SpaceCraft Rotating Header Image

books

Liquid by Mark Miodownik

 

 

Have you ever wondered if peanut butter is a liquid? Before reading “Liquid – The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives”  by Mark Miodownik, I assumed that it was more of a solid, a paste really but no, as Mark writes, it “flows and assumes the shape of its container – that is what liquids do”.

You’ll learn so much from reading this book: how planes are glued together, what causes a tsunami, why your spit varies in consistency throughout the day (no, really!), how oil lamps work, why waves flow in and out a beach, how biros work; and why tea brewed on an air plane tastes foul; just to name a few.

If the idea of reading a science book makes your eyes glaze over, please give this book a try because it’s such a fun read. Mark Miodownik has a warm, witty, writing style and he’s just an excellent science communicator.

Mark also addresses one of the most contentious questions in the world – do you add milk first or last to make the perfect cup of tea? I wonder if the age old “do you add jam or cream first on a scone?” is as contentious as this one!

 

 

I was asked to conduct an experiment of my own, with a lovely test tube of tea from Rosie Lea Tea, to answer that question. I have to lay my cards on the table here – I’m milk last all the way and both Mark and George Orwell(!) agree with me on this, so I’m in good company.  But in the interests of science, I gave the experiment a try.

I used my For Life teapot – this has the best tea filter I’ve ever used with no danger of errant tea leaves getting into the pot.  First I warmed the pot, then I put one and a half tea spoons of tea into the filter and poured on boiling water. I left it to infuse for five minutes as Mark suggests in his book.

Firstly I tried with with milk last – OMG! A gorgeous cuppa! So, so good!  I then brewed another pot and this time poured in milk first into the cup and then added tea. Bleaugh! There’s no way to control how much milk you’re adding and mine had more than I would normally have. It was weird, I could taste that there was indeed a difference and I didn’t like it! So I conclude that Adding Milk Last = The Perfect Cup of Tea. Your mileage may vary of course,  so why not try the experiment yourself?

Liquid – The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik is out now.

 

Penguin Books supplied me with a copy of the book and a sample of Rosie Lea Tea’s Breakfast Tea in return for an honest review.

 

 

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

In the future you can be one hundred years ago and yet look barely fifty. It’s all thanks to innovations like Smart Blood and Diamond Skin. Alcohol is restricted, coffee is banned and meals consist of nutripacks or perhaps a “trad food” like a salad. The most popular mode of transport is walking. You might even live forever under the Third Wave of Maintenance but in a world where arts and music are forbidden, will you want to?

When Lea is accidentally hit by a car she finds that her life is suddenly under observation by the Ministry. She manages to infiltrate the Suicide Club, a group of people who have had enough of this endless life with little pleasure who revel in pleasures like eating meat and listening to jazz. Some ultimately choosing to end their life.

Suicide Club is a very dark novel but I was fascinated with the world Heng has conjured. It’s like a nightmare stereotype of LA, people who all look a little similar, have perfect skin and hair, drink green healthy drinks and exercise all the time – because they’re not really allowed to do much else. None of the characters are desperately likeable but that doesn’t matter because the story really pulls you in and holds you there. Disturbing and compelling. Another one of those books that I’ll be thinking about for years.
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng is out now.

 

 

 

Disclaimer – I received a digital galley of Suicide Club by Rachel Heng in return for an honest review.

Books! Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel – Yokits good!

The conclusion of the Themis Files trilogy.

 

 

Well, I did have to wait a year to get the conclusion to the cliff hanger ending of the last book but it was worth it.  “Only Human” is set ten years after the events of “Waking Gods” and a great deal has changed on earth since then and not for the good.  Earth’s reaction to the discovery that a great deal of humanity had alien ancestors has not resulted in celebration and street parties. Instead we see a frightening, and not without precedent, vision of the future.

We do find out what happened to Vincent, Rose, General Govender and Eva at the end of the previous book and we slowly learn about the culture of the planet that Themis and the other giant robots originate from.

I’m trying not to give much away here. I did really enjoy reading the book, although I was horrified by a lot of it. But that’s a good thing. It also wasn’t quite as action packed as the previous books but I think you’ll enjoy it despite that.

It’s written in the same interview style as the previous books and I don’t know if it was just a quirk of the Galley copy I was reading, but I found that it was really difficult to keep track of who was speaking in some conversations. But the actual finished book may be quite different from the galley.

Only Human is out now.

 

Disclaimer – I received a digital galley of Only Human in return for an honest review. 

Books! Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

 

When I first heard of Sylvain Neuvel’s novel Sleeping Giants: Themis Files Book 1 (Themis Files 1) I was wary of all the hype surrounding it. It couldn’t be THAT good, could it? When I eventually picked it up I was swept away by the twists and turns and unanswered questions of the book. It was an action packed reading experience. Today I can easily say “Giant Robots! What’s not to like?”

The sequel  Waking Gods: Themis Files Book 2 takes place ten years later when an even bigger robot materialises in London with devastating consequences. Dr Rose Franklin is still coming to terms with the events of the previous novel and the mysterious unnamed interviewer is still there asking questions. Soon more robots arrive…

I don’t want to give much away here, especially in case you’ve not read the previous book, but Waking Gods: Themis Files Book 2 is even better than Sleeping Giants. There is a third book on the way, as well as two other stories from the Themis Files. I only hope I have enough patience to wait for the next book!

New Books! The Girls by Emma Cline

There’s been such a buzz around Emma Cline’s first novel The Girls, that when I started to read it I wondered if it would be disappointing. It’s worth all the fanfare. Set in the late 1960’s, fourteen-year-old Evie is bored with her life and becomes fascinated by Suzanne who is a member of a Manson Family type cult. The story flips between Evie as an adult and teenage Evie and I was struck by Cline’s ability to tap into exactly what it means to be a girl. The self conciousness, the willingness to please, the power that a crush can have over you. It’s all here and in unflinching detail. It was uncomfortable to remember those times through Evie and other characters.

In some ways I wondered if it should have been called The Girl because Suzanne casts such a long shadow. The Girls is very dark and not an easy summer time read but it is an exceptionally well written book. I can’t wait to see what Emma Cline writes next.

Emma Cline wrote this book in a tiny writers shed. You can check it out here

The Girls is published in the UK on June 16th.

Disclaimer – I received a digital galley of The Girls in return for an honest review. 

New Books! Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips

If there was a machine that could tell you the exact date that you’d die – would you use it? Would you tell your spouse what it said? What effect might it have on your marriage? That’s just one of the premises in Helen Phillips’ new short story collection Some Possible SolutionsIn another, time freezes at a dinner party and a woman decides to kiss her friend’s husband. A young woman suddenly finds her love for her parents tested when she stops being able to see people’s skin. Her mother’s embraces seem far less welcoming once she can see her muscles, blood vessels and eye balls. A young mother starts to see her doppelgänger all over town. Intrigued? I hope you are because this is a great collection! Phillips stories feature science-fiction and dystopian futures but they’re also tales about marriage, friendship and family.

I don’t know if this was some sort of issue with my digital galley or not, but some later parts of the book were streams of consciousness and it was difficult to understand what was going on. It might be that my copy was corrupted in some way but I’m not sure.  It didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book, anyway. Phillips writing is wonderfully creative and weird. She really tests boundaries and I found that I read this collection rather quickly. If you want to have a taster of her work, she has several free short stories on her website.

Some Possible Solutions is published in the UK on the 13th of June.

 

Disclaimer – I received a digital galley of Some Possible Solutions in return for an honest review. 

Books! Company Town – Madeline Ashby

A kick-ass heroine, disturbing vision of the future and a twisty plot are the key ingredients of this gripping sci-fi thriller.

 

Oh Company Town, you nearly broke me. I was expecting an engrossing sci-fi action thriller with a kick ass protagonist, I was not expecting the emotional hit of lead character Hwa’s back story. I don’t want to give too much away but it totally blind sided me. It’s nearly a week since I finished reading the book and it’s still with me.

I love a good kick ass heroine and Hwa of Company Town is one of the best. In a world where nearly everyone has “edited” away their imperfections,  she’s one of the few entirely organic people left. Hwa has Sturge-Weber syndrome and because of that has a vascular birthmark running down one side of her face and body. She lives with the constant threat of seizures but her “stain” also messes with surveillance cameras and people’s enhanced vision meaning that her face is rarely truly seen. She’s working for the Union as a body guard for sex workers when she’s hired by the Lynch family who’ve recently bought the town sized oil rig where she lives. Their youngest member, Joel Lynch, is receiving death threats but when Hwa’s friends are targeted by a serial killer she has to balance her job with trying to catch a murderer.

Ashby’s future is particularly disturbing because it doesn’t seem so far fetched. There are people who want to live forever, endless surveillance, bodily enhancements like “muscle regimes”, one of which comics fans may enjoy seeing is called “Liefeld” and food subscription services for those who can afford them.  It’s a fantastic read. Oh and I loved Dr Mantis the AI medic with his six limbs and attempts at a bedside manner.

Hwa is so kick ass, she is steely and resourceful and I wish this book wasn’t a stand alone because I’d really like to read more of her. In the acknowledgements Ashby says that she has published two stories set in the same world in different anthologies and I hope to track those down soon. There’s also a Company Town playlist if you want to check  it out. It’s the first of Ashby’s books that I’ve read, which in hindsight is sad as I already own vN. I want to read that this year.

Company Town by Madeline Ashby is published on May 17th.

Disclaimer – I received a digital galley of Company Town in return for an honest review. 

14th Blogiversary!

Oh poor neglected blog. It’s about eighteen months since I last posted.

So a little catch-up: I’m still knitting, but not as much as I used to. I have an inprogress cowl from before Xmas that I haven’t picked up since then. What I am doing though, is reading. I’ve been taking part in the GoodReads yearly challenges for the last few years and last year read over 100 books. This year I’ve challenged myself to read 40 books. So far I’ve read 14 but whether I’ll reach my goal remains to be seen but since I read all of The Expanse series, most of which are over 500 pages long, perhaps I’ve actually read twice as much 😉

I got to spend Christmas and the New Year in New England in the USA. Eric’s from there and his parents invited me to stay for the holidays. The time flew by. I did buy some local yarn while I was there and many books. Oh and there were blueberry pancakes!  🙂

More later…honest…

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity…

I saw the film that was based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love” last week and I didn’t like it at all. I had approached it as mindless fluff which helped while viewing it but after seeing it I immediately thought of Mark Kermode’s short review – “Eat, Pray, Love. Vomit“.

But of course that doesn’t mean that the book itself has no worth and although I’ve not read it, what I have seen of Elizabeth Gilbert herself, I’ve liked. Including this talk on creativity that she gave to the Ted Conference a couple of years ago.

It’s very funny and insightful and I like the idea of trying to manage your creativity if it descends on you at an inconvenient time. Whether that actually works though, I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I try it!