123 Following


Not so much a blog; just lots of books

Currently reading

In the Bleak Midwinter: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alsyne Novel
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Ninefox Gambit
Yoon Ha Lee, Emily Woo Zeller
The Black Tides of Heaven
JY Yang
Engineering Animals: How Life Works
Alan Mcfadzean, Mark Denny
Progress: 125/314pages
The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization
Nicholas P. Money
Conservation of Shadows
Yoon Ha Lee
Progress: 22%
Le premier jour
Marc Levy
Progress: 180/496pages
Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
Herman Melville
Manifold: Time
Stephen Baxter, Chris Schluep
Progress: 99/480pages
The Long War
Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett
Progress: 68/501pages

Snakes & Ladders Update Post 3

My first roll with two dice!



(By the way, didn't the original game have squares that wrapped back and forth? I almost totally screwed up my board before I noticed that I was counting on the wrong side.)


Squares Completed (Square condition in bold if book actually meets the square's condition):

1. Author is a woman: Ruler of the Night by David Morrell [1 die = 3]
4. Published in 2019: Graphene by Les Johnson & Joseph E. Meany [1 die = 1]
5. Published in 2018: The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser [2 dice = 8]

13. Author is a man: 

The World in a Grain by Vince Beisner

The World in a Grain , The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization - Vince Beiser

Now, before you go thinking that I've gone off my rocker, part of my rating is due to the fact that I raced through this book in just two and a half days and I was interested throughout. Yes, it really is a book all about sand, both used as a construction material (concrete) and for glass. It covers the history, some of the technological developments, and although parts of the book are very America-centric, other countries are mentioned and they are mentioned more and more as we get to more recent times. Especially China. And we get a whole history lesson on Dubai (a short one).


I think part of what's great in a book like this is that it takes a prosaic substance like sand and expounds upon it and makes me realize that although intellectually I know sand and gravel go into concrete and sand is needed for glass, I've never actually sat down and thought about just where all that sand comes from and how much is actually being used. And how much is used simply to "reclaim" land.


Anyway, the tone of the book was engaging, and although there were some descriptions of the people that were interviewed, I'm willing to mostly forgive it because they weren't all physical descriptions, and certainly didn't get into fashion. I think the book manages to be fairly balanced in its viewpoints and the presentation of its data as well (the author was undoubtedly very fair towards China). There is a conservationist streak toward the end but I welcomed it and found it to be logical given the data presented. You can basically sum up its conclusions with the following paragraphs (p249):

"Of course there is still a lot of sand on the planet. We're not going to literally use it all up. We won't have tribes of biker mutants battling each other for the last truckloads of the stuff any time soon. But the sand situation is in many ways comparable to that of other crucial natural resources. There is plenty on the planet—but it's often found a long way from where the people who need it live, or it can be extracted only at the risk of severe environmental damage."


and, p 253:

"Sand is just one aspect, one element of the much larger problem of overconsumption. Remember, quartz sand is perhaps the most abundant substance on the planet's surface. If we're running out of that, we really need to rethink how we're using everything."


I think I can finally use a book to meet a Snakes & Ladders square requirement so I'll get to roll two dice. :)


Previous updates:

105 of 255 pages (Terrified mica grains)

Reading progress update: I've read 105 out of 255 pages.

The World in a Grain , The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization - Vince Beiser

This passage amused me:

"Froth flotation involves running the rock through mechanical crushers until it's broken down into a heap of mixed-mineral granules. You dump that mix in a tank, add water to turn it into a milky slurry, and stir well. Next, add reagents—chemicals that bind to mica grains and make them hydrophobic, meaning they don't want to touch water. Now pipe a column of air bubbles through the slurry. Terrified of the water surrounding them, the mica grains will frantically grab hold of the air bubbles and be carried up to the top of the tank, forming a froth on the water's surface. A paddle wheel skims off the froth and shunts it into another tank, where water is drained out. Voilà: mica.


I'm just picturing mica grains like fleeing villagers.

Snakes & Ladders Update Post 2

Great, now I land on the square calling for the 2018 book.


Squares Completed (Square condition in bold if book actually meets the square's condition):

1. Author is a woman: Ruler of the Night by David Morrell [1 die = 3]

4. Published in 2019: Graphene by Les Johnson & Joseph E. Meany [1 die = 1]

5. Published in 2018:

Graphene by Les Johnson & Joseph E. Meany

Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World  - Joseph E. Meany, Les  Johnson

I wavered on what to rate this because although parts of the book were really interesting, other parts were organized in such a way as to seem repetitive and some of the digressions into market forces, including how supply and demand could lead to fracking becoming profitable again, were not. Everything concerning the physics and underlying chemistry of graphene could be put into the "interesting" bin, but the repeated speculation on futuristic technologies, especially in the chapter describing all of the graphene-laced products that someone in the future might encounter, not so much. The speculation in and of itself wasn't necessarily uninteresting, but the way it was presented contributed to the feeling of repetitiveness.


All in all, I'd say it's a worthwhile read, but I'd be inclined to skim over sections. Part of my distaste for some sections may have been due to being forced to cover about 75 pages today in order to return the book to the library.


Unfortunately this book was published in 2018 and not 2019, so I only get to roll one die for the Snakes & Ladders game.


Previous updates:

85 of 245 pages

38 of 245 pages

Snakes & Ladders Update Post 1

The starting line:


The Roll:

The Finish:



Squares Completed (Square condition in bold if book actually meets the square's condition):

1. Author is a woman: Ruler of the Night by David Morrell [1 die = 3]

Ruler of the Night by David Morrell (audiobook)

Ruler of the Night (Thomas De Quincey #3) - Neil Dickson, Hachette Audio, David Morrell

Series: Thomas de Quincey Mystery #3


I jumped into this concluding novel without having read any of the earlier ones and although I didn't struggle much figuring out who was who and the characters' relationships between one another, I didn't particularly care about any of them. On the plus side, this mystery is far more intricate than some of the others I've read lately, and it purports to have the first murder on an English train.


Author isn't a woman, but I get to roll a single die anyway for the Snakes & Ladders game.

Reading progress update: I've read 85 out of 245 pages.

Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World  - Joseph E. Meany, Les  Johnson

"Creating an electric field using the silicon wafer as a transistor gate with the two wires become a sources and drain across the graphite flake. This bears some explanation."


Phew. I was worried for a second there that I wouldn't be able to recommend this book because they didn't explain transistors. Of course, I'm not sure how comprehensible the explanation is to someone who doesn't know what the authors are talking about, but still.

Reading progress update: I've read 38 out of 245 pages.

Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World  - Joseph E. Meany, Les  Johnson

"In fact, you can even try this yourself at home. Take a pencil, cut away the eraser, and sharpen both ends. If you connect a multimeter or voltage tester across the pencil, you can measure the inherent electrical properties of particular pencil. You can even make a functioning graphite circuit on a piece of paper simply by drawing dark lines on the paper with a pencil and connecting a batter. If you attach a light-emitting diode (LED) to the circuit, the LED will light up!"


So far I'm enjoying this book far more than The Disappearing Spoon and the authors did a far better job of describing the basics of the periodic table. Perhaps it's easier when you focus mainly on carbon.


There are a few asides, but they're probably justifiable, like the one that added extra info on the first woman to be nominated as a Fellow of the Royal Society even though she wasn't related to the main text. Possibly that should have been a footnote though.


Why can't Flat Books nominate books like these? I suppose it could go downhill from here, but still...

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (audiobook)

Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

Series: Discworld #3


I'm sticking to my original rating because although the book is somewhat entertaining and there are definitely Prachettisms peppered throughout, it's basically the appendix of the Discworld. It's a mostly forgotten appendage to the Discworld cannon that only ever gets referenced via Granny Weatherwax having been to Ankh-Morpork previously. I also have trouble relating to both Granny Weatherwax and Esk in this story, which doesn't help.


I wasn't a fan of Celia Imrie's performance here. I liked her narration of other Discworld books but Simon's constantly congested voice and her weird "ooks" for the Librarian got on my nerves.


Previous updates:

71 %

19 %

3 %

Reading progress update: I've listened 328 out of 463 minutes.

Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

"For Simon, the pollen count always went to infinity."


Snicker. Poor Simon.

Reading progress update: I've listened 89 out of 463 minutes.

Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

She patted Esk’s hand as nicely as possible. ‘You’re a bit young for this,’ she said, ‘but as you grow older you’ll find most people don’t set foot outside their own heads much. You too,’ she added gnomically.

Granny may mean this literally, but it works figuratively too.

Reading progress update: I've listened 12 out of 463 minutes.

Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

Six minutes seems to have been cutting it pretty close, Drum Billet. Just saying.


I started this last night but haven't gotten around to posting till now.

The Dead Shall Not Rest by Tessa Harris (audiobook)

The Dead Shall Not Rest (Audio) - Tessa Harris, K.W. Jeter

Series: Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery #2


I eagerly dove into this next book because I found the first one so interesting. I didn't find this one nearly so engaging, however, for a variety of reasons. Some of them had to do with the plot being a little too easy to be untangled (the Carrington and Hunter thing) coupled with scenes that didn't entirely make sense when later revelations were made because they were put there just to mislead. Since I listened to the audio version, I couldn't very easily go back and check previous scenes so I may be judging too harshly, but that was my impression, anyway.


There were also revelations about Lydia's past that I just found uninteresting and didn't seem to fit with her previous character and my impression of the times, but again, that's my own judgement. It also required a looser interpretation of statements from the first book.


I'll probably try the third just to see if the novels pick up again but otherwise this is just another promising series that petered out after the first book.

The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris (audiobook)

The Anatomist's Apprentice (A Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mystery, #1) - Tessa Harris, Simon Vance

Series: Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery #1


Very mild spoilers.



This was a fairly intricately plotted historical fiction mystery that I quite enjoyed despite the apparently mandatory love interest along with love at first sight (at least on his part). It was also refreshing because it takes place in an even earlier era for forensics, 1780. There was a tendency to throw a bit too much into the actual chase scene at the end (i.e. let's kill all the inconvenient characters) but it still left me wanting to dive into the next one sooner rather than later. All in all, a promising start to a series.

January 2019 Wrap Up

Total Books: 12

Audiobooks: 9

Non-Audiobooks: 3

Average Rating: 3.4


That's better than some of my recent months, but not all that great either. I'm also heavily dependent on audiobooks, far more than I used to be.


4 stars:

Excession - Iain M. Banks,Peter Kenny A Christmas Party - Georgette Heyer Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye,Susie Riddell  The Furthest Station - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-Smith  The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-SmithChasing New Horizons - David Alan Stern    


3.5 stars:

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong,Charlie Anson 


3 stars:

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) - Mark Bramhall,Lev Grossman A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent - Kate Reading,Marie Brennan 


2.5 stars:

The Poisoned Chocolates Case (Golden Age Classics) - Anthony Berkeley Death Without Tenure (A Karen Pelletier Mystery #6) - Christine Williams,Joanne Dobson 


DNFs (books I declared abandoned for one reason or another:

The Rule of Luck - Catherine Cerveny  Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture - Roxane Azimi  The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements - Sam Kean


Now for some pretty graphs...




And finally, the losing battle of Mount TBR (a non-exhaustive list of all the books I meant to read at some point):