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review 2018-06-17 09:35
Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Elizabeth and Her German Garden (The Penguin English Library) - Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this - I think I first heard about it from a mention by Themis-Athena, but had to await its publication here before reading it.  It's a slim tome, but packed; at 104 pages, what I originally thought would be a fast read instead took me a couple of days, despite my being absorbed in it.

 

Mostly, it's a celebration of gardens, the outdoors, and nature, as written by one new to all of it.  But buried in the narrative, structured loosely like a diary, are moments of scathing wit, social commentary, and on the part of her husband, not a little misogyny.  Elizabeth and her German Garden was originally published in 1898 and though its language is of the time, Elizabeth is refreshingly modern.  Her thoughts, attitude, and personality are in almost all ways indistinguishable from the average 21st century woman's voice.  I loved her and her scathing, dry wit.

 

My only complaint about the book is it was slightly too short.  After lamenting two years of summer droughts that kept her in suspense of her garden's potential, the book ends at the very start of April and spring; I desperately want to know if she finally got to see her garden in all its glory!  Did the yellow border work out?  Enquiring minds are left hanging!

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review 2018-06-16 08:25
The Science of Everyday Life
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson

Upfront, this book suffers from my bias a bit:  I're previously read Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski.  Both books have the same goals, and both are effective and interesting, but Czerski's writes a more cohesive narrative and her writing is somehow more seductive: she makes physics seem magical.  Fortunately, there's very little overlap in what both books cover, so this was by no means a wasted effort.

 

BUT, if I'd read this first, I'd have rated it higher; it's a very good book and Jopson actually includes a lot more 'things' and the science behind them.  The chapters are divided by category:  Food and Drink, Home and Kitchen, Science Around the House, Science in the World and Science in the Wild.  I had favorites from each section, as I've mentioned in previous reading updates, but right now the one that sticks the most is why leaves turn colours in the autumn.  Turns out this is a very deliberate process and he explains it so clearly - I have a whole new outlook on all those yellow and orange leaves I raked up this morning.

 

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book - especially for readers who are interested in science but might find a running narrative challenging to their attention span - Jopson's explanations are all separated within each chapter, making it very easy to pick up and put down, or refer to for specific reasons (solid index at the back too) as a reference.

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review 2018-06-15 16:47
Darkwalker / E.L. Tettensor
Darkwalker - E.L. Tettensor

He used to be the best detective on the job. Until he became the hunted...
 
Once a legendary police inspector, Nicolas Lenoir is now a disillusioned and broken man who spends his days going through the motions and his evenings drinking away the nightmares of his past. Ten years ago, Lenoir barely escaped the grasp of the Darkwalker, a vengeful spirit who demands a terrible toll on those who have offended the dead. But the Darkwalker does not give up on his prey so easily, and Lenoir has always known his debt would come due one day.
 
When Lenoir is assigned to a disturbing new case, he treats the job with his usual apathy—until his best informant, a street savvy orphan, is kidnapped. Desperate to find his young friend before the worst befalls him, Lenoir will do anything catch the monster responsible for the crimes, even if it means walking willingly into the arms of his own doomÂ…...

 

I didn’t connect with this character as much as I did the characters in the author’s other series (The Bloodbound, Erin Lindsey), but I still enjoyed the reading experience. I’m not gonna lie, I found many of the plot points to be a bit predictable, but the writing was good enough that I was willing to forgive that. I do like a paranormal detective story, even if Nicolas Lenoir is a moody, often drunken jerk. There’s a bit too much lingering (without details) on the big bad awful thing that happened in his past that left him in this detached state.

He may initially remind the reader of Sherlock Holmes, but there are significant differences. His alcohol dependence resembles Holmes’ drug habit, but the reasons behind them are different. Holmes indulges occasionally when he’s bored, Lenoir drinks every night to forget the dark event in his past. Holmes, for all his disdain for regular people, is pretty honest & upright. Lenoir is open to bribery and willing to slack on investigations that he doesn’t consider particularly important. With his snarly, detached demeanour, Lenoir is certainly lacking a sidekick like Watson, although he has Sergeant Kody waiting in the wings to fill the position. In this volume, Lenoir has Zach, a wily orphan boy, who stands in for all the Baker Street Irregulars, to help him with his inquiries.

The setting is Victorian without being set in London. This world is obviously not ours and we learn the differences as the story progresses. Magic is very much a thing in this reality and has to be taken into account. The Adali people are very Romany-like and provide an exotic source of tension.

This author will be at the August conference that I’ll be attending. I think I’ll have read all of her books by then! She has attended before and I enjoyed her perspectives on fiction and writing, so I’m looking forward to more of the same.

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review 2018-06-15 15:54
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World / Haruki Murakami
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Alfred Birnbaum,Haruki Murakami

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

 

I’m not sure what to say about this book, beside the fact that it is not really my cuppa tea. Not that I disliked it, I often found it amusing and I easily read to the end, no arm twisting necessary. But it certainly wouldn’t encourage me to pick up more of this author’s works.

It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of things, the chapters alternating between two narrators. Both story lines felt a bit odd to me, despite my love of fantasy fiction. But it was interesting in its nonconformity to traditional fantasy plots. Neither narrator is really very heroic, none of the women are portrayed as serious love interests, the reasons for the adventures are largely undefined, plus there is very little wrap-up at book’s end.

Interestingly, none the characters have names—they are referred to by title (the old man, the chubby girl, the librarian, etc.). Which I guess makes sense, as I assume that they are all parts of the same brain! At least it seemed to me that the point of the book was to explore the idea of the unconscious and how it interacts with the conscious mind.

Pluses? Unicorns! Even if they were kind of sad and decrepit unicorns, they were still unicorns. And who doesn’t love enemies like the INKlings who worship a large fish with violent tendencies? Also, the narrator’s fondness for the librarian. Good taste that.

Book number 287 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-06-15 04:03
1968: Today's Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change - Susan Campbell Bartoletti,Marc Aronson

I received this book for free through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers. 

 

1968 was a fascinating year. This book was not. 

 

I was really looking forward to reading this book because I wanted to learn more about this pivotal year in history. So many important events happened in that year and I was hoping to find some interesting insight into them. Unfortunately, the book left much to be desired.

 

The book consists of essays from different authors. None of the essays resonated with me. I kept waiting for one to really hit me, but it never happened. Even the ones about the topics I was especially interested in (ex. Kennedy assassination and Mexico City Olympics), didn’t leave much of an impression on me. 

 

There were a few things I liked. One was that the last essay did provide a conclusion to the book. Sometimes with nonfiction books, there’s no wrap up at the end when I feel like there should be one. Luckily, this book did provide some closure.

 

I also liked the Nightly News segment at the beginning of each section. Those were one of the more interesting pieces to read. 

 

Lastly, the parallels the book made comparing 1968 to 2018 were very interesting and thought provoking.

 

Overall, the book provides a good baseline to the events of 1968, but ultimately did not manage to do it in an engaging way. 

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