Tag Archives: science

EXPIRED | Double Deal Alert: Kodansha Manga & Brain Wave Non-Fiction Humble Bundles

Currently, Humble Bundle is offering two book bundles that look pretty interesting. First off, Kodansha is offering a number of manga including AjinInuyashikiThe Seven Deadly SinsGhost in the Shell, and Battle Angel Alita. There aren’t so many titles in this bundle as there are a lot of times, but the nice thing here is that each title includes a good chunk of volumes–most of them at least the first 10 volumes of the manga–so you can get a good idea of the style and story and go from there if you want to continue reading. Maybe some of them are even complete; I could check, but I’m too lazy to bother. Sorry. You can find more about this bundle here.

The other bundle of note is a selection of science-related non-fiction. Now I’m not usually one to read much non-fiction, but some of this looks pretty interesting. And while all of it’s pretty science-y, the topics covered are actually pretty diverse–physics, evolution, earth science, history of science, astronomy, relativity, etc. If you’re interested, you can find out more here.


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awkwardAuthor/Illustrator: Svetlana Chmakova

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Peppi Torres manages to thoroughly mess up her first day in her new middle school by 1) tripping in the hall and dumping all her books, 2) getting helped by Jaime, a quiet kid with a reputation as a huge nerd, and then 3) pushing him and running away. Following this fiasco, Peppi does manage to find a place for herself in the school’s art club where she makes some good friends . . . even if she’s pretty much on her own during the rest of the school day. She still feels awfully guilty over pushing Jaime, especially when he begins tutoring her in math. And life becomes even more complicated when Peppi’s art club and the science club–of which Jaime is a member–become locked in a fierce competition for a table at the school’s cultural festival. Totally awkward, especially since Peppi finds that Jaime might actually be a great friend.

I absolutely loved Awkward! I can’t believe I haven’t seen it getting more love. This is a fantastic realistic slice-of-life school story for everyone–in graphic novel style. The setting is middle-school, so obviously that’s the primary intended audience, but the story is great and the messages it holds are valid for everyone (I’d say upper elementary and older). The writing tone is great–it captures that, well, awkwardness of being in middle school and figuring life out and all extremely well. The things Peppi goes through are credible, the sorts of issues that real people actually deal with. But the story is also funny and immensely positive in its message. It’s a great encouragement to work hard, work together, make all sorts of friends, and believe in possibilities. The characters are rich and fun to read, full of personality and individuality. And the art does a great job of reflecting this, with expressive character designs, attractive coloring, and a layout that’s easy to follow and focuses strongly on the people. I would definitely recommend Awkward to all sorts of people, and especially to those who enjoy graphic novels or are at that, well, awkward stage of life themselves.


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Fuzzy Mud

Author: Louis Sacharfuzzy mud

My rating: 4 of 5

It all started when Marshall and Tamaya took a “short cut” through the woods to avoid a bully. Or maybe it was before that, when a scientist caught up in inventing a new, renewable fuel source came up with the idea of Biolene, a genetically engineered microorganism that reproduces every thirty-six minutes. Whatever the case, the moment Tamaya stuck her hand in a muddy puddle covered in strange fuzzy stuff and threw that mud in the face of Chad–the bully who had tracked them down in the woods in spite of their precautions–she became part of a historic disaster on a grand scale. And just maybe, she became the girl who saved the world.

Louis Sachar’s writing is always a treat to read, with his easy humor and readable text. Fuzzy Mud was all of that, but it took a more intense perspective than most of his books. It was excellent. The characters were enjoyable, and they prompted the reader to take another look at bullying–from both sides of the situation. Furthermore, the entire plot was crafted in such a way as to raise ecological awareness about a number of hot topics: fuel shortages, overpopulation, and genetic engineering to name a few. As I said, the actual plot writing was intense, but also middle-grade appropriate. I really enjoyed the way notes from the legal proceedings over Biolene were interspersed within the text in a way almost reminiscent of that used in Carrie. Furthermore, the addition of mathematical equations scattered throughout to demonstrate how quickly one microorganism can become thousands really served to add a great sense of tension, as did the petri-dish illustrations at each chapter header–complete with samples doubling each chapter and spilling over the page! I think for middle-grade and older readers who enjoy an intense but thoughtful biological/ecological thriller, Fuzzy Mud is an excellent choice.



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Directed by Christopher NInterstellarolan/Produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, & Lynda Obst/Written by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan/Music by Hans Zimmer/Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, & Michael Caine

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Once, Cooper lived his dream, piloting spaceships and living a life of discovery and adventure. Now, seemingly lifetimes later, he and his family live on a dying planet, eking out a living by farming–barely keeping ahead of the dust enough to survive. No one goes into space anymore. Actually, the kids in school (his daughter Murphy included) are being taught that no one ever went into space, that it was all a lie. But even in the midst of this worldwide depression, Coop can’t forget; he still dreams of the life that’s gone forever. . . . Or so he thinks. When an unexplained phenomenon (which Murph calls her “ghost”) gives them the coordinates to a secret NASA base, the future opens up to Coop–a life once again pursuing his dream as an astronaut. Only this time, the stakes are unimaginable: the lives of everyone on the dying planet he’s leaving behind. But is saving the world worth leaving his family behind, possibly forever?

First of all, I need to make it clear that Interstellar is not a movie I would have picked for myself, and my rating is unfavorably (and probably unfairly) skewed just because this isn’t really my sort of movie. In other words, my brothers made me watch this. There is honestly a lot that is good about this story. For one, the music is epic–I always love Hans Zimmer’s OSTs. Visually, the entire movie is incredibly striking as well. The acting is very well done. The science is convincing. I was intrigued by the exploration of topics such as the nature of time and the theory of relativity. But what I found most fascinating about this story was the psychological studies is provided: the lonely few who venture into the unknown, those left behind feeling abandoned, those who had given up all hope of ever seeing another human again. I think the writing and acting both dealt with these excellently. Oh, and the suspense levels throughout are absolutely killer–mostly in a good way. So, with all these good things, why the low rating? I think it’s mostly for personal reasons, honestly. Although the way the creators dealt with the isolation of space was well done, it was just too sad and lonely for me. And the attempt to redeem that sadness was too little, too late, in my opinion. Also, as I said before, the science was convincing (except for Murph’s poltergeist) . . . up until the last little bit when they got into extremely theoretical science, to the point that it was quite unconvincing in my opinion. More like fanciful guesswork? Maybe they had some basis in real scientific theory for how they wrote it, but it was lost on me. Finally, I just found the whole movie to be too long–I mean, it needed to be that long to get the story in, but between the length and the suspense, I was completely exhausted by the end. So, I guess it really just depends on your taste–if you like this sort of movie, Interstellar is a pretty outstanding story. But personally, I prefer Nolan’s work on The Dark Knight and Inception.


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