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text 2018-06-15 03:18
The Flat Book Society - 15 days until our July read begins!
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

Just a reminder that our July read of The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions by Thomas McNamee begins in just two weeks. All are welcome, as always. 

 

Our feline companions are much-loved but often mysterious. In The Inner Life of Cats, Thomas McNamee blends scientific reportage with engaging, illustrative anecdotes about his own beloved cat, Augusta, to explore and illuminate the secrets and enigmas of her kind. As it begins, The Inner Life of Cats follows the development of the young Augusta while simultaneously explaining the basics of a kitten's physiological and psychological development. As the narrative progresses, McNamee also charts cats' evolution, explores a feral cat colony in Rome, tells the story of Augusta's life and adventures, and consults with behavioral experts, animal activists, and researchers, who will help readers more fully understand cats. McNamee shows that with deeper knowledge of cats' developmental phases and individual idiosyncrasies, we can do a better job of guiding cats' maturation and improving the quality of their lives. Readers' relationships with their feline friends will be happier and more harmonious because of this book.

 

Personally, Huggins and I are hoping this book will hold a magical solution for making Wasabi-cat mute between the hours of 10pm and 8am.  It's a doomed hope but miracles do happen...

 

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text 2018-06-15 03:13
The Flat Book Society: Reminder - List is open for September nominations - Vote for your favorites!
Unlocking the Past: How Archaeologists Are Rewriting Human History with Ancient DNA - Martin Jones
Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law - Peter Woit
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams - Matthew Walker
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees - Thor Hanson

Just a reminder that our list is still open for voting for the September read.  We currently have 10 nominees (we aim to keep it at a max of 12-15) and the current leader with just 3 votes is:

 

Unlocking the Past: How Archaeologists Are Rewriting Human History with Ancient DNA - Martin Jones 

 

In Unlocking the Past, Martin Jones, [...] explains how this pioneering science is rewriting human history and unlocking stories of the past that could never have been told before. For the first time, the building blocks of ancient life—–DNA, proteins, and fats that have long been trapped in fossils and earth and rock—–have become widely accessible to science. Working at the cutting edge of genetic and other molecular technologies, researchers have been probing the remains of these ancient biomolecules in human skeletons, sediments and fossilized plants, dinosaur bones, and insects trapped in amber. Their amazing discoveries have influenced the archaeological debate at almost every level and continue to reshape our understanding of the past.

 

In contention are 4 others with 2 votes each are (as listed above):

Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law - Peter Woit 

Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher 

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams - Matthew Walker 

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees - Thor Hanson 

 

Be sure to get over to the Flat Book Society and vote if you haven't already, and if you have a dark horse entry, we still have a few spaces to fill.  If you're not a member already, it's never too late to join!

 

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text 2018-06-03 22:44
May Musings

Still haven’t been feeling the urge to review as much, so here’s another quick month-end summary. I read 4 pieces of fiction and parts of 3 non-fiction books during May.

 

Fiction:

 

A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton 

 

A is for Alibi is the first book in the long-running “Alphabet Mysteries" series. While the novel was originally contemporary, it now reads as a period piece from the days before cell-phones.  While there were some wobbles, I’ve been looking for a new mystery series and I’m curious to see what kind of writer Sue Grafton matures into.  Ms. Grafton, unfortunately, died at the end of 2017.

 

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee 

 

Ninefox Gambit was the winner of the 2016 Locus Award as wells as being nominated for the 2017 Hugo, Nebula And Arthur C. Clarke Awards. I read Mr. Lee's first full-length novel because the sequel was nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award.  The start of Ninefox Gambit was very confusing start as you are thrown headlong into a very inventive world.  But I very much enjoyed the story once all the players were in motion. I’m likely to re-read this since I feel like I missed a lot of the nuance.

  •  
  • All Systems Red - Martha Wells 

 

I’ve been seeing  glowing reviews of All Systems Red  on my feed for a while, and was able to download the ebook for free from Tor.com in April.  The story won the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella. I'm glad I spent the time with Murderbot and I hope that my local library makes the sequels available.

 

The Protector's War - S.M. Stirling 

  

Meh.  See stand-alone review of the The Protector's War  

 

 

Non-Fiction:

 

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot  A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup  

 

I finally finished I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, which was the March selection from the Flat Book Society. The story of the microbiome was interesting, but for whatever reason, I found it hard to maintain the attention needed to follow Ed Yong’s well-researched summary.  I love that, while I Contain Multitudes was clearly written for a general audience, the back 20% of the book was still footnotes and citations of primary documents.

 

My IRL book-club read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for our mid-May meeting.  I’d read it several years ago as an audiobook.  I didn’t start until a week before the meeting and had finished about the first 1/3 by our discussion.  After the meeting, I just didn’t feel like taking the time to finish, so moved on to other things.

 

I read a few chapters in A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie  by Kathryn Harkup, which was the Flat Book Society selection for May.  As a non-Christie reader, I didn't find it all that compelling and chose not to finish.

 

Happy Reading!

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text 2018-05-24 04:50
A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup

Since this is a re-read for me, and I stand by my original review/rating, this post will serve as my final reading update.  As such a few thoughts on the final three entires:

 

Ricin:

"[...] to ensure no ricin makes it into the castor oil it is heated to more than 80C at it is extracted; this denatures the protein, so inactivating it."

 

Something for the raw food movement to remember:  don't buy cold-pressed castor oil.  Sometimes, processed is better.

 

Strychnine:

Oh dear god what a thoroughly hideous way to die.  The deciding factor for me, in a book full of thoroughly hideous ways to go, is that you're completely aware of what's going on the entire time it's happening.  Like Hemlock, only here there's zero chance of getting the "nice" kind (if a nice kind of hemlock actually does exist - let's nobody find out).  

 

I also had the weird and totally superfluous thought:  I wonder if anyone's ever tried spraying a victim down in solarcaine?  (Solarcaine is an aerosol form of lidocaine - topical anesthetic.)  Because, you know, it's a numbing agent, which would cut off nerve stimulation.  Although I can't imagine it would be very comforting to be in the throes of strychnine and hear: "Quick! Get the sunburn spray - this might feel a little cold..."

 

So, now you know where my mind goes when it's running from descriptions of horrific death.  Sunburn spray.

 

Moving on... Veronal.  

I had almost no thoughts about Veronal at all; probably because I was still musing over the sunburn spray ... not because of any deficiencies in Harkup's writing.

 

As I said at the start; I happily stand by my first assessment of the book at the 4.5 stars I gave it.  It's entertaining and accessible without sacrificing intellectual merit.

 

If you have a reading retention rate for details better than mine, you might find some of the sections she doesn't label as spoilers to be over-revealing.  Unlike others, the only one I found that will stick with me over time is the (to me) dead give away in the Veronal chapter for Lord Edgware Dies, although maybe it isn't. The way it's written it seems there's only one scene needed to identify the murderer, given what Harkup shares here.  Perhaps the scene is more complicated than she describes though.  Luckily, I need only read enough books between now and my next Christie to completely forget, confuse or conflate the details I've read here.  Silver linings...

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text 2018-05-23 08:50
Reading progress update: I've read 221 out of 320 pages.
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup

Phosphorus:  Of all the undignified ways to glow in the dark...  and almost, but not quite, as horrible a way to die as strychnine.

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