Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Hot Zone

When I first heard of Ebola, my reaction wasn't terror, it was something like, "oh, that's the foreign version of the flu. It'll pass." The older I got, the more I started to realize, "Wait, this is actually a pretty big deal. Whoa, whoa, whoa, there's a fifty to ninety percent fatality rate?" But still, I remained calm. Africa was far away. There were four known cases in the United States. Then (two days ago), I was given The Hot Zone, a book about the emerging of one of the worst "predators" known to humankind. It described the three types of Ebola and its sister, Marburg, and then tells the story of a monkey testing facility that became "hot" (active) with "agent" (the word for a extraordinarily dangerous virus.) Holy smokes, that was the most terrifying thing I ever read. I'm dead serious (no pun intended). What the virus does to you...I can't even find the words. It basically turns your insides to liquid. It replicates until you have become a "walking biohazard", says Richard Preston, the author. I read that book in bed. I couldn't fall asleep. I didn't want to turn off the light. But the thing is, you don't really know what you're scared of. There's no ghost, no monster, nothing that could sneak up on you. But I still jumped at every noise, listened to make sure I could hear human voices, and that that persistent whistling noise was just my heater. I don't know why, but reading about that virus had the same effect on me as that scene in Jurassic Park where the bad guy is making a run for it, and then gets eaten by that Dilophosaurus. Read at your own risk!

Ages: 21+...JUST KIDDING! 13+
Awards: Overseas's Press Club of America's Whitman Basso Award and the McDermott Award. The author himself acquired so many awards, I couldn't possibly pronounce or type them all in a day.
You'd like this if you like: Fever 1793 (don't read The Hot Zone if you are expecting it to be the level of intensity this book is at. It's ten times more scary.)

                                    Interested in this book? Click the link below:
                                                  The Hot Zone

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ender's Game


You guys remember that babysitter I wrote about? The babysitter that gave me Jane Eyre, Madame Bovary, and Frankenstein all of which I was suspicious of being deathly boring, and all of which turned out to be on my top ten book list? This same babysitter gave me Ender's Game, and I had the same reaction. Great, another classic with a boring cover that I have to pretend to be excited about (I hadn't read either Jane Eyre or Madame Bovary yet). Similar to the coming Jane Eyre situation, I stalled. I ignored it, staring into my back every time I entered the living room. I'm waiting, Phoebe. Eventually, I couldn't stand it. I got home from school and I picked it up. My parents didn't see my for the rest of the day. Ask me a question, you'd get a grunt or an 'mmmf'. This book was my gateway to Science Fiction, as well as psychology. Psychology and Science Fiction? What the heck am I talking about? Well, the book isn't just 'kill the aliens' which is what most people think of when they hear the words 'science fiction'. It's about war strategies, allies, brothers, enemies, and human instinct. And the characters stay with you. I've even started comparing friends to Ender's Game characters. No, I'm not Ender. I'm not sure who's Ender. I've started thinking of Ender as God in both the book and life. I must sound like I'm getting way too into this book. You're probably right. But pick up this book and maybe you'll change your mind.

Ages: 12+
Awards: Hugo Winner and Nebula Winner
You'd like this if you like: Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Giant, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Hegemon. Ender's Shadow is my favorite. You can read that before you read Ender's's the prelude. I should warn you though, look up the chronological order of the series. It's impossible to understand a single sentence if you read them in the order they were written.                       

                             Interested in this book? Click the link below:
                                                       Ender's Game

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zeus is a Jerk (and other observations)

Before you say anything, no, this is not a book I'm writing about. However, I need to get a few things off my chest. Allow me to explain.

When I was younger, I loved the Greek gods. They were like superheroes. Role models. They were both the most beautiful beings known to man AND were incredibly smart. Their stories were fascinating and numerous, too. I had read the D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, the Percy Jackson series, and George O'Connor's books (which I have written about here), Edith Hamilton Mythology, you name it. Then, as I aged (when I say 'aged' I mean over the course of three years), my perspective on the Greek gods changed. 

I started questioning the motives of the gods. Was it really the right thing to torture someone by having them roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll all the way back down again just for tattling on you (Sisyphus)? Or have your liver eaten by vultures only to grow a new fresh one every day because you did something kind (gave fire to the mortals) even though he didn't consult you first (Prometheus)? Or torturing the son of your husband (even though it wasn't your son with your husband)? Was it the son's fault he was born (Hercules and Hera)? I could go on forever. And the more I thought about this, the more enraged I got. But for each story I thought about, I reached a similar conclusion for almost every single one: The gods are too proud to admit they were wrong. Or settle down for three seconds so they could hear the other person's side. I also discovered that more than three quarters of the time, my rage was aimed at Zeus. 

Let's talk about Zeus for a minute.

1) After he beat his dad and company and claimed he birthright (lightning bolts) and saved the world and all that, he decided that himself, Hades (had a helmet of invisibility), and Poseidon (dude with a trident) should be the three "main gods": the sky, the sea, and the Underworld. But instead of sitting down and weighing each others' weaknesses and strengths, he decides to DRAW LOTS. Excuse me? This isn't that kind of decision. The three main lords of the universe decided by three pieces of paper with the words sky, sea and Underworld picked out of a hat. Smart move there, Zeus.

2) Married Metis, goddess of counsel and advice. Then, he had a crush on Hera, and SWALLOWED Metis when he tricked her into turning into a fly so he could marry Hera, the goddess of marriage ironically enough, instead. Then, after then wedding, cheated on her with women including Io, who he turned into a cow when he heard his wife coming, Alcmene whose son, who she had with Zeus, turned out to be one of the greatest heroes of all time (Hercules). Poor, humiliated, Hera. AND had a baby with the god Demeter named Persephone and helped Hades kidnap her. Not to mention Leto, Europa, Callisto, and Dianae, to name a few. Does he understand the definition of marriage? I'm not exactly sure.

3) Damned Prometheus to a horrible torture for helping the mortals, who he hated for some reason at the time (see second paragraph). Then later, he "warmed up" to the mortals (it is not stated why or when he decided this) but STILL DIDN'T LET PROMETHEUS GO. Once again, too proud to admit that he was wrong, just like with Sisyphus who told on Zeus for cheating on his wife. 

I could probably go up to 10. For each god. But I won't, don't worry. I think you get the idea.

When reading this, you probably think I believe in the Greek gods. No, I don't. I guess I just wish they were written a little better. When I picture divinities, I don't picture people like Zeus. 

"First Date" comic courtesy of Hark! A Vagrant (super cool blog.) I thought this strip summed up my thoughts on Zeus pretty well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Shadow Hero

How many of you guys recognize a name on this book cover from past posts (or even better, previous reads)? For those of you that don't, the one I'm referring to is Gene Luen Yang, the author of American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints, quite possibly three of my favorite graphic novels ever. This book however, is not a typical Gene Luen Yang book. The illustrations, for example. Instead of Yang's round, more cartoon-y, style of drawing, we have sharper, scratchier characters from Sonny Liew. This is going to sound a little snobby, but Yang's drawings are sort of easier to look at. But the idea of this book is awesome. It's like Yang took the qualities of a comic like Superman and any graphic novel (there is a difference by the novels are one continuous story with panels and illustrations, and a comic is a different story sequence every 1-2 pages) and mixed them together to form this book. This book is an origin story for the first Asian superhero called the Green Turtle that was created during World War 2. But, as Yang explains in the back of his book, his face was never shown. It was always facing away from the reader, or covered by a weapon, or even his own arm. And in his comics, every time he came close to telling someone how he became the Green Turtle, he is needed to save the world somehow, and the story of the Green Turtle is put off for that day. I guess Yang thought he kind of needed an identity...a face and a town and a family. Maybe you don't like comics or graphic novels or Gene Luen Yang or even Nerd Alert. That's fine. But you should read this book for the Green Turtle's sake. He deserves it. 

Ages: 11+
Awards: None yet, but it's a really new book. I'll most likely have to update this area in a couple months.
You'll like this if you liked: American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints

                               Interested in this book? Click on the link below:
                                                    Shadow Hero

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jane Eyre

Okay, don't say anything, I know what you're thinking. I mean, just look at this cover. This book just naturally gives off a "Don't-read-me;-I'll-kill-everything-that-you-love-about-books-I'm-so-boring" kinda vibe. That's what my thoughts were when my babysitter gave me this book. "I heard you love to read!" she said. First she handed me Frankenstein, which I was overcome with joy to hold in my hands. Then she gave me Ender's Game which became a series I was addicted to over the course of a month. Then she handed me Jane Eyre. It was thick. It was heavy. It was dusty. It looked as if her great grandparents had it at one point. I can tell you that my mood sort of declined when I saw it. I put it off for weeks. And then finally, on a deathly boring snow day, I picked up that demon, that horrible thing that would stare into my back every day when my babysitter would ask me, "Have you read it? Have you read it?'. And I started to read. The outcome was almost immediate. My parents will tell you that somedays I would sigh in the car on the way to soccer practice and say, "I wish I was Jane" in the middle of some conversation about our summer vacation or something. I have read this book countless times. Why? Because Jane Eyre is the best person in the world. She's incredibly smart (every single thing that comes out of her mouth sounds as if it should be published and sold all over the world. I'll give you an example; it's one of my favorites: "I would rather be happy than dignified.") and not very beautiful. She's very...mousy. But it's not one of those stupid stories about men seeing through a woman's flaws and loving her despite them. (Actually, it sort of is but in a better, more clever way). It's a romance, but it's not sappy or floaty. See, what happens is she's an orphan who grows up with a cruel woman and eventually goes to  school and becomes a governess for a little French girl named Adele at Thornwood hall, owned by Mr. Rochester. Eventually, she falls in love with him. That's all I'll say about the plot. That probably didn't sound to thrilling to you. But one should not live through life without reading this book.

Ages: 14+
You'll like this if you liked: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (isn't that the coolest name ever?)
                                             Interested in this book? Click the link:
                                                               Jane Eyre

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hyperbole and a Half

Let me just say that Allie Brosh seems like the coolest person alive. All you have to do is read some of her work and you'll know what I'm talking about. I used to get really mad at people who'd be like, "look how many friends I have on my social media thingamajig!" because the word "friend" meant someone you knew really well and trusted. How can you have 200 "friends" you don't even know? But ever since I started reading Allie's blog and her book, even though I've never spoken to her or exchanged emails or anything with her, I feel like I've known her forever. She's always there when I feel good, or mad or (especially) when I need a laugh and I feel like I'm the one that listens to her problems. Yeah, it sounds weird, I know. It's just that she's so...human. She's imperfect. She loves nachos. She gets depressed. She has a dog. It's so easy to relate to her. She's kinda like Roz Chast in a way (see Theories of Everything). Anyway, the book is a bunch of stories from and not from her blog about her life. If you end up reading her work, be sure to read "Menace" and "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving".

Ages: Hmmm...12/13+? She curses a lot.
Awards: A heck of a lot for both book and blog
You'd like this if you liked: Anything by Roz Chast
            Click here for her blog:                                        Click here for her book:
         Hyperbole and a Half (Blog)                                 Hyperbole and a Half (Book)    

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Life of Pi

You want to hear a sad fact? About one out of every thirty or so kids like to read in my school. And even the kids that like to read aren't obsessed with it. Which is why, when I'm not in school, I do my best to find those other Nerd Alertish people out there. One of my best outlets is camp. Me and my sister have been going to this awesome farm camp for a while now. Well, during my third year, it was the first day, and I didn't know anybody. Everybody at my table was kinda doing that inaudible, "hiwhat'syourname". I did know some people from the year before, but they didn't seem to remember me. Then this girl with dark brown, shoulder length hair and blue eyes sat down. It was her first year. I remember she was sitting at the head of the table. Later in the day, when we were doing activities in the courtyard, we had to pick a partner. Everybody was doing that asking-with-your-eyes thing and pointing-from-the-person-they-picked-to-themselves-really-quickly thing. Me and the girl were the only ones without a partner, so naturally we became cohorts. I found out her name was Ella. And once we both realized we both liked to read, we couldn't stop talking. We lent each other books, gave recommendations, criticized authors, all that jazz. Reader, you must be thinking, "That's all fine and dandy and I'm glad you found your buddy, but what about the book you're supposed to be reviewing?" I'm GETTING THERE. :) Anyway, me and Ella stayed in touch even after camp was over, and established a book club. When we came to camp the next session, we decided to pick a book. We decided we should read a book we both hadn't read. Then she goes, "How about Life of Pi?". I heard it's even better than the movie." So that was our book. Let me just tell you that I would count this as one of my top favorite books. Out of graphic novels too. It is fantastic. The metaphors are hard to figure out though. It took me over a month to get one of them. In a nutshell, this is the plot:
               Pi Patel lives in a zoo in India. Yes, you heard me right; literally a zoo. He's also extremely religious, as a Muslim, a Hindu, and a Christian. He's the only one in his family that's religious at all, really. Everyone else was much much more..secular? then he was. One day Pi finds out that they are selling the zoo and moving to Canada. Unfortunately, while passing over the Mediterranean Trench, the boat sinks, along with his mother, father, and brother Ravi. (Spoiler, I know, but it's really only a small part of the story). Pi is the only survivor....except for a hyena, a zebra, and a Bengall tiger. The weirdest part about it is that though it's fiction, the writer almost convinces you it isn't. He writes it as if he's at Pi's house, asking him for his story so he can write his book. You'll see. I didn't do the best job of explaining it.....remember, I said in a NUTSHELL. That was NOT the whole book. Anyway. Trust me when I say that it will be added to your top favorite books too.

Awards: Too many to list here.
Ages: 12ish or 13ish+

                                    Interested in this book? Click on the link below:
                                                           Life of Pi
 (Plus, if you want to check out her new awesome blog, click here)