ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 9-11

9. This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel. When I finished the final page and closed the book, my first thought was DAMN that was good!! The sequel is on my list for the next roundup of books I plan to get. So yes, I really enjoyed this story, which is meant to be a prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Here, we see Victor Frankenstein at 16. He, his twin brother Konrad and his cousin Elizabeth have always been inseparable. But their friendship is challenged the three discover a hidden library full of alchemy books and other mysterious tomes within the Frankenstein chateau. Victor and Konrad's father makes them swear never to return, calling the library and its contents too dangerous. But when Konrad falls ill and modern medicine doesn't seem to help, Victor is drawn to the library as a source for a possible cure. There's the three-way conflict of science and modern medicine (Victor's father and, to a degree, Konrad), faith (Elizabeth) and the unknown (Victor), all well-balanced. Then of course there's the dynamic of love, growing up and family secrets. I'm curious where the next book will take the story, especially after the shocking ending.

10. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin. An excellent read, good for older grade school and up. This covers the process, intrigues and espionage connected with the construction of the atom bomb. It's a quick read, with several pictures of the people involved, from Robert Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Atomic Bomb" to senator (later president) Harry Truman, to the Norwegian resistance fighters to spy Klaus Fuchs. There is a lot of history and technical information, but I found everything easy to follow and understand. the technical aspects I thought especially well explained- detailed enough to give a good picture without a lot of weighty and confusing verbiage. I never realized how much intrigue surrounded the creation of this terrible weapon, how much was involved. On a lighter note, I realize also the inspirations behind the 50s-70s spy movies and skits (Rocky and Bullwinkle come to mind). Only had a couple of nits. I wonder if some things got left on the cutting room floor. There was one chapter, for example, that briefly goes over Oppenheimer's background; chapters later, there is a mention of his wife (who is not named) when he goes to Los Alamos, as well as mentioning a brother. Neither were mentioned earlier, and I found it a bit jarring. Also, there is a passing mention of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were tried and executed for their role in ferrying U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union. I do wonder if a sentence stating that Ethel Rosenberg's guilt has been seriously questioned should have been added, in all fairness. Other than that, I do recommend this for history buffs looking for a quick read, or for older students (I'd say fourth or fifth grade and up).

11. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. What a neat story! According to the author, it was inspired by the real-life story of Ivan, a gorilla who had spent much of his life living in a mall before he was sent to a zoo following public outcry. The story itself is told from Ivan's point of view, and his thoughts are profound and amusing by turns. Ivan was taken as a baby to live with Mack and his wife, who kept him in their home until he became too big to manage. Then he was taken by Mack to the mall, where he became an unexpected hit and revenue generator. There, he befriends an elderly elephant and a stray dog. His life changes when Ruby, a baby elephant, joins them. Ivan, who had always rolled with the punches, starts to question their existence at the mall and arcade, and decides to try to make a better life for Ruby - and winds up bettering his own life as well. I can see this book being read by a parent or teacher to a child or class, or older children enjoying it on their own.

Currently reading: Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Blunt.
Tags: fiction, non-fiction

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