The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

This is a post about the six-book series “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” by Michael Scott. The first thing I must say is: read it. I’ll try my absolutely hardest not to spoil anything about the books, especially as some of my friends who read this haven’t read the last book yet, but I recommend it to everyone young and old who enjoys fantasy stories. Or stories in general.

The second thing I must say is that this series made me cry. Multiple tears, that actually ran down my face. I make a distinction because the last episode of the BBC show “Sherlock” made me cry one tear that sort of stuck, and Les Miserables (the movie that just came out) made me tear up. Messenger, by Lois Lowry, makes me cry about one or two tears also, but The Enchantress, which is the sixth book in the “Nicholas Flamel” series, made me cry at least five tears, which is pretty much a record for me for any book, movie, or TV series.

Michael Scott, the author, is apparently an authority in Ireland on mythologies and folk tales, and it comes through in his writing. All of his characters (except the two main characters and the island of Danu Talis) are directly from different mythologies, from ancient American tales to Celtic myths to the gods of Ancient Egypt. It takes place in modern times, so the characters have cell phones and fly in airplanes, but nearly all the characters are historical in some way, which pleased me no end when I first read them.

I could probably talk for hours about the series and everything that happened in the books, and particularly the things that made me cry in the last book, such as-no: spoilers. But I shan’t, as that would make for an incredibly long post, and probably an incredibly boring one for those of you who either haven’t read the books or have read them and didn’t find them interesting (which to me is unimaginable, but I’m sure there are people who don’t like them). And so I leave you for now the way I greeted you: read the “Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series by Michael Scott. I truly hope that you will enjoy them and feel them as much and as immensely as I did.

And til next time dears: Read on!

The Bookworm Re-Emerges

Although, bookworms eat books, so if a bookworm has re-appeared, is it really re-emerging or re-entering?

Anyway.

This is just a quick note to say that though in the fall I succumbed to schoolwork and the beautiful dangers of the BBC on Netflix, over Christmas my ever-hungry bookworm reemerged in full force. At my best guess, I acquired 16 books over the Christmas holidays. So, yeah… John LeCarre (accent on the “e”) is absolutely brilliant, Lois Lowry is such a powerful writer, and I’m seriously addicted to book series. XD So read on dearies, and I shall update you next either with the latest in my book addictions or with a post for Honors English. Most likely the latter, actually. Cheers! 😀

Henrietta’s Firefly

Henrietta Lacks was born and raised and lived her whole life between Baltimore, Maryland, and Clover, Virginia. She and her family were all poor black tobacco farmers or miners. She married her cousin, and they had 5 children together.

River Tam was born on a planet controlled by the Alliance, which took over when Earth got too crowded, and terraformed new planets to support the ever-growing population. She went to an Alliance school before her brother rescued her, after which they lived on a ship which took on semi-legal jobs around the fringes of the galaxy.

When we meet River Tam in the TV show “Firefly,” she is 17 years old. When we meet Henrietta Lacks in the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” she is dead. Sort of.

River Tam was a fictional character.

Henrietta Lacks was real.

When you compare River Tam and Henrietta Lacks on the surface, they appear not to have anything in common. But when you dig a little deeper, there are many similarities.

Henrietta and River were both taken advantage of by doctors: Henrietta, because she was poor, black, and uneducated; River because she was young, privileged, and brilliant.

While Henrietta was under anesthesia for surgery to treat her cervical cancer, the surgeon took a sample of the cancer for his lab without Henrietta’s consent. When River went to the Alliance school for gifted children, doctors performed extremely damaging surgery on her brain without her consent.

Henrietta’s cancer cells turned out to be the first immortal cell line ever grown in a lab, and since the 1950s they have been used all over the world in testing vaccines for and doing research on diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS. We never really find out what the operations on River’s brain did for the Alliance doctors, but the result of those operations proves very important in saving the lives of the crew of Serenity, the ship River and her brother are on.

At first, the families of Henrietta and River had no idea what had happened to them. It took Simon, River’s brother, several months on board Serenity before he was able to get to a place where he could find out what had been done to River. It took years for the children of Henrietta Lacks to even find out that cells had been taken. And even quite a while after both Henrietta’s children and Simon found out what had happened to their mother and sister respectively, they didn’t know why those things had been done, and they didn’t know what to do about them.

I believe Simon never found out why the Alliance doctors had performed the operations on River, and he never found a way to completely reverse the damage. After Henrietta’s children learned that their mother’s cancer cells had become immortal, they tried to get their mother’s name known as the person behind the cells. Years passed before Rebecca Skloot came along and was able to help them.

Henrietta Lacks and River Tam were both taken advantage of by doctors.

They and their families were damaged by their operations.

They were both loved.

The Web Writing Style Guide on WritingSpaces

The Web Writing Style Guide, or WWSG, helped me primarily in understanding the nuances between different web writing possibilities. For example, I had no idea what Reddit and Digg were before reading the chapter on them. I also didn’t realize that Wikipedia is an example of a wiki, not that all wikis are branches of Wikipedia.

The WWSG also explored different ways of writing for different web sources, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and wikis. There is a very interesting nuance between blogs and Twitter, besides the obvious difference of word limits. They’re both available to the public in general, and you should be careful on both mediums as to what you write about, but in blogs you have slightly more freedom to write about your actual opinions and things you’ve experienced whereas as Twitter seems to be a ground for political exploitation and media comments on statements that were not fully thought through. And telling people who don’t care what you just bought at a store they don’t know about. 😀 Also, on blogs, if you write about something boring all the time, such as what you just ate, people just won’t click on your blog, and they’ll warn people away from your blog. On Twitter, though, if you follow someone, or even just look at the Twitter homepage, you have no choice but to look at what someone just had for a snack, if that’s what has been tweeted most recently.

An interesting concept I intend to pursue, mentioned in the WWSG, is to focus your blog on one subject, and write interesting and well-thought-out stories about that particular topic. My blog at the moment is primarily my Honors English class, but I intend to keep up my blog as a blog about interesting books I read, and good (or bad) music I listen to and/or play.

In the article about wikis, one of the things the author(s) mentioned as critical to a good wiki contribution is that you be considerate in your editing and thoughtful in what you post. For instance, if you come across a political wiki about a politician you strongly disagree with, it’s better to read what is there and move on, rather than deleting much of the pertinent information and writing offensive, untrue comments and rumors about that politician. On the same note, if you create a wiki about a politician that you greatly admire, you should try to present the facts in an orderly, unbiased way rather than uninteresting posts about how that politician is so wonderful and perfect. I doubt that I personally will ever write or contribute to a wiki, but I believe that it is important to write about things thoughtfully and in a way that is not offensive to others who may not believe the same things you do. Especially after reading some things mentioned in my Communications textbook about communicating effectively, I believe it is very important to take your audience into consideration when writing a blog or a wiki.

Plagiarism is another important thing to take in account when writing on the web, or in general, and I found the section on plagiarism in the WWSG to be very informative. For instance, I had no idea that plagiarism is not illegal, but unethical. In my mind, I had always equated plagiarism with copyright infringement. Now, this in no way means that I’m now going to go out on Wikipedia and steal a bunch of other people’s ideas just because I can legally do it. No way! I treat people’s ideas as copyrighted and plagiarism as illegal and paraphrasing as a compliment that you liked their idea. In the same section, though, they mentioned a bunch of ways to cite web sources on a blog, and I’m definitely going to use those. (Speaking of, clicking these words will take you to the Web Writing Style Guide.)

Overall, the Web Writing Style Guide was a very interesting and surprisingly short read, and I really enjoyed what I read. I’m definitely going to keep using it as a resource for what to do and what not to do on my blog. So go read it! And then tell me what you think. On my blog, preferably. 😀

Lord of the Rings

So Lord of the Rings:

I’m sure you’ve all heard of it. It’s rather popular, and has been around for a while. 😉

I read The Hobbit when I was about 8 or 9 and I loved.
So I decided to read the actual trilogy.
Halfway through The Two Towers, I quit. I couldn’t take it any more. After that, I swore never to read them again. I actually hated them, because they were so boring. I didn’t even remember what about them I didn’t like; I just knew I didn’t like them.

So when one of my friends suggested watching the Lord of the Rings movies, I was skeptical. Lord of the Rings? Really? But, I figured, I was older, maybe I’d like them.

I LOVED the movies. I watched the extended versions, and someone else I knew had complained about the extended version, saying it had too many dramatic shots of them walking and not enough action. I didn’t find that at all. I actually bought part of the soundtrack because it was so cool.

And since I loved the movies, I decided to give the books another try. I was about to go to DC for 10 days, and I knew I would have plenty of time to do nothing but read, so I borrowed them from a friend and started in. Again.

I really liked the first two books. I loved comparing the books to the movies, seeing what they did differently, and how it affected the plot. The language got a bit clunky and old-fashioned, but it was bearable, because I was in the right mindset.

And then I came back home. And I came out of the mindset. I’m still maybe barely a third through The Return of the King. But I have hope. Some of my favorite parts from the movies are still before me. I hope to finish it by the end of the month (I’ll let you know). But for now, I wonder if the best parts of the trilogies lie behind me, and if I’ll feel satisfied when I finally come to the end.

I hope I will.

And I really want to see the movies again.

Interesting Essays

Like most people, I don’t really like essays. (Ick, who does?) But for my writing class, the Writing Like Heroes blog, we have to read essays. Luckily, they’re free on writingspaces.com. (Free is always a good thing.) When I first saw the assignment I was worried. However, after having read four of the essays on Writing Spaces, I’ve found them quite enjoyable, and I wouldn’t mind reading them outside of class.
The essays are about writing: how to write better, how to write more enjoyably, and how to take things from things you read and put them into what you write. That in and of itself still sounds boring, but all the authors are English professors who were bored with regular essays themselves and decided to share their experiences in making essay-writing fun. If you go to the Writing Like Heroes blog and read the essays listed on the Schedule page, I think you’ll find them quite enjoyable and informative, as well as just plain funny.
(And please let me know your thoughts on the essays as well as my reviews. I enjoy feedback and constructive criticism. :D)

AUM Common Reading Program

Today was the first day of the Common Reading Program at AUM! The Common Reading Program is where faculty and students get together for lunch (pizza!) and discuss different aspects of the book we’re reading. The book that the faculty chose for this semester is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story behind the HeLa cells. HeLa cells have been used all over the world to make important scientific advances, such as the polio and shingles vaccines. But what many people didn’t/don’t know is that the HeLa cells were actually cancer cells taken from a woman named Henrietta Lacks in the 1950s. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the powerful, moving, and in places, horrifying story of the journey not only of the HeLa cells, but of Henrietta’s family and of the struggles the author Rebecca Skloot went through in order to write this book. Rebecca Skloot artfully weaves different parts of the past together to tell this story.
So during the Common Reading Program, we discussed not only how Skloot tells the story, but also the moral, ethical, and financial problems presented and discussed in the book. It was a very enlightening discussion, but also very enjoyable. I would highly recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to anyone looking for a fast, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read.