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Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Vulcan by Dayton Ward. Science fiction.

A nicely done fake travel guide to the planet Vulcan, for hardcore Trekkies only. The author must have put in a lot of work. I appreciate the callbacks to a couple of the better novels, such as Uhura’s Song by Janet Kagan, as well as the reference to Mark Gardner’s Vulcan Language Institute (very politely sourced, even!).… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Taras Bulba and Other Tales by Nikolai Gogol. Short stories.

“Taras Bulba” – an adventure novella about the father and two sons of a Cossack family – is a fun historical swashbuckler which does a fine job of evoking a time and place: the landscape, the culture, the individuals. This is, mind you, assuming you can overlook the rampant anti-Semitism and various other bigotries, which were so pervasive that even I – used to putting up with a lot of offensive stuff in old books – found it difficult to squint past.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by E. L. Konigsburg. Children’s.

Hmm. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, it just seemed a bit pointless at the end. There are better books about magic, about imagination, about friendship, about school in the 1960’s, and there are better books by E. L.… >> Read more

TheRoyalPhysiciansVisit

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist. Historical fiction.

My attempt to read a great Swedish novel or two, preparatory to visiting the country, was easier said than done. This, for example, by all accounts a great novel by a great Swedish novelist, in fact takes place in Denmark. As it is based on true historical events, the subtitle could be “The 101 Guide to How Not to Reform Your Society Even If You’re Basically Right Because You Will Get Your Head Chopped Off,” a warning for idealists everywhere.… >> Read more

Coraline

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Children’s fantasy/horror.

It was…fine. I think I would have liked it more had I been reading it aloud to small children. But then, I would have to get close to small children…so I’ll pass.

Coraline knew that when grown-ups told you something wouldn’t hurt it almost always did. She shook her head.

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TheTriumphOfSeeds

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson. History/botany.

There are a couple of ways you could go here. You could talk about (1) the science behind the workings of seeds; (2) how they fit into ecosystems; (3) their importance to human culture and development; (4) their nutritive value; (5) the importance of, and methodology for, saving unusual seed varieties in viable form; or (6) their future in the face of changing agricultural patterns and genetic modification.… >> Read more

TheNordicTheoryOfEverything

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen. Politics.

Firstly, this book is oriented toward Americans, so if you aren’t American it will probably just make you laugh sadly. (In fact, I am an American and it made me laugh sadly too.) The author is a Finn who married an American and promptly ran up against the fact that Americans can’t afford to get sick, lose a job, get a good education or have children.… >> Read more

carterfamily

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song by Frank M. Young, illustrated by David Lasky. Biography/music.

I met the illustrator at a dinner party. I adore his work. In fact, I have some on my wall. However, unless you are truly interested in the Carter Family (which you might be, who knows, but I am not) you can probably skip this.… >> Read more