Book Review: “Turtles All The Way Down” by John Green

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John Green is a household name in young adult literature- you may know his books The Fault in Our Stars or Looking for Alaska. Green’s books often have a teenage protagonist who is learning to grow and navigate new relationships. In Turtles All The Way Down, Green explores the inner thoughts of Aza, a sixteen-year-old with OCD who begins to search for a missing local billionaire.

What Turtles All The Way Down gets right: Aza is a sympathetic character with a frustrating illness. Her OCD and anxiety get in the way of her relationships sometimes, and while it’s hard to read about, it’s fairly realistic. She has to take care of herself first at times, and her friends learn to be understanding of this while Aza learns to focus on other people more.

The mysterious aspects of the story- where did the billionaire go?- are interesting if not a bit predictable towards the end. Turtles All The Way Down will pull at your heartstrings as you watch the two sons who were left behind deal with their father’s disappearance.

What Turtles All The Way Down gets wrong: There’s nothing particularly wrong with Turtles All The Way Down. I could see it being hard to read if you disagree with the way Green portrays OCD and anxiety. And if you’re looking for a happy ending, John Green is not your author.

Who should read Turtles All The Way Down: People who enjoy bittersweet stories. People with OCD or who have friends with OCD- Aza’s first romantic relationship deals with her OCD struggles well, and Aza’s best friend learns to see Aza apart from her compulsive tendencies.

Who shouldn’t read Turtles All The Way Down: People who may be triggered by Aza’s major OCD incident. Readers who want a happy ending.

 

Turtles All The Way Down is available in the library’s Family Room.

Book Review: “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

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Gone Girl was one of the top bestselling books when it debuted in 2012. In 2014, the novel was turned into a movie adaptation of the same name. For those few years it was a hot topic of conversation, but I remained clueless about what it was really about. So a few days ago, I picked up Gone Girl to see why this story hooked thousands of readers and viewers.

Non-spoiler summary: Gone Girl is about Nick, a down-on-his-luck writer, and his wife, Amy, who goes missing at the beginning of the book. Throughout the story, we learn more about their dissolving marriage and the problems that follow.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Gone Girl does right: It’s different, that’s for sure! Thankfully I went into this novel pretty spoiler-free, so it was a wild ride as each piece of the plot fell into place. I guessed a few things correctly, but I was also surprised a few times as I read. Gone Girl is one of those books that you don’t want to put down until you know just what happened. It’s definitely not boring!

What Gone Girl gets wrong: I think this book veers into the territory of being edgy for edgy’s sake. This isn’t always a bad thing, but I probably would have liked Gone Girl better when I was a much edgier teenager than the person I am now. The characters aren’t likable- which doesn’t necessitate a bad book- but they also aren’t relatable, and that’s more of a problem. There are multiple unreliable narrators in this book, which is creative but also frustrating at points since they are so narcissistic. It would be like if every Game of Thrones chapter was from Cersei’s point of view: neurotic, self-obsessed, and delusional. (I just finished A Dance With Dragons and the comparison had to be made.)

Spoilers right here, so skip this whole paragraph if you want: Essentially this book is about two antagonists. You don’t feel right rooting for either Nick or Amy, and ultimately Gone Girl left me disappointed because of this. People really need characters- even villains- that they can empathize with. This is what makes shows like Breaking Bad so popular. Even though Walter White isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, he has problems that people can understand: trying to keep his family together and provided for, working jobs he doesn’t enjoy, balancing his sense of morality with the shady business he’s getting in to. He’s at least interesting enough that you’ll stick with him through five seasons: what will Walter do next? How will he get out of this crazy problem he’s created? I didn’t feel this way about either of the main characters in Gone Girl. I wanted them both to fail, whereas when I watched Breaking Bad, I wanted Walter White to succeed in spite of the evil things he’d done. That’s the difference between a compelling antagonist/antihero and one who’s not.

*I know that this is kind of a hot take on Walter White and that some people can’t stand him, so take it with a grain of salt (I still find him fascinating several years and rewatches later).

Who should read Gone Girl: Readers who enjoy thrillers, dramatic twists, and trying to figure out mysteries.

Who shouldn’t read Gone Girl: Readers who want relatable or moral characters. People who only want one narrator to keep up with, or who dislike an excessive amount of language.

Gone Girl is available in the Recreational Reading section of the library.

 

*Content note: language, some suggestive scenes, some violence.

 

 

Top 5 Botany Journals

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The world of botany is ever-growing and often beneficial to other forms of life on earth. Studying and testing plants can lead to new medicines, increased conservation, and better gardens. Check out the 5 journals below when you need articles about botany. All of these journals are available via the library website’s “Journals by Title or Subject” tab.

 

American Journal of Botany

From obscure flowers to soil techniques, the American Journal of Botany provides articles with abstracts, PDFs, and references. With issues dating back all the way to 1914, this database is also great for looking at the history of botany.

 

American Journal of Plant Sciences

The American Journal of Plant Sciences is an Open Access resource which is published monthly. Here you can find topics like dendrochronology, plant ecology, phytochemistry, etc.

 

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Blumea- Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center publishes Blumea three times a year. Blumea has an international focus and a wide variety of plant topics. Use Blumea‘s “Access Key” to find and identify full-text articles.

 

BMC Plant Biology

According to its database description, BMC Plant Biology includes “research articles covering topics such as the cellular, organismal, tissue-level, developmental and functional aspects of plants.” Look for specific, in-depth studies and trials in this database.

 

Canadian Journal of Plant Science

With access to over 100,000 archives, the Canadian Journal of Plant Science provides a broad amount of plant research. You can also find some Spanish and French language articles via this journal if you need research in other languages.

 

 

Top 5 True Crime Novels

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My favorite book genre, beyond any doubt, is true crime. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging criminals to keep committing terrible acts that make engrossing stories. The part of true crime I really enjoy is the detective work- how did the police and investigators find the criminals? What details were missed or discovered along the way? How did the family of the wronged person(s) rebuild their lives in the aftermath?

The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker (one of the best books I’ve ever read) talks about how if you have the ability to imagine a crime, it’s already been committed by someone else. It warns you that criminals are not inhuman monsters like we may want to imagine. No, criminals are people just like us, who move and work and breathe beside us. This isn’t meant to scare you (although it is certainly scary)- this just means that we need to figure out why some people commit acts of deviance. What’s the motive? Is this behavior something you are born with, or something you’ve picked up via your environment and upbringing? It’s the classic nature vs. nurture question.

All of these questions are examined and, in some specific cases, halfway answered in quality true crime novels. Reading them, you get to follow along as more evidence comes to light and one more piece of the puzzle is found. The best true crime novels make you a part of the story. The ones listed below are examples:

 

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Crime: Charles Manson & The Manson Family murders

Setting: Late 60s and early 70s California

Why It’s Worth A Read: This book was written by the main prosecutor of Charles Manson and his followers, Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi spent countless hours trying to figure out who committed the murders and why they followed Manson’s orders so devotedly; he himself did police work when the police were too busy to take it on. The Manson Family was a cult unlike any that had been seen before, and the motive of the crimes was difficult but entirely necessary for Bugliosi to prove before the judge. Helter Skelter is fast-paced, gruesome, and exciting, especially when Bugliosi goes head-to-head with Manson in the court room.

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Crime: Seemingly random murders of the Clutter family

Setting: Kansas, 1959

Why It’s Worth A Read: Some people believe that this book is where the true crime genre originally started. Truman Capote writes with dark precision as he recounts the crime, the history of the criminals involved, and how the small town in Kansas was changed forever. In Cold Blood is also a great example of creative nonfiction; Capote didn’t know every word spoken at the crime scene, but he improvises believable and factually accurate dialogue.

 

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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Crime: Kidnapping and murders of World’s Fair visitors

Setting: Chicago, 1893

Why It’s Worth A Read: Erik Larson masterfully splits this book into two stories: one is that of Daniel H. Burnham, an architect who designed the 1893 World’s Fair; the other is about Dr. H.H. Holmes, a local pharmacist and serial killer. Both men would change Chicago and make history but in vastly different ways. This book is equal parts history and true crime, so you’ll learn a lot about America’s age of immigration, industrialization practices, and economic depression while following the stories.

 

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Crime: Around 50 serial rapes and murders

Setting: 70s and 80s California

Why It’s Worth A Read: Michelle McNamara wasn’t a police officer or detective: she was a writer who was obsessed with finding a serial killer. Over the years, McNamara gathered information online and on foot about the then unknown man. Unfortunately, McNamara died before her research could be published, so her husband (comedian Patton Oswalt) and friends gathered her extensive work and published it as I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. Spoiler alert: the police arrested the man who is believed to be the Golden State Killer in April 2018, only 2 years after McNamara’s death.

 

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Crime: Double murder

Setting: Utah, 1984

Why It’s Worth A Read: The criminals in question were fundamentalist Mormons, an extreme religious sect of Mormonism, who believed that a divine order justified their crimes. Jon Krakauer not only describes the ups and downs of this case, but he also records the history of Mormonism in depth. Chances are you’ll learn something new from this excellently researched book.

 

 

Spotlight On “Accounting Today”

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If you’re studying business, finance, or accounting, Accounting Today may be a helpful resource for you. The library provides access to this online magazine via our “Journals by Title or Subject” tab on the library website. Just search for Accounting Today or click on the “Business and Management” subject tab to see other similar journals.

Accounting Today covers sections such as:

 

This journal strives to stay up-to-date on the latest news in the finance world. Whether you want to read about auditing, the IRS, or technology advancements, you can find articles and research about your topic on Accounting Today.

 

Book Review: “Brief Answers To The Big Questions” by Stephen Hawking

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Published after the death of the famous, accomplished scientist Stephen Hawking, Brief Answers to the Big Questions is Hawking’s final words on the state of the earth and space. Throughout his career, Hawking was noted for his theories about black holes, time, and the universe. A film about his life called The Theory of Everything was released in 2014; star Eddie Redmayne provides the foreword for Brief Answers to the Big Questions. Like many others, Redmayne was both intimidated and awed by Hawking- who, in spite of his attempts to make science available to the general layperson, was still a formidable genius set apart from others. This side of Hawking definitely comes to light in Brief Answers to the Big Questions. In fact, I think Hawking unfortunately had a lower view of humanity which affected how he perceived the past, present, and future.

There are 10 questions asked of Hawking in this book:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. How did it all begin?
  3. Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
  4. Can we predict the future?
  5. What is inside a black hole?
  6. Is time travel possible?
  7. Will we survive on earth?
  8. Should we colonise space?
  9. Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
  10. How do we shape the future?

 

I won’t give away Hawking’s answers, but many of them can actually be found in Hawking’s other books, like A Brief History of TimeIn general, Hawking does take a more negative view of how humans will handle some of these big questions. For example, in regards to surviving on earth, Hawking muses:

We can be an ignorant, unthinking lot. When we have reached similar crises [global warming and climate destruction] in our history, there has usually been somewhere else to colonise . . .  But now there is no new world. No Utopia around the corner. We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds.

Yet Hawking believes that, if more people become interested in science and space travel, humans may be able to find a new way of sustainable living.

To leave Earth demands a concerted global approach- everyone should join in. We need to rekindle the excitement of the early days of space travel in the 1960s. The technology is almost within our grasp. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves.

Overall, Hawking answers each question by explaining his research and that of others. He gives his opinion as a well-learned scientist without allowing for theological implications, since he believes that they are unnecessary. This can obviously be frustrating for Christians and other religious people.

Still, the special thing about Hawking’s writing is his ability to make large, abstract concepts make sense to people who are not scientists. I may not fully grasp every aspect of Hawking’s work, but I do understand Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle because of Hawking. Hawking made “the big questions” more accessible to people, and for that (along with his scientific discoveries and his inspirational life journey), he will certainly be missed.

 

*Read Brief Answers to Big Questions for an overview of Hawking’s theories and philosophy. It is available here at the library.

2018 In Review

2018

The library blog gained several new, dedicated writers in 2018. We wrote about everything from new books to wrestling and all that falls between. Let’s take a look back at the best of the blog from this year!

 

Amount of Blog Views: 2,055

Top 10 Posts Of 2018:

  1. Top 5 Underrated Library Perks
  2. Donny’s Deductions: The History of Professional Bowling
  3. How To Reserve A Study Room
  4. How To Use The Library As A Guest
  5. How To Print In The Library (For UU Students & Faculty/Staff)
  6. New In Our Archives: “The Private Papers of John Jeter Hurt”
  7. Myth-Shattering Fun Facts
  8. Top 5 Education Databases
  9. How To Download eBooks To Read Offline
  10. A Brief History of Union University

 

*these had the most views and interaction for this year

 

Top 10 Blog Post Quotes From 2018 (In No Particular Order):

1. Bowling two-handed makes it easier to hook the ball, thus scoring higher games with less experience. This makes the sport more accessible and many more middle and high school bowlers are using this technique. Jason Belmonte has helped grow the sport more than just about any other professional bowler. – Donny Turner, “Donny’s Deductions: The History of Professional Bowling”

 

2. A wrestling match can tell a story unlike any sporting event can, and sometimes it can do this better than television shows. A good wrestling match, if done well, can be up to half an hour long. This is longer than many TV shows and in that time, with few words and technically one scene, two wrestlers can tell a story unlike any other. – Brennan Kress, “Book Reviews: ‘Headlocks and Dropkicks’ by Ted Kluck”

 

3. 1975: it can be argued that this is the year that the first true “summer movie” was born, Jaws. – Matthew Beyer, “Matthew’s Monday Movie: ‘Jaws'”

 

4. Human beings pride themselves on their extensive and diverse knowledge of the world, but sometimes information gets confused along the way. Misunderstandings, urban legends, and flat out lies can infiltrate what we believe is common knowledge. – Ruth Duncan, “Myth-Shattering Fun Facts”

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

5. Some afternoons you sit on the first floor of the library, bent over your Chemistry textbook, and hold up your eyelids because they stubbornly decide to close on you. “I can’t spend five dollars on a coffee this week. I’m broke!” you tell yourself. If you notice an acquaintance who’s in this situation, escort them into Modero and tell them to pick out a warm and caffeinated beverage – it’s on you. – Danielle Chalker, “Random Acts of Kindness Day”

 

6. Akage no An (Red Haired Anne) was introduced to Japan during the educational reforms of 1952. The series and its authorized prequel have both been adapted into anime, and two schools in Japan (the Anne Academy in Fukuoma and the School of Green Gables in Okayama) teach their students how to speak and behave as the admired character would. – Jordan Sellers, “Fun Facts You Might Not Know About Anne of Green Gables”

 

7. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve turned to nonfiction when I want to read something. Maybe I’m looking for advice, or maybe I just want to know how other people live, and think, and figure things out. To Shake the Sleeping Self is the perfect book to get inside someone else’s mind and feelings. Jenkins writes in a genuine, self-aware tone. He’s easy to relate to because he wonders about things we all do- who he is and who he will be in the future. – Olivia Chin, “Book Review: ‘To Shake the Sleeping Self'”

 

8. Are you an Anglophile? It’s okay, you can admit it. If you drink Earl Grey every morning, have the Union Jack hanging on your dorm room wall, or dream of going to grad school at Cambridge, you probably are. – Danielle Chalker, “Featured eBook: ‘The Cambridge Art Book'”

 

9. Reading can help increase empathy. By reading, especially fiction-reading, you increase your ability to empathize with others. If you can understand a character in a novel, you can better understand the people around you. – Brennan Kress, “On The Importance of Reading”

 

10. In the history of philosophy, it is important to learn about each philosopher’s predecessor, since many philosophers build off of what their mentor taught (or, interestingly, completely reject it). – Olivia Chin, “Featured Book: ‘A Short History of Modern Philosophy'”

 

Featured Writers:

Matthew Beyer

Danielle Chalker

Olivia Chin

Ruth Duncan

Brennan Kress

Jenny Manasco

Anna Poore

Jordan Sellers

Donny Turner

 

#BookFaceFriday 1/26/17

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For our last #BookFaceFriday this J-Term, Circulation Manager Olivia Chin displays the book Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Keep following the hashtag and see more great books (and library workers)!