I think Red Jacket is exceptionally hard to review. Although I didn’t give it very highly-starred rating, I think this is an exquisite, many-layered wI think Red Jacket is exceptionally hard to review. Although I didn’t give it very highly-starred rating, I think this is an exquisite, many-layered work of fiction.
Pamela Mordecai created two fictional nations for this book: St. Chris, a small Caribbean Island, and Mabuli, a country in Sahelian Africa. This is the first feat, as she has formed these countries intimately and uniquely, with their own blends of languages.
Much of the book is written in various degrees of Creole, which was pleasant and lilting to read. It reminded me a bit of the way The Country of Ice Cream Star was written, but that of Red Jacket was definitely easier to understand. I adored the first section of the book. Reading about Gracie growing up on the plantation in St. Chris, and the letters sent by her birth mother every year on her birthday. I loved the relationship between Grace and her Gramps, and it was possible to see Phyllis growing from a barely-educated and scared twelve-year-old to a self-assured young woman.
The book is also historically accurate, with many mentions of people and events that happened during Grace’s lifetime, with special attention to the civil rights movement in the USA with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jnr. Sometimes if felt a bit excessive, though.
I started enjoying the book less at about 22% in, when track changed suddenly to Mabuli with little introduction. For a long time after that, there was switching between Mabuli, the University of Antilles, and Grace, wherever she found herself at the time. These flashes had little connection to one another and I felt they were poorly crafted. I kept reading because I was interested in Grace’s comings and goings, but I failed to have any interest in Jimmy and Mark.
The book has sections with pages upon pages of dialogue, which I felt was excessive. There is a lot of “telling and not showing”, and sometimes it felt like I was reading a historical record rather than fiction.
Although I obviously loved Grace’s involvement with HIV research, I’m not so sure that everything gelled. I just felt that a LOT was happening in this book and that it could have been more focused.
That said, it probably didn’t help that NetGalley categorised the book as “New Adult”. When I read that I thought, “YES! A New Adult book that doesn’t focus on sex!” but of course, it really wasn’t a New Adult book at all. It is certainly more contemporary, and if I had known that going in, perhaps my experience of the book itself would have been wholly different.
The conclusion was unsatisfying for me, but at least it gave me something to mull over. The cover I thought was gorgeous, and I did enjoy reading about the Caribbean.
There is no doubt that Mordecai is a great writer, but there was definitely something amiss in this book, for me.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
I’m afraid I really did not like this book. I wanted desperately to learn more about the Arab Spring and the everyday people who were on the ground riI’m afraid I really did not like this book. I wanted desperately to learn more about the Arab Spring and the everyday people who were on the ground right there, the wheels and cogs of the revolution.
The book features writing by a wonderfully diverse group of people. Tunisians, Egyptians, Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis. Men and women, young and old, teachers, artists, students, journalists.
I thought the author did a fantastic job of his introduction, with a good analysis of his contributors and their kinds of stories.
But their stories, I felt, were edited into oblivion. They ended up all sounding the same, and that is the worst thing you can do to someone’s narrative. I wanted to see the uniqueness of each story, but what I saw was “same-same but different.”
I felt like this was more of an academic exercise, a collection for an archive. Undoubtedly this collection will mean something for the many who dedicated their stories to it. Narratives about the Arab Spring are so important, but this one did not do it for me.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
I love micro-histories – books that delve into the history and specifics of one small specific thing. One of my favourites is The Big Necessity by RosI love micro-histories – books that delve into the history and specifics of one small specific thing. One of my favourites is The Big Necessity by Rose George, about human waste (and the toilet). Just for balance, my least favourite is Stiff by Mary Roach.
The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson is about, well: seeds. I requested the book because the cover looked pretty cool and because, as I already said, I enjoy finding out really random and extensive things about one focused object.
In nature and in culture, seeds are fundamental—objects of beauty, evolutionary wonder, and simple fascination. How many times has a child dropped the winged pip of a maple, marveling as it spirals its way down to the ground, or relished the way a gust of wind(or a stout breath) can send a dandelion’s feathery flotilla skyward? Yet despite their importance, seeds are often seen as a commonplace, their extraordinary natural and human histories overlooked.
Hanson has a fabulous relationship with his subject. He speaks of them in the same breath as his family, and he writes fondly about them. He exalts their qualities: seeds nourish, they unite, they endure, they defend and they travel.
His sense of humour is rather enjoyable. For example, when he compares the reproduction of seed-bearing plants to that of spore-bearing plants, he writes,
When spore plants have sex, they usually do it in dark, wet places, and quite often with themselves.
Most enjoyable is the placement of seeds we know – or their products. Coffee beans, cocoa, chilies, ricin, coumarin – the latter both derived in one way or another from seeds, believe it or not – become altogether relatable. He interweaves their histories with human histories: wars, assassinations, economic booms and collapses.
Things I loved learning:
how climate influences the heat of chilies how caffeine influences the growth of the coffee plant and its competitors how coumarin was developed the evolutionary impetus for the development of fruits
Of course, this book has a big dose of science as well. And I liked the way Hanson elaborates on his science. He does not dumb it down so much that the reader feels patronized, but he does not fill it to the brim with hard-to-understand jargon, either.
So basically, Thor Hanson has written a pretty awesome micro-history of seeds, and I loved it. It didn’t read fast, but it sure read well, and I fully intend to get a physical copy of my own.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
This little book proves that a little bit of colour goes a long way. It only utilizes blue, black and white, but the drawings and splashes of colour mThis little book proves that a little bit of colour goes a long way. It only utilizes blue, black and white, but the drawings and splashes of colour make a world’s difference in keeping the reader’s attention – not to mention the funny illustrations.
AsapSCIENCE is by the guys from the YouTube channel of the same name. Their videos are always cool, so it is expected that the book will be of the same standard.
Topics are diverse and awesome, as usual. Starting with basic chicken-or-egg conundrums, and moving to other random thoughts like: what would happen if you stopped sleeping? What is a brain fart? Are silent farts really smellier than loud ones? – nothing is taboo in this book, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed for wondering!
To be fair, this book is not a work of scientific genius. It speaks on the level of the layperson, and as such it sometime oversimplifies matters. It also utilizes some seriously corny jokes and puns which is… well, not literary, and a little annoying, but it definitely suits the tone of the book!
This is the kind of book I’d buy a high school science enthusiast, or just one of those perpetually curious individuals. ...more
I’m not sure what made me request Touch on NetGalley, but once I started reading I had some serious doubts. It was nothing like I expected – it was noI’m not sure what made me request Touch on NetGalley, but once I started reading I had some serious doubts. It was nothing like I expected – it was not a conventional thriller, for one – and I didn’t really know what to make of it. I want to say it was entirely unique, but given that I had read David Levithan’s Every Day, I can’t. Both these books are about entities moving from one human body to another. They are not the same, but I found myself trying to compare them in any case.
Touch is beautifully written. I have never read anything in this kind of voice. The way North describes things shows a keen sense of observation, and a lot of attention to detail. Something one would expect from an entity such as Kepler, but also a quality in an author that makes for fantastic writing.
“For where there are monuments to regal expenditure, there are hotels.”
“You do not sleep on a sleeper train, but rather doze in and out of a fitful sense of unconsciousness.”
“A teenage boy, his hair stuck up in ozone-destroying spikes.”
Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s prosaic and fluid and it was probably the main reason I just could NOT put this book down.
Honestly, I never really cared too much for the whodunit. It seemed obvious and par for the course and really just a backdrop to the real attraction: Kepler’s identities throughout the ages, and his/her/its observations of humanity.
I liked it. It was nothing like I expected, but I liked it. ...more
I expected this book to be something in the line of XKCD’s “What If”, which is my fault for not reading the synopsis from the beginning. So if you’reI expected this book to be something in the line of XKCD’s “What If”, which is my fault for not reading the synopsis from the beginning. So if you’re planning on reading this book, let me tell you AGAIN: this book has reader-submitted answers to reader-submitted questions from New Scientist. It is not a single-author work.
To be honest, my biggest problem was that I had to read this book really quickly because my NetGalley request was only approved MONTHS after I first requested it. And this is not a book to be read quickly. It is a book to leave on your bedside table and to pick up, open at random, and read the brilliance of people around the world.
Reading it from cover to cover, as I did, just gets exhausting and a little annoying. The people who submit the answers seem to be very intelligent but most of them are not authors. Their answers are higher-grade, and sometimes a little know-it-all.
I would buy this book in hard copy for the purposes of reading a question or two a day, but I would not buy a digital copy, and I definitely would not call it light reading. ...more
Note: this is a condensed post. Full post with images is here.
I have a habit of requesting fictional books that address real-life diseases. I can’t hNote: this is a condensed post. Full post with images is here.
I have a habit of requesting fictional books that address real-life diseases. I can’t help it. But I requested Everything, Everything because of that (“a girl who’s allergic to everything”) and because it sounded kind of awesome. And the COVER. Guys.
I liked Madeline immediately. She obviously liked books, and she’s mouthy. She has a tumblr and she reviews her books. Books remain an integral part of the whole story! Sometimes she re-reads her favourite books from back to front.
My issue with the book was this: SCID is NOT being “allergic to everything”. SCID is a primary immune deficiency. It inhibits the person’s ability to fight off infection. An allergy is an immune RESPONSE due to a stimulus, involving mast cells and IgE and all sorts of things that aren’t really pertinent to this discussion.
Also, there is not “NO CURE for SCID”. There is a cure: bone marrow transplant. As a biracial individual Madeline’s chances of finding a match would be small but she could have at least been on a LIST.
But anyway, I do understand the concept of creative license and I’m pretty good at getting over things so I didn’t let it ruin the rest of the book for me – yay!
While we’re at it: why is everything white?? Colour isn’t dangerous. I don’t get it. I suppose it was meant to convey the whole clinical setting but it annoyed me. Madeline is an intelligent girl who does research and surely she would have figured out that things that aren’t white aren’t a danger. On a more analytical level it makes for good contrast, especially when Olly-dressed-in-black enters the picture.
Side note: since this is a book review I should probably mention the writing. I didn’t notice it, which must mean it was good! It was unobtrusive, and allowed the story to take centre-stage.
Olly is a bit of an archetype and I’m sure many readers will swoon (I don’t swoon), but he does parkour so there’s something interesting about him! He was a likeable character who valued his family and seemed to be respectful of Madeline.
Madeline has an awesome sense of humour, and so does Olly. Their IM transcripts are hilarious! I liked that “love” was not displayed as the solution to everything, but something to be discovered and enjoyed.
Madeline makes some seriously dumb decisions. So does Olly. But she’s a teenager! That’s what teenagers do! Even those who live in bubbles. I actually liked that she was fallible. (I can’t be so forgiving of the adults in the novel who made bad decisions though…)
I kind of saw the big plot twist coming but it's still BIG. It changed EVERYTHING. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure if it could WORK. It just… aaaargh. I don’t know how to explain how much this plot twist changed my view of the whole book.
I was reading my eARC on the Kindle app and then I discovered that there were actual DRAWINGS in the book so I re-read it on my DL reader (I hardly EVER re-read). And suddenly that twist didn’t matter because the little drawings and diagrams and fine attention to detail just MADE. MY. DAY. So much so that I absolutely plan on owning a physical copy of this book.
This book wasn’t earth-shattering for me, but I liked it. One last point: the romance did not make me gag (I am NOT soppy), which made me insanely happy.
If you’re a contemporary YA reader looking for something imaginative and enjoyable, grab this one. My suggestion: buy the physical copy rather than an ebook!
Disclaimer: Thanks Penguin Random House for the eARC, all opinions are unbiased. Also, the quotes above are subject to change as they are from the ARC. They were just too gorgeous not to share!...more
OH MY GOSH I ACTUALLY MANAGED TO FINISH A BOOK! Didn't love this one as much as Cinder - I think it's all the gushy stuff, and that Scarlet seemed a lOH MY GOSH I ACTUALLY MANAGED TO FINISH A BOOK! Didn't love this one as much as Cinder - I think it's all the gushy stuff, and that Scarlet seemed a little willy-nilly. But I'll definitely be reading Cress! ...more
To be honest, when I requested this book I saw one sentence, “Computers will replace physicians in many tasks” and my vision went red. So my intention was kind of to read it and rip it to shreds.
Spoiler alert: I’m not going to rip it to shreds.
The Patient Will See You Now is essentially a massive meta-analysis of digitalisation and the subsequent democratisation of medicine. Every chapter is prefaced by apt quotes from others in the field, and Topol references some absolutely incredible academic papers. Essentially you’re not just reading a book, you’re reading a conglomerate of the best publications and scientists on the topic. (He also references House, M.D., so that is cool.)
“Once the digitisation of medicine got legs, it became increasingly clear that democratisation would be the next step.”
Topol calls the smartphone medicine’s Gutenberg Moment – put simply, that it promises to do for medicine and health what the Gutenberg Press did for humanity. This in itself is a fascinating analysis.
Topol also address important current matters of healthcare: such as the fact that many patients are not granted access to their own medical notes, one of the biggest paternalistic faux pas which persists in “modern” medicine.
This is not one of those hoi polloi books that claims that physicians all have evil intentions and that patients must take over. He takes a while to get there, but Topol acknowledges the value of the physician and actually impresses how technology can change our practice for the better.
Topol obviously has a bias, but he does a good job of presenting counterarguments to his own beliefs, and readily admits where more development is necessary. It makes the book realistic and worthy of acclaim....more
Random Body Parts is an adorable and witty book of verse about, well… random body parts. The illustrations are fantastic and humorous, and the verse iRandom Body Parts is an adorable and witty book of verse about, well… random body parts. The illustrations are fantastic and humorous, and the verse is fast paced and relatable. As an adult reader I did find the verse to be rather juvenile but nonetheless relatable. Personally, as I don’t have kids, I would purchase this book based on the hilarious anatomical content and the lovely illustrations.
Also, I would love to buy this for any young kids in my family or, had I kids, for them! Just imagine reading this at bedtime:
“You can search for lost words on my tip, Or reveal hidden thoughts when I slip. With my muscle-bound shove, Tasty foods that you love, Deconstruct on a long downward trip.”
(Yep. My kids are going to be the ultimate nerds one day.)
I think the true genius in this book is that the illustrations and easy verse make it suitable for a younger audience from age 5, but the learning opportunity about poetry and anatomy also makes it appropriate for an audience of the age of about 10.
Disclaimer: I received an e-galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more