Sunday, May 15, 2016

The cache

Breaking wild by Diane Les Becquet.  This was pretty good.  I like that we have an adventure/survival story focused on female characters, and the action does not revolve around rescue by love interests.  The two female characters, however, were not adequately differentiated for me; it helped that one was written in first person and the other in third person. I'm sure that they were meant to be similar so their connection would be more understandable, but they were too similar somehow and I had trouble keeping their back stories straight.  Not superb, but worth a read.

Thunder and lightning: Weather past, present, future by Laura Redniss. (551.6)  I was going to say how strikingly similar I found this to the Marie Curie graphic novel I read a few years ago, but it turns out it's the same author, so maybe that's a little more understandable.  I apparently didn't comment on that one at the time, so I can't link to an earlier post.  :(  My general comments apply equally well to both graphic novels, however.

This isn't so much a graphic novel about (nonfiction topic) weather as it is a collection of artworks inspired by snippets of stories or factoids related generally to weather.  The reviews make it seem like we're going to be really getting into weather, plus it won a science award; you'd think there'd be more... science.

The artwork is nice, quite a bit more focused and less (a certain messy quality that I associate with people who say "you can't critique my art; it's ART!" Like, I'm sorry, eyes should be level).  But I don't really think of this as a "graphic novel" like stories with points and plots and also illustrations.  This is more like a published collage or something.

Grunt: The curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach.  (355.0709)  This book right here has been the major reason for my delay on this post.  I didn't know what to say.  Then I knew what to say and I was sad about it.

I was super excited when I heard this was coming out.  I love Mary Roach!  She's such a nice lady!  and Gulp!  and Stiff!  Excellent works!  Then, at a multi-system library staff event, I heard that the Everett Public Library was hosting Mary for a talk.  Plus, it was a library event, so it was free!  I was so amped!  Then, at the same meeting, another librarian had a print ARC of Grunt  I was drooling at, and when I got home, I remembered about NetGalley, which totally had it.  So maybe I was a little too excited to start with.

First, I read the book.  Comments in a minute.  Not super great, but I was still excited to go see Mary in Everett.  But my driving buddy cancelled on my the night before, I couldn't find anyone else to go with me, and I wasn't excited about having to drive 6+ hours round-trip by myself and getting back about 2am.  I-5 at night?  I'm rural now.  I've maybe been to Everett twice.  Nope, no-go.  So that had me sad for about a week.

I have super-loved Mary's last couple of books.  She does a great job of illuminating little side areas of topics perhaps considered not appropriate for polite conversation.  She strikes the right balance of humor without being disrespectful.

Guys, her balance was way off in this one.  Trying to be too funny, she came off as crass.  She also didn't flesh out the topic areas very well; the best way I can describe the content for this book is mostly "phoned in."  Maybe it's something about how examples and cases were presented, I don't know, but it didn't feel so much "here's the best example I can give you, reader" and more like "here's the first example I found."  It's still a good book overall, just not great, and not what I would think of as Mary-quality.  The mechanics are flawless, as always, sentence variations very nice and balanced, and you know those are big areas for me.  I'd give it maybe a 7 out of 10.

footnote note: Like her other books, there are footnotes in this one quite a bit.  I loved the footnote function in the ARC-- tap on the footnote number and it takes you to the notes compiled at the end of the chapter.  Wonderful!  There are finished-product eBooks that don't have this function.  (This is the reason I can't read Pratchett on my Nook.)  Thank you, NetGalley and/or publisher people!  A great reading experience!  The only thing is, if the footnote overflowed onto a second page, the "go back" function wouldn't take you back to the main text, just the last page you were on-- page 1 of the footnote.

Buying a bride: An engaging history of mail-order matches by Marcia A. Zig.  I went a little crazy when I went onto NetGalley to get Grunt.  I hadn't been on for ages, and it turned out to be a bit like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach.

The blurb for this seemed to market it more as a readable nonfiction, popular history type of read, but it's pretty academic.  There are a lot of footnotes (which don't conveniently link back and forth), a lot of dates, and the writing style isn't terribly engaging-- it's pretty dry.  It's not completely inaccessible so might be good for average readers very interested in the topic, but the prospective reading population is going to be fairly small.

Ransomed jewels by Laura Landon.  I don't know what made me nab this galley, but I didn't get very far.  It's so ridiculously over-dramatic!  It feels like every action, every emotion is at the farthest possible extreme.  It seems like every trope or cliche-- the pet verbs, the thinly-drawn typical characters-- are all present and accounted for.

I did participate (ages ago now) in this year's Edible Book Day.  I tried to get people into it at work, but there wasn't a great deal of buy-in.  My entry got eaten, though.  The Unbearable Lightness of [Scones].  Recipe found here and has replaced my go-to scone recipe.

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