A little knowledge about Sharks

The Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks
by Bernard Seret,  Julien Solé (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Very informative graphic novel about sharks. Not sure what age range this is aimed at, my guess is middle-grade, although some of the vocabulary might be a little challenging for kids. The art is good and all salient points are covered.

According to the Internet Bernard Séret is a retired French marine biologist, more specifically an ichthyologist specializing in sharks and rays, of which he has discovered several species. I am pretty sure that he is the grey haired narrator of this.

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 – Book Titles that sound like Crayola Colors

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.

This week’s topic is all about color. Crayola has come out with special ones, like fluorescents, magic scents, metallic, pearlescent, colors of the world, and even ones with glitter in them. Just imagine your titles as colors and see what you come up with.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com

Burnt Offerings (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #7) — read in 2019
by Laurell K. Hamilton

A burnt, reddish-orangey colour.

Number 7 of the series was still pretty good, but started to go off the trodden path and started off into that weird direction that eventually turned me off the series — after another dozen or so books… I was pretty stubborn. What I wrote in 2010:

Anita’s powers grow and grow. Never mind raising the dead. Dating a vampire, being alpha-female to a pack of werewolves, acting queen and protector of wereleopards and friend to some two-legged rats, where can she go from here? She has crossed the line from fighting the monsters to snuggling with them. Very erotic, violent, funny, disgusting, suspenseful… Actually, this is the first Anita Blake novel where it took me more than a day to get past the first 100 pages. The main character is going through so many severe changes, that it affects the pace of the story. The series is changing from crime novels with a supernatural twist to not-quite-sure-what-yet. I can’t wait to see, how the Anita/Richard/Jean-Claude triangle will develop in the next book. And I hope we’ll get back to some real sleuthing and mystery solving…

The Black Incal — read as a teenager in the 1980s, then again in 2017 and 2019.
by Alejandro Jodorowsky,  Mœbius (Illustrator) 

This makes me thing of something black with glitter.

An absolute classic. If you are an SF fan and have seen classic SF movies, this comic will trigger so many memories of great SF movies! A pivotal comic with astounding graphics. First published in 1981. I probably read it shortly thereafter, as a teenager, branching out from Tintin, wanting something more artistic and with a deeper storyline. I could still kick myself that I didn’t keep those early editions. I like everything about it, the story, the humour, the line art, the colouring. A lot of running, shooting, blowing stuff up, sci fi geek madness, The Fifth Element absurdness and it is as good as I remember.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander, #5) — read in 2003
by Diana Gabaldon

A fiery, red colour, obviously!

The fifth installment of the saga of Claire and Jamie. My recommendation: Read them in order, otherwise you literally loose the plot. Previous things get mentioned frequently without much of an explanation. And although I read all of them except for no. 2, I kept asking my mum (huge fan and proud owner of the compendium…) “What’s that, who’s this, what happened again there…?” No wonder with about 1000+ pages a pop. A must for fans, although my mum and I both found this one here not exactly thrilling. Number 5 is getting a bit tired.

Pale Horse Coming (Earl Swagger, #2) — read in 2003
by Stephen Hunter

A pale horse — a pretty light crayola, something beige or egg shell coloured…

An almost classic tale of vengeance. Our hero Earl Swagger goes down south to a penal farm, to find a friend that has disappeared while investigating the whereabouts of a client. He barely gets away with his life and sanity intact and swears to come back to give them hell. He gathers some tough and trigger happy gunmen around him and they go back. Sounds familiar? You can picture the rest!

Crimson City (Crimson City, #1) — read in 2006
by Liz Maverick

A dark, deep red crayola.

I am thinking Charlize Theron as Fleur and Colin Farell as Dain… There was quite a lot of action and not too much romance. The hero was good-looking, but grumpy and without a past, the heroine was a bit silly, but smartened up nicely. Well described and thought-out futuristic city setting. The revelation at the end was surprising, but led to the expected ending. A good, light read for low brain power.

Night Embrace (Dark-Hunter, #3) — read in 2006
by Sherrilyn Kenyon

A deep black crayola. With a velvety sheen…

I considered putting this book down and to not finish it. It took about half way into the book until something resembling a real storyline finally emerged. Nice sex, granted. But the constant descriptions of how gorgeous everybody looks on every second page started to go on my nerves eventually. Not much vampire hunting going on, despite that being the sole reason of being for the main characters. Still, the whole idea had some appeal.

Obsidian Butterfly (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #9) — read in 2006
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Another Anita and a jet-black crayola with bluish-grey mottling.

The story’s theme is quite a turn-around from the previous ones. A lot less of the supernatural, although it is still there. And a lot of whistling bullets. The previous book started to explored Anita’s fears of what she is becoming. I missed the lightness and the fun of the earlier books, but the darker look at the world in these later ones had appeal, too.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1) — read in 2010
by Philip Pullman

A multi-coloured crayola, with green blue and purple streaks.

I got the book, because I liked the movie a lot. My interest had been piqued after I had heard that people in the US had complained about the controversial religious undertones of the movie. The movie is a very close adaptation. Two events that happen at the end of the book have been moved further forward in the movie and the actual ending of the book is missing completely – I guess too much would have been left dangling. I did not like the book more or less than the movie. Lord Asriel in the movie was a more likeable character and the voice of Ian McKellen is hard to replace in writing.

The Blue Edge — read in 2008
by Carlos Eyles

A shimmering blue, full of bubbles and light streaking through…

This book gives a fascinating insight into freediving. When I started to scuba dive, I was amazed at the level of noise I produced with my breathing gear. I always felt very distracted by the ruckus I caused with all the gear I was hauling along. I wanted to be part of this amazing underwater world, without scaring the crap out of the animal life. This book reminded me of that. 

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers — read in 2014
by David Perlmutter,  Kristin Loberg

A wheat coloured crayola.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr. Perlmutter, the devastating truth about the effects of wheat, sugar, and carbs on the brain, and a 4-week plan to achieve optimum health.

from the book blurb

The first half of this book cited study after study and endless anecdotes, trying to convince the reader of the rightness of the book’s subject matter. Preaching to the choir, I already bought the book, I did not need further convincing. Made the book extremely boring for me and after a while I just skimmed. In contrast the practical part of the book, the how-to, was extremely short and almost felt like an afterthought. Very populistic, very one-sided.

Strong against pain: Recipes and exercise for Osteoarthritis and painful joints

Stark gegen Schmerzen: Die besten Rezepte und Übungen gegen Arthrose und Gelenkschmerzen
by Helge Riepenhof,  Holger Stromberg

Rating: 5 out of 5.

(English review is further down)

Ich habe das Buch geholt, nachdem ich die zwei Autoren im Fernsehen gesehen habe, als sie es vorstellten. Wenn eine Ernährungsanpassung dabei hilft, die Schmerzen und Entzündung in meinen Fingergelenken zu reduzieren, bin ich dabei.

Tolle Rezepte. Meistens vegan, mit einigen Rezepten mit etwas Parmesan, Buttermilch oder Lachs … Anscheinend sind Milchprodukte schlecht für mich. Schade, ich liebe Käse.

Gute Einführung in das Thema. Es wird nicht missioniert, der Ton ist entspannt, (nicht zu) einfache Erklärungen mit genügend Details. Gute Zusammenfassungen der wichtigsten Punkte. Die Übungen muß ich noch ausprobieren. 


I got the book after seeing the two authors talking about it on TV. The book is about nutrition and food that helps to reduce inflammation and pain in various joints. If diet adjustment helps reduce the pain in my finger joints (osteoarthritis), I’m all for it. As far as I can see this book is only available in German.

Great recipes. Mostly vegan, with the odd recipe with a little parmesan, buttermilk or salmon… Apparently milk products are bad for me. Bummer, I love cheese.

Good introduction into the topic. Not preachy, relaxed tone, (not too) simple explanations with enough detail. Good summaries of salient points. I still need to try out the exercises.

Translation of the German book blurb:

Over 5 million people in Germany suffer from osteoarthritis. But everyone can do a lot to relieve pain or even to conquer it. The well-known TV doc Dr. Helge Riepenhof and top chef Holger Stromberg want to show osteoarthritis patients the way to a pain-free life with their holistic anti-pain program. How it works? With targeted exercise and the right diet. The two authors complement each other perfectly in their expert knowledge: Holger Stromberg explains why diet has a major impact on the joints and reveals the dos and don’ts of healthy cooking. He has created more than 50 plant-based recipes that are easy to cook and that taste irresistibly good. Top orthopedic surgeon Helge Riepenhof created a tailor-made exercise program for all large joints that requires little effort but is extremely effective. This is how a pain-free life can be achieved – completely without surgery and medication.

Pottermore

Harry Potter: A History of Magic
by British Library,  J.K. Rowling

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Confession time, I only leafed through this and read a bit here or there. Lovely drawings by Jim Kay. I was surprised to see the sketches done by Rowling herself. I didn‘t know she sketches.

CHAPTER THREE HERBOLOGY was right down my alley. I have always had a thing for natural history and the depiction of all those plants hit my spot. And then there is Jim Kay and his Study of Mandrakes…

B9-DADAC4-05-BD-42-F4-B878-7145273-EB113

And the gnomes were delightful as well.

CHAPTER SIX DIVINATION
I didn‘t know that there was such a thing as fortune-telling teacups! Tasseography!? Ok.

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Another fun chapter with great sketches was about the Care of Magical Creatures.

Nicely done. Great book for the more curious fans of Harry Potter and trivia lovers in general. I am sure I would have enjoyed the exhibition very much.

First Line Friday, currently reading…

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


I am currently reading:

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan, #2)
by Arkady Martine

Finally, the sequel to Memory Called Empire

TO think—not language. To not think language. To think, we, and not have a tongue-sound or cry for its crystalline depths. To have discarded tongue-sounds where they are unsuitable.

first lines, Prelude

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)
by James S.A. Corey

My ongoing Expanse re-read, before the last book of the series, Leviathan Falls (The Expanse, #9),  comes out in October — fingers crossed!

A thousand worlds, Bobbie thought as the tube doors closed. And not just a thousand worlds. A thousand systems. Suns. Gas giants. Asteroid belts. Everything that humanity had spread to, a thousand times over.

first lines, Prologue

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

Using my current, free Kindle Unlimited trial to read more about octopuses. Octopi? Whatever.

On a rare, warm day in mid-March, when the snow was melting into mud in New Hampshire, I traveled to Boston, where everyone was strolling along the harbor or sitting on benches licking ice cream cones. But I quit the blessed sunlight for the moist, dim sanctuary of the New England Aquarium. I had a date with a giant Pacific octopus.

first lines, Chapter 1

Use proper English, but be nicer about it!

The Queen’s English: And How to Use It
by Bernard C. Lamb

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I started this book a few years ago, put it down and forgot about it. I just read The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter and decided to give Queen‘s English another chance. By chapter two it was very clear to me that these are two very different books.

McWhorter is all about the development of language. It‘s about natural changes and not at all judgemental. It’s a very organic reading experience. 

Lamb on the other hand is about the proper use of a very static language. It’s a reference book of English grammar, albeit not a comprehensive one. I had expected more. Besides being disappointed in the very narrow scope of this book, its patronizing tone put me off. A lot.

I use ‘low English’ to describe such bad English. It is ungrammatical, badly pronounced and poorly enunciated, with a severely restricted vocabulary, and usually laden with swear words. It suggests that its users are coarse, uneducated and unintelligent.

I give you three more adjectives: rude, pompous and presumptuous. 

Besides being jarred by the tone of the book repeatedly, I did learn a few new facts (or was reminded thereof?). For example:

„Adjectives can cause ambiguity when followed by more than one noun. Consider the brown bird’s nest or the black cab driver. Is it the nest or the bird which is brown, or the cab or the driver which is black? We can use hyphens to resolve the ambiguity: the brown bird’s-nest or the brown-bird’s nest; the black-cab driver or the black cab-driver. 

chapter 10

I much more enjoyed McWhorter lectures on the development of language. For a reminder of the grammar of British English I would have preferred a more comprehensive and objective approach.

The grammar rules presented in this book were informative. The writing style and tone, as mentioned, rubbed me the wrong way. The author sounded patronizing and judgemental. Don‘t get me started on the childish sketches. Additionally the book has aged badly. Or possibly felt old already, when it was published in 2011.

  • Content: 3 stars
  • Presentation: 2 stars
  • Total: 2.5, rounded down because I feel irritated.

Chugging away…

I am slowly making my way through my current reads.

In The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World (Comics) I finally reached a spot in the narrative that is new to me. I never got this far in the TV series. New territory from here on out! And tonight I took a trip down memory lane and rewatched the first episode of the TV series. It was fun!

I reached the last 100 pages of The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1). I like the book, but I am looking forward to finally finishing it. My motivation is flagging…

The Queen’s English: And How to Use It is turning out to be a drag. Useful, but the tone of the book is… patronizing?

So, what‘s on my plate for March? First of all I started the next Expanse audiobook.

Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey

I read this for the first time in October 2017. Here is what I had to say about it back then:

I wonder if our writing team follows a how-to-list for their books, something like….
1. boy or girl disappears / is kidnapped / dies and introduced a main plotline for the book doing so,
2. Holden shows up and contemplates his life,
3. Several new, possibly major characters show up, never to be seen again in the next book

I liked Anna, Clarissa, Bull, Sam, Serge…. Corey is good at making characters come to life. But, OMG, did Corey take writing hints from GRR Martin? I also liked the slightly time shifted chapters with alternating POVs, that made it very lively. The plot was more straight forward than in the previous two books, which makes it simpler, but dragged me along much faster, too.

Very good, really liked this book, looking forward to the next installment!


In print I have these three beauties planned:

Winter’s Orbit and A Desolation Called Peace are both slightly overdue Netgalleys that I plan to buddy read this month. For my #ReadPOC2021 challenge I will most likely read another very overdue Netgalley, David Mogo, Godhunter.

I haven‘t made up my mind yet, which of them I will pick up first, once I have finished The Prefect. Do you have any reading plans for March?

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… 😝

Calling it a day…

Do you have books that you have been sort-of-reading for ages? They are not really gripping and you read or skim a chapter here or there, but you never seem to make real progress and you don‘t want to DNF the book either?

This is the book that probably has been hanging out on my currently-reading shelf the longest — since September 2018!

The Culture Map (INTL ED): Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures
by Erin Meyer

A work colleague recommended this to me. I generally struggle with non-fiction, unless it is a topic that really, really interests me. Work-related literature is even worse. However, if you work in an international field and frequently deal with other countries and cultures, this book offers some eye-opening insights.

It‘s not just about your communication partner at the opposite end of the cultural scale, but also about recognizing yourself and understanding, how your own culture operates.

When interacting with someone from another culture, try to watch more, listen more, and speak less. Listen before you speak and learn before you act. Before picking up the phone to negotiate with your suppliers in China, […] use all the available resources to understand how the cultural framework you are working with is different from your own—and only then react.

 “As with so many challenges related to cross-cultural collaboration, awareness and open communication go a long way toward defusing conflict.

Each chapter follows a very set structure. It starts with the chapter’s overarching topic and the author offers a memory of her own life, private or business, relating to it and thus explaining what specific issue the chapter tackles.

This is followed by an actual business example of one person dealing with the issue well and one person dealing with it in their own cultural context and failing. This might be combined with some historical references, showing why a certain culture behaves in a specific way. The reader is given views of different scales and where cultures land on that scale. Quiet interesting and probably a good reason to get this book in paper or to read it on a large display. Here is an example:

And…

This scale was explained via a business meeting with Germans and US Americans…

If you think of your Germanic European business associates as stolid, silent types, you may be surprised when a matter of controversy arises. You are likely to find them eager to jump into the fray, since they regard disagreement not as a matter of personal emotion, but rather as a valuable intellectual exercise from which truth emerges.

Oh yes, we will grill you from all angles in a very Spock-like manner! It doesn‘t mean that we don‘t like you, we just cherish debate and confrontation as a tool to find the best answers…

Still, this book generalizes with a broad brush and very wide strokes. Believe me, there are plenty of Germans that bruise easily and will take personal offense, if you disagree with their opinion. Or maybe you simply overshot your goal on that Disagreement Scale…

I have been picking up this book every now and then to finally write a short review and then DNF it. Instead I usually ended up reading or skimming another short chapter and finding worthwhile tips for my working life. But I am calling it a day now. Management books of this type are just too dry and feel too much like work. Maybe one of these days I will browse through the last 40% of this…