User Profile

MarvinFreeman

marvinfreeman@ramblingreaders.org

Joined 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm a lifelong reader. Mostly, I read novels. The novels I enjoy most help me express the formerly inexpressible. notice things that I didn't discern, or immerse me in a world different than my own.

I read other things, too: mysteries and science fiction when others might watch a television series' (not that I don't watch television); nonfiction history and natural science; young adult fiction; well-written essays; and letters.

I ski, hike, cycle, follow baseball, enjoy conversation, write letters, and work to sustain friendships.

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Muriel Spark: The prime of Miss Jean Brodie (2004, Everyman's Library, distributed by Random House) No rating

Muriel Spark’s timeless classic about a controversial teacher who deeply marks the lives of a …

Intriguing Form; Puzzling Message

No rating

Content warning Spoilers Aplenty!

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Freddy F Fonseca: Heart Of Swine (EBook, Obex Publishing) 4 stars

The last swine left on Earth, Captain Grunter, is on a quest for justice.

With …

Inspired surrealism

4 stars

I was drawn to read Heart Of Swine by its brilliant cover design which evokes the graphics of Animal Farm by George Orwell with a titular nod to Heart Of A Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov, both of which rank highly amongst my favourite classics. Heart Of Swine is a brilliantly surreal tale, often nonsensical but with stark truths about how we live and especially about how easily fashionable trends can persuade vast swathes of the population to act against their best interests. While several aspects of the story did remain frustratingly unexplained - and were possibly just inexplicable - the whole concept does make a dark, warped sense. It's certainly a cautionary tale for our times.

Vegan truisms had me chuckling and I loved the whole London vibe that permeates Heart Of Swine. I found it best to go with the flow in reading this book. Overthinking individual aspects only …

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Rachel Carson: Man's War Against Nature (2021, Penguin Books, Limited) 4 stars

In twenty short books, Penguin brings you the classics of the environmental movement.

With the …

An excerpt from Silent Spring

4 stars

Penguin's 'Green Ideas' series is a new publication of twenty short books each written by an eminent environmental thinker and focusing on different aspects of our planet's environmental crisis. I am grateful to Penguin for sending me review copies of five of these works and, on the strength of what I have read so far, I look forward to completing the set myself.

Rachel Carson's famous call to action book, Silent Spring, which was first published in the 1960s, has been on my TBR list for a few years now and I will get around to reading it one day but, in the meantime, the excerpt published as part of Penguin's Green Ideas series under the title Man's War Against Nature has given me lots to mull over. In this little book Carson talks about the disastrous effects of our widespread dousing of chemical insecticides and herbicides across agricultural land …

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Masanobu Fukuoka: Dragonfly Will Be the Messiah (2021, Penguin Books, Limited) 4 stars

In twenty short books, Penguin brings you the classics of the environmental movement.

In The …

Lots of intriguing food for thought

4 stars

Penguin's 'Green Ideas' series is a new publication of twenty short books each written by an eminent environmental thinker and focusing on different aspects of our planet's environmental crisis. I am grateful to Penguin for sending me review copies of five of these works and, on the strength of what I have read so far, I look forward to completing the set myself.

I didn't find The Dragonfly Will Be the Messiah as easy to get into as the previous two Green Ideas books I read, The Democracy Of Species by Robin Wall Kimmerer and This Can't Be Happening by George Monbiot. Fukuoka seemed to jump between ideas too frequently so this book felt bitty. That said though, it still packs in lots of intriguing food for thought. Through it I have newly discovered Fukuoka's 'do nothing farming' system, elements of which reminded my of the Native American 'Three Sisters' …

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Anthony Veasna So: Afterparties (Hardcover, 2021, Ecco) No rating

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, …

3.7 stars. This collection of short stories about the lives of Cambodian refugees and their families living in the Central Valley was entertaining and surprising. None of the stories overstayed their welcome. I particularly appreciated the different ways the stories explored the question of what younger Cambodian immigrants owe their parents and other relatives killed in the genocide (“The Shop” explores this theme well), and the generational divide between parents who survived unimaginable horrors and their kids who grew up in relative safety in America — although the last story, “Generational Differences,” suggests that even that stereotypical divide may be illusory.

Not surprisingly, another major theme is the perceived limitations of what “Cambos” should, or can, do, and how that limits the ability to live in a way that’s true to oneself.

Ultimately, these stories of a community haunted by generational trauma and ghosts of the past, many of whom …

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Lenore Newman, Evan D. G. Fraser: Dinner on Mars (2022, ECW Press) 5 stars

From Impossible Burgers to lab-made sushi, two witty, plugged-in food scientists explore leading-edge AgTech for …

Delightfully irreverent

5 stars

Regular readers of my book reviews will know just how much I love books that pull together threads of topics I have explored through reading other books and that is certainly the case with Dinner On Mars. I highly recommend this not-so-fanciful flight to readers who appreciated Regenesis by George Monbiot, Just Enough by Azby Brown and After Meat by Karthik Sekar. In Dinner On Mars, food scientists Lenore Newman and Evan Fraser recount their Covid-era Zoom calls together in which they posited the theory of a human community building the first town on Mars and asked, if that were to happen, what would those people have for lunch?

There's a delightfully irreverent tone throughout the book so, although it contains a lot of cutting edge science, I found it to be a wonderfully entertaining read. Newman and Fraser find themselves forced to think ingeniously around problems including a much …

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Emily Henry: Book Lovers (Hardcover, 2022, Berkley) 3 stars

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. …

I didn't realize this would be a romance novel when I started reading it. It was in a list of books recommended to me that were book/library related. I don't normally read romance novels, so I can't comment on the genre's finer points, but I enjoyed the book. I see this becoming a rom-com movie someday, as it does a pretty good job of flipping the normal rom-com tropes on their head. The protagonist in "Book Lovers" is the high-powered career woman you hate in a regular "rom-com" and eventually is dumped in favour of the folksy hometown woman. Anyway, it was a funny book that is well worth the read.

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Gabrielle Zevin: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (2022, Penguin Random House) 5 stars

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur …

There are a lot of things I really liked about this book, but I think it’s important to know that it relies heavily on the reader both liking video games and taking video game design seriously as an art form. I am not that reader. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the character-driven exploration of how the relationship of two childhood friends evolves over time. That being said, I would have preferred if the backdrop involved running a restaurant, or a furniture design studio, or really anything other than a video games company. So long as you go in with the right expectations, I’d recommend this novel.

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Peng Shepherd: The Cartographers (Hardcover, 2022, William Morrow & Company, William Morrow) 4 stars

What is the purpose of a map?

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is …

The Cartographers is a book I should love but I can only muster up enough enthusiasm to give it a 3 star rating. An urban fantasy novel centred around the New York Public Library main branch, yes, please. The characters dig into the possibility that the intentional errors map makers add to the maps in order to copyright them, "phantom settlements" if you will, are in fact, real. While that is an intriguing premise, the execution of it left me feeling a bit confused. Continue on for minor spoilers.

What got me is that the characters in this novel focus is on one "phantom settlement". One character, in particular, is driven to do some pretty awful things to return to the settlement. This really doesn't make a ton of sense. If all of these settlements are real, why is the focus on only one location? Yes, I know they tried …

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Tamsyn Muir: Gideon the Ninth (EBook, 2019, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

"The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some …

Those who like this sort of thing...

3 stars

I've seen a lot of people raving about this and I was curious to try it, so was glad when it came up as a text for a book club I'm in. Having now finished it, I can see why some people really love it, but it's not really for me. It plunges you straight into the universe and it's overwhelming and bewildering for a long time as there's nothing too familiar to ground yourself on and work out what's going on. It's very stylised, with a strong authorial voice, which I don't mind, but information is doled out very slowly, both to the characters and the reader, so it does feel like wandering around in the dark a lot. The ending does reveal a lot of things that help to make sense of what's gone on before, but you need to cling on in faith that it's going to …