15 Following


I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.

Muay Thai Fighter: A Farrang's Journey to Become a Thai Boxer - Paul Garrigan

The title is a misnomer that I wouldn't pick at except that Garrigan identified the distinction between being a fighter and training. This is in some ways a shaggy dog story, in that Garrigan in fact never fights. "Muay Thai Training" would be a more accurate title. What happens here isn't a lot, and it could have been had Garrigan shifted his focus when it became clear that he wasn't actually going to fight. I think he could have had more to say about  his relationship to Muay Thai, its effect on his life philosophy, and how, in the end, not fighting might be an anodyne to the all-or-nothing thinking that he notes as part of his addictive approach. Not-fighting as a triumph of moderation is an interesting story. Not-fighting because so then I didn't fight after all isn't.

The Human Stain - Philip Roth

This surprising novel from Roth is like being at the surf line. The water, though in motion, has a calm, unbroken surface. Then suddenly something snags, or accumulates, or breaks its surface tension. It foams, bubbles, gushes, gnashes. If you're standing in it, you might be knocked down, dragged under, your ears filled with its roar as you tumble and scrape to the sudden calm liminal edge, emerging filthy with blood and seaweed, sand in your hair. That's what it's like to read this, and though it can be anticipated, the shock of the sudden chaotic surge never normalizes. I read along. Zuckerman; fine. I know Zuckerman. Then things tip just a little and I'm in someone else's point of view. That's okay, it's indirect discourse; no, not I'm really in it rather than having Zuckerman broker it for me. Now there's a growling, seething upswell of emotion, a torrent of personal information, a dislocation from the previous narrative, a searing, a pounding, a scouring--and back to the shallows with mud in my eyes and horrible crustaceans scuttling off. Sappho said, "If you are squeamish, don't prod the beach rubble." This is only and entirely beach rubble, yet magnificent.

As to the plot, the plot is entertaining and witty. That's not what captivated me, though. It was the sustained and undulating and crashing waves, Portnoy's final rant fractally enhanced to become the whole world.

Highly recommended as an audiobook.

The Darke Toad (Septimus Heap 1.5)

The Darke Toad - Angie Sage

A novella slotted between the first and second Septimus Heap books. It's fun to read after finishing the series because it reminds us of Septimus's vulnerability, and Marcia's affection and concern for him. It also pokes fun at DomDaniel, which is never unenjoyable.

Six-legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War

Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War - Jeffrey Alan Lockwood

In The Simpsons, Season 7, Homer finds occasion to taunt: "Or what? You'll release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you?" At its best, Six-legged Soldiers is very much about dogs with bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you. Or at least, about bee and hornet nests catapulted over the parapets. Or the biblical plagues of Egypt understood through the lens of causal insect action. Or scorpions in overhead trap doors. Or torture involving fleas and lice. Or the refinement of insect-delivered diseases, or the development of insectoid weapons. This is all riveting. Unfortunately, Lockwood's writing drags and bogs down at times, even with such exciting subject matter. It's worth working your way through it, though there isn't really a conclusion or climactic payoff. Still, despite the sometimes-slog, you'll learn a lot about attempts to weaponize bugs.

The Time Machine

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells, James Gunn

Not this edition--I read an audiobook.


Re-reading Wells's classic after many years, I'm struck by the "scientific" style, also used by Poe for his science fiction. The learned exposition about physics or the material world; the careful articulation by the protagonist of the limits of his expertise or possible lack of objectivity at times; the proofs that lead to the suspension of disbelief; the citing of authorities (here, though unnamed, Darwin plays a major role)--I just love the tone and the techniques used to reel the reader in. 


Strip away the science and you've got a story which, although ostensibly about the future degradation of human nobility, reads very much like a colonial tale about the debased indigenes. This makes me think about how much of science fiction follows this model, though the noble rather than monstrous savage sometimes takes center stage. 


I can poke some holes in the plot, but why bother? It's still a good story and in its day must have galvanized many readers.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth - Reza Aslan

Like many books about Jesus (or, for that matter, HIV), the reviews are reasonably shrill, accusatory, and polarized. Aslan does a good job of contextualizing the period in which Jesus preached and making is accessible to the non-technical reader. I can't evaluate his contention that Jesus's activities can be understood as emerging from and buttressing the framework of zealotry, in its technical sense; I think he makes a case for this, but as I'm not a biblical scholar, I can't critique the argument. I felt that his analysis made more sense than most interpretations I've read, particularly his discussion of post-crucifixion politics and Paul's reinterpretation or reinvention of Jesus. 


Read well by the author, but hunt up a visual copy for the end notes.


Hallucinations - Oliver Sacks Migraine - Oliver Sacks

 Enjoyable, as Sacks always is, but more episodic than some, with modular chapters that don't really build on each other. Sacks here identifies and characterizes a variety of processes, ailments, damage, and poisons that can lead to different forms of hallucination (with a delusion or two thrown in for good measure). Sacks references many of his previous books; for a fun look at how his storytelling style has developed, read with his first book, the outdated but scholarly and highly annotated Migraine.

Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All

Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A New Zealand Story - Christina Thompson

A good effort to interweave personal and cultural histories. Thompson, an American graduate student in Australia, meets and marries a Maori New Zealander. She alternates between and blends the story of their relationship with the story of European first and later encounters with Maori, analyzing some of the assumptions underlying the European view of the Maori. What's less well explored is her own feelings. I finish the book having enjoyed it, but with little understanding of what attracted her to her future husband "Seven," what their relationship was like, why they moved to the U.S., and what happened as they became a more established couple. All of this is in the story, but it doesn't have an emotional underpinning. Thompson tells anecdotes that purport to use the relationship as a parallel or springboard to the examination of European-Maori dynamics. I was ultimately left wanting more depth.

We Need New Names

We Need New Names - NoViolet Bulawayo

Linked short stories generally follow Darling, a Zimbabwean girl, from her hungry, conflict-saturated childhood in Africa to her dislocated/relocated young adulthood in the U.S. Most of the sections worked well, though the end point of some didn't resonate or satisfy. There are some intrusions of a poetic narrator, best understood as Darling's philosophical future self, perhaps. They add complexity and perspective, but are at times heavy-handed and detract from the intensity I imagine the story would have had if it stayed tightly connected to the developing and acculturating protagonist.


A creditable first novel. Nicely read by Robin Miles.

Booklikes Tutorials

Reblogged from I'll think of a damn title later:

Links to various Booklikes tutorials around the site. Thanks to all the hardworking BL members and team who contributed. This is a work in progress. More links will be added as I find them.


Official Booklikes stuff:









http://blog.booklikes.com/post/551754/post (exclusive status for your books)


The Booklikes blog (new features added every week):



The Goodreads Booklikes group:



Tutorials created by Booklike members:


Easy tips for customising your Booklikes blog:



How to customise your BL blog:



Customising Booklikes Tutorials - parts 1 - 6:








Excellent blogpost about resources on the net for customizing your blog. Includes great links for wallpapers, fonts, colours, add-ons, special effects and other great info:



How to add a new line/paragraph in your comments box:



'Reactive' links (round links on a 'shelf' page)



Adding the Booklikes Reading Challenge to your blog:



How to change colour of text on your banner :



Added pages - I can't read it! My background is dark and font is black! And I want to have a comment section!



How to make your comments icons a link:



Customising shelf sort order:



Changing appearance of followers/following counters and repositioning them:



Where are my Draft blog entries after I hit Save As Draft?:



Can I just read everyone's book reviews and skip the rest?



Setting up Google Analytics:



Adding blockquotes to your posts:



Using 'shelve-it':



Making reactive links in your blogposts:



Making a see-through background for comments section:



Adding a scrolling quotes marquee to your blog:



How to block followers on Booklikes:



Setting up google analytics on your BL blog:



Changing font colour (text, links, comment section):



How to easily embed a font:



A simple tip - everything is too big - zoom out: 



Background for a search bar (what to do when it's invisible on a dark background):



Let's clean our designated comments pages regularly - no more notification floods:



Reading Challenge - how to post it on your site and a few simple customization options:



Your book counter - make it fun and pretty:



How to avoid losing the original source of a post:







Source: http://mandym.booklikes.com/post/470414/booklikes-tutorials

The Bard and a Rabbit Discuss Censorship

The Arden Dictionary of Shakespeare Quotations: Gift Edition (Arden Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare

<!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]-->

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} <![endif]-->

           Shakespeare: This was the most unkindest cut of all. (Julius Caesar 3.2.184, MARK ANTONY'S oration on the murder of Julius Caesar)


           KillerRabbit hops up.


           KillerRabbit: You sound upset, Shakespeare. What seems to be the problem?


           Shakespeare: Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not 'seems' . (Hamlet 1.2.76, HAMLET TO GERTRUDE)


           KillerRabbit: Let me guess, some reviewer called you a derogatory name, like Quean Quill, and you want to have their post deleted.


Shakespeare: What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; (Romeo and Juliet 2.2.47-8, JULIET Capulet contemplating the unfortunate reality that Romeo is encumbered with the Montague surname)


KillerRabbit: Well if you're not offended by name calling, then what is the problem?


Shakespeare: Art made tongue tied by authority. (Sonnet 66.9)


KillerRabbit: Wait…are you upset about the censorship policy that's been instituted by the Amazon folks who now own goodreads?


Shakespeare: The demi-god, Authority. (Measure for Measure 1.2.120, CLAUDIO TO THE PROVOST)


KillerRabbit: I've been calling them Amazon Overlords, but I guess demi-god works, too. So you think we should do something about the censorship?


Shakespeare: If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it be done quickly. (Macbeth 1.7.1-2, MACBETH)


KillerRabbit: Rabbits are all about the now, buddy. What do you have in mind?


Shakespeare: Action is eloquence. (Coriolanus 3.2.6, VOLUMNIA)


KillerRabbit: Agreed. So far, I've written some protest reviews. I also created a shelf called 'Really Bad Egg Author', and put Mother Teresa on it.


Shakespeare: Though she be but little, she is fierce. (Midsummer Night's Dream 3.2.325, HELENA's retort )


KillerRabbit: People always underestimate the ferocity of rabbits. But to be honest, I'm not sure that protesting will make any difference.


Shakespeare: Every man's conscience is a thousand men. (Richard III 5.2.17, OXFORD TO COMPANIONS IN ARMS)


KillerRabbit: Yeah, I'm sure that's going to overwhelm the power of the Amazon Overlords. But the thing is, they haven't actually deleted any of my own reviews.


Shakespeare: A wretched soul bruised with adversity, we bid be quiet when we hear it cry; But were we burdened with like weight of pain, as much, or more, we should ourselves complain. (Comedy of Errors 2.1.34-7, ADRIANA TO LUCIANA)


KillerRabbit: Are you saying I'm a selfish, short-sighted swine if I don't do anything? That it's just a matter of time before this place becomes a totalitarian review-state like Amazon.com?


Shakespeare: One for all or all for one we gage. (Lucrece 144)


KillerRabbit: big ol' sigh Fine, I'll keep up the protesting.


Shakespeare: Was that not nobly done? Ay, and wisely too. (Macbeth 3.6.14 LENOX TO ANOTHER LORD)


KillerRabbit: Yeah, I'm super-noble. But I really don't think this plan is the wise choice. It's just a matter of time before the Overlords assign somebody to shush us. Maybe we should just leave to Booklikes.


Shakespeare: No! - I defy all counsel. (King John 3.3.23, CONSTANCE TO PHILIP, KING OF FRANCE)


sound of approaching footsteps


KillerRabbit: Run away! It's Kara from the Customer Care Department!


Exclusive Status For Your Books On BookLikes

Reblogged from BookLikes:

It's time for Thursday Release and it's a feature many of you requested :-) Now when a given book doesn't fit any default status on your Shelf (Read, Planning to read, Currently reading) you can create your own exclusive book status.


How? You can create and organize your books with new statuses in several ways.


Go to your Shelf Page and create your new status with your name, e.g. Not finished. New status will be added and visible at once on your Shelf.



You can also create exclusive status directly in book pop up, select it and Save for a given title. The book will receive new status immediately. 



If you want to reset previously given status (Read, Planning to read, Currently reading), click on it and Save. It should go white (inactive) and notion "On Shelf" will appear instead. 


You can also create exclusive status on Table view of your shelf (the entrance is on Shelf page). It is also a place where you can re-arrange your books one by one:


or move several books at once:


You can still create thematic shelves which will be added to your Shelf on the left and organize them the same way in table view. 

Giving up on finding a used copy I can afford, and ordering Karen Armstrong's The First Christian: Saint Paul's Impact on Christianity through ILL.

Pauksciu stebejimas - Remigijus Karpuska

One's cool aunt just mailed a bird guide in Lithuanian. Good thing I picked up a bird guide in Italian for her!

Testing an Anti-Spoiler Method To See If I Can Get It To Work...

Reblogged from I'll think of a damn title later:

Re-re-reblog ...



You can't discuss books and NOT have spoilers. It's almost impossible. Booklikes is new enough not to have an automated way to hide specific text yet, but there are ways to code that in. This method makes your spoilered text invisible. So that you have to highlight the blank area to see the post.


Credit to Carly, who shared this bit of code in the thread Tips and Things About Booklikes (and helped me figure out where the heck that HTML option was on the toolbar):


< span style="color:transparent"> lots of spoilery stuff here that won't be visible until you highlight it < /span>


And the trick is to remove those spaces added after the <.


Here's another key thing in getting this to work. To add the code you have to go into your review and choose the HTML option. It's on the toolbar above the space you type your reviews/posts. HTML is on the far right of the toolbar, in blue text.


So first scope out the area of your review you want hidden. Copy the span code above, then click that html option on the toolbar. Add your code in the window that will pop up. (Depending on how new you are to messing with code this may take some getting used to. Remember you can always hit the cancel button.)



So here, I'll give it a try - EXAMPLE:


One of the primary plot points any reviewer knows to avoid in a review is any discussion about (spoiler:)a major character dying. Seriously, you never should give that part away.


So if I've managed that correctly all the reader has to do is to highlight the area after the word (spoiler) and there you have it, your hidden spoiler.


From Darkness to Darkness (Loka Legends #2)

From Darkness to Darkness  - Jay Bell


The sequel to Bell's first loka book, The Cat in the Cradle, set in the same universe and with most characters returning. In a story that is thematically similar to the previous book, a young man, Cole, is manipulated by a powerful, malevolent force, which must be fought though it is seemingly invulnerable. This force is again opposed by a coalition of loka wielders and their allies. Bonus for fans of giant talking cats:

Kio gets it on.

(show spoiler)