Monday, 23 January 2017

Non-ponyfic book reviews

I don't intend to make this into a general-purpose blog, but I thought some people might find it interesting occasionally to know what I've been reading away from Pony. While for ponyfic I read one story at a time, generally I have several books on the go at once and bounce between them. That's the case now. So, here are a few of my recent reads, complete with Amazon links and – just for the hay of it – star ratings too:

The Little Wonder: The Remarkable History of Wisden by Robert Winder
As a cricket fan, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack is an essential read, especially now the quality of its writing is higher than it was 20 years ago. Winder is an amiable enough guide, and there are plenty of good anecdotes, but he does have a tendency to ramble; I do feel that the book would have benefited from some slightly sharper editing and about a 10% reduction in  length. ★★★

The Giver by Lois Lowry
This isn't nearly as famous in the UK as it is in America, and I hadn't read it at all until a friend gave me a copy a while back. Reading it again, I'd class it as "pretty good and haunting in places, but also slightly unsatisfying". I don't want to spoil things, though probably everyone reading this knows the twist, but let's say that certain aspects of the world depicted stretch my suspension of disbelief a bit. ★★★

Made in America: An Informal History of American English by Bill Bryson
Not a new book to me by any means, but it's still an enjoyable one to dip in and out of. It's not one to treat as a textbook, as I'm not sure everything in it is accurate, but for informal entertainment it's well worth a look. One thing it isn't, despite the quote on the back of my edition, is funny. Mildly amusing occasionally, but not even close to Bryson's best travel books in that respect. ★★★

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
If you ask me, you can't beat mid-period Pratchett. The early books are a bit hit-and-miss, the later ones are a tad too serious-minded for my liking, and Raising Steam is simply rather sad. Men at Arms, however, is fantastic: the Watch characters are now established, the wordplay is brilliant, Ankh-Morpork is still at its pre-moveable type best and the plot is solid. This is my latest "pure relaxation" read. ★★★★★

Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization by Richard Miles
This has generally excellent reviews, but in spite of my long-term interest in all things Roman I just couldn't get into it. It's frustrating, since seeing the Romans from outside is always interesting, but I found this much denser than I'd hoped. It's not quite at textbook levels, but it's close, with a huge references section. (Endnotes, as usual. Footnotes are so much easier to refer to!) Possibly it just caught me at a bad time, but I'm disappointed. ★★


  1. Mid-period Pratchett is my go-to comfort read. By an amazing coincidence, I settled in by the wood stove with cider and Men at Arms during a storm blackout recently. The power should go out more often.

    1. I didn't have cider with me, so I'm almost envious!

    2. It was good cider, too. ;)

      I just realized that the copy I read was the one I bought from City of Doors at Worldcon! All sorts of brony cross-connections!