The chemistry at work here is the most boring part of the book but it acts as a (mauve) thread through this historic tale covering the move of this scThe chemistry at work here is the most boring part of the book but it acts as a (mauve) thread through this historic tale covering the move of this science from a curiousity of Victorian gentleman in their private homes to an industrial-sized, commercial application. As it does so it touches on consumerism, trade, patent protection, globalisation, the British character, the fickleness of public recollection and the extraordinarily wide uses to which the discovery of a coloured compound have led to in modern medicine, life and warfare.
The story never really zings along and relies as much on the reader's patience and imagination, as it does on the author's narrative skill. Sure, that's the case in any book, but the balance isn't quite so even in this one. Still a worthwhile read on account of the subject matter, but it's one you should be prepared to have to work a little harder for....more
The author should have penned this travel tale in his 20s, then we could've done without the moaning introspection of his mid-life crisis. While the bThe author should have penned this travel tale in his 20s, then we could've done without the moaning introspection of his mid-life crisis. While the bulk of the book is an entertaining jaunt through Europe and a succession of disasters, triumphs and pratfalls, we come to know too much of the writer - as if he really wanted to pen an autobiography but didn't have enough material or guaranteed reader interest, so he shoe-horned it into a Charley Boorman/Ewan Macgregor adventure. The adventure itself is as grand a tale as any fish-out-of-water traveller's, but it is particularly well told. Forgive Mike his maudlin musings and memories, blame it on the drink, and promise him another round if he tells you that one about the Roma camp, or the hotel lobby, or the bloke with the AK-47 - it may be just enough to get yourself into a motorbike saddle and onto the wide, open road (well, maybe not the AK-47 part...)...more
Given that journalism is not simply a recounting of the events that occurred during a day, but an information source that is budgeted, biased and blinGiven that journalism is not simply a recounting of the events that occurred during a day, but an information source that is budgeted, biased and blinkered; the why and the how of news communication is a complex issue. This book initially struggles through its introduction in an attempt to touch upon all the issues, but once it focuses on some particular case studies, the author finds herself on more solid ground.
Why does one story get more play than another? What are the stages of coverage? Why do some humanitarian disasters prompt more donations than others? Why is so much journalism built on lazy metaphors? And is it creating a less compassionate, less informed, nationalistic audience as a result? How much do production costs determine what we hear about in the world? How much does the availability of pictures determine how long we hear of it?
Yes, the answers may be as simple as you might expect, but seeing them demonstrated, and hearing them at work in the words of the news creators, is a worthwhile exercise....more
5,594 reviews at present: does it need any more reviewing? A Dan Brown novel: does it need any more reviewing?
It's the same betrayal from a trusted s5,594 reviews at present: does it need any more reviewing? A Dan Brown novel: does it need any more reviewing?
It's the same betrayal from a trusted source. It's the same string of little-known trivia that fools you into thinking you might be reading something worthwhile. It's the same clunky try at characterisation. And it's the same guilty thrill ride that keeps you powering away through the chapters.
If you're a Dan Brown fan you know what to expect, if you haven't indulged (where have you been hiding?) this is as good a point as any to dip your toe in. An entertaining read rather than a lingering one....more
A mostly engrossing book from a veteran journalist concerning the decentralisation of media, it's non-representative nature, it's near-complete subjugA mostly engrossing book from a veteran journalist concerning the decentralisation of media, it's non-representative nature, it's near-complete subjugation by advertising, the move from actual reportage to commentary and the media's own unwarranted fascination in itself. These views are ably demonstrated by case studies (mostly more familiar to an Australian readership) such as the "children overboard" debacle, the rise of Fox News and "The History Wars". The book loses it's momentum a little in documenting fueds within the media and the mean-spirited culture of destructive criticism that prevails but, outside of this, it's a fascinating read....more
Surprisingly, and happily, there's even more of interest to learn about what may have just become an odd historical footnote: the unofficial "opening"Surprisingly, and happily, there's even more of interest to learn about what may have just become an odd historical footnote: the unofficial "opening" of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by sword-wielding, horse-riding, fiercely patriotic Frank de Groot. Written by someone who knew the man, this short book covers both the personal, political and social background to the act, the luck and happenstance of the act itself, and the bungled attempt at cover-up and prosecution by the slighted NSW Government. A fascinating account well-written, with the only complaint being that Frank didn't go on to perform other acts of derring-do to warrant a longer book!...more
It surprises to recall times when every aspect of life and society wasn't monitored, recorded and extrapolated from. The move to statistics-based poliIt surprises to recall times when every aspect of life and society wasn't monitored, recorded and extrapolated from. The move to statistics-based policy-making was remarkably recent, and at times, a hotly disputed one at that. The contention of the book, and supporting examples abound within it, is that behavioural and societal problems are extraordinarily complex and any attempt to dilute these problems to a single number can be wildly wrong and/or dangerous. Combine this with the observations that you seem to find more of whatever it is you're counting, and that sometimes what you're counting doesn't really matter, but how you feel about it does; and you may just question the fundaments modern society operates atop of. In the end, a book of interesting ideas and fascinating examples, that aren't especially well-conveyed (i.e. not a book you can't put down, but one that you feel you should be reading when you're not! :)...more
Interesting account of the discovery (and rediscovery) of a tomb in Jerusalem containing remains that indicate a family with remarkable similarity toInteresting account of the discovery (and rediscovery) of a tomb in Jerusalem containing remains that indicate a family with remarkable similarity to the genealogy described (and further hinted at) in canonical and non-canonical Christian gospels regarding Jesus Christ, was laid to rest within it. Neither of the authors are writers foremost, nor especially unbiased in the beliefs, and the book suffers somewhat as a result.
Despite this the investigation and evidence is a mix of the compelling, entertaining, informative, statistically awful and (admittedly) wildly speculative.
The narrative push is the production of a documentary ("The Lost Tomb of Jesus") chronicling the discovery and the investigation (both historical/cultural and scientific) of the tomb and its contents.
The schedule of the documentary (or perhaps it's bureacratic obstacles from Israeli authorities) seems to negatively impact the study of the tomb: why stop with "proving" that Jesus and Mariamne/Mary Magdalene are husband and wife? It would surely be more compelling to prove that any remains in the ossuary marked "Judah, son of Jesus" are also related to Mariamne!
Taken at any level, the book documents an important discovery that has the potential to (as the cover suggests) "change history forever". Whether this is change is on a personal scale, or a global one, is a matter not yet determined by this book....more
Surprisingly little ego displayed by an author confident (or famous?) enough to pop his name in the title of this entertaining, balanced and readableSurprisingly little ego displayed by an author confident (or famous?) enough to pop his name in the title of this entertaining, balanced and readable investigation on paranormal activity. More than a collection of spooky anecdotes, a passing parade of ghost "specialists" (name yourself whatever -ologist you want to be), philosophers, scientists, media stars, religious types, witches, cranks, kooks and muggles even, present evidence and explanation for and against the supernatural and, by extension, some kind of existence after death. Don't expect any hard and fast answers naturally, but do expect to be entertained and informed as Storr flip-flops around his open mind and reconsiders his stance on morality, religion, life and death. Some incidents and experiences can't be reasonably accounted for (yet, perhaps) and most interestingly the author introduces a new front of rational explanation: quantum physics, which is far stranger in practice than any story told around a campfire could possibly be....more
This was the first Dresden book I've actually read, after experiencing the preceding four on audiobook. Which was just as well as the rollicking paceThis was the first Dresden book I've actually read, after experiencing the preceding four on audiobook. Which was just as well as the rollicking pace of the narrative doesn't spare a moment to recap when it needs to. New readers will be more than slightly mystified, but the quality of the series means that having to read from the first book is certainly not a chore.
The scheduled release of audiobook recordings isn't in chronological order (1-4 are available now, 8-11 the end of this month, 5 in September, 6-7 in July next year), they're instead aligned with the release of hardbook versions. Or something. Having immensely enjoyed the reading of James Marsters (Spike, from Buffy) I was intrigued to see if the books stood up as well on their own.
This one did.
While the last one was a little more fantasy and a whole lot less urban, we're firmly back in the real world here. Well, as real as it can get with a wizard battling on a number of fronts against vampires and fallen angels. With the return of many enduring characters from preceding books and hints being thrown out about future storylines, it's as much a rallying point for the series as it is a complete work in itself. Everything that regular readers love is still there, and there's the promise of even more to come....more
I was first introduced to this book on a long bus ride by our coach driver. That he preceded his recommendation with "I don't read books, but..." didnI was first introduced to this book on a long bus ride by our coach driver. That he preceded his recommendation with "I don't read books, but..." didn't immediately propel "Catch Me If You Can" onto my mental to-read list. In any case, as we listened to the audio book version for the next hour or so, Frank Abagnale's tale of his conman and forger past, certainly entertained. It's taken 8 years and a feature film version (which I haven't seen) for the book and I to finally crossed paths again, and this time to a happy conclusion.
From an age when white-collar crime was glamorous, the protaganist takes us on a journey of daring-do, the reader cheering for the villian (regret is only expressed belatedly and minorly), alternately amazed by his chutzpah and resourcefulness, and aghast at just how easy it is to bilk good people. As exciting as the book is, and claims about complete truthfulness aside, thank goodness Abagnale was the exception rather than the rule. Through luck or deliberate omission, no-one but Frank himself seems to get hurt, and the reader can enjoy what must be one of the most light-hearted true crime tales around.
A surpringly honest, emotionally baring, funny and mostly modest tale from an American astronaut. As one of the first new intake of gifted and skilledA surpringly honest, emotionally baring, funny and mostly modest tale from an American astronaut. As one of the first new intake of gifted and skilled people selected to man the space shuttle - what he would soon realise was a vehicle more dangerous than any that preceded it, despite its tradesmen-like intent - Mike Mullane is subjected to the politics, terror, exhilaration, depression, frustration and deathly mismanagement that was the lot of a NASA astronaut.
From the homemade rocket-launching days of his childhood in his adventurous, supportive family; through to his ultimately successful but desperately fraudulent NASA selection interview; we discover not only that dreams come true, but that it's not so galling to hear so from such a light-hearted, grateful and witty author.
Initially denied the title of 'astronaut', it's a wild and dangerous ride through training as Mike perhaps learns even more about life and his colleagues than he does about the technology he needs to master to ensure survival.
In a time of firsts and in a climate where safety is gradually subjugated by the want of space programme publicity, he earns his astronaut pin (which he himself must pay for) and almost falls victim to the shuttle design flaws that will ultimately claim the lives of the crews/his friends aboard Challenger and Columbia.
Finally, totally addicted to space travel, yet fully aware of the sacrifices made by his family for him to fulfill his dream - and his own selfishness, comes the difficult decision to leave NASA.
This is a fantastic book. Devoid of the excessive technical data that would have made it a slog, it is instead a funny and welcoming read. The author is likeable, the acts described are out of this world (literally) and this era of space history is particularly fascinating. (It's too bad Mike Mullane isn't a Buddhist, otherwise we might get a sequel to his life story ;) Highly Recommended....more
Full of big and intriguing, somewhat only half-realised, ideas, the book is predominately a sketch of the worlds and dimensions that will host subsequFull of big and intriguing, somewhat only half-realised, ideas, the book is predominately a sketch of the worlds and dimensions that will host subsequent books in the series, and fly-by action sequences. No great deal of time is spent on what could have been the fascinating (rather than interesting) characters; they purely serve the story and, as such, are hard to care for or learn from. Lastly, the pacing of the novel can be quite uneven; some important action zips by so dizzyingly fast amidst the unfamiliarity , that it can only be re-read to be fully understood.
On the positive side, such an imaginative book is hard to come by. Comfortably straddling science-fiction and fantasy genres with future (real) science possibility, the author outlines a cohesive, confident and intruiging world. It's the details that she has not accomplished as well. There is, however, great potential demonstrated and every chance of a 4 star rating in subsequent works....more
There's something about Scandinavian crime fiction that appeals to my tastes. Perhaps the Australian love of space - in a geographical sense - translaThere's something about Scandinavian crime fiction that appeals to my tastes. Perhaps the Australian love of space - in a geographical sense - translates to the written page as an appreciation of a slow-moving plot: space in the temporal sense. As importantly, the deliberate pace is not just a stylish affectation: the book doesn't meander pointlessly. Unlike a Dan Brown drag race to the finish line, Larsson putters along - the reader has time to appreciate the ride - and ultimately provides a more complete and fulfilling journey.
That's not to say the journey is entirely smooth; there are some bumps. Discussion of computer hardware dates the book horribly and is pointlessly (almost laughably) specific. The mid-story author-rant about Sweden guardianship laws sticks out like dog's bollocks. The lauded Lisbeth Salander is a muddled character turned unlikely feminist icon - she physically overpowers dominating men as often as she is beaten by them; does that mean she comes out ahead somehow? Main character's Mikael musing about what it takes to be considered a feminist writer, is - I hope - a purposeful wink at the author's own quoting of Swedish statistics of violence against women at the start of each Part. And that a late-40s journalist/author book character is so lucky with the ladies courtesy of his late-40s journalist/author/creator is a little egotistical; but the writer has to get some perks, I guess!
Certainly the book has gained further buzz through the untimely death of its author, but some of the praise is still well-deserved. It is masterfully paced, the investigation detailed is well thought-out, the setting and characters are appealing, and the resolution is as messy as it is resolved. I'm looking forward to reading more of the series....more
Robert Rankin has obviously carved out his niche enough, and has fans enough, that despite the contrary footnotes attributed to "Ed." in this work, heRobert Rankin has obviously carved out his niche enough, and has fans enough, that despite the contrary footnotes attributed to "Ed." in this work, he seemingly no longer uses an editor. So much of this book does not work. The sheer volume of (attempted) jokes, ridiculousness and way-out plotting is a shell game con-job. A dizzying blur of motion distracting the reader from the destination of the "pea": which, if we were to continue the metaphor, may be the central story, or the main character, or, I suppose, anything a typical novel might consider essential.
It's certainly a stylistic choice and another reader may well enjoy the rampant silliness, but with some very interesting and well-researched ideas at it's core, I found that this approach detracted from the story far more than it added to it....more
A patchy history, critique and explanation of the shopping mall. The book suffers quite a bit from its structure with the author very informally narraA patchy history, critique and explanation of the shopping mall. The book suffers quite a bit from its structure with the author very informally narrating a journey to, and through, a mall. Despite the stated pedigree of the writer (he's been involved in a commercial consultancy firm advising retailers for the past 25-odd years) there is a profound lack of hard data. This, along with the aforementioned structure, in which he journeys along and converses with a cast of typical shoppers, employees and the occasional industry insider, tends to portray him as opinionated, rather than expert.
There are some interesting factoids (some stores are deliberately confusing so that you need assistance from an employee - which makes you more likely to buy something), some excuse for the bland architecture (malls are designed by real estate developers, rather than merchants trying to draw you inside), and some views on the future of malls (terminal, without combination with residential or a more immersive sensory experience). Largely, you are left wanting more....more