Friday, June 21, 2013

"The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion

This is the first book I've read by Graeme Simsion, an Australian author. It was recommended to me by 3 different friends who all independently rated the book as a '10 out of 10'.

I found it to be hilariously funny and a great romantic comedy crossed with science geekiness. It's about a genetics professor who seems to have Asperger's syndrome (a kind of Autism) without being aware of it, who is highly intelligent but lacks some social skills. He decides it's time he finds a wife, and sets about devising a questionnaire to give to women to eliminate the incompatible candidates quickly. His interactions with various people and the hilarious adventures that ensue as he searches for a perfect wife are priceless. Never read a book like it before, thoroughly enjoyed it, was only disappointed that it wasn't longer!

Started reading on my kindle: 19th June 2013, finished the same day.
My score 10/10!

"War Brides" by Helen Bryan

This book is set mainly in the era of World War II in the UK, with the exception of the initial and final chapters which are set approx. 50 years later. It is an historical novel, following the lives of 5 very different women from diverse backgrounds who all end up living in a small country town called Crowmarsh Priors during the war. Reading this book reminded me of when I was at school and read "Goodnight Mister Tom" about the children being evacuated to the country from London during the war to avoid the bombings by the Nazis, or some of Richmal Crompton's "Just William" stories set in wartime UK. Although many of the characters in "War Brides" initially frustrated me with their immaturity, I really enjoyed the book especially as I got further into it and the characters developed. The book gives some insight into what it might have been like for women during the war, trials and dreams and daily life, and how they coped and responded in different ways. It also has an element of espionage and gives some insights into the French Resistance efforts, and the trials and terrors besetting Jews at the hands of the Nazis. I quite enjoyed this book, although was somewhat disappointed with the ending.

Read: 15th - 18th June 2013
My score: 8.5/10

"Frankenstein's Cat" by Emily Anthes

This is a popular science book written by a science journalist without any science degree, and aimed at a lay audience. However, even as a scientist I did enjoy reading this non-fiction book and learnt a few interesting things I didn't know previously and also discovered a few things I still thought existed only in Sci Fi have actually already been achieved in the lab! The book looks at how humans modify animals using biotech/genetics/neuroscience/electronics/prosthetics etc. It does try to hype things up a little, but it also tries to explain the technology and de-mystify it to a non-science audience, and also deals with a lot of the ethical issues behind animal use. And reminds us that changing animal behaviours and appearances isn't new, we have been doing it for 100's or 1000's of years, but this is just more sophisticated technology allowing far greater power and while sometimes this can be beneficial we have to bear in mind that just because we Can do something doesn't mean we should do it. It includes prosthetic limbs for animals (including dolphins), goats that are genetically engineered to produce special proteins/drugs etc in their milk, robotically controlled rodents and insects, glow-in-the-dark-fish, chickens which cant pass on certain viruses (think avian flu) and many more fascinating critters. Some are obviously good things, some are obviously ethically not good, and some are definitely in the grey zone. But as this stuff is all becoming possible it was an interesting read to start thinking about these issues and also to see how the non-scientists in the community might interpret them.

Read: 10th June -  21st June 2013
My score: 6.5/10

"Ghost Child" by Caroline Overington

This is the second book I have read by the Australian author Caroline Overington. Similar to "Sisters of Mercy" it is written in a realistic crime/mystery style which deals with some pretty dark and unpleasant aspects of child abuse and failures of the welfare system and foster carers in Australia. It is a novel, but told in a way that seems very real, and with lots of little details that make the story convincing. The story is told from several people's viewpoints, including Lauren, Harley and Hayley - 3 siblings whose brother died at the age of 5 under suspicious circumstances. Despite the troubling topics raised in this book, I give it 8.5/10. It's definitely not a happy feel-good story, but brought up lots of issues to think about and I have the feeling I wont be forgetting this book any time soon. I preferred "Sisters of Mercy" but both were well written and I'd definitely be keen to read other books by this author.

Read on my Kindle: 11th - 12th June 2013.
My score: 8.5/10