Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.


The Six Secrets of Intelligence by Craig Adams

The Six Secrets of Intelligence: What your education failed to teach you - Craig Adams

TITLE:  The Six Secrets of Intelligence:

             Why Modern Education Doesn’t Teach Us How To Think For Ourselves


AUTHOR:  Craig Adams




FORMAT:  ebook




"Some people have something to say in any conversation and can spot the hidden angles of completely unrelated problems; but how do they do it?

So many books, apps, courses, and schools compete for our attention that the problem isn’t a lack of opportunity to sharpen our minds, it’s having to choose between so many options. And yet, more than two thousand years ago, the greatest thinker of Ancient Greece, Aristotle, had already discovered the blueprint of the human mind. Despite the fact that the latest cognitive science shows his blueprint to be exactly what sharpens our reasoning, subtlety of thought, and ability to think in different ways and for ourselves, we have meanwhile replaced it with a simplistic and seductive view of intelligence, education and the mind.

Condensing that blueprint to six 'secrets', Craig Adams uncovers the underlying patterns of every discussion and debate we’ve ever had, and shows us how to be both harder to manipulate and more skilful in any conversation or debate – no matter the topic."




Craig Adams 'six secrets of intelligence' are deduction, induction, analogy, reality, evidence and meaning.  Adams provides the definitions and examples of the basic concepts and shows how this knowledge is useful in spotting and dismissing illogical statements.  The second half of the book deals with the modern education system and how it fails to teach the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric).  There is some interesting stuff in this book, but the organisation is a bit erratic with too much repetition and not enough examples.


Dead Poets Society by N.H. Kleinbaum, Tom Schulman

Dead Poets Society - N.H. Kleinbaum

TITLE:  Dead Poets Society


AUTHOR:  N.H. Kleinbaum & Tom Schulman





"Todd Anderson and his friends at Welton Academy can hardly believe how different life is since their new English professor, the flamboyant John Keating, has challenged them to "make your lives extraordinary! " Inspired by Keating, the boys resurrect the Dead Poets Society--a secret club where, free from the constraints and expectations of school and parents, they let their passions run wild. As Keating turns the boys on to the great words of Byron, Shelley, and Keats, they discover not only the beauty of language, but the importance of making each moment count.But the Dead Poets pledges soon realize that their newfound freedom can have tragic consequences. Can the club and the individuality it inspires survive the pressure from authorities determined to destroy their dreams?"



Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film directed by Peter Weir, written by Tom Schulman, and starring Robin Williams.  Set in 1959, at the fictional elite conservative Vermont boarding school Welton Academy, this novel (and the movie) tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students to search within themselves to find out who they are.  The book is based on the screen play, but has a few very minor differences.  I would have liked to have seen the characters fleshed out a bit more.  However, this is still an inspiring movie/book.

UPDATE: Supernavigators Chapters 7-12

Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way - David Barrie


TITLE:  Supernavigators:  The Astounding New Science of How Animals Find Their Way


AUTHOR:  David Barrie



Chapter 7:  Well, there is a bit of biographical waffling about one of the scientists...and how that scientist came to work on Tunisian desert ants in the middle of nowhere.  Apparently the ants' homing abilities did indeed depend partly on their sensitivity to polarized light (and other things).  Then there is also figuring out that the ants can measure distance.  The "ant odometer" is actually a thing!


The chapter had an interesting "epilogue":

"The estuarine crocodiles of Southeast Asia and Australasia are the world’s largest reptiles—and have the unpopular habit of eating unwary humans. They may give the appearance of being quite sedentary, but they can move fast over short distances and can travel hundreds of miles at a more modest pace.

In 2007, a fascinating study revealed that they are also remarkably good at finding their way home. Three adult males were captured and fitted with satellite trackers. They were then carried in slings under a helicopter to different release sites on the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia. After spending some time apparently thinking about what to do next, all three of them eventually headed off and returned to the exact places where they had been captured.

One of the crocodiles traveled 62 miles along the coast in fifteen days; another covered 32 miles in only five days. That was quite impressive, but nothing compared to what the third one did. It was transported right across the Cape York Peninsula from west to east—an overland distance of 78 miles. Obviously it could not retrace its journey, but it still managed to get home by paddling right around the northern end of the peninsula and down the other side. It covered a distance of 255 miles in just twenty days.

Nobody has any idea how these animals found their way home, but this experiment provided a valuable practical lesson: There is clearly little point in “translocating” crocodiles that pose a threat to people."


Chapter 8 is particularly interesting since it deals with various human navigational cultures "steering by the sky" throughout history (and prehistory) and goes into a bit of detail on how they did this.  I enjoyed this chapter - something different from the bugs and birds.



Chapter 9 is a brief survey of studies dealing with long migrations that birds make seasonally.    Chapters 11 and 12 describe various animals (moths, salmon, birds etc) that navigate using smell to find their way home or to potential mates.  These two chapters are also fairly interesting.


Chapter 10 describes attempts by scientists to determine how dung beetles can roll their balls in straight lines (hat wearing dung beeltes was part of one experiment), along with all sorts of other interesting dung beetle trivia.  This is also an incredibly fascinating chapter.




Abridged Books




Emma by Jane Austen

The Complete Novels of Jane Austen (Chartwell Classics) - Jane Austen







TITLE:  The Complete Novels of Jane Austen


AUTHOR:  Jane Austen


EDITION:  Chartwell Classics


FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  978-0785834212




"Jane Austen revolutionized the literary romance, using it as a platform from which to address issues of gender politics and class consciousness among the British middle-class of the late eighteenth century. The novels included in the collection - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan - represent all of Austen's complete novels, and provide the reader with an entrance into the world she and her memorable characters inhabited.

With witty, unflinching morality, Austen portrays English middle-class life as the eighteenth century came to a close and the nineteenth century began. Austen's heroines find happiness in many forms, each of the novels is a story of love and marriage -- marriage for love, financial security and for social status.


In a publishing career that spanned less than ten years her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime. It wasn't until the 1940s that she became widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a fan culture. Austen's works continue to influence the course of the novel even as they charm readers today."




Notes on the Physical Book


The physical hardcover book is quite large, fat and heavy with a pretty dust jacket.  The paper is bright white and of good quality.  The text is standard sized, similar in size to the Oxford World's Classics series.  The book includes an introduction by Jennifer C. Garlen, a section on the life and times of Jane Austen, reviews and notices, and a section of suggested reading.


Sense & Sensibility [3 stars]


Jane Austen originally published this novel, in 1811, anonymously - "By A Lady" appeared on the title page in place of the author's name.  Sense and Sensibility is the coming of age story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood; two sisters with different personalities (one sensible and one emotional) who each experience romance and heartbreak. 


Personally, I found the main characters and the majority of the secondary characters to be overly nice and for the most part terribly bland and more similar than different.  The majority of the men also appear overly spineless since they can't seem to do anything without mommy's permission or they might loose their inheritance [this is ridiculous - go find something useful to do and make your own fortune!]  Despite all the courting drama and descriptions of hysterics in the novel, I found that the story lacked passion.  It was all very proper and civilized... and bland.  I also couldn't help the mental image of everyone going about their business with huge, florescent price tags stuck to their shirts.


I'm not quite sure why this is such a lauded classic, unless whole generations of impressionable girls were forced to read this and then inflicted it on their own children.



Pride & Prejudice  [4 stars]


I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice more than Sense and Sensibility.  The characters were more rounded/flawed, with more variety; the pacing a bit faster. This is a novel that revolves around relationships - not just romantic relationships, but those of friends, family and other acquantances.  The novel also provides something of a social commentary in terms of the limits imposed on women inheriting property and class structure.  There is also a great deal of humour in this novel that I missed on the first read.  I do find the female obsession with marriage and marrying someone with lots of money rather irritating, but then that's what was required in that time period if you didn't want to end up destitute or dependant on some other relative.  Context (social structure, society, time period etc) really is important with books like this, otherwise all the characters come off as shallow and the plot insipid.  The book is not too long winded with some delightfully pithy clauses.

An interesting thing I noticed on the second read was that the reader initially only learns about Mr Darcy through the observations and dialogues of other people, so the reader essentially aquires the same prejudices against him that Elizabeth Bennet has.  

NOTE This is not a historical fiction novel.  Jane Austen was writing novels about contemporary life (to her), especially the problems facing young women in her own social class (the country gentry).



Mansfield Park [1 star]


All Austen's novels are social commentaries in one way or another, and one could mine Mansfield Park for all sorts of things such as the marriage market, child abuse, child rearing practises (or lack therof), morality, family dynamics etc.  But I found this novel to be rather dull, long-winded and superficial, with nothing substantial happening until the last third of the book.  I can't say I was terribly impressed with the very convenient ending either.  The majority of the characters were also rather flat, lacking depth, and essentially forgetable.  Mrs Norris is terrifyingly devious and manipulative, and would have made a better villain assuming there was someone stronger (or at least more vocal) than Fanny to use as her favourite target.  But Austen didn't write that book.  She wrote the tedious Mansfield Park instead.  Karma is a bitch, but it still doesn't make up for slogging through 400 pages. 



Emma [2 stars]


This novel has a tedious beginning, but does pick up pace eventually.  There is also too much "tell" and not enough "show".  I can't say I was terribly impressed with this novel, but it was better than Mansfield Park.  In someone else's hands, this might have been a comedy along the lines of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  But it's not.  The plot was superficial and the main character highly annoying.  The setting is too idyllic - the worst thing that happens is a bit of snow and a breeze [I'm beginning to wonder if a digression into the Paris sewer system would be preferable?].  Everyone is in perfect health except for the occasional sniffles.


Emma is a snobbish, entitled, arrogant, bored, callous, hypocritical, immature, know-it-all, busybody who has decided to play match-maker for all and sundry.  And she somehow comes out of the whole affair with no consequences to herself.  Miss Bates could have used less ink time - a lot of irrelevant babbling just doesn't do anything for me.  Then again, a whole many pages could have been burned since the characters did nothing but babble about the proverbial weather or how "pleasant" and "agreeable" so-an-so was.  All the characters are "agreeable"!  Heaven forbid we have someone that is NOT agreeable and charming and nice!!!  I'm assuming Mr Woodhouse has issues (agoraphobia and hypochondria comes to mind), if not, he is just plain silly.  Mr Knightley is the only redeeming aspect of this book, until one of those very convenient WTF moments.  Come to think of it, I liked Mr John Knightley a great deal as well.  He didn't waste any words!  I also have the impression Austen got bored of her own novels and just ended them in the most expedient manner possible to get a happily ever after.


NOTE:  If this is supposed to be a social commentary of some sort, it is extremely narrow in focus (wealthy landed gentry) and highly idealized.



Northanger Abbey


To be read





To be read



Lady Susan


To be read



UPDATE: Supernavigators Chapters 1-6

Supernavigators: Exploring the Wonders of How Animals Find Their Way - David Barrie


TITLE:  Supernavigators:  The Astounding New Science of How Animals Find Their Way


AUTHOR:  David Barrie




Regardless of whatever my opinion will be of this book by the time I finish it, at the moment I LOVE this author (and maybe the publisher) to bits.  David Barrie actually references his book properly.  Each creature or "story" described so far in the book as a superscripted numeral that refers to the actual journal article or other reference used by Barrie!  None of this BS where you wonder where that particular bit of information comes from or searching for the reference at the back of the book and wondering if it's the relevant one, or odd-ball and irritating referencing techniques/formatting.


NOTE 2: 

The chapters are generally fairly short, with no fashion commentary, but a few paragraphs (so far) dedicated to personal anecdotes and biographical details of various scientists.  I would have liked a bit more information of the actual biology involved in the navigational "organs" but maybe this comes later on?  The text is easy to read/follow but not simplistic or "chirpy".  This may be a popular science book but there is more emphasis on the hows and whys of various discoveries than on being overly popular.



Chapter 1 starts off with the ability of "simple" organisms (e.g. bacteria, slime moulds, jelly-fish, plankton etc) to determine where they are and where they are going.


"The so-called magnetotactic bacteria contain tiny magnetic particles that, when joined end-to-end, act like microscopic compass needles. These “needles” force the bacteria to align themselves with the earth’s magnetic field and thereby help them find their way down to the oxygen-poor layers of water and sediment where they flourish. The needles found in bacteria from the northern hemisphere have the opposite polarity to those in the southern hemisphere. A simple example of the power of natural selection."

"Even more impressive are the brainless assemblies of single cells known, rather unappealingly, as slime molds. These simple organisms can slowly but surely ooze their way toward a supply of glucose hidden at the bottom of a U-shaped trap. To do so, they employ a simple kind of memory that enables them to avoid revisiting places they have already explored.  They are also adept at solving a problem that human designers find challenging: the construction of an efficient rail network.


Researchers found that one particular slime mold, when presented with lots of oat flakes arranged in a pattern mimicking the layout of cities around Tokyo, set about building a network of “tunnels” to distribute the nutrients they extracted from the flakes. Amazingly enough, the network eventually came to match the actual rail system around Tokyo. The slime mold achieves this feat first by creating tunnels that go in all directions, and then gradually pruning them, so that eventually only those carrying the largest volume of nutrients (read “passengers”) are left."

 I love slime moulds!


Chapter 2 deals with finding your way using visual landmarks.  Examples include the Inuit and Aboriginal Australians, and how their navigational demands have an effect on their language.  This chapter also focuses on studies done involving ants and their navigational technique, which seems to involve sight rather than smell.


Chapter 3 also deals with animals using landmarks but of a more unusual variety.  Here Barrie explores the extraordinary sensitivity of the sweat bee’s compound eyes, brain functioning, and visual cues that allows it to navigate, by sight, through a rain forest canopy in nearly total darkness.  Barrie also explores the navigational abilities of fish - the lateral line organs, blind cave fish, fish that use visual landmarks, the different navigational abilities of pond and river fish, electric landmarks used by sharks and eels (and bumble bees) - and the ability of birds to find their way to stored food and to find their way home (homing/messanger pigeons) via visual landmarks.


 "There is a legend that the Rothschild bank made a killing in 1815 because they received news by pigeon post of the outcome of the battle of Waterloo ahead of the markets. It is a good story, though apparently without foundation. The Rothschilds did, however, develop a system of communication using pigeons and it was up and running by the 1840s, some years before the first electronic telegraph systems were operational."





Chapter 4 starts of with a crash course in navigating by the sun.  I'm liking this author more and more.  He actually included a sketch to illustrate a point. Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 focus on the way some species use the sun for navigation, in combination with the organisms internal clock, e.g. ants and bees. 




Chapter 6 involves long trips over the oceans by humans and migrating species. There is an interesting section of ocean navigation before the invention of modern equipment and reliable methods to determine longitude [Barrie wrote another book on this subect] involving not so accurate magentic compasses, stick-on-a-string aka chip log (where the term knots comes from) and the lead line aka glorified plumb line (to find out how deep your ocean spot was and if you stuck some fat on the end, you could determine what type of submarine ground you were floating over - provided the rope was long enough to reach the bottom).  "Dead reckoning" sounds like a rather hazardous method of ship navigation.  I'm surprised anyone got where they were supposed to be going.  This chapter also includes inertial navigation and the odd habit of humans to walk around in circles when lost.





In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

In the Night Wood - Dale Bailey

TITLE:  In the Night Wood


AUTHOR:  Dale Bailey






"In this contemporary fantasy, the grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist finds himself slipping inexorably into the supernatural world that consumed his subject.

American Charles Hayden came to England to forget the past.

Failed father, failed husband, and failed scholar, Charles hopes to put his life back together with a biography of Caedmon Hollow, the long-dead author of a legendary Victorian children's book, In the Night Wood. But soon after settling into Hollow's remote Yorkshire home, Charles learns that the past isn't dead.

In the neighboring village, Charles meets a woman he might have loved, a child who could have been his own lost daughter, and the ghost of a self he thought he'd put behind him.

And in the primeval forest surrounding Caedmon Hollow's ancestral home, an ancient power is stirring. The horned figure of a long-forgotten king haunts Charles Hayden's dreams. And every morning the fringe of darkling trees presses closer.

Soon enough, Charles will venture into the night wood.

Soon enough he'll learn that the darkness under the trees is but a shadow of the darkness that waits inside us all."




An entertaining afternoon's diversion, provided you don't mind slow, depressing stories with limited action or plot*.  A bit creepy, but the author just didn't make full use of the semi-mythological forest setting he created.  The forest and Hollow House setting are pretty good, the rest not so much.  The characters were bland and monotonous.  No noticeable character development.  Nothing really happens until the last chapter and that is somewhat vague.  The idea is interesting, but the execution is off and lacks substance. Somehow the novel was just missing something.  A missed opportunity.



I kept hoping the monster in the woods would eat the main character!!

(show spoiler)


Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

Storm Cursed - Patricia Briggs

TITLE:   Storm Cursed


SERIES:  Mercy Thompson #11


AUTHOR:  Patricia Briggs





An entertaining, fast-paced addition to the series involving witches and an interesting new werewolf.




The Nature Lover's Quotation Book

The Nature Lover's Quotation Book - Hatherleigh

TITLE:  The Nature Lover's Quotation Book


PUBLISHER:  Hatherleigh Press




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781578267446




" A collection of inspirational and meaningful quotes perfect for every lover of the great outdoors.

From simple walks and hikes in the woods, to longer treks and camping, we eagerly search for opportunities to escape into nature. Now there is a beautiful collection of inspired readings to take along the trail and read around the campfire, or just contemplate at home. The Nature Lover's Quotation Book captures the imagination and the senses, while pondering the words and wisdom of some of the greatest writers and thinkers of all time about the natural world. From Thoreau to Muir, Roosevelt to Whitman, you will discover imagination, poetry and prose about the wonders of the great outdoors.




This is a lovely collection of quotes related to nature by a variety of famous (and not so famous) people:  artists, scientists, naturalists and philosophers etc. 

"Let the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine."



 "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."


"Gravity is measured by the bottom of the foot; we trace the density and texture of the ground through our soles. Standing barefoot on a smooth glacial rock by the sea at sunset, and sensing the warmth of the sun-heated stone through one’s soles, is an extraordinarily healing experience, making one part of the eternal cycle of nature. One senses the slow breathing of the earth."



 "A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart."




"Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into."





"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."


"Nature is man’s teacher. She unfolds her treasures to his search, unseals his eye, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence."



 "Nature is not horrible. Nature is not wonderful. Nature is not cruel. Nature is not beautiful. Nature only is."


"Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground."



 "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."


"Mountains don’t kill people, they just sit there."



  "If there is one thing clear about the centuries dominated by the factory and the wheel, it is that although the machine can make everything from a spoon to a landing-craft, a natural joy in earthly living is something it never has and never will be able to manufacture."



 "The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."


"It’s amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing."



"In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it."


"Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge. Remedies from chemicals will never stand in favor compared with the products of nature, the living cell of the plant, the final result of the rays of the sun, the mother of all life."


The Universe in Your Hand by Christophe Galfard

The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time and Beyond - Christophe Galfard

TITLE:  The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond


AUTHOR:  Christophe Galfard




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13: 9781447284109




"Imagine if The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a real hand book...

Internationally renowned physicist and bestselling author Christophe Galfard takes us on a wonder-filled journey through the past, present and future of the universe – all from the comfort of a sofa.

The Universe in Your Hand explores some of the most profound and amazing ideas of our times – Quantum Mechanics, General Relativity, Time Travel, Parallel Realities and Multiple Universe – with the promise that you'll only need one equation: the fabled E = mc²

Written from the cutting edge of today's technology, including the latest research on gravitational waves, The Universe in Your Hand is the perfect primer for anyone curious about our extraordinary universe.




I'm a bit uncertain on how to rate, or even review, this book.  On the one hand, the explanations of physics, quantum mechanics, general relativity, astrophysics, cosmology, gravity, etc are pretty good and, most importantly, understandable without requiring a physics degree.*  On the other hand, the imaginary adventurous travels (i.e. thought experiments) to such things as the inside of atoms and the cosmos in general just didn't really work for me, though I did eventually get used to it.  Maybe this sort of thing works better for people who have pictures and movies pop up in their heads when they read books, but that simply isn't me.  Otherwise, an interesting introductiory book that makes mind-bending subjects not so complicated, while managing to be entertaining at the same time.



*Except String Theory.  I think you need to have ingested a substantial quantity of magic mushrooms for that to make any sense.



Home Work by Julie Andrews

Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years - Emma Walton Hamilton, Julie Andrews Edwards

TITLE:  Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years


AUTHOR: Julie Andrews Edwards




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780306845987





"In this follow-up to her critically acclaimed memoir, Home, Julie Andrews shares reflections on her astonishing career, including such classics as Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria.

In Home, the number one New York Times international bestseller, Julie Andrews recounted her difficult childhood and her emergence as an acclaimed singer and performer on the stage.

With this second memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, Andrews picks up the story with her arrival in Hollywood and her phenomenal rise to fame in her earliest films--Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Andrews describes her years in the film industry -- from the incredible highs to the challenging lows. Not only does she discuss her work in now-classic films and her collaborations with giants of cinema and television, she also unveils her personal story of adjusting to a new and often daunting world, dealing with the demands of unimaginable success, being a new mother, the end of her first marriage, embracing two stepchildren, adopting two more children, and falling in love with the brilliant and mercurial Blake Edwards. The pair worked together in numerous films, including Victor/Victoria, the gender-bending comedy that garnered multiple Oscar nominations.

Cowritten with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and told with Andrews's trademark charm and candor, Home Work takes us on a rare and intimate journey into an extraordinary life that is funny, heartrending, and inspiring.




An interesting memoir that deals with Julie Andrews' Hollywood years.  The book mostly deals with her personal and family issues, with some intersting inside bits about the actual filming of some of her movies. 

In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant

In the Shadow of the Spindrift House - Mira Grant


TITLE:  In the Shadow of Spindrift House


AUTHOR:  Mira Grant






"Nature abhors a straight line. The natural world is a place of curves and softened edges, of gentle mists and welcoming spirals. Nature remembers deviation; nature does not forgive.

For Harlowe Upton-Jones, life has never been a straight line. Shipped off to live with her paternal grandparents after a mysterious cult killed her mother and father, she has grown up chasing the question behind the curve, becoming part of a tight-knit teen detective agency. But “teen” is a limited time offer, and when her friends start looking for adult professions, it’s up to Harlowe to find them one last case so that they can go out in a blaze of glory.

Welcome to Spindrift House.

The stories and legends surrounding the decrepit property are countless and contradictory, but one thing is clear: there are people willing to pay a great deal to determine the legal ownership of the house. When Harlowe and her friends agree to investigate the mystery behind the manor, they do so on the assumption that they’ll be going down in history as the ones who determined who built Spindrift House—and why. The house has secrets. They have the skills. They have a plan. They have everything they need to solve the mystery.

Everything they need except for time. Because Spindrift House keeps its secrets for a reason, and it has no intention of letting them go.

Nature abhors a straight line.

Here’s where the story bends.




Nice concept, poor execution. A haunted house and a mystery to be solved... by almost grown children or just legally adults (depending how you look at it). Entertaining and light. Not particularly terrifying or exciting, but definately creepy. Lots of oversimplified YA personal relationship type thoughts in this one. An ok evening's entertainment.

The Penguin Book of Mermaids

The Penguin Book of Mermaids - Cristina Bacchilega



TITLE:  The Penguin Book of Mermaids


EDITORS:  Cristina Bacchilega

                   & Marie Alohalani Brown




FORMAT:  ebook


ISBN-13:  9780143133728







"Among the oldest and most popular mythical beings, mermaids and other merfolk have captured the imagination since long before Ariel sold her voice to a sea witch in the beloved Disney film adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." As far back as the eighth century B.C., sailors in Homer's Odyssey stuffed wax in their ears to resist the Sirens, who lured men to their watery deaths with song. More than two thousand years later, the gullible New York public lined up to witness a mummified "mermaid" specimen that the enterprising showman P. T. Barnum swore was real.

The Penguin Book of Mermaids is a treasury of such tales about merfolk and water spirits from different cultures, ranging from Scottish selkies to Hindu water-serpents to Chilean sea fairies. A third of the selections are published here in English for the first time, and all are accompanied by commentary that explores their undercurrents, showing us how public perceptions of this popular mythical hybrid--at once a human and a fish--illuminate issues of gender, spirituality, ecology, and sexuality.




This is a collection of short myths, legends, fairytales and folktales from around the world that involve merfolk.  The stories and their origins are interesting and entertaining.  The book would make a nice addition to collections that contain fairytales by the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault.


NOTE:  There are no illustrations in the book.  It is not a little children's book.





Metamorphoses by Ovid

Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney, Ovid, David Raeburn Metamorphoses - Mary M. Innes, Ovid Metamorphoses: The New, Annotated Edition - Rolfe Humphries

TITLE:  Metamorphoses


AUTHOR:  Ovid [Publius /ovidus Naso]


DATE PUBLISHED: A long time ago, somewhere around 8 A.D.?





Prized through the ages for its splendor and its savage, sophisticated wit, The Metamorphoses is a masterpiece of Western culture--the first attempt to link all the Greek myths, before and after Homer, in a cohesive whole, to the Roman myths of Ovid's day.


Ovid's sensuous and witty poetry brings together a dazzling array of mythological tales, ingeniously linked by the idea of transformation - often as a result of love or lust - where men and women find themselves magically changed into new and sometimes extraordinary beings. Beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the deification of Augustus, Ovid interweaves many of the best-known myths and legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, including Daedalus and Icarus, Pyramus and Thisbe, Pygmalion, Perseus and Andromeda, and the fall of Troy. Erudite but light-hearted, dramatic yet playful, the Metamorphoses has influenced writers and artists throughout the centuries from Shakespeare and Titian to Picasso and Ted Hughes.




Metamorphoses is a poem in 15 books in which Ovid has collected a variety (and variation) of Greek and Roman myths and legends with the overarching theme of transformation.  Some of the stories are well known, others somewhat obscure.  Ovid starts with the creation of the ordered universe from Chaos and ends with the diefication of Julius Caesar.  In between, there is a lot of sex/rape, violence, love, bad decisions, vivid scenes and emotional passages.  Metamorphoses is episodic in nature, with one story/myth/legend leading into another and includes many story within a story devices.


I started out with the Penguin Classics edition, translated by David Raeburn into hexameter verse.  Then found an old copy of the Penguin Classics Mary M Innes prose translation and also an Indiana Press copy translated by Rolfe Humphries into ten-beat, unrhymed lines.  I decided to alternate between these translations (why not, if I have the books anyway?).  All these editions have notes, commentaries and introductions.  The David Raeburn/Penguin Classics edition includes a map of Ovid's Mediterranean World, which is rather useful.  Each edition is perfectly readible and enjoyable, though I did in the end prefer the Raeburn translation.


I've included a few lines from each translation I've come across, for anyone interested in comparing:


Translation by A.D Melville




AND now the Argonauts from Thessaly
Were cutting through the billows. They had seen
Old Phineus* dragging out his helpless age
In endless night and Boreas’ two sons
Had driven the Harpies from his piteous lips.
At last illustrious Jason and his men
Reached after many travails the swift stream
Of muddy Phasis.* Going to the king,*
They claimed the famous Golden Fleece* and learnt
The fearful terms and monstrous toils imposed.
And then it was Medea, the king’s daughter,
Conceived a mastering passion; long she fought
Her frenzy, but the voice of reason failed.
‘Oh, vain!’ she cried, ‘Medea, is your struggle;
Some deity must thwart you. Strange if this—
Or something surely like—is not called love.
Else why do my father’s orders seem too harsh?
Too harsh they are indeed! Why do I dread
His death whose face I first have seen today?
What cause, what reason for a fear so great?
Thrust down the flames that burn your virgin heart,
If you have strength!——Such strength would be my cure!
But against my will some force bewitches me;
One way desire, another reason calls;
The better course I see and do approve—
The worse I follow.*——Why long thus for him,
A princess for a stranger, why admit
Wild thoughts of wedlock with an alien world?
This land too offers what may win your love.
Whether he live or die, the gods decide.——
Yet may he live! That prayer, though I loved not,
Were surely licit. What has Jason done?
What heart would not be touched by Jason’s youth,
His prowess, his proud birth? Who, if all else
He lacked, would not be moved by Jason’s beauty?
My heart for sure is moved! Unless I help,
The bulls’ hot breath will blast him; he will meet
Fierce foes of his own sowing, earth-created,

Or to the dragon be cast for prey and prize.
If I permit such things, I’ll surely own
A tigress* was my dam and in my heart
I nurture iron and stone!*——Yet why not watch*
Him dying there, my gazing guilty eyes
Sharing the crime? Why not urge on the bulls,
The earth-born warriors and the unsleeping dragon?——
The gods forfend! Yet it’s not what I pray
But what I do! Shall I betray* my father’s throne,
And by my aid preserve some nameless stranger,
Who, saved by me, without me sails away
To win another wife across the sea
And I, Medea, am left to pay the price!


Translated by David Raeburn


Book Seven


Medea and Jason


Behold the Argonauts ploughing the sea on their voyage from Greece!

Behind them was Thrace, where they’d seen King Phíneus, blind and impoverished,

passing a bleak old age, and Bóreas’ twins had routed

the Harpies who’d tortured that wretched old man by snatching his food.

After many adventures under their captain, Jason,

they finally came to the muddy stream of the swift-flowing Phasis.

On reaching Aeëtes’ palace, they laid their claim to the Golden

Fleece,* and the king dictated his terms to the heroes, a series

of hard and dangerous tasks. Meanwhile, his daughter Medéa

fell deeply in love with the handsome Jason. Despite a long struggle

against her feelings, her reason was powerless to master her passion.*

‘It’s useless to fight, Medea,’ she said. ‘Some god is against you.

This, or something akin to it surely, is what they call love.

How else should I find my father’s conditions

excessively harsh? For certain they are too harsh. How else should I fear for the life

of a man I have only just seen? – But why should I feel so afraid?

How wretched I am! I must extinguish the fire which is raging

inside my innocent heart. I should be more sane, if I could!

I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desire and reason

are pulling in different directions. I see the right way and approve it,

but follow the wrong. I am royal; so why should I sigh for a stranger,

or ever conceive of a marriage which takes me away from my home?

Love can be found here too. It rests in the lap of the gods

whether Jason survives or is killed. – But I want him to live! I don’t

have to love him to pray for that. What crime has Jason committed?

Only a cruel and heartless person could fail to be struck

by his youthfulness, breeding and courage. And who could be blind to his handsome

looks, if he lacked all else? My heart, at least, has been stirred.

But unless I assist him, those fire-breathing bulls will blast him to ashes;

the warriors sprung from the seeds which he sows in the earth will fight

and destroy him; or else the greedy dragon will make him its prey.

If I can allow all this, I’ll confess that I’m born of a tigress,

confess that my heart is composed of nothing but rock and steel. –

Oh, why don’t I watch him dying and so infect my eyes

with the taint of the spectacle? Why don’t I shout to the fire-breathing bulls

or the earth-born brutes or the sleepless dragon to charge and attack him? –

O heavens, grant me better than that! Yet better is not

to be idly prayed for but done! – By me? Is it truly better

that I should betray my king and my father, that some tall stranger

should owe his life to my kind assistance, only to thank me,

the woman who saved him, by spreading his sails to the wind without me,

marrying somebody else and leaving Medea to be punished?



Translated by Mary M. Innes


Book Seven


Now the Minyans were cutting their way through the waters, on board the ship built at Pagasae.  Thy had seen Phineus, old and helpless, dragging on his life in the eternal darkness of the blind, and the young sons of the North wind had scared away from his lips the harpies that tormented the wretched old man.  At last, when they had come through many dangers and difficulties under the leadership of the famous Jason, they reached the swift-flowing waters of the muddy river Phasis. 

   While they were entering the presence of King Aeetes, and were asking for the fleece of the ram which had carried Phrixus, while Aeetes was imposing his monstrous conditions, requiring them to perform prodigious tasks, the king's daughter, Medea was seized by an overwhelming passion of love and, though she long fought against it, her reason could not subdue her mad desire.  'Medea, you struggles are useless,' she said to herself, 'for some god, though I know not which, is opposing you.  Surely this, or something like it, is what men call love.  Why else do my father's commands seem to me too harsh?  And indeed they are too harsh!  Why am I afraid lest Jason perish, when I have only just seen him?  What is the reason for such fear?  Unhappy girl, rid your inexperienced heart, if you can, of the flames that have been kindled there.  Oh, if I could, I should be more like myself!  But against my own wishes, some strange influence weights heavily upon me, and deisre sways me one way, reason another.  I see which is the better course, and I approve it; but still I follow the worse.  Why do you, a princess, burn with love for a stranger?  Why dream of marriage with a foreigner?  This land, as much as any other, can provide you with one to love.  Whether Jason lives or dies, is in the lap of the gods.  Yet I hope that he may live!  I can pray for that, even without loving him:  for what wrong has he done?  who but a monster of cruelty could fail to be stirred by his youth, his noble birth, his valour?  Though he had none of these virtues, who would not be moved by his words?  He has certainly touched my heart.  But, unless I help him, he will be blasted by the breath of the bulls, or come into conflict with the crop of earth-born foemen, raised from the seeds which he himself must sow; or else, like some creature of the wilds, he will become the prey of the greedy dragon.  To allow this to happen is to confess myself the child of a tigress, to admit that I have a heart of stone or iron.  Why should I not go further, and incriminate my eyes by watching him die?  Why should I not encourage the bulls against him, urge on the earth-born warriors and the sleepless dragon?  Heaven grant him a happier fate!  But I must work for that, not pray or it!

   'Shall I then betray my father's kingdom, and by my help rescue an unknown stranger so that, thanks to my efforts, he may set sail without me, and become another woman' husband, while I, Medea, am left to be punished?



Translated by Rolfe Humphries


Book Seven


The Story of Jason and Medea


So over the deep the Minyans went sailing.

They had seen Phineus, dragging out his years

In everlasting night, and Boreas’ sons

Had driven the Harpies from the poor old king.

They suffered much, but came at last with Jason,

Their brilliant leader, to the muddy waters

Where Phasis meets the sea. They went to the king,

Claiming the golden fleece, by Phrixus given,

And heard the dreadful terms, enormous labors.

And the king’s daughter burned with sudden passion,

And fought against it long, and when her reason

Could not subdue her madness, cried: “Medea,

You fight in vain; there is some god or other

Against you. I am wondering whether this

May be the thing called love, or something like it.

Why should my father’s orders seem too cruel?

They are too cruel! A fellow I have hardly

Much more than seen may die, and I am fearful!

What for? Unhappy girl, shake from the bosom

This burning fire, if you can. If I could do it,

I would be more sensible, but some new power

Holds me against my will, and reason calls

One way, desire another. I see, approving,

Things that are good, and yet I follow worse ones.

Why do you burn for a stranger, royal maiden?

Why think of marriage into a foreign circle?

This land can give you something to love. If he

Should live or die, let the gods decide; but let him

Live! That I can pray for, even without loving.

What has he done? Only the cruel-hearted

Would not be moved by Jason’s youth, his manhood,

His noble birth. And even if these were lacking,

His beauty would move a heart of stone—at least

It has moved mine. And if I do not help him,

The bulls will blow their fiery breath upon him,

The enemy he has sown in earth attack him,

The greedy dragon snatch and seize upon him.

And this, if I allow it, will prove me daughter

Of tigress, stony-hearted, iron-hearted!

Why can not I look on as he is dying,

Disgrace my eyes by looking on? Why can not

I urge the bulls against him, and the warriors

Sprung from the earth, and the unsleeping dragon?

God grant me better grace! But this is not

A question of praying, but doing. Shall I then

Betray my father’s kingdom, rescue a stranger,

Who, saved, sails off without me, marries another,

Leaves me to punishment? If he can do it,

If he can place another woman above me,

Then let him die, the ingrate! No! He could not,

He does not look as if he could, his spirit

Is noble, his body handsome. I need never

Fear he would cheat me, or forget my service.


Translated by Allen Mandelbaum


Book VII


Jason and Medea


NOW, IN THE SHIP they built at Pagasa,

the Argonauts were furrowing the sea.

They had already seen the Thracian seer,

King Phineus, dragging out his final years

in endless blindness. Boreas’ twin sons

had eased his sufferings: they’d driven off

the Harpies, women-birds who tortured him;

in recompense, the old king helped them chart

the way to Colchis. After many trials,

led by the hero Jason, they had reached

the rapid current of the muddy Phasis.

There, when they went to King Aeetes, claiming

the Golden Fleece he had obtained from Phrixus,

the king agreed to yield the fleece they sought—

but only on his terms: he set three tasks,

horrendous tests that Jason had to pass.


Meanwhile the raging flame of love has struck

Medea, daughter of the king: when she,

who struggled long against that passion, sees

that reason cannot win again her frenzy,

she says:


“Medea, you are doomed to fail:

the force you face must be some deity.

I wonder if this power (or something like it)

is not the power known to men as love.

Indeed, why do the terms my father set

seem harsh to me? But then . . . they are just that!

Why do I dread the death of one whom I

have seen but once—a first and only time!

What led to this? Why am I terrified?

Come, quench the flame that burns your virgin breast—

would you, unhappy girl, could do just that!

If it could blaze no more, I would be healed.

Instead, despite myself, a force that I

have never known before impels me now:

my longing needs one thing; my reason seeks

another. I can see—and I approve

the better course, and yet I choose the worse.

Oh, why do you, the daughter of a king,

burn for a stranger? Why, why must you dream

of wedding one whose world is alien?

You can, in your own land, find one to love.

The fate of Jason—life or death—depends

upon the gods. But I do hope he lives—

a hope that would be rightful even if

I did not love him! After all, what wrong

has Jason done! How could one be so cruel

as to ignore his noble birth, his youth,

his worth! But even if he lacked all these,

would Jason’s face alone not be enough

to stir one’s heart? At least, my heart—the heart

he has entranced. If I don’t take his part,

he will be blasted by the bulls’ hot breath,

and then face foes that he himself begets—

sprung from the very soil that he will sow—

or else fall prey to the voracious dragon.

If I let him become their victim, then

I must confess that I’m a tigress’ daughter,

who carries steel and stones within her breast.

And why don’t I look on as Jason dies—

why would that spectacle defile my eyes?

Why not incite the bulls, and savage foes

the earth engenders, and the sleepless dragon?

O gods, forbid that! . . . Yet, why do I pray?

I have to act! But shall I then betray

my father’s kingdom—be the one to save

this foreigner (I only know his name—

and nothing more), who then can sail away

without me, once he has escaped the fates,

and marry someone else, while I remain

alone—to face the penalty I’ll pay?



Translated by Horace Gregory

Signet Classic - ISBN 0-451-52793-3


Book 7


Now in a ship that had been built at Pagasae
The Argonauts cut through the restless waves.
And on their way they saw blind Phineus,
His pitiful old age in endless night;
Sons of the North Wind came to drive away
The girl-faced vultures plucking at his lips.
This scene was one of many swift adventures
Shared by the Argonauts, led by bright Captain Jason,
Who steered them safe at last; the ship was beached
Within the rapids of the mud-brown Phasis.
Officers and crew had come to take the fleece
Stolen by King Aeetes (as his gift
From Phrixus) nor would this hard-driving king
Give up the fleece without harsh terms and trials.
As the dispute ran high, the king's own daughter,
Sharp-eyed Medea, burned with quickening heat.
She fought against her fever: it was madness;
Nor could she cool her brains with hope of reason.
She cried aloud, "Medea, wits are futile
Against this heat. Some god's bewitched my senses,
Chained my will. Is this called love? Why do
The trials my father offers these young men
Seem difficult and cruel? His price is high:
Why do I fear the death of one I've seen
But for a moment and for the first time only?
What lies behind this fear? Then come, Medea,
Tear out the flames that scorch your innocent heart,
You poor unlucky child! Brace up, my darling,
Be yourself again: O if I could, I would,
But now against my will an unknown power
Has made me weak: heat sways me one way,
And my mind another: I see the wiser,
Yet I take the wrong. And why do you, king's
Daughter as you are, grow hot with love because
You see a stranger? To seek a wedding bed
In an alien world? There's much to love
At home. And if he lives or dies? Gods' will
Take care of that. And yet I hope he lives!
Let me hope, pray for him, and yet not love!
What harm has Jason done? It is inhuman
Not to be moved by Jason's manliness
That shines like summer's day, and his green vigour,
Even that clear line of his gentility;
If nothing else, look at his lovely face!
Surely he stirs my heart! Now to his rescue:
Great bulls will burn him blind with fiery breath,
And from the seeds that fall from his own hand
An army sprung from earth will strike him down
And he'll be fed as carrion to a dragon.
If he's destroyed, his very death shall prove
that I'm no more than a mad tigress' daughter,
My heart a bloodless weight of iron and stone.
Why can't I look down at him as he falls?
Why is that vision tainted in my eyes?
Why don't I order great bulls to charge, armies
To cut him down, and spur the watchful dragon
Who never sleeps? These questions are not answered
By a prayer; they call for action now - and yet
Shall I betray my father's kingdom, crown,
to shield an alien hero in my bed,
Then see him set his sails and make away
With some new bride? And I, Medea, pitiful,
Alone? But if another woman takes
His love, he's earned his death. No, no - his manly
Look, aristocratic air, his poise, his grace
Deny my foolish fear of being tricked.


P.S.:  Don't piss Hera/Juno off by having the misfortune of being raped by her husband, Zeus/Jove.  She's likely to turn you into something, probably a cow!



Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

Agnes Grey - Angeline Goreau, Anne Brontë

TITLE:  Agnes Grey


AUTHOR:  Anne Brontë



                                 [First Published 1847]



Agnes Grey is the touching story of a young girl who decides to enter the world as a governess, but whose bright illusions of acceptance, freedom and friendship are gradually destroyed.

Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë charts the development of gentle Agnes and sympathetically depicts the harsh treatment she receives along the way. Leaving her idyllic home and close-knit family, Agnes arrives at the Bloomfield’s residence, inside whose walls reign cruelty and neglect. Although faced with tyrannical children and over-indulgent parents, the generosity of spirit and warm candour learnt from her own family never desert her. Agnes also remains firm in the Murray household, where she is used by the two disdainful young daughters for their own deceitful ends and where her chances of happiness are almost spoiled for her.
A deeply moving account, Agnes Grey seriously discusses the contempt and inhumanity shown towards the poor though educated woman of the Victorian age, whose only resource was to become a governess.




Agnes Grey draws on Anne Brontë's experiences as a governess.  Anne wanted to write a novel that showed the many difficulties, indignities, and discriminations a governess faces while carrying her duties - with the purpose of reform in mind.  The novel is also something of a study of human behaviour and society, as well as relationships.  The families who Agnes works for make "The Addams Family" look tame and perfectly normal.  The plot is straight forward and the writing not too long-winded and verbose.  The prose is acutally quite beautiful.  This book comes across as quiet and peaceful without melodrama, but it still somehow draws the reader in.  Also, unlike many novels written in this time period, Agnes does not wait around for a man to marry her and "save" her.  She is capable of being independant and making her own decisions. 


This Penguin Classics edition has additional material including a chronology, an introduction (which deals with Brontë family dynamics and reviewer criticism), a bibliographical notice of Ellis and Acton Bell, notes and further reading.


The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller

Star Trek Discovery The Enterprise War - John Jackson Miller

TITLE:  The Enterprise War

              [Star Trek: Discovery #4]


AUTHOR:  John Jackson Miller





"A shattered ship, a divided crew—trapped in the infernal nightmare of conflict! Hearing of the outbreak of hostilities between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, Captain Christopher Pike attempts to bring the U.S.S. Enterprise home to join in the fight. But in the hellish nebula known as the Pergamum, the stalwart commander instead finds an epic battle of his own, pitting ancient enemies against one another—with not just the Enterprise, but her crew as the spoils of war. Lost and out of contact with Earth for an entire year, Pike and his trusted first officer, Number One, struggle to find and reunite the ship’s crew—all while Science Officer Spock confronts a mystery that puts even his exceptional skills to the test…with more than their own survival possibly riding on the outcome…."




The Enterprise War fills the gap between seasons one and two of Star Trek Discovery by showing us what happened to the Enterprise during the Klingon Battle.  The writing is good, tight plot, decent characterization (Spock is Spock and Captain Pike is Pike) with some humour, nail-biting moments, delightful character interactions and original aliens.  Just what StarTrek novels should be.





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