Around the world…

The Voyage Of The Beagle (Illustrated)
by Charles Darwin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am pretty sure I read this as a teenager, about 40 years ago, and liked it, mainly for the illustrations. I decided to have another look… 

Places Darwin visits with the HMS Beagle:

  1. Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul’s RocksFernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)
  2. Chapter II: Rio de Janeiro
  3. Chapter III: Maldonado
  4. Chapter IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca
  5. Chapter V: Bahía Blanca
  6. Chapter VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires
  7. Chapter VII: Buenos Aires to St. Fe
  8. Chapter VIII: Banda Oriental
  9. Chapter IX: Patagonia
  10. Chapter X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia
  11. Chapter XI: Tierra del Fuego
  12. Chapter XII: The Falkland Islands
  13. Chapter XIII: Strait of Magellan
  14. Chapter XIV: Central Chile
  15. Chapter XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands
  16. Chapter XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion
  17. Chapter XVII: Passage of Cordillera
  18. Chapter XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru
  19. Chapter XIX: Galapagos Archipelago
  20. Chapter XX: Tahiti and New Zealand
  21. Chapter XXI: Australia (Van Diemen’s Land)
  22. Chapter XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)
  23. Chapter XXIII: Mauritius to England

I read the first few chapters, then skimmed my way roughly to the middle of the book, looking at the illustrations and reading a bit here and there. The writing doesn‘t feel as dry and dated as I feared, but all together this didn‘t grab me enough to properly read it in full. That‘s just me though. I recommend reading the Goodreads review of my buddy Trish…

P.S.: I found a fun website detailing the voyage, with an interactive map.

Top Ten Tuesday in full sentences

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

Last week‘s topic: book titles that are complete sentences…


Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville, #2) by Carrie Vaughn. Kitty pretty outed werewolves to the world in her midnight radio show. Not on purpose, mind you. Now she has to show up in Washington for a senate hearing. 

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, #3) by Carrie Vaughn, things start to become darker and scarier. than in the first two books.

Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, #6) by Carrie Vaughn, the action is good and the plotlines entertaining….

Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville, #8) by Carrie Vaughn, Entertaining, funny, lots of werewolves…

The Rest Falls Away (The Gardella Vampire Hunters, #1) by Colleen Gleason. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, meets Jane Austen. A lot of frocks, debutantes and dance cards mingle with the undead.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It is a very poetic book, the characters feel real and I got very involved in the storyline. It was just too much. Dolores was such a terrible person in the first half of the book. Not an easy read.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green,  Joanne Greenberg. I found the characters too removed to develop enough interest.

Teach Yourself Islam by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood. The book gives a good first look into Islam. It covers all the basics and is easy too read, albeit with a strong emphasis on Asian Muslims living in Britain,

Tell No One by Harlan Coben, boilerplate mystery / thriller.

From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East by William Dalrymple. Brilliant book. Traveling from the mountain cloisters of Greece across the Levantine to Mount St Catherine in the Sinai, you learn in a colourful way, why and how Christianity and Islam developed from Judaism. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, a brilliant play, that led to an equally brilliant movie.

What’s Bred in the Bone (Cornish Trilogy, #2) by Robertson Davies. Imaginative, unusual, weird.

Not my kind of soul searching

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
by Sy Montgomery

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Another octopus book! And, confession time, I was more skimming than reading every word properly… so this is a bit of a haphazard review. 

“The sand-dwelling mimic octopus, an Atlantic species, is particularly adept at this. One online video shows the animal altering its body position, color, and skin texture to morph into a flatfish, then several sea snakes, and finally a poisonous lionfish—all in a matter of seconds.“

Oh, I saw that in some nature documentary recently, it looked really cool! Have a look at this: https://youtu.be/Wos8kouz810

Interesting comparison of the different structure and build of the human brain and that of an octopus. 

The beginning of the book is pretty good, if somewhat anecdotal. The rest of the book does not keep up. 

Roughly in the middle of the book the author learns to scuba dive. Goodness, her scuba instructors should loose their license! I am by no means an expert with only 50 logged dives, but that was atrocious.

I am also horrified about the aquarium keeping an octopus in a dark, closed barrel for months. Talk about animal cruelty! No wonder that the octopus was ecstatic to have contact with people, when they opened that lid every day. You would be, too, if you were continuously kept in singular confinement without sensory input!

It also bothered me that these animals were wild catches and nobody seemed to be bothered by that.

I enjoyed parts of this book, some of the animal facts were entertaining. I would have preferred more science. There was less actual information and exploration about octopuses that I had hoped. She spends a lot of time at the aquarium, to touch the octopuses and gush about it, but her musings about the animals is pretty superficial. It‘s very much about her. Not for me.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith was a much better book. My review of that book is here

Top Ten Tuesday, funnily enough…

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This week‘s topic: BOOKS THAT MADE ME LAUGH OUT LOUD

So not my topic! I like some humour in my books and I do laugh, however comedies are not my thing.

Let‘s start with my favourite book of 2015:

The Martian
by Andy Weir

I read this twice, listened to the audiobook once or twice, watched the movie several times. I love it. And it definitely makes me laugh out loud. Take one smart-arse with a wacky sense of humour, give him some knowledge of botany and mechanical engineering skills, dump him on Mars and abandon him. Watch and be entertained. 

“I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.”

Good thing he has some bad 70s TV shows, Disco and some Hercule Poirot to take his mind of things and a never ending supply of crazy ideas, how to survive until the next mission to Mars arrives to save him…

“I would only be “in command” of the mission if I were the only remaining person. What do you know? I’m in command.”

“Damn it, Jim, I’m a botanist, not a chemist!”

“Yeah. This all sounds like a great idea with no chance of catastrophic failure. That was sarcasm, by the way.”

“How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.” 

“All my brilliant plans foiled by thermodynamics. Damn you, Entropy!”

I thought the snark and humour would get annoying eventually, but they didn’t. Maybe it got old a little, later on in the book, but just a tiny, weeny bit. 

“In your face, Neil Armstrong!” 

“Beers for everyone if I get back to Earth.”

Another very funny book that really cracked me up:

Notes from a Small Island
by Bill Bryson

Not a good choice for reading in public.

“Is it raining out?’ the reception girl asked brightly as I filled in the registration card between sneezes and pauses to wipe water from my face with the back of my arm. ‘No, my ship sank and I had to swim the last seven miles.” 

I am not sure how funny this one is — I tead it in 2011, so my memory is a little fuzzy. But my quote sounds absurd enough…

Does Anything Eat Wasps?: And 101 Other Unsettling, Witty Answers to Questions You Never Thought You Wanted to Ask
by New Scientist

A treasure trove of trivia. If you want to dazzle people at parties with superfluous knowledge, learn this book by heart and you are set.

“Because cats always land on their feet and toast always lands buttered side down, you can construct a perpetual motion machine by simply strapping a slice of buttered toast to a cat’s back. When the cat is dropped it will remain suspended and revolve indefinitely due to the opposing forces.”

page 72

Somehow I don’t think my cat would have seen the funny side of it, if I had tossed him from our balcony with a slice of toast strapped to his back. Tempting.

The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York: A Yarn for the Strange at Heart
by Kory Merritt

“Beware ye of little nerve,
for there is a Story out there,
lurking in the brambles,
and it knows your name.”

Soundtrack: Hotel California.

Our guys are stuck in a weird guesthouse in the middle of a creepy swamp. To pay their bills, the have to tell stories to the innkeeper and his wife. 

The Ice Cream Story, eep! Great details, laughed quite a bit. So true, as well!

Ok, Alien Abduction Story, panel 47… Who is the guy on the bottom left, next to Elvis?

Liked the artwork, liked the font, liked the stories and the monsters, was thoroughly entertained.

I am not absolutely sure, what age this is aimed at. Best guess is Middle Grade, based on the bio of the author. 

What’s It All About
by Michael Caine

Biographies are not really my genre, but this was an entertaining and funny book. The most vividly remembered parts of this book are his early years, for example London during WWII and his early excursions with Peter O’Toole. I am never quite sure — is he serious or is he taking the piss?

Ok, that‘s it for this week, just five books instead of 10. That makes me pretty even with my really long list from last week… 😝

A becoming read #ReadPOC2021

Becoming
by Michelle Obama

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple.  I wanted a dog. I wanted a house that had stairs in it— two floors for one family. I wanted, for some reason, a four-door station wagon instead of the two-door Buick that was my father’s pride and joy. I used to tell people that when I grew up, I was going to be a pediatrician.“ 

Link

Michelle Obama‘s memoir, from her early childhood to the end of her second term as FLOTUS. I listened to the audiobook, as she narrated it herself. Mostly entertaining. About halfway through the audiobook I watched the Netflix rendition of her Becoming book tour. Equally entertaining.

Obviously she has a lot of important things to say about empowerment, education, equal rights—you name it—, but my primary interest really was to get to know her a little better and look behind the facade. Reading about the banana yellow car of her husband, for example. Or about going to couple‘s counseling. And I enjoyed the ride quite a bit, up until the part where she and her husband embarked on their presidential campaign. The technicalities of an electoral campaign and the politics did not interest me very much and the mentioning of memorable events throughout both terms felt a bit like ticking off a checklist at times. I could have done without the eight years of office, as they were glanced over pretty quickly and held little engaging content. I would have been quite happy, if the book had finished on the day Barack Obama was elected as POTUS. But I guess that wasn’t really an option. Still, overall this was pretty good.


This is my second entry for the January prompt of the BIPOC challenge I joined this year. My original post is here. For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of the challenge, hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

The prompt and page for January is here: Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021

First Line Friday — Becoming

I didn‘t post anything since last Sunday. That‘s what happens, when you read a doorstopper, listen to a longish audiobook at the same time and watch too much TV.

I am still reading Revelation by C.J. Sansom and listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama for my #ReadPOC2021 challenge. I would like to finish both of them in January, but I am doubtful. Work is pretty stressful right now and I tend to watch more TV and read less, when that happens. Disney+ is quite entertaining… 😝 I am enjoying WandaVision and The Mandalorian. And then there is The Expanse on Netflix…

Anyway, I give you the first paragraph of Becoming:

„When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple.  I wanted a dog. I wanted a house that had stairs in it— two floors for one family. I wanted, for some reason, a four-door station wagon instead of the two-door Buick that was my father’s pride and joy. I used to tell people that when I grew up, I was going to be a pediatrician.“

From the book

I liked the first part of the book. I am about halfway now and we reached the part where Barak Obama is starting some serious campaigning, which I find less interesting.


First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab a book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.

#ReadPOC2021 — February: By a Scientist

So, finding something that interests me for February is going to be a tough one. Scientists that fit the bill are seriously under-represented. Or I am very oblivious, take your pick. I am leaning towards space and the universe at large, natural history, Earth‘s history, the oceans, … I suppose it could be a memoir or biography of a scientist falling under the BIPOC heading.

What is this challenge, you ask? My original post is here. For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of the challenge, hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

Back to February. I have been meaning to read something by Neil deGrasse Tyson for a while. Or maybe get an audiobook. I would like to listen to him narrating it himself though, which does not give me a lot of options. It would mean reading either Astrophysics for People in a Hurry or Letters from an Astrophysicist. That one sounds like fun. They are both fairly short though.

In my search of other authors I came across this list: Finding My Climate-Conscious Tribe: Black Nature Lovers and Writers. PlanetWalker (2005) by environmentalist John Francis looks interesting. From the book blurb:

“When the struggle to save oil-soaked birds and restore blackened beaches left him feeling frustrated and helpless, John Francis decided to take a more fundamental and personal stand—he stopped using all forms of motorized transportation. Soon after embarking on this quest that would span two decades and two continents, the young man took a vow of silence that endured for 17 years. It began as a silent environmental protest, but as a young African-American man, walking across the country in the early 1970s, his idea of “the environment” expanded beyond concern about pollution and loss of habitat to include how we humans treat each other and how we can better communicate and work together to benefit the earth.“

Another interesting list: Celebrating Black Environmentalists during Black History Month. I ended up browsing cooking books though, which is not really what I was looking for… Still, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty sounds good. I am really tempted, after browsing through the preview. From the book blurb:

“Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who “owns” it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.“

And several other lists and blog posts lead me to Lauret Savoy and her book Trace. From the book blurb:

“Through personal journeys and historical inquiry, this PEN Literary Award finalist explores how America’s still unfolding history and ideas of “race” have marked its people and the land.“

“A provocative and powerful mosaic that ranges across a continent and across time, from twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds, from “Indian Territory” and the U.S.–Mexico Border to the U.S. capital, Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past.“

Still, those three books are more memoirs and histories than something I would lump under the heading scientific non-finction. So, I am stumped. I am open to suggestions!


The prompt and page for January is here: Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021.

Books by Women of Color #ReadPOC2021

Bloodchild
by Octavia E. Butler

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race as hosts to their eggs and larvae. Gruesome imagery. Alien comes to mind. The „conception“ is a much gentler event though, even sensuous. Love, possesiveness and self-sacrifice are themes. 

Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. 

Interesting. And worth reading. I will have another look at Dawn, which I have been circling for a while.


This is my entry for January of the BIPOC challenge I joined this year. My original post is here. For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of the challenge, hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

The prompt and page for January is here: Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021

My original choice was The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1) by Namina Forna, but I read that in December already. I am also currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama, but I am very slow with audiobooks, so I might not finish in January.