JLee22
Review
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: A Novel - -Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged-, Michael Crichton, Scott Brick

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.

Review
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.

Review
3 Stars
Stranded
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.

Review
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.

Review
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.

Quote
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!

Quote
People say, 'I suppose you got bored with life,' but it wasn't as sudden as that. The seeds are in you and although it may take ten, twenty or forty years, eventually you can do what you wanted to do at the beginning.

Powell, M. (2012). Below stairs: The classic kitchen maid's memoir that inspired Upstairs, downstairs and Downton Abbey [Electronic]. New York: St. Martin's Press.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4.5 Stars
A Study in Emerald
A Study in Emerald - Neil Gaiman

An alternate universe of Sherlock Holmes canon. I have read it before but I saw the audio version on Audible and decided, eh, why not?

 

This particular version was narrated by Neil Gaiman (I thought it was Gy-man, not Gae-men? Huh, go figure.) and he has a lovely voice, but it irritated me profoundly that he pronounced Lestrade as Le-stray-d. Just... no. It does not sound nice.

 

The story, of course, takes place in England, but one renamed Albion and in which supernatural elements are at work and creatures - for lack of a better term - literally rule. The story is narrated by the consulting detective's companion, a veteran of the Afghan war. A strong knowledge of the entire Sherlock Holmes series is practically a requirement due to the reliance on some of the lesser-known canon references used to make the twisty ending come to light. Likewise, the faux contemporary advertisements that break up the chapters require at least a mediocre familiarity with both 12+ grade English vocabulary and classic horror stories.

 

As evidenced by the name, the main plot shares similarities with Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet." Probably a good place to start as a prequel of sorts for the uninitiated. :)

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3.5 Stars
The Sherlockian
The Sherlockian - Graham Moore

There are two stories going on here:

 

1) In contemporary times, a fanboy is initiated into an exclusive club for Sherlock fans (thus the term Sherlockian is used quite often afterwards) and they all gather for a special event: another celebrated BNF has found Arthur Conan Doyle's lost diary and is going to share it. Except he ends up dead. Murdered, naturally. And why call the police when you have a bunch of wanna-be Sherlocks hanging around the place?

 

Honestly, I would probably go see a movie adaptation of this book purely for that scene in particular.

 

The mystery escalates of course. There is a Woman involved. And it all ends at Reichenbach.

 

2) In the Victorian era, Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes and suffers the consequences from the fans of his time. He is a top-notch drama queen about the whole thing (given a modern reader's foreknowledge) but eventually gets over it. Until he becomes involved in serial murders, "anti-feminism", and escapades worthy of Sherlock Holmes himself.

 

Extra spoiler: his being miffed at being treated as the Watson at one point.

 

I loved the fact that Bram Stoker is basically his sidekick and the author writes about Conan Doyle's reflections on his relationships with J.M. Barrie and Oscar Wilde with such depth of emotion; I have no idea if the real life people knew each other, but I would be inclined to believe it based on the presentation of this historical fiction.

 

Ultimately a happy ending because, as we all know, Sherlock Holmes comes back to life.

 

Audiobook notes: no idea if the Scottish accent of the narrator is authentic, but I like it. <3

Review
2 Stars
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Ian Porter, Adam Sims, Alfred Birnbaum, Haruki Murakami

Eh, I use the tags "science fiction" and "fantasy" very loosely with this novel.

 

As with all of Murakami's works, it skirts the edge of this and that. It is difficult to follow if you are not paying attention, moreso when you are trying to pay attention to an audiobook as it turns out. There are two narrators that switch off on chapters due to the split narrative of the story. I found their voices pleasant to listen to, but their accents for different characters and their pronunciations of certain Japanese words grated on my ears to the point that it ruined those parts of the story for me. I think that I would have preferred to read this one.

 

I enjoy the themes of reality vs. non-reality that Murakami regularly explores in his stories, this one especially delving into the Russian philosophical side of things, haha. The particular flavor of, ah, graphic detail is definitely an acquired taste though.

 

Alas, I will not be counting this one for any of my on-going challenges.

Review
3.5 Stars
Fool Moon
Fool Moon - Jim Butcher

Well, this is not the cover on my edition. And it turns out my copy was one of the worse off survivors of the book auction debacle and I will probably chuck it because it is not in a fit state to be passed on. I'm not sure how it survived be read, actually.

 

This is the second book in the series and lightly covers the basic story of the first without actually summarizing it, and re-introduces a couple of the prominent secondary characters, Murphy (of the police) and Marcone (of the criminal underworld), betwixt whom Dresden tries to survive with varying degrees of success.

 

Given the obvious title, "werewolves" are involved with this book's plot. I do appreciate how Jim Butcher takes the "when things look bad for your protagonist, make them worse before they get better" approach to writing. It keeps the pages turning, although the chapter end-lines are sometimes... lacking in wit, one could say. They would perhaps flow better as longer chapter segments. The first person narrative style grates, at times, particularly since I can't relate to the male POV, but the author regularly pokes fun at the character's self-confess chauvinism and almost breaks the fourth wall a few times. Some good twists on the werewolf genre and a rather bittersweet, IMHO, ending. Nicely leaves open some plot holes to fill in during future books with regards to Dresden's parents and his past/events that led to his unique circumstances within the magical community.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
The Geography of Madness
The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World's Strangest Syndromes - Frank Bures

It is interesting in subject matter, literally about penis thieves as the title says, but as you may imagine, no actual penises are (permanently) stolen. It segues into how the organ theft is very real to the people who experience it and those around them who believe it's happening, but completely imaginary to anyone else around them who don't have the same culture beliefs. The book goes on to describe other culture-bound syndromes and does a pretty good job at breaking down the predisposition to thinking these things only happen in "less civilized" or "less educated" countries, even though that is reiterated frequently by the medical professionals as to why the incidences keep occurring. Notably, the author points out how PMS is almost exclusively an American problem for women, or other American or Western "diseases" like anorexia or pet hoarding that do not exist in our cultural opposites, yet no one would say that the Western world lacks in civilization or culture. (Debatable.)

 

He mentions the change in understanding and societal perception of, for example, depression as being something mental (and shameful) to something physical (and suddenly curable) and the case studies in the placebo effect. There is the historical precedent of fugue:

Hacking suggests that fugue and other conditions can flourish in a place and time because the right conditions exist in the same way that ecological conditions allow certain species to arise... When those conditions change, the animals die out. In the late 1800s, a niche opened up in Europe to allow fugue to arise, and then it was gone. As a kind of resolution of the dichotomy, Hacking has proposed the term “bioloop” to describe the process by which our ideas and beliefs affect our physiology, and our physiology in turn affects our minds.

The information and suggested analysis is well-written, but the book could easily have been half its present length and made a stronger, more concise argument. However, that is not the author's writing style. A good chunk of the unnecessary writing is about his struggling writing career or the mundane details of his travels to track down information about the phenomena, even including accounts of dead ends that could have been excised from the final copy of the book for pacing reasons. I don't care that you tried the local recipe of chicken in some mid-sized town in China and found it subpar; just tell me about the darned subject of your book.

 

Solid three, overall.

currently reading

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Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 12 - Bisco Hatori
The Night Manager - John le Carré
The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim