Archive | July, 2017

Book Review: Everybody Lies

25 Jul

everybodyliesEverybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
By: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Publisher: HapperCollins Books
Copyright: 2017

We are wired. And information on everything from our location to our friends and acquaintances can be found online.  We also do surveys, health studies, and other programs.  All of this information can be combined, synthesized, analyzed and reviewed.  What can we learn from Big Data?  We learn that Walmart knows that when a hurricane is predicted, people buy strawberry pop-tarts.  We learn that the chances of a person with poor parents becoming rich not only matters on the country you are from (U.S. has an average close to half of Canada’s average), but what city in the U.S. you live in.  Research becomes so easy in some cases, that people start to overload on the research instead of thinking about the problem.

The book tells the story of various big data, highlighting the Google giant itself and the information you can glean.  But the book is not written as a research paper.  It is written in the first person with the author talking about himself a good bit.  In some ways, the writing is a little egocentric and just a tad too informal.  I did not need all the political side remarks to get the point of the book.  Further, someone who is offended by those side comments may not get the real point of the book: All of us are defined by our data, no matter what we tell ourselves or others.

Recommended: Grades 7 +

 

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

3 Jul

asyouwishAs You Wish

By: Chelsea Sedoti
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date:  January, 2018

Eldon is a high school senior in Madison.  It’s a dusty, desert town on Nevada State Road 375.  His afternoon job is to man the full service gas station and charm people into thinking the town is ordinary and unimportant.  But Madison has a secret.

There is a secret cave where everyone on the day and hour of their eighteenth birthday gets to make a wish.  One wish.  And that wish will come true.  You can wish to be thin, popular, rich, the football star or anything else.  But most of the people in Madison seem to regret their decisions.  His birthday is coming up.  What will Eldon wish for?

Honestly, I wondered at the start of the book if Eldon would wish for what eventually happened.  The premise was set in the first three chapters.  Eldon is the book’s narrator and while you want to like him, all of his encounters with other high school students seem rude or offensive.  At the end of the book, he admits he needs to grow up, but I was waiting for it much earlier.  Then there’s the premise that any magical cave would hand over the power of a wish to an 18 year old.  Or that the townsfolk, with years of experience in bad wishes, doesn’t keep a chart and explain to students what they should wish for and how to word it.  Or even how large an effect it can be.

I do think the title needs changing.  As You Wish by Carey Elwes is a favorite (as is the movie The Princess Bride) and this is just so far removed from that humorous story.

Mildly recommended: Grades 6-8 (middle school only); I don’t think high school students would enjoy this.

 

before I let go by Marieke Nijkamp

2 Jul

before I let go

By: Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher: Sourcefire Books

Publication Date: 2018

Corey and Kyra are best friends in the very small town of Lost Creek, Alaska, pop. 246.  Corey’s mom moves the family to Winnipeg and days before she comes back to see her best friend, Kyra is dead.  It seems impossible for the bright, bipolar friend to be gone and Corey keeps her plane reservation and flies to Lost.  Gone just a few months, Lost is different.  Instead of the social outcast that Kyra had always been, Corey finds her honored.  Over and over Corey is told that she’s an outsider and that Kyra was loved by Lost.  Corey can’t believe that Kyra would be loved by everyone and she sets out to investigate her friend’s “murder”.

This is an incredible psychological thriller that will take you on a trip.  What really happened to Kyra? Who is to blame and why is Corey suddenly an outsider in this small community.  Kyra paints during her manic depression periods and then tears them up.  But suddenly her pictures are everywhere.  Will Corey find the truth?  Will anyone believe her?  Or will Kyra’s picture of her inside a burning building be a real prophecy?   No matter what anyone says, Kyra didn’t survive her town. “We call them hero days,” Kyra said, “because that is when we fight fear itself. And we win.”

The story bounces from the moment to any period in the last two years.  The girls conversations bounce to the action of the moment.  The story races along, back and forth in time, trying to give glimpses of what happened to Kyra and what danger Corey is in.

Highly recommended: Grades 8 & up.