The Ninth Circle – C. A. Harland

The Ninth Circle is a fast-paced journey though the fantastical criminal underworld of Dublin, and its parallel in the circles of hell. There are a pair of sisters who are at odds with each other, and another sister who is missing, presumed kidnapped.

Although the concept, setting and even the writing style itself all appealed, the use of “episodes” instead of chapters, which each episode felt as though it was a stand-alone TV programme was disjointed. I don’t expect each chapter to have its own full story structure and be brought to nearly full-resolution. This structure stopped the story from flowing as well as it could have, as well as making the whole book feel like a failed pitch to a TV network.

This book was supplied to me by Netgallery in exchange for an honest review.

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What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday – Julia Donaldson

A follow up to What the ladybird heard, which is one of my son’s favourite books (and one we may well see in the theatre this summer).

The art is very similar, and for the first four pages of On Holiday, I thought this was going to be exactly the same with different animals. But then we moved onto the Ladybird’s solution, and it was again both hilarious and innovative, but also completely different. Julia Donaldson’s ability to innovate with children’s plots never fails to satisfy.

My five year old son read it with me (taking it in turns). He liked it at the end when all the animals cheered for the Monkey. He says “its all good”

Netgallery sent me a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Knit The Sky – Lea Redmond

Playful Knitting Projects

When I’m not reading on the train to work, I’m knitting. Currently I’m 95% of the way through a cardigan that I started in early April. Knitting is how I clear my mind, and is much less tiring on days when I’ve done quite enough thinking and reading at work to want more. I’ve noticed through life that I actually read less when there’s a lot going on: I dropped to about a book a month whilst at university, but read two or three books a week when working in a farm shop.

Winter is coming, on train knitting

Redmond’s approach in Knit the Sky is that knitting doesn’t have to be about following a pattern rigidly, but to take what is going on in the world around us and turn that into a knitted item. I love this idea, as I never stick to patterns as it is, and have a tendency to put new ideas in as I go along. She suggests knitting a scarf, one row a day for a year, and picking the colour for that day that best reflects the weather. Or sending a friend a gift with butterflies knitted in, one for each year of your friendship.

At the end she challenges you to invent your own project.

I have decided that the next time I take a seriously long train ride (maybe child-free) I will knit a long narrow scarf/ loose belt, starting with the dark colours when I set off before dawn (its always before dawn) and knitting every row based on the colour outside my window. When that is a down, maybe it will be browns and greys, fields and woods will be greens and open moorland will be back to purples.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgallery in exchange for an honest review

Remarkable Minds – Pendred E. Noyce

17 other remarkable women in science & medicine

Noyce has decided not to mess with her formula, and has produced a second book full of essays outlining the lives and careers of historical women scientists. It is enough to make a modern woman feel inadequate, reading about women who continued scientific research in the face of not only sexism, but also in secret as Jewish women against the rise of fascism or African-Americans before the civil rights movement.

The message definitely comes through loud and clear that anyone sufficiently intelligent and determined can contribute to the world, just that some barriers have been swept away.

Sophie couldn’t stay away from her mathematics. She smuggled in more candles, wrapped herself in blankets, and managed to study through the night anyway, even when her ink froze in its pot. Finally her parents gave in, and once convinced he couldn’t stop her, her father supported her study of mathematics for the rest of her life.

This is a powerful message for young people working out who they are, and who they want to work to be, especially girls. I appreciate Noyce noting that family life is possible, although careful choices have to be made, and that some of these scientists were noted as elegant and beautiful. If this was a statement made in isolation it would be problematic, but combined with the acknowledgement of their achievements it tackles some unhelpful stereotypes.

I had only heard of two of these women before: Germain (I am a mathematician by training) and Franklin, but many of the rest had made discoveries I am familiar with, and it was fascinating to read how they managed their lives to achieve what they did. It was also a sterling example of how parenting makes a difference, with almost every woman having had supportive parents who encouraged ambition, even if they were reluctant at first.

Each essay was prefaced by a timeline showing how wider history intersects key points in that woman’s life, putting them into a historical and cultural context. This may however have worked better woven into the margins/headings rather than on a standalone page.

My only quibble is that I wanted a bit more of the detail of the science for many of the essays, as opposed to hinting about the science then swinging back to discuss personal and academic further, even if that was the actual subject of the book.

 I received Remarkable Minds as an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review