lizabelle: (Default)
Ah, my poor little neglected blog, how badly I've treated you! Apologies for the extended absence.

I have several very brief book reviews:

When We Were Bad - Charlotte Mendelson. The son of a feted female rabbi running off with the wife of another rabbi moments before his wedding marks the first in a series of cracks that open up in an apparently perfect family. This is close to being a perfect book. Seriously, if you have access to this one, read it. It's brilliant. Five stars

One Foot Wrong - Sofie Laguna. Hester's reclusive religious parents have their own ideas about how their daughter should be brought up. A fascinating, fresh take on a horrifying subject. Four stars.

Stuffed and Starved - Raj Patel. Clever and very well-written, as well as being packed full of information about the problem with the way today's food society operates and ideas as to what we can do about it. Patel's a great writer, and this book made me an instant fan. Five stars.

Burnt Shadows - Kamila Shamsie. An very apposite one in the current climate, this book examines cultural conflicts and their links and roots from Nagasaki to 911, wrapping around this a narrative that is moving and hopeful in the face of despair. Four and a half stars.

The Wilderness - Samantha Harvey. A beautifully written, convincing imagining of a man's descent (or flight?) into alzheimers. Four stars.

With that out of the way, I want to concentrate on two excellent young adult books I've read recently, which go together very nicely because they're both based on alternate histories. Jenny Davidson's The Explosionist is set in 1930s Edinburgh, but history diverges from our own in 1815 when Napoleon defeats Wellington's army at the Battle of Waterloo. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, is set in a world in which Darwin's discoveries led him to DNA, and thence to the creation of new species that are used by humans very much in the way that we use machines in our world.

Both books offer fascinating insights into the twists and turns of what-ifs. More under the cut. )

This got me thinking: are there any other alternate histories that people can recommend? One I loved as a teenager is Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and sequels, but there must be loads more that I've missed out on.
lizabelle: (Book and sea)
***** (out of *****)

Bad Science is Ben Goldacre's passionate, poignant and entertaining look at science reporting in the media and how people at large are suffering from this. He also has an (occasionally very sharp) axe to grind with the people and industries that have benefited from the same phenomenon, but that is not the focus of the book. The chapter on Patrick Holford descends into a rant, but hey, it's a hugely enjoyable, articulate rant, so who cares? There's also a moving chapter on a nutritionist named Matthias Rath who peddles vitamins to HIV sufferers in South Africa and encourages them to give up their antiretroviral drugs (ugh).

Apart from the few cases mentioned above, Goldacre's problem is not with individuals, but with the media's role in science today. He tries very hard to show the reader how to look for signs of problems in research and reports, as well as exposing "big pharma"'s role in medical research. The result is a book that is accessible to people like me, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Goldacre's blog (largely a mirror of his Guardian articles) is here.


lizabelle: (Default)

June 2014

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