Tag Archives: guy reads

Learning to Swear in America – the (possible) destruction of Earth has never been so charming and funny

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Learning to Swear in America – the (possible) destruction of Earth has never been so charming and funny

Sheldon Cooper, move over because Yuri Strelnikov just took your place as the most loveable, socially awkward scientist in my heart.  I love him for his brain and his ineptitude with articles and for his ego and his shortcomings.  And I think he is about to take the YA Geek nation by storm.  The book wasn’t too bad either.  I gave this funny, heartfelt read five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize–if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri’s 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

My Thoughts

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the blurb for Learning to Swear in America, but the mix of humor, real life awkwardness and one bad A of an Asteroid is a winning combination.  Themes about perspective and what it means to grow up (or down) add depth to the tale, but the real reason you pick this book up and read it straight through is because it will make you laugh.  If you’ve ever felt lonely or like the only person who doesn’t get a joke, you are going to connect with this odd-ball cast of characters in their certain death scenario.  I can’t wait to get this book in my classroom library because it is the perfect read for so many of my guy readers who hate the sports books that are always thrust in their direction, but the jocks and the fairytale girls, and the romance-only gals are going to enjoy it as well if they give it a chance (not because it has those things in it but because it is generally awesome).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, though adult readers of YA will be just as enchanted.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Jeff Hirsch’s Black River Falls – Memories can be a blessing or a curse

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Jeff Hirsch’s Black River Falls – Memories can be a blessing or a curse

Jeff Hirsch has a knack for engaging middle and high school readers (and some adults, too) with his post-apocalyptic scenarios and believable characters.  Black River Falls is no exception.  If the memory stealing virus doesn’t grab you, the tale of Cardinal and his family will.

Black River Falls publishes Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories. He chooses to remain in the quarantined zone, caring for a group of orphaned kids in a mountain camp with the help of the former brutal school bully, now transformed by the virus into his best friend. But then a strong-willed and mysterious young woman appears, and the closed-off world Cardinal has created begins to crumble.

A thrilling, fast-paced work of speculative fiction for teens, from a bestselling author, Black River Falls is an unforgettable story about survival, identity, and family.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book, and I think lots of YA readers will as well.  Cardinal, the narrator is easy to connect with, and the slow unfolding of his past is perfectly paced to maintain interest.  There is a lot of tension, sometimes warranted, and sometimes not, throughout the story, which made the turns of the plot hard to predict.  The entire premise was fascinating, particularly the subplot that brought in the comic books that Cardinal’s father created.  It paralleled nicely with his own struggle to be a hero, and I liked the way that sometimes his journey went into the gray areas.  It was his faults and failures that made him feel like a real person and not just a character.  I did struggle a bit with the transitions between scenes – there was a bit too much of Cardinal suddenly finding himself somewhere, and sometimes the action was a bit blurry, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.  I think my guy readers will find this story very engaging, but themes about memories and forgetting and the way those things shape us add some depth that means a wide audience can appreciate this story.  It’s definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Steven James’ Curse wraps up the Blur Trilogy

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Steven James’ Curse wraps up the Blur Trilogy

There were lots of things that drew me to Steven James’ Blur series. The main character is an athelete, but the books aren’t about sports – they are mysteries.  He has some pretty frightening encounters with spirits, and the living antagonists are believable threats.  I included both Blur and Fury in my classroom library, and they have gained some following, especially among my guy readers.  I wasn’t as impressed with the direction that Curse took, but it was an action packed conclusion to the series.

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Goodreads Summary

Don’t miss this intriguing and climactic conclusion to the Blur Trilogy.

As Daniel Byers prepares to attend a basketball camp before his senior year of high school, the terrifying blurs that’ve plagued him for the last nine months return.
Dark images begin to haunt him—creatures crawling from the deepest pits of his nightmares, glimmers of chilling memories from his early childhood. But before he can unearth the meaning behind his mysterious hallucinations, Daniel must team up with two other extraordinary teens to save a young woman who has been abducted by a scientist obsessed with enacting his own warped form of justice.

This atmospheric mystery picks up where Fury left off and takes readers into the uncharted regions where reality and madness intertwine.

My Thoughts

Not my favorite book in the series, but I think that if you read the first two books, you will want to read this one because it does offer some closure to the big questions posed by the first two books.  There is plenty of action and danger for both Daniel and his friends (both old and new) in this book, and the suspense is sustained right until the end.  My biggest gripe is that the book takes Daniel out of his hometown and effectively skirts the real issues he needed to resolve with his mother.  I am also always annoyed when new characters are added at the end of a series.  I didn’t care about them, and the mystery really relied more heavily on their abilities – Daniel didn’t feel as pivotal.  I also struggled to think that Daniel’s parents would let him travel halfway across America with a bunch of other 16 or 17 year olds, and I had a harder time believing his father wouldn’t have extracted him from the obviously dangerous situation, no matter what the cost would be to someone else.  Hey, ghosts I can accept, but irresponsible parenting from Daniel’s dad – not so much.  Regardless of my thoughts on the book, I have several of my high school readers invested in this series, so I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  I actually think they will find it exciting and a nice bit of closure to the series, more so than I did.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The End of Fun by Sean McGinty was kind of fun, but it was also stressful

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The End of Fun by Sean McGinty was kind of fun, but it was also stressful

To be honest, this book kind of wore me out.  I’m not sure if it was just the challenge of dealing with a narrator who has the judgement of a three year old or if it was the format, which required a lot of product placement.  Both of those elements are essential to the humor and the strong narrative voice in the story, though, and are actually what I think many YA readers will find appealing.

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Goodreads Summary

Everyday reality is a drag™.

FUN®—the latest in augmented reality—is fun (yay!) but it’s also frustrating, glitchy and dangerously addictive (boo!). Just when everyone else is getting on, seventeen-year-old Aaron O’Faolain wants off.

But first, he has to complete his Application for Termination, and in order to do that he has to deal with his History—not to mention the present, including his grandfather’s suicide and a series of clues that may (or may not) lead to buried treasure. As he attempts to unravel the mystery, Aaron is sidetracked again…and again. Shadowed by his virtual “best friend” Homie, Aaron struggles with love, loss, dog bites, werewolf pills, community theater, wild horses, wildfires and the fact (deep breath) that actual reality can sometimes surprise you.

Sean McGinty’s strikingly profound and laugh-out-loud funny debut unearths a world that is eerily familiar, yet utterly original. Discover what it means to come to the end of fun.

My Thoughts

Aaron is an impulsive idiot, but he is trying to move in the right direction, and his attempts at taking charge of his own fate are often disastrous and hilarious.  I liked him, but I felt like he needed a babysitter.  As far as the cast of supporting characters went, they were just as likeable, if often as misguided as Aaron.  If you are looking for a book to make you laugh, this is probably a good choice.  But I, of course, want something more than just laughs, so I was disappointed that the satire of the story was so subtle.  My initial impression was that this book was going to push at issues of technology and the environment, but, by the end, I was confused  about what the message really was.  Okay, I’m pretty sure the message was that humans suck and only really care about their own happiness and entertainment, even when they know it comes at a great cost.  That might be more disturbing than the thought that the author just lost the thread.  Either way, I wasn’t quite satisfied that Aaron didn’t take some action, and I’m not talking about some huge action, which would have been out of character.  A verbal warning about the apparent negatives of Fun! to his nearest and dearest would have satisfied me.  While I’m not sure my high school students will be able to articulate the issue, I do think the book will provoke some discussion, and that is always a good thing.  Overall, this wasn’t my cup of tea, but I can see many of my readers, guys especially, enjoying it.  Language and situations are most appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

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Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

Great Falls is an intense read that had me from the first lines.  I think that it is our responsibility to see the toll war takes on our soldiers, and this book does that in such a remarkable way and through such an engaging and perceptive perspective  I gave Great Falls five stars because it is a book that handles tough issues with a deft and subtle hand and the story has an appeal that transcends age and gender.  Fans of books like The Things We Carried and Chris Lynch’s YA Vietnam series will be particularly happy with this read.

The ebook is available now, but the hardback is not on sale until April 26, 2016.

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Goodreads Summary

One brother home from war. The other desperate to save him. A gripping journey together to the river’s end.

Shane has always worshiped his big brother, Jeremy. But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children. When Jeremy shows up after Shane’s football game and offers to take him to the family cabin overnight, Shane goes along — both to get away from a humiliation on the field and to keep an eye on Jeremy, who’s AWOL from his job at Quantico and seems to have a shorter fuse than ever. But as the camping trip turns into a days-long canoe trip down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Shane realizes he’s in way over his head — and has no idea how to persuade Jeremy to return home and get the help he needs before it’s too late. In a novel at once gripping and heartbreaking, Steve Watkins offers a stark exploration of the unseen injuries left by war.

My Thoughts

This powerful read is exactly what I look for in a book for my classroom library.  It is engaging as it is meaningful.  I only meant to peruse the first chapter, but the next thing I knew, it was reading the acknowledgements.  Shane is an easy narrator to connect with, and the feeling of powerlessness he exudes is palpable and understandable.  So is the tension.  Shane is desperate to help his brother but the delicate shift and balance is continual, and that makes even the most mundane interactions gripping.  The journey they take together is unexpected and at times hard, but it is a journey I can’t regret taking with them.  I cared about these characters, and I think other readers will as well.  This book is certain to appeal to many of my high school students, particularly the guys, so it is definitely going on my classroom library wishlist.  There is some language, but nothing that would stop me from recommending it to grades 9+.  Adult readers will find it just as engaging.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Disruption by Steven Whibley – start your summer reading with an adrenaline fueled YA espionage adventure (and repeated explosions)

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Disruption by Steven Whibley – start your summer reading with an adrenaline fueled YA espionage adventure (and repeated explosions)

So, you’ve already read all of the Alex Rider books and you even picked up Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick based on my glowing recommendation.  Now, you find yourself bored, with adrenaline to spare, and you can’t find anything remotely interesting.  Never fear.  I have your next book!  Disruption by Steven Whibley is exactly what you have been looking for.  Action packed and as funny as a cabin full of psychopathic teens can ever be, this book will undoubtedly hold your attention.  Fast paced, action packed and full of explosions, combat, and a little bit of bumbling luck, this book will keep you guessing and keep you reading.  

  
Goodreads Summary

At fourteen, Matt Cambridge has executed so many pranks – the latest nearly destroying his school – that his parents are out of discipline options. So his father pulls a few questionable strings to get his son into Camp Friendship: A camp that promises to strengthen the moral compass of today’s youth. With a name like Camp Friendship Matt imagines three punishing weeks of daisy chains and Kumbayas.

Within minutes of arriving at the camp, however, Matt’s nearly killed–twice. It doesn’t take long for him to realize there’s more to this picture-perfect place than meets the eye. What sort of summer camp has programs in forging passports? Why do they have endless fight training, and weapons drills, and what is with the hidden rooms? Matt wonders if his parents realize they’ve enrolled him in what seems to be some kind of freakish, elite spy school.

What Matt doesn’t yet know – and is soon to find out – is that Camp Friendship’s ultimate purpose is far more sinister than he could possibly have imagined. With each dot he connects, he begins to understand that in the end he’ll be left with two choices: pull the prank of a lifetime to escape this place…or die trying. 

My Thoughts

The summary doesn’t really do this one justice.  Sure, Matt starts out acting like a bratty fourteen year old, but he reads like a real YA as he quickly has to mature to acclimate to this dangerous setting.  I thought he would skew a lot younger than he did, but I’m delighted to say he is a narrative voice that will appeal to YA readers in high school and beyond. He actually is a moral compass in the extreme world of Camp Friendship, and this seems to be what allows the best parts of him to balance out the juvenile glee he gets from causing mayhem.  Secondly, this summary fails to really get the point across that Camp Friendship is no game, and the “pranks” they keep referencing?  They go well beyond setting off a cherry bomb in a toilet.  This place is deadly, and Matt is only surviving because of dumb luck (until he isn’t).  Fast paced and absolutely full of action, weapons, and a unique take on camp activities (read: lessons on withstanding interrogation and torture), this book has little time for lulls or boredom.  If you like high octane action and a little humor in your spy stories, this is definitely the book for you.  I gave it five stars because it exceeded my expectations for this genre.  It is also only $3.99 for your kindle ($0 if you have kindle unlimited).  It is appropriate for grades 7+, but it does have a lot of violence.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.