Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

I love the connection between the title and the characters who are featured in the book.  So goes the story of two lonely high school kids who befriend each other in Paolo Giordano’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers.  Alice, who was traumatized as a young girl being forced by her father to ski, and later creates a situation of “self-inflicted” injuries based from the fear of skiing down the mountain.  Similarly, Mattia, has his own tragedy when he leaves his twin sister at a park alone to go to a childhood birthday party and later learns of her disappearance, never to be found.  The two get drawn together through a series of “bullying” situations from the “bitch girls” who prey on Alice and bring Mattia into the drama.  The author weaves the two character’s lives together over the ensuing years, where they get so close, but never consummate the relationship.  Alice and Mattia have much in common: personality traits; passions (one photography, one math); shared backgrounds; and inability to show their true feelings for each other.  This in itself matches the concept of the prime number… standing alone by itself.  The awkward number, the awkward person.  At the point in which the two will seemingly connect, Mattia wins a math scholarship upon college graduation out of the country, leading Alice to the arms of a doctor,  who she turns to for solace, but never lets go of her dream of being with Mattia.  A few years after her marriage, Mattia decides to return to meet Alice, at the same time Alice makes a discovery she believes will change Mattia’s life, finding the twin sister who he lost years ago.  Will the two finally be able to validate their feelings for each other, or will they be like the prime numbers, separated but equal?  What a sad and very moving story.  It so captures the youth of today, complicated, wanting to be accepted, and having a secret that does not enable them to connect.  This is a great coming of age story with characters from our day.  I loved this brilliantly told story.   Add this to your list!      

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lost World

A classic and precursor to the books and movies on dinosaurs residing in our world is today’s RA Favorite book, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.  A reporter, Edward Malone, learns of an expedition through an interview with Professor George Edward Challenger, who has returned from a trip.  Malone believes that by attempting the trip to help discover prehistoric beings he may bring the type of career and praise from his newspaper that will launch his stardom.  Additionally, he is motivated to demonstrate his bravery to his love, Gladys Hungerton (I don’t find many leading ladies named Gladys, besides my wife!!).  Chancellor shares his claims of the prehistoric creatures that he found while surveying the Amazon area in South America.  None of the people in attendance believe Chancellor’s claim, so they decide to join him on his return voyage.  And so they are off!  With the help of some native villagers, the four men and their assistants begin the long trip up the mountains. The trip includes encounters with numerous dinosaurs, including the pterodactyls!  Of course with any good tale of intrigue there are moments of murder, abrupt surprise actions, and of course surprise attackers, in this case, ape-like animals whom attack the explorers.  The group gets stuck in a bind when one of the assistants turns on them and cuts them off from civilization when he destroys a bridge leading back to the mountain across the plateau.  Will they escape?  Will Malone ever see Gladys again?  Don’t worry, all of the loose ends do get tied up nicely and Malone does get saved.  He even gets to be reunited with Gladys, but I’ll save that surprise ending for you to find out.  Hard to believe this is a 1912 novel.  Great intrigue and see why Michael Crichton used this as the basis for his story.  I really enjoyed it.  Great book!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Reach back to my childhood, or that of my kids, reading Madeline by the illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans. This is a short story, with almost as many pictures as words, well close.  The story is written in rhyming couplets (for the most part).  Bemelmans tells the story of Madeline, a young orphan, who lives in Paris with a group of twelve young girls and is overseen by Miss Clavel, who runs the orphanage.  Madeline is the tiniest of the girls, but also the ‘risk-taker’ of the group as she runs up to the animals in the zoo and attempts to scare them!  One night Miss Clavel hears a cry from the bedroom where all twelve girls sleep and runs to see what is happening.  Madeline is crying as she seems to be in pain.  Miss Clavel brings in Dr. Cohn to examine her and notes it may be her appendix.  They rush to the hospital.  Meanwhile, all of the other children are sad and scared.  A few days later the girls are allowed to visit Madeline in the hospital.  To their amazement she is happy, surrounded by books, toys and treats provided by concerned donors.  Madeline is all better, happy, and stands up to show her big scar from the operation.  The girls all return to the orphanage.  Later that evening, Miss Clavel hears crying from the room again.  All of the girls are crying of pain with their appendix, hoping they too can receive toys and candy from others.  Cute story which captures how kids are jealous and following the behavior they think will get them the same outcome.  Much like what we see with peer pressure on college campuses, right?  Loved the pictures, nice rhyming sentences, and a story that captured the hearts of many.  Love the favorite books that are given to me!