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text 2019-01-15 13:44
Reading progress update: I've read 35 out of 394 pages.
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

Got through the introduction and into the first chapter - and remembered the slog of my first time reading it.  Nothing against Kean - it's just whenever we start talking about electrons swapping and using words like ions, I have t slow down to make sure I have the facts straight and I'm not conflating electrons with neutrons or anything stupid.

 

Not to mention constantly try to banish the 'old fashioned' orbital planets model from my head as I'm reading.

 

Huggins says READ FASTER - MY SPOON IS STILL MELTING!!

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text 2019-01-15 09:57
Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 288 pages.
The Honey Factory: Inside the Ingenious World of Bees - Diedrich Steen,Jürgen Tautz

So. much. science.

 

Which is awesome.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it and getting exactly what I wanted: an in-depth, you-are-there, description of the world of honey bees and what we know so far about how they function in the hive.

 

Originally written in German, the translation is good, but it's funny because the narrative voice reminds me so much of the way one of my former colleagues in Denmark spoke English.  Grammatically perfect, but with a rhythm–dare I say melody?–that made it sound like he was ... I want to say 'talking to a  child' but it wasn't condescending; it was simply a similar cadence.  It's hard to explain, but the result is I can't hardly read this without picturing him in my head and hearing his voice.  Which is totally ok (I liked him), but a tad discordant too, as to the best of my knowledge he was not a beekeeper.  

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review 2019-01-14 06:11
Bird, Bath and Beyond (Paws to the Stars, #2)
Bird, Bath, and Beyond - E.J. Copperman

I think I liked the first one better, though this one was good.  The premise, and series name, sound more twee and cutesy than the stories themselves are, though it's definitely cozy fare.  Kay is an agent to animals used in the entertainment industry, mostly because she's from an acting family, loves animals and couldn't stomach being a vet.

 

The plot of this one was ... out there.  But here's the thing, and I don't know if I'm going to explain this correctly:  the premise was one that could have been believable, just.  

 

A famous TV actor hires a hitman to kill ... himself.  He's depressed, battling addictions, hates his job, his life, etc. but either doesn't have the courage to do the killing himself, or wants to go out making a statement about the need for gun control - the book never really cleared that up.

(spoiler show)

 

I mean, stranger things have happened.  But Copperman further complicated what was already a weird plot by adding layers of crimes and criminals.  It's my feeling that he took an already weird plot and twisted it up to make it weirder when it didn't need to be.

 

And now what will look like something of a non sequitur but will make sense in a second, when I was at Bouchercon, my sister and I sat in on a panel that E.J. Copperman was on, and he kept talking about how he writes humorous cozies, like Donna Andrews.  My sister and I were sitting at the back, so we could swap comments, sotto voce, and I said to her that I'd read most of his books and I didn't remember any of them being funny.  Not that the jokes fell flat, but that I didn't remember there being any attempt at all to make them.

 

This is the first of his books I've read since Bouchercon, and now I see what he's talking about, and now I can say they're there, they just (mostly) fall flat.  In fact, he seems to be going for a wiseass voice throughout most of the book, and it's either too heavy, or it's a NYC style of humor I fail to get, in a way that is similar to some people not getting British humor.  It didn't ruin the book at all, but it became cloying at times.

 

I wouldn't say 'no' to a third book - I like the parts of the story where Kay is interacting with clients and their owners, and the scenes at her office feel balanced and witty.  But I'm not sure if I'll rush out to get it - and it'll probably be in paperback.

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review 2019-01-10 02:52
Notes from a Public Typewriter
Notes From A Public Typewriter - Michael Gustafson,Oliver Uberti

When Literati Books opened in Ann Arbor Michigan, the owner put an old typewriter out in the stacks, with a sheet of paper in it, curious about what might happen.  In his wildest dreams, he imagined a sort of never ending story, where each patron would pick up where the last one left off; a true community built novel. Pragmatically, he figured he'd end up with a lot of nonsense or jokes about bodily functions.

 

What he got was something totally different and totally special.  People wrote some silly stuff, but they also wrote poems, posed philosophical questions, proposed, broke up, and otherwise bared their souls.  After several years of collecting the daily contributions, Gustafson was convinced to collect his favourites into what became this book.

 

Notes from a Public Typewriter is short, I think I read the whole thing in about an hour.  It's almost purely a collection of what Gustafson considered the best, the funniest, the most touching.  There are photos of the shop and patrons throughout, and every few pages, Gustafson writes a short essay-type piece to introduce context to some of the inclusions.

 

The 5 stars is because this book, for all its simplicity, moved me.  By the end, it was hard to stay dry-eyed, to be honest.  I'm sure Gustafson has collected a LOT of dreck over the years, but the simple lines he included here were honest, heart-felt, and sometimes raw.  

 

I don't go looking for books that reveal what goes on beneath the surface, so I'm really no judge, but this one worked for me.  What is on the face of it an anonymous, ever changing, mass of humanity going in and out the doors of one shop, is revealed in this short volume to be instead the very definition of a community.

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review 2019-01-09 04:57
The Snark Bible: A Reference Guide to Verbal Sparring, Comebacks, Irony, Insults, and So Much More
The Snark Bible: A Reference Guide to Verbal Sparring, Comebacks, Irony, Insults, and So Much More - Lawrence Dorfman

Pretty much what it says on the wrapper.  I love snark and this random gift from a family member is just the sort of thing that makes me chuckle.  It's a great collection, and was heading towards a 5 star rating, but it floundered a bit at the end.  I was willing to overlook a couple of quotes - and really it was only a couple - that were repeated in slightly paraphrased form.  

 

It's a thick book and one or two passing through the keeper is not unexpected.  But at about the 80% mark, specifically the chapter on Motherhood, the quotes stopped being snarky and were just quotes about motherhood, some of them quite endearing and touching.  

 

Then in the last 2-3 chapters, Dorfman lost that fifth star all together when he stopped quoting the greats and started ad libbing his own brand of snark, or at least what he likely considered snark.  It was too acerbic for my tastes; it didn't read snarky nearly as much as it read angry and bitter.  Vitriolic, even.  The dude does NOT like Christmas.  That's fair enough; Christmas can be a trying time for even the most festive feeling of us, but his barbs failed to find that sweet spot of gracious lunacy that can be Christmas.  After that chapter, his further attempts at snarky comebacks to enduring cliches just fell flat.

 

Still, overall it's an excellent compendium of sarcastic and witty quotes that will serve me well as a handy reference when I'm at the end of my rope trying to be polite to the more challenging people in my life.  Mostly time well spent.

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