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Not so much a blog; just lots of books

Currently reading

The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions
Thomas McNamee
Progress: 72/235pages
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

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (audiobook)

Etiquette & Espionage  - Gail Carriger, Moira Quirk

Series: Finishing School #1


This was a kind of cute young-adult steampunk story about a tomboy in possibly Victorian times (there's talk of a telegraph device and gas lighting) who gets packed off to finishing school to try to polish off her rougher edges. As it turns out, however, the finishing school in question is only teaching the finer aspects of moving about in society in order to create expert intelligence agents, which is much more to Sophronia's liking. She can get behind fashion choices when they're used for camouflage, basically.


So the concept is kind of cute and silly but also somewhat entertaining. Sophronia reminds me a little of Flavia de Luce although she's a bit older. I think I'll see if my library has the next one in the series.

Death of a Snob by M. C. Beaton (audiobook)

Death of a Snob - M.C. Beaton, Shaun Grindell

Series: Hamish Macbeth #6


This was a straightforward little mystery wherein Hamish Macbeth acts like a pansy because he thinks he's dying of influenza when he catches a cold and later indulges in some slut shaming because calmly refusing a woman who makes a pass at him isn't acceptable; he has to try to make her feel ashamed for her behaviour. Give me a break. Oh, and Priscilla gets some much needed rest.


At least the book called out the ridiculousness of a romance plot (in a book) where the heroine falls in love with her rapist.

The Christie Curse by Victoria Abbott (audiobook)

The Christie Curse - Carla Mercer-Meyer, Victoria Abbott

Series: Book Collector Mystery #1


This book sounded cute: a recent college grad gets a job doing research on finding literary collectibles, and her first task is to try to find a previously unknown Christie play. It started off okay, and there's a cute dog, but I got tired of the descriptions of Jordan's vintage clothes, and the writing was just too slow in places.


At one point, when relating Jordan's reaction to being startled by someone she thinks is going to attack her, she digresses into discussing all the self defence techniques her uncles taught her, talks about how a headbutt would be most appropriate, talks about taking aim or whatever, and still hasn't actually reacted to her attacker. And that wasn't the only instance. I'm not sure if the author was trying to build suspense or something, but it just didn't work for me.


The "twists" at the end were just way too predictable; I'm not very good at calling what's going to happen in a book, so when it happens like this...I have to feel that it's the book's failing.


So not a new audio mystery series for me to work my way through, unfortunately.

Reading progress update: I've read 72 out of 235 pages.

The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

I'm not sure whether Balou's "calling around sounding lost" sound counts as a rowow or a máa-oww. It sounds godawful once he gets going and it definitely sounds louder than seems possible for his size.


Mildred Moelk's work sounds interesting.

Reading progress update: I've read 7 out of 235 pages.

The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

My initial impression was favourable. Although the style is anecdotal and somewhat chatty, it also focuses strictly on the cat, Augusta, and discusses her hunting abilities and so on. And then I got to this paragraph:

"Cats can hear higher-frequency sounds than any other terrestrial mammal, quite a bit higher even than dogs—up to one hundred thousand hertz (cycles per second). People max out at about forty thousand, if they haven't been to too many rock concerts or ear-splitting bars (which probably eliminates about half of all American grownups)."

I was like, what? Humans hearing up to 40 kHz? <.<


Supposedly there are some endnotes for this book but I don't see any references for this statement. The figure I'm familiar with for human hearing is 20 kHz, and I saw references to 23 kHz & 28 kHz when I was digging, which still seem plausible (28 kHz is apparently under ideal laboratory conditions), but with dogs commonly getting their hearing range quoted as up to ~45 kHz, it just isn't plausible that humans could possibly hear up to 40 kHz. There will be variations in the exact numbers since you normally have to quote an exact dB level (loudness) to go with a frequency but still. The statement is qualitatively accurate but the numbers are bogus.


I did find one paper that quote 85 kHz in the abstract for the upper end of the range for cats, but the Wikipedia page on hearing ranges refers an upper limit of 79 kHz (mice get 70 kHz). So they can hear ultrasonic mouse squeaks! Tee hee. I also found this really cool chart on that page that seems to use some different numbers (77 kHz for cat, 79 kHz for mouse) but looks cool just the same.Animal hearing frequency range



Apparently some bat species can hear up to 200 kHz, which is just kind of crazy. They do sacrifice hearing on the lower end of the scale though.


And this source gives 64 kHz to cats and 91 kHz to mice!


Anyway, although I may still end up enjoying the book, I'm going to be skeptical of all numbers quoted.



Death of a Hussy by M. C. Beaton (audiobook)

Death of a Hussy - M.C. Beaton, Shaun Grindell

Series: Hamish Macbeth #5


Yes, I'm still plugging my way through these books. This one tried to have a bit of progression by having Hamish move to the city and have the villagers start a crime spree to get him back (it works, naturally). This one felt really judgemental about women again (appearance-wise) although in some ways it tried not to be. Also, it feels really odd for someone not to learn to drive until their 30s unless they live in a big city. I mean, it's 1990 not 1960, and I'm pretty sure Scotland wasn't stuck 30 years in the past. Oh, and Macbeth finally starts to appreciate Blair. Sort of.


The mystery was pretty mediocre. Maybe the next one will be better.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (audiobook)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Audio) - Jesse Bernstein, Ransom Riggs

Series: Miss Peregrine #1


I was pleasantly surprised by this book. What little I knew of it sounded weird, so I didn't know exactly what I was getting into or how the main character's story would tie into that of his grandfather's. I'm just trying not to look at some of the questionable internal logic (or at least logic that I don't quite follow about how some of the weird stuff in this world works).


An enjoyable read, at least by audio. I'm planning on checking out the next in the series. I predicted some of what happened but that just gave me a sense of accomplishment rather than disappointment.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (audiobook)

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

Series: The Illuminae Files #1


Apparently I'm the odd one out here since I wasn't enthralled by this book. I'm pretty sure I would have abandoned it if I had read a written copy since I am not a fan of epistolary novels. And this is like the worst kind of epistolary novel. As an audiobook it mostly worked, and I probably would have rated it higher if it weren't for the annoying young adult romance overtones (yes, I know it's YA) and if the last 2-3 hours hadn't really dragged. To be honest, the YA aspect wasn't that bad (for a YA novel) but I still rolled my eyes at some of it. But those last hours with Kady on the Alexander...yawn. Also, the general format of the book kind of gave away some of the ending.


What is about? An attack on an illegal mining colony by a rival corporation leads to several ships fleeing with refugees on board trying to make for a safe harbour. Biological weapons were used in the attack, which complicates matters, of course. Cue zombie psychopaths.


I'm not sure if I'll read the next books. It looks like my library has the audios, so maybe? Based on what I've written above, perhaps I'll steer clear.

The Red by Linda Nagata

First Light - Linda Nagata

Series: The Red #1


This felt like a pretty standard military SF novel. It takes place on Earth, not in space, but we have soldiers in exoskeletons ("dead sisters" because they look like bones, sort of) fighting far from home and they have skullcaps that help them manage their emotional states (useful in a warzone).


Part of the conflict in the novel comes from corrupt defence contractors and part comes from a possible marketing AI that's evolved in the cloud and is manipulating people. It was interesting but I wasn't enthralled, and I found the sense of fatalism to be tiresome. It kind of felt like the AI was just making stuff happen. I also found the scenes with Shelley's girlfriend, Lissa, to be somewhat annoying; I'm not sure why. Maybe she was too flat of a character? Shrug.


Anyway, I read this for a buddy read but I'm not sure if I'll read the next books.


Previous updates:

1 %

When Bunnies Go Bad by Clea Simon (audiobook)

When Bunnies Go Bad: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir - Clea Simon, Tavia Gilbert

Series: Pru Marlowe #6


I'll admit that I basically read/listened to this because of the talking to pets concept, and the talking to pets went fairly well. This was interesting in audio format and I'm not sure how it would have played out in print. 


Pru Marlowe is kind of an animal behaviourist that works with training pets, walking dogs, etc. She's so good at her job because she can actually talk to her charges. Or at least she can pick up what they're thinking and interpret that as speech and communicate with the animals in turn. She stumbles across a body in her small town and things take off from there.


It was a silly mystery (talking to pets) but I enjoyed it, and I may even seek out the rest of the series at some point. I came into the middle of the series but this series seems to work reasonably well when read out of order. I didn't feel lost or bored by rehashing past relationships and events at all.


Pru has a cat called Wallace, and the narrator managed to nail the innate aloofness you'd expect in a cat. All of the dog voices were cartoonish, I'd say, but amusing.

Death of a Perfect Wife by M. C. Beaton

Death of a Perfect Wife  - M.C. Beaton, Shaun Grindell

Series: Hamish Macbeth #4


I have to say that I'm really getting tired of this Priscilla thing. I really hope Hamish is over her.


This one had some really weird judgemental stuff about Glaswegian prostitutes. It was awkward to read. It wasn't a big part of the story or anything but it was just weird. Maybe it has to do with the era in which it was written?


Overall this one wasn't anything special. I guessed the murderer although I didn't know I was right until the end and there was all the silly Priscilla stuff.

Reading progress update: I've read 1%.

First Light - Linda Nagata

"Since sunset the temperature has dropped to ninety-five degrees American"

This is a nice way of putting it, especially when contrasted with Peter Grant's way of calling Celsius "real" temperature.


I know one of my friends didn't really like this book, but I'm hoping my read will be more fun.

Homicide Sanitarium by Fredric Brown

Homicide Sanitarium - Fredric Brown

This is a short story collection that might be best described as within the off-kilter section of the hard-boiled detective genre. There's humour, an Arsenic and Old Lace reference (which I suppose would have been pretty current when it was written), and a lot of people trying to get away with murder. Plus one guy who tries to convince another that he killed his wife while simultaneously trying to get away with murder.


I didn't love all the stories equally, but they were all entertaining. Probably my least favourite was The Cat from Siam. Or maybe Listen to the Mockingbird, since I keep forgetting what it was about (I keep thinking about it as the last story and not by its title). I'm not sure what my favourite was... Maybe Red-Hot and Hunted, the one that starts out like a play about a guy who tries to convince another that he just murdered his wife and the other guy thinks he's just trying to get the part of a guy who killed his wife in a Bluebeard play he's putting on...


Yeah, a lot of the stories are like that. They start off straight-forward and then Brown tweaks them and gives them a spin (generally a wobbly-spin). If that sounds like your cup of tea, and you see this collection available, you might want to pick it up.


Previous update:

119 of 194 pages

A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman (audiobook)

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century - Barbara W. Tuchman, Nadia May

Well, that was a long haul, but I don't regret the journey.


This is basically an overview of France, England, and other parts of Europe in the 14th century as it follows the ancestors and life of Enguerrand VI de Coucy. It's not exactly a biography, but it uses de Coucy's life to provide human interest and a way to structure Tuchman's history of the 14th century. Enguerrand de Coucy was an important man in France and married the king of England's daughter, so he moved in powerful circles.


I was worried that I might have made a mistake in choosing the audio for this but Nadia May is a great narrator and although lots and lots of information was thrown at me, I feel like I got something out of it. Audio still might not be the best way to go but even in print this book would have been long. As it should be, since it covers an entire century. It's like writing a history of the 20th century, but with more interpretation and fewer primary sources.


Anyway, some of the things that I got out of it were a better understanding of the different religious movements from that era and the general religious environment, a better understanding of chivalric romances, a better understanding or mediaeval attitudes, and lots of stuff about war at the time. I'm not sure how much of it will stick with me, but a reread eventually wouldn't be out of the question. There was certainly a lot of information to try to absorb, and some of it was a bit dry but overall it was quite interesting.


The 14th century was also the time of the schism of the two popes, so that part was entertaining. Tuchman starts into the 15th century and some of the changes that came about then but maintains her focus by contrasting it with the 14th century. This book was written 40 years ago but it seems to have aged fairly well.


Previous updates:

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36 %

3 %

Reading progress update: I've read 119 out of 194 pages.

Homicide Sanitarium - Fredric Brown

So far so good with the short story collection by Fredric Brown gifted to me by Tigus.


I'll admit I was a little nervous about it because I'm not always a fan of the more hardboiled style of detective story, which is what it sounded like. And I always prefer liking books that are recommended to me although I don't always.


But this is good! I'm not sure how I'd characterize them so far, but "off-beat" (as it's put on the back cover) works. So far I've had a story where the main character is adamant that he's killed his wife and not auditioning for a part in a play, a ghoulish and I'm pretty sure impossible story in a morgue (but it's still good), a story about a detective going undercover in a sanitarium (I guessed the solution to this one but that didn't detract from my enjoyment), and a feel-good story about a guy whose telescope is used as part of a burglary.


There's also just enough humour to keep things interesting and flowing smoothly.

Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney (audiobook)

Snobbery with Violence (Audio) - Marion Chesney, Davina Porter

Series: Edwardian Murder Mysteries #1


This is an Edwardian mystery with a naïve young woman called Rose and a slightly older gentleman with a war wound as amateur detectives when a woman is found dead at a country house party. The period information was sometimes over-explained, Rose was incredibly naïve, and the mystery was so-so with a lot of cover-ups because of the suspects' positions in society. It took a while to get to the death too because there was a lot of introduction with Rose and Harry before we got to the party. Not sure whether I'll read another one in the series.


I liked the narrator though.