Tag Archives: in our library

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

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The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye is one book I’ve been meaning to read for a while now, and when I saw it was on sale on Amazon for $1.99, I grabbed it up.  It tackles a tough topic, teen suicide, but I found it wasn’t as depressing as I expected.  This is really a book about healing and forgiveness, and I think there is a message for everyone who takes the time to read it.  Fans of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places will be particularly interested.

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Goodreads Summary

There’s death all around us.

We just don’t pay attention.

Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.

My Thoughts

I liked this book a lot.  Lex’s narrative voice is honest and easy to connect with, even if you’ve never experienced tragedy on the scale she has.  When she talks about the distance she has created from her friends and the concern she has about moving on but leaving her mother behind, it is easy to see the universal appeal in this work.  I was intrigued by the addition of her brother’s ghost into the story – it’s pretty hard to incorporate a spirit into an otherwise straight read, and I thought it was done exceptionally well here.  Real or delusion, he wasn’t a static character, either, and that made a huge difference.  I liked the fact that the story moved between the present and Lex’s childhood memories, which is really what allowed him to become something more than just a concept.  I was relieved that the bulk of the book was about Lex finding her way out of her mire.  I kept waiting for the inevitable romance, but this book really didn’t cheapen either Lex’s experience or her emotions by trying to give her heart a distraction when she needed it the least.  In the end, this was a cathartic read – I cried and laughed and felt at peace when I finished. Language and situations are appropriate from grades 14+.

This book is in our classroom library.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals – the best dollar I’ve spent in a long, long time.

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Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals – the best dollar I’ve spent in a long, long time.

I get a lot of books from publishers in exchange for review, but that doesn’t stop me from browsing.  When I saw that a book from the same author as The Fixer , and noticed it was only 99 cents today, I went into high alert. The blurb sounded like a go, and the price was unbelievably right, so I bought it before I even sampled it.  I’m so glad I did.  Think Criminal Minds, and add in a little teen angst, and you’ve got yourself a YA read that, while a bit unbelievable, is compelling and entertaining.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

My Thoughts

I thought this was a very engaging book with enough suspense and suspects to keep me guessing.  Right up until the big reveal, I kept changing my mind.  That speaks well for this suspense/mystery/thriller because that doesn’t happen very often in a head so full of plots and predictions.  I liked the characters, who represented a variety of personality types with their white, black, and gray sides.  I liked the concept.  No,  I didn’t really believe the concept could happen, but I was able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride.  The plot moved quickly and there were no noticeable lulls, but there were some sketchy relationships.  That might be due to the fact that these kids are all suppose to be masters of deception and detection and thus made themselves really hard to read, or it might be the fact that I smelled a more than awkward love rectangle early in the game.  I honestly wasn’t bothered by the Anita Blake/Stephanie Plum they are going to pass each other around relationship set-up, but I would have enjoyed a more clear-cut romance.  Don’t want to write it myself, though, so I’ll take what I can get.  I particularly appreciated the fact that Cassie wasn’t forced to join the team and we didn’t have to listen to her sullen resentment – it is a breath of fresh air in the YA genre.  She did pull some tern pouting when she didn’t get her way, but nothing on the scale I expected.  Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I think my high school readers will as well, particularly those who enjoy watching Criminal Minds or just interesting if implausible teens hunting murders read.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school, but as an adult reader of YA, I got a kick out of it as well.

This book is available in the MHS library.

LINK by Summer Wier – YA SciFi that will take you to the stars and back

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LINK by Summer Wier – YA SciFi that will take you to the stars and back

I spent many years looking at the stars and, at one point, I wanted desperately to become an astronaut (Thanks, Space Camp).  Years of abysmal grades in math and science grounded that dream, but I can always enjoy books set in or around the stars.  LINK by Summer Wier is definitely a book steeped in starlight and wishes, but I just didn’t connect with this read.  Perhaps you will have better luck because my two star review does look a little suspect amid all the great four and five star reviews it received on Goodreads.  I will say that the author has generously donated a copy of the book and a nice stack of beautifully designed bookmarks to our classroom library, even after she saw my honest review, so I might not have loved the book, but I’m a huge fan of Summer Wier.

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This picture in no way prepares you for how beautiful this cover is in person. It is really gorgeous IRL.

Goodreads Summary

For seventeen-year-old Kira, there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than being surrounded by friends and huddled beside a campfire deep in the woods. And with a birthday in the peak of summer, that includes late night swims under the stars.

Or at least, it used to.

Kira’s relaxing contemplation of the universe is interrupted when a piece of it falls, colliding with her and starting a chain of events that could unexpectedly lead to the one thing in her life that’s missing—her father.

Tossed into a pieced-together world of carnivals and gypsies, an old-fashioned farmhouse, and the alluring presence of a boy from another planet, Kira discovers she’s been transported to the center of a black hole, and there’s more to the story than science can explain. She’s now linked by starlight to the world inside the darkness. And her star is dying.

If she doesn’t return home before the star’s light disappears and her link breaks, she’ll be trapped forever. But she’s not the only one ensnared, and with time running out, she’ll have to find a way to save a part of her past and a part of her future, or risk losing everything she loves.

Dreamy, fluid, and beautiful, Link pairs the mystery of science fiction with the minor-key melody of a dark fantasy, creating a tale that is as human as it is out of this world.

My Thoughts

This isn’t a terrible book.  It was creative and had a unique plot that I definitely was not able to predict.  There are a few revelations that I found really surprising and cool.  At the same time, it was a book I struggled to finish.  The pacing is far too rushed to create believable relationships, and that is a problem in a book that is focused on a love triangle.  While one romantic interest is an established person in the protagonist’s life, the second comes out of nowhere and creates an insta-love scenario that will leave most readers dissatisfied.  The dialogue is also a problem.  The conversations rang false, and the banter felt corny and flat.  Finally, no one feels like a real, nuanced character.  The good guys and the bad guys are black and white, with none of the gray areas real people have.  They just never came alive for me.

I also found the whole concept too esoteric.  I honestly have no idea where the plot is or will be going.  There are stars. There are black holes. There are some people who want to control the power of these two forces, but I don’t have a clue why.  I have no idea why there is a carnival involved. Or ponies.  (Not that those are bad things. I really like carnivals and ponies.  These just didn’t fit the context for me.  That might be the point, though.)  Overall, I just struggled, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

This book is in our classroom library because Summer Wier is an awesome person.  I sincerely hope you read it, love it, and tell me I’m a fool for not recognizing her genius!

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

 

Losers Take All – after reading the ARC, I preordered it for my classroom. In June. It wasn’t publishing until October.  That is a sure sign of awesome.

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Losers Take All – after reading the ARC, I preordered it for my classroom. In June. It wasn’t publishing until October.  That is a sure sign of awesome.

I picked this book up because I’m always looking for something I think my guy readers can enjoy. I wasn’t really looking forward to reading it, but, boy, was I in for a surprise. I finished this book in just a couple of hours, and for the first time in my life I preordered a book in June that wasn’t coming out until October. My students have to have this book! Contrary to what I thought, this isn’t a book that will just have a message for my guys – this is a book that any YA reader can embrace. Five star read.

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Goodreads Summary

From the author of the backlist favorite You Don’t Know Me, a dramedy about the agony of victory and the thrill of defeat.

At Jack Logan’s sports-crazy New Jersey high school, the new rule is that all kids must play on a team. So Jack and a ragtag group of anti-athletic friends decide to get even. They are going to start a rebel JV soccer team whose mission is to avoid victory at any cost, setting out to secretly undermine the jock culture of the school. But as the team’s losing formula becomes increasingly successful at attracting fans and attention, Jack and his teammates are winning in ways they never expected—and don’t know how to handle.
My Thoughts

So there are some questions I think most people will want to ask.  Are my sports readers going to enjoy a book about a team who is proud to lose?  Why, yes, they are because there is actually a lot of sports action.  Football and soccer games are tightly narrated with all the tension of a hometown game.  So, will that alienate the non-athletes?  No, because as my football/soccer coach husband can attest, I have almost no real knowledge of sports.  I only had to ask one question.  Translation:  If I can read and enjoy this, anyone can.  Yeah, but this is a guy book, isn’t it?  Actually, the narrative voice is male, but there is a strong female character that plays a significant role in the story. All of the significant characters have depth and that something that makes them feel like real people.  Plus, the themes transcend gender and age. If you’ve ever attended a high school, you will relate to something in this book.  So why would anyone want to read it?  It’s smart and really pretty funny, and it tackles a lot of issues that everyone could stand to think about.  Of course this book asks what it means to win or lose, but it also tackles sports culture in American high schools, bullying, social media, living for yourself, and friendship.  These kids are looking for a way to avoid a stupid school requirement, but they are pretty strong in the face of adversity.  I don’t think anyone could read this book and not end up cheering for this strange and hilarious mix of oddballs as they take losing to another level.  This is a well written, well plotted book with complex characters and conflicts.  It’s not perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to share it with anyone I can get to hold still long enough to listen.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades seven plus, but interest level is high school and beyond.

This book is available in our classroom library.

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

First And Then by Emma Mills is a quiet YA contemporary romance that stole my heart

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First And Then by Emma Mills is a quiet YA contemporary romance that stole my heart

Really good contemporary YA romance is hard to find, and I only come across a few each year that grab me heart and soul.  I can honestly say that First and Then is one of those rare finds.  The cover is unassuming and the title gives little away, but there is a lot of heart in this unexpected gem, and it left me feeling exactly like a great book should.  I gave it five stars, and I preordered it for my classroom library.  I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that.

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Goodreads Summary

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

My Thoughts

Okay, so this book made me cry just a teensy bit, and that doesn’t happen ever, so I”ll say I was really engaged with these characters and their story.  Devon is a strong narrative voice and even though her conflicts aren’t universal, her personality and emotions make it hard not to relate to her hopes, disappointments, and doubts.  She comes across as an average YA who is kind of floating along her senior year until some big changes alter her world view, one relationship at a time.  Foster, her awkward cousin, is a charming addition to the storyline, and his own conflicts add a lot of depth while his socially inept presence adds a lot of comic relief.  I want my own Foster!  The two possible romantic interest are compelling characters each in their own way.  I appreciated the way the author gave them some vulnerabilities because it made them much more than just representations of YA love interests that we’ve all seen before.  I also appreciated the pace, which took the time to build meaningful relationships and character backgrounds.  The romance may come across as lethargic to some readers, but it is perfectly suited to parallel a Jane Austin romance, and that, I believe, is just exactly the intention.  While this is touted as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights, and that is a truthful comparison, I didn’t see so much a retelling in this book as the spirit of those two things, something that can make this book accessible to both Austenites and those who haven’t a clue about her works.  This feels wholly modern and refreshingly original.  I think my high school girls will enjoy this as much as I did.  It is a modern and realistic take on how love of all kinds can surprise you.  Some mature language, but no graphic situations make this a book for grades 9+, but adult readers of YA will enjoy it just as much.

This book is in our classroom library.  

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

Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter is my #1 YA Action/Fantasy/Dystopian pick for 2015, and you need to get your hands on it ASAP

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Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter is my #1 YA Action/Fantasy/Dystopian pick for 2015, and you need to get your hands on it ASAP

I’m not going to waste time – you need this book.  It is compelling and different than any other dystopian/action/fantasy book I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve read it four times since I got the ARC in April.  That is impressively weird, even for me.  I adore the first person point of view and the tough, competent protagonist.  I adore the world building and the strange mix of reality TV, gladiator, and myth-gone-wrong that the characters navigate.  I admit that I have a crush on this book, and I think you will, too.  I hesitate to say this because it is kind of a laughable cliche in the YA book world, but if you liked a The Hunger Games, you will probably really enjoy Hunter.

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Goodreads Summary

Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.

My Thoughts

Joyeaux was raised on the mountain by monks and taught to hunt the magical monsters who torment humanity in a post cataclysm world.  She has her own magic and her hounds to keep her safe, but hunters are rare and by law they are suppose to come to the capital for training as soon as their ability emerges.  Joyeaux has avoided that fate for years but is forced to leave the people she knows, loves, and protects when her uncle is politically pressured to bring her to the Capitol.  Thrust into the intrigue and dangers of a society being held together by half truths and fear, Joyeaux must rely on instinct and her training to survive both the monsters and the humans.  This is the best thing I’ve read this year!  It isn’t very often that I finish a book and then read it again before the week is out, but Hunter is just that good.  It is crazy good.  The original storyline and action kept me glued to the pages, and I was so sad to see it end.  I adored Joyeaux and her matter-of-fact narrative style, a style that gives readers a refreshingly rare female warrior who is tough and capable and brave but who isn’t sullen and emotionally stunted.  The magical systems and world building are clear and thoughtful, bringing in a wide array of mythical and folk tale monsters that most of us have never seen before.  There was a lot of awesome battle and a little bit of romance.  I was completely satisfied with the complexities of the plot and the resolution at the end.  My only complaint is that I will have to wait a long while for the next book — there better be a next book.  Smart, engaging, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, Hunter is going to be a big hit with readers of both genders in my high school classroom.  The only thing I think might turn you off about this book is the initial pace. A lot of time is spent helping the reader get settled into this world, but I certainly thought it was important, and I found it fascinating.  I cannot wait to share this book with my students and fellow YA readers. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but adult readers shouldn’t pass this one up either.  Five Star Perfection.

This book is available in our classroom library, because I ordered it in April!

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

The Fire Sermon – dystopian post apocalyptic YA that is definitely smarter than it first appears.

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The Fire Sermon – dystopian post apocalyptic YA that is definitely smarter than it first appears.

If you like dystopian and post apocalyptic books, The Fire Sermon is one you should consider adding to your To Be Read list.  The premise sounds ridiculous, but this is a pretty smart read, and I’m definitely looking for the second book when it comes out in February 2016.  I paid $13.99 for the ebook, which is beyond reprehensible (curse you, sample read, for pulling me in so thoroughly), but I found an affordable copy of a hardback used on Amazon for the classroom library because it is one I definitely want to share with other readers.

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Goodreads Summary

The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined first novel in a new postapocalyptic trilogy by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.
With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

 
My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well written, thoughtful, and gripping. For the most part, it is action packed, with only a lull near the beginning, but it was an necessary lull, so stick it out. Cass is a strong female protagonist whose only liability is her world view, which is actually her strongest asset. There is a romantic element to this story, but I will say it wasn’t blatant in its sensuality, so it isn’t full of hot moments but plays more of the companionship angle. I actually liked the concept of the twins. Though I thought it was going to be a ridiculous when I read the blurb, it worked really well. The ending might have a few readers crying foul, but I thought it made sense. My only complaint is the price. $13.99 for an ebook is ridiculous (yeah, I’m gonna bring that up again), and even though I feel I got my money’s worth, I almost didn’t read it on principle alone. I’m glad I overcame my impulse and read it anyway.
This book is available in our classroom library.

Tessa Gratton’s The Lost Sun is one book that I really couldn’t find a single thing to complain about. Someone should get a trophy for that!

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Tessa Gratton’s The Lost Sun is one book that I really couldn’t find a single thing to complain about. Someone should get a trophy for that!

I chanced upon this book after reading one of Tessa Gratton’s short stories, and I’m so glad I did.  I have never even heard of it, and that is pretty shocking, considering how well written it is.  If you enjoyed but outgrew the Percy Jackson books, you need this book on your radar.  The setting is so well constructed and truly feels like an alternate but believable contemporary world populated by Norse gods and Viking warriors.  It is magical and almost dream-like.  The characters, too, are so carefully crafted and impressive in their depth.  Don’t get me wrong – you can read this and just enjoy it for the action and adventure, but it has a sophistication that will appeal to those who like a little more complexity in conflicts and characters.   There is something here for readers of both genders, and I think it is one that YA readers of all ages can enjoy.

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Goodreads Summary

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and Holly Black’s “The Curse Workers” will embrace this richly drawn, Norse-mythology-infused alternate world: the United States of Asgard.

Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood–the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd’s Academy. But that’s hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That’s not all Astrid dreams of–the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.
When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they’ve been told they have to be.


My Thoughts

I particularly enjoyed the narrator in this book. Soren had a complex internal conflict that was so clearly developed. I actually liked all of the characters, and that is a true rarity! The world building was engaging, and the way the author introduced aspects of Norse mythology without info dumping was pretty impressive. It was nicely paced to create the feel of a quest, and I appreciated how it had goals that were met along the way so that I wasn’t left waiting foreverlong for an event to happen. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I don’t have a single complaint.

This book is available in our classroom library.

Sway by Kat Dennison is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of books.

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Sway by Kat Dennison is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of books.

There are not enough words to express how much I loved this book.  It is five stars.  It is going to make you laugh and laugh and laugh and maybe cry just a little.  Read my review before you commit – you can’t go in blindly to something like this, but if you pick this book up, there is a 99% chance you won’t regret it.  This is old enough that you can pick up the hardback for cheap on Amazon, but it is good enough that you should download it to your e-reader and skip the wait.

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Goodreads Summary

In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want—term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.

But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?
A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion—until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
My Thoughts

I kind of have a crush on this book. Sway is wildly inappropriate and it has a lot of drugs and shocking blasé teen talk about things that are hard to talk about, but I just saw that as honest. There is some real heart to this book, and that didn’t make the way the kids talked excusable, but it did make it feel real. The wit is biting, the protagonist is charming, and I laughed aloud enough that my completely uninterested-in-books husband finally asked me what I was reading. I think what I like about this book is that it really gave me a new perspective of a character type that I thought I had pegged. The drug dealer with a heart of gold is a strange archetype for me to fall for, but Sway absolutely did this to me. His worldview is completely different than what I would have imagined. The only other book where I really found a male narrator this interesting was in Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now (the book, not the movie). Now, many readers will probably be offended by every other page. If you don’t like irreverent books, leave this one alone, but if you have always kind of had your eye on that slick guy who seemed confident and cool without any effort at all, this is your book.  I think my high school readers of both genders and adult readers of YA will find this book engaging and compelling. I certainly did.

Guess what, folks?  This awesome book is in our classroom library because I have a credit card and I am a bad influence!  

Andy Weir’s The Martian – in which I again am late to the party, but I’m sooo glad I came

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Andy Weir’s The Martian – in which I again am late to the party, but I’m sooo glad I came

I ignored this book for a long time.  I picked it up and read the summary and put it down.  It kept showing up in my recommendations and I kept hitting “Not Interested.”  Lots of people read it – lots, but I know when I’m looking at boring grown up stuff, right?  But then I took my son to see Jurassic World the other night and saw this preview.  Watch it and tell me you aren’t a little interested.

I known, right?

I went home and immediately downloaded the preview chapters. Then I bought it – under $6? Uh, yes.  Then I read for hours before I finally forced myself to stop because it was 2 a.m. and I had already promised the kids a swimming trip early the next day.  I still managed to finish it in under 24 hours (I did not read while they were swimming – not because that is irresponsible but because my ebook readers aren’t waterproof).  I was fascinated, and I think you will be too.

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Goodreads Summary

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Thoughts

Look, the cover isn’t really grabbing me, and that summary sounds so serious, but don’t reject this book until you try it.  Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon in the preview in a spot on casting decision IMHO) is a really engaging narrator.  Sure, he is talking about science, but he is so funny that you can’t help but become instantly invested in his survival.  Also, you know that even if he dies, you are going to have a good time hanging out with him until Mars takes him out.  The real trick in a book like this is to keep the tedium of the scenario from becoming a tedious read, and this author succeeds.  The repetitive nature of Watney’s existence is really well balanced with the tension of his survival and/or plans for rescue. Also, he talks about all the stuff you really wonder about, namely excrement and what you do with it in space, because, come on, how do you do that stuff in space or Mars or at a really sketchy rest stop?  That is what readers really want to know, and Weir gives it to them.  This isn’t the only instance where he shows an understanding of how to play to an audience – one really interesting decision was to bring in the narrative on Earth because that gave the readers an opportunity to get some dramatic irony that really ramped up both hope and fear for the protagonist.  I’m not going to lie to you – there is science in this book, and it was science that barely brushed the tip of my head as it attempted to blow over it.  I fully expected to scan those paragraphs with numbers and calculations and formulas.  Imagine my surprise when I actually found I was reading every word. I was able to follow the logic, and I was able to appreciate almost every experiment Watney desperately needed to perform.  Boring Teacher Talk Warning – As a teacher, all I could think was that this book would be perfect for a science teacher’s classroom library and also as a fascinating way to engage kids in simulated experiments to see if they could work things out like the protagonist did. End of Boring Teacher Talk. I’m so impressed with the way this book turned out, and I found the bonus interview and essay on the kindle version really interesting. Some mature language, but I would still hand this to any of you jokers without a qualm.

This book is available in the MHS library for checkout.