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Search tags: read-harder-2017
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review 2017-07-22 16:55
Zodiac
Zodiac - Romina Russell

I'll be honest, I was with this book for about the first three quarters of it. And then it lost me. Actually, I was really enjoying it, despite the typical YA love triangle and a nobody who becomes the last hope of civilization. It's YA, I get it.

(Disclaimer: I LOVE young adult books, but there are those who happen to be coming of age stories but are mature and anyone could love and then there are those that are very specifically written for a teen audience. No judgement, but this is among the second kind.)

Don't get me wrong, the book isn't a total waste. I had originally chosen it for the gorgeous cover and that it's among the few titles with a "Z" in it for Litsy A to Z. It also perfect fit Read Harder's Task 12: Read a fantasy novel. I prefer science fiction over fantasy but this teeters in both so it was going to be a win. It almost was.

For starters, the world building is spectacular and I almost wish they would bring a world this well built to the big screen just so the graphic artists can play in it. I loved the way the cultures differed but were still based on the Zodiac the way that we have it now. I love the way the politics differed based on the cultures. I loved the way the Guardians form a sort of UN or something. Just spectacular.

I didn't mind Rho or her insecurities. Everyone has insecurities and this was obviously going to be a series so she needed to start off in a way that gave her enough room to grow into the powerhouse that is always the endgame for these kinds of books. I didn't mind Mathias and his brooding Edward-like qualities. Of all the Edwardesque characters I've seen over the years, he's my favorite. Even over Edward himself. Yes, I'm refering to Twilight because it makes an easy comparison as most people are still familiar with it. And then there was Hysan, who I thought of as more of a Gale from the Hunger Games. He's gorgeous and accessible and maybe hiding things but probably all wrong for some reason. They were decent characters but not as developed as some other books while not being entirely two dimensional either. Okay, they were close to two dimensional but they peaked into a third dimension that might come about in another book but this was told in the first person so perhaps it's meant to be Rho's point of view that restricts them. Given her title, I can see only anyone wanting to display only one dimension.

Then the plot. It's a little thin and the villain isn't exactly developed by the end but I also get that as an intentional part of the plot. It was in that last quarter though, that I would have thrown the book had it not been audio on my phone.

I don't want to spoil what happens but it irritated me. I still finished because I was too far along and I thought that since so much of the story was so YA that maybe it was a fake out. I felt like it happened just to avoid an awkward or uncomfortable scene that otherwise had to happen. There had to be better ways to get where the author wanted to go. It felt almost lazy to handle it this way.

And then I thought, maybe it is a fake out of a greater magnitude. I realized that this was also not a good enough reason to stick with the series. If it was a longer fake out, I would just be more annoyed when it resolved. So I'm left with this feeling of so much potential and disappointment.

Again, this is a YA book that is actually directed at a YA audience, so maybe they haven't read the umpteen million YA books that I have already and don't feel like this story has been played out. Maybe they'll love it anyway. I probably would have adored this book in my youth when love triangles didn't make me want to gag. The world building is really of a calibur that far outdoes the rest of the book. Most of the plot plays out enjoyable enough to make it worth reading until that moment in the last quarter that pissed me right off. It was going to be a solid three stars until that point. If you look over my rating scale, 3 stars are respectable here. They are still great books. 2 stars aren't common here but it's not entirely bad either. I was just really tweaked by that thing at the end. Maybe some of you will like that about it, but it's about to keep me from finishing the series.

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review 2017-07-22 16:52
The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

To say that Walls had an unusual childhood would be a massive understatement. She didn't have any of the stability with a roof over her head or meals to eat that most children in the US take for granted, but she did have some amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to do things that many of us will never do.

I'd like to say that this is due to that her parents rarely followed the rules (or, you know, laws) and gave her and her siblings even fewer to follow. She was a child of people who had the kind of wandering existence that I've known some to pine for, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

In fact, it seems like it was hardly ever sunshine and rainbows. They'd have long stretches of okay times with fairly regular meals and then periods of near starvation where they had to go through the trash to eat. But their parents did have an odd splendor in the way they dealt with such an extreme level of poverty. They weren't perfect, but Walls manages to tell the story in a way that never quite judges them. They were who they were and she seems to have accepted that, even when it embarrassed her.

There were a few stories I really loved, one of which I am totally keeping in my pocket just in case I'm ever at that point with my own family. There were also lots of points in the story where my heart broke for Walls and her siblings. Some people are well suited to "adulting" and others are not, her parents are just not those people. Their hearts appeared to be in the right places though. Or maybe it's just the way Walls tells the story.

She tells the story as she encountered it, not inserting knowledge from later in life to situations, not guessing what may have been in their minds based on information she had down the road. She doesn't seem to be protecting them either, never shying away from their less attractive traits.

The movie based on her life will be out soon (August 11) and I'm thinking about seeing it, though not in the theater. We don't normally go to the theater for movies we can't take the six year old to. After reading the book, I'm not 100% sure I want to see it, but the cast intrigues me. Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson both have the ability to be heartbreakingly vulnerable about the worst parts of a person and I'm not sure how they're going to portray it. It would be easy for any director with these actors to make it heart-warming or heart-wrenching. I'd be happy with a combination. The book left me with that Good Will Hunting feeling where they went for the heart but it left me with a good feeling overall. I hope the movie does that to.

Have you read the book? Are you planning on watching the movie?

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review 2017-06-12 00:53
Rise of the Rocket Girls
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars - Nathalia Holt

This is one of my Read Harder 2017 books. Its my choice for task #13, a nonfiction book about technology. I had already read Hidden Figures and some anthologies about women scientists, so I knew we were up to more than most would assume back then. I listened to the audio book version from the library, read by Erin Bennet. 

This is one of those covers that do a great job of showing you everything about the book but I still managed to misinterpret it. I had no idea that rockets were going as far as they were so early. It was fascinating to hear about the way the women went from being computers to programming them. It makes the whole process sound so natural. I also greatly appreciated the details on the way these women worked out family and career. I wouldn't have thought it all possible for the timeframe before I started reading more women's stories. 

Overall, the story and narration held my attention but there was something a little off about it. It took me a little while to realize that it was read in a style that was reminiscent of the introductions to for the show The Desperate Housewives. While this wasn't a bad thing, I did constantly feel like I should be expecting some crazy plot twist. 

This is a great books for anyone into herstories, or the history of rockets or space probes. 

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review 2017-06-12 00:48
The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure - Rachel Friedman
This was an unexpected amount of fun. It was one of my Read Harder 2017 picks, my travel memoir for task #8. It turns out that this was a perfect option for me. Friedman experience some different cultures, goes to some crazy places and even lives there a while but she does not get all judgey about the way people live or lose sight of where she has come from and the luxuries she enjoys.

That said, these travels of hers also take her on a bit of an internal journey. This I also appreciated. I know that some people do manage to go places and stay absolutely unchanged by them, but I relate more to Friedman on this account. Traveling changes me too. Its not so much learning about others but getting the opportunity to live in another community that looks at the world a little differently. Its hard for it to not rub off a little on me. Its hard to explain.

The point here is that Friedman recognizes this. She recognizes and relates well the value of getting outside our own communities for a while and seeing what else is out there. She's not quite trying to find herself, but I feel like that's the real journey here.

I am jealous of all the places Friedman goes. I am fairly well traveled but I haven't been to any of the countries Friedman goes to in this book. They're all on my list of places I dream of going. On the other hand, her description of the backpacker/hostel life assures me that this is not the way for me to travel. Backpacking maybe, hostels definitely not. Then again, I'm married with a little kid now. We're working on an elongated summer concept around the US to hit all 50 states one day. That's more doable in the short term.

Altogether, I really loved it. Friedman's style of writing was fun and engaging and her travels were interesting.
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