Saturday, August 18, 2012

the students are back. i strongly disapprove.

We'll begin with things that have been in a pile on my nightstand for going on 8 months. I kept trying to get into them with zero success, and now they are at the Friends of the Library book sale.  Hurrah, 50 cents for the library!


The Plague Tales, by Ann Benson.  I won this as part of the adult winter reading program at MCPL immediately after I graduated from IUB.  I have tried and tried and tried, and can't quite get into it.  It jumps around in time, from the dystopian future to an alternative-history past.  Neither of these get enough detail to establish the world in either place or time, so the reader flounders.

The Farfarers: Before the Norse, by Farley Mowat.  I couldn't wrap my mind around this one.  It's in the nonfiction, but seems very fictiony.  I didn't know how much to trust. 

To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis and Clark, by Frances Hunter.  This one, I couldn't feel for the characters.  Taking on big historical names as main characters is ballsy and likely to be difficult.  How do you make them seem like real people without going overboard and making them seem too flawed? 

Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival, by Frances Ashcroft.  This has very interesting information but is very, very dry reading.  I actually read over half, I don't know why.  The author also repeats information quite a bit; maybe s/he thought people would only read one or two chapters out of the whole thing?

These are all finally out of my house.  And now for some books I did finish and that will actually count:

The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.  Science fiction non-series from Terry Pratchett?  Squeee!  But it was a bit of a let-down.  :`(
I think it jumped around in time a bit, but this wasn't very clear.  This was especially confusing since everything took place in the future anyway.  And I would have expected a little more sci-fi-explanation, especially from this author, instead of simple the "this is how it is" explanation.  You need to order it because I'm sure Pratchett fans will clamor for it, but it's not his thing.  It has no Pratchett flavor, which is the most sad.

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics,  by Eleanor Herman.  940.09.  Nonfiction!  History!  This is way out there for me.  I loved it.  It was fantastic.  As a history story, there are about 6 million people, but it's not at all important that you remember them.  Each chapter is about a different queen, so the best way to read this book is one chapter at a time, or at least make sure you always end for the night at a chapter end.  Any people from an earlier story that reaper later will be reintroduced as appropriate, which I really appreciated.  I think this book was a little bit older, but it's worth having it in the collection.  We don't own the earlier title by the author, Sex with Kings : 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge.  I want to order it, but I feel bad when I order things just because I want them.  Therefore, I made a lady from our book group read this book, and if she wants the dudes, then I get to order it. 

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, by Sam Kean.    This was not as good as The Violinist's Thumb, although I can't really say why.  It had all the same elements (ha!).  Actually, I think I didn't like this one as much because I don't understand chemistry as well as basic genetics.  I didn't get to finish this, though; another patron had a hold. 

The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey among the Ancient Celts, by Philip Freeman. 913.6.  Look at me, going through these 900s.   This was an interesting and enjoyable book (and surprisingly short), and not really about what you might think, given the main title. 
The author collects remaining snippets from a Greek philosopher (his original book has not survived, so we only have quotes of his included or referenced by other authors).  There's very little philosophy, and only one short chapter on druids, but there is alot of information on the Mediterranean world about 100 B.C.E., and alot on the different Celtic cultures. 

The Vicar of Dibley, seasons 1 and 2, with Dawn French.  I'm sad that my library only has seasons 1-3 (there are 5) because I am enjoying this.  It's not the kind of show I would think anyone should go out of their way for, but it's pretty funny.  There is some good writing, and several of the actors really carry it with their facial or physical acting.  Watching the first season, I didn't think my husband would like it at all, but he watched some episodes from the second season and did enjoy them.  I'd say don't spend money on it, but if you get it as a donation, definitely add it to the collection.

The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers, by Brian Christy.  364.1.  This was a little bit hard to follow.  It started with one person and went forward with that story, then went back in time to discuss how the sentencing of a previous smuggler changed how smugglers are prosecuted, then went further back in time to explain how that previous smuggler got started, then jumped forward to the story of the new smuggler who was inspired by the original smuggler... But I learned alot about reptiles.

Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier, by Chris Enss.  306.82.  There are alot of very interesting stories in here, but the author barely scratches the surface of any of them.  I'm glad this was a donation instead of something I paid to bring to the library.  In addition to not having much in-depth information or research, it's a very slim book; it took me about two and a half hours to read. 

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