Category: Science

May 07

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Audio Books, Science, Science Fiction 7

Howdy Howdy, Bookworms!

I’ve been on a bit of a sci/fi kick lately, haven’t I? I hope you’re not sick of it yet, because a few weeks ago I saw that Ray Bradbury’s classic The Martian Chronicles was available on audio through my library. Since I’d just listened to The Martian (review) and Packing for Mars (review), I thought it would be fun to compare their depictions of Mars. Ooooh the entertainment!

martianchroniclesIn fairness to Ray Bradbury, he wrote The Martian Chronicles in the late 1940s. Man had not yet landed on the moon, let alone poked around on Mars. I can’t be tooooo hard on him for his depiction of a Mars full ‘o Martians, can I? Plus, it kind of reminded me of a bunch of old school Twilight Zone episodes. Still, though. Some of the things that happen in this book from a scientific perspective are kind of laughable. I mean, humans are fine to breathe Martian air, it’s just “a bit thin.” After hearing Mary Roach’s glorious explanations of all things science and Mark Watney’s misadventures, I had a hard time imagining Martian air as roughly equivalent to hanging out at high altitudes. Also amusing is the unabashed speediness of travel between Earth and Mars in this novel. It’s not QUITE a commuter flight, but it’s getting there.

Of course, as usual, I’ve digressed. Bradbury had some very cool and very creepy ideas of how alien life would react to earthly invaders. The book is actually a collection of short stories, so it’s difficult for me to discuss it without spoiling any one of them. I will say that NOBODY likes chicken pox, telepathy is kind of freaky, and people can be awful to each other regardless of their planetary address.

The Martian Chronicles is a good, entertaining read, particularly if you’re in a Mars mood. Your snarky inner armchair scientist will get a chuckle out of it, too!

Tell me something, Bookworms. If colonizing another planet were a legit possibility, do you think you’d ever consider making the big move? (Can you even IMAGINE what your mother would say?! LOL)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Apr 13

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Family, Psychological, Science 18

Hey Bookworms,

How’s it going? Read any good books about devastating neurological disorders lately? No? Well, you’re in luck! Lisa Genova is at it again and Inside the O’Briens is pretty fab. And not JUST because one of the main characters is named Katie. She’s actually named Kathryn (with a “y”) because apparently her parents and mine were both illogical enough to pair Kathryn with a “y” with Katie with an “ie.” Doesn’t it seem like Katie should go with Katherine and Katy should go with Kathryn? Am I the only person troubled by this? I should have considered this when I was getting married. I mean, if Princess Consuela Banana Hammock could happen I could have changed my Kathryn to Katherine. Sigh. Live and learn. (And no, changing to Katy with a “y” simply is not an option for me. It. Just. Isn’t.)

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Inside the O’Briens follows an Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe O’Brien is a hardworking police officer and father of four children now in their twenties. He married his high school sweetheart and they’ve lived their entire lives in an insular Boston neighborhood. When Joe begins to have odd symptoms like muscle ticks, difficulty concentrating, and flashes of temper, he attributes it to his stressful job. I mean, he’s a cop for heaven’s sake. As the symptoms become more difficult to ignore, he finally agrees to see a doctor and is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. It’s a rare degenerative neurological disorder with no treatment, no cure, and a 100% fatality rate. What’s worse is that Huntington’s Disease is genetic, and there’s a 50/50 chance that each of Joe’s four children will inherit the gene and suffer Joe’s fate. Katie O’Brien and her siblings are faced with the decision to find out whether or not they carry this genetic mutation and live with the knowledge.

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Talk about your impossible situations, right? Sure, it would be a great relief to find out you were gene negative, but if you were gene positive, how would you live your life knowing exactly how it would end? Or, even if you weren’t a genetic carrier, how would you feel knowing that your siblings might not be so lucky? Would it affect your decisions on having your own family? Would you wallow in despair? Become reckless and self destructive? Genova rose to fame with Still Alice (review) in large part because Alzheimer’s Disease is so prevalent, but Huntington’s Disease is every bit as heartbreaking. (Okay, in fairness, Still Alice is an amazing book, so the fact that Alzheimer’s is prevalent isn’t the only reason Genova is famous.) Still though, the journey of the O’Brien family packs a serious emotional punch. I’m not going to tell you that you should read this book, but… You should read this book. If you want to learn more about Huntington’s and perhaps make a donation to help fund research into treatments, visit Lisa Genova’s Readers in Action page.

It’s time for you to sound off, Bookworms. If you found out that you might be a carrier for a disease like Huntington’s, would you want to know for sure, or would you rather not find out?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Of course, I will also be making a donation to help fund Huntington’s research, because I’d feel like a total douche if I didn’t.*

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Feb 26

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach is Out of This World!

Audio Books, Non Fiction, Science 18

Bookworms, We Have a Problem.

I’m LYING. I’m just trying to make space jokes because I just finished listening to the awesome audio book version of Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. I don’t read a lot of non fiction, but now that I’ve discovered Mary Roach, that may all change.

packingformarsPacking for Mars is ostensibly about what a mission to Mars would entail mingled with a history lesson of human space travel. Sound awesome? Not so much? Well what about if I tell you that Mary Roach researched all the interesting bits of space travel for you? I mean, you were always curious about motion sickness in zero gravity, right? And what happens when you have to go to the bathroom? What about keeping yourself clean in space? Or, you know, what would happen if a pair of astronauts fell in love and, well, stuff happened in space?!

Mary Roach told me all the gross stuff that I really care about. I mean, sure, there’s plenty of science in there, but it’s the science of every imaginable bodily fluid in space. It’s about just how long an astronaut can go without bathing before stinking their suits up so badly they make themselves ill. It’s about how teams of dietitians study which foods to feed space travelers that will produce the least amount of solid waste. It’s about filtering pee, you guys! If you were ever THAT KID in science class who was interested in the science of boogers, Packing for Mars is 100% your guide to space travel. Take my word for it, kids, this book is a winner!

Talk to me Bookworms! Did you ever daydream about being an astronaut?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Am I too old to go to Space Camp?*

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Jan 05

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion!!!

Humor, Romance, Science 14

Oh Hey Bookworms!

It’s been FOREVER, hasn’t it? I know, I was off merry making and being lazy but I’m BACK and I’m pretty stoked to discuss today’s book. Remember last year when we read The Rosie Project (review) as a crew through The Fellowship of the Worms? There’s a sequel! And I read it! Eeeep! If you haven’t read The Rosie Project, stop reading right here because the whole premise of the sequel is a big fat spoiler for the first. So. SPOILER ALERT, Y’ALL! Now, let’s talk about The Rosie Effect! *OH yes, I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher through NetGalley. I still have integrity, swearsies.*

rosieeffectWhen we last left them, Don and Rosie were fast tracking it to happily ever after in NYC. Rosie is double fisting it in academia working on her Psychology PHD AND Medical school, while Don is doing his genetics thing at a prestigious university. They also mix cocktails a few nights a week, for old time’s sake.

Happily Ever After seems attainable until some complications come into play… Namely? Rosie has some “something to celebrate” with Don. If you can’t guess the big news, it’s got a lot to do with zygotes and cell division… If you recall any of Don and Rosie’s adventures in dating, you’ll know that any big news probably won’t run the most smoothly.

Alright folks, let’s get down to the dirt. A lot of people are probably going to think The Rosie Effect is inferior to The Rosie ProjectFor me, as is the case with all sequels, once I’m attached to the characters I cannot wait to see what sorts of shenanigans they’ll get up to next. I love Rosie, I love Don, I love Gene and all the assorted weirdos that find their way into the story line. I thought The Rosie Effect was a fun read. If you’re not too cynical about sequels, I recommend you give this a shot.

Talk to me Bookworms, what makes you pick up a sequel? Do you have high expectations for them?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 22

The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

Dystopian, Science, Young Adult Fiction 19

Greetings Bookworms!

I love y’all. Have I mentioned that? I love the book blogosphere, too. It’s where I get most of my book recommendations. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to reading something, but there are some bloggers (and generally awesome human beings) who never steer me wrong. My girl Heather at The Capricious Reader thought the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness was amazing and, as usual, she was right. I’m going to talk about the books The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men as a unit (a spoiler-free unit) because it’s making me think all the thoughts. This one’s for you, Ethel!

chaoswalkingWhat would you do if all your thoughts were suddenly audible? Every secret, every desire, every flash of anger and inappropriate thought broadcast for the world to hear. THAT is the world Todd Hewitt lives in. Todd is coming of age in a place called Prentisstown, a place full of angry men and their angrier Noise. All animals have Noise, too (and lemme tell you, dogs in Prentisstown think EXACTLY the way I believe actual dogs think.) One day Todd and his dog Manchee stumble across a shockingly quiet area in the swamp. With men and animals constantly broadcasting their thoughts, there’s no escape from the relentless Noise. Until now. Of course, mysterious silence comes with secrets, revelations, and the need to run for their lives.

The books themselves provide a good adventure story, great world building, and funky science fiction elements. My heart was SHATTERED several times, but I could not stop reading. I just couldn’t. There were all sorts of moral dilemmas and discussions of war, empathy, forgiveness, and the inner workings of animal minds that provide plenty for any brain to chew on. But what really blew my mind? The idea of a world where thoughts are audible. It has my mental wheels spinning and they will not stop.

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I have uncharitable thoughts ALL THE TIME, usually in the grocery store. I don’t know what it is about shopping carts and aisles and checkout lines, but they turn my inner monologue into an aggressive, nasty place. After reading books featuring telepaths (this is the fault of Sookie Stackhouse, obviously) I’ve occasionally been extremely grateful that nobody actually can read my thoughts. The idea that EVERYONE could hear them (including Office Beagle!) was seriously disturbing.

Talk to me Bookworms. How would you feel if everyone around you knew exactly what you were thinking? How would you feel if you could hear everyone else’s thoughts? Am I the only person who turns into a raging lunatic at the grocery store?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 29

The Sparrow Readalong Finish Line

Readalong, Religion, Science 17

Greetings Bookworms!

As you know I’ve been participating in a readalong of The Sparrow hosted by Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity. I took a short break from reading this bad boy in the midst of Banned Books Week and Diversiverse, but now that those are in the history books, as it were, I was able to finish reading The Sparrow and what a ride it was! WARNING: If you hate animated gifs, run away now!

sparrow-Readalong

Where do I even begin? Thanks to some heavy foreshadowing, I knew how things were going to end up… In a manner of speaking. But the way they got there? Holy crap balls! I did NOT see that coming! As far as romantic entanglements I was like:

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After which I thought, “well, okay, that’s probably for the best then.” But then there were some journeys and some revelations once people got back and I was like:

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And THEN we found out the nature of the relationship between the very nice folks with tails and the rather suspicious folks with tails and I was like:

Shocked

Are you KIDDING ME?! And then the rest of the story came out and I was like:

Love-and-Other-DrugsSo basically, The Sparrow shocked, appalled, and ripped me to pieces. And I liked it! The hype is well-deserved, kids! Mary Doria Russeel is the real deal. Big thanks to Trish for putting this party together!

Let’s talk, Bookworms! What’s the last supremely well-plotted book you read?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will NOT be using it to attempt contact with alien life forms, unless I can be assured that they’re only the NICE FOLKS WITH TAILS.*

 

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Sep 15

The Sparrow Readalong Halfway Point

Readalong, Religion, Science 14

Take Me To Your Leader, Bookworms!

I know, I know. Cheap alien joke. I work with what I’ve got stored in the ol’ gray matter, and sometimes that ain’t much. Terrible jokes aside, today marks the halfway check in point for The Sparrow Readalong hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity. I love Trish, and not just because she uses the Oxford common in her blog title (but let’s face it, that doesn’t hurt!) I’m actually on track with my reading, a fact which shocks me. So. How is it going so far?

sparrow-Readalong

The Sparrow started out kind of slowly for me. I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps it was just fatigue? Once I got rolling though, I was hooked. I can’t put it down. I hit the halfway point after midnight and forced myself to get some sleep. It was a work night, for heaven’s sake!  I NEED TO KNOW what happened on the mission! I NEED TO KNOW what becomes of the crew! I NEED TO KNOW if certain romantic tensions ever boil over! I also want to have dinner with Anne and George. Anne is easily my favorite character so far. She’s spunky and fun, smart and cynical.

I’m finding all the Jesuit stuff rather fascinating, too. I typically avoid discussing religion because it always turns into A THING, but having been raised Catholic, I’m connecting with this story in ways I didn’t expect. Characters are having crises of faith all over the place and I just want to jump into the pages and give them hugs! It’s refreshing because though the religious aspects are presented with a hefty dose of skepticism, I haven’t found it to be disrespectful. Irreverent, maybe, but never mean-spirited. Some of the lines are downright cracking me up, too, especially when the characters get all philosophical. Here’s one of the many reasons I love me some Anne:

Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God? A vanishingly small number of people would recognize God, Anne had decided years before, and most of them had simply missed a dose of Thorazine.

Seriously, how could I not be loving this book? I can’t wait to tackle the rest of this bad boy. I’ll be in touch with a wrap up post in a couple of weeks.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you ever start a book slowly only to have it grow on you like gangbusters?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 01

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Romance, Science 22

G’day Bookworms,

Remember back to Valentine’s Day when I crowd sourced a Top Ten Tuesday list of bloggers’ favorite romances? One of the suggestions that came from Sarah of Sarah Says Read was for The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clare. I made a mental note to give it a whirl, and not long afterward it showed up as a Kindle daily deal, so I snapped it up.

themadscientistsdaughterIt’s the future. Some sort of apocalypse has come to pass leaving the human race rather depleted. To make up for the lack of people to keep the world operating, science supplemented with androids. Of course, there’s going to be a rogue scientist somewhere trying to push the envelope of android manufacturing. This led to the creation of Finn, the most human-like robot ever created.

Cat’s father brought Finn home to their little cottage in the woods when she was 5. Her eccentric scientist parents weren’t keen on sending her to the local public school, so they enlisted Finn as Cat’s personal tutor.

Cat grows up with Finn as not only her teacher, but also as her closest friend. As she grows up things get… complicated. Kind of hard to have a straightforward love story when half of the equation is mechanical, you know?

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was certainly an unconventional take on a love story. It brought up all sorts of issues to do with discrimination and the difficulties with loving someone you’re not supposed to love.

I wish I could say this book didn’t creep me out on some level, but it did. Maybe it’s just because it reminded me so much of that awful Robin Williams movie, Bicentennial Man… Maybe it’s because Finn was less engaging than Iko, the robot BFF of CinderMaybe it’s because I watched that weird episode of Jack Van Impe where he blamed “robits” for the fast approaching End of Days. LOL, nah it’s not that. Still, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. That said, it could be yours. If you dig science fiction romance or scandalous forbidden love, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter may just be your new favorite love story.

Tell me, Bookworms. Anybody else think the last time Robin Williams was fun to watch was in Mrs. Doubtfire ? Anybody else think the sequel they’re working on sound like a horrendous idea?

 

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Apr 07

The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

Non Fiction, Science 24

Hello Bookworms,

It’s Monday again (how does this keep happening?!) The good news? You don’t have tuberculosis. (I hope.) Yes, folks, I just finished reading some of the germiest non-fiction this side of the 20th century, and it was fascinating. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I was offered a copy of The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz, I knew I had to give it a shot. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Honesty rules.

theremedyThe Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis begins with Dr. Robert Koch hacking off limbs during the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Koch, among others, began to realize that some of the post-surgical infections they’d been encountering could be prevented… You know. If the medical staff washed their hands. Germ theory was fledgling and had plenty of detractors who still insisted on sticking leeches to people to balance their humors. Gross, right?

You know what else everybody did that was super gross? Spit all over the place. Back in the day, hawking loogies in public was a fact of life. People were just barely starting to understand germ theory (thanks to scientists like Koch and his frenemy Pasteur) so nobody thought about spreading disease with all the spitting. It was the perfect environment for the breeding and transmission of one of humanity’s oldest foes, Tuberculosis.

TB was no joke. It accounted for something like a third of all deaths, and nobody could quite pin down how it was transmitted or how to treat it. Dr. Koch’s research into Tuberculosis allowed him to identify the microbe that caused TB, which was a huge breakthrough. Shortly after this discovery, Koch claimed to have discovered a cure. A CURE FOR CONSUMPTION! A miracle!

Enter Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. You may know him as “Sir” and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but Conan Doyle was first a doctor. He was fascinated by germ theory and Dr. Koch’s experiments. Dr. Conan Doyle made the trek to Berlin to observe Koch’s work, but came away troubled. Was this “remedy” indeed curing Tuberculosis, or was it little more than snake oil?

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis was an enjoyable read. I learned all sorts of gross medical details and scientific tidbits. I never realized just how widespread TB had been, or how recently the medical field was revolutionized by germ theory. Very interesting stuff. For me there was a slight drawback, though. Because this book was so chock full of science and factoids and microscopes, it took me quite a bit longer to read than my typical fictional fare. I think it was just a lot more to absorb for my atrophied brain. In any case, it was a good read, ESPECIALLY if scientific non-fiction is your thing.

Tell me Bookworms… Do any of you find you read non-fiction more slowly than fiction? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jan 09

Solomon The Peacemaker by Hunter Welles

Dystopian, Science 15

Hiya Bookworms,

A few weeks back I ran across a review for a book that piqued my interest. Monika from A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall posted a review of a very cool sounding dystopian book called Solomon the Peacemaker by Hunter Welles. I love a good dystopia, so I made my way over to NetGalley to ask nicely for an advanced copy. *Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I wouldn’t dream of lying, for I fear the wrath of the robots…*

solomon the peacemakerThis book is set in the future- the world has been cordoned off into safe zones known as “nodes” for major cities as well as outlying areas of wildness. Robots known as “servods” perform household functions for the majority of families living within nodes. Sadly, none of them have the comedic timing of Rosie from The Jetsons. The peace of society as it is now known rests heavily in the hands of “the Peacemaker.” The Peacemaker is an elaborate computer program designed to predict and diffuse violent conflicts around the world. It also needs to be installed in a human’s head in order to work. Because cyborgs.

We slowly learn these facts through what appear to be psychological or criminal investigative interviews with Vincent Chell. Vincent and his wife Yael were never big fans of the whole robot industry, feelings which led to their involvement with a bizarre cult-like resistance group determined to undermine the Peacemaker. I found this narrative technique intriguing, as Chell’s memories slowly unfolded.

I was riveted by the story, but rather disappointed in the ending. I won’t be a Spoiler-Saurus-Rex, but I was left with some lingering questions… If you have any inclination toward sci/fi and dystopian fiction, I’d recommend you give Solomon the Peacemaker a try.

If you could have a robotic housekeeper, would you? I’d be all over that, because cooking is the worst. I’d get a chef robot. Dangit science, when is somebody going to get me a chef robot?!

*If you choose to make a purchase of Solomon the Peacemaker from a link on this site, I will receive a small commission… Which I intend to invest in the research and development of chef robots.*

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