Why Do Buses Come In Threes? – Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham

Why Do Buses Come In Threes? The hidden mathematics of everyday lifewhy do buses

I love reading and can often be found with my head in a book, although I tend to prefer fiction books, therefore I was worried I would find a non-fiction maths book uninteresting. However, this book completely changed my opinion.

Why Do Buses Come In Threes? takes everyday problems and tries to explain (and solve) them using maths. The book covers a wide range of topics meaning there is definitely something for everyone to relate to and understand.

Each chapters’ title is a question regarding a different real world problem which piques curiosity. The chapter then applies maths to the problem in order to explain or solve the problem. The maths referred to throughout the book is clearly explained with examples and diagrams.

Examples of these chapters include ‘Why do clever people get things wrong?’, ‘What’s the best bet?’ and ‘How do you explain a coincidence?’.

The real world applications made the book interesting to read and has encouraged me to further consider the maths of my day to day life. For example, before I had never considered the mathematics of queues yet this book even featured a formula for queuing. I can now be found explaining to my family queues whilst we are stuck in them.

My favourite part of the book lies within the logic section, aptly titled ‘Whodunnit?’ referring to Sherlock Holmes’ deductions which allowed him to solve many mysteries. One section of this chapter featured logic gates, which form the basis of all computers, having studied these as part of a Computing course last year I found this of particular interest, alongside the number trick introduced at the end which can be used as an introduction to the binary number system.

However, my favourite chapter overall is the last, ‘How Can I Entertain the Kids?’ which introduces maths magic tricks which I promptly used to bedazzle my family. For me, this was the ideal conclusion to the book.
It also summaries the tone of the book, it didn’t take itself too seriously (which I was dreading when I started reading). The authors have included jokes and puns throughout e.g. the example they used to explain game theory which involved two teenage boys competing for a girl.

The book flowed well as each chapter looked at a different area, this meant each chapter was perhaps light on detail but there was still more than enough to understand the concept. This worked for me, as at no point did I feel inundated with information about one small topic. Having finished this book I feel I have a broader understanding of mathematics and its applications.
I now plan on reading ‘How Long is a Piece of String? More hidden mathematics of everyday life’ the follow up book.
I would recommend this book to everyone, the maths is all explained with no previous knowledge assumed which makes it accessible to all readers, regardless of mathematical ability.

Holly In Love – Caroline B. Cooney

Holly In Love follows Holly, a sixteen year old. She lives in a New Hampshire ski resort, the problem with this is her hatred of winter weather. Yet the winter seems brighter for her when she grows close to Jamie Winter. But Jamie is a ‘younger guy’ and her relationship would be the laughing stock of all their friends. Holly has to decide if Jamie is worth it…

I thought this book would be a relevant read given the winter weather of present, and therefore I was rather I was looking forward to reading this book. Yet it severely disappointed me.

My one main complaint regarding this book is the lack of plot – nothing of import happened. During the story there was no crisis to be solved – a fundamental of stories – and no character development.
Holly was annoying throughout – she was very self absorbed and completely obsessed with the weather, in an unhealthy way. Holly’s so called friends were not my definition of friends – they constantly mocked her and belittled her, and at times, Holly seems almost fearful of them and their judgement.

Ultimately, I would not recommend this book. The lack of plot makes it a unexciting read, it had the feel of an old author trying, and failing, to capture a teenage voice.

The Summer I Found You – Jolene Perry

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The Summer I Found You follows Kate, a teenage girl who has learnt she has diabetes and is struggling to cope with the pressures it brings to her life. She can’t fathom that her disease will be with her forever. Kate is also struggling following her break-up with her boyfriend.

Aiden is a 19 year old who has returned from an army tour abroad, during which he was involved in a tragic explosion, which leaves his sergeant dead and Aiden with an arm amputated. Aiden is struggling to come to terms with his injury and how it is going to change his life forever. Losing his arm has also meant losing his job, life plan and ability to drive his beloved car.

Kate and Aiden are introduced by Kate’s best friend, who is also Aiden’s cousin. The pair soon grow to be friends though their relationship is anything but plain sailing…

I enjoyed this book, it had the feeling of a light heated summer read yet with darker undertones – Kate’s diabetes and Aiden’s traumatic army experiences. I found it hard to put the book down as I desperately wanted to know what would happen to the characters. Some of the characters seemed almost stereotypical which I always find annoying in books – I think this stems from older authors writing about teenagers.

This book was not the best written book ever, with some awkward almost cliche descriptions, however I was so absorbed in the story, I found it easy to ignore. This also made the book easy to read, which reinforced the idea of a relaxing read.

All in all, I would recommend this book to those wishing to prolong summer (especially in the current winter weather) and relax with a light hearted read.

Stirring Up Trouble – Juli Alexander

The books follows Zoe, a fifteen year old witch, who is talented with potions. However her witchcraft has to be a secret, and whenever she uses a potion for her own personal gain, she suffers some body transfiguration. This means she has to carefully balance school, a social life and her potion experiments.

I really enjoyed this book, I downloaded it on a whim and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.

Zoe was a very likeable character throughout and by the end of the book you empathise with her. Zoe’s best friend, Anya, however was the complete opposite, throughout I struggled to find a single redeeming quality for her, which made her friendship with Zoe somewhat unimaginable. Jason, Anya’s ex, is Zoe’s love interest; He is lovely and it is obvious why Zoe likes him so much.
Zoe’s parents are also great characters, especially her mother. Zoe is very close to her mother, due to their shared witch genes, which is beautifully portrayed in the book – this close relationship is the opposite to many teenage books. However, Zoe’s dad is quite the opposite, he recently sought a divorce, which leaves his relationship with Zoe awkward, however this does change throughout the book. The only problem with this was the almost yo-yo feeling of the relationship – it changed so often.

The plot was almost nonexistent at times, for long stretches of time nothing important seemed to happen, but this gave it the feel of a simple “summer” read. I think this is ultimately why I enjoyed the book so much, it was easy to read which made the reading more enjoyable.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book, especially with those who want a light hearted read to bring back the feeling of summer.

Paper Towns – John Green

Who is the real Margo?

My final John Green book… Having read all of his other books, I knew I had to complete the ‘series’.

Paper Towns is about Quentin “Q” Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman and their unique relationship.

The book begins with a flashback, showing the close friendship, nine year old Quentin and Margo shared, due to them being next door neighbours.

The flashbacks finishes and returns to present day in which Q and Margo have grown distant – they are still next door neighbours but mix with different crowds.

However, this all unexpectedly changes one day when Margo knocks on Q’s window in the middle of the night – the beginning of a life changing adventure. Together they spend the night committing daring deeds and getting revenge.

Q thinks this has changed their relationship and can’t wait to experience the last of his school days with Margo. Yet, the next day, Margo is missing and Q must follow her clues to find her…

This book strongly reminded me of Looking For Alaska however I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The plots were similar and the characters had the same basic traits, however there were also major differences between the two. Margo and Alaska (from Looking For Alaska) are similar personalities and as these were my least favourite characters from both books respectively, this was slightly annoying.

Q was the most likeable character and he was also easy to relate to. Margo was the focus of the novel, and as with all John Green novels, she was highly intelligent and independent, however she was also extremely selfish and self absorbed which annoyed me.

Overall, I really enjoyed Paper Towns however I would have preferred a plot line which differed more from Looking For Alaska. I would recommend the book, especially to those who enjoyed Looking For Alaska. I am glad I have read all of John Green’s books as I enjoyed them all yet I do feel that his later books are the better books.

Looking For Alaska – John Green

Looking for AlaskaFirst friend, first girl, last word

Looking For Alaska revolves around Miles Halter, a teenage boy from Florida with a love of people’s last words. Quiz him on any American president, or a multitude of other famous people, and he will be able to tell you their last words.  Miles decides, for his junior year, to explore the ‘Great Perhaps’ (François Rabelais’ last words) and hence enrolls in Culver Creek boarding school, in another state.

Before the ‘Great Perhaps’, Miles lived a rather solitary life in Florida. However with the new school, Miles also gains a roommate, The Colonel, who becomes Miles’ first real friend, teaching him all about the etiquette and pranks of the school.

The Colonel also introduces Miles to Alaska. Alaska Young is a beautiful, mysterious girl who Miles can’t help but fall in love with. Her intelligence, wit and mood swings all add up to make her fascinating to Miles.

Together Miles, The Colonel, Alaska and their other friends make a fantastic prank team, as is tradition within the school. They regularly break school rules – smoking, drinking and sneaking out

Miles has survived, and enjoyed, the majority of the school year – learning a lot, not just in lessons. However, one tragic events changes all of this. He is left to try and recover his happiness and make it through until the end of the academic year.

I loved this book. Miles was a great character – he was so realistic. His opinions and thoughts are all relatable. On the other hand, Alaska annoyed me, but her character was written to be annoying, she was a self absorbed and confusing character.

John Green’s characters are all intelligent which is my favourite part of his books, the characters are not the stereotypical teenagers which are so common place in the media. In my opinion, he has the correct view regarding teenagers, seeing them more intelligent and mature than many other writers. I believe this is an important factor in John Green’s immense popularity.

The plot begins rather slowly, however this allows readers time to begin to understand and relate to the characters which I feel, retrospectively, is an important element of the book.

The story also features important issues which teenagers face and therefore I feel a lot is to be learnt from this book.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I do feel that other John Green novels are better. Although, I would still recommend this book to all.

I now only have Paper Towns of John Green’s books to read, which saddens me as I find his books so enjoyable. I hope he writes many more books to continue my enjoyment.

Wonder – R. J. Palacio

WonderYou can’t blend in when you were born to stand out…

My name is August. I won’t describe what I like look. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

When I recently attended a Malorie Blackman talk, she recommended this book… and recommendations don’t come much better than that!

I had been meaning to read the book following it’s nomination for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards. When Malorie mentioned it, the audience responded positively which acted as the catalyst to me reading it. I am so glad I did!

Wonder follows August Pullman, an eleven year boy who has ‘lost’ in the genetic lottery. He has a one in four million facial syndrome as a result of which he has suffered through countless operations.

August knows his face marks him as different, although his parents have tried to protect him from the world. However, now they have decided it is time for August, or Auggie, to start school.

After years of homeschooling, August is reluctant to leave his comfort zone. However he is soon persuaded after meeting some of his classmates and touring the school.

The book then follows his journey through the fifth grade. During this year he learns a lot about friendship and life skills as well as the more common place academic knowledge.

The book is written from several characters point of views, however it is clear when the perspective changes. The grammar and writing style subtly changes as well as a title page for each new character – I think this demonstrates the skill of the author. It was really interesting to read the same story from several perspectives as it furthered my understanding of the characters and the plot line. The characters include August’s sister, her boyfriend and August’s friends.

One element of this book I really liked were the Precepts. August’s English teacher has a precept for every month, an inspiring phrase which he uses to encourage and educate his class. He also instructs his pupils to write or find their own precept over the summer holidays, which are then listed in the appendix. I thought this was a really great idea and one which I found very thought provoking. I will definitely be more interested in finding my own Precepts now.

I really enjoyed this book, the subject matter is so unique; I have never read a book similar which furthered my enjoyment. The book was also inspiring, not only was August a character full of determination, courage and kindness, but his friends and family were also inspirational.

This is R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, which I find shocking considering how well the book is written. Surely, with a debut novel as good as this, R.J. Palacio will go on to write many more books – all of which I hope to read.

I recommend this book to everyone – adults and young adults alike. Although the main characters are all children, there is a lot for everyone to learn from August and his story.