This Week, I Read… (#14)

33 - The Dragons of Eden

#33 – The Dragons of Eden, by Carl Sagan

  • Read: 3/28/16 – 4/2/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Challenge: BookRiot Read Harder 2016
  • Task: A nonfiction book about science
  • Rating 4/5 stars

The only reason this doesn’t get five stars is that I already knew half of it. My undergraduate degree is in biology, and this was published almost forty years ago, in 1977. A lot of it that was revolutionary at the time is basically accepted now, and the science has progressed.

But one wouldn’t read a Sagan book as a textbook–I certainly don’t. His genius is interdisciplinary–his works, including my beloved Cosmos, are staggering in how they can draw on so many things to synthesize new ideas, to recognize underlying patterns.

Before I dove into this, I peeked at the reviews on Goodreads, and one of the questions posed there was if this book was still worth reading so long after its publication. And I agree with nearly everyone who commented, in that I think it is. Not only is the subject fascinating–I mean, how do our brains really work, anyway?–but Sagan’s distinctive voice is just as captivating in print as it was on television.  I could hear his dry humor coming through, and some of his witty observations definitely made me laugh.

34 - An Italian Adventure

#34 – An Italian Adventure, by Gaia B. Amman

I’m pretty torn about this one. There’s lots of good, but plenty of bad.

I loved the emotion behind this story, the growing pains of a girl who, for a while, refuses to see herself as a girl. Leda struggles with a lot of moving, poignant issues, and she’s a tomboy heroine with a lot of potential.

But she has too many friends. Or, at least, in the story, she does.

I dove into the beginning and found myself getting to know the gang. And then, school’s out, they all go their separate ways over summer break, and suddenly Leda’s got a younger set of friends, the kids who she’s hanging out with (it seems) just because her other friends aren’t available.

And then there’s the kids she meets on vacation.

After a while, they all blend together. Nico is the only one to really stand out to me, because he gets the most development time, and in a lot of ways he’s Leda’s mirror.

But once you add Leda’s extended family, and all the adults they know who pop up as the story progresses, it’s a confusion of characters. It isn’t so much a matter of keeping straight who’s who, as it is wondering if this new character is just here for the chapter, or if it’s someone we’re actually going to see again later.

The other issue I had which adds to the disjointed feeling is the melodramatic chapter endings. I realize kids embellish things, but it seemed like every chapter ended with some new proclamation of doom, that Leda had no idea what she was getting into, that the worst was yet to come. Instead of having a cohesive flow, it began to feel like a long string of “And then this crazy thing happened!”

All that being said, I did enjoy the book. I’m not sure yet if I’ll keep reading the series, though I am curious to see how little Leda grows up.

 

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