Friday, January 27, 2012

The American Plague

by Molly Caldwell Crosby

I am fascinated by the science of diseases, and have been for as long as I can remember. When I was still a little girl, I became convinced that I was destined to die of ebola thanks to a news report covering outbreaks (Thank you, NBC 7 for scarring a child for life). Now I work in the medical field, so my interest in diseases is believably justified. My sister, who also shares this interest, gave me The American Plague to read after our trip to New Orleans (which was ravaged by the "Yellow Jack"). This is a historical look at yellow fever: how it shaped the history of the United States, the study of the disease, and the development of a vaccine. The book begins by focusing on Memphis, Tennessee at a time when the city was in the middle of a yellow fever epidemic. What was once a burgeoning new city, being compared to Chicago in the North, became a destroyed and socially divided area thanks to "Yellow Jack". As someone who just recently visited Memphis, it was interesting to read more about the history of the city, and the martyrs who stayed behind to fight this illness. Caldwell then progresses into the study of how yellow fever was spread, Walter Reed's work with mosquitoes, and how a vaccine was finally developed. Yellow fever was a truly violent disease, that ended wars and destroyed entire cities. In modern times, where any single case of yellow fever must be reported to the CDC and WHO, it is easy to lose sight of the horror of this disease. We live in a country where we no longer get routinely vaccinated due to proper sanitation, which hinders the spread of mosquitoes in populated areas, and the significant reduction of the specific mosquitoes that carry the virus. However, we owe much to the scientists and volunteers who risked, and lost, their lives to get us to this point. Caldwell's work, although factual, is engaging and informs the reader about an important part of our history that is all too often overlooked.

If You Give a Girl a Viscount

by Kieran Kramer

Kramer's fourth and final book in the Impossible Bachelors series restored my faith in men... and in her writing. Her last book left me with a sour taste in my mouth, as any story involving a romance developing while being unfaithful to a current marriage does. But If You Give a Girl a Viscount marks the return to the humorous, joyful romance writing that readers enjoyed in When Harry Met Molly. In this story, a twist on the classic Cinderella tale (complete with an evil stepmother, benevolent godmother, and "glass" slippers) we follow Viscount Lumley on his adventure to help his grandmother's goddaughter Daisy save her home. While life has always been incredibly easy for Lumley (since he typically throws money at every problem he encounters) he has sworn to his bachelor friends that he will not use ANY money while off on his quest. Daisy challenges him to become the man that he should be; requiring him to use his intelligence, perseverance and charm to help her save Castle Vandemere. This is a charming love story, where two people who have never been encouraged to trust others or be themselves find their soul mates in each other... all while playing host to a range of well developed secondary characters.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan

I read about this book a while back, and was completely wrapped up in the idea of it. So when I was shopping at my favorite store in the world (Anthropologie!) and found it on sale, in hardback.... I took it as a sign. NOW is the time to read it. And read it I did... in two hours. Turns out it's a very quick read, which leaves you all no excuse to do the same.

This is Levithan's first departure from the young adult fiction that he is so well known for (e.g. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), and has gained a lot of positive attention. He takes a  unique look at love, using the dictionary format as a window into a relationship. Each vocabulary word is "defined" by a word, sentence, or page that is comprised of his thoughts and memories from one relationship. He uses these words to paint the joy, heartbreak, anger and depth of love. In this case, I will let some of his dictionary entries speak for themselves.

From The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan:

"ineffable, adj.: These words will ultimately end up being the barest of  reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough." (p.120)

"abstraction, n.: Love is one kind of abstraction. And then there are those nights when I sleep alone, when I curl into a pillow that isn't you, when I hear the tiptoe sounds that aren't yours. It's not as if I can conjure you there completely. I must embrace the idea of you instead." (p. 5)

"deciduous, adj.: I couldn't believe one person could own so many shoes, and still buy new ones every year." (p. 69)

This book is one of a kind.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012! (And One Day)

     Welcome to 2012! How's the view? My year's started off with a bang! But today I was suddenly sidelined by a head cold. But since I'm a glass half full kind of girl... this means plenty of time  for reading! So now I'm two books in the first six days of the year.
      My first book of the year was one I have been waiting to read since LAST year. In fact, I put myself on the waiting list at something like #134 at the library to get it. It never happened. So which book had me on hold for months... and months... and months? One Day by David Nicholls. My book-lover f(r)iend Steph recommended it to me even further back, but I put it on the back burner until I saw the preview for the movie. Since it was unavailable though, this is one of the few books that I have ever read AFTER seeing the movie, which was surprisingly faithful to the book. The book is based on the idea of taking a look at the lives of two people on the same day, every year over the course of their relationship. The book does such an amazing job at conveying the depth of the relationship and feelings between our two main characters, Emma & Dexter. An aspect of this was missing in the movie, as their thought processes are something that could never be conveyed on the screen. The movie version also portrays Emma as completely flawless, where this is clearly not the case in One Day. In fact, it is their flaws and imperfections that help them balance each other. This was a beautiful story of friendship, love, and heart ache. While my sister (who read it way back) thought the ending was disappointing (to say the least) , I thought it very fitting to the tone of the story. Two thumbs up. And now, the movie is #1 on my Netflix list, so I can refresh my memory, and re-live the story once again.