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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Books I've Read: July 2014

My pile of "books" read this month.  I would guess next month's stack will include some actual paper books, but this month was all electronic.

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd.  I used to follow the blog this book is based on, but I stopped reading it after awhile because, while I love the general concepts of a zero waste home and life, the actual content was things like appetizers made with pate and capers, and a lot of resources that are available in southern California, but not near me. The book was pretty similar.

I liked that each chapter had a list of the steps you could take based off of the 5 Rs (refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling, and rotting), and most chapters also had alphabetical lists of suggestions for steps you could take.  The book is good at inspiring a mindset of wasting less, and working to find alternatives, but not necessarily great at the specifics that will work for everyone.

"Natural resources are running out, but we buy petroleum-based products. The economy is weak, but we indulge in foreign products. Our general health is declining, but we fuel our bodies with processed foods and bring toxic products into our homes. What we consume directly affects our environment, our economy, and our health, by supporting specific manufacturing practices and creating a demand to make more."

Wither by Lauren DeStefano. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd, in one three-and-a-half hour interrupted chunk one day. I was ready to read a good dystopian work of fiction that would be fast-paced and different from the non-fiction that I had been reading. This was that mostly. It got a little slow at points, but I did wonder how it would turn out so I kept going.

I like the main character, Rhine. She kind of reminds me of Katniss in The Hunger Games, coming from a challenging life, being thrown into a world she doesn't like but also has very conflicting feelings about after awhile.  (Mild spoilers) I want to like Gabriel and the romance they're trying to create between the two of them, but it feels a little forced right now. Maybe as they continue to spend more time together it will feel more natural?

The one beef I had with this story was that the crisis of people dying at a young age from genetic mutations was never really explained. Science came up with an answer to cure cancer and deformities, but then everyone in the next generation started dying young. My hope was that the next two books would help with that (they didn't really). Overall this was a good light read, and I was able to get through it quickly, which I like from my fiction

Fever by Lauren DeStefano. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd, another one in one afternoon.  I really didn't enjoy this one. I get that it was the middle book in the trilogy, but it was such a downer. Even the few triumphs the characters had were immediately cancelled out by about five more challenges.

The other part that bothered me was that in the first book, Rhine was set up to be this strong female heroine, and in this one, she got dumb. In the first book, she was strategic and had a plan for everything, and in this one, she spent the entire time reacting to things that happened to her because she didn't consider them beforehand.

Sever by Lauren DeStefano. I read this book on my Kindle (and I actually paid for it so I could finish the trilogy!). This book was a big meh. I was hoping things would pick up after the second book, and they did, kind of, but everything resolved just a bit too perfectly, without characters even questioning things as much as they should have. They just accepted things that didn't make sense for them to accept based on what they had believed for the rest of the series.  I kept waiting for some big plot twist, or some startling turn of events, and there really wasn't anything.

Overall, the trilogy started out as an interesting concept, but I don't know that the author fleshed it out as much as she could have, and the characters were inconsistent. Definitely not my favorite, but an easy enough read to pass the time.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd (can you tell I'm really trying to take advantage of this free trial?).  This is the first of a four-book series, another dystopian future one.  This time around everyone gets an operation at 16 years old to change them from "ugly" (i.e. normally flawed) to "pretty" (evolutionarily desirable).  This one focused on Tally right before her 16th birthday, and the group of rebels who don't want to be pretty.  This is another interesting concept.  How do these authors come up with these? I also appreciated that he went into detail about how some oil-mutating virus spread and made all petroleum products explode when they came into contact with oxygen.  Cool!

I didn't necessarily relate to Tally all that much, because, go figure, at 15 she's a little immature.  I'm old.  I was interested to see what happened next, and the author did a good job of keeping things moving most of the time.  Most of the characters are well-thought-out.  I didn't necessarily like or relate to them, but they were consistent and fit in the story, so that's better than some other books I've read.  Overall, the book was a decent read and I wanted to know what would happen next.  All four books were available on Scribd when I signed up, so this was another series to fly through quickly.

Pretties by Scott Westerfield. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd.  This was the sequel to Uglies, and it moved the story along.  I don't know, it wasn't as exciting as the first one.  And the pretties...they're just dumb.  They speak dumbly. They act dumbly.  And since most of the story was focused on pretties, there was a lot of dumb to get past to get to the plot points.  If you couldn't tell even from the books in this post, I usually don't enjoy middle books of trilogies/short series like this.  They seem like they lean too much on the surrounding stories and aren't strong on their own.  On to the next...

Specials by Scott Westerfield.  I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd.  This was better than Pretties, although this series as a whole has not been as strong as some of the others I've read in a similar style.  It wrapped things up nicely, so I think the fourth book was not originally planned? I like that the author took Tally through the different categories of people, and I felt bad for her, because it seemed like any time she tried to fix something it backfired.  I didn't exactly like her though, and I got really annoyed by the character Shay, so that maybe made it harder to read these books.  I was curious to see if the fourth book would tie in the characters from the first three though, so I read that one too...

Extras by Scott Westerfield. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd.  This felt like a completely different story than the first three (I think it may have been an addition to the original trilogy, but I'm too lazy to go find out).  Some familiar characters eventually showed up about halfway through, but I didn't really like or connect to any of the new characters, so this was definitely a slower read than the first three.

Overall, I wasn't the biggest fan of this series.  I think the basic ideas were really cool, and I liked that some explanation was given for what happened, but I didn't really like any of the characters, and that makes it harder to get through a story.  That being said, I think this series would make an awesome summer teen movie.  There's plenty of action and opportunity for special effects, and the "pretties" part means plenty of opportunity for attractive teenagers.

Book Total for this month: 8 books read.  Total this year: 13 books read.

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