Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Best Friend's Exorcism

Book 20 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from March 13 - 22

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Summary (via Goodreads)
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act...different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there's only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

My Opinion
So many points for originality.  This was definitely not like anything I'd read before, it was so easy to get sucked into, and I look forward to reading the author again.  The format was great too, like a yearbook with lots of inscriptions and doodles.  I'm not sure if the electronic version would have that so I recommend finding a print copy to get the full experience.  The title of each chapter was the name of a song so I started each one with a little memory pop as an added bonus.

I didn't love the fallout after the exorcism; the way everything played out fell flat for me.  Also, I didn't notice as I was reading but now that I'm thinking about it, there were some loose threads that I would've liked resolution on.

This was a great description of friends growing apart: "There was no falling-out, no great tragedy, just a hundred thousand trivial moments they didn't share, each one an inch of distance between them, and eventually those inches added up to miles."  

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Something was changing inside Gretchen. Maybe it was the acid, maybe it was Andy, maybe it was her parents, maybe it was something worse. Whatever it was, Abby had to keep trying. She couldn't abandon her friend because soon Gretchen would be ready to talk. Any minute now she'd look up from her daybook and say, "I have to tell you something serious.""

"Turning eighteen doesn't determine when you become an adult in Charleston...The day you become an adult is the day you learn that in Charleston, the worse something is, the less attention it receives."

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ghost Boy

Book 19 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from March 2 - 13

Ghost Boy: the Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

Summary (via the book jacket)
In January of 1988, Martin Pistorius came home from school complaining of a sore throat. He never went back. Within a year, Martin had degenerated into a mute quadriplegic. By his fourteenth birthday he was a hollow shell, unseeing and unknowing; he spent his days at a care center, sitting blank in front of the television while his family waited for him to die.
And then his mind came up for air.
For an unimaginable ten years, Martin would be completely conscious while trapped inside his unresponsive body, secretly aware of everything happening around him, and utterly powerless to communicate it.
Ghost Boy is Martin's story, as written, - shockingly and triumphantly - by Martin himself. With unflinching candor, Martin describes the chilling details of life as a secretly lucid vegetable - from the perversion of some who believed him to be brain dead, to the grace of those who sought recognition in his eyes.
For an age when prolonged illness and misdiagnoses are too common, Ghost Boy is the hopeful story of a discarded life awakening from passivity to action, despair to hope, captivity to freedom.

My Opinion
This was well-written and captivating.  It was like a horror movie when he was describing the time between when he became aware and when he was able to communicate; that would be a claustrophobic nightmare.

Quote from the Book
"As hands clap my back and congratulations are given, I sit amid the noise and movement and realize that people want to hear the story of the boy who came back from the dead. It amazes them - it amazes me too."

Ash & Bramble

Book 18 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from February 28 - March 13

Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Book 1 of the Ash & Bramble series

Summary (via Goodreads)
A prince.
A ball.
A glass slipper left behind at the stroke of midnight.
The tale is told and retold, twisted and tweaked, snipped and stretched, as it leads to happily ever after.
But it is not the true Story.
A dark fortress.
A past forgotten.
A life of servitude.
No one has ever broken free of the Godmother's terrible stone prison until a girl named Pin attempts a breathless, daring escape. But she discovers that what seems to be freedom is a prison of another kind, one that entangles her in a story that leads to a prince, a kiss, and a clock striking midnight. To unravel herself from this new life, Pin must choose between a prince and another - the one who helped her before and would give his life for her. Torn, the only thing for her to do is trade in the glass slipper for a sword and find her own destiny.

My Opinion
My 14-year-old daughter read this and liked it.  Both she and I plan to read the next book in the series.

I thought it was fine but I don't have much to say about it.  

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I know nothing about the Before. I don't know my name or where I came from, but I do know that I am a person who asks questions and risks pushing against the boundaries of obedience."

"They will not take Marya's body down. It will hang there, this lesson.
  But here is the irony: the lesson I am learning is not at all what they intend. Their lesson has made me even more determined to escape."

"That was part of Story's power, wasn't it? People always wanted to find out what happens next."

Monday, March 6, 2017

Spaceman

Book 17 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from February 27 - March 6

**I received this book via Blogging for Books and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and review it.**

Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe
by Mike Massimino

Summary (via the book jacket)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself strapped to a giant rocket that's about to go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour? Or to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? Or to stand in front of the Hubble Space Telescope, wondering if the emergency repair you're about to make will inadvertently ruin humankind's chance to unlock the universe's secrets? Mike Massimino has been there, and in Spaceman he puts you inside the suit, with all the zip and buoyancy of life in microgravity.
Massimino's childhood space dreams were born the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Growing up in a working-class Long Island family, he catapulted himself to Columbia and then MIT, only to flunk his first doctoral exam and be rejected three times by NASA before making it through the final round of astronaut selection.
Taking us through the surreal wonder and beauty of his first spacewalk, the tragedy of losing friends in the Columbia shuttle accident, and the development of his enduring love for the Hubble Telescope - which he and his fellow astronauts were tasked with saving on his final mission - Massimino has written an ode to never giving up and the power of teamwork to make anything possible. Spaceman invites us into a rare, wonderful world where science meets the most thrilling adventure, revealing just what having "the right stuff" really means.

My Opinion
This was an intriguing, well-written, accessible book.  
His love for his job and passion for space bleeds through the pages and his enthusiasm was contagious.  It felt like I was there with him so I was nervous about his eye exam even though I knew he passed and became an astronaut!  I loved the genuine awe in his descriptions about spacewalking.
He described his job and responsibilities without too much technical jargon so you don't have to love space to read this, but he also was able to include enough depth to answer questions for those who do want to know the mechanics.  That's not an easy thing to do and I can see why he ended up in NASA's public relations department before becoming a professor.  He seems very well-suited for both.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Some people dream of being Galileo [a scientist]. Other people dream of being Shackleton [an adventurer]. The amazing thing about being an astronaut is that you get to be Galileo and Shackleton at the same time. You're tackling the big questions of human existence, and you're doing it in places where human life shouldn't even be possible."

"In the beginning, I felt like an imposter telling people I was an astronaut because I hadn't been to space. Then I eventually realized that I was thinking about it all wrong. Going to space doesn't make you an astronaut. Being an astronaut means you're ready to go to space."

"On my second day home [from space] I was unloading the groceries from the store. I grabbed a bag from the back of the car, took it out, stood up, set it out about shoulder high, and let go. It didn't float."

"Every person who goes to space, every person who gets to peek around the next corner, is someone with the potential to help change our perspective, change our relationship to the planet, change our understanding of our place in the universe. Which is why we go to space to begin with."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

Book 16 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from February 16 - 28

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

Summary (via Goodreads)
One beautiful summer afternoon, from her bedroom window on the second floor, Jody Lindner is unnerved to see her three uncles parking their pickups in front of her parents' house - or what she calls her parents' house, even though Jay and Laurie Jo Lindner have been gone almost all of Jody's life. "What is this fearsome thing I see?" the young high school English teacher whispers, mimicking Shakespeare. Polished boots, pressed jeans, fresh white shirts, Stetsons - her uncles' suspiciously clean visiting clothes are a disturbing sign.
The three bring shocking news: The man convicted of murdering Jody's father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-six years since that stormy night when, as baby Jody lay asleep in her crib, her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody's uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents' ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night. 
Now Billy Crosby has been granted a new trial, thanks in large part to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father's innocence. As Jody lives only a few doors down from the Crosbys, she knows that sooner or later she'll come face-to-face with the man who she believes destroyed her family. 
What she doesn't expect are the heated exchanges with Collin. Having grown up practically side by side in this very small town, Jody and Collin have had a long history of carefully avoiding each other's eyes. Now Jody discovers that underneath their antagonism is a shared sense of loss that no one else could possibly understand. As she revisits old wounds, startling revelations compel her to uncover the dangerous truth about her family's tragic past. 
Engrossing, lyrical, and suspenseful, The Scent of Rain and Lightning captures the essence of small-town America  - its heartfelt intimacy and its darkest secrets - where through struggle and hardship people still dare to hope for a better future. For Jody Lindner, maybe even love.

My Opinion
First, a quibble about the description...Jody was not in her crib, or in the house at all, when her dad was shot.  She had already left to spend the night with her grandparents.  Also about the description, it sounded like this was going to be a story between Jody and Collin but over half of the book was in the past.  It was hard to be invested in backstory that long when I knew what was going to happen.

The last few chapters gave me the relief and resolution I was looking for (I wasn't completely wrong with the prediction I made early on but there were still surprises) but by that point it was too little, too late and had been drawn out for so long, I was over it.

Quote from the Book
"On this particular day, Jody wasn't worried about anything worse than how to ease away from her lover and whether or not she'd prove to be a good high school teacher. And then her uncles walked into her parents' house and reinforced her belief in bad following good as inevitably as the moon chased the sun.
 Billy. Crosby. Released from prison. Coming home."

Monday, February 27, 2017

American Hookup

Book 15 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from February 10 - 27

American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus by Lisa Wade

Summary (via Goodreads)
The hookup is now part of college life. Yet the drunken encounter we always hear about tells only a fraction of the story. Rising above misinformation and moralizing, Lisa Wade offers the definitive account of this new sexual culture and demonstrates that the truth is both more heartening and more harrowing than we thought.
Offering invaluable insights for parents, educators, and students, Wade situates hookup culture within the history of sexuality, the evolution of higher education, and the unfinished feminist revolution. Using new research, she maps out a punishing emotional landscape marked by unequal pleasures, competition for status, and sexual violence. She discovers that the most privileged students tend to like hookup culture the most, and she considers its effects on racial and sexual minorities, students who "opt out," and those who participate ambivalently.
Accessible and open-minded, compassionate and brutally honest, American Hookup explains where we are and how we got here, asking not "How do we go back?" but "Where do we go from here?"

My Opinion
I didn't learn anything new.  Hookups themselves don't bother me but the cavalier attitude about women, or when people feel they have to act drunk to be able to participate, is troubling.  I believe the book's research but with everything based on individual accounts and no ideas of changes given (other than the unhelpful "If we want to fix hookup culture, we have to fix American culture" on the last page), I don't see why the book was written.

I understand changing the names but I didn't understand how "other details have been changed and sometimes dramatized."  How do you dramatize non-fiction?

Reading about gender roles and "benevolent sexism" (when a positive trait of someone's gender is used against them, such as women being gentler leading to the assumption that they don't want sex without love) was very interesting.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Hookup culture is an occupying force, coercive and omnipresent."

""Casual sex was happening before in college," says Indiana University psychologist Debby Herbenick, "but there wasn't the sense that it's what you should be doing. It is now." It's the elevation of the hookup over all other ways of engaging sexually that has transformed campuses from places where there is hooking up to places with a hookup culture. Hookup culture is new. Where did it come from? And how did it get here?"

"Hookup culture isn't carefree; it's care-less."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The 5th Wave

Book 14 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from February 5 - 16

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Book 1 in The 5th Wave series

Summary (via Goodreads)
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother - or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My Opinion
I don't feel like I can fairly rate this book.  I was confused about whose perspective I was reading (the sections were in first person narration and would shift without a label) and had to flip back quite a few times to jog my memory on which name went with which secondary character.  However, my schedule was incredibly hectic and there were days where I didn't get to read it at all.  Plus I read the book in stolen moments at a cheer competition, a basketball tournament, and a MathCounts competition.  So I can't say my confusion was due to anything but my lack of focus.

Since it was very engaging while I was reading and I really like the author's writing style, I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and round up to a 4 star rating.

And a little plug: this series is well-known but the author has a lesser-known series, The Monstrumologist series, that I would recommend.  The first book is called The Monstrumologist.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"It's hard to plan for what comes next when what comes next is not something you planned for."

"I might be - no, I probably am - doomed.
 But if I'm it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I'm going to let the story end this way.
 I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running, not staying, but facing.
 Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity.
 And if this is humanity's last war, then I am the battlefield."