Monday, July 31, 2017

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin

Planet of ExilePlanet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one. It was short and focused on the dynamics between alien people at different places in their scientific development.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Time's a Thief by B.G. Firmani

Time's a Thief: A NovelTime's a Thief: A Novel by B.G. Firmani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writer is very smart. That's mostly what this book is about. It's also about the main character's obsession with an awful rich family in New York City. The part I could most relate to is the heaviness of life's reality not matching youthful expectations. Now I sound a million years old.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Lightness of Being by Frank Wilczek

The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of ForcesThe Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces by Frank Wilczek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is from 2008 but it focuses on different aspects of particle physics than books that I've read so far. A few things I learned/ reviewed include:

1) energy is not conserved- as proved at CERN by creating more mass from smashing protons and neutrons together (Ch 3),

2) the interiors of protons and neutrons are made of quarks and gluons which we can't see directly (categorized by flavors/colors) (Ch 7),

3) a different description of the uncertainty principle than I've heard (Ch 7),

4) quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is the theory of strong interactions, a fundamental force describing the interactions between quarks and gluons, which make up hadrons such as the proton, neutron, and pion,

5) Hadrons are in two groups: baryons made of three quarks, and mesons made of one quark and one antiquark. (Protons and neutrons are baryons; pions are mesons),

6) "symmetry" is how physicists figured out/ explain the rules of quarks and gluons (Ch 7),

7) quarks that are close have almost no force attracting them, but there's a strong force that grows when they separate (?) (Ch 7),

8) the universe is made up of matter (4%), dark matter, and dark energy (Ch 8),

9) the "empty" part of space is not empty but an electromagnetic field/ time-space made up of hadrons which Wilczek calls "the grid" which is how gravity operates on a big scale (Ch 8.),

10) quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. It describes how light and matter interact (light gets heavy inside the 'grid") and is the first theory where there is agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity

11) Quarks and gluons don't have mass? But they create the mass of the protons and neutrons with their energy?

I read the first half the book twice in a row. He lost me more and more in later chapters as he tried to point towards a possible future unified theory. I did not read the second half twice because I was mentally exhausted but I might have to just reread the second half of the book sometime to have it sink in.

Update: Now that I've let my brain rest awhile, I guess the issue here is that this was the physics landscape before superstring theory gained so much traction? I'm not sure which parts are no longer relevant- assuming superstring is even true- but it's still interesting to read such a different attempt at nearing a unified theory.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Everything Belongs to UsEverything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the beginning, I didn't think I'd like this book, but as the complications piled on, I appreciated how much like real life this book was. That's not something I encounter that much in literature, possibly because even when an author is trying to do it- which is not most of the time- it's probably very difficult to achieve.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has great characters you can love. Despite the main character being a teen and struggling with how she is viewed by the outside world, the book itself still manages to handle the very important and sadly all too frequent topic of police shootings with great maturity. This novel is a clear young adult winner.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Answers by Catherine Lacey

The AnswersThe Answers by Catherine Lacey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great and interesting writing. Super weird plot, that seems to be basically a vehicle for all the wonderful sentences and deep thoughts.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Surprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis

Surprise, Security, and the American ExperienceSurprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gaddis explains the national security philosophies of either isolation or engagement. He uses as the main examples and basis for his arguments the time periods around the British burning of the Capitol in 1814, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, post-WWII security concerns that led to the Cold War, and terrorist 9/11. The good thing is that the book is very short. The downside is that it's not very developed, interesting, or compelling. Seems like 118 pages is at least long enough to pack a punch... but no.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really TrueThe Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book because it was on a reading list recommended by Bill Gates in 2015. A simple overview of science for kids. I don't know why I keep reading Dawkins books when I always get annoyed about how he speaks about religion. Why don't you just talk about the science and let people apply it to their view of religion for themselves? It's really condescending. That said, I might at some point recommend to my kids that they read this book.

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Spoils by Brian Van Reet

SpoilsSpoils by Brian Van Reet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good writing, very well-constructed characters, interesting story... so painful to read.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really entertaining, but left me kind of cold. The voice really sounds like that of a woman, and the time, place, and circumstances of the main character's life are really interesting. But there's a lack of depth to the story generally and also in the characters.

(Little bit of a spoiler ahead:) I thought it would at least head in a Pride and Prejudice direction which I can enjoy even if it's repeated, but it didn't work out that well.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4)Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the 4th book in Murakami's Rat series and I read them all in order: Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, A Wild Sheep Chase, and this one Dance Dance Dance. This is the best one of the series in terms of the plot making some sense, but Wind/Pinball is the best in terms of deep thoughts in the book. A Wild Sheep Chase was especially clumsy with the magical realism and Dance, Dance, Dance improves on this aspect, but it doesn't feel like it's enough to rescue the series. Overall, I wouldn't say it's a great series.

Didn't buy the whole Yumioshi "love" story in this either. (Not related to my review but the title has almost nothing to do with the book either which is a disappointment.)

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The Lonely American by Jacqueline Olds, Richard S. Schwartz

The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first CenturyThe Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century by Jacqueline Olds, Richard S. Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being too busy is bad, but even worse is checking out of social life. When this happens people get depressed, then use alcohol, drugs, or pharmaceuticals to deal with their depression. Therapy is better but still unideal. The authors admit this is a societal problem - both being too busy and being isolated- but then sort of vaguely suggest we just force ourselves to socialize.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad FeministBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Starts out a little slowly with some personal essays about Gay's work life and personal life. However, her later essays on privacy, autonomy, sexism, and racism are powerful. I particularly noticed when I didn't necessarily agree with her that her arguments were sufficiently persuasive that they made me reconsider. This is one of the top things I look for in nonfiction and essays in particular. I'm not looking for information that merely champions what I already believe but writing that challenges the way I think and see the world and changes or broadens my perspective.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Marlena by Julie Buntin

MarlenaMarlena by Julie Buntin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful exploration of young friendship, its betrayals, and its lasting love and effects.

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All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money PlanAll Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is basically Dave Ramsey's plan which I think already existed when this book was written. (Dave published Financial Peace in the 1990s.)

Similarities to Dave: This book is mostly about the evils of credit cards and debt in general. While they don't recommend paying the smallest debt first (classic Dave Ramsey) but neither do they insist you pay the highest interest rate debt first.

Bad differences from Dave: The authors suggest doing a bunch of worksheets that I have no interest in whatsoever.

Good differences from or additions to Dave: One new idea is dividing your needs (50% of income), savings (20%), and fun (30%). The authors discuss how to make sure your fun spending is actually fun and not guilt or emotional-hole spending. Asking for medical discounts and free samples of drugs. Getting drugs from Canada. Good marriage advice. Good warnings about how everyone in the system is trying to rip you off. Warnings about owning a home may or may not be a good deal (including a discussion of closing costs, fees, shady mortgage practices).

One particularly interesting thing is that the authors' concerns about job loss, shady mortgages, and foreclosure seem prescient given that this book predates the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Love Your Life, Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze

Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You WantLove Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Similar to, but better written than Dave Ramsey's books. Most likely to interest you if you're already interested in Dave Ramsey. A little bit of new information, and directed more to younger people, but mostly similar to Dave. Nonetheless, I own this one in lieu of owning a Dave book.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Labor DayLabor Day by Joyce Maynard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a super weird coming of age story. Or is it a romance? A story about the crippling effects of personal trauma and mental illness? A story about the injustice of the criminal system? Yes, all that stuff.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1)The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So fun! This is as good as Ender's Game and Ready Player One. I love this world, the magic rules, and the main characters. Okay, maybe Rojer is a little unnecessary but we'll see if he does better stuff in later books.

This reminds me a little of Game of Thrones in that it takes place in a less civilized time with different villages, cities, and kingdoms, but I find The Warded Man is less grossly violent and more feminist.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful and sad without being devastating. This is a feminist novel about religious and political fanaticism. It's a novel about how Afghanistan's people were devastated by the Cold War tug-of-war between America, Russia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. It's about the disappointments of family, and the depths of friendship. Even though I gave them the same rating, I liked this one better than Kite Runner.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 2 (Saga, #2)Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this a little better than the first one, and I'm starting to get invested in some of the characters. A minor thing that has nothing to do with my rating: I don't really understand the animal-people? Is that just evolutionary coincidence?

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