Review: How to Say Goodbye in Robot

How to Say Goodbye in Robot
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got goosebumps reading the dust jacket synopsis.

What does it mean to be a friend? To have one?

Ghost Boy and Robot Girl take each other through the last year of high school, the last year of dependence on their parents — Though neither has been able to actually depend on his or her parents for a while. Each one serves as a floatation device for the other as they decide who they might be, struggle to find joy. In the end, though, a friend can’t determine the course of one’s life; Ghost Boy and Robot Girl must decide for themselves whether to sink or swim.

Moving, sad, completely believable.

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Review: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot

Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot
Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a little tricky for me as an audiobook. Not being truly familiar with Russian history, geography, philosophy, art, politics, or language, there were so many places where I backtracked so I could really hear what Gessen was telling the reader. Eventually, I acknowledged that there were too many details I was too un-schooled to pick up on, and decided to go for the big picture.

Basically, Russia is HUGE. It’s cold. People are protesting the abuses of the Putin government, and they are not at all surprised when they are arrested under the slimmest of charges. The Russian judicial system and its prisons are as bad as they seemed in any Russian novel you may have read in translation back in high school. As defendants, the members of Pussy Riot were kept in actual glass cages, separate from the courtroom. They couldn’t always hear what was going on. They were kept from meeting with their lawyers. They were stopped from asking questions to fully understand the charges, and they were not allowed to speak up for themselves.

Only 3 stars for my experience here. A smarter reader will certainly give more, as I may after I watch Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer.

P.S. The reader of the audiobook was very good. However, the kid was interested in the politics and the punk aspect, but I stopped listening while we were together b/c the swearing was really rank in places. It didn’t bother me on my own, but it is not for family listening.

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Review: Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonder is a wonder. August’s family is wonder-ful. They aren’t perfect, they’ve made mistakes but, they love him and one another. And they want him to have a full life in the wider world,even though it means facing more people who have to adjust to the shock of his physical appearance.

If you went to middle school, you know it isn’t most people’s favorite time of their lives. It’s awkward, scary, and isolating for most of us. As life gets better, we tend to forget. Then, you have kids, and oh, yeah, it’s a weird time for them, too. If only we could leap into being comfortable in our bodies and personalities and friendships and strengths without going through middle school!

Palacio writes about these things through the eyes of several kids. I enjoyed each of their perspectives. I loved the reminder that there’s always more than one side to a story — We should allow people to share their side and maybe we’ll understand their actions.

Of course, Palacio has given us a touching story with a happy ending. It’s not realistic. It is hopeful. Why not write stories of how we wish things could be, show a way that we can work towards?

As Mr. Tushman summed up in his graduation speech at the end, this book is about courage and kindness. Wake up every day, try to be kind. If you fall short, be brave enough to try to do better tomorrow.

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Review: iWoz

iWoz by Steve Wozniak
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I know this one’s been out for a while — We recently watched the Steve Jobs movie. Sadly, it focused on what a schmuck Jobs appears to have been. I was hoping to learn more about the development of the personal computer and of apple as a company. Maybe this book does that? Wozniak looks happy in all the pictures.

Reluctantly, I have to agree with reviewers who put the book down because it is written so badly. Truly. It reads as though someone wrote down Wozniak’s casual conversation. I wish the second writer had added in historical context and other details. I almost gave up!

But then, around page 100, it gets better! I think it is because Wozniak is writing about times that were very exciting for him. He begins to use place names, dates, the names of the other people involved, and speaks with more detail about the projects he worked on.

I’m not an engineer; there are readers who have said that his claims about his own inventions and firsts are not true. It would have been great, again, if Gina Smith had rounded out the book with contemporary happenings in electronics and computer engineering.

Those were exciting times, though! The best part of the book is when Wozniak talks about using a slide rule, and how revolutionary it was when HP came out with its first home-use calculator. I remember: my dad worked for Grumman in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One Chanukah (and it must have been before 1973, because my parents were still married), he gave our mom a calculator. It was a very nice gift and, as we were told, it was “not a toy.”

And, then! Did you know Wozniak was the creator of the Atari Breakout game? My best friend had an Atari system in the 70s and I remember playing Pong and Breakout and oh! how much fun it was! It was worth reading the book for these thrilling moments of nostalgia.

So, I want give this more stars (maybe 2.5) because I did learn some of what I set out to learn. And, I kinda like the Woz. He’s a little bit charming, a little bit annoying (much like the glossary in the back of this book.) I do think that I need to be deliberate and choose a well-crafted story for my next read.

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