Not Enough Women

Amelia always watches in fascination as I read, and then gets angry when she can’t turn the thick cardboard pages of her own books.  This got me thinking that much of the literature I read is by male authors, and in the future, I will be wanting to introduce Amelia to a good blend of both men and women.

Winter reading with Amelia, she made sure I was pronouncing all the words correctly.

As most of my readers are of the female variety, this is where your expertise would be greatly appreciated.  I would love some recommendations for good authors, especially beyond the women who wrote the classics.  I have a bit of list of books gathered already but would love to add to it and have a richer reading list.

I am already a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, Irène Némirovsky as well as the recently read Marguerite Yournecar, and Daphne Du Maurier, and plan to read some more Barbara Kingsolver, Dava Sobel, Eowyn Ivey, and Enid Blyton. Continue reading “Not Enough Women”

The Magic of Reality – Richard Dawkins

Magic takes many forms. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting that the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality – science.

Packed with inspiring explanations of space, time and evolution, laced with humour and clever thought experiments, The Magic of Reality explores a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? What causes tsunamis? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, inspirational detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist too.

Richard Dawkins elucidates the wonders of the natural world to all ages with his inimitable clarity and exuberance in a text that will enlighten and inform for generations to come.

The copy that currently occupies shelf space next to St Augustine’s Confessions – as I confess I get a kick out of putting unlikely titles next to each other –  is the hardback edition, and it is a lavish, weighty, and fully illustrated, which is preferable to the paperback edition.

Dave McKean (one of the artists involved with Neil Gaiman’s magnificent The Sandman series, amongst other projects) is behind the varied and in many cases gorgeous illustrations.  There is plenty here to thrill the eye as well as to inform, and it will appeal to children as much as it will adults.  The intention is to attract all to the wonderful world of science, which it does.

Dawkins has departed from his usual style of writing in favour of something simpler, and I didn’t find the book particularly challenging, it was however very insightful and anybody with a love of exploring science and revelling in the knowledge we have accumulated over the millenia will enjoy the book. Continue reading “The Magic of Reality – Richard Dawkins”

Token Book Haul

Being gifted some book tokens for my birthday, I naturally went to the nearest bookshop to grab some good books.  Sadly said shop was WH Smiths and despite a smattering of other genres, it largely focuses on bestseller ficton, which on the whole are usually a disappointing bunch.

The next day I found myself up at the High Peak Bookshop (and Café) which had a much better range of stock in, and I plumped for a number of genres I haven’t explored in a while, and endured lots of annoying people passing through my browsing eyeline.

Sci-fi is something rare for me to venture into although when I have dabbled, there have been some corkers namely Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels.  A story from titan H.G. Wells will surely live up to such names. The Elegant Universe was another choice to continue a ‘science’ theme.  There is something fascinating about the universe, it’s a majestic mystery and well worth the time to explore. Continue reading “Token Book Haul”

Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley

Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

Inveterate coffee drinking author and fellow blogger Nicholas Conley is back again with another fine offering which treads the fine line between what is real and what may not be.  He also comes up with such prose as this, which makes me happy:

The coffee was too hot and too grainy.  The fiery grounds jabbed at Camille’s tongue like a tattoo gun.

Conley’s fourth novel is yet again a very good piece of writing and just like his other novel Pale Highway, draws on his experiences working in the understaffed healthcare system to reinforce the plight of Adam and family with solidly realistic emotional reactions.  The strong start brings in the challenging themes straight from the off:  Bullying, being orphaned, belonging, puberty, guilt, and family problems, all before the main story of a terrible and all too easy to imagine car accident really kicks off.

I’m glad that the decision to focus on both Adam and his parents separately was chosen, this help balance out the physical and psychological effects of the real world whilst making room for the retention of the feeling of tangible and unfettered imagination in Adam’s story.  Both parts work well together, allowing the realistic edge of the hospital to give way to the extravagance of imagination, ensuring for an easier but no less challenging read. Continue reading “Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley”

It’s Fun to Stay at the YEAG!

This blog post should have gone out yesterday but the internet was inexplicably down for a while so belatedly this is coming out today:

Not content with just one avenue of helping children, I am now helping promote an annual book – familiar to some of you – that encourages children to read, get into Sci-Fi, use their imaginations, and to be more literate which makes for a better society in general.

it has been good to get back in touch with Dreaming Robot Press who have been kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the upcoming anthology, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide 2018.  For those of you that don’t know, the YEAG is a book that aims to be inclusive of all, sometimes drop in subtle morals and most of all give children the passion for books and exploring their minds.

With such an unlimited scope for stories, each adventure promises to be a joy and my review of last year’s 2017 YEAG will give you a taster of the sort of thing you can expect, as I delve into the new one.  For now though the Kickstarter campaign, although having reached its target and soon to close is still worth checking out if you feeling like sharing the love and helping to support this project, head on over to their Kickstarter page.  Your contribution is appreciated.

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2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide

itsfuntostayattheyeagNature gets to eat its mistakes, but we have to live with ours

Having forgotten about this review after the upheaval of last year’s end, I belatedly bring you this review, after a badly needed editing session.

This latest anthology (and my first foray into the YEAG series) is packed with 24 multifarious stories.  In a universe where anything can happen, the scope will really appeal to children who no doubt already love their science fiction with so much good stuff about in plenty of mediums.

Getting children reading is always rewarding both for themselves and in the wider view a more literate society.  Having heroes their own age, who they can relate to and imagine themselves in such situations will definitely fuel their passion for books and adventure.

The Dreaming Robot Press page states that, Our characters are white, black, asian, latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here. Add in people with handicaps as well and this is a truly inclusive mix. I did find the book heavily weighted to female protagonists which makes sense as there is an under representation of both female authors and female protagonists in the genre.  The boy in me would have perhaps wished for a bit more balance but there is enough choice for me out there already and it was refreshing to read about female characters and their escapades for a change.

The variation is pleasing and has plenty of depth with the different styles of writing and setting, there is something to suit all tastes and also a lot of scope here to feed a child’s imagination and to encourage them to write and read more.  The stories also have a social aspect, exploring what it is like to be seen as different, coping with illness as well as displaying determination, loyalty, and all that good stuff too. Continue reading “2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide”

Stowaway to Mars – John Wyndham

extraweightFor British pilot Dale Curtance the Keuntz Prize – to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back – is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he’s also got to beat the Russians and Americans.

Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There’s only one problem – a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected.

Written in the 30s, this is an early effort by John Wyndham and it shows.  This is not a bad thing though as the book is a fun read and despite its flaws there is plenty here to enjoy.

The story feels like a solid B-movie effort, of which I like to term ‘B-Literature’ and not the Wyndham that I am used to.  This a more speculative effort rather than the ‘logical fantasy’ he later wrote, with much success.  In this case, Britain is Great again at the forefront of exploration and a major contender in the space race and in particular to reach Mars first.

The story flows well, action is mixed up with speculation on the mysteries of the universe and the boredom of floating about in space, as well as the anticipations surrounding arrival to Mars and take off are captured well. The satire of the Press, especially the British is remarkably spot on now as it no doubt was back in the day; as is the Cold War feel he almost presciently managed to summon up a decade before the term was even used.

There are enough signs of the writer the author would become scattered throughout the pages especially when the astronauts speculate on the big questions.  Space always brings out the pertinent existential questions of our place in the universe and what precisely life is and there are some fascinating conversations set up throughout. Continue reading “Stowaway to Mars – John Wyndham”