The Mismeasure of Man was a poignant book about the use of racism, sexism, and xenophobia to fuel misinformation and bad science to support the bigoted views of scientists throughout history. Gould tells a story about how bigotry can drive us to believe things that aren’t true, even in science. I read this novel right after How We Know What Isn’t So where it talked all about human bias and how it can lead us to believe in untrue things because of our, or someone else, preconceived beliefs.
A key point in that book is how science is probably our best tool to try in avoid said deception. Of course, that makes this book all the more discouraging considering how rampant bias has allowed racist and sexist bias to exists throughout scientific history. In this way, it is clear that science is not immune from such biases. It highlights how even scientists need to be acutely aware of these biases not only in our everyday life but also in the science that we do. If our goal is to reach the truth, then there is a clear path forward to do so.
Gould uses this book to discuss a series of cases where scientists use bad judgement, lies, and bad methodology to reach what are clearly preconceived conclusions based on their personal bigotry. They do so by manipulating their approach, manipulating the data, or outright misrepresenting what they find to get to their conclusion. This is a necessary book, and I implore every scientist to read it. It doesn’t matter if this is your field. Don’t assume you are a immune to this type of fallibility (in your science and in how you treat people).
My biggest problem with this book is it overall structure. The way Gould presents the book is very in-cohesive. As I said, it covers a series of examples where bias has produced bad science. He does not shy away from this shameful side of science, but he fails to create an overarching narrative. Each example felt separate. Moving from one example to the next meant I had trouble retaining the details of most of them. I don’t expect to memorize everything he tells me, but I would have liked a more succinct conclusion to each example that tied it to the next one so we have a better overall picture. The book doesn’t flow well. Sure, I leave the book with the point across, but I think each example could have been tied together more effectively.
All together, I do not regret reading this. I’ve already said I think other people should read this too,especially scientists. Not all works of science are the easiest to read. Some people would rather ignore history rather than acknowledge the fallibility or the harm that the that their history has caused. As I am a part of this institution. Therefore, I am have to be able to defend science against these actions that abuse the institution of science. It is the job of scientists to demonstrate how science is still the best tool to avoid misinformation, misdirection and bigotry. Still, I am not rating this on principle but on its merit as a book. 3/5 stars
Rating Break Down Writing Style (7%): 7/10 Content (15%): 10/10 Structure (15%): 5/10 Summary (1%): 7/10 Engagement (5%): 5/10 Enjoyment (25%): 5/10 Comprehension (20%): 6/10 Pacing (2%): 5/10 Desire to Reread (5%): 2/10 Special (5%): 10/10 Final Rating: 3.11/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.
The Red Tent is a well written story that gives insight to the lives of women that are largely treated as props in the Bible. It follows Dinah the daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph (not the husband of Mary mother of Jesus). At the core, this is a story about women and their relationships as mothers and daughters. It spans the length of Dinah’s mother’s birth to Dinah’s death, and we gain a look at what it is like to be a woman during this time. The story starts strong in an intriguing and engrossing manner. By the end, I lost some of my initial excitement, but I leave it with an overall positive outlook.
Diamant gives Dinah new depth, expending on a story but also redefining it. I loved that the women of this story had more strength than I ever imagined during Biblical times. Don’t get me wrong, the patriarchy was strong in this time, and that is ever present. Nevertheless, Diamant writes these women with strength and resilience. The Red Tent is representative of that. The tent is for the period of mensuration and birthing because there is a strong stigma against men observing such things. This was a key part of their custom.
The custom was another thing that I really appreciated. I went into this expecting it to be a much more christian story, but instead, the customs Diamant describes feels completely alien to my expectations of religious custom, even during that time. What’s more, the story never mentions Jehovah explicitly. There are times where the god of one man or another is referred to, but it is treated as no different or better than the gods of Dinah’s or her parents. This is not a christian story. At the same time, it never feels that detached from christianity either. That is important because the customs feel so archaic and ancient, and it’s easy to forget many of the customs of the old testament are the same way.
In the end, this was a well written story that makes you appreciate your mothers. Perhaps the most effective piece of the story was Dinah’s relationship with her son. A mother’s love is so fundamental, and I think it’s easy to forget what we mean to our mothers. I appreciate the reminder. 4/5 stars.
Gone Girl is basically a phenomenon. The book came out in 2014 and the film soon after, yet somehow I never got around to reading or watching the movie. Granted, back then the most thrillers I read were exclusively Stephen King. What is surprising is that I went 5 years (half a decade) without getting this story spoiled. I am glad I am finishing the decade off with this book because it was fantastic. I absolute loved it.
There is a massive twist in the book that, I can’t say I outright predicted, but I definitely recognized it as a possibility. What I loved about the start of this book is that despite my ability to guess what is going on, it is too damn murky to say with certainty what’s actually going on. I loved that. Everything suggested something more was going on, yet I kept returning to this underlying suspicion that I won’t elaborate on to avoid spoilers.
I think the best way to explain is to highlight how well these characters were fleshed out. We are presented with information that is hard to make sense of, and its only confused by how everyone in the story is a pretty bad person. I found myself almost hoping the husband gets locked up even if he was innocent simply because of some of the things he was saying in his inner monologue.
Then, que twist, and it is like we are reading an entirely different book. It is dark and twisted and everything I am here for. I absolutely loved how far Flynn took the story into a truly messed up territory. It is true that the events toward the end begin to become increasingly bizarre which requires some dispense of disbelief, but it is in service of a truly delightful conclusion. 4.5/5 stars
I don’t know when I first read A Christmas Carol. I think it probably in (or after 2009) because I remember Jim Carrey’s take on Scrooge in Robert Zemeckis’ animated A Christmas Carol. I read it, and I know I’ve tried to reread it these last view years. Reread so is to say, relisten to it. There are so many amazing versions.
That was just as amazing it always is. I chose to read the Frank Muller narrated version which was magical. I tried to read along with the illustrated edition shown above in my instagram post, but unfortunately that edition is abridged/modified. I decided to give it away as I continue my quest to find the perfect edition of a Christmas Carol (or until I read the other books in the compilations I own).
I want to think about what it is that makes a Christmas Carol so effective. I’ll start with Dickens writing. I don’t usually care for Victorian dialect, but I find it adds an ere of magic to the story. What’s more, Dickens writes in a type of prose that is itself magical. The descriptions convey every drop of emotion we are meant to feel in each moment. That is magnified by the amazing Frank Muller. I have never read any other Dickens stories because they are huge and intimidating, but I was always afraid they would be dull. After reading the Goldfinch, I do have a desire to explore more of Dicken’s writings.
Dickens writes for the lower class. He brings light to the horrible conditions that they are forced to live under. That is ever present in this story as well. In fact, I think a key trait of this work is its ability to make it about the plight of the lower class while revolving around a wealthy white man. That brings me to my second point on why it is such a great novel.
Dickens story is about empathy and charity. Scrooges problem is his selfishness and his own desire for personal gain. The point Dickens tries to convey is that Christmas is, above all else, about sharing and caring (forgive the poor choice of words). As an atheist, naturalist, agnostic, externalist, etc. I have to decide what the purpose of my life is. Of course, I have my drives and my desires. What I try to be cognizant of is that my happiness is irrevocably linked to the well being of others. I care for myself, my family, and my friends. I also care for my country and my world. I care for life itself. This is because all of these things are extensions of myself. My life is finite, but I (we) are a part of a greater system that we can help flourish to ensure we do live on, at least in part.
Forgive the soapbox, but it is worth thinking about. The core flaw with the Afterlife of Holly Chase is its missing of the point. There is an obsession of saving souls with minimal focus on actually becoming a better person. That requires a fundamental rethinking of how you see the world. The story of Holly Chase constricts it down to being nice to a hot guy you want to hook up with. Sure, it has some of things A Christmas Carol has. We have magic, ghosts, time travel (more or less); these are all my favorite things in books. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to give it the same heart as we see here in A Christmas Carol. That is why A Christmas Carol is a favorite. 5/5 stars.
I loved this book. It was beautiful and heartwarming. Honestly, it has been so difficult to find a young adult book that really resonated with me. Sadie seemed like the perfect thing to strike a cord, but it failed to work for me. Luckily, the same can’t be said for Aristotle and Dante. Parts of the story definitely has a young adult tone to it, so for the first chunk of the book I wasn’t sure if it was quite 5 star material. As the book approached its conclusions, it did all the right things to tug at my heartstrings so much that I can’t feel anything but love for this book.
This is the story of two boys, Aristotle and Dante, who become best of friends in the early teens. What follows is a series of heartwarming, and at times saddening, events that work to build the bond between them and our connection to them as well. The novel is very fast paced. We make it through several years of their lives, and it allows for their relationship to evolve in a natural and understanding way.
I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling it. Nevertheless, I think it is fairly well known that this is an LGBTQ story, so I do want to comment on that a bit because it is really where this novel shines. These two boys are best of friends, but one of them is more fond of one than the other is of him. This creates a very realistic and heartbreaking dynamic. I really appreciated the dilemma that the characters are put it because these are very series issues we need to be prepared to deal with. Sometimes, feelings aren’t shared even if it seems they are. Other times, we don’t know what we think we feel. In all cases, its important that we treat people with respect and understand the pain and feelings they are having as well.
This a coming of age story. Its about friendship and accepting your friends for who they are but also about learning about yourself in the process. Mixed in with this is their Mexican heritage. That extends to issues of acceptance of homosexuality as well as gang violence and drug addiction. I was reminded a lot of Netflix’s On My Block. It is one of the few shows, targeted toward young adults, that I enjoy watching. It is similar its tone of heartwarming take aways and somewhat unrealistic positivity while still touching on the very real issues of what is like to be a latino kid.
I have to be honest that the reason this resonated so strongly with me is probably because I am bisexual. I don’t, or haven’t read a lot of gay characters. My experience is very different from the one in this story, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still relate and sympathize.
In any case, the novel worked really well for me. I don’t think it was a perfect 5 star, but it is a solid 4.5/5 stars.
This is book two of the Wayward Children series, and I may even have enjoyed it more than the first. The series follows a group of children and their experiences entering these fantastical worlds much like the wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia. Doors appear to children in need and take them to a world that best suits them. This is important because they are not all a realm of happy ever after. There are world that bend the human psyche and worlds that are more dangerous than we know.
If you read the first book (if you haven’t, you should!), you will be familiar with our main characters, Jack (Jacqueline ) and Jill (Jillian). In the first book, they are just minor characters, and in Sticks and Bones, we get to see their story. In Every Heart, I loved it for the concept and the “world” more than the story itself. It played with the idea of how children are to cope in the real world once they’ve left the worlds of magic. Here, I love the story because of the world we are in.
I’ve never read Jekyll & Hyde, but I can’t help but think of it. Our two central other-world characters aren’t the same person (spoilers), but they represent two distinctly different mindsets in the world. For the rest of this paragraph, I am going to do a slight overview of the world with only as much detail as we got from the first book. We have a “good” doctor and a much darker “Master.” The master is, very obviously to us, a vampire, and he has control over the town.
This wasn’t a horror story, but it was deliciously dark. I love the idea of dark worlds existing alongside the good. I had this terrible idea of the Hellraiser Cenobite dimension existing in this world. Of course, that doesn’t belong in a child’s world, but the whole concept behind Hellraiser is about an underlying desire that may get you more than you really wanted. There is just so much freedom in this world McGuire has made, and I can’t help but love it.
The story itself follows the two twins, Jack and Jill. From the start, we get a great picture of the type of parents they have, and that is a great way to introduce us to what this story really is. It isn’t just a fantastical tale. It is a story about how life shapes a young child, and it is how life can warp an innocent mind and turn it so very dark. Hinting at this, isn’t a spoiler because it’s discussed in the first novel. We know the broad strokes just not the finer details.
I loved the book for all of it. This was a story set in one of my new favorite fictional “worlds.” It is unique and dark, and it explores the nature of people. I can’t wait to read the next one! 5/5 stars.
I didn’t go into this expecting to find a new all time favorite, but I thought it would be a solidly fun read. Alas, it is proving not to be. I’m 24% of the way in. I don’t really know what’s going on, and that’s more because I just don’t care. I’m not finding the story particularly gripping. I am not about to DNF this. I have the limited signed edition of this and an unsigned limited edition of the sequel. I am going to finish this. I’m still disappointed this isn’t proving to be the entertaining ride Vicious was. I may take a break for this for a couple days then return to it. Hopefully, it will pick up for me.
I’m nearly finished (~90%), and I am enjoying it a bit more. I find the second half is about as enjoyable as I expected the book to be when I started reading it. That is, it is a fun easy read. One reviewer described this book as character driven, and that may have been why I didn’t like it at first. Don’t get me wrong. I love character rich stories; the problem is with the uninteresting characters. I get they each have their own drama. I still struggled to care about them or what they were doing for the longest time. Now, I still don’t really care, but the plot is more interesting.
My hope is that by the end of this book, I’ll feel more invested in the characters so I can enjoy the next book in the series more. Despite my misgivings, I am still enjoying it enough to continue. Granted, part of that is me having already bought the second book when I saw it at a book store in the collectors edition.
They can’t all be rock-stars. The book was good. It wasn’t great, nor was it bad. I still intend to read the next novel. I am hoping my familiarity will help me get into a bit sooner. Nevertheless, I found this book to be uninspiring. I struggled to connect, and even when I did, the story failed to excite like I hoped it would. Schwab is a good write. That is a big reason why I choose to read this and why I wish to continue. Her popularity makes me think of King. In truth, it may just not be for me. My love for viscous was not as large as many others, but it was akin to my feeling for King. Often, he isn’t revolutionary, but he is safe. At least he is for me. I am beginning to understand and appreciate how tastes differ in books, and that is okay. I don’t regret reading this. It’s the only way I can learn, and if anything, it made me enjoy If We Were Villains even more. 3/3 stars.
I was going to start Fledgling first, but I ended up ending Dies Drear on my bike and only had the Good House on hand. I am liking the book so far. I thought this was a horror ghost story, and it may prove to be that. However, it begins about a family that seem to be witches or magic of some how. It seems to relate to their African ancestry, but I am not sure exactly how. I am intrigued. I love it when fantasy mixes with every day life (basically urban fantasy). Hopefully, we’ll get a bit of horror from this too. I think the hardest part of this will be staying focused through the entire 21hr book, which is a bit longer than Dies Drear.
I’m over 5hrs (23%) into the book, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The book has a interesting and compelling story about a women who early on gains ownership of her grandmothers house, an old house known famously by everyone in the town as the Good House. Except, tragedy strikes (the Goodreads synopsis is far more spoilery, beware), and she ends up leaving the house before fate draws her back. As time goes on we begin to wonder if this house may not be as good as everyone thinks.
The story itself is solid. Beyond the plot, the story telling is very well done. I am a big fan of Due’s style. It is engaging and amusing at times. I feel like I am really there experiencing the narrative, and that is the best kind of book. The story is a mix of paranormal horror and modern day urban fantasy. There may be African magic or dark forces at work in a way that feels like new take on classic ideas in urban stories. I am hoping we dig deeper into the African (and maybe Haitian) roots. I can’t help but compare this to my experience of The Children of Blood and Bone that used African myths. The difference being that story had a worn out plot and a less effective writing style. Furthermore, this story exists in the contemporary world, and that makes it more capable and effective at articulating what it’s like to be a black woman in society. This is not to suggest that I, a white man, know what it is like to be a black woman, and that is why I appreciate having these stories that can give a slightly better understanding.
I am over half way now, nearly 60% through the book. I did notice a slight lull in the book about half way. This may be the book or myself getting a bit tired after pushing through so much so fast. To give you some prospective, this books word count is on par with Harry Potter (closest to book four). This book is even longer than To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I didn’t even realize. It certainly doesn’t feel like that. Even with the brief lull, I am amazed at how fast I am pushing through the book. It is interesting, unnerving and engaging. Apart from the unnerving though, there isn’t much horror. Again, this may be more urban fantasy than horror, but I think it still works for the Halloween theme.
The lull doesn’t last. The story is quick to pick up and make me eager to keep reading. The problem is, it felt like an abrupt change of pace from the slow part to going full throttle. The story spends a lot of time slowly introducing and explaining the back story of the house and Angela’s grandmother Marie. The next thing you know, it’s a flood of information that was necessary for things to pick up. It isn’t a major flaw; I’ll probably dock it half a star for it.
The novel has managed to maintain a surprising level of speed. Not everything was revealed as I suspected. Around half way, we begin a flood of information that is disconcerting at first, but it is easy to get into the new pace of the story. Then, it’s hard to get out. There are only 5 hrs left (77% through).
I think I have been misjudging the horror in this book. I lept seeing all the horror pieces as less effective, but I think it is better to refer to it as different. Many stories build suspense to this notion of will our characters be okay while Due completely disregards this in our most intense moments. She isn’t afraid to foreshadow and outright state that a persons death is impending. The horror of it is that she doesn’t turn away. Instead, we find ourselves in the perspective of the dying, forced to share that most horrifying of moments as you realize this is death. It is less effective at maintaining dread, but it is great in its own right.
In the end, it was a great book, but I am sad to say, this has the most undermining ending I have ever read. I say undermining because, in general, I think a story stands on its own, and the ending is but a small piece of my enjoyment. The issue here is the ending really just undercuts everything I read in a way that hurts the book unlike any ending I’ve read before. I read one reviewer saying it was like a fairy tale. I thought I knew what to expect, but this ending was way more fairy tale than I expected. This coupled with the lack of dread many times makes it a less effective horror book. Nevertheless, it is still a really good read. It just isn’t on par with Stephen King at his best.
On that note, there are multiple references to King in this book, and the story-line it self feels like a take on the Shining with a bit of paranormal activity and voduo magic. I loved seeing callbacks to Marie Laveau and Papa Legba who I first learned about in the third season of American Horror Story, but they predate the show as does this book. With these inspirations, Due creates an amazingly original and well done novel, taking similar ideas, introducing a different culture, and still reworking the parts she uses here. Furthermore, it’s all weaved together with a writting style that feels natural and easy to follow. I will be reading more of her books!
I would rate this 4.5/5 stars. There were moments here I enjoyed more than Fledgling (which I rated 4.5 rounding up), but the ending really does cause it to round down.
I just started this, and I am already a quarter of the way through this 400+pg book. There is so much to love.
Let’s start with Mary Robinette Kowal herself. She narrates the audiobook. I am not usually a fan of self narrations. While an author knows better than anyone how they perceive a character expressing a line, I don’t think they’re as effective as (some) professionals (e.g. Stephen King). Kowal is an exception. I was very happy to learn she is a professional narrator. In fact, she is a part of the duo who narrates the Devil and the Deep that I have been reading. That makes transitioning into this story far easier.
The story itself is amazingly engaging. I don’t always like historical fiction because I can get lost in the details (see To Say Nothing of the Dog). Then there are instances where the details are beautifully integrated into the story and around interesting characters (e.g. 11/22/63, one of my favorite books of all time). I also find the concept amazingly intriguing. An asteroid collides with the Earth, hitting right around Washington in the 1950s. Politics aside, it is fascinating to think about the geologic effects of such a real threat. In Calculating Stars, Kowal puts us in a world where an extinction level impact event takes place, altering the course of history. The reality of this situation (an impact event effecting the globe) is all too real. Kowal takes us through the moments of the impact, detailing what distinguishes it between an impact event and an atom bomb. What’s more, she takes on a journey of scientific discovery as our characters determine just how severe the damage is. Let it be known, an extinction event does not happen over night. It takes time, but not always as much time as we would like. The level of realism here makes me think about the distinction as “Science fiction and of Margaret Atwood’s famous novel, A Handmaids Tale, that is often classified as Science Fiction even though Atwood disagrees.
I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can’t yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth.
So, how much science fiction really exists here? Speculation, sure, but the event this revolves around is all too real. This work is a prequel to Kowals 2012 short story, The Lady Astronaut of Mars. That suggests there will come a point that science of the Calculating Stars transitions from existing to futuristic, and it will be an interesting line to follow. A lot of what we need for space exploration exists. Although, there still exists significant barriers to colonization and human transport to and from Mars. It is still fascinating to think about how this type of event would expedite the process. I look forward to seeing how Kowal takes us on this journey. At this point, I am all in.
Some Additional Thoughts
I was worried coming into this. There is a certain part of me that feared this story was made to benefit from the current zeitgeist that has evolved from works like Hidden Figures or the rise of #metoo. Perhaps that is not a bad thing, even if it were true, but often this is used as an excuse to redo what as already been done and reclaim it as your own. Or, it is just a blatant money grab. That isn’t the impression I am getting. I think this story has the potential of contributing to the dialogue rather than leech off of it. I am hoping for a new look at women in history and a glimpse of what might have been and hopefully still can be. What’s more, the fact that this builds on an existing short story suggests it isn’t just reactionary.
I’m nearly 2/3rds of the way through the book, and I am still loving it. I think it may even be one of my favorite books of the year, up there with The Fifteen Lives of Harry August. There is definitely plenty to say about it.
First, I’d like to discuss it as a historical work of fiction. Overall, I would say it doesn’t excel all that great. While I do worry about getting lost in details, I feel as though this story could stand a bit more details about the time we are in. Obviously, there are points of world building to put is in the time, but it feels superficial. I still love the story. I don’t see this as a major disadvantage, nor do I feel I am being taken too far out of the story. It just takes away from the realism. On that not, I want to change focus to the discussion on the current cultural zeitgeist influencing this story. I think it is very apparent that it is the case. However, I don’t think it does that in a bad way. The author takes very relevant and important issues of today and applies them to the past in ways that are justified. My issue is that the way the issues are resolved feels a little optimistic. Again, it takes away from the realism. This may just be a function of my own pessimism, but it is still interesting to think about.
The reason this story is so intriguing is that it essentially uses a entirely realistic event (asteroid impact) to facilitate the requirement of decades of progress (and more) for the sack of humanity. That means we have to deal with climate change, racism, antisemitism, sexism and so much more. The author is presenting us with a world where humanity is able to make use of the tragedy to achieve the progress they need to survive. That is very optimistic, but the inherent speculation involved is enough for me to still enjoy the story. Because, at the core, this story is one of hope. It presents us with modern problems being solved in a world where they are objectively harder to solve. Despite that, there is a clear path to doing these things. That, is inspiring and fascinating to consider. For that, I absolutely love this novel. I am lucky enough to still have a third of the book left, but let there be no doubt, you should read this book.
This is tied for my favorite novel of the year next the Fifteen Lives of Harry August–maybe I like it even more. I don’t have much more to say since my last update. It maintains the tone and excellent story telling. The one thing I want to do is backtrack, if only slightly, on the book being overly optimistic. I will avoid details, so as to prevent spoilers, but there is plenty of shitty moments in this story. Our characters are often put through the ringer, and Kowal does not shy away from making the issues of that time (and still today in some fashion) very prominent in the story. The biggest issue with getting to space is never about technology; it is about the human race holding itself back. This is ultimately a story of whether we will overcome our own flaws. It does not happen easily, nor does it happen uniformly. Nevertheless, this story presents a mindset where it is possible with the right motivations.
Perhaps that is what makes the story such a thrill to read. It is a blessing not to read a dystopian novel with hope. All I want to do is keep reading. The fact that there is a sequel already out is torturing me. It would be so easy to put myself into the next book, but I am going to try not to just yet. 1) It is time for Halloween therefore horror galore, but 2) when I am done, I’m done. Then its an indefinite wait for the next one. This is a chance to pace myself and enjoy.
Finally, I want to touch on the only other issue I had with the book. This question of historical detail. I don’t want to be berated with complaints saying I am misrepresenting the book, so let me be clear that there are plenty of examples of us being grounded in the times. Personally, I’d love a deeper dive into the politics of the time. Then again, this book feels perfect, so me yearning for more, detail and story, may just be another example of how great it is. What’s more, I recognize this story is meant to follow our main character. For that reason, our perspective is somewhat limited to her own. Branching out beyond that would risk losing some of that cohesion.