The Matilda Effect

This story is about a girl named Matilda and her grandmother’s journey from England to Sweden. The book emphasizes how women and girls may be treated unfairly, especially in the scientific fields. Matilda wants to be an inventor and loves science. The grandmother (Granny Joss) discovered a planet many years ago, but her boss claimed it was his discovery, and now he is about to be given a Nobel Prize! 

Matilda has also not been given awards, like a science prize in her school, because no one believed a girl could have done what she did. The judges gave the prize to a boy named Thomas Thomas, even though he did his experiment wrong, just because “at least he did it all by himself.” Matilda should clearly have won. 

She soon finds out her grandmother’s discovery was incorrectly credited and decides to go to Sweden to tell the Nobel Prize Committee that Professor Smocks is lying about his “discovery”. Her parents do not allow her to go there, so one night she sneaks out with her grandmother to go to Sweden. Will Matilda be able to get Granny Joss to the Nobel Prize ceremony in time, or will the planet forever be credited to Professor Smocks? They face many challenges along the way, almost dying at some parts, too. 

I like this book because the plot is so intriguing and the author is constantly introducing new characters. It was very interesting to see how each of these characters influenced the story and the characters. They are so different but are all affected in some way by Matilda and Granny Joss.

The “Matilda Effect” is a bias against women, and instead of giving them credit for their achievement(s), it is given to one of their male colleagues instead. This term was first used in 1993 by Margaret W. Rossiter, and named after Matilda Goslyn Gage. Historians had ignored Matilda Gage’s work as well. The title of the book, the storyline and the name of the main character in the story, is a reminder of this bias, ‘The Matilda Effect.

 I would recommend you to read this book if you enjoy science, engineering, or inventing and like a variety of characters. It is a truly enjoyable story and I really liked the plot. I thought that it was important that it emphasized how women and girls are sometimes treated unfairly.

-Peri A.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Most of us are familiar with the monster we’ve labelled as Frankenstein, a green, grotesque creature of Hollywood films. Before reading Mary Shelley’s acclaimed novel for a high school English class, I had similar mental perceptions of the monster (I’d been envisioning the essential, go-to costume for elementary school Monster Mashes for years). After finishing the book, however, I was moved by the complexities of Shelley’s characters, their philosophy, as well as her examination of prominent social and political issues throughout the carefully woven narrative, which are still relevant today.

I’d read Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein before in middle school. Pages of colored artwork and masterful graphic design rendered an excellent adaptation of Shelley’s novel. It provided me the foundations to easily understand the basic plot of Frankenstein, yet I was still skeptic about reading the novel itself. I don’t particularly love Shakespeare or Dickens, with their fanciful ways of speech that can get tiring after a long period of reading, and I feared the same for Shelley’s work. But she was different somehow, her writing distinctively unique; perhaps this was because she was a female amidst a world of male writers, someone who had created such a haunting and gripping story so uncharacteristic of a woman of her time.

The novel centers around a gifted scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who manages to breathe life into his creation, a monstrous being. Instead of a being presented as a gift to humanity, the glorious product of defying even Nature itself, the specimen is a hideous creature that is shunned by society and his creator alike. The narrative is told from various perspectives–explorer Robert Walton’s letters, Frankenstein’s first person narration, the monster’s collection of stories–which I appreciated greatly, because it gave the storyline a certain vivacity, turning it away from the tiresome monotony of the same narrator. As the novel progresses, the monster and his creator enter into a growing spiral of violence and tragedy, and I will say (spoiler alert!) the novel is not exactly a Hallmark movie with a happy ending.

By the time I had finished the book, the ending surprisingly emotional (I had been nonchalant all throughout Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, but this ending really ran me over for good measure…go figure), I continued to mull the story’s events over in my mind. Frankenstein is a philosophical breeding ground–are monsters created or made, a victim of the cruelties of society? What are the ethical implications of science and technology (this one I consider a lot, since we are at a teetering frontier of modern scientific discovery)? Who is the real monster, the creation or its creator?

Even if you aren’t called by philosophy, read Frankenstein for it’s ingenious storyline. I didn’t think I would ever call a book published in 1818 “thrilling,” but I was pleasantly surprised at the wide range of emotions Shelley, and most good writers, can evoke through their stories, her ability to make the reader view society through a new lens. Read it for Shelley’s diction, the way she stirs to life a melancholy madness, the vividness in which she allows us to experience it, as if the character’s lives were our own, and which left me awed. It was a book that stuck with me long after I finished it, a book that I regretted misjudging before I picked it up and read it grudgingly for school, but which took me into the depths of humanity and morality.

-Katharine L.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons: A Novel (Hardcover) | Tattered Cover Book Store

When CERN director Maximilian Kohler discovers the dead body of his top physicist, Leonardo Vetra, in his secure lab, branded with the dreadful Illuminati ambigram symbol, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon’s world is turned upside down. Traveling to Switzerland, Langdon realizes that the Illuminati, a secret society long thought disbanded, is actually alive and well, and have only one assignment to fulfill – the complete annihilation of the Catholic Church and Vatican City.

Together, Langdon and Vetra’s adopted daughter Vittoria must race to locate a deadly sample of antimatter taken from the late Vetra’s lab. To make matters worse, unless Langdon and Vittoria successfully track down the stolen antimatter, and Vetra’s killer, before the clock strikes midnight, not only will Vatican City explode, due to the recent death of the Pope, every major figure of the Catholic Church will perish along with the Vatican.

On a race against time, Langdon and Vittoria must follow the path laid by the ancient Illuminati members centuries ago, in the hopes of saving lives as they do it. However, the closer the two get to the final showdown, the higher the stakes are raised, and the more danger they find themselves embroiled in.

Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons is a definite read for fans of real historical facts interwoven with heart-racing action scenes and mystery theme elements. Fans of The Da Vinci Code will certainly enjoy the first chronicle of Langdon’s adventures.

-Mahak M.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Island of Dr. Moreau by Herbert George Wells

H. G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau: Dobbs, Fiorentino, Fabrizio:  9781683832034: Amazon.com: Books

In Dr. Moreau’s Island, Dr. Moreau uses his scalpel to transform the beast into a man with an ambitious plan to establish an empire on the nameless island in which he is the supreme ruler and creator. Dr. Moreau is a synthesis of scientific evolution and religious ideas. Using the scalpel as a tool to create humans, he plays the role of God and exerts both physical and spiritual control over the orcs. However, he fails miserably and both he and his assistant are killed. The novel condemns the endless expansion of life science that is not bound by the bottom line of morality, conveys the fear of human beings that they cannot truly control their creations, and is also mixed with the fear of Edward Prendick, the narrator, that he is not adapted to the strange island.

Back in the civilized world, Prendick is still haunted by fear, suspecting that the men and women around him are transformed orcs. Dr. Moreau’s provocative attempt to tamper with the laws of biological reproduction and evolution in nature ended in failure. His experiments also had devastating consequences for himself: he himself died at the hands of the monster he had created. And by the end of the story, the orcs are finally restored to their natural nature as animals. They began to disobey the “laws” that Dr. Moreau had made. Their physical features also began to return to their original characteristics. They become more and more unwilling to be bound by clothes, and finally become naked; Their limbs grew hairy; Their foreheads grew lower and their mandibles more prominent; Traits that were previously human-like are gradually disappearing without trace.

As the orcs’ nature was restored, the strange world that Dr. Moreau had created was destroyed by death. The failure of Dr. Moreau also proved that the law of nature is irreversible, the power of nature is strong, and any attempt to reverse or overstep the law of nature is doomed to failure. When human beings’ behaviors violate the ecological and ethical laws of nature, nature will punish the perverse actors with disastrous consequences. At the same time, nature will also use its own power to correct and tamper with it, making the whole ecological world move forward continuously in accordance with its inherent natural laws.

The progress of scientific and technological civilization in human society should be based on the integrity of the ecological ethical law of nature. The separation of scientific research from ethical laws, the neglect of ecological responsibility to nature, and the willful disobedience of the development laws of nature will eventually bring destructive consequences to the whole nature including human beings themselves. At the same time, once technology falls into the hands of those who seek power for personal gain and have no moral scruples, it will have disastrous consequences. Through the eyes of Edward Prendick, this novel depicts a miniature of the whole life, and mercilessly reveals the reality of the society.

Moreau brought the animals to the human level on a secluded island inhabited by humans, while creating a religion with himself as god and a harsh law to rule the orcs. This turned the orcs against him, and he died a violent death. The author uses this story to show the class antagonism in capitalist society. At the same time, the work gives a pessimistic outlook on social prospects. Wells referred to the Island as Noble’s Island, an obvious irony and yet another jab at the class system. Pronounce the name quickly and vaguely, and it is no blesses island.

-Coreen C.

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski is a science fiction novel about a competition organized by NASA among the brightest, gifted young adults from across the globe. One of these great minds belongs to seventeen-year-old, Cassandra Gupta. She has been training for a chance like this for her entire life. She is at the top amongst her classmates, but she must compete and be better among the others, who are of her caliber. The winner of the competition will be chosen to join astronauts on a secret mission.

Cassie is determined to be the one to go on that mission. As part of the training, everybody has to go through various physical and mental tests. Through the competition, Cassie discovers things about herself and others around her. When the time comes to chose someone for the mission, NASA picks someone who, in their eyes, will be the most successful.

The plot of the book was what enticed me to pick up this book to read, and I am glad that I picked it. With a great main character, the book kept me reading it till the end. Cassie is head strong and determined, which is the driving force behind the plot of the book. Also, she is able to keep going past her limitations; this is true, especially when she is in life and death situations. With a surprising ending, this book will be sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

-Anmol K.

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Image result for the sun is also a starThe Sun Is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon, is told through the perspective of two teenagers: Natasha and Daniel. Natasha is Jamaican senior who loves music and science.  She is going to be deported from the United States, and tries to talk to a lawyer to let her stay in America. Daniel is a Korean senior who meets Natasha by fate.  They spend the day together, trying to get to know each other better. Natasha is dealing with trying to not be deported, while Daniel is trying to avoid his Yale interview. They discuss science, life, poetry, and love. Natasha doesn’t believe that she can fall in love with him, while Daniel thinks the opposite.

Even though the author wrote back and forth between Natasha and Daniel in short paragraphs, and had background information about several topics in the book as another chapter, I thought that this book was well written. You spend the entire book hoping that Natasha isn’t deported, and think that Daniel and Natasha are meant to be together. I thought that the ending was well written, but the epilogue should have been longer.

This book is for the fans of John Green.  It’s bittersweet, and it makes you think that even though you think there’s no hope, there still is hope. It’s okay for most audiences. I would recommend this book for people who are okay with a sad and meaningful book.

-Rebecca V., 8th grade

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Martian by Andy Weir

Image result for the martian book

If you’re one of the ten people who didn’t see the movie, The Martian is a book about an astronaut who gets accidentally abandoned on Mars and his efforts to make his way home. In this perfect blend of Cast Away and Interstellar, Mark Watney (portrayed in the movie by Matt Damon) must survive adversity after an explosion strands him on the red planet. The story of his survival on Mars is told to the audience through daily logs. It feels as if Watney is talking directly to the reader. The Martian truly illustrates how anything is possible, no matter how terrible the odds, and that humanity’s greatest virtues is its ability to overcome.

The Martian is the first interesting science textbook I’ve ever read. I know that it’s technically not a textbook, but it pretty much is, just written in the first person and with a story. Andy Weir literally explained every single piece of the science in the book in detail. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just probably goes over the head of anyone not extremely interested in Science. I think I learned more Science from reading this book than I have in school for the past three years.

The book The Martian doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. In fact, it was almost cheated by the movie. Not that the movie was bad, actually it was really good and followed the book really well. The issue is that, because the movie was so popular and so good, a much larger group of people just watched the movie and forgot it was even based on a book. Even I saw the movie first, so the book felt more like a movie novelization. That said, it is still 100% worth reading, and I highly recommend.

-Evan G, 8th Grade

The Martian is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.