Sunday, June 27, 2010

Field Notes from a Catasphrophe: A Book Review

It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, shows firsthand the harm being done by humans to our planet. From the icy tundra of Greenland to the dusty sands of the Middle East, climate change affects everyone. Kolbert documents both stories of inspiration and of remarkable ignorance and stupidity; she tells the real truth, even if it may not be what you want to hear.

If you want to read a great book that seriously addresses the problem of climate change, definitely consider this. Kolbert's writing is easy to understand, but powerful. The scientific data and the real-life testimony from scientists, government officials, and even normal citizens are combined in an effective way. This is probably one of the best science books I've read all year.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crank by Ellen Hopkins: A Book Review

Life was good before I met the monster. After, life was great. At least for a little while.

Kristina Snow is a good daughter. She always gets good grades, never misses curfew, and never causes any trouble. But there is another side of Kristina that only she knows about: Bree. Bree is wild and fearless. She answers to no one. On a trip to visit her father, whom she hasn't seen in years, Bree takes control.

Bree's new boyfriend introduces her to crank, aka "the monster". Soon, Bree finds that one thing leads to another, and her life is spiraling out of control. Kristina needs to take back her life, and fast. But soon, one shocking event will overshadow all the others, and Kristina will find herself forced to confront her newer, darker side.

This book was amazing. I'd never read an Ellen Hopkins book before, although I wanted to. And this was even better than I thought. Normally I don't like books written in verse as much as normal prose, but this one was great. I loved how Hopkins manipulated the stanzas so that they were shaped in certain formations relevant to the story she was telling. Kristina/Bree seemed so real, and she was easy to sympathize with. I'd love to read more of this author's books!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hiroshima by John Hersey: A Book Review

On August 6, 1945, America dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Thousands of innocent civilians were killed. In this powerful book, John Hersey tells the story of six survivors.

Miss Toshinki Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just turned her head to chat with the girl at the next desk.

Dr. Masakazu Fujii, a physician, had just sat down to read the paper on the porch of his private hospital.

Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, was watching a neighbor from her kitchen window.

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest, lay on a cot in the mission house reading a Jesuit magazine.

Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young surgeon, walked along a hospital corridor with a blood specimen for a Wasserman test.

The Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, was about to unload a cart of clothes at a rich man's home in the suburbs.

In an instant, the lives of theses six men and women would change forever. Some were injured; some, the lucky, were merely confused and disoriented. But they did all they could to help others in more trouble than them--the young orphans and the terribly maimed, showing true spirit and selflessness in the face of horrible destruction.

The first four chapters of the book are about what happened to the six during and directly after the bomb blast And in the moving final chapter, Hersey goes back to Japan nearly forty years after the disaster at Hiroshima to examine the aftermath of the bomb, and to discover what life for the survivors was like after the war.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Water The Drop of Life: A Book Review

Water is everywhere. In our bodies, our food, our possessions. We need water to survive. It truly is the drop of life. When all we need to do is turn on the faucet for water, it's easy to think that this resource is limitless, that there will always be enough water for everyone on the planet. But this isn't true. Water is disappearing. This book will show it to you. It will take you across the globe, from Namibia to Jordan to Spain, to prove that water isn't a limitless resource. It is disappearing. And fast.

But this book also shows solutions. It offers hope and offers examples of where individuals, businesses, and governments have stepped up and taken responsibility for managing this essential element of our lives. We don't have to let a lack of water destroy the planet. Everyone can manage water more efficiently, and even little steps can make a difference.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages: A Book Review

The year is 1943, and eleven-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is on a train to a remote location in New Mexico. There, her father is working with the world's top scientists to build a mysterious weapon that Dewey knows only as "the gadget."Meanwhile, Suze Gordon, a young but talented artist, struggles to find her place among the other girls at Los Alamos, the complex where both she and Dewey are to live.
When Dewey's father leaves on a business trip and she must move in with Suze's family for the time being, neither girl is happy about the arrangement. The other girls dislike Dewey, and Suze wonders what they will think of her when they learn the two are sharing a room. Dewey considers Suze one of her tormentors, and hopes her father returns as soon as possible. But when tragedy strikes and Dewey is stuck at their house for the rest of the war, it seems the two will have to get along. Meanwhile, no one suspects just how much "the gadget" is going to change their lives forever.

This was a quick and enjoyable historical fiction novel. Suze and Dewey's reluctant and sometimes turbulent friendship was realistic, and the characters' emotions were powerful. The two protagonists were easy to relate to, and they could easily have been eleven-year-old girls living in today's society. In my opinion, this was a novel about friendship and coming-of-age as much as it was about history.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Tempest: A Book Review

One night, a storm will be created, a ship wrecked, and lives changed forever...

Prospero was once the duke of Milan, until he and his young daughter, Miranda, ended up on an almost-deserted island as a result of a plot by Prospero's power-hungry brother Antonio. When a ship sails by with Antonio and others on it, including the king, Alonso, Prospero sends his spirit slave Ariel to wreck the ship, stranding them on the island. Miranda and Alonso's son Ferdinand fall in love at first sight, but Prospero locks Ferdinand away to test their love. Farther off on the island, a murder plot...or two...are being hatched. Only one thing is sure...this night will be full of surprises.

I think this was probably my second-favorite Shakespeare play that I have read, after MacBeth. It was humorous and filled with magic. The characters were interesting and funny, and so was the plot. I'd recommend this to any fan of Shakespeare plays.