Friday, February 29, 2008

Pictures of Hollis Woods (book review)

Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff, is the story of twelve-year-old Hollis Woods. She's an orphan who lives with the elderly artist named Josie. She's doubtful at first, but they begin to form a bond. The only problem is, Josie is growing more forgetful every day, and if the people in charge of Hollis find out, they'll take the girl away. Hollis knows she and Josie have to run, but where will they go? And what if they find her? This is the extraordinary tale of a girl who risks it all to be with one of the few people she's ever loved.

Pictures of Hollis Woods is a story that's sad and happy at the same time. I loved the book, but I wasn't satisfied with the ending. It just didn't seem to go with the rest of the story, and to me, it seemed as if the author just wanted to finish up the book in a hurry. Still, I would definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sondok: Princess of the Moon and Stars (book review)

Sondok: Princess of the Moon and Stars, by Sheri Holman, is the story of the young Korean princess named Sondok. She loves nothing more than stargazing, but her father won't allow it. So when a Chinese ambassador and his royal stargazers come to her father's palace, Sondok gets a few ideas of her own. But when she meets the ambassador, Sondok finds that he isn't at all the man she imagines. He's ruthless and cunning, and he hates her. It seems as though Sondok will have to put up with this man if she wants to follow her dreams. Will she hold on, or will she crack under the pressure her father and the ambassador are putting on her?

This is the second time I read this book, and I think I got a lot more out of it this time. It was a quick read, and it left me wanting to know the rest of Sondok's story at the end. Fortunately, although this is fiction, Sondok was a real person. I hope I can do some research and find out more about her.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Harry Potter series (book review)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling, is the story of eleven-year-old Harry Potter. He lives with his cruel aunt and uncle until a mysterious stranger arrives and tells Harry that he's a wizard! Now, Harry is whisked off to a magical school and a whole world of magic, danger, and adventure is opened up to him.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry is excited to go back to his favorite place in the world, the magical school called Hogwarts. Then he receives a message by a strange creature warning him not to go this year. Harry ignores its warning and returns, only to find that someone is turning students to stone...and he is the main suspect! Harry's got to find out who's attacking everyone, or he and his friends might be the next victims!

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the story focuses on a criminal who escaped from the wizard prison of Azkaban, Sirius Black. Azkaban's guards heard Black muttering, "He's at Hogwarts...He's at Hogwarts..." and everyone seems to think Black is talking about Harry Potter! Now, the only place that was ever a home to him may be the most dangerous place yet, and a mysterious black dog called the Grim, which is a sign of early death, is following Harry everywhere. Could this year really be his last?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the story of Harry's fourth year. After surviving an attempt by a dark wizard to take his life the previous year, Harry is ready to go back to Hogwarts. To his surprise, this year his school is sponsoring the infamous Triwizard Tournament! But his excitement changes to worry when his name appears in the cup, for students have been known to die in the tournament. Now, Harry has three dangerous tasks ahead of him, and a rift in his closest friendship doesn't help. On top of it all, there may be a traitor at the school. With the help of his friends, Harry is going to try and win the tournament, as well as uncover the traitor.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry discovers a secret organization dedicated to fighting the Dark Lord, Voldemort. He is pained by disturbing dreams, and when he finally returns to Hogwarts, things don't get better. A cruel teacher is ready to take away one of Harry's favorite things at Hogwarts, and a bunch of expectant students want him to teach them to fight Voldemort. Harry knows that the Dark Lord will strike again soon, and he will be ready. But will he be ready for the death of one of his greatest friends and allies?

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry is still shaken by the death of his close friend. But yet another death, and a betrayal by one of the people Hogwarts trusted most will tear his life into even more pieces.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final installment in this series. Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, are on a hunt for seven gruesome items called Horcruxes. If they destroy the Horcruxes, it will only be a matter of time before they can attack Voldemort. Then, a legend about three objects called the Deathly Hallows distracts Harry from his quest. If he can get the Hallows, he may be able to defeat Voldemort once and for all. But to what length will he go to gain them?

I loved all of these books (though my favorites were the third and fourth), and that's why I decided to read them all again. It was fun to be able to read them all at once this time, instead of having to wait for the new one to come out. I recommend them to anyone who hasn't already explored J.K. Rowling's magic, especially lovers of fantasy or adventure.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Star Split (book review)

Star Split, by Kathryn Lasky, is the story of thirteen-year-old Darci. She lives in a world powered by genetic engineering and the Bio Union. Darci happens to love rock climbing, but it will be this very thing that will change her life for the better or the worse. As Darci is relaxing on a rock face, she suddenly comes face-to-face with an umbula (clone) of herself! The umbula's name is Vivian, and they both soon realize that they can never, ever be seen together. However, soon both Darci's and Vivian's worlds are turned upside down, and each hour brings them closer to death.

I loved this book! It was a suspenseful thriller packed with science, and it made me want to find out more about the subject.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Giver (book review)

The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is the story of Jonas. His world is perfect...or so he thinks. There is no pain or suffering. Then, on the day he turns twelve and gets his Assignment, Jonas is singled out to receive training from an old man he comes to call the Giver. Now Jonas has to learn the truth about pain, death, and war. He cannot turn back, even if he wants to. This is his destiny, and he has to accept it.

This story was simple, yet explored many topics, including genetic engineering, euthenasia, and the power of emotion. Overall, it was a very moving book. I can't wait to read the sequel, Gathering Blue!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My two cents (genetic engineering)

I've decided to have a new feature on my blog. It's called "my two cents" and will feature essays about a variety of issues.

Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is the process of moving genes from one organism to another. One example of genetic engineering is genetically modified food, which is made when the genes of one organism are moved to a plant species. This could be done to make crops more insect-resistant. Other examples include cloning, which is the process of creating a genetically identical organism, and gene therapy. Gene therapy involves implanting a desired gene in a virus. This virus is then injected into a sick individual in hopes that this gene will help them.

Genetic engineering is not in itself a good or a bad thing, as there are both positive and negative uses for this knowledge. For example, gene therapy is a positive use of genetic engineering. Genetically modifying food is another positive example. However, even this can have problems. For example, problems could arise when genetically modified crops manage to breed with wild species of plants.

The case of cloning is similar to that of genetically modified food. It can be good or bad. Stem cell research, a type of cloning, can be very helpful with research into cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. Cloning whole organisms, on the other hand, upsets genetic diversity.

As is shown here, genetic engineering, like many other forms of new technology, can potentially be either helpful or harmful, depending on how it is used.