Sunday, July 29, 2012

TSS: End of July

July is almost gone. Half of the year gone!, 70% of my book challenge done! It's been almost a month since the moving and things haven't been as I expected to be...they have been better :). I'm so proud of the home we are forming together. The only downside has been the fact that is very time consuming! Take this week-end for example. I'm a sucker for vintage, but our washer and dryer were just plain old. So we spent the week-end shopping for it. I love the new ones, but when we finished our day I wanted just to lay down. 


But again, it has been worth it. The feeling of coming "home" is just indescribable. Anyway, enough of this, what has happened in the reading part of my world you say? Not much, sorry! I did finish one book this week though, The Jinson Twins, Science detectives and the Mystery of Echo Lake. It was a nice book, and I loved the part of "science detectives"



Other than that, this week I received my copies of The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs, The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi and The Taker by Alma Katsu. As you can see, I started The Colonel.

I think that's all for today, I hope you have a nice week everybody!

The Jinson Twins Science Detectives and the Mistery of Echo Lake by Steven L. Zeichner


Book Summary (from the back of the book)

The Jinson twins, Joe and Debbie decide to start a business during their summer vacation, hiring themselves out to do odd jobs. They find themselves in an odder job than they counted on when Mrs. Gray, who lives with her talkative parrot, the Captain, in an old house down off River Road, engages them to help clean out her basement.

Aided by their friend, Mr Benjamin, the proprietor of the Resource Recovery and Recycling Center (a.k.a the junkyard), the twins use the clues that Mrs Gray’s late husband, a former sea captain, left behind to figure out, using scientific principles, where the captain hid his enormous collection of antique Spanish gold coins.

But some other people know about the treasure too and have no intention of letting an old lady who spends most of her time with a parrot, an old man who runs a junkyard and a couple of kids get the treasure.

My Review

I got this book through the Member Giveaway program at LybraryThing.com, but with the moving and what not I forgot I had it!. I saw the description of the book, and it got me at “sciences detectives”

The story is told in the voice of Debbie. One thing I have to mention is that a couple of time this changed for a paragraph, to being told by a third person, and then back to first person (Debbie) without any apparent reason. I guess this just slipped from the editors. Other than that I have to give it to Zeicher, I felt like listening to my 12 year old cousin, and I imagine the fact the he is trained in pediatrics and has 2 daughters gave him the practice to know how a 12 year old girl would express herself. 

This twins, besides being smart, are not out of the ordinary twins, no special language, no reading of each other thoughts, which I actually liked a lot, because all they do during the mystery is trough thinking, and I love a book that promotes this. After a “long” time where it looks like no-one is going to hire them, they get a call from Mrs Gray an elder lady who needs their help. Along they find the treasure of a map, that her husband promised to her. Here is where Mr. Benjamin, an engineer, comes to help them. Now, why wasn’t him in a more “science” field instead of engineering, I don’t know. With the author’s background in microbiology I was expecting another career for the person pushing the scientific method, but that’s just me. 

The book actually makes reference to a real research article (including the URL at NCBI, I’m geeking out here, sorry) and I loved that. Extra points for the last part of the book where you can do an experiment to evaluate the speed of sound. 

I think this is the type of book I would love to read to my future daughter and hope that she also falls in love with science, or at least understands where my love is coming from.

As a bonus, you can check this interview with the author on Wired magazine. 



Sunday, July 22, 2012

TSS: Catching up with summer!

Hello everyone, another Sunday that goes by and I'm writing my post later than usual. But it is for a good reason...you see, I spent my day next to the pool :). Lately I've been very busy, so I have no color, even though summer hs been around for a while now, so today, we took the day off. This week was a record for me, I finished 2 books! The Time Traveler's Wife, it was good...the movie...not so much. I like Rachel McAdams, but I didn't like the way they did the movie, I think is a book with so much subtleties that it wasn't doable to pass it to the screen. I have Her Fearful Simmetry,  and I will give a try soon, since I liked the style Niffenegger has. Also I finished Drop Dead Healthy. If you haven't read anything from A.J. Jacobs I strongly recommend trying it. Is just so entertaining. 

On the other hand my boyfriend just started reading Game of Thrones and I have never ever since him reading that fast. He is urging me to start reafding too, so we can finally start the series!
 
That's about it for today, I'm taking a bit of a break to just relax, since I'm well ahead in my reading challenge, but it will be just this week-end. I can't really go on without reading!


I hope you guys have an amazing week.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs


Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

From the bestselling author of "The Year of Living Biblically "and "The Know-It-All "comes the true and truly hilarious story of one person's quest to become the healthiest man in the world. Hospitalized with a freak case of tropical pneumonia, goaded by his wife telling him, "I don't want to be a widow at forty-five," and ashamed of a middle-aged body best described as "a python that swallowed a goat," A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his ways and get healthy. And he didn't want only to lose weight, or finish a triathlon, or lower his cholesterol. His ambitions were far greater: maximal health from head to toe.

The task was epic. He consulted an army of experts-- sleep consultants and sex clinicians, nutritionists and dermatologists. He subjected himself to dozens of different workouts--from Strollercize classes to Finger Fitness sessions, from bouldering with cavemen to a treadmill desk. And he took in a cartload of diets: raw foods, veganism, high protein, calorie restriction, extreme chewing, and dozens more. He bought gadgets and helmets, earphones and juicers. He poked and he pinched. He counted and he measured.

The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written. It will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your bloodstream. It will alter the contours of your brain, imprinting you with better habits of hygiene and diet. It will move you emotionally and get you moving physically in surprising ways. And it will give you occasion to reflect on the body's many mysteries and the ultimate pursuit of health: a well-lived life

My Review

Who doesn’t want to be healthy? Specially now a days.  I first bought this book for my boyfriend...actually I pre-order it; we got it the second day after it came out. Why? We are big fans of Jacobs and it was my boyfriend who introduced me to his books. Last year I read The Year of Living Biblically and in March of this year I read The Know-it-All. I was really excited to read it and, since I loved the other two, I had big expectations. Boy, did the book deliver. 

Jacobs spends 2 full years working on himself, taking care of this skin, meals, exercising, getting healthy...and happy. To quote the book:

                "The key to making healthy decisions is to respect your future self. Honor him or her. Treat him or her like you would treat a friend or a loved one"

As in his other books (I still have to read the Guinea Pig Diaries, but the order has been placed, and with 82% off!!!!) he doesn’t only talks about the “experiment” itself, but also how it affects him, his family and in smaller doses, about family in general. In the first book of the “series”, The Know-it-All, we learn about him and his wife trying to conceive, how his father also tried to read the whole Encyclopedia Britannica, and so on.

In this book we meet his Grandfather, a remarkable 96 year old, with a lovely remark:
"You can retire, but you must find something you’re passionate about in your retirement. You need a reason to wake up in the morning"

Something else that I really enjoy about his books, is the familiarity of the whole thing, I feel like a friend of mine is just telling me what he/she did during the week-end. The writing is fluid and casual, like a conversation. And I have to say, I love Julie, his wife. She has the patience of a saint, and her comments always make me smile. She tried some of the stuff with Jacobs in this book. I cannot blame her for not trying anything on the biblical year; at the same time, I loved her "answer" to a lot of the restrictions during that year...but I'm changing books here. Sorry.

 What did I learn with this book? That I’m doing fine, not great but fine in my own quest to be healthy. I watch my portions, and have also controlled a little of my roommate and my boyfriend; I’m lucky to work in an environment that is not highly noisy;  I don’t wear as much sunscreen as is recommended, but the point I’ve been trying to carve in my friend’s brains was valid, it does make a difference to apply sunscreen in the morning; I love my Pilates class, even when it hurts the day after, “luckily” I cannot spend 8 hours sitting at the lab, since I have to move from one room to the other in order to finish my experiment. I could still be more active though.

And finally, my favorite of them all: Reading before going to sleep, might actually be helpful to sleep better! (As long as is a non-electronic book J)
Truth be told, I learnt about a ton of new tendencies, but the main point is that everything has to be done in moderation. From eating, to exercising, you cannot...should not exaggerate. 

Did I like this book? Oh yes! I think is my favorite book from Jacobs...we will see how it goes with the Guinea Pig Diaries. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare's attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler's Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it's about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time
 
My Review

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about hits book, heck, even IO9 talked about the anticipation for the movie adaptation (FYI, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but soon). So here I was, almost 9 years later reading the book. 

The story is told from the 2 main characters points of view, Clare and Henry, and we keep jumping in time with Henry. This made it difficult to fall in the story at first, since sometimes I didn’t realize that the “voice” changed. But you get used to it. 

Henry time travels, it started when he was very young, and it seems to be related to stress. One big point this book has for me, is that it doesn’t involve a machine, or magic, is just a mutation that causes “Chrono Impairment Disorder”. This is the first time I read a book that touches the subject and goes to it through genetics, and I loved the idea. The fact that Henry eventually consults a geneticist and they build a whole science grant from there…well, that was just an added bonus for me.

All of the characters are depicted as flawed; they have issues, deep and sometimes gruesome. I remember reading someone’s critic to the fact that everyone seemed to be “too rich” or something like that. All though is true that the characters are described as well accommodated, I don’t see why this was a problem for the story. The same person complaint about the book having too many descriptions of food…certes this was not necessary, but it was yummy ;)
So back to the story, Henry and Clare meet, for her it starts when she is 6, and she starts learning all this things about this man called Henry, and yet he remains a mystery. When their timelines finally merge, he doesn’t recognizes; it was an older him that visited Clare.

I found the story romantic, a love that lasted forever. But there is so much sadness floating in the book. Is not a happy love story, and just so you know, is not a happily ever after story either. The relationship that is built between Clare and Henry is pretty much the same type that anyone of us has, you slowly meet and get to know the person, and when you love them, you love them even with the parts of them that you hate.  

There is a point that really touched me, Clare is talking to her Grandma, and she raises the point that in children stories, is always the side of the kid going on an adventure (think Peter Pan) that is being told; the fun part. But no one tells us about the stressful nights that Wendy’s mom spent wandering where their children went. This book shows us Clare, as the one left behind, the one who spends countless nights wondering if Henry is ok, if he is coming back, safe and sound.

Did I like the book? Yes I did. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it was well written, simple prose, yet with a lot of meaning behind the things happening. I would’ve liked for the characters to be a bit more constructed, sometimes there were things happening that didn’t seem to have a background, but this doesn’t kill the story in anyway. I wouldn’t change the end...I cannot tell you why, because that would be ruining it, but I think that the end is fit for the story told.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

TSS: Better late than never

Hello everyone!, I'm posting a bit late today, but I just got carried away with my reading :). As you may noticed I started reading The Time Traveler's Wife last week. I was reading slowly, calmly, and then today I finally got some time in my hands and well, here's what happen:



So...yeah...I kind of just realized that is almost 10pm here, which is not that late, but the day was almost over, and I remembered I wanted to post today, at least something.

Anyway, reading has been good this last week, whit everything in order, I finally managed to go back into reading, without being exhausted. I finished and reviewed Cain, I posted another discussion, and we even got sometime today to go read in the park/work a bit on my tan ;). I even found this cute image that shows part of what books are according to me. 

Right now, the moment I left my chair, someone else was interested on the book I'm reading:

 I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend, the review for The Time Traveler's Wife should be up this week.
 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caín by José Saramago


Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

In this, his last novel, José Saramago daringly re-imagines the characters and narratives of the Old Testament, recalling his provocative The Gospel according to Jesus Christ. His tale runs from the Garden of Eden, when God realizes he has forgotten to give Adam and Eve the gift of speech, to the moment when Noah's Ark lands on the dry peak of Ararat. Cain, the despised, the murderer, is Saramago's protagonist.

Condemned to wander forever after he kills his brother Abel, Cain makes his way through the world in the company of a personable donkey. He is a witness to and participant in the stories of Isaac and Abraham, the destruction of the Tower of Babel, Moses and the golden calf, the trials of Job. The rapacious Queen Lilith takes him as her lover. An old man with two sheep on a rope crosses his path. And again and again, Cain encounters a God whose actions seem callous, cruel, and unjust. He confronts Him, he argues with Him. "And one thing we know for certain," Saramago writes, "is that they continued to argue and are arguing still."

A startling book- sensual, funny- in all ways a fitting end to Saramago's extraordinary career

My Review

Now, why did it take me so long to finish the book? I mean 9 days! Well…did I mention I moved? I’m sick and tired of this excuse, but is true, the last 2 books I read took me forever, but that’s just because I needed my sleep, badly! But let’s go the reviewing, shall we?

This is the third book I read from Saramago, and I think we can safely say that I like his style. I realize that the absence of paragraphs, the dialogues that are not visually separated, etc, are not for everyone, but I think once you get used to it, you can read it as any other book.

The story starts, not with Cain and Abel, but with Adam and Eve, this is the first time Saramago presents to us his version of god, one that will talk to his creations just as you and I would talk. Then, as most of us know, they get kicked out of Paradise, and after several years Cain, Abel and Seth come to the scene. 

After killing his brother, Cain is punished by god with a mark in his forehead and he is condemned to wander. The trick is that he won’t wonder just around, he will travel “in time” from biblical story to biblical situation. He will fall in love with Lilith, he will stop Abraham before killing his only son and he will be there in Noah’s Ark. 

All through the book, Cain will criticize god, for his acts, his reasoning, etc. He even points out that this god that everyone is following is a jealous god, full of anger and grudges. There is a moment when he is talking with god and the later says:

                “Some deny my existence […] they are out of my law, of my reach, I cannot touch them”.

If it hasn’t been obvious to you by reading his prior books, this should be clear enough. Saramago is quite critical of the image that Catholic Church gives people to believe in. I haven’t read The Gospel according to Jesus Christ but in Death without interruptions you can already see a lot of critics, not only to society itself (also a recurrent theme in his work) but to the church itself.  Through Cain’s voice Saramago even accuses god to be “crazy and without a conscious”

I like the book a lot. I know it doesn’t necessarily show when you consider how long it took me (again people, I needed to sleep!) It was quirky, funny, satirical…it was fun to read, even though I kept feeling my grandma wouldn’t like me enjoying the book so much (she is really attached to the church still).
I loved the following sentence:

Progress […] is inevitable, fatal as death. And life”
 
Every time that I read one of his books, I end up with a list of sentences that stuck to me, and that’s good, that means (for me) that the book went deeper inside of you than you thought. However, I don’t think it was as good as Death with Interruptions, and that’s why this one is getting one mushroom less. I think is a lovely way to finish an amazing career, short and sweet



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hardcover or Paperback


OMG, it's been so long since I had time to write a discussion! Right now I'm still at the lab (lately is either here or at home, I swear I'm just watching the summer pass by through a window) but I have a long incubation, so I can take some time off.

I was discussing the other day with my boyfriend and some friends about our views on paperbacks vs hardcover books. Personally, I like both, but I don't mind having a paperback instead of the hardcover because it takes less space in my bag and (usually) weights less too. Also, and as a student this is something I cannot neglect, they tend to be less expensive. I think it doesn't really matter, since the story is the same, and that's what I want in a book, a good story.

My boyfriend on the other hand, prefers hardcovers. He just likes them better. But to be fair, he rarely reads outside home, and when we do, we go to a park and we just put both books in a bag carefully.

So what about you guys? Hardcover or Paperback?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

TSS: Making decisions

Hello everybody, How was your week? My was busy, busy. The weather is gorgeous outside, and yet I spent 4 hours Saturday and Sunday in the lab, working...I'm grateful my experiments are going well, but why can't I make my cells take the week-end off?

Anyway, I'm reading Cain, from Jose Saramago, and I think I will be done soon, but as the end of the book approached and I was looking at my To read list of 2012 I realized I have a bunch of books in my library that should make it into that list too. And then I panicked, I thought about my reading challenge this year, and which books should I choose from the bunch to accomplish this challenge, and how I also wanted to read others, and....long story short, I realize I can't keep a steady "to read" list in a short term. I decided then to just have a "Reading Soon" list, of the books I'm most eager to read. I think I will still make it into my challenge, but I will feel less guilty (guilty with myself, but that's the worst kind) if I read outside of the list.

So that's it for the week (I know, not much, but I'm afraid right now my thesis is taking all priorities)

Have a great week,

 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Gospel of Damascus by Omar Imady







I got this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers and here is my review

Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

The Gospel of Damascus is an eschatological novel that weaves sacred traditions to tell the story of eight angels who identify and prepare Yune Bukhari, a Damascene man born to a Christian mother and Muslim father, to be one of the successors to the Disciples of Christ. The preparation process is complex and entails spiritual and sensual experiences which Yune must successfully undergo. Guiding the preparation process are golden scrolls which can only be opened at very specific dates. The story appears to culminate on Christmas Eve 1999 when Yune, along with his co-disciples, believe Christ will return. Yune is shattered when Christ fails to descend on the White Tower east of Damascus. But thirty-three years later, the preparation of Yune is over and he is finally permitted to witness the event he had anticipated for so long.

My Review

I was attracted to this book by it’s summary at LybraryThing.com. The whole story seemed interesting, as its premise was an intertwined tale of several religions and cultures, a subject that I really enjoyed.

This is Imady’s first novel, but you can tell from the writing that is not the first time he writes. The rhythm is fluid and easy to follow through the story of Yune. Also, the fisrt part of the book, in which a lot of terms, facts and situations are introduced flows a bit better (in my opinion) than the parts involving dialogues or the most fictional part. 

The main character of the story, Yune is a fire horse, a boy born in the year of the horse (Chinese culture) but in a year that this will be called the fire horse, someone who will show the characteristics of this animal symbol (individualism, love of freedom, hatred to mediocrity) in a highly accentuated manner.

The story is not told by Yune, but by Raqeem, one of the 8 angels entrusted with the task of facilitating God’s design on earth. These angels come to Earth for a certain period of time, and are the guardians of different qualities such as spiritual change, balance, wisdom, etc. In this case, Raqueem is to help the formation of Yune, and all he knows is that this boy will bring a big change to the world. Every certain time, he will open a golden scroll that will contain “instructions” in the form of riddle to know what to do next.

We follow then the growth in every possible manner of Yune, from traveling, learning and falling in love, to jealousy, lost of love, and finally the forming of a covenant with 12 disciples to prepare for the second coming of the Christ. He believes it will be on Christmas Eve 99 but, as it turns out, nothing extraordinary happens then. It will take the shattering of his soul and heart, and a world-wide transformation, as well as 33 more years, for Yune to see what he was being prepared for.

Did I like the book? Parts of it, specially the beginning as I said before. However there was a lot of subject introduced at the beginning, which usually doesn’t bother me if it comes back later, but it was not really the case. Also, as I mentioned, the dialogues need more work to read fluidly. I liked the idea behind the book as well as some messages left from i: that you have to find yourself before finding anything else, that you won’t arrive to your final destination knowingly and that it will be hard but worth it once you get there.


TSS: It's done!

 


 Hello everybody!. I'm glad to tell you that is done!, We are finally done with the moving. I took long hours, not so much sleep, but is done! I'm so happy. I loved our new place, and I love the new disposition of our books. We separated them on fiction, non-fiction and academia. Why? because we now have enough space for it ;). I also love the fact that now we have a proper office (my PC was in my room before) so I can work without disturbing my boyfriend's sleep or viceversa. I'm expecting to be able to write more often now, I couldn't actually post this on Sunday, since we only installed my computer yesterday and I wanted all the rest to be done before sitting here. But I've thought a lot of my blog, it relaxes me to write here, I can take my time, no pressure, if people like it is awesome, it not, I have the space tho just share my thoughts.

Anyway, let's do a wrap up of the half of the year. I'm ahead on my reading challenge, which is good, because this last month I read, sure, but not a lot. I think so far my favorite book of the year is 1Q84, but I have a couple of books that also got 5 mushrooms. Is just that this was so unexpected as book to me, that so far is in the leading position. It gave me so much to say, then again Death with interruptions also did, but I knew I would like Saramago, so that's why Murakami got extra points.

The "worst" book...well I guess it would have to be From Adam to Noah. I have only 2 books with 2 mushrooms so far, but you see, at least The Road to Megara was fiction, not amazing fiction, but work in progress fiction. I think my biggest issue with Timmons, is that albeit he works hard in defending his thesis, he arguments are not valid to my eyes, or anyone around me (I read excerpts from the book to a bunch of my friends, to know if maybe it was just me who wouldn't find the book good...I wasn't alone :S)

Right now, I just finished The Gospel of Damascus, from Omar Imady and I intend to post the review later this afternoon.I just started Cain, from Saramago.

I believe that's all, I hope, as always, that you have a good week