Books I am reading

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review, Book Review, Book Review

I am catching up on 3 books I have read in the last 6 weeks, for which I have not yet written reviews. Hold on to your seat-belt. These are all review copies from NetGalley. I have received no payment beyond the free book.

Number One: The Future of the MindThe Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind. by Michio Kaku, a physicist who is interested in the mind, and a knack for describing complex concepts in simple, basic terms. I give this a 4 star rating. I refrain from a 5 star because it is simply so beyond my ability to fully evaluate that I really can't tell if it deserves 5 stars.
     I have a very minimal science background, so I struggled at times to wrap my mind around Kaku's explanations of how the brain, machines and/or manipulations of the brain happen/work. I felt I was reading a critique of SciFi concepts of the past that have now come true, and, SciFi concepts of the present that are beginning to come true.     I am a counselor by training and experience, so I am very interested in how the mind works. Kaku's explorations into the functioning of a brain with schizophrenia,  how memories can be erased, healed or implanted, and ways in which the MRI has so vastly expanded how we understand the brain caused my mind to swirl with SF concepts from the past, now coming true.
     I found the concepts to be very dense: I had to read slowly to grasp the concept being presented, but I felt it was well worth the effort. I will probably never fully understand what Kaku shared, but I am abuzz with the hope and possibilities of what we can understand, repair and enhance in the realm of brain functioning.
     I appreciated the fact that Dr. Kaku addressed some of the ethically questions being raised now and will be raised in the future. I kept thinking that "if the bad guys get ahold of this stuff we will be doomed". I had flashes of James Bond movies flashing through my mind.
     If you are interested in the functioning of the brain, research in how to enhance our brain function, and theories about what causes certain problems with the brain, this book is for you. It is written in plain English and technical concepts are explained very well. And discussions on what it all means for the future of human kind is very thought-provoking.

Number Two: The Here and Now by Anne Brashares. This is a SciFi story, a romantic story, a mystery and a lesson in ecological disaster. Prenna and her mother belong to a strict community of immigrants where the rules are stringent and harshly enforced. 
     When Prenna first arrived, a young boy, Ethan, sees her, disoriented and confused. Several years later they are in high school together, but she has no memory of having met him. He does remember, and he becomes interested in finding out more about her. He tries to befriend her, and Prenna is torn. She wants to get to know people in her community and she is very drawn to Ethan, but The Rules strictly forbid it.
    Saying more would spoil it for those who read it, but it is an excellent story, creatively composed, interesting characters, with unexpected twists and turns. It is also a treatise on the consequences of not caring for our planet. I highly recommend this book.

Number Three: Far Gone by Laura Griffin 
     This story is a fast-paced race against time. Detective Andrea Fitch is determined to find out what her brother has gotten himself involved in, and FBI Agent Jon North is determined to find out her brother's contribution to a terrorist ring. As many romance stories go, Andrea and Jon fight and blunder until the sexual tension drives them into bed, against their better judgement. 
    The plot is timely, believable and intriguing, but Detective Fitch drove me crazy with one impulsive, self-destructive move after another. Ms Griffin was a bit too repetitive for my taste, making the same point several times to make sure the reader "got it". I am used to mysteries and suspense, and Ms Griffin is known for romance novels, so that may account to the stylistic dislike on my part. I prefer more egalitarian relationships than the head-strong impulsive woman being saved by the handsome FBI agent.

Well, here are some ideas for summer reading.