Book 190: Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour


Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

Finished reading on September 30th, 2015
Rating: 8/10

I started reading this book some time in the summer and got a little over a hundred pages in and then left it on might night stand for months. Then I picked it up on Tuesday and finished a little less than 200 pages in the next 24 hours or so.

The book takes place in Tehran, Iran, where there is a love story about to begin between two young people who seem to be in their twenties – Sara and Dara. They start by sending each other encrypted messages using library books.

The narration in this book however is something that will draw your attention – it is narrated by the author and in-between there are his thoughts and even seemingly conversations with a censor. The censoring and the plot make the novel feel like there’s always someone watching the main characters, and you end up being really worried about them all the time, as there might be bad consequences to a young man and woman who are not related, being found spending time together.

It is also interesting because Sara is being courted by a young well-to-do Sinbad, and the thoughts Dara has about it are quite scary and manic.

It was definitely interesting – partly because of the different culture, but also because of the way the book is written.

It also has many references to classic works of literature – never a bad thing in a book.

The end was very surprising.

And to finish up, a great quote from Dara’s father:

“According to the latest scientific research, only twenty percent of men in the world have brains, the rest have wives.”

from Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

Book 189: The Haunted Observatory by Richard Baum


The Haunted Observatory by Richard Baum

Finished reading some time last week before going to a new college.

Rating: 7.5/10

This book is one of several that I’ve had in my wishlist on several bookstore websites for years (probably three years), but because it seems more as if it just fun tales and anecdotes, then it isn’t really a highly needed reading, or is it?

Do you learn something new? Yes. Is it something new that you can put into a random chat with a stranger at an observatory? Unlikely – it’s rather specific in it’s scope by dealing with observations that at the time seemed like difficult to explain with physics (or in some cases – biology), but turned out to have quite decent explanations.

If you’re thinking that you’ll find aliens in this book – you won’t. However you’d see that there are observations that’ll take lots of time to find an explanation, and that sometimes you can observe something that should be there, but isn’t physically possible to see with your equipment. Or how you can observe locusts or seeds and be very confused because that’s not normally what you’d expect to see.

I did find the book very interesting, and very well researched, and I hadn’t read or heard any of these curious stories beforehand, so it was quite fun – you do meet quite a few of famous astronomers (if you know your history of astronomy, if not, well the astronomers in the book were mostly famous).

I think you have to have a specific interest in curious observations to fully appreciate this book, or at least a firm footing in astronomy because otherwise it’d take a lot of time to get the point why something or other doesn’t make sense.

Lovely book. I’m glad I read it.

Book 188: The Explorer by James Smythe


The Explorer by James Smythe

Rating: 5/10

This is the first part of a series of which I read the second book “The Echo” first. I hoped that maybe there’d be some explanation to some things that bugged me in the second book and that’s why I read it.

In this book there’s a spacecraft that is travelling at warp speed (something I don’t remember being actually said out loud in the second book, but that’s one worrying aspect less), apparently just so that it could go as far as it can with about half the fuel and then turn around and go back. However, it’s more just a psychological thriller set in space – the crew and what happens to them, and mainly about what happens to the journalist Cormac Easton.

It is interesting in some ways for sure, the whole premise is quite nice, but I can’t tell more about it to avoid spoilers.

As a slight explanation for the second book in the series it’s fine. I doubt I would have wanted to read the second book if I’d had started from the first one. I think that “The Echo” really is the superior book and hope the following part/s will be as well.

The book surprised me by actually being surprising – you get used to what’s going on, and something happens to turn everything upside down.

It was a very quick read though, and I’m sure some people would enjoy it, I just didn’t really like any of the characters – maybe they’re not likable, or just too strange for me…  :)

Book 187: The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy

Finished on August 26th, 2015

Rating: 7/10 (Narration was great, characters excellent, but the viewpoint is dismal)

I’m a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory” and although a few years back I did show up some interest in philosophy I can’t really say that I would be too much into thinking hard about thinking etc… However I thought that this might be a good first book to listen to as an audio book – I know all the characters and I’ve seen most of the TV series episode at least three times, with earlier seasons possibly up to ten times.

The narration was nice and so was the whole book, although I’m quite certain that had it been just the philosophy part I would have given up on even just listening to this book quite early on in the experience.

The book for example delves into such topics as friendship and families,religious beliefs, lying etc, usual stereotypes such as someone who is very pretty isn’t very smart, and someone who’s very smart usually isn’t too smart in everyday things.

I think if you want a good first book to read/listen to about philosophy, then this one is a nice start (although does there have to be anything further is a different question).

As such I

Book 186: The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany


The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

Finished reading on July 23nd, 2015

Rating: 7/10

“The Yacoubian Building” is set in Cairo, Egypt and deals with the lives of some of the people who live in one building. In the book you meet some people who are really quite different – although they live in the same building their living conditions are very different. For example you meet a young boy who wants to become a police officer, but there are difficulties that stand in his way and aim his later life in a rather different direction.

That is basically the main theme as I saw it – you’ll be expecting one thing and something totally different will happen.

The book does contain quite a lot of adult content.

Reading this book did feel as if I was just peeking into the lives of the characters through the windows.

One of the troubling aspects for me was that none of the characters are really altogether likable – mostly they’re obsessed with something – religion, work, sex etc – to a point that’s disturbing and strange.

Book 185: The Echo by James Smythe


The Echo by James Smythe

Finished reading on July 18th, 2015

Rating: 8/10

This is the second book of a series of four books and the first of those that I’ve read. I hadn’t even heard of this book before I got this as a present. However the back cover mentions a space program and the disappearance of a spaceship, so I figured it should be right up my alley.

It was in a way. If you’ve read Andy Weir’s “The Martian”, then you might like it. In my view it’s kind of the movie “Moon” put together with The Martian and some extra dark substance.

So the premise – there’s an anomaly – something no-one knows anything about, except that it’s dark. And there’s the second mission going to investigate it several years after the first mission there disappeared.

I think that this book is interesting from the psychological side of things – what and how the members of the crew do and how do they deal with things, but ultimately it’s about sibling rivalry and (read it with the voice of The Sorting Hat) “a thirst to prove yourself”.

To not give anything away that’s how far into the plot I’ll go. Have to say I’m quite curious to know what happened in the first book (although it’s not necessary to read the first one before this one) and what will happen next.

I did find it quite interesting and a very fast read, maybe even a bit too fast – there don’t seem to be too many descriptions of anything really…

Possible spoilers coming up! Highlight at you own peril.

There were a couple of things that bugged me – maybe they were or will be addressed in the previous/next books – it’s the physical nature of the anomaly, the closed time-like curves, communication-speed with Earth and the stars that they’re passing by.

Book 184: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Finished reading on July 15th, 2015

Rating: 8/10

Since everyone knows the basics for the story, I’ll just write down the things I liked about the book and things I didn’t like:

1. I like the red comet and how the peoples ideas about it resemble what people in the Middle Ages would have thought will happen if they’d seen a comet like that.
2. I like the strong female characters – Dany because she’s awesome, Arya, because she’s cool. And I admire some that I don’t particularly like – Cersei a bit of a mystery, but I like to ponder about what goes on in her head (In a similar way as what would Hitler’s mother have thought…?) and Sansa – just the irony of it all… I guess Brienne and Lady Stark are cool too…
3. I like how you can keep on reading t without getting awfully bored, but might still fall asleep.
4. The whole idea of the Star kids getting to be their direwolves in their dreams…

I obviously don’t like Theon Greyjoy and Joffrey and Jamie etc etc.

After watching some episodes of season two of the tv series, I have to say that I prefer the book – it’s more enjoyable, and less awful.

Also I started to wonder about the anatomy and physiology of dragons and the mechanism behind their fire-breathing. Do dragons breathe out oxygen and have a tiny sparkle maker somewhere in their throat?

Book 183: The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin


The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
Finished reading on July 10th, 2015
Rating: 8/10

I started reading this thinking it’s a children’s book. I finished reading it knowing that it certainly isn’t one.

This volume has in it all four books of the Earthsea Quartet – A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu.

In A Wizard of Earthsea we meet the young Sparrowhawk, who is about to learn to be a wizard, but while he’s at it he is or seems rather arrogant and gets himself into some serious trouble – he does deal with it, but it’s quite dark and morbid even.

In The Tombs of Atuan we meet another young person – Arha, the Priestess of Atuan, who has lived all her life without ever meeting men and is a part of a strange religion. Here we meet Sparrowhawk again, but in a different light.

In The Farthest Shore Sparrowhawk has gotten old, and we have a new young character to admire – Arren, a young prince who doesn’t know what’s waiting for him, as he sets out to deliver a message and ends up journeying with Sparrowhawk to the land of the dead.

And in the last book, Tehanu, there’re Sparrowhawk and Arha and another young character – Therru, who are trying to lead a calm life but son’t get to because of other people’s superstition and ill wishes.

In these books there are some very interesting topics – for example whether or not women have any power and why. They seem to be just underlings to males – while the men who have the power can become mages and wizard, women cannot, and can only aspire to be witches and healers.

I quite enjoyed reading it all, it’s a fascinating world with dragons and wizards but also awful things that hide in the dark. It all ends relatively well though.

Book 182: Black Hole by Marcia Bartusiak


Black Hole by Marcia Bartusiak

Finished reading on July 4th, 2015

Rating: 10/10

Black holes are some of the most fascinating astronomical objects for the general public, and they do come up quite often in popular culture (think Interstellar…). Bartusiak’s “Black Hole” brings the history of the idea and the basic physics (or as much as scientists know about the laws of physics governing black holes) to the general reader in a fun romp through centuries of scientist thinking about the possibility of an object with such huge mass that even light would not get out.

The last time I read about black holes was in October of last year, when I also wrote a review of Caleb Scharf’s “Gravity’s Engines”. Then as now, I wasn’t altogether interested in black holes – it’s something to do with their popularity and the fact that more than 50% of questions I get at work from children are about black holes. Anyway, despite my dislike for black holes, I find myself once again enjoying a book on the topic enough to rate it with the highest 10 points. Maybe it’s just that I like how well organized and systematic the book is and how you find out more about some astronomers and physicists you might have heard of but wouldn’t connect with black holes.

Also knowing that there are great experiments such as LIGO running to get observational proof for the existence of black holes, makes the reading highly interesting, as there is a repeating theme in almost all books about a specific type of object in astronomy – someone suggests the idea quite early on (not astronomically early, but considering history of science), and everyone thinks that nature is unlikely to create such folly, and then as ideas are gathered and the laws of physics are understood better, it starts to seem less and less unlikely until the eventual discovery of it… right? ( I do hope extraterrestrial life will end up being one of those types of topics…)

One thing that I like the most, ofcourse is, when an idea is considered so outlandish, that scientists try to prove that such a thing just simply can’t exist, as was the case with black holes. And that is basically what you can read about in the book in great detail.

In short: the book is excellent, nothing like Caleb Scharf’s book although the topic is partly the same. And you don’t need to know a lot of physics or higher mathematics to fly through it in a couple of sittings.

Book 181: The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson


The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Finished reading on July 1st, 2015

Rating: 7/10

I picked this book up because of New Horizons approach to Pluto and because I’d want to understand the whole hullabaloo around Pluto’s status change.

The book was interesting, but if you take a side – pro planet Pluto or pro dwarf-planet Pluto, it’ll feel as if you’re in an argument here. And it just feels silly to me. I think it might have to do with me living in Eastern-Europe and Pluto being discovered by an American – my feelings can be put together into one word – “meh”. So reading this book was ok, you do find out more about the situation and the discovery of Pluto and who were supporting Pluto to stay a planet, but you don’t really find out much about Pluto as such (but we will in about a week, right?).

It would be interesting to know what some other people thought of this book or just the topic of planetary status – would you have liked Pluto to remain a planet? Does it even matter when scientists decide that one thing is something else?