At Risk by Patricia Cornwell

A Massachusetts State Police investigator, Win Garano, is called from the National Forensic Academy in Tennessee by his boss, the District Attorney, Monique Lamont. She is running for governor and she plans to use a new crime initiative called ‘At Risk’ to employ new DNA technology so she sends Garano to Tennessee to work a twenty-year-old unsolved murder. Although he doesn’t want to work the case, he must obey her, so he starts the investigation, but, while carrying it out , a shocking violent act intervenes.

The characters draw you in from the beginning although they are one-dimensional, so, since you can’t get enough information about them, it is difficult to connect emotionally with them.

This novel is a whodunit written in present tense, what makes you feel part of it, and in a style accessible to any reader with quite plain language, despite being a crime book, because it doesn’t go into the facts in too much depth. In fact, the story is underdeveloped, the plot is sketchy, it doesn’t flow together, and nothing is fully explained. Therefore, this plot, intriguing but easy to lose the thread of it, requires all one’s powers of concentration.

That style is what really hooked me; I kept reading the book in order to know what happened. I couldn’t put it down. In my opinion, the novel starts well, keeping you in suspense at the beginning, but then, just as the plot and suspense are rising, you start the new chapter and find out that the detectives have it all solved so you think you have missed some crucial paragraph somehow. And, finally, the novel is finished suddenly as though the writer had a deadline so, when I got to the end, I realized that some of the facts were still unknown and I wasn’t really sure about what had happened. I suppose the reason of this bizarre end is that the writer had already planned to write the second part, entitled ‘The Front’.

To sum up, as far as I am concerned, the book is readable, albeit not as good as other Patricia Cornwell’s thrillers.

Natalia Garcia

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The Tower of Pisa

Archivo:Leaning Tower of Pisa.jpgThe Tower of Pisa, belfry of the cathedral of Pisa, is one of Italy’s best known and most photographed monuments. In fact, it is considered one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Although built to stand vertically, the tower began leaning soon being built in 1173 due to weak foundations and unstable subsoil. That is why it is called the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The architectural style of the Tower mixes the Gothic elements of the belfry with the Romanesque style of the tower.

The Tower is made of white marble. It is over 15 metres round and 56 metres high and its weight is estimated at 14,500 tons. It has eight floors with an inside spiral staircase of 294 steps and it is well-known for its seven bells, one for each note of the musical scale.

It took near 200 years to build this tower, finished in 1372. Although the architects tried to counteract the inclination, it is still leaning nowadays, but because of the restoration made between 1990 and 2001, the tower now leans at an angle of 3.9 degrees instead of the former 5.5 degrees.

One of the most remarkable things related to the tower, apart from its inclination, is that Galileo Galilei is thought to have dropped two cannon balls of different mass from the tower to demonstrate that the speed at which any object falls was independent of the mass.

When I visited Pisa, I was stunned watching the Tower which did not fall despite its leaning and I took the typical photo everybody takes in which it seems you are holding it.

Natalia

The strange wish of a princess

Once upon a time there was a young princess who wanted to be independent. She was different from other princesses of those days, she wanted to study and get a job and she didn’t want to obey her father who wanted her to marry a rich prince instead of studying or working. She was a feminist princess so she thought she had to live by her own without depending on a man, but her father was very strict.

One day she went for a walk in the forest and suddenly she found a strange well in the middle of the path. She discovered soon it was a wishing well and she asked it for her dream of having freedom and living alone.

Nothing happened at that moment so the princess left minutes later and she went back home. But, when se was in bed at night, something strange happened: the carpet started to fly. It was a magic carpet! She thought she was lucky, she could use the carpet to fly away from home. But then she realised she couldn’t live without a job.

Some days later, she saw an interesting job advertisement on the newspaper. She could earn a lot of money in spite of not having a degree but there was a problem: she had to move to London. She had the magic carpet to travel but she couldn’t speak English well and she couldn’t tell her father she wanted to attend English classes. Then she had an idea: she could use the game machine The Three Wise Men had given her at Christmas, the Nintendo DS, to learn English with the English training game.

That was the solution. She learnt English, she travelled by carpet to London and she got the job and now she is a happy independent girl.

09nataliagarcia

Martin Cooper, inventor of the first mobile phone

Martin Marty Cooper, eighty-one, is considered to be the father of the mobile phone and the first who made a call with it.

This inventor was an engineer of the Motorola team and he had designed car phones before thinking about a phone you could take with you. It was in 1972 when he designed the first prototype of portable phone. One year later, on the third of April, he tried his invention making a call from a street in New York. The recipient of this call is supposed to have been Joel Engel, head of research in Bell Labs, a company which was one of the competitors of Motorola. Cooper only wanted to show Joel that his revolutionary invention worked.

Some years later, Cooper revealed in an interview where the idea of developing a mobile phone came from. He said that he had been inspired by the series Star Trek, watching Captain Kirk using his communicator.

Martin Cooper has got several prizes for his technological innovations in the communication area. The most recent one was the Prince of Asturias for scientific and technical research, awarded in 2009 and shared with Ray Tomlinson, inventor of the electronic mail.

Although the cell phone designed by Cooper at first was heavier and bigger than current ones, so not very easy to carry, after several improvements we have now a very handy communication tool which could not be imagined at the beginning as such a successful device.

by Natalia