Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nameless, Blameless Reproduction by JACH MD *****

"Welcome Baby Hope" is the story of Baby Hope's journey from her mother's death during her birth, through the child services bureaucracy as an HIV orphan, to her glorious victory as a modern medical miracle.

This inexplicably-titled Nameless, Blameless Reproduction by JACH MD is a wonderfully written novel, first in the voice the Hope's new mother who attended her C-section birth, and then the voice of her new uncle who happens to be gay. Much of the narrative is educational --- HIV treatments, adoption procedures, stem cell technology, ... --- but the narrative is so engaging that these long section of explanation do not slow the story or bore the reader.

Whether you are just interested in the plight of Baby Hope or want to know more about adoption and stem cell therapy, this is the book for you. Simply excellent.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on December 1, 2013. I received the book on December 9, 2013. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

THe Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert *****

Modern frogs appeared about 250 million year ago, about the same time as the dinosaurs. However, unlike the dinosaurs, they survived the K-T mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. With this track record of survival, the fact that frogs are now becoming extinct -- world-wide -- is a surprise. This and more is explained in The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Kolbert is a journalist, world traveler, explorer, and naturalist. With a mix of first-person reports and discussions with scientists, she explores the reason for current wave of extinctions. Historically there have been five major extinction event in the last 500 million year ... certainly not a very common event. These rare events are do not share a common cause. Drivers include: impact of extraterrestrial objects, glaciers/drop in sea level, and volcanic activity.

Similarly, the current, sixth, extinction is also different. While the news is full of stories about climate change and destruction of habitat, the real reason might be the homogenization of global flora and fauna. When there are many niches, many species are supported, but when flora and fauna expand globally, one a few species survive.

If you are interested in a mixture of adventure and science, along with the future of the life on planet Earth, this is the book for you.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on December 3, 2013. I received the book on December 12, 2013.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Cure to Die For by Stephen G Mitchell ****

What happens when you cross "one of the most poisonous plants on earth" from Mongolia with marijuana from the good ole USA? You get pot that cures everything from the common cold to cancer ... all types of cancers. If that science really bothers you, you can stop reading now.

However, if you can suspend disbelief, A Cure to Die For by Stephen G Mitchell could be the book for you. This book is a mash-up of an allegory in support of legalizing marijuana and speculative fiction on the implication of such a miracle drug.

The story travels from Marina del Rey to Indian reservations  in Montana and Arizona to a big estate in Virginia to Rancho Cucamonga to the jungle in Mexico.  People impacted by this miracle drug include the entire medical establishment, but especially pharmaceutical companies which would obviously kill to prevent this drug becoming generally known or available. On the other side is a wide range of folk with various terminal cancers. In the middle are idealistic scientists, just plain nice people, and, of course, crooked politicians and drug dealers.

In a tale with a pleasantly surprising low body count, the fate of this miracle drug twists and turns with one surprising resurrection after another. The book is certainly a fun ride ... a romantic comedy with a subversive political message ... I can't wait for the movie.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on November 11, 2013. I received the book on November 27, 2013. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Drifting Democracy by Pravin Boddu ****

Before you visit India, Drifting Democracy by Pravin Boddu is required reading. India is so different from what you might imagine. Bollywood and high-tech outsourcing is just a tiny fraction of these one an a quarter billion people.

Living in California, I knew many immigrants from India, mostly doctors and engineers. I had also visited many poor countries around the world, and particularly China which I imagined to be similar. China has had a market economy for a similar period (decades). They both have long histories of advanced civilizations and an emphasis on education. In fact, Indians also compare themselves to this neighbor. China is nothing like India! The actual closest point of similarity is the spelling of their names.

When I arrived in India ... I was shocked! Nothing like I expected. Neither China, nor South Africa, nor any other country prepared me for the reality. Pravin Boddu's book might be the best antidote to the shock of seeing India in person. As I said, required reading before any visit, business or pleasure.

As the author points out, India skipped the 20th century. Everyone has wireless devices, but for many reasons: sewers, clean water, reliable electricity, roads, and garbage collection are all missing. The Economist summed the situation up in 2008, "India is a mess."

Without this book, a new visitor will waste time and effort, understanding the depth of the problems and the structural explanations for them. This book explains it all ... in the first four chapters. Non-Indians can safely stop reading after chapter four, and don't let the typos discourage you, this book is well worth your time.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on November 20, 2013. I received the book on November 27, 2013.