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tech, teaching, and books

Leonardo (DK Eyewitness Guides)

I love these books. Whenever I visit a used bookstore, I buy any DK Eyewitness whenever I see them.

This one is titled: Leonardo: Discover the Renaissance – an age of experimentation, creativity, and discovery. Don't be fooled by the title; it isn't all about Leonardo. That may be a relief or disappointment to you. Leonardo is mentioned a lot in the book as an important person during the Renaissance, but it doesn't ignore other figures of the time.

All in all, a good introduction to the Renaissance with great pictures. The best thing about the DK Eyewitness Guides are the large, detailed images. It is like visiting a museum.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #45 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Kids

The Ancient Greeks by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg

While wandering the aisles of the Big Bad Wolf Books, I found this gem. As I'm a Greek-Canadian living in Taiwan with kids, it's very important for me to pass on my Greek culture to my children; one way I can do this is through books!

This book is sort of like a graphic novel with interesting facts about the ancient Greeks. I learned a few facts from this book, but this book is mostly aimed at children 8+. I enjoyed flipping through this book, which is tall and not very wide, like a menu. The graphics are cute and the captions are funny!

This book is a good introduction to the ancient Greek civilization. They introduce poets, the ways Greek civilization has influenced other countries, the Olympics. It also has a great big map at the back of ancient Greece and a timeline of major events and famous Greeks. It certainly will quickly become a favourite of my children I'm sure.

They also have books about the Aztecs, the Egyptians, and the Romans. I will have to collect them all!

Rating: ★★★★ Book #44 in My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Greek #Kids

Galatea by Madeline Miller

Miller has a talent for bringing to life the world of Greek mythology. As a person of Greek heritage, I'm glad that she's bringing the passion of Greek myths to people who might know the myths. I read her books Circe, and Song of Achilles and thought they were both excellent stories that remained faithful the the spirit of the myths they were based on.

Galatea is based on a myth I'm not familiar with I'm ashamed to say. This is based on the story of Pygmalion. He is a gifted sculpture who makes a very beautiful marble statue of a woman. He falls in love with the statue and the Gods turn her into a real woman for him. Then they get married and live happily ever after (I suppose?).

The story of Galatea doesn't retell that part of the myth but rather looks ahead to what would their marriage would be like if the statue was married to the man. What feelings would she have? What would she life (or die for)? This is a short story but still a nice read. I love how Miller retells these myths from the female perspective with is almost always neglected in Greek mythology.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #43 in My 2019 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #Fiction #GreekMythology #ShortStory

The Gods Themselves – Isaac Asimov

Asimov is a giant of sci-fi , for good reason; his novels always incorporate some unique science concept mixed with some sort of ethical dilemma.

In this book, humans stumble onto this magic technology which gives us unlimited, clean energy. Of course it's not quite that simple and the energy is actually coming from another universe which is inhabited by aliens who are also in need of energy/food. Due to the inherent design of the tech, it will destroy one of the universe's in time. There are scientists scrambling for the glory of the discovery of the tech, while others are trying to prove how dangerous this tech is and try to stop it. The other universe aliens have their own reasons for wanting this tech, and they have their own different kind of triad society. For the final part of the book, the perspective shifts back to the moon colony, and some scientists try to 'save' the day by fixing the tech.

This book was written in the 70s but could easily have been written just a few years ago. The magic tech with limitless energy is so convenient to use that nobody wants to switch. This is like the Earth's dependence on oil. In the final part of the book, a character quips that nobody will listen to the problem with the magic tech unless they present a solution at the same time. I enjoy novels like this that explore ethical quandaries that society finds itself in due to new technology because lasers and spaceships exploding for no reason just gets boring without a purpose.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #42 in My 2019 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #Scifi

Early People (DK Eyewitness Books)

Yes this is a kids book but they are still lovely to read as an adult. I remember reading these books as a kid. They I would go to the library and read one after another. It was like visiting a museum. History would come alive on those pages and I would learn a lot about animals, knights, and other things.

This one is about early humans from even before homo sapiens. There is lots of detail for civilizations from the western world but not much for Asia. China is only given 2 pages. The theme of this book is very expansive so they included what they could. A book about Early Humans could easily fill thousands of pages!

I credit DK Eyewitness Books for awakening the love of history in me when I was a kid. When I read this on the couch, my daughter poked her head in and asked “Daddy, what's this?” and I got to explain the way of the world to my daughter. Is this not the magic of a book? The internet cannot compete with the joy of flipping through these sorts of rich, graphical books and sharing them with children.

I'm going to read 3 more of these books I have sitting on my shelf: Butterfly & Moth, Explorer, and Leonardo.

Rating: ★★★ Book #41 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Kids

Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard

A collection of short stories taking place in a futuristic desert, beach-like resort of Vermilion Sands, where the rich, and eccentric reside. Each of these stories has a different type of tech that is at the center of story: sonic sculptures, VT machines (to write poetry), pychotropic homes, singing plants, etc. These stories are neither utopian nor dystopian but rather show a possible future the author had in his head in the 1970s. It's certainly weird, but is it good? Some of the stories were, others were sort of stale.

A much better book by J.G. Ballard is “High Rise” which is a dark humor story about living in a futurstic high-rise where things go awry.

Rating: ★★★ Book #40 in My 2019 Reading Challenge #Books #BookReview #Scifi

Aetherial Worlds: Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya

Quite an mixed bag of stories. The most interesting stories are the ones where the author talks about her experiences, or observations of the world. I particularly liked her story about traveling in Crete. A lot of stories weren't that memorable but I still enjoyed this whole selection.

The write writes with passion, and humour. In the middle of stories she pivots with ease from on topic to another. I feel like I'm in a bar with her and she's regaling me with stories from her life. The stories feel very authentic. I love her Russian sense of humour and perspective in life.

Rating: ★★★ Book #39 in My 2019 Reading Challenge

#BookReview #Books #TranslatedFiction

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Earthsea Cycle #5

This was a good entry into the Earthsea cycle. It goes into the backstory of Roke, and fleshes out the more parts of the Earthsea world in some places that we don't know much about. There are some stories about different witches and mages in Earthsea that are just regular people, and their little adventures. At the end of the book, there are some descriptions about the kings, geography of Earthsea, and other miscellaneous things.


Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis

The book is described as Kazantzakis' Iliad, and that felt like exaggeration for me but after finishing this book, I agree. Crete has a long, bloody history, but it's proud people always fight back. This book for me was an education in the Cretan spirit of resistance.

The first book by Kazantzakis I read was “Zorba the Greek” and it was great. I then tried reading “Report to Greco” but got stuck halfway through. It was a good book but is in need of editing. It was written at the end of his life so he never had the chance to edit it as much as he should. That book kinda put me off from reading Kazantzakis, but am I not Cretan? I must read more of his books. I'm glad that I got over my trepidation and attacked this book. I will be mulling over this book for a long time.

“Better an hour of life in freedom than forty years of slavery and prison,”


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is another intense, heart-wrenching historical fiction book a war in Africa. I seem to be reading a lot of these books lately. I guess I just need a good cry. Half of a Yellow Sun is about before and during the 1967-1970 Biafra-Nigerian Civil war. It's one of those wars we have never heard about in the Western world because as it's mentioned in the book, 100 black men dying are not as important as 1 one white man.