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review 2017-11-28 03:33
Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark - Ann Druyan,Carl Sagan

My dad has recommended many books over the years, but this one has to be the most timely - and it was written twenty years ago! I suppose that means reason is timeless. Carl Sagan questions why humanity is so enamored with pseudo-science and the paranormal as opposed to, you know, the truth.

Sagan's writing is warm and funny in a dry way. I liked that here is a guy who would genuinely love to accept the existence of extraterrestrial life and life after death, but needs to see the evidence. His disappointment is touching. Sagan scrutinizes ghosts, witchcraft, alien abductions, Atlantis, telepathy, and other phenomena and runs through the evidence. The evidence just isn't there. Sagan examines why people ignore the genuine discoveries of science for tabloid stories and fantastic claims with nothing backing them up. They are also more widely disseminated. Sagan was convinced that more people are aware of the theory that aliens have been "diddling" us for centuries than the mapping of the human genome. Too much credulity leaves us open to superstition, and we've all seen the results of that.

The book can be a little dry, but its refreshing reading and I would like to see an updated edition come out.

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review 2017-11-26 01:08
What We See In the Stars
What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky - Kelsey Oseid

Square 15 for the 16 Festive Tasks- Science and Astronomy for Newtonmass

 

What We See In The Stars is a wonderful book with a lot of good information laid out in an easy to read format, great for a beginner astronomer or someone who has taken an interest in astronomy. 
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Laid out in successive sections, the importance of astronomy and our understanding of the stars in laid out and written in common language accompanied by wonderful artistry.  The stars are outlined in their importance in history, mythology, culture and science as well as our understanding of what lies beyond.  

Through reading, I developed an understanding of how we see space from the Earth and how this has developed over time.  I was surprised to learn that the Islamic people were among the first to name the stars and their names have been Latinized over time.  I loved looking through Ptolemy's Constellations and learning their stories along with the stars that make them up and how they fit in with Greek mythology.  The modern constellations added many constellations that I had no idea were recognized, such as the microscope, the telescope and the giraffe.  The section of our own galaxy,  the milky way was intriguing. There are beautiful depictions of the moon, it's phases, geologic features and seasonal names. This section also discusses the sun, seasons, eclipses and goes into detail about each planet.  

A gorgeous book that encouraged me to get outside at night and look up to see what can be discovered.

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review 2017-11-23 20:20
A great debut novel for those looking for a bit of magic and hope.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance - Ruth Emmie Lang

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is a joy. Readers need to be prepared to suspend disbelief more than usual, perhaps, but from the very beginning, you realise you are in for a ride where everything will be extraordinary. Weylyn, the protagonist, is born in circumstances that his doctor never forgets, and he grows up to be more than a bit special.

I will not repeat the description of the book, which summarises quite well the main aspects of the novel. Weylyn’s story is told, mostly, from the point of view of the characters he meets along the way, and who, somehow, are changed by his presence in their lives. The story is set in the present, with interludes where a boy who literally falls on Weylyn (who lives like a hermit in the forest, with a wolf as his only company) keeps pestering him to tell him his story, and then goes back to the past, and the story is told, always in the first person, by a number of characters. As all readers know, narrators have a way of revealing a lot about themselves when they tell somebody else’s story, and this is true here. None of the narrators are unreliable, but they tell us more of their own stories through their memories of Weylyn than they do about Weylyn himself. We get to know him by the effect he has on those around him (children, adults, some of the characters —those he is closest to— her revisits over the years) and he remains a bit of a cipher, perhaps because he does not know himself or can explain himself fully either. We hear from him towards the end of the book, also in the first person, but he is not a character who defines himself by his “powers” (if that is what they are), and he never gives his talents a name, although he allows people to think whatever they like (He even tries to hide his prowess behind a pig, Merlin, insisting that the horned pig is the one who controls the weather). Despite all these points of view, the book is easy to read as each point of view is clearly delineated and their stories and narrative styles are distinct and appropriate to the characters. The writing flows well and there is enough description to spur readers’ imagination without going overboard.

In a world where children and parents have difficulty communicating, where fitting in and appearances are more important than true generosity, where politicians are self-serving and corrupt, where people stay in relationships because they don’t know how to end them, and where the interest of big corporations always trumps the needs of the common man, Weylyn is like the energy and light he manages to harvest, a ray of hope and a breath of fresh air.

Weylyn is a great character, but so are most of the other characters in the book. Some are more memorable than others, but they are all likeable and changed for the better by their interaction with Weylyn.

Although there are magical and fantastic elements in the novel, in my opinion, it fits into the category of magic realism (as the world the characters live in is our world and that is precisely why people are touched and surprised by his skills, his “specialness”). It would also fall under literary fiction, although it is a much easier read than many books classed under that label (and I feel this is a book not exclusively for adults either. There is minimal violence, clean romance, and many young characters, all distinct and likeable in their own ways).

A story for readers who love great characters and like to let their imaginations fly, not always feeling the need to remain anchored to reality. This is one of those books that we feel sorry to reach the end of and are thankful because we know their memory will remain with us. A great debut novel.

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review 2017-10-19 07:19
Animals Talking In All Caps by Justin Valmassoi
Animals Talking in All Caps: It's Just What It Sounds Like - Justin Valmassoi

A goat who wants to sell you some meth. 
A giraffe who might be violating his restraining order. 
An alpaca with a very dirty secret. 
A cat who’s really mad at you for cancelling Netflix instant. 
 
These are just a few of the hilariously human animals you’ll meet in Animals Talking in All Caps. Inspired by the wildly popular blog of the same name and including some of the site’s best-loved entries as well as gobs of never-before-seen material, these pages provide a brilliantly unhinged glimpse into the animal mind.

Amazon.com

 

 

This book is an extension of the humor originally found on author Justin Valmassoi's tumblr page (also called Animals Talking In All Caps). The subtitle on the cover is "It's Just What It Sounds Like" and that's the truth! It's just straight up humorous captions / conversations put to pictures of animals! The conversations touch upon not only pop culture references and relationship craziness but also some more crude or risque material.. but in such a dang cute way! 

 

The book also features a pretty adorable introductory essay :-) In it, Valmassoi writes: 

 

"My friend Stacey asked me to collect all the random caps-lock-captioned animal photos strewn across my many abandoned tumblrs into one convenient spot so she could giggle at them without having to search through years of bad jokes and turgid prose. Having nothing better to do, I obliged. After collecting them all under the highly creative title Animals Talking In Caps, I went on to write a few more. I wrote one or two a day, mostly to keep Stacey entertained. I didn't tell anyone about it because I'm in my thirties and "I made a dog talk about the perils of Western capitalism" is a really embarrassing way to answer the question "What did you do today?" (not that anyone was asking, but just in case). Nonetheless, because it was a website featuring animals, people found it. If it has an animal on it and it's on the internet, everyone will eventually see it because humans are biologically wired to seek out animal photos whenever they get near a computer."

 

I don't have a ton to say about the book other than to say I was endlessly entertained, it gave me a smile on a bad day, and I'm sure I'll be returning to it for a giggle numerous times for years to come. 

 

Some of my favorites from the collection:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-09-26 19:26
Another excellent novel from a great new author
Force of Nature: A Novel - Jane Harper

What makes the writing of Jane Harper so appealing to me is the very balanced and articulate style that flows with so little effort (or so it seems) from her writing. In "Force of Nature" she expertly relates a story in both the present and past timeline drawing them together in a nail biting conclusion and in a sleight of hand exposes the perpetrator.

 

Two teams from BaileyBennets  embark on a weekend of outdoor pursuits and teambuilding along the Mirror Falls trail in the Giralang Ranges outside Melbourne. Alice Russell was supposed to deliver important documents to Federal agent Aaron Falk and his assistant  Carmen Cooper and by so doing exposing malpractice at BB. Regrettably at the end of the weekend of executive bonding one employee, Alice Russell, fails to emerge and there is great fear for her safety and welfare. Her fellow friends and colleagues appear to be shocked and fear she may have walked alone into the unforgiving wooded and bush environment. As the two agents dig deeper all is not as it should be amongst the hikers and slowly they begin to uncover a web of treachery not only prevalent in the BaileyBennets work place but also stretching back many years.

 

For those of you familiar with the writing of Jane Harper and in particular her excellent first novel "The Dry" it is refreshing to see not only the return of Aaron Falk but to learn a little more about his childhood with his late father whom he loved dearly. If we add to this a serial killer known as Marin Kovac who butchered and buried a number of victims in the Giralang Ranges then we have all the ingredients for an ingenious mystery. I can honestly say that Jane Harper once again kept me glued to this thrilling story as the layers of friendship and deceit are uncovered exposing an underbelly of hatred and envy. I had no idea who the killer was until revealed and that surely must be the mark of a master storyteller. As in her first novel Mz Harper uses the harsh and beautiful Australian landscape to great affect..."a curtain of white water. A river tumbled over a cliff edge and into the pool far beneath them."......"The neat trees lining the nature strip looked like plastic models compared with the primal lushness that had lurked over them for the past three days."....."The air was so crisp Jill felt she could almost touch it, and the freshwater spray cooled her cheeks. It was an hypnotic sight, and as she drank it in she almost felt the weight of her pack lift a little from her shoulders.".................

 

Many thanks to Little Brown  Book Group and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

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