The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop is one of those lovely things, a light gentle love story in the setting of a bookshop. Perdu has been lingering with a broken heart for decades, but change is in the air and he finally starts to face his past. The bookshop itself is on a barge, and we set off on a journey in that, with the chance for friends to be met and changes to happen.

But really the joy of this book is how he uses his bookshop to “cure” people of what ails them, advising which books they most need to read. He tells us of gems, some real, some fictional, that are just what the reader needs.

At about the two-thirds points I was worried that George had lost her way and that the plot didn’t feel like it was resolving, but eventually the threads were pulled together, and the story brought to a satisfying conclusion.

Advertisements

The Testament of Loki – Joanne M. Harris

Following the fall of Asgard in The Gospel of Loki, this brings Loki into a present-day world, where computer games consume much time and energy, but the old forces are still locked in battle. Our narrator remains the dynamic but unreliable Loki, as the trickster who is struggling with Odin.

Loki is forced by circumstances to sympathise more with humans, which improves his likability a great deal, but does not change his general moral outlook. We therefore benefit from his increased humanity whilst he is prepared to do whatever it takes for him to win back the runes that have been lost. The most surprising thing was when he learnt to be kind to the host he was sharing a body with.

Thinking in Numbers – Daniel Tammet

Thinking in Numbers is a collection of standalone essays, each considering a different element of mathematics, and how it intersects with everyday life, or the arts. Each is interesting, although the lack of a strong thread makes this very much the sort of book that is designed to be picked up and put down at intervals.

The Blue Salt Road – Joanne Harris

This is a beautiful book, with an embossed silver cover and stunning illustrations throughout. If definitely evokes the emotion of sea myth even before the reading starts.

Then we head into the world of the selkie. A sea being who longs to learn about the world of man. Then learns passion and love, and how they lead to betrayal. Stolen from his people, he is forced to try and learn to earn his way above the sea.

Harris’s retelling is beautifully written, and leads us through moments when all hope seems lost. But the selkie gradually learns, and builds friendships to enable him to travel the blue salt road.

The Stars Now Unclaimed – Drew Williams

Our narrator is travelling the galaxy, trying to atone for her responsibility for the Pulse, a devastating galaxy-wide event. Her view however is very narrowly focused, as a strong believer in the Justified sect. This is a much more battle-based book than I expected, with our narrator pinging from one battle to another leaving a trail of devastation.

Although this book is a powerful page-turner, I found myself finding the key message, that Esa should help the Justified, who essentially kidnapped or conscripted her, more and more problematic. Although one character was inserted to question the Justified’s approaches, she is brought into the fold by the end of the book. This contrasts with an enemy who are presented as irredeemably evil, with gradual depths being added, but never any positive elements.

But the battles are fun, won with cunning and nimbleness in the face of being outgunned. However a bit more damage taken would have been more realistic: far too few characters died to win significant battles.

The Order of Time – Carlo Rovelli

I was expecting The Order of Time to be mostly about physics, and how general relativity and spacetime work. It is that, but it is also a book about philosophy, our sense of self and briefly, LSD.

It is a short book, well-written and fascinating to read. Different ideas swim to the surface, such as a mention of the development of time zones around the world, which had also been discussed in Blood, Iron & Gold, which I had finished the same day as I read this. And although most historic physicists remain flat and characterless, anyone who Rovelli knew, or knew by reputation, is written with character, and personal anecdote, a much warmer text than many scientific books.

Of course the main theme is scientific. It is a discussion on how time is essential for how we witness the monotonic increase in entropy, and the impact of relativistic changes on the passing of time meaning that the idea of a universal “now” is a mythical construct, possible only across Earth because of our inability to perceive sufficiently small changes in time.

But then we are off again, discussing what exists. A cat? A law? A cartoon character? Ourselves? Rovelli ties all of these pieces back together to give a message on the fragility and beauty of life.

Blood, Iron & Gold – Christian Wolmar

Blood, Iron & Gold is an international history of how the railways shaped society, economies, and even our sense of time. Starting with the earliest simple services, Wolmar weaves a story around how the railway collapsed distances and created nations.

The first three quarters of the book are on the first century of the railway, when much of the international network was built and almost all changes were progress. There is an accounting of the deaths involved in building our railways, and how they were used to control empires, as well as unite countries on a fair footing.

But the story after the start of World War One is more complex. For the first time, the railways are essential in how a war was fought, with rail-based troop transport and supply being vital to the continuation of trench warfare, with all the pointless death involved.

Then afterwards, the decline in patronage, continuing to late in the twentieth century. Wolmar is more sympathetic to the cause of the reduction in lines than might be expected though. He accepts that some of the railway mania had led to excessive construction, and that a sustainable network required some reduction.

It helps that he manges to end on the high note of the twenty-first century rain renaissance, with congestion making the train yet again an attractive mode.

Proofiness – Charles Seife

Proofiness is a look at how numbers are falsely used to manipulate public opinion and sway judicial decisions. He looks at accuracy, rules of statistical error, cherry picking and misleading calculations.

Throughout examples are used, often from headline stories, showing how misleading statistics have changed decisions. Many of the stories are (unsurprisingly for a New York academic) American, but the case we studied in statistics at university of Sally Clarke was included as a classic miscarriage of justice due to bad statistics.

A call for numerical literacy in media, this reads well.

Kinky Boots – Adelphi London

Kinky Boots is an amzingly sparkily musical, flicking between a shoe factory (with behaviour around “workshop equipment” that made me wince during the dance scenes, and Lola’s world. Then gradually the two mix, and Lola is brought in to save a gradually closing factory from disaster.

I saw this the day after For the Love of the Game, on our annual trip to London. Despite both outwardly having very different themes, they are both about boys trying to live up to what their families’ and communities want without losing their own dreams.

For the Love of the Game – Chorley Little Theatre

As we hurtle towards Christmas, the final non-panto play of the 2018 season at Chorley Little Theatre was For the Love of the Game. Normally I wouldn’t go to a play about rugby, but of course I go to all the season ticket productions.

This was a very thoughtful and funny production, and even more impressively, had half the cast singing hymns in half the church scenes. It was fast-paced, flicking between church hall and rugby changing room until we headed off to Westminster.

Good word by CADOS!