That’s a weight off

Goodness, but choosing to DNF a book can be a liberating experience.

Dr Joe’s Science, Sense and Nonsense

Dr. Joe's Science, Sense and Nonsense: 61 Nourishing, Healthy, Bunk-free Commentaries on the Chemistry That Affects Us AllDr. Joe’s Science, Sense and Nonsense: 61 Nourishing, Healthy, Bunk-free Commentaries on the Chemistry That Affects Us All by Joe Schwarcz

I lost my place in this, and when I tried to find it, found an essay telling me all the things about my life as it stands that made it more likely I was going to get cancer. Yeah, nah. Not in the mental health place for that either (I just DNFed Persepolis Rising for different mental health reasons).

It’s going back to the shelf and back into a box in storage. I need different things to read right now.

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Persepolis Rising

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7)Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

I’m choosing to call this a DNF. It’s not a bad book, but it isn’t interesting SF adventure for me now – it’s splitting up my favourite characters while awful people do awful things because they think they know best. I’m not in a place to read that.

I’ve just cheated and read the plot summary on the Expanse Wiki and while at least there is progress against the oppressors, I don’t feel up to reading all the pages required to get there the long way round. It sounds like the next book is more about the aliens and the protomolecule etc, rather than just people being horrible to people, so I may try that one when it comes out. I’ll see how I feel then.

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Trading Futures

Doctor Who: Trading FuturesDoctor Who: Trading Futures by Lance Parkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (6/10)

This was an easy read, but just felt average. It’s a runaround with a few too many factions (showing the status of the book series at the time, I think). It was fun seeing Fitz being taken for the Doctor, but the Doctor himself isn’t James Bond. I’m not sorry I read it, but I wouldn’t have missed something special if I hadn’t.

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The Au Pair

The Au PairThe Au Pair by Emma Rous

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (7/10)

The first person present tense had me worried at first, but it’s only half the book as there are two POV characters and the other one is first person past tense.

In the end, I liked it a lot at the start and devoted both ends of the mystery, but was disappointed at the end. I wasn’t sure why, thinking it was the lack of resolution about one character and what she did or didn’t do. Later, I checked my Feedly and SBTB had a review. The reviewer said her problem was also with the end, that the revelation wasn’t executed well and was needlessly complicated. Also that she had guessed the answer. I agree that there were only so many variations on what happened and who was who. Roux got me to change my mind on which combination to go with a couple of times, but overall there weren’t any surprises. This is a first novel and shows Emma Roux has a lot of potential, and hopefully she can only improve.

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The Thirteen Problems

The Thirteen ProblemsThe Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

I got this from the library and was excited to see it was an old hardcover, well read and with a battered plastic cover rather than a modern, shiny one. “Yay!” thought I. “Another old book from the stacks.” Sadly no, I looked up the copyright information and it’s a 2005 facsimile edition. Oh well, it’s the same stories that I’ve read before and I’m enjoying them all over again, even when I remember the solution.

Indeed, now that I’ve finished, I liked the stories all over again, even when I could remember the solution. I wonder if the 19th century version of Miss Marple ever made it to screen. I’ve only ever seen adaptations set later.

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Ball Lightning

Ball LightningBall Lightning by Liu Cixin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (9/10)

I jumped to this one with 2 books left in my summer/holiday TBR when I realised it had auto-borrowed itself from the library and was ticking away my borrowing time.

I found the beginning interesting, although the prose felt a little more “blocky” than I am used to (especially after recently reading McKillip and McKinley). That could be the author, the translator or a combination of both.

Today, I picked it up at 22% and just kept reading through to the end. The explanation offered for ball lightning is fascination, as are the possibilities that leads to. I was a bit concerned that we would lose that as the story diverged into war and weapons, but it worked through that hurdle and ended up in a interesting and fascinating place.

I understand that the unexpected idea introduced at the end leads into “The Three Body Problem”, but happily it’s in a way that is interesting but absolutely doesn’t require the reading of that book and its sequels. I don’t know if I’ll try to read them or not, but it is good to see my library has all the as ebooks.

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Doctor Who: The Invasion

I started listening to The Doctor Who Target Book Club Podcast last year, after buying up someone’s collection of Target novelisations, meaning I now have all but five of the published books. When I found the podcast, it seemed like a way to enjoy my purchase other than just gloating at the books on the shelf. I’m trying to get a review done for each book before the new episode goes up, but I expect some times I’ll do better than other times. This time, I even took notes, which is why it’s a longer “review”.

Doctor Who: The InvasionDoctor Who: The Invasion by Ian Marter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

This was a very good novelisation of a very good Doctor Who story.

I actually find it harder to review good books I like than not-so-good ones I don’t. In a good story, I get caught up by the writing and the telling and fall into the story. Something has to be either really good, or annoying, to catch me up enough to come out of the story and note the point. That means reviews of good stories have a tendency to become a recollection of nit-picky little complaints.

So what notes did I make on The Invasion?

Yay, we start with a good one. Marter describes the Doctor at the TARDIS console: “like a crazed concert pianist he madly manipulated the switches and savagely kicked the column”. Yes, I can totally imagine the Second Doctor doing that with glee.

Nothing to do with the book itself, beyond Marter having a good vocabulary in the 1980s, but I’m so used to being able to highlight a word in a digital book to look it up, that I reached out a couple of times to do the same on the paper page before remembering I couldn’t. What is NAAFI tea? I need to know, because the status of the tea follows through. (According to The Telegraph: Its NAAFI Break tea, which has been served to British service personnel since 1921, is said to differ from the average cuppa due to its “premium quality blend that gives a rich, strong taste and a real military flavour”.)

There were a couple of occasions I questioned whether Jamie or Zoe would have the pop culture knowledge they display in the story. It doesn’t matter – it adds to the atmosphere in the story – but like I said above, it popped me out of the story momentarily. Jamie writes “Kilroy was here” in the dust on the top of the lift/elevator and (I looked this one up) Wikipedia tells me it’s a US expression from World War II, so I question whether it is something he would know about. Is this on the TV? I could did out my DVD and check it, but I want to get this written first. Later, Zoe comments that “Big Brother is watching us”. Same question – why would she know this? It’s also a comment that I think works better is prose than in dialog. I may need a rewatch after all, to see if it’s on screen.

But hey, another happy note – and it’s about the tea again. The Brigadier “dunked the remains of the biscuit impatiently while he waited for the situation reports. It fell apart and floated on the top.” I love that far more than it probably deserves. It’s a little moment, totally unimportant to the plot, that shows character and adds so much depth to the tale. It’s moments like this that make Marter so good at producing something that feels like a novel rather than a transcript. That can’t be said for all the other Target novelisations, some of which really are little more than a transcript with a bit of padding.

Okay, here’s the one thing that I really, actually disliked instead of just noticing. Jamie is opening a manhole cover and “Isobel, with her photographic gear slung around her neck, looked on admiringly.” Why, oh why, did we need that last word? It’s unnecessary. It’s unneeded and the fact we’re sexualising a man instead of a woman for once doesn’t make it any better. It also reduces Isobel’s character in a way that damaged her later flirting with Turner, because now she seems shallow instead of interested in the latter. I’m probably making a huge mountain out of a molehill here (and of course a woman can admire two different men), but it just wasn’t necessary in a strong book that was managing well without doing any objectifying. Grrrr.

See, I’ve finished on a sour note for a book I enjoyed reading. Something small becomes a bigger criticism because all in all, it’s a good book that I liked. Honestly, it’s a good novelisation and I’m sorry all over again that the world lost Ian Marter too soon.

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The Door in the Hedge and Other Stories

Another new year, another attempt to keep up with a blog. We’ll see what happens, but I kind of want somewhere to write stuff that isn’t Facebook, so we’ll see.

The Door in the Hedge and Other StoriesThe Door in the Hedge and Other Stories by Robin McKinley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (7/10)

This book consists of four retellings of fairy tales. They follow the standard storylines, and are all told in a traditional fairy tale style. If you want a more modern, or subversive version, these are not the retellings for you. But they are lovely and lyrical and a tiny bit magical.

I especially liked “The Princess and the Frog” which is short, by surprisingly sweet and lovely.

Very traditional but also very lovely, would be a good summary of the book.

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Mary Stewart Ver2.0

Testing, testing… Please be patient…

I’m trying to get on top of the new editing tools for WordPress and get on top of their gallery function. It seems I can have a caption that goes on top of the book image (with little consideration to what it will cover up, such as the titles in this case), but if I want a full description, the reader has to click on the image to get it to come up. I can’t have it showing on the main page like I used to do. I don’t want to risk messing up the page that is looking how I want it to do, so here’s ver2.0 as I experiment.

Click on a cover image to have the full details show up. If the link says READ, it should go straight to my review.

I think this is the best I can do. It’s going on to midnight now and so far past my bedtime I’m going to pay for it, so I’m stopping here. I’ll figure out how to get back my last read/next read boxes (probably the old fashioned way with a table coded straight in html) and then we’ll see if I’m happy to keep going on with it.

The Case of the Dotty Dowager by Cathy Ace

The Case of the Dotty Dowager (WISE Enquiries Agency #1)The Case of the Dotty Dowager by Cathy Ace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

I borrowed this one from the library when I saw the third book in the series recommended online. Being me, I had to start at the beginning.

The book starts slowly, and I felt it was trying a bit too hard to be quirky as we were introduced to the Duke and his mother before we ever met the investigators the series is supposed to be about. Considering how many other books I had on the go at the time, I decided to DNF the book.

But as I picked it up to put back on the shelf, I read a bit more. And suddenly I was caught. Things really picked up and I found myself very much enjoying the rest of the story. It’s not a long book, and I settled down to it and finished it quickly.

So stick through the first chapters and enjoy a light-weight and enjoyable mystery with a satisfying solution.

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A School Camp Fire by Elsie J. Oxenham

A School Camp Fire (Woody Dean, #1)A School Camp Fire by Elsie J. Oxenham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (7/10)

The latest read for the NZ Abbey Girls Lower North Island Group.

This is a fairly early book for EJO (1917) and one that is somewhat disjointed. It is really four stories that are connected with each other (the last three more so that the first one). Their quality varies, although all have well drawn characters, if not always satisfying plots.

This book was written at the time the author had become part of the Camp Fire Girls of America movement within the UK (so they may have dropped the “of Amercia” part). It was something I had never heard about before, and I did some online research when we read The School of Ups and Downs, which is actually a loose sequel to this books – ie totally different characters, but essentially the same school and similar themes.

Mostly, this book exists for EJO to enthusiastically tell all her readers about Camp Fire and how wonderful it is. She manages to do this in the guise of a story, but the two sections where this is the focus do read less well I think, because the story is subject to the information dump rather than the opposite.

This isn’t a bad book, but it isn’t one of her best either.

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