Vines and Threads: A Review of Leviathan

We sped past the pine trees, leaving only exhaust in our wake. The wooded area by the highway was lush and green, but I recognized a plant that should not have been there. The kudzu vine is invasive in my area; you see it everywhere. How could we contain it? I frowned, gazing at a tree completely enveloped in the plant. If only the kudzu vine had never been introduced. How would the landscape look like today? The car switched lanes, bringing me away from my object of study. Would we even know the kudzu vine was a problem? Worse, would another invasive plant just have taken its place?

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Late-Night Education: A Review of Little Soldiers

I sat in the back of the classroom, sketching the enormous vase of flowers in front of me. A girl walked in and looked over my shoulder. She was maybe eight years old, and Asian—probably Chinese, since they taught Mandarin as well as art here. After a few minutes of conversation, the girl announced, “I bet my parents are stricter than yours.”

“I bet they are,” I said blandly.

The girl blinked. “My mom,” she said, unfazed, “made me stay up and study for a test that the teacher didn’t even tell us about.”

I gave her a second glance. She was an eight-year-old living in the United States. What kind of eight-year-old would study for a test? Just how different was the Asian method of education from the American way?

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Top Three Books: March 2019

With the trees budding outside and the flowers in our yard beginning to bloom, this month has been a time of new beginnings—both for nature and for my bookshelf. Here are some of March’s most fascinating books:

Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

Anidori-Kiladri Talianna Isilee, or, for the ease of anyone wishes to speak her name, Ani, is Crown Princess of Kildrenee. Ani has long been alienated for her ability to speak to animals, but when her mother engages her to the Crown Prince behind Ani’s back, she begins to feel that she is valued only for her title. When an unlucky turn of events forces her to pose as a peasant seeking work, Ani discovers that she is much more than Crown Princess. This retelling of the Grimm fairy tale under the same name is a touching story for younger readers.

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

We often are told to follow our gut feelings, but almost never told why. In this book, Malcolm Gladwell, acclaimed author of Outliers, David and Goliath, and The Tipping Point, explores why gut feelings are so often right, the few times they go wrong, and the space in between. This book for older readers is a truly intriguing read for anyone interested in what happens beneath the surface of conscious thought.

The Younger Edda; Also Called Snorre’s Edda, or the Prose Edda, by Snorri Sturluson

I have long been interested in Greek and Roman mythology, and when the Norse mythos began calling for my attention, I decided that the best place to start was the source of it all: the Eddas—a series of texts that are the foundation for most of the stories we know about the Norse gods today. The Prose Edda, which also goes by The Younger Edda, was written in the thirteenth century by the Norse scholar Snorri Sturluson. With its rich lore and occasional flashes of humor, The Prose Edda is a fascinating work for dedicated readers.

Forced Survival: A Review of Pride and Prejudice

What are basic survival needs? Food, clothes, shelter—these seem obvious; they have been so for centuries. But what about survival in a world slightly different, survival in a world of complicated social rules and hierarchies—what else would we need besides food and shelter? Perhaps we would need money, an education, good connections. But what if there was something more, something that would make the difference between living comfortably and scraping by; what if the last element was a profitable, well-negotiated marriage?

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Top Three Books: February 2019

For many, February is the perfect opportunity to find love, or at least heart-shaped chocolates. However, I prefer to think of February as a month to find books that I’ll love. Here are some of this month’s best:

Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown

Professor Robert Langdon is a religious symbology teacher at Harvard College. When he receives a horrifying fax early one morning, he becomes embroiled in a chase after one of the oldest satanic cults in history: the Illuminati. But the Illuminati are notorious for infiltration. As time runs out, Langdon faces a problem: who can he trust? This novel for older teens is a thrilling adventure through history.

The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene

What if, beyond atoms, protons, and even quarks, there was another building block of life? What if there were other dimensions? In this book, Brian Greene presents the string theory, which, at its most basic, claims that the world is made up of tiny particles, “strings,” that distinguish the elements by vibrating at different frequencies. This book is wonderful for advanced readers with a deep knowledge of physics and an equally deep curiosity about the world at the quantum level.

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

When he was eight years old, David Charleston watched his father die at the hand of Steelheart, an Epic, or one of the beings of incredible power that arrived on Earth some years before. Since then, David has spent his whole life searching for Steelheart’s weakness. When David is captured by the Reckoners, a rebel group intent on killing all the Epics, he realizes that ten years’ worth of planning may not have been enough—but the battle has already started. This sci-fi novel is a perfect match for younger teens who love action and realistic characters.

Soft Bullets: A Review of The Woman in White

The girl held her Nerf gun close to her chest. “It’s not fair!” she hissed at me. “I got that girl, and she’s still shooting!” Suddenly she stood and began shouting. “Hey! I got you! You’re dead!”

I waved her down.

“But it isn’t fair,” she protested, huddling under the protection of the table.

“No one’s playing by the rules here,” I said impatiently. “‘Fair’ doesn’t matter.” I studied the soft foam bullet in my palm. Was the world even fair? I loaded my gun. Did we impede justice, or did it support it?

I shot, and missed.

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Strength in Weakness: A Review of The Way of Kings

My friend stared at the book in her lap in defeat. “I can’t find it,” she said, flushing uncomfortably.

“Let me see,” I said, taking it out of her hands and flipping through the smooth white pages. She stared at me for a while in a bemused silence. Then she said something which made me pause.

“Why are you helping me?”

I paused. What an odd question, I thought. I was only trying to be helpful—but, as I found the correct page for her, I wondered: would my peers exploit me for my willingness to lend a hand?

“I don’t know,” I said slowly, handing her back the book. “But I found the page.”

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