Bookends About Graceling

May 12, 2012 Uncategorized 6

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: Well-written, unique world with magic that obeys believable rules, and great characters.  Brought back fond memories of reading Tamora Pierce’s quartets about strong heroines taking on traditionally male roles.

Graceling is a story about Katsa, a rare individual Graced with a supernatural level of skill – in her case, the Grace of killing.  Although previously the king has used Katsa to enforce his often cruel will on his subjects, in this novel she begins to question her place in his plans and discover her own identity.  There is also a handsome prince (a supporting character who complements but doesn’t overshadow our heroine) and of course an evil villain. Read more »

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Photography Friday

May 11, 2012 Photography Friday 0

This past week I had an awesome opportunity to take pictures at the Pella Tulip festival, although because of the weird weather this year the tulips had already come and gone.  Fortunately the parade involved lots of cute kids dressed up in Dutch costumes, adults also dressed in authentic Dutch clothing, and some other beautiful flowers.  The town as a whole was beautiful and there were lots of cute shops with handmade goods, plus funnel cake and other fair food.  Definitely an event I’d recommend if you’re ever in Iowa!

Do you have any cute regional events near you that you’d recommend to visitors?

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The Universe in a Mirror in the 522’s

May 9, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It
Author: Robert Zimmerman
Source: library
Fun Fact:  When Lyman Spitzer proposed the US build a telescope 200-600 inches diameter and launch it into space, the largest ground telescope was only 200 inches and still under construction!
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: I liked the author’s writing style and his passion for the subject, but it was sometimes difficult to keep track of the sequence of events and the people involved.

The building of the Hubble telescope was a long and complicated process, lasting 44 years from the first serious proposal of such a telescope to Hubble’s launch in 1990.  The fight for Hubble didn’t end there either, as regular maintenance missions were necessary to keep the telescope operational.  The Universe in a Mirror describes the many people who devoted their lives to the project, as well as a sampling of the neat discoveries the Hubble enabled. Read more »

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Monday Musings

May 7, 2012 Monday Musings 10

This week the Monday Musings question is the following: If you were going to write a book, what would you write about? Would it be fiction, or nonfiction?

Although I don’t have any plans to ever write a book, I’m pretty sure that if I did I would write non-fiction.  First, I feel like I’ve read enough fiction I’d have trouble coming up with something I haven’t already read about. And second, I think I would most enjoy trying to write about science in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

Feel free to answer the Monday Musing question yourself, either here or on the blog of the memes host, Should Be Reading.  What sort of book would you most like to write?

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Bookends About The House of Mirth

May 6, 2012 Uncategorized 1

Warning: this review does include some general spoilers.

Title: The House of Mirth
Source: library
Read for: Erin Read’s Reading Buddies
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: An interesting story with intriguing characters, but the almost happy ending made me like it a lot less.

The House of Mirth is a “novel of manners” or a novel which focuses on social customs, often the customs surrounding marriage (think Jane Austen, for example).    This particular novel focuses on high society in New York during the early 1900’s, a setting very familiar to the author, and was intended to highlight what she saw as the complete lack of anything worthwhile in that society.  However, as the forward to my version pointed out, what still draws people to this book today is mostly the character of Lily Bart.  Throughout the book we follow Lily’s attempts to marry for money, culminating in her fall from society when she is accused of being a man’s mistress.
Read more »

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Photography Friday

May 5, 2012 Photography Friday 0

Although I usually make a conscious effort not to have my weekly picture be of my cat (because otherwise they all would be!) this week I just couldn’t resist.  Maggie has just been so adventurous this week: climbing to the top of my fridge; making wild leaps into the top drawer of my dresser; and sleeping in all sorts of crazy places, like my dirty clothes hamper and the box she’s enjoying in the picture above.  Here I caught her sleeping on her back and then watching me try to get a bright enough picture.  I think she was laughing at me!

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Heavenly Intrigue

May 3, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History’s Greatest Scientific Discoveries
Source: library
Fun Fact:  When Tycho’s body was exhumed, it was discovered that he had a mustache that was 4 inches wide!
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: A light version of Tycho and Kepler, which seems equally well researched but the authors’ credibility suffers from their obvious agenda trying to sell their story.

When I very first spotted Heavenly Intrigue on my library shelves, I resisted picking it up because of the blatant sensationalism of the subtitle but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to get a second perspective on the same story.  As expected, this book presented a much less detailed overview of Kepler and Brahe’s work than Tycho and Kepler, with a much greater emphasis on interpersonal relationships and drama.  It was much easier to follow and I think this would have been the case even if I’d read it first as the book is clearly intended for a broader audience.  In addition to glossing over some of the details of the history and the science, there were several cases where the explanations of the instruments Kepler and Tycho used were much clearer and given with fewer astronomy terms.
Read more »

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Three Tips for Reading Historical Non-Fiction

May 3, 2012 Uncategorized 0

This week I jumped into historical non-fiction for the first time and as some of you may have gathered from this post , I found the experience a little intimidating!  Fortunately, with lots of help from the internet, I made it through – something which turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying experience.  So today I’m going to share with you what I learned, in hopes you won’t need to start a book feeling as lost as I did 🙂

1 – Orient Yourself in Time
My biggest problem when I started reading was that I really wanted to learn something from this book, but I had no prior knowledge of what was happening in the late 1500’s.  I also didn’t know much about when other important events took place in relation the the 1500’s.  Fortunately, I’m not as totally hopeless about history as I may sound, so I was pretty sure I just needed to find a website that gave me a timeline of events to help give me some context.  While searching, I came across this wonderful website which lets you view important world events broken down by era and geographical region.  For instance, I learned that living the late 1500’s Tycho and Kepler were living after the war of the roses, the Spanish Armada, the gun powder plot, and Joan of Arc.  It was really helpful and I highly recommend this as a place to start if you’re feeling lost in time!  
Read more »

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Tycho and Kepler in the 520’s

May 1, 2012 Uncategorized 0

Title: Tycho and Kepler: The Unlikely Partnership That Forever Changed Our Understanding of the Heavens
Source: library
Fun Fact:  The duel in which Tycho lost his nose may have been started by a man making fun of him because his astrological predictions didn’t come true.
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: A very in depth look at the lives and personalities of two interesting men.  Intriguing and well researched, but not for the faint of heart as this was not a light read.

Tycho and Kepler is a detailed biography of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, covering both their personal lives and their scientific careers.  It’s arranged in chronological order, smoothly transitioning between the two scientists.  I liked this format a lot because it made it so easy to see how their lives related to one another.  There was actually quite a lot of personal drama, although it was mostly presented an impersonal manner – enough so that I really want to read some historical fiction now to get a “first-person” perspective on this fascinating time period!
Read more »

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Monday Musings

April 30, 2012 Monday Musings 6

This week the Monday Musings question is the following: Do you listen to audiobooks? If not, why not? And, if so, what has been one of your favorites, so far?

In a word…no.  The long answer is that audiobooks drive me crazy because the narrator reads so much more slowly then I do!  Although I occasionally consider using audiobooks when driving and a book isn’t an option (at least not a good one :-P) I dislike being in the middle of multiple books too much for the idea to really appeal to me.

Feel free to answer the Monday Musing question yourself, either here or on the blog of the memes host, Should Be Reading.  Do you listen to audiobooks?  What do you like or dislike about them?

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