Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Handmade Wednesday Store and Blog Hop

I'm very happy and proud to say that the Handmade Wednesday Store and Blog Hop, hosted by Blue Eyed Blessings and Crocheted Little Things, has featured my etsy shop this week!

Please stop by and check out the shops and blogs featured in the linkys below and add your own if you run a handmade store or crafty blog!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Teaser and Top Ten Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Tuesday teaser is from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce:

"Stephen Dedalus is my name,
Ireland is my nation.
Clongowes is my dwellingplace
And heaven my expectation." - pg 8

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers’ answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND post a comment on our post with a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.
If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!

This week's topic:
Top Ten Authors That Deserve More Recognition
My top ten will actually be my top five:

1. Edith Wharton - Author of novels such as The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome. Her writing, from the early 1900s is beautiful, often employing irony and an astute understanding of New York's upper class. The House of Mirth is among my top favorite books.

2. Gabriel García Márquez - I've read both One Hundred Years of Solitude and In the Time of Cholera by Marquez. Both are beautifully written and the plots are intriguing and emotionally deep. I highly recommend this author.

3. Anya Seton - A historical romance writing. Her books span different time periods and are well-researched and written. My favorite by Seton is Katherine, which I feel is an early/better version of Philippa Gregory's works.

4. Matthew Gregory Lewis: Author of The Monk, an early gothic novel. Divulging from the sentmentalities of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Lewis was very graphic in The Monk. Once the action starts, it doesn't end until the reader understands everything in the plot. The Monk is an enjoyable and exciting read.

5. Oliver Sacks - Sacks is a neurologist who writes popular science works that are accesible to lay people. Highlighting interesting cases from his own work, Sacks is able to describe neurological phenomena and abnormal neurological workings in an entertaining and informative manner. I recommend The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis


King Caspian has grown old and sad in the ten years since the disappearance of his only son. With time running out, Jill and Eustace embark on a perilous quest to find the Prince and bring back tranquility to the magical land of Narnia.

Journeying to the wild lands of the north, the friends and their companion Puddleglum battle mighty storms and encounter a race of giants who like nothing better than a tasty snack of human children. Searching deep underground in the grim land of the Earthmen, they encounter the wicked Green Lady who has evil plans to overthrow King Caspian and become Queen of Narnia.

My Review:

The Silver Chair is the sixth out of seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. While I had been getting bored with Narnia in the fifth book, due to a lackluster plot, that changed with this book. I found The Silver Chair to be highly enjoyable with a great plot and more developed characters.

In The Silver Chair, Eustace, from book the fifth book, and his schoolmate Jill are pulled out of their world in a progressive boarding school, to the magical world of Narnia. Jill is given specific instructions from Aslan, the lion god of Narnia, and the children's mission is assigned- they must find the son of the King of Narnia who disappeared ten years ago.

Along the way, Eustace and Jill meet a new character, Puddleglum, a Marsh-wiggle. Puddleglum is my favorite character in this book, I love his downcast thoughts and sayings which contrast to his brave and optimistic actions. I found him to be very enjoyable and funny.

Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum also explore a new part of  Narnia that the reader has not known before. Unlike the end of the world, which was a rather mediocre place in the last book, the Underworld north of Narnia was much compelling.

As with the rest of the series, Christian morals abound in The Silver Chair. This book expounds the importance of following the Lord's edicts to the best of your ability and even if you fail early on, you must keep trying and the pervasiveness and everlasting role of evil, as shown through the capture of the King's son. Narnia cannot be free of all evil, but it should be resisted and fought with all of your ability.

The Silver Chair brought me back into the land of Narnia and I look forward to reading the final installment in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Blogger Hop and Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Mina who blogs at Mina Burrows:
 "If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?"
My Answer:
I think I'm following the crowd on this one but I'd love to be put into Hogwarts and Harry Potter's world. However, I would not want to be Harry, Ron, or Hermione since their adventures are just a little too dangerous. Instead, I'd like to be one of the 'normal' students just in the background, living my magical life.

Q. Inspired by the inane twitter trend of #100factsaboutme, give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you.

1. I always, always, always carry at least one book with me, no matter where I'm going. "You just never know when you might have a little free time to pull out a book!"

2. When I'm home, I love glancing at my bookshelf through the day, pondering how pretty my books are and when which one I want to read next.

3. In elementary school, I use to go to the library during recess to help re-shelve books. Play outside or work in a library? Hmm, library!

4. My copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which I bought in sixth grade, took me so long to read when I was that age, and I've read it several times since then, that I had to tape the cover back onto the book. I have bought another copy, but I cannot bring myself to part with that one. I can still remember when I bought it (at the school's book fair).

5. My mom once told me that she sometimes felt like a bad mother because she had to tell me to stop reading and go do something; I mean, what kind of parent tells their child not to read?! But really, she is a wonderful mother.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

I like and dislike this book. I tend to stay away from new hyped-up releases for a while because a lot of times I find that it doesn't measure up to the hype. If I still hear people talking about it later, I'll pick it up and give it a shot. Which is what I did for Water for Elephants.

Water for Elephants is the story of a young man, Jacob, who leaves college and joins a circus, becoming the show's veterinarian.  While he's with the circus, he meets many interesting people and animals. He also falls in love with a woman who is married to a man who hates Jacob (can we say love triangle?).

I loved the form of this story, young Jacob's story is told through the memory of 90 or 93 year old Jacob, as he sits in a nursing home waiting for his family to come and take him to see the visiting circus. Sara Gruen did a great job portraying the elderly Jacob, his emotions and thoughts were excellently described. I also like how young Jacob's story was always framed through old Jacob's thoughts and actions. It reminded me of the movie 'The Princess Bride,' when the grandfather and grandson always push through the story to remind the audience who is telling the story. Old Jacob's point of view also gives some conclusion to the story, since the reader can see how almost all of his life went after young Jacob's story stops.

The part of Water for Elephants that I did not appreciate was some of the descriptions of parts of young Jacob's story. I don't particularly care to read about the grimy underside of humanity, including poor circus travelers during the Great Depression. There are some sexual exploits described very explicitly in the book, which I just feel are unnecessary. I don't think they add to the story so why include it? If a sexual relationship pertains to the story, that's fine, but if it's just to show that the author can write about it, I don't care to read it.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, especially the way it was put together, young Jacob through the memory of old Jacob and the endings for both young and old Jacob. Some parts did not appeal to me because it's just not what I like to read, but I do recommend this book for those who do not mind.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis


The Dawn Treader is the first ship Narnia has seen in centuries. King Caspian has built it for his voyage to find the seven lords, good men whom his evil uncle Miraz banished when he usurped the throne. The journey takes Edmund, Lucy, their cousin Eustace, and Caspian to the Eastern Islands, beyond the Silver Sea, toward Aslan's country at the end of the world. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the fifth installment of the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. This book tells the tale of Prince Caspian of Narnia's voyage to the east and the end of the world. Caspian is joined by the ancient king and queen of Narnia, Edmund and Lucy, who are from England. (There is some murky time travel between Narnia and our world for this to be possible.)

Lewis once again provided a fun story, full of adventure, magic, and morals for children. While I appreciated the story, as an adult, I'm getting a little bored with Narnia. The plot is not complex, nor is the language spell-binding. Yet, this book is not meant for me, it's meant for children as a way to make the Christian religion accesible to them. I think Lewis has succeeded in that goal, the lessons he wants them to learn are transparent enough for children to understand and the plot and characters are exciting enough to keep their attention.

My Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot


Longtime Discover fans may recall the name Floyd Skloot from years past. Floyd, an acclaimed poet and memoirist, was a finalist for the Discover Award in 2003. Well the apple doesn t fall far from the tree. His daughter's debut, an intriguing book about the harvesting of DNA from an unsuspecting woman, is a marvel.

Rebecca Skloot first learned about HeLa cells more than a decade ago, while enrolled at community college. Named after Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman born in 1920, the famed cells were taken from a tumor removed during Lacks s treatment for cervical cancer. While she died from the disease, her cancer cells proved uncommonly hearty, reproducing at an unheard-of rate, and years later, billions of these cells are used in laboratories around the world.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a story about science and so much more. Lacks died unaware that doctors would be using her cells to further advances in the scientific community and cashing in on such developments and never received a dime. In search of justice, Skloot seeks out Lacks s descendants to learn if they re aware of the famed cells and to see if they ve derived any benefit from the important contribution to science their relative made. A fascinating discussion of the enduring legal and ethical questions that human-tissue research raises, Skloot's debut is a gem. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. I originally listened to this book on an audiotape, borrowed from the library, on a long drive. My drive flew by, hours became seconds, and I was home before I knew it because this book was so fascinating. (I then had to buy it and read it again, but I do also recommend the audio version because it was very, very well done and I loved hearing the dialect of the Lacks family- it made listening to it, and subsequently reading it, more personal.)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is part biography of a family and part science and ethics. A young black woman died in the 1950s from invasive cervical cancer, she left behind 5 young children, a husband, and a tissue sample that revolutionized science.

When Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer, her doctor took a sample of the cancerous tumor and sent it to researcher to see if he could culture a cell line from the sample. Henrietta's cancer cells grew like wildfire- they multiplied continuously, lived easily in the right culture medium, and contaminated other cell lines because they could even survive floating through the air on dust particles!

Scientists had been unable to culture human cells beyond a generation or two of the original cells, but now they had the HeLa cell line, named after Henrietta Lacks. Now, scientists could use her human cells to discover the polio vaccination, cancer treatments, find the effects of nuclear bombs, and send them into space. Businesses sprang up that cultured and grew her cells commercially to sell to individual research labs so that researchers didn't need to waste time growing their own stock. Henrietta's cells saved many lives through the vaccinations and treatments it helped researchers to discover.

YET, Henrietta's family lived in povery and were extremely uneducated. It was years, decades even, before her family even learned that Henrietta's cells were alive. Because most of the family had only 4 to 8 years of school, they didn't know enough basic biology to even know what cells were or how they could still be alive. Visions of evil experimenters hurting their wife, mother, or sister tormented many family members. Even when they learned about the HeLa cells, no one took the time to explain what that meant.

Through their fears, they were preyed upon by a con-artist and used by researchers to take samples of their blood. Eventually, Rebecca Skloot, a young and white science journalist began asking questions and found the Lacks family. She had to work to gain their trust, but she eventually did and went on to discover their family history, including details about one Lacks sibling who died in a mental institution as a young girl.

Rebecca researched both the family and the scientific and ethical questions surround HeLa. Businesses made a lot of money off of growing and selling HeLa cells, as well as using it to make important advances, yet the Lacks family couldn't afford health insurance or education. The central question to this book is... who owns the cells? What right did Henrietta, and by extension, her family have in the use of the cells? Should they have received any financial compensation?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks reminds me where science has come from and why regulations are there. As an undergraduate in neuroscience, I researched in a lab using human post-mortem tissue. This tissue was obtained only through consent of the person before they died or from the immediate family after their death. The tissue is also handled so that no personal information, such as names, is ever linked with the tissue. The tissue bank and use of the tissue is also regulated through two review boards, one from the university and another through NIH. This was not the case in the 1950s, or even through the 1980s. Doctors didn't necessarily need consent for obtaining tissue and they weren't obligated to separate personal information from the tissue.

I think this is an important book for any researcher because it serves as a reminder that science affects the general population even when they may not be aware of it. It also reminds scientists to consider ethical dilemnas before proceeding in their work or press releases.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks also portrays a family struggling with the death of their mother and their inadequacy to understand what she meant to science- leading to anger and frustration and paranoia. This is an amazing and personal look into the Lacks family that any reader can appreciate and sympathize with in their own way.

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

My Rating: 5+ out of 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Tuesday teaser today is from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:

"Bobbette snapped. 'What supplier? Who's got cells from my mother-in-law?' It was like a nightmare. She'd read in the paper about the syphilis study at Tuskegee, which had just been stopped by the government after forty years, and now here was Gardenia's brother-in-law, saying Hopkins had part of Henrietta alive and scientists everywhere were doing research on her and the family had no idea.' - page 180

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis


Narnia has been at peace since Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund helped rid the kingdom of the evil White Witch. But the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve have returned to their own world and a dark presence now rules this once harmonious land...
Wicked King Miraz has imposed a pernicious new order of persecution and imprisonment, but the King's nephew and rightful heir, young Prince Caspian, realizing the evil of his uncle's regime, vows to revive Narnia's glorious past. Fearing for his life, he is forced to flee and calls on the four children, the magic of the mighty lion Aslan, and an army of fauns, dwarfs and woodland spirits to help him in his seemingly impossible task. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

I have been enjoying the Chronicles of Narnia series for several days now. Prince Caspian is the fourth book out of the seven in the series. So far, two children discovered that other worlds exist and witnessed the birth of one, four children stumbled in that new world and saved it from the white witch, a boy and girl from that new world escaped from one land in that world to the free land of Narnia, and, in Prince Caspian, a boy takes his place as the rightful ruler of Narnia.

After the four children left Narnia to go back to England, Narnia fell into decay as men took over the land and forced the talking animals and moving trees into hiding. But, when a young boy in the ruling family of Narnia calls for help to overthrow the ruling men, the four children are pulled out of Englad and back into Narnia. The children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy re-enter the magical land of Narnia and once again breathe in that revigorating air. They eventually come to the aid of Caspian, the boy who called for them, and put him on the throne of Narnia. The animals and trees are allowed to come out of hiding and Narnia is once again a land of enchantment and pleasure.

While the plot was entertaining, I felt like there was something missing that had been present in the first three books. I didn't like that the four children were pulled against their will out of their life in England to the beck and call of Caspian. Although time moved only a neglible amount in England so that they didn't miss anything, I felt that it wasn't right for them to pulled out. I also didn't feel the same excitement in the land of Narnia that had been there before. I hope the last three books bring that excitment back.

However, this book once again demonstrates another admirable moral for children; humans should appreciate and respect nature and living creatures. Men who rule without regard for others often fall into bad ways and bad ends.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Air Plants

I'm so excited that I just have to share my recent purchase! I just received some awesome plants from this shop on etsy: Augury

In case you've never heard of air plants, they are amazing little plants that don't grow in dirt. Rather, they obtain their nutrients from air and water. Just place the plants somewhere dry and water about every 2 weeks by soaking the plant (not the roots!) in water.

I've never grown air plants before, but I'm super excited to try growing these and keep live plants in my apartment! Take a look at my plants!

.... Now I have to just not kill them. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Somer who blogs at A Bird's Eye Review (her blog design is ADORABLE - check it out!):
 "Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?"
My Answer:
I usually concentrate on one book at a time. However, I started a popular science physics book (The Elegant Universe) a while back and just haven't been able to keep reading it/finish it, so I've had two currently-reading books since I started that. I also just started going through The Chronicles of Narnia series, and I wanted to break that up with another book, so I technically have 3 currently-reading boooks right now! But normally, I really do just read one book at a time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis


When Shasta discovers he is not Arsheesh's son and therefore does not belong in the cruel land of Calormen, he joins forces with Bree the talking horse and flees north towards Narnia, where freedom reigns.

And so begins their hazardous journey, fraught with mystery and danger. Calormen's capital city of Tashbaan must be crossed, a harsh desert endured, the high mountains of Archenland climbed, their enemies overcome. For the young Shasta it is an adventure beyond his wildest dreams and one destined to change his life forever. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

This series keeps getting better and better! The Horse and His Boy is the third book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Narnia is a magical land that can be accessed from our world only occasionally, and only by a few. While 4 children become kings and queens in Narnia, another boy's story in the land near Narnia begins. Shasta was found by a peasant man when he was an infant and raised by him, but he finds himself as a child being urged by a talking horse to leave his life and head for Narnia- the free land.

Shasta meets up with others on his journey and the adventure begins! The Horse and His Boy has more action and adventure than the first two books in the series. I enjoyed the action and Shasta's story. My favorite character though, which has been true through all of the books so far, is the narrator. I love the openness of the narrator, especially as he interjects his own thoughts and ideas. The omnipresent narrator is his own character and will always remind the reader that the story is being told through him, which I find enjoyable... and funny.

Once again, these books are great for children since they're not long, written simply, and full of strong children characters that display good morals for living anywhere.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was published in 1950, and it was the book that first introduced readers to the World of Narnia. Years later, in 1955, Lewis wrote a prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, entitled The Magician's Nephew. While The Magician's Nephew was the sixth Narnia book to be written, many readers prefer to begin the series with The Magician's Nephew. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

A renewed childhood favorite! Now I remember why I liked this book. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of C.S. Lewis' most popular works. It tells the story of four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, who find their way into Narnia, a magical land, and have their own adventure of good versus evil.

Following the tradition set in The Magician's Nephew (the first book in the Chronicle of Narnia series), Lewis uses many Christian references in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan, the Jesus-like lion saviour who sacrifices himself just as Jesus did to save humankind, Edmund betrays his fellow companions just like Judas, although Edmund is ultimately able to redeem himself, and the stone table which suggests the stone tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain bearing the Ten Commandments.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has it all for children- adventure, magic, children characters to relate to, and good morals. Even at the of age 21, I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review: The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis


Narnia. . .where the woods are thick and cool, where Talking Beasts are called to life. . .a new world where the adventure begins.
Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory's Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to. . .somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion's song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis, before they finally return home.
Digory and Polly discover a secret passage that links their houses and are tricked into vanishing out of this world and into the World of Charn, where they wake up the evil Queen Jadis. There, they witness the creation of the Land of Narnia as it is sung into being by the Great Lion, Aslan. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

I don't often read children's books (in fact, I probably haven't read one since my own elementary school days) but since I greatly admire and love J.R.R. Tolkien's work, and Tolkien was a friend and colleague of C.S. Lewis, and I already had this series on my bookshelf... I decided to finally read the Narnia series! I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in elementary school but I never read the rest of the series.

The Magician's Nephew is the first of the series, even though it was written after most of the others. It tells the story of the creation of Narnia, a magical land. In fact, The Magician's Nephew is very similar to the Genesis in the Bible. At least the last half is similar to Genesis. I suppose both Lewis and Tolkien wanted to create their own Christian worlds, since Tolkien's The Silmarillion is also a form of Genesis, but for Tolkien's magical world.

The birth of Narnia is witnessed by two children who stumble into the land through the ineptitude of the boy's Uncle, a self-proclaimed magician. The children, as well as a cab driver, his horse, the uncle, and a witch from another land observe Aslan, a lion and god-like figure for Narnia, breathe life into the world.

I enjoyed this book because it explains some of the Narnia that I remembered from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as because it was a cute story about the adventure of two children. It was a very quick read (less than 24 hours from start to finish) and even included illustrations! :-D It was hard for me to rate this book since I can't compare to other children's books that I've read, so I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars since I enjoyed the story even though the writing style and plot were simple.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: Human by Michael Gazzaniga


One of the world's leading neuroscientists explores how best to understand the human condition by examining the biological, psychological, and highly social nature of our species within the social context of our lives.
What happened along the evolutionary trail that made humans so unique? In his widely accessible style, Michael Gazzaniga looks to a broad range of studies to pinpoint the change that made us thinking, sentient humans, different from our predecessors.
Neuroscience has been fixated on the life of the psychological self for the past fifty years, focusing on the brain systems underlying language, memory, emotion, and perception. What it has not done is consider the stark reality that most of the time we humans are thinking about social processes, comparing ourselves to and estimating the intentions of others. In Human, Gazzaniga explores a number of related issues, including what makes human brains unique, the importance of language and art in defining the human condition, the nature of human consciousness, and even artificial intelligence.  (Synopsis and book image from

My Review:

I picked up this book because I had heard of Michael Gazzaniga before, through my Honors Intro to Neuroscience class (yes, I was a neuroscience major!) and the premise of the book intrigued me. Are humans unique and distinct from all animals that came before us or are we merely on an evolutionary continuum with even more evolved species to follow us?

Gazzaniga believes that humans are unique and sets about convincing his audience through explaining what is known (and still not known) about different cognitive processes in humans and animals, especially comparing us to non-human primates (i.e. monkeys and apes). Topics include language, art, and consciousness. An example of this is asking if animals produce or appreciate art. We know humans do, but why? What is the evolutionary function of art? How does it help us to survive?

Gazzaniga is able to cover many topics in this book to provide evidence for his pont. All of his facts are well referenced, so that interested readers can find the primary documents for the research (I even found a paper that he cited because I wanted to know more!). Gazzaniga's own research is also very interesting, he studies split brain patients, patients who have had their corpus callosum (the main fiber tract that allows the two hemispheres of your brain to communicate with each other); through his research, Gazzaniga is able to test what each hemisphere is responsible for doing and how important that communication between hemispheres is for an integrated self-awareness.

While I found many of Gazzaniga's points interesting, there were a few things I did not like about the writing in the book. Some parts went into very basic explanations of science (which is good for many readers without a science background!) but then other parts listed more scientific detail than necessary to make the point, which meant that some parts felt tedious. I read this book for the ideas that Gazzaniga postulated and to find out why he believed that humans are distinct, not to pretend that I was retaking functional neuroanatomy. While I have no problem with either basic scientific explanation or in-depth scientific reasoning, I felt that they didn't belong in the same book. Non-science readers can still read the book and understand most of Gazzaniga's point, there may just be a few parts that are best to skim if you want the ideas and not the explanations.

My favorite section was the last topic covered in the book, robots and artificial intelligence. I've never studied much computer science or robotics (nor do I want to), but I find it fascinating nonetheless. I liked that Gazzaniga brought in many perspectives on A.I., from believing that we will soon have human-like robots to the belief that we will never be able to create computers that act/behave/think/feel like humans. This section also included DNA therapy ideas and the ethic questions that necessarily go along with these therapies.

Overall, I enjoyed the ideas in this book and I learned many interesting facts (my favorite: monkeys have two tubes in their throat, one for eating and the other for breathing, which means that it is impossible for them to choke! Yet it was evolutionarily more advantageous for humans to combine the tubes, making it possible to choke, but allowing us to make all the sounds that we can make- which monkeys cannot). I recommend this book for anyone interested in neuroscience and human nature, regardless of science background, but with the understanding that it is not necessary to understand every point if you don't have a biology or neuroscience foundation.

My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser is from Human by Michael Gazzaniga:

"Then again, even when we are trying to trying to think rationally, we may not be. Research as shown that people will use the first argument that satisfies their opinion and then stop thinking." - page 141

2011 Non-Fiction Challenge

My 2011 Book Challenges are growing as I find more of them to join!

This challenge, run by The Broke and the Bookish, promotes reading non-fiction books in order to learn and grow in 2011. Here are the rules and guidelines:


- The challenge runs from January 17th to December 31st 2011.
-  Anyone who links a review up is eligible to be entered to win a book of their choice (under $15). How many reviews you link up determines how many entries you get. Additional prizes may be added once I organize this more and depending on how many people sign up. (International readers welcome if Book Depository ships to you).
- Anyone can join. If you don't have a blog, you can link reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever you have your reviews.
- You can join the challenge at any point throughout the year.

Here's the challenge:


Culture: Non-fiction books about different cultures, religions and foreign lands; memoirs & biographies count.

Art: Non-fiction books about anything art related (painters, music, architecture, photography, dance, literature, film, etc.). Memoirs/biographies of any people related to the arts count.

Food: Food memoirs, anything related to food industry, food lifestyles

Medical: anything related to the medical field--industry memoirs, memoirs about illnesses (mental included) /diseases, etc.

Travel: travelogues, industry memoirs, travel guides, etc.

Memoir/Biography: Self explanatory

Money: Anything related to finances, economics, history of money, financial improvement etc.

Science/Nature: Anything related to any scientific field, memoirs count.

History: Anything history related-- events, biographies of historic figures, etc.


1-3 books from different categories: Master of Trivial Pursuit
4-6 books from different categories: Apply For Who Wants to Be A Millionaire
7-9 books from different categories: Future Jeopardy Champion

For now, I am only planning on following the first level, Master of Trivial Pursuit. This means that I will read 1 to 3 (probably 3) non-fiction books, each from a different category. I am choosing the lowest level becasue while I do read non-fiction books, they tend to all be science related, which means that only one of them will count for this challenge.

My current book will be the first to count for the 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge: Human by Michael Gazzaniga.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Ellie who blogs at Musings of a Bookshop Girl:
 "If I gave you £50 (or $80) and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?"

My answer:

This is a great question! Let me go check my wishlist for my likely upcoming buys!
1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
2. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
5. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
6. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
7. The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz
8. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Plus, I'd probably pick up something that looked good as I walked around! You sure can get quite a few books for $80 :)

Has anyone read any of these books? Any that I should pick up before the others?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


The Earth is under attack and the survival of the human species depends on a military genius who can defeat the alien “buggers.” Recruited for military training, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin’s childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. A reader’s guide is available for this Starscape editionperfect for readers ten and upof the beloved science fiction classic by best-selling author Orson Scott Card. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

I'm normally not a big science fiction fan, although I do enjoy fantasy which is often linked with sci fi, but this book has been recommended to me many times so I finally got around to reading it. Well, I'm glad I did!

Ender's Game is not just pop science fiction; it doesn't rely on technology to move the story, rather it is about the psychology of a little boy who is pushed further than he ever should because of humanity's desire to survive a possibly non-existant threat.

This book centers around genius children who are monitored by the government to see if they have what it takes to save the world. Ender's parents were allowed to have a third child because their first two were so close to being what the government needed. This makes Ender, the Third child, an outcast amongst his peers because he is special. From the beginning, Ender is marked as different from the others in his school.

The children chosen by the government to be trained for the military are not normal. They are geniuses that much act and make decisions as adults. They are trained extensively for one mission- to save humankind. Ender rises amongst these chosen children, but he endures a lot of hardship in doing so, most of which is caused by the adults, or teachers of the special school.

In the end, though, was Ender's training enough to save himself and the world? Was Ender the special one, made for that mission? I found the ending actually surprising and very gripping. It was hard to put it down once I reached the last couple of chapters.

The thing I enjoyed most about Ender's Game was the psychology of Ender, his struggles and triumphes. However, what I found hardest to believe, and what kept jolting me out of the story, was Ender's age. He was only 6 years old when he started his training! How could a 6 year old ever be expected to save Earth? How could a 6 year old think and act the way Ender did? There were several times I wished that Ender was just a few years old, but I guess that is suppose to be the amazing thing about him- his maturity in dealing with things he should not ever have to face.

My Rating: 5 out 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser is from Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card:

"Ender Wiggin must believe that no matter what happens, no adult will ever, ever step in to help him in any way. He must believe to the core of his soul, that he can only do what he and the other children work out for themselves." -page 202

Monday, March 7, 2011

Off the Shelf 2011 Reading Challenge

This challenge is all about reading the books that you've bought but just haven't gotten around to reading yet. My husband will be so happy to hear that I'm challenging myself to read these books since he hates my habit of buying books when he knows I haven't read all of them that I have! I just can't resist the lure of a shiny new cover, the smell of an unopened book, or a great recommendation from a friend!

The 2011 Off the Shelf Challenge will help me re-focus on the books I have so that I can save my money from buying more books (or maybe not...) and relish in the delights already on my bookshelf!

I will be entering at the Trying level, which committs me to read 15 unread books on my shelf.  Not only will that get almost all of my unread books read, but also means I'm committed to reading another 15 books this year!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chunkster Reading Challenge

I recently discovered the vast community of book blogs and the challenges that people set for themselves. I think this looks like great fun and I am hastily joining the Chunkster Reading Challenge!

I LOVE large books, or tomes as I prefer to refer to them! I love getting lost in a story that continues for so long that you feel as if you are part of that world and the characters are your best friend. I'm always sad when I finish a long, good book and realize that my new friends are going back to the bookshelf.

The Chunkster Reading Challenge is perfect for me! The challenge is to read adult literature (fiction or nonfiction) books of 450 pages or more.

You can choose any level you want for your goal for 2011. I will be choosing the highest level- Mor-book-ly Obese, because I love a good book challenge! This level means that I will have to read at least 8 books of 450 pages or more in 2011, 3 of which have to be over 750 page! Woohoo!

Finally, I don't have to feel guilty about reading so few books (a 750 page book does take some time to get through), just because I enjoy a nice tome now and then.

This challenge started on February 1, 2011. Therefore, a few of my books already count towards my goal:

Unfortunately, I read Pamela by Samuel Richardson in January so that will not count (and that was also over 750 pages!).

Therefore, to complete this 2011 challenge, I have to read 5 more books over 450 pages and one of them must be over 750 pages.

Please comment on your favorite tomes. I have a few in mind but I'd like to hear suggestions!

Book Review: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell


A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.

My Review:

First, I must kick myself- how could I have never read this book before?!

Gone with the Wind is a sensational novel, an ever-lasting sensational novel. This 1000+ page novel played with my emotions far more than the vast majority of books I've ever read. I loved and hated; I felt joy, sorrow, torment, anguish, giddiness, contempt, delight, and anger through this saga of the South during the Civil War. I feel this way because the book is not about the events or a simple love story, it is an in-depth survey of humans during good and bad times. It's hard to find any author that can portray humans with such keen analysis to make them utterly real and believable.

Scarlett O'Hara is an absolutely selfish and vain person, but she is also determined and willing to survive.  She is the American woman, in every form of meaning. She is passionate and self-willed; at times I wanted to slap her silly and other times I wanted to applaud her actions which I felt incapable of myself. And who could forget these famous lines: "Hunger gnaed at her empty stomach again and she said aloud: 'As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren't going to lick me. I'm going to live through this, and when it's over, I'm never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill- as God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again'" (Mitchell 428). Scarlett's passion for survival saved her and her family. She may be extremely selfish and bullheaded, but she was going to survive. And we all must applaud her determination to live.

Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes - the two men Scarlett ever loved.  And her love only ends in tragedy. Yet, Scarlett will survive. These two men are extremely interesting in their own ways.  Rhett is just as stubborn and determined as Scarlett while Ashley, as Rhett puts it, is "He's only a gentleman caught in a world he doesn't belong in, trying to make a poor best of it by the rules of the world that's gone" (Mitchell 1028).  The portrait of these two men is display Mitchell's characterization superbly, second only to Scartlett's character.

I could go on, but really just encourage you to read it for yourself.  The novel moves quickly for being so long, I was never once bored or started skimming to read quicker. I highly recommend Gone with the Wind.

My Rating: 5 out 5 stars

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Mia who blogs at Girl About Books:
 "Who's your all-time favorite book villain?"

My answer: Could I argue that Raskolnikov is a villain in Crime and Punishment? His theory and violent acts are definitely villainous, but there is so much depth to his character that even though he commits heinous acts of violence, one begins to forgive him by the end after seeing his suffering and slow redemption, both internally and externally in his exile to Siberia. Does this make him a villain? Not to mention, Crime and Punishment is my favorite book.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life-solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. Ranging from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

This book tells a great story of a psychiatrist being drawn into one of his patient's world by trying to find out why the patient won't talk and what he knows. The Swan Thieves is a delightful mystery that entertains and enthralls the reader while their reading.

I loved the different points of view from the characters, as the psychiatrist, Andrew Marlow, goes about piecing together Robert Oliver's (the patient) past and knowledge of the distant past and how the narration changes from the present to past and back again.  It developed a richness in the story since it spanned many characters and time periods.

However, while I found the book entertaining, I feel that it is kind of forgettable once you put it down. I loved the idea and the narration, but ultimately I felt that I didn't quite care enough for the characters from the past to have the ending be truly gripping and exciting. I wanted more from Robert Oliver and Andrew Marlow in the present in the ending because I cared more about them.

Overall, I think this is a beautiful story and wonderfully written, I just wish there was more in the end to make it a memorable piece.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars