I found out about the Dresden book series on goodreads and even if it had quite a few fans and was recommended in several threads, it took me a long time to decide to read it because it’s not something I would normally choose. The official category for it is ‘urban fantasy’ – I love fantasy but didn’t really appreciate the urban part and I was expecting a dark, gloomy book. I can’t say that it was all fun and laughter, but it was better than I expected.
The series is about a wizard living in modern day Chicago, working as a private investigator and helping the police with magic-related crimes. If we exclude the wizard and magic from the previous sentence we have the description for half of the shows on TV these days and there is a lot of overlap in the tropes department, but the book is much better in handling them.
On the magic side of things, my only experience is in the Harry Potter universe; the magic in Storm Front is a strange mix of modern and old, of secret and out in the open, and sometimes it felt a little forced. There are few characters who believe magic is real but there are many who are faced with its effects and they don’t seem to really wonder about it.
The writing is good, the action is well paced and the descriptions are usually the right length – my only problem was with the ‘technical’ aspects of magic. Maybe there are readers who liked reading about the importance of circles and why a potion was created in a particular way, but I didn’t.
I place the book in the light reads category (although there were some gory scenes) and might continue with the series if I ever get in the mood for some quick magical mystery.
I found out about Genie in the Bottle when researching Prussian Blue for a post I planned to write (and I hope I will get to publish someday) and the book was quite interesting, even if I’m not very passionate about chemistry. Both books have many short stories, a few pages long, about different things that relate to chemistry in one way or another. The chemistry explanations are not very lengthy and even if you don’t know any chemistry, most explanations are generic enough to be understood. The subjects cover a lot of domains and are not all about the recent years, so there’s something for everyone, but the way subjects are presented is not always that great.
The stories in Genie were better written, a bit more in depth and felt complete. The format is slightly different for Brain Fuel, where each section answers a question, and some of the questions feel like a sensationalist commercial for the information contained in the next few pages. Frustratingly, some of the answers end with a short summary of other uses for the substance or other things that happened that are far more interesting than the rest of the answer.
On the historical side, there are many things I didn’t know and it’s very interesting to find out how many of the products we use today came to be. To return to my Prussian Blue research idea, the information I found in Genie in the Bottle about the discovery of Prussian Blue was the most complete and coherent, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the sources Mr. Schwarcz used.
There’s a long list of articles about making mistakes, trying new things, discovering and by now we’ve reached the point when I doubt anyone can come up with new things in this particular line of thought. We agree that we should experiment more, that children should be taught not to fear making mistakes (or rather not be taught that making mistakes is bad) but we all go on as we were, put motivational posters on our walls, virtual or otherwise, and feel we’ve made a change.
This morning I saw a man running and I thought he was trying to catch the tram I was on. He seemed quick enough to catch it and I wondered for a moment what it would be like if he got on the tram and everyone who saw him running cheered him, or at least smiled at him.
Public transportation is a strange thing, with so many people trying to block each other while almost touching each other and smelling each other and being closer than they are to most people they know. There are some older people who sometimes start a conversation with the strangers sitting next to them and I wonder if it’s because they can’t stand the isolation or the silence or the way the world’s changed.
What are the chances that an everyday object – a rock, a chair, you name it – could suddenly appear out of thin air? Not zero, surprisingly. In fact, given enough space and time, it is conceivable that a conscious being could arise,even if only for a microsecond.
(Spooks in Space – NewScientist)
So hoping that a magically perfect something or someone will suddenly appear is… scientific. And you know what they say about dreams, that they last a few seconds but feel much longer in dream-land. Dream on.
Quotes for Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
My reading notes for Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist, the first two books in the Riftwar Saga series. The notes were written as I read the book, so no spoilers for the other books in the series. More on my reading notes here.
Pyramids is a book with a strange balance between things I liked and things I didn’t really care for. It was written in 1989, one of the first Discworld books, around the time when Moving Pictures was written (another book I wasn’t very fond of), and I think that’s partly to blame because it felt like the world wasn’t fully formed. As it doesn’t take place in Ankh-Morpork, there’s nothing to compare with the books I did like, but my feeling was that there were some interesting characters and events that heaped together and connected without too much care to how it would end up.
Now to the things I did enjoy. I’ve always been fascinated by pyramids and ancient Egypt and this part of the book I loved. Some of the characters were great, but I wish we’d seen more of Dios, especially in the end when his secrets were revealed (there was far more time spent creating the secrets than there was explaining them). The big disappointment was Ptarci, who seemed to change according to what the plot needed – except for the ending, when she was the opposite of the ruler that was needed, but was used anyway.
I started studying German in school, in the 6th grade, and we had classes until the 12th grade. We never got to do much aside from basic conversation and learn grammar rules (which were fine by me) but I always planned to learn it properly. After much procrastination where the thought of it was the most I could manage, a month ago I actually started studying.
I have a little learn-on-your-own book with a CD I haven’t yet opened, but I’m happy to report that my vocabulary is improving, I am remembering the grammar rules (they’re not as logical as I remembered them to be) and I am optimistic about my chances to learn German before I retire
Aside from the book I mentioned, I have found a few online resources and tools and a few were recommended by a friend who is a German teacher: