Posts Categorized: Uncategorized

A Group Read Review – The Talented Mr. Ripley

May 15, 2012 Uncategorized 2

2247142Title: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Source: library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: Slightly creepy but intriguing story about a supposedly likable murder, but I found him an unsympathetic main character which made it hard for me to really care where the plot went.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is not a book I would have picked up on my own for fear it would be too dark.  However, I’ve been enjoying doing group reads a lot and this was the next book for the Constant Reader Group on Goodreads.  The book tells the story of Ripley, a man sent to Europe to talk an acquaintance into returning to the United States.  Instead, he begins desperately wishing he has his acquaintance’s life and even murder won’t prevent our amoral protagonist from achieving his goals.  I’m sure you can see why I was worried about it being too dark! Read more »

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Bookends About Graceling

May 12, 2012 Uncategorized 6

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: Well-written, unique world with magic that obeys believable rules, and great characters.  Brought back fond memories of reading Tamora Pierce’s quartets about strong heroines taking on traditionally male roles.

Graceling is a story about Katsa, a rare individual Graced with a supernatural level of skill – in her case, the Grace of killing.  Although previously the king has used Katsa to enforce his often cruel will on his subjects, in this novel she begins to question her place in his plans and discover her own identity.  There is also a handsome prince (a supporting character who complements but doesn’t overshadow our heroine) and of course an evil villain. Read more »

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The Universe in a Mirror in the 522’s

May 9, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It
Author: Robert Zimmerman
Source: library
Fun Fact:  When Lyman Spitzer proposed the US build a telescope 200-600 inches diameter and launch it into space, the largest ground telescope was only 200 inches and still under construction!
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: I liked the author’s writing style and his passion for the subject, but it was sometimes difficult to keep track of the sequence of events and the people involved.

The building of the Hubble telescope was a long and complicated process, lasting 44 years from the first serious proposal of such a telescope to Hubble’s launch in 1990.  The fight for Hubble didn’t end there either, as regular maintenance missions were necessary to keep the telescope operational.  The Universe in a Mirror describes the many people who devoted their lives to the project, as well as a sampling of the neat discoveries the Hubble enabled. Read more »

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Bookends About The House of Mirth

May 6, 2012 Uncategorized 1

Warning: this review does include some general spoilers.

Title: The House of Mirth
Source: library
Read for: Erin Read’s Reading Buddies
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: An interesting story with intriguing characters, but the almost happy ending made me like it a lot less.

The House of Mirth is a “novel of manners” or a novel which focuses on social customs, often the customs surrounding marriage (think Jane Austen, for example).    This particular novel focuses on high society in New York during the early 1900’s, a setting very familiar to the author, and was intended to highlight what she saw as the complete lack of anything worthwhile in that society.  However, as the forward to my version pointed out, what still draws people to this book today is mostly the character of Lily Bart.  Throughout the book we follow Lily’s attempts to marry for money, culminating in her fall from society when she is accused of being a man’s mistress.
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Heavenly Intrigue

May 3, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History’s Greatest Scientific Discoveries
Source: library
Fun Fact:  When Tycho’s body was exhumed, it was discovered that he had a mustache that was 4 inches wide!
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: A light version of Tycho and Kepler, which seems equally well researched but the authors’ credibility suffers from their obvious agenda trying to sell their story.

When I very first spotted Heavenly Intrigue on my library shelves, I resisted picking it up because of the blatant sensationalism of the subtitle but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to get a second perspective on the same story.  As expected, this book presented a much less detailed overview of Kepler and Brahe’s work than Tycho and Kepler, with a much greater emphasis on interpersonal relationships and drama.  It was much easier to follow and I think this would have been the case even if I’d read it first as the book is clearly intended for a broader audience.  In addition to glossing over some of the details of the history and the science, there were several cases where the explanations of the instruments Kepler and Tycho used were much clearer and given with fewer astronomy terms.
Read more »

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Three Tips for Reading Historical Non-Fiction

May 3, 2012 Uncategorized 0

This week I jumped into historical non-fiction for the first time and as some of you may have gathered from this post , I found the experience a little intimidating!  Fortunately, with lots of help from the internet, I made it through – something which turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying experience.  So today I’m going to share with you what I learned, in hopes you won’t need to start a book feeling as lost as I did 🙂

1 – Orient Yourself in Time
My biggest problem when I started reading was that I really wanted to learn something from this book, but I had no prior knowledge of what was happening in the late 1500’s.  I also didn’t know much about when other important events took place in relation the the 1500’s.  Fortunately, I’m not as totally hopeless about history as I may sound, so I was pretty sure I just needed to find a website that gave me a timeline of events to help give me some context.  While searching, I came across this wonderful website which lets you view important world events broken down by era and geographical region.  For instance, I learned that living the late 1500’s Tycho and Kepler were living after the war of the roses, the Spanish Armada, the gun powder plot, and Joan of Arc.  It was really helpful and I highly recommend this as a place to start if you’re feeling lost in time!  
Read more »

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Tycho and Kepler in the 520’s

May 1, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: Tycho and Kepler: The Unlikely Partnership That Forever Changed Our Understanding of the Heavens
Source: library
Fun Fact:  The duel in which Tycho lost his nose may have been started by a man making fun of him because his astrological predictions didn’t come true.
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: A very in depth look at the lives and personalities of two interesting men.  Intriguing and well researched, but not for the faint of heart as this was not a light read.

Tycho and Kepler is a detailed biography of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, covering both their personal lives and their scientific careers.  It’s arranged in chronological order, smoothly transitioning between the two scientists.  I liked this format a lot because it made it so easy to see how their lives related to one another.  There was actually quite a lot of personal drama, although it was mostly presented an impersonal manner – enough so that I really want to read some historical fiction now to get a “first-person” perspective on this fascinating time period!
Read more »

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April BAND Discussion

April 29, 2012 Uncategorized 0

This month I’m excited to participate in my first Bloggers’ Alliance of Non-fiction Devotees (BAND) discussion.  Each month, this group poses an interesting question related to our common love of non-fiction.  This weeks’ question comes from Care’s Online Book Club and she asks the following question:

I like to read nonfiction on odd subjects. I define quirky as a book about a single subject that at first thought might prompt a question of how anyone could find enough stuff to write an entire book.  How do you define quirky? and do you read it?

I personally would usually define quirky as off-beat or odd – the sort of book I might have a hard time explaining to a friend how I ended up picking it up.  Out of my current reading, I think the book which most exemplifies my definition of quirky is The Joy of Cheesemaking.  It’s kind of an esoteric topic and not something I would have had reason to stumble across if not for my Doing Dewey project.  A book I recently saw which definitely fits Care’s definition is a book yet to be published but available on Edelweiss called American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food.  I’ll admit, I may have been waiting for a chance to share that one with you, since I really do have trouble imaging there’s that much to write about tuna!

Your turn!  Feel free to answer the BAND question here or at our host Care’s blog.  How would you define quirky?  And do you read many books that meet your definition?

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Bookends About Economics

April 28, 2012 Uncategorized 3

13605023Economics: A Simple Twist on Normalcy is an approachable introduction to some basic concepts in economics.  The author Kersten Kelly focuses on everyday examples of economics at work in order to make the concepts more relatable for the everyday reader.  Although the book is neither as dry nor as comprehensive as an economics textbook, I think it has the potential to be a good introduction to an economics course in order to get students more interested.
Read more »

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On Reading Historical Non-Fiction

April 24, 2012 Uncategorized 4

I’ve been putting off really digging into Tycho and Kepler because I’m a little intimidated by it – not a feeling I usually have about books!  I don’t know much history and I’d really like to learn more.  However, as I learned at a “how to be a good TA” lecture, people learn best when they can connect new knowledge to information they already know.  This has been making my first attempt to dig into some historical non-fiction difficult, especially since I’m not happy to just read past things I don’t get.  At risk of sounding completely hopeless, I’m going to give you some of my impressions reading the first paragraph of Tycho and Kepler (my thoughts in Italics):

“On January 11, 1600 (ok, so after the Magna Carta, after Christopher Columbus, before the American Revolution…wow, my knowledge of history is really sparse) the carriage of Baron Johann Friedrich Hoffmann, baron of Grunbuchel and Sterchau (Germany? maybe Denmark, the map at the beginning was of Denmark, but nope these places aren’t on that map) , rumbled out of Graz… Having fulfilled, for the time being, his occasional duties as a member of the Styrian Diet (some sort of ruling council?) in the Austrian (ah, apparently we’re in Austria) provincial capitol, he was returning to court in Prague (hmm, I know that city, but what country is it in…).

I could go on, but you get the idea!  Currently, I think my best bet is just to read with wikipedia open, but if anyone has any other suggestions for a (historically and geographically inept) first-time reader of historical non-fiction, I’d appreciate the advice 🙂

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