Thursday, August 30, 2012


by Stefan Petrucha

Grade: Unfinished
Read: To Chapter 18, page 90.

Thoughts: One of those books that just seem a little too young for me. This one wasn't so bad, and I still might finish it someday. But for the time being, it was due at the library. And it wasn't going into as much depth as I'd like. Maybe I'm just spoiled by my favourite child genius books. I thought the main boy (I can't remember his name...) would be just that much more clever, and that much more agonized by his past. I also expected a little more depth of character for some of the side characters (though Hawking was pretty awesome), but maybe that was coming and I just didn't read far enough? It didn't seem like it, but as I mentioned above, I still might give it another go someday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Born to Run

by Christopher McDougall

Grade: 2 stars

Thoughts: Interesting, but not quite my style. The writing sounded quite journalistic, and kept on veering off to tell the back-stories of random weird people. And the actual fascinating stuff--about human physicality, running heel first vs. ball of the foot first, barefoot running, etc.--wasn't dealt with in as much detail or with enough back up and references as I'd like. I suppose that's what the Internet's for...

Also, I'm not exactly a ultra-runner or anything. So this wasn't my area of interest. I do run, but for such a tiny distance that it basically doesn't count.

Buuuut, I guess I'm glad I read it. I would like to run more, and this gave some inspiration. Plus the small sections about training (pg. 111 and 199) gave a few tips which I've already started to try, and they've already helped me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Team Human

by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Grade: 3 stars (maybe 2 1/2?)
Story: Mel's best friend Cathy has fallen in love with a vampire. Big time. As in majorly Romantic Romeo/Juliet type love. And now it's up to Mel to stop what is obviously a very, very bad idea.

Thoughts: Lots of fun. I always like books that play on cliches in some way, and fortunately, Twilight has spawned enough of them to last for some time yet.

I do think they could have done a little more with Kit, though. I mean, he was raised by vampires, for Pete's sake! That ought to do a little more to you than make you ignorant of the fact that guys often say "I'll call you" as a way to break up with you. The reasoning behind his name was a cool way of showing the relationship between vampires and humans, but again--wouldn't that do something to one's psyche to be thought of in that respect? And to have your name actually be [spoiler]?

It was funny and light. I suppose I was expecting a bit more since Sarah Rees Brennan usually writes books full of danger and darkness. But ah well. Still fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Renegade Magic

by Stephanie Burgis

Grade: 3 1/2 stars
Story: Sequel to Kat, Incorrigible. Kat has more schemes to sort out her family's difficulties. More people try to stop her. She discovers more things bout magic. But this time around, there's more brother Charles and more Roman baths.

Thoughts: The new insight into magic was interesting, as well as the new insight into their family dynamics with the inclusion of Charles.

Other than that, I don't really have any comments. Read the review of the first book, if you want my thoughts. Also, Kat is awesome.That's it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top Ten (Or So): Evil Child Geniuses

They're massively more smart than anyone else. They're completely unconcerned about how their actions effect other people. They're also rather on the small side.

In not exactly any order:

--Cadel Piggot, from Evil Genius and its sequels by Catherine Jinks. My very favourite evil child genius in the history of evil child geniuses. Evil Genius is much more fascinating than might be guessed by the very shiny cover and simplistic title. (Though I actually quite like both of those.) It's full of plots and terror and computer hacking. And Cadel himself is as clever and ingenious and desperate as you'd want him to be. (Note: One of the characters in the second book is honoured with a position on my list of Top Ten (Or So): Fictional Canadians.)

--Ender Wiggin, from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (only this book, as I haven't read any of the others in this series). This book is ackowledged by everyone to be awesome. And there's a movie being made of it, so you'd better read it soon before it gets destroyed in your mind forever... Anyhow, Ender is a brilliant strategist, surrounded by a bunch of other young geniuses who are only slightly less brilliant. Great fun. (Note: Like some others on this list, he doesn't exactly fit the "Evil Child Genius" category, but this time on the "Evil" side of things. Mostly, he tries to be good and not murder people. But I liked him and his book so much that I didn't want to exclude him. Plus, he definitely does have a darker side.)

--Artemis Fowl, from Eoin Colfer's series of the same name. Evil child genius--with fairies! Not my favourite bookss ever--there's a bit too much bathroom humour, and the last couple books are rather boring and weird. But they're still great fun: there are centaurs, fairy police, parallel worlds and time-travel. Artemis himself is suave and Irish and slowly being redeemed.

--Oliver Watson, from I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb. He seems slightly improbable, even when in the company of the rest of these illustrious child geniuses. He's one of the richest people in the world, and he controls practically everything. And this is supposed to be the real world, unlike in the Artemis Fowl books. Also, he just doesn't provide the same level of pathos as people like Cadel and Nathaniel and Ender. Still, he's an evil child genius none the less, so I love him. Plus his sort-of love interest Tatiana is fantastic.

--Light Yagami, from the manga series Death Note. He's not exactly a child, but he does start out in highschool. And he's amazing, so I didn't want to not include him. The battle of wits between him and the detective L (also a young genius, but not included because he's really not evil enough) is morally ambiguous and completely engrossing, with twist upon twist as they constantly out-guess each other.

--Gwendolyn, from Kirsten Miller's How to Lead a Life of Crime. I don't want to give too much away about Gwendolyn, because Spoilers! But man, does she have a darker side. I don't know if she quite gets into the genius category, but she's obviously brilliant or she would be the Dux of Mandel Academy. Also, like Light, she's a teenager, so not exactly a child. But close enough. And she's one of the few people on this list who is truly evil, so I had to include her.

--Harry Potter, from a HP fanfic called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I never really like Harry himself--not in the original books, and not in fan fiction--even when he's an 11-year-old Ravenclaw genius with an mysterious dark side, living in an alternate universe. In this case, the dislike is somewhat because he clearly partly functions as a tool to get across the author's ideas. But I'm adding him because when he isn't spouting off rationalist maxims, he's often having amazing Ender-like battle games with a cool and Machiavellian Draco Malfoy, and a surprisingly-adept-at-battle Hermione Granger.

--Nathaniel, from the Bartimeus trilogy. He's actually one of my favourites from this list--tied with Cadel, I think. He's so close to not becoming evil that I find his books extremely tense. And his enmity/sort-of-friendship with Bartimeus will probably be on my future Top Ten (Or So): Bromances--even though they basically hate each other for most of the time. However, I'm not totally sure he's quite at the genius level. In all other ways he's suitable: he's much smarter and a more talented magician than most people, he's very young (though he gets older over the trilogy), and he's inclined towards the Dark Side. 

And that's it. Only seven. Very sad. But it seems like few people write about evil child geniuses, for some reason. Also notice, only one girl! Is that because there aren't any others or because I've forgotten about them? Either option is not good. If I ever suddenly discovered in myself a splendid gift for writing, I would decidedly write a book about a female evil child genius.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

French Kids Eat Everything

by Karen Le Billon

Grade: 3 1/2 stars

Thoughts: A mother of two young girls takes her family to France for a year. There they discover that the normal North American style of eating (complete with pickiness, whining, hurried and emotional eating, etc.) is completely looked down on. As a result of this and the way the French act with regards to food, almost none of the children are picky at all. They eat everything, and enjoy it too!

I have always been an extremely picky eater from a young age, so it was fascinating to read about these methods to encourage healthy and all-encompassing eating. Although I'm not sure how much would have changed with me if I had been raised in that fashion, as many of those techniques we did implement in our family to a certain extent. But then, I'm inclined to think I'm the exception to a lot more things than I actually am. In other words, I'm biased.

All in all, it strikes me as a very Catholic approach to food. To explain the reasonings behind this would take quite a bit more time and energy than I'm willing to spend at the moment, though. So you'll just have to make do with this quote from one of the French people in the book:
"Actually, it's really about religion," offered Sylvie. "Catholic countries have always been more interested in food. French gastronomie is like a secular communion, like a sacrament or a ceremony." (pg. 71)

And the main downside? I'm afraid I'll never look at those pictures of cute kids throwing their food about the same way again.

To sum up: I don't agree with absolutely everything the French do. I really do like a few certain aspects of North American food culture. Sometimes casualness is simply more joyful. But generally, I think so many things would go better if everyone here read this book.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President

by Josh Lieb

Grade: 2 1/2 stars
Story: The title says it all. Evil child genius turns his genius brain onto the problem of becoming class president. It is, of course, harder than he thought.

Thoughts: I am a huge fan of evil child geniuses. Cadel Piggot (from Catherine Jinks's Evil Genius series), Artemis Fowl (from the series of the same name), Ender Wiggin (from Ender's game), this certain Harry Potter fanfic where he's a super-genius Ravenclaw (with an evil dark side), etc. Thus, while I didn't like this book quite as much as the ones mentioned above, I still found it worth reading.

It did somehow seem slightly more implausible than evil child genius books usually do. Also intended for a younger audience than I enjoy (though I frequently really like Middle Grade and children's fiction even more than adult and YA fiction).

On the pro side, Tatiana (who is sort of the love interest) was awesome. In fact, if there are any sequels in the future, I will read them all solely for her.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


by R. J. Anderson

Grade: 3 stars
Story: Alison wakes up in a lunatic asylum, remembering nothing of the last few weeks. Everyone is treating her as if she'd done something horrible. What is going on??

Thoughts: The coolest part of this book was the synesthesia stuff. I've been fascinated by synesthesia ever since I first heard of it. It's just so cool. And Alison's synesthesia is ramped up to a fantasy level. Plus she's a tetrachromat--someone who can distinguish colours to an extreme degree (in this case, even to ultraviolet)--which is almost as cool.

In general, I quite liked the characters. The setting of the mental asylum was unique, and the people staying there were well handled--they seemed like actual people (albeit with some very strange issues), and not just weird mental creatures.

Stylistically, the book was very pretty, especially the chapter and section titles. Because of the prevalence of synesthesia, the colour descriptions were gorgeous.

But somehow, despite all these good points, I wish there was something more to it. The secondary characters were good, but still not explored enough. I never felt particularly connected to the romance (although I fully admit it's probably my fault in this case).The change to a much more SciFi feel in the last third felt a little abrupt, though it was interesting, and I did enjoy it. In other words, I just didn't really feel a connection to anyone or anything. The book was worth reading, but if there was a sequel, I don't think I'd bother reading it.

P.S. Anderson is both Canadian and Christian, two similarities to myself that I don't see half as often as I'd like. So, go Canada! And, yay God!

Friday, August 3, 2012


by Michael Grant

Grade: 3 1/2 stars
Story: More death. More darkness. More fear. More mysterious happenings. Rather like a mix between The Lord of the Flies, LOST, and The Hunger Games. Basically, see the rest of this series: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, and Light.

Thoughts: This review contains slight spoilers for the rest of the books.

--Astrid's loss of faith still bugs me, because it's treated as if it's so reasonable, when really it is so emotional.

--Edilio is now the only practicing Catholic left. Turns out he's gay, which is cool, but he might also be acting on his inclination, which is not as cool. If he's a practicing Catholic.

--Sanjit is still cool, but he wasn't in this book much.

--I'm liking Caine more and more. I dearly hope he's on the side of Good by the end.

--Diana. Wow. Fascinating to see where her development will go... I really like her--she's just below Sanjit and Edilio on the list of my favourite characters now, and tied with Caine--and her current situation is, obviously, extremely worrying.

--Penny. Is. Terrifying. What happened to Cigar...whew. Drake isn't quite as terrifying as he used to be now, due to the fact that he's outclassed by Penny. The giaphage...well, it's obviously scary, but the new developments it's gone through... well, we'll see where it goes, I guess.

Light, Light, Light!!! Whyyyyyyyy must it be so long til you are released?

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

by William Deresiewicz

Grade: 4 stars

Thoughts: An ex-Yale professor of English talks in a clear and amusing style about the influence Jane Austen had on his life, from when he was a young jerk of complete self-confidence, to someone who actually understood people well enough to get married.

My favourite chapters were the first and the second-to-last. The first was about Emma, which is my favourite Austen, I think (well...maybe P&P...). It was the chapter in which he initially realizes that Austen is, in fact, absolutely fabulous--not just for women, not soap-opera-y in the least, and full of fascinating and unusual insights into human character.

The penultimate chapter was about Sense and Sensibility, but more importantly, it was about love. As in actual love, not the kind of Romance that practically everyone in the whole word mistakes for love right now. Deresiewicz seems to be one of the few secular authors I've read who really understands the relationship between feelings, intellect, and will, with regards to marriage. And it is all Austen's fault that he does.

This is labelled "To Own" not because I loved it enormously (although it was very good) but because I would like to recommend it and refer to it in the future. Especially that penultimate chapter.

P.S. This is non-fiction, so it seems strange to talk about one's favourite character, but still--his professor was awesome. To be someone like him is, and almost always has been, my dream life.