Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly – Review #5

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

I thought this book would be a great way to learn more about Black History and what this month represents. Black History month represents what this book explains and is written about, it goes into the goods and bads of life then and the hardships and how people got through it all to teach the ignorant.

This book began with an introduction to the author and why she wanted to write this book, this inspiring story of actual happenings. She explains how her father worked at NACA (Nation Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) much before NASA was even thought up and the history of the whole department and it’s people and workers and it’s triumphs and failures. Margot Lee Shetterly explains life during the time her father worked there and the time after. She goes deeply into the history of the women mainly in this story, not just white women, but the black women. How the desperation for women in the field of mathematics took hold in the 1940’s because the men were at war in Europe, women needed to help not only with the factories but also with the higher held job most women were never considered for before. The idea of equality throughout this book is ever prominent from the beginning with people like Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson. We follow these women through not only their occupational lives, but their private ones, following success, love, and progress along with failures, losses, and setbacks. The setting is from the beginning of the second world war all the way to the end of the space race with the national accomplishment of getting a man on the moon and how these women held some of the biggest roles possible in achieving it.

The message behind this novel is ever present, and will ever be present though our lives, such as today with equality being set back with Trans kid’s rights in school. This book tells not only of women working towards a goal to beat out Russia to Space and to defeat Germany in aeronautics but also defeating the prejudice against black men and women. This book is an inspiration and teaches so much about the civil rights movement during the 1960’s and the leading up to the movement with protests, sit-ins and other forms of peaceful rebellion. We go in depth into the Jim Crow laws that lead the land in the south, and how states such as Virginia kept to their sorrowful ways through neglect of the national laws as well as finding specific loopholes.

This book kept me interested from the beginning, I am not a usual fan of non-fiction works, but this takes the cake for some of the most interesting I have read. Shetterly has some way of changing what would usually seem average and boring into something interesting and something I would want to continue. She goes into the lives of the women before their job upgrades in the 1940’s and I could not stop reading: she gives not stagnant descriptions, but descriptions to keep you intrigued and able to picture what was happening and the area it was happening in.

Another great thing about this book is that it spans over such a long period of time, but changes the frame ever so subtly through chapters that you know where you are in time and what is happening clearly. You never get stuck on the mathematics of the book, or the scientific areas, there is no jargon to speak of I believe, just the main theme, maybe just a bit about Martin Luther King Jr. being a trekkie, but other than that it sticks to the point.

I never really considered reading non-fiction thinking it boring and repetitive, but after reading this it made me want to read more about subjects such as this. I want to know more about the civil rights movement and the unspoken heroes of it. These women need more recognition for what they have succeeded in doing and so do all the others who have helped with the movement to help free America of the slavery of ignorance and intolerance. Read this book, even if you think non-fiction is not your cup of tea or whatever. Read it for the knowledge and the history.

Hidden Figures gets a 5/5 from me.

-Zachary

The Broken Empire Series by Mark Lawrence – Review #4

The Broken Empire Series

Prince of Thorns

King of Thorns

Emperor of Thorns

Jorg Ancrath… A monster, a brother, a son, a nine year old child. We begin this epic journey of revenge and loss with thorns. Thorns. He was trapped, he ran and could not escape the barbed thorns, he bled, and scarred and watched. He watched as his mother and little brother William were murdered. The bandits were none other than knights of the neighboring realm of Renar. Punishment for this crime is dealt, and it happens to be a few horses, gold, and a worthless apology from their King. Ancrath’s King Olidan is a heartless man who cares not for his now dead son, William, and wife, he didn’t care about their deaths and only punished the neighboring realm to keep up appearances. Being the strong, cunning, and caring child Jorg is, he sets out on a quest to kill the man who ordered the murder of his mother and loved brother. He wants the retribution that his father couldn’t care to uphold. This path takes him to living on the road with his group of brothers who are a collective of thieves and murderers. He is accepted into the brotherhood and soon becomes the leader, the one who plans to return to his father and gain the strength to vanquish the Renar lands. This story follows a somewhat simple beginning, but works it’s way up to an exciting climax that no one could foresee from the first book (or even the second and third).

To start, let’s go with the characters. Jorg Ancrath for one. He is a violent, petulant child who is also cunning, smart, and a tactical engineer. This is an interesting character to get to know, and even like. I found myself hating and loving him at different points in the series. He has done some horrible things that I could never forgive, but he keeps an open mind as to what is right and what can help others, himself usually included. He grows as a character and person through the following two books after Prince of Thorns; he becomes older, wiser, more cunning, and more ambitious. The character is a successful Anti-Hero if I have ever seen one and carries the hearts of those who read him.

Other characters in the series include his father, his band of brothers, and his aunt, though she comes into the story later. His father is a unsympathetic, coward. He thinks to teach his children about life through violence. He hurts them emotionally to force them to understand life and sometimes makes them torture animals and even murder people to get a point across.

Some of his road brothers are actual good people who you get to like through the series, others are horrible pieces of crap who you end up wanting to die. Those few who have good morals, other than allowing for thievery, only kill and mortally maim when attacked, though most kill to kill and torture to pass the time. It’s not a nice group of guys to say the least.

The setting of this story is also interesting, the whole idea of it is so crucial to the plot, I didn’t understand it until about halfway through the second book. Mark Lawrence gives subtle hints as to what the time period is, but never fully explains until much later into the series. Obviously the series takes place in some sort of Middle Aged Europe going off the map, but their are names thrown about such as Shakespeare and Plato. You might be heavily confused, but just remember the author knows what he is doing, just go along with it; you’ll understand eventually.

Now Mark Lawrence’s writing is a whole new matter to discuss. We go through this series in the first person perspective of Jorg Ancrath, his evil mind, and psychotic tendencies. We see into the workings of him and that is really the most prevalent piece of sympathy written for him because he controls the story, but he isn’t afraid to show you his bad, even evil side. He tells the truth no matter and will continue to until the end. Mark Lawrence portrays him so well, that sometimes you get so caught up in the story you can never put it down. I think I may miss this story a bit later on, but I could always revisit it.

Finally though, this series is horribly gruesome! It has such repulsive scenes that I had to turn away from the book and breathe for a second before actually accepting what happened. These books are not for the faint of heart, but anyone who has read other epic fantasy of the sort, or even possible horror, such as A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones), or other similar works would be interested I think. (Just going by works I have read previously: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, A Song of Ice and Fire, and probably Stephen King in general from what I have read of him.)

The books individually are amazing and I really cannot wait to read Mark Lawrence’s other trilogy.

Prince of Thorns: 4 stars

Kind of Thorns: 4.5 stars

Emperor of Thorns: 5/5 stars

-Zachary

Also Mark Lawrence is coming out with a new book soon. He has assigned the lot of readers he has to promote it, I am one of those, and if I get a decent amount of spotlight on this blog post and the book Red Sister destined to hit the shelves on April 4th I can win an advanced reader copy. Thanks everyone and Happy Reading!

 

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Review #3

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! Nothing better on Valentine’s day than a satirical mockery of love! And by that I mean probably the most famous Romance book of all time: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

We begin this novel with the famous line “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And nothing can summarize this novel as such. This book follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, through her life as a daughter of a moderately wealthy father who has few connections. She, as it seems all of the single women in the early 1800’s, is in want of a husband along with all her four sisters. Men came and went throughout the novel, cousins(ew I know but it was normal), friends of friends, fathers, officers, anyone and everyone. There were balls and get togethers and sports and a LOT of card games. Wow, so many that I have never heard of. But the book overall was a great read and kept me intrigued throughout.

Some great things about this book is that it follows a consistent theme of love, but not the normal love we know now, but a sad replacement. Other than this it also shows the fact that that is not what all women want or hope for in life, that there is more to it. This novel visualizes the independence of women during the period and what they did in their free time, their care for their family, and so much more. We constantly see Elizabeth going out of her way to help her family(mainly her sisters), go to public events, traveling, and getting away from wanting men, which I think is great. The total avoidance of the idiots of the time made me love the book more, Elizabeth really made the book what it was with her sarcasm and her pride[and prejudice]. The characters were no maych for such a brilliant woman.

Another thing you may want to know is that this book is the most satirical viewpoint of love you will ever read, the whole idea of it is so funny, it follows failures in love, worry about love, hopeless, unrequited love, pathetic love, and stupid 15 year old love, I guess that’s funny coming from a 15 year old, but jeez, Elizabeth’s sister man… One conflict of the story is love, but it is a funny love, a love that isn’t even love, it’s literally hatred from the first time they met. The fact that they got together in the first place shows how Jane Austen sees love, it shows her view on the love of the time and she made fun of it blatantly showing how ridiculous it was. People don’t fall in love in minutes and propose, rather they get to know each other and actually learn to care for one another, it’s meaningful. There is a great example at the end of the book for this and I can’t believe I can’t spoil, but you’ll just have to read it.

Finally though, I would recommend it to anyone who genuinely loves 1800’s literature, women and histories regard toward them, and satirical and sarcastic writing.

This book is a definite 4 out of 5 stars and I really want to read more by Jane Austen.

 

Here is my reading scale for perspective:

1 star: Hated it

2 stars: I could bare reading it, but did not like it much

3 stars: It was a good read and I may recommend it

4 stars: It was a great read and I definitely recommend it

5 stars: I loved this book and everyone in the world should read it.

-Zachary

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/49469177-zachary

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne – Review #2

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a story about a nine year old boy, Bruno, who lives in Nazi Germany as a Nazi Commandant’s son. He is eventually relocated from Germany to Poland due to his father’s job and is housed in a small, underpopulated area named Out-With (Auschwitz). As a nine year old, he is naturally curious and loves to adventure. Because of the small magnitude of his own house, he must go outside and see for himself what it is about this place that makes him hate it so. Eventually, after about an hour of walking along the large barbed fence, he sees something… It appears to be a dot, then a speck, now a blob, or is that a figure? yes! It’s a boy. This boy’s name is Shmuel, and he is Jewish.

This novel is very interesting, the story itself is lacking in the plot department, but the characters are really what make it a good read. I thought the perspective was an interesting change in pace from the Holocaust survivors to the actual Nazi’s children, but this is an awfully popular book topic so I have read something similar to it before. Other than this, the book in a whole had a good message about it. It reminds us that no one is born evil and that the environment in which one grows up effects how they see the world.

Some reasons I think the plot of this book can be better: there is no plot… none at all, the whole story is in a nine year old’s head and it can get very frustrating reading a story about how someone doesn’t like their sister. Some improvements that could be made are that the author could have included some conflict. The book’s only conflict is at two points: when Bruno’s sister, Gretel, finds out about Shmuel (she finds out because Bruno accidentally told her), and when Shmuel is (for some reason) at Bruno’s house cleaning dishes and Bruno sneaks him food, with Shmuel worrying about his Nazi guard finding him eating with Bruno. The ending can be seen as the conflict, but it only lasts about 15 pages out of 216 so I wanted more.

The characters of this story are actually relatable and honest to the history. It makes people like them more. I only really liked two characters though: these two being Shmuel and Bruno’s grandmother. (This is just one reason I like Shmuel)Shmuel constantly talked about how horrible ALL of the soldiers were and when Bruno contradicted him, saying his father was good, Shmuel corrected him and said all the soldiers are bad, I wanted to hug him. The grandmother was great too, she blatantly disowned her son for being a Nazi commander and never talked to him again before she died which I thought was amazing and respected her for stating this out loud, in public, in NAZI GERMANY!

Again, the message of this book is great too, reminding us that no one is born evil and that the environment in which one grows up effects how they see the world. The fact that Bruno hadn’t been taught thoroughly about the Fury’s(Fuhrer’s) plans gave him the chance to sympathize and be innocent. He could love people that he saw no reason to hate. What is emphasized in this child is so important as to how people should live their lives traditionally, to not hate others because it is the status quo but to love them. It is so much easier to love others than it is hate them, hate takes energy and fury while love takes acceptance and gives peace.

I think some people need to read this book more than others and realize that hate or even support of hate is wrong and leads to horrible, viscous things.

3.5/5

Read the Quote of the Week, it’s relevant.

-Zachary

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/49469177-zachary

The Big Four by Agatha Christie – Review #1

The Big Four by Agatha Christie

This book began with an overall interesting and usable plot premise. There being an evil force of extremely intelligent and wealthy people amassed to form a secret society bent on taking over the world through anarchy and fascism, ya know, the norm. The main problem I really saw with this whole idea was, “Why would a city private detective be working against a group such as this?” and honestly I still see no solution to such a question. An answer I can seem to come to is that I feel as if Agatha Christie was trying to make her reader see Hercule Poirot as something bigger than what he really was, such as with what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could do with Sherlock Holmes, him being compared to Hercule Poirot on many occasions.

Other than this overall issue, there were some other facts about the novel making me a bit anxious. The novel is written more like a short story collection than anything else; it follows Hercule Poirot but over a period of months passing in between chapters. It does this to show pivital points in the story not seemingly being related but overall being so, but it reads as multiple murders not connected at all throughout the year and Hercule Poirot solving them one by one and somehow amassing information to solve the whole problem.

That is another thing, the whole problem… At the end of the story we usually see the character Hercule Poirot explaining how he solved the puzzle to get the murderers/and or criminals through the clues given within the pages of the book. This time however we see him at the end of the story and never get an explaination as to how he solved the murders and overall evilness of the organization. There is no solution at all, it seems as though Agatha Christie took the lazy way out of this book. Don’t get me wrong, Agatha Christie is a wonderful author, this book was just trying to be something it was not.

A possible solution to these problems would be to just make the novel longer, explain the background of why Hercule Poirot joined the race to stopping these dictators better. Also lead the story to a more interesting and fulfilling ending. If I had saw an ending described like that this whole review would be different. The whole problem and solution section of the story could have been thought through and solved especially with this addition of more pages.

Some good things about this book, because I have to, include the humor, I did laugh multiple times reading this book from just situational irony that I did not expect. Also, the narrator was a good change of pace from the previous book, that book (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) being narrated by a non-recurring character that took time to get adjusted to.

 The Big Four was not Agatha Christie’s best novel (probably her worst), it was too farfetch’d for me to even enjoy really, I just wish there were more she did in this book to make it more “realistic” and enjoyable.

Out of 5 I would give this book a 2. Don’t read this book if you can avoid it.

-Zachary