November 27, 2019

A unique solution to the energy crisis

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov is organized into 3 distinct parts. The first follows a young physicist doing research on the history of the Electron Pump which is a nifty invention providing unlimited energy for all of humanity. He comes to believe that the 'Father of the Electron Pump' is merely a puppet of the entities living in the para-universe (where the energy was being siphoned) and that the Pump itself poses a grave risk to our Universe. The second part occurs in this para-universe and follows a group of entities that are composed of an amorphous substance which allows them to merge with one another and form 'triads'. In this universe the Sun is dying which creates a ripple effect on the creatures which inhabit the planet. A member of this species (it's hard to describe these creatures) has a theory that the Pump they're employing is dangerous to them all and is the reason that procreation has nearly ground to a halt. [A/N: This might be the first instance where a description of alien sex is described in fairly explicit detail and as the alien beings are so different from ourselves it was super weird but certainly showcases Asimov's ingenuity.] And then we come to the third and final part which takes the reader back to our universe. We follow a (retired) scientist named Denison who has moved to the Moon where an entire society has taken residence (most of which are natives to the Lunar colony). Denison has his own suspicions about the Pump and believes he knows how to counteract the negative effects of the Pump but he soon discovers that the Lunarites may have their own agenda.

Overall, I didn't love this book but I did appreciate Asimov's writing (it's always cutting edge even though it was written decades ago) so my overall rating is a 5/10.

The cover of my book. [Source: Amazon]

A scene from the third part of the book. Did I mention the Lunarites are a nudist society? [Source: tvtropes.org]

What's Up Next: Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
What I'm Currently Reading: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (reread)

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 16, 2019

Masterpost: England during World War II

Source: Amazon
For longtime readers of the blog, you'll know that I have a major interest in all things WWII and Britain. So it was kind of a no-brainer to pick up Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by Julie Summers even though I had to order it through Interlibrary Loan. This book explores the history and uses of the country estates that were requisitioned by the British government for use during World War II. These uses ranged from training facilities for spies, invalid homes for injured servicemen, hospitals for pregnant women, and boarding facilities for children evacuated from London. Not only does it delve into the minutia of what the houses were used for but also what kinds of changes occurred to them (the houses that is). For some, they were never again used by their original owners. For others, the buildings much like the people themselves, were forever changed (or completely destroyed). The only thing missing from this book was an annotated bibliography (you know how much I love those) even though it is clear that Summers did her research. 8/10

Source: Amazon
While I enjoyed reading all of Summers' books, Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War was my favorite of the lot. This volume was specifically about the role that the Women's Institute (WI) performed on both the national and county levels. These women played hosts to evacuees, took over the role of primary household manager, assumed the responsibility for the nation's food production, and so much more. Not only was the WI important during the war for the nation but even more so for women who made up its membership. The main goal of the WI was to provide a space for women to socialize (there's real value in this) and educate themselves on everything from how to preserve food and stretch out their meager rations to animal husbandry. (Many local chapters kept farm animals which they then sold to raise funds for war work.) I knew that they were a social group but I had no idea just how large of a role that they played. This just reinforced how amazing women truly are. 10/10

Source: Simon & Schuster UK
By the time I got to this book I was starting to get a bit fatigued with the topic of WWII but once I got truly stuck into this book and discovered just how much I didn't know on the topic...I was hooked. Children were evacuated to the countryside during WWII (this much I knew before) but I learned that they were also sent to America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Parents weren't especially picky as long as they were away from London. This book is chock full of recollections which recall the 'waves' of children which would leave suddenly only to be called home again especially during the Phoney War when the prejudice against 'townies' coupled with the desire to see their children again prompted parents to yank their kids back to the city. Understandably, the uncertainty of the situation created a lot of anxiety among children and adults alike. The psychological trauma of abandonment had a lifelong effect on most of the children which manifested itself in a variety of ways. Some children never reconnected with their biological family while others felt their foster family was their 'true' family (some were eventually adopted and stayed in their new homes). I had never really given much thought on the intricacies of the evacuation scheme and what kind of result it had on the children and their families so this was an eye-opening reading experience. 9/10

Source: Willow and Thatch
Funnily enough, I read this book last even though it was the first one that Summers wrote on the subject. Stranger in the House focuses on the men returning from the war and the effects that the war and separation from hearth and home had on themselves and the women in their lives. In the early 20th century, there was no real understanding of PTSD of which many POW (especially those who were imprisoned in the Far East and worked on the Burma Thailand Railway) suffered. On average, they were only expected to live a further 15 years because of the severity of their wounds and the maltreatment that went on for such an extended period of time. Those that lived beyond this were not considered 'lucky'. Most of the men who returned from war never again connected with their families because they were so changed and nothing of their experiences was ever discussed. Because Summers used secondhand accounts from the wives, daughters, and granddaughters coupled with primary written sources this is a unique perspective on a much discussed topic. 8/10


What's Up Next: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
What I'm Currently Reading: Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever by Gavin Edwards

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 2, 2019

Regrettably predictable

The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag are the first and second books in a graphic novel series for middle graders which features a boy named Aster who just wants to be a witch like the girls in his family. Instead he's pigeonholed into being a shapeshifter (it really isn't as cool as it sounds) and forced to endure the ridicule and derision of his cousins (both male and female).  The Witch Boy serves as a basic introduction to the characters and their world while The Hidden Witch is more plot heavy.  In The Witch Boy, the boys in Aster's family have started going missing, so he decides to buck against tradition and learn the magic needed to find his cousins and stop whatever is hunting his family. The Hidden Witch picks up where the last book left off but we see that Aster is not the only one in his family unsatisfied with their lot in life. And to make matters more complicated, Aster's non-magical friend Charlie is being hunted by a dark piece of magic called a Fetch. Major themes: gender norms, nefarious plots, finding your way, and being authentically yourself. 5/10 from me as I found it predictable and slightly boring.

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

What's Up Next: Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by Julie Summers
What I'm Currently Reading: It Takes One by Kate Kessler

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 25, 2019

Just witchy

Strange Sight by Syd Moore, the sequel to Strange Magic, follows our main characters Rosie and Sam as they attempt to solve a case involving a vengeful spirit wreaking havoc in an upscale London restaurant. When a young woman working in her father's restaurant starts seeing a woman from the distant past (I'm talking about a ghost, ya'll) the crackerjack team from the Essex Witch Museum is called in to investigate. As with the previous book, this is equal parts supernatural mystery and contemporary fiction with a healthy dose of romantic tension. I will say that I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first but it picked up towards the latter third of the story (and the ending was really good). Rosie is a bit of an abrasive character and probably doesn't appeal to all people (though I find I like her rough edges). If you enjoyed the first in the series or you're looking for a bit of a witchy supernatural story for the Halloween season this one might just fit the bill. 7/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag
What I'm Currently Reading: We Were Killers Once by Becky Masterman

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 19, 2019

Great choice for a Halloween read

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ticked all of my boxes. There's werewolves, daemons, vampires, and of course witches with the main setting of the story set at Oxford University and the Bodleian Library. (There are also side plot lines in Scotland and the U.S. but the most detailed descriptions are those that happen at Oxford.) Our main character is Diana Bishop who comes from a long line of witches but who has decided to turn her back on her heritage in order to lead a "normal life". Unfortunately, life has other plans for her. When she calls up a manuscript at the Bodleian it turns out that there are hidden messages in the pages which only she can see...because she's the only one who's been able to successfully call up the book in centuries. Suddenly the entire community of supernatural creatures is very interested in her but none more so than a vampire named Matthew Clairmont...

Part paranormal/supernatural conspiracy theory mystery and part burning hot forbidden romance this book hooked me but good. The only reason I haven't completely dived into the second book is because this is one hefty piece of work at over 600 pages and my TRL is about 5,700 miles long. Rest assured, I will be continuing this trilogy...even if I didn't particularly like the overly complicated plot in the last third of the book.

Oh and did I mention that it's been made into a TV series? Cause it absolutely has and the guy playing Matthew is scarily accurate to what I pictured when reading this book. O_O 10/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Strange Sight by Syd Moore
What I'm Currently Reading: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 10, 2019

Guide the future by the past

I FINALLY read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, y'all. I absolutely loved the film adaptation of it and while I also enjoyed the book (hold on to your seats, folks) I preferred the movie version. While the book was able to go into more details in terms of world building and the puzzle solving aspect of the plot I enjoyed the storyline of the movie more. [A/N: I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy this reading experience because I definitely did but the film just has an extra oomph.] Additionally, the book's version of Halliday seemed cruel and cold whereas Morrow was a lot of fun (and mostly absent from the film's version). The hero of this dystopian novel, Wade Watts, is living in a world that has become entirely taken over by The Oasis which is a virtual reality environment where anyone can be anyone. The majority of the human race has been crammed into tiny communities that are stacked one on top of the other but their consolation is getting to live their dreams online. Even school is conducted in virtual schools! The creator of this world, James Halliday, passed from this mortal coil but left behind a grand prize (ownership of The Oasis) for anyone who manages to solve his puzzles and find the 3 hidden keys buried within The Oasis.

This is a boy's quest to pull himself from his dire circumstances while learning that he's got the 'right stuff'. (Did I mention this book is chock full of 80's references? I definitely downloaded some Rush albums after I finished reading it.) All in all, a really fun book. 9/10


Source: Fonts in Use
A/N: Title courtesy of Rush "Bastille Day".
What's Up Next: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
What I'm Currently Reading: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

September 14, 2019

Reading Fatigue: A How To Manual

Since I read Edward Gorey's biography, I thought it would be a good idea to immerse myself in his books which led me to Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Again. These are collections of his illustrated works and I have to be honest that I don't think I'm intellectual enough to get the 'deeper meaning' behind his grotesque little tales. While I found some of them amusing, I wasn't overly impressed or blown away. Also, I have to agree with Gorey's biographer that his books do best in their tiny format instead of lumped together like this. Reading fatigue hit me HARD while I was trying to get through these (and they really didn't capture my imagination) so it's going to be a 4/10 from me.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
What I'm Currently Reading: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **