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review 2018-01-10 07:25
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

2018:  I re-read this book as part of the Flat Book Society's group read.  I don't want to review it twice, so I'm re-posting my original review.  My feelings about this book stand, and moreover, it holds up on re-reading very well.  

 

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2017:  A pretty excellent book for anyone who gets a bit giddy about science and the everyday ways that science is part of everyone's life.

 

Czerski has a very accessible voice and a very clear way of explaining what are at times complex topics, and she covers the gamut:  electromagnetism, water tension, viscosity, plate tectonics, and Newton's laws of motion (I'm old-school) among them.  I learned so much about so many things and those that I had a basic understanding of, she elucidated in ways that really brought the concepts to life in better detail.  I had no idea that an electromagnet was what held down the tray in my toaster - did y'all know that?  That's why the tray doesn't stay down when the toaster is unplugged.  

 

So much of this book got read out loud to MT, who is not a lover of science, but even he found the bits I shared fascinating (he was equally surprised about the toaster), and there were so many suggestions throughout the book that can easily be done at home; I plan to do several of them with my nieces when next they are here - including building our own trebuchet.  

 

Honestly, anyone interested in science but might feel intimidated by the often tedious or complex explanations, or anyone who just thinks the science involved in the every day fascinating will get a lot out of this book.  Czerski often gets auto-biographical with her narrative, but she is a physicist, so why wouldn't she use her own experiences to illustrate her points?  (For the record, MT and I both think she and her friends got totally screwed on the whole trebuchet debacle.)

 

Overall, a lot of fun.

 

PS:  oh, yes, the trebuchet will happen!

Source: www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/mini-trebuchet-science
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review 2017-08-12 18:21
Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovksy
Dragonfly Falling - Adrian Tchaikovsky

Series: Shadows of the Apt #2

 

Adrian Tchaikovsky's earlier books aren't quite as good as his later books, but they're still entertaining. This one took me quite a while to get through for a variety of reasons, but in my defence, it's a good 700 pages.

 

This installment brings war to the Lowlands in the form of battles for ant cities and a siege of Collegium. Each city battle doesn't actually take all that long, so I'm not sure they quite qualify as sieges, but I'm not sure what other word would be more appropriate. The plot was interesting and the battles were handled well, but I think the sheer amount of war in this one became a bit of a grind. Part of that was the subplot with Totho, which I wasn't sure I really liked at first.

 

I'll admit that I was starting to doubt whether I really wanted to continue with this series partway through the book because of the aforementioned sensation of the machinery of war just grinding along, but the ending and resolution helped rekindle my interest so I'll definitely slot the next one into my reading schedule at some point. This is most definitely not a series I'd want to read all ten books of at once though.

 

My copy had the newer cover:

 

 

I like it better, so I'm adding it here.

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review 2017-08-02 01:09
Dies the Fire
Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling

On March 17, 1998 there was a brilliant flash of light, and afterwards explosives (including gunpowder), internal combustion, and electricity no longer work.  Dies the Fire follows two small bands trying to stay alive during the first months immediately after The Change.  Clan MacKenzie, led by Ren Fair singer and Wiccan High Priestess Juniper MacKenzie, quickly bolts to her cabin in the foothills and settles into a communal kibbutz-like agrarian lifestyle in the Willamette Valley.  Clan Bear, led by ex-marine pilot Mike Havel with his deputies an African American horse trainer and a female live-steel sword fighting veterinarian, develop into a wandering militia as they wend their way from Idaho back to the Willamette.

 

Other reviewers appear to love Dies the Fire or hate it (Reviews are either 1 star or 4 stars).  I do agree that in many way’s Dies the Fire is an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and Renaissance Fair fan’s wet dream – folks who play Middle Ages have an advantage on the fighting and crafting skills to survive.  Similarly, the villain, the so-called Protector of Portland, is a lawful evil stereotype with medieval history background who tries to start a Feudal setup with him as kingpin and the local gangs as levies.

 

The writing is a bit more polished than that of S.M. Stirling’s earlier Nantucket Trilogy, but still descends into detailed inventory and infodump from time to time.  On this re-read, I’m also painfully aware of some of the odd tokenization of certain characters – Will Dutton, Mike Havel’s African American 2nd and his Mexican wife are the primary non-Caucasians except for the Nez Perce.  Is that because there just aren’t many people of color in that part of the world, or it is because Stirling is consciously trying to be diverse? He’s not quite succeeding at avoiding the magical Negro stereotype.  Juniper’s daughter, Eilir is congenitally deaf due to measles but preternaturally good at reading lips and unusually Juniper’s inner circle appear to all be fluent in sign and a potential best friend picks up signing effortlessly.  Is that because Stirling is indulging in building the world he wishes, or because he feels the need to include someone with disabilities and then doesn’t quite make it realistic? And despite these criticisms, of all the post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction I've read, Dies the Fire is the one that haunts me and that I dream about.  

 

The Emberverse, as this series is now known, is up to 13 volumes with the 14th, which follows the grandchildren of the original characters, expected out later in 2017. I read the first few books when they were originally released, but lost interest. I got back into the series because the audiobook is available on Hoopla from my library. Taking the time that an audiobook enforces, I’m more aware of the number of times that certain descriptions and concepts are repeated than I was the first time I read Dies the Fire.  I was talking to my husband about this and we came to the conclusion that S.M. Stirling, much like L.E. Modesitt, comes up with interesting premises and is a reasonable wordsmith but they both have favorite set pieces and conceits that they reach for just a bit too often – they can become their own cliché.

 

I wasn’t impressed with the Tantor Audiobook.  While Todd McLaren had a reasonably pleasant voice, the frequent mispronunciations were annoying and point to a lack of research and sloppy preparation.  (He mispronounces Chuchulian, Samhain, Lunasadh, Athame, céilidh, and ballista, among other things).

 

Audiobook started during #24in48.  Prorated portion of 431 of 1319* minutes or 187 of the 573 page paperback used as my last Free Friday selection for Booklikes-opoly. I finished it up while listening in the car on the way to camp to pick up my son and while sitting with Ozzie last night.

 

*I’d been calculating based on 1380 minutes since the downloaded file said 23 hours, but the book actually finished in 21 hours and 59 minutes

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review 2017-07-31 22:19
After the Funeral
After the Funeral - Agatha Christie

Should murder make sense? Mr Entwhistle wondered. Academically the answer was yes. But many pointless crimes were on record. It depended, Mr Entwhistle reflected, on the mentality of the murderer.

This was my first time reading After the Funeral, but, of course, it is the story that is loosely used as the story in Murder at the Gallop, that classic Marple film starring the incomparable Margaret Rutherford. 

 

 

This is all wrong, of course. After the Funeral is a Poirot mystery, not a Marple. 

 

But other than this, the main plot is the same: a family gathering, a vague accusation, a brutal murder.

 

Poirot joins the plot relatively late, and then potters about as Poirot does.

 

Which brings me to following: Poirot is the worst person to ever try and disguise himself. This is not the first time he does it, and every time I've seen him do it, it is just ridiculous.

Surely, Christie wrote this "disguise" malarkey as a bit of fun with the oh so famous and infallible Belgian.

And his name isn’t Pontarlier – it’s Hercules something.’ ‘Hercule Poirot – at your service.’ Poirot bowed. There were no gasps of astonishment or of apprehension. His name seemed to mean nothing at all to them. They were less alarmed by it than they had been by the single word ‘detective’.

After the Funeral is a fairly standard Poirot story, not the best, not the worst. There are a couple of things that do not work, like Poirot's attempt at making people confess to him. That was just plain silly.

 

However, I liked disliking most of the characters. It's a bit of dark satire, more than a murder mystery, but it isn't as good as other Poirot stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-07-31 20:46
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
Ugly Love - Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love is the second book by Colleen Hoover that I’ve read and I had so much fun. It was completely different to the other one of hers I read, It Ends With Us. That one was to do with physical abuse and as hard as the topic matter was to read about, I thought the book itself was amasing and it got to me a way that few books ever have. Similarly, this one tackled difficult themes, but nowhere near the same level. It was mostly just a really fun read.

 

The story followed Tate and Miles who meet each other under dubious circumstances and a physical attraction develops between them. Miles doesn’t want a relationship, just something casual. He propositions Tate and she agrees.

 

This is a novel of dual perspectives. The chapters in the present day are written in Tate's, while Miles narrates the alternate chapters that take place six years in the past. The chapters from the past illuminate the reasons why Miles can’t bear the thought of falling in love again and only wants a sexual relationship.

 

I loved virtually all of the characters. Tate was fun and quirky and she showed such vulnerability when she began to see Miles as more than just a casual fling. All she wanted was for Miles to feel the same way about her and I could almost taste her disappointment when he kept shooting her down. There were several times when I wished Tate would walk away because I couldn’t bear to see her hurt anymore, but she kept coming back for more. This was infuriating to a degree, but communicated  the depth of her feelings for Miles.

 

Miles himself was a very stoic character who it was hard to get a measure of. His chapters, which were often written in verse  (I didn’t get that at all), really helped to shine light on his character. I preferred the chapters written in the present day as I did find the angst a little too much in Miles’s chapters, but they were okay.

 

A lot of people go on about Cap (one of the side characters), an old man who operated the lift for residents at the tower block where Tate and Miles lived .I liked him, but I really don’t get why people were so enamoured with him. He was fun, though, and I certainly didn’t dislike his parts.

 

This was such a fun read that was perfectly paced and really addictive. If you’re in need of a light read go check it out. It left me with such a warm glow!

 

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