrots and so there are spots of orange too (like Jason's shirt).

 

The story is charming; I loved Portia, Jellaby, and even Jason. Jellaby is a monster with a heart of gold and this story will touch readers of all ages. 

 

Highly Recommended. I am borrowing the second book tomorrow. :)

 

 

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text 2019-03-29 10:55
2019 Reading Goals: Non-Fiction Science Reading List - Progress Report #1
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World - Laura Spinney
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - Elizabeth Kolbert
Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (Young Readers Edition) - Liza Mundy
Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet - Claire L. Evans
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars - Nathalia Holt
Upstream: Selected Essays - Mary Oliver
Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation - Dan Fagin
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond - Sonia Shah
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

After three busy months, a check in on my progress with this reading project:

 

Read:

1. The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean (Flat Book Society pick)

2. Pandemic by Sonia Shah (substitute for a DNF)

 

DNF:

1. The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

2. The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

 

Currently reading The Fever by Sonia Shah (about malaria). Up next is Tom's River by Dan Fagin.

 

_________________________________________________________________________

In addition to the twelve books listed in this post, I hope to read a few of the Flat Book Society picks.

 

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

3. Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney

4. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

6. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

8. Code Girls by Liz Mundy

9. Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

10. Broad Band by Claire L. Evans

11. Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

12. Tom's River by Dan Fagin

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review 2019-02-08 20:47
DNF: The Disappearing Spoon
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean

I really tried, you guys.

 

I love popular science books, because although it wasn't my best subject at school, I found a lot of the history behind the discipline really interesting. So I read as many of these books as I can.

 

However, this one alternately confused me and bored me to tears. I don't see how it's structured (and come on, it talks about how elements are organized), and the author manages to be both very condescending and assume we have knowledge of what to me were fairly obscure details.

 

Seriously, the Discworld universe (which I'm currently happily immersed in) seems a hundred times more logical and better organized than the one this author describes.

 

I normally read books to the end, but with this one I'm going with the "life is too short etc." excuse, and noping out at just 20% (around the fourth chapter).

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