Tell Me Three Things

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Tell Me Three Things (ebook)

by Julie Buxbaum

 

Imagine your mom (your best friend) dying of cancer.  Then your dad remarries someone you’ve never met.  Then he moves you into her fancy home in California, away from your friends and all that is familiar.  Then you have to adapt to a new climate, a new step brother who seems to hate you, a new school, and culture shock.  When you’re on the verge of a breakdown, you start receiving mysterious, but helpful emails from a person named Somebody Nobody, who gives you advice on how to survive at your new school.  Jessie narrows the identity of Somebody Nobody down to 3 people, and the end may surprise you.

What I liked about this book was that the end didn’t surprise me.  I pretty much guessed who it was, and it was who I was rooting for.  This is a cute, romantic story that won’t leave you feeling depressed or angry.  It won’t make you want to throw the book away, and you’ll likely finish it as quickly as I did!

What I didn’t like about this book was that the end didn’t surprise me.  Ha ha… I like and don’t like books that are predictable, depending on my mood.  I didn’t like the idea of being “peened” and the word “peen” to begin with.  That made me feel old and prudish.

Book 58 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Goodbye Days

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Goodbye Days (audiobook)

by Jeff Zentner

 

Ugh!  Goodbye Days was depressing!  It was, like Zentner’s first novel (The Serpent King), well written, though.  I am behind in my blogging, and I finished this book several weeks ago, so I apologize for another sucky summary.

Carver is a teenager who lives with the guilt of having killed his best friends.  At least, he believes he did, because he sent the text that caused his friend to crash the car as he was texting back.  Carver goes on several “goodbye days” with the 3 families of his best friends, doing what they would’ve wanted to do on their last days, and giving their families the opportunities to find peace.  However, the father of one of his friends is a big attorney and asks for the police to look into the situation as a possible manslaughter, which would send Carver to jail since he knew his friend would text him back while driving.  This is a heart-wrenching, stressful story that will make you want to put your phone in the trunk while driving just so you’re not tempted to look at it.

What I liked about this book was the way the story unfolded and the anticipation I felt, wondering if Carver would be charged with manslaughter.  I felt for him, and wanted to shake him at the same time.  I think emotionally-charged books get me every time.

What I didn’t like about this book was how depressing it was!  Oh my gosh- even the person reading the book made me want to go to sleep for a long time.  However, if teens read this story, I really hope it hits them that they cannot be using their phones, either because they themselves could die, or they could kill someone else.  If nothing else, that is a great message.

Book 52 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Maybe A Fox

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Maybe A Fox (paperback)

by Kathi Appelt

AR Level 4.9, 5 points

 

Maybe A Fox is one I’d read about on Twitter, but hadn’t put much thought  into buying it, because I didn’t really know what it was about, so it sat on my Amazon shopping list.  Then I saw it was in Scholastic, bought it, and waited until a student read it.  FYI: When a sixth grade boy brings it to you with tears in his eyes and tells you you should read it, you stop what you’re doing and pick it up.  That’s what I did, and I’m glad!  Also a warning, though- it is not a “feel good” book.  It is sad.  You will likely cry, or at least get teary or a little depressed after.

I’m partially torn, because it was too real for me.  Two sisters, very close in age (like my two daughters) lost their mother and are connected at the hip.  They fight with each other, share friends, and love each other more than anyone.  Like my two daughters.  Then one of the sisters goes missing at the exact moment a litter of foxes is born, and that’s where the fantasy comes in… that’s not like my two daughters, but the thought of one of them dying while the other one has to go on… too much!  I was ready to stop right there!  So the little fox feels drawn to the remaining sister, and helps her to find closure, since  no body was ever found.  At the same time, a young man is dealing with the death of his best friend in Afghanistan, and a wild cat is spotted.  It sounds like a lot to take in, and it is, but this story was written beautifully and all of the coincidences make sense in the end.  When you’re done, you will close the book, and sit in contemplation, soaking it all in.

What I liked about the book was the beauty of the relationships.  Maybe it was the sister-sister connection, the best friends, the fox kits, the mother to her daughter or the father to his daughters- they were all lovely and well-developed, I felt.  I felt the pain of the loss, and I didn’t lose any of them myself.

What I didn’t like about this book was the end.  I won’t spoil it, but there was one last jab in my heart that some felt was unnecessary.  I didn’t see it as unnecessary, but it hurt just the same.  I won’t give spoilers, but when you think it’s over, just wait for one more thing to happen.  This isn’t a funny book, and it isn’t heartwarming, but it will leave you feeling like it came full circle.

Book 46 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Serpent King

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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)

The Thing About Jellyfish

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The Thing About Jellyfish (ebook)

by Ali Benjamin

AR Level 5.0, 7 points

 

The Thing About Jellyfish is a story of heartache, mourning, science, and growth.  Suzy’s best friend drowns before the story begins, and Suzy has flashbacks to their happy times.  She also shows us when they started to drift apart, and finally when they were no longer friends.  Suzy has also decided to stop talking, despite her family’s efforts and support of her.  She has the idea that her friend was actually stung by a deadly jellyfish instead of drowning, and Suzy begins researching jellyfish and decides to travel to Australia to meet the scientist she believes can help her prove her theory.

What I liked about this book is that it includes so much scientific background, and the chapters are based around the scientific method.  Any science enthusiast will appreciate this aspect.  I personally learned a lot about jellyfish.  The author did a lot of research and based the scientists and several events and locations on real people.  It isn’t just a compelling story, but it will also teach its readers a thing or two about science.

What I didn’t like about this book is that it was frustrating that the other girls at Suzy’s school were so mean.  I wanted to stop reading at certain parts, because some of the kids were inhumane (murdering a frog?).  It was also really sad, and I’m sure if someone has lost a friend or family member suddently, it would be even more upsetting.

Book 32 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Lost in the Sun

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Lost in the Sun (paperback)

by Lisa Graff

AR Level 4.5, 11 points

 

Can you imagine if you were responsible for someone’s death, even if it was an accident?  In Lost in the Sun, Trent was playing hockey with his friends one day when he hit the puck and it struck a boy in the chest.  The boy died, and now Trent has the guilt and anger to deal with.  This is the story of how he carries that guilt and anger, and how he begins his downward spiral to self-destruction.  He begins to burn bridges with his brothers, his parents, his friends, and his teachers.  Fallon, a girl he connects with, is even on the receiving end of his anger.  He finds a way to deal with his anger and make amends with those whom he has hurt.

What I like about this book is it follows a boy the age of my own students.  It shows how their actions directly affect what happens to them, but at the same time, Trent doesn’t see how he is responsible for his actions.  He feels he is innocent, just like many of my students would also feel like they’re innocent.  I think it’s a good reminder that we are responsible for our own happiness and our own actions.  Our perspectives can change the whole situation, for better or worse.

What I don’t like about this book is that it was frustrating watching him self-destruct.  I was grateful when a teacher finally stepped in and gave him a bit of tough love.  That is something that is frustrating about being a teacher, seeing my students in bad situations and not being able to do anything or talk sense into them.  I also really didn’t like the dad in this story.  I really wanted to shake him, and understood why Trent didn’t want to go to his house.

 

Book 11 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Summerlost

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Summerlost (Kindle)

by Ally Condie

AR Level 4.1, 6 points

 

Summerlost appeared on my radar when Ally Condie started appearing in the book orders.  She has another series in the young adult genre, and she was at the Book Fest signing books, but I’d never read any of her books, so I didn’t stand in the long line of waiting fans.  This particular book also appears on some of the Mock Newbery lists, so I thought I should give it a try.

Cedar Lee is 12 years old, and she moves to the town her mother grew up in, but just for the summer.  She is mourning the deaths of her dad and brother while her mom builds a deck on the new house and her other brother tries to get her attention.  Cedar immediately notices Leo, a boy in her neighborhood who she learns works for the local Shakespeare festival, Summerlost.  He is not an actor, but sells refreshments to visitors, although he is very interested in theater.  Cedar and Leo embark on a a summer of friendship, mystery, and entrepreneurship as they give tours and talk about a deceased actress who started in their small town.  Cedar finds herself struggling with her family’s tragedy while dealing with the ups and downs of being 12.

What I liked about this book was the detailed descriptions.  It was almost as though Ally Condie herself lived in a house with a diamond window or a tree with vultures nesting in it.  It also touches on some important life events that I think most books don’t talk about- the death of a loved one, and coming to terms with loss.

What I didn’t like about this book was not necessarily the book’s fault.  I thought this was a young adult book, so I didn’t buy a hard copy for my class library.  It is on the border of being a children’s book and young adult, so I can see why the line would be blurred, but it’s only written at a 4.1 and there is nothing touchy about it that might make it inappropriate for a sixth grader.  I regret not looking into it more than I did, but then again, it’s still hardcover, and I don’t think it is worth $16 like other hardcover books I’ve purchased in the past.

Book 5 of 10 (summer goal)