Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Science

Book Review: This Vicious Cure

This Vicious Cure – Emily Suvada – This Mortal Coil #3 – Simon Pulse – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

Cat’s hacking skills weren’t enough to keep her from losing everything—her identity, her past, and now her freedom. She’s trapped and alone, but she’s survived this long, and she’s not giving up without a fight.

Though the outbreak has been contained, a new threat has emerged—one that’s taken the world to the brink of a devastating war. With genetic technology that promises not just a cure for the plague, but a way to prevent death itself, both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity’s future.

Facing her smartest, most devastating enemy yet, Cat must race against the clock to protect her friends and save the lives of millions on the planet’s surface. No matter the outcome, humanity will never be the same.

And this time, Cat can’t afford to let anything, or anyone, stand in her way.

My thoughts

This Vicious Cure is the eagerly awaited third and final book in the This Mortal Coil series. I was a little delaying in picking up this third book after it’s publication (or one of the other librarians gave it to a student before I could read it!) so it was during the height of the first wave of COVID-19 that I was reading this conclusion to a series about a serious virus that kills and dramatically alters society. It’s surprising how many books there are bout deadly plagues and virus, but I think the This Moral Coil series is one of my absolute favs and is always one I love recommending to students.

This Vicious Cure follows on from the conclusion of the second book. The characters (and readers) have been through so much since the first book. Honestly, a happy ending seems a little unlikely. The action starts up again almost instantly. Please be aware this review may contain spoilers for the first and second book. You should read the series in series order. This Mortal Coil is perfect for fans of science fiction, dystopian novels, action, a touch of romance, strong female lead characters, coding, technology and the absolute terror of humans and society.

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Book Review: Bringing Back the Wolves

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem – Jude Isabella and Kim Smith (ill.) – Kids Can Press – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

An unintended experiment in Yellowstone National Park, in which an ecosystem is devastated and then remarkably rehabilitated, provides crucial lessons about nature’s intricate balancing act.

In the 1800s, hunters were paid by the American government to eliminate threats to livestock on cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. They did such a good job that, by 1926, no gray wolf packs were left in the park. Over the following decades, virtually every other part of the park’s ecosystem was affected by the loss of the wolves — from the animals who were their prey, to the plants that were the food for that prey, to the streams that were sheltered by those plants — and the landscape was in distress. So, starting in 1995, in an attempt to reverse course, the government reintroduced gray wolves to the park. Over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. It’s a striking transformation, and a fascinating tale of life’s complicated interdependencies.

My thoughts

Bringing Back the Wolves – How A Predator Restored An Ecosystem explains about the history of the wolf in the Yellow Stone National Park in the US. From the hunting of wolves in the 1800s and the result this had on the Park to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, this book explores the impact of an apex predator and how the Park has changed since the wolves have returned.

There is a wonderful sense of nature fixing its self as this book clearly steps out the impact of the wolves. Bringing Back the Wolves does a fantastic job of clearly and simply articulating the complex relationships involved and the intricacies of the impacts.

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Book Review: A Galaxy of Sea Stars

A Galaxy of Sea Stars – Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food. She does know that her constant presence has become like a rogue wave disrupting the normally easy flow of the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy gets to know Sitara, she can’t help but admire her self-confidence and pride in her Muslim faith. Little by little, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her safe but insulated harbor in Seaside.

When hate messages start showing up at the girls school and at the marina, Izzy and Sitara team up to discover the source of the vandalism. But what Izzy ultimately learns, will force her to make a choice: remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right – even if it means losing the Sea Star Posse forever.

My thoughts

A Galaxy of Sea Stars is middle grade fiction at its finest. These young girls are just discovering their independence but with these changes come challenges to long-held friendship, discovering things you never knew, looking at life differently and learning to look past your own experiences to consider the feelings of others.

Izzy and her two best friends are the Sea Stars, best friends since they were little. With a new school to navigate and new classes, Izzy is determined to keep the group together. When Izzy’s father invites the interpreter he worked with in Afghanistan and his family to move in, Izzy is worried. Why isn’t her mother moving back home and what will the Sea Stars say about Sitara, who is Izzy’s age and isn’t scared of standing out or explaining about her beliefs?

Izzy is an authentic young teen. She is struggling to balance what she knows and feels is right with trying desperately to hold onto what is comfortable and known in her life. She is right on the cusp of growing up – sometime sounding like a mature teen and other times reverting back to more childish displays of emotion (and sadly, even as an adult I could totally relate to these meltdowns). Growing up is hard, especially when navigating changes in schools, friendship and family circumstances. It’s something so many young people face today, especially family breakdown. Izzy wants her family to go back to the way it was and doesn’t understand why her mother can’t just come home. She also struggles to come to terms with the changes she has seen in her father since he has come back from serving in Afghanistan. These two points aren’t explored in too much depth, the focus of the story remains on other things, but Izzy does come to accept her mother’s choice, she loves and accepts her fathers, and her parents work harder at explaining things to Izzy and making her more comfortable with the new living arrangements.

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Book Review: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking – Isabel Sanchez Vegara and lllustrated by Matt Hunt – Little People Big Dreams – Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

When Stephen Hawking was a little boy, he used to stare up at the stars and wonder about the universe. Although he was never top of the class, his curiosity took him to the best universities in England: Oxford and Cambridge. It also led him to make one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the 20th century: Hawking radiation. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the brilliant physicist’s life.

My thoughts

I have heard great things about the Little People, Big Dreams series, so I was eager to read this instalment which features the great scientist Stephen Hawking.

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Book Review: The Theory of Happily Ever After

The Theory of Happily Ever After – Kristen Billerbeck – Revell – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious science, as serious as Maggie takes herself. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies–for instance, why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge.

Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.

My thoughts

The Theory of Happily Ever After is a romantic comedy with a hidden, tender heart.

Maggie might be a doctor on the science of happiness- and she has a bestseller to prove it- but that doesn’t mean she has all the answers. So when her fiancé leaves her for another woman, she is unsure how to move forward. Overwhelmed with the choices she must now make to direct her future research, resume her employment in the same place as her ex, and finish (or actually start) her next book, she finds that ice cream and movies are the only cure. Until her friends drag her on a cruise for singles where, surprise, Maggie is to be a guest speaker. Can Maggie prove to her friends, the handsome stranger who challenges her research, and ultimately to herself that she has the power to change her life and choose what she wants?

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Book Review: A Taxonomy of Love

A Taxonomy of Love – Rachael Allen – Amulet Books – Published 9 January 2018

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Synopsis

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

My thoughts

Is there a way to understand and capture the complexities of life, friendship, and love? A Taxonomy of Love is a sweet story that captures all the magic and heartbreak of friendship and growing up.

When the new girl moves in next door, she and Spencer become strong friends. Who else but Hope could understand Spencer’s love of bugs and climbing trees. Who else could understand the ways in which he is different and yet not treat him as if he is any different at all. But sometimes life is messy and not as easy to categorise as Spencer would like. Friends, more than friends, not friends at all?

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Book Review: A Conspiracy of Stars

A Conspiracy of Stars – Olivia A. Cole – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.

My thoughts

Here there be monsters. A Conspiracy Of Stars is a truly imaginative novel. Beautifully crafted, this book draws the reader into another world, or rather planet, that is entirely different from our own. Yet is seems that the troubles of humanity follow, no matter how exotic the location.

Octavia’s dream is to become a whitecoat like her mother and father, eminent scientists who study the diverse animals and plants of Faloiv. When she and her fellow classmates are offered internships well before expected, they are all excited. But things are changing within their settlement of N’Terra. There are murmurs of discontent, anger towards the indigenous people of Faloiv, the Faloii, and the head of the Council seems to be driving it all. As Octavia and her friends uncover more of the secrets of her home, she begins to experience her own strange changes – it seems she is far more tied to the planet of Faloiv and all its inhabitants than she ever could have dreamed possible.

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Book Review: This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil – Emily Suvada – This Mortal Coil #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

My thoughts

This book deserves a victory dance for awesomeness. But I’m actually too shocked to move right now. This Mortal Coil is mind-blowingly awesome. Prepare yourselves, I’m afraid this is going to be one of those gushing, I-just-loved-it-so-much reviews. But this book totally deserves it.

This Mortal Coil expertly combines breathtaking world building with endless action, insane plot twists that just keep coming, and some seriously amazing characters. Add romance in the midst of apocalyptic chaos with intense chemistry, a zombie virus that is wildly spreading, and some very impressive technological advancements that all seamlessly fit with scientific explanations, and you have one amazing book that is impossible to put down.

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Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star

the-sun-is-also-a-star

The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon – Delcacorte Press – Published 1 November 2016

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Synopsis

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My thoughts

I chose to read this because of a) that cover and b) so many enthusiastic reviews. Those reviews seemed to be persistent urging to read this wonderful book, just give it a try. I would recommend the same. The Sun Is Also A Star is so very clever, so very cool and so very worth reading.

I found the synopsis vague… purposely so because the less you know the better. The plot points aren’t important – it’s the magic of all the little moments coming together. Natasha has one day left in New York before she and her family are deported back to Jamaica. For Daniel, this day is the last day of his childhood, of following his own dreams before relinquishing them to follow the path set before him by his parents. When the two meet it seems more than happenstance, maybe even meant to be.

I absolutely adore the romance in this book. Insta-love move over because love at first sight (or maybe second sight) is clearly the winner here. Yes, this is a love story told over one day. Skeptical? Fair enough. I’m sure, like me, you’ve read stories where the characters fall head over heels so quickly that it seems more ridiculous than romantic. I had no such problems with The Sun Is Also A Star. Daniel is a dreamer, poet, romantic. He believes in meant-to-be and love. Natasha on the other hand is a scientist, lover of facts and just a little bit cynical. She thinks Daniel’s crazy to believe in love, yet she can’t deny how drawn to him she is.

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Book Review: Learning to Swear in America

Learning to Swear in America

Learning To Swear In America – Katie Kennedy – Bloomsbury USA Children’s – Published 5 July 2016

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Synopsis

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize–if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri’s 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

My thoughts

Learning to Swear In America is a humorous story of friendship, loneliness, missed childhoods and individuality. An asteroid hurtling towards Earth at 71km a second has a way of making you reevaluate your life. And Katie Kennedy has a way of writing that sucked me into this story. I was laughing numerous times throughout this book – even her author note and acknowledgements at the end of the book were enjoyable to read. Humour is so important in this touching story.

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