Burn Baby Burn Review

 

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Summary: Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous New York summer of 1977, when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam who shoots young women on the streets. Nora’s family life isn’t going so well either: her bullying brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day, her mother is helpless and falling behind on the rent, and her father calls only on holidays. All Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own.

My Review: Historically, the summer of 1977 was chaotic and filled with dear, looting, and arson. David Berkowitz, otherwise known as the Son of Sam, was killing couples out on dates. New York had one of the biggest power outages in history which led to mass rioting and many arson fires were lit that summer.

The book centers around Nora Lopez who lives in Queens and is counting the days until she turns 18 and can get a place of her own. Her brother Hector, who always had troubles, gets deeper involved with a bad news neighbor and begins to get physically violent with Nora and her mother. Nora has nowhere to turn for help. Her Mother refuses to see how bad Hector is and her father has remarried and has all but forgotten his family. She doesn’t want to tell her best friend because she is ashamed of her life. She doesn’t want to be thought of as a lowlife or less than especially since her best friend has a wonderful family life.

Much of this book is centered around fear: fear of the Son of Sam who was going around killing people, fear of her brother, fear of her unknown future. Nora is a very resilient character through most of the book and begins a romance with a boy who works at the same store as she does.

The end wrapped up a bit too quickly and easily in my opinion. The drama of her family was drawn out for so much of the book, that to be resolved in about a chapter bothered me. It was too neatly tied up with an optimistic ending. I didn’t mind the hopefulness of the end, but all the things that happened seemed really convenient.

Natalie’s Review: 3.5/5

 

Highly Illogical Behavior Review

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Summary: Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him. Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there? Solomon is the answer. Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa thrusts herself into his life, sitting through Star Trek marathons with him and introducing him to her charming boyfriend Clark. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their walls fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.

 

My Review: The novel is told in alternating chapters between Lisa and Solomon. Solomon is an amazing character. His parents seem a bit too good to be true (they don’t seem phased by much of what he does) and his grandmother is a wonderful secondary character. Solomon hasn’t left his house since a massive panic attack had him taking a dip into the school’s fountain. He is homeschooled and keeps himself occupied by reading and watching TV. The description of his panic attacks are one of the most realistic I have ever read. At one point, I had to place the book down because his panic attack was making me anxious. I live with anxiety disorder and am always wary when someone writes about it. John Corey Whaley got it dead on. The various attacks and coping mechanisms that Solomon uses are scaringly accurate.

 

Lisa is a character you are supposed to dislike and I did. She has stereotypical teen fiction parents; an absent father and a mess of a mother. All she wants to do is get out of her town and she has no problem using Solomon to get into the college of her choice. She begins to see Solomon more as a friend than an essay subject, but she annoyed me for most of the novel. In my opinion, her apology felt like a combination of her being truly sorry and being found out and having to tell Solomon the truth of why they met in the first place.

 

Clark is a fun secondary character, but I would have liked to have him been more fleshed out. I never get a real sense of who he really is and what he thinks or feels in the book. He has a very forgiving and genial nature, but it bothers me that he doesn’t tell Lisa’s secret throughout the novel. I know it’s because he is being loyal to his girlfriend and I appreciate that, but based on the morality of his character, it seems odd.

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Review

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Summary: Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries―panic, exhaustion, heat, noise―and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you’ll never see our nation’s defenders in the same way again.

 

My Review: As with her other titles, Mary Roach tackles human warfare in her typical irreverent, but fascinating fashion. She covers an array of topics, ones that you would not suspect such as hearing loss due to bombs, sweating, diarrhea, stink bombs, and more. She speaks to an array of military personnel and even spends time in Djibouti and in a submarine.

I was highly entertained as usual; Mary’s footnotes are hysterical. I also learned some very interesting things on what the military is concerned about and doing research on. I had no idea that most military in combat situations experience hearing loss in some form or other.  Each chapter covers a different aspect of military welfare and safety. The books isn’t really about warfare or war, but about the various ways scientists, researchers, and even fashion designers work to help the men and women in the military.

I am admittedly, a big fan of this author and have read three of her other titles. This one did not disappoint.

 

Rating: 5/5