Book reviews: Year 2016

No.6, Volume 7 by Atsuko Asano

I really enjoyed it.

The Foxhole Court (All for the Game, #1) by Nora Sakavic

I really enjoyed it.

The Raven King (All for the Game, #2) by Nora Sakavic

I really enjoyed it.

The King's Men (All for the Game, #3) by Nora Sakavic

I really enjoyed it.

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I really enjoyed it.

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Despite being interesting, the first half of the book feels slow as the events foreshadowed at the end of Book 1 seem to be completely ignored by everyone, and it is difficult to care about political intrigue when one could be, you know, saving the world. Things really pick up in the second half though, keeping the reader guessing as to what the prophecies might actually mean, what history tells us and how that matters (or not) for what is about to happen now. There's a good number of plot twists I did not see coming and it was delightful - I'm just annoyed it took halfway through the book for the characters to get to what readers would have guessed at at the end of book 1, and only from there started turning it all on its head.

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3) by Brandon Sanderson

I'm not sure what I think. I enjoyed the story and most of its characters (though their evolution across each book was sometimes hard to follow), I got used to the world and its rules and came to like it. The fight scenes (in all the books, and there's quite a few of them) are meant to appeal to another kind of reader than me, and I skipped them more and more fully as I read on: people (good and bad) smirk or smile and then they go and kick ass, in a style that feels like it'd fit better on a screen. I was genuinely worried about the fate of everyone and everything for a great part of the book, then everything got wrapped together so quickly and thoroughly it felt like getting too many answers to all the questions that came up over the 3 books and more. Maybe it's inevitable for a story that deals with world endings and gods. It's not completely satisfying. But, it was a good story.

Grandir (French Edition) by Sophie Fontanel

Un livre court, des anecdotes sur la vieillesse et ce que c'est que de prendre soin d'un parent âgé qui se meurt doucement. On se demande comment on réagira quand ce sera notre tour.

No.6, Volume 8 by Atsuko Asano

I really enjoyed it.

Encore une Danse by Katherine Pancol

Quelques touches d'espoir sur la fin qui ne compensent pas vraiment la perspective déprimante sur la vie et les relations humaines.

陽気なギャングが地球を回す (祥伝社文庫) by Kōtarō Isaka


Evenfall: Volume 1: Director's Cut (In the Company of Shadows, #1 part #1) by Ais

A story about secret government organisations, spies, assassins and love in a post-World War III setting. I liked the tiny background tidbits offered on how the war happened and ended, although I found it unclear what it means in terms of general world safety for the common people (there are scavengers who murder openly close to cities but diners on highways are safe with bored/flirty staff?). There's some eyebrow-raising stuff about the Agency, but who knows - it's a post-apocalyptic world. Ultimately what made the story not work for me is Boyd's personality, which I couldn't follow. He's introduced as this person who's completely closed-off, desensitised to everything, not even reacting at pictures or tales of gruesome killing sprees, but very early on he shows enough curiosity about his partner to ask him personal questions aloud, and more jarringly gets obviously angry when the partner he was told would be difficult getting along with is being difficult to get along with. Also, I found it baffling why a man just waiting to die would spend such a great deal of effort dodging bullets when all it would take would be just a little less dedication to immediate survival, though maybe that's just me.... In the end it felt like reading about a new character whenever he reacted so strongly, and I couldn't really follow his evolution.

No.6, Volume 9 by Atsuko Asano


L'appel de l'ange by Guillaume Musso

J'ai bien aimé la première moitié du livre : un incident horripilant (perdre son portable et ce qu'un inconnu pourrait bien y trouver), des mystères qui se devinent, et puis résoudre ces mystères une fois qu'ils sont mis au jour. J'ai eu un peu plus de mal à partir de là, ce qui est dommage. Les coïncidences qui permettent d'avancer l'histoire deviennent de plus en plus difficiles à pardonner. J'aurais aussi trouvé l'histoire principale plus intéressante si plutôt qu'une espèce de coup de foudre fragile et difficile à suivre, elle posait les bases pour une amitié durable et solide mais bon, on n'y échappe pas !

The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research by Stephen D. Krashen

This may be somewhat of an academic text, filled to the brim with references to other studies, but I found the style very approachable. It's a fascinating insight into literacy development and the pleasure of reading (whether it's the fancy stuff or "light reading" such as romances or comics), as well as the impact of reading on cognitive development, writing style, vocabulary and grammar - particularly when it comes to children and one's primary language but also in the context of learning other languages. As a personal point of interest, it's the first time I hear about "writing apprehension" and "ethnic ambivalence/evasion" and I'm glad I'll be able to poke into these some more thanks to the references.

悪夢のエレベーター by Hanta Kinoshita


L'Envie by Sophie Fontanel

It was fine.

Vol de nuit by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Le style épuré rend la lecture parfois difficile, mais l'histoire offre sinon une réflexion intéressante sur le coût et la signification de se consacrer à "l'action", à une mission plus grande que soi qui durera bien plus longtemps que soi, mais qui sera toujours en directe opposition au bonheur individuel.

獣の奏者 1 (青い鳥文庫 273-1) by Nahoko Uehashi


Parler plusieurs langues : Le monde des bilingues (A.M.PSYCHOLOGIE) by François Grosjean

On peut diviser ce livre en 3 grandes parties : qu'est-ce que le bilinguisme (ou plurilinguisme), devenir bilingue (qui se concentre surtout sur le développement du bilinguisme pendant l'enfance), et puis l'évolution de la perception du bilinguisme sur les 100 dernières années ainsi que le biculturalisme.

L'auteur propose une définition moins stricte du bilinguisme, qui particulièrement en Europe signifie souvent la capacité d'utiliser chacune de ses langues parfaitement, sur n'importe quel sujet, et sans accent bien sûr. Idéalement depuis la petite enfance. Pour moi la première partie du livre a été la plus intéressante, particulièrement le concept de "complémentarité": certains domaines et situations sont réservés à une ou l'autre des langues (d'autres, aux deux), mais il n'y a pas une correspondance ou un équilibre parfait entre les deux. Peut-être ne suis-je pas devenue alingue après tout ;)

探偵ガリレオ [Tantei Garireo] (ガリレオ, #1) by Keigo Higashino


Polyglot: How I Learn Languages by Kató Lomb

This book is a bit all over the place, but the author's humour and her delight in languages and learning more than make up for it. This isn't quite an autobiography but it's also not a textbook either. The author talks about her journey, how she fell into languages and happily stayed there, sharing numerous anecdotes along the way. She touches on some theoretical aspects of language learning, bursting a few myths along the way (like being too old or not having a gift for it), breaking the recipe for success down to a simple equation: (Invested Time + Motivation)/Inhibition = Result.

Later in the book she talks about more practical aspects of language learning such as vocabulary building or conversations, though the most interesting chapter for me was when she details her own learning style: right from the beginning, when jumping into a new language she uses literature to intuit meaning and the rules of the language. Nowadays there is a lot of emphasis on speaking and it is refreshing to read about an approach with such a strong focus on spending a lot of time immersed in books.

Considering the book was first published in 1970 it's also interesting to see how many of these strategies are now proven to hold water (mnemonics, comprehensible input, etc.).

Que serais-je sans toi? by Guillaume Musso

Une lecture rapide, qui commence avec le duel palpitant entre un flic et un gentleman cambrioleur avec en fond une histoire d'amour avec la fille de ce dernier. La fin plaira ou ne plaira pas (personnellement, pas trop...) mais j'ai trouvé la chasse au voleur suffisamment prenante en elle-même.

獣の奏者 2 (青い鳥文庫 273-2) by Nahoko Uehashi


No. 6 Beyond by Atsuko Asano


Hontō Ni Kangaeru Chikara Ga Tsuku Tadokujutsu: Atama Ga Ii Hito Wa, Naze Takusan Hon O Yomu No Ka? by Yoshihiro Sono


獣の奏者 3 (青い鳥文庫 273-3) by Nahoko Uehashi

I really enjoyed it.

獣の奏者 4 (青い鳥文庫 273-4) by Nahoko Uehashi

I really enjoyed it.

Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

A gripping story with interesting plot development and reveals. I liked the world, with its original magic based on Breath and colours, as well as figuring out the politics, religion and history. The main thing that didn't work for me was the worldbuilding-breaking (!?) modern American humour particularly heavy in some places/characters.

Programming Interviews Exposed: Secrets to Landing Your Next Job (Programmer to Programmer) by John Mongan

A good refresher on some basic data structures, algorithms and computing concepts ; more approachable than the more academic books. The problems tend to go from "oooh interesting" to "why the hell would anyone ever want to implement this like that?!", but that is the nature of technical interview questions.

The Hacker's Guide to Python by Julien Danjou

A good book targeting people who are already comfortable with the language. It aims to give the lay of the land on a variety of topics: what's the current status, what's the history if relevant, what are the current libraries and best practices. I enjoyed the end of chapters interviews with an expert from the community about that chapter's topic.

獣の奏者 5 (青い鳥文庫 273-5) by Nahoko Uehashi


Le malaise français: Comprendre les blocages d'un pays (Les Indispensables) by Éric Fottorino

I really enjoyed it.

キノの旅 I by 時雨沢 恵一


League of Dragons (Temeraire, #9) by Naomi Novik

A satisfying ending to a wonderful series. I'll miss spending time with Laurence, Temeraire and all the other dragons!

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

A post-apocalyptic world where a number of people have ended up with superpowers, but unfortunately also all turned out to be somewhat evil. Like all Brandon Sanderson's books, this is a pleasant and gripping read, that included a couple of twists I didn't see coming.

Mitosis (The Reckoners, #1.5) by Brandon Sanderson

It was fine.

Le travail à coeur by Yves Clot

Un ouvrage assez difficile à aborder pour ceux qui ne sont pas habitués à la langue académique (comme moi). La thèse principale du livre sur les problèmes actuels du monde du travail est que l'on sacrifie constamment la qualité du travail (la satisfaction du "travail bien fait") et que les gens ne se reconnaissent plus dans ce qu'ils font. Les solutions qui viennent d'en haut sans discussions ou reconnaître la réalité ont tendance à empirer les choses. Au fond j'ai trouvé cette lecture assez déprimante, puisqu'on parle d'un problème tellement énorme. Va-t-on vraiment tenter de changer le système quand on peut simplement inventer une mesure sur le degré de fragilité des employés et les "épauler" plutôt que de discuter et changer le système qui cause ces problèmes à la base ? Rentabilité, rentabilité - plus important que la qualité ou la santé.

Le logiciel libre (un "patrimoine transpersonnel" !!) fait une petit apparition surprise sur la fin qui m'a bien plu.

陽気なギャングの日常と襲撃 [Yōki na gyangu no nichijō to shūgeki] by Kōtarō Isaka

I really enjoyed it.

Firefight (The Reckoners, #2) by Brandon Sanderson

A good sequel, with some excellent twists I once again didn't see coming.

Heritage Language Development by Stephen D. Krashen

I picked up this short essay collection because I was interested in the concept of "ethnic ambivalence/evasion," a stage during which ethnic minorities distance themselves from their original/family language in order to fit in better with the dominant culture. The research shows that contrary to the popular belief that "immigrants are reluctant to learn English," the opposite is usually true and "heritage languages" get lost quickly. The book starts at the very beginning, on the practical advantages of multilingualism, then dives into the consequences of losing one's heritage language and the difficulties of maintaining it. It ends with recommendations on how to improve student attitudes and how to develop the language, by looking at existing Heritage Language Programs and their outcomes. (Self-selected/free voluntary reading seems to be doing the best.) Most of the studies were centred on North America.

Calamity (The Reckoners, #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Things peter out a little bit at the very end, but overall a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education (Educational Psychology) by Joshua Aronson

A deeply, deeply interesting book. Each essay aims to both explain a theory and offer related practical advice, in a readable form, and are followed by "questions from teachers" in order to clarify how to apply the concept to the classroom when it isn't obvious. The essays are divided into 2 broad categories: the "classics," theories that are known to hold and for which the results have been proven and re-confirmed in hundreds of studies, as well as more recent (still solid!) theories. The topics are varied and interesting: the pygmalion effect, motivation, self-handicapping, effective 1-on-1 tutoring, building empathy, stereotype threat, the jigsaw classroom... I know I will keep this book close-by and use it as a reference.