Solo

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Solo (ebook and hardcover)

by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

 

I am a big fan of Kwame Alexander, and I was so excited to get this (preordered) book in the mail, but never picked it up, because it’s just so thick!  I kept pushing it aside for shorter books, some of which I spent way too long reading.  I started this as a hardcover, but discovered the ebook helped me to get through it faster.  It’s easier to sneak an ebook at a party and in the car.  A book thicker than my forearm, not so much.

In Solo, Blade Morrison is on the verge of adulthood.  He is graduating from high school as a salutatorian, he has a hot girlfriend, and plans for college with a bright future in music.  However, his rock star father shakes things up when he crashes his graduation and lands himself back into rehab.  Blade relies on the love of his life, his girlfriend Chapel, but finds that their relationship is on the rocks.  When he finds out a family secret, Blade sets out for Ghana to find some answers, and learns more about himself than he first set out to find.

What I liked about this book is that it was written in verse, and I love Alexander’s lyrical style.  I felt it was especially paired well with the musical theme.  Saying I loved his writing style is old news, though.  Really, I got sucked into Blade’s story.  I wanted the best for him, and while I wasn’t raised in a mansion in Hollywood Hills, I can relate to it seeming like I have everything when people don’t really know what’s going on underneath.

What I didn’t like about this book was that his relationship at the end was left without closure.  I spent the second half of the book wondering how they’d make it work from across the globe, and whether she’d give up her simple lifestyle for a Hollywood one.

Book 13 of 40

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Under Rose-Tainted Skies

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Under Rose-Tainted Skies (audiobook)

by Louise Gornall

 

As my friend says, I gravitate to “sad” or “depressing” young adult books, and that’s why we don’t completely share the same taste in books.  Under Rose-Tainted Skies didn’t exactly feel depressing for most of it, but it did give me a glimpse into the world of a young woman with OCD and agoraphobia.  Norah’s mother goes out of town, and Norah is left to fend for herself within her home.  She is terrified of leaving the house, of strangers touching her, of catching diseases, etc., and settles her fears with self-harm.  She meets her new neighbor, and he has to learn her rules.  Norah’s ups and downs with mental illness make a relationship difficult, but the two of them have to learn together.

What I liked about this book was that I could experience mental illness without having mental illness.  Gornall, from what I’ve read, used her life experiences as inspiration for this novel, and while I am a homebody have a touch of anxiety now and then, I will likely never develop OCD or agoraphobia.  I can’t completely understand what it is like to live with mental illness, but reading about it helps build understanding.

What I didn’t like about this book is what often bothers me in similar books… there is always a mentally ill character with someone who loves and adores them and is willing to overlook their illness and be a perfect significant other.  I know there are people out there like that, but in every book I read, this is the first relationship and everything is perfect.  I don’t think that part is realistic.  However, I keep coming back for more, don’t I?  So it can’t bother me TOO much!

Book 10 of 40

Flat Out Love

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Flat-Out Love (ebook)

by Jessica Park

 

Flat-Out Love is super cute!  It’s that love story genre that isn’t always my first choice, but I usually enjoy the books when I read them.  Julie Seagle is a college freshman in Boston, a city she’s completely unfamiliar with.  She finds herself homeless, duped by a fake Craigslist ad, but her mom’s college roommate comes to her rescue and lets her stay in their home with Celeste and Matt, her two children.  Matt is a geeky college student, and Celeste is a “different” eighth grade girl.  There is also a mysterious brother named Finn who isn’t around, but Julie has a Facebook romance with him.  Their mother Erin and father Roger are absentee parents, being busy with their careers, so Matt is left to take care of Celeste, including carting around Flat Finn, a cardboard cutout of Finn.  Julie steps in to be Celeste’s friend, take some of the load off of Matt, and help Celeste fit in and be a little less strange.  Of course, there is love and everything hits the fan.  This is also a bit of a mystery (slightly predictable), but it was a fun read, and engaging until the end.

What I liked about this book was the romance, of course.  Without the romance, I’m not sure the storyline would have been nearly as engaging.  A mysterious brother?  Drunken phone calls?  A nerdy but handsome brother who goes out of his way to be a knight in shining armor?  It has everything.

What I didn’t like about this book was the shocker with Finn.  That was upsetting.  Predictable, but upsetting none the less.  I am not sure how I felt about his story.  That’s all I can say without giving away too much.

Book 19 of summer 2017!

 

Love & Gelato

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Love & Gelato (audiobook)

by Jenna Evans Welch

 

Love & Gelato starts with Carolina (Lina) and her mother, Hadley Emerson, who is dying of cancer.  Once she passes, Lina goes to Italy to spend the summer with the dad she never knew she had at her mother’s request.  Lina starts off resentful, but when she’s given her mother’s journal from when her mother went to school in Italy, Lina learns more about her mother’s past, her parents, and who she is.  While she’s making these discoveries, she becomes close friends with a boy named Ren who takes her to the places her mom wrote about in the journal, and they solve a mystery together while falling in love.

What I liked about this book was that it mixed up romance and mystery.  I don’t normally binge-listen to an audiobook, but I finished this in basically 2, maybe 3 days.  It was light, fun, and perfect summer reading.  I also appreciated that there was nothing inappropriate about it!  There was some kissing and a boy who wanted more than kissing, but there was no sex or talk of sex or violence.  That means I won’t freak out if one of my students reads it.

What I didn’t like about this book was maybe an audiobook thing.  It was a little hard for me to tell when Lina was speaking and when she was reading her mom’s journal.  I’m not sure what the book looked like (it may have been a different font), but as an audiobook, it was a little confusing if I wasn’t paying close attention.

Book 14 of summer 2017!

All American Boys

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All American Boys (audiobook)

by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

 

All American Boys is a book that needs to be in the hands of everyone.  I really appreciate Jason Reynolds as an author, and I thought this one was really well co-written.  Both voices come out loud and strong.  It is about a boy named Rashad who is picking up some chips and soda, and is mistakenly accused of stealing by a cop.  The cop then beats the crap out of him, putting him into the hospital.  Quinn, in the mean time, witnessed what happened, but the cop is a family friend who is like a big brother to him.  Quinn can’t get past the fact that what the cop did was wrong, and he has to decide whether to push aside his loyalty to do what is right.  Rashad deals with his own feelings, being accused of doing something wrong just because he is black.

What I liked about this book was that it was told from two perspectives (and read by two different people on the audiobook).  Rashad is a black teen, and Quinn is white.  Jason Reynolds is a black author and Brendan Kiely white.  I liked that it was written and told from a black and white perspective.  I will never ever understand what it is like to be an African American living in America, facing discrimination and racism.  What stood out to me was the list of rules Rashad had to learn that were not part of my education as a white teenager.  These are the kinds of things that help us understand what is going on in today’s society (although I wouldn’t limit it to today- it seems like a lot hasn’t changed from 70 years ago).

What I didn’t like about this book (although I understand) is the cussing, only because I want to share this with my students.  Unfortunately, while many of my students hear (and use) the kinds of words, I am not about to respond to angry parent complaints.  It has a message that NEEDS to be heard, but it’s definitely a YA book.

Book 12 of summer 2017!

Still Life with Tornado

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Still Life with Tornado (ebook)

by A.S. King

 

Still Life with Tornado is a strange book, to say the least.  Sarah is a sixteen year old aspiring artist living in Philadelphia with her mom and dad.  She has decided not to return to school since it isn’t original, but we learn that something happened that traumatized Sarah.  She spends her days wandering the streets, following a homeless man, whom she admires and claims is original.  We also follow her at age 10 on vacation with her family in Mexico, where she isn’t traumatized, and isn’t aware of the pain she and her family will go through.  She doesn’t see her parents’ marriage unraveling, and she’s oblivious to the severity of the abuse her mom and brother endure at the hands of her father.  This is an odd read, and very, very sad, but worth it to see it through to the end.

What I liked about this book was the time switching and point of view.  That could make it a little hard to follow at first, but it also made the story more engaging and the characters more complex.  The point of view was mainly Sarah, either present or from the POV of her 10 year old self in Mexico.  A few chapters were from her mom’s POV, and that gave insight into Sarah’s parents’ marriage, which was a major factor in Sarah’s existential crisis.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little hard to follow in the beginning.  I didn’t understand that she was having a breakdown, and I really wanted to know more about the problems of the story.  I had to get used to the idea that the details of the plot would be revealed as time went on.

Book 4 of summer 2017!

Ramona Blue

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Ramona Blue (audiobook)

by Julie Murphy

 

Ramona is a high school senior in Eulogy, Mississippi, a small town on the gulf that was impacted by Katrina.  In fact, Ramona, her sister, and dad live in an old FEMA trailer in a trailer park.  They are very poor, and Ramona feels the financial burden when her older sister gets pregnant.  Ramona has always identified as lesbian, but she questions this when she falls for her best friend, who is a boy.  She and Freddy recently broke up with their girl friends and have rekindled their childhood friendship.  With a baby on the way, Ramona holds several jobs and thinks little of her own needs.  This story describes Ramona’s journey and all that she comes to terms with, whether it is her future outside of Eulogy, her sexual identity, her feelings for her family, or her long blue hair.

What I liked about this book was that Ramona is a character you feel compassion for.  You want the best for her, and you want others to treat her right.  Actually, most of the characters are well-written, and you feel like these are your friends.  I like books that appeal to my emotions.  I also appreciate books that make me think about things I cannot relate to so I can put myself into someone else’s shoes, and this definitely made me think.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted to know more about Ramona’s future.  I guess there wasn’t really anything I disliked.  It was engaging and kept me reading.

Book 3 of summer 2017!