A number of weird software issues have held my most recent vlog back from completion, which is a shame, because it's a review of one of my sleeper favorites: Childhood's End.
Instead, I've placed it on the back-burner until those issues resolve themselves -- how 'bout an update, Apple? -- and decided to do a bunch of quickie reviews of new books. Here goes ...
Afrika Reich by Guy Saville
An alternate-universe novel in which the Second World War ended in truce rather than victory, this book explores Africa in the 1950s. Divided between British and German colonies, the continent harbors a new German threat that promises to end British supremacy. Our intrepid British hero participates in an assassination with disastrous consequences that strand him in the middle of enemy territory. It's a fairly high-concept work that delivers on tension and excitement!
Aya: Love in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie
Aya returns in the third and final installment of a graphic-novel series about her life. This series is pretty popular, probably because it's light-hearted and is an interesting look at life in 1970s Ivory Coast. Aya's grown up and is working on becoming a doctor, until a scorned professor ruins her plans. She gets to take her revenge, though, with the help of her hometown!
Bomb: The race to build and steal the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin
The development of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos is one of the most fascinating stories of military technological advancement -- even more than the history of the Internet -- largely because the stakes -- and risks -- were so high and the people involved were ... well, it's tough to describe them. Put it this way: my favorite scientist of all, Richard Feynman, had an exceptionally puckish sense of humor. For example, his favorite hobby was safecracking ... in the middle of the most top-secret government facility in the world.
Extra virginity: The sublime and scandalous world of olive oil by Tom Mueller
Like dog shows and kiddie entertainers, the most innocent-seeming parts of life often conceal a seething cauldron of corruption, fraud, and deceit. This is true even of olive oil, everyone's favorite addition to toasted bread, mozzarella, tomato, and basil. It's not just knowing the difference between virgin and extra-virgin -- what about the difference between olives and canola? These are the things that matter, people!
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
One of my personal favorite recent reads, House of the Scorpion is a young-adult science-fiction novel, which is increasingly becoming a genre not to be reckoned with. Our main character lives in Opium, a new country that exists between Mexico and the United States, ruled and fueled by drug lords' agricultural pursuits. Weird enough, except he's an illegal -- and widely-hated -- clone of the richest lord of them all. That's weird enough, except his original dies, and ... well, read it. Tense, suspenseful, and jam-packed wall-to-wall with issues in bioethics, House of the Scorpion is fantastic all around.
Subliminal: How your unconscious mind rules your behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Full disclosure: This book is on my kitchen table right now. Sorry. But I highlight it for two reasons: It's from the author of The drunkard's walk, which I briefly review here, and it's just interesting in general to see how your brain seems to have a mind of its own. Mlodinow focuses on how people make decisions, and the factors that affect those decisions without their knowledge. Drunkard's walk was about probability and how some things are considerably less -- and more -- likely than you usually think they are, and Subliminal is about all the tiny little signals that go into shaping your view of the world and how those signals can be manipulated. He's a fun guy!
That about covers it this time. Have fun browsing the stacks!