How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone by Brian McCullough — A Review

How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone by Brian McCullough

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

I never know how I’m going to feel about non-fiction books when I pick them up, whether I enjoy the subject or not. They can often be dry, boring, slog-of-a-reads. That wasn’t the case for me with Brian McCullough’s How the Internet Happened.

McCullough takes us through the history of the internet from the founding of Netscape by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark all the way to the present day and the ubiquity of smart phones, which didn’t hit their stride until 2007 with Apple’s iPhone.

McCullough’s voice is conversational, almost peppy. I moved through each chapter with ease, often smiling at his analysis of some of the events I experienced personally as a young person in the early aughts. I still remember when Facebook first made its way through my dorm in 2005. It was an odd feeling knowing I could stay connected to all of the people I had gone to high school with, and it was even odder to recognize that we were able to keep up with each other without ever having to interact at all, without ever having to have a conversation. Go ahead and roll your eyes at me younger people. I know you want to. At that time though, the idea of an online social network was extraordinary.

I enjoyed being able to read about some of the big names behind companies I take for granted today – Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Jerry Yang and David Filo – the yahoos who started Yahoo!, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google. And not only that, but it was really interesting to read about the dot-com bubble and eventual burst. I was about 10 when the dot-coms were having their heyday, and about 15 when that bubble burst. Of course, as a kid I had no idea what that internet thing was or the impact it would eventually have on my life.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable and informative read. It has certainly sparked my interest in reading even more accounts of this time period and the phenomenon known as the internet.

Thanks to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for my review copy.

Expected publication: October 23rd 2018 by Liveright

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Literary Criticism and Gender

(CCO Creative Commons)

So, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to post a review yesterday, but I just plum forgot.

Anyhoo…this article came across my radar this morning in which a male literary critic discusses gender bias in the critiquing biz. I found it very intriguing, and I wonder why I never thought of it before. Clearly, the writer felt similarly befuddled.

The article is available here, and the conclusion he comes to is this:

“…the solution to this unjust system has to be both to encourage more female critics and to assign more female authors to both male and female critics…”

This leads me to ponder on the gender bias in reading in general. Now, I personally read both male and female writers, and I think my reviews on this site reflect that. But, I’ve noticed that many people gender their reading, and many more people, ahem PARENTS, tend to gender reading for their children. How many of you women out there were only ever presented with “girly” type material — tutus, parties, princesses, pink, etc., but were never introduced to things like questing, danger, science, or mystery?

Excuse my French, but what the crap is that!? Why would no one have ever offered me some Fred Gipson (Old Yeller) or William H. Armstrong (Sounder) when I was a kid. I mean, I ❤ ❤ ❤ dogs. Why would no one have suggested those to me? Because I’m female? Frankly, that’s stupid.

And this totally goes the other way as well. Boys are given suggestions like Gipson and Armstrong as well as William Golding (Lord of the Flies) and Gary Paulsen (Hatchet & Dogsong). But rarely are they encouraged to read something like Judy Blume or Jane Austen. Heaven forbid they enjoy reading something about ballet and tutus! The world might slip off its axis or something.

Now, I know I’m generalizing and speaking hyperbolically, and there are certainly exceptions to the statements I made above. But I would be generally interested to hear from anyone who can deny that there is still a gender bias when it comes to reading and/or picking out books for children. Seriously, shoot me a message, I would love to have that conversation.

Just doing a quick Google search I can see that discussion of gender bias, balance, and discrimination has been going on at least since 2011 (probably before I just didn’t find that in my quick search), and it continues to this day. Why, for the love of everything, in the twenty-first century, are we still gendering books. Why do we gender anything for that matter? Shouldn’t enjoyment be the focus? Like, if you really like floral patterns, you should be able to read a book about floral patterns regardless of gender. And if you really like sports, you should be able to read a book about sports regardless of gender. Duh!

So, why am I ranting about this? Well, it’s been on my mind for a long time, and the article I read this morning just triggered something in my soap-box sensors. But also, gendering books to begin with, leads to the kind of gender bias in reviewing and critiquing that the article talks about. Am I missing out on books because I’m a woman? When I submit reviews to journals or magazines, do they consider my gender as compared to the author’s gender? Does that cause me to lose out?

It has to stop. The gender disparity in the entire literary world, just needs to stop.

I’m thinking about doing a year where I only accept and review female writers. What do you all think? Is that a great idea? Or does that contribute even more to the gender divide?

As always my lovelies, happy reading.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir — A Review

33359446A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn.

We pick up A Torch Against the Night where An Ember in the Ashes left off. Laia and Elias are running for their lives, the Commandant is up to her usual evil ways, and Laia’s brother is trapped inside Kauf prison.

Like all traditionally published YA novels, this was well-written and suspenseful, and it had me wanting to turn page after page even when I was exhausted. I really enjoyed the incorporation of the Tribes into the story, the relationship development between Elias and Laia, and the struggle that Helene, now Blood Shrike of the empire, goes through in trying to choose between her friend and her duty to the empire. Honestly, the development of Helene’s character in this book was in large part why this book rated so high with me.

However, there were a couple of story lines that did not feel complete to me, and I found that a bit surprising considering how many hands this went through prior to publication. I think this book may have tried to accomplish way too much in too few pages.

  • The love triangle from book one carries over, but it’s sketchy and thoughtlessly handled.
  • Not nearly enough time is spent explaining the world of the jinns and the Waiting Place, which I assume will play a large role in book three (or at least, I hope it does).
  • That twist at the end felt a little cheesy, but all right I’ll go with it.

Despite these issues, I still enjoyed it very much, and want to know what happens with Elias and Laia in book three.

I picked this book to fulfill the Read Harder Challenge #20, A Book with a Cover You Hate. I know why Tahir wanted to change the cover design, and I respect that reasoning. I just think the execution (specifically the single color and the Throne of Glass knock-off style) was poorly done.


Which one do you prefer?



The Mine by John A. Heldt — A Review

the mineThe Mine by John A. Heldt

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3

DNF at 47%

I don’t typically review books I DNF. I even have a statement to that effect in my review policy. That said, I’ve been hung up on this one book since the end of August, and it’s been keeping me from writing reviews of other books, so I felt compelled to write a little PSA.

The reason I kept putting this novel down:  sexism. The reason I kept picking it back up: I hate not finishing things.

Now, I realize that the majority of the book is set in the 1940’s, so, different time, different place, different culture. Whatever. The main character, however, is from THIS century, and he’s a grade-A douche.

From page one I thought I had fallen into a mini frat party with 2-D bros. Not only were these 2-D characters employed as the main duo, but they themselves reduced all female characters to a summary of their features. THEN, one bro mysteriously ends up in the 1940s and barely bats an eye. I’m supposed to understand that he just floats through life anyhow, so it’s perfectly acceptable for him to time travel and not be affected. Errrm, k?

I can’t figure out if this author really dislikes women, or if he’s just so out of touch with them that he can’t write convincing female characters (dear gods, the dialogue) OR convincing male/female interactions. Passages like this one (after Joel has chased down a foul baseball for Grace (the blonde) — she didn’t ask him to btw– and he has been caught scaling the fence back into the baseball stadium by a security guard. Grace decides not to acknowledge that Joel is her companion or that he has a ticket so the guard is hauling him off):

Joel glanced over his shoulder at the blonde. He couldn’t believe she had abandoned him like a feral dog. He had risked his neck getting that ball. Talk about ingratitude. He remembered something Adam had told him their freshman year. Trust no woman.

She’s ungrateful? Because you were a show-off and she didn’t respond how you wanted her to? Ugh *rolls eyes*. Oh, and Adam and that freshman year he’s referring to, that was around 1996 — not in the 1940s. These gendered blanket statements seriously need to just stop.

The above passage is fairly benign in and of itself, but in combination with all 44% of the book in front of it, it was the last straw. In the end, I found it too exhausting to keep banging my head up against the wall of sexism, and had to say no thanks. I can’t really even say that the writing was compelling or interesting or that the premise was well executed because those were problems as well. 11/22/63 by Steven King was published in 2011 (The Mine was first published in 2012), and I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ King’s book? Much better execution.

Unless you are over the age of 50 and a white male (or completely out of touch with modern movements of inclusion and feminism), you’re probably going to want to skip this one.

If you’re interested in some moment-to-moment thoughts I had on this book, I posted some status updates (complete with GIFS!) on Goodreads. You can check those out here.

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.