Latest Reviews

rise of the rocket girls
hopefuls jennifer close
dark road home
fifty-year mission

Book Review: The Gene – Siddhartha Mukherjee

Title: The Gene: An Intimate History
Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee
ISBN: 9781476733500
Pages: 608
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History
Source: Publisher

Summary

In The Gene, professor and cancer physician Siddartha Mukherjee takes a look at our genes through a social history perspective, melding science, medicine, and history to help us understand exactly what our genes do and why they are important.

Review

If you read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s epic Pulitzer Prize-winning history of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, then you likely know what you are in for when picking up The Gene. It’s a comprehensive look at genes from many different angles—from the history of their discovery to how they affect our health and behavior to the possibilities and implications of advanced gene manipulation. It’s both broad and incredibly deep, which is hard to do successfully, yet once again, Mukherjee does it expertly.

I’m usually a pretty fast reader, but I took The Gene slow. I mean SLOW—it took me a couple of months to get through it. Not because it was difficult or boring, or anything of the sort; I found the entire book fascinating. So fascinating, in fact, that I found myself rereading certain sections, thinking and pondering over a paragraph for a few minutes before I moved onto the next. This is a book that is worth spending some qualiy time with.

There’s a lot of science in The Gene, but it’s a surprisingly emotional read. Mukherjee does an incredible job mixing personal stories with hard science. He makes you realize that science isn’t this cold thing that is impersonal and disconnected from humanity. It is intertwined with who we are as people, and explains why we are here. If you’re looking for a great long read to sink your teeth into, to really get lost in, I highly recommend picking this up immediately.

Other books by Siddhartha Mukherjee:

The Emperor of All Maladies

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Book Review: Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Sleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
ISBN: 9781101886694
Pages: 320
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

A girl falls through the ground and is found, hours later, in the palm of a giant, metal hand deep within the Earth that is not of human construction.

Seventeen years later, that girl is now a scientist in charge of a team studying these massive alien objects found buried around the globe. Who created these objects, and why?

Review

Sleeping Giants is one of the most unexpected and enjoyable novels I’ve read in recent memory. I picked it up on a whim—Mysteries? Aliens? I’ll try it—and came up for breath, hours later, having read the entire novel in one sitting. It’s so well done and gripping, and readers will be captivated by the mysteries presented within the book.

One of my favorite aspects of Sleeping Giants is the manner in which it’s told. It’s told in interviews, in data files, in emails and discussions—a sort of fictional oral history, rather than traditional novel form. It makes it a lot easier to read and digest than if it were presented in a regular narrative. It also brings you much closer to the characters because you’re hearing the story in their own words.

My description of Sleeping Giants is sketchy, and that’s on purpose. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much is because I didn’t really know much about it going in. I was surprised, delighted, and shocked at every twist and turn of events, and I couldn’t put the book down because the narrative tension was so thick.

The beauty of this novel is that it’s a Swiss Army Knife recommendation for me—if you like science fiction, you’ll love this novel. If you don’t, you’ll probably still like it. If you like mysteries, you’ll like this, but if you prefer to stay away from them, you’ll still like this. It can’t be defined or described with just one genre; at its core, it’s just a good, well-written, suspenseful story, and one that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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Book Review: Rise of the Rocket Girls – Nathalia Holt

rise of the rocket girlsTitle: Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
Author: Nathalia Holt
ISBN: 9780316338912
Pages: 352
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: History, Space/NASA
Source: Publisher

Summary

Before there were laptop computers and smartphones, before computing was done primarily by machines, the United States was sending brave men to space, with the eventual intention of landing on the moon. This is a story most of us know well. A story that isn’t as well known is the women behind these endeavors, who worked as human computers, to help NASA achieve its mission of a moon landing.

Review

I will read any book about the American space program you put into my hands, so when I first heard about Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, I knew immediately it was a book I had to read. While I know a lot about how NASA got us to the moon, I hadn’t heard of this group of lady human computers, and it was a gap in my knowledge I wanted to fill as soon as possible.

Holt tells a compelling story; she writes in a very readable narrative form, weaving a story that will draw readers in from the very first page. It’s never dense or heavy; instead, Holt spends her time bringing these women to life for the reader, decade by decade. We get to learn about their skills, their capabilities, their hopes and dreams, what they gave up in order to do this job, but also what they achieved. It’s incredibly inspiring.

In order to research for Rise of the Rocket Girls, Holt conducted interviews with all of the living members of this group, and you can see their personalities bursting off the page. But the important thing about this book is that it isn’t just women’s history. It’s American history. Too often, the contributions of women and people of color are discounted and considered “niche” history, but this book puts both front and center. It should be considered a must-read book for anyone interested in the history of the American space program.

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Book Review: The Hopefuls – Jennifer Close

hopefuls jennifer closeTitle: The Hopefuls
Author: Jennifer Close
ISBN: 9781101875612
Pages: 320
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

Beth loves New York City, so it’s with some reluctance that she moves to Washington, DC, for her husband Matt’s career. And from the second she arrives, she hates everything about the city—the humidity, the political culture, the name dropping. As she tries to make a home for herself in DC, Matt finds himself increasingly unsatisfied with his job. The two connect with a Washington, DC, couple on the rise, but the jealousy and professional intrigue may end up tearing Matt and Beth apart for good.

Review

The Hopefuls was a hard read for me—a great read—but a difficult one because of my circumstances when I picked it up. I’d lived in Washington, DC, for 11 years, and was in the process of moving. I hadn’t told most of my friends about leaving yet, and I was having mixed feelings about leaving the city I’d called home ever since college. And then I read this novel, that pinpointed so many of the things I don’t like about DC in such a smart, witty way. It felt like my last, frayed nerve endings being stomped upon, but it was incredibly worth it.

The culture of DC is hard to describe and baffling to most people who haven’t experienced it. The optimism and hope, the earnest belief in public service, mixed with a grating culture of name dropping, games of who-do-you-know, and the stories you hear over and over and over again from the same people. Close nails her portrayal of it; anyone who’s been baffled by the way DC culture operates has been Beth. They remember the strangeness, feeling like an outsider, not sure of the social norms in this entirely new world.

And yet, the novel itself is compulsively readable. It might be an easy conclusion to draw from my reaction to The Hopefuls that I didn’t enjoy the book, but that isn’t the case. I actually thought it was incredibly well written, and in fact, I read it in one sitting. Close develops her characters in such an interesting way—Beth is the only fully developed character in the novel, but that’s on purpose. Close wants the reader to feel Beth’s sense of isolation from those around her, trying to fit into a world she doesn’t understand or particularly like. It’s very well done.

I certainly winced more than once when reading The Hopefuls, and that’s why I can recommend it so wholeheartedly (though, let me say in defense of the city I called home for so long that there is a lot to love about it that isn’t portrayed in this novel!) These characters are far from perfect. They make bad decisions. They are horrible to each other. But you can’t help but root for Beth, to hope that she finds belonging in her marriage, and in the city she wants to call home.

Other books by Jennifer Close:

Girls in White Dresses
The Smart One

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Book Review: Dark Road Home – Anna Carlisle

dark road home

Title: Dark Road Home Author: Anna Carlisle ISBN: 9781629536361 Pages: 304 Release Date: July 12, 2016 Publisher: Crooked Lane Books Genre: Mystery Source: Publisher Summary Gin Sullivan likes her job as a medical examiner in Chicago. She likes not thinking about small-town Trumbull, PA, the hometown she left without looking back. But when she receives […]

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Book Review: The Fifty-Year Mission – Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman

fifty-year mission

Title: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years Author: Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman ISBN: 9781250065841 Pages: 576 Release Date: June 28, 2016 Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books Genre: History, Nonfiction Source: Publisher Summary The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: […]

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Book Review: My Last Continent – Midge Raymond

my last continent

Title: My Last Continent Author: Midge Raymond ISBN: 9781501124709 Pages: 320 Release Date: June 21, 2016 Publisher: Scribner Genre: Literary Fiction Source: Publisher Summary Deb Gardner has been coming to the Antarctic for years to study penguins, and it’s the only place she feels at home. It’s where she met the love of her life, […]

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Book Review: The Yoga of Max’s Discontent – Karan Bajaj

yoga of max's discontent - karan bajaj

Title: The Yoga of Max’s Discontent Author: Karan Bajaj ISBN: 9781594634116 Pages: 336 Release Date: May 3, 2016 Publisher: Riverhead Books Genre: Contemporary Fiction Source: Publisher Summary To everyone around him, Max looks like the ultimate American success story: the child of Greek immigrants who grew up in the projects, who overcame his poor unbringing […]

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