BOOK REVIEW: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

18143977Title: All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 2 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII

Read Start Date: August 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 16, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My Review: Living in Austria / the Netherlands, and having been to Normandy, France, a few weeks ago, it is really surreal to read about WWII events. As I was listening to the book, I was running in a place where abandoned WWII Nazi bunkers were. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. They are forced to flee Paris when the Germans start bombing it. Werner, an intelligent orphan German boy, is recruited into the war by the Nazis. The book alternates between the stories of these two characters, but it isn’t really until the last part of the book that the stories intersect.

The identities of these main characters makes the book more interesting because you experience two very different sides to the war. The Germans are of course portrayed as the bad guys, but Werner is somehow a sympathetic character, as he was brought into the war unwillingly and I got the feeling that he does not agree with what the Germans are doing. I really liked the character of Marie-Laure, as she is a courageous young woman despite her disability and able to accomplish things that not many others were brave enough to do.

When the novel begins in 1934, Werner and Marie-Laure are children. As the story progresses and the children age, the author gives you a window into growing up under the shadow of war.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

32191710._SY475_Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Book Length (Audiobook): 3 hours 43 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science

Read Start Date: August 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 6, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson. But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

My Review: This book might have been relatively short, but it was definitely not simple to understand. There was a lot of technical terms and hard to grasp concepts, which when listened to as an audiobook, was a little bit difficult. I know that he tried to make it more simple for people like me who don’t really know anything about science, but it was still very technical.

I usually listen to most of my books while exercising, driving, or otherwise doing something else besides listening. Maybe that is why this book was so difficult for me to understand and get into because I only had half a brain to pay attention to it.

I am therefore giving it only 3 stars, because my mind drifted away while listening to it, but I didn’t dislike it either.

This book fueled my workout on Day 7 of “Couch to 5K”.

BOOKS ARE ENERGY: Day 9 to 12 of 28, Fueled by All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I am a date late in posting this because last night I was just too tired. Yesterday’s goal in “Couch to 5K” was 15 x Walk 1 minute and Run 1 minute. While I was running, I was listening to the book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I have read this book before, but it was at a time when I was not blogging, so I decided to read it again.

I am about 4 hours into it so far (yesterday I had read up to 3 hours), and it was a really good book to exercise to. The story starts off before World War II and alternates between a young blind girl in France, and a teenage orphan boy in Germany. So far in the book, the blind girl and her father have to flee their home in Paris because the Germans start bombing them. There is a side story about a famous (possibly cursed) diamond that also really caught my attention. As can be expected, the German boy is indoctrinated into the Hitler youth.

In total I ran/walked 4.81 kilometers in about 40 minutes. I wasn’t too thrilled about the route I picked because I was essentially running along sidewalks the entire time. In addition to passing cars, I was running passed smelly garbage cans. Nothing like a whiff of garbage every now and then to really pump up your run!

Annotation 2019-08-07 202548

When I look at my times, from yesterday (above) and Saturday (below), yesterday’s are only slightly better than on Saturday, but I think that’s because I was running more and walking less each kilometer. The fact that they are really only seconds apart isn’t such good motivation, but I hope to get better with time.

Annotation 2019-08-03 112554

On Day 12 (Friday August 9, 2019), I ended up having to do two workouts (Day 11 and 12) together, since I missed Day 11. Day 11 was 15 x Walk for 1 minute and Run for 1 minute. Friday was 30 minutes of non-impact cardio. Therefore, I did the 30 minutes interval training and then walked for another 40 minutes, for a total of 1 hour and 11 minutes (7.41 kms in total)

I am still reading All the Light We Cannot See, and it is really strange reading about WWII, and walking / running along the WWII Bunker trails where the abandoned German bunkers are. On Day 12 I had read about 50% (about 8 hours). Things were starting to get serious — WWII was starting. The two main characters are getting older and their lives more complicated, and the story about the cursed diamond plays a much bigger role in the book than I had originally anticipated.

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BOOKS ARE ENERGY: Day 7 of 28, Fueled by Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Today’s goal in “Couch to 5K” was to have 30 minutes of non-impact cardio. As you can see from the screenshots from Strava, I went a little overboard.

For the first segment (to the left), I was riding my bike to Haarlem in the Netherlands because I wanted to go to Native Coffee. I am currently attempting to write a novel, and I thought a change of atmosphere might get the creativity flowing.

On the ride there, I finished listening to Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. I was sad to see the end of this book, because this was a great book to work out to! You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

I then started to read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This was probably not a really good choice (especially not following Hollis’ book) because the subject matter was rather complicated, and I found my mind drifting a bit to other topics during the ride. The only thing I really remember, is that he was trying to explain something about antimatter.

In total on this first ride, I did 13.64 kilometers in about 45 minutes. I arrived at Native Coffee in a good mood, ready to tackle my 1,000 word goal, but was told by the barista that I could only use my computer on one table in the back, where there was already 5 places occupied out of 6.

Annotation 2019-08-04 194905

It did not look very inviting. Of course, I had already ordered a dirty Chai latte and a really good slice of gluten free chocolate cake, so I read The Cobra Event by Richard Preston instead, and then made my way to a different Cafe that didn’t have such ridiculous rules.

Two hours, another latte and 1,000 words later,  I was ready to head back to Ijmuiden. After getting a little lost on the way back from Haarlem, I finally made it home. As you can see, for some reason I ended up going through the National Park instead of going around it.

I’m not going to lie, it was rather beautiful, but it added around 4 kilometers to my ride, for a total of 17.36 kilometers on the way back (a total time of about 1 hour and 12 minutes).

On this trip, I ended up listening to about 2 hours of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, but again I found it very complicated and kept getting side tracked. This is not the first time I am reading it, and honestly I thought that it would be easier to understand the second time around. It’s not. I don’t know, I could just be super dumb, but I think that I just feel overwhelmed by deGrasse Tyson’s use of a lot of big and complicated words / concepts. Sigh.

Good thing tomorrow is a “rest” day, because I am beat!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

40591267._SY475_Title: Girl, Stop Apologizing

Author: Rachel Hollis

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 37 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Personal Development

Read Start Date: July 31, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

My Review: This is the second book that I have read by Rachel Hollis. The first book was Girl, Wash Your Face. You can read the review here. Within the first 18 minutes of listening to the audiobook, I already liked it. She was speaking real truths, and I could totally understand her point. In the first part of the book, Hollis expounded on her theory that adults are the product of how, as toddlers, they learned to get attention. Over-achievers gained attention as children for doing well. Some toddlers get attention by being affectionate, so they learn to become dependent upon affection. Some toddlers get attention by making others laugh, so they learn how to entertain…and so on. This made perfect sense to me.

Her book only became better as it went on.

At about 1.5 hours into the book, Hollis had already laid down some really good advice. This book is really resonating with me so far. Hollis talks about setting realistic goals for yourself, and how to realistically achieve them. I have the goals to get more fit and to finish writing my first novel. My book currently has about 25,000 words, and I have not been able to get much done in the past few weeks. Hollis suggests that one should plan to work on her goals, at a time that works best for her regarding these goals. After working for 10 hours a day, I am usually so tired from work, that I cannot muster the motivation to do anything. Therefore, for the next week, I will give it a go and try to wake up early in the morning — maybe that will help.

So, I tried it for one day, and it didn’t help, because, well, I am not a morning person. So taking Hollis’ advice, I switched back to evenings — although it really seems that only weekends work for me.

After finishing her book, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hollis is a really smart woman, and gives some really good advice on life and how to become your best self. I even started following her instagram! This book also helped me get through some tough workouts, so this book is a big YES for me!

This book also “fueled” my workout on August 3rd and August 4th.

 

 

BOOKS ARE ENERGY: Day 6 of 28, Fueled by Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

I have never run a 5k before in my life. This week I decided to train for one. Today is Day 6, and the exercise is 13x Walk 2 minutes / Run 1 minutes. I am really proud of myself that I was able to run through all the intervals.

While running, I had encouragement from Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, Stop Apologizing. Get healthy! Hollis basically shouts from the roof top — so here goes my experiment in getting healthy. I am currently about 5 hours into listening to the audiobook, and I really like this book. It was a great book to read while running, as it really made the time fly by. 45 minutes flew by so fast!

I have decided to post each of the runs, so that I can give myself the necessary motivation to complete them each day.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

198505._SY475_Title: The Demon in the Freezer

Author: Richard Preston

Book Length: 283 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History, Medical, Health

Read Start Date: September 2, 2018

Read Finish Date: August 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.
Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.
Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.
Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

My Review: This book is scarier than any horror book, because you guys, this book is NONFICTION! Imagining that a terrorist group may be able to weaponize a virus like smallpox to decimate the population of a major US city in the blink of an eye is terrifying. This book opened my eyes to an array of grim possibilities that I had never before even though about. Viruses, epidemics, etc. have always fascinated me for some reason — and movies about such subjects are my favorite kind of film in the horror genre (closely followed by zombies).

The descriptive way that Preston writes about viruses, really gave me a clear picture in my mind of what he was talking about. Sometimes, this was not such a good thing — and unless you grew up listening to your mother’s ER stories at the dinner table like me, this book might not be a good thing to read while eating.

“The inflamed area in his throat was no bigger than a postage stamp, but in a biological sense it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Particles of smallpox virus were streaming out of oozy spots in the back of his mouth and were mixing with his saliva. When he spoke or coughed, microscopic infective droplets were being released, forming an invisible cloud in the the air around him.”

Seriously, you guys, I will never look at people coughing again without imagining all the tiny virus particles spewing into the air from their mouths.

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

77276Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 24 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace Murry shouts out an ancient rune meant to ward off the dark in desperation, a radiant creature appears. It is Gaudior, unicorn and time traveler. Charles Wallace and Gaudior must travel into the past on the winds of time to try to find a Might-Have-Been – a moment in the past when the entire course of events leading to the present can be changed, and the future of Earth – this small, swiftly tilting planet – saved.

This is the third book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Reviews:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

See my review of A Wind in the Door: Time Quintet Book 2 here.

My Review: 9 years has passed since the last book. Meg and Calvin are married and expecting their first child. Charles Wallace is now 15, and Mr. Murry still gets calls from the President. On this particular evening, the call he received warns of an imminent nuclear war started by Madog Branzillo. In order to save the world, a time traveling unicorn and Charles Wallace (aided by Meg through Kything) must go into the bodies of the ancestors of Branzillo to change the course of history.

I found this book to be really interesting, as it chronicles the history of a family through several hundred years. I do not want to give too much away, but it starts out with a man and his brother (Maddoc and Gwydyr) coming from Wales to America before even Christopher Columbus. There is a struggle between brothers, which Maddoc wins, and thereafter marries into an indian tribe, and that is where the history begins. Both lines flow with magic, but only Maddoc’s line are “good”, whereas the line of Gwydyr is portrayed as “evil”. The legends of the Indians and the magical myths of the Welsh are passed down through the generations — with each generation using a magical incantation to help them (which is in truth the Rune of St. Patrick).

The Offbeat Unicorn wrote a really good review / summary of the book and its themes. You can read the blog entry here. Frankly, this blogger wrote a better review of A Swiftly Tilting Planet than I ever could, so I urge you to click on the link.

In closing, I liked the book, and I hope that you will too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

18130Title: A Wind in the Door

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 5 hours 27 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 21, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi—those who hate—and restore brilliant harmony and joy to the rhythm of creation, the song of the universe.

This is the second book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Review:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

My Review: I had never even heard of this book as a kid, and I had never read it before this month, so I was going head first into a dark tunnel without a flashlight.

I liked this book a little less than A Wrinkle in Time. This book was a little hard to follow, and I wasn’t really sure what the point of the story was. Essentially, only a small amount of time has passed between the event of the two books (even though the events of Wrinkle don’t even get an honorable mention), and Charles Wallace is deathly ill because of his mitochondria. While reading the book, I was like huh? How can someone get sick because of mitochondria? Isn’t that the DNA that you inherit from your mom?

Well, after finishing the book. I did a little research on the internet, and it turns out that mitochondria are basically the energy producers in the body’s cells — the batteries if you will. If they are not functioning properly, then the person can get really sick, and it is thought that certain diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder, etc. are all caused by mitochondrial dysfunction. Interesting, I guess, but kind of a weird (and complicated) subject for a children’s book. I don’t really remember knowing what DNA was when I was 8-12 years old –but maybe that is good — maybe it teaches children something about science in a fun way?

Anyway, Meg Murry, Calvin O’Keefe and their new friend Proginoskes must go within the body of Charles Wallace in order to save him from the Echthroi (who are basically evil beings), and to restore balance to the “universe” of Charles’ body.

I read some reviews that called this a “christian book”, but I honestly didn’t notice — which is good, because I really dislike being hit over the head with religious themes. So don’t let that description stop you if religious books also bother you.

In general this book has mixed reviews, which is kinda how I feel about it — but I made a promise to myself to finish all the books of this series, so upward and onward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

33574273._SX318_Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 6 hours 27 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 21, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

My Review: Although L’Engle wrote it back in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until October, 2017 (when I was in my 30’s), that I read the book for the first time. I never realized that this book had been written so long ago. There is also a movie adaptation of the book (it came out in 2018), but I have never seen it.

Before reading this book for the second time, I also never realized that there are 8 books in total in the series, plus some other books in a different series that ties into the Time Quintet series somehow. This book was originally written for children, but it also has some intriguing aspects for adults, and some interesting themes, especially given when it was written — for example:

  1. Women (and young girls) are given strong roles. The mother is a scientist, and Meg the main character is good at math and science. I wonder how well this was received in the 1960’s. I think that even in 2019, though, it is good to give little girls good role models.
  2. Meg exclaims at one part of the book: “Like and equal are not the same thing!” I thought about this concept for a few days afterward. I wasn’t sure if the author was making a commentary on civil rights or communism (or both).

I read some reviews that said that the book was a Christian book, which confuses me a little bit since there seems to be a lot of science fiction, fantasy and time travel for a religious novel. Maybe it was because L’Engle mentioned Jesus, like once (in context to fighting the evil entity IT?)

Although I probably did not enjoy this book as much as I would have if I were a child, it was still a fun (and quick) story to read and I would definitely recommend it as a weekend read.