Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thoughts On Rating Books You Don't Finish

Almost every book blogger I follow has written about their views on reviewing books that they didn't actually finish (or DNFs), but I've never written abuot my own opinion. After seeing a couple more of these posts recently, I decided that maybe I should do so.

There are reviews here on my blog of books that I haven't finished, though recently I have done this less often. I haven't stopped doing so because I'm against the idea of it. I've just decided I don't want to spend my time writing reviews for those books. The entire thing would often be negative, and unless there's a good reason for it, I'm just not in the mood to go on about why I hated the book without having anything good to say about it. Still, I make the decision over whether I'll review a book on a case-by-case basis.

That being said, I almost always give any books I abandon a star rating on Goodreads, and I support people doing so. While I get why some people might consider it unfair, I don't see it that way myself. If I disliked a book so much that I couldn't finish it, then I think that's a valid experience that should be expressed through a rating or review.

Sure, there are other people who would undoubtedly love the book even if I couldn't finish it, but the same is true if I read an entire book and still gave it a negative rating.

Say a book has ten reviews that are average or positive, which makes that book's overall star rating rather good, but what you don't know is that another ten people disliked the book so much that they didn't finish it and didn't leave a review at all. I think that, in a case like that (albeit an unlikely one) that book's star rating is inaccurate, and it would be helpful if people could see that there were just as many people who disliked the book so much that they abandoned it as there were people who enjoyed it. I don't think that's unfair information to add into a rating. Ratings are, after all, to help people find books worth reading, and adding DNFs into the rating helps that.

If there were another option of Goodreads, Amazon, etc. where I could publicly mark the book as abandoned instead of giving it a rating, then I'd happily do that instead. (I know you can make your own DNF list on Goodreads, but I mean something that people would see while looking at the book information.) Maybe there would be information available on the book's page such as "this many people abandoned this book". I think that would be helpful, and I don't necessarily think it would need to be displayed as prominently as the average rating if it was there for people who wanted to see that information.

As that option doesn't currently exist, I'm going to keep rating books I abandon because I think that's information that's helpful for others and is as valid of a rating as a rating from someone who read the entire thing and gave it a negative review.

The other issue surrounding abandoned books is whether or not you add them to your "read" shelf on Goodreads (therefore letting them contribute to your numbers for the yearly reading challenge). I typically mark abandoned books as "read" if I finished more than half of the book. I think that that's fair enough and don't feel bad doing so, especially since, with the varying lengths of books, that can sometimes mean I read more of that book than another book that I actually finished.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Review: Harry Potter and History, Edited by Nancy Reagin

ISBN: 0470574720
Published: May 1st, 2011
Publisher: Wiley
Received: purchased
Read from May 1st to 6th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A guide to the history behind the world of Harry Potter just in time for the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II)
Harry Potter lives in a world that is both magical and historical. Hogwarts pupils ride an old-fashioned steam train to school, notes are taken on parchment with quill pens, and Muggle legends come to life in the form of werewolves, witches, and magical spells. This book is the first to explore the real history in which Harry's world is rooted.
Did you know that bezoars and mandrakes were fashionable luxury items for centuries? Find out how Europeans first developed the potions, spells, and charms taught at Hogwarts, from Avada Kedavra to love charms. Learn how the European prosecution of witches led to the Statute of Secrecy, meet the real Nicholas Flamel, see how the Malfoys stack up against Muggle English aristocrats, and compare the history of the wizarding world to real-life history.
Gives you the historical backdrop to Harry Potter's world
Covers topics ranging from how real British boarding schools compare to Hogwarts to how parchment, quills, and scrolls used in the wizarding world were made
Includes a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to Muggle "real" history
Filled with fascinating facts and background, Harry Potter and History is an essential companion for every Harry Potter fan.

Review:

Harry Potter and History is a collection of essays about Harry Potter and history. Pretty straight-forward. It was the first Harry Potter-related non-fiction book that I had read in a long time, and I was excited for it. I love almost anything that discusses Harry Potter, and I also love history. I had to give this book a shot.

And despite having some flaws, I had an enjoyable time reading Harry Potter and History. It was an interesting decision to write each essay as if the Harry Potter universe were real. Each writer uses "Muggle" as if it were a real term used to distinguish us normal people from the wizards and witches of Harry's world. Historical events from the wizarding world were also mentioned alongside real world events as if both had happened. I could see the potential for that getting confusing in a book like this, but it tends to be obvious what's real and what isn't. No one's going to think the formation of Quidditch teams is an actual historical event.

There were several points where I noticed that "facts" from the Harry Potter books weren't exactly accurate, and that got a little frustrating. You'd think that information from the books would be checked in a book entirely about Harry Potter. As far as the historical facts go, there was nothing I noticed as being wrong, but I'm not a historian (and didn't fact check the majority of the book). There are sources listed for each essay though.

I also can't avoid mentioning (because I'm sure there are people who would want to know this before picking up the book) that one essay in the book tries to make the point that werewolves in the Harry Potter series are a metaphor for pedophiles in the real world, which is not the first metaphor I would choose when there are others that (I think) work better. While the writer does a good job of explaining what makes them see it, I don't agree with that interpretation. I also don't remember how that part of the book was supposed to be connected to "history".

Still, much of the book was a fun read. I liked getting to read about stories of the past that I'd never heard before, including details about past magical practices. I particularly enjoyed reading about how perceptions of witchcraft changed over time and what signs of witchcraft were accepted at different times. (Apparently, it was once thought that witches being able to fly was ridiculous. If they thought they had, they were believed to be hallucinating, but this changed later when the idea of witches flying around on brooms at night became common. I find that interesting as it might seem "backwards" to us that they'd dismiss flying as impossible only to come to believe in it later.)

There are people out there who would enjoy this book, though I wouldn't go into it with incredibly high expectations. It's entertaining to read if you have an interest in Harry Potter and history. If you're looking for something like that, it might be worth checking out.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reign Review: 4x10 "A Better Man"

Yet another episode has cemented my belief that Darnley is more of a risk as king than anything resembling an asset. I will give him this though: This was the first episode where I thought he was trying.

We get Greer/James in this episode for  five seconds and then James is exiled. I've given up on anyone being happy by the time this series ends, so I can't say that I'm surprised, though I was expecting more to happen between them than what we got.

Mary's dismissal of Emily Knox gives me a lot of conflicted feelings. I do understand that what Emily did was terrible, but she is also being abused. Who knows what Knox is willing to do to her, and there's no doubt that she's scared of him. There are a number of ways Mary could have punished Emily for her crime without sending her back to Knox.

As I mentioned before, I'm not expecting many happy endings on this show, so I'm wondering what's going to happen between Elizabeth and Gideon. Obviously they're not destined to get married. Elizabeth never married, which means she's not going to successfully set anything up in this season either.

Nicole as a character seems to jump between personalities on any given day. First she's an "innocent" farm girl, then she becomes manipulative, and then she believes she's in love and becomes desperate. All of it happens so fast, from episode to episode, that I feel like I don't know what her personality is like. She feels more like a convenient plot device, doing whatever the writers need, and that bugs me.

Henry looks far older than his supposedly older brother Charles. (I have no idea what the actors' actual ages are, but you can't look at them both and tell me that Charles appears to be older. Henry looks as if he's the same age Francis was when he died.) We don't know anything about him yet (though I think he's going to be more hostile to Henry than he implied to Catherine), but the age thing is going to bug me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson

ISBN: 1442495995
Published: November 11th, 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Received: purchased
Read from April 17th to 20th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.
This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.
Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material.

Review:

In my review for The Infernal Devices I talked about knowing quite a bit about the series before reading but also not all that much, and I feel like it was the same way for The Bane Chronicles. I had an idea of what happened in a few of the stories (namely the ones with Malec), but there was plenty I didn't know as I read.

This book is a collection of short stories that follow Magnus Bane, the only character to appear in every Shadowhunters book. While having read other Shadowhunters books isn't necessarily a requirement for reading The Bane Chronicles, I do think it would be a good idea. As these are short stories, there isn't much worldbuilding, and it seems to be assumed that readers will understand the basics.

That being said, as Magnus is a Downworlder, the world of the story actually looks much different than that of the other Shadowhunters books. Of course, The Infernal Devices also has a main character who is a Warlock like Magnus, but she spends the entire series with Shadowhunters, meaning that series still focuses on the world primarily through the lens of the Shadowhunters. Magnus, however, tries to stay out of Shadowhunter business, and despite how often that doesn't go as planned in The Bane Chronicles, you see the universe from a point-of-view that's different from the other series, which makes it a unique experience.

As for the merits of each short story, I enjoyed some more than others. I think that's the nature of short story collections. There will always be a few that aren't as good as the others. I found myself getting into the later stories more than the earlier ones, which was probably combination of having gotten into the book and the stories overlapping more with events and characters we already knew from other books.

Camille is definitely portrayed in a different light in this book. This is the first time where I could say that I understood why Magnus fell in love with her in the first place. It's not something that's easy to see from The Infernal Devices and Mortal Instruments books.

This is undoubtedly because I'm biased, but my favorites of the short stories were "The Course of True Love (and First Dates)" and "What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (And Who You're Not Officially Dating Anyway)" because of the Malec. I love having those empty spaces of Magnus and Alec's relationship filled in a bit as we don't get to see much of the start of their relationship in The Mortal Instruments, and both stories were adorable, even if the demon sitting around Magnus's loft was a bit odd.

Overall, I would say that this book is meant for people who are already fans of the Shadowhunters books and of Magnus, but if you are a fan of the books, it's great to get a better look at Magnus's life and things he's been through.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

ISBN: 1594749256
Published: October 18th, 2016
Publisher: Quirk Books
Received: giveaway
Read from April 13th to 15th, 017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
You may think you know women’s history pretty well. But have you ever heard of. . .
· Alice Ball, the chemist who developed an effective treatment for leprosy—only to have the credit taken by a man?
· Mary Sherman Morgan, the rocket scientist whose liquid fuel compounds blasted the first U.S. satellite into orbit?
· Huang Daopo, the inventor whose weaving technology revolutionized textile production in China—centuries before the cotton gin?
Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China?
Smart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino. Plus, interviews with real-life women in STEM careers, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations—all to show the many ways the geeky girls of today can help to build the future.

Review:

Wonder Women showcases the stories of a number of women in a variety of fields. There was so much diversity within these stories that I never found myself bored while reading. Every single woman in this book lived a fascinating life and did something both impressive and important to the world, yet I had heard of very few of them prior to reading Wonder Women. That's a huge shame and one of the reasons why I'm grateful that this book exists and that I read it.

The writing style of the book is also fantastic. Each and every story is told in a fun, humorous way that nonetheless manages to be serious when it's important to be. It made me want to read more from the author.

This book is one that I would highly recommend to almost anyone.