Ice Bucket Challenge

If you’d like to see a bibliophibian getting drenched in water rather than books, follow this link!

In summary: I did the Ice Bucket Challenge. I nominate my mother, Amy and Rachel, and I will be donating anyway. If it so happens that you’re against animal testing, you may not want to donate to the ALSA: they do testing on C. elegans worms and on engineered mice with the faulty gene, as well as a kind of fish. If you oppose that, you might want to donate to the British MNDA instead: I’m not positive there’s no animal testing, but it funds all kinds of research, much of it not involving animals.

Funding is important, but so is awareness and understanding. Do consider reading up on what ALS is and how it affects people, and reach out in whatever way you can.

 

Note: I do not support unnecessary animal research. However, I’m aware of many cases where essential and important medications, vaccines, etc, have been tested on animals. I do recommend this comment I found online without attribution:

“People who protest animal testing in the search for a cure to a disease should be asked to wear a bracelet that states that they refuse any treatment, remedy, or drug that was developed using animal testing. By doing so they would demonstrate that their ethical position against animal testing is so sincere that they would condemn themselves to the same fate to which they are willing to condemn others.”

That’s just food for thought: it certainly made me think. Whatever ethical decisions you make, thinking it through instead of knee-jerking is crucial, or it isn’t an ethical decision at all.

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Stacking the Shelves

I’m trying not to buy too many books, still, despite my book ban being over. That did not stop me from going to the library and picking up a new book/one with a voucher… Time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews!

Fiction (bought)

Cover of Lock In by John Scalzi Cover of Dreamwalker by J D Oswald

I didn’t intend to pounce on Lock In when it came out, but I spotted it in the shop today, so I thought I might as well pick it up. As for Dreamwalker, it involves dragons, so, hey! Plus, free voucher because I filled my stamp card, so.

Fiction (library)

Cover of Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock Cover of We Are Here by Michael Marshall Cover of The Sorcerer's House by Gene Wolfe

Cover of Homer's Odyssey by Simon Armitage Cover of Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K Dick Cover of Timescape by Gregory Benford

Cover of Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee Cover of Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg

Various things for various challenges, here, plus some I’ve been meaning to read for a while — I like Michael Marshall’s SF, and I love Gene Wolfe in general. Simon Armitage’s work is generally awesome, too. All in all, pleased with this library haul.

Library (non-fiction)

Cover of the Selfish Genius by Fern Elsdon-Baker Cover of The Hidden Landscape by Richard Fortey Cover of Eating the Sun, by Oliver Morton

Cover of On My Way to Jorvik by John Sunderland

While Dawkins has more business commenting about biology and genetics than he does about babies with Down’s syndrome or religion, it’s interesting to see someone challenge some of his ideas. I already reviewed that one here. And of course, I just really enjoy the way Fortey writes.

Review copies

Cover of Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton Cover of Poisoned Pearls by Leah Cutter

I’ve been hoping for Unspeakable for a while, so thanks to Little, Brown for that! Poisoned Pearls came via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, which is always awesome. Thank you to them and to Book View Cafe! I think I’ve read something else by Leah Cutter and quite enjoyed it…

What’s anyone else been getting their hands on?

Review – The Selfish Genius

Cover of the Selfish Genius by Fern Elsdon-BakerThe Selfish Genius, Fern Elsdon-Baker

If you’re looking for pure drama, sorry, the title is just intended to be flippant. If you’re looking for a genuine, in depth critique of Dawkins’ work and public persona — everything from his published research to his way of communicating with the public to his attitude in The God Delusion — then you might well enjoy this. Fern Elsdon-Baker has a scientific background and is an atheist, and has some fairly large bones to pick with Dawkins, while acknowledging at the same time his work in the field, his intelligence, and the accessibility of his popular science books.

Mostly, Elsdon-Baker respects Dawkins, and just disagrees with the way he chooses to express himself, pointing out that he often acts as though science is right now, rather than a subject which is always growing and making new discoveries. There’s some critique of his actual ideas as well, though, and this isn’t some kind of tone argument — Elsdon-Baker firmly believes that there is a correct way to communicate science to the public, and Dawkins isn’t doing it.

The writing is clear, and Elsdon-Baker makes it constantly clear on what grounds she criticises Dawkins, on the background to the various issues discussed, and the fact that this is an opinion, and most of it is not factual. I enjoyed reading it, and not just because I think it’s high time someone criticised Dawkins professionally and thoroughly.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday Thoughts: Social Media

Today’s Thursday Thoughts from Ok, Let’s Read is about social media:

Have you ever connected with an author through social media? Do you think it’s important to have things like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a blogger, reviewer or author? Why or why not? How do you think social media has progressed and changed the bookish world in recent years? And, now for a fun question: Are there any authors who’s Twitter feed you just can’t get enough of?

I have connected with authors through social media, quite a lot. I tend to follow authors I like or who say interesting things on Twitter, so I do actually discover new books through Twitter sometimes. I met Jo Walton through LiveJournal, and after a couple of years chatting on there, I met her in person a couple of weeks ago and spent the day with her and a lot of other people. So that was pretty cool. I’ve also got some authors on Facebook and stuff like that — Chris F. Holm is on my FB list after he linked to a post here and kindly added me so I can read the discussion, and I follow him on Twitter, etc. It can be a really good tool for just getting brief but meaningful and non-stressful interactions with authors: I’ve had back and forths with Saladin Ahmed, Kameron Hurley, Joanne Harris, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K. Jemisin… It’s great. Some interactions have been more positive than others (Nnedi Okorafor and I didn’t completely get on), but it’s always interesting.

I think it helps to have at least one social media account, to boost your profile a bit and give you another medium to talk, maybe less formally than in a blog post. Instagram seems less important to me, and I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but Twitter and the ability for people to RT my reviews is great, plus there’s plenty of competitions for ARCs and so on that go on via social media. Goodreads and LibraryThing are also good ways to connect with other book reviewers, and a lot of the reviewers I follow are still on those platforms — I transitioned to my own blog because I disagree with some GR policies, and didn’t want them to have my content exclusively, plus it wasn’t a good place for posts like this. It’s also better to have your own blog for getting ARCs, and you can’t really do blog tours on GR or LT, so there’s that as well.

It does change the way the book world works in some ways, for those who do interact with authors on social media, and for authors who interact on social media. Sometimes I think authors do themselves a disservice by airing their opinions hastily (or sometimes at all) on Twitter. Sometimes authors really promote their work that way, though.

As for authors whose Twitter feeds I can’t get enough of, there’s obviously John Scalzi, who is usually smart and pretty much always hilarious, and Kameron Hurley, because I enjoy her blog posts and her thoughts on pretty much everything. N.K. Jemisin often has smart things to say and interesting links, too.

What are you reading Wednesday

What have you recently finished reading?
The Selfish Genius (Fern Elsdon-Baker). It critiques Richard Dawkins from the point of view of another scientist who is also an atheist, which makes it quite interesting — the title is meant to be just a glib reference rather than a particularly accusation. I need to write a review of this, but I’m going to mull it over a bit longer first.

What are you currently reading?
As usual, way too much. I most recently picked up We Are Here, a thriller by Michael Marshall; I’ve read some of his SF before, but not his thrillers. So far, I’m enjoying the writing style, but I don’t know how much I’m going to like the thing as a whole.

There’s also Black Unicorn (Tanith Lee), which is, shockingly, my first Tanith Lee read. I’m intrigued so far. It’s quite short, so no doubt I’ll finish it soon.

What will you read next?
Well, I got a book on photosynthesis and its importance for/impact on our world today — Eating the Sun (Oliver Morton) — which, along with my books on genetics, prompted my dad to suggest I must be planning to create Groot and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy. So just for that, I think that might be up next.

Review – Behold the Man

Cover of Behold the Man by Michael MoorcockBehold the Man, Michael Moorcock

Moorcock’s Behold the Man is entirely different to his Elric books, or Gloriana, or anything else of his I’ve come across so far. Certain people might find it offensive because it undermines the sanctity of Jesus Christ, and tangles that story up in a lot of sexual and mental health hangups. Worse, the figure who becomes Jesus is not altruistic, but self-absorbed and narcissistic.

Still, I think it’s a very interesting way of looking at the story, even if I don’t like the way it portrays Christianity. In a way, it suggests the power of the Christian message: the pure message survives even through a human being’s selfishness and fallibility. The time travel aspect isn’t very prominent, and I don’t think it was really written as science fiction — speculative fiction, yes, but I wouldn’t call it sci-fi. Really, it toys with ideas of identity, predestination, time loops, etc. Technology is not a prominent aspect.

It’s an easy read, actually: I read it in about an hour. If you don’t mind Moorcock playing with basics of Christianity, then you might well find it interesting.

Rating: 3/5

Review – The Naked Ape

Cover of The Naked Ape by Desmond MorrisThe Naked Ape, Desmond Morris

I think the concept of this approach to humans as an animal like any other is a brilliant one. We are prone to thinking of ourselves as a species apart, when we’re not, and even if we were, we could do with putting back in our places sometimes — being human doesn’t mean we’re more worthy than any other creature, all of which have their own adaptations to deal with the environment they find themselves in. We’re particularly versatile, yes, but because we evolved that way, not because of some special merit.

Anyway, while the approach is interesting, and Desmond Morris’ writing is engaging, this is definitely out of date. He keeps a few too many of his human expectations kicking around, like expectations of gender roles and sexuality. It is a really old book, which explains it, and it could undoubtedly do with some updating.

If you’re particularly attached to notions of humans as being sacred, set apart, etc, you won’t want to read this. And if you have any sexual hangups, you won’t want to read this, either — there’s a whole chapter on sex. Granted, it’s a very old view of sex, considering it only in terms of adaptations (dare we whisper to Morris that homosexual behaviour could persist in a population simply because it feels good and only strict monogamy would mean that any ‘gay gene’ would die out?), but still, it can be fairly explicit.

I don’t agree with Morris on many aspects, but his attempt to study humans as animals must be commended.

Rating: 3/5