Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Accountability

Either this Friday accountability thing is working, or there just weren't as many books on sale I wanted to buy this past week... Probably the latter.


  • The Alchemy of Murder by Carol McCleary
    Basically Nellie Bly teams up with Oscar Wilde and Louis Pasteur to solve crime. Sold.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    It's hard to believe I'd never read this book. I'd bought in paperback from a used book store years ago, and never touched it. Bought it on audiobook but never listened to it. Might as well finish the trifecta and buy it in ebook form, especially since it was on sale. Hopefully this time I'll read it.
  • The Phantom of the Earth by Raeden Zen
    This was a freebie that I got from Netgalley. This looks potentially interesting, though I'm not in a mad rush to read this.


  • I am Princess X by Cherie Priest
    This has been on my to-read list since before it came out, and I knew I needed it. I was prepared to buy it in electronic form but had heard that because of the illustrations and the fact the story was partly told through graphic novel format, the files didn't display well. I finally picked it up during my last B&N order. I've already started and finished this; review to come.
  • Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells
    I fully admit I bought this because I needed to hit the free shipping minimum and it was on sale. Still, it looks interesting enough I'll probably read it eventually.
  • A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda
    This was an impulse purchase when I went to Barnes & Noble. The store didn't have the books I came in for in stock, so I wandered the SFF section. This caught my eye, and seemed more old-school epic fantasy than what I normally see on the shelves these days. Also, Julie Czerneda is awesome.
  • Snow White Red-Handed and Cinderella Six Feet Under by Maia Chance
    This purchase is proof that those end-cap displays really do work. During my wandering of B&N, I saw Cinderella Six Feet Under and was intrigued. Fairy tale murder mystery? Sign me up! But it was book 2. So of course, I had to hunt down book 1 and buy both.


  • The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley
    I LOVE The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and listened to the audiobook of the first spin-off novel, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, which was read by the actress who played Lizzie, Ashley Clements. I heard there was going to be a second book about Lydia. I crossed my fingers, hoping for an audiobook read by Mary Kate Wiles (it is!). I hoarded a last audible credit long after my membership had expired just to pick it up. And now I have it. And it will be amazing.


  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
    My hold on this at the library came in. This looked interesting enough to read, but not necessarily to purchase. I had honestly forgotten I'd put a library hold on this until I got the email.

The Martian: Book vs. Movie

I had read The Martian by Andy Weir earlier this year and it was hands-down one of the best reads I'd read in a long, long time. There are so many things I loved about the book.

  1. I adored Mark Watney, who we really only see in his mission logs and in some communications he has with NASA and his crew. He is snarky as hell and I loved it.
  2. Science. Science saves the day and it's freaking amazing and awesome.
  3. The supporting cast. They are smart, driven people who I'm sure all hold higher-level degrees, mostly in the hard sciences.
  4. Did I mention science? 'CAUSE SCIENCE!

After already falling in love with the book because of the plotting and the characters, I realized something that made me fall in love even more. The cast of characters, this group of highly intelligent, highly capable people, are never defined by Weir by their looks, race, or ethnicity. And that? Is really awesome. No one's physical appearance is ever described, so it's left up to the reader to determine how these people looked like. There are obvious context clues from names (Mindy Park as Korean, and Venkat Kapoor as Indian, Bruce Ng as Vietnamese, and Martinez as Hispanic), but for the most park, these characters are blank slates regarding their ethnic backgrounds. They are defined by their names, their jobs, and their competencies.

The other really amazing thing was that the characters' genders are also fairly glossed over. We find out Commander Lewis is a woman because Watney mentions he is part of "her" crew. The fact that the commander of the Ares mission is a woman is no big deal. Weir doesn't focus on the gender of any of the characters, male or female, other than using the correct pronouns and their names. And I loved this. Because the fact that there were women on the mission (one leading the mission), working at NASA, etc. isn't a big deal in the future world of The Martian. It just is.

Which brings me to my thoughts on The Martian, the movie.

I was super excited when I learned there was going to be a movie. I obsessively read the articles, watched the promo spots, and made plans to see the movie with everybody I knew who had read and loved the book. But the one thing I was hesitant about was the casting choices. Which appeared rather ... white.

Disappointingly white. Overwhelmingly white.

Yes, Michael Peña and Chiwetel Ejiofor were cast as Martinez and Kapoor, respectively. I was delighted to see Donald Glover as Rich Purnell. But there was a white woman cast as Mindy Park, taking away some diversity I thought had been assured because of the character's name. Every other major character, with the exception of Bruce Ng and the Chinese scientists, were white.

So the movie missed the opportunity to add additional much-needed diversity not just to Hollywood, but to STEM.

That said, I loved the movie. Adored it. Will be seeing it again this weekend, and nagging everybody I know to do the same. Because at the end of the day, it is a story about science, ingenuity, perseverance, and intellect winning the day. If you loved the book, you will love the movie. It was not 100% faithful, but it was pretty damn close. There were a few things that were cut out, the movie neglected to mention that Watney was an engineer in addition to being a botanist (Why? It would have been so easy to just slip in), and one scene was rewritten to add additional drama. But overall, it was the book translated to the screen in a way that preserved both the story and the spirit, while being entertaining.

And I was heartened to see that while the main cast was not as diverse as I wanted, there was diversity in the background characters/extras.

The Martian is a nerd's movie. I loved it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Accountability

Dear readers, I have a problem. It manifests in overflowing bookcases, in me hauling boxes of books to the library book sale to donate on a biannual basis, in me worrying about a harddrive failure.

Readers, I buy books. I buy books in bulk. I used to haunt used bookstores until I deliberately began avoiding them (my groaning bookshelves thanked me). I am pathologically unable to leave a bookstore without purchasing one book--usually more. Frequent ebook sales have become my weakness, with their annoyingly easy one-click purchasing.

So what has entered into the Möbius Dreams book den this week?

In ebook form:

  • Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
    A YA historical fiction about Queen Victoria before she was queen, as told by her lady's maid, Liza. For 99 cents, it was an easy decision. I adore historical fiction, though I don't read nearly enough of it, and I realized I don't know much about Victoria's life pre-coronation.
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
    Rae Carson has been on my radar for a bit. She's an author who consistently gets rave reviews, and her books just look amazing. Her Walk on Earth a Stranger has been on my TBR list for awhile. When this went on sale, I snapped it up. I look forward to this a lot.
  • The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey
    Wool Omnibus and its sequels ate my brain, and I will read anything this man writes. I already own and am slowly working through his backlist. I read Sand as soon as it was released. For some reason, I missed this one so was happy to buy it when it was a Kindle Daily Deal.
  • Falling in Deep: 14 Tales from the Sea from Clockpunk Press
    I was exploring book subscription boxes, and one of the past boxes I was considering included hard copies of two of the novellas included in this collection. I love mermaids, and was immediately intrigued. A bit of investigation later, I had pre-ordered the anthology that collected all fourteen stories. I'm still a bit unclear if all the tales are novella-length, or some are shorter. But still a huge amount of content for not a lot of money.
  • Night Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann
    Brockmann's Troubleshooters series of Navy SEALS and anti-terrorism operatives (and the FBI agent ever, Jules Cassidy!) is one of my favorite series. I had stopped following what she has been up to since she announced she was taking a break from them, so I hadn't realized she had written a YA thriller with her daughter. Wicked cool.
  • A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
    I had reviewed The Bollywood Bride by the author and liked it enough to hunt out the author's first book, which takes place in the same world.
  • The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister
    You had me at "Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus." The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of my favorite books, and I hope the comparison is a good one.
  • Faking It by Leah Marie Brown
    I'm currently reading the sequel, Finding It, which I received from the publisher via NetGalley, and am liking it so much I bought this one.
  • Letters to Zell by Camille Griep
    This is my monthly borrowed book from the Kindle Lending Library. The story combines two of my weaknesses: an epistolary novel and fairy tales. Swoon!
  • Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire
    This is a Kindle Serial novel, meaning I have to sit impatiently for two weeks after each new installment for the next one. If you haven't read the first one, you really really should. It's like CSI and the Brother Grimm had a one-night-stand, and the resulting love child was raised by Joss Whedon.
Three new ARCs also came in. Plus my backlog of my existing book collection.

Oh, and I did break down and subscribe to two of monthly book boxes.

I know I have a problem. I know.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

View from a Hammock

I recently returned from a much-needed vacation at Hilton Head Island, SC. Having been born and raised in the mid-Atlantic, and lived here for most of my life, it is always odd to visit a different ecosystem. The plants look so different! The wildlife is strange! It's nice going to a place like Hilton Head after Labor Day. It's technically the "off" season for tourism so it's not crowded. The weather is wonderful: not oppressively hot and humid, but not chilly. And there is still plenty to see and do.


I stood on an oyster bar.

Went kayaking.

Took a boat tour and saw dolphins. (Including baby dolphins! SQUEE!)

Held live sand dollars. Which was SO COOL. I'd never really thought of them as living creatures before, which is stupid in hindsight, because they obviously are.

Saw some new butterfly species. (My biologist friend IDed this as a long-tailed skipper.)

And, of course, spent as much time as I could laying in a hammock reading. I didn't get as much reading done as I expected. I discovered hammocks were extremely comfortable and very conducive to napping.

I'm glad to be home, though sad at the same time. It was paradise down there. But I have my kitties again, and a stack of books to read, and I'm in the middle of knitting a skirt that I'm very excited about.

Until next time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev

The Bollywood BrideThe Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced review copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

Ria Parkar is a Bollywood star. She returns home to Chicago for her cousin's wedding, and comes face-to-face with her first love, Vikram, whose heart she broke in the most horrible way.

I waffled between three or four stars for this book. I did really enjoy reading this and liked the characters. Ria was so broken that I wanted to reach into the book and give her a big hug. But at the same time, the angst reached almost unbearable levels a number of times, and much of the problems could have resolved themselves easily if Ria actually opened up to somebody instead of defaulting to avoiding her feelings or running away.

I liked this book enough to go buy Dev's first book, which one the main characters I noticed had a brief cameo in this one. So readers who enjoyed A Bollywood Affair would get a nice smile from that.

I appreciated that Dev avoided many of the pitfalls of the romance genre, with characters and plots that seemed cliched and fake. Her characters were human, with flaws and real emotions that despite all the drama in their backstories, never veered into soap opera levels of unbelievable. The obstacles between Ria and Vikram's happily ever after are personal and self-inflicted. There are no outside forces keeping them apart. It would have been very easy for Vikram's meddling mother to have been given a larger part in the story, and I appreciated that she wasn't. Instead, the main characters had to work through their own issues and come to terms with them.

This was a very warm book, despite the darkness in Ria's past. Dev showcases love in many forms, not just romantic love. Familial love, friend-love, and love within a community are all present. And throughout the entire book, there is love of culture. Dev, through Ria, shows the love and respet she has for Indian and Hindu culture, and it was enlightening as an outsider to see it through Ria's eyes.

So I obviously appreciated the book a lot, and enjoyed reading it. Why then did I choose 3 stars instead of 4? Because at the end of the day, as invested as I was in the character and the story, I still felt there was a veneer of shallowness to everything. Not that the book was superficial - it wasn't. "Ice Princess" Ria as the POV character seemed as stand-offish to the reader as she was to the other characters in the book. Her voice made me feel as if there was an invisible wall between me and the story, which made me unable to fully immerse myself as I would have liked.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: The Only Woman in the Room by Eileen Pollack

The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' ClubThe Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club by Eileen Pollack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced review copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

The description for this book is a bit misleading. The first half is Pollack's memoir of her own experiences as a student from childhood in public school in a predominantly Jewish area through college at Yale as one of the few female physics majors. The second half of the book is more in line with what I had been expecting given the description, and includes anecdata from other women who Pollack had known or interviewed from her own generation and the later generation of female science majors and scientists, as well as recaps of interviews with her former professors and teachers who we had met in the first half of the book.

This is a deeply personal story for Pollack, but at the same time it is also deeply personal for every girl who thought she wasn't smart enough, or every woman who decided to drop out of a science major, or every student who didn't even try for a science degree in the first place. This book was deeply personal for me.

Pollack's experiences are not every woman's or minorities' experiences, but they are similar enough that many can relate. One of my criticisms of this book is Pollack's weakness in connecting women's experiences with the similar experiences of minorities and economically disadvantaged students. She does mention that several times, but it is definitely a message that can be strengthened. Towards the end of the book, Pollack noted that some students, even if they enter into college at the top of their high school graduating class, find themselves floundering and behind other students because they were not privileged enough for their schools to offer certain courses. I wish Pollack had highlighted that more because it's a problem that systemically places students from under-served, poorer schools at a disadvantage in college.

I write this review the day after a 14-year-old Muslim boy with brown skin was detained by his school and arrested for bringing in a homemade clock to show off to his science teacher, which another teacher reported as a bomb. That is an extreme case of the educational culture discouraging a minority from entering a STEM field, but it highlights the challenges that some students face by virtue of their sex or ethnicity.

Pollack's story is an important one, and both its strength and weakness is its reliance on anecdotes (what I referred to as "anecdata" earlier) from her own experiences and gleaned from interviews or missives with other women or minorities. She does mention the results of a few studies of bias against women in STEM, but the bulk of the book are anecdata rather than empirical controlled studies. The anecdata bring the problems to life in a way that pure numbers don't, yet at the same time anecdotes are easy for those in the sciences to discount because they are not data (hence why I have been referring to them as "anecdata" because, well, it can be argued that the plural for anecdote is data).

Given the larger conversation that has been on-going for the past few years of women in the sciences, and the blatant misogyny that I keep running up against from big names (Google "Richard Dawkins women"), The Only Woman in the Room is an important book, and very timely. Remember in June when Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Tim Hunt said at a science conference in South Korea, “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry”? Or last November when European Space Agency Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor gave public interviews after the Philae space probe landed on a comet while wearing a shirt covered in nearly naked women? It is heartening, I guess, that all of these incidents have lead to huge public outcries and public apologies (in the case of Taylor) or firings (in the case of Hunt). A decade or two earlier, they would have been the status quo.

I hope that Pollack's book inspires change in STEM education at all levels, and I hope that it also inspires women to pursue STEM educations and careers.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A New Chapter

Much has happened since I last updated this blog. I've left jobs, acquired new pets, learnt new skills, acquired new hobbies, and realized just how difficult it is for me to maintain constant blog updates in a world where I have many distractions.

Today is July 23, 2015, and I endeavor to remember that this blog exists and to update it regularly.

So an update in list format:
  1. I am a hooker no more. Or, at least, not only a hooker. I am now also a knitter and a spinner. The crochet hook is an insidious gateway drug to the rest of the fiber world. My stash overfloweth to include not just yarn now, but spinning fiber. And to my consternation, is not shrinking because spinning results in the creation of new yarn and does not actually decrease the stash.
  2. My household has increased by a net of two cats. Zephyr passed shortly after my last post, and I adopted two brothers from the same litter soon after, and then a year later, another cat. Samm the bun is still kicking, albeit a tad slower than in her younger days. I enjoy my little menagerie, though wish Ginger (one of the brothers) is a little less of an asshole at times (all the time).
  3. My bookshelf is as full as ever, despite my efforts to keep it manageable. As I try to crochet/knit/spin from stash, I suppose I should try reading from stash too. (Yeah, I'm laughing at myself too.)
  4. New hobby! I've rediscovered my love of tabletop gaming and hope to have some game reviews in addition to book reviews and my random musings on cats, yarn, and life in general.
Until next time, I remain your friendly neighborhood reader, dreamer, and creator.

Image by Alex Colmedo