Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mini Book Reviews

It is only rarely that I have enough to say about a book to write an entire post about my experience reading it.  When I don't have a lot to say, I will clump a couple recent reads together with a short paragraph of my thoughts.  So, without further ado, here are mini reviews of the two books I've read this week.

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman
This book is the most adorable thing I've read in the past few years.  It is the story of a father who goes off in search of milk for his children's cereal.  However, this tale is much more than just a trip to the store.  The dad is whisked away on a floating time machine meeting vampires, dinosaurs, aliens and more along the way.  Gaiman's writing is captivating, like usual.  None of his talent in storytelling is lost in this picture book.  The illustrations, which are similar to Tim Burton's art in style, are absolutely gorgeous.  I love how the slightly creepy illustrations mesh with a very loving children's story.  If you have a young child, I would definitely suggest reading this book to them.  If you don't, I would still suggest reading this picture book, however I wouldn't buy it.  Just sit at your local bookstore and read it.  It won't take more than an hour but you'll finish with a smile on your face, I promise.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
This book was such a disappointment.  If you don't know, it is the third and final book of the Divergent series.  I read the first two books almost two years ago and loved them.  I loved learning about the different factions and their different approaches to a good life.  Tris and Four, the main characters, were always engaging and interesting but my heart lied with the minor characters like Uriah and Christina.  I was looking forward to learning more about this world in Allegiant.  However (spoilers ahead), in Allegiant, the characters leave the city of Chicago and find a world that was just not interesting.  Much like Maze Runner, it's all just an experiment conducted by the government.   I did not find the genetic plot line interesting, I didn't feel connected to either Tris or Four at all.  I was bored throughout the novel.  I don't think it was a good idea for Roth to completely change the setting and reveal so much that was not even hinted at in the last book in a series.  So much had to be explained leading to a slower book.  All in all, not a fan.  I'm actually going to give this book to my local re-seller and pretend the series was never completed!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 275
Rating: 5/5

     From the master of literary reportage whose acclaimed books include Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, and The Shadow of the Sun, an intimate account of his first youthful forays beyond the Iron Curtain.
     Just out of university in 1955, Kapuscinski told his editor that he'd like to go abroad.  Dreaming no farther than Czechoslovakia, the young reporter found himself sent to India.  Wide-eyed and captivated, he would discover in those days his life's work - to understand and describe the world in its remotest reaches, in all its multiplicity.  From the rituals of sunrise at Persepolis to the incongruity of Louis Armstrong performing before a stone-faced crowd in Khartoum, Kapuscinski gives us the non-Western world as he first say it, though still-virginal Western eyes.
     The companion on his travels, a volume of Herodotus, a gift from his first boss.  Whether he was in China, Poland, Iran or the Congo, it was the "father of history" - and, as Kapuscinski would realize, of globalism - who helped the young correspondent to make sense of the events, to find the story where it did not obviously exist.  It is this great forerunner's spirit - both supremely worldly and innately Occidental - that would continue to whet Kapuscinski's ravenous appetite for discovering the broader world and that has made him our own indispensable companion on any leg of that perpetual journey.

In Travels with Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski explains his intimate relationship with the ancient Greek writer Herodotus.  When Kapuscinski embarked upon his first trip overseas, his boss handed him a copy of Herodotus's Histories.  When shocked and overwhelmed by India, Kapuscinski retreats into Herodotus's writings.  In this historic text, Kapuscinski finds a deep appreciation for the world.  Herodotus, alive in 400 BCE, wished to write down the history of all people regardless of pertinence.  He gave the Persians and Greeks the same amount of care and attention as the Scythians and Phoenicians.  Kapuscinski, inspired by Herodotus's view and dedication to history bring the book, and the reader, along with him to various nations and provides thoughtful insight on the passage of time, history, and people.  Full of quotes from Herodotus's Histories, Travels with Herodotus is both a memoir and great introduction to the ancient work.

This became one of my favorite books ever within the first 50 pages.  I actually picked up other books and set this book down simply because I didn't want it to end.  Travels with Herodotus did a great job of weaving different cultures and time periods together to take the reader on basically a whirlwind tour of the ancient Mediterranean and various places Kapuscinski has visited.  I really loved seen the common trends between each population.  I find the similarities between people and cultures really interesting so this book captured my interest right from the start and never let go.  I actually plan to go out and buy this book as soon as I can because I know I will want to reread this book multiple times.  If you like memoirs, history or culture I would definitely suggest checking out this book!

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
Publisher:  Harper
Pages: 529
Rating: 4/5

     In the locked office of a Honolulu building, three men are found dead, with no sign of a struggle except for ultrafine, razor-sharp cuts covering their bodies.
     In the lush rain forests of Oahu, groundbreaking technology has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting.  Here, seven brilliant graduate students recruited by a pioneering microbiology start-up company are thrust into a hostile wilderness that reveals profound and surprising dangers at every turn.  Prey to a technology of radical and unbridled power - armed only with their knowledge of the natural world - they must harness the inherent forces of nature itself to survive.
     Melding scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction in vintage Michael Crichton fashion - completed by visionary science writer Richard Preston - Micro is an instant classic of sophisticated, cutting-edge entertainment.

Micro centers on the survival story of seven graduate students; Karen, Rick, Danny, Peter, Amar, Jenny, and Erika. This team is recruited by Nanigen, a new company located on Honolulu, to study the various plants and animals found in their highly diverse forest.  The students, excited to do their work in such a nice environment, quickly fly out to the island.  Upon landing, they learn that Eric, Peter's brother and a Nanigen executive, has gone missing.  Peter, suspicious that CEO Vincent Drake had something to do with his brother's disappearance, brings his colleagues deep into company corruption, government projects, and bugs, lots of bugs.

It is really difficult to explain this book without giving a major part of the plot away.  It happens close to the beginning of the novel, however, I do not want to give it away as it completely surprised me.  That's one of the things I love about Michael Crichton's books.  The plot and progression of Micro was completely unexpected.  With so many twists and turns, I was never bored or hit a low point even though the novel was 529 pages long.  What impressed me even more about Micro was the amount of factual information on bugs and the natural world within the novel.  I now know about the interior of a solitary wasp's nest and the ferociousness of ants among other things.  I love knowing that I am learning in my leisure time.  Plus, how cool is it to read a fictional book with a bibliography?!

This book was just what I wanted.  I was looking for a break from the non-fiction books and memoirs I've been reading lately and found it in this thrilling mystery.  I was also extremely pleased that this novel, due to its facts, would not feel like a deviation from my goal to grow this year.  If you're looking for an exciting, page-turner but not willing to sacrifice intellectual growth, I would definitely suggest picking up Micro.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Creative Collective // Anything-Goes Art

This week's Creative Collective really pushed me out of my comfort zone.  The project was to gather random artifacts from around your house and compile them into something.  I found this task oddly difficult, I have taken many art classes in my life, but being artistic without a sense of direction has always been difficult.  This is probably why all my scribbles are either hearts or song lyrics!  Anyway, I find it extremely difficult to just sit down and create art.  For this reason, I put off this project until last Monday when I just sat down at my desk and decided I wasn't going to get up until I finished my piece of art.  With this determination, I grabbed a stack of index cards and made this:

While this may be headed to the trash can after I write this post, I am happy that I took the time to make it.  It forced me to think outside of the box and experiment with a new material, i.e. index cards.  I'm really enjoying these projects from the Creative Collective.  They're a nice break from the monotony of school work and routine in general!

The Creative Collective

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Monday, February 17, 2014

My First Road Trip!

This past weekend, I went on my first road trip sans parents.  My friend Emily and I headed down to the Bay Area to see Panic! at the Disco play in Oakland.  We decided to get a head start, hitting the road about 8 am and arriving in Berkeley around 1:30.  After a little food and shopping, we decided to visit the botanical gardens at UC Berkeley.

Then, we continued to head up the mountain and got completely lost in the search for steam trains in Tilden Park.  We eventually arrived at the closed building but we were rewarded with an amazing view of the Bay Area. It was absolutely spectacular.  We could see everything from downtown Berkeley to the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Once the sun set, we headed over to Oakland for the concert.  The Fox Theater was packed.  Panic! at the Disco definitely pulled out all the stops.  Brendon Urie's high notes were amazing and the atmosphere was just fantastic.  I absolutely love seeing a band perform.  Unlike listening to a CD or watching a movie, at a concert or show, you are sharing an experience with the artist rather than just enjoying what they made.  When Panic! played 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies', the joy on the band's face as we sang louder than them was fantastic.  Brendon actually stopped singing and just listened to us.  It was so wonderful to see us, the viewer, make the band as happy as they make us.  

I am incredibly happy that I was able to take this trip.  It was really exciting to be both without my parents and outside of my normal environment.  This was my first trip entirely independent and without much of a plan.  The fact that it went so well makes me more confident about the rest of the new experiences coming up this year.  Also, I'm already planning to go back in late July to see the Neighborhood! 

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentines Day Preparation

I love awful Valentine's Day cards.  They are probably my favorite part of the entire month of February.  I think it stems from having to pass out horribly cheesy valentines to my classmates every year.  Being forced to write valentines to people you don't like is something I do not find pleasing.  I would rather give no one a valentine than everyone! Or maybe I'm just cynical because I've never had a true valentine.  Either way, I hope you enjoy my collection of tumblr-made valentines this year! For more, here is my blog post from 2013. Also, I may have been collecting these ever since I made that post exactly one year ago, no judgment right?

Monday, February 10, 2014

I Got In

It has been almost a week and a half since I received my email notifying me of my acceptance but I didn't believe it until my letter arrived in the mail today.  I can't remember the last time I was so excited.  It was hard to breathe and I just kept dancing!!  I guess I can't pretend I don't want to go now!

I haven't shared this here, but I was actually deferred from Umich back in December.  It was an awful experience that grew into one of the worst days of my life thanks to other mishaps.  Yet I am glad it happened this way.  Being deferred forced me to actually look at my other schools as possible future homes.  I had to reevaluate what I actually wanted now that my first choice was less certain.  Therefore, I am now more certain the Umich is the college I would love to attend.  I just think I would fit in well and have amazing opportunities! I am so lucky to be able to attend my first choice school and I literally cannot wait to get on that plan in August.  Now I just have to apply for ALL the scholarships...

Is it weird that I keep the tab showing what my future dining hall is serving for dinner up and look at it everyday?  Probably.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Creative Collective// New Music

The Creative Collective is back and today's prompt is to create a playlist full of new music.  The expectation is that I would utilize Pandora, Spotify or another music source to find some new artists.  I have not had the time to do that.  I've been writing my Extended Essay.  I literally spent four hours at the library writing yesterday! Therefore, I do not have enough songs to create an entire playlist so instead I have complied a playlist of non hits from some of my favorite artists as well as some new songs I've been listening to recently.

This playlist is a strange collection of songs.  From stand-up to punk to country to indie it's a good reflection of my actual music collection.  I would probably listen to this playlist while driving.  I would sing my lungs out to Hunter Hayes and Panic! At The Disco while Volcano Choir and Snow Patrol are nice to sit back and truly listen to.  Where would you listen to these songs?  What songs have you been loving lately?

The Creative Collective

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