July 28th, 2015


Stranger Bear's Woes; Talented Incredible Clementine; Reader's Bunjitsu English

The Stranger and The Stranger's Woes, by Max Frei
Odd, rambly, intensely detailed fantasy. The structure is one of my least favorites - a few novellas per book, and each novella broken into a jillion tiny sections. Both times, I was just kind of poking along for most of the book, enjoying myself but also restless, and then the last 100 pages or so got REALLY REALLY good. So as long as that keeps happening, I'll keep wanting to read the next one.
(164, 228)

Polar Bear's Underwear, by tupera tupera
Cute kids' picture book with a super awesome trick to it.

Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey, by Alex Milway
Can an early reader book be witty? it was grade school level wit, but definitely felt like wit rather than straightforwardly funny? Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Clementine and The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Charming and open-hearted kids' series that I originally picked up for the Frazee illustrations. They are lively and the story is equally lively, and quite wonderful as such things go. The next best thing to Ramona Quimby books.
(167, 229)

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman
Engaging albeit didactic stories wherein a bunny learns about martial arts skills. I appreciated that the main character was a girl, too.

The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Blends, by Megan McArdle
Hm. This was solid but I think I was expecting to Learn From An Expert and instead figured out that I'm already well ahead of the expected audience for this book. So, like, I didn't learn very much about working with genre blends? Sadness. But I dd read about quite a few specific titles I was unfamiliar with, or only passingly familiar with, that really appeal to me. Woot!

That's Not English, by Erin Moore
This is a superfun book about differences between British and American English by someone who really knows her stuff. The only thing that irritated me was the extremely narrow focus - the author didn't seem to know much about Canadian English (even though she mentioned it a couple of times), and Aussie / NZ / Indian / Malay / etc English might as well have not existed, even when one of those dialects would've been so relevant to the specific word she was discussing that it felt like a big gap in the discussion. I suppose the book was what it said on the tin, British and American, so it feels uncharitable to complain... but it did bother me.
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Birmingham, Alabama, drew a difficult resource portfolio in the Minerals Lottery.  Although there were commercially useful deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone close-by, which would seem to confer a locational advantage, those deposits were not as good as Pennsylvania coal or Minnesota ore.  And thus, although the major steel companies established integrated mills around Birmingham, the principal metal-working of the area was iron products.  Much of that iron was smelted in the Sloss Furnaces, the subject of W. David Lewis's ethnography, or perhaps history of technology, Sloss Furnaces and the Rise of the Birmingham District:  An Industrial Epic.  Instructive reading for Book Review No. 15.

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(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


Book #33: Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Number of pages: 744

This book is different from other Charles Dickens books, as it is not set in the author's Victorian-era Britain. Like A Tale of Two Cities, it was written as a historic novel, weaving in real-life events. Whereas the latter revolved around the French revolution, this book is set in 1780 and involves the Gordon riots against the Catholic Church, something I'd never heard of previously.

The book opens with the arrival of three strangers at an inn, including a highwayman, before the cast of characters is introduced. Strangely, Barnaby Rudge himself hardly appears in the first half and I started wondering early on why the book had been named after him. Thankfully, he does eventually become central to the main plot.

I noticed that Barnaby was referred to as a "village idiot", and I wondered if this was a non very politically correct 19th century term for an autistic person. I found him very easy to sympathise with, and I enjoyed reading the chapters involving him and his talking raven.

The first half of the book was a bit hard to get into, and mostly involved character romances, although I did enjoy the literary style; for example, at times Dickens tells an entire episode more than once, from the point of view of different characters.

The sections of the book I enjoyed most were in the second half where just about every main character got involved in the riots. The vivid portrayal of events was very compelling, and the scene where Newgate prison gets attacked reminded me of the storming of the Bastille in A Tale of Two Cities. At times, the story felt very dark, especially when the subject matter involved executions by hanging, and it felt like there was unlikely to be a happy ending.

Overall, I was glad that I persevered with this book, because I enjoyed it a lot.

Next book: A Feast for Crows (George R.R. Martin)