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Utopic Dystopian Pt 1

Insert a book a suspect that everyone and their guardians have already read, except for me. I have already been dragged through the dirt by my friends, so please, no more judging. I understand that it is terrible that it took me being in graduate school to actually getting around to reading this book. I just wasn’t interested until fairly recently. In some regards, I do regret not reading it earlier but better late than never. What book am I talking about, you may ask. Lois Lowry’s The Giver is the book I’m discussing, where not even a movie coming out interested me apparently.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the setup before completely turning it on its head. I was expecting a utopian world where everything is great, but that was quickly dismantled. Sure, everything was great, but at what cost. This book was discussed in a way that I’ve never really seen in a dystopian novel. It’s usually all about blood and gore and nothing else, which is something I typically dislike. Instead, every aspect had a world-building element to it that kept me engaged in the story.

Now, there are other books that I’m guessing you’ve not heard about or read. I only know because of how I keep track of the books I read. I plan to read those and then tell you if those other books are as good and if I get the same feeling from them. I’m actually excited to see where this goes since each book discusses a different societal aspect.

Along that Yellow Brick Road Pt 2

I am back after reading the second book in the Oz series. The author decided to forget about Dorothy for a while and give the Tin Man a name and pretend that he had a name the entire time. His name’s Nick Chopper, but the way. This time, we follow a boy named Tip as he runs away from the witch who’s been raising him all his life for a chance of adventure followed by a walking, talking Jack-o-Lantern and a horse made from wood. It’s Oz, so are we expecting anything else. A man accidentally cutting all his limbs off didn’t get us to question anything.

In this book, the craziness continues with more fun, lovable characters being some we’ve met before, with just a dash of sexism. The world is saved when the women go back to the kitchen because the men find the work way too hard and are not good at it. I wish I was kidding. Considering the ending, it’s bizarre and out of place, but we will have to leave it at that, so I don’t spoil it for you.

I will be back with the next book, eventually… I just need to get rid of the image of a talking bug who won’t stop with the puns.

Through the Curtained Walls

It is somewhat interesting having a romance novel in which that main characters barely interact, yet somehow it was a love story. Add in a mix of magic and creativity, creating a circus like no other. Add in a competition and you truly get things are out of this world.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern throws you into a world with vivid imagery that makes you want to jump right into the page.

My favorite part about this book was the author’s writing, hands down. I love the descriptions that just made everything come to life in my mind. One thing I did not enjoy was the hopping back in forth within the story. Although, once you get to the end, it all makes sense, I would get confused somewhat about the timeline of events. I also would not mind if Morgenstern went further into the universe she created. I would love to learn more about the magic systems in the book, but maybe that’s just me being a giant geek. You tell me.

It’s Elementary

I am usually not a big fan of disjointed narratives. I want my story to be laid out to not jump around because it doesn’t keep me engaged all that much, especially when narrators go on unnecessary tangents. In this book, I didn’t mind at all. The narrator goes on a tangent about Sherlock Holmes, but I was completely there for it. It was so in character that I found it adorable instead of annoying like I usually would. The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon was just too adorable of a book not to want to recommend.

This story follows Christopher, an autistic young boy, as he goes on an adventure to figure out who killed his neighbor’s dog. Considering the author’s background and comments from other people with children on the spectrum, I would say that this is an accurate portrayal of a child on the spectrum that felt completely human instead of alien, like some writers fail to do. I was cheering along with the kid and didn’t mind his tangents because they built him more as a real person instead of a caricature. Do note that the chapters are not in standard numerical order. The book starts on chapter two, as Christopher loves prime numbers, and since this was written like a journal, it was very fitting. I would definitely pick this book up and give it a try.

Up in the Clouds

There are many views of what happens after we die, and while we might argue about what happens, there is something we should all believe in common: that our life on Earth matters. While the book The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom does show a view of life after death, that is not the important part of the book. Instead, the lessons the story tries to get across in the most important thing.

While this book may argue that those lessons can be learned after death, I feel great lessons should be learned in life. Everything is connected in a way, and you do not really know the entire story are some of the lessons to be learned. Your religious views do not matter here but do come in with an open mind to what is being taught. There is a sequel that I plan on getting around to within the next couple of weeks, but I wonder what lessons await me.

Be Your Own Fairy Godmother

To be completely transparent, I watched the movie based on this only about a dozen times and then found out that there was a book attached. There is very much fairytale element that, in ways, could have been a lot better, especially given the title. The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer tries really hard at being a fairytale but fails in a couple of ways.

The story follows a woman named Nola who has an alter-ego named Belinda, who everyone just loves. Unfortunately for Nola, “Belinda” wrote a magazine column on losing weight, so Nola’s friends make a pact to lose weight once and for all. The typical story happens where love is maybe found if only Nola would stop lying. This is one of the few cases where I feel prepared to say that the movie is better than the book. The movie “Lying to be Perfect” takes out all the things that were just annoying: counting Weight Watchers points, shaming other women for their appearance and perceive sexual activities, and uninteresting random characters that get inserted into the story for… reasons.

It’s a cute little story that you can get invested in but won’t really take anything away from it. It’s pretty much a feel-good story about a woman who struggled with her sense of self-worth. I still say watching the movie is better, though.

Finding the Weird in Everything

Why do teachers cheat? Why do real estate agents not sell your house for the best price? Why did crime rates suddenly dive-bomb in the 90s? These questions and more can be answered in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. By looking at things as an economist and having large data sets, you can answer practically any question out there. Just be prepared to get answers you were no expected to reach. What does economics have to do with this? It’s about money, right? Actually, economists try to figure out why people do what they do: their incentive to do something.

I found this book really fascinating and got me to think about things in ways that I never had before about sine situations. It sounds utterly absurd at times, but as the authors dive deep into things, it makes complete sense, and you wonder why you never thought about it before. One word of caution when reading this book: abortion is a topic in this book. The authors speak on this in a historical context do not take a side in the debate. If you feel especially strong on the issue, I suggest skipping those sections. It is not necessary for the entire book. From the chapter titles, you can probably figure out where it is discussed.

Finishing the Rat Race

Since it is still the beginning of the year, and I am still convinced that I need to be a better me, I have found another book on habits that I sat down and read. The thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the varying narratives that were found throughout. If you want exciting ways to look at habits, I would suggest The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

What I enjoy from reading this was both the personal aspects of habit-making and breaking and how businesses can use that information against us. One example is how Target can say if you are pregnant or not. The data behind that crazy story is revealed in this book. How did Febreze take over the world of cleaning supplies? That answer is here as well. By working through the various cues in our lives, we can figure out how to find the best places and get into new habits and weed out the bad. The stories are attention-grabbing and fascinating reads on how patterns make up our entire world, whether we realized it or not.

Along that Yellow Brick Road

I decided that I needed a break from all of the heavy reading. I decided to go with a classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Like most movie remakes of books, the book had a lot more going on that could not fit into a feature length film. The movie also wholly misunderstands Oz as a country, and the book has a lot more blood in it.

Let me begin by saying that Oz isn’t a dream world. It’s a real place where multiple types of these supernatural creatures reside. Also, Dorothy is not a grown woman. In fact, I would say that she is no more than ten. For the most part, forget everything you know about the land of Oz from the movie because it’s completely wrong. The ruby slippers aren’t even ruby; they’re silver.

Now, there are 15 books in the Wizard of Oz series. I counted. I plan on going through every book in giving my thoughts on it and see how the world revolves as it goes on. I know that there a couple more movies out there that take place and Oz, and I want to see how those fit into the storyline. I have watched a Disney version based on the fourth book, and so far, that seems to be the most accurate to the series. I can’t wait to see what I’ve been missing by only watching one movie.

Bad, Science!

As we look toward the future, we must also look to that past to make sure that we do no back the same mistakes, especially when we talk about it from an ethical perspective. We do not want to cause harm, but we also want people to understand what we are saying as scientists, or at least that is what I was always told. Then I bumbled my way into reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

This is one of the stories of science going wrong. As someone involved in science, I believe that these are things that must be discussed to not happen again. The story starts with how the first-ever human cell line was discovered and then is a train wreck from there. This book goes into the African American population’s distrust of the health care system, which stems from racism and lack of science literacy. It takes this abstract idea that most people have about the ethics behind science and then makes it much more real by adding a face. If you are interested in science in any way, I would consider this a must-read. We have to learn from the past mistakes to make significant innovations in the future.

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