Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Odede, Kennedy, and Jessica Posner. Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum. N.p.: Ecco, 2015. 13 Oct. 2015. Web.

2 Stars
Hitler's Scientists
Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact - John Cornwell

This was a random pick to listen to while gaming. I mainlined it over a few sessions back in April and started a draft of this post but I never seemed to have finished and posted it. Alas.


Anyway, it is pretty dry. Interesting, though, in the way that complex historical subject documentaries are interesting, but I doubt this would appeal to the casual historian. Some of the reviews of this book note that several passages are repetitive and that is true. As I read this via audiobook, I would also like to comment on how comfortable I remember the speaker's voice to be. Not too monotonous, comfortably paced without excessively unnecessary emotional inflections and, perhaps stereotypically, a male speaker. Overall, a good filler for spare time, not worth a re-read.

4.5 Stars
Pride and Prejudice
Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice Softcover - Jane Austen

This is so pretty. It is in the Asian manga style, not strictly the Japanese manga style, so if that kind of art is not appealing to you, then you will hate this book. But otherwise it is very nicely drawn, focusing on the romantic themes in the panels with a lot of flower symbolism. It is not a strictly serious comic either with frequent appearances of chibi-Mrs. Bennett and chibi-Mr. Collins. I find it to be hilarious, but some other reviewers hated it.


The story is condensed from the novel version to make it more suitable for comic format, and some events are elided together or rearranged in order for the same reasons, but it is overall coherent and keeps the most important parts necessary to the story's ending. Compared to a standard manga volume, however, it is double the length. It does not have the epilogue that most modern readers may be used to seeing at the end of a copy of P&P. Also, I would say it is more inspired by the 2005 film version aesthetically than any other adaptation that I am aware of at present.


Manga Classics has more adaptations of Jane Austen novels and other literary classics available on their website. I am currently on the hunt for Sense and Sensibility and the Count of Monte Cristo. <3

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
The Secret Rooms
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery - Catherine Bailey

Alright, so this is odd - Goodreads and Booklikes and a few others list this book as "The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery" while Amazon and the library and other places list it as "The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret."


The story flips between, firstly, the author's experience navigating the Duke of Rutland's family archive of letters for a book about the effect of the Great War on the local population which quickly changes to uncovering why there are missing sections of documents in this reportedly perfect record?! and, secondly, the events that occurred within the Manners family during and around the missing periods of time. The main character of focus is the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Manners whom was responsible for creating the archive originally. The mystery is narrowed down by the author to three missing sections of time in the records and she eventually uncovers enough evidence to recreate what likely happened.


An interesting story, but the reprinting of letters in their entirety multiple times towards the end of the book to show how all the pieces come together became very tiresome, very quickly. Otherwise I quite liked it.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
Hillbilly Elegy
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance

A bluntly honest reflection of the author's life and his family history dealing with being "hillbillies." The poverty and violence is not sugar-coated. He reflects on what is considered normal for their people and the change, generally for the worse, that has happened since his youth with the culture. There are some interesting observations about the middle-class white America attitudes in regards to contemporary policies under Obama, although it does not really touch on the results of the 2016 election as this was published in the middle of campaign season.


I thought it particularly interesting when he recapped what helped him succeed and it wasn't one or two people doing him a good turn, but several individuals closing gaps in his knowledge of social and life skills throughout his life. Although it is not discussed in depth except in regards to the small-town community lifestyle, the general message seems to be that in the absence of formally taught or available skills, the "it takes a village" method is the only way to succeed. It feeds into that line of thought that "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" isn't enough, you need a bit of luck. Or a few well-placed friends that possess the know-how that you need.


Overall good. I hope there will be a follow-up in the future.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
Arthur and Sherlock
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes - Michael Sims

Interestingly informative book about Arthur Conan Doyle's creation of the Sherlock Holmes character, drawing from childhood inspirations (perhaps Dr. Watson was named after someone that had attended a school here or for the name of this other person there) and his adult life - specifically, the practice of doctors at the University of Edinburgh, notably, Dr. Joseph Bell, using physical clues to 'deduce' facts about their patients. A lot of comparisons are rightfully drawn between Dr. Bell and Sherlock Holmes, including the emphasis that while the 'science of deduction' seemed magical, "such assessments required educated scrutiny but not second sight."


The book also goes into the history and increasing popularity of the 'science of deduction' and pokes at the fact that deduction is the wrong word entirely for the line of logic that Sherlock Holmes uses. The history and influence of the crime genre in literature, going from sensationalism to thriller and eventually leading to series featured around singular detective characters, is also examined. A lot of name-dropping happens for books and authors that I had barely or never heard of, or the books that I knew them to be famous for were not the ones that the 19th century reader knew well.


Overall, it was well-researched, but the chronology was a bit skewed and the writing tended to end on a tangent and pick up on a completely different topic's tangent from a chapter ago. I did not read it all in one shot so it did not bother me.

4 Stars
Hamilton: The Revolution
Hamilton: The Revolution - Jeremy McCarter, Lin-Manuel Miranda

I am one of the lemmings obsessed with Hamilton these past few years. No shame.


Listened to this in audio format and it was narrated by the lovely Mariska Hargitay. Her voice is very nice to listen to, although I do wonder if the recording was her first time through (either an audiobook or this particular one) as there was at least one time where she distinctly starts to laugh mid-sentence. A pleasant sound, but distracting from the otherwise smooth cadence of narration. I also appreciated that there was no pretension wen she read the printed rap lyrics.


The book itself is the "behind the scenes" or the "making of" story of the (in)famous musical. It's amazing to learn how much of the success was due to luck and a long building process. What I thought was the "final" version of the musical that everyone has come to know is apparently not what the first audiences saw when it opened off Broadway. Then hearing about that process of refinement from the main contributors, Lin-Manuel Miranda featuring prominently, of course, is fascinating.


The end of the audio, at least via Audible, included Lin-Manuel Miranda reading the notes that were included on the annotated (PDF) copy of the musical's lyrics + promotional photos. It's gorgeous.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4.5 Stars
The Lost World
The Lost World: A Novel (Audio) - Michael Crichton, Scott Brick

Sequel to Jurassic Park. This audio version is also narrated by Scott Brick. Despite being streamed across Overdrive courtesy of the library, it was still broken up into CD sections and announced the change of CDs and repeated the last line of the previous CD section before continuing with the narration - overall, distracting.


I admittedly listened to this mostly while lying in my sick bed and didn't pay it the same close attention as I did the first one. I'm not sure if Scott Brick's individual character voices were less distinct in this adaptation or if I was not aware enough to pick out the subtle differences. As I am already biased in favor of the story, I only mentally docked a half star for the (perceived) performance.


One thing that occurs to me about the story in general though: is Sarah's father actually the vet, Dr. Harding, in the original Jurassic Park? And, if so, WTF, Malcolm? That one, seemingly inconsequential, teasing hint is still bugging me. Plot holes, plot holes...

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park - Scott Brick, Michael Crichton

Streamed this off Audible. This edition is 15:10:10 exactly and narrated by Scott Brick.


I love it. That's it. Scott Brick's voice is amazing and he maintains the individual voices of each character perfectly 99.9% of the time. (I can excuse that slip on Muldoon's dialogue in that one scene because the character was drunk at the time anyway; let's just chalk it up to method acting.)


Nedry's death scene in particular was extra chilling despite how many times I have reread this book in print.


5 stars, would listen again.

3 Stars
Through the Language Glass
Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages - Guy Deutscher

Nonfiction book about languages and the effect on culture, or culture and the effect on languages. Depends on how you read it and what you think about it, really. Deutscher discusses at length various linguistic theories and how they have evolved over time as the scientific side of intellectual curiosity gained prominence and became more refined with the use of experiments and scientific method that weeded out human fallacies. (Or tried to, anyway!)


He starts and ends with color - the peculiarities of the vocabulary of color in Homer's Odyssey at the beginning of the book and the testing of color differentiation across various languages native speakers at the end of the book - and covers several other topics along the way. It is long and overly confusing at times because the author can't resist making a tangential joke that doesn't really add to your understanding of the subject; in fact, I'm inclined to believe it's more to do with page count requirements. Comprehensive reading of this book may require a graduate-level vocabulary and the high-brow humor may fly over the head of someone not looking for it. He does bring to light several experiments/studies that the general public would not be aware of and explains the reasons for their importance in laymen's terms, or makes an attempt at doing so at least.


It took me three-quarters of a year to read this book because I got stuck in the middle and was bored. I say this as person strongly interested in linguistics but not involved in any particular career related to the field, so this may be more geared to those with a professional rather than a casual interest in languages.

3 Stars
Stranded - Jeff Probst, Chris Tebbetts

A short audiobook to listen to while I was cleaning up. It was just under 3 hours long (2 hours 57 minutes according to Audible) and decent story. I expected Lord of the Flies, honestly, and got Survivor Jr., the novelization. In hindsight, that should have been what I expected since Jeff Probst wrote it (he writes, go figure). The cover art is also a clue.


It's a child friendly story and focuses on how the four kids, step siblings that are conveniently split into two boys and two girls, are shipwrecked on an unknown island in the Pacific and manage to survive the first few days alone. No children are sacrificed in this story. Note, however, that it is also the first book in a series and ends on a cliffhanger as per book series protocol.


It's a cute story and I would probably listen to the other books in the series if I found free copies via the library or otherwise, but it is not something I would pay for unless I was buying it for my nieces or nephews.

3.5 Stars
Lock In
Lock In - John Scalzi, Wil Wheaton

Listened to this in audiobook format via Audible. That particular version is about 10 hours long and the last 2 hours or so is the added in meta-history companion novella for main story, called Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome. The main story, Lock In, is narrated by Wil Wheaton alone. The Unlocked novella has multiple narrators and is told in a parallel story flashback format that reminded me of World War Z.


The story - pretty engaging characters, follows the standard police procedural format of increasingly more important mini-climaxes to the final reveal. The protagonist has the almost cliche backstory of being the "privileged son gone to do good on his own as a cop" with the twist being that he is also one of the persons affected with a disease called Haden's Syndrome in an alternate future America. The disease is a sci-fi combo special somewhere between the Black Death and locked-in syndrome, with the outbreak having occurred in the protagonist's early childhood and the actual story happening in his adulthood and dealing the repercussions of the disease on society.


I enjoyed the socioeconomic and sub-culture emphasis. The world-building exploring how having significant chunks of the population affected with such a disease and how they coped is touched on in the main story and explained more in depth, or at least the nitty gritty details are given, in the companion novella. I didn't particularly like any of the characters or found them relateable, but it was interesting to see how each reacted to events as the story went on and what new piece of their history was going to be revealed.


Pop culture references galore for those who like that sort of thing. :)


The audiobook - I like Wil Wheaton's voice, his tone of voice generally sounds quite nice to my ear, but I found his differentiation between character voices to be sub par. There was a difference, but not a great enough one to distinguish accurately when one character stopped speaking and another did in long patches of conversational dialogue which could be confusing as I don't just sit and listen to the book, I'm generally doing something else to occupy my hands while listening.


Rated Lock In as 3 star book but as this version was combined with the Unlocked novella, which I rated a 4, I have averaged the scores on Booklikes to a 3.5.

4 Stars
The Art of Manliness
The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man - Kate McKay, Brett McKay

Most amusing to read, even as a female reader, as it is written in the same tone and style as the weblog by which it is inspired. It is basically a self-help style of book for men (or rather, boys that want to be manly men). There is absolutely nothing derogatory towards women in the book; if anything, it scolds males that treat women badly. I thought the section on childcare was cute, specifically how to braid one's daughter's hair (like a man!) and how to raise a well-behaved son. It does lean on stereotypes to make its point at times, but in a tongue in cheek kind of way. The hardest parts to get through were the instructions on how to do things like tie a tie or start a fire from scratch - neither of which I understand how to do any better after having read the book. Instructions with relevant pictures would be better, in my opinion, but would also have taken away from the book's aesthetic.


Overall, pretty solid advice for a book that doesn't take itself too seriously. It would be a great coffee table book or gift for a guy friend.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
The Gloaming
The Gloaming - Melanie Finn

A random pick off a list of 2016 must-reads that the library oh-so-kindly purchased a copy of based on my recommendation.


Short summary only - dark as all get out. Creepy and disjointed. I am not a fan of first person POV but it works here because you start to doubt what is going on just as the POV character is in the moment. And yet there is a glimmer of hope, albeit a very dim one. It starts a bit slow and sags towards the end, but the chapters are short enough to keep the pages turning and the figurative language is grimly delightful.


This story bounces between past and present, African and Swiss settings, and between multiple characters. There is dubious consent all over the place and death, specifically a lot of children's deaths. Reader beware.

I'm thinking of the old joke about the couple who find themselves alone on Thanksgiving. The husband calls their children and says, "Your mother and I are getting a divorce." Then he hangs up, turns to his wife, and says, "The kids will be over in fifteen minutes."

Dyke, Dick, and Todd Gold. "Old Things - And What Really Matters." Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths about Aging. Kindle ed. Weinstein, 2015. 266. Electronic.

Reading progress update: I've read 399 out of 704 pages.
Moby-Dick (Bantam Classics) - Herman Melville

I have not died, nor have I completely abandoned this book. It is oddly entrenching (is that the word? *checks Merriam Webster* No, it is not. But it sounds good, so NaNo mindset rules apply) and when I finally picked it back up this week, I skimmed through several chapters despite crushingly short breaks at work.


I was amazed at the fact that I've been "reading" this book for more than a year. At first I kept misplacing it around my room as I am reading from my physical copy of the book, then after June my entire personal life collapsed into a ~work-work stress-stress caused by politics-politics at work stress about real politics~ mess. I have read a page here, a quick read there, but finished hardly anything in months. My reading challenge bar chart looks terrible.


Still chugging along, still reading. One thing that struck me about the coincidence of reading Moby Dick during National Novel Writing Month is that it is written in exactly the kind of way that emphasizes word count that most 'chievers like me utilize. The amusement of this realization was worthy of actually writing this progress post. :)


Here's to hoping for more reading/blogging time post-elections!

currently reading

Progress: 120/592minutes
Progress: 22%
Progress: 2%
Progress: 1%
Progress: 38%
Progress: 64%
Progress: 8%
Cyrano de Bergerac - Evelyne Amon, Edmond Rostand
The Night Manager - John le Carré
The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim