More Recent Reading
- Below by Meg McKinlay, A-: On the day that Cassie was born prematurely, her family’s town ceased to be. The local government had already built a new town in a different location so that they could flood the old one as part of a dam project. Cassie, who never lived in the old town, is obsessed with it and the lake that now covers it. Thanks to her premature birth, she has a breathing problem. She’s supposed to swim laps every day to strengthen her lungs, but she hates the town swimming pool. So she starts swimming in the lake. As the water level starts dropping, parts of the old town start to resurface, and maybe some secrets well. I think Below is a beautifully written book, but I never really understood Cassie’s obsession. I mean, I got why she was supposed to be fascinated, but I never felt like her level of obsessions was justified. Also, I was well into the book before I realized that it took place in Australia. While I was impressed in a way with the story’s universality, I think it might have been more interesting if the location had been highlighted.
- The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, A+: I loved this book. It’s a collection of stories about the science and the scientists behind the periodic table of elements, and it is absolutely engrossing. Recommended.
- Elidor by Alan Gardner, B+: Four siblings are magically transported to a land called Elidor, where a man named Malebron enlists their aid in finding four magical treasures that he believes will save his world. The siblings return home and hide the treasures, but they soon discover that something is trying to enter their world to steal the treasures. The ending was so abrupt that I kept flipping through the last few pages (all blank) looking for the rest of the text, which just wasn’t there. I wondered at first if I had gotten an incomplete edition. But no. That’s just the way the story ended. It left me feeling cheated.
- Language Visible by David Sacks, B+: This is the story of the English alphabet, tackled one letter at a time. Alas, the format leads to a somewhat tedious read, as most of the letters followed similar routes into our alphabet. The book would probably be much better if read a little bit at a time. That makes sense, as it originated as a series of columns for a newspaper. In any event, it contains enough interesting information to make it a worthwhile read.
- The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, A-: The Last Dragonslayer takes place in an alternate reality where magic is used in a way similar to how we use electricity, England is divided into a bunch of independently ruled kingdoms, and orphans are sold into indentured servitude at the age of 12. The main character is Jennifer Strange, an orphan who was sold to the owner of Kazam, an employment agency for magicians. Her master has gone missing and so it’s up to her to take care the business and its ragtag collection of magicians. Not quite as good as Fforde’s Thursday Next series (while sometimes seeming very similar to it), it is nevertheless a fun read. Recommended.
- The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde, A-: Sequel to The Last Dragonslayer and equally good.
- Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer, A-: This is the story of how Joshua Foer (brother of author Jonathan Safran Foer) learned to master ancient memory techniques and subsequently won the United States Memory Championship. Interesting, informative, and fun.
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