Monday, May 6, 2019

MONDAY: What are You Reading/

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week and is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

In Print:

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair
First in a mystery series by a Canadian writer, Inspector Ramirez of Cuba is investigating a murder of a child. I'm not far into it, and there is also a Canadian police officer who is right now a suspect. Starting off good so far. 

Next up in print will be Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han, last in the charming trilogy.

In Audio: 

Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne Jones

I just finished the first of my Sync YA audiobook for 2019, and it was very good. Written by Canadian Wynne-Jones, I loved the Toronto setting and back and forth between the two young homeless teens. Once they got together, the road trip got very suspenseful. 

Next up on audio will be another Sync YA, either Othello performed by a full cast, or Swing by Kwame Alexander.

In ebook:

Educated by Tara Westover
I've just started this, maybe about 20% into it, but it is living up to all the hype. The writing is excellent and the story is unfortunate. I know that parents have the right to raise their kids the way they want, but this does not seem reasonable. I love when a book lives up to the hype.

Next up in ebook will be Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro, an ebook free from Amazon Kindle World Crossing. There were 9 free ebooks from around the world for World Book Day, and I greedily downloaded all of them. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

BOOKS: Force of Nature and Electric Universe

Me and my science books! 

Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford - Richard Reeves, 208 pages

I was a chemistry major in university and now I teach physics, so I had heard of Rutherford, in terms of the Bohr-Rutherford model of the atom. But I didn't realize how big an influence Ernest Rutherford had in the first half of the 20th century science. It was Rutherford the experimental physicist and Einstein the theoretical physicist who dominated all the research being done and were considered the yin and yang of physics.

Rutherford was a loud guy from New Zealand who blustered his way into Cambridge. He worked for a time, heading the physics department at McGill University in Montreal. I was excited to learn there is a room dedicated to his research there, and will be near the top of my list to visit, after some Montreal smoked meat meals when I get to Montreal some day. 

Overall my impression was of how exciting it must have been in those days as all the big names, Bohr, Maxwell Clark,  Einstein, Thompson, were all making huge and profound discoveries for about 30 years. Rutherford was in the middle of it all, and I very much enjoyed reading about the heydays of science. This book is part of a series called Great Discoveries, all written by different authors, have all been good, concise and interesting. I'm interested in the Alan Turing and Richard Feynman books next.

Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity - David Bodanis, 320 pages

Bodanis' book E=mc2 was one of my favourite physics books so I was excited to find this book of his about electricity. I ended up being a bit disappointed in the read, although it covered a lot of the big ideas. But just because it wasn't what I expected, doesn't mean it wasn't interesting. Maybe I know too much of some parts, and I didn't know all of it, but those parts aren't exactly what I would have included.

We start with Wires, and look at Samuel Morse and Joseph Henry developing the electromagnet and the telegraph, leading to the idea of things (electrons) flowing through wires. I thought we would start with Volta and the battery or Ben Franklin and the kite and charges. At this point, I realized Bodanis was somewhat dumbing down the science. He uses analogies, which is good, but he never takes the next step to include the actual science. So, this makes the book more of a introduction for non-science people.

Next up was Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison and JJ Thompson. Loved the Bell stuff, and it reminded me there is a Charlotte Gray biography I want to get to. (Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention) Now how you can discuss Edison and his role in development of electricity without getting into his feud with Nicola Tesla over alternating current is a complete missed opportunity. Any opportunity to include Tesla and the crazy that is him should always be taken. (watch this great short bio of Tesla by Hank Green here, and enjoy the puppets!)

Now Waves. Correctly include Farraday and his theory of fields but it is left rather vaguely in its description. Fields are challenging to understand, but we expect high school students to develop an understanding and that's when I thought this book is much lower than high school. Cyrus Field and the transatlantic cable was something I wasn't familiar with but having read a book about Marconi, and waves in the air, felt like this was missing something. Bodanis kept talking about electromagnetic waves but kept it simple, and James Clerk Maxwell but this section still felt lacking.

Wave Machines gets us to Power in the Air and the development of radar during the wars which was good.  I did like Heinrich Hertz's diary excerpts. Computer development is next, up to the invention of the transistor, with some good stuff on Alan Turing, which also reminded me there is a Great Discovery book on Turing, plus the Benedict Cumberbatch movie to watch. 

I was not expecting the last section, The Brain and Beyond, looking into nerve transmission and the study of squids, and then neurotransmitters and development of Prozac. It really is a form of electricity and passing of charges. 

So, overall, wasn't the level of science I wanted, but still had some interesting information. Bodanis does a good job of tying the development of ideas to practical situations like the British trying to identify the German planes using electromagnetic radar and his writing is not intimidating at all. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

BOOKS: Dublin Student Doctor and Unhallowed Ground

A Dublin Student Doctor - Patrick Taylor   🎧 (15 h 30 min)

This sixth book of fifteen was another wonderful outing. Doctor Fingal O'Reilly, the elder doctor in Ballybucklebo, while presently training his new doctor, remembers life as a student doctor just before the war in the 1930s, and when he met Nurse Kitty O'Halloran. Lots of previous situations show how O'Reilly became the doctor he did, and the other doctors he trained with who occasionally show up. There is a present day story intertwined with the olden days, and we know that Fingal and Kitty will meet up in later days as well.

These books always start off slowly for me, but then suddenly I'm on a listening binge and can't stop with the story. The narrator, John Keating, does a wonderful job with the voices and the Irish accent, presuming though that it is not an accent for him. Luckily, my library has recently acquired all the audiobooks in this series, so there will be lots more for me to listen to. 

Unhallowed Ground - Mel Starr (240 pages)

Book 4 of 11 in the Hugh de Singleton Chronicles

This series, a relatively realistic look at life in the late 1300s England, would be great for fans of the Brother Cadfael series. Hugh is a surgeon who trained in Paris, but then is hired to be a Bailiff for a local lord near Oxford. This causes him to investigate any deaths. By this fourth book, Hugh has married and beginning a new life with his wife. 

A local scoundrel is found hanged and while most hope he killed himself, Hugh suspects murder. As a side note, I'm not sure anyone in this family is left to be killed, as the atte Bridges have been the main plot of most of these books! Hugh grapples with investigating the possible suspects as the whole town had motives and everyone is happy he died. 

Just a great solid read with the historical element adding to the enjoyment.

Friday, May 3, 2019

BOOKS: Normal People by Sally Rooney and Milkman by Anna Burns

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A few 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction titles, both worthy nominees. Interestingly, both Irish novels.

Normal People by Sally Rooney (longlisted)

I was very excited to get Normal People to read on NetGalley. I was intrigued last year by this title when it was nominated for the Man Booker longlist but it wasn't available in Canada at that point.

Marianne is well off, and Connell is the son of Marianne's family's housekeeper in Sligo, Ireland. They begin seeing each other in high school, where Connell is cool and Marianne is not, so it begins in secret. They carry on together well into university in Dublin, but never officially, and never out in the open. They have a hold on each other, and fill a void that each needs. Not the healthiest of relationships, and yet, I hoped they could figure it out. Like electric charges periodically getting closer and then moving away, their ultimate trajectory is toward each other. Nothing in particular drives the plot, just the characters growing and developing. I liked the writing, the inner musings, and how Connell and Marianne helped each other. Like normal people do.

Milkman by Anna Burns (shortlisted, also won the Man Booker Prize 2018)

The writing style in this one won't be for everyone, but if it works for you, (and you'll know very early on) this is a great read. It worked for me completely and I'm not usually a fan of stream of consciousness. Having said that, I read this in small parts over a month or two, not my usual reading style. I kept being drawn back to the story, wondering what would happen next.

Set in 1970s Northern Ireland (presumedly, as there are precious few proper nouns in this book), main character, third sister is just out of high school and becomes the object of attention of a local paramilitary man, Milkman. Milkman is not to be confused with real milkman, or her boyfriend, called almost-boyfriend. The main character is relating what life if like in a semi war zone for a young girl trying to figure out where she fits in. She isn't a fan of this turbulent life, and so prefers to read 19th century novels as she walks around. This identifies her as beyond the pale, not fitting in with accepted social standards. Add to this the unwanted attention of Milkman and the attendant rumours that follow him, and life is dangerous.

The narrative circles around a lot; she begins a story then backs up for a while and eventually comes back around to the original story. "The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died."  The opening sentence is the end of the story and the rest of the book backtracks to show how it ended up where it did.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story with its unique writing style and I never really tired of it. I was invested in following the characters, especially almost-boyfriend.