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review 2018-06-17 19:40
The Equations of Life
The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution - Charles S. Cockell

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Well, that was a pretty informative read. A little difficult to get into at times (although I suspect half of it was because I was trying to read it when I was too tired), but definitely informative.

To be honest, I’m not that well-versed in equations in general. I can solve basic linear equations with two unknowns, that kind of thing; just don’t ask me to memorise really complex ones. So, I admit that, at first, I was hesitant to request this book, thinking that maybe it’d be out of my reach. Fortunately, while it does deal with equations, it’s not just page after page filled with numbers and symbols, and the author does explain what each term of each equation stands for. In the end, this was all fairly understandable, both the math and the writing itself.

The book doesn’t simply deal with equations either, and delves into astrobiology and basic atomic and particles physics (electrons -are- subatomic particles, after all, and knowing what part they play in atomic interactions is useful to understand what exactly happens at the biological molecular level, too). In fact, I found that a couple of chapters do fit in nicely with quantum theory, if you’re interested in that as well, since they explain essential interactions at shell level. I hadn’t studied chemistry since… at least 21 years, but this sent me back to my old classes, and I realised that I still possessed the required knowledge to get what the author was talking about. Which is great, because 1) I’m interested, 2) I like it when I grasp something that old me would’ve dismissed as ‘too hard’, 3) did I say I’m interested?

Last but not least, the book also contains a list of references that I’ll try to check at some point. Not all of them, of course, but since he points to Sean B. Carroll and his works on evo-devo, that’s a win in my little world.

All in all, this was a set of really interesting and intriguing theories, theories that make a lot of sense when you think about it and take time to observe nature around you. (Why did animals develop legs and not wheels? Well, inequal terrain and all that… Logics, logics…) And if you’re wondering about the possibility of other forms of life, either carbon-based on other planets or not even carbon-based, the author also explores this, going to demonstrate why it may or may not work (hence why a basic lesson in chemistry is provided). A solid 4.5 stars for me (I just think it dragged slightly in the last chapter).

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review 2018-06-17 14:22
Her Super-Secret Rebound Boyfriend by Kerri Carpenter
Her Super-Secret Rebound Boyfriend - Kerri Carpenter

 

Looking for a way to lighten the mood. Kerri Carpenter always delivers. Who needs to look for love, if it's destined to find you? Lola and Luke begin as a fluke and work their way up to forever. With multiple mishaps along the way. Her Super - Secret Rebound Boyfriend is the perfect cure to heal a broken heart. Chaos, laughter and happily ever after.

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review 2018-06-17 11:12
The One You Can't Forget by Roni Loren
The One You Can't Forget (The Ones Who Got Away) - Roni Loren

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Rebecca Lindt, Long Acre survivor, and Wesley Garrett, former chef and recovering alcoholic after his nasty divorce, meet (again) in a stressful situation. She's about to get mugged and panicking, having flashbacks, as he runs to her rescue. The attraction is instantaneous, but there's just one little problem—she's the divorce attorney who helped his ex ruin him...Plus, there are both their issues, her demons, his addictive personality...So what should the two do? Give it a shot, of course.


Like its predecessor, this one was a straight-up romance. There were no dead bodies, no villains (well, maybe her dad for a second toward the end), and no mysteries or investigations. Just two regular people, albeit with loads and loads of problems, issues, and inner demons, experiencing regular human drama and emotions.
And I liked it. I liked that I didn't have to "think" much during the story. It was straightforward, poignant, realistic and normal.

The characters were wonderful, well-developed, and nicely layered, the plot itself had some pretty heavy pondering moments, the romance might've felt a bit rushed, but it somehow worked giving both characters, and the conflicts were (thankfully) pretty quickly and easily resolved.
Though I found the heroine somewhat annoying in her rather self-centered guilt and her nobody-loves-me-and-those-who-might-don't-really-know-me-so-I-better-push-them-away-just-to-be-safe mentality. It started to really get old as the story progressed, but lucky for her (and the reader) there was her hero, Wes, to set her straight and make her see reason.

The pacing wasn't perfect, yet the story flew nicely, the writing was great, and the humor provided that needed levity.

This was a story of regular people going through normal human stuff and emotions, a story of (self)forgiveness, (self)discovery and growth, showing us everything clicks into place when the time is right and (if) you let it.

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review 2018-06-16 21:11
I Still Dream
I Still Dream - James Smythe

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Although I didn’t adore this book, I found it to be an interesting take on artificial intelligence; on what contributes to developing an AI; on the trials and errors involved, and on how the best intentions can be tainted by poor execution, like what happens with SCION. Because, to paraphrase what Laura says about it in the novel, if you teach a child to fight and retaliate, what does it teach them about life and how to react to whatever comes their way?

The story had its ebb and flow, sometimes a little too slow to my liking, but always intriguing. I usually don’t mind when a story jumps from one time period to another, and/or doesn’t always rely on the same narrator, as long as I can follow it. And here, I didn’t have any trouble following, even when the first person narrator didn’t introduce themselves at first (like what happens with Charlie or Cesar). This approach lets the author play with more than just Laura’s take on both Organon and SCION—which was good, since it’s easily apparent that Organon is built upon all that Laura poured into it, and having only Laura’s POV would have felt, to me, slightly… constricting?

My opinion about the plot remains mixed, though, in that the novel seems to hover between being character-driven and being story-driven, while not fully achieving either. I liked the take on developing artificial intelligence—I don’t know much about coding, and I wouldn’t know how to even start about something so huge, and it felt plausible to me. On the other hand, I kept thinking that I wanted the character development part to go a little further than it did, because I felt that there remained some invisible barrier between me and the characters.

This said, I still got to see enough about Laura and the beings (whether the people or the AIs) surrounding her to get a fairly good idea of the characters, too, and of their struggles through life, especially when it came to dementia and similar memory- and recognition-related troubles. So, I definitely wouldn’t say either that the book was a failure in that regard.

Perhaps the one part that really disappointed me was the last chapter, which dragged on making the same point several times. I think it would’ve been more powerful had it been much shorter.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend the book, for the way it puts AI creation and destruction in parallel with the growing up and the decaying of human minds. (Also, listening to ‘Cloudbusting’ while reading it doesn’t hurt.)

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review 2018-06-14 09:23
Ecstasy
Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler - Mary Sharratt

by Mary Sharratt

 

Near the turn of the 19th century, Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. Female composers are unknown at the time, though new possibilities for women are opening up. She marries Gustav Mahler, who insists she give up her music as a condition of their marriage.

 

I liked the writing voice on this one right away. Alma had such enthusiasm that I wanted to see her achieve her dream from the start. The story takes us through her life as a young girl, her first love and her relationship with her various family members, but especially with her music.

 

It's not all upbeat though. Alma sacrifices a lot for her marriage and it's inevitable that she will question her decisions as time goes on. Mahler himself is a challenge to deal with and it was an era when women were expected to suppress their own needs and be supportive of a husband. Alma is a naturally passionate and creative person and this state of affairs can only clash with her natural inclinations.

 

I enjoyed reading this, despite the unhappy parts. The narrative kept my attention, even if at times I wanted to shake Alma and tell her she was making some bad decisions.

 

The historical note at the end was as interesting as the story itself. Alma was a woman ahead of her time, though her unfaithfulness in her marriages would bring a lot of criticism. She weathered some difficult times and gave her love to some of the top composers of her time. Some of her own compositions can be found on YouTube and I couldn't resist having a listen after reading this story. I found her 5 Lieder for voice and piano pretty amazing and can only imagine that if her music had been supported earlier in her life that she might have been recognised in history as one of the great composers herself, rather than just a shadow of her husband's accomplishments.

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