First books of summer

3 07 2015

June has been a good month in terms of pages read. I’ve also been reading quite diversely and I managed to get in some Middle Grade too. Also, I haven’t read anything atrociously bad in June, so that’s a definite plus.

The good:Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Press play (by Eric Devine): An honest and raw story with a good voice, but the book was too long for me. (***)

How it went down (by Kekla Magoon): an all too pertinent book in this day and age, giving us a myriad of voices after the shooting of a black teen when all hell breaks loose. It was good to show us all these different voices, although some of them were interchangeable, and I would have slimmed it down some. (*** ½)

Five, six, seven, Nate! (by Tim Federle): It’s Nate. It has Libby (not enough!). It’s Tim Federle. That’s enough to bring a smile to my face. So much fun again, although it doesn’t surpass Better Nate than Ever. (*** ½)

Since you’ve been gone (by Morgan Matson): I have a thing for Morgan Matson’s books (especially at the start of summer. I always want ice cream after a Morgan Matson book, and I don’t even like ice cream, go figure!). Like her other books, this one too is very entertaining, although also a tad too long (a recurring thing in this month’s reading). (*** ½)

Anything could happen (by Will Walton): I may… have had higher expectations for this debut novel. Still liked it, though. All in all a really decent debut novel about personal growth. (***)

booksiesMore happy than not (by Adam Silvera): Not a perfect book, but a really solid debut. Despite the ‘happy’ in the title, it’s not a ‘happy’ book, of course. I usually like those sorts of books a lot, and I did ‘like’ this one too. I felt, though, that besides the character of Aaron, the other characters were ‘lacking’ a lot. At the same time I realize that that is because of the very specific point of view in this book…a bit of a Catch 22 sort of thing. Probably a 3.5 star book for me: it has an interesting spin on the self-discovery story, which is something that’s been done in films a few times (sort of, at least: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is mentioned in the blurb, but there’s also Memento). (*** ½)

The very good:

One thing stolen (by Beth Kephart): Just like Challenger Deep this book is actually a real struggle to get through. Not because the book is a bad one, far from it (but I can see why this book might not be everyone’s type of book). But because of the emotional depth which is – in this case – so reflected in the narrative voice. Nadia’s illness is woven into every aspect of this book. It’s hard to read. It’s different. But really honest and powerful too. (****)

Kinda like brothers (by Coe Booth): I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade, but this book shows I should read more of it. It’s so honest and unpretentious. Not simple, though. Also, this book worked like a magnet for some of the kids in my classes, and they’re not MG, so the appeal is very wide here. (****)

The return of Zita the Spacegirl (by Ben Hatke): That’s it. Kid and I are through the series. We’ve both loved this ride so much. I think we’re going to start over tonight J (****)

The so-so:

To all the boys I’ve loved before (by Jenny Han): If you think of Lara Jean as 13 rather than 16 then this book makes a lot of sense. It’s light and fluffy and somewhat overindulgent but I can definitely see an audience for this. (***)

Paper Airplanes (by Dawn O’Porter): 4-star beginning but so rushed in the second half. Too much in too few pages: bad families, bad friendships, good friendships, anorexia, school problems…. There’s too much going on so not everything is well developed. Ended very messy too. Adding all of it up and it’s closer to 2.5-3 stars for me. (** ½)

The brain-bending* awesome: Perfectly Good Whiteboy

Carrie Mesrobian is my New Fake Girlfriend.

Perfectly good white boy: This book especially is pretty fucking awesome. It’s easily the most addictive book I’ve read in years. It’s like a drug: you know it’s bad for you, but you can’t stop, you have to stop, you don’t want to stop. You won’t stop. I knew only a few pages in, it would be a winner and boy was I right. There’s no other writer who does sad characters better than Carrie Mesrobian. (*****)

Cut both ways: It was about half way through that I realized that this is probably the saddest fucking book I’ve read in a long long time. Carrie Mesrobian gets into the head of a character and owns that character. She makes you get into the head of that character and feel what that character feels, and Will? Well, he’s a sad sad trainwreck of a boy. So sad.
I like how the author’s note at the end says that we need to work for a world where it’s easier for kids like him. (****)

Can you please write more books, Carrie Mesrobian? Thanks.

* Brain-bending is my new favorite adjective.


Second Chance Summer (by Morgan Matson)

21 08 2012

After her very engaging debut novel Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson is back for more! Second Chance Summer has many of the same ingredients that made Amy & Roger so endearing and such a great, great summer/beach read (and I use this term with the greatest respect possible!): there is a flawed yet likeable main character, there is a life-changing story about loss, yet there’s a sense of optimism that permeates every page of this excellent sophomore novel.

Taylor Edwards and her family used to spend every summer at their summer lake house in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains. That is, until 5 summers ago, when something happened that made Taylor run away from things, which is what she always does when things get hot. This summer, however, she will no longer be able to escape conflict and she’ll have to face her past, as her family have decided to spend this summer at the house once more. Taylor will be forced to confront the reality of her family life, her past (ex-boyfriend Henry and ex-best friend Lucy) and hopefully come out the better and stronger person at the end of it.

The strength of Second Chance Summer does not lie in its original plot (yes, all of the inevitables do happen), but in the careful treatment of its characters. Matson takes her time introducing Taylor and the rest of her family. She switches back and forth between this summer and 5 summers earlier to show how an individual can change over the years (what you found oh so important at age 12 may seem petty at age 17!) and how it’s never too late to fix what’s wrong and it’s never too late to get to know the people you are close to. The way that Matson treats her characters and the hopeful optimism of her stories made me think of Sarah Dessen, with which she also has a certain earnestness in dealing with emotions in common. Moreover, she also has that natural flow in the use of language and a dash of humor interspersed in the novel now and again.  What is most important here, though, is that I believe Taylor when she says that she doesn’t know how to confront a problem. I also believe Taylor when she says she’s done something incredibly wrong and Henry and Lucy should hate her for it (even as an adult you can see that it’s a typical teen reaction of blowing things way out of proportion). And I also believe Taylor when she is forced to take that second chance yet doesn’t really know how to…

Matson is definitely a writer who understands how to write believably about grief, loss and falling in love all over again. Second Chance Summer is the type of book that the adjective heart-breaking was invented for. This is a story about a girl meeting a boy. It’s a story about a girl and her grief … and it’s also a story about a girl growing up … And, for the cat, Morgan Matson doesn’t even have to wait until next summer to publish another one of these!

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour (by Morgan Matson)

8 08 2011

No strings attached, fun summer reads still exist and Morgan Matson’s debut Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour (almost as much a mouthful as Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – with which it has more in common than at first glance) is a prime example of this! More than just a fluffy read (though it is definitely also the ideal companion for hot summer nights), it also deals with coming to terms with your past, accepting responsibility, and moving on. Read the rest of this entry »

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