Hitler’s Canary

By Sandi Toksvig

Rating: 3 stars

Based on the experiences of her father during the War, this is an often funny and occasionally moving and touching children’s story of a family whose life changes when the Nazis invade Denmark. It touches on the conflict in the nation, condensed into one family: should they keep their heads down and try not to be noticed, or should they join the resistance?

I hadn’t know, but in the course of about a week in 1943, many Danes, of all races and creeds, risked their lives to help Denmark’s Jews escape to Sweden before they could be rounded up and taken to the concentration camps. The family in this book helps with that and some of the solutions are quite ingenious. Definitely recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9781596432475
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Year of publication: 2005

Empire of the Stars: Friendship, Obsession and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes

By Arthur I. Miller

Rating: 0 stars

This pop science book tells the story of the life cycle of stars and the discovery of black holes. In particular, it focusses on the feud between Sir Arthur Eddington and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (Chandra). Chandra had concluded that white dwarves have a maximum mass, leading to the conclusion that a star above that mass would contract infinitely into a black hole. When he delivered a paper on this to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1935, Eddington subjected him to public humiliation and ridicule, which almost broke Chandra.

In the first part, the book goes into the background of the two protagonists and the events that led to the showdown. The second continues on from that, but takes a wider view at the science of the life cycle of stars and how it was gradually unravelled, leading eventually to the rediscovery of the black hole theory. The third part deals with Chandra’s later life, revealing a man who was embittered by his early showdown with Eddington, but one who still had a spark in him and went on to win every major science award going.

I enjoyed this book a lot, both for its biographical information, and the science. I have some elementary astronomy background which may have helped, but it seemed clearly laid out. Also, it was nice to see names which I knew off through equations and laws actually turning out to have real people behind them :-).

Book details

ISBN: 9780349116273
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Year of publication: 2005

To Marry Medusa

By Theodore Sturgeon

Rating: 4 stars

A spore drops from space and eventually finds itself being eaten by Dan Gurlick who becomes part of the galaxy-wide hive mind that is the Medusa, which then uses him to try and conquer humanity.

This book shares themes with Sturgeon’s more famous More Than Human, in that it’s about group minds and the future evolution of humanity, and I quite enjoyed it, although it’s odd format of one chapter on Gurlick and one on a seemingly random character for much of its length was confusing.

My volume also contained Sturgeon’s novella Killdozer!, a fairly entertaining story about a murderous bulldozer.

Book details

ISBN: 9780375703720
Publisher: Vintage
Year of publication: 1958

The Wolves in the Walls

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

This is a fun little book with a slight story about the wolves that live in the walls and what happens when they come out. The illustrations by Dave McKean are amazing and really make the book. Worth spending half an hour perusing.

Book details

ISBN: 9780380810956
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of publication: 2003

The River of Time

By David Brin

Rating: 4 stars

This is an excellent collection of short stories, split into four sections: destiny, recollection, speculation and propagation. There are very few misfires amongst this collection, but The Crystal Spheres and The Loom of Thessaly stand out (the latter being a Hugo award winner). Definitely one for people that like hard science fiction in particular.

Book details

ISBN: 9780553173987
Publisher: Bantam UK
Year of publication: 1986

Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Adult PB) 6c Hanging


Rating: 4 stars

This was actually the first time that I’ve read this book in many years, certainly since finding out about its allogorical nature, and I’m pleased to say that I thought that it still stands up as a good children’s adventure story, and I don’t feel too bad about having missed the Christian overtones, not being brought up in that background.

Book details

ISBN: 9780060891923
Publisher: Trophy

Lincoln’s Dreams

By Connie Willis

Rating: 2 stars

A researcher for an author who specialises in the American Civil War meets a girl who appears to be dreaming the dreams of Civil War general Robert E. Lee, while his boss runs around trying to find symbolism in the dreams of Abraham Lincoln.

This was a good enough thriller of a book for most of the way through, but it fizzled out, without much of a climax, leaving me feeling disappointed at the end. No explanation, and nothing to make it seem worthwhile at all. Oh, and it should really have been called ‘Lee’s Dreams’, since it spends most of the book focussing on him and his story.

Book details

ISBN: 9780553270259
Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Company Inc.
Year of publication: 1987

The Other Side of the Sky

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 4 stars

A great collection of early short stories by The Master. I don’t know that it says for his state of mind in the 40s and 50s and for that period itself, but there’s an awful lot of apocalyptic stories in here. He destroys the Earth and/or mankind in a number of interesting and entertaining ways. Possibly his definitive collection, definitely recommended (some of the stories even have negative Arthur C. Clarke Points 😉 ).

Book details

ISBN: 9780451149374
Publisher: Roc
Year of publication: 1958

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1

By Alan Moore

Rating: 4 stars

What would happen if you took some of the most famous Victorian heroes, combined them into a super-team and had them fight evil in the name of the Empire? You’d get the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Forget the average-to-poor film, this is a fantastic graphic novel. Alan Moore’s writing is assured all the way through and O’Neill’s art is stylistically perfect for the setting. The Steampunk-style Victorian era in which it is set, with its cross-channel bridge, its towering statues and monuments speak of a Britain that is self-assured and looking eagerly to the future, with its best and brightest to protect it. A brilliant book.

Book details

ISBN: 9781563898587
Publisher: America's Best Comics
Year of publication: 2000

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