Category Archives: sports

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home.  All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on!  I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES.  I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school.  I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend.  It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did.  For real…  If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!

Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life!  Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses.  Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling.  Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system.  When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children.  By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade.  So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune.  Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS.  Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt.  When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…

Happy Reading!

 

The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

other-f-wordMilo’s moms are really great, but he sometimes wonders what life would be like with a mom and dad instead of two moms.  I mean, he loves his moms and all.  And he knows that they love him too.  But he just feels like they don’t “get” him sometimes and that maybe a dad, by virtue of also being a guy, would understand him more.  So, when Milo’s doctor suggests that genetic testing of his biological father could help develop a better treatment plan for his insanely varied and severe allergies, Milo latches onto the opportunity to find his bio dad.  The first step of which is to reach out to his half-sister, Hollis, whom he had met as a young child.  Hollis also had lesbian mothers who used the same sperm donor, which is how they came to meet in the first place, but she wasn’t really interested in finding her dad.  Nevertheless, reconnecting with Milo and his moms seemed to be the first thing to make Hollis’ mom, Leigh, happy since Hollis’ other mom, Pam, died years before… So, she decided to roll with it and see how things turned out.

What started out as a suggestion to request genetic testing relating to Milo’s allergies quickly morphed into something else.  After posting to a message board for the clinic their moms had used, Milo and Hollis discovered that they had three more half-siblings.  What were they like?  Would they get along?  Would they be able to work together and find their donor/dad?  What would this new “f-word” (family) look like in the end?!?

Happy Reading!

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

started-with-goodbyeHave you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time?  If so, you’ll probably empathize with the crazy mess Tatum got herself into.  She went on a shopping trip with her best friend, Ashlyn, and Ashlyn’s boyfriend tagged along.  Sick of watching them make out, she decided to purchase her own items and wait out front, in her car, for them to finish up and join her.  When they came out, though, they were followed by security — because Ashlyn’s boyfriend had been shoplifting.  It didn’t matter that Tatum wasn’t in on his plan.  She and Ashlyn were with him, so they were arrested too.  Not only did she receive a large fine and compulsory community service, but she and Ashlyn stopped talking after she agreed to give testimony for a lighter sentence.

Despite the fact that she didn’t “do” anything, her father grounded her (pretty much indefinitely) right before he left town for business.  Can you imagine?  Just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, her entire summer was ruined.  When she wasn’t out doing her community service, she was stuck on house arrest with her stepmother, Belén — who seemed to hate her and to look for any and every opportunity to punish her — and her stepsister, Tilly.  Tilly basically existed solely to dance [ballet], and was the apple of her mother’s eye, so it was kind of a given that the girls didn’t form any sort of sisterly bond.  There were two bright spots in this whole mess, though.  First of all, her step-abuela, Blanche, would be coming to stay for the summer.  Even though Blanche was coming to help keep an eye on Tatum, she seemed to be more of a “fairy grandmother” than a warden.  Second, there was the fact that Tatum would have plenty of time to spend on her web design skills and creating a company/portfolio to use for her college applications.

Although there were obvious Cinderella vibes, this story didn’t feel like it was *just* a modernized retelling.  I loved the diverse cast of characters, the look into the complications of blended families, the realistic teen angst, and the swoon-worthy romance.  I recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary romances by authors like Sarah Dessen, Carolyn Mackler, and Sara Zarr.

Happy Reading!

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

seventh-wishThis is a book that I might have overlooked, had it not been for Facebook.  You see, I was scrolling through my feed recently and happened across a story about an author’s Skype visit that fell through.  On January 17th, Kate Messner posted:

This afternoon, I  had to cancel a Skype visit about THE SEVENTH WISH because the teacher doesn’t want to mention the fact that the main character’s older sister is fighting opioid addiction. She told me that in her class read-aloud, she’s been ‘skipping’ the parts of the story that deal with that, so while the students are aware that there’s a drug issue, most of them think it’s probably marijuana. I told her I wasn’t comfortable with misleading kids in my presentation and suggested that she share the author’s note, which offers a factual and kid-friendly explanation of what opioid drugs are, how they affect the brain, and why they have such a devastating effect on families like Charlie’s.

She opted to cancel the visit instead. She’s never known anyone with a drug issue and believes she’s doing what’s right for her students. She was very kind in her emails, but I have to admit, I’m crushed. I can’t tell you how sad this makes me, mostly for the kids in that class who might already be living in a situation like Charlie’s.

If you have the opportunity to share THE SEVENTH WISH by recommending to a teacher or for a state list or really anywhere, I’d truly appreciate that. I so wish more kids who need this story could have access to it.

I was heartbroken to see that those kids were misled, despite the fact that their teacher had good intentions.  Research shows that it’s best for adults to have an open and ongoing conversation about topics like drug abuse starting at an early age, rather than “having the talk” in adolescence.  Parents and caregivers should look for spontaneous/everyday situations and teachable moments to start open and honest conversations.  In this story, we get a nice combination of of fantasy (Charlie finds a magical wishing fish), Irish culture (Charlie is very involved in Irish Dancing), and some important teachable moments (Charlie’s older sister has been using heroin).  I appreciated the fact that this story didn’t only focus on the drug problem but rather incorporated the problem into how it affected the rest of Charlie’s life, so that it felt much more genuine.  There were times when you could sort of forget what Charlie’s sister was going through, and I think that is very true to how it might be for a person whose family member is battling addiction.  It seems to take over sometimes, but there are moments when you can actually get caught up in the joy and madness of everyday life.

In good news, Kate posted yesterday:

I’m so looking forward to my school visit today. It’s in Brandon, Vermont, where THE SEVENTH WISH was chosen by the entire school district (Rutland Northeast) as a community read for 5th and 6th grade students, in collaboration with Brandon Cares, a local organization responding to the region’s opioid crisis.

This book is a perfect “teachable moment,” and I applaud the Rutland Northeast School District for choosing it as their community read!  Considering the fact that there is a major opioid epidemic all around our country, and not just in Vermont, I think it is important that this book get into the hands of as many people as possible.  Please do your part by reading this book and then passing it along to parents, teachers, and middle grade readers.  I don’t often buy books, since I am a librarian and can’t really afford my reading habit, but I just ordered a copy of this book to add to my personal library so that I can share it with my own children and pass it around to other young people who might benefit (with their parents’ permission, of course).

Happy Reading!

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

moleculesStewart was a socially awkward prodigy who attended a school called Little Genius Academy and Ashley was a popular girl who excelled at fashion but wasn’t so great at school.  You might think this is a perfect set-up for a story in which Stewart becomes Ashley’s tutor, but that definitely wasn’t how they met.  They actually got to know one another because their parents decided to move in together.  Ever since Stewart’s mom died of ovarian cancer, he and his father have been struggling with ways to manage their grief and honor her memory while also, somehow, moving on with their own lives.  This move seemed to be the ultimate test.  Ashley’s situation was very different, but still very traumatic for her — her parents decided to divorce because her father came out as gay.  Though upset by her family breaking up, it seemed Ashley was even more concerned about what people would think if they found out the truth about why her parents divorced.  After all, being the “it” girl of her crowd was pretty much all she thought she had going for her.

When Stewart and his father moved in with Ashley and her mom, Stewart also transferred into Ashley’s school.  She was relieved to think that she would be “safe” from dealing with Stewart at school, even after finding out that he would be transferring from Little Genius Academy, because he was younger…  But then he was placed in some ninth grade classes because he was so advanced.  Trying to fit in at a new school was tough in and of itself, but it was made even more difficult by Ashley’s insistence that he hide the fact that they were now sort of related.  I really enjoyed the emotional journey Nielsen provided.  There were moments where I was so sad I nearly cried, times when I got angry with characters, moments where I found myself rolling my eyes, and others where I full-on chuckled.  The geek in me also really appreciated the fact that Stewart’s cat was named Schrödinger and that Nielsen included a part in which Stewart explained the joke to Ashley, just in case readers didn’t get it.

Happy Reading!

P.S.  Just in case there are any people considering this book for a younger teen/tween, I feel compelled to mention the fact that there are situations in which both underage drinking and sexual assault come up.  I think it was very well written and offers a fantastic conversation starter, but I didn’t feel right not saying anything.

Grand & Humble by Brent Hartinger

Grand & HumbleHarlan and Manny don’t have much in common.  Harlan is a popular jock whose parents are wealthy, well known, and politically connected.  Manny is a poor geek whose father keeps mostly to himself and is very secretive, even where Manny is concerned.  The one thing that links them together, though, is an accident that happened when they were both three years old.   Neither of them really remembers the accident or knows that the other exists — but Harlan has been having strange panic attacks that seem to hold premonitions, and Manny has been having horrible nightmares that might just have flashes of real memories.  I can’t say much more without spoiling the twist at the end, but I will say that I nearly started the book over again when the ending revealed the truths behind those panic attacks and nightmares…  And y’all know I never re-read anything!  LOL

Happy Reading!

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

26465507The first Justine Larbalestier book I read was Liar, and I recall being very frustrated with the *completely* unreliable narrator.  I just wanted to know what had really happened. And I was a little worried that might happen again — but it turns out that, if anything, I wish I could go back to NOT knowing what I learned of Che and Rosa’s story!  Why?  Well, to be entirely honest, I’m not so comfortable reading about a teenager (Che) whose little sister (Rosa) is a literal psychopath — especially one who can hide in plain sight because she’s a cute little girl who reminds people of Shirley Temple.  Why?  Well, with my own son closing in on his own teen years and an adorable daughter who is approaching her 7th birthday, this felt a little too close to home.  Granted, my daughter isn’t a psychopath… but Rosa’s parents didn’t think SHE was a psychopath either!

It’s tough enough for parents to hear the occasional “I hate you” as kids struggle to gain autonomy, but it was crazy hard to read about a cute little girl who was only a few years older than my daughter and had absolutely NO problem stealing, lying, hurting, or even killing.  With no empathy or conscience to guide her, Rosa literally relied on Che’s guidance to keep herself out of trouble (which was the only reason she bothered to behave and/or to try to be normal).  It was particularly heartbreaking to see how difficult it was for Che to keep Rosa in line because everyone else (even his parents) thought he was overreacting when, in fact, he was the only one who saw through her manipulative facade.  (/shudder)  Yeah… I think I’d like to stick to stories about adult psychopaths for a while, thankyouverymuch! If you enjoy thrillers and you think you’re brave enough to read about an adorable little psychopath, though, I highly recommend this book.

Happy Reading!