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review 2018-07-23 09:40
Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls
Sleepyhead: Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night - Henry Nicholls

TITLE:  Sleepyhead:  Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night's Rest

 

AUTHOR: Henry Nicholls

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:       

4 September 2018

 

FORMAT: ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13: 978-1-5416-7257-4

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"A narcoleptic's tireless journey through the neuroscience of disordered sleep
Whether it's a bout of bad jet lag or a stress-induced all-nighter, we've all suffered from nights that left us feeling less than well-rested. But for some people, getting a bad night's sleep isn't just an inconvenience: it's a nightmare. In Sleepyhead, science writer Henry Nicholls uses his own experience with chronic narcolepsy as a gateway to better understanding the cryptic, curious, and relatively uncharted world of sleep disorders. We meet insomniacs who can't get any sleep, narcoleptics who can't control when they sleep, and sleep apnea victims who nearly suffocate in their sleep. We learn the underlying difference between morning larks and night owls; why our sleeping habits shift as we grow older; and the evolutionary significance of REM sleep and dreaming. Charming, eye-opening, and deeply humanizing, Sleepyhead will help us all uncover the secrets of a good night's sleep.  "

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Sleepyhead is a well-written, interesting and informative book about sleep, focusing specifically on Narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.  The author relates his own experiences with narcolepsy, as well as interviewing a variety of sleep-disorder sufferers, neurologists and other specialists.  The book is relatively accessible without insulting the intelligence of readers.  I would recommend this book to anyone who suffers from narcolepsy or knows someone with sleep-disorders.

 

 

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text 2018-07-23 08:46
Book Towns
Book Towns: Forty Five Paradises of the Printed Word - Alex Johnson

A travel itinerary for all bibliophiles, bound in hardcover for easy reference.

 

All kidding aside (if I am kidding), this is a gorgeous book filled with 3-4 page spreads on towns that have dedicated their existence, or tried to, to the joy and importance of the written word in all its forms.  Except digital.  Because digital is evil (now I'm definitely kidding.)

 

The bittersweet part of this is the success rate of some of the towns.  At least half, by my very loose and statistically inaccurate count, have struggled, or find themselves with far fewer bookshops than they started with.  Some of this is the natural atrophy of any business category; there are always those that failed to prepare themselves adequately for the roller coaster that is small business ownership, but the ever shifting market of bookselling and the control of the market by big business, of course, bears the brunt of responsibility.  

 

There are success stories too, and those success stories are significant.  Hay-on-Wye (my personal nirvana/paradise/heaven), Wigtown, and embarrassingly enough, Clunes here n Victoria.  The one that's only 90 minutes from my doorstep and I haven't been to yet!  Boy, is my face red.  Anyway - these towns as well as others all over the world are proof that the concept is important and chock full of possibilities.

 

Johnson does a good job generally, giving a solid overview of each town, featuring the shop names you hope are solvent enough to be around by the time the reader figures out how to get there. He even occasionally mentions (especially for the French towns) the concentration of languages shops focus on.  My only complaint is that I'd have liked this thoughtful touch to be more consistent.  At least one reader of this book does see it as a bucket list (me), and, while most of the towns in this book would stand on their aesthetic merits, it would be helpful to know whether I'd be unlikely to find much in the way of reading material if I'm to visit.

 

Definitely a book to put off reading if you're trying to avoid the travel itch.

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review 2018-07-23 02:39
A Star Trek adventure by a master of the genre
Planet of Judgment - Joe Haldeman

While transporting an esteemed Starfleet scientist to his new posting, the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters a situation seemingly in defiance of the laws of science: an M-class planet orbited by a tiny black hole. As the crew proceeds to investigate the implausibilities of the new planet quickly mount: teleporting down to the planet via transporter is impossible, shuttlecraft no longer function after landing, and phasers can be used to stun the aggressive fauna but will not function when set to kill. Soon the crew of the Enterprise encounter the reason for the mystery and in the process discover a threat to the existence of the entire Federation.

 

Regarded today as one of the giants of the genre, Joe Haldeman was just beginning his career as a science fiction author when he was approached by Bantam to write for their series of Star Trek novels in the 1970s. This, the first of two he would write, demonstrates all of his skills as an author: gripping action, interesting scientific ideas, and a plot that engages the reader throughout its length. Like many an episode what starts as a puzzle becomes a problem, then a challenge that threatens like lives of the Enterprise crew. Though Haldeman incorporates a trope from the original series, his employment in it is done in a way that is both fresh and with real consequences for the story. All of this makes for a delightful novel that shows the possibilities inherent in the series in the hands of a true master of the craft.

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review 2018-07-23 00:17
Wheel of Time Reread Books 1-4 by Leigh Butler
Wheel of Time Reread: Books 1-4 - Leigh Butler

I was late in discovering the existence of the vast world of Wheel of Time fandom. Leigh Butler isn't the be-all-end-all authority, she herself would deny that, but I've found her posts and analysis of what's going on in the series invaluable for my latest reread.

Sharp analysis, critiques, quick explanations and timely reminders of which characters and subplots to keep an eye out for make this essential reading for any fan of the series. It does have a lot of spoilers so no reading before you've gotten through 'A Memory of Light'!

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review 2018-07-22 23:11
E.M. Forster: A New Life
E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

Before judging my reading experience of this book based on my star rating, let me say this:

 

This was not a bad book and there are aspects of this biography that provide a valuable insight into Forster's life and work. However, this biography really follows Forster's life from one angle only, depending on what you expect from a biography, mileage on this may vary.

 

Moffat starts the book with an explanation of her approach, which in turn is based on something Christopher Isherwood said when looking at a stack of biographies about Forster:

"Of course all those books have got to be re-written," he said. "Unless you start with the fact that he was homosexual, nothing's any good."

That is, Moffat is quoting from an Isherwood biography by John Lehmann here, and whether this is a true account or was written as a dramatic embellishment, I could not say. 

It does, however, go straight to the heart of Moffat's biography ... and also to one of the criticisms I have.

 

Moffat does an excellent job presenting Forster in the context of his sexuality, or more precisely his initial struggles with it and the immense pressure he felt of not being able to live openly for fear of persecution and, indeed, prosecution. Being a young man at the start of the 20th century, Forster would have only been too aware of the trials of Oscar Wilde and would himself witness the arrest of friends and acquaintances over the decades. 

 

His resentment over not being able to tell the stories he really wanted to tell and over having to work within the expectations of societal conventions lead to Forster stopping to write major works of fiction after A Passage to India (1924). That is, he did write another major novel, Maurice, but insisted that it should not be published until after his death as the story tells of the relationship between two men and he feared the repercussions. (Btw, Maurice apparently includes a game-keeper scene that may have inspired D.H. Lawrence - one of the few people who were aware of the manuscript - to mock it in Lady Chatterley's Lover)   

 

Moffat explores Forster's diaries - including his "locked" diaries, which he also only allowed access after his death - in detail and we do get a clear picture of the anxieties and of the passions Forster had, and Moffat does well to connect Forster's diary entries with the lives of his friends, peers, and with perception of homosexuality in society through the decades. 

 

However, this is also the main point where this book fell down for me. Moffat goes into a lot of detail. Salacious detail. Lots and lots of it. At times, I felt like whole chapters were focusing about who bedded whom more so than Forster's life and work. Rather than developing an argument, it felt like some of the descriptions merely served to provide a sensationalist hook. 

 

I really should have liked this more than I did, but the meandering descriptions of relationships (not just Forster's but also of his friends and acquaintances) made me skim over quite a few paragraphs. There was little point to most of them.

 

The other criticism I have is with Moffat's writing style. It did not work for me. Her narrative sounded dramatised in a way that made the book read more like fiction than non-fiction and some of the descriptions, as a result of the narrations, did not sound factual even tho they may have been. This was not helped by the way that references were not clearly marked in the text. They were there, of course, but I should not have to check the reference section in the book to see if a certain line on a page is actually backed up with a source of research. 

 

All in all, this was interesting, but I would not recommend the book without some hesitation.

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