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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Book jacket cover of Nine PintsI don’t know whether it’s nature or nurture, but those Green brothers sure can write. John (The Fault in Our Stars, etc) is an established superstar. This is Hank’s debut novel and he (IMHO) knocked it out of the park. Kirkus Reviews (who are quite hard to impress) gave it a starred review, writing: “A young graphic artist inspires worldwide hysteria when she accidentally makes first contact with an alien. Famous multimedia wunderkind Green is brother to that John Green, so no pressure or anything on his debut novel. Luckily, he applies wit, affection, and cultural intelligence to a comic sci-fi novel suitable for adults and mature teens. It’s endearing how fully he occupies his narrator, a 20-something bi artist named April May who is wasting her youth slaving at a Manhattan startup. On her way home late one night, April encounters an armored humanoid figure, which turns out to be alien in nature—”And I don’t mean alien like ‘weird,’ ” she says. She phones her videographer friend Andy Skampt, who posts on YouTube a funny introduction to the robot she dubs Carl. April’s life is turned upside down when the video goes massively viral and immovable Carls appear in cities around the world. After they discover a complex riddle involving the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the mystery becomes a quest for April; Andy; April’s roommate/kind-of-sort-of girlfriend, Maya; a scientist named Miranda; and April’s new assistant, Robin, to figure out what the Carls are doing here. “None of us older than twenty-five years old, cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard, planning our press strategy for the announcement of First Contact with a space alien,” says April. April and her friends are amiable goofballs and drawn genuinely for their age and time. Meanwhile, the story bobs along on adolescent humor and otherworldly phenomena seeded with very real threats, not least among them a professional hater named Peter Petrawicki and his feral followers. Green is clearly interested in how social media moves the needle on our culture, and he uses April’s fame, choices, and moral quandaries to reflect on the rending of social fabric. Fortunately, this entertaining ride isn’t over yet, as a cliffhanger ending makes clear. A fun, contemporary adventure that cares about who we are as humans, especially when faced with remarkable events.” I read this book in one sitting and absolutely loved it. Highly recommended!

Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood by Rose George

Book jacket cover of Nine PintsWe’ve been getting a bunch of great biology/medical books lately and the latest to catch my eye is Nine Pints by Rose George. Booklist gave it a starred review, writing “Blood is feared and revered, and it is continually dying and renewing. Its power is mystical, emotional, and biological. Blood infuses our language: bloodthirsty, blood-chilling, blood brothers. George delivers an informative, elegant, and provocative exploration of the life-giving substance she describes as “”stardust and the sea”” for its iron content derived from the demise of supernovas and its water and salt from the oceans of our origin. In the stellar opening chapter, she fuses her personal experience donating blood with remarkable hematologic facts. Approximately five liters of the fluid (depending on your sex and size), containing 30 trillion red-blood cells, clotting factors, platelets, plasma, and cryoprecipitate, travel 12,000 miles throughout your body daily at a speed of 2 to 3 miles per hour. Other chapters consider medicinal leeches (bloodsuckers that secrete their own anticoagulant and anesthetic compounds), hemorrhage, HIV, the history of blood transfusion and blood banks, menstruation, the feminine-hygiene industry (a typical woman in an industrialized nation uses an estimated 11,000-16,000 sanitary products during her lifetime), and future possibilities of synthetic blood. George also writes about plasma, possible contamination of the supply, and profit, noting that blood is the thirteenth most traded product globally. George’s wondrously well-written work makes for bloody good reading!”

Great action series you may have missed

Book jacket cover of Patient ZeroThose of you who like fast paced, high octane thrillers with aspects of horror and science fiction (think James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels or Christopher Farnsworth’s Nathaniel Cade novels) should DEFINITELY try out the Joe Ledger novels by Jonathan Maberry. First in the series is Patient Zero: “When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills … and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. And that’s both a good, and a bad thing. It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance …” Despite the intense action, the book is both fun and funny, and Joe Ledger is a great character that you will love to root for. Highly recommended!