The Sun is Also a Star


The Sun is Also a Star (audiobook)

by Nicola Yoon


The Sun is Also a Star follows Natasha and Daniel from multiple perspectives.  At first, it felt very Eleanor and Park (white girl with daddy issues and Korean boy with parents who put pressure but won’t conform).  Natasha is a believer in science, while Daniel is a poet, so they have very different perspectives on life.  Natasha’s family is about to be deported back to Jamaica after her father’s DUI.  They’ve been living in New York City since she was young, and America is the home she knows.  Daniel is headed to a college interview for Yale.  He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life until he meets Natasha and falls in love with her.  He spends the day trying to convince her that love can be scientific.

What I liked about this book was that it reminded me so much of Eleanor and Park, which is probably my favorite book in recent memory.  I fell in love with their love story.  Natasha and Daniel are so different, but romantic Daniel trying to win over cynical Natasha was lovely.  I appreciated their banter and Daniel’s refusal to give up.  Definitely go read this book.

What I didn’t like about this book was the ending.  I think I was waiting for a happier ending, but then again, I liked that both were given the chance to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish.  I don’t think it is realistic to live happily ever after at 17 or 18 years old.  I know it isn’t impossible and has happened, but it is a rarity.

Book 45 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Warden’s Daughter


The Warden’s Daughter (hardcover)

by Jerry Spinelli

AR Level 4.1, 9 points


The Warden’s Daughter is about a girl named Cammie O’Reilly, and her father is the warden of a prison in a small town.  She is knows for being an angry girl, a tomboy, and she’s almost a celebrity for living in the jail, but she has one best friend who likes her despite her bad attitude.  Really, Cammie is lonely without a mother, angry she never got to know her, and determined to make one of the prisoners into a mother figure.  Her father is attentive, but rarely discusses her mother, so Cammie is left with few facts and no memories.  In the end, Cammie learns some very surprising things about the people she’s loved, and reflects on them as an adult.

What I liked about this book was the storytelling.  Jerry Spinelli is a great storyteller, and he includes details from the time period that make the setting realistic and the characters powerful.  This wasn’t my favorite Spinelli story, but it was unusual and one that I will remember.

What I didn’t enjoy about this book was that it had some really slow parts.  I wanted to give up on this book a few times, but I’m glad I didn’t, because it was an interesting ending, one I didn’t predict.

Book 44 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)



Hatchet (audiobook)

by Gary Paulsen

AR Level 5.7, 7 points


Hatchet is a book I’ve put off reading, and figured I should at least see what the hype is about.  Since I knew I’d never read it, I decided to listen to the audiobook.  I’m glad I did.  It isn’t my kind of book, and I have no interest in finishing the series, but Hatchet is a Newbery Honor for a reason.

The story starts with Brian flying to visit his father in a small plane.  He is thinking about his mother having an affair and his parents’ divorce, when his pilot has a heart attack and dies right there at the controls, with them still in the air.  Brian is panicked and has to find a way to land the plane.  He crash lands it into the water, and survives.  Brian spends the next 50+ days recovering from injuries and trying to survive the wilderness with nothing but a hatchet to help him.  Brian is eventually discovered, but not before he suffers and grows stronger.

What I liked about the book was that it is action packed from the moment you start reading.  There is drama throughout, and it would hold the attention (I think) of kids who enjoy adventure and survival.  It didn’t have what I would look for in a book, but I can see the merit in it, and why it won the Newbery Honor title.

What I didn’t like about the book was the fact that the pilot stayed in the plane the whole time.  I kept picturing him in there, dead, and knowing that the body doesn’t look great after it’s been underwater (dead) for awhile.  I just didn’t want to picture it, and I knew that he would eventually be discovered by Brian.  I don’t think that’s an image any kid should have, and it kind of weirded me out.

Book 43 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)



Ghost (paperback)

by Jason Reynolds

AR Level 4.6, 6 points


I loved this one.  Ghost is the nickname Castle Cranshaw gave himself due to his speed.  Ghost learned to run when his father chased him and his mother out of their house.  Now, Ghost lives with his mom in the poorest part of town with dreams of becoming the next Lebron, but he finds himself on a track team with a tough coach.  This coach sees potential in Ghost, despite the trouble Ghost gets himself into.  Finally, Ghost learns that he has control of his life and starts making better choices.

What I liked about this book was… everything.  This is a great read, and I look forward to the next book in the series, Patina, which should be out this fall.  I liked the positive message, the positive role model, and the fact that Ghost faced consequences for his actions and learned a lesson.  I think it shows there is hope when you take control of your life instead of just drifting along.

What I didn’t like about this book… there wasn’t anything.  It is my first Jason Reynolds book, and I look forward to reading more from him.  I think he has a strong voice, and readers of all ages can appreciate his style.

Book 42 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Fenway and Hattie


Fenway and Hattie (paperback)

by Victoria J. Coe

AR Level 3.6, 4 points


Fenway and Hattie is about a little girl and her dog.  Only, the little girl, Hattie, is growing up, and the dog, Fenway, doesn’t understand, and feels that he’s losing her.  Fenway is a Jack Russell Terrier, which is a very intelligent and energetic breed.  They move to a home with a huge back yard (“dog park”) and Fenway is faced with his nemeses… the awful squirrels.  Hattie meets Angel, a girl next door who plays baseball, and they start playing together.  It is clear to everyone but Fenway that Fenway is in desperate need of some training, and everyone’s frustration stems from lack of understanding.  Did I mention the entire story is told from the point of view of Fenway?  That is what makes this book; it’s (only) saving grace!

What I liked about this book is that it will get the attention of my lower readers.  It is only a 3.6, and it is a cute story.  I really like that the POV is that of a dog, because we often wonder what our pets (and babies) are really thinking.  It doesn’t have a lot of higher level vocabulary, but readers are forced to make inferences and draw conclusions left and right due to the fact that a dog narrator doesn’t understand what is going on, but we as humans do!

What I didn’t like about this book is that I wanted to like it, but couldn’t really get into it.  I got frustrated with Fenway, because he was being annoying.  I didn’t blame Hattie for putting him in his own room and putting up the gate.  I cans ay that as a grown up pet-owner, but I’m sure most people would see this as a cute, heart-warming story of a girl and her dog.

Book 41 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Serpent King


The Serpent King (ebook)

by Jeff Zentner

AR Level 4.4, 11 points


The Serpent King is a book I’d wanted to read based on the talk that went on and on about it.  If you hadn’t noticed, I now get help choosing my books based on Twitter recommendations from some of my favorite readers.  This one was sitting in my Amazon shopping cart until I found it as an ebook at the library.  Once I heard it was nominated for awards, I decided it was time to read it.  It is in the Young Adult category, so I don’t recommend it for my sixth graders, due to the violence.  It was sad for me.

Dillard Early is a senior in high school in a very small, narrow-minded (borderline racist/bigoted) Tennessee town, and he has two best friends, Travis and Lydia.  As a side note, he is secretly in love with Lydia.  Dill’s dad is in prison for child pornography (which we hear very little about), and his dad was the preacher of a local church that believed in signs and the use of snakes to prove one’s faith.  His mother is also a fanatic, and both of Dill’s parents blame Dill for putting his dad in prison, saying he could/should have lied and said the porn was his.  Dill and his mother are very poor.  Travis lives with his parents, but his dad is an abusive alcoholic, especially after Travis’s brother died.  Travis loves fantasy fiction and meets a girl on a fan forum for their favorite series (similar to Game of Thrones).  They are also fairly poor.  Lydia is an only child with professional parents, and they have a very close relationship.  She runs a fashion blog and is applying to NYU.  These three friends only have each other, but let each other in on very little in their lives.  They have a strong bond through tough times, and these friends experience some very tough times, indeed.

What I liked about this book was that it was unusual.  Dill learned about his family name, and vowed not to live up to that name, but found himself slipping into very dark times, with his mother being against college and his father blaming him for putting him in prison.  I also enjoyed the character development, especially Travis.  He seemed to have a genuine, kind disposition, and his storyline was especially heartbreaking, but at the same time, I was really happy for him.  I didn’t find Lydia as convincing, and I wanted to smack Dill a few times.

What I didn’t like about this book… I can’t decided if I even liked it or not.  There were parts that made me want to keep reading (I read 3/4 of it in one day), but it also took me over a week to get into it.  It was slow at times.  I was tempted to stop when something particularly tragic occurred, which I saw coming, but it was heartbreaking.  I think I need someone else to read it to discuss it with me.

Book 40 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)