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review 2017-02-17 06:25
Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane
Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World - Nick Lane

This is an extremely interesting and well written book about oxygen - how oxygen spurred the evolution of life, the functioning of oxygen in biological systems, aging, how oxygen relates to everyday life (besides breathing), amongst others. The nice thing about this book is that the author assumes his readers are intelligent and so doesn't simplify his writing or the concepts so much that it practically turns into gibberish.

 

NOTE:

The author's view of junk DNA is a bit dated - the book was published in 2002 and research on junk DNA has advanced since then. Some other information might also be dated, but that is simply how science and science writing work.  If you are intelligent enough to read this book, you should also be intelligent enough not to swallow everything you read - hook, line and sinker.

 

OTHER RELATED RECOMMENDED BOOKS:

* The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History by David Beerling

* Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse, George C. Williams

* Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future by Peter D. Ward

 

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review 2017-02-03 19:05
Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

Charmingly overplotted, this book is the definition of a fun romp. 

 

A good friend has been bugging me for ages now to start this series because she adores it, and I'm glad I gave this one a try. I loved the sheer force of Thursday Next's personality, the way she just gets things done, the more than just slightly askew look at the world as we know it, the 80s feel (including postmodernist naming conventions), the brief instances of time travel, the book travel. The way actions had consequences and various shenanigans had to be hidden from major characters so they wouldn't show up in the text. 

 

Some spoilers ahead. 

 

I also enjoyed how there was so much going on. In recent years, it sometimes seems like every brain fart is turned into a trilogy, so it was refreshing just to delve into so much plot. There's a first stand-off with the major villain about 50 pages in, and if that isn't some generous writing, I don't know what is. The only thing I could have done without is the romance subplot. You're a male writer, and you create a kick-ass heroine who has her colleagues swooning over her, and then you give her a long-lost love interest. His occupation, of course? Writer. I haven't seen such an unnecessary author stand-in in a while. 

 

Blatant fetishism of the main character aside, this book is lovely. I cackled when the ChronoGuard tries to make Thursday believe she's been gone for over 30 years, and while I wasn't as convinced by the next installment in the series, I can definitely recommend this. 

 

Read in January 2017. 

 

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review 2016-12-08 20:40
Kill the Boy Band, Goldy Moldavsky
Kill the Boy Band - Goldy Moldavsky

What an absolute riot this book was--when it wasn't breaking my heart.

 

If you've ever been a fan of anything (especially a teen girl fan) and participated in fandom, you will recognize these characters and some of their behavior. The lingo, the friendships borne of obsessing over the same band/show/books/whatever, the fanfic, the love-hate relationship between you and the object of your fannish devotion--Moldavsky captures it all in prose that made me laugh hard at least once a page.

 

The book is comic but blackly so. The protagonist (who goes unnamed, though she tells those who ask a variety of names from 80s movies) and her three fellow fans, including her pretty and popular best friend, "accidentally" kidnap the least popular member of fictional British boy band The Ruperts (all named, you guessed it, Rupert). Things quickly spiral out of control, and the protagonist, who's "the sensible one," struggles to get a grip on the situation and defy her friends, about whom she realizes some unsettling things. That's where the heartbreak comes in. She has recently lost her father, and her Ruperts obsession has clearly become her lifeline. By the end of the book she's doubting her own sanity.

 

The author represents fandom lovingly and fairly, including its downsides: using fandom as a crutch, feeding on fame as a fan rather than the object of your devotion, fandom's temporality--some day you won't care or will be embarrassed. As a fan myself, I can't say I was ever offended; I enjoyed the accurate portrayal and the nuances of fan interactions and feelings that the author captures so well. I love that she doesn't define every bit of fannish jargon (e.g. "stans/stanning"), though it's always clear from context. I love that each girl has her favorite Rupert and role as a fan in a group of fannish friends (the leader, the one with connections, the one with money and access), and that The Ruperts feel like a fully realized band and fandom, complete with a secretly gay member who's dating a girl as a beard. Social media plays a central role, but it's not overdone.

 

This book is fun and demented and worth a read even if you don't think of yourself as particularly fannish. Best of all, it doesn't put the girls down for being fans.

 

If nothing else, you will laugh hysterically at what's in Apple's suitcase...

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