31 December 2011

Quantum Physics for Poets – By: Leon M. Lederman & Christopher T. Hill (Nonfiction)

Sometimes unbridled curiosity can get you into some weird places, and this is one of them. I’m not sure at what point I thought that this was a good idea, but it turned out to be great! Drs. Lederman & Hill do a pretty good job of building the reader’s knowledge of physics from the ground up, without frustrating them too much. And this is coming from someone who took four years of French to get out of a single math class.

This book has enough scandal and intrigue to keep you coming back, and I actually found myself looking forward to the next time I could pick it up. That being said, I also heaved a sigh of relief when it was over. It’s an accomplishment to read, but also a good jumping off point for anyone interested in the wonderful wide world of quantum theory. I, for one, may not stop here.

Bookwyrm rating: Vegetables 

26 December 2011

Wonderstruck- By: Brian Selznick (Children’s Fiction)

Don’t be put off by the sheer size of this children’s book, at least half of it is in pictures, so it’s not as daunting as you think. There are two stories which are told separately, one in words and the other in pictures. I just loved the different mediums being used in tandem, they played well together.

 The plot is child-like, but it portrays complicated situations with honest emotion. This novel is beautifully written and illustrated, and the two stories tie together quite satisfactorily. Judging by how much I loved this book, I might have to try his other book which has a movie in theatres now; The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

17 November 2011

Time for Outrage – By: Stèphane Hessel (NonFiction)

We all need a reminder sometimes to become engaged in our world. This book can be that little reminder to you that you need to change the world. Full of hope and resolution, M. Hessel offers us a call to arms, to see what our world lacks and to rectify the situation simply because we can and we should.

This is an extremely readable book, it’s only 40 pages. You can read and re-read it all in the same night, and you should.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes with a side of Vegetables

06 November 2011

Masterpiece- By: Elise Broach (Children’s Fiction)

In this fabulous story a bug befriends a boy and everyone finds out what it is that makes them who they are. There isn’t a lot on the surface to recommend a book whose protagonist is a beetle who lives under a sink, but somehow this caught my attention. I love the mix of absurdity and seriousness which is the hallmark of all great children’s books. One of the great things about this book is that there is no malice, every single character has their good points, and most are downright loveable. It also brings up some good questions about honesty and punishment in a non-threatening environment.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer 

30 October 2011

The Night Circus- By: Erin Morgenstern (Fiction)

It almost feels as if I dreamt having read this book. It’s a simultaneously menacing and yet hazily peaceful read. The plot revolves around two dueling Magicians who choose their students to play out their duel.  Our protagonists are somehow pitted against each other in a terrible battle, yet it unfolds in a singularly beautiful way.

This is such a beautiful story, with beautiful characters and it’s beautifully written to boot. You might just walk away a true Rêveur.

Bookwyrm Rating: Haute Cuisine

27 October 2011

Let’s Bring Back – By: Lesley M. M. Blume (NonFiction)

Here’s a lovely, little encyclopedic commentary on things that have been forgotten or “upgraded” in the name of progress.  There are all manner of things that are recommended for a timely resurrection; customs, manners, objects and styles. Some of these entries make you yearn for a time that’s long-gone, but others remind you that those “simpler times” were really quite complicated. This is a great book to pick up when you have a brief window of reading time, entries vary in size and I’m sure you’ll find something to fit your mood.

Both funny and reminiscent, this little gem will cheer you up and make you want to indulge in all things forgotten. Does anyone else miss the parasol?

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

10 October 2011

Waiting for the Magic - By: Patricia MacLachlan (Children's Fiction)

This was a beautifully written mix of realism and fantasy for children.  The protagonists are two children who are dealing with their parents issues. The situation is far beyond the comprehension of the kids, which creates the conflict in the story; however the magic allows them to cope with the situation rather than solving all of their problems for them.

The basic premise is realistic, and the protagonists’ reactions feel genuine. When the magic mixes into the story it somehow feels natural as well.

Waiting for the magic is sad, sweet, realistic and fantastic. It’s message is powerful for both children and adults.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer 

19 September 2011

I’ll Mature When I’m Dead- By: Dave Barry (Nonfiction)

Don’t read this while taking public transportation or you’ll end up like me; the crazy lady who laughs out-loud to herself on the train. On the plus side, I did get a seat all to myself that day, and I laughed A LOT, which is good for a person’s health (or so I hear). So choose a nice, quiet, and most importantly a private place to read, and enjoy.

Dave Barry’s observations are both timely and timeless, with several obligatory poop jokes (which are probably why I was laughing out-loud so much). It wasn’t all just fun and games (mostly it is); he approaches some topics that are very serious issues. Humor can be such a good way to get a point across to the masses, without sounding too preachy, and this was both interesting and hilarious.

Bookwyrm Rating- Dessert

11 September 2011

Listening is an Act of Love (Nonfiction)

This book is a rare gem.  It is both sentimental and important. The idea behind it is that everyone’s story is important to all of us, that it is everyday people who we should be listening to and not just the celebrities.
Some of the stories are about monumental changes in people’s lives; others were reflections of experiences in everyday life. 

Each of these stories have made a difference in the way that a person sees the world and how they live. Things like the StoryCorp project can definitely change people’s perceptions for the better. If we knew more about other people we might just treat them differently.

The point is that it is important to listen to peoples' stories.

Bookwyrm Rating – Meat and Potatoes   

03 September 2011

Ready Player One – By: Ernest Cline (Fiction)

Geeks of the world rejoice! There is a thrilling adventure written just for us! “Ready Player One” is a futuristic adventure that doesn’t seem too far-fetched once you’re engrossed in the plot, which happens almost immediately.  It’s an “Easter Egg” hunt set in a virtual world with billions of dollars and several lives at stake.  The real world and the virtual world collide, with dangers from one overlapping into the other; you’ll start to forget that most of the action actually happens in a video game.

The part that makes this awesome for us geeks is the fact that the virtual world is obsessed with “vintage” video games and pop culture, things that we all grew up with and we all love. If it has ever been considered geeky, it’s probably in there, and it's become the new cool.

The characters are great, they’re people that you come to know and love. The plot is fast moving and engaging, and once you get hooked you won’t want to put it down.  If that means missing work then so be it. 

Bookwyrm Rating - Dessert         

18 August 2011

Age of Fire Series – By: E.E. Knight (Fantasy)

DRAGONS! I love these scaly guys in almost any book, but this series is different, it’s from the dragon’s point of view. Each book is from different dragons, with strikingly different voices. The effect of which really rounds out the overall story. The author creates such a vivid world, that for a while you feel like you live there. The series is by turns frightening, fun, heartbreaking and happy. Once I read the first book I couldn’t wait to read the others, this is one of those series where it’s best to get them all at once so there are no interruptions.

Bookwrym Rating - Dessert

07 August 2011

Who Are We – and why should it matter in the twenty-first century? – By: Gary Younge (Nonfiction)

Let’s face it, a lot of us take our identity for granted, and the rest of us spend way too much time obsessing over our “who we really are”. This is a great look at what and who makes up our identities, as individuals, communities and nations.  It also explores the effects of these identities as we interact with others. It was very interesting to see someone dissect the anatomy of identity, and it makes you think about what has gone into making you the person you are today, and who you’ll be tomorrow.

Bookwyrm Rating - Vegetable

31 July 2011

Does My Head Look Big in This – By: Randa Abdel-Fattah (Fiction)

This is a great Teen book about a girl who decides to commit to wearing the hijab halfway through her junior year of high-school.  Our heroine’s inner dialogue is both realistic and funny as she goes through her daily activities and challenges, all with new headwear. This decision makes her a very public target for people with political and religious animosity for whom she has now become a symbol rather than a person.

I loved the themes in this book. Amal is just a girl, and the author depicts her in many different situations, all while living in the best way she knows how. This story goes far beyond the basic premise and presents a wonderful portrait of people at their worst, as well as their best.

Bookwyrm Rating – Appetizer  

28 July 2011

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World – By: John Baxter (Nonfiction)

If you’re looking for a calm and happy read, this is a good place to start. The subject is the author’s time as a literary tour guide for pedestrians in Paris.  The chapters weave in and out of his family life and his time as a guide, as well as some anecdotes about Parisian history. Reading this book feels like you’ve gone on a long, pleasant walk with the author, and you finish relaxed and refreshed.

The language of this book is also noteworthy; the author has a true gift for arranging words. The reader slowly wades through each chapter, feeling as if they too could walk through Mr. Baxter's Paris.  Each phrase seems to perfectly evoke the situation without the kind overindulgence that can become boring. This is not a quick read however; you would truly miss the flavor if you go through it too quickly. The author makes you slow down to properly enjoy it. What else could you ask from a book about a beautiful walk?

Bookwyrm Rating - Haute Cuisine

21 July 2011

Pride and Prejudice - By: Jane Austen (Fiction)

Why has it taken me so long to read this? I don’t know, but it has. Well now I’ve read it and I’m here to tell you that if YOU haven’t read it, you really should. When people talk about this book it’s always with a certain reverence reserved only for The Classics; what gets lost is the fact that it is such a fun read.

This novel has it all; characters you love, even better is that it has characters to despise; situations you can sympathize with (even after 198 years), and the wittiest dialogues I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing dry or dusty about this novel.

What’s not to love? If the fear of The Classics is holding you back, I understand, but it’s so much more fun than all of that.

Bookwyrm Rating – Meat and Potatoes (because it is a Classic after all)
     Dessert (because it’s so darn fun)

17 July 2011

Things Not Seen – By: Andrew Clements (Teen Fiction)

This is a great story about a 15 year old boy named Bobby, who finds one day that he’s become invisible, and not in the fun “now I can play pranks” kind of invisible. He realizes almost immediately that this is going to be a serious problem. Outside of his family the only one he is able to confide in is a blind girl, which builds a very interesting theme. Overall I really enjoyed the story, the ideas and the outcome. The author deals with a lot of the normal teenager issues (school, parents, life in general) and then adds this surreal element to make all of our hero’s problems more pressing. While he and his family are trying to solve his invisibility issues he also figures out some of the problems that he hasn’t addressed from his ‘normal’ life.

I really enjoyed the tone of the story, Bobby is immediately forced to make some life altering decisions and he does it in a tone that’s pretty consistent with how a teenager thinks.While he does go to others for support, Bobby has to solve his own problems, which is how children’s books should be. Sometimes he’s a little bratty, but hey, he’s having a rough time.  The practical details were really fun, like how does an invisible person get around Chicago in the dead of winter? How does an invisible person use the library without attracting attention? It’s a great read, and there’s a great message in there too.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

10 July 2011

Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World - By: Lisa Bloom (Non-Fiction)

I usually stay away from inspirational and lifestyle non-fiction. Generally they make me gag just a little bit with their over the top sugary attitude, or they are so depressing that they hurt just to look at. However this topic has been on my mind so much lately I couldn’t ignore it.  As a consumer and a woman I can’t ignore the fact that almost every bit of media aimed at my demographic is promoting an insane level of concern for our looks, household chores, or celebrity gossip, yet women all over aren't demanding anything better. Where have the smart ladies gone?
                I loved Bloom’s approach to this problem.  She manages to be witty and serious, yet she approaches the problem head-on without making anyone depressed. As stated in her title, she doesn’t accuse women of being stupid, but she does encourage them to STAY smart, and throughout the book she gives them reasons and methods of doing so.  Her subject is not for the faint of heart, nor those who enjoy the status-quo, but never fear, as you read on she’ll give you the heart to want to change things up.
For further reading on this subject I also highly suggest “Cinderella Ate my Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein.

Bookwyrm Rating- Vegetables (but the really yummy kind…like French Fries)

15 June 2011

Divergent - By: Veronica Roth (Fiction)

This novel completely captured my attention and imagination from the very beginning. The author creates such a vivid and dysfunctional little universe that you can’t help but be sucked right into it.  At first you read it because you’re curious and there are so many questions to be answered. Then you’re hooked and you can’t stop because the world is so fascinating. There is a stark contrast between the innocence of the characters and the brutality that they both receive and inflict that the somewhat jarring effect leaves you a little confused (and concerned).

Fortunately Veronica Roth doesn’t shy away from her protagonist’s faults; rather she builds on those faults to create a believable character. Not everything about Beatrice is admirable or even likeable, but she is completely believable.  I loved that these faults also become her strengths in different circumstances.

At some points the central relationships are hard to understand, but I have to commend the author for allowing our heroine to be loved for her strengths for once.  I’ve been getting so tired of having a heroine who is loved for some mystical, inexplicable reason. This is a heroine who has worked to earn the love and respect of others. She has real choices with devastating and immediate consequences that she actually deals with rather than being rescued by someone bigger and stronger.

With a complicated heroine in a complicated society, this is a great story.  I sincerely hope that the author revisits this world, because I would keep reading. There are plenty of unanswered questions to keep the audience interested, but not enough to be frustrating. Just as a warning: once you start Divergent you will not stop till it’s over. 

Bookwyrm Rating - Dessert

04 June 2011

The Moral Lives of Animals - By: Dale Peterson (Non-fiction)

               There are times when every curious person wonders how alike we are to our animal friends (and relatives). We wonder if they feel the same pain we do, if they know right from wrong, and if there really is a mind capable of morality behind those adorable eyes staring back at you. Peterson allows you to come to your own conclusions without the pushiness usually found in books about animals. He’s not preaching to the choir, he’s talking to you.  His book is factual, based on his extensive research and experiences.  He carefully outlines the issues which create our moral codes, breaking them into their most fundamental parts and then he shows how other creatures in the animal kingdom deal with similar situations.
                The prose is remarkably readable for such a scientific and philosophical topic, additionally the subjects that the author chooses to discuss are always fascinating. In fact, I didn’t so much as look at another book until I had finished this one. The author allows you to feel wonder at the species that inhabit our world and the fact that we are only one of them. This remarkable book drives home the point that we are not alone on this planet, morally or otherwise.  

Bookwyrm Rating - Meat and Potatoes