Book 70: Proof by David Auburn

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Finished reading on August 22, 2013

Rating 8/10

Proof is the play on which the movie with the same name is based on.

Since I loved the movie, I always thought I should get the play and read it.

It was good, naturally it’s almost exactly the same as the movie, but there are slight differences too.

I especially liked the beginning of act two, when Robert, Catherine’s dad, is asking what’s for dinner, Catherine was going to make spaghetti and her dad doesn’t want that again, and later says that pasta is “just an euphemism people invented when they got sick of eating spaghetti.” That’s not in the movie, but I totally agree. 🙂

Now for those, who haven’t seen the movie, or read the play – I’d suggest watching the movie. It takes about the same amount of time and there’s some more colour to it.

In short it is about a father and a daughter, the father is a mathematician, who went crazy and the daughter thinks she might be slightly crazy too.  Or is she? Maybe she’s just an amazing mathematician, and nobody understands or believes her…

Book 69: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Finished reading on August 21, 2013

Rating 7/10

The Lightning Thief was a good start for a series, the idea is great, and considering how it’s in a way resurrecting the Greek gods so that children would know them (ahem… and adults too, since I know Roman gods – only because of the planets ). 🙂

Some time ago in spring, I happened to watch a part of the movie on bus, unfortunately I was too sleepy to finish watching it, but now having read the book, I think it merits another try.

Is it even possible that someone hasn’t heard of Percy Jackson and the Olympians? Well, maybe. So the main point is that the Greek gods live, they have  a lot of half-blood children. Percy Jackson is one of them, but his not just one of them, his father is one of the Great Three, Poseidon, the Sea God. And naturally if you’ve already got gods in the story, there has to be adventure.

In a way it felt like a children’s version of Gaiman’s American Gods, although the gods are from different mythologies.

However, by the time the book was nearing it’s end I realized, what books it actually reminded me of. Now think: A kid who is bullied at school, is somewhat different from all the others, finds out he’s not who he thought he was, goes on an adventure with a somewhat silly best friend and a really smart girl, has to fight monsters, and doesn’t really have to obey the laws of physics. Hmmm…. what could it possibly be? The setup reminded me of Harry Potter, just instead of a school for witches and wizards, there’s a summer-camp for half-bloods, instead of Ron, there’s Grover , instead of Hermione there’s Annabeth and instead of Dumbledore there’s Chiron.

And well the three-headed dog…

Otherwise it was good, quite entertaining.

Book 68: Death From the Skies! by Philip Plait

Death From the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End… by Philip  Plait

Finished reading on August 20, 2013

Rating 8/10

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about all the amazing astronomical ways in which the Earth, Humankind and Everything might come to an end, then this is the book to go to. Starting from asteroid impact and solar flare and going as far as the inevitable heat death of the Universe,  you’ll find out all about the sad physical reality.

All in all it was kind of depressing, as everything ends with either a huge extinction event occurring on the Earth or something even worse (Though is that possible? If there’s no life left on Earth, will it really be sad if the Earth gets destroyed? Oh, human sentimentality!).

I found the book good and interesting, and calming in a way. 🙂

Now I know how far exactly has a supernova to be, to be dangerous to life on Earth, the same with gamma ray bursts, so I’ll sleep good tonight, as everything else is either too unlikely or we can’t do anything or much bout them .

Book 67: American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

pIMG_9954American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

Finished reading on august 19, 2013

Rating 8/10

This book was one of those huge books I thought I’ll never actually be able to finish reading. I started reading it in the end of July and I’m quite surprised that I got to the end of the book, considering that I had started to read it from the beginning on to other occasions, first when I received the book  two years ago as a birthday present and about year later when I couldn’t go to sleep after finishing some other book.

It is a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist of Jewish heritage who worked and lived for most of his life in the US and lead the team of scientists in the Manhattan project and hence is called “the father of the atomic bomb”

After the bombs were sent out to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was the most famous physicist in the US, perhaps second only to  Albert Einstein. However as the subtitle of the book suggests besides the triumph of the atomic bomb there was also a huge tragedy – in the end on 1930s, Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty had had leftist views in politics and many thought they had been communists, Robert’s brother Frank had even been a member of the Communist Party.

The problem arose in 1950s when there was an inquiry as to whether Robert should have and should even originally have been given security clearance to work on the bomb and later to be an adviser in a committee to the government. Robert had had a lot of friends and students who had supported the communists’ views and as he had been under surveillance by the FBI already from the beginning of the Manhattan project – being followed and and having wiretaps (mostly illegal) on his phones, he lost his clearance.  Though that appears to have been only a small part of it, Oppenheimer opposed the building of the hydrogen bomb and tried to slow down it’s production and by doing that had also gained some enemies among scientists. As there was already a race between the Soviet Union and the United States, then his actions were not taken lightly or positively, since developing the hydrogen bomb would naturally also have to be the next step for the Soviet Union.

The book was interesting for most part, though there was a lot of politics involved, which was kind of dispiriting, as it took so much time to go through… otherwise quite excellent and the ending somewhat sad.

Book 66: Discoverers of the Universe by Michael Hoskin

PIMG_9783Discoverers of the Universe by Michael Hoskin

Finished reading on August 15, 2013

Rating 9/10

“Discoverers of the Universe” tells the story of William and Caroline Herschels life and work. William Herschel is most famous for his discovery of the planet Uranus, which he actually named Georgium Sidus, or George’s star in honour the then reigning British monarch. Uranus, that’s what most people know. William Herschel was also a telescope maker, he made the best reflectors in his time and also the biggest, he observed binary stars, planets and their satellites, nebulae and a lot of other objects.

Caroline Herschel was William’s younger sister, who became William’s assistant – marked down his observations and did a lot of paperwork. But she did her own observations as well – she discovered nine comets and was one of the first female astronomers to get paid for her work.

This book tells it all in detail, about where and when they lived, how much Herschel actually used his 40 foot reflector, how until middle age Herschel had been a musician etc.

It’s a wonderful book, and I’m sure would be nteresting even if you haven’t heard of William Herschel before.

Book 65: The Mighty Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch

Camera 360The Mighty Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch

Finished reading August 14, 2013

Rating 10/10

This is a science book for children. And it’s excellent. It’s about the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity that were sent to opposite sides of Mars on missions that were supposed to be three months long, but were so successful that worked for years. Opportunity still functions, but the team lost contact with Spirit a couple of years ago, and although they were hoping it would power up again, nothing’s been heard of Spirit lately.

This book gives an overview of why they were sent there, what they explored, where exactly were they, what problems the rovers and their teams had to endure and overcome and also a small part of what they discovered.

Although I wasn’t interested in Mars exploration more than an average space-obsessed person would be, then this book got me hooked on that topic. I can’t wait to read some more books about Mars!

Although it’s a children’s book, it’s not all wishy-washy, the language used and phrases are normal every-day English, with just a few technical or scientific terms, so if you’ve got kids and want to do a live-experiment to see how Mars-obsessed kids would look like, get them this book. 😀

Book 64: The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

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The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

Finished reading on August 14, 2013

Rating 5/10

It is supposed to take place in 1900BC, in India. And it’s about Shiva. The plot is great, it’s interesting to follow, the characters seem alive, it’s easy to imagine everything that’s going on….

But there are some disturbing anachronisms and/or doubtful things in his book.

For example while Chandravanshis are spying on Shiva and the royal family one of them is using a scope – a spyglass. Not likely!

While explaining how the “drink of the Gods”, somra, works, a “scientist” explains it to Shiva using terms like oxygen (which was discovered in the end of 18th century and the name was given in 1777) and oxidant. Facepalm… And the fact that there is a “scientist” in 1900BC? Sigh….. Yes, I know it’s not Europe, it’s India, but still!!  And in one part Shiva is lying on his bed reading a book! Seriously?!

So this book kind of made me groan and sigh and want to hit my head against my desk in desperation just because of those small details. It’s fantasy and myth combined. But if there just weren’t those little annoyances, then it would be excellent!

In one chapter some religious guy is asking Shiva to remind himself about how humans see light and different colours. And it’s the modern description. Rawr! How many colours are there in the rainbow? Everyone knows there are seven. But it was Newton who said there were seven, he had originally written five, but later added indigo and orange so as  “to divide the [spectral] image into parts more elegantly proportioned to one another.” One can read about that in Topper’s “Quirky Sides of Scientists”.

I’m awful, I know. And yes, I do realize that even the fact I know this kind of stuff is odd.

Otherwise it was fine.

Book 63: The 4 Percent Universe by Richard Panek

Finished reading August 11, 2013

Rating 6/10

This is another one in the long line of books dealing with the story of cosmology, how scientists discovered the dark matter and dark energy, how they tried to determine the value of the Hubble constant and find out how old the Universe is. It also tells about the different methods and objects that the scientists used for getting all the necessary data.

In general the idea of the book is good. However it got a bit too rushed and difficult to understand who did what when it dealt with the supernovae measurements and the two teams that were racing each other (Both ended up with the same Nobel prize).

Otherwise it was okay, not too fancy and thrilling though :).

Book 62: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

PIMG_4958The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Finished reading on August 3, 2013

Rating 8/10

This seems like a good start for a fantasy series. It was interesting, magical, had great characters and with a good ending that would make one want to pick up the next book in the series.

I read it in a few days, and it went by so quickly…

However it made me want to compile a table of fantasy books I’ve read with some of the magical creatures/powers etc. that appear in those. So for “The Alchemyst”, there’s

* magic

* alchemy, the philosophers stone and turning cheap metals into gold

* vampires

* witches and wizards

* werewolves and wereboars 🙂

* portals between places

and so forth.

I’d recommend this book if you’re a fantasy fan.

 

Book 61: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

PIMG_4969A Suitable boy by Vikram Seth

Finished reading on July 29, 2013

Rating 10/10

This book is the longest one I’ve read this far in my life with 1474 pages .

It tells the story of several extended families who are all connected somehow by marriage or circumstance. The main story line (in my opinion, though there were several) follows Lata Mehra, whose older sister is just getting married in the beginning of the book, to a suitable boy whom Mrs Rupa Mehra has chosen for her daughter. Naturally now comes the time to find a suitable mate for Lata.

This book wouldn’t be half as long if it were easy and Lata would really want to get married to the first guy her mother thinks suitable (from the right caste and religion, not too dark, has a good job etc.). There’s some drama and romance involved.

Some political and religious intrigue throughout the book are going on in the sidelines, all very interesting indeed….

By the end of the book Lata makes her choice – in the beginning  she met Kabir Durrani, a Muslim boy she falls in love with, Lata’s sister’s sister-in-law tries to make a match between her brother Amit and Lata and Lata’s mother has found a suitable boy in Haresh Khanna – from the same caste and religion, well-to-do etc.

I’m not going to write whom she chose, but I’ve got to admit that she chose just the guy whom I didn’t like out of the three… 😦 Oh well… It’s an excellent book nonetheless.